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9 posts tagged with africa by filthy light thief.
Displaying 1 through 9 of 9.

This spider rollin', they hatin', and tryin' to catch it to host larvae

The (Golden) Wheel spider is a huntsman spider native to the Namib Desert of Southern Africa. Like most other huntsman spiders, Wheel spiders don't spin webs, but build burrows in the sand that are reinforced by their silk, in an attempt to hide from their primary predators, the parasitic Pompilid or Spider Wasp. Enter the gymnastic abilities (and source of the name) for the Wheel spider, where the spider will curl up and roll down slope up to 1 meter per second to escape. But Wheel spider isn't the only huntsman to utilize a unique method to flee down hill. There's also the Moroccan flic-flac spider, named for the flic-flac motion of some gymnastic maneuvers (German video; turn on captions and translation for some assistance; description in English). The movement of this spider have inspired some robot designs (more information). And there are other "wheeling" insects, because it's faster to roll than run downhill. If the documentary footage of the Golden Wheel spider is all too serious, here are some clips of the Wheel spider set to music: let the good times roll, and this spider rollin' they hatin'.
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 21, 2014 - 12 comments

The stilt village of Ganvié, the Venice of Africa

Lake Nokoué is a rather large lake (20 km/~12.5 mi wide, 11 km/~6.8 mi long) in the southern part of the West African nation of Benin. In the northern portion of the lake, there is what looks like a large flooded town (Google maps). This is Ganvié, which was established in the 16th or 17th century as a means to escape the Fon people, who were at that time were involved in the slave trade. Because the Dan-homey or Dahomey religion forbade the Fon warriors from entering water, the lagoon was a safe territory. Ganvié has a population of around 20,000 people, largely living in stilt houses, making it likely to be the largest lake village in Africa. For a view of the village, Kuriositas has collected a number of great photos of "the Venice of Africa."
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 7, 2014 - 23 comments

A look back at the funky, psychedelic, soulful 70s in Nigeria

According to the Daptone Gold compilation liner notes (auto-playing music, click on "Biography"to read the notes), written by Pitchfork contributor Douglas Wolk, "the world capital of soul" has moved from the US ("between Memphis and Detroit, with occasional stopovers in New Orleans, Cincinnati and elsewhere") in the 1960, to Lagos in the 1970s, then it went into hiding, finally reappearing in Brooklyn, with Daptone Records. Let's go back - why Lagos in the 1970s? [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 18, 2014 - 10 comments

A cartographic history of why North, not East or South, is up

How the north ended up on top of the map is an article by Nick Danforth, author/curator of (The/Mid) Afternoon Map blog, detailing how the north-up orientation came to be the default orientation, looking beyond Eurocentrism to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews who set the path for modern cartography. If you want more information, you might enjoy the Wikipedia article on the history of cartography, or you can really dig deep with the three-volume text, The History of Cartography, which is available in full from the University of Chicago Press online, split into individual PDFs for each chapter. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 18, 2014 - 28 comments

Early copper coins from an African trading empire found in Australia

The history of people finding Australia goes a little something like this: Aboriginal Australians separated from a migration out of Africa into Asia about 70,000 years, and Australian archaeological sites have proof of humans going back 50,000 years. Jump ahead to 1606, when there were two European voyages that made landfall and charted portions of Australia. First was Willem Janszoon's voyage in late February or early March of that year, and then Luís Vaz de Torres came a few months later. Abel Jansen Tasman was the first European to come across Tasmania, and between 1642 and 1646, his crew charted the Australian coast, more or less (Google auto-translation, original page). Then of course, there was James Cook's 1770 voyage. With all these dates in mind, how did five copper coins from an African sultanate that collapsed in the early 1500s (Google books) end up on an uninhabited island in the Northern Territory of present-day Australia? [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on May 28, 2013 - 84 comments

A possible souce for the "fairy circles" in Africa

In temperate climates, "fairy rings" appear in grassy meadows and lawns, and these are caused by fungi, with some rings expanding for hundreds of years. But in the western part of Southern Africa, there are a different sort of "fairy circles," barren circles that are surrounded by long-lived perennial grasses. The Himba people, an ethnic group in northern Namibia, attribute them to original ancestor, Mukuru, or consider them "footprints of the gods," and scientists have been stumped for decades. Professor Norbert Jürgens, from the University of Hamburg, might have finally solved the riddle: a species of termites that are most active at night and don't build big, noticeable nests, have engineered the ecosystem by eating the roots of grasses that grow within the circle, keeping the soil moist for long periods of time. The discussion continues, as some scientists who have studied the phenomena aren't so sure about the theory.
posted by filthy light thief on Mar 29, 2013 - 5 comments

Across Africa for Love and Glory

Ewart Scott Grogan was a British-born figure of controversial sorts, the kind of fellow who would either end up buried in Westminster Abbey-or hanging from a yard-arm. After he survived as soldier in the Second Matabele War, he went on to be the first European to traverse the distance of the African continent from the South in Cape Town to Cairo in the North to win the hand of his bride-to-be from a skeptical father. He started the trek with the uncle of his bride-to-be in February 1898. Two years later, Grogan returned to London, a lone hero (the uncle turned back part way through). In 2007, MeFite Julian Smith retraced Grogan's path, "in part to dispel [his] own pre-wedding jitters," and wrote a book about Grogan's journey, and his own. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Dec 14, 2010 - 5 comments

UK Asylum Seekers: Let The Right Ones In

The Home Office, the UK government department responsible for immigration control, has initiated a program to test the DNA from of potential asylum seekers in an attempt to confirm their true nationalities. The initial program is a six-month pilot limited to claimants arriving from the Horn of Africa. The program, currently using forensic samples provided on a voluntary basis, could potentially expand to other nationalities if successful. The Home Office spokeswoman said ancestral DNA testing would not be used alone but would be combined with language analysis, investigative interviewing techniques and other recognized forensic disciplines, but many are decrying the "deeply flawed" program, from refugee support groups to scientists in the genetic forensics fields (via). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Sep 30, 2009 - 55 comments

Today's yards just aren't as exciting.

The Merkel brothers are the grandsons of steam car makers and sons of an African art collector, and each have carried forward the love of collecting and an interest in cars from the previous generations. Henry Merkel is a recognized White expert, who continues to share knowledge of his family's productions and his knowledge of White steam cars has been published. Ben Merkel focused on collecting Checkered Cabs, and has has a love for peaceful rural junkyards. The youngest grandson of Walter White is Tom Merkel, and his love for collecting old cars outstrips his brothers by miles (print view). Somewhere in the Cuyama Valley, just outside of Los Padres National Forest land is his "car garden," which is also where the snowman that once adorned Santa Claus Lane now resides. His other love is 91+ year old cabin, which he indicates is "Santa Barbara's oldest cabin!" and a "Folk Art Magic Museum!" on the signs around the property, but which the Forest Service wants to tear down. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 21, 2009 - 6 comments

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