Monday, October 28, 2013

Apple #658: Lou Reed. What Else?

So Lou Reed died today.  71.  Liver disease.  Because I kind of thought maybe he'd never go, it might be the most shocking thing he ever did.

Before I tell you some facts you may or may not have known about Lou Reed, I want to tell you a little story.  You might like to listen to this song while you read.

Once upon a time in college, I used to get weak in the knees over a certain tall, blonde, and self-assured hockey player with a most musical name: Jim Ballantine.  He was a friend and housemate of someone I'd gone to high school with.  Sometimes I'd go over to my friend's house with the hope that a certain hockey-playing heartthrob would be home.

One day, my friend was not there, but this pulse-racing fellow was.  He said I could hang out and wait for my friend, or whatever I wanted to do was cool with him.  I don't think I spoke.  I think I just nodded.  I stood there in the living room, which sported a beat-up red leather couch, and he went into another room and put on some music.  "Do you like Lou Reed?" he called.  "Yeah," I said faintly, "I do."

I wasn't just saying that, either.  I'd recently gotten a cassette of Lou Reed's greatest hits and of his recent New York (it was the early 90s, I was a college student, broke, tapes were what you listened to), and I listened to both over and over in my dorm room.  To my utter delight, as I stood there in the living room of the heartthrob hockey player with the red leather couch, here came the first piano chords of "Satellite of Love."  He turned it up, satisfyingly loud.  As the background singers kicked in, Jim went through the living room to the kitchen for toast & peanut butter, then out to the hallway to collect his leather jacket (be still my heart), then back into the living room again for his books, Lou Reed grooving away the entire time. 

I want to tell you, it was among the most delicious experiences of my decade.

There's more, but first, here are my Lou Reed facts.

  • He was born Lewis Allan Reed, in Brooklyn, 1942.  His father was a tax accountant.
  • In his teens, he was given "weeks of electroshock therapy" at Creedmore Psychiatric Hospital in Queens.  Some sources say this was because he was "moody and resisted authority."  Others say it was an attempt to "cure" his bisexuality.

Lou Reed's high school senior yearbook photo
(Photo from Wikipedia)

  • He went to college and Syracuse, and Delmore Schwartz was one of his English professors.
"I was an English major in college (Syracuse University), for chrissakes," Reed said in a 1992 interview. "I ought to be able to put together a good lyric at the very least. It would be embarrassing if I couldn't. And I really like rock. It's party stuff, dance stuff and R&B stuff that we all grew up on and loved. But I wanted something that would engage you mentally, that you could listen to on another level. I just thought that would be the perfect thing in rock 'n' roll. That 10 years from now you could still listen to one of my albums because it wasn't just a party record, but something that would engage you emotionally, intellectually, if not spiritually, on the level that a novel can."
  • He met John Cale after college, and after they formed bands of various combinations, eventually they became the Velvet Underground, named after a book about "practices of nonstandard sexuality."
  • The songs he wrote were about drugs, heroin, sex of all flavors, S&M -- the sorts of things suburban lipsticked ladies would call "alternative lifestyles."
  • Andy Warhol saw the Velvet Underground performing in Greenwich Village, scooped them up into his traveling performance art, had Nico singing with them, designed the album cover with the banana on it, and it was off to Warhol-fame-land.
"The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years," said Brian Eno, himself a legendary musician and producer. "I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!"

Lou Reed & Nico, from the Velvet years
(Photo from Flickr)

  • But soon Reed left the Velvet Underground, and for two years, he worked as a typist in his father's accounting firm.
  • David Bowie really liked the VU, and he offered to help produce Reed's solo album "Transformer," which includes "Satellite of Love." (David Bowie sang back-up vocals).
  • That album is also the original home of "Walk on the Wild Side," which is probably the Reed's best-known song -- his only Top 40 hit.  Though a version of the song edited out the reference to oral sex, radio stations were soon playing the original version.  I can't recall ever hearing the song without that line in it.
Candy came from out on the Island
In the back room she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, "Hey, babe
Take a walk on the wild side"
  • He actually got frustrated by how popular "Walk on the Wild Side" became because everybody always wanted him to play that, and he wanted to try other things, play other songs. 
  • Though in an interview years later, he said that even his hit song wasn't that big of a hit.

