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Thursday, May 18, 2017

David Mindess School, Ashland -- May 19

42º 15' 50" N
71º 27' 40" W

Learn more about Lat/Long

The EarthView team is pleased to visit the Mindess School, located in the town of Ashland. It is in an area known as Metro West, meaning that it is in the western area of Boston's suburbs.

When preparing for our visit, the first thing we noticed is that the entire town of Ashland is preparing for a program called Courageous Conversations, for community youth and adults. 

It is good to be visiting a community that is committed to inclusion and open discussions. A key lesson from EarthView is that we are all connected on a single planet.

The second thing we noticed is that Ashland is the second town along the 26.2-mile long route of the world-famous Boston Marathon, which took place just a month before our visit. Ashland is part of the rural, mostly downhill part of the race. Ashland runners raised more than $30,000 for local charities during the 2017 marathon. 

Almost 30,000 people ran in the most recent race, representing every U.S. state and territory, and almost 100 countries around the world. This means that for one day in April, Ashland was probably the most international small town on the planet.
The Boston Marathon is named for the historic run of a soldier from the city of Marathon to the Greek capital Athens in 490 B.C. That route was run again in the 2004 Olympics and remains popular for runners wanting to try the original route. Notice the elevation profile at the bottom of this route map. Elevation and temperature are two very important factors for the runners.

Another interesting marathon took place in New York City in 1908 -- after the tradition had begun in Boston, but before the modern route in New York City was established. Inside Madison Square Garden, Johnny Hayes and Dorando Pietri were the only participants in an indoor marathon -- 262 laps of just one-tenth of a mile. As boring as that sounds, the arena was full of spectators!

Plus: It's About Time!

People in Ashland are very interested in clocks. The local high school sports teams are even known as Clockers! The town is so proud of inventor Henry E. Warren that its other elementary school is named for him. The connection is this: Mr. Warren invented the electric clock. 

Although the electric clock is among the 135 inventions for which he won patents, he never intended to invent it. Rather, he was trying to improve instrument that regulate the flow of water through machinery, at a time when many industries in Massachusetts still used water to power their tools. Master of Time is a short article about his life and the connections among water, power, and time that Henry Warren understood so well.

Clocks are of great importance to geographers, because they are essential for finding longitude. Geographers know how to estimate the latitude wherever they are, as long as they can see the noon sun and they know the current date. Because longitude is arbitrary -- based solely on the position of the Royal Naval Observatory in the United Kingdom -- it cannot be determined by observation alone. 

British inventor John Harrison realized the importance of this, and invented the clock, so that ships at sea could use to compare Greenwich time with local time. For this he won the Longitude Prize.
Harrison designed .a clock 300 years ago that he thought would be more accurate than any other, but he was not able to build it. Using modern materials, horologists (clock experts) built this one, and put it in a sealed container in the foundation of the Royal Naval Observatory in Greenwich, directly on the Prime Meridian. In 2015, they confirmed that it is the most accurate mechanical clock ever constructed!

Lagniappe: Brazzzzzil

We were pleased to meet quite a few students with ties to Brazil -- either born in the country or having parents who were. Most of these connections are in the state of Minas Gerais, which literally means "General Mines" and is the source of many minerals in Brazil.

One class mentioned that they had studied the problem of bees that are disappearing because of deforestation in the Amazon basin. EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan mentioned that he had actually encountered Africanized bees when doing field work in Rondônia in 1996. From another geographer who was studying at the same time, he learned that wherever the forests had been cleared, Africanized bees competed for territory and replaced ordinary honey bees. For more of the story, scroll down to What's the Bzzzzzzzzz? on his journal Folha da Frontera.

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