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Posts Tagged ‘population

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself”*…

 

Foudray-tables-credit-excerpt

 

Elbertie Foudray did well playing an unfair game.

Between 1920 and 1945, she became one of the United States’ most important actuaries. World class experts scheduled meetings to talk statistics with her. The life insurance industry, the developing welfare system, and the first generation of American state planners all relied on her research. Foudray’s reputation grew. And her salary also grew too. Still she did not earn even half as much as she should have and despite two decades of celebrated service and significant responsibility, Foudray couldn’t escape the ranks of the “assistant” class…

In many ways, Foudray resembles one of the “hidden figures,” whose stories Margot Lee Shetterly so wonderfully told and director Theodore Melfi brought, with delightful verve, to a theater near you. Even though Foudray’s whiteness extended her privileges not available to Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, or Katherine Johnson, like them she made crucial contributions to a major national project only to have those contributions forgotten…

America’s elite population researchers trusted Foudray, identifying her with her tables. They trusted “the Foudray life tables,” which appeared in multiple / key / works of interwar demography. When Foudray (rather typically, it seems) challenged some assumptions made in calculations by Pascal K. Whelpton—the most important population forecaster of the day—he responded that he “surely will see Miss Foudray the first time I am in Washington…” He took her seriously…

Historian Dan Bouk tells the remarkable story of an unsung hero of modern America: “Elbertie Foudray and the Adventure of Life.”

* Joseph Campbell

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As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer observed “Indian activity” and prepared his troops for the engagement that unfolded the following two days– the most prominent battle in the Great Sioux War of 1876, in which Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors annihilated five companies of the U.S. 7th Cavalry led by Custer.  Known by its Native American participants as the “Battle of the Greasy Grass,” and by most American history books as the “Battle of Little Big Horn,” it culminated with “Custer’s Last Stand” on June 26, 1876.

600px-Charles_Marion_Russell_-_The_Custer_Fight_(1903)

The Custer Fight by Charles Marion Russell

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“Demography is destiny”*…

 

Births

 

Every time a man ejaculates, he produces somewhere between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm. About half of those tiny swimmers carry an X chromosome and about half carry a Y. So you’d think that the odds that one or the other would be the first to fertilize an egg would be about the same as a coin flip. And yet, for as long as people have been keeping records, nature shows a different, dependable pattern: For every 100 babies born biologically female, 105 come out biologically male. Scientists have speculated this mysteriously male-biased sex ratio is evolution’s way of evening things out, since females consistently outlive their XY-counterparts—for every man that reaches the age of 100, four women have also joined the Century Club.

This biological maxim has been so drilled into the heads of demographers—the researchers responsible for keeping tabs on how many people there are on the planet—that most don’t think twice before plugging it into any projections they’re making about how populations will change in the future. But a massive effort to catalog the sex ratios at birth, for the first time, for every country, shows that’s not such a smart strategy after all.

“For so long people just took that number for granted,” says Fengqing Chao, a public health researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies in Singapore. “But no one had ever gone to the trouble of pulling all this information together to get accurate estimates of this fundamental metric.” Chao led the five-year project, combing through decades of census data, national survey responses, and birth records to build models that could estimate national sex ratios across time. In doing so, she and her collaborators at the United Nations discovered that in most regions of the world, sex ratios diverge significantly from the historical norm. Across a dozen countries, the chasm amounts to 23.1 million missing female births since 1970. The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide an unprecedented look at how societal values can skew the laws of nature

The Case of the Gone Girls (and what it might mean): “First big survey of births shows millions of missing women.”

* Ben Wattenberg and Richard M. Scammon, paraphrasing Heraclitus in The Real Majority: An Extraordinary Examination of the American Electorate (Often mis-attributed to Auguste Comte– who died before the word “demography” was first cited in print.)

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As we become boosters for balance, we might send nurturing birthday greetings to Benjamin McLane Spock; he was born on this date in 1903.  The first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and family dynamics, he collected his findings in a 1946 book, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, which was criticized in some academic circles as being too reliant on anecdotal evidence, and in some conservative circles for promoting (what Norman Vincent Peale and others called) “permissiveness” by parents.  Despite that push-back, it became one of the best-selling volumes in history, having sold at the time of Spock’s death in 1998 over 50 million copies in 40 languages.