Reed went blonde for a while, in the mid-70s.  
(Photo from Dangerous Minds)

  • He dipped his musical fingers into glam, punk, prog-rock (he recorded an album with Yes), alternative, noise, straight-up rock & roll, R&B, heavy metal -- music of all sorts, constantly confounding people's expectations. One could even argue that his 1978 Take No Prisoners was a comedy record.  But through it all, he was always undisputedly cool.
  • He was married to a cocktail waitress, then was "romantically involved" with a transvestite named Rachel [last name uncertain], and for a long time he was married to Sylvia Morales who is often described as a British designer, but who has also been described in more underground circles as a stripper and "part-time dominatrix."  

Lou, from the 70s Transformer era.
(Photo from Cinema Fanatic)

  • In several of his songs, he addresses Sylvia directly.  In "My House," Lou and Sylvia use a Ouija board to contact his dead professor Delmore Schwartz.
  • Most recently, he was married to musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Lou & Laurie, as seen by Annie Liebovitz
(Photo via the Edwynn Houk Gallery)

  • In later years, he became friends with people like Vaclav Havel -- yes, the Czech literary dude who became the first president of the Czech Republic.  Havel said he smuggled a Velvet Underground record into Prague, and that the Velvet Underground was central to the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s.
  • Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman loaned his talents on Reed's album/play "The Raven," based on Edgar Allan Poe's poem. (You'll note that Lou and Edgar spell their middle names the same way.)
  • In his later years, he got so into Tai Chi, he even had his Tai Chi instructor on stage during concerts in 2008. 

From the 2000s, around the time of his Metal Machine Music release -- which is "kind of, you know, a guitar solo" except chaotically epic.
(Photo from PopMatters)

  • Though he maintained steadfastly in interview after interview in the 1970s that he never took drugs, and though he was sober since some time in the 1980s, Reed developed liver disease.  In April (some sources say it happened in May), he had a liver transplant.  But it was pretty much the final effort. Last week, his doctor told him there wasn't anything else he could do for him, so Reed left the hospital for home, in Southampton, NY.
  • In a recent review he wrote of a Kanye West album, Reed wrote: “You do [make music] because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”
And now for my coda.  Jim Ballantine died several years ago.  The last time I saw him, he'd turned up at my friend's house in the middle of the night, by motorcycle, wearing his leather jacket.  No explanation, even though he'd been graduated a couple years, turned pro, and moved well away from college.  He'd just dropped in to say hey.  I was sitting on the couch with my friend, the movie we'd been watching on pause because of Jim's arrival.  He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed hello.  Then he went off to see the rest of his friends who lived in the house.

It turned out, he'd been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.  He didn't tell any of his friends.  Nobody knew until a month or two before he died.  The diagnosis might have been why he turned up at the house that night, or he might have just felt like stopping in for a shot and a laugh or two. 

So I want to tell you that every time I hear "Satellite of Love," I remember Jim Ballantine.  And now that Lou Reed has gone to meet his man, maybe the two of them are up there together.  Maybe Lou Reed is playing "Satellite of Love" and Jim Ballantine gets to stand right next to him. 

Satellite's gone
up to the skies
Thing like that drive
me out of my mind

(Photo from the Poetry Foundation)

Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock & Roll, The New York Times, October 27, 2013
Lou Reed dead at 71, NY Daily News, October 27, 2013
Lou Reed, Velvet Underground Leader and Rock Pioneer, Dead at 71, Rolling Stone, October 27, 2013
Lou Reed, legendary rock pioneer, dead at 71, Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2013
Lou Reed Dead: Legendary Rock Musician Dies at 71, HuffPost Celebrity, October 27, 2013
Looking Back at Lou Reed's Blue Period, New York Observer, 3/15/99
Rock legend Lou Reed dies at 71, CNN, October 28, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Apple #657: Leaves Turning Colors

I have had a request!  Daily Apple reader Marietta wants to know:

Have you done a Daily Apple on leaves and colors? Like why do they turn yellow and red and orange instead of purple and blue and pink? And what dictates to the plant what color it turns? Why are some of my maples red and some yellow and some go from green to orange to yellow, turning color more than once? Just something I was wondering about on my way home tonight. 
An excellent question!  I have seen a few tidbits here and there on this topic lately, but I haven't delved into it.  I am happy to do so now.

