323 - Taking Note of Old Europe
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
A – “Now you’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s Old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the East. And there are a lot of new members. And if you just take the list of all the members of NATO and all of those who have been invited in recently — what is it? Twenty-six, something like that? — you’re right. Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem (…)”
Q – “But opinion polls –”\n
A – “But — just a minute. Just a minute. But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They’re not with France and Germany on this, they’re with the United States.”\n
That exchange, in 2003, between then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and (Dutch) TV journalist Charles Groenhuijsen, was about the level of support in Europe for American designs on Iraq. Rumsfeld ruffled the feathers of traditional US allies in Western Europe by suggesting that their opposition to US invasion plans mattered less now the ‘centre of gravity’ in Europe had shifted towards Eastern European states. These states, only recently freed from the Soviet yoke, were more appreciative of US foreign policy than Western European countries, Rumsfeld suggested.\n
There are other definitions of what “Old Europe” is. The time before the French Revolution (1789), when royalty ruled, privileged few profited and the masses were voiceless serfs, has sometimes been called “Old Europe” (although more commonly defined as the Ancien Regime). Europe is also old demographically – low birthrates combining with long life expectancy to make the average age of Europeans the highest in the world.\n
And Europe is part of the “Old World”, because it was known to the Ancients (this also included parts of Africa and Asia), as opposed to the “New World” (i.e. the American continent, only opened up to European exploration, expansion and exploitation from 1492 onward).\n
“Old Europe” is also the name of this work by artist Justine Smith, composed of the national bank notes of all European countries. The Europe in this map is “old” in that it is composed of bank notes as they existed before the introduction of the single European currency. On January 1, 2002, coins and bank notes in euro replaced the national currencies of most EU member countries at that time.\n
The Eurozone now comprises 15 of Europe’s 27 member states, with three older members actively having opted out (i.e. the UK, Denmark and Sweden) and most of the newer members slated for inclusion (once their economy performs within certain parameters). Here are the present members of the Eurozone, with their former currencies:\n
- Austria (schilling) \n
- Belgium (franc) \n
- Cyprus (pound) \n
- Finland (markka) \n
- France (franc) \n
- Germany (mark) \n
- Greece (drachma) \n
- Ireland (pound) \n
- Italy (lira) \n
- Luxembourg (franc, pegged 1:1 to the Belgian franc) \n
- Malta (lira) \n
- Netherlands (guilder) \n
- Portugal (escudo) \n
- Slovenia (tolar – cognate with dollar) \n
- Spain (peseta) \n
Slovakia is slated to join on January 1, 2009, thereafter retiring its national currency, the koruna. As with all other Eastern European countries that have joined the EU (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria) was obliged at its accession to adopt the euro. The others will do so when the conditions are met.\n
The euro is also the de facto currency of a number of European countries that are not members of the European Union (a precondition to be de jure part of the Eurozone): the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino (Liechtenstein uses the Swiss franc, by the way), and the former Yugoslav republics of Kosovo and Montenegro.\n
The euro has defied prophecies of monetary doom, becoming a strong and internationally respected currency, steadily gaining on the dollar. It has also eliminated the costly necessity of converting currencies within (most of) the European Union. I don’t know if this is true or if it is euro-propaganda, but to illustrate the negative economic impact of these conversions, it was said that you could take any amount of any currency in the pre-euro EU, convert that amount into each other currency until you were back at the original one, and be left with half the original amount of money – without having traded a single thing.\n
The downside of currency unification is the de-diversification of European money, which used to have very distinct national flavours (metaphorically speaking, of course). Nowadays, bank notes in euro look the same everywhere, as do the euro coins, with the difference that the latter are stamped on one side with a national design by the country they’re minted for.\n
You are hereby cordially invited to identify the national heroes and motifs represented on the notes on this map (and other now obsolete ones you might have fond memories of).\n
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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