Did a volcano in Sicily bring down a dynasty in Egypt? That's the thesis of new research, based on a comparison of volcanic ash in ice cores and Nile water level records. Major volcanic eruptions are found to disrupt African monsoon patterns, delivering less rain to the Nile and its tributaries. A powerful eruption by Etna in 44 BC likely contributed to the drought, famine, and resulting instability in Egypt over the next several years, making Egypt more vulnerable to Rome's involvement in its internal affairs and leading to the eventual overthrow of its last Ptolemaic ruler, Cleopatra. www.sciencenews.org/article/how-volcanoes-may-have-ended-dynasty-ptolemy-and-cleopatra
This map, based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, shows opioid-related overdose deaths by county in 2015 (the most recent year for which these data are available). Nationally, the death rate due to opioid overdose more than doubled between 2005 and 2015, to 10.4 deaths per 100,000, but this map makes clear that in some areas the death rate is three and four times higher than the national average. cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/images/2017/03/blogs/graphic-detail/20170311_woc097.png
In honor of Halloween, I am sharing the only philosophy thought experiment I know involving a spider :-). Moral philosophy is concerned with questions about life choices, what it means to live a "good life," and right conduct, which we often take to mean doing the right thing. But sometimes doing the right thing may mean doing nothing at all. In his book The View from Nowhere, contemporary American philosopher Thomas Nagel shares an anecdote about a spider to demonstrate that because we don't know what it's like to be someone else, we can't always know what is best for someone else:
One summer more than ten years ago, when I taught at Princeton, a large spider appeared in the urinal of the men's room in 1879 Hall, a building that houses the Philosophy Department. When the urinal wasn't in use, he would perch on the metal drain at its base, and when it was, he would try to scramble out of the way, sometimes managing to climb an inch or two up the porcelain wall at a point that wasn't too wet. But sometimes he was caught, tumbled and drenched by the flushing torrent. He didn't seem to like it, and always got out of the way if he could. But it was a floor-length urinal with a sunken base and a smooth overhanging lip: he was below floor level and couldn't get out.
Somehow he survived, presumably feeding on tiny insects attracted to the site, and was still there when the fall term began. The urinal must have been used more than a hundred times a day, and always it was the same desperate scramble to get out of the way. His life seemed miserable and exhausting.
Gradually our encounters began to oppress me. Of course it might be his natural habitat, but because he was trapped by the smooth porcelain overhang, there was no way for him to get out even if he wanted to, and no way to tell whether he wanted to. None of the other regulars did anything to alter the situation, but as the months wore on and fall turned to winter I arrived with much uncertainty and hesitation at the decision to liberate him. I reflected that if he didn't like it on the outside, or didn't find enough to eat, he could easily go back. So one day toward the end of the term I took a paper towel from the wall dispenser and extended it to him. His legs grasped the end of the towel and I lifted him out and deposited him on the tile floor.
He just sat there, not moving a muscle. I nudged him slightly with the towel, but nothing happened. I pushed him an inch or two along the tiles, right next to the urinal, but he still didn't respond. He seemed to be paralyzed. I felt uneasy but thought that if he didn't want to stay on the tiles when he came to, a few steps would put him back. Meanwhile he was close to the wall and not in danger of being trodden on. I left, but when I came back two hours later he hadn't moved.
The next day I found him in the same place, his legs shriveled in that way characteristic of dead spiders. His corpse stayed there for a week, until they finally swept the floor.