Maple leaf changing color.  Once you read this entry, you will know to say, "You can see where the chlorophyll has faded and the carotenoid pigment has become apparent."
(Image from Outdoor Parent)

  • So, you know that plants make chlorophyll, right?  That's the chemical that makes the leaves green.
  • During spring & summer, as sun shines on a leaf, the chlorophyll in it fades, similar to the way a colored photo fades in sunlight.  So the plant makes more chlorophyll to replace what has broken down.  This process of breaking down & remaking chlorophyll goes on all the time in a plant or tree.
  • You might think that, in the fall, when the days get shorter and there is less sunlight, that would mean the chlorophyll wouldn't break down as quickly so there would be more green in the leaves.  But that's not actually what happens.  Because there's another process going on too.
  • The reduction in the amount of daylight causes something else to happen in a tree -- certain cells at the base of each leaf start building up like a wall of blocks, or an abscission layer of cells.  These blocks of cells keep essential minerals and carbohydrates from traveling out to the leaves.  Without those necessary ingredients, the plants can't make more chlorophyll.  So the green in each leaf soon fades. 
  • As the green disappears, other colors emerge.  Those colors are determined by the presence of other pigments present in the leaves -- and how much of which type.
      • Yellow - xanthophylls
      • Orange - carotenoids
      • Red and purple - anthocyanins
      • Brown - tannins
  • The reds and purples/anthocyanins come from sugars in the leaf.  Not all deciduous trees make anthocyanins, and the ones that do, don't make these sugars until fall.
  • Variations in the reds and purples are determined by pH levels.  The more acidic the sap in a leaf's cells, the more bright red the pigment.  The less acidic, the more purple. 
  • Eventually the other colors/chemicals will break down and fade as the chlorophyll did.  The only chemical/color that doesn't disappear is tannins, or the browns. That's why most of the leaves on the ground eventually wind up being brown.  
  • The reason the browns don't fade is that tannins are mostly a waste product.  Just as the leaf loses its ability to make more chlorophyll, so also it loses its ability to get rid of wastes.
Different types of trees have different levels of the various pigments in them, so you get this kind of color display.
(Photo from Taskeasy, which recommends 10 drives to see autumn leaves) 

  • Various species of trees produce different levels of the various chemicals, so they tend to turn more of one color than another: 
      • Yellow - Aspens, Yellow poplars, Black maples, Norway maples
      • Golden bronze - Hickories
      • Dark orange - Sassafrass
      • Orange red -  Sugar maples
      • Scarlet red - Red maples
      • Crimson - Sourwood, Black tupelo
      • Purplish red - Dogwoods, Sweetgums, Japanese maple
      • Light tan - Beeches
      • Red, russet, or brown - Oaks
      • Brown - Elms

Uh-oh. This fellow fell before his color changed.  Maybe his abscission layer built up too quickly.  (These are all maples, by the way.  In my opinion, the sugar maples turn the best colors.)
(Wallpaper photo from Layoutsparks)

