(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘maps

“Maps are a way of organizing wonder”*…

… and of understanding where places and things actually are. As John Nelson elegantly demonstrates, we sometimes need that remedial help…

If learned early on, a foundationally incorrect view of the world can perpetuate, as students naturally build knowledge in light of a past, incorrect, understanding. Something as basic as our assumptions about the relative locations of Earth’s continents is an interesting, and actually sort of fun, example of how we can get things wrong right off the bat. Ultimately, everything is learned, but some curious geographic errors tend to persist more than others.

So what are some tantalizing locational mistakes that seemingly come pre-installed in American students’ minds that geography teachers wrestle to overcome?

So glad you asked! Here is a cherry-picked handful of examples that we’ll dive into…

  • The northiness of Africa
  • The northiness of Europe
  • The eastiness of South America…

Some common geographic mental misplacements, beautifully illustrated: “Misconceptions,” from @John_M_Nelson @Esri.

See also the companion piece, “Enclaves & Exclaves” and John’s personal blog, “Adventures In Mapping.”

Peter Steinhart

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As we grasp geography, we might recall that it was on this date in 1830 that U. S. Secretary of the Navy John Branch established the Depot of Charts and Instruments, a humble undertaking with an annual budget of $330; its primary function was the restoration, repair, and rating of navigational instruments. But from that seed grew the United States Naval Observatory, a scientific and military facility that produces geopositioning, navigation, and timekeeping data for the United States Navy and the United States Department of Defense. It is one of the oldest scientific agencies in the U. S., and remains the country’s leading authority for astronomical and timing data for all purposes.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 6, 2022 at 1:00 am

“If the map doesn’t agree with the ground the map is wrong”*…

Mercator’s depiction of Rupes Nigra

Maps from hundreds of years ago can be surprisingly accurate… or they can just be really, really wrong. Weird maps from history invent lands wholesale, distort entire continents, or attempt to explain magnetism planet-wide. Sometimes the mistakes had a surprising amount of staying power, too, getting passed from map to map over the course of years while there was little chance to independently verify…

Gerardus Mercator, creator of everyone’s favorite map projection, didn’t know what the north pole looked like. No one in his time really did. But they knew that magnetic compasses always pointed north, and so a theory developed: the north pole was marked by a giant magnetic black-rock island.

He quotes a description of the pole in a letter: “In the midst of the four countries is a Whirl-pool, into which there empty these four indrawing Seas which divide the North. And the water rushes round and descends into the Earth just as if one were pouring it through a filter funnel. It is four degrees wide on every side of the Pole, that is to say eight degrees altogether. Except that right under the Pole there lies a bare Rock in the midst of the Sea. Its circumference is almost 33 French miles, and it is all of magnetic Stone (…) This is word for word everything that I copied out of this author [Jacobus Cnoyen] years ago.”

Mercator was not the first or only mapmaker to show the pole as Rupes Nigra, and the concept also tied into fiction and mythology for a while. The idea eventually died out, but people explored the Arctic in hopes of finding a passage through the pole’s seas for years before the pole was actually explored in the 1900s…

See five more confounding charts at “The Weird History of Extremely Wrong Maps.”

And for fascinating explanations of maps with intentional “mistakes,” see: “MapLab: The Legacy of Copyright Traps” and “A map is the greatest of all epic poems.”

* Gordon Livingston

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As we find our way, we might spare a thought for Thomas Doughty; he was beheaded on this date in 1578. A nobleman, soldier, scholar, and personal secretary of Christopher Hatton, Doughty befriended explorer and state-sponsored pirate Francis Drake, then sailed with him on a 1577 voyage to raid Spanish treasure fleets– a journey that ended for Doughty in a shipboard trial for treason and witchcraft, and his execution.

Although some scholars doubt the validity of the charges of treason, and question Drake’s authority to try and execute Doughty, the incident set an important precedent: according to a history of the English Navy, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World by Arthur L. Herman, Doughty’s execution established the idea that a ship’s captain was its absolute ruler, regardless of the rank or social class of its passengers.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 2, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Without geography you’re nowhere”*…

Finding meaning in maps…

You may not know it, but you’ve probably seen the Valeriepieris circle – it’s that circle on a map of the world, alongside the text ‘There are more people living inside this circle than outside of it’. The name ‘Valeriepieris’ is from the Reddit username of the person who posted it and in 2015 the circle was looked at in more detail by Danny Quah of the London School of Economics under the heading ‘The world’s tightest cluster of people‘. But of course it’s not actually a circle because it wasn’t drawn on a globe and it’s also a bit out of date now so I thought I’d look at this topic because I like global population density stuff. I’ll begin by posting a map of what I’m calling ‘The Yuxi Circle’ and then I’ll explain everything else below that – with lots of maps. As in the original circle, I decided to use a radius of 4,000 km, or just under 2,500 miles. Why Yuxi? Well, out of all the cities I looked at (more than 1,500 worldwide), Yuxi had the highest population within 4000km – just over 55% of the world’s population as of 2020…

