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  • feedwordpress 08:01:45 on 2019/04/01 Permalink
    Tags: , Bobcat, Bobcat A Go-Go, , geography, , , , McFarthest,   

    “Every once in a while, people need to be in the presence of things that are really far away”*… 


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    McFarthest

     

    The temperature was hovering in the mid teens outside when we all made our way down to the continental breakfast that occupies the lobby of every roadside motel in America. There was a couple hovering over watered down coffee and self-made waffles when my dad proffered information about our morning: “We’re on our way to the McFarthest Spot!”, as if fully expecting them to smile and say back “Oh, what fun!” Instead, we were met with blank stares and an uncaffeinated “what?”

    The McFarthest spot, of course, is the point in the contiguous United States that is furthest away from any McDonald’s restaurant. A brilliant (if eccentric) man named Stephen Von Worley determined it to be in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota some years back. A twist of fate, unsurprising to any resident of Tonopah, led to their McDonald’s closing and moving the coordinates some. Recalculating the location of the Spot with the newly closed restaurant absent from the dataset pushed our beacon of hope west.

    The Spot now lies on some BLM land in the middle of Nevada, just northwest of Groom Lake – better known as Area 51. It’s just over 120 miles as the crow flies to the nearest Big Mac, even more if you account for driving miles. It seems to me oddly far, but also strikingly close given the magnitude of the 3.1 million square miles we in the US have between Canada and Mexico…

    Tag along on “A Visit to the McFarthest Spot.”

    * Ian Frazier

    ###

    As we dally at a distance, we might note that to day is April Fool’s Day.  A popular occasion for gags and hoaxes since the 19th century, it is considered by some to date from the calendar change of 1750-52— though references to high jinx on the 1st of April date back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392).

    April Fools’ Day is not a public holiday in any country…  though perhaps it should be.

    The McFarthest entry above is not a gag.  Nor is your correspondent’s suggestion for an April Fools smile: this ad (via the Minnesota Historical Society) for a Bobcat loader:  Bobcat A Go-Go.

    Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 2.00.14 PM Do click here

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:08 on 2019/02/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , cultural ecology, , , , geoengineering, geography, , Robert Netting,   

    “Climate change isn’t an “issue” to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call.”*… 


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    climatechange

    “Whitening” the ocean (to reflect more solar radiation) by widely dispersing films, foams, floating chips, or other reflectors– or by towing icebergs from the Arctic down to lower latitudes, so the whiteness of the ice would reflect the sun.

     

    The 1990s were a critical decade for action on climate change, as world governments prepared to finalize the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement by 37 countries to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. They were also a decade when oil companies poured millions of dollars into government lobbying and public relations, trying to persuade the world there was little to worry about. In 1997, with the Kyoto accord almost complete, Mobil, the major American oil company, published an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post: “Let’s face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil,” it said. “Scientists cannot predict with certainty if temperatures will increase, by how much and where changes will occur.” Around the same time, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond argued in a speech to the World Petroleum Congress that “the case for so-called global warming is far from airtight.” (In 1998, Exxon and Mobil would join in a $73.7 billion deal, the largest corporate merger in the world at the time.)

    Recent reporting by the Los Angeles Times and others revealed, however, that Exxon’s rhetoric ran counter to its own internal conclusions about the risks of climate change, as the company reengineered oil platforms and pipelines to account for the rising sea levels that both top executives and the publicity department claimed didn’t exist. Today, even as Exxon endorses the scientific consensus on climate change, supports emissions limits, and even backs some form of carbon taxation, the company exudes a vague optimism, regarding the climate problem as something they can build their way out of…

    Perhaps our best guess at the kind of solutions Exxon may have in mind can be found in an obscure 1997 study on the topic of geoengineering. During the peak of Exxon’s obfuscation, the company’s top climate scientists, Brian Flannery and Haroon Kheshgi, along with two other scientists who didn’t work for Exxon, coauthored a chapter in a book called Engineering Response to Global Climate Change. Using dense, technical language, they outlined more than a dozen planetary-scale fixes to global warming. Not every idea was their own—some were borrowed, at least partially, from prior scientific literature—and the scientists also cautioned that the proposed solutions were not necessarily ready to be implemented. “Geoengineering may well have unintended and unforeseen consequences,” they wrote.

