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Posts Tagged ‘exploration

“A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points”*…

 

This rectangular world map [from the design firm AuthaGraph] is made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to be a rectangle.

The world map can be tiled in any directions without visible seams. From this map-tiling, a new world map with triangular, rectangular or parallelogram’s outline can be framed out with various regions at its center.

For more background and other views, visit The AuthaGraph World Map.

* Alan Kay

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As we struggle to keep it all in proportion, we might send exploratory birthday greetings to Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen; he was born on this date in 1778.  A sailor, navigator, and cartographer, Bellingshausen was appointed by Czar Alexander I of Russia to lead an expedition that aimed to pick up where Captain Cook (who had died a year after Bellingshausen’s birth) left off, exploring the southern polar region of the globe.  Bellinghausen may have been the first to sight the Antarctic mainland, when he saw distant mountains on January 28, 1820.  Between February 17-19, he recorded seeing ice cliffs and ice-covered mountains, though he didn’t realize that they were in fact a continental mainland.  Similar sightings were also made at about the same time British naval captain Edward Bransfield and the American sealing captain Nathaniel Palmer sailing from other directions, so who was actually the first of them to see Antarctica remains unclear.

(Just as there is some uncertainty as to which of the three mariners was in fact the first to sight the seventh continent, so there is some confusion as to Bellingshausen’s birth date.  This is one of the primary candidates.)

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Written by LW

August 30, 2017 at 1:01 am

“What’s it mean; are you determined / To make modern all mankind?”*…

 

Over the past century, there have been numerous expeditions to find a mythical lost city in the Mosquitia rainforest. La Ciudad Blanca keeps being discovered, over and over again; practically any time anyone finds the remains of any settlement, they call it that. I know of half a dozen large sites that have each been deemed ‘the White City’; there must be others. In all cases, the ‘discoverers’ are outsiders, and their find is presented as a heroic accomplishment. They want us to believe that they are intrepid explorers – achieving what others couldn’t because of their guts, money, technology, business acumen and grit.

Nothing in their description is accurate. The cities aren’t lost; the people living in these areas know all about them. And the original legends do not even reference cities; rather, they refer to locations that, for whatever reason, represent a golden age for indigenous communities. Even the landscape is not particularly dangerous; children grow up there, after all…

Archaeologist Christopher Begley asks: “Ancient ruins keep being ‘discovered’: were they ever lost?

* Charles Conrad Abbott

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As we dig, we might send acquisitive birthday greetings to Baron Nils Erland Herbert Nordenskiöld; he was born on this date in 1877.  A Swedish archeologist and anthropologist, he was a foremost scholar of South American Indian culture in his time.  From 1913, he built an extensive collection of “discovered and recovered” South American native artifacts at the Gotebörg Ethnographic Museum, which he headed.  His work was influential in the study of archaeology and anthropology throughout Scandinavia.

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Written by LW

July 19, 2017 at 1:01 am

“There is no easy walk to freedom”*…

 

Detail showing the span of Ingram’s walk, from a map of America by Diego Gutiérrez dating from 1562, just 6 years before Ingram claimed to have made his journey

In the autumn of 1569 the Gargaryne, a French trader, was moored off Cape Breton in present day Nova Scotia when its captain M. Champaign was alerted to a commotion outside. Three English men sitting in a native canoe were asking to be let on board. Their names were David Ingram, Richard Brown, and Richard Twyde, and they told him a story that began in Mexico the year before.

In September 1568, they’d been involved in the battle of San Juan de Ulúa (present day Veracruz, Mexico), between a fleet of English privateers, led by John Hawkins and Francis Drake, and Spanish forces under Francisco Luján. After Hawkins’ ship, the Minion, was damaged, he sailed across the Gulf of Mexico where he put the crew on shore. European settlements along the Atlantic coast were sparse and some of the men decided to walk back to San Juan while others including Ingram, Brown, and Twyde intended to follow the coast north in search of English communities. After some died and others returned south, the three remaining sailors, after more than a year wandering up the eastern coast of North America, reached the fishing village at Cape Breton, Canada, unintentionally becoming, if the story is to be believed, the first Europeans to cross North America…

If three shipwrecked English sailors really did travel by foot from Florida to Nova Scotia in 1569 then it would certainly count as one of the most remarkable walks undertaken in recorded history.  Although the account’s more fantastical elements, such as the sighting of elephants, have spurred many to consign it to the fiction department, John Toohey argues for a second look: “The Long, Forgotten Walk of David Ingram.”

