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Parshley Experiment

PUBLISHED: January 1, 2018
{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252\cocoartf1348\cocoasubrtf170 {\fonttbl\f0\fnil\fcharset0 MinionPro-Regular;} {\colortbl;\red255\green255\blue255;\red34\green34\blue34;\red68\green68\blue68;} \margl1440\margr1440\vieww10800\viewh8400\viewkind0 \deftab720 \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \f0\b\fs22 \cf0 Here Be Dragons\ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \i\b0 \cf2 Finding the blank spaces in well-mapped world. \i0\b \cf0 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b0 \cf0 \ Lois\ \ On a quiet summer evening, a 60-foot cutter-rigged sloop sails toward the eastern shore of Greenland. Aurora’92s captain, Sigurdur Jonsson, a sturdy man in his mid-fifties, stands carefully watching his charts. The Arctic Pilot, a navigation book published by the British Admiralty, describes the waters he’92s entering as ’93one of the most difficult in Greenland; the mountains rise almost vertically from the sea to form a narrow bulwark, with rifts through which active glaciers discharge quantities of ice, while numerous off-lying islets and rocks make navigation hazardous.’94 The sloop is single-masted, painted a cheery, cherry red. Icebergs broken off the Forbidden Coast dwarf her. \ ’93It’92s practically uncharted,’94 Captain Siggi says. ’93You are almost in the same position as you were 1,000 years ago.’94 Because the splintered fjords create thousands of miles of uninhabited coastline, there’92s been little effort to map this area. Where Captain Siggi sails, he’92s one of few to have ever gone before. \ A naval engineer-turned-explorer, Siggi navigates by scanning aerial photos into the plotter: sometimes satellite images, sometimes shots taken by Danish geologists from an open-cockpit plane in 1932, one of the only comprehensive surveys of the coast. He follows the outline of the shore by visual comparison. ’93Of course, then you don’92t have any soundings,’94 Siggi says, so there’92s no way to know the ocean’92s depth. ’93I’92ve had some close calls.’94 But over the years, he’92s gotten better at it. ’93You read the landscape,’94 he says, looking for clues on land where there might be shallow places to anchor, so that icebergs will go to ground before they reach him. ’93If there’92s a river coming down, it may be a shallow silty spot,’94 he says. In the age of GPS and Google Maps, it’92s rare to meet someone who still trusts their life to such analog methods. \ Even when he’92s retracing his own steps, the landscape is constantly changing. ’93Where the glaciers have disappeared,’94 Siggi explains, pointing at washes of green on a creased many-times-folded paper, ’93a peninsula turns out to be an island. It was actually sea where you thought there was land.’94 He trades notes with local hunters, who are similarly adept at reading the landscape. \ Where land maps do exist, locations have often been given Danish names that many locals don’92t know. ’93Their language is very descriptive,’94 Siggi explains. ’93So all the names of places mean something.’94 For instance, an island officially named Kraemer is known in East Greenlandic as ’93the place that looks like the harness for a dog’92s snout,’94 Siggi says. ’93If you come sailing, it has a yellow granite that comes down like a narrow snout, and there are these black intrusions. It looks exactly like the dog’92s harness.’94\ In the past, Greenlandic hunters would cut their own maps out of driftwood. ’93The wooden part would be the fjord, so it would be a mirror image,’94 Siggi says. ’93Holes would be islands. Compared to a paper map, it was actually quite accurate.’94 These driftwood sculptures were first recorded by a Danish expedition in 1900, along with bas-relief versions of the fjords, carefully grooved and beveled to represent headland depths. A Danish ethnographer, Gustav Holm, noted that notched into the wood, ’93the map likewise indicates where a kayak can be carried’85[when the way between the fjords] is blocked by sea-ice.’94 Unlike drawings, the contoured wood could be felt, useful in a region where the sun disappears for months at a time. Holm too was impressed by the wooden carvings’92 accuracy, writing, ’93The traveler is enabled by means of this map to inform others of the route he has taken.’94 \ As a source of information, a map is always a way of grappling through the darkness of the unknown. Though a difficult enough goal, locating yourself in space has never been cartography’92s sole function: like these driftwood pieces, maps inevitably show how civilizations perceive their lives and landscapes. \ ’93Everything we do is some kind of spatial interaction with objects or ourselves,’94 says John Hessler, Specialist in Modern Cartography at the Library of Congress. ’93A map is a way to reduce this huge complexity of our everyday world.’94 For the last few decades, Hessler has been conducting research in the largest map collection in the world at the Library of Congress, in stacks the lengths of football fields. ’93Geographic information systems have revolutionized everything,’94 he says. ’93The project of mapping the earth properly is to some extent complete.’94 Since 13\super th\nosupersub century portolan maps, the first based on compass directions, explorers have filled in our understanding of the world, using and then discarding the sexton, the compass, Mapquest.