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Monday, May 28, 2012

A Kiss to Remember

Photo: Cate Eighmey
When Caleb and Candra Pence married on May 19, a few uninvited guests were raising a ruckus near their outdoor wedding. Actually, the tornadoes that touched down during the ceremony were about 8-10 miles away, neither the barrel-racer (Candra), the bull-rider, nor their guests were concerned enough to interrupt the ceremony. The Associated Press reports many of the details of the unusual wedding and the Christian Science Monitor provides a video that shows the surreal calm of the wedding guests.

This story -- surprising as it is to those outside Tornado Alley -- is an example of how accustomed people can become to the physical and human geography of their home regions. The groom's mother, for example, explained that she was not worried, not only because of the evident distance of the tornadoes, but also because they were "moving to the northeast." Her reaction reflects something else about the geography of much of the United States outside of the original thirteen colonies: because most roads follow the township and range system, people usually know what direction they are looking. In Kansas, with very low relief (flat land) and very few trees, a person can easily visualize an area of a hundred square miles or more.

Of course, tornadoes are by far the most dangerous kinds of storms, and those shown in these wedding photos did do a lot of property damage. But in this location (about 180 miles to the east of the home of Dorothy and Toto), they are also a part of the landscape that is only noticed when it is a direct threat.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rumney Marsh Academy, Revere -- June 1

42º 24' 47" N
71º 00' 12" W

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The EarthView team is delighted to be returning to Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere. We very much enjoyed our visit in May 2011, and the opportunity to learn about the local geography. Our blog post for that visit describes some of the interesting history of Revere and the unique physical geography of the nearby marsh for which the school is named.

This year's visit will be the last EarthView program of the school year, ending a very busy and enjoyable year, and bringing the total number of EarthView participants since the program began to about 35,000.

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View original and commentary at EarthSky
Our visit is on June 1, the anniversary of some events near and far with very interesting geographic implications. By far the event with the most direct importance is also the most recent. One year ago -- on June 1, 2011 -- Massachusetts had the very rare experience of a significant and very damaging tornado. It tracked on the ground for an unusually long period of time, eventually destroying trees and buildings along a 34-mile corridor just south of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Four deaths were attributed to the tornado, with the most severe damage to property in the town of Monson, which the EarthView team had the honor of visiting just two weeks later. We witnessed a community that was focused on gratitude for the people and things that were not lost, and on helping each other recover from the severe losses that did take place.
Photo: Massachusetts State Police
Other geographic or geography-related events that took place on this date are:

16381st earthquake recorded in U.S., at Plymouth, Mass
16571st Quakers arrived in New Amsterdam (New York)
1792Kentucky admitted as 15th U.S. state
1796Tennessee admitted as 16th U.S. state
1796Last of Britain's troops withdrew from U.S.
18081st U.S. land-grant university founded at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
1843It snowed in Buffalo and Rochester New York and Cleveland Ohio
1843Sojourner Truth left New York to begin her career as antislavery activist
1845Homing pigeon completed 11,000 km trip (Namibia-London) in 55 days (find these places on the globe!)
1855U.S. adventurer Wm Walker conquered Nicaragua, reestablished slavery
18801st pay telephone installed
1921Race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, between 50 and 300 people killed
1940Coffee and tea rationed in Holland
1991Warsaw Pact officially dissolved
1991Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) erupts for 1st time in 600 years, and one of the most significant eruptions of the 20th Century; temperatures reduced worldwide for several years

Thursday, May 24, 2012

EarthView Day and Night

41° 59' 20" N ; 70° 57' 58" W
42° 24' 07" N ; 72° 06' 47" W
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Also, compare Thursday's coordinates to those of other recent EarthView outings, near and far!

The EarthView Team had no program on Friday this week, because EarthView did double duty on Thursday, playing a small part in two terrific events in different parts of the state. First was on our own campus, in the atrium of the John Joseph Moakley Center at Bridgewater State University. We welcomed students and educators from throughout our region to the STEM Expo, highlighting education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Our program emphasized the ways in which geography connects to natural and environmental sciences and geospatial technologies. For example, we used yarn to create a simple model of GPS systems.

