National Geographic : 2012 Jul
NOW PHOTO: TIMOTHY FADEK. TOP GRAPHIC: ÁLVARO VALIÑO. SOURCE: USGS. LEFT GRAPHIC: OLIVER MUNDAY Stumble Stones Sidewalks in Germany and nine other European nations are getting a historical makeover. Some 34,000 brass-capped cobbles bearing the names and fates of Nazi victims have been installed outside buildings where they lived or worked. German artist Gunter Demnig devised the idea; individual donors pay for the mini-memorials. Most of the names are Jewish, but Demnig has dedicated stones to Jehovah's Witnesses, political prisoners, and others. He calls them "stumble stones," hoping pedestrians will "stumble with their head and heart." Some municipalities stumble over the concept, arguing there are plenty of memorials and, besides, such reminders shouldn't be underfoot. Supporters appear to out- weigh critics; Demnig continues to install the stones. ---Andrew Curry Hand-engraved cobbles, here in Berlin, bring the names of Nazi victims "back to the houses where they lived," says the artist who installs them. WHICH WAY TO...? It's a common question. A visitor asks where such and such is, and the local pauses, thinks, points. Familiar sites may seem to be the reference base for giving a person directions, but a new study suggests orientation plays a key role. In Tübingen, Germany, researchers used a virtual model of the town to test the spatial knowledge of its residents. When asked to locate a place outside their line of vision, participants fared best if facing north. Their "mental maps," says psychologist Julia Frankenstein, seemed to mirror the layout of actual city maps and weren't rooted entirely in navigational memory. Not yet tested is her theory that the brain has a map of emotional landmarks too---like the site of someone's wedding. ---Catherine Zuckerman 0 1 New York City drifts about one inch farther from London every year.