[FPSPACE] two semi-O/T - from Menzies to galaxies

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk@uwc.ac.za
Tue, 13 Jan 2004 16:06:35 +0200

    Both these are semi-off-topic, but they both involve exploration, &
neither involves predictable ideological ranting.

       FPSPACE, being realistic, is more concerned with LEO than
extra-galactic travel. But let me mention that the South African
Government is hosting big conferences (complete with pitches on the TV
news) to lobby hard for South Africa to be the site for the SKA - Square
Kilometer Array - of radio-telescopes catching big, fat photons from the
other side of the universe, or branes, or multiverses. This is costed at
$1 billion to be paid by foreign academic partners, while SA industry
would tender for the mechanical & electronic stuff. The Govt. has even
put up a SKA website (!) & is offering three alternative sites in our
semi-desert which are free of mobile phones etc.

    On Zheng Re, if I get the latest orthography right. Beyond
reasonable doubt;

1. he did travel to Malindi (Kenya) as well as Mecca.
2. The Chinese did draw 3 world maps, dated from 1380, 1407 and 1420
respectively, which include the African coast recognisable up to the
Gabon / Cameroon coast; a very stylised Europe of varying accuracy, &
Asia up to Japan.
3. Archaeologists find huge quantities of Chinese broken porcelain on
the coasts of Tanzania & Mozambique (I use today's names).


1. When the Portuguese imperialists started conquering that coast at
the end of the 15th century they found no chinese there, only thouands
upon thousands of Indian  traders & ships, & a smaller number of Arab
traders. Chinese goods were then, as today, often transported & sold by

2.    Fullsize fascimile reproductions of these 3 world maps, very high
quality, hang in the South Afican Parliament. But there is utterly no
trace on any of them of North America, South America, Australia, nor
Antarctica.  Further, the map correctly calls itself "Amalgamated Map of
the World". It does not pretend that Chinese visited all the places
shown on the Arab & Persian maps they bought and consolidated.

  For example, no Chinese ship sailed through the Mediterranean before
the 20th century. But the map clearly shows all coasts of Europe then
ruled by Arabs, such as Portugal, Spain, Malta, Sicily, while being
hilariously inaccurate about the Po valley, Scandinavia & the UK.

3. All place names in Africa are Chinese transliterations of Arabic
names, such as "Misr" for Egypt. The only exception is that the
"Mountains of the Moon" are a Chinese transliteration from Persian. 

4. Note that 2 of the 3 world maps PRE-DATE Zheng Re's expeditions. So
we are still tearing our hair out with frustration to know: who was the
Arab, Indian or Chinese captains who one hundred years before the
Portuguese (and after that once-off hired Egypto-Phoenecian trip) sailed
around the tip of Africa? & apparently up as far north as Gabon?

5. Of the 3 Chinese 14-15th C. world maps, only one draws in Siberian
rivers flowing northwards. The others are uninformative about Asia north
of the Himalayas. Not surprisingly, the one Chinese 15th C. map with a
knowledge of Siberian rivers is in not Chinese, but medieval Manchu.

   So while all this falls far short of Menzies' wild claims, it is
still jolly interesting, & brings to a huge audience stuff before only
known to Africanists & other specialists.

    Now, good luck with Mars lander no.2!

      By the way, when is the ESAS Mars Express switching on its radar
that has a wavelength we are told that can penetrate up to 4kms
underground to detect water or ice?