I'll be out exploring a corner of the world for most of the next two weeks and do not expect to be posting to my blog or Facebook page much, if at all, during that time. If you find you miss my daily posts, please tell a friend or two about my blog/Facebook page :-).
Much has been written about the current semiconductor chip shortage, which is expected to last another year or two or three. This article from The New York Times provides an interesting look at the geopolitics of chip production:
"[A] massive machine sold by a Dutch company has emerged as a key lever for policymakers — and illustrates how any country’s hopes of building a completely self-sufficient supply chain in semiconductor technology are unrealistic. The machine is made by ASML Holding, based in Veldhoven [Netherlands]. Its system uses a different kind of light to define ultrasmall circuitry on chips, packing more performance into the small slices of silicon. The tool, which took decades to develop and was introduced for high-volume manufacturing in 2017, costs more than $150 million. Shipping it to customers requires 40 shipping containers, 20 trucks and three Boeing 747s.
The complex machine is widely acknowledged as necessary for making the most advanced chips, an ability with geopolitical implications. The Trump administration successfully lobbied the Dutch government to block shipments of such a machine to China in 2019, and the Biden administration has shown no signs of reversing that stance. Manufacturers can’t produce leading-edge chips without the system.... Will Hunt, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, ... has concluded that it would take China at least a decade to build its own similar equipment. ... The tool’s three-continent development and production — using expertise and parts from Japan, the United States and Germany — is also a reminder of just how global that supply chain is, providing a reality check for any country that wants to leap ahead in semiconductors by itself."
Because tectonic plates are constantly in (slow) motion, many geographic landforms are constantly changing as well -- lakes and trenches that get deeper, seas that get smaller, mountains that get taller, islands that emerge or break off.... This article from Geographical (UK) discusses how tectonic plate movement is expected to change the face of the planet over the next 200-250 million years and includes a short video based on the work of Dutch geologists about the (distant) future's Somalaya mountains: geographical.co.uk/places/mountains/item/4092-predicting-the-formation-of-a-new-mountain-range
Religious identity is a key component of cultural geography. The Public Religion Research Institute recently released a report on religion in America, combining data from the 2020 Census with nearly 500,000 interviews with people across the U.S. The report has loads of interesting maps and graphs detailing the American religious landscape: www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion/
Phenomenology is the branch of philosophy that considers how we experience the world around us. Is the way that I experience the sight or the taste of a bowl of cherries, for example, the same way that you would experience the sight or the taste of that same bowl of cherries? This piece from the chair of the University of Dallas philosophy department considers the phenomenology of a trip to the beach:
"Cutting clear across our field of view is the horizon line, where ocean meets sky – the straightest and truest line that we ever experience in nature. Ordinarily, the horizon line is obscured by things such as trees and buildings, or mountains and hills. In this case, however, there is nothing but air and light. ... But with the horizon bare at the beach, we get to see something we rarely otherwise see – the definite beginning and ending of our day appear in the rising and the setting of the sun. The setting sun delights us not only with the beautiful and fascinating plays of color and movement, but also with the significance of what we watch: the natural marking-out of our limited days upon this earth. ... Of course the beach is a dynamic place, where wave after wave advances, crashes, and retreats, loudly and incessantly. The waves are both inviting and frightening in the awesomeness of their power. ... Some waves turn out to afford us the gentlest or most exhilarating rides of our lives; others knock us down and crush us in their wrath. But each wave emerges from beyond the horizon of our experience: we anticipate it and roll with it. The horizon of our experience, glimpsed in the horizon where the sea meets the sky, in there is each experience at the beach, including the experience of each and every wave. The infinitude of the ocean is an index of the finitude of human experience."
Heavy rainfall has led to devastating flooding in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands this week, primarily along the Rhine and the Meuse (French name)/Maas (Dutch/Flemish name) rivers and their tributaries. This map shows the rivers' watersheds (in black) with national boundaries shown in red.
