Build Your Own Poland
A crowd-sourced map suggesting the 'ideal' borders for a country that has had so many different ones.
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.
This map shows a patchwork of territories in a constellation vaguely recognisable as interbellum Poland , but with added padding. These extra territories allow the respondents to decide which ones should or shouldn't become (or remain) Polish. For this map is the result of a survey among the mapmaker's peer group of allohistory buffs, and some real-world statistical analysis.
The question of the Optimal Borders Map Survey was: Which territories depicted here do you consider essential components of a Polish state?
Although most (if not all) of the territories shown here at some point in history were under Polish control, it should be remembered that borders in this part of the world have been extremely volatile, and during the period after World War One exceptionally so . Contributing to the post-war chaos was the fact that the rising tide of nationalism proved divisive in a region that was ethnically much less homogenous than it is now: large numbers of Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Ruthenians and other nationalities shared these lands with the Poles, who were a majority in most, but not all of the territories shown here.
So: what would an ideal Poland have looked like? That depends on your definition of ideal, of course: the best borders from a military/strategic point of view? From an economic/industrial standpoint? Or should one opt for the most ethnically homogenous territory? Or perhaps choose borders grounded in the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth?
The end result looks like a heat map of Poland, with the cool dark greens of the central area denoting 'most optimal' Polish territories, the warmer yellows towards the periphery being 'less optimal' and the fiery reds along the edges 'least optimal'. The number in each territory is the composite score out of 10, with 0 reflecting a total rejection by all respondents, and 10 unanimous inclusion in an 'optimal Polish state'.
Arrows and a few symbols towards the edges of the map provide a few other options, all of which receive scant support , except one: Access to the sea (9.6).
The 'most optimal' territory is a large, central swathe of Poland (10.0), the 'least optimal' one is Subcarpathian Ruthenia (0.1), which has the distinction of being the tail that fell off Czechoslovakia to become an independent state for no longer than one day .
The biggest discrepancy between the outer borders of 'potential Poland' and the resultant 'optimal Poland' is towards the north, where northern East Prussia, Memel and most of Lithuania are coloured red, and towards the east, now part of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia respectively. What shines through, are the northern and eastern borders of interbellum Poland - give or take a plebiscited area or two .
There is less trepidation about including the lands to the west, in the balance between the Polish core and Germany - including the industrialised region of Upper Silesia. Towards the south, only Spisz and Orawa constitute two tiny flecks or red, rather seen outside than inside Polish borders.
The Optimal Borders Map Survey produces a fascinating result, a crowd-sourced composite picture of Polish borders. That picture is not a the result of a consensus, but an average of a range of opinions, some widely differing. The intricacies of those opinions are discussed, and more maps shown, at the relevant forum page at www.alternatehistory.com.
Strange Maps #592
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 Between the wars, as in: First and Second World War. In Poland's case, 1919-1939. ↩
 Least popular option: Further Expansion into Russia (0.1), most popular: Further Expansion into Germany (1,7), most surprising option: Colonial Expansion (0.4). ↩
 The southern half of East Prussia is included in Poland. The area voted in a plebiscite in 1920 to remain in Germany, a result contested by Polish nationalists. ↩
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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.
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