The evening was spent at Quabbin Middle School in Barre (use the lat/long figures above to figure out how far EarthView moved to the north and west to get to this new location), where for the fourth time it was part of the schools traditional seventh-grade overnight program. Led each year by geography teacher extraordinaire Erin Stevens, this night combines geography, culture, food, music, and fair amount of silliness for a memorable evening of fun and learning.
Each of the seventh-grade homeroom classes selected a country to represent in the "Olympics" portion of the evening, which starts after the EarthView program. We could not resists posing the South Africa group in front of their country of choice.
May 24 was a great day to be doing geography outreach, as the final round of the National Geography Bee took place in Washington DC. Ten finalists who had emerged from 4,000,000 participants over the course of this school year showed their geography skills and passion. Be sure to see the NGS video, What You Can Do with Geography.
Early in the Bee, a special guest asked a question about the location of a recent international meeting, but not before taking the opportunity to remind the audience of the importance of geography education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earthquake Cheese Losses

The agricultural area shown above is an area of north-central Italy that usually does not experience earthquakes. On May 20, however, it experienced a 6.0 quake, with several modest aftershocks following.

Compared to other quakes that have been in the news in recent years, this was relatively small and casualties, though tragic, were few. Seven people died in the quake -- four while working in ceramic or food factories, many of which were damaged and three from fright-related medical problems.

More than $250,000,000 was lost in agricultural products, a lot of it in a surprising way. The area is known for its cheeses. You can use Google maps above to find the distance from the epicenter to the city of Parma, known for a famous cheese that may be in short supply for the next while. Because fine cheese are aged in large wheels, the earthquake in a few seconds damaged up to two years worth of production.

Tens of thousands of wheels -- each weighing more than 80 pounds and worth over $500 -- were damaged. Some might be salvaged, but exposure to air means that mold will ruin most of the cheese before it can be repackaged.

Photo: ABC News / AP
To view recent earthquakes visit the Real-time Earthquake page operated by USGS. It can be set to update automatically. In fact, while I was writing this article, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake struck Greece, and the map was updated with many details.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rings of Fire

Photo: National Geographic
EarthView participants often hear about the Ring of Fire, referring to the 25,000-mile-long corridor of volcanic and tectonic activity surrounding the Pacific Ocean. This week, both the terrestrial Ring and a celestial Ring have been in the news. The aptly named Fuego volcano erupted near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and a rare annular eclipse was visible from eastern Asia through the western United States.
Photo: redOrbit
For maps showing the path of every eclipse from 1901 to 2100, see the NASA Eclipse page. For current information about volcanoes within the United States and its territories, see the USGS Volcanoes page.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Living in the Ring of Fire

Kawaakibb is the screen name of a blogger living in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. On October 26, 2010, two major disasters struck her country at the same time, as the volcano Mt. Merapi erupted and an earthquake led to a tsunami striking the Mentawai archipelago. This led her to write Living in the Ring of Fire, which combines some basic geology with her personal experience of growing up near the intersection of three tectonic plates (or four -- the Philippine Plate is often considered part of the Pacific Plate). A more detailed description and useful maps can be found in Professor Robert Hall's article Indonesia, Geology.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BC Tent Saves the World

All better now!
During our recent visit to the State House, the EarthView team noticed a bit of a problem. Only two things can really go wrong with EarthView -- the fan and the zipper. We always travel with a spare fan, but a zipper is a not easily replaced! Fortunately, one of our geography students has learned watch repair in her family's shop, and working with small gears is close enough to working with zippers that she was able to keep EarthView working. The next day, we managed to open and close EarthView a few more times during a short program at the Howe-Manning School in Middleton.

As soon as we became aware of the problem, though, we knew that the real solution was to call BC Tent in Avon. Shortly after acquiring EarthView, we had taken it there for a bit of upkeep and patching, and for a zipper. Most of our 35,000 visitors have passed through EarthView's Prime Meridian since then, so it was time for a replacement. This is not an ordinary bit of sewing, nor does anybody keep this kind of zipper on hand. But BC Tent got to work right away, making sure we would have the zipper in place without losing any program time. We were also glad we could count on our team behind the scenes at BSU -- Kathie Manning, Dr. Diana Jennings, and Fred Clark -- to make sure this worked out seamlessly.

