Posts Tagged ‘maps’
Adam Smith once famously observed…
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
– Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
He is a member of a stream of observers of the human condition, stretching back to the ancient Greeks, who believe that an innate goodness is at work in us all. But is it so?
Behavioral economists have revolutionized the standard view of human nature. No longer are people presumed to be purely selfish, only acting in their own interest. Hundreds of experiments appear to show that most people are pro-social, preferring to sacrifice their own success in order to benefit others. That’s altruism.
If the interpretations of these experiments are true, then we have to rip up the textbooks for both economics and evolutionary biology! Economic and evolutionary models assume that individuals only act unselfishly when they stand to benefit some way. Yet humans appear to be unique in the animal kingdom as experiments suggest they willingly sacrifice their own success on behalf of strangers they will never meet. These results have led researchers to look for the evolutionary precursors of such exceptional altruism by also running these kinds of experiments with non-human primates.
But are these altruism experiments really evidence of humans being special? Our new study says probably not…
Read more– and draw your own conclusion– at “Does behavioral economics show people are altruistic or just confused?”
[TotH to Mark Stahlman]
* P.J. O’Rourke
As we calculate the angles, we might spare a thought for Johannes Schöner; this is both his birthday (1477) and the anniversary of his death (1547). A priest, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, cosmographer, cartographer, mathematician, globe and scientific instrument maker, and editor and publisher of scientific texts, he is probably best remembered today (and was renowned in his own tine) as a pioneering maker of globes. In 1515 he created one of the earliest surviving globes produced following the discovery of new lands by Christopher Columbus. It was the first to show the name “America” that had been suggested by Waldseemüller– and tantalizingly, it depicts a passage around South America before it was recorded as having been discovered by Magellan. In his roles as professor and academic publisher, he played a significant part in the events that led up to the publishing of Copernicus’ epoch-making “De revolutionibus” in Nürnberg in 1543.
The 1603 Sphaera stellifera globe by Willem Janszoon Blaeu showcases cutting-edge seventeenth-century astronomy in three dimensions. Designed by printmaker Jan Saenredam, it is also stunningly beautiful. It features highly accurate observations of the Northern Hemisphere, and pictures the newly discovered constellations of the Southern sky, offering them as heavenly proof of the success of the Dutch colonial enterprise…
Read more– and find a version that you can zoom and turn online– at “Spin a 3-D Representation of a Beautiful 17th-Century Celestial Globe.”
* Henry David Thoreau
As we locate ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1790 that the Aztec Calendar Stone (or Sun Stone or Stone of the Five Eras), which had been buried by Spanish conquistadors at El Zocalo in Mexico City, was rediscovered during repairs to the Cathedral there. Perhaps the most famous work of Aztec sculpture, it depicts the five eras (the Five Suns) of Aztec civilization; and, while it is called “calendar stone,” it appears to have been used as a ceremonial basin or ritual altar.
The World (or World Islands) is an artificial archipelago of various small islands constructed of dredged sand in the rough shape of a world map, in the Persian Gulf, 2.5 miles off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Intended as a retreat for the uber-rich, it was begun in 2003, and was reported at one point to be 70% sold. But the financial crisis of 2008 threw the project off track. Frank Jacobs (Strange Maps) checks in…
In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams dreams up the planet Magrathea, thriving on the ‘custom-made luxury planet building’ industry. The Magratheans design and manufacture entire planets for the wealthiest people in the universe. One of those planets was Earth, and one of its designers won an award for his work on the fjords of Norway.
There are no fjords (yet) on The World. That would make the resemblance to the HHGttG story even more eerie. For the collection of islands, 2.5 miles off the coast, also is a vanity project aimed at the astronomically rich. Only, it doesn’t look like they’re flocking to The World just yet. One obvious reason: much of it is still under construction…
By 2010 [after the 2008 crash], with local property prices recovering from the worst of the recession – and Dubai pockets being fairly deep – it seemed that work was about to resume. Dubai-based Kleindienst Group announced it would start work on The Heart of Europe, a collection of six islands (including Monaco, Germany, St. Petersburg and Sweden islands; Netherlands island seems to have been renamed Europe island). But financial disputes between Kleindienst and Nakheel kept the development on hold until an out of court settlement was reached. Work resumed in earnest in January 2014.
Despite announcements over the years of island sales and grandiose development schemes throughout the archipelago, by the end of 2013 only two islands had effectively been developed. One being Lebanon island, with a Royal Beach Club rented out for corporate events, private parties and public functions. The other one is Upernavik island in the Greenland area, which has a show home on it.
So what’s the future going to bring for The World? Amazing, luxurious, captivating things, if you believe the corporate blurb on The Heart of Europe website [here]:
“Each island within The Heart of Europe will be modelled by different European countries, reflecting the very sights, sounds, aromas and tapestry that make these destinations so timeless and unique. The main Island Europe is designed with flavours from Vienna, Rome, Andalusia and Côte d’Azur, while the other islands bring the inspiration from Monaco, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and St. Petersburg”.
And also a few genuinely bizarre things:
* “The first rain and snow-lined streets [in the Gulf Region], made possible through German engineering and technology”.