    Indeed, geoengineering was considered fringe science in the 1990s, not least because there was still widespread hope that carbon emissions could be reduced through global agreements like Kyoto. (President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the accord in 2001.) It would take a decade before Scientific American declared that climate intervention had “gained respectability,” and almost 15 years until the United Nations’ climate-research body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would begin publishing assessments on geoengineering options. That’s because while some of the ideas featured in the Exxon study were straightforward (planting trees, for example), a lot of them were quite insane…

    Destroying the earth to save it?  Review several of the oil giant’s visionary “solutions”: “Giant Mirrors. Ocean Whitening. Here’s How Exxon Wanted to Save the Planet.”

    * Naomi Klein

    ###

    As we head for the hills, we might spare a thought for Robert McCorkle Netting; he died on this date in 1995.  A geographer and anthropologist, he pioneered the field of cultural ecology.  Among the many findings from his extensive field work, he argued that worldwide, small farms succeeded where large-scale agricultural enterprises tended to fail, the household being the most effective management unit.  His methodology has been widely adopted, and his textbook, Cultural Ecology, is widely used.

    nettingrobertthm source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 10:01:05 on 2018/11/07 Permalink
    Tags: , ethology, geography, , , Konrad Lorenz, , , , ,   

    “There was no doubt about it: the City was the culmination of man’s mastery over the environment”*… 


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    population2

     

    The good folks at The Pudding mashed together demographic and geographic data to create an interactive map of the world that allows one to explore the world’s population in 3 dimensions.  See the population in 2015 or in 1990; see them compared; and see the change.  Explore “Human Terrain.”

    And put it in a broader historical context at “Mapping the World’s Urban Population from 1500 – 2050.”

    Then think about how the pace of change might accelerate with the increase of climate-driven migration about which the World Bank is warning: “143 Million People May Soon Become Climate Migrants.”

    * Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel

    ###

    As we go to ground, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Konrad Zacharias Lorenz; he was born on this date in 1903.  A  zoologist and ornithologist, he founded the modern field of ethology.  His work– popularized in books like King Solomon’s RingOn Aggression, and Man Meets Dog– revealed how behavioral patterns may be traced to an evolutionary past, and explored the roots of aggression.  He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for developing a unified, evolutionary theory of animal and human behavior.

    220px-Konrad_Lorenz source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: advertisements, , , , geography, , , , ,   

    “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”*… 


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    Food

    Food regularly plays a role in religious life, in forms that range from communion wine to Kahlua cheesecake…

    A sampling of 34 cloistered comestibles: “A Guide of Heavenly Cuisine.”

    * Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

    ###

    As we devour with devotion, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first “Got Milk?” ad premiered.  Created by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, it  was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide.  The campaign launched with the now-famous “Aaron Burr” television commercial, directed by Michael Bay.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2018/10/22 Permalink
    Tags: André-Jacques Garnerin, avaition, geography, Google Earth, , , ,   

    “There is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it”*… 


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    7 sq miles

    (Clockwise, from upper left) Seven-square-mile views of Manhattan; Chaganbulage Administrative Village in Inner Mongolia; Venice, Italy; and farms in Plymouth, Washington

     

    Spending time looking at the varying and beautiful images of our planet from above in Google Earth, zooming in and out at dizzying rates, I thought it would be interesting to compare all of these vistas at a fixed scale—to see what New York City, Venice, or the Grand Canyon would look like from the same virtual height. So, the following images are snapshots from Google Earth, all rectangles of the same size and scale, approximately three and a half miles (5.6 kilometers) wide by two miles (3.2 kilometers) tall—showing seven square miles (18.1 square kilometers, or 4,480 acres) of the surface of our planet in each view…

    The Atlantic‘s Alan Taylor takes us a remarkable tour of the earth:  “Seven Square Miles.”

    * E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

    ###

    As we gaze groundward, we might recall that it was on this date in 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished the first successful parachute jump.  He ascended to 2,230 ft. above the Parc Monceau, Paris, with a balloon, then released it and unfurled a silk parachute.  Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations– as a result of which, he suffered the first case of airsickness.

    Garnerin releases the balloon and descends with the help of a parachute, 1797. (Illustration from the late 19th century.)

