Category Archives: geography

Lab Report: Uber’s Europe Problem

Uber’s European setback: A European court’s ruling that Uber should be regulated as a transportation service—not an app—could hobble the company’s growth in the continent. The New York Times reports:

Uber cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers,” Mr. Szpunar wrote in an opinion that will be reviewed by the European Court of Justice, which is expected to make a final ruling by late summer.

“It is undoubtedly transport which is the main supply and which gives the service meaning in economic terms,” Mr. Szpunar added.

Didn’t see that coming: In a surprising victory for Obama’s environmental legacy, the Senate fell short of overturning a regulation that restricts methane emissions from drilling operations on public lands. (Washington Post)… Read the rest

Amazing City Maps That Look Like They’re Made of Wood

Melody Cao is a freelance map designer in San Francisco; most of the work she does involves moving data and pixels around. But she also loves woodworking. Her new project has find a way to combine those interests: She creates digital maps of world cities designed to look like they were hewn from exquisitely finished kinds of wood, so convincingly craftsy you can almost smell the beeswax finish.

Different surface types have different textures—there’s a nice maple for certain buildings, while water has a wave-y bird’s eye veneer. The result is an interactive and antique store-worthy view of the world produced via Mapbox Studio Classic, based on data from OpenStreetMap, that references the intricate inlaid patterns used in cabinets, tables, and other kinds … Read the rest

Found: A 1937 Recording of JFK as a Harvard Student

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In 1937, a young John F. Kennedy, just 20 at the time, signed up for Prof. Frederick Cilfton Packard, Jr.’s English F class. Packard taught the young men of Harvard public speaking, and as part of the class, the students would deliver speeches in Harvard’s Holden Chapel, the college’s third oldest building. While his classmates chose to speak about “book collecting, sourdough, and how to find a wife,” reports the Harvard Gazette, Kennedy spoke about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s controversial Supreme Court appointee, Hugo Black, who had ties to the Klu Klux Klan.

Decades later, archivists at Harvard discovered the speech about Packard’s archives and have restored the 20-year-old Kennedy’s speech from an aluminum disk into a digital file. Even through the background noise, you … Read the rest

Australia Accidentally Incinerated a Priceless Plant Specimen

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Australia’s biosecurity officials have a big job. They stop plants and animals from entering the country—species that could disrupt its delicately balanced ecosystem. But in their quest to protect Australia, they’ve accidentally destroyed some important biological specimens bound for local researchers. Back in March, for example, biosecurity officials incinerated a plant specimen because of a paperwork mix-up.

The destroyed item was the type specimen for a flowering plant (the exact species hasn’t been released), which means it was the specimen that was used to describe the species officially. The plant had been collected in the mid-1800s and ended up in France’s National Museum of Natural History, which was sending it to researchers at Queensland’s Herbarium.

When the specimen arrived in Australia by mail, biosecurity officers say, … Read the rest

Lab Report: Immigration and America’s Most Diverse City

Immigration battlefront: Houston has bucked its historic trends to become the most racially and ethnically diverse major city in the U.S.—and now, a major political stage for immigration reform as Texas goes hard on sanctuary cities. The L.A. Times reports:

The story of how [the] city turned from a town of oil industry roughnecks and white blue-collar workers into a major political centrifuge for immigration reform, demographic analysts say, is nothing less than the story of the American city of the future.

Affordability crisis: A New York Times Magazine profile of U.S. families suffering from the burden of housing costs points to an entitlement in the tax code (the “MID” in wonk-speak) as perpetuating the worst shortage of affordable housing the nation has seen … Read the rest

Alex Chinneck’s Architectural Illusions

A historic building in London’s Covent Garden, violently slashed through the middle, floats mysteriously in the air with no apparent support underneath the entirely dislocated upper half. A terraced house in Margate has its entire redbrick front slipped away from its frame and lies slumped in its own front garden. A red Vauxhall Corsa hangs upside down with the tarmac peeled back from the pavement and curled over. Welcome to the magical world of Alex Chinneck, a British artist known for his large-scale, mind-bending architectural illusions.

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“From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes”, an architectural installation by Alex Chinneck in Margate.

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Xylotheque: The Wood Library

In 18th century Germany, where modern forestry began, a curious sort of library began to grow.

Enthusiasts began to collect samples of different woods, but instead of simple blocks the samples were fashioned in the shape of books. These wooden “books” could be opened to reveal a hollowed out compartment where botanical samples of the source tree were stored—leaves, seeds, nut, twigs, fruit, flowers, pieces of root and bark. In some cases, written descriptions of the tree and the diseases it might suffer from were also included. The “books” were arranged in shelves, just like in a regular library, with the spine showing where the labels were attached.

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A xylotheque at Stift Lilienfeld in Austria. Every “book” is made by the wood of the tree that Read the rest

Saatse Boot: A Russia-Estonia Border Anomaly

In southeast Estonia, in the municipality of Värska Parish, lies a peculiar border irregularity. A small piece of Russian land called the “Saatse Boot”—so called because of its boot shaped intrusion— juts into Estonian territory as the Russian-Estonian border twists and turns through the lake and forest landscape of this region. It so happens that this piece of foreign land lies directly between two small Estonian villages—Lutepää and Sesniki—and traditionally, the only way to reach Sesniki from Lutepää, and vice-versa, is to go through Saatse Boot, that involves crossing the international border twice.

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Thomas Dambo’s Forgotten Giants

Danish artist Thomas Dambo has been building stuff using trash and recycled materials since an early age, starting with smaller sculptures such as birdhouses and furniture to bigger pieces such as the six “Forgotten Giants” he recently installed around Copenhagen.

Built mainly from recycled wood, such as old pallets, an old wooden shed, a fence and so on, Dambo along with a team of local volunteers created six giant troll-like wooden sculptures and hid them at some of his favorite places around the city. These places do not see many visitors because they are located off the beaten track. To help find these public installations, Dambo has created a series of “treasure maps” which he engraved into stones near each sculpture. Each giant is named after … Read the rest

Japan’s Newest Train Is Basically a Luxury Hotel on Rails

In Japan, trains are more than just a way to get around. The shinkansen, or high-speed rail network, was the world’s first; after more than 50 years, it remains a symbol of the country’s economic success after the devastation of World War II. Today, these bullet trains stretch across the country, bringing rural locales and cities far from Tokyo into a centralized, urban fold.

The nation’s rail network is already the idol of transportation enthusiasts around the world, and the latest addition is sure to attract even more adoration. A new long-distance train, the East Japan Railway Company’s Shiki-Shima, launched this week, and it’s already earning praise as perhaps the most luxurious train in the world. Its 10 cars hold 17 spacious suites, some … Read the rest