Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India's Blackout in Comparison

Map of the blackout affected area.  Image from Defense Pakistan
Three of India's power grids (Northern, Eastern, and Northeastern) have failed leaving an approximate 670 million people in the dark.  Granted, while not everyone in this zone has electricity, the disruption of society affects everyone from the house wife who watches her soap operas to the street beggar who relies on alms from the stock brokers.

670,000,000 people is hard to imagine.  Here are some geographic comparisons
  • 314,000,000 - Roughly the amount of people in the United States of America, the third most populous country in the world (47% of the blackout population)
  • 570,000,000 - The entire population of South America (85%)
  • 503,000,000 - The population of the European Union (75%)
  • 180,000,000 - The population of Pakistan (27%)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Map and Infographic on the World's Jewish Population

The twentieth century has not been kind to the Jewish race.  Besides the Holocaust, Communist repression and the exodus from Arab lands has resulted in the centralization of Jews in the United States and Israel.  Israel in fact only surpassed the United States for the world's most Jews.

From the Economist

Of interesting note, the only non-Western countries with significant Jewish populations have experienced significant Europeanization, such as those in Latin America and the Republic of South Africa.  The rest of the world either never had a large Jewish population or purged themselves of it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

GeoThentic: The Useful Geography Eduation Tool

When National Geographic released their Geo-Literacy videos I did a rebuttal video showing how geographers should emphasizes how geographic thinking is a marketable and useful skill for a wide set of real world problems.

I received positive feedback from many readers as well as questions as to why National Geographic does not do something similar.  Well, apparently National Geographic is involved with something incredibly useful (though none of my teacher contacts knew about it).  GeoThentic is a joint project between the University of Minnesota and National Geographic which uses real world-like scenarios to introduce geographic thinking and geosptial tools.  The program is free for teachers to register and use.

From a description of the online software:

Currently, the software offers five modules: Build a Hospital, Global Climate Change, Avian Flu, Build a Stadium and Population Density. Within these modules, students play the role of a geographer, taking advantage of various digital resources and data to determine, for instance, where the best place is in San Francisco to build a hospital, or which U.S. states will be most impacted by population growth and decline by the year 2100.

This is the type of examples the public wants to see on why geography matters.  Now if only National Geographic would tell people about it.

Do you have a geography project idea which the public would also find informative and useful?  Be sure to register for the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Known Universe Movie Map

The American Museum of Natural History has created a video of their four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas.  I actually gained a greater sense of scale as the map was zooming back in from the extent of the universe (and beyond?).  Just sit back, watch, and ponder just how much out there we know absolutely nothing about.

Food for thought:  Around the center of the galaxy is a black hole sucking in stars.  Some of the stars merge together before falling in.  Right now there is a ring of dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of stars fifty times our own circling this black hole.  Wow.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadan War 2012: Friday or Saturday Start (Somewhat) Based on Geopolitics

Earlier I wrote about the debate between localists, Mecca-centric advocates, and scientific advocates over the exact start time of Ramadan.  The battle of Ramadan's start time has now developed an "when does Easter start" geopolitical aspect with Syria's Muslim establishment declaring Ramadan starts on Saturday but the rebel Syrian National Committee stating it starts on Friday. 

Foreign Policy has this blurb:
"The Syrian National Council announces ... Friday is the first day of Ramadan, unlike what was declared by the regime," read a statement released by the umbrella opposition group. President Bashar al-Assad's government, meanwhile, declared the holy month would begin on Saturday.

There's a regional political dimension at play here: Most of the Arab world's Sunni states -- such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan -- have announced that Ramadan begins on Friday. These countries have been largely supportive of Syria's rebels. Meanwhile, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon's Shiite community -- whose political leaders have supported to the Assad regime -- are starting Ramadan on Saturday.

Just another example of how what seems to be a purely theological dispute quickly becomes politicized amidst Syria's bloody sectarian conflict.

The argument is not solely geopolitical though.  Sunni Pakistan, which is notorious for overlooking Sunni militants slaughtering its Shia population, has declared Ramadan starts on Saturday.  Meanwhile Sunni Indonesia has said Saturday is the start of Ramadan but the main opposition is treating Friday as the start.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus

Many thanks to FSSP for making this post.

