Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Eratosthenes and the Authalic Sphere

Tonight was some interesting material, and some of it was pretty dense. I'm going to need to spend some more time with our book. We're getting into the section of the book called "Earth-Map Relations" which I think is getting to the heart of what I like about maps. I'm thinking the core concept of representation might be what I'm attracted to. The Map represents a place on the Earth and as I said last week, it can help us understand and analyze complex data. I like things that represent other things in general, like Art in the broadest sense. Maybe it's things that not only (or necessarily) represent other things, but reveal something about them. Again, it's about the analysis. Strange then that most of my favorite Art is non-representational, or just about itself. Especially attractive to me about the maps is that they represent a place. For a long time I've had the experience of looking a road maps and having the locations or roads on the maps bring up memories of those roads or places. I also have gotten into looking at topo maps and trying to visualize what the area would look like if I was there.

We also did some interesting data importing tonight. We were looking at cellular phone radio transceiver tower information which we downloaded from the FCC. It was in a big 'ol data file that covered the whole country and was just in a delimited format. We imported it into excel and massaged it, which is also something I like to do. (I remember managing a mailing list for a non-profit entirely in WordPerfect 5.1. It was about 1500 people, and could pull out and print appropriate mailing labels based on criteria, on the tractor-feed dot-matrix printer.) Anyway, we had to eliminate the non-NC entries and then convert the Latitude and Longitude from Degrees, Minutes, Seconds notation to Decimal Degrees. That was kinda fun to automate the process, and doing it helped us learn how the two notations interact. Above is that map of NC with 818 cell towers, and we think that's not really all of them.

Back to Earth-Map Relations. I like the way that sounds. It partly reminds me of the Monica Lewinsky era, and I like the idea of the Relations among the Earth and its Maps. I better pull this political angle together with the title of this post now. I've been hearing for years that there are terrorists who "hate our freedoms." Like I also heard for such a long time way too many details about the Clinton-Lewinsky "relations." Tonight we learned about Eratosthenes, who in 250 BC came up with a way to estimate the size of the earth using a well and a post a few miles away. He got within about 4% of what we later calculated the circumference of the earth to be.
I think that was quite an accomplishment of conceptualizing and calculation. It makes me think of how the Arabic contributions to science and math are often overlooked in our Eurocentric
educations. Could that have led us to think they hate our freedoms?

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