certainly not “95% unexplored”
October 20, 2014 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Political geographer Phil Steinberg reacts to marine ecologist Jon Copley's piece on the new gravity model of the ocean floor from David Sandwell and others at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. "Instead of understanding the ocean as something to see through as one seeks to map the seabed, water is reframed as something to see with. Volume, rather than being understood as a barrier to vision, becomes a means for achieving that vision." Copley asks: "Philosophically, when it comes to exploring anywhere on our dynamic world, how and when do we decide that somewhere has 'been explored'?" (via)
posted by spamandkimchi (9 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
what are NTI bases?
posted by rebent at 11:55 AM on October 20, 2014

It's been explored when someone plants a flag in it.
posted by Renoroc at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It looks like my belly when I wake up in the morning (I'm a stomach sleeper).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:22 PM on October 20, 2014


who cares about alleged aliens? It's that invisible island the dolphins have that intrigues me
posted by philip-random at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2014

I'm honestly not convinced that Steinberg guy has any idea what he's talking about -- he's just digging for buzzwords that he can use as metaphors. The new high-resolution ocean-floor model is cool, though.
posted by irrelephant at 1:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been explored when someone plants a flag in it.

Like this?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:14 PM on October 20, 2014

Sandwell and company have accomplished a remarkable compilation of data.

But I don't get all the "woo" Steinberg attaches to it.
He says: "Sandwell’s technique requires that we perceive water not as an undifferentiated mass of space but rather as an assemblage of energised molecules'' among other stuff.

These techniques aren't anything new. They are based on well-understood principles from the 17th century. Even the Mt. Everest surveyors in the 1920s realized they had to compensate for the deflection of their plumb bobs due to the mass of the surrounding mountains.

Geologists have been making the same sorts of measurements and maps of sub-surface features using gravitational variations since at least the 1960s. What Sandwell has done is to increase the resolution of previous decades of measurements. It's nothing new or particularly mysterious.
posted by JackFlash at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, if you are unfortunate enough to have been taught physics by mathematician Michael Spivak, maybe the mystery "woo" is understandable since he teaches that gravitational force everywhere on earth is "exactly the same."
posted by JackFlash at 2:49 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Steinberg has some neat things to say, but... is this not the academic equivalent of the Buzzfeed article about the reasons to stay in New York? I read one of his papers linked in the post referenced above, and it's a doozy. It's pages and pages of text that (I think) is asking his audience to think of the global ocean in terms of its inherent mobility, rather than merely a vehicle for human movement. OK, I hear you, these are discussions worth having. But can I ask for a little bit of brevity, or at least frugality with the language used to have discussions like this? Because at some point the focus of the work becomes a sort of challenge to the reader to translate the text into sensibility.

Please, academics, don't force your reader to also serve as your editor with lines like:

"Of course, one can debate whether this is a desirable goal: If the static, two-dimensional visual representation of a map obscures more than it reveals – especially in a dynamic space of depth like the ocean – then should we be using the ocean’s voluminous liquidity to produce a ‘better map’ or should we be using it to rethink what it means to think of space as static?"

Which (again, I think) is aiming to say:

'New maps are engaging objects, but it's worth wondering if their novelty is masking a greater flaw by perpetuating the idea of maps as records of unchanging, immobile structures."

As gung ho as I am about conversations along those lines, I think we're defined by our times and our time is one that needs seriously better maps of the seafloor and the navigable space above it. Because whatever the definition or parameters of "explored" are, they still aren't calibrated well enough to keep major accidents from happening.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:34 PM on October 20, 2014

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