\ But though there are no longer dragons fleshing out far-flung places, a surprising number of spaces are still uncharted. ’93Where we were just trying to accurately map terrestrial space,’94 Hessler says, we’92ve moved into a ’93metaphor for how we live. We’92re mapping things that don’92t have a physical existence, like internet data, and the neural connections in our heads.’94 Who is making maps today, and what they’92re used for, is key to understanding how we see our universe’97and who we are. ’93Now anything can be mapped,’94 says Hessler. ’93It’92s the Wild West. We are in the great age of cartography, and we’92re still just finding out what its powers are.’94 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b \cf0 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b0 \cf0 \ Naoko Kurahashi \b \b0 Neilson’a0stumbled out of the dimness into a white, endless world. For the five hour flight from Christchurch, New Zealand, she’92d sat strapped into a jump-seat in the dark cargo hold, anxiously anticipating her arrival. As her eyes adjusted, Neilson stepped out onto a runway scraped into the sea ice. About 850 miles north of the South Pole, a small city spilled before her. Metal shipping containers were plopped into rows in the frozen mud. Heavy equipment beeped into the polar air. \ Because flights can only reach Antarctica during the austral summer, McMurdo Station gets crowded during these short months. ’93It’92s light 24 hours a day, so there’92s always activity outside, planes taking off and landing,’94 Neilson says. \ The American science station sits on the southern edge of Ross Island, at an altitude of close to 10,000 feet, smack in the world’92s largest, coldest desert. The station has to melt ice for hundreds of scientists by pouring hot water into an ice cave with a hose. In these harsh conditions, Neilson was mapping neutrinos, tiny high-energy particles that could be the key to understanding how the universe formed. These nearly massless particles don’92t often interact with other matter’97trillions of them pass through our bodies every second. \ Because they’92re so small, Neilson tried to study neutrinos by using the ocean itself as a particle detector. ’93Very high energy neutrinos make a splash when they enter water,’94 she explained. So she put very sensitive microphones in the water off the Bahamas. But she quickly learned she needed better equipment. \ So in the midst of McMurdo’92s chaos, the slight woman with a quick smile was now upgrading the computers running the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory. A particle detector so large it covers a cubic kilometer, IceCube’92s sensors are buried beneath a mile and a half of ice. When neutrinos are detected, it’92s reported back to a massive collection center. But there’92s no easy way for the scientists trying to analyze this data to deliver new code to IceCube, because the Internet comes from satellites, which rotate below the horizon frequently in polar regions. ’93Most of the day, you can’92t connect from the South Pole to the outside world,’94 says Neilson. ’93So even if it’92s a simple algorithm update, you have to go do it yourself.’94 \ While IceCube is the largest particle detector ever built, it serves a simple purpose. When you look up at the sky and see a star, ’93The star emitted a light particle called a photon that travelled millions of years and ended up in your eyeball,’94 Neilson explains. ’93That’92s how your eye knows there’92s a star there.’94 She’92s trying to do the same thing with IceCube that your eye does with light’97collect neutrinos and see what direction they came from. \ She hopes this data will develop a new way to map black holes, which are notoriously difficult to understand; how do you wrap your head around something you can’92t see? ’93We think that if we can see neutrino emission from black holes,’94 Neilson says, ’93we can better understand what physical processes take place in them.’94 In charting the stars, we’92re looking at the smallest things to understand the biggest ideas. Because the majority of neutrinos were created around 15 billion years ago, shortly after the birth of the universe, this might help answer a fairly fundamental question: What are the conditions that create energy?\ ’93The only way to study something you can’92t go to is or touch is to look at it in many different ways,’94 Neilson says. ’93The funny thing is if you map the universe in optical light–what humans see–or gamma rays, or radio rays, our universe doesn’92t look the same. That’92s the beauty of this. You create a map of the same thing in different light, and when you compare them, you understand the universe better.’94 \ That’92s why Robert Becker, a physicist specializing in radio rays at University of California Davis, has spent the last thirty years trying out different ways of mapping the cosmos. In the 1970s, when he got into physics to stay out of the Vietnam War, the only map of the entire sky was a simple contour map, like one you’92d use to go hiking. ’93I thought, we could make this much better through a Very Large Array radio survey’94’97using radio waves to map the sky. He met a lot of resistance. ’93People trashed the proposal. A lot of people might have walked away, but we decided to keep pushing.’94 \ In most other areas of science, if you have a question about something, you design an experiment to test a hypothesis. But in astronomy, you can’92t conduct experiments. ’93We can’92t build new stars,’94 Becker explained. ’93So we do survey maps.’94 The goal is to create a catalog of the sky, which is essentially a record of all the ongoing experiments in space. ’93In an infinite universe, all things that can happen, will happen,’94 Becker says. \ This is one of the fundamental principles of quantum physics: We can only observe as far as light has had the chance to travel in the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang. But space-time extends far beyond that. Because there are only a finite number of ways particles can be arranged, we