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Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon

“First we eat, then we do everything else”*…

 

food flow

How food flows between counties in the U.S.: each line represents the transportation of all food commodities, along transit routes, like roads or railways.

 

My team at the University of Illinois just developed the first high-resolution map of the U.S. food supply chain.

Our map is a comprehensive snapshot of all food flows between counties in the U.S. – grains, fruits and vegetables, animal feed, and processed food items.

To build the map, we brought together information from eight databases, including the Freight Analysis Framework from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which tracks where items are shipped around the country, and Port Trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which shows the international ports through which goods are traded…

Food counties

These nine counties — mostly in California — are most central to the overall structure of the food supply network. A disruption to any of these counties may have ripple effects for the food supply chain of the entire country.

 

Megan Konar, one of the principal investigators on the study, explains in fascinating detail how food gets to your home… and lists some of the bottlenecks and vulnerabilities to which we’d be wise to pay attention.  Read the study in full here.

* M. F. K. Fisher

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As we dig in, we might send well-preserved birthday greetings to Nicolas Appert; he was born on this date in 1749.  A confectioner and inventor, he is known as “the father of canning.”

In 1795, Napoleon, who famously understood that an army travels on its stomach, had offered a prize of 12,000 francs for a method of preserving food and transporting it to its armies.  Appert, who worked 14 years to perfect a method of storing food in sterilized glass containers, won the award in 1810.

Interestingly, that same year (1810), Appert’s friend and agent, Peter Durand, took the invention to the other side.  He switched the medium from glass to metal and presented it to Napoleon’s enemies, the British– scoring  a patent (No. 3372) from King George for the preservation of food in metal (and glass and pottery) containers… the tin can.

One of Appert’s/Durand’s first cans

source

 

 

Written by LW

November 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

“History is past politics and politics present history”*…

 

Vintage compass lies on an ancient world map.

A recent study confirms a disturbing trend: American college students are abandoning the study of history. Since 2008, the number of students majoring in history in U.S. universities has dropped 30 percent, and history now accounts for a smaller share of all U.S. bachelor’s degrees than at any time since 1950. Although all humanities disciplines have suffered declining enrollments since 2008, none has fallen as far as history. And this decline in majors has been even steeper at elite, private universities — the very institutions that act as standard bearers and gate-keepers for the discipline. The study of history, it seems, is itself becoming a relic of the past.

It is tempting to blame this decline on relatively recent factors from outside the historical profession. There are more majors to choose from than in the past. As a broader segment of American society has pursued higher education, promising job prospects offered by other fields, from engineering to business, has no doubt played a role in history’s decline. Women have moved in disproportionate numbers away from the humanities and towards the social sciences. The lingering consequences of the Great Recession and the growing emphasis on STEM education have had their effects, as well.

Yet a deeper dive into the statistics reveals that history’s fortunes have worsened not over a period of years, but over decades. In the late 1960s, over six percent of male undergraduates and almost five percent of female undergraduates majored in history. Today, those numbers are less than 2 percent and 1 percent. History’s collapse began well before the financial crash.

This fact underscores the sad truth of history’s predicament: The discipline mostly has itself to blame for its current woes. In recent decades, the academic historical profession has become steadily less accessible to students and the general public — and steadily less relevant to addressing critical matters of politics, diplomacy, and war and peace. It is not surprising that students are fleeing history, for the historical discipline has long been fleeing its twin responsibilities to interact with the outside world and engage some of the most fundamental issues confronting the United States…

Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin suggest that “The historical profession is committing slow-motion suicide.”

[Image above: source]

* The motto of the Johns Hopkins History Department (attributed to 19th century Oxford historian Edward Augutus Freeman by some scholars, and to 19th century Cambridge historian Sir John Robert Seeley by others)

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As we look to the past, we might recall that it was on this date in 1803 that the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, when the U.S. took formal possession of 828,000 square miles of territory from France (an area that includes all or part of 15 current U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces).  Americans had originally sought to purchase only the port city of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal lands; but Napoleon, cash-strapped by his war with England, offered a (much) larger parcel– and the U.S. quickly agreed.

250px-Louisiana_Purchase

The modern continental United States, with the Louisiana Purchase overlaid

source

 

 

Written by LW

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

“That’s the place to get to—nowhere”*…

 

In a triumph of data collection and analysis, a team of researchers based at Oxford University has built the tools necessary to calculate how far any dot on a map is from a city — or anything else.

The research, published in Nature last month, allows us to pin down a question that has long evaded serious answers: Where is the middle of nowhere?

To know, you’d have to catalogue and calculate the navigation challenges presented by the planet’s complex, varied terrain and the dirt tracks, roads, railroads and waterways that crisscross it. You’d then need to string those calculations together, testing every possible path from every point to every other point.

That is pretty much what the folks did at the Malaria Atlas Project, a group at Oxford’s Big Data Institute that studies the intersection of disease, geography and demographics. The huge team — 22 authors are credited — spent years building a globe-spanning map outlining just how long it takes to cross any spot on the planet based on its transportation types, vegetation, slope, elevation and more. Those spots, or pixels, represent about a square kilometer.

