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Fake Metro Map of Montevideo
The Uruguayan capital does not have a metro system - but it does have a metro map
“Today, Montevideo is on a par with the great capitals of the world, like London, Milan and Rio de Janeiro. Finally, Montevideo has its Metro.”
- Estero Bellaco, Engineer and President of the Corporación Metro de Montevideo (CMM).
Those words were spoken at the inauguration of the metro system of Montevideo, the capital of the South American country of Uruguay. The metro system now consists of a total of 12 lines, of which only two are actually underground. The Red Line tunnels its way from Plaza Matriz to Maroñas station, while the Green Line subterraneously transports you from Gaucho to Larrañaga. Add to that three tram lines, four urban train lines, and three elevated lines, and you have a full-grown metro network indeed worthy of a world-class city.
Or at least you would, if the Montevideo Metro were real.
The C-line, a circular tramway running rings around Montevideo’s Old Town, seems like a practical and charming idea. But it is no more than an idea. Metro stops named after real Montevidean locations and landmarks like Obelisco, Parque Rodó and Casa de Gobierno sound convincingly genuine. But should you ever find yourself in Montevideo on the Plaza Matriz, you’ll look in vain for the entrance to the Línea Roja.
The Montevideo metro map mimics Harry Beck's iconic, oft-imitated design for the London Underground. Beck sacrificed geographic accuracy for schematic clarity by substituting the electrical switchboard's straight lines and strategically placed nodes for the winding tracks and unevenly distributed stations of the London Tube.
Like today's Tube map, a direct descendent of the Beck original, the Montevideo metro map is at once easy to read and richly complex, and both chaotic and structured. It seems to say: I'm user-friendly, so I must be some kind of real.
But a close reading of the map reveals a clue to its spoof-like nature, an admission that it is a lie 1. The eastern terminus of urban train line U32 is called Atlántida - the Spanish word for Atlantis, the island that exists only in platonic fable, and in the hazy dreams that a certain type of explorer mistakes for discovery 2.
If you know your Latin American history, the name of the CMM president is a dead giveaway too - with the emphasis on dead. With over 3,000 killed, and more than 4,000 wounded, the Battle of Estero Bellaco (1866) was one of the bloodiest battles in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870). That conflict pitted an Argentine-Uruguayan-Brazilian coalition against Paraguay, eventually decimating that country's population and halving its territory. Like the metro he's inaugurating, Estero Bellaco himself is not really there.
The Montevideo metro is a surrealist project, born out of the frustrating experience that is la uruguayanidad 3. Not only is it the country that Homer Simpson once pointed at, remarking: "This country is called: You Are Gay !" It is also the smallest but one country of South America by size 4 and the smallest but two by population 5.
Of the tiny total of 3.3 million Uruguayans, almost half are Montevideans. But even that million and a half does not a world city make. The Uruguayan capital lacks the critical mass of Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital just across the River Plate 6, three million strong (13 million if you include the metropolitan area). Further north along the coast, sprawling Sao Paulo with its 11 million inhabitants (20 million metro area) is just one of 11 Brazilian cities larger than Montevideo, which doesn't even figure in the Top 25 of South America's largest cities.
In between these urban giants, Montevideo feels - and feels itself to be - rather provincial. Now there is nothing wrong with a bit of provinciality. In fact, with its generally more relaxed pace and more affordable prices, life away from the metropolis has some distinct advantages. But that is fine for la provincia, if you're a capital city, provinciality is an insult. As a capital, you want skyscrapers, the soothing soundtrack of police sirens in the distance, and of course - a metro!
The idea for a Montevideo metro is floated, sunk and resurfaces every so often. The germ of the idea for the next best thing - this map - came to Uruguayan Marco Caltieri during a ten-year stint living in Buenos Aires.
Like so many Uruguayans moving to the Argentine capital, he was fascinated by el Subte 7, the city's metro. An essential accessory for any world city, and one that Montevideo lacked, and envied. But Caltieri's love affair lasted only three months: "The Subte is horrible. It's overcrowded at peak times, service is spotty and often delayed." For the rest of his stay in Buenos Aires, he took the bus.
Caltieri, partner and creative head of an advertising agency, started poking around Uruguay's metro-sized inferiority complex a decade ago by designing posters of a fictitious metropolitan transport system, which sold like hotcakes. The posters were followed by a website, showing among other things trick pictures of metro entrances - this one at Estacion Universidad, for example. Eventually, the project blossomed into a book, 'Metro de Montevideo'.
The project managed to convince some that Montevideo really had a metro. "I even received an email from a Chilean manufacturer of escalators, offering their products", said Caltieri in an interview with the Uruguayan newspaper El Observador.
It's unlikely that Uruguay's national obsession with grandeur will ever find a resolution in an actual, underground metro system.
But maybe Caltieri's fictional network can yet be salvaged to provide Montevideo with something truly unique. "As a city, Montevideo is rather lacking in great attractions. Wouldn't it be cool if we collectively took a shine to the Metro and acted as if it really were there?"
Many thanks to Marco Caltieri for sending in his map. More on the Montevideo Metro website. Previous examples of fictional metros discussed on this blog include the now-famous meta map (#212) showing a worldwide network of cities with urban transit systems (this one also includes Montevideo), ametro map of French wines (#533), and the ghost subway of Rochester, NY (#367).
Strange Maps #590
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Which is, in itself, a paradox: if a Cretan tells you all Cretans are liars, is he telling the truth or is he lying?↩
 As it so happens, this Atlantis is real: there really is an Estación Atlantída on Montevideo's eastern outskirts. Who's the Cretan now?↩
 'Being Urugayan'↩
 Only Suriname is smaller.↩
 From Spanish: Rio de la Plata, literally: Silver River.↩
 Short for Subterráneo, i.e. the Underground.↩
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
The next era in American history can look entirely different. It's up to us to choose.
- The timeline of America post-WWII can be divided into two eras, according to author and law professor Ganesh Sitaraman: the liberal era which ran through the 1970s, and the current neoliberal era which began in the early 1980s. The latter promised a "more free society," but what we got instead was more inequality, less opportunity, and greater market consolidation.
- "We've lived through a neoliberal era for the last 40 years, and that era is coming to an end," Sitaraman says, adding that the ideas and policies that defined the period are being challenged on various levels.
- What comes next depends on if we take a proactive and democratic approach to shaping the economy, or if we simply react to and "deal with" market outcomes.
A new MIT report proposes how humans should prepare for the age of automation and artificial intelligence.
- A new report by MIT experts proposes what humans should do to prepare for the age of automation.
- The rise of intelligent machines is coming but it's important to resolve human issues first.
- Improving economic inequality, skills training, and investment in innovation are necessary steps.