Last Sunday the New York Times ran a question in an etiquette/relationship column that invites interesting ethical consideration as well: a couple that spent $50,000 cloning a favorite, older dog is breaking up; the woman wants both of the dogs, on the grounds that the original dog was hers and its cloned "offspring" should also be hers; the man thinks it's only fair that they each get a dog. Should it matter that the DNA from the clone was from a dog that belonged to the woman? Should it matter that most of the money spent on the cloning came from the man? Should it matter that the cloned puppy has a significantly longer expected life expectancy than the original dog, which is 12 years old? Is it ethical to clone a dog when the shelters are full of dogs waiting to be adopted? Is it true that it's only fair that both partners should get a dog? Is it ethical to spend $50,000 to clone a dog when humans die from a lack of routine medical care? Should it matter that the dogs may prefer to stay together? Feel free to share your thoughts as a comment to this post. (For the original article, see www.nytimes.com/2023/08/30/style/pet-custody-dog-cloning.html.)
This map and geo-graphic from Statista looks at extreme poverty -- defined by the World Bank as a daily income of $2.15 or less -- in selected countries before the COVID epidemic. www.statista.com/chart/30742/people-living-in-extreme-poverty-country-share/
Checkology is a free video-based curriculum devoted to teaching news literacy, from understanding bias and conspiratorial thinking to making sense of data and evaluating science-based claims: get.checkology.org/
Most people are familiar with the concept of life expectancy. Less familiar are the many variants on life expectancy, including "healthy life expectancy" (HALE), which is defined by the World Health Organization as the "average number of years that a person can expect to live in 'full health' by taking into account years lived in less than full health due to disease and/or injury." This map shows the countries with the largest gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy -- or, thought of another way, with the most years of unhealthy old age -- as of 2019. The U.S. tops the list, with a gap of 12.4 years, followed by Australia, at 12.1 years. Completing the top 10 are New Zealand, the UK, Norway, Spain and Italy (tied), Iran, and Canada, Kuwait, and Switzerland (tied).
Geoengineering is the nascent science and movement to engineer the earth's climate by any number of means, including fertilizing the ocean to increase CO2 uptake and scattering particles in the upper atmosphere to deflect solar radiation. This piece from Foreign Policy argues that one of the lessons from Oppenheimer is that geoengineering, like nuclear weapons, needs international "guardrails and guidelines" because of its planetary impact. foreignpolicy.com/2023/08/21/oppenheimer-movie-atom-bomb-climate-change-geoengineering-solar-radiation-modification-srm-regulation/
China recently indicated President Xi Jinping will skip the G-20 economic summit in India later this month. That decision comes on the heels of a new standard map released by China's ministry of natural resources last week that shows India's state of Arunachal Pradesh, in the far northeastern part of the country, and all of the Aksai Chin plateau, part of which is in Kashmir, as Chinese territory. Although the Himalayan border between India and China has been poorly defined, disputed, and the source of military conflict for decades, the new map is viewed with concern as part of a tendency for China to claim territory in print before trying to assert its claims in other ways. qz.com/india-china-border-dispute-map-arunachal-pradesh-1850786461
Which states produce the most physicians per capita? According to the Census Bureau, as shown on this map, the District of Columbia, New York, and Utah have produced the most people employed as physicians over the last 10 years. (Map from www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/08/18/states-most-artists-writers/.)
