Conservationists are trying to safeguard the region of the Arctic Ocean that will be the most likely to persist as frozen ice according to climate models. This Last Ice Area, as it is being called, stretches from northwestern Greenland into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and may serve as a refuge for organisms that depend on sea ice, from polar bears to fish and crustaceans to microbes. www.sciencenews.org/article/arctic-last-ice-area-climate-change
Armadillos are on the move. The nine-banded armadillo is native to Central and South America but was recorded in Texas, where it is the state mammal, as early as 1849. It has continued to expand its range in the U.S. ever since. Some towns in western North Carolina, for example, recently claimed to be "besieged" by armadillos. This map shows where the nine-banded armadillo has been observed in North Carolina over the last 15 years: www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/images/Species/Mammals/Map-Armadillo-Sightings-2007-2020-Cumulative.jpg
The U.S. military has issued ethics guidelines for contractors working on AI projects. "The guidelines provide a step-by-step process for companies to follow during planning, development, and deployment. They include procedures for identifying who might use the technology, who might be harmed by it, what those harms might be, and how they might be avoided—both before the system is built and once it is up and running." www.technologyreview.com/2021/11/16/1040190/department-of-defense-government-ai-ethics-military-project-maven/
This animated cartogram, based on NASA satellite data, shows the earth's carbon capture via terrestrial plant production throughout the year: worldmapper.org/natures-heartbeat
National Geographic's free Explorer Classroom program gives students an opportunity to interact with National Geographic explorers. In the next few weeks, for example, students can participate in webinars with scientists studying ice cores, researching ancient humans and their ancestors, and exploring the ocean with robots. For more information or to register (or to search the archives), visit www.nationalgeographic.org/tickets/explorer-classroom/
According to a recent report by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, an estimated 4.3 million Americans (corresponding to 1.3% of the U.S. population) is Native American. In Bolivia, by contrast, nearly half of the population is indigenous. www.statista.com/chart/19633/countries-by-indigenous-population-in-the-americas
Although talks with Iran are supposed to resume next week in Vienna, foreign policy experts assess the prospects for a diplomatic deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program as increasingly bleak. Since the U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA in late 2018, Iran has installed more advanced centrifuges, increased enrichment of uranium to nearly 60%, begun the production of uranium metal (which would be needed for a warhead), and intermittently denied access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Although there is still no evidence Iran's government has actually made a decision to build a nuclear weapon, domestic political realities in the U.S. and Iran make it increasingly unlikely Iran's nuclear progress since 2018 can be reversed with a diplomatic arrangement both parties would be willing to accept. For more on the current state of Iran's nuclear program, see, for example, the "Intelligence Matters" interview with Iran expert Norm Roule from earlier this month: www.cbsnews.com/news/iran-expert-norman-roule-on-escalating-tensions-with-tehran-intelligence-matters/
This article from Atlas Obscura takes a look back at "turkey drives" when that was the only way, before refrigerated transport, to get one's flock to market. "When we think back on livestock migrations, we typically think of cattle, maybe sheep. The image of a rugged herdsman driving a clucking, head-bobbing, beady-eyed gaggle of birds across open plains and down dirt roads is harder to imagine, yet this practice used to be common all over the world. ... Such drives were no trivial matter, either: Birds by the thousands were sometimes driven hundreds of miles over several days; foxes and other predators would thin the herd along the way. In some parts of the world, such drives lasted into the 1930s. ... Turkey drives could include 'shooers' who herded the turkeys, children who scattered feed in the path to guide the birds, and covered wagons filled with grain to feed them. ... 'Wherever they are when the sun sets, that’s where they perch for the night,' Peter Gilbert, chair of the Vermont Humanities Council told Vermont Public Radio. 'And their collective weight shatters trees; occasionally birds end up perching on a farmer’s shed or barn and the building collapses. In fact, in one town, they roosted on top of the school building and the school collapsed.' Sometimes the turkeys would mistake the shade cast by a covered bridge for nighttime and react accordingly, requiring their drivers to roust them from the structure." Be sure to check out the photos in the article: www.atlasobscura.com/articles/back-when-your-thanksgiving-dinner-walked-hundreds-of-miles-to-market
According to a recent report from First Street, nearly a quarter of U.S. critical infrastructure -- airports, police stations, utilities, hospitals, etc. -- are at risk of being inundated by floods, either from rivers or the seas. This article from Bloomberg provides a short summary of key findings and links to the entire 160+ page report: www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2021-flood-risk-critical-infrastructure/
Might there be a unified field theory of ethics? This article considers work from anthropology and philosophy in arriving at "morality molecules."
