The Mapparium, a Stained-Glass Globe You Can Stand Inside

No matter how hard they try, most maps have an image problem. They’re flat, while the Earth (spoiler alert) is not, and the difficulty of squashing a spherical shape onto a flat object produces all kinds of distortions. 

The Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston lets you experience the Earth’s geography without as many compromises.  The room includes a three-story, stained glass globe that you can actually walk inside of and, as Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura notes in the video above, the continents are reproduced in perfect relative scale. That means you can get an accurate sense of how big  (or small) Texas really is, compared to, say, Greenland.

Many of the features on the map are not, however, accurately labeled, at least in the way we would recognize them today. The labels on the glass are stuck in 1935, the year the map debuted in the Christian Science Publishing Society building. The building’s architect, Chester Lindsay Churchill, saw the Mapparium (originally called “the Glass Room” or “the Globe Room”) as a symbol for the global outreach of The Christian Science Monitor. The panels were originally designed to be replaceable—Churchill must have known 1935’s political boundaries and national names wouldn’t last forever—but Christian Science officials have seen fit to keep it preserved as a work of art, rather than something that should be constantly edited. 

Today, the room also functions as an example of a whispering gallery—a spherical or circular room with acoustics that allow a person whispering in one corner to be heard in another, even if it’s relatively far away (Grand Central Terminal includes a famous example). The Mapparium’s shape also creates other interesting acoustical features—people speaking in the middle of the room will sound much louder than usual. It’s a fun place to stand while you try to pronounce all the names of places that no longer exist. 

Header image via Smart DestinationsFlickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Original image
The Evolution of "Two" in the Indo-European Language Family
Original image

The Indo-European language family includes most of the languages of Europe as well as many languages in Asia. There is a long research tradition that has shown, though careful historical comparison, that languages spanning a huge linguistic and geographical range, from French to Greek to Russian to Hindi to Persian, are all related to each other and sprung from a common source, Proto-Indo-European. One of the techniques for studying the relationship of the different languages to each other is to look at the similarities between individual words and work out the sound changes that led from one language to the next.

This diagram, submitted to Reddit by user IronChestplate1, shows the word for two in various Indo-European languages. (The “proto” versions, marked with an asterisk, are hypothesized forms, built by working backward from historical evidence.) The languages cluster around certain common features, but the words are all strikingly similar, especially when you consider the words for two in languages outside the Indo-European family: iki (Turkish), èjì (Yoruba), ni (Japanese), kaksi (Finnish), etc. There are many possible forms two could take, but in this particular group of languages it is extremely limited. What are the chances of that happening by accident? Once you see it laid out like this, it doesn’t take much to put *dwóh and *dwóh together.

Original image
Beyond Plumbing: 19 Other Jobs on Mario's Resume
Original image

Nintendo made news this week by subtly announcing that Mario is no longer a plumber. In fact, they're really downplaying his whole plumbing career. On the character's Japanese-language bio, the company says, "He also seems to have worked as a plumber a long time ago."

But Mario has always had plenty of jobs on the side. Here's a look at his resume:


More from mental floss studios