467 - Coming Soon to a Map Near You: the Gulf Spill
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Every disaster is always bigger than the last one. Newspapers and tv anchors have to say that, don’t they? Otherwise it wouldn’t be news. But those slick-covered birds look the same every time. A bit distressing, but what’s a pelican for, at the end of the day? To be honest, this disaster is getting a bit boring. Haven’t they capped that well yet?\n
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (1) is the worst environmental disaster in US history. But it’s a catastrophe of the creeping, cumulative kind, composed of images familiar from earlier ecocides. How to get a grip on its width and breadth? Obviously: a map. Ingeniously: a map of the area affected by the oil spill transposed on your geographic location of choice – your home, for optimum shock effect.\n
This simple act of teleportation, by the almost appropriately named website www.ifitwasmyhome.com (2) , puts a stark perspective on the disaster’s geographic impact, now stretching from the coast of Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The immediate, visual result is immensely more powerful than crude statistics (3):\n
Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 (killing 11 crew), over 1 million US gallons have been spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day, by now adding up to almost 50 million gallons. A recent study by the University of Miami puts the surface of the oil spill at about 10,000 square miles (almost 26,000 square km), or triple its size on May 1st. This means the affected area is rapidly approaching that oft-cited (4) unit of large-surface measurement, the size of Belgium (11,787 sq mi, or 30,528 km2).\n
The spill’s size is less abstract (and more ominous) if transported from its aquatic domain to a land-based vantage point. Centred on London (placing the gushing wellhead somewhere below Westminster), the area affected by the spill covers most of southern England, almost touching Swansea in Wales and nearly spilling over onto the French coast at Dunkirk. The area does look a lot larger than Belgium, to the spill’s east. One assumes that the calculations of Miami U refer to the darker-shaded areas within the total affected region.\n
You too can centre the spillage on your hometown. Go to the website (cf. sup.) See how far you would have to travel to stay clear of the oily mess. Then zoom out to see how large it is on a global scale (spoiler: quite large!) Maybe not the most uplifting of pastimes, but an intelligent way to impress the scale of this disaster on our minds, saturated as they are by superlatives.\n
Many thanks to Stannous Flouride for sending in this link.\n
(1) Or the BP oil spill, if you insist on naming, shaming and/or blaming the guilty.\n
(2) If it were my home, indeed. There is no need to compound ecocide with grammaticrime.\n
(3) excusez le pun.\n
(4) an entire website is dedicated to the recurrence of this rather unusual unit of surface.\n
These five main food groups are important for your brain's health and likely to boost the production of feel-good chemicals.
We all know eating “healthy” food is good for our physical health and can decrease our risk of developing diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease. What is not as well known is that eating healthy food is also good for our mental health and can decrease our risk of depression and anxiety.
Infographics show the classes and anxieties in the supposedly classless U.S. economy.
For those of us who follow politics, we’re used to commentators referring to the President’s low approval rating as a surprise given the U.S.'s “booming” economy. This seeming disconnect, however, should really prompt us to reconsider the measurements by which we assess the health of an economy. With a robust U.S. stock market and GDP and low unemployment figures, it’s easy to see why some think all is well. But looking at real U.S. wages, which have remained stagnant—and have, thus, in effect gone down given rising costs from inflation—a very different picture emerges. For the 1%, the economy is booming. For the rest of us, it’s hard to even know where we stand. A recent study by Porch (a home-improvement company) of blue-collar vs. white-collar workers shows how traditional categories are becoming less distinct—the study references "new-collar" workers, who require technical certifications but not college degrees. And a set of recent infographics from CreditLoan capturing the thoughts of America’s middle class as defined by the Pew Research Center shows how confused we are.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.