The Geography of a Garbage Island

Recently massive plastic patches such as the one in the North Pacific Gyre, which is estimated to weigh over 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas, have gained international attention. According to researchers, this happens due to a clockwise trade wind that encircles the Pacific Rim. Today has a good video which describes it. VSB has a science lesson plan which explains ocean currents by using the floating rubber duckies we blogged about last year.

The 23nd International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management

I just came back from the The 23nd International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management at Widener University in Philadelphia. I presented with the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority from WV and people from all over the world sang “Country Roads” to us. What is Solid Waste you ask? and What does it have to with anything spatial? For the purposes of the conference solid waste was very broadly defined from municiple solid waste (trash,recycling…), industrial (waste from manufacturing processes,Mining and mineral wastes…), specialized (agriculture…), facility siting and regulations, geotechnical topics, EU directives and much more. Spatial analysis is a very important component of solid waste management. I talked with the MASA group based in France which developed a waste management optimization tool for route analysis. They said that most places still design their collection routes by hand which works suprisingly well considering, some have begun to use GIS which has helped tremendousy. However, they (obviously since its what they sell) believe that an optimization tool that takes into account turns/single/doubleside collection…) with a GIS component (ESRI) can reduce the environmental impact and increase efficiency. they had also attended the ESRI conference in Switzerland. Other presentations focused on GIS and natural resources, spatial based selection of anaerobic digestion feedstock in California, Application of remote sensing and GIS techniques for disposal of wastes in India and other equally fascinating topics. You might be working in solid waste technology and management and not even realize it. I hope to see you at this conference next year.

Walking on Steep Terrain

Researchers have verified what you probably do naturally on a steep slope – walk zig-zag. According to MSNBC, researchers at University of Southampton UK, found that zigzagging is the fastest way up or down a steep slope. Appropriately the university has its own hillwalking club. Deputy Dog has a list of the steepest streets in the world. Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh topped the list. Does this remind anyone else of the fun marble run game where you race marbles?

Great Backyard Bird Count

Are you participating in the The Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend? Led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, with sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited citizen scientists of all ages from around North America count the birds in their community to better understand bird dynamics, population change, weather,… Besides the cute pictures, the coolest part is the map room which lets you create a map of your state, region, favorite bird. It’s amazing that 15 minutes observation per person over four days provided so much information. If you need help the USGS and provide bird identification websites with birdsongs. Bird Watching — What a great way to get people interested and involved in geography!

Creating memories using maps

I read a Momania article from last year called “Google mapping the ones you love” which explains how their family uses Google maps and other technology to help their “kids feel connected to their father when he travels for business”. So I went looking for other ways you can show someone they are very spatial ; Last February Google Maps API showed readers how to write Valentine’s Day messages on Google Maps. Geogreeting made me smile because it spells out Hello World! or any other message in buildings. The UK’s Ordnance Survey provides a quick way to find romantic locations such as Cupid’s Hill in Monmouthshire or Valentines Park in London. USGS has worksheet explaining how to use maps in creating your family history. Family oral history explains how maps can be used not just to document your family history but start conversations.

Jane Austen, Dickens, and Love

For Valentine’s Day, I went looking for maps of romantic novel worlds. I started by searching for Jane Austen and found this great interactive map of Dicken’s London. This Standfords site had a list of map references in literature. This led me to a really cool site for movie locations using google maps but still no Jane Austen. It did lead me though to this meet up for colin firth enthusiasts. I will continue my search for romantic literature and movie maps.

Advanced Polar Ship

According to the BBC, “European ship designers are currently working on what is billed as the “most advanced polar research vessel in the world” appropriately called the Aurora Borealis. They will use an advanced GPS system but are undecided between the European Galileo system, the Russian Glosnass or American GPS system. Many people might not realize how extensive and accessible Antartica research is for all types of fields and where it can lead you. The U.S. NSF Polar Program not only uses scientists and science assistants but also field support workers, military personnel, the media, and even writers in residence. Germany and some other countries have comparable programs. 2007-2008 was USGS International polar year and they have some cool maps and pictures on their site. In fact, they have a new satellite map which they think will revolutionize Antartic research and is available free to the public. If you go, don’t expect to be warm or to be an old-fashioned adventurer since the NSF said that is the only thing they don’t need.

Beyond Monopoly: Silk Escape Map Scarves

By now, most people have read the very neat story from CNN via Mental Floss , Boing Boing and the Wall Street Journal about how regional silk escape maps were smuggled to WWII POWS in Germany using the game Monopoly. But how else were maps smuggled? On Map Forum, Debbie Hall covers Escape Maps of the World On the USAF Academy website they show how the real Stalag III smuggled maps in the lining of jackets. An archive of first person WWII stores in the BBC recounts a soldier’s use of one.The virtual WWII Museum shows how something as small as a button concealed compasses. Omnimap actually sells unused WWII silk escape maps for about $20.00. The silk escape maps inspired this IT guy to make a million selling silk travel scarves. And on Ebay some orignal silk escape scarves are selling for $300 dollars or more.

World Map Wall Mural

Keeping in the spirit of anyday gifts here is a neat $100 13 foot x 18 foot world map mural that shows “Major cities, World Time Zone, Land Elevation and Distances, Up-to-Date Political Boundaries, Ocean Depths & Shipping Lane, Nautical Miles/ Longitude & Latitude ” I think it might be the same one used here in this map themed bedroom Notice how the laminated map takes up the whole wall and kids can write on it with grease pens. Of course, you could laminate your own maps and use them the same way.

Tea Towels

Finding the license plate map of the U.S.A made me want to look up another great nostalgic geo gift: souvenier map tea towels. Here are some recent tea towel maps of Australia, and for a twist here is a site with vintage map tea towels and tableclothes! I tried to locate information on how much their worth to collectors, but I guest the value is all in the memories. Here is a place that will make your own “bespoke” tea towel but I’m sure someone bright could figure out how to make one on a plotter. Jon Kelley’s Voxword blog has a funny blog about the British obsession with the souvenier map tea towel.