I will be out exploring the next few days and will not be posting to my blog or Facebook page until next Friday.
This is the 50th anniversary of the Iditarod -- the famous Alaskan dog sled race -- which begins in Anchorage on the first Saturday in March (March 5 this year) and ends when the last musher reaches Nome. Free educational resources, including book recommendations, to learn more about the Iditarod here: iditarod.com/edu/
The maps and analysis in this BBC article might help those who are looking for resources to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine with their kids. (BBC News is also a reputable source to follow on this topic from a non-U.S. perspective.) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56720589
The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) tracks armed conflicts around the world (adding the terrain is a nice feature): acleddata.com/dashboard/#/dashboard
A year after the Texas power grid was overwhelmed by cold weather, The Wall Street Journal has done a nationwide look at problems plaguing the increasingly frail power grid that undergirds the U.S. economy: "The U.S. power system is faltering just as millions of Americans are becoming more dependent on it—not just to light their homes, but increasingly to work remotely, charge their phones and cars, and cook their food—as more modern conveniences become electrified. At the same time, the grid is undergoing the largest transformation in its history. ... The pace of change, hastened by market forces and long-term efforts to reduce carbon emissions, has raised concerns that power plants will retire more quickly than they can be replaced, creating new strain on the grid at a time when other factors are converging to weaken it." The age of the system (much of it dating to WWII or earlier); unusual weather patterns stressing the system; a patchwork of regional grids and public and private energy providers; and a shift to new energy sources, sometimes faster than the old sources can reasonably be replaced, are all discussed. www.wsj.com/articles/americas-power-grid-is-increasingly-unreliable-11645196772
Biogeography includes the study of the geographic distribution of microbes, and right now researchers are watching intently the intersection of a virulent new strain of bird flu and the spring bird migration. About 6,000 wild cranes migrating through the Levant -- nearly 20% of the migrating Eurasian crane population -- have died of the disease and forced a cull of more than 1 million domestic chickens in Israel, for example. In the U.S., a bird flu outbreak first identified among domestic turkeys in Indiana has begun to spread to other states just as North America's spring bird migration gets underway. foodinstitute.com/focus/us-bird-flu-outbreak-has-poultry-operators-on-edge/
Students in my geography classes learn about the Cascadian subduction zone and why it's considered a major threat to U.S. security. The maps in this article illustrate the reach of a tsunami triggered by a 9.0 earthquake in the Cascadian subduction zone -- an event scientists consider a one-in-nine probability in the next 50 years -- in a handful of communities in the Pacific Northwest. A major earthquake in the Cascadian subduction zone would likely kill tens of thousands along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and northern California. www.nytimes.com/2022/02/07/us/tsunami-northwest-evacuation-towers.html
We are coming up on the birthday of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a philosopher of the Italian Renaissance who was instrumental in re-popularizing the works of Plato. Giovanni was born to the ruling family of the independent Duchy of Modena, in northern Italy, in 1463. At the age of 23, Giovanni published his 900 Theses, which put man "at the center of the world." The 900 Theses was later called "the manifesto of the Renaissance" and was the first printed book banned by the Roman Catholic Church. He died at 31, likely of arsenic poisoning.
Where has population in Europe grown the fastest -- or not at all -- since 1960? This map provides answers: brilliantmaps.com/europe-1960-2020/ (As a point of reference, global population grew 157% between 1960 and 2020.)
