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. 


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