Why Red States Are Red And Blue States Are Blue

Has anyone else given this a lot of thought? Why does red = Republican and blue = Democrat in the US? Would it surprise you to find out that convention really didn’t fully catch on until as late as 2000? I can remember as a kid seeing a sea of blue on TV when Reagan got elected in 1980. Then I remember seeing a sea of red when he won again in 1984 with 49 of the 50 states and it kinda confused me. Well my confusion has been cleared thanks to this wonderful article by The Smithsonian. Take a few minutes and read all about the history of this cartographic phenomena in US political mapping. I personally really enjoy the side stories for the ‘why’ that are easily debunked. It makes for fun reading!

Also – if you’re eligible to vote in the US, go out and vote!

Scientists Convicted of Manslaughter for Failing To Predict Earthquake

We’ve been following this news item for some time, and I have to say I, for one, never dreamed these scientists would be convicted. An Italian judge has decided six scientists and one government official are criminally negligent for failing to predict the L’Aquila earthquake. They face up to 6 years in jail for their actions. The judge was quick to point out the verdict isn’t based so much on the lack of prediction as their failure to adequate phrase their warnings in a sufficiently alarming way. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say this is going to have a drastically chilling impact on scientific reporting, particularly in Italy. I’d like to say something hopeful out of this, but frankly it is all quit too depressing.

The Cost of Carbon

Ars Technica is reporting that some researchers are having issues with the US’s pricing of carbon emissions. The price of carbon emissions is notoriously difficult to pin down, but these researchers are suggesting the US might have missed the mark by as much as a factor of 12. The problem centers around the discount rate, which is the cost of not spending the money on other uses, such as interest or capital investments, for instance. Apparently the researchers claim the US is setting this rate too high. They do not seem to be factoring in certain work that’s been done not just within climate change research, but also with economics and discount rates more broadly. It seems to me this shows an interesting interplay with different social and physical disciplines. Often what’s going on in one area isn’t translated or accounted for in another. Then policy makers have to come up with some sort of semi-educated guesstimate of how to integrate all of this stuff into a cohesive policy. It’s a thorny issue that’s beyond just climate change. However, I unsurprisingly believe we geographers might be a good nexus point within disciplines for just these sort of complex issues. Perhaps we should get involved more deeply with these sorts of estimates to attempt to redress such widely variant estimations. That’s not to discount the important work geographers are already doing, but just to suggest maybe we can get a little more vocal about our great work and how we can contribute.

Spatial role-playing and virtual immersion

It is interesting to find that there are many types of spatial immersion projects going on this summer. They provide a good contrast of how creative people can be with spatial immersion as an educational tool and the importance of experiencing an environment to understanding it in a new way.

The original Virtual Trillium Trail was a virtual ecological environment created by Maria C.R. Harrington as part of her dissertation research in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. It is represents real world field trips offered by the Audubon Society of Western PA and uses the Pennsylvania Department of Education Ecology Standards. Virtual Trillium Trail has been posted on KickStarter to try to get funding to make it into an online game.

School of Architecture for All (SARCHA) Polypolis is a role playing social simulation that covers different areas of current events. They are currently presenting “Polypolis Athens: Become an Athenian and experience a city in crisis” for the upcoming London Festival of Architecture on June 23-July 8. The theme of the festival is The Playful City and Polypolis is billed as a Playful social simulation, but is playful in the way that serious games allow users to play in a immersive sandbox.

Role-playing and immersion are always great educational tools; virtually or in real life. I have always enjoyed having students create their own role-play activities to share with classmates. I think that both k-12 students and adults respond well to role-pay as an educational activity. A paper on role-playing as an educational technique from 1958 sums it up well, ” Dramatic play has been enjoyed by children- and adults too, if you will — throughout the ages. It is a natural and spontaneous way of learning, but only comparatively recently have educators come to realize its worth as a teaching device.”

Of course, Sue Bergeron and Jesse Rouse have done more than talk about the role of technology, such as the contributions of GIS, to making what educators dreamed about in 1958 possible. There is a good quote from  “Engaging the Virtual Landscape: Serious gaming environments as tools in historical landscape reconstruction and interpretation ”  that says, “Utilizing game functionality we can add sounds, smells, and other sensory input that would be part of such landscapes, and users can begin to experience phenomena that in combination creates a sense of place. ”  It is nice to see how role-playing has evolved as technology and spatial knowledge has evolved. It will be interesting to see what people come up with next.

