For more than seven years, since August 2016, I have been doing this as a near-daily blog. But, because I don't pay for Facebook "boosts," an ever-smaller fraction of followers actually see these posts in their feed. I don't even see them in *my* feed! Consequently, the blog no longer really serves its purpose of providing interesting educational tidbits for home schoolers and other lifelong learners. I expect this will be my last blog post, but the archives are full of great stuff and will remain at www.learningoutsidethebox.net/blog. Thank you for your kind comments and support over the years. May you, too, enjoy the road less traveled.
This geo-graphic from Statista looks at which metro areas have the most installed data farm capacity: www.statista.com/chart/31372/regions-cities-with-highest-data-center-power-capacity
This interesting piece from Foreign Policy examines "intifada," what it means literally, what it has meant in practice, and why making it a forbidden term is problematic.
"There has been too little clarity about the meaning and implications of the word intifada, though. It derives from the Arabic verb nafada, which means “to shake off,” in the sense of shaking dust off one’s clothes, say, or shaking off lethargy. The word intifada, then, literally translates as a “shudder” or “shiver,” or when used in a political context, a “popular uprising.” It does not mean genocide. The word intifada became familiar to newsreaders worldwide in 1987, when the term was used to describe a popular uprising mounted by Palestinians that year against Israel. That uprising, which lasted until the early 1990s and came to be known as the First Intifada, began as a largely peaceful protest movement involving acts of civil disobedience, such as strikes and boycotts, but it became more violent later on, partly in reaction to the harsh Israeli security response. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, nearly 2,000 people were killed during the First Intifada, with the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths slightly more than 3-to-1. The Second Intifada, which took place roughly from 2000 to 2005, was far more violent—Palestinian militants carried out more than 130 suicide bombings in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza between October 2000 and July 2005—as was its suppression by Israel. More than 4,300 people were killed, again with a ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths slightly more than 3-to-1. (In the current conflict, the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths since Oct. 7 is a little less than 15-to-1, not including Palestinians killed in the West Bank.) Neither of these uprisings came anywhere close to being genocides. With the conflation of intifada with genocide seemingly now well underway, though, the world must ask itself: What does it mean to say that the act of rising up, or civil uprising, by Palestinians is impermissible? Do we really mean to say that they should not be able to resist against a miserable, constricting fate that has locked large numbers of their people into hopeless lives in Gaza, or that they should resolve themselves to seeing lands in the West Bank that they once controlled and lived on steadily annexed by Israel while they increasingly come under violent attack? ... Most importantly of all, does it mean that Palestinians must be silent, abandon demands for a state of their own, and merely accept whatever Israel deems is sufficient for them? Have people who hold this view paused to think what avenues are open to Palestinians to object to such things? Can they imagine themselves, for an instant, accepting this?"
Iceland sits atop a divergent tectonic plate boundary, where the North American plate and the Eurasian plate are pulling apart. Yesterday, a volcanic fissure, about 4 km long, started to spurt lava only 10 km from Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon. This map shows some of Iceland's 32 active volcanoes. The current activity is on the Reykjanes peninsula extending from Iceland's southwestern coast. d8ys5mrbqhmjx.cloudfront.net/reykjavik/blog/12-surprising-facts-about-icelandic-volcanoes/large/12-surprising-facts-about-icelandic-volcanoes-242486.jpg
These maps look at shifting precipitation patterns in the Midwest: comparing the map on the left (based on average rainfall from 1979-1991) to the map on the right (based on average rainfall from 1994-2016) it is clear the Midwest has become drier, meaning a greater proportion of "America's breadbasket" has become dependent on irrigation to maintain crop yields. (Maps from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/11/30/climate/airlines-jet-fuel-ethanol-corn.html.)
