Death of the World's Largest Map
A New York State of disrepair...
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.
When the New York State pavilion was inaugurated at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, the floor of its Tent of Tomorrow was the largest map in the world. The 130-by-166-foot plot of polished terrazzo tiling was a massively enlarged facsimile of a Rand McNally road map, and covered the Empire State in its entirety, from the eastern tip of Long Island to the top of Barnhart Island, the state’s northernmost point.
There was talk of moving the map downtown after the Fair, to serve as the floor of the World Trade Center. But that didn’t come to pass. Instead, the map stayed put, and decades of neglect and wear and tear by the elements took their toll on the plywood tiles. Had it survived, the half-acre-sized map would still be the world’s largest single cartographic image.
The New York State map, sponsored by Texaco, was one of the eye-catchers at the World’s Fair. The elliptical Tent of Tomorrow was covered by the largest cable suspension roof in the world. After the Fair, it was turned into a concert venue, which by the late Sixties had fallen into disrepair. In the early Seventies, the plywood tiles were covered with a layer of polyurethane, and the area was re-purposed as a skating rink.
At present, the construction is a disused part of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The cable suspension roof is long gone, its sixteen pillars supporting nothing more than the sky, as a reinforced-concrete retelling of the poem about Ozymandias. The only part of the New York State contribution to the Fair to survive unscathed is the Queens Theater in the Park, once the pavilion’s Theaterama.
As dictated by the recurring irony of heritage conservation, the map wasn’t deemed of value until it was nearly gone. Only in 2008, in an article on a rescue attempt of this “valuable artifact”, did the New York Times laud it as “an exuberantly overstated mix of small-town parochialism, space-age optimism and Pop Art irony”.
The paper reported how a team of the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate programme in historic preservation had been trialling the preservation of four of the 567 4×4-foot panels that make up the map. They were replacing missing letters, numerals and symbols on the original map. It was estimated that conservation would cost about $1,100 per panel, bringing the total cost up to $623,700.
However, no plans were made beyond the trial conservation. There is no info on the current status of the project. An aerial shot of the site on Google Maps reveals, in a shape vaguely corresponding with that of New York State, the absence of a map rather than its preserved presence. Sad!
Many thanks to Chris Perriman, who sent in a link to Tent of Tomorrow, a now defunct website dedicated to the eponymous construction, and the 1964 World’s Fair in general.
Strange Maps #399
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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