Archive for May, 2014

‘Extraordinarily Rare’ Crusade-Era Seal Discovered in Jerusalem


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‘Extraordinarily Rare’ Crusade-Era Seal Discovered in Jerusalem


Images: Top 10 New Species of 2014


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Images: Top 10 New Species of 2014

Hidden Paintings Revealed at Ancient Temple of Angkor Wat


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Hidden Paintings Revealed at Ancient Temple of Angkor Wat

These Maps Reveal How Slavery Expanded Across the United States

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on May 27, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3311

These Maps Reveal How Slavery Expanded Across the United States

As the hunger for more farmland stretched west, so too did the demand for enslaved labor

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In September of 1861, the U.S. Coast Survey published a large map, approximately two feet by three feet, titled a “Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States.” Based on the population statistics gathered in the 1860 Census, and certified by the superintendent of the Census Office, the map depicted the percentage of the population enslaved in each county. At a glance, the viewer could see the large-scale patterns of the economic system that kept nearly 4 million people in bondage: slavery was concentrated along the Chesapeake Bay and in eastern Virginia; along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts; in a crescent of lands in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi; and most of all, in the Mississippi River Valley. With each county labeled with the exact percentage of people enslaved, the map demanded some closer examination.

The Coast Survey map of slavery was one of many maps drawn from data produced in 19th-century America. As historian Susan Schulten has shown, this particular map was created by a federal government agency from statistics gathered by the Census. Abraham Lincoln consulted it throughout the Civil War. A banner on the map proclaims that it was “sold for the benefit of the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the U.S. Army.” The data map was an instrument of government, as well as a new technology for representing knowledge.




Though thematic mapping had its origins in the 19th century, the technique is useful for understanding history in our own day. One of the fundamental problems of history is scale: how can historians move between understanding the past in terms of a single life and in the lives of millions; within a city and at the bounds of continents; over a period of days and over the span of centuries? Maps can’t tell us everything, but they can help, especially interactive web maps that can zoom in and out, represent more than one subject, and be set in motion to show change over time.

To help show the big patterns of American slavery, I have created an interactive map of the spread of slavery. Where the Coast Survey map showed one measure, the interactive map shows the population of slaves, of free African Americans, of all free people, and of the entire United States, as well as each of those measure in terms of population density and the percentage of the total population. The map extends from the first Census in 1790 to the Census taken in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. You can explore the map for yourself, but below I have created animations to highlight some of the major patterns.

When looking at all of these maps together, it’s noticable that even as the total number of enslaved peoples in the United States increased between 1790 and 1860, the multitudes were dispersed across the increasing expanse of the United States, rather than becoming more concentrated in areas where slavery was well established.

In counties along the Atlantic Coast in 1790 and 1800, the population of slaves at any one time was nearly at its peak. (This is all the more remarkable since many slaves fled to the British during the Revolutionary War.) Take for example, Charleston County, South Carolina. In 1790, almost 51,000 people were enslaved in that county. In 1840, the slave population reached its peak of nearly 59,000 people; by 1860, there were 37,000 enslaved people, just 63 percent as many slaves as two decades earlier.

The total number of slaves in the eastern seaboard states did, however, grow slowly over time, but not at anything like the rate of growth for free people in the North. The free white population in the North grew in already settled places and spread to the West.

The slave population had a different dynamic. It grew in intensity in places around the Chesapeake Bay, even as slavery was gradually abolished in the North. But for the most part the slave population spread westward to the lands opened for settlement by the Louisiana Purchase, the dispossession of the Indian nations of the Southeast, the war with Mexico, and the distribution of public lands. Slavery spread rather than grew because it was an agricultural rather than industrial form of capitalism, so it needed new lands

And slavery spread because enslaved African Americans were forced to migrate. Historian Steven Deyle estimates “that between 1820 and 1860 at least 875,000 American slaves were forcibly removed from the Upper South to the Lower South.” A minority of that migration happened because white planters migrated along with the people that they owned. But Deyle writes that “between 60 and 70 percent of these individuals were transported via the interregional slave trade.” In other words, slavery was not the paternalist institution that its apologists made it out to be: it was an relentlessly exploitative system where the fundamental relation of owner to enslaved was defined by the markets. The unceasing spread of slavery provoked political crises, eventually leading to the Civil War. As Abraham Lincoln put it in is 1858 “House Divided” speech:


“Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.”

Below you can see two animations comparing the density of the slave population and the density of the total population (keep in mind that the scales are different).

