Today is the 32nd anniversary of the beginning of the fire that destroyed the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was then the Soviet Union and is today Ukraine. What do you do with a 1,000-square-mile swath of land that will remain radioactive for another 24,000 years? A German company has begun construction of a solar farm near the Chernobyl site. After all, the land can't be used for agriculture or human habitation, but the transmission lines from the nuclear power plant are still largely intact. www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/chernobyl-site-solar-power-plant-opens-new-renewable-energy-nuclear-disaster-ukraine-a8159891.html
The king of the small African country bordering South Africa and Mozambique has announced that the country is returning to its pre-colonial name: Swaziland is now eSwatini. Nearly 50 years after the country's independence from Britain, the country is reclaiming its traditional name. geographical.co.uk/geopolitics/geopolitics/item/2708-swaziland-renamed-the-kingdom-of-eswatini
This map uses housing data to arrive at the minimum salary required in each state to buy an average-priced home. howmuch.net/articles/salary-to-afford-the-average-home-in-your-state
Does the language in which we are thinking about an ethical dilemma affect our decisions? Researchers are finding that, yes, considering a moral problem in the language we learned as a child can yield different decisions from those we reach considering the same problem in another language in which we are fluent. (The specific languages do not seem to matter.)
"Why does it matter whether we judge morality in our native language or a foreign one? According to one explanation, such judgments involve two separate and competing modes of thinking—one of these, a quick, gut-level “feeling,” and the other, careful deliberation about the greatest good for the greatest number. When we use a foreign language, we unconsciously sink into the more deliberate mode simply because the effort of operating in our non-native language cues our cognitive system to prepare for strenuous activity. ... An alternative explanation is that differences arise between native and foreign tongues because our childhood languages vibrate with greater emotional intensity than do those learned in more academic settings. As a result, moral judgments made in a foreign language are less laden with the emotional reactions that surface when we use a language learned in childhood."
I found this map for my "Stock Market Challenge: Intro to Finance" class. It shows the 20 largest stock exchanges in the world as measured by market capitalization. (The New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ are #1 and #2, respectively.) Neither the NYSE nor the NASDAQ lists the most publicly traded companies, though; that distinction belongs to the Bombay Stock Exchange, which is Asia's oldest stock exchange. www.visualcapitalist.com/20-largest-stock-exchanges-world/
Tomorrow kicks off National Park Week with a fee-free day across the entire U.S. national park system! Within the parks, tomorrow is also National Junior Ranger Day for kids ages 5-13. To learn more, see www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/national-park-week.htm
This map compares when women got the right to vote in a given country. (The asterisks suggest that a woman's right to vote came in stages in that country; for example, some states/provinces may have allowed women to vote earlier than the national law or the national law initially applied only to women who met certain age/property requirements and full suffrage came later.) i.redd.it/jmwkxomstiq01.jpg
One of the students in my online science fiction class ("Who We Are & What We Dream: Comparative Science Fiction") shared this amazingly cool site that tracks cyberattacks in real-time: map.norsecorp.com/#/
This article from Geographical magazine (UK) examines the issues behind the "Macedonia" naming dispute that has soured relations between Greece, the former Yugoslavian People's Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria: Who is Macedonia? Where is Macedonia? What was Macedonia? Why does it matter? geographical.co.uk/geopolitics/hotspot/item/2674-hotspot-greece-and-macedonia
Baseball season is underway, and this map shows regions of the U.S. (and southern Canada) defined by proximity to the nearest Major League Baseball park. Who would have guessed that the region for the Atlanta Braves is the largest by population?
The University of Kentucky Philosophy Graduate Student Association is sponsoring a day camp from July 9-13 (9 am-4 pm) on UK's Lexington campus for high school students devoted to the theme of justice. The camp is free, but because this is not a residential camp, families must provide their own housing and meals in addition to transportation. For more information, see www.uky.edu/hr/sites/www.uky.edu.hr/files/worklife/documents/ukworklife_2018summercamps_ukphilosophy.pdf
Antarctica is known to be geothermically active. "A new NASA study adds evidence that a geothermal heat source called a mantle plume lies deep below Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land, explaining some of the melting that creates lakes and rivers under the ice sheet. Although the heat source isn't a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it may help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly in an earlier era of rapid climate change, and why it is so unstable today. The stability of an ice sheet is closely related to how much water lubricates it from below, allowing glaciers to slide more easily. Understanding the sources and future of the meltwater under West Antarctica is important for estimating the rate at which ice may be lost to the ocean in the future. Antarctica's bedrock is laced with rivers and lakes, the largest of which is the size of Lake Erie." This map shows the continent's subglacial rivers and lakes. www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6996
In conjunction with the 2018 March for Science, groups ranging from The Nature Conservancy and the American Association of Anatomists to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will be leading educational events on the National Mall tomorrow, beginning at 9:00 am. There will be a Kids Zone, a program on the science of superheroes, and more. Not in the DC area and wondering what, if anything, might be planned near you? You can check out the map and links here: www.marchforscience.com/
Three years in, the civil war in Yemen shows no signs of a resolution and has devolved into one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, marked by cholera, widespread malnutrition, and mass displacement of civilian populations in addition to an average of one air strike every 100 minutes by the Saudi-led coalition. This map, from a recent report by Chatham House (UK), scratches the surface of the complexity of the Yemeni situation. reader.chathamhouse.org/epubs/631/images/CHHJ5863-Yemen-Map1-Internal-Divisions.png