Big money in Silicon Valley is being spent on a quest to extend, even indefinitely, the human lifespan. Less thought is being given to what spending more time as an old person might actually be like. This piece, by an 89-year-old former professor of psychology, considers the realities underpinning the ethics of extending old age:
"Biophysicists have calculated that, with maximal improvement in health care, the biological clock for humans must stop between 120-150 years. Biotechnology firms such as Calico, Biosplice and Celgene are putting this to the test by scrambling to extend our normal lifespan as far as they can. However, a basic problem, at least thus far, is that a sustained quality of life has not been extended to keep up with our expanded longevity. As people get older, they are not gaining economic security, maintaining their usual level of independence, extending their social relationships, or avoiding chronic illnesses. For instance, about 85 per cent of older adults in the United States have at least one common chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or Alzheimer’s. Thus, many routine tasks such as bathing, making the bed, doing errands, shopping, picking up items off the floor, or walking without falling cannot be performed without help. In short, as we live longer we are also unwell for longer. Psychological depression, caused by physical illness plus associated medical expenses, often contributes to even more decline. ... Undesirable, but necessary, medical compromises gradually squeeze the vitality out of a chronically ill person. In most cases, death is not a sudden event at the end of life (except as a legally defined physical state). Rather, it is a long process of progressive functional decline. ... What value is there in existing if the ability to do and experience what you most value becomes unavailable?"
This map, from The Wall Street Journal, shows global ocean temperatures from mid-July to mid-August as compared with historical averages (red=hotter, blue=colder). The map is used in the context of an article discussing how warming oceans and migrating sea life are forcing changes in fishing and allied industries (from www.wsj.com/us-news/climate-environment/heating-waters-force-change-in-industries-that-depend-on-the-ocean-efd471d6).
High school students in the DC metro area interested in the life sciences should check out Suburban Hospital's Medical Exploring program. Students meet every-other Monday evening in Bethesda and occasionally on school holidays to take field trips and learn about careers in medicine from some of the region's top doctors and healthcare professionals. The virtual info session for this year is Monday, Sept. 18 (6-7 pm). For more information or to register for the info session, see medical-exploring-info.events.suburbanhospital.org/
With the death of Russian mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin, many people are wondering about the future of the Wagner Group, especially in Africa where the organization has a large footprint, often trading security services, disinformation campaigns, and similar assistance to governments for mines and minerals. This map shows the Wagner Group's activities in Africa as of earlier this year: www.statista.com/chart/30665/wagner-group-engagement-africa/
Cargo shipping has been among the last segments of the transportation industry to find greener alternatives. Earlier this month, a cargo ship chartered by the U.S. agribusiness giant Cargill left Singapore bound for Brazil and then Denmark using WindWings technology, "sails" made out of the same material as wind turbine blades designed to generate power at sea and reduce carbon emissions by 30%. qz.com/cargill-pyxis-ocean-cargo-ship-wing-power-windwings-1850756956
In the context of last week's BRICS [Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa] summit, there was much discussion of "the Global South." Unfortunately, there's no line on a map that denotes where the Global South begins or ends. The term is meant to call attention to the idea that countries in the Tropics and Southern Hemisphere (roughly south of 30° N latitude) are less economically and politically developed than their neighbors to the north. Even though this generalization is borne out along many metrics -- including GDP per capita, human development, political fragility, etc. -- some of the world's most affluent, developed countries are also in this region (including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates) and would be excluded from the term Global South. Today, "the Global South" is most often used in lieu of terms like "Third World countries" or "developing countries." This map shows one take on the Global South (in red):
Crash Map maps fatal car crashes across the contiguous U.S. by state, by county, and by date. In many states, August is among the worst months for fatal car crashes. nextbase.com/crash-map
Philosophy Now (UK) sponsors a question-of-the-month, inviting readers to submit responses (not to exceed 400 words) on a salient question in philosophy. The next question is, "What are the limits of knowledge?" Submissions are due by Oct. 16. For more information -- or to read the published responses to last month's question, "How will humanity end?" which, as one reader points out, "can be thought of in at least two different ways: (1) How will humans die out?, or (2) How will the characteristics that make us human cease to exist? Humanity ends not only if there are no more people, but also if the traits that define us as ‘humans’ disappear" -- see philosophynow.org/issues/157/How_Will_Humanity_End#1
