40 Crazy Facts About the World, in Maps

If you love maps and data, you should click on over to TwistedSifter.com, which has rounded up 40 maps to give you perspective on the world. See the global distribution of McDonald’s and the rainbow of Antarctica’s time zones. You can marvel at America’s rivers and many researchers, share the love of coffee and beer and sigh at our resistance to the metric system and paid maternity leave. One of the more surprising maps shows the busiest air travel routes of 2012, with the busiest flight path between Seoul and the island of Jeju, the “Hawaii of Korea.” There are no U.S. or European cities on the list, but if you’ve seen enough maps, you’ll have enough perspective to see we’re just a small part of this big globe.

See all 40 maps here>>

Plant a tree, help fight climate change

We live in a “Golden Age” of travel. Never before in history have so many people traveled so widely, easily, quickly or cheaply. But this convenience comes with a hidden price. All those vehicles that take us there – the planes and cars – play a significant role in the gradual warming of our planet. In honor of Earth Day, the Conservation Fund is offering a way for you to help.

Check out the Conservation Fund’s new video for a campaign called “Go Zero.” The project seeks to raise awareness of the amount of carbon each of us produces from activities like travel, offering a chance to offset our carbon emissions. The group is trying to get 10,000 new trees planted before the end of this year’s Earth Day. It couldn’t be more simple to help – just click the button “plant a tree” on the embedded video above if you’d like to donate. If you want to learn more, make sure to stop by Conservation Fund’s website and try out the Carbon Calculator to see what you can do to fight climate change.

Our lives have all been immeasurably enriched by travel – let’s make sure future generations have a chance to enjoy the same opportunities.

Round the World in 80 Sounds: What’s World Music?

What is World Music? How has such a bland, vague term come to describe the rich and divergent music of thousands of cultures, from sub-Saharan Gnawa to Colombian Cumbia and Tuvan Throat Singing? For too long, it’s been the descriptor anywhere we buy or hear international music, from record stores to digital outlets like iTunes, relegating hundreds of diverse artists to a single heap because of their “otherness.” In fact, World Music is a Western term describing music outside the traditional “pop music canon:” the familiar American and European bands that long-dominated our radios and laptops. But World Music is on its way out: a hunger for the varied sounds from around the globe is rising to take its place.

The term “World Music” is a relatively recent phenomenon. Coined by a musicologist by the name of Robert E. Brown in the 1960’s, it was created to describe styles of ethnic or folk music found in more remote corners of the globe. World Music actually worked OK for much of the last 50 years, as long as the Western World remained the center of economic, political and cultural force. In the 20th Century, the West dominated the global airwaves, with icons like Michael Jackson and The Beatles winning hearts and record players from Bogota to Beijing. But by the end of the 90’s, it was clear the term was increasingly irrelevant.

As we push into the 21st Century, the Western dominance of the global music scene has waned. A new global musical consciousness springs up in its place, driven by the power of a global economy and music distribution systems where digital files and streaming videos are the norm. The hot sounds of 2010 don’t just come from New York and London – instead, rhythms ricochet across the globe, from Angola to Argentina and to Angkor Wat, finding eager listeners and receptive audiences in the farthest corners of our planet. It’s not just that music lovers are just discovering new global favorites, it’s also having a profound impact on what we listen to at home. The DNA of this global music phenomenon has worked its way into the music of our favorite singers and bands, from M.I.A. to Shakira to Vampire Weekend.

The global phenomenon of music is also tied to travel. Wherever we go, music permeates our consciousness, buzzing from tinny taxi radios, echoing off the chambers of metro tunnels and pumping from giant speakers. But alluring as it may be, discovering global music can also be confusing and intimidating. There are enough countries, artists and weird musical genres to make your head spin. What’s a traveling music-lover to do?

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Gadling called “Round the World in 80 Sounds.” The phenomena of global travel and music are inextricably intertwined. Each Thursday over the course of the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking a look at some of the world’s most fascinating music personalities, emerging musical trends and musically inclined destinations. We’ll introduce you to new styles of music you haven’t heard, and help you to take a fresh look at some of your old favorites with a global eye. What qualifies as World Music in 2010? Everything and nothing, it seems, all at once. Prepare to take a journey into the fascinating world of music today as we head Round the World in 80 Sounds.

Curious about the sounds of the world? Read future Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.

The world prepares for doomsday

As we work on trying to save our planet, it is disturbing to realize that we are also preparing for the ultimate global catastrophe.

A “doomsday vault” — which is a bombproof shelter dug into a mountain on a Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean — has been built to store 2.25 billion seeds of important agricultural crops in the world, so that in the face of a global calamity, the world will be able to restart the growth of food.

The vault has already received an initial shipment of 100 million seeds from 268,000 varieties of wheat, barley, lentils and other crops. The $9-million, highly protected vault will keep the seeds cool as well as safe from potential flooding caused from foreseen ice-cap melting, for the next 200 years. More than 100 countries have supported its construction, although its ownership rights are with Norway.

So, in event of political instability, nuclear warfare, an epidemic, or large-scale natural disasters, we need not worry my friends, we and our children, and their children, will have food to survive.

We frequently hear that the world is in peril for many reasons and global leaders are putting their heads together to save the planet. Building such a vault is a smart and practical move but it also underscores the harsh reality that, no matter what we try to do, the world’s destruction is imminent, sooner or later.

Happy Wednesday.

The English Project 2012

As part of the London Olympics cultural program, the plan is to build a museum tracing the roots of the English language.

In conjunction with BBC and the British Library, the museum will allow visitors to experience physically and virtually (holograms!) the global evolution of the language from when it was a mixed tongue of the Jute, Angle and Saxon tribes, to how it stands today as spoken by 2 billion people around the world.

Although being organized by and in the UK, I’m assuming that it will take into context English spoken as a first language in the US, South Africa and Australia.

I’d be particularly interested to see how the future of English is predicted. Language experts say that because of its global reach, new varieties are emerging and there is a possibility that English will evolve into a family of new languages — like what happened to Latin a thousand years ago.

The idea is not unique and just when I was wondering how is it that this hasn’t been thought of before, I find that it has — but for other languages, not purely for English, and on a much smaller scale.

There’s the Museum of the Portuguese Language in Brazil, the Afrikaans Language Museum in South Africa, and the National Museum of Language in the US that talks generally about world languages.

The English Project sounds like a monster project; one that would involve an extensive amount of research and careful articulation to represent a language that is so boundless today.