A cartogram is map that has been weighted for a particular variable. In this case, the variable is either the population of domesticated sheep (in green) or cattle (in red). Not only do these maps and cartograms reveal important geographic differences in sheep and cattle production -- reflecting both cultural preferences and physical geography -- they also highlight areas that are amenable to neither, including the dead zone in central Africa due to the tsetse fly. geographical.co.uk/images/articles/places/mapping/2019/Cattle_and_sheep/Webcartogram.jpg
The issue of who can do what in space is taking on more urgency as a growing number of private companies and individual countries are launching missions to explore, colonize, commercialize, and militarize space. This geo-graphic shows the mix of countries that currently have satellites in orbit and the uses of those satellites. It is worth noting that multinational collaborations rank fourth on the list. www.statista.com/chart/17107/countries-with-the-most-satellites-in-space/
History and science suggest a number of options for cooling the Earth's climate. Unfortunately, none of them -- a nuclear winter, major volcanic explosions, shifts in tectonic plates to obstruct ocean currents -- are very positive. To this list, we can add another: wiping out human populations to impact agriculture. Scientists at University College London have concluded that disease introduced to the Americas at the end of the 15th century reduced native populations and agriculture to such an extent that North American forests reasserted themselves, and the Earth cooled in response to the lower levels of carbon dioxide. www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47063973
Spring bird migrations have begun. This map shows the progression of the ruby throated hummingbird, the only hummingbird native to the Mid Atlantic, New England, and the Midwest, north from its winter range in Central America, southern Mexico, and the southern tip of Florida.
What does it mean to have an inner life, to be self-aware? How is that state achieved? And how might we know if someone (or something) else has an inner life? These questions are at the core of what philosopher David Chalmers dubbed "the hard problem" of consciousness in 1994. This article is an excellent primer on "the hard problem" of consciousness, its advocates, its skeptics, and what neuroscience has (and has not) been able to contribute to a solution. www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/-sp-why-cant-worlds-greatest-minds-solve-mystery-consciousness
Many people think South America is a sea of Spanish with the exception of Portuguese-speaking Brazil. This map paints a more complex picture, with English (Guyana), Dutch (Suriname), and French (French Guiana) along the northeast coast and significant pockets of indigenous languages. sblanguagemaps.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/samerica11.png
Applications are now being accepted for the University of Maryland's summer Young Scholars program: academically talented high school students are invited to take a three-week, three-credit college class in College Park with their peers in July. Commuter and residential options. For more information, including fees and course selections, see oes.umd.edu/middle-high-school-students/terp-young-scholars
Do you trust the other people in your country? This map, based on a recent Eurobarometer poll, compares the responses of people across the European Union. i.redd.it/2pi4d1pno8d21.png
Information connectivity makes the world go 'round, but it is also a source of both vulnerabilility and unwanted information. Russia is planning a test soon to make sure that its internet can operate on Russia-only servers should the country be subject to cyberattacks or sanctions that would make servers outside the country unavailable. www.bbc.com/news/technology-47198426
Video clips of a surfer riding a monster 80-foot wave off Portugal have been making the rounds on the Internet. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOwodcqGRvM) Nazaré, north of Lisbon, has long been a destination for surfers seeking giant waves. The physical geography of the seafloor off Nazaré is responsible for this: the 5,000-meter-deep Nazaré canyon regularly channels big waves towards the coast. When the energy of these big waves is amplified by constructive interference, they can become the monster waves that contribute to surfing records.
Increased yields, depressed commodity prices, and trade policies that have adversely affected the ability of U.S. farmers to sell abroad are contributing to the highest level of farm bankruptcies since the 2008 financial crisis. This map, from The Wall Street Journal, shows record-level farm bankruptcy filings across seven states and the proportion of key agricultural commodities those states account for.
