I will be out exploring the next couple of weeks and will not be posting to my blog or Facebook page until June. If you find you miss me, tell a friend about my classes or blog posts :-).
To paraphrase Jurassic Park's Dr. Ian Malcolm, life finds a way. This article looks at the creatures living in the North Pacific Gyre's "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." www.wsj.com/articles/pacific-ocean-garbage-patch-is-bursting-with-life-e57b04f3
Farmers in my native upper Midwest should have their fields mostly planted by now. This map shows the percentage of each state's land area taken up by corn fields (nearly all of which is field corn, or cattle or cow corn, not sweet corn): cerealsecrets.com/corn-fields-usa/
As more aspects of our lives -- and in this case our books -- are digitized and made available electronically, it is useful to remember that, legally at least, we do not own that digitized content. We are merely licensing it, which allows the service that provides it to change it at will. Just as no one will ask you to approve changes to your email interface, you have no say if your digital "friend" is altered or the words in your ebooks. www.nytimes.com/2023/04/04/arts/dahl-christie-stine-kindle-edited.html
This map looks at the 2nd largest nationality living in each European country. Deciphering it may be an opportunity for some flag research, though :-). brilliantmaps.com/2nd-largest-nationality/
Planning a road trip or local getaway? This article highlights what editors consider to be the best state parks in the U.S. (The eagle-eyed among you might recognize a few of the photos on my website were taken at some of the state parks profiled.) www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/national-parks/best-state-parks-in-us
On Sunday, Türkiye (Turkey) will be holding its presidential election, and the Kurdish vote is likely to play a significant role. This map, which redraws current borders in the Middle East based primarily on dominant nationality, hints at the geographic extent of the Kurdish population in Türkiye and in neighboring countries. brilliantmaps.com/new-middle-east/
It's well known that bitcoin mining uses an enormous amount of electricity, but what does that look like on the ground? In this article, The New York Times, "using both public and confidential records as well as the results of studies it commissioned," puts together "the most comprehensive estimates to date" on the scale of bitcoin mining in the U.S. and the real-world impact of bitcoin's massive electricity consumption.
"Texas was gasping for electricity. Winter Storm Uri had knocked out power plants across the state, leaving tens of thousands of homes in icy darkness. By the end of Feb. 14, 2021, nearly 40 people had died, some from the freezing cold. Meanwhile, in the husk of a onetime aluminum smelting plant an hour outside of Austin, row upon row of computers were using enough electricity to power about 6,500 homes as they raced to earn Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency. ... In Texas, the computers kept running until just after midnight. Then the state’s power grid operator ordered them shut off, under an agreement that allowed it to do so if the system was about to fail. In return, it began paying the Bitcoin company, Bitdeer, an average of $175,000 an hour to keep the computers offline. Over the next four days, Bitdeer would make more than $18 million for not operating, from fees ultimately paid by Texans who had endured the storm. ... Each of the 34 operations The Times identified uses at least 30,000 times as much power as the average U.S. home. ... It is as if another New York City’s worth of residences were now drawing on the nation’s power supply, The Times found. ... In Texas, where 10 of the 34 mines are connected to the state’s grid, the increased demand has caused electric bills for power customers to rise nearly 5 percent, or $1.8 billion per year, according to a simulation performed for The Times by the energy research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. ... “Ironically, when people are paying the most for their power, or losing it altogether, the miners are making money selling energy back to Texans at rates 100 times what they paid,” said Ed Hirs, who teaches energy economics at the University of Houston and has been critical of the industry." ... Of course, other industries, including metals and plastics manufacturing, also require large amounts of electricity, causing pollution and raising power prices. But Bitcoin mines bring significantly fewer jobs, often employing only a few dozen people once construction is complete, and spur less local economic development. ... The [Applied Digital bitcoin] mine [in Jamestown, ND] has 33 employees and uses nearly 10 times as much electricity as all the homes in the 16,000-person town. It is one of three mines in the state that together consume nearly as much power as every home in North Dakota."
Lake Kivu, sitting between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is one of East Africa's rift lakes. It is also sitting amidst the zone of devastation caused by flooding and landslides that killed more than 550 people, mostly in the eastern DRC, over the last week. www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-65521521
Reporters Without Borders released its 2023 World Press Freedom Index earlier this week: "180 countries and territories were analyzed based on five indicators covering political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety." This map shows the results: www.statista.com/chart/13640/press-freedom-index/ Worst countries for press freedom: North Korea, China, and Vietnam. Best countries for press freedom: Norway, Ireland, and Denmark.
Looking for a new verbal game? Merriam-Webster offers a variety of free vocabulary-based games, from a four-at-a-time wordle puzzle to farm idioms and famous last lines of literature: www.merriam-webster.com/games
Images of the earth at night can reveal a great deal about population, economics, land use, and the availability of electricity. In this article, The New York Times has assembled a series of satellite images to illustrate how all of these factors have changed on the ground in Ukraine since Nov. 2021. www.nytimes.com/2023/03/30/world/europe/ukraine-satellite-darkness.html
China dominates the processing of rare earth metals. But increasingly, China is importing rare earth metals for processing as domestic mining has fallen, which is spurring Chinese investment in foreign rare earth mining operations. "Rare earths are a group of 17 metals critical to many high-tech applications. ... After rare earth ores are mined, they have to be crushed and ground up to extract the metals from the minerals. Chemical procesess separate out individual rare earth elements, and further refining and alloying processes produce high-purity metals for use in manufacturing. China essentially has a monopoly on every step beyond the first phase of digging ores out of the ground. This has given it it huge sway over the global rare earth industry. But it also means that it needs vast quantities of ore, which is currently mostly mined in China, Australia, the US, and Myanmar. ... “China depends so much on imports of rare earth raw material from abroad, [and] they are painfully aware that this dependency could be used against them,” said [Thomas] Krümmer [an analyst of the rare earth market]." qz.com/china-rare-earths-raw-materials-shortage-1850232896
Although biogeography is considered a subset of physical geography, it has clear overlap with human geography as well, as this article about extinct foods shows. Some of the foods profiled humans ate into extinction; others just died out, as commercial preferences changed cultivation practices. www.mentalfloss.com/article/654207/extinct-foods-from-history
For a better appreciation of U.S. topography (and the challenges of westward expansion), check out this computer-generated map of the contiguous U.S.: www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/jslbn9/us_elevation_tiles_oc/
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