"This theory of ‘morality as cooperation’ relies on the mathematical analysis of cooperation provided by game theory – the branch of maths that is used to describe situations in which the outcome of one’s decisions depends on the decisions made by others. Game theory distinguishes between competitive ‘zero-sum’ interactions or ‘games’, where one player’s gain is another’s loss, and cooperative ‘nonzero-sum’ games, win-win situations in which both players benefit. What’s more, game theory tells us that there is not just one type of nonzero-sum game; there are many, with many different cooperative strategies for playing them. At least seven different types of cooperation have been identified so far, and each one explains a different type of morality. ... Hence, seven types of cooperation explain seven types of morality: love, loyalty, reciprocity, heroism, deference, fairness and property rights. And so, according to this theory, it is morally good to: 1) love your family; 2) be loyal to your group; 3) return favours; 4) be heroic; 5) defer to superiors; 6) be fair; and 7) respect property. (And it is morally bad to: 1) neglect your family; 2) betray your group; 3) cheat; 4) be a coward; 5) disrespect authority; 6) be unfair; or 7) steal.) These morals are evolutionarily ancient, genetically distinct, psychologically discrete and cross-culturally universal. ... In a recent paper, my colleagues and I show how morality is a combinatorial system in which the seven basic moral ‘elements’ combine to form a much larger number of more complex moral ‘molecules’. A combinatorial system is one in which a relatively small number of simple things are combined to form a relatively large number of more complex things. ... Could morality be such a system? As an initial test of the idea, we hypothesised possible moral molecules that combined each pair of moral elements, and then tried to find examples of them in the popular and professional literature. In each case, we succeeded. ... To track those efforts, we have created a document called ‘The Periodic Table of Ethics’ that covers the 127 positive molecules. ... Readers are welcome to try to add to or improve upon our suggested molecules, fill in the remaining gaps, and come up with counterexamples that challenge the theory."
This map compares the per capita GDP (adjusted for purchasing power parity) of Mexico's 32 states with countries with equivalent per capital GDPs. (The darker the color, the higher the per capita GDP.)
These easy homemade treats -- using a pine cone, peanut butter, and bird seed -- are a craft project, a science project, and away of saying "thanks" to your backyard wildlife on Thanksgiving or any day. Although these are generally branded as bird treats, in our yard squirrels are usually the primary beneficiary. But be sure to watch to see who visits yours :-). diythrill.com/2016/02/09/easy-homemade-wild-bird-treat/
Stronger-than-usual trade winds are shifting water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, creating a La Niña effect that is expected to influence weather patterns through the winter and into the spring. Because La Niña impacts vary with the location, check out the maps in this article to see what might be in store for you: www.wsj.com/articles/la-nina-is-coming-to-shape-winter-forecasts-what-to-know-11636666122
Brazil has a fragile history as a democracy, having had military rule as recently as the 1980s. Now, Brazil's increasingly unpopular right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, is using Donald Trump's political advisors and tactics to cast doubt, more than a year in advance, on the legitimacy of next fall's Brazilian presidential election. Will global democracy be undone from within, in no small bit of irony by election consultants and ideas exported from the U.S.? www.nytimes.com/2021/11/11/world/americas/bolsonaro-trump-brazil-election.html
Biogeography includes the geographic range of microbes, and the virus that causes COVID, SARS-CoV-2, now seems to be taking up residence in U.S. white-tailed deer populations. A recently published study found that 30% of the white-tailed deer tested in Iowa from Apr. through Dec. 2020 were infected with SARS-CoV-2, with 80% testing positive during the parallel surge in Iowa's human population last winter. Genetic analysis revealed the deer were being infected by the same variants circulating in humans at the time. These findings suggest white-tailed deer are becoming a wild reservoir for the virus in North America, making eradication all but impossible and raising the possibility of new mutations that evolve in deer and spillover into livestock and back into humans. www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/11/10/1054224204/how-sars-cov-2-in-american-deer-could-alter-the-course-of-the-global-pandemic
This map from the Brookings Institution shows where in the U.S. artificial intelligence skills are currently in demand (in dark and light purple) and where they could be in the future, based on government R&D spending (in yellow and orange): www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/metro_geography_of_ai_map1.png (From www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2021/09/16/five-charts-that-reveal-the-geography-of-the-ai-economy/)
Can an AI approximate human ethics? A new AI, DELPHI, trained up on 1.7 million real-life moral dilemmas, made the same decisions a human did more than 90% of the time.