  • Of course no tree's leaves turn all one color all at once.  As the saying goes, "Color is an event."  As you remember from elementary school art class, different mixtures of base colors will result in different new colors.
  • Plus, there is a great variation within one tree, even within one leaf, in the amount of the various chemicals/colors present.  Different parts of a tree may also have varying levels of moisture.  The temperature may even vary slightly from, say, the bottom branches to the top branches.  Plus, the sunlight is steadily breaking down the color pigments as time passes.  All of these things will affect what color a given leaf will be at any given time. 
  • On a broader scale, in a given fall season, variations in temperature, the amount of sunlight, and the moisture in the soil affect the strength and duration of the non-chlorophyll colors. 
      • Lots of sunlight + low temperatures = chlorophyll/green breaks down faster
      • Lots of sunlight + low temps at night = more reds & purples/anthocyanins
      • Lost of moisture in summer + sunny, dry, cool but not freezing fall = best & brightest fall colors
      • Drought in summer = blocking cells develop early, so leaves may drop before they change color
      • Wind or heavy rain in fall = leaves knocked off trees early
      • Early frost or freezing temps = production of anthocyanins stops, and the colorful season ends
  • Eventually, that wall of blocking cells cuts off all connections between the leaf and the rest of the tree, and soon after that, the leaf breaks away and falls to the ground.
For a while, the leaves are just as lovely on the ground as they are on the trees.
(Photo from Inside Gatlinburg

  • The next question you might ask is Why do the leaves change color?  That, my friends, is a much bigger unknown.  
  • Scientists have come up with some theories, but they're not very certain about any of them.  The majority of theories center around why the trees would produce anthocyanins, the reds & the purples, which signal the presence of sugars or carbohydrates in the plant.  Why, just before it loses its leaves, would the plant bother to stock up those very leaves with a bunch of expensive carbohydrates?
  • Here are some of those theories:
    • Plants that are healthy produce a lot of sugars and therefore reds & purples.  Insects can suck more out of weaker plants, so maybe the colors are a signal to the bugs, don't come around here because I can fight you off, go someplace else where the leaves are more brown and the plant is weaker.
    • Perhaps the anthocyanins protect the leaves from too much sunlight, which not only makes the colors fade, but also breaks down other necessary chemicals in the leaf.  With those extra sugars available, therefore, the plant may have more time to absorb more of the necessary nutrients from the leaf before it drops.
    • Perhaps the extra carbohydrates act as some kind of insulation to help protect the plant from injury during very cool nights or at the first frost.
    • Perhaps the extra carbohydrates help create reserves against water loss during dry spells in fall.
  • But again, no one knows for sure why the leaves change color. 
  • As usual, science is very good at answering the how, but it sucks at answering the why.

Whoo.  Marvelous.  Sometimes, it's enough to simply enjoy.
(Photo from Pragmatic Obots Unite)

Related entries: How many leaves fall?; Forests
The United States National Arboretum, The Science of Color in Autumn Leaves
USDA Forest Service, Why Leaves Change Color
Garden Walk Garden Talk, Why Do Leaves Change Different Colors on the Same Tree, November 18, 2010
University of Wisconsin, Chemical of the Week, The Chemistry of Autumn Colors
Howstuffworks, Why do leaves change color and turn red?
Arbor Day Foundation, Top Fall Trees in the United States
Butler University, Friesner Herbarium, Why Leaves Change Color

Monday, October 14, 2013

Apple #656: David Ortiz's Head

I was going to make this entry about Miguel Cabrera, my mom's favorite baseball player.  But after the Grand Slam that David Ortiz hit tonight, it seems more relevant to talk about him instead.

I'll get to Miguel Cabrera.  But for now, Big Papi.

I'm not going to tell you all the batting statistics because you can look those up in a kajillion places.  Instead, I want to find the lesser-known details.  Like, for example, the size of his head.  Every time he comes up to bat, I am stunned by the size of his head.  That thing is enormous!  It barely fits into his helmet!

David Ortiz, right, and 2 of his teammates.  Look how much bigger his head is compared to the other guys'.
(Photo from Getty Images via Zimbio)

  • It turns out, hat size or helmet size is a closely guarded secret.  Because apparently, if your hat size expands noticeably after you've gone through puberty, it's generally considered to be a sign of HGH use.  
  • HGH thickens the bones in your forehead and jaw, necessitating larger hats, at the very least. 
  • So I couldn't find David Ortiz's hat size anywhere.  But maybe I can arrive at a ballpark figure (har har).
  • Barry Bonds' hat size increased from 7-1/4 to 7-3/8 (even though he took to shaving his head). That's in the neighborhood of 23-1/2" circumference.  The MLB shop says that's an XL.

