Posts Tagged ‘bbc’

Ascension Island: Like Easter Island, Ascension Island has lessons for the planet—cheerful ones (Economist)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

20101218_xxm965

[Editor's note: Fun geo writeup of that spot of rock in the Atlantic near St. Helena. Thanks Derek!]

AT THE top of Green Mountain, the central peak of Ascension Island, there is a small pond, dotted with lilies, shadowed to one side by the fronds of a pandan tree. It is the only open body of fresh water on the island—and for a thousand kilometres in any direction. Around Dew Pond grows a grove of towering bamboo, beyond which the trade winds blow incessantly from the south-east. Within the grove the air is still and damp.

Along the trailing ridge of the summit are fig trees, Cape yews and a garland of remarkably vigorous ginger. Below, on the mountain’s lee side, trees and shrubs from all parts of the world spread down the hillside to a landscape of casuarina trees—ironwood, or she-oak—and thorny chaparral around its base. Even on the bleaker windward slope, grasses and sedges are dotted with Bermuda cedar and guava bushes. Above, the bamboo scratching at their bellies, are the clouds the trade winds bring; some days they cover the mountain top.

Once seen as too dry to be worth inhabiting, Ascension Island is becoming greener at an increasing rate. People are responsible. In part, their contribution was unwitting: the thorny mesquite that anchors a lot of the island’s scrub was introduced for a landscaping project just 50 years ago. But the forest on the peak of Green Mountain represents a deliberate attempt to change the island’s climate to make it more habitable. It is the centrepiece of a small but startling ecological transformation which is part experiment and part accident, part metaphor and part inspiration.

Ascension was discovered by the Portuguese in 1501. Just to the west of the mid-ocean ridge that separates South America’s tectonic plate from Africa’s, it is the top of a volcano which rises steeply from abyssal plains more than four kilometres below the surface of the ocean. The volcano made it above that surface only a million or so years ago, since when the island has grown to about 100 square kilometres. Before people arrived it was home to just a flightless bird, a land crab and no more than 30 species of plant, none as big as a bush. It was so barren and isolated that during the following three centuries of assiduous empire-building neither the Portuguese nor any other nation bothered to claim it. When Captain Cook passed by in 1775, Georg Forster—later to become renowned for his accounts of exploration—wrote it off as a “ruinous heap of rocks”, drearier even than Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. But Forster’s naturalist father Johann saw something more promising:

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

“Joy of Stats” from BBC4 featuring Hans Rosling

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Now on YouTube! This hour long documentary “takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride through the wonderful world of statistics to explore the remarkable power they have to change our understanding of the world, presented by superstar boffin Professor Hans Rosling, whose eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend.” BBC4

German TanDEM-X satellite seeks 3D view of Earth (BBC)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

_48126100_00_tandem-x_dem_h_henmodell

[Editor's note: Second of a pair of new satellites, now operational, will build higher resolution (with more vertical precision) view of Earth than prior SRTM efforts (90m free, 30m restricted). Graphic shows the same area in different DEM (DTM) resolutions. The 12 meter pixel size of the new commercial project is global, but inconsistent with the 10 meter DEMs available in the United States. Thanks Thierry_G!]

Republished from the BBC.

The TanDEM-X satellite has blasted into orbit on a mission to acquire the most precise 3D map of the Earth’s surface. The German radar spacecraft will fly in formation with an identical platform called TerraSAR-X launched in 2007. Together, the pair will measure the variation in height across the globe to an accuracy of better than two metres. Their digital elevation model will have myriad uses, from helping military jets fly ultra low to showing relief workers where an earthquake’s damage is worst.

“Our aim is to generate a model at a resolution and a quality that doesn’t exist today,” explained Dr Vark Helfritz, from satellite image-processing company Infoterra GmbH. “This will be a truly seamless global product – not a patchwork of datasets that have been fitted together,” he told BBC News. TanDEM-X was carried into space atop a converted intercontinental ballistic missile from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Continue reading at the BBC . . .

