Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Archive for Announcements

The Dust-Free Blog

Posts seem tidy things when they see the light of day, capped by neat titles, tucked into single columns. But bloggers everywhere share a dirty secret: this sort of writing is a messy business, profligate in its use of words and images, throwing off bits and scraps faster than the butcher’s apprentice. Seventy posts have left me with all sorts of unfinished business: links that never make it to the right hand column, half-written posts that remain unpublished, category listings that do not get updated. So I have done some housecleaning today. Mostly you can see the work on column to the far right. There is a new category of links: Online Archives which have primary source materials on travel and exploration. There are a number of Library of Congress collections here, some travel writings by Isabella Bird, the NOAA archive on 19th century oceanography books, and some visual archives including David Rumsey’s online map collection and the JPL’s NASA image archive. The “Complete List of Posts” has been updated through yesterday and I’ve added some links to my online research and talks on the “About” page.


Saturday’s Big Stories

In the news for Friday and Saturday:

Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang opened the hatch of his Shenzhou 7 and took a brief stroll in orbit Saturday. This makes China only the third country in the world, after the United States and Russia, to have completed a space walk. More to the point, it demonstrates that China is ramping up for some of the heavy lifting required of long-term space projects (e.g. space stations and moon missions) which would require people moving outside of spacecraft for construction and repair projects.

Why are such journeys outside of spacecraft called “space walks”? It’s an interesting choice of words since there is no real walking as far as I can see. “Space crawl,” “space climb” and “space float” would all be more accurate if less pithy.  We must scout out the etymology of the term. It strikes me that NASA and cold-war space enthusiasts would like “walking” because it is far more active, self-directed and dignified verb than floating and crawling. Another question, what are the Russian and Chinese terms for these ex-craft jaunts?

The New York Times Book Review features Bruce Barcott’s write up of Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver’s new book Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes. I’m only a couple chapters in, but Fallen Giants promises a comprehensive, socio-cultural look at high-altitude mountaineering in the last 150 years. Despite the vast heap of books written on the history of mountaineering, this type of project is sorely needed.

Deep Sea News has now made the move to Discovery Blogs.

In other news:

There was a presidential debate.

The world economy is in free-fall.


Darwin, grumpy, and Dawkins...knitting?

Darwin, looking sullen, and Dawkins knitting?

Darwin remains remarkably fit for a man who’s been dead 126 years. The UK’s Channel 4 has been airing Richard Dawkins’ three part series “The Genius of Darwin” since 4 August. See screen clips and other bits at the Channel 4 site. Also make sure to check out The Beagle Blog and the Dispersal of Darwin for updates and reactions.

Also on Darwin: Dale Husband rants at length about the attempt to recreate HMS Beagle, update it for science, and sail it around the world. Like Dale, I am skeptical of historical voyage reenactments, something I’ve written about here. Most reenactments, unfortunately, try to prove points about the past by “recreating” them in the present. However, as I see it, Dale is off-base when it comes to the Beagle Project, an enterprise that does not fall into this category of reenactments.

Why? Because the Beagle Project has other fish to fry. When it sails, the new Beagle will offer 1) a consciousness-raising memorial to the work of Darwin, 2) a modern day platform for science, and 3) an opportunity in experiential education, the benefits of which are accepted by schools and universities throughout the world.

Deep Sea News has a big announcement which they reveal, brilliantly, in their first music video. Congratulations Craig, Peter, and Kevin. I want a t-shirt when you guys go on tour.

Poles Apart Exhibition, University of Delaware, Newark

Poles Apart Exhibition, University of Delaware, Newark

The University of Delaware is showing an exhibition on Arctic photography called “Poles Apart: Photography, Science, and Polar Exploration.” I’ll be giving a lecture there on 24 September. Information on the event is available here.

The History of Science Society Annual Meeting will be held in Pittsburgh this year from 6-9 November. I’ll be chairing a session called “Vertical Geographies of Science” on Sunday 9 November. Michael Reidy will be talking about Brit scientist and mountain lover John Tyndall, Jeremy Vetter will take on issues in Rocky Mountain ccience, Catherine Nisbett will explain the Harvard College Observatory’s Boyden Expeditions, and Brianna Rego will get to the poisonous bottom of arsenic contamination in mines and groundwater. This excellent team will win us, I’m confident, an HSS playoff berth, and, if Reidy is on his game, a trip to the Series.

But, as conference goers know, Sunday morning sessions are rather deadly. One offers one’s precious research to misalligned chairs and crushed plastic wine glasses. (I think I had four people at my last Sunday morning talk. Two of them were from hotel catering and one was waiting to take back the AV.) So if you are at the HSS, drop by and say hello. I’ll save you a seat.


Image by Jacob MacGraw-Mickelson, New York Times

Image by Jacob MacGraw-Mickelson, New York Times

Maurice Isserman, professor of history at Hamilton College, writes an interesting op-ed about K2 in the Sunday New York Times, describing the changing ethos of mountain climbing over the past 50 years. He compares the tragedy on K2 last week, in which everyone was trying to save themselves, to the American attempt on K2 in 1953, when an entire party abandoned their efforts at the summit to save one member who was suffering from potentially lethal blood clots in his leg.

The Scott Polar Research Institute is putting on an exhibition called “Face to Face: Polar Portraits.” The show includes portraits and profiles of over one hundred Polar explorers, including a companion volume edited by Hew Lewis-Jones (who’s talk at the North By Degree conference was first-rate).

The Giant’s Shoulders, a new history of science blog, is organizing a monthly carnival in which people submit posts about classic scientific papers. Hosts for the event change each month. For the latest carnival, head to The Lay Scientist on August 15th.

Polar projection, Willem Barentsz, 1599

Polar projection, Willem Barentsz, 1599

In 2009 International Conference on the History of Cartography will be meeting in Copenhagen to discuss papers on “Cartography of the Far North: Maps, Myths, and Narratives.” 1 October 2008 is the deadline for submissions. See the Call for Papers and other information here: ICHC 2009