More– including fascinating comparisons– at “The Yuxi Circle,” from Alasdair Rae (@undertheraedar)

* Jimmy Buffett

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As we ponder population, we might recall that it was on this date in 1995 that the day-time soap opera As The World Turns aired its 10,000th episode. Created by Irna Phillips, it aired for 54 years (from April 2, 1956, to September 17, 2010); its 13,763 hours of cumulative narrative gave it the longest total running time of any television show. Actors including, Marissa Tomei, Meg Ryan, Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, and Emmy Rossum all appeared on the series.

The 1956 cast

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“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected”*…

Friedrich Strass, Der Strom der Zeiten, 1803 [source/zoomable version]

Readers may recall an earlier post on John B. Sparks’ Histomap, a well-known 1931 attempt to visualize the 4,000 year history of global power. Public Domain Review takes a look at Histomap‘s ancestor/inspiration, Friedrich Strass’ Der Strom der Zeiten (published in 1803), and its influence…

In his foundational textbook Elements, the Alexandrian mathematician Euclid defined a line as “breadthless length” — a thing with only one dimension. That’s what lines can do to history when used to plot events: they condense its breadth into pure motion, featuring only those people and places that serve as forces thrusting it forwards along an infinite axis. Early in the nineteenth century, Friedrich Strass proposed a different way to visualize time’s flow. A Prussian historian and schoolteacher, he published his chronological chart in 1803, a massive diagram titled Der Strom der Zeiten oder bildliche Darstellung der Weltgeschichte von den altesten Zeiten bis zum Ende des achtzehnden Jahrhunderts (The stream of the times or an illustrated presentation of world history from the most ancient times until the eighteenth century). The linear timelines that Strass resisted, like those inspired by Joseph Priestley, “implied a uniformity in the processes of history that was simply misleading”, write Anthony Grafton and Daniel Rosenberg. Strass’ stream, by contrast, allowed historical events to “ebb and flow, fork and twist, run and roll and thunder.” It would spawn several imitations as the century drew on…

Capturing history in its organic unfolding: “The Stream of Time,” from @PublicDomainRev. See the original at the David Rumsey Map Collection.

* Reif Larsen

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As we contemplate chronology, we might recall that it was on this date in 1800 that the Library of Congress was established. James Madison has first proposed a national library in 1783. But it wasn’t until 1800, when (on this date) President John Adams signed signed an act of Congress providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, that the deed was done. The Act appropriated $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress … and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them.” Books were ordered from London, creating a collection consisting of 740 books and three maps, which were housed in the new United States Capitol.

But in 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces burned the Capitol Building, and with it, the the collection (by then, around 3,000 volumes). The Library as we know it was created from those ashes. Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library– 6,487 books– as a replacement, Congress accepted, and the Library of Congress grew from there.

The Capitol Building, which housed the Library of Congress, after being burned by the British [source: Library of Congress]

“The turning points of lives are not the great moments. The real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.”*…

What’s true of threats is also true of opportunities. Could Ford’s new truck be the pivot to a new, greener personal transportation future?

As the top-selling model line in the U.S. for 40 years, Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickups hold special weight in the auto ecosystem. The lineup, led by the F-150, generates more than $40 billion in annual revenue. Only one other U.S. product—Apple Inc.’s iPhone—tops F-Series sales.

Given this, Ford’s decision to electrify the F-150 stands as one of the boldest strategic decisions in 21st century business. An electric F-150, more than any other vehicle, will persuade rural America to go green, leading the way for almost every automaker that finds itself challenged by the electric transition.

Costs for Lightning owners will be considerably lower than for those owning the F-150. The $39,974 base price (factoring in federal subsidies) is 17% less than that of an entry-level F-150, according to Atlas Public Policy.

Operating costs are lower too…

The most highly anticipated EV is about to hit the U.S. market — and raise the stakes for automakers’ efforts to cut emissions: “How Ford’s Electric F-150 Pickup Truck Will Cut Carbon Pollution,” from @business.

* George Washington

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As we plug in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that map and travel publisher Rand McNally published the first edition of Auto Chum, which went on to become the best-selling Rand McNally Road Atlas.

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