Wednesday, April 22, 2020

After 4.54 Billion Earth Years, 50 Earth Days

Earth Day was first celebrated fifty years ago on April 22, 1970. Founded by former US Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, Earth Day is now coordinated by Earth Day Network, with extensive programming and events around the world. In 2009, the United Nations also declared April 22 to be International Mother Earth Day, an observance that "recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity." Look magazine first published the ecology flag shown above on April 21, 1970. The theta symbol on the flag represents the conjoining of "e" for environment and "o" for organism. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Happy 100th, Ravi Shankar!

Ravi Shankar [1920-2012] was born 100 years ago, on April 7th. His daughter, Anoushka, who is a master musician and composer in her own right, arranged Ravi's composition, Sandhya Raga, which was performed by a group of his former students as a birthday tribute. Anoushka has been organizing a series of Centenary concerts that unfortunately have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, enjoy the present sampling of great Indian classical music from Ravi's extensive catalogue!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Census Day: Be Counted

No, it's not an April Fools' Day joke . . . it's mandated in the U.S. Constitution. The 2020 decennial questionnaire only takes a few minutes to complete online. The long, fascinating history of the U.S. Census is also documented online. Although there are now multiple ways by which to submit census information, the first printed forms were introduced for the 1830 Census

From 1790 to 1820, the U.S. Marshals conducting the census only received instructions about what to ask. Each marshal supplied his own paper and used whatever method he chose to divide the paper into the columns needed to collect the required information. The method for recording the data was not standardized until 1830 when marshals received uniform printed schedules.

Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution spells out how the enumeration and political apportionment will operate on the body politic . . . hence the categories for free white persons, slaves, and free colored persons on the 1830 forms shown above and to the right (larger versions): 

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. 

The 14th Amendment, passed by Congress just after the Civil War, changed this equation substantially. 

Historical census records are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration rather than the Census Bureau itself. Exemplars of past decennial questionnaires (also called schedules or simply forms) can be viewed here.