Month: September 2012
First, let it never be said I passed up an opportunity to make a The Police reference.
Now that we have that over, The Guinness Book of World Records has officiated the oldest note in a bottle ever found. The note is over 98 years old and it is an old National Geographic note from a 1914 scientific study concerning ocean currents. The note asks people to return the bottle to Captain C. Hunter Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation. Apparently they released nearly 1,900 bottles but only got back a bit over 300. That seems about right for survey return rates, I think 🙂
Cars + Geography = Frank in heaven. The car company Mobius Motors has created what is for gearheads like me might be darn near perfect car. The founders of Mobius recognized that access to transportation is critical to modern existence. Anybody doing, say, site location work will tell you one of the biggest factors is how far people have to travel to get to the service. Africa isn’t known for it’s bustling transportation infrastructure and thus any cars that operate there have certain challenges. They have to be cheap. They have to do a lot of different things well. They have to be rugged. They have to be fixable. In short, they have to go like Stig. The Mobius concept is to realize all of these in one vehicle. The drive train is the garden variety Toyota that’s everywhere. The frame is everyday tube steel. The body parts are mostly flat panels you can replace with any other flat panels. It’s a solid 4×4 offroader. It’s back can seat 8 in the old school Land Rover Series 2/3 fold up seats. Fold’em up, and suddenly it’s truck. The Mobius is a true SUV, but its also a delivery truck, a hospital truck, a cab, a pickup… it’s pretty much whatever you want. And it’s super cheap for a new car – a mere $6,000.
Let me tell you, I’d LOVE to get one of these in the US, although I expect safety standards would keep it from being street legal. It seems like the perfect all around ticker with it until it rusts apart type of car. So a gearhead salute to Mobius Motors for one cool little car!
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.
Like a good maze, the connection between mazes and cartography might not be self-evident on first glance but from then on it seems obvious. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “This Is Amazing: Maker of Puzzle Finds Few Wanting to Try It: Creating the Largest Hand-Drawn Maze Presents Challenges; Dead Ends, Pancakes” by John Miller interviews Joe Wos, Director of the ToonSeum, a Pittsburgh cartoon museum, and creator of the world’s largest hand drawn maze – almost. It can’t be made official until someone actually solves it.
One person who declined the challenge is maze expert Adrian Fisher, the world’s leading maze designer, 600 mazes (43 of them mirror mazes) in 30 countries, and holistic city planner. He applies his spatial skills to physical mazes, labyrinths, landscape design, town planning and development, transport map concepts, and inventions such as the Mitre Tiling system and the 7-sided Fisher Paver system. According to the website, MirrorMaze, some of his designs are large enough to be seen on Google Earth.
In her book, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, landscape author Rebecca Solnit writes that ““A labyrinth is a symbolic journey or a map of the route to salvation, but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.” However, functionally, a maze and a map both give a bird’s eye view of the world and involve similar geographic ideas. Dr. Joseph J. Kerski, USGS takes this concept further in his article, “Corn Mazes are Maps” for the Fall 2011 Connecticut Geospatial Newsletter. He believes that corn mazes allows people to experience scale, relative and absolute location, land use, and other foundations of geography. In fact, the USGS published a 2012 handout on ” Ten Lessons for Teaching Geography Using Corn Mazes“.
A geographer might never look at their local corn maze, garden maze, or contemplation labyrinth the same after realizing the spatial connections between a maze and a map.
Back in the summer we highlighted the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards in the podcast as a Tip of the Week, but now as the October 1st deadline approaches, I wanted to provide a reminder. The awards are open to a wide range of groups and individuals who are interested in sharing the word about Geo. There are two awards, a $300 Alexander Von Humboldt Prize and a $200 Isaiah Bowman Prize that will be awarded at the beginning of November to support the implementation of the proposed projects.
If you have an idea to spread the word of Geography, head over and check out the details to submit.
This is a great education and outreach opportunity to help inform people about water quality issues. It is an extension of the UN’s World Water Day (March 22) which focuses on educating the public by getting them to conduct water quality tests of local water bodies and share the data. The challenge is coordinated by the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association, and sponsored by organizations such as the USGS and EPA.
As a focus for the challenge, Tuesday, Sept 18 has been deemed World Water Monitoring Day. Thousands of participants, individuals and classes, will be heading out to test water quality near them. You can check the event web site to find out if there is a local event going on in your neck of the woods. If you can’t make it to one of the organized events this week you can also order test kits from the website.
While this gives folks a chance to get a little bit of field experience, there is also a wealth of data, including webmaps, from previous years available to play around with.