On Sunday evening, Fox aired the latest episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series. This episode, called “A Sky Full of Ghosts,” explored some more out-of-this-world subjects — the speed of light and how it helps us undertand the Big Bang; the scientific work of Isaac Newton, William Herschel, James Clerk Maxwell; Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity; dark stars; black holes; and more. US viewers can watch the entirety of Episode 4 online (above), along with previous episodes in the series below (or on Hulu). For viewers outside the US, we have something perhaps better for you: Carl Sagan’s Original Cosmos Series on YouTube. Plus, we have a bunch of Free Online Astronomy Courses in our collection of 875 Free Online Courses. Enjoy.
When I was a kid, my father brought home from I know not where an enormous collection of National Geographic magazines spanning the years 1917 to 1985. I found, tucked in almost every issue, one of the magazine’s gorgeous maps—of the Moon, St. Petersburg, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe’s ever-shifting boundaries. I became a cartography enthusiast and geographical sponge, poring over them for years just for the sheer enjoyment of it, a pleasure that remains with me today. Whether you’re like me and simply love the imaginative exercise of tracing a map’s lines and contours and absorbing information, or you love to do that and you get paid for it, you’ll find innumerable ways to spend your time on the new Open Access Maps project at the New York Public Library. The NYPL announces the release with the explanation below:
Can you—as I did with my neatly folded, yellowing archive—have all the maps in full-color print? Well, no, unless you’re prepared to bear the cost in ink and paper and have some specialized printing equipment that can render each map in its original dimensions. But you can access something worlds away from what I could have imagined—a digital enhancement technology called “warping,” also known as “georectification.”
This, explains the NYPL, “is the process where digital images of maps are stretched, placing the maps themselves into their geographic context, rendered either on the website or with tools such as Google Earth.” For example, below see a “warping” of the 1916 Redraft of the 1660 “Castello Plan” for then-New Amsterdam over a current-day Google Earth image of lower Manhattan (and note how much the island has been expanded past its 17th century shores). The “warping” technology is open access, meaning that “anybody with a computer can create an account, log in, and begin warping and tracing maps.” User contributions remain, “a la Wikipedia,” and add “one more piece to this new historical geographic data model.”
The “warper” is a special feature that helps place historical maps in a modern visual field, but it in no way ruins the enjoyment of those maps as archival pieces or art objects. You can see cartographer John Wolcott Adams original 1916 Castello Plan redraft below, and visit NYPL’s Digital Collections for a high resolution image, fully zoomable and, yes, printable. For more on the incredible warping technology NYPL makes available to us, see this extended blog post, “Unbinding the Atlas: Working with Digital Maps.” Over ten thousand of the collection’s maps are of New York and New Jersey, dating from 1852 to 1922, including property, zoning, and topographic maps. In addition, over one thousand of the maps depict Mid-Atlantic cities from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and over 700 are topographic maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1877 and 1914. That should be enough to keep any amateur or professional map-lover busy for a good long while. Start digging into the maps here.
You may never have heard of “Dylanology” before, but rest assured that the field covers the intellectual territory you suspect it does. Even if you have heard of Dylanology, you may never have heard of A.J. Weberman, the man who holds reasonable claim to having fathered the discipline. In John Reilly’s musically biographical 1969 short film above, The Ballad of A.J. Weberman, we witness the titular Bob Dylan obsessive engaging in one of his many research methods: in this case, the also neologism-anointed pursuit of garbology. This “science” has Weberman go through Dylan’s trash “in order to gather scraps of evidence to support his theories,” says the diligent fan’s entry in the web’s Bob Dylan Who’s Who. These theories include, according to Rolling Stone‘s Marc Jacobson, the notion that “Dylan, the most angel-headed head of the generation, had fallen prey to a Manchurian Candidate-style government plot to hook him up to sensibility-deadening hard dope.”
The page also mentions that “after three years of self-publicity” as the “world’s leading Dylanologist,” Weberman “finally met Dylan in 1971.” But much of his notoriety comes not just from having met Dylan in the flesh, not just from habitually digging through Dylan’s garbage, and not just (or so he claims) having taken a rightful beating at the hands of Dylan, but from having conversed with Dylan, candidly and at length, over the telephone. These chats eventually emerged on vinyl as the album Robert Zimmerman vs. A.J. Weberman, and you can hear the whole thing at Ubuweb, or below:
January 6, 1971
January 9, 1971
“The conversations were recorded in January, 1971, in the weeks following a demonstration outside Bob’s NYC apartment organized by Weberman [ … ] a misguided 60’s radical who felt (correctly enough) that by the early 70’s, rock music had ceased to be a force for radical political upheaval in the U.S. and had been co-opted by the establishment,” writes one contributor to the Dylan Who’s Who. “Like any of Bob’s songs, they must be heard to be truly understood.”
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), one of the great writers to come out of Argentina, went blind when he was only 55 years old. As unsettling as it must have been, it wasn’t particularly a surprise. He once told The New York Times, “I knew I would go blind, because my father, my paternal grandmother, my great-grandfather, they had all gone blind.”
Above, you can see a self portrait that Borges drew in the basement of the famous Strand Bookstore in New York City. According to the Times, he did this “using one finger to guide the pen he was holding with his other hand.” After making the sketch, Borges entered the main part of the bookstore and started “listening to the room, the stacks, the books,” and made the remarkable observation “You have as many books as we have in our national library.”
If you’ve ever been to The Strand, you know how many books it holds. Indeed, the store boasts of being “New York City’s legendary home of 18 Miles of new, used and rare books.” My guess is that Argentina’s national library might have a few more volumes than that. But who is really counting?
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In recent days, George R.R. Martin published a blog post that begins, “Hiya kids, hiya hiya hiya. With season 4 of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES almost upon us, I thought the time was ripe for me to give my readers another taste of WINDS OF WINTER.” The new chapter, he tells us, “is actually an old chapter. But no, it’s not one I’ve published or posted before.” The chapter, called “Mercy,” opens with these words:
She woke with a gasp, not knowing who she was, or where.
The smell of blood was heavy in her nostrils… or was that her nightmare, lingering? She had dreamed of wolves again, of running through some dark pine forest with a great pack at her hells, hard on the scent of prey.
Half-light filled the room, grey and gloomy. Shivering, she sat up in bed and ran a hand across her scalp. Stubble bristled against her palm. I need to shave before Izembaro sees. Mercy, I’m Mercy, and tonight I’ll be raped and murdered. Her true name was Mercedene, but Mercy was all anyone ever called her…
Except in dreams. She took a breath to quiet the howling in her heart, trying to remember more of what she’d dreamt, but most of it had gone already. There had been blood in it, though, and a full moon overhead, and a tree that watched her as she ran.
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