Even BC Tent's huge workshop is not big enough for a traditional EarthView photo op. CEO Bob Costa and general manager Rhona Dias did proudly pose with EarthView when it was all patched up and ready to start touring again. Not pictured is the real hero of the moment -- BC Tent's technician and fabric magician Edson, who also made that bag that -- amazingly -- holds a 20-foot globe. Their team's advice to our team: periodic zipper maintenance with beeswax!

Horace Mann Middle School, Franklin -- May 11

42° 05' 28" N
71° 24' 22" W 
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Also, compare today's coordinates to those of other recent EarthView outings, near and far!

The EarthView Team is making its first visit to the Horace Mann School in Franklin. 
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Both Horace Mann and the BSU home base of are both located along Boston's "outer ring road" of I-495. Because Boston is so close to the Atlantic Ocean, this outer ring is not actually a loop, but rather connects Cape Cod and Cape Ann with all of the other places that are a similar distance from the city.

The middle school and the university have something else in common in the person for which the middle school is named. Bridgwater State University was co-founded by Horace Mann, though under a different name, in 1840. He was an early leader in public education, and helped to create Bridgewater as a normal school, which is a school specifically for the training of teachers. A beautiful auditorium named in his honor is still one of the best rooms on the BSU campus for public lectures and concerts, and its recent renovation preserved the paintings of the Muses that adorn its walls. We hope that Horace Mann Middle School students have an opportunity to visit Horace Mann Auditorium on the BSU campus some day. Photographs do not really convey just what a beautiful tribute it is to the importance of the arts in Horace Mann's vision of education.

"The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron."
The EarthView visit follows the Horace Mann Middle School's first-ever Family Geography Night, during which parents and siblings have the opportunity to learn geography alongside their students. This follows successful Family Geography Nights in Braintree and North Andover.

Our visit takes place on May 11, which is the anniversary of several events with a geographic connection.

On May 11, 2011, In Nepal, Sherpa Apa Sherpa achieves a new record by climbing Mount Everest for the 21st time
On May 11, 2010, The Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatened sensitive marshes and wildlife along the Gulf Coast; Admiral Thad Allan was appointed to lead the Federal response to the spill
On May 11, 1989, Kenya announced worldwide ban on ivory to preserve its elephant herds
On May 11, 1984, a solar transit of the earth could have been seen from Mars
On May 11, 1967, the 100,000,000th U.S. phone was connected
On May 11, 1916, Einstein's Theory of General Relativity presented
On May 11, 1910, Montana's Glacier National Park was formed
On May 11, 1858, Minnesota admitted as 32nd U.S. state
On May 11, 1421, Jews are expelled from Styria Austria
On May 11, 1330, Constantinople (Istanbul) becomes new capital by Roman Emperor Constantine for Eastern Roman Empire
On May 11, 330, Constantinople (Byzantium) becomes capital of Roman Empire

Sunday, May 6, 2012

EarthView on Channel 22

Many thanks to reporter Christine Lee, State House Correspondent for Channel 22 in Springfield, for her excellent report on geography education and the recent EarthView visit to the State House. Be sure to read her report, entitled Geography Lost Amid Emphasis on Other Subjects. Thanks to the teachers and the middle-school students from Barre who are featured in the report.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Good Moon Rising

The moon exerts a gravitational pull on the waters of the earth, whether it be in plants or in the oceans. This can affect the flavor of fruits -- even coffee! -- and can certainly influence floods in low-lying coastal areas. Because we do not understand all of the possible effects of tides, people sometimes worry about the effects the moon --especially a full moon -- might have. A special full moon, such as the "super moon" expected on Saturday night, May 5, can lead to more intense concerns.

The images below compare the apparent size of the moon at perigree and apogee. Of course, the moon does not actually change size or brightness; it just looks that way to observers at the earth's surface.
As explained by National Geographic, a super moon occurs when the moon achieves its full phase at the same time it has its closest approach (perigree) to the earth in a given year. This will occur Saturday night, and in fact the two events (full moon and close approach) will occur within minutes of each other near midnight. Just as it reaches the full phase, the moon will be only 356,955 kilometers away, compared to its average distance of 384,400. The result is that the moon will appear to be 16 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than average.

