Friday, June 28, 2013

Secular, Biblical, and Islamic Flat Earth Arguments and Rebuttals

President Barack Obama said he has no time to meet with "the Flat Earth Society".  Geographic Travels does, however!

We have audio of an interview with Daniel Shenton, President of the Flat Earth Society.  He seems to be a very insecure person.

We have a Christian fundamentalist who believes the Earth is flat and makes fun a Christian from the American South for having an accent.

We have an Islamic fundamentalist who claims the Qu'ran says the Earth is flat.

Now the rebuttals

Shenton says the Flat Earth Society is about "proving science."  Well, anyone who ever went sailing knows the way shore or tall ships rise from the horizon proves a curved (spherical) Earth. (This also works for seeing tall buildings in the distance).

From How Science Works
Meanwhile this Young Earth creationist video wants you to know that "Flat Earth = Christian belief" is a myth

This Islamic video use Qu'ranic statements to show Islam's belief in a round earth.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Winds of Venus Speed Up, No One Knows Why

Before the Soviets landed probes on Venus we long thought of the planet as a twin.  Nearly the same size as the Earth and much closer than Mars, many had hopes that Venus would be the first planet colonized by humans.  Then we discovered it basically matches our definition of Hell.

Now scientists have published results of a study which state the winds of Venus, clouds made out of battery acid moving at super hurricane speed, are speeding up.  Already the there are belts which can circle the planet in four days.  However, no one knows why certain wind belts are speeding up.  It seems either there is something going on with the planet itself or this climate change is being driven by the sun (or a combination of both).

Extraterrestrial geography is fascinating.  It is tragic though that we geographers have surrendered the science to geologists and physicists.  This study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets.  None of the researchers consider themselves "geographers" (they probably could not get tenure in a geography department anyways due to the strong bias against non-Earth bound spatial research in most geography departments).

Map of the Flow Size of United States Rivers

The Pacific Institute made the below map showing the size of American rivers' flow in cubic feet per second.  Two things are clear: a) yet again the great river dividing America really should be considered the Mississippi because of both length and flow and b) the Columbia River gets too little respect for its might.

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013

Many thanks to FSSP for 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

New maps are surprisingly hard to come by as the war drags on.

French journalist Cedric Labrousse is frequently uploading his own maps of the tactical situation inside Syria on his Facebook page.

An example of Mr. Labrousee's maps.

The New Scientist made an interactive map showing incidents of unrest throughout Syria from first quarter 2011 to first quarter 2013.  It is clear that during the winter, and before Hizbollah's invasion, that the war was on a slow down.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Puritanical Salafis Destroy Shrine on Abraham's Trail

I have twice written about my affinity towards Abraham's Oasis in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  The site is one of a series of holy spots associated with Abraham on his journey from Ur to the Promise Land.  Another site along the Patriarch's Trail is the Shrine of Abraham in the northeastern Syrian village of Ayn al-Arous.  Tradition says Abraham stopped in the village and placed his tent in the place where the shrine is now.

The shrine was destroyed in May this year by Salafi Sunni rebels.

The Salafis destroyed the shrine because they feel people who pray there are praying and worshiping Abraham and not God.  Salafis are puritanical (not necessarily orthodox) and seek to dissuade anything that they believe takes away worship of God.  In its militant form, Salafis are the Muslim equivalent to the Puritans who stripped the altars, destroyed monasteries, and hunted down priests during the Reformation.

Salafis in general have spent the last twenty years actively destroying land marks because they believe them to be sites of worshiping something other than God.  Tombs of Islamic saints, graves of imams, and even old mosques which locals regarded as special have been destroyed in Afghanistan, Mecca and Medina, Timbuktu  and elsewhere by Muslims influenced by Saudi and Egyptian Salafi teaching.  Sadly, the Shrine of Abraham is the latest victim of aggressive foreign Islam on the local native Syrian Islam.

I fear one day Abraham's Oasis may fall victim to aggressive foreign Islamic thought and actions.  Judeo-Christian-Islamic history is being wiped off the map by those who seek to destroy anything they disagree with.

Major Cities Ice Depth During the Ice Age

Internet cartoon and geography fan XKCD made a diagram showing how thick the ice sheet was over the spot of the city 21,000 years ago.

