from the world's big
It’s a Small World After All!
A closer look at the cartography of the famous Disney ride
The world may be your oyster, a stage, or one big hospital , it is also a Disney ride. It’s a Small World After All (IaSWAA) can be experienced at each of the five Disney parks  across the world. The ride has been thrilling - and its repetitive and catchy theme song annoying - guests since 1964, when it debuted at the UNICEF pavilion at the New York World’s Fair.
When we say ‘thrilling’, we mean mainly for the up-to-four-year-olds: IaSWAA is a slow, spatter-free boat ride through scenery set to represent the entire world, replete with 300 robotic children singing the eponymous theme song in different languages .
The original ride fit in nicely with the overall theme of the World’s Fair , which was meant to celebrate ‘Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe’. But in fact, IaSWAA’s presence at the Fair was a try-out for Disney; and it proved popular enough to be introduced to Disneyland in 1966 .
The vibrant colours, simple and repetitive music and limited range of doll movements are surely elements of the ride’s continued popularity - especially with Disney’s younger customers. Might it be too much wishful thinking  to presume that its geographic angle is also part of the attraction?
Surely, for many of those tiny visitors, this must be their first introduction to the concept of the 'whole wide world', and its rich diversity of landscapes, languages and peoples. Perhaps this is why the potentially bewildering concept of the world’s vastness is sugarcoated by the reassuring message that it’s a small world after all. And not a huge, violent, incomprehensible and sometimes even downright impolite one.
In this light, IaSWAA can be seen as an important tool for social engineering, nipping xenophobia and jingoism in the bud and imbuing kids at their most impressionable ages with a cosmopolitan outlook on the world . But does it also teach geography worth remembering?
Well, no - unless for its novelty value. Disney’s Small World may be the first ‘global’ experience for many kids, it's not the best possible introduction to the correct layout of the world’s countries and continents. Due to the constraints of the ride, what passes for the world is laid out in a continuous strip, on both banks of a world river, with obvious sacrifices to accuracy.
The world starts in Scandinavia, visitors being greeted by reindeer on hilltops, Nordic folk dancers, and Danish toy soldiers standing guard at Tivoli Gardens.
Make-believe geography has Denmark border France - which must please Henri , the French-born prince consort of the Danish queen. Inevitably, the Eiffel Tower and cancan dancers symbolise the Hexagon; are tourists visiting Paris disappointed when it turns out the boulevards and avenues of the French capital aren't teeming with girls lifting up their skirts to show off their twirling legs?
All this is happening rive droite, while on the left bank of the ride, Tower Bridge , Big Ben and the tower of Parliament compete with Beefeaters  to paint a postcard-perfect picture of London. The metropolitan scenery melts into a few Scottish and Irish clichés (tartan and bagpipes and shamrock and leprechauns, respectively) before transforming seamlessly into Belgium, Holland (tulips and windmills) and Spain and Italy (windmills and Don Quixote, the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Across the water, Germany’s glockenspiel abuts Switzerland’s yodelers and cuckoo clocks.
The second bend brings the boats abruptly from Europe to Asia, avoiding the usual gateway of Istanbul to proceed via Israel (chuppah  wedding), Indonesia and Bali (the Hindu goddess Kali), India (flying carpets and the Taj Mahal) and Thailand (folk dancers) on the left bank, and on the right: Greece (shepherd with pan flute), Russia (cossacks and Red Square), China (pandas and the Great Wall), Japan (Mount Fuji) and Korea.
Past a Torii Gate , Asia suddenly gives way to Africa. Egypt is the only nation clearly distinguished, with the Sphinx and its pyramids; the other exhibits refer to a generalised, generic Africa: lots of wildlife (lions, zebra, monkeys) and straw huts.
A pink elephant marks the border with South America, with Argentina (penguins and gauchos), Brazil (carnival dancers), Chile (llamas) and the rain forest occupying the left bank, and Central America (blue oxen - really?), Mexico (Aztec pyramids, sombreros) and more rain forest on the other side.
The penultimate section transports the visitors to the South Pacific, showing off Hawaii’s hula dancers, Australia’s marsupials (koalas, kangaroos and suchlike), and the drummers and dancers of New Guinea, Polynesia and Tahiti.
The last section is the grand finale, a resumé of what went before: dolls of all nations sing together in harmony, from Russian boys to Thai girls; French cancan girls and a few other famous stereotypes  make a second appearance.
Exiting IaSWAA, impressionable young minds have learnt a thing or two about the wide, wonderful world we live in: it is replete with a small selection of stereotypes, in three categories: architectural (France equals Eiffel Tower, no Egypt without pyramids), musical (the Spanish love flamenco dancing, bagpipes are typically Scottish), and natural (India is filled with tigers, Holland with tulips); music is the universal language; and beneath their exotic veneer, people (or at least Disney’s mechanical dolls) are really just all the same.