Critical thinking is a key part of philosophy. It is also a skill that can be developed long before students are ready to discuss Kant vs. the utilitarians :-). This game, which can be adapted for a variety of ages (pre-K through adult), asks participants to compare two cards (e.g., a bee and a chicken, or a reindeer and an old man) and explain which one they would rather be and why, drawing out thinking about issues as diverse as power and purpose, freedom and aesthetics. www.thephilosophyman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Would-You-Rather-Be-A-Bee-or-A-Chicken.pdf
This Reddit map shows the most common biome on the planet: the taiga, or boreal forest, that covers the northern stretches of Europe, Asia, and North America. The map itself is unusual because the center, of course, is "north," and "south" is in every other direction. (The red line demarcates regions of the taiga that are believed to be suitable for sustainable logging.) preview.redd.it/x0amkyci3md21.jpg?width=960&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=a58cada083240efa536848b325aa2f1f45c76040
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is hosting its free two-day Family Science Days event this weekend in Washington, DC, at the Marriott Wardman Park (next to the Woodley Park Metro). Free demonstrations, take-aways, hands-on experiments, and "meet a scientist" programs. For the schedule or to register online, see meetings.aaas.org/family-science-days/
Can't get to the AAAS meeting? You can still do science from home or wherever you happen to be by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, which begins today and runs through Monday. Details and free birding resources at gbbc.birdcount.org/
The cacao plant, whose pods are used to make chocolate, is native to Latin America. But today Cote d'Ivoire produces 30% of the world's cacao, accounting for two-thirds of Cote d'Ivoire's foreign trade. This map shows the top 10 countries by cacao production. www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-10-cocoa-producing-countries.html
Transparency International recently released its new (2018) Corruption Perceptions Index data. The people of Denmark and New Zealand continue to perceive their countries as having the "cleanest" governments. The U.S. dropped four points, out of the top 20 "clean" countries, surpassed by Estonia and France. Brazil and Mexico continue to fall, and China's high-profile "anti-corruption" campaign does not seem to be having the desired effect. The people of Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan continue to experience their countries as the most corrupt. www.transparency.org/cpi2018
Scientists have discovered that Antarctica has a "song" and that monitoring the song provides clues about the stability of the ice.
"The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest expanse of floating ice on the planet (similar to the size of France). Because of this, it acts as a buttress, holding back the Antarctic glaciers, preventing them from flowing into the ocean. ... Monitoring the ice shelf is therefore essential and scientists ... have discovered a new tool with which to do so. In 2014, the team buried 34 super-sensitive seismic sensors beneath the ice shelf’s surface, a terrain made up of a thick blanket of snow several metres deep and rippled by massive dunes. The instruments measured seismic signals – the waves of energy produced by movement within the earth. The data revealed that winds whipping across the snow dunes cause the ice shelf’s surface to vibrate. This steady vibration results in the emission of seismic ‘tones’. ... Rick Aster, professor of geophysics at Colorado State University and a member of the team, explains that ... when weather conditions change, the pitch of the hum responds. ‘A remarkable thing we discovered during this study was that even during a relatively subtle warming event that only produced a tiny bit of melt on the ice shelf, we could see very strong indications in this signal,’ he says. ‘It enables us to monitor the temperature and the melting of the surface of an ice shelf on a minute-by-minute basis.’" This links to the full article and allows visitors to "listen" to the Antarctic ice: geographical.co.uk/nature/polar/item/3021-antarctic-song
Students in my online science fiction class ("Who We Are & What We Dream: Comparative Science Fiction") were recently discussing how important physical activity is, or is not, to the human experience. This map, from data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, shows that even within the U.S. there is not a clear answer to this question. (The blue areas are those states in which adults are least likely to choose to engage in physical activity.)
Economists and moral philosophers tend to be of different minds on the value of the future and, therefore, obligations to future generations. Economists typically invoke a discount rate that gives preference to receiving a benefit sooner rather than in the future. (Think of the maxim: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.") While this might make sense in the short term, moral philosophers and others see a problem when this logic is extended by decades or even centuries: the value of future generations is mathematically reduced to nearly zero the further out the discount rate is calculated, yet is the harm done to a child in the future any different, from an ethical standpoint, than the harm done to a child now?
Some philosophers are arguing for placing more importance on the consideration of future generations. On the one hand, "The philosophical argument for investing in measures to protect the wellbeing of future generations can ... be framed, simplistically, by imagining a set of scales, with everybody alive today on one side, and every unborn person on the other. Today’s population of 7.7 billion is a lot – but it is small when you weigh it against everybody on Earth who will ever call themselves human, along with all their achievements. ... Trillions of families, relationships, births; countless moments of potential joy, love, friendship and tenderness." From a utilitarian standpoint, then, the future may well outweigh the present in terms of moral obligation.
