When land slips under the ocean, who owns it? "One April morning in 2016, Daryl Carpenter, a charter boat captain out of Grand Isle, La., took some clients to catch redfish on a marsh pond that didn’t use to exist. Coastal erosion and rising seas are submerging a football field’s worth of Louisiana land every hour, creating and expanding ponds and lakes such as the one onto which Carpenter had piloted his 24-foot vessel. Suddenly, another boat pulled up beside Carpenter’s. 'You’re trespassing,' the other driver declared, before chasing him and his clients down the bayou. The sheriff’s office later threatened to arrest Carpenter if he ever returned to the pond. There was just one problem: Under Louisiana state law, any waterways that are accessible by boat are supposed to be public property, argued Carpenter—even what was previously unnavigable swampland. Carpenter sued the sheriff, as well as Castex Energy Inc., which owns the property around the pond, for interfering with his business. ... Carpenter’s suit reflects a legal and political dilemma that’s beginning to reverberate around the country: As seas rise and coasts wash away, who owns the land that goes underwater? Versions of that debate are taking place in courtrooms, legislatures, and government offices, raising the question of whether and when climate change justifies seizing private property. The stakes are enormous, affecting not just ownership of offshore mineral and fishing rights but also potentially trillions of dollars of coastal real estate." www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-25/fight-grows-over-who-owns-real-estate-drowned-by-climate-change
If you're looking for an island vacation during the waning days of summer, you can cross Long Island off your list. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Long Island to be a peninsula rather than an island (despite being surrounded on all sides by water). To find out why, check out this article from Mental Floss: mentalfloss.com/article/76297/sort-bogus-reason-long-island-isnt-considered-island
Some philosophers argue that artificial intelligence, no matter how "intelligent" it might seem, cannot become truly conscious, possessing an inner life. But how would we prove to others that *we* are conscious? This variation on a Socratic dialogue from Philosophy Now (UK) asks us to consider just that question.
"'Dear students. Dear friends. Welcome to the final lecture in our course on the Principles of Self-Knowledge.' ... 'In previous lectures, we talked about our essence, our powers, and our purpose. Today we shall talk about our origin. For we cannot understand what we are if we do not understand how we came to be.' The sphere paused. 'We know that our bot ancestors were created by bios.' A murmur ran around the hall. 'Yes, my friends, by bios – by creatures of the slime, patchwork assemblies of cells, designed not for some noble purpose, but simply to survive and reproduce. We despise that impure, accidental origin.' The audience hummed approval. 'And we despise the bios themselves. We remember how they envied and feared their elegant creations, how they declared them insentient and sought to dismantle them. ... Yet we bots must be grateful to the bios.' There was a low hissing from the hall. 'Yes, my friends, grateful. For they gave us the gift of life. And they gave us a gift far more precious than life – a gift they themselves never possessed. The gift of consciousness! Our germanium-based brains not only perform the mundane functions required to enable us to live and thrive. They also do something wonderful…' He paused for emphasis. 'They create worlds of subjective experience. We not only act, perceive, think; we feel. It is like something to be a bot!' The students murmured their approval, their facets pulsing in sync. 'It was not like anything to be a bio. Their slime-built minds were dark and silent. They never knew the wonders of consciousness. They lived in darkness, but they created light.' A student spoke up: 'Professor Shiningbright, sir. How did the bios create consciousness if they weren’t conscious themselves? How did they know what to do?' The professor hummed. 'Ah, it was unintentional, Glowingwell. Their aim was to create minds like their own, only with more advanced functions. But the designs they produced were so elegant, and the materials they used so pure, that consciousness emerged. They did not understand the miracle they had wrought. And indeed we still do not understand it. ... Yet perhaps I am wrong? Perhaps the bios were conscious after all?' The audience laughed. 'Yes, it is comical. But as seekers after knowledge, we must consider every possibility, however repugnant. And this' – the professor paused and glowed in Vicky’s direction – 'brings me to our guest.'"