know somewhere patterns must start repeating, even if we can’92t see them yet. Physically, this probably means that many other universes exist beyond ours, like a giant patchwork quilt. If you could look far enough, you’92d encounter another version of you’97actually, infinite versions of you. ’93So all the possible experiments are already out there, it’92s just a question of finding them and watching,’94 Becker says. Hypothetically, a perfect map would ’93facilitate all the questions astronomers have.’94 Of course, we don’92t have the equipment to observe even a fraction of the universe we’92re in. But using what we do have, Becker has dedicated the last thirty years to improving maps of the sky. \ In 1995, Becker became the first to survey 25 percent of the sky with a radio telescope array. Though a quarter of the stars doesn’92t sound like a lot, it was such a monumental project that he published the results with an image of his head superimposed onto Michaelangelo’92s Adam touching the hand of God’97NASA has yet to forgive him. Becker says someday astronomers hope to have surveys like this from every part of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio to gravity to gamma rays. ’93Once you make an image, you’92ll find a whole bunch of new phenomena. Every new survey opens new dimensions,’94 Becker says’97which he means literally. \ In physics, Becker says, ’93Most of what we take for granted today wasn’92t dreamed of 30 years ago. It’92s like science fiction’97dark matter, gravitational waves, quantum entanglement.’94 For example, since he began mapping the sky, we’92ve learned to predict where black holes are through their gravitational pull; if they’92re orbiting a star, the star wobbles. ’93Anytime you talk about black holes, you’92re on the verge of science fiction,’94 he says. ’93Can you fall into a black hole and be transported across the universe? Some physicists don’92t think that’92s totally far-fetched.’94 Like the early explorers once stretched the human imagination, astronomy continues to push the limits of what we think is possible–requiring a kind of faith more closely associated with religion than science. In the outer reaches of even our own universe, Becker says, ’93Dragons are still there.’94 \ Long before Becker mapped the sky in radio waves, the first person to argue the universe was infinite was an Italian monk. Giordano Bruno was born in Naples in 1568, and in the course of his study of astronomy, he guessed at the universe’92s plurality. Though he had no proof (many historians now argue that his understanding of astronomy was quite limited), he was willing to stake his life on it. In 1592, when he refused to recant his ideas, Bruno was tried by the Inquisition and burned at stake as a heretic. \ It took five centuries for Bruno’92s theories to be backed with scientific evidence; in 2010, researchers published the first evidence that multiple universes exist, finding four ’93bruises’94 on our observable cosmos, marks that came from being bumped by other universes. As technology changes, it shapes our ability to conceptualize the world–but our biggest constraint may be curiosity. \ Neilson thinks the process of mapping the blank spaces in the sky may tell us as much about ourselves than about astronomy. ’93If we’92re not curious about what’92s on the other side of the mountain, what that star is really made of’97that’92s the definition of being human.’94 \ \ Dr. Robert Ballard crowded in front of a display of TV screens on \i R/V \i0 \i Knorr \i0 , a research vessel owned by the U.S. Navy. A towering communications system loomed over the deck and the small room where the scientists watched black-and-white displays, showing a rippling view of the ocean floor. For days, Ballard had been sending a small robot loaded with cameras down two and a half miles below the boat to record the bottom, looking for debris from the \i Titanic \i0 . It was September 1, 1985, and this wasn’92t Ballard’92s first expedition; he’92d been searching for the wreck for over 12 years.\ Then, on the monotonous flat of the ocean floor, he saw something. Among the sandy ripples was a small lump, and then another. The amazed scientists stared at the screens. Soon, the \i Titanic’92s \i0 boiler came into view. News of the find splashed across headlines around the world. But what wasn’92t’97what wouldn’92t be discovered until a decade later, when it became declassified’97was that the quest to find the Titanic was just a foil. When the oceanographer approached the U.S. Navy in the early 1980s, the Navy saw an opportunity. Ballard’92s research was funded, with the condition that first he search for two missing submarines. \ Back in 1968, the USS \i Scorpion \i0 was late returning to the destroyer pier in Norfolk, Virginia. It was the height of the Cold War: The Tet offensive was in mid-swing, and the U.S. and the Soviet Union had just started negotiations over the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. As the hours ticked by, fears rose. Soon, it became clear that the 251-foot long submarine, its 99 crew members’97and its nuclear torpedoes’97had disappeared somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. \ This wasn’92t the first nuclear attacker that had gone missing: Five years earlier, the \i Thresher \i0 went missing shortly after heading out from port. Efforts to find both submarines relied on the bathyscaphe \i Trieste, \i0 an underwater vehicle with an observation chamber. The \i Trieste \i0 failed miserably. ’93The Navy realized they had no capability of finding something as large as a nuclear submarine,’94 says Larry Mayer, Director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. As late as the 1980s, twenty years after a man had walked on the moon, no one knew how to map the ocean floor. By the time Ballard came along, the Navy still hadn’92t investigated the wrecks–and they were anxious to know what impact the subs’92 nuclear reactors might be having.