Interested in learning more about artificial intelligence and the ways it is being used in everyday life? "In Machines We Trust" (title is somewhat tongue in cheek) is a free podcast from MIT Technology Review available on standard podcast platforms: forms.technologyreview.com/in-machines-we-trust/
Most of the plastic that ends up in the world's oceans enters via rivers, primarily Asian rivers that run through densely populated urban areas. In fact, a recent study finds that Asian rivers contribute more than 80% of the plastic that finds its way to the sea, with the Pasig River being the single largest source of plastic pollution. The Pasig is the river that bisects Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. According to this geo-graphic, three of the world's five most plastic-polluted rivers are in the Philippines. www.statista.com/chart/25005/riverine-plastic-emissions-by-continent
Threatening Europe with refugees appears to be a new favorite ploy in international relations. Turkey has been using this tactic for more than five years, primarily focused on keeping Syrian refugees in Turkey in exchange for money and various other EU considerations. In May, Morocco allowed illegal migrants, primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa, to "escape" into adjacent Spanish territory to show displeasure with Spain's decision to provide medical treatment for a leader of Western Sahara's Polisario Front. Now Egypt is suggesting Europe may be faced with a flood of refugees (including "youth joining terrorist groups") if European countries do not side with Egypt in its dispute with Ethiopia over the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on a section of the Blue Nile in northwestern Ethiopia. www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/07/egypt-warns-europe-against-illegal-immigration-amid-nile-dam-impasse
The primary case study in this New York Times article is Kobe, Japan, but the issues apply equally well to any coastal area in an earthquake zone, which includes much of the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Pacific coast, among many others: how does one build -- and pay for -- new sea walls that will not fail during the next earthquake? www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/climate/san-francisco-sea-wall-earthquake.html
Extreme drought in the American Southwest has gotten most of the headlines, but this map from The Washington Post shows the severity of the problem in the northern half of the U.S. as well, in a nearly unbroken band from Minnesota to Washington and Oregon. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/07/01/underpaid-firefighters-overstretched-budgets-us-isnt-prepared-fires-fueled-by-climate-change/.)
When we speak of "democratic values," to what, exactly, are we referring? In his new book Democracy Rules, Princeton political philosopher Jan-Werner Müller argues that losing -- or, more specifically, uncertainty about the outcome of any election -- is central to democracy. Müller also introduces the potentially useful term "info-feces" to the philosophy lexicon. :-) The New York Times recently ran a review of Democracy Rules:
"Müller begins by acknowledging the widespread fear that 'democracy is in crisis' before pointing out that few people who aren’t political philosophers have given any sustained thought to what democracy actually is. He doesn’t want us to fixate so much on democratic 'norms' — those informal rules that beguile and bedevil political scientists — as he wants to talk about the democratic principles that animate those norms in the first place. In other words, if we’re fretting about the degradation of democracy, what exactly is it that we think we’re in danger of losing? Müller says that losing is, in fact, a central part of it: In addition to the more familiar principles of liberty and equality, he encourages us to see uncertainty — including the possibility that an incumbent may lose — as essential to any truly democratic system. Winners cannot be enshrined, and losers cannot be destroyed. ... Preserving uncertainty means that democracy is inherently dynamic and fluid. 'Individuals remain at liberty to decide what matters to them most,' Müller writes, but holding onto democratic commitments also means that freedom has to be contained by what he identifies as two 'hard borders.' People cannot undermine the political standing of their fellow citizens (the growing spate of voting restrictions is a glaring case in point); and people cannot refuse to be 'constrained by what we can plausibly call facts.' Müller takes care to situate the United States in an international context, using examples from other countries to illuminating effect. Writing about political institutions in a way that makes them sound vital is a challenge for any writer, and Müller’s method is to leaven abstract ideas with concrete examples of bad behavior — even if, as he himself says early on, we have a tendency to get caught up in outrageous stories about individuals instead of training our gaze on the less spectacular mechanisms of the system itself."