220px-Benjamin_McLane_Spock_(1976) source

 

Written by LW

May 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know”*…

 

world history

Map of the globe with a focus on trade and expansion, c. 1565, based on an earlier map by Giacomo Gastaldi. Image credit: Library of Congress

 

As we look forward to 2019 and beyond, we might do well to pause and take a look back…

This animation shows how humans have spread and organized themselves across the Earth over the past 200,000 years. The time lapse starts with the migration of homo sapiens out of sub-Saharan Africa 200,000 years ago, with a few thousand years passing every second. As the agricultural revolution gets underway and the pace of civilization quickens, the animation slows down to hundreds of years per second and eventually, as it nears modern times, 1-2 years per second…

Via Kottke.org.  See also time lapse animations of the history of Europe from the fall of Rome to modern times and human population through time. (via open culture)

* Harry S. Truman

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As we listen for the rhymes, we might wish the happiest of birthdays to Isaak Yudovich Ozimov– aka Isaac Asimov– who was born on this date in 1920.  A biochemistry professor, he is better remembered as an author– more specifically, as one one of the greatest science fiction authors of his time (imaginer of “The Foundation,” coiner of the term “robotics,” and author of “The Three Laws of Robotics”).  But Asimov was extraordinarily prolific; he published over 500 books– including (in addition to sci fi) 14 books of history, several mysteries, a great deal of popular science, even a worthy volume on Shakespeare– and wrote an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards.

Isaac.Asimov01 source

 

Written by LW

January 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“There was no doubt about it: the City was the culmination of man’s mastery over the environment”*…

 

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The good folks at The Pudding mashed together demographic and geographic data to create an interactive map of the world that allows one to explore the world’s population in 3 dimensions.  See the population in 2015 or in 1990; see them compared; and see the change.  Explore “Human Terrain.”

And put it in a broader historical context at “Mapping the World’s Urban Population from 1500 – 2050.”

Then think about how the pace of change might accelerate with the increase of climate-driven migration about which the World Bank is warning: “143 Million People May Soon Become Climate Migrants.”

* Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel

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As we go to ground, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Konrad Zacharias Lorenz; he was born on this date in 1903.  A  zoologist and ornithologist, he founded the modern field of ethology.  His work– popularized in books like King Solomon’s RingOn Aggression, and Man Meets Dog– revealed how behavioral patterns may be traced to an evolutionary past, and explored the roots of aggression.  He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for developing a unified, evolutionary theory of animal and human behavior.

220px-Konrad_Lorenz source

 

Written by LW

November 7, 2018 at 2:01 am

“You are not stuck in traffic. You ARE traffic.”*…

 

We’ve used 2016 information on population. There are now at least 3.8 billion people living inside the highlighted circle, and that’s not even including the tally from countries that are partially in the circle like Pakistan or Russia.

The circle holds 22 of the world’s 37 megacities – massive cities that hold at least 10 million inhabitants. It also includes the five most populous cities on the planet: Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Karachi, and Shanghai, which alone combine to hold 144.5 million people.

This geographical region also holds many of the emerging markets of the future, countries that the World Economic Forum expects will lead global growth in years to come. Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh are in the area highlighted, and Pakistan is partially there as well.

As a website called BrilliantMaps explains, there are some other subtleties to the circle that are worth detailing. The circle contains a lot of people, but it also has:

The highest mountain (Everest)

The deepest ocean trench (Mariana)

More Muslims than outside of it.

More Hindus than outside of it.

More Buddhists than outside of it.

More communists than outside of it.

The least sparsely populated country on earth (Mongolia)…

See the infographic in its entirety at “The Majority of the World’s Population Lives in This Circle.”

* TomTom SATNAV Advertisement

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As we contemplate concentration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)– the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London–  was officially adopted by Parliament.  Originally set-up to aid naval navigation (in the calculation of longitude), Greenwich had been the national (and imperial) center for time since 1675.  In 1847, GMT became the standard for British Railroads, and quickly became the de facto standard for all other purposes.  The 1880 Act simply made de jure what had become de facto.

GMT became the international civil time standard, but was superseded in that function (in 1960) by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

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Written by LW

August 2, 2017 at 1:01 am

Life expectancy is a statistical phenomenon. You could still be hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow.”*…

 

Still…

Life expectancy has risen across the U.S. steadily over the last few decades; but the gains are not equally distributed.  Flowing Data illustrates why one might prefer Minnesota to Mississippi: “Life expectancy by state, against the US average.”

* Ray Kurzweil

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As we muse on moving, we might send heart-felt birthday greetings to Willem Einthoven; he was born on this date in 1860.  A physician and physiologist, he introduced a new era in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the heart with his invention of the electrocardiograph, for which he was awarded the 1924 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  His creation became an essential clinical instrument for displaying the electrical properties of the heart– especially useful, of course, in the diagnosis of heart disease.

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Written by LW

May 21, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The first problem of living is to minimize friction with the crowds that surround you on all sides”*…

 

China, the country with the largest population in the world, has just found another 14 million people, equal to about one percent of its population of 1.37 billion

Note that 14 million people is a group larger than the populations of 124 of the world’s 197 countries– then read the full story at: “China keeps finding millions of people who never officially existed.)

* Isaac Asimov

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As we emphasize enrollment, we might tip the plumed birthday bonnet to Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was.  He was born on this date in 1596.

Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
– Rene Descartes

Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

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Written by LW

March 31, 2017 at 1:01 am

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