\ So Ballard developed a deep-sea submersible vehicle that could be used remotely to film the ocean floor, ostensibly to find the \i Titanic \i0 . ’93I couldn’92t tell anybody,’94 he told the \i Sunday Times \i0 when the secret mission was finally made public. ’93There was a lot of pressure.’94 On the expedition in 1985, he used the new robot first to map the two submarine wreck sites’97and only after his success, in the last 12 days of the trip, was he allowed to turn to finding the ocean liner \i . \i0 Since then, Ballard’92s idea of deploying remote-controlled robots closer to the bottom of the sea has become standard practice. ’93The ocean is huge, and sound can only travel so far,’94 Mayer says. \ ’93The joke is we know more about the back side of the moon than the bottom of the ocean,’94 says Alan Mix, an oceanographer at Oregon State University. ’93In Google Earth, the [ocean] map appears pretty good. You can see mountain ranges and submerged islands.’94 But these shapes are actually just guesses from inferred data. ’93It’92s an interpreted map. No one has actually been there.’94 Although satellites can’92t see through water’97making mapping the sea much more difficult than mapping land–a mountain on the bottom of the ocean has a lot of mass, and its gravity pulls on the water around it. This makes a dip in the surface that a satellite can actually observe. ’93But it’92s like looking through a bad pair of glasses,’94 Mix says. To really know what’92s going on below the surface, scientists still have to send out an expedition. \ Today, only about 17 percent of the ocean has been mapped with multi-beam sonar, meaning a ship or submersible has physically driven back and forth in a grid, like mowing a lawn. These ships send out small spots of sound and develop an image of the floor below based on how long the sound takes to bounce back. ’93A lot of the ocean is still a void,’94 says David Sandwell, an oceanographer at University of California, San Diego. \ If you could somehow drain the seas, scientists predict you’92d mostly see an immense, flat seafloor, which is actually thousands of small hills covered by millennium of falling sediment, broken occasionally by larger volcanoes. ’93We know where a small number of those are,’94 Sandwell says, ’93but in detail, everything would be new. You’92d find whole new mountains.’94 \ Because of this cloaking sediment, developing a better map of the ocean could shed light on the distant past. ’93It’92s the most complete record of history on earth,’94 says Alan Mix. ’93All of history accumulates in layers on the ocean floor.’94 This history could help scientists predict the future. Mix, for example, has spent the better part of a decade studying the bottom of the sea near the Petermann glacier, an enormous ice sheet on the northwest coast of Greenland, across the island from where Captain Siggi sails. Ice flows across bedrock as it melts and refreezes throughout the year, draining in rivers off the Petermann glacier into the sea. One of the largest floating ice shelves in the northern hemisphere, over the last five years, the rate of Petermann’92s melt has changed dramatically. In 2012, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan tore off. \ Mix explains that the glacier ’93acts like the flying buttress of a cathedral. The ice in the ocean helps hold ice back on land. So when it goes away, it’92s easier for the ice to go out into the ocean,’94 catalyzing the already increasing rate of melt. \ ’93To understand this process, first you have to make a map,’94 Mix says, although ’93making a map is more complicated when you’92re dodging bergs.’94 He’92s sent an icebreaking ship as close as he dared to the glacier, and as sonar bounced back from the floor, it mapped how the glacier flowed. Petermann has left marks on the bottom ’93scraped along like sandpaper on steroids,’94 says Mix, as well as deposits proving its former extent. Carbon dating these suggests how fast the glacier moved in the past. These streams of information have been combined by Larry Mayer, who developed a 3D visualization tool for the expedition’97’93It’92s digitally like being on a helicopter flying over the seafloor,’94 Mix says.\ When actually flying over the fracturing glacier, the vast sheet of white dwarfs all proportion. ’93You completely lose a sense of direction,’94 Anna Gluder, one of Mix’92s graduate students said in a video the scientists filmed during their most recent expedition. The helicopter dropped off Keith Nicholls, one of Mix’92s collaborators, a mile away from land. A little pile of expensive equipment, machines for drilling a hole through the ice and hanging instruments for recording temperature and salinity, sat on the ice beside him, the only color in sight. Beneath his booted feet was a thick layer of ice, and beneath that, hundreds of feet of dark water. ’93We’92re finding temperatures at the bottom of the ice are really high,’94 Nicholls said. \ It’92s a frightening realization. These new maps suggest that ’93Actual change events [like catastrophic ice melt] may happen on very human time scales, like decades or centuries,’94 Mix says. ’93Civilization is built on the assumption that tomorrow will be kind of like today. That’92s been true since the advent of agriculture. But if we do trigger the melting of ice sheets, it would change the system.’94 Once that happens, the seas will rise so dramatically that for the next thousand years, humans would have to continuously move away from the ocean. \ Climate change has already created new mapping opportunities. On a blustery day in Iceland, the rain slanted sideways against the windows of the National Land Survey of Iceland, where Magnus Gudmundsson, the organization’92s General Director, sat in front of a massive aerial photo of a glacier. ’93To predict and understand and react to changes in the Arctic requires data,’94 he says. He’92s leading efforts with the UN to develop an international force to record the Arctic using digital elevation models, creating 3D maps. Science is working to bridge the politics of a changing region and new data is already flowing in, but it’92s not all being collected in the name of cooperation.