Ancient map with China at center goes on show in Washington, DC (BBC)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

[Editor's note: "A rare, 400-year-old map that displays China at the center of the world will be on exhibit at the Library of Congress from Jan. 12 to April 10 2010, before it is digitized and then heads to its intended home at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. If you haven't checked our Ricci in China, it's a fascinating time period in the history of cartography. Thanks Curt and Mary Kate!]

Republished from the BBC.

Visitor instructions from the Library of Congress . . .

A visitor studies Matteo Ricci's 400-year-old world map at the Library of CongressThe huge map is being displayed at the Library of Congress in Washington

A historic map of the world, with China at its centre, has gone on display at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The map was created by Italian missionary Matteo Ricci in 1602. It is one of only two copies in existence in good condition.

Because of its rarity and fragility – the map is printed on rice paper – the map has become known as the “Impossible Black Tulip of Cartography”.

This is the first time it has been on public show in north America.

Ricci created the map at the request of Emperor Wanli who wanted it to help scholars and explorers.

‘Revered by Chinese’

The map was purchased by the James Ford Bell Trust in October for $1m (£0.62m), making it the second-most expensive rare map ever sold.

It denotes different parts of the world with annotations and pictures.

A detail from the China section of Matteo Ricci's world map

The map had China at the centre of the world to underline its importance

In the Americas, for example, several places are named including Chih-Li (Chile), Wa-ti-ma-la (Guatemala) and Ka-na-ta (Canada), and Florida is described as “the Land of the Flowers”.

Ford W Bell, a trustee for the James Ford Bell Trust, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper, that the map was “one of the two best in terms of quality, as far as we know”.

“Ricci was a very smart missionary. He put China right at the centre of this new universe, this new globe, to underscore its importance,” he said.

“Ricci, of course, was the first Westerner to enter Beijing. He was revered by the Chinese, and he was buried there.”

The first secretary for cultural affairs at the Chinese embassy in the US, Ti Ban Zhang, said in a statement that the map represents “the momentous first meeting of East and West”.

Where is the Berlin Wall now? (BBC)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

[Editor's note: Twenty years ago this week the Berlin Wall came down (history from the Guardian) and with it the Cold War unraveled. I don't remember the Challengar exploding but I do remember watching the slabs fall on the late night news broadcast. Check out the wall in Vegas in this photo mashup from the BBC showing where pieces of the wall have ended up. Also read story in today's Washington Post about a school in Maryland which recreated the wall for a day.]

Republished from the BBC.

When the Berlin Wall fell down in November 1989, parts of it were chipped off and taken away by locals and tourists. Some people took segments as souvenirs and some pieces were given to institutions around the world.

Use this interactive map to see how far the wall has spread around the globe, and where large sections of it are on public display. If you have a piece of the wall, tell us using the form below.

(Screenshot below)

Interact with the original at the BBC . . .

bbc_berlin_wall_map_mashup

Alitalia Sorry as Sicily Vanishes (BBC)

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Alitalia Airbus

[Editor's note: The island simply disappeared off the map! Where might it have gone? Thanks Kellee!]

Republished from the BBC. June 18, 2009.

Italian airline Alitalia has apologised after its in-flight magazine printed a map leaving off the Mediterranean island of Sicily.

The magazine’s editor blamed the error on a printing mistake, and pledged not to let it happen again. A passenger told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she noticed Sicily was missing – while she was on a flight to the island. Smaller islands, such as Sardinia, were in the right place on the map.

Alitalia was re-launched earlier this year under private ownership. It had been a state-run company for more than 60 years before going bankrupt. One Italian Senator, Riccardo Villari, said it was unfortunate the big advertising campaign surrounding the re-launch had been followed by “unpleasant” errors.

The magazine editor, Aldo Canale, said: “We have run lots of editions on the beauty of Sicily and we would never dream of eliminating it from maps of Italy.”

Iran Missle Test Map Review (KELSO)

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Back in July, Iran tested a new class of missiles including the Shahab-3 which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets up to 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Israel.