Because the moon appears largest when it is near the horizon, the best time for photographers to take advantage of the "super moon" will be just after sunset, as the moon is rising. If you go out to observe the moon at this hour, notice that the sun will have just set exactly opposite of where you see the moon rise!

And finally: do not worry! The impacts of this coincidence will be limited to tides and possibly fruits!

Back to the People's House

42° 21' 30" N
71° 03' 50" W

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Today EarthView will be at in Nurses Hall at the Massachusetts State House. This is our fourth visit to the People's House. It is a chance for legislators, their staff members, and the general public to see the world from a unique vantage point -- inside the earth.

These visits have been planned by the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance with the help of Sen. Steven Brewer of Barre, Rep. James Murphy and Weymouth, and their staff members. Sen. Brewer and Rep. Todd Smola of Palmer -- the only geographer in the legislature -- have introduced a bill that would create a commission to study geography education in the Commonwealth.

Representative D'Amelia from Bridgewater was among the many legislators who had a chance to go inside the earth! Read more about the visit on the BSU Geography blog.

A visitor from Kenya was very pleased with EarthView and with the gift of a smaller inflatable globe.

Following our visit inside the State House, three geography majors from Bridgewater State University (home base for EarthView) use a classroom globe outside the State House to show where we were!
Global navigators Lara Joyce,  Kimberly Frisoli, and Natalie Regan.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Howe-Manning School, Middleton -- May 4

42° 35' 47" N
71° 00' 51" W 
Learn more about Lat/Long (including how to look them up by address)
Also, compare today's coordinates to those of other recent EarthView outings, near and far!

EarthView returns to the North Shore with a visit to the Howe-Manning School in Middleton. Located on the Ipswich River, Middleton was part of Salem prior to 1728. It is one of three towns in Massachusetts whose name begins with "middle" -- in this case because it is mid-way between Salem and Andover, which were the most prominent towns in the region at the time Middleton was founded.

The EarthView team is delighted to be bringing our giant globe to a town that has a globe right on its town seal! Thanks to a helpful librarian at the Flint Public Library for this version of the seal, and for letting us know that it was officially adopted on May 21, 1971. The script reads "Knowledge is Power," which of course it is!

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Middleton is now mostly a residential community, but in previous generations was known for its iron manufacturing. Middleton is also home to the oldest tree in Massachusetts. The Howe-Manning School is in a new building located in a commercial area in the center of the town and very close to the Flint Public Library.

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The EarthView visit takes place on May 4, the birthday of EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan and the anniversary of a number of important events:

In 1853, Sarah Remond refused to sit in a segregated section of a Boston theater
In 1493, Spanish Pope Alexander VI divided the Americas between Spain and Portugal, even though very little had been mapped by Europeans at the time
In 1494, Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica
In 1626, Native Americans sold Manhattan for $24 in cloth and buttons
In 1886, Haymarket Riot in Chicago
In 1961, Freedom Riders bus tour begins in the South
In 1963, the Spellman Museum of Maps and Postal History was dedicated in Weston, Massachusetts. It remains one of only two comprehensive postal museums in the United States, and is a great place for people of all ages to learn geography!
In 1970, four college students killed in Vietnam War protests in Kent State, Ohio

It also is (or would be) the birthday of Hosni Mubarak and Maynard Furgeson (both in 1928), Audrey Hepburn (1929), William Bennett (1938), and George Will (1941). Students and teachers can use Mass Moments to learn about significant anniversaries in Massachusetts history, and Brainy History for birth dates and anniversaries worldwide.

Also, a very special geography-related event will take place in Middleton on the evening of our visit. Author Robert Thorson will be speaking about stone walls at the Flint Library. He is the co-author of the children's book Stone Wall Secrets and the author of Stone by Stone and Exploring Stone Walls. As geographers, ecologists, and historians throughout New England know, stone walls can tell us a lot about prior human uses of land in our region. Almost all of the forest we find in New England today -- such as the large area just to the north of the Howe-Manning School -- was once used for farming or grazing. The walls that remain within or along the edges of such patches contain clues about what happened there decades or centuries before. Mr. Thorson's talk is primarily for adults, and begins a 7:00.