Modern practice in cartography favors the plan view—the landscape seen as if from an infinite height—but earlier mapmakers were more flexible about perspective. In this map of the Portuguese colony of Macao, drawn in 1646 by Pedro Barreto de Resende, an oblique view conveys information about both the horizontal layout of the town and the vertical scale of the terrain. This technique of land portraiture was known at the time as chorography. The view of Macao is one of about 90 maps reproduced in Mapping the World: Stories of Geography, by Caroline and Martine Laffon (Firefly Books, $39.95). The Laffons emphasize that maps bring us more than the geographic coordinates of a place; they tell us stories about the landscape. For example, in the Barreto map of Macao, the most conspicuous features are fortifications, churches and houses built by the Portuguese. “As for the local population,” the Laffons write, “as on many colonial maps, they seem to be overshadowed by the new ruling class.”—Brian Hayes
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Happy Birthday to Alvin! August 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Alvin, the submersible that has been so influential in ocean research, including the discovery of hydrothermal vents. In 2014, a retrofitted Alvin also took its first test cruise.
Heather Olins, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, studies microbial ecology at deep sea hydrothermal vents with the help of Alvin, and shares her personal tribute to the submersible on these landmark occasions.
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