Gerrymandering in America

Fantastic article in The Atlantic this week on opportunistic Congressional redistricting, i.e. “gerrymandering” — “the most insidious practice in American politics…”

Sunday News and Links

Playing catch-up so there’s lots to share today…

  • One of the main goals of the Geographic Society of Chicago is the promotion and practice of geography education, particularly among grade-school aged children.  This can be difficult because, at such a young age, their perspective of physical geography is often limited to their immediate surroundings — their town, their neighborhood, or even just their block.  That’s why we were thrilled to find this blog post advocating the use of oreo cookies in teaching tectonic plate movement.  This will definitely become part of the curriculum in the future…

  • More education news, from our colleagues at Elmhurst College:

The Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) – a consortium of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), the American Geographical Society (AGS), the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), the National Geographic Society (NGS)  – has released  Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, Second Editionan update of the 1994 publication.  The intention of the second edition is to ensure that the National Geography Standards continue to capture the most important and enduring ideas in geography and that the standards remain challenging to students. . . The second edition is organized to emphasize the importance of “Doing Geography.”  The revised edition features restructured content and a new format. Revised content captures the growth and importance of geospatial technologies and spatial thinking in geography over the last 18 years. Each standard is presented through four components: an introductory essay; knowledge statements; performance statements and examples. Knowledge statements and performance statements are broken down by grade band (grades 4, 8 and 12).

Purchase here

  • Check out Google Earth Engine, a database of satellite imagery dating back almost 40 years.  Some of their presentations are pretty remarkable, offering a greater perspective on important public policy issues such as water conservation, deforestation, and ecological restoration.  This one is pretty compelling:


  • And finally, more Google: artist Jon Rafman has gone through and found the most amazing, bizarre, shocking, and funny images from Google Streetview and collected them on his site (*warning* while not exactly explicit, some of the images may not be suitable for younger viewers).

Monday News and Links

  • With the Olympics wrapping up in London last night, here’s a very cool interactive map that illustrates the medals breakdown by country.
  • By far my favorite Olympic news item of the last two weeks was the Australian newspaper that rebranded North and South Korea the “Naughty” and “Nice” Koreas, respectively.
  • The ever increasing availability of global air travel prompted researchers at MIT to study the role of U.S. airports in the spread of infectious and potentially epidemic diseases.  They rank 40 of America’s largest airports in their susceptibility at spreading an infectious disease based on factors such as traffic, connectivity, geography, and even average wait time.  You can watch a short video they produced here, and you can read more about the study, including the ranking, here.
  • In a decidedly more light-hearted use of GIS, a data scientist at Twitter used the social media platform to determine which areas of the country refer to soft drinks as “pop” and which refer to them as “soda.”  Although a glib and somewhat superfluous finding, the study is a really great example of the way social media can be used as raw data in geographic inquiry.

Wednesday News and Links

Today a stream of urban development and sociology links…

“cut it in half, and you’ve basically got the El”

  • Wired Magazine reiterated, perhaps more concisely, the same findings.
  • Wired Magazine also highlighted a fascinating study in which slime mold was used to recreate the highways of the Iberian Peninsula using oat flakes to represent major cities.  “[These] experiments are steps toward refining Physarum (slime mold) as a problem-solving tool, cheaper than computers … Among the arcane mathematical challenges solved in Physarum protoplasm are plane tessellations, hierarchical planar proximity graphs, logical computing, process algebra and shortest-path problems.”
  • Finally, a recent article in the New York Times points to the growing disparity in education level in urban centers as a significant organizing principle for recent college graduates.  College-educated young people tend to flock together, which is most often where good jobs are, and former manufacturing hubs like Dayton, Ohio are losing out on this important demographic, which does not bode well for their future.