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April 10, 2008

National Geographic GeoBee

0804GeoBee.jpgNational Geographic will hold their annual Geography Bee on May 21. In the meantime, they have been providing daily quizzes online. Although the Geobee is for students grades four through eight only, the questions are far from elementary:
(1) Pearls are harvested in the Sulu Archipelago, a group of islands off the southwest coast of Mindanao in which country?
(2) Yellow fever slowed early development of Fort-deFrance, the capital city of which French overseas department?
(3) Rich reserves of bituminous coal are found in Upper Silesia, a region lying mostly in the southwestern part of which country?
(4) The city of Casper, which lies near the Teapot Dome oil fields, is located in which western state?

(answers are at the end of the entry)
Remember, spelling counts. That includes full terms in the answer (not just the relevant part) and plurality if necessary.

GeoBee Challenge Daily Quizzes [National Geographic]

A nun in New Bedford's Portuguese community teaches a geography lesson (1942) Library of Congress, Hispanic Division

Answers: (1) Phillippines, (2) Martinique, (3) Poland, (4) Wyoming


February 27, 2008

This Day In History: Feb. 27

Today is the 58th day of 2008 and the 68th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1827, New Orleans held its first Mardi Gras celebration. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, limiting presidents to two terms. In 1973, members of the American Indian Movement occupied the village of Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, beginning a standoff with federal marshals that lasted until May 8. In 1991, Kuwait was freed from Iraqi occupation by U.S.-led forces.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), poet; Hugo Black (1886-1971), U.S. Supreme Court justice; John Steinbeck (1902-1968), writer; Marian Anderson (1902-1993), singer; Joanne Woodward (1930- ), actress, is 78; Elizabeth Taylor (1932- ), actress, is 76; Ralph Nader (1934- ), consumer activist, is 74.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1901, baseball's National League ruled that all fouls count as strikes except after two strikes.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I guess a man is the only kind of varmint [that] sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it." - John Steinbeck

TODAY'S FACT: Mardi Gras, French for Fat Tuesday, is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. In 2008, it was celebrated on February 5, its earliest date since 1913.

TODAY'S NUMBER: 34 - number of years for which Hugo Black served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

TODAY'S MOON: Between full moon (February 20) and last quarter (February 28).

November 9, 2007

The Cowboy and Adolf Hitler

cowboy_and_hitler.jpgWorld leaders regularly receive gifts from a variety of people, including their own citizens and visiting heads of state. Managing these gifts is a bit of a headache; in the U.S., the State Department logs all gifts received from foreign officials, while the White House Gift Unit keeps track of all other gifts. How many presents are we talking about here? In a typical year, the president and first lady can receive as many as 15,000 gifts!

This gift-giving tradition goes back a long way: even honest Abe Lincoln accepted gifts, including the suit in which he was inaugurated. As he tried on a hat sent from Brooklyn, he is reported to have said, "Well, wife, there is one thing likely to come out of this scrape, anyhow, we are going to have some new clothes!"

Some of the more unusual gifts over the years have included a pair of tiger cubs (given to Jacqueline Kennedy), a wooden cowboy figure with a lasso around the neck of Adolf Hitler (given to Franklin Roosevelt), and a 1,400 lb. wheel of cheddar cheese (given to Andrew Jackson, and consumed in two hours at his post-inauguration open house). The National Archives has an exhibition titled Tokens & Treasures that records the gifts given to twelve presidents.

September 14, 2007

Map Mashups

Yahoo just rolled out a very cool new beta product called MapMixer, which lets you upload your own maps and overlay them on Yahoo's interactive world maps—even if your map doesn't have just the right proportions or perspective.

There are already some great examples online, including the historical lower Manhattan overlay at right. Make sure you zoom out and play with the overlay opacity. Oh, what a little landfill can do...

If you want to play around with MapMixer but don't have your own personal stash of maps, I suggest you click on over to the Library of Congress, which has some great historical maps its American Memory collection.

MapMixer (beta) (Yahoo!)