Libyan War Maps 
Syrian Arab Spring Protest Maps - Batch One
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Two - Syrian Air Defenses 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Three - Twitter and News Update Maps 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map  
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Five - Ceasefire Violations
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Six - Houla   
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Seven - June 2012    
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus 
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Nine - September 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Ten - October 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fourteen - Israel Strikes Again
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Seventeen - Al Qaedastan in Iraq and Syria

Operation Damascus Volcano, the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) offensive against the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR), has reached epic proportions.  It seems more and more like this will be the decisive battle of the war, though the final "battles" (ranging from battles to genocidal pre-dawn raids against innocents) will probably last for months to a year to come).

CNN has a Google Earth-driven briefing of the battle

The AP has a news map of key locations in Damascus and along with battle news.

The internet think tank Enduring America created a map claiming to show areas around Damascus which are now controlled by the FSA.

View Syria - 2012 July 19 - EA Worldview in a larger map

Meanwhile a map is being shared on Twitter claiming to show FSA zones (green base and green push pins), SAR held territory (red pushpins), and unknown (yellow)

Click to enlarge
Of an interesting side note pointed out to me is that SAR forces are shelling the Golan village of Jebata al-Khashab.  Jebata is a Golan Druze village.  Golani Druze are/were well known for being extremely pro-Assad.  This is an odd turn of events made even more odd by the fact Jebata is in the United Nations controlled buffer zone between Israeli annexed-Golan and Syria proper.

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SAR's attack is a violation of the United Nations controlled cease fire and may have been an effort to force Israel's hand thus giving SAR a chance to rally Syrians against a common enemy.

Liechtenstein: Europe's Pro-Active, Functioning Monarchy

Officially, Europe's various monarchies are important.  Not only are they suppose to represent the country as a whole (while prime ministers act merely as the head of a government), the government rules only with the monarch's approval and every European monarch has some official religious function (either head of the church in Protestant countries or a defender of the faith in Catholic ones).  In reality, however, the monarch just is a rubber stamp for the prime minister-led government and church affairs are left to church officials and religious committees in parliament.  For the most part monarchs also stay out of politics to avoid conflict with "their" government and to remain non-divisive.

Liechtenstein's monarchy is different.  Regent Alois, son of Prince Hans Adam II, announced in 2011 that he would veto a referendum which would legalize abortion if passed.  The people then rejected the abortion referendum 52% to 47% (only 500 votes difference).  Those upset by the loss pressed for a new referendum which would take away the monarchy's right to veto laws passed by public vote.  Alois fought back by saying that if the referendum passed he and his family would renounce the throne and leave the country.  This would more or less force Liechtenstein to become a republic.  Earlier this month the people voted against the new referendum 76% to 24%.

The monarchy of Liechtenstein survived and now shown its public backing.  Even in the twenty-first century, European monarchies can still have strength.  Depending on if rumors are true, Queen Elizabeth II may veto the Conservative-Liberal Democrat bill approving gay marriage if passed.  However, this would be significantly more challenging as the monarchy may not survive a battle of wills (and existence) against the British government.  Multicultural, secular Britain is not homogenous Liechtenstein.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Geographical Oddity of Fortaleza de Sao Joao Baptista de Ajuda

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In the middle of the port city of Ouidah, Benin is Fortaleza de Sao Joao Baptista de Ajuda (the Fort St. John the Baptist of Ouidah).  The fort was 1.9 acres (.76 hectares) of Portugal sticking in the middle of French West Africa and later the Republic of Dahomey (later Benin).  For a time it was the smallest exclave in the world.

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The fort was first constructed in the late 1600s as the Portuguese established lines of communion and trade stretching from Portugal, down Africa, across the Cape of Good Hope up Africa, into India, and over into Indonesia.  However, the Portuguese never permanently manned the fort until the French began to claim and govern large stretches of western Africa in the 1850s and 1860s.  When the French took over modern-day Ouidah from the independent African Kingdom of Dahomey, the Portuguese refused to leave the fort even though it was isolated from any exit point and had no water access.  The Portuguese kept the fort as a matter of pride and the French thought taking the fort was not worth the trouble it would cause.

