The world in 430 BC according to Herodotus

This map was not actually created by Herodotus himself – it was put together from the description of the world given in his historical masterpiece The HistoriesThe area encompasses the Mediterranean Sea, west to present-day Spain, north to the southern half of Europe, east to India, and south to the Sahara Desert. The map, as well as Herodotus’s book, have several glaring inaccuracies, including the Nile jutting west almost all the way across the Sahara Desert, Africa terminating just south of that same desert, and how he seems to refer to all people with dark skin as “Ethiopians.”

I love seeing how people thought of the world at different periods of time. 430BC is just about the time that humans really started to inquire philosophically and record their thoughts, and it’s interesting that the entire world to even the most scholarly intellectual at the time is only now just a small fraction of our world. People of the time would likely have been amazed had they known that there were several continents in every direction, that the planet had polar ice caps, and that the earth was roughly a sphere. Or how about that there are planets other than our own? Or the vastness of our universe?

On that point, will our maps be quite as unsophisticated to humans 2,500 years from now (assuming there are any)? Will our picture of the universe pale in comparison to theirs? I certainly think so – I imagine that our current “map” of the universe is far, far more incomplete than Herodotus’s map of the world in 430 BC.

Image via Age of the Sage.

The nonexistent island

sandyisland1

Sandy Island was an island off the northeast coast of Australia that is believed to have disappeared entirely after having been discovered in the late 18th century and documented up until the 20th century. James Cook was the first to document its existence in 1774, and French maps corroborated the island in maps during the 19th century. However, recent expeditions have discovered that Sandy Island simply does not exist, and it wasn’t until November 2012 that the National Geographic Society officially removed Sandy Island from all maps. Even Google Maps, which is supposed to get its data from satellite imagery, featured Sandy Island until that date.

So what happened? The island appears to be relatively large, so it’s hard to imagine that it just disappeared over the last few hundred years. However, the idea is not too farfetched – the island could have simply been a low island of sand and nothing else, as its name evoques. The island’s supposed location, seen below, indeed raises the possibility that the island was at one time simply a raised bed of sand which eroded away over the centuries.

sandyisland-google

Sandy Island’s supposed location was in the heart of the Coral Sea, where there is an underwater range of mountains and coral reefs, so it is entirely plausible that a larger mountain breached the water’s surface for a period of time and was later washed away. However, when researching this topic I came upon a long list of once-documented islands that were found to be nonexistent, and not all of them can be attributed to erosion.

A glaring example of a wrongly-documented island is the island of Frisland, supposedly south of Iceland and west of Ireland. It is not entirely ridiculous for explorers to have thought and island existed in the area, as there is a bit of raised seabed in the area that could have served as an island at one point. But, something catastrophic would have had to have happened in order to sink an island of that size, so I’m going to go ahead and say that this island never existed. Frisland was mostly only featured on maps for about 100 years – from about 1560 to 1660 – but a few maps kept it on as late as the 18th century. Early maps, like the one below, gave it place names, and it was even given currency by the Maggiolo family of Genoa.

It’s possible that Frisland was actually the southern part of Greenland and that explorers mistakenly presumed it to be its own island, but there is no definite consensus on the topic. However, it seems that there have been many instances of nonexistent islands – accidental or otherwise – and thanks to satellite imagery, this sort of problem probably won’t be happening again anytime soon.

All info and images via Wikipedia, digitaltrends, and the Auckland Museum blog.

Wind Map shows the power of the wind as it’s happening

Unfortunately, I found this website just a day too late. As some may know, there was some really intense wind in Texas yesterday. It looks like that wind is now moving steadily towards the northeast. Anyway, the site shows the power of the wind almost as quickly as it’s happening, and that is just too cool. It even has a gallery so you can look at the power of the wind during various important events, like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and others. Since lots of you are still experiencing some intense wind, check it out! The snapshot above is how the wind is today, on February 26th. From the site:

Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. These are near-term forecasts, revised once per hour. So what you’re seeing is a living portrait. (See the NDFD site for precise details; our timestamp shows time of download.) And for those of you chasing top wind speed, note that maximum speed may occur over lakes or just offshore.