* Nelson Mandela

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As we take a hike, we might spare a thought for James Lind; he died on this date in 1794.  A Scottish physician, he discovered, as a product of the first ever clinical trial, that adding citrus to the diet of English sailors would curb the incidence of scurvy.  When made a requirement by Sir Gilbert Blane, this resulted in the prompt eradication of the disease from the British Navy. (The Dutch had implemented this practice almost two centuries earlier, though with less scientific justification.)  Lind also recommended shipboard delousing procedures, suggested the use of hospital ships for sick sailors in tropical ports, and arranged for the shipboard distillation of seawater for drinking water– for all of which he is remembered as “The Father of Naval Hygiene.”

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Written by LW

July 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”*…

 

If all goes as NASA — and Elon Musk — have planned, at some point in the not-too-distant future, a group of astronauts will begin a years-long round trip to Mars. In NASA’s plan, during each six-month (or more) leg of the journey, the members of a small crew will strap themselves into a cramped spacecraft that offers limited opportunities for recreation, distraction or privacy. As they get farther from Earth, they’ll be increasingly isolated from everything they’ve ever known. Real-time communication with mission control or family members will become impossible.

All of that is a recipe for psychological stress, even above and beyond what astronauts have already experienced. So scientists are trying to identify the unique mental pressures that would accompany a trip to Mars so they can select crews who will cope the best, prepare them to handle the difficulties they will face, and learn how best to help them when they’re millions of miles away…

Preparing for a trip that will make a tourist seat on a United flight seem luxurious: “What Going To Mars Will Do To Our Minds.”

Pair with a packing list for Mars: “The Earth In A Suitcase.”

* Elon Musk

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As we buckle in, we might spare a thought for Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr., USN; he died on this date in 1957.  An explorer, aviator, and scientist, he was the first man to fly over both of the Earth’s poles.

From the age of 13, he showed an adventurous spirit, traveling alone around the world.  He joined the Navy, and by WW I was commander of U.S. Navy aviation forces in Canada.  To improve aerial navigation for occasions when no land or horizon would be visible, he developed a bubble sextant and a drift indicator.

On May 9, 1926, in order to demonstrate the practicability of aerial polar exploration, he and a copilot circled the North Pole.  During an Antarctic expedition, he organized scientific studies, surveying, and collection of meteorological and radio wave propagation data. Then, on November 28-29, 1929, with three crew, he made a flight to the South Pole.

By the time he died, Byrd had amassed twenty-two citations and special commendations, nine of which were for bravery and two for extraordinary heroism in saving the lives of others. In addition, he received the Medal of Honor, the Silver Lifesaving Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Navy Cross, and had three ticker-tape parades– the only individual to ever receive more than two.

Byrd was one of only four American military officers in history entitled to wear a medal with his own image on it. The others were Admiral George Dewey, General John J. Pershing and Admiral William T. Sampson.  As Byrd’s image is on both the first and second Byrd Antarctic Expedition medals, he was the only American entitled to wear two medals with his own image on them.

Byrd and his Vought VE-7 Bluebird seaplane

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Written by LW

March 11, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Life could be horrible in the wrong trouser of time”*…

 

The challenge that the multiverse poses for the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God is often focused on fine-tuning. If there are infinite universes, then we don’t need a fine tuner to explain why the conditions of our universe are perfect for life, so the argument goes. But some kinds of multiverse pose a more direct threat. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the modal realism of cosmologist Max Tegmark include worlds that no sane, good God would ever tolerate. The theories are very different, but each predicts the existence of worlds filled with horror and misery.

Of course, plenty of thoughtful people argue that the Earth alone contains too much pain and suffering to be the work of a good God. But many others have disagreed, finding fairly nuanced things to say about what might justify God’s creation of a world that includes a planet like ours. For example, there is no forgiveness, courage, or fortitude without at least the perception of wrongs, danger, and difficulty. The most impressive human moral achievements seem to require such obstacles.