Those with 4th graders can take advantage of the National Park Service's Every Kid Outdoors program this spring and summer: 4th graders can sign up for a free pass that provides the student and his/her family -- all kids under age 16 and up to three adults -- with unlimited free entrance at any U.S. site that charges an entrance fee, including national parks, until Aug. 31, 2022. everykidoutdoors.gov
The Economist (UK) recently released its annual look at the state of democracy around the world. Statista created a map based on this Global Democracy Index: cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/18737.jpeg
Earlier this month, a geomagnetic storm knocked out about 40 of Elon Musk's SpaceX satellites, which had been launched the day prior even though the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had warned of a possible geomagnetic storm. This experience, which cost SpaceX $50M-100M, illustrates at least three issues that bear watching. First, geomagnetic storms are increasing because the sun will not reach the peak of its 11-year cycle of solar activity until 2025. Second, recognizing the importance of satellite safety to U.S. economic and national security, NOAA now has responsibility for forecasting the weather not only on Earth but in space. Third, private companies, including SpaceX and Amazon's Project Kuiper, are racing to create networks of tens of thousands of low-orbiting satellites -- SpaceX alone hopes to have 42,000 of its satellites in orbit -- which create vastly more obstacles to safe space launches and re-entry, especially when they end up as clouds of debris. For more on the challenges of launching and maintaining private satellite networks, see www.technologyreview.com/2022/02/10/1045202/spacex-just-lost-40-satellites-to-a-geomagnetic-storm-there-could-be-worse-to-come/. For NOAA's three-day space weather forecast, see www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/3-day-forecast
California may be spurring a new gold rush. But this time it's "white gold" -- lithium, the "gold" of the digital age, used in powering everything from electric cars to laptops to smartphones -- and the destination is southern California's Salton Sea. "The geothermal reservoir under the Salton Sea area is capable of producing 600,000 metric tons a year of lithium carbonate, according to estimates from the California Energy Commission. That level of output would surpass last year’s global production." This article from The Wall Street Journal looks at the potential -- and challenges -- for commercial lithium production from the saline Salton Sea. www.wsj.com/articles/where-is-there-more-lithium-to-power-cars-and-phones-beneath-a-california-lake-11644037217
Across the U.S., about half of all adults are currently married, 10-12% are currently divorced, and about one-third have never been married. The "never married" group is growing fastest. This map highlights the states with the largest percentages of adults who have never been married.
Philosophers have long wrangled with issues surrounding a god: what does reason tell us about the existence of a god (or more than one god) and what can we deduce about the nature of any god? This short video created by British philosopher Stephen Law considers the nature of a god and asks if the existence of an all-evil god is any more or less likely than the existence of an all-benevolent god if one accepts the premise of free will in explaining suffering. aeon.co/videos/what-if-anything-makes-an-all-good-god-less-absurd-than-an-all-evil-one
The series of graphs in this article compare COVID deaths and COVID risk factors across the world's large wealthy countries. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/02/01/science/covid-deaths-united-states.html
Learn about identifying birds and prepare for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count next weekend with this free webinar on Wednesday (2:00 pm ET) on bird identification and birdsong: cornell.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_k_--YvA0QHan7yXRlMLvKA The Great Backyard Bird Count runs Feb. 18-21.
The Winter Olympics have not been the only major sporting event this month: soccer's Africa Cup of Nations recently came to a close, with Senegal winning its first Africa Cup trophy, beating Egypt on penalty kicks. This map shows Senegal and the countries that have won the Africa Cup at least twice. cdn.statcdn.com/Infographic/images/normal/26680.jpeg
'Because fossil fuels (and military hardware) are Russia's only exports of note, some observers have speculated that Russia is making a play for Ukraine now because, with the anticipated decline of fossil fuels, it will not have the resources to do so in the future. This piece, from a pair experts on energy politics, gives several reasons why it's a mistake to view Russia -- or any fossil fuel autocracy -- as a dying petrostate.
"First, this period [the next 10 to 20 years] will be marked by significant price volatility, which will give a very limited number of producers with the ability to supply more oil or gas in short order extra geopolitical influence. ...The clean energy transition risks bringing with it more price volatility because of mismatches between supply and demand caused by insufficient energy investments. ... Global investment in oil and gas is now at record lows as a result of uncertainty about the outlook for demand in a world more serious about climate and the terrible financial performance of the oil sector over the past decade. This low level of oil and gas investment would be welcome if it were because demand was falling or investment in clean energy was rising at a rate to offset the fall in investment. But oil and gas use are both rising and projected to continue doing so for years. ... Second, as oil and natural gas production shifts away from large, Western, publicly held oil and gas companies, oil companies owned by the countries in which vast resources are found will be able to flex their muscles more. ... Third, even in a net-zero global economy, substantial amounts of oil and gas will still be required in the energy mix. ... From France’s 'yellow vest' protests to Kazakhstan’s recent unrest over fuel price hikes, it is increasingly clear that if climate ambition comes into tension with energy reliability or affordability or the security of energy supplies, climate ambition will lose. As energy prices soar, preparing for crises in which state-controlled energy suppliers are able to exert outsize geopolitical and economic clout must be a priority for Western leaders."