If you're looking for geography trivia (or great maps) to expand your learning, the Map Shop has a section of its website devoted to geography trivia questions and their answers: www.mapshop.com/trivia
The 2023 Global Terrorism Index has been released, showing that Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the Sahel, has become the global hotspot for terrorism, with the Sahel now accounting for 43% of all deaths due to terrorism. The U.S. is still #30 on the list, just behind Benin and Sri Lanka, but in 2022 recorded the fewest attacks classified as terrorism since 2012. www.visionofhumanity.org/maps/global-terrorism-index/#/
The tropical storm that delivered record rains to Southern California and parts of the Southwest earlier this week was fueled, in part, by the return of an El Niño weather pattern. This article from Foreign Policy looks at what El Niño means, not just for local weather but also for food security, armed conflicts, disease outbreaks, territorial claims, and other geopolitical concerns: foreignpolicy.com/2023/08/18/el-nino-forecast-weather-season-global-impact-conflict-food-supply-health-disease
If you're thinking about an exotic fall getaway, September and October are usually the peak months for the Maldives' bioluminescent beaches. Vaadhoo Island at the northern end of the archipelago is the best known spot to see the "sea of stars," but this tourism piece highlights a number of other possible, and less remote, locations as well: samudramaldives.com/maldives-glowing-bioluminescence-beaches/
Although not population adjusted, this map from Statista highlights the U.S. states that make above-average contributions to U.S. GDP and notes a few that punch above their weight (California, Massachusetts, New York) and below their weight (Florida): www.statista.com/chart/9358/us-gdp-by-state-and-region
When people change because of dementia or brain damage, for example, should their new wishes be respected, even if they fly in the face of their earlier stated preferences? This article from The New York Times Magazine is a case study, a cautionary tale, and a philosophical thought experiment all rolled into one: www.nytimes.com/2023/05/09/magazine/dementia-mother.html
"In the philosophical literature on dementia, scholars speak of a contest between the “then-self” before the disease and the “now-self” after it: between how a person with dementia seems to want to live and how she previously said she would have wanted to live. Many academic papers on the question begin in the same way: by telling the story of a woman named Margo, who was the subject of a 1991 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), by a physician named Andrew Firlik. Margo, according to the article, was 55 and had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and couldn’t recognize anyone around her, but she was very happy. She spent her days painting and listening to music. She read mystery novels too: often the same book day after day, the mystery remaining mysterious because she would forget it. “Despite her illness, or maybe somehow because of it,” Firlik wrote, “Margo is undeniably one of the happiest people I have known.” A couple of years after the JAMA article was published, the philosopher and constitutional jurist Ronald Dworkin revisited the happy Margo in his 1993 book, “Life’s Dominion.” Imagine, he asked readers, that years ago, when she was fully competent, Margo had written a formal document explaining that if she ever developed Alzheimer’s disease, she should not be given lifesaving medical treatment. “Or even that in that event she should be killed as soon and as painlessly as possible?” What was an ethical doctor to do? Should he kill now-Margo, even though she was happy, because then-Margo would have wanted to be dead?"
Looking for a different game to play, one that invites brainstorming and conversation? Brave Ideas is a new board game developed by President Lincoln's Cottage in partnership with Game Genius. The Cottage was "the place where Abraham Lincoln worked, and reworked, and reworked again his ideas surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation. These ideas changed the nation, and President Lincoln’s Cottage is dedicated to inspiring the same avenues for innovation in today’s world." To read about the Brave Ideas game or to order a copy, see www.lincolncottage.org/all-about-the-brave-ideas-game/.
This series of maps and images compares current vistas around the world with images predicting how those same vistas might change based on a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures and a 3°C increase in global temperatures: picturing.climatecentral.org/
Air conditioners now account for 10% of global electricity consumption, and the number of air conditioning units is expected to double by 2050. This article from MIT Technology Review looks at new materials and technologies that hope to make air conditioning less energy intensive: www.technologyreview.com/2023/07/26/1076731/materials-air-conditioning
If the runaway success of Barbie has left you craving more pink in your life, Conde Nast Traveler has picked out the world's most beautiful pink places, from Florida to Jaipur to Spain to Vietnam to Scotland: www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-most-beautiful-pink-places-to-visit-around-the-world
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