A Map of Synthetica, A New Continent of Plastics

A 1940 map of a fictional continent slightly resembling South America, symbolising different aspects of the new and exciting world of plastics

“On this broad but synthetic continent of plastics, the countries march right out of the natural world – that wild area of firs and rubber plantations, upper left – into the illimitable world of the molecule. It’s a world boxed only by the cardinal points of the chemical compass – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen.”


• “It floats upon a Sea of Glass, one of the oldest plastics known.”

• “New countries, like Melamine, constantly bulge from its coastline.”

• “The Alkyd country, a great swamp of height, impervious plastic paints, varnishes, and lacquers, creeps out like an implacable sargasso.”

• “Great chemical river systems, like the Acetylene, feed many countries. And boundaries are as unsteady as the maps of Europe.”

• “Lignin, the dark forest in the North, gives forth a new plastic made of the adhesive matter holding cellulose fibers together in wood.”

• “Petrolia is the land of the new synthetic rubbers.”

• “Cellulose is a great state, something like Texas, with many counties, all of which grew out of old Nitrocellulose (Celluloid).”

• “Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”

• “Vinyl-land, a fast-growing new country of safety-glass (…) and rubbery plastics, will probably subdivide soon.”

• “The Crystal Mountains of Acrylic (price elevation: 52,50 a pound) rund down into the Crystal Hills of Styrene – both brilliant new plastics with glandlike properties.”

• “The greatest plastic country of all – a heavy industrial region of coal-car chemicals led by Formaldehyde River – is Phenolic. Its hard-working plastics, in a sober Quaker dress of limited colors, go into most of industry. Capital: Bakelite, ruled Union Carbide & Carbon Corp.”

• “To the south is Urea, related to the (…), but a more frivolous and color-loving state. Its main industries are buttons, tableware, light globes.”

Strange Maps #175

This remarkable map appeared in the issue of Fortune Magazine for October 1940. Slightly resembling South America, a continent of fictional lands each symbolising different aspects of the then still new and exciting world of plastics is shown, floating on a sea of glass. The map was found here at fulltable.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Calling out Cersei Lannister: Elizabeth Warren reviews Game of Thrones

The real Game of Thrones might be who best leverages the hit HBO show to shape political narratives.

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that Game of Thrones is primarily about women in her review of the wildly popular HBO show.
  • Warren also touches on other parallels between the show and our modern world, such as inequality, political favoritism of the elite, and the dire impact of different leadership styles on the lives of the people.
  • Her review serves as another example of using Game of Thrones as a political analogy and a tool for framing political narratives.
Keep reading Show less