Thursday, December 06, 2007

Strange Maps: The geography of blondness

Strange Maps also provided us webcrawlers recently with a link to a site, Eupedia, which includes a series of maps meant to orient the reader to some interesting features of European society. They are not all of the same quality. The map of "traditional religious majorities by region in Europe" really offends my sense of reality (see Kaliningrad). But it's still good fun.

The map above, called "The Percentage of Light Hair in Europe" is particularly neat, though I have no idea whether it has any validity. My vast background in human genetics (I have human genes, and they go back a long way!) allows me to say that this map suggests a shocking fact: a freak mutation that occurred on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia has produced a weird looking bunch of people who have managed to convince much of the rest of humanity to bleach their hair to "fit in."

Madonna may be the current leader of this propaganda effort.

Full disclosure: In some countries I would be called blond, and my hair is lighter than most.

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Strange Maps: The ancient geography of Germany



I've mentioned the unique and delightful blog Strange Maps here before; it continues to be excellent. A few days ago it ran this 19th-century reconstruction of the 1st century map of Germania (roughly modern Germany) created by the 1st century Graeco-Egyptian geographer and astronomer. Ptolemy is one of the most important scientists who ever lived. A great many of his analyses and ideas were wrong -- look up "epicycles" -- but he was a careful scholar and people were able to build better because of the foundations he laid down.

Think of this post as an homage to all who make useful mistakes.

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