This interactive site maps out data collected on happiness in the latest Gallup World Poll and allows users to see how national happiness correlates to other variables, including economic production, freedom, social support, lack of corruption, and life expectancy. (As it turns out, many of these are variables students control in my "Mission Possible: Global Issues, Leadership Choices" simulation.) www.alexanderbastidasfry.com/happy/
It's hard to find good current events resources for kids (not full of graphic material but not dumbed down either). National Geographic's "Current Events Connection" features student-friendly news relevant to National Geographic's mission: science, geography, and exploration. View it online or subscribe (for free): blog.education.nationalgeographic.com/category/current-event-connection/
Google recently upgraded its cameras for the first time in eight years to provide Street View with more granular detail. (Street View photos capture more than just building fronts: analyzing the cars in the images also allows Google to draw inferences about income, race, and political preferences, among other things.) This site shows where Google's Street View has mapped and where it's heading next. www.google.com/streetview/understand/
Transparency International is an NGO that seeks to end corruption by shining a bright light on it. (My students frequently use Transparency International data in their cultural geography research.) Earlier this month Transparency International released a new report on Latin America and the Caribbean. This map shows what % of respondents in each country report having paid a bribe in the last 12 months. There is considerable variability when it comes to what bribes have to be paid for, though: in Honduras it might be within the court system, in Venezuela it might be for access to utilities, in Mexico it might be for schools or medical care. To read the report, see
North Korea tests its nuclear weapons in tunnels under Mount Mantap, in the northeastern corner of the Korean peninsula. North Korea's most recent nuclear test has triggered a series of earthquakes, though, and Chinese scientists are now warning that another test may cause the 7,234-foot mountain to collapse, an event that would release the nuclear radiation currently trapped within the mountain. Mount Mantap is part of the Hamgyong range, the tallest mountain range in North Korea and on the Korean peninsula. static4.businessinsider.com/image/59b1c7bc609c301d008b534b-1252/mount-mantap-north-korea-map-google-earth.png
Comparing salaries, cost of food/dining, and rent for a fictional two-income family of four, HowMuch.net has assembled this map showing how much our fictional family could save (or lose) by living in various cities across the U.S. The best places for saving money: Spokane, WA, and major cities in Nevada. The worst places for saving money: San Francisco and NYC. howmuch.net/articles/where-can-families-save-the-most-money
PLATO (Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization) has released the topic for this year's high school essay contest, which draws on epistemology, the branch of philosophy that deals with theories of knowledge: "What is truth? What makes a claim -- that is, something we think, believe, hear, say, or read -- true or false?" The essay contest is open to all high school students in the U.S. Entries are due by Jan. 31, 2018. www.plato-philosophy.org/high-school-essay-contest/
A cartogram is a map weighted for a particular variable, and in this case the variable is the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (Students in my "Hands-On Geography" and other geography classes study a sampling of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.) Earlier this month, the U.S. announced it is withdrawing from UNESCO, which is the acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=4805
This 35-question quiz is an interesting and suitably challenging way of testing your geographic knowledge (even if its raison d'être is to attract eyeballs to the surrounding ads): www.zoo.com/quiz/can-you-guess-the-country-when-given-the-countries-bordering-it
This interactive mapping tool from the Economic Innovation Group allows users to identify distressed communities, as defined by housing vacancies, poverty rates, number of prime-age adults not working, and lack of high school completion, among other factors. The good news: 62% more Americans live in prosperous communities than distressed communities. The bad news: distressed communities are falling further behind the rest of the country. eig.org/2017-dci-map-national-zip-code-map
I recently saw Peter Krause talk about his new book Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win. Drawing on decades of data about rebel movements and looking at four case studies in detail, Krause examines why rebel movements fight among themselves, when and why they pursue negotiation vs. violence, and which factors allow them to achieve their aims of independence *and* to become the group to lead the new polity. The answers lie in the rebel movements' positions relative to each other more than in their positions relative to the government: splinter groups are more likely to engage in violence (because they have less to lose and it can help them build market share within the rebel movement), top dogs are more likely to negotiate (and try to squash splinter groups), and no rebel group has achieved its goal of independence when the rebel movement has been divided. For the governments being rebelled against, Krause's argument points out the difficulty of thwarting the rebellion (promote splintering) *and* stopping violence (splintering worsens violence). www.peterjpkrause.com/rebel-power