The U.S. military departure from Afghanistan -- and the Taliban's resurgence in many parts of the country -- have been in the news this week. (All U.S. troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by August 31, with most combat troops having already left.) This map from The Economist (UK) shows the situation on the ground in Afghanistan as of earlier this week: www.economist.com/img/b/300/400/90/sites/default/files/20210710_ASM111.png
Want to test your knowledge of islands? This 40-question quiz provides a peek at some of the world's islands. (The maps are a bit quirky, but the content is good.) play.howstuffworks.com/quiz/can-you-name-these-island-destinations-from-a-map
Although domestic tourism might be rebounding, the slow pace of vaccination in much of the world is expected to continue to depress international tourism. In fact, a recent UN report expects 2021 to be nearly as bad as 2020 in this regard, with estimates that global tourism will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or later. This geo-graphic shows the 10 countries that are expected to take the biggest hits to their economies in 2021 because of the lack of tourism. www.statista.com/chart/25202/gdp-losses-by-country-due-to-a-pandemic-related-reduction-in-tourism
There have been many hacks and cyberattacks in the news, but this excellent article from the BBC (UK) provides details about the nearly successful 2016 attempt to steal $1 billion of Bangladesh's foreign currency reserves. (Hackers did make off with $81 million before the transfer was halted.) Although it's taken years to unspool exactly what happened, the digital signature of the attack strongly suggests North Korea was behind the cybertheft. www.bbc.com/news/stories-57520169
Long ago, Native American communities were moved to or allowed to exist in marginal lands, lands that Euro-American settlers, miners, or the U.S. government didn't particularly want. Those marginal lands are now proving to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. This article looks at the intersection of physical geography and human geography via the current impacts of climate-related changes on Native communities -- from rising waters and melting permafrost in Alaska to extended drought in the Southwest and the Ozarks to coastal erosion in the Pacific Northwest -- and the tricky question of who is supposed to "fix" the problem. www.nytimes.com/2021/06/27/climate/climate-Native-Americans.html
The U.S. Postal Service's restructuring plan is likely to slow the pace of mail delivery across much of the country. This map, from The Washington Post, shows (in darker blues and purples) the areas most likely to experience slower mail delivery under the proposed restructuring. The article also allows you to enter your Zip code to compare how the delivery of mail posted from your Zip code is expected to change if the postal service restructuring plan is approved.
Most Americans would agree with Thomas Jefferson's argument in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence that people should have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But how many of us have given this any more thought? What happens when these are in conflict, as they have been over much of the past year? What happens when our pursuits of happiness conflict? What happens if preserving life requires restricting liberty? Or should liberty be ranked higher than life? Or is liberty just tossed around as "a fine sounding placeholder for saying that [people] will do what they want to do and get out of my way." This thoughtful piece from John Authers at Bloomberg explores the history of liberty as a political philosophy with some COVID context. www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-05-09/covid-liberty-and-responsibility-where-s-the-line-kognfnb6
Since the beginning of the civil war in neighboring Syria 10 years ago, Lebanon has hosted the largest number of externally displaced people on a per-capita basis. At one point, as many as one in four people in Lebanon were Syrian refugees. In 2020, the island of Aruba (technically part of the Netherlands) supplanted Lebanon as the host of the greatest per-capita number of externally displaced people, most of whom have fled nearby Venezuela. This geo-graphic, based on UN data, shows the eight countries hosting the most externally displaced people on a per-capita basis: www.statista.com/chart/3576/the-countries-with-the-most-refugees-per-capita
If you are a word nerd like me, you may enjoy the Time Traveler feature of the online Merriam-Webster dictionary: pick a year, and you can see all of the words that are known to have entered the lexicon that year. Click on a word for meaning, etymology, synonyms, fun facts about the word, and examples of recent usage. (For what it's worth, "nerd" first appeared in the sense I just used it in 1951.) www.merriam-webster.com/time-traveler/1656
It remains to be seen if Europeans will be able to travel freely this summer. But if they can, this map shows the island destinations residents of European countries other than Russia have been Googling most over the last 24 months. Note: this map is in Spanish, which may require some translation of unfamiliar names (e.g., "Cerdeña" would be "Sardinia" in English). (Students in my geography classes learn that what Americans call a given country is frequently not what a country calls itself; this map is a reminder that place names in other languages are often different still.) www.traveler.es/experiencias/articulos/mapa-islas-europeas-preferidas-en-europa/21200
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