When my geography students study biomes, the most unusual biome we learn about is the tepui, a kind of tabletop mountain found primarily in southern and eastern Venezuela. Tepuis are often home to plants found nowhere else in the world, including carnivorous plant species. This article from Geographical (UK) chronicles the hunt for carnivorous plants on the most famous tepui, Mount Roraima, which is better known as the site of Angel Falls. geographical.co.uk/people/explorers/item/4218-hunting-for-carnivorous-plants-on-mount-roraima
One in four American adults is considered "inactive," defined by the Centers for Disease Control as not participating in any physical activity outside of work over the last month. The prevalence of inactivity varies considerably by state and ethnicity, as this series of maps shows: www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/inactivity-prevalence-maps/index.html#overall
At the end of the day, what is the difference between "reality" and "virtual reality"? And why does it matter?
"[David] Chalmers is a professor of philosophy at New York University, and he has spent much of his career thinking about the mystery of consciousness. ... Chalmers says that he began thinking deeply about the nature of simulated reality after using V.R. headsets like Oculus Quest 2 and realizing that the technology is already good enough to create situations that feel viscerally real. Virtual reality is now advancing so quickly that it seems quite reasonable to guess that the world inside V.R. could one day be indistinguishable from the world outside it. Chalmers says this could happen within a century; I wouldn’t be surprised if we passed that mark within a few decades. Whenever it happens, the development of realistic V.R. will be earthshaking, for reasons both practical and profound. The practical ones are obvious: If people can easily flit between the physical world and virtual ones that feel exactly like the physical world, which one should we regard as real? You might say the answer is clearly the physical one. But why? Today, what happens on the internet doesn’t stay on the internet; the digital world is so deeply embedded in our lives that its effects ricochet across society. After many of us have spent much of the pandemic working and socializing online, it would be foolish to say that life on the internet isn’t real. ...
"We already have quite a bit of evidence that people can construct sophisticated realities from experiences they have over a screen-based internet. Why wouldn’t that be the case for an immersive internet? This gets to what’s profound and disturbing about the coming of V.R. The mingling of physical and digital reality has already thrown society into an epistemological crisis — a situation where different people believe different versions of reality based on the digital communities in which they congregate. How would we deal with this situation in a far more realistic digital world? Could the physical world even continue to function in a society where everyone has one or several virtual alter egos? I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of hope that this will go smoothly. But the frightening possibilities suggest the importance of seemingly abstract inquiries into the nature of reality under V.R. We should start thinking seriously about the possible effects of virtual worlds now, long before they become too real for comfort."www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/opinion/virtual-reality-simulation.html
The anti-corruption NGO Transparency International has released its latest report. The interactive map shows 2021 corruption perceptions scores around the world. Click on a country to see the current corruption score, the corruption trend line since 2012, and news about anti-corruption initiatives. www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/
Looking for an at-home art project or easy Valentine's gift? Of all the art projects my kids did over the years, tissue-paper decorated candle votives are the only ones that are still used. Kids can make "stained glass" votives with just three ingredients: plain glass candle votives (available for about $1 each at a craft store), tissue paper (a combo of red, pink, purple, and white for Valentine's?), and glue (Elmer's is fine but decoupage glue is good too). Cut the tissue paper into small squares or other shapes, and glue the tissue paper squares to the outside of the votive as suits your artistic vision :-). Allow to dry. For extra sparkle, brush a coat of Mod Podge Sparkle over the top of the dry tissue paper and allow to dry again. You end up with something like this: www.upstateramblings.com/stained-glass-votive-candle-holders-christmas-in-july/
The Islamic State has achieved the most notoriety in the Middle East, but some of its fastest-growing and most lethal affiliates are in Africa. The Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist insurgency affiliated with IS, began in Uganda but now operates primarily in the area of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo shown on this map. According to a recent United Nations report, the ADF killed more than 1,200 people in the eastern DRC in 2021, an increase of at least 50% over 2020. www.aljazeera.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/DRC-ITURI-NORTH-KIVU-1000x562-1.jpg (Map from Al-Jazeera)
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