Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A spectacular animation showing the movement of Western culture over the past 2000 years

by Salman Hameed

Posts have been light this summer and will continue to do so for another week (just in time for the beginning of classes!). In the mean time, I ran across this fantastic animation that maps the births and deaths of culturally significant figures. A blue dot signals a birth and the red light signals a death. From NPR:
To make these movies, art historian Maximilian Schich and his colleagues mapped the births and deaths of more than 150,000 notable artists and cultural leaders, such as famous painters, actors, architects, politicians, priests and even antiquarians (people who collect antiques).

This is quite amazing and we can clearly see the changes in cultural and intellectual centers over time. You can also see Cordoba starting to light up from 10th century onwards. The same groups also plans on extending this to non-western societies as well and it will be fascinating to the see a global picture. Here is a 5-minute video that shows more details (sometimes with names) and includes the US as well. If you have five-minutes (and yes you do!), then take a look at it as it is quite stunning:

You can find out more about the project here.

Looking at immigration histories, I'm quite surprised by their finding that people still do not move that much:
And the model isn't just fun to look at. The data also reveal trends and patterns in human migration over the past two millennia. 
"From a very small percentage of the population ... we get out these general laws of migration that were defined in the late 19th century," Schich says. 
One law was unexpected: People don't like to move too far from home, even in the 21st century. Despite the invention of trains, planes and cars, artists nowadays don't venture much farther from their birthplaces then they did in the 14th century. The average distance between birthplace and where a person dies hasn't even doubled in 400 years, the team found. (It's gone from 133 miles to 237 miles.)
Or may be it is the famous people who don't like to move! But I think 133 miles is quite a bit. I think for most of human history, people probably would have stayed within a few miles of their birth. And while we are on the topic of immigration, here is another fascinating interactive graphic that uses UN census data from 150 countries to show immigration routes. For example, you can check out what and where is the movement of people to and from Pakistan or Iran or Egypt, amongst other the other 150 countries. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

US Muslims and Atheists together again in a recent Pew poll

by Salman Hameed

A few months ago I had pointed out that Muslims and atheists in the US may have a lot more in common than they think. For example, according to a Gallup poll, Americans are least likely to vote a Muslim or an atheist for President (well, except for the secret Muslim and the secret atheist President Obama). Then a Pew survey found that most Christians in the US will be unhappy if a family member married an atheist. They ask about Muslims, but I'm sure the unhappiness would be at a similar level.

Now a new Pew poll uses a thermometer scale (really!?) to gauge how people of different faiths in the US feel about each other. The scale is from 0 to 100, with zero the coldest and 100 the warmest. Well, it seems that on average Americans are the coolest towards atheists and Muslims at 41 and 40, respectively, and warmest towards Catholics, Evangelicals and Jews:

But this includes people's feelings about their own religious group as well. And surprise, surprise. People feel warmly about their own kind. So here is how the various religious groups rate each other:

Geez - White Evangelical Christians have to lighten up a bit about Muslims and atheists! Too bad, it doesn't include Muslims in the sample, but there is some reciprocity from atheists on their dislike of Evangelicals. This is the same dynamic that was apparent in an earlier Pew poll as well. But there is some hope as well. Younger Americans are warmer towards atheists and Muslims and that may be a result of growing diversity in the US:

The outlook is different when we look at this through political affiliations. Republicans are much cooler towards both atheists and Muslims, but Democrats are the coldest towards Mormons (and then atheists and Muslims). I think the scale is going to get even more extreme if it is for the viewers of Fox News versus the viewers of MSNBC. Nevertheless, here is the 'feeling' scale divided but the two political parties:
You can read the full report here (pdf). 

Friday, August 01, 2014

Getting closer...the Abdus Salam Documentary

by Salman Hameed

A behind the scenes photograph from the making of the Salam documentary

I have posted periodic updates on the production of the documentary film about Dr. Abdus Salam, led by Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver (see pictures from the shooting here). It is a fantastic project and a true labor of love for these passionate guys. In today's Dawn, both Omar and Zakir talk about Dr. Abdus Salam and also the process of making the documentary. You can watch this 7-minute clip here:

The life and strife of Pakistan's only Nobel... by dawn-news

And in case you haven't seen this before, here is the teaser for the film (and yes, you can still contribute to the making of the film at Kailoola pictures):

The creation of Muslim terrorists by FBI in "The Newburgh Sting"

by Salman Hameed

If you have a chance, check out a new documentary on HBO, The Newburgh Sting. It is sad and tragic. Here you have an FBI undercover agent recruiting 3 African Americans and one Haitian immigrant - all from a poor upstate New York town of Newburgh - into a terrorist plot. The FBI agent is sleazy and drives around in a Mercedes or in his one of two BMWs. Oh - and this undercover agent happens to a Pakistani (oh why oh why??) who was convicted on some petty crime. The problem is that the people at the local mosque immediately saw through his sleaziness and did not want to engage with him. But he managed to lure four other people - unrelated to the mosque - for a plan that he (and the FBI) concocted in exchange for $250,000! Furthermore, it is the FBI agent (and the FBI) that comes up with plan and the means to acquire weapons and bombs to carry out with the plan. The four suspects on their own could not have managed anything! So the FBI created the terrorists and then caught them, thus justifying the very existence of the FBI. Whoaa!?

But this is not it. The sleaziest part of the FBI sting is that it is the FBI agent (and the FBI) that insisted on picking the Jewish cultural center in NYC as its main target. This provided the perfect headlines, and one of the suspects provided the requisite anti-semitic remarks. And the media, of course, went nuts over the case. It was too tempting. Here are Muslim terrorists, who met at the local mosque, trying to blow up a Jewish cultural center. One slight problem: They never met at the mosque, were not practicing Muslims, and the plan was hatched by the FBI. Furthermore, the FBI agent made sure that they go out of state (to Connecticut) to obtain "weapons", so this can be turned into a federal case for the use of FBI. Oh - and it is the FBI agent who insists that the hired guns have to be Muslims. This all sounds like bad fiction. Unfortunately, this is a documentary that features much of FBI's own footage.

Here is the trailer:

Here is the full movie: Sorry it got pulled down. You will have to watch it on HBO or some other service.

And for a recent fictional take on Muslims and anti-terror agencies in Germany in A Most Wanted Man, based on John le Carre's novel. It is one of the last films of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and once again, he gives an amazing performance. Here is the trailer:

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