America’s Most Well-Read Cities According To Amazon.com

Patience Sarah, Isabel Miller Author-cropHow likely are you to pick up a book on the subway, in line at the bank or before you head to bed? If you live in Seattle, Portland, or Washington, D.C., the answer may be “very likely.” Those were the top-three cities on a list of America’s Most Well-Read released this week by bookselling giant Amazon.com.

The annual list looks at cities with more than 500,000 residents and ranks them based on their per-capita purchases of books, magazines, and newspapers, both in print and in Kindle format.

These cities made the top ten:

1. Seattle
2. Portland
3. Washington, D.C.
4. San Francisco
5. Austin
6. Las Vegas
7. Tucson
8. Denver
9. Albuquerque
10. San Diego

It’s the second year in a row that Seattle has topped the list, but California reigned supreme in bookish states with three most well-read cities on the 20-city list … (read more –>  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ )

New Museums in 2016 – National Blues Museum

National Blues Museum (St. Louis, Missouri)
Open April 2, 2016Museum, Blues, Smithsonian

Celebrate the origin of nearly every modern form of popular music with a visit to the new National Blues Museum. The finished museum will have 15,000 square feet of exhibit, theater, and classroom space devoted to all things blues and will develop and show traveling exhibits, too. Want a preview? The museum’s radio station is already live, sharing updates and songs from a roster of well known and under-the-radar blues musicians.

Even with all that exhibit space, artifacts aren’t the focus of the new museum. Instead, technology-driven interactive features are designed to tell the story of the genre, following it from its Delta roots and tracing its many influences on modern music.

courtesy of:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/

Five Lost Native American Languages Rediscovered in Massachusetts

Native Amer Fish Knife, Smithsonian
A club from Massachusetts in the shape of a fish, probably Atlantic sturgeon, dates to about 1750. The area was previously thought to have only one language at the time of European contact, but new research reveals there were five Native American languages were spoken in the Connecticut Valley of central Massachusetts. (National Museum of the American Indian, catalog 202196).

American history has just been slightly rewritten. Previously, experts had believed that the Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou,” literally meaning “wolf”). But new research shows that they spoke at least five different languages.

“It’s like some European families where you can have three different languages at the dinner table,” says Ives Goddard, curator emeritus and senior linguist in the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History. “There was probably a lot of bilingualism. A question that is raised by there being so many languages is ‘how did that work?’ How did they manage to maintain five different languages in such a small area?”

The lost languages were re-discovered by taking another look at several manuscripts written by French missionaries who were also working as linguists in the late 1700’s. While working on her master’s thesis at the University of Manitoba, Holly Gustafson compiled a list of verb forms found in one of the manuscripts. Goddard noticed some contradictions in the compilation.

“In the course of doing this [Gustafson] sometimes says there’s this set of forms that is this way and another set of forms another way,” says Goddard. The fact that there were three different words recorded for beaver was also suspicious. “And I looked at this and thought there is too much difference. That made me think that there was more than one language involved,” he says … read more –>  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/

Unknown Nuns Mapping Little Known Stars

Nuns Mapping Stars, Smithsonian

Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri mapped the positions and brightness of 481,215 stars. (On Being (Flickr))

The history of astronomy is riddled with underappreciated women who looked to the stars long before their scientific contributions were recognized. But the constellation of early women astronomers is glowing brighter, writes Carol Glatz for Catholic News Service, with the recognition of four once nameless nuns who helped map and catalog half a million stars in the early 20th century.

Glatz reports that the nuns, Sisters Emilia Ponzoni, Regina Colombo, Concetta Finardi and Luigia Panceri, were recruited by the Vatican to measure and map stars from plate-glass photographs. They cataloged the brightness and locations of a whopping 481,215 stars during their years of diligent work. Photos of the nuns had appeared in books about the history of astronomy, but the identity of the women was not known—and their accomplishments not recognized—until now.

Their years of labor were finally acknowledged when Father Sabino Maffeo, a Jesuit priest who works at the Vatican Observatory, found their names while organizing papers for the archives. Today, the project to which the nuns contributed is as obscure as the nuns themselves, but at the time it was one of the largest scientific undertakings in history.

In April 1887, 56 scientists from 19 countries met in Paris to embrace a new discipline: astrophotography. Their plan was a bold one—use 22,000 photographic plates to map the entire sky. The work was split up among institutions across Europe and the United States, including the Vatican Observatory. Each institution was given a particular zone of the sky to map and categorize.

At the time, male astronomers often relied on women to serve as their “computers.” The men would direct the project, but behind the scenes, women did the labor-intensive processing, cataloging and calculating for low wages. Famously, Harvard Observatory director Edward Charles Pickering hired “Pickering’s Harem,” a group of bright young women, to do HIS share of the star cataloging. Also known as “the Harvard Computers,” these women, formidable astronomical minds in their own right, were only recently acknowledged for their contribution to science.

And what a contribution— the project resulted in the Astrographic Catalogue, a 254-volume catalog of 4.6 million stars. The star atlas called the Carte du Ciel was only halfway finished by the time astronomers stopped working on it in 1962. Though the atlas project was destined to fail, the catalog became the basis of a system of star references that is still used today.

Though the women didn’t end up counting all of the stars, perhaps one day history will do a better job of counting the women whose diligent work helped map out the starry skies.

Courtesy of:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/

Happy Bear Awareness Week!

Bear Chart, FB

Bear Awareness Week is the 3rd Week in May … There are eight species ranging from the largest, the impressive polar bear, to the smallest, the lovable sun bear. Sadly, only two bear species are stable. Almost all are vulnerable and the iconic panda remains endangered.