You'll notice that Bonds' head, in the more recent photo on the right, seems pretty well packed into his helmet compared to the photo on the left.  More pertinent to us, though, is that in the photo on the right, his hat size is 7-3/8.
(Composite photo from Szyzygeist)

Now, I want you to notice how David Ortiz's helmet barely seems to fit on his head. And it looks bigger than Barry Bonds' head, doesn't it?
(Photo from The Joy of Sox)

Yeah, I'd say David Ortiz's head is bigger than Barry Bonds' (left).
(Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice, SF Chronicle)

  • I don't know how much bigger David Ortiz's head is than Barry Bonds', but I would say it is definitely larger.  Bigger than a 7 3/8, for sure.  How much more, I couldn't say, but almost certainly in the XXL category.
  • Just to be clear, I'm not accusing the guy of anything.  I'm not interested in using these statistics as a sign of whether he took something illegal or not.  I just think he has an enormous freakin' head, that's all, and I wanted to see if I could find the number that showed that.
  • I'm also not trying to be metaphorical and imply that he has a big ego.  All I'm saying is the guy has a large cranium.

David Ortiz: Yeah, I'm not going to tell you my hat size, but you can bet it's pretty big.
(Photo from ESPN)

  • I did find other statistics related to his large physique.
  • He's 6'4" and between 255 and 260 pounds.
  • In 2007, he said his pant size was 40 x 34 (40" waist and 34" leg). 
  • He wears a slightly larger uniform to give himself more room to make a comfortable swing.
  • His shoe size: 16.  That's 12.5" long.
  • Jersey size: 54.  That's 54 inches around.  That's 4.2 feet, folks.  

Finally, when you have a big dome, you can do things like this, no problem:

Can Steroids Enlarge Your Head? Slate, November 19, 2007
The HGH Handbook, Men's Fitness, September 2012
Bonds Jury Hears the Science of Steroids, The New York Times, March 24, 2011
Barry Bonds and the Smoking Ballcap, Sun Sentinel, March 29, 2011
The Papi Monologues, Boston Magazine, April 2007
Game Used Authentic, Game Worn Uniforms (this is the sort of link that will disappear in the future, so in case it does, here's what it says: "2007 David Ortiz Game Worn Jersey. Authenticated by PSA/DNA and JSA. Classic Old English 'Red Sox' appears in gentile arch across the chest, fashioned from straight-stitch affixed to front left exterior tail, with a '34 54 07' embroidered swatch denoting uniform number, size and year.")
EBay, RARE Reebok Baseball Softball Cleats Shoes #34 David Ortiz Boston Red Sox Sz 16

Monday, October 7, 2013

Apple #655: How Many Lakes are in Minnesota?

This weekend, I went with my dad and my brother to see the Minnesota-Michigan game.  Before the game, my brother lapsed into one of his behaviors that I remember all too well from growing up with him.  He started asking a whole lot of questions, on this occasion, about lakes in Minnesota.  I'll show you what I mean:

"There aren't really 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.  [I answered no, there aren't, there are more than 10,000.]  How do you know?  Who counts them?  Who decides what's a lake and what's a pond?  Why does the number change?  I've been to Minnesota, and I've flown over it too, and I haven't seen that many lakes.  I don't think they have 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.  Are they cheating and counting some Canadian lakes as theirs?" etc. etc.

Minnesota.  My brother would probably say to this, "I don't see 10,000 lakes.  Where are all the lakes?  Are you sure somebody didn't just make that up?"
(Map from Aquarium Pros)

Not having all my resources at my disposal, I could not adequately counter Mr. Annoying Question-Man.  (He didn't really want the answers anyway; he just wanted to be annoying.)  But now that I'm home with my laptop & the internet available, I am going to find the answers to his questions anyway.  So there.