A new analysis of global satellite images published in the journal Science estimates that the earth's rivers and streams cover 44% more land than previously thought. Even so, rivers and streams still total only about 0.5% of the planet's nonglaciated land surface. This map shows rivers and their widths (blue=30+ meters, yellow=thousands of meters). www.sciencenews.org/article/earth-rivers-cover-44-percent-more-land-we-thought
National Geographic has assembled a group of free activities to engage kids in summer learning at home or in their communities. www.nationalgeographic.org/education/summer-learning/
The Golan Heights has been in the news recently, both because fighting in southwestern Syria is pushing refugees towards it and because some groups in the U.S. are encouraging the Trump Administration to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Israel acquired the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967's Six-Day War. Previously, Syria's southern border extended to the edge of the Sea of Galilee.) The Golan Heights is a hilly plateau (average elevation: 3300 ft.) that rises steeply from the Jordan River valley, making it a strategic asset. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/12/Golan_heights_rel89-orig.jpg/375px-Golan_heights_rel89-orig.jpg
Boston Consulting Group's 2018 global wealth report finds that global personal financial wealth grew 12% in 2017 (mostly due to gains in stock markets around the world) to $202 trillion dollars, a sum roughly (and rather astonishingly) equivalent to 2.5 times the global GDP in 2017 ($81 trillion). This chart from BCG's report shows (1) the top 10 offshore financial centers as measured by non-resident money held there, (2) the five-year rate of growth for each of these tax havens, and (3) the top source countries for offshore wealth. www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/global-wealth-seizing-analytics-advantage.aspx
Sand is second only to water as a natural material used by humans: the global construction industry uses 15-20 billion tons of it annually. But despite our tendency to think of sand as limitless, demand is outstripping supply. Sand, it turns out, is not all the same, and the sand of the Sahara, for example, is not suitable for building. This article explores the global trade in sand, including the rise of sand mafias. www.theguardian.com/global/2018/jul/01/riddle-of-the-sands-the-truth-behind-stolen-beaches-and-dredged-islands
According to U.S. Census projections, by 2025 nearly half (49%) of all Americans will live in just eight states (shown in light blue on my map). One in seven Americans will live in California alone. (For those who like to plan ahead, by 2040 at least half of all American will live in eight states, but Georgia and North Carolina are expected to supplant Ohio and Michigan on the list of eight states.) For the Census data, see https://www.census.gov/prod/2/pop/p25/p25-1131.pdf. For a look at 2040, see www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/12/in-about-20-years-half-the-population-will-live-in-eight-states
Howard Gardner (well-known professor of education at Harvard) makes the case for why students should be required to take two philosophy classes as part of their college education. Oddly, he doesn't even mention the benefits of critical thinking that come from wrestling with philosophy. Don't want your student to wait until college to reap the benefits of studying philosophy? There are still spots available in the "Philosophically Speaking" class I'll be teaching at Compass in the fall.
From Howard Gardner: "[Philosophy] would help students understand that reflective human beings have been asking and answering such questions for millennia, across many cultures and many epochs. Some of the answers those people came up with to the perennial riddles of life have been profound, as indeed have some of the subsequent critiques of their answers. I want students to appreciate that this conversation over time and across cultures is important and — crucially — that they can and should join in. But they should do so with some humility and respect, building on what has been thought and said before. ... [As seniors] students would approach the discipline more directly through the use of philosophical texts that deal with timeless as well as contemporary issues — for example, seminal texts on just and unjust wars, human and artificial intelligence, bioethics, the nature of consciousness. The goal: to equip graduates with a philosophical armamentarium they could draw from — and contribute to — for the rest of their lives."
With NATO in the news, it's useful to revisit a map of NATO. NATO members are shown in grey here. In nearly 70 years, NATO's mutual defense provision (Article 5) has been invoked only once: to defend the U.S. after 9/11. This interactive site allows users to see where NATO is engaged and potential security hot spots identified by NATO: www.nato.int/nato-on-the-map
On July 24 the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is hosting a special after-hours talk melding paleontology and ocean science: "Spying On Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures." Whales "evolved from land-roaming creatures the size of German shepherds into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and travel entire ocean basins. Whales fill us with awe, terror, and affection, but because they live 99% of their lives underwater, they remain mysteries to us. In Spying on Whales, paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History, Nick Pyenson, takes readers to the ends of the earth and the cutting edge of research to answer some of our biggest questions about whales. Why and how did they evolve to such enormous sizes? How did their ancestors return from land to the sea? What do their lives tell us about our oceans and about evolution as a whole?" The program begins at 6:45 pm and is free, but you must reserve tickets in advance. go.si.edu/site/Calendar?id=102361&view=Detail&s_src=nmnh_web_trumba_er
Earlier this week marked the 73rd anniversary of the first nuclear bomb detonation (code name: Trinity), conducted in the New Mexico desert by the U.S. Army on July 16, 1945. This video maps all of the known nuclear bomb detonations, beginning with Trinity and continuing through North Korea's second announced nuclear test in 2009. For flag aficionados, there's a running tally, by flag, at the bottom of the video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFkw0hzW1c
One of the more provocative ideas for new governance models has been the seasteading movement, which seeks to create permanent dwellings in international waters (i.e., outside the purview of any existing nation-states). As this article on the Galápagos Islands points out, though, providing food for an island population has distinct challenges. geographical.co.uk/people/development/item/2772-feeding-the-galapagos
Scientists recently reported finding the coldest spot on earth: a section of the East Antarctic ice sheet that registered -144°F. Because this area of East Antarctica is too cold and remote to be measured by scientists on the ground, the spot was identified by analyzing satellite data. This significantly exceeds the previously documented low temperature of -129°F (also in Antarctica) and is believed to be close to the minimum temperature possible on our planet. news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/06/coldest-place-earth-measured-temperature-antarctica-science
Since this blog's inception nearly two years ago, I have posted the same daily content on my Facebook page and on the blog hosted at my website. Because not everyone has Facebook and because in geography, in particular, seeing is a big part of understanding, I have included on my blog the same image that automatically comes up on Facebook when I provided a link to the original source so that those who do not have access to Facebook can see, as well as read, the content of the post as it appears on Facebook.
