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A Tacography of Mexico
As in biology, diversity is a good indicator of culinary origin
Charles de Gaulle, exasperated by his countrymen, once asked of France: "How can you expect to govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?"  If culinary diversity is an indicator for political instability, then there can't be much hope for Italy, with over 350 different pasta shapes , or Mexico, with its innumerable varieties of taco.
The taco is the genius of simplicity applied to food preparation. It is a tortilla  folded or rolled around almost any type of food, which can then be eaten by hand. A staple of the Mexican diet for thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest in the 15th century, the taco has now conquered the rest of the world, beginning with the United States from the early 20th century onwards.
But no matter how all-American (and subsequently global) the taco has now become, its pedigree remains undisputedly Mexican, as demonstrated by the rich regional diversity of taco styles shown on this map .
"The gastronomic map of [Mexico] is so varied that only the most delicious tacos have made the grade, and only if they are deemed to be typical of a certain region or state", says the legend of this tacografia of Mexico. It lists taco specialities for all 31 of Mexico's states and its federal district .
Even this summary - rich, varied, spicy - is more than we can stomach; to provide just enough flavour, without killing your geographic taste buds, please find below an alphabetic list of each of Mexico's territories, plus one of its specialities.
As even this brief overview shows, tacos are extremely adaptable to what each region has to offer: filled with beef, pork or seafood, vegetables, eggs or cheese; garnished with all kinds of pepper, greens and salsa. Some of the regional favourites are depicted on the map - from the cows that will become beef, and the pigs that will turn into pork . Much, much more on the history (and the preparation) of tacos can be found in La Tacopedia, the book from which this cartographic overview (by way of index) has been taken.
Previous examples of culinary cartography posted on this blog include a discussion of Switzerland's Röstigraben (#257), France's curious pain au chocolat dichotomy (#585), and an overview of its different types of bread: fortunately, a mere 80 varieties, Mon Général (#94).
Strange Maps 604
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
 "Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays où il existe 246 variétés de fromage?" A rhetorical question of course, meant to illustrate the peculiar talent of the French to disagree among each other. As it happens, the disagreement extends to the tally of French cheeses itself: France is sometimes called 'The land of the 300 cheeses' - but also 'The land of a thousand cheeses', and of any in between. One charming but unverifiable theory holds that there is one distinct French cheese for each day of the year (giving a total of 365). About 40 cheeses are protected under the Apellations d'origine contrôlée (AOC) scheme. However, there does seem to be agreement on the eight main families of French cheese: fromages frais (fresh cheeses), fromages à pâte molle et croute fleurie (soft cheeses with natural rind), fromages à pâte molle et croute lavée (soft cheeses with washed rind), fromages à pâte pressée (pressed cheeses), fromages à pâte pressée et cuite (pressed and cooked cheeses), fromages de chêvre (goat's cheeses), fromages à pâte persillées (blue cheeses), fromages à pâte fondue (processed cheeses).
 According to this Italophile website.
 Yes, I hear you ask, but what then is a tortilla? Literally, in Spanish, a 'small torta' (cake). Mainly, however, a type of thin flatbread originally made from maize by the first peoples of Mexico, later also from flour after the Spanish Conquistadores brought over wheat from Europe. Tortillas remain a staple food in Central America, have become ubiquitous in North America, and have even been adopted for use in space, where they have proven easier to handle than 'traditional' bread. They are an essential ingredient for many traditional Mexican dishes, including tacos, burritos (folded shut, unlike the half-closed taco), and enchiladas (usually folded in half, calzone-style), but also as the basis for tortilla chips.
 As in biology, diversity can be a good indicator of culinary origin.
 If that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the US setup, it is no coincidence. The official title of the federal state is Estados Unidos Mexicanos ('United Mexican States'), obviously inspired by the revolutionary republicanism of the United States of America. Compare the name of the short-lived Belgian republic (Jan-Dec 1790): États-Belgiques-Unis ('United Belgian States').
 The double names are explained thus: the animals were raised by Anglo-Saxon farmers (hence cow, sheep, pig), but eaten by their Norman, French-speaking masters (hence beef, mutton, pork).
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>
Connecting modern people with history<p>It's not the first time scientists have "re-created" an ancient human's voice. In 2016, for example, Italian researchers used software to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-recreated-voice-otzi-iceman-180960570/" target="_blank">reconstruct the voice of Ötzi,</a> an iceman who was discovered in 1991 and is thought to have died more than 5,000 years ago. But the "Voices of the Past" project is different, the researchers note, because Nesyamun's mummified corpse is especially well preserved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was particularly suited, given its age and preservation [of its soft tissues], which is unusual," Howard told <em><a href="https://www.livescience.com/amp/ancient-egypt-mummy-voice-reconstructed.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>.</em></p><p>As to whether Nesyamun's reconstructed voice will ever be able to speak complete sentences, Howard told <em><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/ancient-voice-scientists-recreate-sound-egyptian-mummy-68482015" target="_blank">The Associated Press</a>, </em>that it's "something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day."</p><p>John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said that reproducing voices from history can make museum experiences "more multidimensional."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is nothing more personal than someone's voice," he told <em>The Associated Press.</em> "So we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun's temple, come alive."</p>
Inequality in wealth, gender, and race grew to unprecedented levels across the world, according to OxFam report.
- A new report by global poverty nonprofit OxFam finds inequality has increased in every country in the world.
- The alarming trend is made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which strained most systems and governments.
- The gap in wealth, race and gender treatment will increase until governments step in with changes.
People wait in line to receive food at a food bank on April 28, 2020 in Brooklyn.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Credit: Oxfam International
A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.
- Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
- A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
- The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
This Manganese crust started to form about 20 million years ago. Growing layer by layer, it resulted in minerals precipitated out of seawater. The presence of elevated concentrations of 60 Fe and 56 Mn in layers from 2.5 million years ago hints at a nearby supernova explosion around that time.
Credit: Dominik Koll/ TUM