Thursday November 28, 2013
Three recent opportunities to highlight widespread geographic illiteracy went viral. The first was a video filmed by the staff of the Harvard Crimson, who asked students at that prestigious university to name the capital of Canada, a country which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cambridge. The answers varied wildly.
Then, Buzzfeed supplied us with two other gems. The first was a collection of blank maps of the United States including state boundaries that were apparently filled in by Buzzfeed's UK office. While the maps seem to indicate a lack of geographic knowledge from our British cousins, I was quite impressed with the results. I think the Brits did better than Americans could have and they dd far better than Americans could have done placing England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales on a blank outline map of the UK.
Not to be outdone, the Buzzfeed Americans attempted to fill in a blank maps of European countries. The results are as pathetic as you might expect but we can't compare the latter to the former since the latter are countries, full-fledged independent nation-states, not the internal divisions of the United States as the first collection shows. Overall, the Brits did a much better job than the Americans but this is certainly not a scientific study, it's just an effort by Buzzfeed to garner page views. Nonetheless, I do think it's important to memorize place names and where they fit on the map.
Thursday November 28, 2013
Several climatic conditions have particular impact on cities. Inversion layers trap pollutants and make for stagnant smoggy air, which can lead to such things as the 1952 Great Smog. Urban heat islands are the phenomenon of the asphalt, concrete, and buildings in a city that cause the urban area to be warmer than the surrounding countryside. Things like urban farms and greenbelts help to mitigate the effects of cities.
Tuesday November 26, 2013
In 1940 Adolph Hitler tried to woo Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to join the Nazi empire. Franco was unwilling to join Hitler but he did make one concession and he moved Spain's time zone from GMT to the German time zone. Since then, Spain has been off an hour from the time zone they ought to be and many claim that it has impacted the lives and productivity of Spaniards, with many working late, staying up too late, and getting too little sleep - nearly an hour less sleep than other Europeans. Now, the Spanish legislature is set to vote on a proposal to move back to their correct longitudinal time zone, which would be the time zone of the United Kingdom. Read more from NPR.
Saturday November 23, 2013
The use of maps and cartography to understand the world has a very long history. It is believed that the name "atlas" for a book meaning a collection of maps came from the mythological Greek figure Atlas. Legend says that Atlas was forced to hold the Earth and heavens on his shoulders as a punishment from the gods. His image was often printed on books with names and they eventually became known as atlases.