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Place of the Year: Through the years

Next week we launch our annual Place of the Year Contest (POTY), where we reflect back on the world’s hits and misses. Our panel of geography experts are hard at work compiling a list of places that have made an impact felt around the world in 2013. One place will be chosen as the winner. While they compile the most newsworthy locales, we wanted to reflect back on past years’ winners.

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Mars, grubby hands, and international law

By Gérardine Goh Escolar
The relentless heat of the sun waned quickly as it slipped below the horizon. All around, ochre, crimson and scarlet rock glowed, the brief burning embers of a dying day. Clouds of red dust rose from the unseen depths of the dry canyon–Mars? I wish! We were hiking in the Grand Canyon, on vacation in that part of our world so like its red sister. It was 5 August 2012. And what was a space lawyer to do while on vacation in the Grand Canyon that day? Why, attend the Grand Canyon NASA Curiosity event, of course!

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An Oxford Companion to Mars

By Alice Northover
With our announcement of Place of the Year 2012 and NASA’s announcement at the American Geophysical Union on December 3rd, and a week full of posts about Mars, what better way to wrap things up than by pulling together information from across Oxford’s resources to provide some background on the Red planet.

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Written in the stars

By Marilyn Deegan
The new discoveries of the Mars rover Curiosity have greatly excited the world in the last few weeks, and speculation was rife about whether some evidence of life has been found. (In actuality, Curiosity discovered complex chemistry, including organic compounds, in a Martian soil analysis.) Why the excitement?

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The discovery of Mars in literature

By David Seed
Although there had been interest in Mars earlier, towards the end of the nineteenth century there was a sudden surge of novels describing travel to the Red Planet. One of the earliest was Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac (1880) which set the pattern for early Mars fiction by framing its story as a manuscript found in a battered metal container. Greg obviously assumed that his readers would find the story incredible and sets up the discovery of the ‘record’, as he calls it, by a traveler to the USA to distance himself from the extraordinary events within the novel.

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Mars and music

By Kyle Gann
By long tradition, sweet Venus and mystical Neptune are the planets astrologically connected with music. The relevance of Mars, “the bringer of war” as one famous composition has it, would seem to be pretty oblique. Mars in the horoscope has to do with action, ego, how we separate ourselves off from the world; it is “the fighting principle for the Sun,” in the words of famous astrologer Liz Greene.

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Mars: A lexicographer’s perspective

By Richard Holden
The planet Mars might initially seem an odd choice for Place of the Year. It has hardly any atmosphere and is more or less geologically inactive, meaning that it has remained essentially unchanged for millions of years. 2012 isn’t much different from one million BC as far as Mars is concerned. However, here on Earth, 2012 has been a notable year for the Red Planet.

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Mars: A geologist’s perspective

By David Rothery
So Mars is ‘Place of the Year’! It has the biggest volcano in the Solar System — Olympus Mons — amazing dust storms, and the grandest canyon of all — Valles Marineris. Mind you, the surface area of Mars is almost the same as the total area of dry land on Earth, so to declare Mars as a whole to be ‘place of the year’ seems a little vague, given that previous winners (on Earth) have been islands or single countries.

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How we decide Place of the Year

Since its inception in 2007, Oxford University Press’s Place of Year has provided reflections on how geography informs our lives and reflects them back to us. Adam Gopnik recently described geography as a history of places: “the history of terrains and territories, a history where plains and rivers and harbors shape the social place that sits above them or around them.” An Atlas of the World expert committee made up of authors, editors, and geography enthusiasts from around the press has made several different considerations for their choices over the years.

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And the Place of the Year 2012 is……

It’s a city! It’s a state! It’s a country! No — it’s a planet! Breaking with tradition, Oxford University Press has selected Mars as the Place of the Year 2012. Mars, visible to the naked eye, has fascinated and intrigued for centuries but only in the past 50 years has space exploration allowed scientists to better understand the Red Planet. On 6 August 2012, NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed on Mars’ Gale Crater; by transmitting its findings back to Earth, Curiosity has made Mars a little a less alien.

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Place of the Year 2012: Then and now

Oxford University Press hopes you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Following a weekend of food comas and couch potato-ing, here’s a slideshow celebrating the Place of the Year (POTY) shortlist nominees that hopefully will perk you up this morning. See how our ten finalists have changed over the years. We’re excited to announce the location that will join Yemen, South Africa, Warming Island, Kosovo and Sudan as a Place of the Year winner on December 3rd! Stay tuned!

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Place of the Year 2012 in pictures

Fresh off the heels of an exciting “Word of the Year” week, OUP geographers are still debating what should be recognized as the Place of the Year 2012. This slideshow highlights the POTY shortlist, full of contenders that may have to duel this out.  Unless….if you make your vote below, we’ll be able to select the place that has inspired the majority of readers this year, sparing the planet World War POTY.

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Announcing the Place of the Year 2012 Shortlist: Vote!

Happy Geography Awareness Week! At Oxford University Press, we’re celebrating by highlighting the interesting, inspiring and/or contentious places of 2012. The longlist, launched last month, took us from Iran to Cambridge, NY, the home of pie à la mode. We explored 29 places on Earth, but we couldn’t resist an extraterrestrial trip to Mars. Thanks to your votes in the most tightly watched election this year, we narrowed down the nominees to a shortlist.

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Place of the Year 2012: A Q&A with Joshua Hagen

As we continue to prepare for Place of the Year 2012, we’ve invited Joshua Hagen, Professor of Geography at Marshall University and co-author of Borders: A Very Short Introduction, to share his thoughts on the relationship between geography and current events. Here’s what he has to say….

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Place of the Year: A look back at past winners

Earlier this month, we launched Oxford University Press’ annual Place of the Year competition. For many, geography is just the next vacation, but understanding geography gives much more than fodder for travel fantasies. Geography provides insight into the forces driving people, events, societies, and technology — both past and present. With help from The Atlas of the World, 19th edition, here’s a look at past winning hotspots driving human history.

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Place of the Year 2012: Behind the longlist

Last week, we launched Place of the Year 2012 (POTY), a celebration of the year in geographical terms. As Harm de Blij writes in Why Geography Matters: More than Ever, “In our globalizing, ever more inter-connected, still-overpopulated, increasingly competitive, and dangerous world, knowledge is power. The more we know about our planet and its fragile natural environments, about other peoples and cultures, political systems and economies, borders and boundaries, attitudes and aspirations, the better prepared we will be for the challenging times ahead.”

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