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“Here there be dragons”*…

 

xkcd (zoomable version here)

Notation on some ancient maps

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As we muse on the ways in which the map is not the territory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that America’s first asphalt pavement was laid in front of City Hall in Newark, N.J.  Edmund J. DeSmedt, the Belgian chemist who oversaw the work, had received a U.S. patent for this asphalt paving method two months earlier. Later that year, DeSmedt became the inspector of asphalt and cements for the District of Columbia, and oversaw wide application there.

DeSmedt’s crews at work in D.C. in 1876

source

 

 

Written by LW

July 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Things require a seed to start from”*…

 

Deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, lies the Global Seed Vault, a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time — and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.  The Seed Vault holds the world’s largest collection of crop diversity….

The most important freezer in the world:  more here and here.

* William Shakespeare

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As we ponder preservation, we might send well-contained birthday greetings to Earl Silas Tupper; he was born on this date in 1907.  A businessman and inventor, he is best known as the inventor of Tupperware, a collection of airtight plastic containers for storing food.

The story of Tupper and his wares here.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favored by the gods.”*…

 

If riding a giant log down a steep mountain sounds like an ideal way to spend a quiet spring afternoon, the Onbashira Festival is for you. Held every 6 years in Nagano, Japan, the festival involves moving enormous logs over difficult terrain completely by hand with the help of thickly braided ropes and an occasional assist from gravity as the logs barrel down hills. The purpose is to symbolically renew a nearby shrine where each log is eventually placed to support the foundation of several shrine buildings. The event has reportedly continued uninterrupted for 1,200 years…

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More at: “A Glimpse into Onbashira, the Dangerous Japanese Log Moving Festival.”

* Maxine Hong Kingston

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As we fulminate on flumes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that the Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies animated short “A Wild Hare”– the first “official” Bugs Bunny cartoon– premiered (though readers will recall that Bugs [or at least, his prototype] made his inaugural screen appearance two years earlier).  Directed by Tex Avery, “A Wild Hare” was nominated for an Academy Award.

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Written by LW

July 27, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Film lovers are sick people”*…

 

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An overview of how film works, the different types of film, and its place in the world of modern digital storytelling…

* François Truffaut

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As we tell truth at 24 frames per second, we might send beautifully-composed birthday greetings to Stanley Kubrick; he was born on this date in 1928.  A renown film director, screenwriter, producer,cinematographer, and editor, Kubrick got his start as a teenaged photographer for Look Magazine.  In 1950, he made the move to cinema, going on to direct 16 films, produce 11, write 13, shoot 5, and edit 4– among them, Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971)Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).  most of his films were nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and/or BAFTA Awards.

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Written by LW

July 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental field work.”*…

 

A Facebook friend recently noted that Turkey was “a remarkably rectangular country.” I wondered how it compared to other countries, and this post shows my answers (Turkey is 15th; Egypt is the most rectangular; full table below). I defined the rectangularness of a country as its maximum percentage overlap with a rectangle of the same area, working in the equirectangular projection (i.e., x = longitude, y = latitude). Ideally each country would get its own projection, but equirectangular rectangles feel at least linguistically thematic and are easier to code…

David Barry‘s ranking of “The rectangularness of countries.”

* Nicholas Chrisman, Professor of Geomatic Sciences, Université Laval

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As we get square, we might send paradigm-shaping birthday greetings to a woman who enabled mapping of an altogether different– and world-changing– sort: Rosalind Franklin; she was born on this date in 1920. A biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, Franklin captured the X-ray diffraction images of DNA that were, in the words of Francis Crick, “the data we actually used” when he and James Watson developed their “double helix” hypothesis for the structure of DNA. Indeed, it was Franklin who argued to Crick and Watson that the backbones of the molecule had to be on the outside (something that neither they nor their competitor in the race to understand DNA, Linus Pauling, had understood).  Franklin never received the recognition she deserved for her independent work– her paper was published in Nature after Crick and Watson’s, which barely mentioned her– and she died of cancer four years before Crick, Watson, and their lab director Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

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Written by LW

July 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?”*…

 

Detail from the “Balloon-Prospect” image, featured in Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia (1786) [source]

Although it is often dismissed as a comedy moment, an amusing episode in the history of flight, ballooning had a profound effect on the epistemological model of being in the world and viewing landscape. That balloons are innately comic is undeniable, and their physical attributes were a gift to satirists of the late eighteenth century, who riffed delightedly on the graphic and semantic associations of this new and somewhat unlikely technology. Furthermore, in the first few decades of ballooning, its utility was unclear. Although flight had been achieved, the power to navigate had not, so balloons could not be used as aerial transport. Once airborne, balloonists were dependent on the mysteries of the upper air and its currents to carry them along. In this captive state, aeronauts set about conducting experiments with a full array of scientific instruments, their own senses and perception being among these. Tasting ginger to see if it was as spicy, or undertaking a complex mathematical equation to test mental acuity at altitude, went alongside checking height and air pressure.

In some cases, science funding had got them up there in the first place. The first successful manned balloon flights were conducted in France with state support. The ascents themselves became known as “experiments”, and were concerned with an exploration of the upper air. In Britain, the Royal Society withheld support from such endeavours, so the first British ascents were underwritten, in the words of one early balloonist, by “a tax on the curiosity of the public”. This affected the cultural profile of ballooning in England: it was always more of a spectacle than a science. In 1785 Tiberius Cavallo, a member of the Royal Society and author of the first English history of ballooning, concluded that:

…many, if not the greatest number of the aerial voyages, though said to be purposely made for the improvement of science, were performed by persons absolutely incapable of accomplishing this purpose; and who, in reality, had either pecuniary profit alone in view, or were stimulated to go up with a balloon, for the sake of the prospect, and the vanity of adding their names to the list of aerial adventurers….

The late-18th Century version of Stewart’s impulse: “‘For the Sake of the Prospect’: Experiencing the World from Above in the Late 18th Century.

* Stewart Brand, as part of his 1966 campaign to have NASA release the then-rumored satellite image of the entire Earth as seen from space

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As we jettison the sandbags, we might send high-flying birthday greetings to Amelia Earhart; she was born on this ate in 1897.  An aviation pioneer and author, she was the fist female to fly solo across the Atlantic (a distinction for which she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross).

Earhart set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.  She joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation, and was a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean.  Fascination with her life, career, and disappearance continues to this day.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Nature. Cheaper than therapy.”*…

 

From Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom

A list of summer camp names found in movies, television shows and books: “Fictional Camps.”

* Popular slogan on Pinterest and Etsy

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As we pack an extra towel, we might send birthday greetings soaked in repellant to Drell Marston Bates; he was born on this date in 1906.  One of the world’s leading experts on mosquitoes, his work for the Rockefeller Foundation led to the understanding of the epidemiology of yellow fever.

 source

 

Written by LW

July 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

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