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Portugal is 97% Water
What is the difference between Portugal and a jellyfish?
The average adult human consists of 55% water. A newborn baby is made up of about 75% water. A jellyfish contains between 95 and 98% water. Portugal could be a jellyfish: it is 97% water.
Which seems alarmingly aquatic for a country of 10 million, visited annually by at least as many tourists, all requiring solid ground beneath their feet at least some of the time.
Why is this so? And how is it even possible? We'll get to the why in a bit. The legend in the bottom left corner of this map says how:
This map of Portugal shows the land surface [in orange] and the territorial waters up to the limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) [in light grey]. The proposed extension the continental shelf [dotted orange line] reveals [Portugal's] new territorial dimension, which includes the seabed and subsoil beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.
This proposed, larger Portugal is the jellyfish version. Its 3% of dry land consists of three distinct territories: Portugal Continental, the Portuguese mainland, hemmed in by Spain on the Iberian Peninsula); and Portugal's two autonomous regions: the Arquipélago da Madeira, a handful of islands closer to the (Spanish) Canary Islands than to Africa or Europe; and the Arquipélago dos Açores, so far out in the Atlantic that they're almost halfway between Europe and America.
Each of these three territorial units is bordered (or surrounded) by ocean, the part of which closest to shore constitutes Portugal's territorial waters.
In earlier, more artillery-focused times, territorial waters stretched as far as could be covered by a land-based cannon.This very practical method, at the basis of the long-held three-mile limit, became increasingly contested as cannon technology improved and was finally abandoned as an accepted mode of measuring sovereignty.
Only in 1982 did the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea put the disparate, disputable definitions of coastal territoriality on an even keel. Most countries now accept the premise on which Portugal's territorial waters are also based:
A belt of coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles (22.2 km or 13.8 mi) from the low-water mark of the coast, unless it overlaps with another country's 12-mile zone, in which case the border between both territorial waters is the median line between both low-water marks (unless both countries agree otherwise).
But this map doesn't care for mere territorial waters. As can be judged from the scale on right of the map (on the Moroccan mainland), the grey zones are too extended to be only 12 nautical miles. They constitute Portugal's Exclusive Economic Zone.
For the 1982 Convention also specified that a country could claim an EEZ of 200 nautical miles (370.4 km or 230.2 mi) beyond its coastal baseline. An EEZ allows a country to claim exclusive rights, but fewer than in its territorial waters.
In that first, 12-mile band, Portugal can claim total sovereignty (although it can't preclude 'innocent passage' of foreign vessels). In the rest of the EEZ, Portugal also can't prevent other nations' ships from 'loitering'. But it does retain exclusive rights to the EEZ's fish and other natural resources in the subsoil (oil, gas, etc.) for itself to keep, or to license out to the highest bidder.
A few strategically placed islands can provide a gigantic (and potentially very lucrative) EEZ. Which partly explains why Argentina is so keen on Britain's Falkland Islands, or why China and Japan are arguing about a few otherwise insignificant rocks in the East China Sea.
Portugal's archipelagos provide it with three gigantic EEZs, almost contiguously stretching from 200 nautical miles west of Monchique Islet (the westernmost bit of Azorean dry land, geologically already on the North American Plate), all the way back to Lisbon.
The Azorean EEZ is the largest, at 953,667 km2 (278,045 sq nmi) followed by the Madeiran EEZ (446,108 km2 or 130,064 sq nmi) and the 'continental' one (327,667 km2 or 95,532 sq nmi). All this adds up to 1,727,408 km2 or 503,632 sq nmi), which gives Portugal the 4th-largest EEZ in the EU (after France, the UK and Denmark) and the 21st-largest worldwide.
That's a lot of waves to rule for a small country, even one as historically seafaring as Portugal. But the 1982 Convention indicates there is even more to be had.
Under the conditions of the Convention, a country can claim part of the continental shelf (i.e. the shallow part of the ocean from which the dry land rises) adjacent to its territory. The Convention limits the claimable part to 350 nautical miles (648 km) beyond the coastal baseline, or 100 nautical miles (190 km) beyond the 2,500-metre isobath (a line connecting points at similar depth).
On the part of a continental shelf thus defined, a country can exert some rights, but fewer than in the EEZ proper: it has exclusive rights to harvest mineral and other 'non-living' materials from the subsoil, but it can't prohibit other countries from fishing in the waters themselves.
On 11 May 2009, Portugal filed just such a claim, to an area totalling over 2.1 million km2 (more than 610,000 sq nmi). If the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf eventually validates Portugal's claims, it will more than double the country's zone of control, to 3,877,408 km2 (more than 1.1 million sq nmi).
Portugal is hardly alone in staking such a claim, a prudent move to prevent disputes over yet to be discovered resources. But few countries will be attaching visions of grandeur to dotted lines delineating as yet inoperable claims to resources under the seabed.