 

Kansas Caucus Results 2012 interactive maps

It’s always exciting to watch real time results for any type of polling and interactive map are becoming more prevalent with each election. Several news sites have real-time interactive maps of the Kansas Caucus Results.

The Huffington Post has posted a real-time map of the Kansas Caucus Results. It’s at almost 30% reporting and hasn’t crashed yet. For any news map it is important to identify where the information is coming from and who designed the map. In this case the only map metadata I could find was this disclaimer, “Delegate allocations are tentative and might be adjusted later. Credits: Jay Boice, Aaron Bycoffe, Daniel Lee and Christian Rocha” .  The comments section of the real-time article only has one criticism that not all of the  candidates were broken out separately on the interactive map.

KMBC-TV  has an interactive map of the Kansas Primary which appears to have been created using Microsoft MapPoint by Hearst Publications and the AP.  Their interactive map includes all of the candidates.  The Economist has an extensive interactive map of the Republican Nominations  which provides results from the primaries/caucuses in each state and other information. There are probably more than ten different news sites with ten different ways of creating an interactive map to involve their audience in the excitement of the political process. It will be interesting to look into how many people leave an interactive map up on their computer screens to keep tabs on the polling.

Geography Web Comics

It isn’t often that world geography and international relations can make you laugh out loud, but the web comic Scandinavia and the World manages to do it very well.  A friend who teaches Eastern European languages posted their comic about Scotland joining the Nordics. The BBC did a good article on “How Scandinavian is Scotland”,        I found it almost as funny as Eddie Izzard’s comedy about the flag of England.

However, the  SATW comic I found the most interesting geo-spatially was the one that depicts humanoid countries in relative “country” ages. Like how a dog year equals seven human years, the comic says, “I’ve drawn Denmark as younger than Sweden and Norway a few times, but that had to do with the age of the landmass. This shows how old the Nordics are as countries.”  I like the fact that they took the time to explain the background of everything in their comics and thought that hard about how to accurately represent them. I wonder what other countries would be depicted as for their land mass and country ages are?

US World Regional Geography class gets a chance to Skype with Burmese activist Suu Kyi

Professor John Boyer’s World Regions class at Virginia Tech got an amazing opportunity yesterday evening to interview Nobel laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is known the world over for her efforts as a pro-democracy activist in Myanmar (Burma). After Boyer and his class recorded a video interview request and posted it to YouTube, Suu Kyi agreed to the request and answered questions from students and the audience for about 45 minutes via Skype. Here’s local news coverage of the event and congratulations to Professor Boyer on an unbelievable experience for his students!

 

Obama Seeks Data Experts

It seems pretty obvious to me this will be a trend in future elections – Obama seeks data experts for edge. The President leveraged social media pretty effectively in the 2008 campaign. As the article points out, Governor Rick Perry did the same in his election campaign in Texas. What I find the most intriguing is the degree and effectiveness the campaigns have in synthesizing and analyzing all of these streams of data. It’s certainly true a Presidential election is about collecting public opinion as much as anything, it’s pretty clear they’re developing a pretty comprehensive factual resource. I really like the nugget in the article that mentions combing both traditional streams of data with social media streams to create more holistic and targeted information. That’s a model we in the geospatial industry are quickly moving to adopt, with greater and lesser degrees of success. It seems to me there might be a lot of lessons to be learned in the geospatial community as to how to gather nuggets of useful knowledge from similar efforts.

South Sudan poll results

With more than a month under its belt, South Sudan seems to be moving full speed ahead. There continue to be issues as expected with a new country, but growth seems evident as well. In July we asked you the question “What are your thoughts on South Sudan independence?” and 47 of you shared your thoughts based on the 4 options we provided:

  • About time (17%)
  • Hopeful (43%)
  • Concerned (26%)
  • South where? (14%)
  • To go along with the results, here is the UN admitting South Sudan.

    New Poll: South Sudan

    With South Sudan becoming independent, and the first new country in a while, there are a lot of questions coming up. We will leave the commentary to the talking heads but we are curious about your general thoughts on what is happening, and more importantly what will happen in the future, as South Sudan separates from Sudan. Head over to the website and take the poll over on the right hand side of the page.