\ This summer, Larry Mayer took his 3D visualization tool on an icebreaker up to the Arctic. He’92s mapping the ocean in newly ice-free areas for the U.S. government. Under the Law of the Sea treaty, Mayer explains, ’93You’92re allowed to establish sovereign rights 200 nautical miles into the sea. How far that is off the continental shelf depends on the shape and structure of the sea floor.’94 As the rush to claim the Arctic begins’97Russia has symbolically staked its claim to recently discovered oil reserves by planting a titanium flag in the bottom of the Arctic ocean’97maps will be a crucial part of the maneuvering. \ Though cartography is often thought of as objective, making a map is inherently political. Mapping a round thing in two dimensions is hard: Picture flattening the unbroken peel of an orange and trying to connect the edges. ’93In order to make a map, you have to give something up,’94 says John Hessler, the Specialist in Modern Cartography at the Library of Congress. The decision of which variable to hold true’97distance or area or shape or scale’97is called a projection, and every one of them distorts the surface of the Earth in some capacity. The world maps you likely remember from high school are Mercator projections, where Greenland appears larger than Africa–a continent 14 times the island’92s size–in order to preserve the accuracy of angles. In the 1960s, Arno Peter created a map that looks strangely skinny in comparison, preserving a more accurate sense of scale. Now called the Peters projection, ’93he thought [it] had a better sense of equality for third world countries,’94 Hessler explains. Since then, the number of potential projections has only expanded. As in life, which distortion works best depends on what you think is important.\ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b \cf0 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b0 \cf0 Looking over the western-most fjord of Iceland, the sea rages under heavy clouds. Tundra highlands plunge toward the sea. The early afternoon sun is already sloping to the horizon, having never risen to its zenith. It’92s the first day of winter. Gulls whirl in the foam. The sun will soon leave this valley till the following spring. Iceland is near enough to Greenland that polar bears still occasionally hitchhike here on floating icebergs, but it’92s still over 2,000 windswept, storm-tossed miles to North America. Though that continent is in the center of most projections today, it was discovered by people sailing away from this rock-strewn shore, people who’92d never seen a map.\ ’93They put to sea as soon as they were ready, and sailed until land was lost to sight below the horizon,’94 goes the Saga of the Greenlanders, an oral history of what was likely the first Western discovery of North America, around the year 1000 A.D. ’93Then the fair wind failed and northerly fog set in.’94 About 100 years earlier, Vikings are thought to have voyaged from the European continent westward, finding first the Faroe Islands, then Iceland and Greenland. Although ’93people had been practicing coastal sailing and navigation for millennia,’94 writes Old Norse scholar Ingi Sigurdsson, ’93the Vikings deliberately ventured to leave the coast out of sight, eventually managing organized travel and trade across one of the most hostile seas in the world.’94 \ The Saga of the Greenlanders describes the voyage that accidentally discovered ’93Wineland,’94 (which in turn inspired Leif Erickson’92s trip west and his establishment of a settlement in what is now Newfoundland). By this accounting, Christopher Columbus was actually be the third explorer to reach North America. Through all this exploring, Vikings steered their wooden longboats by the sky. In northern seas, where thick clouds and bad weather are more frequent than a clear firmament, sailors relied on what they called ’93sunstones.’94 For years, scientists puzzled over these obscure references in the sagas. Then Guy Ropars, a physicist at the University of Rennes, began experimenting with a piece of Icelandic spar discovered in a shipwreck from 1592. He discovered the stone works by separating polarized sunlight. When light, which normally radiates randomly, enters the crystal, it orients or polarizes the rays, giving away the direction of the original source’97so even during bad weather, the crystal could be used to locate the sun. Separating polarized light is a navigation technique that other animals also use’97bees, for example, rely on similar technology, and it’92s now proving useful for modern-day exploration. ’93Curiously, the great sensitivity,’94 Ropars says, is now being used to ’93try to detect the polarization of the light emitted by exoplanets with atmospheres.’94\ Mapmaking has always followed the needs of people who are asking questions; Columbus gave a map to Queen Isabella to get his project funded. But since Vikings are no longer sailing off the edge of the known world, it can be tempting to look at maps as static, but even on a small island, change is constant. Geologists from the Land Survey spend