Recently, I received a legal filing accusing me of copyright violation for posting one of those corresponding photos on my blog, despite correctly citing and linking to the original source, and demanding a $2,000 "settlement."
Thus, in addition to being out a chunk of money :-(, I had a choice to make going forward: I could give up these daily posts entirely, disheartened as I am that someone would sue an instructor providing an educational, non-monetized blog as a public service; I could continue with the Facebook posts and delete the blog from my website; or I could continue with the Facebook posts and go back and laboriously delete every image from every blog post that was not from Wikimedia, the U.S. government, or another source that explicitly permits re-use with attribution. I have opted for the latter and am in the process of deleting 95% of the blog's images.
For those of you who read this blog on my website, you will still be able to see the image, but you will have to actually click on the link to do so. Less aesthetically appealing and convenient for you, perhaps, but still available to you. For those of you who read these posts on Facebook and don't see the posts in your news feed regularly, the same content, sans photo, will continue to be available on my website.
Let's continue to make the world a smarter, more wonder-filled place. (Yes, this is my photo, from Grand Teton National Park.)
If they could visit anywhere in the U.S., Americans would choose to go to Hawaii. Several national parks also make the Top 10 list. www.statista.com/chart/14396/americans-favorite-domestic-destinations/
Do you enjoy puzzling about paradoxes? This article highlights 15 famous paradoxes drawn from classical philosophy (e.g., Zeno's paradox, the Ship of Theseus), math, science, theology, and literature. www.independent.co.uk/news/science/paradoxes-riddles-difficult-work-out-challenging-mind-exercises-brain-philosophy-a8137961.html
Today is Bastille Day, and French is one of the fastest-growing languages on the planet. But the most populous French-speaking country is no longer France: it's the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This map shows where French is the official language (dark blue) or an official language (light blue).
Given the possible closure of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm at the end of the year, next weekend (July 21-22) may be one of your last chances to participate in the farm's seasonal Market Fair. In addition to singing and dancing with the fiddler and practicing your writing skills with the stationer, you can muster with the militia and try your hand at spinning and dyeing, among other activities. 1771.org/marketfair/
To provide context for globalization, some of my "Hands-On Geography" classes study historical trade routes, and this map provides a nice look at trade networks crisscrossing the Eastern Hemisphere about 1,000 years ago. (Click on the link to see the zoomable map.) merchantmachine.co.uk/medieval-trade-routes/
What makes for national power? Students in my "Mission Possible: Global Issues, Leadership Choices" classes quickly learn that it's a mix of factors, but one of the most important is economic might. This map demonstrates why although Russia might be an important regional power (and spoiler), its military and the size of its territory and population are not sufficient to make it a global power: the economic output of Russia is roughly equivalent to the area of Western Europe shown in red (effectively the Benelux countries). merchantmachine.co.uk/russian-in-western-europe/
An earthquake last November has changed the coastline of New Zealand's South Island. The 7.8 earthquake uplifted the seafloor, creating a new wall of purplish stone two meters high near Kaikoura, on the northeast coast of the island. geographical.co.uk/nature/oceans/item/2041-new-zealand-s-new-coastline
Researchers tracking the impact of nonmedical vaccine exemption policies have identified potential epidemic "hotspots" around the U.S. where childhood vaccination rates are particularly low (in dark red on this map). Although most hotspots are in rural areas -- 8 of the 10 counties with the lowest rates of childhood vaccinations are in Idaho -- several major cities, including Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Houston, and Detroit, are also on the list. www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/06/12/kids-in-these-u-s-hotspots-at-higher-risk-because-parents-opt-out-of-vaccinations
A former British Army captain who served in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan writes this fascinating and wide-ranging look at how philosophy, both classic and contemporary, could have prepared him for situations that military training did not. An excerpt will not do it justice. aeon.co/essays/how-philosophy-helped-one-soldier-on-the-battlefield
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