UC Santa Cruz's Center for Public Philosophy and Baskin School of Engineering are teaming up to create a card game to stimulate conversation about ethics and technology. You can submit possible questions or get on the mailing list for notification when the cards are released here: techfutures52.ucsc.edu/
France is not a country that comes up too often in a clean energy conversation, but France has "a potentially mammoth cache of so-called white hydrogen, one of the cleanest-burning fuels in nature." Scientists believe the hydrogen reserves under abandoned coal mines in Lorraine, in northeastern France, could total as much as 260 million metric tons. "According to the U.S. Geological Survey, just a small fraction of these deposits could provide enough clean energy for hundreds of years." www.nytimes.com/2023/12/04/business/energy-environment/clean-energy-hydrogen.html
Learn Constitutional law by playing the iCivics game "Do I Have a Right?" "In Do I Have a Right? you can run your own firm of lawyers who specialize in constitutional law. Decide if potential clients have a right, match them with the best lawyer, and win their case. The more clients you serve and the more cases you win, the faster your law firm grows!" www.icivics.org/games/do-i-have-right
Today, more than 60% of the world's French speakers -- and more than 80% of the children studying in French -- live in Africa. This map shows the countries in Africa in which at least 10% of the population speaks French. (Map from www.nytimes.com/2023/12/12/world/africa/africa-french-language.html.)
As meteorology and scientists' understanding of how disparate global weather patterns are connected continue to improve, this piece argues that El Niños are now predictable events and that there is no reason why the problems they cause should continue to take policymakers by surprise. www.nytimes.com/2023/10/29/opinion/el-nino-climate-disaster.html
The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is the newest ocean, not geologically but in terms of recognition by the National Geographic Society, which didn't recognize the Southern Ocean as a distinct body of water until 2021. For most of 37 years, since calving off the Filchner Ice Shelf, an enormous iceberg has been stuck in a patch of shallow water in the Southern Ocean. This so-called "megaberg," which is described as 1300 feet tall and the area of Rhode Island (or 3x the area of NYC, or with a diameter twice the distance from downtown Washington, DC, to downtown Baltimore) is now on the move and is expected to cross from the Southern Ocean into the South Atlantic in the coming weeks or months, depending on currents and wind speeds. www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2023/12/06/mega-iceberg-antarctica/
Engineers argue for concrete construction in hurricane-prone areas. Wood is cheaper, though, even after taking higher homeowners insurance costs into account. This map shows current and recent wood construction projects in Florida, including high-rise buildings, with a concentration in the Jacksonville area and along the Gulf Coast. (Map from www.wsj.com/real-estate/in-hurricane-prone-florida-builders-are-still-making-new-homes-out-of-wood-d3fcb931.)
We know what plagiarism is, but what about the opposite: attributing work that *is* yours to someone else, real or fictional? This article from Aeon looks at Kierkegaard and other philosophers writing under fictional names -- to try out other ideas, to shift reader expectations, or to try on other personae -- as well as philosophers writing as other people -- were the words Plato wrote in his dialogues for Socrates those of the real Socrates or was that Plato? On the one hand, when an idea is interesting, does it matter who wrote it? But then the article takes up the case of a 17th-century Ethiopian autobiography/philosophical treatise, which is now believed to be (maybe) a forgery from an non-Ethiopian writer centuries later. In this case, the who and the why seem to matter a great deal not just because of the ideas but because of what authorship represents. aeon.co/essays/from-the-pseudo-to-the-forger-the-value-of-faked-philosophy
Last weekend, a referendum held in Venezuela authorized President Nicolas Maduro to annex roughly two-thirds of Venezuela's eastern neighbor, Guyana. Guyana vigorously disputes any Venezuelan claims to its territory and says it will defend itself "by any means whatsoever." Although the threatened annexation is interpreted as populist bravado by Maduro, who is supposed to be holding elections in 2024, Venezuela's claim goes back to colonial agreements in the early 19th century and comes as foreign investors are showing more interest in Guyana's offshore oil resources. (Map from www.wsj.com/world/americas/venezuela-ramps-up-threat-to-annex-part-of-guyana-7ad621e1.)
The Harvard Crimson student newspaper is hosting its global essay contest for high school students (13-18), with students choosing to write on various topics in various styles. Submissions are due by Jan. 31. For all the information, see www.essaycomp.org/.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the composition of this year's COP climate conference participants, the first major announcement out of the conference did not address CO2 emissions, instead focusing on methane emissions. Methane emissions are a big deal, but for the fossil fuel industry, methane accounts for only about 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the industry's methane emissions come at the site the fossil fuel is mined/drilled. This map of China shows that the country's coal mines are, themselves, methane "super-emitters," even before the coal is burned and produces CO2 emissions. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/12/01/china-methane-coal-mines-climate/.)