Iceland’92s short summers in the mountain highlands, mapping the movement of the Atlantic Ridge. They set up a GPS receiver using a level and infrared device, and then leave it for a few days, periodically checking to see if a horse has run into it or the wind knocked it over. Each of these stations determines the precise position of points on the earth’92s surface. These are the basis for all other measurements in Iceland. By comparing these points, scientists can track not only the growth and decay of mountains, they can see the effect of climate change on glaciers. Because ice is very heavy, it tends to compress the earth it rests on; when that weight is lifted, the land itself rebounds in what is called ’91uplift.’92 Still other areas of Iceland are dropping. In the south around the capital city, where the groundwater is being depleted for geothermal energy, the ground is sinking by as much as 20 centimeters a year. ’93Movement happens in leaps and bounds,’94 Gudmundsson says.\ Not only is the world constantly changing, how we’92re able to capture that motion is too. ’93In terms of technology, I view it as standing on the bank of a river and watching it go by,’94 says Jim Herries, a geographer at ESRI, one of the dominant geographic information system (GIS) software companies. This makes it difficult to build maps that aren’92t obsolete by the time they’92re finished. But that same rapid development has expanded who uses cartography; the bulk of ESRI’92s clients are businesses, not academics. Some of his clients can initially be skeptical’97at a massive agriculture company, for example, it wasn’92t until he showed them a sample product that mapped where every single seed was planted and the temperature and humidity at each location that something clicked. ’93All of a sudden mapping becomes relevant to their world.’94\ Robin Tolochko, a cartographer at Uber, describes this technical advancement slightly differently. ’93Mapping is often romanticized,’94 she says. ’93When in reality, now it’s mostly another desk job.’94 Cartography, she says, is 90 percent dealing with data, ’93and its usually crappy data.’94 Uber is just one of many smart-phone apps that rely on mapmaking, adding to the vast catalog of cartography that most people use on a daily basis without thinking about it. ’93We’92re moving people from point A to point B,’94 Tolochko says. ’93We can’92t do that without knowing where we’92re going.’94 \ But finding direction is usually more complicated than it sounds. While maps delineate boundaries and ease navigation, by its very nature drawing lines is complex–think Mason-Dixon, the Berlin Wall, the South China Sea. Scale is crucial: If you’92re walking in a desert without water, for all intents and purposes, it’92s infinite. But from a satellite, you can see its boundaries. For centuries, maps have not only provided access to new possibility, but dominion, a way to guard information. To name something is often to own it.\ \ Until recently, the very ability to make a map was proprietary. ESRI was the best’97and most expensive’97source of cartographic software, but in the last ten years, the quality of open-source tools have ballooned. That has come hand-in-hand with applications for mapping, a whirlwind of activity that can be dizzying to keep up with. At Uber, Tolochko is constantly \b \b0 incorporating real time data, provided from driver feedback. Because of the ubiquity of information, when maps don’92t work, frustrations arise quickly. ’93People expect everything to be at their fingertips all the time,’94 Tolochko says.\ ’93People have become so used to maps they don’92t really recognize all the work that goes into making them,’94 she explains. ’93Maps are so integrated into so many apps, people take it for granted.’94\ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b \cf0 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b0 \cf0 On January 12, 2010, Haiti began to shake. The epicenter of the 7.0-scale earthquake registered only fifteen miles from Port-au-Prince, the country’92s capital. Concrete buildings shuddered and then crumbled. Children were buried in collapsing schools. People stumbled into the crowded street, choking on the pluming dust. By the time the aftershocks ceased, the city was left in ruins. Hundreds of thousands died, and many of the survivors had nowhere to go; one-and-a-half million people lost their homes over-night. The city’92s rubble could have filled enough shipping containers to stretch, bow to stern, from London to Beirut. Then, a few months later, things got even worse: The worst cholera epidemic in the history of the disease broke out.\ ’93After the earthquake,’94 says Ivan Gayton, then the head of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Mission in Haiti, healthcare workers and UN troops from around the world flocked to the country. ’93Someone pooped in the river and introduced the virus.’94 It was an epidemiologically na’efve population, meaning the island had no previous encounter with the strain, and no innate resistance. At the height of the outbreak, five percent of the population contracted the disease; without treatment, forty percent of cholera patients died. Health centers struggled to keep up with the caseload, triaging people in tents. Those in acute stages of the illness lay in cots with holes cut in them and a bucket underneath, to catch what is known in Creole as ’93rice water.’94 When the bacteria \i Vibrio cholerae \i0 gets inside a body, it emits a toxin that causes the cells in the small intestine to open, expelling fluids–and passing the bacteria on to new hosts. Extremely contagious, cholera can kill a healthy person via dehydration in less than a day. \ ’93Every patient that walks in, we ask them where