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/03/22 Permalink
    Tags: , clearance, geography, height regulation, , , , lonliest roads, quitest roads, STRAHNET,   

    “I took the one less traveled by”*… 


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    An interactive map highlights the least traveled routes in the country—and some of the most scenic.  Using 2015 annual average traffic data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System Geotab identifies the least traveled roads in each state, and in all of America (replete with a virtual preview of each route via Google Street View).  Then it ranks the top 10 most scenic paths (starred on the map) from those listed, as selected by the conservationist and photographer James Q. Martin.

    Explore it here.

    * Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

    ###

    As we seek solitude, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that the Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET) affirmedto Regional Federal Highway Administrators the minimum clearance requirements for highways that are part of the STRAHNET system: a clear height of structures over the entire roadway width, including the useable width of shoulder, of 4.9 meters for the rural Interstate; in urban areas, the 4.9-meter clearance is applied to a single route, with other Interstate routings in the urban area having at least a 4.3-meter vertical clearance.

    The STRAHNET is “a system of highways that provides defense access, continuity and emergency capabilities for movements of personnel and equipment in both peacetime and wartime. The STRAHNET was based on quantifiable DOD requirements, addressing their peacetime, wartime, strategic, and oversize/overweight highway demands. The network consists of approximately 96 000 kilometers of highway. The STRAHNET has been incorporated into the National Highway System (NHS). Almost 75 percent of the system in the continental United States (about 70 000 kilometers) consists of roadways on the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” [source]

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:20 on 2018/02/26 Permalink
    Tags: , Elba, geography, Glasgow Montana, , Hundred days, isolation, , middle of nowhere, ,   

    “That’s the place to get to—nowhere”*… 


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    In a triumph of data collection and analysis, a team of researchers based at Oxford University has built the tools necessary to calculate how far any dot on a map is from a city — or anything else.

    The research, published in Nature last month, allows us to pin down a question that has long evaded serious answers: Where is the middle of nowhere?

    To know, you’d have to catalogue and calculate the navigation challenges presented by the planet’s complex, varied terrain and the dirt tracks, roads, railroads and waterways that crisscross it. You’d then need to string those calculations together, testing every possible path from every point to every other point.

    That is pretty much what the folks did at the Malaria Atlas Project, a group at Oxford’s Big Data Institute that studies the intersection of disease, geography and demographics. The huge team — 22 authors are credited — spent years building a globe-spanning map outlining just how long it takes to cross any spot on the planet based on its transportation types, vegetation, slope, elevation and more. Those spots, or pixels, represent about a square kilometer.

    Armed with this data, and hours and hours of computer time, The Washington Post processed every pixel and every populated place in the contiguous United States to find the one that best represents the “middle of nowhere.”

    Congratulations, Glasgow, Mont.!

    Of all towns with more than 1,000 residents, Glasgow, home to 3,363 people in the rolling prairie of northeastern Montana, is farthest — about 4.5 hours in any direction — from any metropolitan area of more than 75,000 people…

    Remoteness, ranked– see the runners-up and the contenders in other categories at “Using the best data possible, we set out to find the middle of nowhere.”

    * D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love

    ###

    As we idolize isolation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1815 that Napoleon, who had been banished to France’s “middle of nowhere,” escaped from Elba.  With 700 men, he sailed back to France.

    The 5th Regiment was sent to intercept him and made contact just south of Grenoble on 7 March 1815. Napoleon approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when he was within gunshot range, shouted to the soldiers, “Here I am. Kill your Emperor, if you wish”.  The soldiers quickly responded with, “Vive L’Empereur!” Ney, who had boasted to the restored Bourbon king, Louis XVIII, that he would bring Napoleon to Paris in an iron cage, affectionately kissed his former emperor and forgot his oath of allegiance to the Bourbon monarch. The two then marched together towards Paris with a growing army. The unpopular Louis XVIII fled to Belgium after realizing he had little political support. On 13 March, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw. Four days later, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia each pledged to put 150,000 men into the field to end his rule…  [source]

    So began the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s second reign, at the end of which (on the 22nd of June) he abdicated.

    Napoleon returned from Elba, by Karl Stenben, 19th century

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:32 on 2017/06/03 Permalink
    Tags: geography, , , , , strange, ,   

    “Museums are custodians of epiphanies”*… 


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    Located on the campus of Georgia Southern University, the U.S. National Tick Collection is the world’s largest curated tick collection

    Just one of the extraordinarily-specific museums– from umbrella covers to pencil sharpeners– one will find at “The Ultimate List of Wonderfully Specific Museums.”