For at least a decade, scientists have been trying to figure out why the Karakorum mountains (home to K2, on the Pakistan-China border) have been getting colder while the rest of the Himalayan region has been warming up. The answer seems to lie in a cold air vortex that is keeping the Karakorum colder than the surrounding mountain systems, to the point that it is reducing the glacial melt that feeds the Indus River, which in turn feeds most of Pakistan. geographical.co.uk/places/mountains/item/2413-glacial-growth-cracking-the-karakoram-anomaly
Which are the most innovative regions of Europe? This map looks at the number of patent applications submitted to the European Patent Office per million people. jakubmarian.com/number-of-patent-applications-per-capita-by-region-in-europe/
University of Manchester philosophy professor Helen Beebee recently noted in an article for IAI News (UK), "It's no coincidence that a lot of philosophers are big fans of science fiction ... [and] if you're a science fiction fan, you're probably a philosopher at heart." The movie Blade Runner, the sequel of which is in theaters now, is a case in point. Blade Runner, based on the Philip K. Dick sci fi novella "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," considers philosophical questions surrounding the issue of personal identity. For many of us, our identity, our sense of self, is linked to the issue of memory: if our bodies and our brains were switched (a la Freaky Friday, among others), most of us believe "we" would be where are brains are, our brains being the repository of our memories and whatever else we believe makes us *us*. In the original Blade Runner, the replicant Rachael finds out her memories are not actually hers, forcing a fundamental re-think of who she is. (Incidentally, students in my online lit class, "Who We Are & What We Dream: Comparative Science Fiction," just read a different Philip K. Dick story this week.)
If you've ever thought about how cool it would be to overlay a timeline on a map, this is the site for you. TimeGlobe allows you to designate a year or range of years and then shows various world events during that time, mapped to their relevant location. At the site, mouse over each dot for a brief summary or click on the summary to go straight to the Wikipedia article on the event. Especially useful for understanding the geography driving regional issues. timeglo.be/
Bowdoin College has finished releasing new series of short (<15 min.) online videos, "Founding Principles: American Governance in Theory and Action," that explain and explore the workings of the U.S government, in theory and, just as importantly, in practice. "Founding Principles" is an engaging resource for those wanting to learn about or brush up on their U.S. civics. www.bowdoin.edu/founding-principles/
Northern California is experiencing some of the worst wildfires in the state's history. But "Northern California" is a big and geographically varied place. Where, exactly, is this happening? As this map shows, the fires are mostly in the area north of San Francisco, home to California's wine industry. For those tracking this natural disaster, this site has been updating the fire map continuously: www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/7516058-181/pd-default-story-headline-xy
How will we choose to incorporate technology into our future? Americans, at present at least, are surprisingly reticent about further technological inroads, especially in the workplace. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 85% of Americans favor limiting machines to doing dangerous or unhealthy jobs, and 58% believe there "should be limits on the number of jobs businesses can replace with machines, even if they are better and cheaper than humans." www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/04/automation-in-everyday-life/
One of the things my biogeography students study is animal migration. (Where do various animals go to and from? Which route(s) do they take and why?) Last week an unusual animal migration was picked up on radar over Boulder, CO: painted lady butterflies flying, en masse, along the Front Range of the Rockies. www.agweek.com/news/4339561-horde-migrating-painted-lady-butterflies-show-weather-radar
The mapping of congressional districts is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. This interactive map, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, show the boundaries of all current congressional districts: www2.census.gov/geo/maps/cong_dist/uswall/cd115/CD115_WallMap_large.gif
Want to be a millionaire? Study philosophy :-). This year's Berggruen Prize, a $1 million prize in philosophy funded by German-American billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, has been awarded to Cambridge moral philosopher Onora O'Neill for her work on issues relating to informed consent, standards of justice, obligations during famine, trust, and who is responsible for securing human rights. www.nytimes.com/2017/10/03/arts/onora-oneill-berggruen-prize.html
Based on Google search data, this (kind of addictive!) interactive mapping site shows which topics are trending where around the world, shedding light on regional interests in current events and pop culture. neomam.com/interactive/trendmap/
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