Read more about this (old) news development at the Washington Post and NY Times, including how Iran tried to cover up the misfiring of one of the test rockets.

News media produced a wide range of maps for this event. A good map needs to:

  • show the range contour, with Israel in the hit area
  • accurately preserve distances (scale) on a
  • projected base map (centered on Iran) and
  • show an organic distance contour based on the outline of the country (not concentric circles out from a single point from within Iran).

Most of the maps below get the basic facts right (the range and what countries (eg: Israel) are within reach). Some maps presented these basic facts better than others.

Washington Post

New York Times — Not an optimal projection.

BBC – Winner for smallest map.

CNN

Wall Street Journal – Only one missile launch site in Iran?

Global Security – Good context of other rocket types. More of a data exploration map than presentation.

Website maps surnames worldwide (BBC)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

A website which maps global surnames has been launched to help people find the origins of their name and how far it may have spread.

[Editor's note: Originally published August 30th but the site was hit so hard I did not promote at the time. Thanks Curt and Laris!]

Visit the site at: http://www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames/

The Public Profiler site plots eight million last names using data from electoral rolls and phone directories.

The site covers 300 million people in 26 countries, showing the origins of names and where families have moved to.

David Beckham, for example, has an English name, but there are more Beckhams in the US than Britain.

But the region of the world with the highest concentration of people called Beckham was even further from the footballer’s east London origins – in the New Zealand province of Northland.

The site – www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames – also reveals which of the five million forenames are most closely associated with different surnames and lists the top regions and cities for each surname.

A name is now not just a statement of who you are but where you are
Professor Paul Longley

It was developed by a team of geographers from University College London.

Professor Paul Longley, one of the researchers, said: “The information is not just historical but geographical.

“We can link names to places – a name is now not just a statement of who you are but where you are.”

Most surnames originated in specific places in the world and remain most frequent in those areas, but have often spread to other countries because of migration, the research showed.

Searches for Britain’s three multi-gold medallists at the recent Olympics and the leaders of the three main political parties revealed some mixed results.

• Swimmer Rebecca Adlington’s surname is most prevalent in New Zealand

• Cyclist Chris Hoy’s surname is Irish but more common in Denmark

• Cyclist Bradley Wiggins’s surname is most popular in the US

• Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s surname tops the list in Australia

• Conservative leader David Cameron’s surname is most prevalent in New Zealand

• Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg’s surname is still most common in Britain

Prof Longley said that the site was currently struggling to cope with demand.

“We are being deluged with requests and we ask people to be patient. There is obviously a lot of interest in family names and family history globally,” he said.

Here are some example maps of my surname (Kelso):

Online maps ‘wiping out history’ (BBC)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

[Editor's note: Perhaps a bit alarmist but does point to the changing role of maps from conveyances of static sets of edited knowledge into a digital tabla rasa that displays the "where" of an individual user's search results. Cultural landmarks that used to be included on maps for spatial orientation and perhaps a bit of boosterism are being left off the initial view. Users now have to know a feature exists before it is shown to them or ask for a certain overlay layer. But perhaps this is a reflection, too, on a society where the mainstream has been turned into 1000 separate channels? Or a jaded appreciation of information overload instead leaves us with a dirth of map information. Perhaps cartographic editors are good, after all. Thanks Curt!]

Reprinted from the BBC.

Internet mapping is wiping the rich geography and history of Britain off the map, the president of the British Cartographic Society has said.

Mary Spence said internet maps such as Google and Multimap were good for driving but left out crucial data people need to understand a landscape.

Mrs Spence was speaking at the Institute of British Geographers conference in London.

Google said traditional landmarks were still mapped but must be searched for.

Ms Spence said landmarks such as churches, ancient woodlands and stately homes were in danger of being forgotten because many internet maps fail to include them.

Ordnance Survey map of central London. BBC licence number 100019855, 2008.

Traditional maps feature landmarks such as museums and art galleries

She said: “Corporate cartographers are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain’s remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps which millions of us now use every day.

“We’re in real danger of losing what makes maps so unique, giving us a feel for a place even if we’ve never been there.”