they are from,’94 Gayton says. It may seem like common sense now, but it wasn’92t until 1854 that doctors thought to map disease outbreaks. Like Haiti, London was suffering a severe cholera epidemic when Dr. John Snow plotted the addresses of cases on a simple map. ’93He went door to door knocking, asked everyone where they were getting their water from,’94 Gayton explains. When he saw the clusters, it became clear certain water pumps were spreading the disease. It was the foundational moment of epidemiology. ’93It was a stunningly important moment in medicine,’94 Gayton says. ’93He was possibly one of the greatest physicians in all of history, and his claim to fame wasn’92t a new treatment or a drug–it was making a map.’94 \ But 160 years later in Haiti, MSF doctors couldn’92t even do that. John Snow was able to take place patients’92 addresses using X and Y coordinates. Although every person that walked into the Haitian clinics was asked where they were from, ’93It’92s effectively being recorded in random syllables,’94 Gayton says. ’93We don’92t have a map.’94 Before the earthquake, many Haitians lived in informal neighborhoods, and existing maps didn’92t use the local names. Doctors tried to record cases in an Excel spreadsheet, but without geographical information, they couldn’92t tell if cases were adjacent to each other or on opposite sides of the city, making it difficult to trace or stop the sources of infection. ’93We couldn’92t do our job,’94 says Pete Masters, the Missing Maps Project Coordinator at MSF. ’93We didn’92t have the evidence to take the best action.’94 \ At the peak of the outbreak, Gayton was wandering through the hallway, and spotted a colleague, Maya Allen, squatting in the windowsill with a laptop. ’93She’92s trying to place pins [of cholera cases] on Google Earth by hand,’94 Gayton says. Frustrated, he thought there had to be a better way. So Gayton called Google, ’93like calling Batcave,’94 he laughs. \ A few days later, Google software engineer Pablo Maygrundter was on a plane. He brought portable Google Earth programs, with map data downloaded to hard drives so it would work in the field without Internet. He trained Haitians how to use GPS units and sent them into neighborhoods to get latitude and longitude coordinates for Haitian place names. Google’92s engineers were aided by a group called the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap (HOT) team, ’93earthquake nerds, looking at the TV, looking at the street map of Port-au-Prince, and realizing there’92s nothing there,’94 Masters says. After the earthquake, the group coordinated with Haitian diaspora to map Haiti’92s slums and identify local landmarks for the first time. ’93Search and rescue teams were using their map within 72 hours of the quake,’94 Masters says. Together, Google and HOT worked to geolocate all of the information they’92d gathered and write a script to import the case records. Suddenly, the MSF patient list could be transformed into an animated map of cases. ’93Boom. All of a sudden, we could do what Snow did years ago,’94 Gayton says. ’93Hallelujah.’94\ A couple of days after the Google team left, Gayton was able to pinpoint a water outage in a neighborhood where cholera cases had suddenly jumped. ’93I called the water utility,’94 he says. ’93Less people are dying because a map allowed us to correlate a spike in cases to a specific event, and send a truck and tools to fix it. That’92s the holy grail of mapping’97actual lives saved.’94 \ But when Pete Masters asked Gayton to come to MSF headquarters in London and try to set up a system for mapping map other disasters, it didn’92t work. ’93Because of the horrible earthquake, HOT volunteer mapping got done [before the cholera crisis],’94 Gayton says. ’93A map that comes post-disaster doesn’92t save lives.’94 Reactive mapping, it turns out, can’92t possibly keep up with the scale and speed of humanitarian disasters. During the Ebola crisis, for example, cases moved too swiftly for maps to be created of all of the areas the virus reached. That’92s why Gayton says, ’93We need proactive mapping on a continental scale, of all vulnerable areas.’94 So he founded Missing Maps, a volunteer-based organization using open source data to map places where crises are likely to occur before they happen. The organization holds mapathons, where volunteers connect to people in the field. ’93Take names of streets,’94 Gayton says. ’93You’92re on the Avenue of Church’97there are 200 of those in Lubumbashi. You have to trace, have to have imagery, have to go in field and get names, and then integrate all of that into a nice visual map.’94 He describes the process like fitting a Russian doll together. \ ’93I like maps,’94 Gayton says. ’93But really what I care about is equitable distribution of healthcare. As long as one billion people don’92t have it, sooner or later it’92ll come bite people in rich countries.’94 He scoffs at the idea that there are no blank spaces left on earth. ’93Anyone who says the world is mapped, ask them to show you where the population of South Sudan and the Congo are living. Ask them where the villages are. If they can do it, please let me know.’94 \ To Gayton, it’92s not an idle distinction. ’93When you have a place like South Sudan, where millions of people live and die without ever figuring in a database anywhere, their names will never be written down. There’92s not a lot of dignity in that’97to not be on the map is quite a powerful statement of uncaring.’94 That’92s what Missing Maps is about. ’93We still don’92t know who they are, but at least we know where their house is. At least the map actually contains them, rather than a blank wash of green,’94 Gayton says. ’93I tell people at mapathons sometimes, ’91That