I just finished my oral exams and passed, so just that little hurdle of a dissertation between me and those three very expensive and time consuming letters: PhD. One of my main research areas is the use of GIS in historical research, and I thought it would be nice to highlight one of the first and probably most successful national efforts at a Historical GIS, the Great Britain Historical GIS. This project represents a decade at least of work by Ian Gregory and others to develop a spatial database of historical boundaries, historical census and other demographic data for Great Britain. The main portion of the Historical GIS is not publicly available, but there is a nice public site called A Vision of Britain Through Time, partially funded by lottery proceeds, that allows users to get online access to some of the place information, census data and historical maps and other digital datasets that were developed as part of the Great Britain Historical GIS. Although a number of projects relating to other countries, including the US, have been done or are underway, no other national Historical GIS has really gotten to the level of usage of the Great Britain project.
National Geographic has a photo essay/article about the top ten most polluted places on Earth. It’s unfortunate how many of them are located in the former Soviet Union areas. I found the photo of the cemetery of radioactive vehicles near Chernobyl to be the most disturbing. With luck, Chernobyl will be a one time event. The number of vehicles contaminated by the event is astounding.
The USA Today ran an story a little over a week ago about the changing lifestyle of Americans based upon the longer and longer commute. The data has been clear for some time – our commutes are getting longer and longer with each passing year. However, the article does a pretty nice job of talking about some of the auxiliary impacts, like on news and carpooling, that one would not normally consider. Families have known for years about the lengthening compute because they’ve been experiencing it first hand. I know it’s part of the reason I left Washington, D.C. a number of years ago and the problem has just gotten worse.
Apparently the hispanic community doesn’t even warrant an actual month for Hispanic Heritage Month since it runs from Sept 15 to Oct 15. In recognition of our friends who hablan espanol or are descended from those that do I want to remind you that are some great spanish blogs and podcast. Just to mention a few, check out Geografia Para Llevar, El mundo de los mapas, and La Cartoteca.
A while back I blogged about the planned suburb of Songjiang outside of Shanghai, China called Thames Town, which was built to replicate an English town, complete with shops and even a stone bridge. Not to be outdone, the new suburban development of Tianducheng, outside the city of Hangzhou in eastern China has been constructed to look like the city of Paris, complete with its own replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Reuters has posted a nice slideshow of images here.
One of the most famous fossil finds in anthropology, ‘Lucy’, made a public debut in Houston, Texas today, as part of an exhibit on the cultural heritage of Ethiopia. A key specimen in the lineage of human evolution, ‘Lucy’ is a 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis, discovered in 1974 in the Afar region of Ethiopia by Dr. Donald Johanson and a team of researchers, and represents one of the most complete hominid skeletons ever found. ‘Lucy’ was also a key specimen in determining that walking upright evolved before larger brain size among hominids.
The decision to allow Lucy’s fossilized skeleton to travel to the US for a public exhibit generated a lot of controversy, and it has taken 6 years to get the exhibit going.
Today’s event was a media preview, and the exhibit opens to the public on Friday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and will run until April 2008. If you are in the Houston area or will be traveling there during the exhibit’s run, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to see the exhibit, as it may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see humans’ most famous ancestor. Or, you can catch the tour in other US cities, including, I believe, Washington, New York, Denver and Chicago.
The Economist has an interesting article rating the most and least livable cities in the world. Canada and Australia come out ahead on the most and Africa and the Middle East fall hard in the least. Interestingly (or maybe as one might expect), the US is not on either list. They’re not 100% clear on what they define as “livable”, but it does mention a number of broad metrics considered. There is also a more full report linked at the bottom, but access to that costs money.
Ars Technica (an excellent tech news site, by the way) has an interesting article concerning epidemiologists turning to the game developer Blizzard for help. Blizzard is the developer and publisher of the wildly successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft (WoW for short). So why are epidemiologists so suddenly interested in games? Turns out virtual worlds with varied populations like WoW are just little social petri dishes for human behavior. This is evidenced by an event that happened a couple of years ago within the game. The developers initially created a virus for high level player areas, which is a very small population, for those unaware of the game. Then the unthinkable happened – it hit the cities where, fairly predictably, all hell broke loose. Oddly enough, this accident confirmed a great many models of disease spread created by epidemiologists. Now they want to take the show in the road, as it were, and test lots and lots of different scenarios and models using the game.
I remember the incident in game as I was on when it struck. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen real panic en mass. I sure don’t want to see the real thing… ever!
This story has been all over the traditional news – the US is opening up domestic use of spy satellites. The news is rather troubling for privacy concerns. As the article points out, the US is certainly moving into complicated and murky legal waters, as there are specific bans on military use in the domestic arena. While there has certainly been a lot of concern about private companies documenting information, I have to wonder if there will be a greater outcry when it’s tax dollars being used instead of private dollars. I also wonder if this will press to improve our remote sensing capabilities, much like what was mentioned in the FLIIWG working group Sue blogged yesterday.
I can’t imagine this will be the last we hear on this specific issue.
Although this actually launched a couple of months ago, I wanted to point out the CyArk 3D Heritage Archive, which has a great story behind it and touches on some of the research we do in the area of representing landscapes, especially past landscapes, through geospatial technologies and virtual reconstructions. The CyArk 3D Heritage Archive is a collection of 3D models of cultural heritage sites, which are available freely from the CyArk website, which is part of the larger CyArk 3D Heritage Network. There are some amazing scans, like the ones for ancient Thebes or Mesa Verde, and some of the site have other documentation such as 3D CAD drawings, maps and photographs. There are currently 60 scans available, and there is a Java-based 3D point cloud viewer for viewing them in 3D. The hope is to use the models to do what we are working on in our own research, which is recreate past worlds in a virtual environment.
Also check out this San Francisco Chronicle article that talks about the founder of the CyArk project, Ben Kacyra, whose work on developing a 3D laser scanning tool led him to found the Kacyra Foundation to help archaeologists and other researchers scan historic sites.