* [A] number of unique floating villas with underwater rooms offering magnificent views of the spectacular sea world”. Why not add a few U-boats – made possible through German engineering and technology.
* “Some of Europe’s most talented street performers, from playful acrobats and dancers to eclectic artists and musicians”. That explains the disappearance of the guy down my street who will play La Marseillaise on his armpit for a can of beer.
* “Outdoor climate-controlled streets […] A concept that truly will bring European weather to Dubai!” This might actually scare off most European tourists.
The website promises the imminent launch of Phase 2 of The Heart of Europe, on Sweden Island. But exact dates, also of the project’s overall completion, are impossible to find. We’re left wondering when The World will be finished. And whether they’ll find the time and the money to put in some prize-winning fjords.
More at “The World (Under Construction).”
* Leo Tolstoy
As we wonder at how the other half means to live, we might send natural birthday greetings to Richard Jefferies; he was born on this date in 1848. A writer noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels, he is probably best known for Bevis (1882), a classic children’s book (with an Animal Farm-like message that, of course, predates Orwell by decades), The Story of My Heart (an 1883 essay that located Jefferies as the leading nature writer of his time), and After London (1885), an early work of science fiction… to the extent that he is remembered at all.
What did the United States look like to Ottoman observers in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis)….
See a larger version of the map and learn more about it and about the history of Turkish maps of North America at “The Ottoman Empire’s First Map of the Newly Minted United States.”
* C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
As we ponder perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1918– four years and a day after joining World War I as allies of Germany– that the Ottoman Empire surrendered and signed an armistice with the Allies at Mudros, ending the war in the Middle Eastern Theatre.
“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”*…
Genius follows its own law of gravity. It migrates in ever greater numbers to where it thrives. Hence places like Silicon Valley – and attempts to replicate it elsewhere, like London’s Silicon Roundabout. The phenomenon is older than the microchip, of course…
Watch the centers of creative gravity migrate through Europe, from 1400 to 1950, at “The Geography of Genius.”
* Jonathan Swift (the inspiration for John Kennedy Toole)
As we put on our sailin’ shoes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1853 that Steinway & Sons sold its first piano in the United States. The company had been founded in March of that year by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who’d started making pianos in his native Germany in 1935 (and who didn’t officially change his name to “Steinway” until 1864). Working in a loft on Varrick Street in Manhattan, he called his first U.S. piano “Number 483″ as he’d built 482 pianos before immigrating. It was sold to a New York family for $500. Over the next thirty years, Henry and his sons, C. F. Theodore, Charles, Henry Jr., William, and Albert, developed the modern piano; almost half of the company’s 127 patented inventions were developed during this period.
* Jonathan Swift
In the midst of the intense partisanship we experience today– with Americans polarized into red and blue camps and no convergence in sight– it’s easy to forget that much of the nation’s history was characterized by similarly-intense political rivalry, especially the late nineteenth century.
The map above, created in 1883, was created by Census Superintendent Henry Gannett, and published the massive Scribner’s Statistical Atlas, which included maps of each presidential election. The series ended with this unprecedented attempt to map the returns of the 1880 presidential election not just at the state but the county level.
Such data maps are routine today. But this one stunned nineteenth-century Americans by showing them a nation organized not according to railroads and towns, or mountains and rivers, but Democrats and Republicans. The parties, of course, represented entirely different agendas then, and even their color associations were reversed. On the Scribner map, red denotes Democrats, while blue marks Republicans. Yet the overall portrait is strangely familiar, with red blanketing much of the south while blue spreads across the north. (As to the color scheme reversal, it’s a bit of a mystery. Republicans are now generally represented with red and Democrats with blue, a change that seems to have taken hold sometime after the 2000 election. But other colors were used as well through the twentieth century, as in Paullin and Wright’s Atlas of 1932.)
The 1880 campaign itself was rather routine, with little of substance to differentiate the two parties aside from their positions on tariff policy. Yet the election itself was as much of a nail biter as 1876 had been: nine million Americans turned out, and when it was over Republican James Garfield had outpolled the Democrat by a margin of just 7,000 votes nationwide.
Focus on the outcome by states—the only measure that matters in the Electoral College—and the map shows a nation that seems hopelessly divided along a north-south axis, still fighting the Civil War by other means. Democrats control the former slave states, while Republicans hold an edge in the northeast and Midwest… the map revealed spatial patterns and relationships that might otherwise remain hidden, or only known anecdotally. Perhaps its no coincidence that at the same time the two parties began to launch more coordinated, disciplined, nationwide campaigns, creating a system of two-party rule that we have lived with ever since.
More all-too-familiar-seeming charts and graphs– and an account of the social and political temper of those times– at “The Story Behind the Ancient Map That Invented Red and Blue States.”
* John Adams
As we party on, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that the Lincoln-Douglas debates began. It was the first of a series of public encounters on the issue of slavery between Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and one-time U.S. representative from Illinois. The two politicians, the former a Northern Democrat and the latter a Republican, were competing for Douglas’ U.S. Senate seat. In the seven debates–each lasting about three hours–Lincoln argued against the spread of slavery while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become free or slave. Lincoln lost the Senate race, but his campaign brought national attention to the young Republican Party– whose Presidential candidate he became two years later.