The depths are

  • Boston 4,100 feet (1250 meters)
  • Chicago 2,950 feet (900 meters)
  • Montreal 10,170 feet (1.9 miles! or 3,100 meters)
  • Toronto: 6,890 feet (2,100 meters)

My home region was once under over a mile of ice.  To think this and the radical changes between then and now are 100 percent natural.  Nature is violent and climate change can be world altering.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Scientists Continue to Discover Negative Side Effects of Human Consumption of Drugs in Wildlife

A year ago I was privileged enough to go on a private group tour of a waste water treatment plant for a significant American city.  After being showed facility after facility of filters I asked what the biggest problem was that still remained in the processed water.  I got a surprisingly intense answer: "Pills!  People dump their medicine down the toilet not knowing that it hurts the fish!  Even the pills people take hurts the fish!  Birth control medicine comes out of people's pee and no filter can take care of that.  Goes straight back into the water and into fish.  Now alot of poor fish are all screwed up and can't have kids of their own!"  The person was not joking.  He was very concerned for the fish and the environment he loved.  I felt the person pain as well because of my similar appreciation of the aquatic life and my stance as a fisherman/fish conservationist.

Now a new study shows a new disturbing side effect of human consumption of drugs in wildlife.  A new study by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that male fathead minnows became altered behaviorally after exposure to Zoloft and Prozac.  In some cases the minnows became super aggressive and killed female minnows.

Studying human-environment interaction is incredibly difficult.  There are just so many interrelationships we have no clue about.  In the case of medicine and negative side effects in wildlife we need to reevaluate the types of drugs and the amount consumption of said drugs at societal and individual levels if we desire to be better stewards of the environment.

Monday, June 17, 2013

International Date Line's Move Across Samoa Plays Havoc with Seventh-Day Adventists

Two years ago I wrote about the Independent State of Samoa's decision to move the international date line in order to be on the same day as Australia and New Zealand.   Samoa decided to skip a day for this change to be accomplished.  Little did I see that the move would cause local Seventh-Day Adventists, a brand of Christianity that rejects celebrating the Lord's Day and still observes a Saturday sabbath, to worship on Sunday since now that is the seventh-day in Samoa.  This move has caused some controversy among Adventists though the official church is trying to calm the situation down.

When I first read about the decision from I was startled.  One of the cornerstones of Seventh-Day Adventist theology is that the corrupt Church wrongly changed the day of Christian worship from Saturday to Sunday (ignoring the mentions of celebrating on the Lord's Day in the Bible).  The logic of the Seventh-day decision not only undercuts its arguments but is unique in the church.  Hispanic countries' calendars have Monday as the first day and Sunday as the seventh day.  However, Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist churches still have Saturday as the sabbath (This is because the overriding American cultural traits which dominate Adventism).  The date line move controversy could cause a split in Samoan Adventism if church leaders cannot reconcile the move.

Calendars can be a very tricky religious-political problem for Churches.  The Date of Easter controversy plagued early Christianity.  The Gregorian Calendar was adopted in Protestant countries bit-by-bit and the adoption of a slightly altered version of the Gregorian Calendar by some Orthodox Churches lead to a split between the mainstream and Old Calendarists.  Even Islam currently has calendar issues.  Ramadan's start date can be determined by at least three different means and it has become a political issue in the growing Sunni-Shia civil war.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Map of the Invasion of Vichy Syria Shows a Different War

Real Time World War II 1941 is covering the 1941 invasion of French State (Vichy France)-administered Syria.  The invasion was done by British, British Commonwealth, and Free France forces who attacked Syria because the pro-Vichy regime was allowing the Germans to set up operations in the Levant as a precursor for invasion of British-administered Palestine, Transjordan, and Iraq.

Looking at contemporary invasion map I can only think that this invasion plan could not be replicated today.

The invasion of Lebanon by forces in Palestine, today's Israel, look remarkably similar to the 1980s Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon.  This could only end in out right war between Hezbollah and Iran against Israel across the globe.  Note how the British base in Haifa was the targets of raids.  Today that city would be pounded by Hezbollah missiles.

Any invasion from Jordan would go through Dara and not the Druze territory of al Suawida.  The Druze lands have been largely untouched by the war due to their hilly terrain and Druze neutrality.  Dara meanwhile is a major node on the road between the border and Damascus.  A large battle is currently on-going between rebel and regime forces there.  Any southern campaign would have to confront the Syrian Arab Army in Dara before moving north.

Neither Baghdad-administered Iraq nor the Kurdistan Regional Government would allow a major anti-Assad operation from their borders.  The KRG wants to promote a Kurdish agenda while the Arab regime and Arab opposition destroy each other and Baghdad is openly pro-Assad.

Turkey was neutral in World War II so there were no forces invading Syria from it.  Now, however, any anti-Assad invasion would need to help rebels in the north, especially with the major city of Aleppo.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

French Exploration Accounts of the Interior United States: Great Plains and Great Lakes Regions

The Native American Nations Map post has caused a bit of a comment flame war as the cartographer, Aaron Carpella, believes that one of the reasons I am criticizing the map's historical inaccuracy is my racial profile.  He also denies historical records because they are White histories and instead picks certain tribe legends over others to mark his map.

