Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Farewell Princess

Carrie Fisher, the legendary author, screenwriter, producer, speaker, hero and actress who most notably portrayed Princess Leia in Star Wars, passed away on at 8:55 AM on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 due to complications from heart failure. She was only 60 years old. Family spokesman Simon Halls released a statement to People Magazine on behalf of Fisher’s 24-year old daughter Billie Lourd.
"It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” the statement reads. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers."

Carrie Fisher, she died as she lived: drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

And of course what most teenage boys remember...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Some Holiday Cheer

From the 80’s alternative vault, this is a new one to me but it’s definitely going into the rotation:

A favorite that never gets old:

Pop/jazz excellence:

And Cyndi (not great quality. but it is Cyndi singing, which is always cool.)


Friday, December 9, 2016

Animated Map Shows How It Took 200,000 Years for Human Population to Reach 1 Billion, and Only Another 200 Years to Get to 7 Billion

Last night, during a talk on his new book Raising the Floor, longtime labor leader and current senior fellow at Columbia University Andy Stern told the story of a king and a chessmaster engaged in pitched battle. “If you win,” said the overconfident king, “you may have anything you desire.” Lo, the chessmaster wins the game, but being a humble man asks the king only to provide him with some rice. The king smugly agrees to his eccentric conditions: he must place a grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, then double the amount of each successive square. Once he reaches the middle, the king stops and has the chessmaster executed. The request would have cost him his entire kingdom and more.

Stern used the story to illustrate the exponential growth of technology, which now advances at a rate we can neither confidently predict nor control. Something very similar has happened to the human population in the past two-hundred years, as you can see illustrated in the video above from the American Museum of Natural History.

Evolving some 200,000 years ago in Sub-Saharan Africa, and migrating across the globe some 100,000 years ago, modern humans remained relatively few in number for several thousand years. That is, until the technological breakthrough of agriculture. “By AD 1,” the video text tells us, “world population reached approximately 170 million people.”

After a very rapid expansion, the numbers rose and fell slowly in the ensuing centuries as wars, disease, and famines decimated populations. World population reached only 180 million by the year 200 AD, then dwindled through the Middle Ages, only picking up again slowly around 700. Throughout this historiographic model of population growth, the video infographic provides helpful symbols and legends that chart historic centers like the Roman Empire and Han Dynasty, and show major world events like the Bubonic plague.

Then we reach the world-shaking disruptions that were the birth of Capitalism, the Atlantic slave trade, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, when “modern technology and medicine bring faster growth.”

That’s quite the understatement. The growth, like the grains of rice on the chessboard, proceeded exponentially, reaching 1 billion people around 1800, then exploding to over 7 billion today. As the yellow dots—each representing a node of 1 million people—take over the map, the video quickly becomes an alarming call to action. While the numbers are leveling off, and fertility has dropped, “if current trends continue,” we’re told, “global population will peak at 11 billion around 2100.” Peak numbers could be lower, or substantially higher, depending on the predictive value of the models and any number of unknowable variables.

original article here

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why Making Accurate World Maps Is Mathematically Impossible

Jorge Luis Borges once wrote of an empire wherein “the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.” Still unsatisfied, “the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” But posterity, when they lost their ancestors’ obsession for cartography, judged “that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters.” With that enormous map, in all its singular accuracy, cast out, smaller, imperfect ones presumably won the day again.

With that well-known story “On Exactitude in Science,” Borges illustrated the idea that all maps are wrong by imagining the preposterousness of a truly correct one. The Vox video “Why All World Maps Are Wrong” covers some of the same territory, as it were, first illustrating that idea by slitting open an inflatable globe and trying, futilely, to get the resulting plastic mess to lie flat.

“That right there is the eternal dilemma of mapmakers,” says the host in voiceover as the struggle continues onscreen. “The surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a plane without some form of distortion.” As a result, all of humanity’s paper maps of the world–which in the task of turning the surface of a sphere into a flat plane need to use a technique called “projection”–distort geographical reality by definition.

The Mercator projection has, since its invention by sixteenth-century Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, produced the most widely-seen world maps. (If you grew up in America, you almost certainly spent a lot of time staring at Mercator maps in the classroom.) But we hardly live under the limitations of his day, nor those of the 1940s when Borges imagined his land-sized map. In our 21st century, the satellite-based Global Positioning System has “wiped out the need for paper maps as a means of navigating both the sea and the sky,” but even so, “most web mapping tools, like Google Maps, use the Mercator” due to its “ability to preserve shape and angles,” which “makes close-up views of cities more accurate.”

On the scale of a City, in more Borgesian words — and probably on the scale of a Province and even the Empire — Mercator projection still works just fine. “But the fact remains that there’s no right projection. Cartographers and mathematicians have created a huge library of available projections, each with a new perspective on the planet, and each useful for a different task.” You can compare and contrast a few of them for yourself here, or take a closer look of some of the Mercator projection’s size distortions (making Greenland, for example, look as big as the whole of Africa) here. These challenges and others have kept the Disciplines of Geography, unlike in Borges’ world, busy even today.