538 - Just My Plug: Socket Map of the World
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.
The maps discussed on this blog are rarely of any hard, practical use. This one does have real-world relevance - especially if you’re a globetrotting, It’s-Tuesday-so-this-must-be-Belarus kind of traveller.
Living and working in Country A, your locally-bought electrical and electronic devices will have a plug that fits the local sockets. This correspondence is so self-evident that you don’t even think of it.
But then business or pleasure transports you to country B, where electrical sockets are configured differently. Your electric razor won’t work, and once the batteries are dead, you’ll be laptopless and unphoneable (1). Just picture yourself - unshaven and unreachable, stranded in an analog desert. That is what the 1970s must have been like.
If you want to avoid being left to your own devices, you’ll want to buy one of those travel gizmos they sell at airports - a cross between an adaptor plug and a Swiss army knife. These little plastic boxes will unfold into any combination of plug and socket to be inserted in between the plug on your machine and the local electrical sockets.
For some useful background, see this handy map, showing the world’s five common types of electrical sockets. On this map, these five socket types constitute as many zones of plug-and-socket compatibility, each rooted in political, colonial and economic history - but none corresponding quite exactly to any existing supranational bodies; an alternate arrangement of the world community not unlike the map of driving directions discussed earlier on this blog (see #76).
Here’s an overview of the world’s elusive ‘electrical communities’, as defined by the socket models they use:
This map, sent in by Mark Lakata, was first published in National Geographic. It chooses clarity over comprehensiveness: in reality, there are 13 plug-and-socket systems in operation throughout the world (some are compatible with each other), and numerous national standards for voltage and frequency.
(1) Released from the tyrannical glare of your computer screen, you could consider a visit to that diametrical opposite of the Starbucks café, the laptopless bar.
(2) Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Yemen.
(3) i.e. all those not included in the 'subcontinental' or 'imperial' models.
(4) Surinam, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile. French Guyana is not a country, but a dependency of France. The ‘European’ model shares Brazil with the ‘American’ one.
New research links urban planning and political polarization.
- Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
- Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
- People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- 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
Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.
- Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
- What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
- Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
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