  • As of 2013, the Minnesota DNR says there are 11,842 lakes in Minnesota.  These are lakes that cover 10+ acres.
  • The Minnesota Historical Society, meanwhile, says that Minnesota has 15,291 lakes of 10+ acres.  Their data is not dated, so I don't know if this is more or less current than the DNR.

This graphic gives you some idea of the number of lakes in Minnesota.  But I can just hear my brother asking about 25 more annoying questions in response to this.  So I'll see if I can find other visual evidence.
(Map from RMB Environmental Laboratories

Here's a little slice of Minnesota: the area around Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.  A ton of lakes just in this one area.  I'd like to say, you can extrapolate from this one place to the rest of the state, can't you?  But I know, I know, extrapolation works until it doesn't, as Simpsons fans will recall.
(Map from

I can't resist, though.  Here's another slice of Minnesota: area surrounding Pequot Lakes.  Dotted and sprinkled and pock-marked with lakes of all different sizes.
(Map from

This map shows the 1,029 lakes in Minnesota designated by the Nature Conservancy as priorities for conservation. Sure looks like a lot of lakes, doesn't it?  That's only 1/10 of the total number.
(Map from the Nature Conservancy Minnesota Science Sidebar)

  • OK, I'm not finding complete enough visual evidence, so let's go back to that number which seems to be the most reliable:  11,842 lakes of 10+ acres.  Maybe there are other things I can tell you to support that number.
  • I don't know who goes around counting the lakes in Minnesota, but people who work for the DNR seems to be the most likely ones, especially since the DNR is currently involved in a project to map all the watersheds for all the 100+ acre-lakes in the state.
  • Here are some other facts that indicate there are a crapton of lakes in Minnesota:
    • There are so many lakes in Minnesota, many are not named.  Still others have names that are the same as other lakes in the state.  The most commonly-used names of lakes are Long (115), Mud (92), Rice (78), Bass, Round, and Horseshoe.
    • The area covered by the 10 largest lakes entirely within Minnesota's borders totals 724,279 acres.  That's about 1,100 square miles.  The entire state is 86,938 square miles.  
    • In total, Minnesota has about 2.6 million acres' worth of lakes.
    • Only 4 counties in Minnesota have no natural lakes.  
    • Otter Tail County, conversely, contains 1,048 lakes, the most of any county in the United States.
  • That's a lotta lakes.
  • None of them are stolen from Canada. 

Why Does the Number of Lakes Change and Where did They all Come From?

  • Setting aside the very likely factor that different people count things according to different criteria, the reason the number of lakes might change over time is perhaps best explained by the State of Washington's Department of Ecology:
Lakes constantly undergo evolutionary change, reflecting the changes that occur in their watersheds. Most lakes will eventually fill in with remains of lake organisms and silt and soil washed in by floods and streams. These gradual changes in the physical and chemical components of a lake affect the development and succession of plant and animal communities. This natural process takes thousands of years. Human activities, however, can dramatically change lakes, for better or worse, in just a few years.
  • The human activity that can have the biggest effect on the appearance or disappearance of lakes is the building of dams. I suppose beavers could also have a pretty major effect on the number of lakes, too.
  • Minnesota's lakes were originally formed at the end of the Ice Age.  As the glaciers melted and retreated, they didn't do so in an organized fashion.  Big hunks of ice would get left behind, buried under silt and dirt and rock.  When the buried ice melted, the silt dropped down but there wouldn't be enough of it to fill in the hole, or kettle, left behind.  Then when it rained, the kettles filled up with water, and a lake was formed.
  • The same thing happened in Wisconsin and Canada, and pretty much all around the Great Lakes.