A frequent mistake people make in evaluating political leaders is failing to take them at their word: if they say something, especially more than once, assume they mean it. For years before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russia-focused historians like Yale's Timothy Snyder tried to get people pay attention to what Vladimir Putin and other Russian thought leaders were writing and saying vis-a-vis Ukraine. But the tendency was to pooh-pooh the warning signs. Donald Trump is the likely Republican nominee for President in 2024. What have Trump and his inner circle been saying about his plans if he returns to the Presidency? In the last few weeks, Trump has argued that the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff should be executed for treason, that the greatest threat to the United States is "from within," and that immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country"; he referred to leftists and other political opponents as "vermin," and his campaign spokesman said "their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House." In a long piece in The Washington Post last weekend, U.S. historian Robert Kagan wrote, "There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day." Kagan lays out his argument here: www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/30/trump-dictator-2024-election-robert-kagan/ Last night on a Fox News "town hall," in response to Kagan's piece, Sean Hannity asked Trump directly if he would be a dictator; at first, Trump did not answer. When Hannity repeated the question, Trump said he would not be, "except on day one" while smiling and laughing. (Trump quotes, other than the Fox News quote, all appear in www.nytimes.com/2023/11/13/us/politics/trump-vermin-rhetoric-fascists.html.)
COVID and geopolitics have played a role in the shifting composition of international students at U.S. colleges and universities. This geo-graphic from Statista looks at international student enrollment, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, across the U.S.: www.statista.com/chart/20010/international-enrollment-in-higher-education/
This topological map, based on data analyzed by the American Enterprise Institute, looks at the states producing weapon systems for Ukraine as a result of Congressional-approved aid for Ukraine. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/11/29/ukraine-military-aid-american-economy-boost/.)
User data suggests we are asking ChatGPT and other generative AI bots ever more questions, related to our work and to our personal lives. But it turns out, according to the authors of a recent study published in Nature, ChatGPT not only "influence[s] users’ moral judgment," it "corrupts rather than improves its users’ moral judgment," in part by providing inconsistent moral advice. Just as many users now defer to Google Maps' judgment over their own, users of ChatGPT, according to the study, "readily follow moral advice from bots even if there are red flags warning them against it" and "underestimate how much they are influenced" by the bots. www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-31341-0
Israel depends on foreign labor in its agricultural sector, which accounts for the large number of Thai citizens kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7. Since the war began, an estimated 15,000 farmworkers have left Israel. This week the African country of Malawi announced that it is sending at least 5,000 replacement farmworkers to Israel. The deal was announced "two weeks after the Israeli government announced a $60 million aid package for Malawi," one of the world's poorest countries as measured by per capita GDP. www.nytimes.com/live/2023/11/28/world/israel-hamas-gaza-war-news#malawi-plans-to-send-thousands-of-farmworkers-to-israel
Students interested in logic and linguistics should check out the practice problems on the North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition (NACLO) site. If the practice problems are a fun challenge, the open round of the 2023-24 competition is on Jan. 25. Time to register! www.naclo.org/
The UN's annual COP climate conference gets underway in Dubai today. This map looks at where fossil fuel use for generating electricity is growing and shrinking around the world. (Map from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/11/20/climate/global-power-electricity-fossil-fuels-coal.html. More country-specific charts in the article.)
In light of last weekend's Dutch election that brought Geert Wilders's right-wing, anti-immigrant Party for Freedom to power, it seemed useful to share this piece from Foreign Affairs earlier this year by Georgetown international affairs professor Charles King. King walks readers through an ascendant new political conservatism that is no longer rooted in expanding individual liberty -- reflected in Barry Goldwater's argument in 1960, "The Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of the social order" -- but is instead a weaving together "of religion, personal morality, national culture, and public policy" that considers the Enlightenment a "wrong turn" in governing principles. www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/antiliberal-revolution
South Africa has the world's largest known chrome reserves, but this has not been a uniform blessing for the country. This article from Geographical (UK) looks at the impact of illegal chrome mining -- which by some estimates accounts for 10% of all production -- on communities in the chrome belt in the northwestern part of the country. geographical.co.uk/science-environment/witrandjie-south-africa-villaged-ravaged-for-chrome
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