February 16, 2007

America's Favorite Buildings

empire.jpg In celebration of their 150th anniversary, the American Institute of Architects compiled a list of America's favorite buildings. Based on the nominations of Institute members, the public was invited to vote for the 150 most familiar, innovative, and distinctive structures that American architecture has created so far. The top 10:

America's Favorite Architecture
1. Empire State Building (1931): Shreve, Lamb & Harmon
2. The White House (1792): James Hoban
3. Washington National Cathedral (1990): George Bodley
4. Jefferson Memorial (1943): John Russell Pope
5. Golden Gate Bridge (1937): Joseph B. Strauss
6. U.S. Capitol (1793-1865): William Thornton
7. Lincoln Memorial (1922): Henry Bacon
8. Biltmore Estate/Vanderbilt Mansion (1895): Richard Morris Hunt
9. Chrysler Building (1930): William Van Alen
10. Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982): Maya Lin

The list is bound to generate a lot of controversy: all but two of the top 10 are in New York City or Washington, DC, and only one structure is on the West Coast. I have other problems with the list. (Is the White House really one of the greatest examples of American architecture?) Lucky for those displeased with the selections, the AIA has the complete list on their website, with architectural details about each structure and with an area for people to post comments on the selections suggest omissions.

America's Favorite Architecture

Flickr photo from ljcybergal

February 13, 2007

Disco Island!

disco-island.jpg

Some spell it "Disko," the Inuit call it Qeqertarsuaq (Big Island). But there doesn't seem to be much nightlife on Disco Island. Activities include dog sledding and hiking. According to Henry Rink's Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo (1875), the Inuit weren't too fond of it back in the day and decided to move it with a thread of hair:

Off the southernmost part of Greenland an island was situated which some of the inhabitants of the mainland took a dislike to, because it cut them off from the open sea. Two old men got the idea of removing it by help of some magic lay. Their names were Nevingasilernak and Nivfigfarsuk; but another oldster, called Kiviaritajak, rather inclined to retain the island. The first two went in their kayaks to fasten a hair from the head of a little child to the outside, while the last from shore tried to keep it back by means of a thong of sealskin made fast to it. The two old kayakers then pushed off, chanting their spells and tugging the hair. At length the thong burst, and the island got afloat; and continually singing, they pulled away to the north, and placed it in front of Ilulissat. It is now Disco Island. The translation caused the bottom of the sea to rise all along where they travelled.

Official Tourism Site

January 18, 2007

The World at a Glance: Surprising Facts

surprise.jpgHere we go again! It's time for another installment of "The World at a Glance," a new feature we added to The World Almanac 2007 to call attention to some of the thousands of eye-opening facts we packed into the book. This time, the focus is on "Surprising Facts"—from hard-to-believe bits of geographical trivia, to startling statistics that made us wonder whether one of the interns was playing a practical joke. (They weren't, but we still made them triple-check the fourth item on this list.)
  • Young American men (18-24) watch less TV per week than any other group, an average of 23 hours, 1 minute in 2005.
  • Despite rising 2005 domestic gasoline prices, U.S. prices averaged among the lowest in the world: 46% lower than in Japan and nearly 60% lower than in Germany and the U.K.
  • Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland.
  • The African nation of Equatorial Guinea had the world’s second-highest per capita GDP in 2005 ($50,200, up from only $2,700 in 2002), thanks to booming oil sales.
  • The easternmost point in the U.S. is in Alaska: Pochnoi Point, on Semisopochnoi Island, is at 179°× 46' E longitude.
  • All 50 of the world’s tallest mountains are in Asia.
  • U.S. defense spending of $465 billion in 2004 was more than 3 times the combined estimate of spending by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
  • The most popular radio format in the U.S. is country (19% of stations), but rock music sells the most (32% of sales).
  • In the U.S., firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide by more than 40%.
Got some surprising statistics of your own? Let us know in the comments.

Previously: The World at a Glance: Number Ones
Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Meredith Farmer's Flickr stream (CC)

December 28, 2006

The World at a Glance: Number Ones

1_3.jpgEven though The World Almanac is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.

Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006

[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]

Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records

Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)

November 20, 2006

Mesmerizing Maps

If you love maps, scroll down to the next entry--I'm about to introduce you to your new favorite time-wasting habit. Can’t resist? Here it is: Packed with geography games, David Andersson’s GeoQuiz page includes quizzes on U.S. states, European nations, and the more challenging capitals of Africa and “25 Cities of Sweden.”

Zoë Kashner

About Geography

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Geography category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Environment is the previous category.

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