The debate between myself and Carpella has given me the opportunity to re-read some excellent first person accounts of American Indians along the Great Lakes and in the Great Plains.  These accounts show the richness of American Indian culture, politics, and international relations between themselves and Europeans.

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents is a collection of detailed reports from 1610 to 1791 by French Jesuits.  These were missionary priests who spent years of their lives living with the Indians.  Some had great successes converting Indians to Christianity while others failed (especially with the Sioux).  The area covered by the reports covers the Great Lakes region from New York to Minnesota and into the Canadian Great Lakes region as well.

Journal of the Expedition of the Chevalier de La Vérendrye and One of His Brothers to Reach the Western Sea, Addressed to M. the Marquis de Beauharnois, 1742-43 documents a journey from present-day Canda through the present-day Dakotas in search of a quick route to the Pacific Ocean.  Eventually the La Verendrye brothers saw mountains (whether they were the Black Hills or Rocky Mountains is still up to debate) and turned back knowing that America continued well beyond a length they were ready to travel.  Reading the journal one feels the brothers feeling they are truly in an unknown land.  They frequently mention the presence of Indians on the Plains.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Free Online Course: Mapping with Google

A new online course, Mapping with Google, is available from Google. Completion of the course results in a certificate for mapping with Google Maps and one for Google Earth as well.

From the excellent Google Maps Mania
Mapping with Google starts today and continues until June 24th. Complete the course and not only will you learn all about Google Maps and Google Earth you will also earn yourself a Google Maps Project certificate and / or a Google Earth Project certificate.  
The Google Map part of the course involves completing three units, each unit consisting of a number of activities. Unit 1 is really just a short introduction to the course. Unit 2 is a general introduction to some of the useful features of Google Maps. The unit involves searching and sharing links to Google Maps and learning all about directions on Google Maps. Unit 3 actually involves making your own maps using Google Maps Engine Lite.  
If you have never used Maps Engine Lite the unit is a great introduction into how to import data into Google Maps Engine and how to create well designed and nicely styled maps.
I personally recommend takes these courses.  Online cartography is not the height of the art but it is none the less easy and usable (and appropriate) in multiple fields. 

Rand McNallyitis: The Mental Disease Which Prevents Geographers and the World from Accepting Global Change

Rand McNallyitis: (n) 1. The mental disease which prevents geographers and the general public from accepting global change in one's mental map or understanding of the world. 2. The thought which believes if something is on a map it must be real and permanent.

Z Geography is back and has a great post musing on the fact all maps have the Aral Sea when the Aral Sea is no more.
There is no Aral Sea, so why do our maps say there is?  From (2013)
Whether it is the now mostly gone Lake Chad, the now gone Aral Sea, or some historical geopolitical boundary that continues to pass down from SHP file to SHP, people have difficulty imagining that the world is different than what a map shows.  I believe this thinking has prevented policy solutions in places where breaking up the country or reorganizing borders might be better than trying to keep artificial countries together (hint hint Pakistan/Afghanistan, almost all of Africa, Syria, etc).  It also leads to people to hold on to out of date world views which ignore environmental changes, massive demographic shifts (religion in Latin America or the rise of non-Arabs in Arabia, the impact of immigration on First World countries), and much more.  All this is a form of what I call Rand McNallyitis.

Geography:  The World is Changing, Are You Adapting?

Friday, June 07, 2013

Maps and Charts about the #Occupygezi Protests in Turkey

Environmentalists began protesting a week ago against the Turkish government's decision to replace Gezi Park, a significant but not major park inside Istanbul, with a shopping mall.  It was one in a series of moves which the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has taken in an effort to grow the Turkish economy.    Besides a few environmentalist no one in Turkey really cared.

From the Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade. Click to enlarge.
However, the Turkish government ordered a fierce police crackdown against the protesters.  In response the  AKP's diverse enemies (secularists, environmentalists, alcohol drinkers, Communists, socialists  nationalists, Kurdish groups, and college students left of center politically) began protesting in mass against the capitalistic, somewhat moderate Islamist government (think of the AKP as a Calvinist political party from 1880).

Map of Protests throughout Turkey. Click to enlarge.  From
Protest barricades in red, police barricades in blue.  From Twitter.
This is not the "Turkish Spring", not yet at least.  The AKP is not the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is very popular inside Turkey.  It also has been very successful in growing the economy and its political-religious leanings reflect a changing Turkish demographic where the religious interior is growing much faster from the more urban and secular elite which has adopted European style "growth" rates.