For the full report, see www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/publications/research/2017-12-20-yemen-national-chaos-local-order-salisbury2.pdf
Israel is facing a particularly difficult leadership choice in the coming months and years: does it want to preserve its democracy or does it want to preserve its Jewish majority? New data in a report delivered to the Israeli Knesset recently suggest the numbers of Jews and Arabs in the land currently controlled by Israel (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean) are now essentially equal. Although this demographic issue has been discussed, and dismissed, as a possibility for years, the Israeli army's Civil Administration unit reports that it is now a fact. www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/04/israel-palestinians-demography-jordan-river-apartheid.html
Most people associate potatoes with Idaho and citrus with Florida. What is less well known is that roughly half of all the mushrooms grown commercially in the United States are grown in a single county in Pennsylvania (Chester County, just west of Philadelphia). Geographers researching risks to the mushroom industry are finding that changes in U.S. immigration policy are at the top of the list: because mushrooms are harvested by hand, the industry is heavily dependent on immigrant labor, mostly from Latin America. phys.org/news/2018-03-mushroom-geography.html
This map compares U.S. educational attainment, as measured by high school graduation rates, by state, with countries of similar educational attainment. www.homesnacks.net/this-surprising-map-shows-all-50-states-renamed-for-countries-with-similar-education-levels-123796/
This article on human-robot relationships caught my attention because it tied in perfectly with a discussion my online science fiction class ("Who We Are & What We Dream: Comparative Science Fiction") was having in response to one of the short stories we'd read.
Would "relationships with robots would be fake and illusory: perceptual tricks, foisted on us by commercially driven corporations"? Or are we just deluded into thinking "biological tissue is magic" and that "there is little reason to doubt that a robot that is behaviourally and functionally equivalent to a human cannot sustain a meaningful relationship[?] There is, after all, every reason to suspect that we are programmed, by evolution and culture, to develop loving attachments to one another. It might be difficult to reverse-engineer our programming, but this is increasingly true of robots too, particularly when they are programmed with learning rules that help them to develop their own responses to the world."
In a sign of the times, Google Maps may be adding a new feature: a circular red tag identifying locations with a confirmed active shooter. Google did this during the shooting at the (Google-owned) YouTube headquarters earlier this week, and Google Maps is reportedly in discussions with local law enforcement to add this feature. www.cnet.com/news/youtube-san-bruno-shooting-appears-on-google-maps/
National Geographic's Explorer Classroom invites students to participate in live webinars with scientists, photojournalists, and other explorers to learn about their work. April celebrates the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with several programs throughout the month focusing on work related to bird conservation. To register (or to find recordings from past programs), visit www.nationalgeographic.org/education/programs/explorer-classroom/
This interactive map gauges the economic and political risks of doing business in various countries around the world. www.marsh.com/content/marsh/political-risk-map-d3/prm-2018.html
Providing aid in conflict zones is beset by difficulties, from security for your people to the political permissions to operate there at all. This article looks at the International Committee of the Red Cross's work in Syria, most recently in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta.
"[ICRC head Peter] Maurer is confronted daily with how fraught the task of providing humanitarian can be. His latest struggle is to get medical aid into Eastern Ghouta: The Syrian government periodically allows flour bags and food parcels but blocks trauma kits and basic medicine, such as insulin, from entering the area. At the same time, he must contend with hostility from critics in the Syrian opposition, who contend that aid organizations have abandoned their principles in dealing with the Syrian government and serve to strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power. ... The ICRC’s fundamental principles dictate that aid should be delivered without discrimination based on political belief and that the organization should remain neutral in conflicts — but the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. resolutions creating the humanitarian system all begin by acknowledging the primacy of states. 'So it’s no surprise that our first address is always governments and to try to seek to negotiate with them on what we are able to do,' he says. Maurer acknowledges that this has 'led to a certain imbalance' when it comes to aid delivery. However, he is quick to point out the lengths that the ICRC goes to push the Syrian government to expand the scope of aid delivery. ... Doing good, in Maurer’s world, means working with those who are complicit in the problems he’s trying to solve. It’s not only in Syria, after all, where he has to weigh his words carefully."
Antarctica is our most challenging continent to study, but what's going on there (or isn't) is pivotal to accurate estimates of sea level rise, which in turn are pivotal to the tens of millions of people living within a few meters of sea level. This TED Talk discusses how researchers are using radar and radio to peer through 3 km of ice to better understand how Antarctica may be changing.
Despite the current uptick in tensions, distrust of Russia is nothing new. This map from 1957 shows areas (in pink) and specific sites (in red) that were off limits to anyone with a Soviet passport. news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/russia-cold-war-travel-ban-maps-red-scare
Not an April Fools' joke: if you've decided you might actually be interested in the "brain in the vat" experience to extend your natural life, here's a new company that might interest you:
"Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere. This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia)."
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