Oh, and Australia borders Hawaii, Holland is next to Spain, and Thailand is just across the water from Japan...
Strange Map #578
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 Heinrich Heine: "Das Leben ist eine Krankheit, die ganze Welt ein Lazarett, und der Tod ist unser Arzt." (Life is a disease, the whole world one big hospital, and death is our doctor). Try making a ride out of that, Mr Disney!
 There are Disney Parks and Resorts in California, Florida, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. A sixth one, in Shanghai, is slated for 2016.
 If our sources are correct: English, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and Swedish.
 The third, and as yet last World’s Fair to be held in New York (1853, 1939 and 1964), on the same grounds in Queens that hosted the previous one.
 The later versions of IaSWAA introduced at the other Disney parks are essentially copies of the original in Anaheim, with small alterations: the Paris version has German and Arabic versions of the song, and a separate room for North America; the Hong Kong version has Tagalog, Cantonese and Mandarin versions of the song, and an larger Asia section; the Tokyo version has the song in Japanese.
 The best of the possible options will turn out to be the right one. The reverse of Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
 This is your cue to start ranting against the United Nations, Skull and Bones, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, the Illuminati, and/or any other society steering the the planet towards one-world government. Or should that be, small-world-after-all government?
 Full name, Henri Marie Jean André de Laborde de Monpezat (b. 1934). An accomplished poet (in French), the prince-consort is more in love with his wife than with his adopted country - to put it mildly. In the early 1990s, he even ‘eloped’ back to France for three weeks, before he resumed his official duties. Decades ahead of the current vogue for celebrity cookbooks, he published a collection of favourite recipes, entitled 'Ikke altid gåselever' (Not Always Foie Gras).
 Often confused with London Bridge, which is the subject of the famous nursery rhyme, but less recognisable as it lacks the other’s two towers. The rumour that this confusion played a part in the sale (1967) and relocation (1971) of the previous London Bridge to the United States, was strenuously denied by Robert P. McCullough, the chainsaw baron who used the Bridge to attract interest in a development scheme on the shores of Lake Havasu, on the Arizona-California border.
 Officially called the Yeomen Warders, these remarkably attired guardians at the Tower of London are an attraction in their own right; their nickname may derive from their ancient privilege to eat as much beef from the King’s table as they desired.
 The canopy under which traditional Jewish marriages are concluded, symbolising the young couple’s new home.
 A traditional Japanese gate found at shinto temples, marking the border between the profane and the sacred.
 And a few lesser-known ones. Belgian goose girl?
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.
- A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
- The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
- This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.
Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
A neural crêpe
A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.
So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.
The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."
Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum
Image source: Sereno, et al.
A complicated map
Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."
That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.
It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."
This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."
Bigger and bigger
The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.
"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."
As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."
Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."
What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?
- A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
- It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
- The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Welfare as an investment<p>The <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hendren/files/welfare_vnber.pdf" target="_blank">study</a>, carried out by Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser of Harvard University, reviews 133 welfare programs through a single lens. The authors measured these programs' "Marginal Value of Public Funds" (MVPF), which is defined as the ratio of the recipients' willingness to pay for a program over its cost.</p><p>A program with an MVPF of one provides precisely as much in net benefits as it costs to deliver those benefits. For an illustration, imagine a program that hands someone a dollar. If getting that dollar doesn't alter their behavior, then the MVPF of that program is one. If it discourages them from working, then the program's cost goes up, as the program causes government tax revenues to fall in addition to costing money upfront. The MVPF goes below one in this case. <br> <br> Lastly, it is possible that getting the dollar causes the recipient to further their education and get a job that pays more taxes in the future, lowering the cost of the program in the long run and raising the MVPF. The value ratio can even hit infinity when a program fully "pays for itself."</p><p> While these are only a few examples, many others exist, and they do work to show you that a high MVPF means that a program "pays for itself," a value of one indicates a program "breaks even," and a value below one shows a program costs more money than the direct cost of the benefits would suggest.</p> After determining the programs' costs using existing literature and the willingness to pay through statistical analysis, 133 programs focusing on social insurance, education and job training, tax and cash transfers, and in-kind transfers were analyzed. The results show that some programs turn a "profit" for the government, mainly when they are focused on children:
This figure shows the MVPF for a variety of polices alongside the typical age of the beneficiaries. Clearly, programs targeted at children have a higher payoff.
Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser<p>Programs like child health services and K-12 education spending have infinite MVPF values. The authors argue this is because the programs allow children to live healthier, more productive lives and earn more money, which enables them to pay more taxes later. Programs like the preschool initiatives examined don't manage to do this as well and have a lower "profit" rate despite having decent MVPF ratios.</p><p>On the other hand, things like tuition deductions for older adults don't make back the money they cost. This is likely for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is less time for the benefactor to pay the government back in taxes. Disability insurance was likewise "unprofitable," as those collecting it have a reduced need to work and pay less back in taxes. </p>