Armed with this data, and hours and hours of computer time, The Washington Post processed every pixel and every populated place in the contiguous United States to find the one that best represents the “middle of nowhere.”

Congratulations, Glasgow, Mont.!

Of all towns with more than 1,000 residents, Glasgow, home to 3,363 people in the rolling prairie of northeastern Montana, is farthest — about 4.5 hours in any direction — from any metropolitan area of more than 75,000 people…

Remoteness, ranked– see the runners-up and the contenders in other categories at “Using the best data possible, we set out to find the middle of nowhere.”

* D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

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As we idolize isolation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1815 that Napoleon, who had been banished to France’s “middle of nowhere,” escaped from Elba.  With 700 men, he sailed back to France.

The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted to the soldiers, “Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish”.  The soldiers quickly responded with, “Vive L’Empereur!” Ney, who had boasted to the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII, that he would bring Napoleon to Paris in an iron cage, affectionately kissed his former emperor and forgot his oath of allegiance to the Bourbon monarch. The two then marched together towards Paris with a growing army. The unpopular Louis XVIII fled to Belgium after realizing he had little political support. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw. Four days later, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia each pledged to put 150,000 men into the field to end his rule…  [source]

So began the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s second reign, at the end of which (on the 22nd of June) he abdicated.

Napoleon returned from Elba, by Karl Stenben, 19th century

source

 

Written by LW

February 26, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Simplicity is the final achievement”*…

 

Most innovations evolve over time, but when it comes to the index card, there has been little room for improvement. The idea of using “little paper slips of a standard size” has been around since Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus formally adopted it in 1767, but the index card has remained virtually unchanged for the past 250 years.

Linnaeus was inundated with information in his herculean task of classifying plants under the system of binomial nomenclature. While inspecting the Queen of Sweden’s butterfly collection in 1752, he had the idea to use small, uniform cards to catalog his findings.

By the time he started using the system on a regular basis, his method had evolved to very much resemble index cards of today: 3×5 inches on card stock only slightly more substantial than everyday paper, with notes written across the card horizontally. Linnaeus’ innovation would eventually give birth to the Dewey Decimal System and other ambitious attempts to systematically categorize human knowledge—but it also had a dark side.

As Daniela Blei writes in the Atlantic, “From nature’s variety came an abiding preoccupation with the differences between people. As soon as anthropologists applied Linnaeus’s taxonomical system to humans, the category of race, together with the ideology of racism, was born.”…

From Vladimir Nabokov’s use of index cards to write his novels (and to do his interviews) to less expected uses, explore the lore at “Index Cards.”

See also “How the Humble Index Card Foresaw the Internet.”

* Frederic Chopin

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As we file ’em away, we might recall that it was on this date in 1795 that the French government announced a prize of 12,000 francs for a method of preserving food and transporting it to its armies.  Napoleon, who famously understood that an army travels on its stomach, had offered the award.

Nicolas Appert, who worked 14 years to perfect a method of storing food in sterilized glass containers, won the prize in 1810.  Interestingly, that same year (1810), Appert’s friend and agent, Peter Durand, took the invention to the other side.  He switched the medium from glass to metal and presented it to Napoleon’s enemies, the British– scoring  a patent (No. 3372) from King George for the preservation of food in metal (and glass and pottery) containers… the tin can.

One of Appert’s/Durand’s first cans

source

 

Written by LW

February 2, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Hell, when I was growing up, I could make a meal out of a package of Top Ramen and a bottle of Windex”*…

 

In 1958, Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products, invented Chicken Ramen, the first instant ramen product. In 1971, he created Cup Noodles, introducing the world to instant ramen in the form that’s become its avatar… Ando continued to create many variations on the theme, culminating, in 2005 (two years before his death at age 96) with Space Ramen (ramen packaged consumption during for space travel).

Ando’s personal fortune was dedicated at his death to the formation of the Ando Foundation, which has created the CupNoodles Museum.

Dig in at “CupNoodles Museum.”

* Coolio

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As we add the flavor packet, we might send well-preserved birthday greetings to Nicolas Appert; he was born on this date in 1752 (though the year is listed in various sources as 1749, 1750 and 1752; month also varies between October and November).  Inventor of the canning process, preserving food by sealing it in sterilized containers, he published the results of 14 years of research in 1810 and received 12,000 franc award from the French government. Napoleon, who famously understood that an army travels on its stomach, had offered the award.

Interestingly, that same year (1810), Appert’s friend and agent, Peter Durand, took the invention to the other side.  He switched the medium from glass to metal and presented it to Napoleon’s enemies, the British– scoring  a patent (No. 3372) from King George for the preservation of food in metal (and glass and pottery) containers– the tin can.

One of Appert’s/Durand’s first cans

source

 

Written by LW

October 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

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