Check it out: Wind Map

Ancient continent, dubbed Mauritia, discovered under Indian Ocean

60 million years ago, there existed a microcontinent between Madagascar and India that was buried by lava due to continental drift and magma plumes. Scientists are learning that hot magma has more of a role in the break-up of continents than previously understood. About 170 million years ago, the continent known as “Eastern Gondwana” was bombarded on the underside by hot rock which caused it to soften and break up into Antarctica, Australia, India, Madagascar, and India. Mauritia was likely part of that break-up, and it broke up further and was eventually buried by the molten rock that pushed India into Asia.

Scientists have verified that Mauritia was indeed a continent due to the zircons found on the beaches of the various islands of the Seychelles, where Mauritia is though to be buried beneath. Zircons are tiny rock fragments that are extremely resistant to erosion, and thus they can remain relatively unchanged for millions of years. Most rocks on the beaches of the Seychelles islands are no older than 9 million years old, but the zircons found on the beach tested to be much older, revealing that the land was above water millions of years prior. From sci-news:

The sand grains contain semi-precious zircons aged between 660 and 1,970 million years. This is explained by the fact that the zircons were carried by the lava as it pushed through subjacent continental crust of this age. This dating method was supplemented by a recalculation of plate tectonics, which explains exactly how and where the fragments ended up in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the fact that this is not an incredibly rare occurrence, I think it’s incredibly interesting that scientists are able to uncover a mystery about our geography by testing beach sand. The ancient geographical layout of our planet is a topic that has been extensively researched, so much that we are able to paint a picture of our planet’s continents even 500 million years ago. It’s crazy to me that we are still discovering that there were once other continents – albeit small – but ones that we would not have been able to discover by the traditional method of observing modern continents and noticing how they drifted to find their placement millions of years ago. There were many continents that existed for eons and that were buried by the ocean to never be heard of again. I hope that we find more and more instances of continents that were covered with water, especially if we find some rather large ones!

Image and info via Sci-news

Professor Orlando Furgeson’s 1893 argument for a “square and stationary earth”

I find it interesting that the belief that the world is anything besides round persisted well into the 19th century. The map above was drawn by Professor Orlando Furgeson and published in 1893 – he claims that scripture backs up the “square and stationary earth” and refutes the idea of a moving, spheroid earth. He cites many passages from the Bible on the map itself, including “it is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” as proof that points to a non-globular planet.

If the word of the Bible is not proof enough, he also claims that a planet moving 65,000 miles per hour around the sun would surely fling its inhabits out into the darkest reaches of space.

Even though the theory is not substantiated, I still think it’s interesting that Furgeson decided to go with a sort of wavy-flat earth rather than a completely flat one. I can’t fathom how his map would account for seasons, day length, or the lack of a horizon in the southern hemisphere. And how does gravity come into play? Wouldn’t the slope cause all the world’s water to pool in the southern hemisphere?

The bottom right corner states that if one were to send 25 cents to the professor, he or she would receive a book explaining the square and stationary earth. There doesn’t seem to be any existing copies of the book, so his theory is lost to the ages. It certainly would have been an interesting read!

Image from Wikipedia.

Heart-shaped geography

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would celebrate by showcasing some of the love found naturally on our lovely planet. There are a handful of heart-shaped lakes and islands out there, many of which have become popular tourist destinations for newlyweds or other love-minded individuals. The image above is Galešnjak, an uninhabited and privately-owned island off the coast of Croatia. While there are currently only plants and trees on the island, there is evidence of past human habitation of the island in the form of burial mounds and pieces of ancient buildings. Its coordinates are 43°58’42” N, 15°23’01” E.

Next is Hridaya Saras in India. This heart-shaped lake is a popular destination for hikers on Chembra Peak. The wikipedia article on Chembra Peak states that the lake is believed to have never dried up, which is just adorable. Coordinates for the lake are 11°32’50” N, 76°04’58” E.