For those who prefer a more Kantian argument, philosopher Roman Krznaric argues that by failing to consider our obligation to future people, "We treat the future as a distant colonial outpost where we dump ecological degradation, nuclear waste, public debt and technological risk." In effect, “we treat the future as ‘empty time’, where there are no generations,” no equality of rights.
Britain and the European Union have about six weeks to iron out a Brexit deal. Or not. This map, from The New York Times, shows the regions of the current EU most likely to be hurt by a no-deal exit. (Britain itself may experience a 9.3% drop in GDP and a 30% drop in housing prices. Nearly 1/3 of UK companies are moving or actively considering moving from the UK due to Brexit.) www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/02/07/world/europe/brexit-impact-on-european-union.html
Students interested in literature or history seem to have fewer opportunities to engage in citizen-research projects than those with an interest in STEM fields, which is why Shakespeare's World is such an unusual find. Shakespeare's World invites anyone with some time and an internet connection to help transcribe documents from the time of William Shakespeare (more or less). You can choose to work on bits of literature, letters, recipes... while learning about Elizabethan life in the process. You may even discover a new word to add to the Oxford English Dictionary! (Knowledge of cursive definitely helpful.) www.shakespearesworld.org
China's average population density is more than 3x that of the United States, but it does not rise to that in parts of Western Europe, as this map shows: www.reddit.com/r/europe/comments/aicfi5/european_countries_populated_more_densely_than/
Global health workers are starting to conclude that the Ebola outbreak in the northeastern corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that has infected hundreds of people since last August will last at least another six months and could become permanent, not because of mutations in the microbe but because of human factors:
"Despite having a tool kit at its disposal that is unrivaled—including a vaccine, new diagnostics, experimental treatments, and a strong body of knowledge regarding how to battle the hemorrhage-causing virus—the small army of international health responders and humanitarian workers in Congo is playing whack-a-mole against a microbe that keeps popping up unexpectedly and proving impossible to control. This is not because of any special attributes of the classic strain of Ebola—the same genetic strain that has been successfully tackled many times before—but because of humans and their behaviors in a quarter-century-old war zone. The sheer duration of the present epidemic means that the 4.5 million people in the currently affected North Kivu province of Congo are no longer the only ones in danger. The rest of the country and populations in the bordering nations of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Burundi are now at risk, too. ... The problem: North Kivu is one of the most violent places on Earth, rife with distrust, rumors, conflicts, and multigenerational hatreds. Investigators can’t find the links in the disease chains because the people there do not trust anything, even the very idea that a virus called Ebola exists, and refuse to comply with investigations. On Jan. 11, for example, villagers in Marabo rose up in protest against the construction of an Ebola treatment center in their community after three high school students were diagnosed and placed in quarantine to stop a local chain of transmission. When international disease fighters tried to vaccinate all of the high school students, rumors spread that the vaccine was dangerous, students fled, and their three infected colleagues were helped to escape quarantine. Such events have been repeated throughout the area since the outbreak began. An Ebola disease that became endemic in Congo would pose many novel dangers. The disease can be transmitted sexually up to 18 months after an individual’s cure, and, like Zika and HIV, it can also pass from pregnant mothers to their fetuses. It can also spread within military units that refuse scrutiny from virus detectives and among groups involved in illegal war-related activities such as arms smuggling. Even immune survivors might be at risk in an endemic context, as a recent study found that Ebola survivors carry two types of immune responses—one that will protect them against future exposures to the virus and another that perversely enhances infection, worsening their odds of dying if re-exposed."
The winners of the Wikimedia Foundation's "Wiki Loves Earth" photo contest are not just visually stunning, they provide unexpected insights into global geography: wikimediafoundation.org/2018/12/17/lose-yourself-in-our-planets-beauty-with-the-winners-of-wiki-loves-earth/
One of the things students in my "Your Future World" class are often surprised to learn is that in the U.S., as in many other countries, ethnic minorities tend to be clustered in specific geographic areas of the country. This map, based on 2010 U.S. Census data, looks at the geographic distribution of African Americans as a percentage of county population.
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