By mapping tree chemistry, scientists have discovered there to be 36 kinds of forest in what, from the air, would seem to be a single swath of Peruvian forest. Defining a forest by its underlying topography and microclimate and the kinds of plants and animals it supports, researchers have provided local people and conservationists with a more nuanced understanding of what cutting down -- or preserving -- one stand of trees vs. another might mean for the biological function of the area. The image below is an aerial photograph of a hectare of Peruvian Amazon, in natural color on the left and in the false color used to map trees' chemical signatures on the right. www.sciencenews.org/article/mapping-rainforest-chemistry-air-reveals-36-types-forest
Americans tend to think of Canada as that friendly country north of the U.S. But this map reveals what would be a surprise to many: 1/2 of all Canadians live in a narrow band that is actually south of Washington state. i1.wp.com/metrocosm.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/canada-population-line-map.png
To expand your understanding of philosophy, Prof. Patrick Grim's Great Courses are a very good place to start. Today only, Prof. Grim's 24-lecture "Questions of Value" course, which considers moral philosophy and how philosophers have tried to define "the good" over the centuries, is 90% (!) off ($24.95 on DVD, less for audio formats). www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/questions-of-value.html To get the sale price, be sure to use Priority Code 141527.
"Zealandia" has been making the news: is it a new continent or not? A team of geologists has claimed that the mostly submerged chunk of the earth's crust, bigger than the Indian subcontinent and including New Zealand and the French-governed island of New Caledonia to the north, meets all of the requirements for a continent. (At present, the National Geographic Society still considers it a micro-continent.) This article from Geographical (UK) does a nice job summarizing the issue: geographical.co.uk/nature/tectonics/item/2136-zealandia-what-is-a-continent
Project BudBurst invites citizen-scientists to help chart the arrival of spring. Choose a plant (or more than one plant) to observe and report when it blooms or leafs out. The Project BudBurst site includes plentiful resources for students and educators, from kindergarten through college. budburst.org
A cartogram is a map weighted to reflect a particular variable. In this case, the variable is 2015 population. d36tnp772eyphs.cloudfront.net/blogs/1/2016/09/maps-population.png
"Is the world ready for the next outbreak of Ebola or other infectious diseases?" Tomorrow night, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is hosting a free webinar reflecting on the lessons learned from the 2014-15 Ebola crisis that began in West Africa. In looking at the response to the outbreak, MSF panelists will be considering the motivations behind the decisions made, the ongoing needs of countries whose health infrastructures were severely compromised by the outbreak, and global preparedness for the world's next major epidemic. The webinar will be 8:00-9:30 pm ET on Thursday 2/23. You can register for free at www.eventbrite.com/e/ebolas-aftermath-a-west-african-update-registration-31994525487
Update: If you missed the webcast and want to watch it, it should be archived at https://livestream.com/doctorswithoutborders/EbolasAftermath
Last week it was reported that the sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached the lowest level in recorded history in January. In the Arctic, where it is winter, sea ice also set a new record low for January. This article from National Geographic asks, "What would the world look like if all of the planet's ice melted?" Check out the before-and-after map for each continent. www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/09/rising-seas-ice-melt-new-shoreline-maps/
This geo-graphic shows the number of patents registered by residents of various countries and states. The U.S. has nearly 3x as many as the #2 country (Japan), and California has both the largest number within the U.S. and a high ratio of patents per 1000 people. (The color scheme shows the number of patents per 1000 residents: dark blue being the highest ratio of patents to people and dark pink being the lowest.) howmuch.net/articles/the-united-states-of-innovation
"What the world needs now, says Nicolas Berggruen, is more philosophy. He thinks that the great thinkers of human history just might provide some solutions in our time of political and economic upheaval." According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Berggruen, a philanthropist and financier worth an estimated $2 billion, has been interested in philosophy since he was a teenager in Paris reading existentialism. Believing in the lasting power of ideas and experiences over possessions, he was inspired by the 2008 financial crisis to found the Berggruen Institute. With an endowment of $1 billion, the Berggruen Institute seeks to develop ideas in politics, economics and social organization. "I always felt philosophy...doesn't get enough attention," said Mr. Berggruen. https://www.wsj.com/articles/philanthropist-nicolas-berggruens-big-bet-on-philosophy-1486750574
If you think it's been an oddly warm winter in the U.S., it has been for most of the country. Nearly 2,500 locations around the U.S., from Barrow, AK, to Miloli'i, HI, and across the contiguous U.S. have set new record high temperatures in the last 30 days. The map on the top shows some of the 2,483 locations that set record highs between Jan. 17 and Feb. 16. By contrast, fewer than 200 locations set record lows during the same period. Those 197 locations are shown on the map on the bottom. (Maps created using official NOAA data: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/datatools/records)
Wherever you are, you and your kids can join adventure conservationist Gregg Treinish on Tuesday at 1:00 pm ET via live video conference to hear Gregg talk about his adventures in Mongolia and other places and his work to connect outdoor adventurers with scientists who need data from remote and challenging locations. This is part of National Geographic's Explorer Classroom series. To register and access the education guide, visit www.nationalgeographic.org/education/programs/explorer-classroom/
The U.S. has a population density of about 35 people/square kilometer. Western Europe's population density is much higher. Italy, for example, has a population density of roughly 200 people/square kilometer. This map shows Italy's population, by region, compared to countries with equivalent population sizes.
