616 - All Quiet on the Illinois Front
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.
It's the morning of Wednesday, 13 September 1939. In an America supremely at peace, newspapers hit front lawns with headlines screaming of war. The horrific conflict splashed across the front pages of thousands of dailies is happening an ocean away, in Europe.
Two weeks earlier, Nazi Germany had invaded Poland, thus ending all pretense that Hitler's goal was 'peace in our time' . Poland's main allies, Britain and France, have promptly declared war on Germany. Although the Nazis are focused for now on winning the Polish campaign, it's clear that this is the beginning of a 'Second World War' - a term first used widely in these terrifying days .
The front page of the Panama City News Herald, published in Florida, is representative of most other US newspapers during these weeks. Very little local news on the page, which is dominated by articles on the war - both from an American and a European perspective.
One headline wired in from London by the Associated Press reads: British-French Resolve To Fight Until Naziism (sic) Gone, Says Chamberlain. The caption for the page's main photo says: At German general staff headquarters "somewhere in Poland", Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, "first soldier of the Reich" looks over map of battle area. His ace military leader, Gen. Walther von Brauchitsch, stands at his shoulder. Picture was radioed to New York from the German capital.
A short message datelined London reads: Duke of Windsor is Ready for Service. Below, an article datelined Boston states, in similar wording: Negroes Ready For Military Service. From Washington DC, the news is: [General] Pershing Urges Bigger Defense Power for U.S., and Neutrality Act Change Sought by President [Roosevelt].
Somewhat prematurely, an article at the bottom of the page predicts the final outcome of the conflict: Poor Gasoline Said to Cause Reich Defeat, while from the North Atlantic come terrible tales of the incipient sea war: Athenia Survivors Tell Horrors of Days in Fear of U-Boats In Atlantic.
But the most remarkable item on the page - at least from the perspective of this blog - is a small graphic at the top of the page. Titled If Illinois Were Western Front, it is a map of the US Midwest, and it 'brings the war home' for the American readership. By grafting the theatre of hostilities in Europe onto the geography of the American heartland, the aim is to make the conflict that is raging on another continent relatable to Joe Q. Public.
The caption reads:
All this talk about history-making battles waged, armies on the march and territory taken sounds big in the day's war news, but how small it is in American terms may be seen from the map above. Shifted to the American scene, European armies might fight their battles on the Maginot-Siegfried  lines in the center of Illinois. This would put London about where Minneapolis is, Paris at Des Moines, Berlin at Toledo, Warsaw at Washington.
Curiously, it seems the way to translate the enormity of the European war to the American public is to scale it down to its 'true proportions': folks might have started calling it a World War, but in reality, it could be contained between Minneapolis and Washington...
Many thanks to Dan Anderson for sending in a scan of this map, taken from the Marinette Eagle (published in Marinette, Wisconsin), of 18 September 1939. He notes: "They should have put Paris further west - maybe in Colorado, so that Moscow could be represented". A slightly sharper image can be found here at the Newspaper Archive, on the aforementioned front page of the Panama City News Herald  .
 The actual phrase used by Neville Chamberlain on 30 September 1938 hailing the Munich Agreement was "peace for our time". Perhaps the misquote stems from the fact that the then British PM was paraphrasing one of his predecessors, in similar circumstances. Following the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Benjamin Disraeli said: "I have returned from Germany with peace in our time". Chamberlain's statement is remembered as the epitome of appeasement, the policy born of the misguided hope that agreeing to Hitler's territorial demands would avoid war. Less than a year after the German occupation of the Sudetenland (as agreed by France and the UK at Munich), Nazi Germany had occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and invaded Poland.↩
 The coming conflict had been dubbed the 'Second World War' as early as 1920, but mainly in speculative fiction, and hardly ever in the mainstream press. ↩
 The Maginot Line is the name for the French fortifications constructed in the 1930s along the German border. The so-called Siegfried Line was the mirror version on the German side of the border. The Germans called it the Westwall. The Siegfried Line was the name for a similar defensive wall built during the First World War; the name was retained by the Allies for the 1930s construction.↩
 The logo in the lower right hand corner, spelling NEA, reveals the common source of both: Newspaper Enterprise Association, a syndication service specialising in both images (comics and pictures) and features, supplying content to over 700 newspapers in the 1930s.↩
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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