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It Works for the Turks: A Colour for Each Direction
Turkish cardinal directions? I didn't even know they had cardinals in Turkey!
What colour is the sea? Why, blue of course (1). Unless you're Homer. In which case your numerous references to the Aegean as the "wine-dark sea" will puzzle scholars for centuries to come (2).
There are other curious exceptions. If you're Turkish, the question What colour is the Mediterranean? is its own answer. The Turks call that body of water Akdeniz, which literally means: the White Sea.
Some maps, like this late-19th-century serio-comic map of Europe, take the Black Sea's name literally.
But then of course English also has its coloured seas – four, to be precise, although none of the toponyms is native to the English language. One also is a White Sea, though not quite blessed with the same balmy climate as its Turkish namesake. A direct translation from the original Russian (3), the white in this sea's name refers to the ice floes that block shipping to and from Arkhangelsk, the region's major port, for at least half the year.
The Yellow Sea is another direct translation. Called Huánghǎi (黄海) in Chinese, the sea gets its name from the sand particles that travel down the Yellow River, or Huánghé (黄河), from the Gobi Desert, and can turn the sea's surface golden yellow.
Another popular literalist representation, this time of the Red Sea.
The Black Sea is rich in iron sulfide, allowing very little else but sulfur bacteria to thrive. Hence the darkness of the sea's sediment, and of its waters when stirred. The oldest recorded name for the sea, dating from around 500 BC, already refers to its colour: the Achaemenids called it Axšaina, (Persian for 'black').
A proposed alternative flag for Turkey, composed of the colours associated by Turkish with the cardinal directions.
Greek popular etymology transformed the Persian word into axeinos ('inhospitable') when Greek settlers first arrived on the sea's shores, and into euxinos ('hospitable') when they became more numerous in and familiar with the region.
The last coloured body of water is the Red Sea, separating Africa from Arabia. The Greeks already called it Red Sea, or Erythra Thalassa (Ερυθρὰ Θάλασσα) (4). One theory is that the red of the name refers to the seasonal blooming near the water's surface of a red-coloured cyanobacterium called Trichodesmium erytrhaeum – sometimes also known as sea sawdust.
The traditional Chinese colour/direction scheme seems to match the Turkish one.
But there is another theory. Certain Asiatic languages use colours to refer to cardinal directions. In his Histories, Herodotus on one occasion refers to the “Erythrean or southern” sea, using the terms interchangeably. Could it be that the Red Sea owes its name to something else than bacteria - and perhaps the Black Sea too?
Let's go back to the curious Turkish name for the Mediterranean. Turkish is one of several languages and cultures to associate the cardinal directions with colours. White, you guessed it, is linked to west, as the Mediterranean lies to the west of Asia Minor, homeland of the Turks. Two other names also fall into place: north is black, south is red. And indeed: the Black Sea – Karadeniz – is to the north of Turkey, the Red Sea – Kizildeniz – to the South.
Sea the sights: a Turkish colour scheme for the Middle East.
What about east? In Turkish, that direction is associated with blue. But there is no Gökdeniz ('Blue Sea') to the east of Turkey. The likeliest candidate is the Caspian Sea, landlocked between Russia in the north and Iran in the south, flanked by the Caucasus region in the west and the 'stans in the east. But it is called Hazar denizi in modern Turkish. Literally translated, the 'Khazar Sea', after the disappeared Turkic tribe that famously converted to Judaism around the 9th century.
The Blue Sea - an atrophied Turkish toponym?
However, on Emanuel Bowen's 1747 Map of Iran, a northern inlet of the Caspian Sea is labelled the Blue Sea. The area has been known afterward as Tsesarevich Bay and, in communist times, as Komsomolets Bay. It is currently called Dead Kultuk. Could its former name be a residue of an older Turkish toponym, one that covered the entire sea? Then again, other sources seem to suggest that the Aral Sea may have been the Turks' orlginal Gökdeniz.
At the crosshairs of the four coloured seas: the original Turkey?
The question of coloured cardinal directions is not just of interest from a historical or linguistic point of view. Linking Turkish culture to ancient toponyms provides a proximate location for Turkish ancestral lands. In a region riddled with ancient grudges about territorial loss and conquest, such archaeo-linguistic evidence of residential antiquity is highly valuable.
Many thanks to Luis Alipio for sending me the colour maps of the Black and Red Seas.
The 'serio-comic map' is Das Heutige Europa, published in 1887 by Caesar Schmidt in Zürich for the satirical magazine Nebelspalter ('Fog-cleaver'). Image found here on russianuniverse.org. The Red Sea map is an excerpt from Battista Agnese's 1544 world map, found here on Wikipedia. Alternate Turkish flag found here on the Steampoweredwolf page at Deviantart. Chinese cardinal direction scheme found here on Xue-Hanyu.com. Map of the Caspian Sea by E. Bowen (1747), found here on Wikipedia. Images of the four seas and of the putative Turkish ancestral homeland taken here from the blog Tareh ve Arkeoloji ('History and Archeology').
Strange Maps #770
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) From Blackadder, recall Baldrick's pathetic attempt at lexicography by defining the letter C as: "Big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in".
(2) It has been suggested that Homer was colour-blind, that ancient Greek lacked a word for 'blue', that marine algae gave the Aegean that particular hue, that it referred to dust-induced red sunsets, and even that Greek wine in antiquity was... blue! Indeed, in a 1983 letter to the science journal Nature, two Canadian scientists proposed that the water used by the Greeks to dilute their wine contained alkalines of such quality and in such quantity that it turned the originally red-coloured drink blue. Likeliest still is the standard explanation: that of poetic licence.
(3) Byeloye More (Белое море). Curiously, the related Slavic languages of Serbian and Bulgarian use their equivalent to describe... the Aegean.
(4) Also the origin of the name of the modern state of Eritrea, thus, literally: "Redland".
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.