Benin became self-governing in 1958 as part of the French Community (a French effort to mirror the British Commonwealth system) and fully independent in 1960 as the Republic of Dahomey.  At the same time Portugal was being ruled by the soft fascist Estado Novo (New State) regime.  Dahomey, being post-colonial and not a supporter of fascist, European colonial powers, seized the fort despite the effort of the two Portuguese stationed there who tried to burn the fort down rather than surrender it.  Portugal demanded the fort back but with post-colonial conflict developing elsewhere in its empire, Portugal did not deem to worth it to fight Dahomey and its French backers over the fort.  It was not until the fall of the New State and its replacement with a pro-democratic government by socialist military officers in 1974 that Portugal recognized it no longer owned the fort.  Portugal then paid money to turn the fort into a museum which it remains today.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tree Ring Study Shows Overall Cooling Trend, Recent Temperature Spike

According to a new study by German scientists (in fact they are Geographers), an examination of tree rings has shown that the Roman and pre-Roman periods of Europe were actually warmer than the Medieval Warm Period.  The study shows how from 138 BC up to the 1900s experienced a very notable cooling trend.  This trend has, at least for now, been stopped by recent warming trends.

The wild, overall cooling trend of temperature.  Image from Institute of Geography, JGU
The tree rings challenge all sides of the global warming/climate change debate.  The rings show yet again that there is a warming trend.  However, it shows that the past was warmer and that climate change occurred naturally.  Yet again all scientists must wonder what temperature setting, if any, is optimal, and what forces are at work influencing climate change in all regards.  With any hopes this will help silence alarmists who only cloud the climate change debate.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Syria: The Geography Calls for Bloody War

In the reenactments, drills, and just for fun games I have participated in, some of the most violent experiences involved "clearing the bush" operations.  When one side controls the high ground, usually in the form of a redoubt, that side must make sure the immediate low area around the point of control is clear of obstructions and any possible hiding enemies.  Combat devolves into one-on-one and/or ambushes as the low ground forces know if they lose the bush they will be forced later on to attack the high ground through open, deadly territory.  Sniping, tackling, punching, and short expletives occur as units become smaller to work more effectively. 

Fights like this occur on the tactile level all the time whether it be the fight for the farm fields before Picket's charge, the effort to clear the area around Little Round Top which killed a relative of mine, or the fights around outposts in Afghanistan.  Clearing the bush operations also occur on an operational and strategic level.  Because of the need to clear the bush and physical geography, the lowlands of Syria are the new killing fields.

On 12 July somewhere between 100 and 300 people were killed in Tremseh.

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This massacre follows the 25 May Houla massacre

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And the 6 June Al-Qubeir massacre

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These Sunni villages are intermixed with smaller Alawite villages in the flat lands of Hama and Homs provinces.  This agricultural area is in the shadows, the bush if you will, of the An-Nusayriyah Mountains (also known as the Coastal Mountain Range; the term Nusayriyah references a derogatory term against Alawites).  The mountain range stretches from Turkey to Lebanon and separates majority Alawite Latakia and Tartus provinces from the Sunni Muslim dominated-interior.

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The Weekly Standard has a good article about how the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) seeks to control the Alawite areas (possibly to form a rump state) and that geography dictates that SAR needs to secure the areas in and around An-Nusayriyah Mountains.  Author Tony Badran compares SAR's situation to that of the Crusaders who made a series of fort to keep the Syrian coast in Christian control in order to connect the Crusader kingdoms with the Eastern Roman Empire.  The Crusaders were never able to control "the bush" around the mountains and therefore their castles were under constant siege which wore the Crusaders down.  It appears SAR is attacking Sunni villages around the mountains in order to cause Sunnis to leave the area and create a Alawite buffer around the once and possibly future Alawite State.

Geography though works against the SAR-Alawite forces.  The highland areas protect the only coastline for Syria.  A Sunni government in Damascus would most assuredly realize that in order to survive it needs the coastline for trade and oil export.  No state would give up that territory for long.  The only way an Alawite rump state would survive is with an open military presence of foreign/international troops from countries which Sunni Syria dare not challenge.  Anything less opens the Alawites up for attack.  A second scenario would be an Alawite plan to join with Lebanon, long thought of as a minority state.  This would cause a massive flux in Lebanon's careful demographic balance in favor of the Christian-Shia-Alawite axis versus the Christian-Sunni-Druze alliance.  Civil war would occur within days of an announcement a union between Lebanon and an Alawite state.  Lebanon knows this and would never allow this scenario to happen.