Is democracy in trouble? The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of the UK's Economist magazine, finds that the scores of 70 countries around the world fell from 2015 to 2016. The U.S. slipped into the category of "flawed democracy" in 2016, not because of the election of Donald Trump but because of erosion of public faith in government and in elected officials. The accompanying graphic suggests democracy has been in retreat around the world since 2008. For country-by-country detail, see www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/01/daily-chart-20?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/decliningtrustingovernmentisdentingdemocracy
In keeping with the Valentine's color scheme, this article highlights one of my favorite geographic oddities: pink lakes. High mineral/salt content gives rise to species of algae and/or bacteria that create the pink appearance. traveleering.com/10-best-pink-lakes-world/
The tallest dam in the United States, which few people outside of California heard of before this weekend, is on the Feather River, a tributary of the Sacramento River that begins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains north and east of the state capital. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8f/Feathermap-01.png/420px-Feathermap-01.png The lake created behind the dam, Lake Oroville, is the second-largest manmade lake in California (behind Shasta Lake in northern California). After years of drought, recent storms and meltwater from the Sierra Nevada require the first-ever opening of the Oroville Dam's emergency spillway. Engineers are unsure of the spillway's condition, forcing the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people.
Daniel Dennett is one of a few contemporary American philosophers who might fall in the category of "public intellectual." (My students also tend to find his writing quite accessible.) He has a new book out this week, From Bacteria to Bach and Back, that pulls together his lifelong interest in the evolution of the mind: how do "minds" as we understand them work, where did they come from, why? This review from Nature calls the book "a supremely enjoyable, intoxicating work": www.nature.com/nature/journal/v542/n7639/full/542030a.html
The Walk Free Foundation estimates that in 2016 there were 45.6 million people in modern slavery around the world. India has the highest absolute number while North Korea and Uzbekistan have the greatest percentage of population in forced labor. The Global Slavery Index seeks to measure the prevalence of modern slavery in a given country, how vulnerable a country's population is to being enslaved, and that country's responsiveness to the issue. This map summarizes the results of the index, with countries in red having particularly poor scores on the index. To explore the interactive version, visit www.globalslaveryindex.org/index/
Next weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Beginning next Friday through President's Day anyone, anywhere, can participate in a combination of citizen science and biogeography just by counting the birds they see. Don't know how to tell which bird is which? There are resources available to help, including free apps for download, at the site: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
By analyzing genetic data, biostatisticians have assembled a map of the U.S. showing patterns of immigration and subsequent identity-by-descent: www.nature.com/article-assets/npg/ncomms/2017/170207/ncomms14238/images/w926/ncomms14238-f3.jpg You can find the full study published in Nature, including more charts, here: www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14238
Transparency International has released its latest global Corruption Perceptions Index. It makes for an interesting study. www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2016
The Caucasus, the mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea that bridges Europe and Asia, has long been the frontier of empires, from the Assyrian to the Persian to the Mongol to the Ottoman to the Russian, with a sprinkling of indigenous kingdoms throughout. The region's complicated past has made the Caucasus one of the most linguistically diverse places on the planet, as shown on this map. 4.bp.blogspot.com/-fgHPr4ylKT8/T9D96BKdc5I/AAAAAAAAE38/lkrPRFqIuOs/s1600/CaucasusLayout_rev.png
The Congo River forms most of the border between the Republic of Congo (on the north/west side of the river) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (on the south/east side of the river). Last month geographers announced they have mapped a section of the countries' shared Congo River basin that contains the largest tropical peatland ever discovered, an area larger than England or New York State. Peat is one of nature's primary forms of carbon sequestration: scientists estimate that although the newly mapped peatland accounts for only 4% of the Congo River basin, it contains as much carbon below ground as the trees and plants of the other 96% above ground. Put another way, the Congo peatland contains enough carbon that, should it be released by fires or drainage for agricultural use, it would equal two decades' worth of U.S. carbon emissions. now.howstuffworks.com/2017/01/23/largest-tropical-peatland-congo
Internet memes have become an influential form of humor and commentary. What is a "meme" anyway? Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the word for his book The Selfish Gene (1976) as a way of describing one of two ways humans can, in a sense, continue themselves after death: their genes (offspring) and their memes (ideas). Memes, like genes, can spread throughout a population, mutate over time, and prosper or die out depending on their environmental fitness. But as the philosophy of language might suggest, internet memes are culturally dependent, lacking meaning without the necessary cultural context. This meme, for example, requires an understanding of Star Wars, football, and why everyone dislikes the Patriots :-).
This map provides a snapshot of European mobility. It shows the percentage of people born in a given country but now living elsewhere in the world, as a fraction of that country's current population. (By comparison, only 0.9% of people born in the U.S. lived outside the U.S. in 2015.) Most Europeans who no longer live in their birth country reside elsewhere in Europe; only for those born in Germany is the U.S. the most common destination for emigrants. jakubmarian.com/emigration-in-europe-destination-countries-and-percentages-of-emigrants/
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