Finally, AKP supporters will point out the most visible parts of the protest are just urban elite thugs much like what the rest of the Occupy movement devolved into.

Click to enlarge.  From Twitter

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Sun Still Does Not Set on the British Empire

The British Empire of the late 1800s including the home isles, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, much of Africa, and much more.  At least one part of the empire had direct sunlight due to the empire's global expanse.  With the fall of the Empire many people probably believe the sun has set upon the remaining British rump realm.  This is not the case, however, according to Xkcd.

The blog has discovered the small possession of Pitcairn Islands, inhabited by the mixture of HMS Bounty and Polynesians, gets sun light long enough to act as a solar bridge between the Cayman Islands and the  British Indian Ocean Territory.

The Empire is no more but Britannia holds enough global outposts to keep the sun's shine at all times.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Europe: Land of the Foreign Monarchs

Every monarch in Europe, whether in a kingdom or principality, is from a foreign family.

Andorra: Co-princes Joan Enric Vives Sicília (Spanish bishop) and Francois Hollande (French president).

Belgium:  The so-called House of Belgium is actually the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and has ruled Belgium since the 1830s.

Liechtenstein:  The House of Liechtenstein rule present-day Liechtenstein as a rump state.  The house comes from Castle Liechtenstein located in Austria.

Luxembourg:  Grand Duke Henri is of the French-Italian House of Bourbon-Parma.  The house was founded by Philip, the Spanish-born son of French King of Spain, in the 1700s.  Philip started his line of Bourbon-Parma by ruling parts of Italy.

Monaco:  The House of Grimaldi comes from Genoa, Italy.  The house was founded by a consul of Genoa and his Jewish merchant cousin in the 1100s.

Netherlands:  The House of Orange-Nassau is a union of houses from Germany and France and was founded in the 1500s.

Norway:  The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was founded in the 1800s by marriage between German and Danish nobility.

Spain:  King Juan Carlos I is of the French House of Bourbon.

Sweden:  Swedish monarchs are of the House of Bernadotte.  This house was founded by Jean Bernadotte in the early 1800s.  Bernadotte was a French military officer in Napoleon's army.  Bernadotte was adopted by the king of Sweden, Charles XIII, when Charles realized his house was about to die with his death.

United Kingdom:  The so-called House of Windsor is actually the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha which gained the British thron in 1901 with King Edward VII.  Before Saxe-Coburg and Gotha took the throne the monarchy belonged to another German family, the House of Hanover.


Two houses rule two foreign countries each.  The German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha reigns in Belgium and the United Kingdom.  Interestingly both these countries are ethnically mixed between Germanics and French.  Meanwhile the French House of Bourbon rules in Spain and Luxembourg.

French families rulefive5 countries: Andorra, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.  Families from the present-day Federal Republic of Germany rule four countries: Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom.  An Austrian family rules in Lichtenstein.

Special Mention:

Vatican City:  Though not a monarchy by some definitions  the Vatican's monarch is the closest thing to a "native" monarch.  Though Pope Francis was born in Argentina his father was Italian from northwest Italy.

Monday, June 03, 2013

June 2013 Travel Photo: Cholera Graveyard along the Oregon and California Trails

Outside my old research stomping grounds of St Marys, Kansas is the 49ers Cholera Graveyard near the Oregon Trail Road bridge over the Vermilion River.

View Larger Map

Cholera was the major killer of emigrants leaving the eastern United States for new settlements in Utah, Oregon, and California.  The bacteria infection killed more people than any other sickness, injury, or hostiles.  The bacteria grew in water polluted by human and animal waste.  Mental Floss gives the following history of cholera along the Oregon Trail.
The number one killer of the actual Oregon Trail, cholera is an infection of the intestines caused by ingesting the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Spread through contaminated food or water, cholera released an enterotoxin that effectively flooded the intestines with excess water. This led to continual watery diarrhea, causing severe dehydration and often death. The worst outbreaks occurred on the Oregon Trail in 1849, 1850 and 1852. The only available treatment in the game was a medicine known as laudanum—understood today to be pure opium.
Since the Vermilion River is so close to the jumping off cities (where emigrants started their journeys west) many people would reach the crossing at about the same time.  Because of this the crossing would be the site of wagon train camps for weeks.  In 1849, the year of the California Gold Rush, an outbreak broke out and claimed the lives of many people going West.

Click to enlarge
By the end of 1849 over fifty grave stones were visible at the river crossing.  However, only three worn out slabs are visible today.  The shaded green historic site looks peaceful.  However, the peacefulness lies on top of a site of sadness and poor medical understanding which claimed the lives of people who left their homes for a brighter future for themselves and their families.