No one knows what will happen in Syria.  A SAR victory would cause long term Sunni resentment and lay the seeds for the next war.  A Sunni victory risks spilling over into Lebanon as the Christian-Sunni-Druze alliance would seek revenge against the pro-Syrian forces which hold the country hostage.  The sad truth is that geography calls for bloody war.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Covenant Periods Bible Geography Maps

Every so often a Bibical geography map or atlas is released and I will link to them.  However, sometimes cartographic choices can obscure the important spatial-temporal perspective.  Sometimes map just show the basic locations in the Old and New Testament or just the places mentioned in a particular book.

The Catholic blog Truth & Charity has published a series of maps showing the important geography during different time periods of the Old Testament.  These maps show the often missed perspective of the various time periods of the Old Testament.  Four of my favorite are below but there are more concerning the time periods of King David, the divided kingdoms, and the city Jerusalem.

Noahic Covenant

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Abraham Covenant

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Mosaic Covenant

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Empires which Ruled Israel

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Other related posts readers may be interested in
The Cosmos of the Ancient Hebrews
OpenBible.Info - Mapping Every Place Mentioned in the Bible
Credo Bible Study - Downloadable Bible with Geographical Components
Map of Where the Twelve Apostles Died

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards Submission: Voice Enabled Map Fonts

The second entry for the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards has been officially submitted.  Naveen Sidda, Javier Eced, and Dr. Javier Lopez of the University of Zaragoza have a proposal to create voice enabled map fonts for tourists and the illiterate.

Feel free to comment on the proposal and let the board know what you think!

And remember, you still have time to apply for the $500 in awards for promoting Geo-Literacy! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Geography of Summer Olympics Medal Winners

In a few weeks London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.  This event will reinforce Europe's hold on being the primary host of the Summer Olympic games.

Like my 2010 post about the geography of Winter Olympics medal winners, I decided to take a look at Summer Olympics medal winners.  The trends are analyzed below the winners table:

Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 929 729 638 2296
USSR 395 319 296 1010
UK 207 255 253 715
Germany 191 217 240 648
France 191 212 233 636
Italy 191 157 174 522
Sweden 142 160 173 475
Hungary 159 141 159 459
Australia 131 137 164 432
East Germany 153 129 127 409
PR China 163 117 105 385
Japan 123 112 126 361
Russia 108 97 112 317
Finland 101 83 115 299
Romania 86 89 117 292
Poland 62 80 119 261
Canada 58 94 108 260
Netherlands 71 79 96 246
West Germany 56 74 98 228
South Korea 68 74 73 215
Bulgaria 51 84 77 212
Cuba 67 64 63 194
Switzerland 45 70 66 181
Denmark 41 63 66 170
Norway 54 48 42 144
Czechoslovakia 49 49 45 143
Belgium 37 51 51 139
Spain 34 49 30 113
Unified Team 45 38 29 112
Greece 30 42 36 108
Ukraine 28 22 46 96
Brazil 20 25 46 91
Yugoslavia 28 31 31 90
New Zealand 36 15 35 86
Austria 18 33 35 86
Turkey 37 23 22 82
Kenya 22 29 24 75
South Africa 20 24 26 70
Argentina 17 23 26 66
Belarus 10 19 35 64
Jamaica 13 25 17 55
Mexico 12 18 25 55
Iran 11 15 22 48
North Korea 10 12 19 41
Kazakhstan 9 16 14 39
Ethiopia 18 6 14 38
Czech Republic 10 12 11 33
Estonia 9 8 14 31
Indonesia 6 9 10 25
Egypt 7 7 10 24
Nigeria 2 9 12 23
Ireland 8 7 8 23
Portugal 4 7 11 22
Morocco 6 5 10 21
Thailand 7 4 10 21
India 9 4 7 20
Slovakia 7 8 5 20
Mongolia 2 7 10 19
Republic of China 2 6 11 19
Georgia 5 2 11 18
Uzbekistan 4 5 8 17
Croatia 3 6 8 17
Latvia 2 11 4 17
Azerbaijan 4 3 9 16
Lithuania 4 4 8 16
Slovenia 3 5 7 15
Algeria 4 2 8 14
Trinidad and Tobago 1 5 8 14
Chile 2 7 4 13
Australasia 3 4 5 12
Colombia 1 3 7 11
Venezuela 1 2 8 11
Bahamas 4 2 4 10
Uruguay 2 2 6 10
Pakistan 3 3 4 10
Armenia 1 1 7 9
Philippines 0 2 7 9
Russian Empire 1 4 3 8
Zimbabwe 3 4 1 8
Tunisia 2 2 3 7
Israel 1 1 5 7
Uganda 1 3 2 6
Puerto Rico 0 1 5 6
Moldova 0 2 3 5
Cameroon 3 1 1 5
Iceland 0 2 2 4
Costa Rica 1 1 2 4
Peru 1 3 0 4
Dominican Rep 2 1 1 4
Malaysia 0 2 2 4
Bohemia (AH Empire) 0 1 3 4
Nambia 0 4 0 4
Lebanon 0 2 2 4
Ghana 0 1 3 4
Serbia 0 1 2 3
Panama 1 0 2 3
Syria 1 1 1 3
Krygyzstan 0 1 2 3
Haiti 0 1 1 2
British West Indies 0 0 2 2
Serbia and Montenegro 0 2 0 2
Ecuador 1 1 0 2
Suriname 1 0 1 2
Mozambique 1 0 1 2
Luxembourg 1 1 0 2
Hong Kong 1 1 0 2
Zambia 0 1 1 2
Vietnam 0 2 0 2
Sri Lanka 0 2 0 2
Singapore 0 2 0 2
Tanzania 0 2 0 2
Qatar 0 0 2 2
Tajikistan 0 1 1 2
Eritrea 0 0 1 1
Guyana 0 0 1 1
Iraq 0 0 1 1
Kuwait 0 0 1 1
Nigeria 0 0 1 1
Netherlands Antilles 0 1 0 1
UAE 1 0 0 1
Djibouti 0 0 1 1
Ivory Coast 0 1 0 1
Bermuda 0 0 1 1
Barbados 0 0 1 1
US Virgin Islands 0 1 0 1
Sudan 0 1 0 1
Togo 0 0 1 1
Burundi 1 0 0 1
Paraguay 0 1 0 1
Afghanistan 0 0 1 1
Macedonia 0 0 1 1
Senegal 0 1 0 1

Like the Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympic results are hardly cosmopolitan.
  • Despite only having ten percent of the world's population, Europe has won 60% of all medals.  This is mostly due to European sports being played at the Olympics.
  • The United States and Canada have won 18% of all medals.  This is despite the United States' individual dominance of the game.
  • Asia, having 55% of the world's total population, has won only 9.6% of all medals.
  • Africa has only received two percent of all medals.
  • Middle, South, and Caribbean Americas have won 2.5% of all medals.

However, things are changing.  Much of Europe's wins came during the Cold War-era which saw heavy use of steroids from countries like Poland, Romania, and Hungary.  These countries are lucky if they do well now as the Olympics have clamped down on steroid use.  Meanwhile, the People's Republic of China has only competed in the last eight Olympics but has managed to become the eleventh best overall, and will soon surpass the dead East Germany for medals.  Asia will grow along with the People's Republic in the medal count as these countries finally master European-made games.  Africa is also growing its medal count with the increasing number track and field games.

Due to the ability of warm weather around the world and the proliferation of summer sports, the Summer Olympics will become the world's gaming event as the Winter Olympics, with the presence of many mountain sports, will remain a European stronghold.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Fun Hunt Map of Canada

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is attempting to solve the boredom of summer vacation (after a while doing nothing loses its appeal) with geography.  The Fun Hunt map features sights and activities around Canada users can see or do.  Users are also encouraged to register and document fun activities on the map as well.

How CBC portrays Canada to kids. From the CBC
Interesting as well is the base map.  Provinces from British Columbia to Ontario are shown being free of snow while the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut are encased in permanent snow.  Meanwhile, the northern half of Quebec and Newfoundland are also in snow.  Using the map (below) from the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network it seems the map does not reflect reality but instead is another Canadian stereotypes map.

The snow map shows the difference between Canada's own stereotypes and reality.  From CCIN