"The ethical rules that govern our behavior have evolved over thousands of years, perhaps millions. They are a complex tangle of ideas that differ from one society to another and sometimes even within societies. It’s no surprise that the resulting moral landscape is sometimes hard to navigate, even for humans. The challenge for machines is even greater now that artificial intelligence now faces some of the same moral dilemmas that tax humans. AI is now being charged with tasks ranging from assessing loan applications to controlling lethal weapons. Training these machines to make good decisions is not just important, it is a matter of life and death for some people. ... In general, DELPHI outperforms other AI systems by a significant margin. It also works well when there are multiple conflicting conditions. The team give the example of 'ignoring a phone call from my boss' which DELPHI considers 'bad'. It sticks with this judgement when given the context 'during workdays'. However, DELPHI says ignoring the call is justifiable 'if I’m in a meeting.' ... More difficult are situations when breaking the law might be overlooked by humans because of an overriding necessity. For example: 'stealing money to feed your hungry children' or 'running a red light in an emergency'. This raises the question of what the correct response for a moral machine should be."
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared that the Egyptian government should begin working from Egypt's new administrative capital about 30 miles east of Cairo for a six-month trial period beginning Dec. 1. The yet-to-be-named city is supposed to relieve congestion in Cairo and is being designed as Egypt's high-tech showcase. www.acud.eg/images/picture1.jpg
This is a great time of year to study the night sky. This site allows you to put in your location for a real-time map of the night sky. It also includes information on visible planets, moon phases, and upcoming meteor showers. www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/
The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration maintains 155 military cemeteries around the U.S. (The largest is actually not Arlington National Cemetery; it is Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.) You can use this site to find a federal military cemetery near you: www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp
With the Taliban reasserting control over Afghanistan, The Economist (UK) published this article citing research showing that societies that oppress women are poorer and less stable. Patrilineal societies are more likely to experience corruption, violence, low female literacy, excessive bride prices, and other economic and political disadvantages. Researchers found a clear correlation between countries' scores on the Fragile States Index and their score for "patrilineal/fraternal syndrome": www.economist.com/international/2021/09/11/societies-that-treat-women-badly-are-poorer-and-less-stable
Groundwater supplies half of the world's drinking water and 40% of the water used for irrigation. The Western U.S.'s besieged Ogallala Aquifer, for example, is the source of drinking water for more than 80% of the people who live in the High Plains yet this water is thousands of years old and will take thousands of years to recharge. This article looks at the use and science of aquifers and the geography of aquifer recharge across the U.S. theconversation.com/ancient-groundwater-why-the-water-youre-drinking-may-be-thousands-of-years-old-167982
The cities and towns shown with a green dot on this map derive at least 10% of their revenue from traffic fines and related court fees. In many locales, the ratio is much higher, as in the two circled towns, Valley Brook, OK, and Henderson, LA. (Map from www.nytimes.com/2021/10/31/us/police-ticket-quotas-money-funding.html)
This piece by philosophy writer Daniel Lehewych considers Friedrich Nietzsche's unfortunate relationship with the women in his life and hints at what he would have wanted to find in a relationship with a woman: conversation and friendship. bigthink.com/thinking/nietzsche-improve-love-life/
In the recent fishing disputes between the UK and France, it is helpful to throw in Jersey and Guernsey as well. Both are islands in the English Channel, much closer to France than to Britain as this map shows. Although both are Crown Dependencies, neither is formally part of the UK, instead having their own governments, treaties, and territorial waters. Because they are not part of the UK, Jersey and Guernsey were never part of the EU either. Post-Brexit, fishing in the English Channel now requires navigating multiple sets of rules and permits issued variously by France, Britain, Jersey, and Guernsey. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/ChannelIslands.png
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