This animation of the density of slave population from 1790 to 1860 shows how slavery expanded more than it grew.




An animation of density of the total population from 1790 to 1860. Notice that population in the north both grows in place and spreads westward.




A second observation to make from this map is how pervasive slavery was to the United States. In the first decades of the early republic, the northern states had a significant population of slaves, which only slowly diminished through gradual emancipation laws. In the South, the percentage of the population that was enslaved was extraordinarily high: over 70 percent in most counties along the Mississippi River and parts of the South Carolina and Georgia coast.

This animation shows the percentage of the population enslaved from 1790 to 1860.




A striking way to see the importance of slavery is to look at a map of the total free population: a photo negative, if you will, of slavery. When looking at the population density of all free persons (below in 1860), large swathes of the South appear virtually depopulated.




Finally, the dynamics of the free African American population looked more like the free white population than the slave population. The free African American population settled primarily along the Eastern seaboard and especially in the cities of the northern United States. Free African Americans were almost entirely excluded, in part by an extensive system of patrols, from the majority slave populations of the Deep South. This animation shows the free African American population from 1790 to 1860.




This interactive map and the Census data on which it is based can hardly show most of what should be known about slavery. For example, the Census did not count any slaves in Vermont, which abolished slavery in its 1777 constitution. But Harvey Amani Whitfield has shown that some Vermont African Americans were held in bondage. Nor can these maps express anything of the pain of the whip or the escape to freedom, of the exhaustion of labor or the sounds of preaching and shouting at a religious gathering: for that one must read any of scores of excellent histories. But they do give a large overview of the forced labor system which made the nation “half slave and half free.”


Susan Schulten, Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), writes about maps of slavery in chapter 4; see also the book’s companion website which offers images of maps of slavery. Steven Deyle has written a recent history of the domestic slave trade in Carry Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); the figures cited above are from page 289. Of the many excellent histories of American slavery, see one of these: on the settlement of the Mississippi River valley, Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013); on the life of slaves, Erskine Clarke, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); on the history of slavery generally, Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003).

The data in my maps is drawn from the 1790 to 1860 Censuses compiled by the Minnesota Population Center, [National Historical Geographic Information System], version 2.0 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011).

U.S. Coast Survey, Map showing the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States (Washington, DC: Henry S. Graham, 1861). Image from the Library of Congress.

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What Is This Giant, Swirling Hexagon At Saturn’s North Pole?What Is This Giant, Swirling Hexagon At Saturn’s North Pole?

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags , , on May 27, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3310      Ria Misra[/embed]

What Is This Giant, Swirling Hexagon At Saturn’s North Pole?What Is This Giant, Swirling Hexagon At Saturn's North Pole?

Something is going on at Saturn’s North Pole — something big, swirling, and shaped like a giant hexagon. So just what is it? Carolyn Porco, the leader of Cassini’s Imaging Team, explains it to us.

Top Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

Porco joined us today to take our questions about life on other planets, the ocean on Enceladus, and just what on Earth (or, in this case, not) was going on with Saturn’s North Pole, pictures of which were snagged by Cassini’s Imaging team.

What we’re looking at, says Porco, is actually a phenomenon that we see on Earth as well:

It is very likely nothing more than a highly regular and steady version of our own jet stream, which also has 6 (but sometimes 5, sometimes 7) waves in it. Why? Because any friction within the Saturn atmosphere is WAY lower than that which atmospheric systems encounter here on Earth as they travel over landmasses, oceans, mountains, etc. This is what makes them run down or become discontinuous. To see our own northern hemisphere jet stream, take a look at this video. Now, in your mind’s eye, just take out the variations in amplitude and the breaks in the jet, and you’ll see what I mean.



Humanity Is Now Officially Ready For Suspended Animation


Post 3309    George Dvorsky

Humanity Is Now Officially Ready For Suspended AnimationHumanity Is Now Officially Ready For Suspended Animation

Surgeons from the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are set to begin suspended animation trials by dramatically cooling down trauma victims in an effort to keep them alive during critical operations.

Twenty years ago, Peter Safar and Ron Bellamy proposed that the rapid induction of hypothermia could “buy time” for a trauma surgical team to control bleeding. Now, thanks to the work of Peter Rhee and Samuel Tisherman, this idea is officially ready for prime time.


“We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,” noted Tisherman in a New Scientist article. “So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.” The idea is to buy patients precious time during critical operations, such as after a massive heart attack, stabbings, or shootings.

