geography/maps

In the 3 1/2 minute video below, CGP Gray explains the nonsense behind the word “continent.”  It’s a cultural construct, with some geological rationale, but not enough to rationalize the seven that we recognize.

Also from CGP Gray: What the Bleep is the United Kingdom?! and The Economics of Royalty.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Dolores R. sent a link to a map created by Derek Watkins to show how the names given to geographic features reflect cultural patterns. Using a database of names officially accepted by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, Watkins mapped generic terms used in the names of streams (excluding “creek” and “river,” which are commonly used throughout the U.S and were plotted in a gray that fades into the background):

The generic terms reflect historical immigration patterns. “Kill” appears in areas of New York originally settled by the Dutch; “cañada,” “arroyo,” and “río” indicate areas of Spanish exploration and settlement in the Southwest; of course, Louisiana and the surrounding area still reflects its French heritage through the term “bayou.”

The map reflects internal migration and cultural diffusion within the U.S., as well. For instance, Watkins suggests that the patch of red in southwest Wisconsin, indicating the use of “branch,” may be due to the lead mining boom in the early 1800s. Lead mining attracted Appalachian miners to the area, and they may have influenced local naming practices, bringing along terms common in Appalachia.

For more on the interconnections between geographic names or terms and larger cultural patterns, Watkins suggests reading Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States, by George Stewart (2008). Another excellent source is Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache, by Keith Basso (1996).

The website If It Was My Home (and yes, they know about the grammar error) allows you to get a better grasp on the size of the area affected by the BP oil leak.  They use National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s daily updates on where the oil will reach in the next 24 hours and allow you to use Google Maps to position it anywhere you want. It’s easier for me, at least, to get an idea of the dimensions of the area we’re talking about when I can imagine it on an area I’m familiar with than seeing it on a map of the ocean.

Here’s the oil leak area centered over Las Vegas, where I live:

The darker the shade of gray, the denser the oil. Here is the current NOAA surface oil projection for the next 24 hours; red indicates places oil may hit shores:

Today’s 72-hour projection, which shows the range extending qute a bit to the west, and more affected shoreline:

Thanks to Kate W. for the link!

Related posts: using the oil spill to advertise cheap flights, should we clean up oil-soaked wildlife?, the Gulf oil industry, BP buys Google search terms, BP gives Florida money for advertising tourism, protesting BP, and the power of images of environmental disasters.

The US Census Bureau put together the map below.  It shows what percentage of households in any given county include a married couple.  In the counties colored with the darkest turquoise, between 59.6 and 79.6% of households consist of a married couple.  In the counties colored white, less than 51.6 do.

I think it’s interesting to speculate as to how the reasons why there are more or less married couple households might vary by place. For example, some places may have disproportionate numbers of gay and lesbian residents who cannot, legally, get married. Others may have higher rates of poverty, which has been shown to decrease relationship stability, leading to less marriage and more divorce.  Still others may have normative or religious pressures in favor of marriage (Utah strongly stands out as the most marriage-prone state).  The racial/ethnic make-up of counties may contribute to marriage rates; we know, for instance, that black women marry at a lesser rate than white women for a whole host of reasons.  Racial/ethnic homogeneity may play a factor too, since interracial marriage is still uncommon and asymmetrical when it does occur.  Some counties have more disproportionate ratios of males and females, which may also shape marriage rates. What do you think?  More hypotheses?  Arguments one way or another?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Missives from Marx sent in a link to this animated time line documenting the diffusion of various political-economic systems (e.g., fascism, democracy, and feudalism) over world history.  It can be read as a story about the triumph of democracy, but it’s also illustrates how political-economic systems are not natural, but invented during particular historical eras, and diffuse or disappear as a consequence of war, geography, and other geopolitical factors.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

You might have noticed that there are poor, rich, and middle class neighborhoods in just about every town.  Sociologists call this residential segregation.  Residential segregation is a problem, in part, because it can create a situation in which some neighborhoods have more social and other services than others.  Sociologists have found, for example, that richer neighborhoods tend to have more grocery stores, better sidewalks, and more fire protection.

So, when Jessica Sherwood, of Sociologists for Women in Society, sent us a map showing the density of playgrounds in New York City, I immediately thought to correlate it with average income.

Playground map (darker pink = more playgrounds):

play

Map of median household income (yellow = more income, blue = less):

Picture1

UPDATE:  Awesomely, Reader Mark Root-Wiley overlaid the two maps and sent it along!  Here it is:

nycPlaygroundOverlay

It looks to me that playground density is highest in the poorest neighborhoods.  A very unusual finding!

So, what factors do you think might account for the disproportionate number of playgrounds in low income areas?  Speculate away!

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

How much of the earth can humans now access?  Some images developed by the New Scientist (via ChartPorn) give us some great visuals showing just how thoroughly we’ve colonized the (non-ocean) planet.

A map of all roads:

roads

A map of all railroads:

railways

A map of all navigable rivers:

major_rivers

Considering all of these modes of transportation and the type of terrain, the New Scientist calculated how long it would take, from everywhere on the planet, to get to a city of 50,000 people or more:

mg20227041_500-1_1000

They estimate that less than 10% of the world is more than two days from the nearest city. The most remote place, they calculate, is the Tibetan plateau.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

U.S. civilians, by virtue of geography and geopolitics, have rarely experienced war firsthand. The possibility of the destruction of our infrastructure or civilian casualties on our land has remained remote. Today, for example, though we are waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, non-military Americans do not expect to personally suffer (with the significant exception of harm to and the loss of loved ones).

That civilian populations can experience war in vastly different ways is illustrated by this photograph:

MaskedPioneers

It is the early 1920s and the Soviet Union has been at war with much of Europe for several years. In the photograph, children practice their response to being gassed in an attack.

The Vietnam War was the first televised war and some sociologists credit the visual images returning from the war for increasing opposition.  But the idea that an understanding of the horrible, destructive, and deadly effects of war would require the mass media is predicated on U.S. geographical detachment.  That is, the mass media would be less necessary if the war was happening on our soil.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military hardened its rule against publishing photographs of dead or dying U.S. soldiers.  The rule for embedded journalists states that:

Media will not be allowed to photograph or record video of U.S. personnel killed in action.

This separates U.S. civilians from war in a second way, by politics.  So a civilian population can be isolated from its own wars by geography or by politics and, largely, the U.S. is separated by both.

Thanks to Dmitriy T.M. for this great photograph.

For more posts discussing the impact of war on civilians, see license plate patriotismsex protestwar is boring, WWII civilian sacrifices (carpooling and staying off the phone), war and euphemism, framing “their” deathsthe silent ranksU.S. non-news about war, and reframing the “atomic bomb” (the evolution of the term and mushroom clouds have a silver lining).

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.