Back in January there was something here about geography, specifically listing of a few curiosities in that science that are generally unknown to the average person. Those curious facts came from a book called The Handy Geography Answer Book, one of those you wouldn’t usually read front to back, but is ever-ready with a handful of interesting random pages. We get our word “geography” from two Greek words, geo, meaning ‘earth’ and graph referring to ‘writing.’ In this sense we make of it something like “writing about the Earth.” In days long past, geography was focused on descriptions of faraway places, but the science has come a very long way since those days and modern geography has expanded into a field often hard to define. Matthew Rosenberg, author of The Handy Geography Answer Book writes that among his favorite definitions are these: “the bridge between human and natural sciences,” “the mother of all sciences” and “anything that can be mapped.”
Here are a few more snippets from the engaging collection put together by Rosenberg.
• As children we sometimes pondered digging a hole to China. Were it possible to do so, if you began in North America and dug straight down and through the earth would you end up in China? Noooooo, you would come out on the floor of the Indian Ocean far from any land masses, and probably very far from any islands as well.
• Water is a heavy substance. At room temperature, one gallon of water weighs about eight and one-third pounds.
• Days of the week in English come from either Roman or Norse names for the planets:
Sunday — Sun /Sol
Monday — Moon
Tuesday — Mars / Tui
Wednesday — Mercury / Woden
Thursday — Jupiter / Thor
Friday — Venus / Frygga
Saturday — Saturn
• Dr David Livingston, the famous explorer of Africa died while exploring the area now called Zambia. His body was embalmed with sand and his heart was buried under a nearby tree. The body was then wrapped in cloth and covered with tar as a means of waterproofing. The doctor’s loyal servants carried his body for nine months to the east coast of Africa. It was then put aboard a British ship and transported to Britain. Dr Livingston was finally buried in Westminster Abbey in 1874.
• Tennessee has borders touching eight different states: Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
• The Danube, Europe’s second longest river begins in Germany and either passes through or borders ten countries: Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine.
• The sunbelt, the rustbelt and the Bible belt — Known for its warm temperatures, the sunbelt spreads across the southwestern and southern states, from California to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Florida. The rustbelt, running from Massachusetts to Minnesota describes that portion of the northeast and midwest that saw a big decline in the manufacture of steel and textiles, resulting in massive unemployment and a decline in population. The Bible belt is that region of the midwest and south reaching from Oklahoma to the Carolinas noted for its high proportion of fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
• The first major city in the Western Hemisphere was located just northeast of modern Mexico City. It was the city of Teotihuacan (not to be confused with the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan) which flourished from the first through the seventh centuries. It had a population of about 200,000 people and was graced with a huge Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.
• Begun in the 1930s, the Pan-American Highway is a highway reaching from Fairbanks, Alaska to Buenos Aires, Argentina. A bridge was built over the Panama Canal, but a 100-mile stretch of the highway in eastern Panama remains unfinished.
• Most of the ice in Antarctica is approximately one mile thick. Though covered with ice, Antarctica is the driest continent on the planet. The ice has been there thousands of years and the continent receives less than two inches of precipitation annually. The Sahara Desert gets eight inches of rain a year more than Antarctica.