Kettles left behind after the glacier receded became today's lakes.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, sourced from Reflections of a Travelinguist)

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

  • Which leads me to another question that my brother didn't ask, but other people do when they talk about the number of lakes in Minnesota: is it true that Wisconsin actually has more lakes than Minnesota?
  • Most people from Wisconsin say their state has more, quoting a count of 15,074 lakes.
  • However, this number from Wisconsin's DNR includes lakes that "range in size from one- to two-acre spring ponds to [the] 137,708 acre Lake Winnebago."
  • In other words, Wisconsin includes in their count a lot of bodies of water that, according to Minnesota's definition of "lake," would not make the cut.
  • Wisconsin's DNR doesn't say how many of their lakes are 10+ acres, so it's hard to know how their count exactly compares.  They do say that about 3,620 of Wisconsin's lakes are 20+ acres.  
  • (If you want to go through Wisconsin DNR's PDF, copy the by-county lake data, convert it to a spreadsheet, sort by area, and count only those with an area of 10 acres or more, please be my guest and let us know the number you come up with.  And please also tell us how long it took you to do that.)
  • Perhaps the best method of comparison is in surface area:  
    • Wisconsin lakes: ~ 1 million acres' worth  (1,562.5 sq mi)
    • Wisconsin total state size: 65,497 square miles
    • Wisconsin lakes / square mile:  ~ 41.92
    • Minnesota lakes: ~ 2.6 million acres' worth (4,062.5 sq mi)
    • Minnesota total state size: 86,938 square miles
    • Minnesota lakes / square mile: ~ 21.40
  • According to my math, Minnesota seems to beat Wisconsin on the sheer number of lakes in its borders, and its lakes cover more ground than Wisconsin's do, though Wisconsin packs more water per inch in its smaller-sized state.
  • Maybe the conclusive factor is in the names.  "Minnesota" means "Sky-tinted water."  "Wisconsin" means "Grassy place." 
  • If your state name literally means water, I think you might win the water fight.

Ignoring the Great Lakes, the lakes in Minnesota look a little more visible.
(Map from Wikimedia)

What is a Lake, Anyway?

  • So who is right?  That is, has Wisconsin counted their lakes more correctly, or has Minnesota?  Well, there is no objective definition of "lake."  The distinctions between lake, pond, pool, puddle, etc. are pretty much arbitrary.  The terms date from when white people settled in the area, and they didn't really follow any mathematical formula, they just called 'em as they saw 'em.
  • Most people will designate a larger or deeper body of water a lake and a smaller waterbody a pond, but some things that have been called ponds are actually larger than some lakes.  
  • You might think that people who study lakes, ponds, pools, etc. might establish criteria to make them distinct from each other.  But because pools, ponds, lakes, and wetlands are in a slow but constant state of flux, one gradually filling becoming another, water-scientists have decided that there's really no point drawing a precise line between the categories.  Nature isn't fixed and numerical like that but is in a constant state of flux.
  • The World Health Organization defines a lake as "an enclosed body of water (usually freshwater) totally surrounded by land and with no direct access to the sea." Nothing about size or depth.  
  • The definition goes on to describe all the variations in types of lakes -- they may or may not have an observable input or output, they can be salty or not, and they may occur in a series linked by rivers so it can be hard to tell the river and the lake apart.  So the whole thing is kind of squishy.  Or muddy.  
The one thing that isn't muddy is that Minnesota does have a ton of lakes, there are more than 10,000 of them, and nobody's lying or cheating about that, they're just rounding off the number.  Geez.

As far as I'm concerned, though, no other lakes can compare to these.
(Image from The Nature Conservancy)

P.S. My brother is a water engineer.

P.P.S. Michigan won the football game.

Related entries: Rivers, Lake Michigan

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Lakes, Lakes, rivers, and wetlands facts
Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Facts, Symbols
RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc. Minnesota lakes trivia, May 2, 2013
Minnesota Geological Survey, Why so many lakes?
State of Washington Department of Ecology, Lake information
FindTheData, Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Lakes 2009
Actuality, Lakes of Minnesota and Wisconsin, August 25, 2010
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, The Spectator, Wisconsin vs. Minnesota - Lakes, March 4, 2010
Wisconsinology, Wisconsin... Land of 15,000 Lakes, February 2, 2008
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Lake or Pond - What is the Difference?
World Health Organization, Water Quality Assessments, Chapter 7 - Lakes