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Monday, April 29, 2013

Trade Atlas

From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge comes a fascinating online atlas that has no maps in the traditional sense. The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a model of all the world's imports and exports. The scale of the map represents the percentage of trade in any given category. The legend includes shading by type of export -- food, transportation, medical, and so on -- or by region of the world for some of the charts.

Users of the chart can examine the trade between any two countries, or between a single country and the entire world. Warning: this is so interesting that it can be habit-forming!

The atlas does not include three very important ways that money can flow between countries, some of which can be important in certain cases. It does not include tourism, donations of aid, or remittances (which are funds sent by migrants working in another country back to their families at home).


The EarthView blog often includes anniversaries related to geography. Today is the centennial of an event that is essential for EarthView itself. On April 29, 1913, Gideon Sundback received a patent for the modern zipper. 

His design was an improvement on the work of others, but it was such a dramatic improvement in simplicity and reliability that Sundman is widely considered the inventor of the modern zipper. Last year his birthday -- also in April -- was recognized by a Google doodle.

As we mentioned when the EarthView zipper was replaced about a year ago, without the zipper, EarthView itself would be impossible. To keep the zipper working smoothly, the EarthView wranglers frequently apply natural beeswax to its zipper.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

EarthView at Stoughton

Through the occasional offering of EarthView Institute, Bridgewater State University is able to offer "EarthView Driver's  Licenses" to geography teachers throughout the region who wish to implement geography programs in their own schools. Stoughton's John Gunning and Rachel Killian were among the first to complete the course, enabling them to lead an exciting two-day program at the O'Donnell Middle School this week.

See the Wicked Local article Middle School Students Celebrate Earth Day in a BIG Way for more photos and details.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Oceans Five

Oceans are defined by a combination of their underlying geology, patterns of circulation, and human interaction. Just 13 years ago, a fifth ocean was "created" by defining parts of three others as a new entity, based on a prevailing current that circles Antarctica.
Click image for a better view.
As described on, the Southern Ocean was defined in the spring of 2000. What was the only ocean at that time that did not cede part of its area to the new creation? The Southern Ocean is defined by the 60th parallel of southern latitude. This is not the one shown in yellow above, which is the Antarctic Circle, and which is very close to the Antarctic coastline on the eastern side. Rather, it is the parallel that is shown between 55 and 65 degrees. This corresponds very closely to the edge of the floor in EarthView, where Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are the only parts of the globe that are not hand-painted.

Read the oceans article on for interesting information about each of the five oceans and their geographic importance. For the story about how the identity of the Atlantic Ocean came to be known so late in human history, see Biography of an Ocean (note that this article is on the archive version of our blog at its previous address, where many geography articles can be found).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Out of this World -- Sort Of

The geographers at Bridgewater State University are fortunate to have good relationships with geographers around the world. One of these is Dr. Francisco Henrique de Oliveira of the University of the State of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil. As a specialist in surveying and mapping, he shares many interesting stories and images related to geotechnology.

He recently shared this graphic, which compares seven satellite orbits, including those of the International Space Station (ISS) and the the Global Positioning System (GPS). The highest orbit shown is the geostationary category, which includes a variety of satellites -- such as those used for television -- that need to stay in a constant position over the earth. (Learn more about GPS from our Where We Are post.)

We are working on exercises to compare these orbits at EarthView scale. For example each of the 24 satellites in the GPS system would orbit about 30 feet away from the surface of EarthView.

Please notice a few things about the diagram.

First, although it might seem to imply that all orbits run over the North and South Poles; this is not the case but simply makes the diagram readable.
Second, notice that the distances are expressed both as height above sea level and radius from the earth's center; the difference, of course, is the radius of the earth, about 4,000 miles.
Third, notice that the speed varies with height, with lower-orbiting satellites moving much faster than those at greater height.
Finally, notice that the time required to complete a full orbit increases with height; this is relationship between increased circumference and decreased speed as height increases.