Tavarua Island in Fiji is a popular destination mainly because waves in the area are great for surfing. The island even hosts professional surfing competitions. The area is also a popular resort, with restaurants, spas, and tennis courts. The island itself is only 29 acres, and its coordinates are 17°51’28” S, 177°12’08” E.

Last on the list is Mo’orea Island, which just barely made it due to it not being quite as perfectly heart-shaped as the others. Mo’orea is an island just off the coast of French Polynesia in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean, but it has an airport and a single road around its perimeter. The island has about 16,000 inhabitants, and its geography is very mountainous and beautiful. Wikipedia states that it serves as a popular honeymoon destination and that its image is seen in many American wedding magazines. Mo’orea’s coordinates are 17°32’03” S, 149°49’58” W.

Happy vday!

All images from Google Earth and all info from Wikipedia.

The 10 most segregated US cities visualized with GIS

Main city population: 3,792,62
Metropolitan population: 12,828,837
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 67.84

Salon wrote an interesting article a few years ago about modern segregation, and they used GIS to help readers visualize the separation of race in urban areas. What I found interesting about the data is that there is not a single southern US city in the top 10 most segregated American cities. During the majority of the 20th century, the southern United States was considered the region with the most racism and segregation, and rightly so. The citizens and politicians of many southern states were largely opposed to legislation that would give minorities more rights, whereas citizens and politicians of northern states were much more progressive and willing to give civil rights to all citizens. Even now, I think many Americans share the opinion that the south is still behind the rest of the nation as far as racism goes.

Even though the maps show segregation, it’s not anything like the segregation of the early 20th century, where certain races were forced to live in a particular area. I think it’s likely that some of these groups choose to live among those similar to them. For example, hispanics who are new to the US would probably feel much more comfortable living near those who they can communicate with and relate to. It would be much more difficult to start a new life in a new country if you felt totally isolated.

Los Angeles is the 10th most segregated city in the US, according to 2010 census data. You’ll see in the graphic above that hispanics tend to live in one area, while asians and blacks largely group together as well. Segregated communities are much more rampant in the nine following graphics, all of which are located in the northern United States.

9. Philadelphia, PA

Main city population: 1,526,006
Metropolitan population: 5,965,343
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 68.41

8. Cincinnati, OH

Main city population: 296,943
Metropolitan population: 2,130,151
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 69.42

7. St. Louis, MO

Main city population: 319,294
Metropolitan population: 2,812,896
Segregation level (dissimilarity):72.3

6. Buffalo, NY

Main city population: 261,310
Metropolitan population: 1,135,509
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 73.24

5. Cleveland, OH

Main city population: 396,815
Metropolitan population: 2,077,240
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 74.14

4. Detroit, MI

Main city population: 713,777
Metropolitan population: 4,296,250
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 75.25

3. Chicago, IL

Main city population: 2,695,598
Metropolitan population: 9,461,105
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 76.43

2. New York

Main city population: 8,175,133
Metropolitan population: 18,897,109
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 78.04

1. Milwaukee, WI

Main city population: 594,833
Metropolitan population: 1,555,908
Segregation level (dissimilarity): 81.52

After seeing how badly Los Angeles was segregated, I didn’t think it could get as bad as Milwaukee. Blacks are incredibly highly concentrated in one area of this Wisconsin city, as are hispanics. Whites make up at least 85.1% in both Washington and Ozaukee counties, and Waukesha county is almost that high.

All data and info from Salon

Global Freedom of the Press

Click to enlarge

Here’s a neat map from the Reporters without Borders website. It ranks the level at which freedom of the press is upheld across the globe. I find it interesting that the press is not free at the highest level in America, where freedom of that sort is protected by the constitution. However, being an American citizen, it’s not surprising that freedom of the press isn’t ranked higher here. Also interesting is that Namibia is the only country south of the equator to be in a “good situation,” while many countries in the northern hemisphere make the cut.