The technique will be used on 10 patients who would otherwise be expected to die from their injuries. The doctors on the project will be paged when a candidate patient arrives at the hospital; there’s usually one case like this every month, typically with survival rates less than 7%.

It’s part a feasibility and safety study, called the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest from Trauma (EPR-CAT).

Because patients cannot give informed consent, the study will be conducted under theexception-from-informed consent process, which includes community consultation and public notification. So, if you live in the Pittsburgh area, and this seems too risky for you, you have to opt out (which you can do here).

How It Works

This technique involves internal rather than external cooling. A team of surgeons will remove all of the patient’s blood, replacing it with a cold saline solution; the cold fluid is administered through a large tube, called a cannula, which is placed into the aorta, the largest artery in the body. This will slow down the body’s metabolic functions, significantly reducing its need for oxygen. Then, a heart-lung bypass machine will be used to restore blood circulation and oxygenation as part of the resuscitation process. A state of profound hypothermia will be induced, at about 50ºF (10ºC), to provide a “prolonged period of cardiac arrest” after extensive bleeding. In other words, clinical death.

The technique, which was developed by Peter Rhee, was successfully tested on pigs back in 2000 (his resulting study can be found here). Writing in C|Net, Michelle Starr explains more:

After inducing fatal wounds in the pigs by cutting their arteries with scalpels, the team replaced the pigs’ blood with saline, which lowered their body temperature to 10 degrees Celsius.

All of the control pigs, whose body temperature was left alone, died. The pigs who were resuscitated at a medium speed demonstrated a 90 percent survival rate, although some of their hearts had to be given a jump start. Afterwards, the pigs demonstrated no physical or cognitive impairment.

The technique, therefore, will only be used as an emergency measure on patients who have suffered cardiac arrest after severe traumatic injury, with their chest cavity open and having lost at least half their blood already — injuries that see only a seven percent survival rate. The survival rate of these patients will then be measured against a control group that has not received the treatment before further testing can begin.

The human body can only be placed in this state for a few hours, so we’re still quite a ways off from the suspended animation typically featured in scifi. But if this technique is any indication, we may get there just yet.

Image: Prometheus.


How A Cryptoanalyst Discovered The Identity Of The Man In The Iron

Posted in WORLD'S HISTORY with tags on May 27, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3308  Esther Inglis-Arkell 

How A Cryptoanalyst Discovered The Identity Of The Man In The Iron MaskHow A Cryptoanalyst Discovered The Identity Of The Man In The Iron Mask

For those of you who have only seen the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the Man in the Iron Mask was an actual historical figure. He was a mysterious prisoner in the time of Louis XIV. Two centuries later, a cryptoanalyst finally discovered his probable identity.

In 1698, the Man in the Iron Mask had gained quite a reputation for himself (some said herself) when he had been in a prison in Savoy. In Paris, he was the subject of so much gossip that he became a legend for centuries to come. Theorists tried to work out his identity. Some, most famously, Alexandre Dumas, made up an identity, and spun a tale in which the Man in the Iron Mask was the secret twin of Louis XIV. Twins were a threat to orderly succession, but no one could kill a prince of royal blood, so the second twin was masked and imprisoned.

For two centuries, the mystery remained. There were clues, but they were written in what’s known as The Great Cipher. This numeric code kept all the court communications secret. In 1890, a French military cryptoanalyst named Etienne Bazeries decided to try his hand at The Great Cipher. There were about 600 different numbers used in cipher messages, so the numbers couldn’t match up to letters of the alphabet. On the other hand, Bazeries realized, there are 676 ways of pairing up letters of the alphabet. The Great Cipher must use numbers as substitutes for pairs of letters — with a few for more common words, and a few left out because certain letters are never paired up. By making guesses at frequently-used pairs of letters, he got a few words, then used those deciphered numbers to guess at yet more words, and find more numbers. Eventually, the code was cracked.

Bazeries began working his way through correspondence from Louis XIV to his minister of war and found a letter about a certain Vivien de Bulonde. Bulonde was a military man, and was put in charge of an attack on the Italian border. As soon as he heard Austrian troops might be closing in on his position, he turned tail and ran, leaving his own wounded soldiers behind. Louis ordered the minister to put him in the prison at Savoy, but allowed that he would be “permitted to walk the battlements during the day with a mask.”

So Louix XIV secret twin was actually just a cowardly officer. Reality might be more accurate than fiction, but it’s far less juicy.

[Via The Code Book]