Posts Tagged ‘smithsonian’

Climate change’s impact on forests being measured via expanding tree trunks (Wash Post)

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

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[Editor's note: Humorous but scientific take on "tree huggers" in the U.S. mid-Atlantic. Catching up on some old clippings as I roll back into DC.]

Republished from The Washington Post.

By David A. Fahrenthold. Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jess Parker hugs trees.

In the woods of Anne Arundel County, he throws his arms around tulip poplars, oaks and American beeches, and holds them so tightly that his cheek presses into their bark. This is not some hiker on a lark: anybody, hopped up on campfire coffee and exercise endorphins, might hug a tree once.

This is science. Parker has done it about 50,000 times.

Parker, a forest ecologist at the Smithsonian Institution, has spent the past 22 years on a research project so repetitive, so time-consuming, that it impresses even researchers with the patience to count tree rings. Since 1987, he and a group of volunteers have embraced thousands of trees, slipped a tape measure behind them, and wrapped it around to measure the trees’ girth.

This year, after about 250,000 hugs between them, the work paid off.

Parker’s data, which showed the trunks gradually fattening over time, indicated that many of the trees were growing two to four times faster than expected. That raised questions about climate change’s impact on the age-old rhythms of U.S. forests.

It might also raise questions about Parker and members of his team, who say they enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Placename conventions: Wales (Cymru) @ 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

img_1008_2 img_1011_2 img_1012_2

[Editor's note: Visiting the Wales section of this year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival (continues thru July 5),  I am reminded of how each language has a different name for the same set of geographic features. This is mostly true on the world scale for countries, oceans, continents and so on. Sometimes it continues down to major cities within a certain country, especially with names like "New York". Each language has a "conventional" name for foreign placenames that may or may not bear an obvious resemblance to the name used by the local language used by those in that place. Some cities even have historic (no longer used) conventional names: Istanbul (not Constantanopal). Mumbai took a good 15 years to replace the US-English conventional for Bombay in India.

The technical terms for this, definitions courtesy Wikipedia, are Exonym (a name for a place that is not used within that place by the local inhabitants), endonym, autonym (the name used by the people or locals themselves). Exonyms may derive from distinct roots as in the case of Deutschland, Germany. They can also be cognates which sound similar (and are spelled similar, using the local script), and final they may be fully or partially translated from the native language (like New York and Neuvo York). Transliteration is the practice of converting a text from one writing system into another in a systematic way. Some places, like New Zealand, have multiple local language names for the same geographic features, further clouding the issue.

The US-English conventional romanized script for the country in Europe that borders France and Poland is "Germany" yet in Welsh it is "yr Almaen", which is similar to the usage in French and several other European languages. These types of naming styles are important when attributing a world base map (see Natural Earth Vector blog post). For an audience that is mono-lingual, it makes sense to use conventional names for foreign place names. But what happens for a product that enjoys multi-lingual users? On one hand we want to be "localized" to the appropriate name in each language, but we need to provide enough "conventional" placenames for the user to orient themselves, especially when the foreign names use a completely different writing script (not roman ABCs). Google Maps-US takes an hyprid approach where names in each country are labeled in the local script using the local name, with a few labels also in conventional US-English. When one searches for Tokyo, the map shows Japan in mostly Kanji script with some romanized, conventional US-English versions of those names.

For Natural Earth Vector, we follow a hybrid approach that will allow for localization into other languages besides the compilation language, US-English. Tom Patterson used the following guidelines for his original Physical Map fo the World project, which this project uses as it's primary source:

• Endonyms (Appennino) were favored over exonyms (Apennines) for place names based on Romance and Germanic languages, which are often cognates of familiar English names and easy to identify.
• For other languages, transliterated names of major features (mountain ranges, plateaus, deserts, etc.) received English place name descriptors. For example, Verkhoyansk Khrebet in Russia is labeled on the map as Verkhoyansk Range. Smaller physical features, such as mountains within ranges, have entirely local names.
• Transnational features named in more than one language, for example, the Donau/Duna/Danube River, received conventional English names.
• When two or more countries claim ownership of the same physical feature and use different names for it, the preference was for the country currently in possession of the feature regardless of the circumstances. For example, the southern Kuril Islands that Japan and Russia both claim, and which Russia has occupied since 1945, have Russian names.
• A few notable places have English translations in parentheses, for example, Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter).
• All river names dispense with the word "River" or the abbreviation "R."
• Island names within compact island groups drop the word "Island" or the abbreviation "I."
• Non-English place names have accents and diacritical marks. However, the font used on the map (Adobe Frutiger) lacked a few exotic accents for consonants, which consequently do not appear on the map.

And now for the Welsh Smithsonian Festival information:]

wales_folklife

Republished from the Smithsonian.

Wales (Cymru in Welsh) is a dynamic and resilient nation. The industrious and resourceful nature of its people provides a firm platform from which to present its rich culture and heritage. Wales Smithsonian Cymru will celebrate language, literature, and the spoken word, present crafts and occupational skills, share music and cooking, and evoke the spirit that powered the industrial revolution and is now championing sustainable solutions. The program will explore how age-old knowledge, skills, and materials continue to be refashioned, recycled, and reinvented to meet modern demands and to continue to connect Wales to the world.