Still, many horrifying things happen with nothing seemingly gained from them. And, Everett’s many-worlds and Tegmark’s modal realism both seem to imply that there are huge numbers of horrific universes inhabited solely by such unfortunates. Someone like myself, who remains attracted to the traditional picture of God as loving creator, is bound to find such consequences shocking…

How scientific cosmology puts a new twist on the problem of evil.  A theist wrestles with the implications of the “Many World” hypothesis: “Evil Triumphs in These Multiverses, and God Is Powerless.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we calculate our blessings, we might send carefully-addressed birthday greetings to Infante Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu, better known as Prince Henry the Navigator; he was born on this date in 1394.  A central figure in 15th-century Portuguese politics and in the earliest days of the Portuguese Empire, Henry encouraged Portugal’s expeditions (and colonial conquests) in Africa– and thus is regarded as the main initiator (as a product both of Portugal’s expeditions and of those that they encouraged by example) of what became known as the Age of Discoveries.

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“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”*…

 

This map of Canada shows the country’s familiar vastness. A single line drawn across its deep south adds a surprising layer of information.

The line runs well below the 49th parallel that constitutes that long straight stretch of U.S.-Canada border from Point Roberts, WA to Lake of the Woods, MN… Split in two by the U.S. state of Maine poking north, the line traverses four eastern provinces, cutting off the southern extremities of Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick. Nova Scotia is the only province that falls mostly below the line.

Amazingly, what the line does, is divide Canada in two perfect halves – demographically speaking: 50% of Canada’s 35 million inhabitants live south of the line, 50% north of it. Below the line is where you find Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax and other major cities. The vast expanses north of the line are mainly empty…

Other compelling cartographic “curious dividers” at “One Half of Canada Is Smaller than the Other — Plus More Fascinating Inequalities.”

* Audre Lorde

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As we conquer the divides, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Hugh Clapperton; he was born on this date in 1788.  A British naval officer, Clapperton saw action in the Napoleonic Wars and in Canada before volunteering for an expedition to explore Africa.  He made several such journeys, helping to chart West and Central Africa, and was the first European to to make known from personal observation the Hausa states (in what we now call Nigeria).  Clapperton ended his career sailing in an action aimed at suppressing the slave trade.

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Written by LW

May 18, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers”*…

 

It’s happening by hook (violence) and by crook (economic development)…

Palmyra, an ancient oasis city and one-time capital of a short-lived empire, has been razed before. In the third century, Roman emperor Aurelian punished its rebelling citizens by looting its treasures and burning its buildings. The city never recovered; its broken, but well preserved remains have stood in the Syrian desert ever since. Now looms the very real possibility of Islamic State (IS) finishing-off the job Aurelian began by reducing the historic site to rubble. Earlier this year, IS declared the three thousand-year-old palace at Nimrud, Iraq, a symbol of polytheism and demolished it with bulldozers and explosives. In the past days, Islamic State’s advance into Syria has brought Palmyra’s splendid ruins under its control. Its ancient temples, already damaged by fighting, risk suffering Nimrud’s fate.

Conflict has often threatened antiquities, and violent threats to cultural sites often draw the public eye. Today however, development and resource extraction are far more common perils. Among UNESCO’s list of more than a thousand World Heritage Sites (places considered as of special cultural or physical significance), 46—Palmyra included—are categorized as ‘in danger’. Housing, mining, logging, and agriculture are responsible for putting more than half of the sites on the threat list.

Via The Economist, where one will find an interactive version of this chart: mouse over a site to learn the details of both the treasure and the threat to it.

* Daniel Boorstin (quoted by his son, David)

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As we promise to preserve, we might recall that it was on this date in 1415 that Infante Dom Henrique de Avis, Duke of Viseu, better known as Henry the Navigator, embarked on an expedition to Africa.  Having encouraged his father his father, King John I, to conquer a North African port, Henry went to assess the continent’s prospects for himself.  Impressed, he became the champion of Portuguese exploration and expansion, sponsoring the systematic mapping of West Africa, the development of new ships, and the continual search for new trade routes.

Portrait believed to be the true likeness of Henry the Navigator. Detail from the fifth panel of the polyptych of St. Vincent by Nuno Gonçalves, c.1470

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Written by LW

June 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

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