    * George Lois

    ###

    As we defer to the docent, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964, on the eve of a get-together, that T.S. Eliot wrote his pen pal Groucho Marx: “the picture of you in the newspapers saying that… you have come to London to see me has greatly enhanced my credit in the neighbourhood, and particularly with the greengrocer across the street. Obviously I am now someone of importance.”

    More on their unlikely friendship here and here.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:34 on 2017/04/16 Permalink
    Tags: Brexit, , Buffon, , geography, , , ,   

    “Earth is ancient now, but all knowledge is stored up in her”*… 


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    (Roughly) Daily is headed into a brief hiatus, as your correspondent is hitting the highways of his humid homeland.  Regular service should resume on April 26.  Meantime…

    An illustration of the huge waterfalls cascading over the land bridge connecting Britain to Europe

    Britain split from mainland Europe to become an island thanks to catastrophe — that might sound political, but in fact it’s geographic. Thousands of years before the UK opted to leave the European Union, a process called Brexit, a different separation occurred. Unlike the political one, it was relatively simple, and probably composed of just two stages.

    First, a review of geography: England is separated from the rest of Europe by a body of water called the English Channel; the bit of water where England is closest to France is called the Dover Strait. But the strait wasn’t always there — it was likely created by two major erosion events, according to a study published today in Nature Communications. The first one likely happened around 450,000 years ago, around the same time Neanderthals first appeared in Europe. That’s when huge amounts of water spilled over from a large lake sitting at the edge of a massive ice sheet that stretched from Britain to Scandinavia. The second one may have occurred 160,000 years ago, when catastrophic flooding opened the Dover Strait. When the ice age ended and sea levels rose, water flowed into that gap. Just like that, Britain became an island…

    More at “The first Brexit actually happened thousands of years ago.”

    * Jeanette Winterson, Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles

    ###

    As we cope with separation anxiety, we might spare a thought for Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon; he died on this date in 1788.  A naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste,  Buffon formulated a crude theory of evolution, and was the first to suggest that the earth might be older than suggested by the Bible: in 1778 he proposed that the Earth was hot at its creation and, judging from the rate of its cooling, calculated its age to be 75,000 years, with life emerging some 40,000 years ago.

    In 1739 Buffon was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, a post he occupied until his death. There he worked on the comprehensive work on natural history for which he is remembered, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière. He began in 1749, and it dominated the rest of his life.  It would eventually run to 44 volumes, covering quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and minerals.  As Max Ernst remarked, “truly, Buffon was the father of all thought in natural history in the second half of the 18th century.”

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:00 on 2017/02/11 Permalink
    Tags: continents, , , Father of Modern Philosophy, geography, , , Mauritia, Mauritius, ,   

    “Plato intended to write a long fable about legendary Atlantis; like Solon, he never did write it. Yet there existed beyond the Atlantic an unvisited land, after all”*… 


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    The lost continent of Mauritia likely spanned a great swathe of the Indian Ocean before it was torn apart by indomitable geologic forces and plunged into the sea. Now, a good chunk of it may have been found.

    In 2015, researchers visited the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar, to study volcanic rocks. While there, they unearthed something unexpected. Embedded in the rocks were ancient crystals, dated up to three billion years old—300 times older than the island’s young volcanic surface. Rocks this old come from Earth’s continents, but there aren’t any continents around Mauritius. It’s surrounded by boundless sea in all directions. There was just one place left for the researchers to look—down. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that the curious crystals came from a long-forgotten place buried well beneath the island…

    Plumb the depths of Earth’s history at “Scientists may actually have found a lost continent.”  See also here (from whence, the illustration above)

    * Russell Kirk

    ###

    As we take tectonics into account, we might spare a thought for René Descartes, the French philosopher and mathematician who thought and therefore was; he died on this date in 1650.

    Many contemporaries (perhaps most notably, Pascal) rejected his famous conclusion, the dualist separation of mind and body; more (Voltaire, et al.), since.  But Descartes’ emphasis on method and analysis, his disciplined integration of philosophy and physical science, his insistence on the importance of consciousness in epistemology, and perhaps most fundamentally, his the questioning of tradition and authority had a transformative– and lasting– effect on Western thought, and has earned him the “title” of Father of Modern Philosophy.

    “In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate.”
    – Rene Descartes

    Frans Hals’ portrait of Descartes, c. 1649

    source

     
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