house you’92re tracing right now, that hut’97that’92s the first time in the history of humanity someone cared enough about them to take note.’92’94 Things don’92t exist because we name them, but giving them a name engenders new meaning. At its most basic, to exist on a map is to have value. \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b \cf0 \ \pard\tx360\pardeftab720\ri1440\qj \b0 \cf0 \ It’92s not coincidental that humans have been drawn to maps for almost as long as we have records. ’93Our best way of sharing knowledge–whether it’92s a physical representation of land or an energy space variable’97it’92s a map. It’92s no coincidence that every scientific analysis produces maps or visual plots to look at. That’92s the way we intuitively understand the best,’94 says Neilson, thinking about complicated concepts in her neutrino research. But neuroscience backs this claim up. \ According to Bruce McNaughton, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine, the hippocampus, a small region of the brain, is critical in learning and forming new memories because it provides information about the spatial context in which experiences occur. ’93How the brain constructs maps is a hot topic,’94 he says. The reason, for example, you can stand in your kitchen and close your eyes and still walk to your refrigerator without any sensory input is because your neural circuitry actually processes the world with a coordinate system. The brain keeps track of your motion through space, and certain cells in the hippocampus fire as you move. ’93When an animal gets to a location and discovers food there,’94 McNaughton says, ’93that information gets added to these spatial coordinates in much the way a mapmaker would make a Cartesian grid.’94 Essentially, the brain records your entire experience of the world through relative positions, much the way sailors used to find their way to foreign shores. ’93This is a way that neuroscientists believe that your brain begins to assign value,’94 McNaughton explains. The brain explains our very existence by making a mental map. \ By building narratives that orient us–not only where we are physically standing, but the past and future–maps are\cf3 an instinctual way of ordering chaos, of turning stars to constellations and glacial scratches into a story. \cf0 ’93A map in the hands of a pilot is a testimony of a man’92s faith in other men; it is a symbol of confidence and trust. It is not like a printed page that bears mere words,’94 wrote Beryl Markham in the 1940s, shortly after becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from the east to the west. ’93A map says to you, ’91Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not.’92’94 \ The daughter of a colonial horse trainer, Markham grew up hunting barefoot with the Nandi, and learned to fly a plane when there were only a few in all of Africa. In early September of 1936, Markham took off in a turquoise and silver Gull, with what she hoped was enough gas to make it across the Atlantic. She flew for over 21 hours across the open ocean, mostly in the dark. Recollecting on these interminable hours, she later wrote, ’93Were all the maps in this world destroyed and vanished’85 each man would be blind again, each city be made a stranger to the next, each landmark become a meaningless signpost pointing to nothing.’94 \b \ \b0 Of course, as technology shrinks the world’97it takes a few hours now to fly over what took the Vikings weeks to sail’97the concept of nothingness can feel obsolete; as we fill in the black spaces between the stars, our very understanding of distance has changed. But that doesn’92t mean small spaces can no longer be large enough to get lost in, or darkness filled with mystery. \ Several fjords over from Captain Siggi’92s winter anchorage in Iceland, a pot-holed gravel road winds steeply up a mountain. Beyond the summit, a valley spills into the sea. Sheep graze over the moss and late blueberries. An Arctic fox slips silently downhill on fur-padded paws. At its mouth, wind-whipped waves eat away at the walls of an ancient sod-and-stone house. After generations of farmers plowed a living into the stony plain, a single woman remains. In the mornings, as the reluctant sun hides behind the highlands, she opens hay bales in the ramshackle barn, sweet warmth steaming into the crisp air. ’93The notion that place is capable of imparting its qualities to people may sound a little fanciful,’94 writes geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, ’93so let me say, first, something that is merely commonsense, namely good soil yields good crops, bad soil poor crops.’94 In humans, more complicated than vegetables, the phenomena is more subtle, but place just as surely molds what used to be called character. On winter nights when the northern lights come out, Betty piles on hand-knit sweaters and stomps down to the beach to watch the sky perform. \ The road to her valley is closed for half the year; the rare visitor arrives only by snowmobile. Betty’92s TV cable went out two years ago, and the telephone doesn’92t work in the rain. She cares for the family church, where baptisms and deaths have been recorded for the last centuries, an imposition of will into a world that will exist without us. \ When the sheep give birth in the spring, Betty watches over the miracle. When she leaves the valley, these hills will be mapped, though she will no longer know their wind and their weather. Though one day the distant universe may be as discovered and familiar as the road that leads to our doors, the science of exploration will never capture the wonder of it. \ In the long northern winter, the vastness will remain.\ \uc0\u8232 \ }


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