Projects such as Open Street Map, through which thousands of Britons have contributed their local knowledge to map pubs, landmarks and even post boxes online, are the first step in the fight back against “corporate blankwash”, she added.

Missing landmarks

By way of example, Ms Spence said that if someone walked around the South Kensington area of London, they would encounter landmarks such as the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum, which could not be found on Google Maps.

Elsewhere, Worcester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey are not on their respective Google Maps.

Mary Spence and Adrian Miles discuss internet mapping

“But it’s not just Google – it’s Nokia, Microsoft, maps on satellite navigation tools. It’s diluting the quality of the graphic image that we call a map.”

Ms Spence believes that the consequence will be long-term damage to future generations of map readers, because this skill is not being taught in schools and people are simply handling “geographical data”.

But Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist at Google, said the way in which people used maps was changing.

He said: “Internet maps can now be personalised, allowing people to include landmarks and information that is of interest to them.

“Anyone can create their own maps or use experiences to collaborate with others in charting their local knowledge.

“These traditional landmarks are still on the map but people need to search for them. Interactive maps will display precisely the information people want, when they want it.

“You couldn’t possibly have everything already pinpointed.”

Update Your Maps: Nigeria cedes Bakassi to Cameroon (BBC)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Nigeria has handed over the potentially oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, bringing an end to a long-standing dispute over the territory.

Reprinted from the BBC. Thursday, 14 August 2008.) Thanks Patterson!

The handover ceremony was moved from the peninsula’s main town to Calabar in Nigeria amid security concerns.

Over the past year about 50 people have been killed in clashes.

The majority of the local population considers itself Nigerian, but an international court ruled in favour of Cameroon in 2002.

The BBC’s Abdullahi Kaura in Calabar says there are unconfirmed reports that militants have attacked a boat travelling to Abana, the main town on the Bakassi peninsula.

 

Unresolved pain at Bakassi handover

Nigerian security sources said between three and seven people were killed when militants ambushed the boat as it made its way from Cameroon.

Correspondents say security had been beefed up ahead of the ceremony.

On the Cameroonian side, there have been celebrations as people moved back into the peninsula.

In recent years, at least 100,000 people have moved from the peninsula to Nigeria, local leaders say.

The International Court of Justice ruling was based on an early 19th century colonial agreement between Britain and Germany.

Nigeria challenged the ruling, but finally agreed to relinquish the territory two years ago.

“The gains made in adhering to the rule of law may outweigh the painful losses of ancestral homes,” said the head of the Nigerian delegation at the ceremony, Attorney General Mike Aondoakaa.

Part of the territory was handed over to Cameroon two years ago.

Revellers

A spokesman for Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua said the process was “painful… for everyone including the president”, but added that Nigeria had made “a commitment to the international community and we have a responsibility to keep it”.

 

Map

Cameroon said the final handover would mark “the end of a crisis”.

On the beaches of the northern part of the island there were parties and celebrations as Cameroonians prepared to go into the last section to be turned over to them.

“We are going straight to the place, and we’re going to be happy,” one reveller told the BBC’s Randy Joe Sa’ah in Bakassi.

But in Nigeria there is still bitterness about the deal.

“The government has abandoned its duties,” said Kayode Fasitere, the lawyer acting for some displaced from Bakassi who sought to have the handover delayed.

The transfer of Bakassi had been described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as “a model for negotiated settlements of border disputes”.

A group of Bakassi leaders have been seeking compensation from the Nigerian government.

About 90% of the area’s population, estimated at up to 300,000, is made up of Nigerian fishermen.

About 30,000 of the residents have moved out to an area in Cross Rivers State set aside for them, but it has no access to the sea, campaigners say.

Bakassi has a rich fishing culture and people say the handover has destroyed their way of life.

The Bakassi peninsula juts out into the Gulf of Guinea close to the Niger Delta.

Its offshore waters are thought to contain substantial oil fields – untapped because of the border dispute – which Nigeria and Cameroon will now work together to explore.