'Plastic island' in Pacific now twice the size of Texas

It's a dubious honor, but humanity has managed to amass a giant trash mass about twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France, or about 1,600 miles.

It's a dubious honor, but humanity has managed to amass a giant trash mass about twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France, or about 1,600 miles. 

The actual area itself is hard to measure, due to several factors. First, the trash itself isn't exactly the kind of thing you could walk over — it's more like a "trash soup" according to the Smithsonian. Compacted, by at least one estimate, it would be approximately 234 square miles, or roughly the size of the city of Chicago. But since the make-up of the island is comprised of so many items, the area of the vortex itself manages to spread out about twice the size of Texas, or 3x the size of France. 

There are about 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic (mostly broken-up pieces of shopping bags), which account for 94% of the trash yet only about 8% of the actual mass itself. The biggest culprit appears to be discarded fishing nets, which make up about half of the mass, and 20% of the remaining amount is debris directly from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake off of the coast of Japan. 


But we may never know exactly how big the trash patch is, unfortunately, because we don't know how deep the trash patch goes. It's massive, and environmentalists are worried that it will only get bigger. At our current rate of consumption and trash accumulation, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch could become 3x bigger in just three decades. That's a lot of plastic. And considering how much the fish in the Pacific are eating the plastic, it's only a matter of time until it makes its way up the food chain to us and affects humans. After all, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of bisphenol A in their bloodstreams. That percecntage, and the amount of plastic, is only going to grow. 

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less