With much of its border being coastline, Wales’ maritime influences remain vital to the nation’s evolution. The mountain ranges and National Parks sustain the rural communities and outdoor life that are Wales’ touchstones. The essence and inspiration of the landscape will be shared by those who live off and nurture Wales’ beguiling natural environment. Cooking demonstrations will explore the qualities of fresh, local ingredients sourced from farmers markets and savored across the country, from seafood platters to hearty Welsh lamb dishes. Performances and workshops will illustrate the diversity of the Welsh music scene, from the ancient sounds of the crwth and pibgorn, to evocative vocal and harp renditions, and to lively folk bands playing a range of familiar and experimental repertoires. Craftspeople and building arts experts will share their experiences and skills working with native Welsh woods, slate, wool, metal, and stone.

Immigration and an international perspective have enriched Welsh culture for generations, while the strength of the Welsh language, which stems from the sixth century, continues to underpin the nation’s identity. Visitors will be able to practice Welsh phrases and learn about the history of the language. In addition to the Festival, Wales’ presence will be extended through ancillary programs that will begin in March 2009, presented in collaboration with partner organizations in Washington, D.C. These activities and events will include a wide range of contemporary arts and a focus on sustainable living and climate change.

Continue reading at the Smithsonian . . .

See SRTM Satelite at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center!!! (Kelso)

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I went out to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum annex at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia last weekend and was pleasantly surprised to see one of the SRTM payloads hanging off the ceiling. The Shuttle Radar Telemetry Mapping program helped produce a significantly more accurate and detailed world-wide digital elevation model (DEM, DTM) in the early part of this decade and was a great leap forward for shaded relief generation. If you make the trip, you’ll find the SRTM between 22 and 23 on the map below in the “space shuttle” hanger. The map does a good job of indicating what altitude different aircraft can be found in the hanger.

Here’s a photo:

Cannister/Mast, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Payload
(republished from the Smithsonian)
In 2000, the Shuttle Endeavor carried the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) payload into orbit. Shuttle astronauts used the payload, manufactured by the AEC-Able Engineering Co., to map in high detail and three dimensions more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface–the most complete and accurate rendering of the planet’s land masses ever attempted. The Museum possesses two components–the mast canister (this artifact) and the outboard support structure with its antennas–crucial to that mission.

To acquire this data, the SRTM used a novel hardware system that featured a main antenna located in the Shuttle payload bay, a folding mast (in the mast canister) that extended 60 meters from the Shuttle, and then another antenna system that was positioned at the end of the mast (the outboard structure). It was this dual antenna system–the largest rigid structure then flown in space–that produced, through interferometry (a technique for combining the information obtained from the two, separate antennas), a three-dimensional mapping of the Earth.

The mission was a joint undertaking of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Department of Defense’s National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The military will use the highest resolution data from SRTM for terrain navigation for planes and cruise missiles. A lower resolution data set will be made available to civilian scientists and other users.

NASA transferred these artifacts to the Museum in 2003.

Transferred from NASA
Manufacturer: AEC-Able Engineering Co.
Country of Origin: United States of America
Dimensions:
Overall: 292.1 length x 136cm diameter, 984.3kg weight (9ft 7in. x 4ft 5 9/16in., 2170lb.)
Materials:
Aluminum, steel, titanium, plastic, copper
Inventory Number: A20040261000

General layout of the museum:

El Anatsui: Gawu at National Museum of African Art

Monday, March 24th, 2008

el anatsui gawu art exhibitWhile screen-glancing at work last week I spotted Bill O’Leary’s photos highlighting Nigerian artist El Anatsui who has an exhibit thru September 2 here in Washington, D.C. The Post ran a story on the exhibit in Sunday’s paper (read that here, including slideshow).

I first became aware of El Anatsui’s art while in San Francisco before Christmas when I saw one of his large “Kente cloth” pieces on the second floor of the de Young Museum. It was constructed out of pieces of colorful scrap metal woven into a large wall tapestry that folded as it draped ceiling to floor.

The Smithsonian presentation of El Anatsui’s work has around a dozen pieces. The artist flew out and helped arrange them in the space; his artwork is flexible and each time it is shown it shows different characteristics. If you’re visit the District anytime this summer, this exhibit is worth checking out.

From the Smithsonian website where you can see more of his artwork:

Throughout his career Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has experimented with a variety of media, including wood, ceramics and paint. Most recently, he has focused on discarded metal objects, hundreds or even thousands of which are joined together to create truly remarkable works of art. Anatsui indicates that the word gawu(derived from Ewe, his native language) has several potential meanings, including “metal” and “a fashioned cloak.” The term, therefore, manages to encapsulate the medium, process and format of the works on view, reflecting the artist’s transformation of discarded materials into objects of striking beauty and originality.

The metal fragments that constitute the raw material of Anatsui’s work have had a profound impact on the West African societies that use, reuse and finally discard them. Several of his metal “cloths” are constructed with aluminum wrappings from the tops of bottles that once contained spirits from local distilleries. The three-dimensional sculptures are made of the discarded tops of evaporated milk tins, rusty metal graters and old printing plates, all gathered in and around Nsukka, Nigeria, where the artist has lived and worked for the last 28 years.

Drawing on the aesthetic traditions of his native Ghana and adopted Nigeria, as well as contemporary Western forms of expression, Anatsui’s works engage the cultural, social and economic histories of West Africa. Through their associations, his humble metal fragments provide a commentary on globalization, consumerism, waste and the transience of people’s lives in West Africa and beyond. Their re-creation as powerful and transcendent works of art–many of which recall traditional practices and art forms–suggests as well the power of human agency to alter such harmful patterns.

Continue on to the museum exhibit. . .