In Portugal, however, a glossy poster of the EEZs and the claim to the wider continental shelf, grandiosely titled Portugal é Mar ('Portugal is the sea') was distributed throughout the nation's school system, to be tacked to classroom walls across the country. The map legend explains why:
The new map of Portugal shows one of the biggest countries in the world. With a maritime area 40 times greater than its terrestrial one, Portugal is 97% water.
See how big we are? Portugal's claim to its continental shelf is not just economic, but also psychological: as an antidote to the country's diminished stature on the world stage.
The Portuguese were pioneers of the Age of Discovery, and a world power to rival the Spanish for a good while after. Their empire stretched from Brazil to East Timor, and included colonies in Africa, India and China. That may all be in the past, but it seems Portugal is still suffering from post-imperial withdrawal syndrome.
They're hardly alone in this – a wide variety of symptoms can be observed in countries like the UK and Russia, Turkey and France. But whereas the Brits (for example) hearken back to the world wars they've won (almost single-handedly) and want to row their island out into the Mid-Atlantic where it will be further from Europe and closer to the Commonwealth, Portugal's post-imperial anxiety is clearly size-related.
Like an entire country with a Napoleon complex, Portugal seems determined to prove to the world that it is not a small country. And this blog has the maps to prove it.
The paper trail stretches back to the Mapa Cor de Rosa (#545), published in 1887 as an attempt to will into existence a transcontinental Portuguese colony in Africa, stretching from Angola on the west coast to Mozambique in the east.
Portugal's African ambitions clashed with Britain's plan to establish its own transcontinental string of colonies, from the Cape to Cairo. London strong-armed Lisbon into abandoning its plans, a trauma that contributed to the fall of the Portuguese monarchy a few decades later, and still resonates in the country's national anthem.
It also grafted a mantra onto the Portuguese national psyche that is echoed by the title of this latest map: Portugal não é um país pequeno ('Portugal is not a small country').
That mantra was visualised cartographically by placing Portugal's colonies on a map of Europe, showing how Mozambique would stretch from the south of Spain to Bavaria, and Angola would cover a diamond-shaped part of the continent cornered by Belgium, Gotland, southern Ukraine and Albania (#390). Or, inversely, how Portugal itself would fit into Angola at least 10 times over. (#545, at the bottom).
These maps were produced in the last years of Portugal's dictatorship (and empire), both of which ended with the so-called Carnation Revolution in 1975. Since then, Portugal has reneged on its European isolationism, joining the EU in 1986, together with Spain.
But old habits die hard. Deep down (under the waves), Portugal still sees itself as a large country. With a surface of 1,727,408 km2 (503,632 sq. n. mi), it would be about the same size as Iran, or Indonesia. Except that, of course, the total surface of those countries consists by more than 90% of... actual, solid land.
Strange Maps #652
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Why mega-eruptions like the ones that covered North America in ash are the least of your worries.
- The supervolcano under Yellowstone produced three massive eruptions over the past few million years.
- Each eruption covered much of what is now the western United States in an ash layer several feet deep.
- The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, but that doesn't mean the next eruption is overdue.
The end of the world as we know it
Panoramic view of Yellowstone National Park
Image: Heinrich Berann for the National Park Service – public domain
Of the many freak ways to shuffle off this mortal coil – lightning strikes, shark bites, falling pianos – here's one you can safely scratch off your worry list: an outbreak of the Yellowstone supervolcano.
As the map below shows, previous eruptions at Yellowstone were so massive that the ash fall covered most of what is now the western United States. A similar event today would not only claim countless lives directly, but also create enough subsidiary disruption to kill off global civilisation as we know it. A relatively recent eruption of the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia may have come close to killing off the human species (see further below).
However, just because a scenario is grim does not mean that it is likely (insert topical political joke here). In this case, the doom mongers claiming an eruption is 'overdue' are wrong. Yellowstone is not a library book or an oil change. Just because the previous mega-eruption happened long ago doesn't mean the next one is imminent.
Ash beds of North America
Ash beds deposited by major volcanic eruptions in North America.
Image: USGS – public domain
This map shows the location of the Yellowstone plateau and the ash beds deposited by its three most recent major outbreaks, plus two other eruptions – one similarly massive, the other the most recent one in North America.
The Huckleberry Ridge eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago. It ejected 2,450 km3 (588 cubic miles) of material, making it the largest known eruption in Yellowstone's history and in fact the largest eruption in North America in the past few million years.
This is the oldest of the three most recent caldera-forming eruptions of the Yellowstone hotspot. It created the Island Park Caldera, which lies partially in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and westward into Idaho. Ash from this eruption covered an area from southern California to North Dakota, and southern Idaho to northern Texas.
About 1.3 million years ago, the Mesa Falls eruption ejected 280 km3 (67 cubic miles) of material and created the Henry's Fork Caldera, located in Idaho, west of Yellowstone.
It was the smallest of the three major Yellowstone eruptions, both in terms of material ejected and area covered: 'only' most of present-day Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska, and about half of South Dakota.
The Lava Creek eruption was the most recent major eruption of Yellowstone: about 640,000 years ago. It was the second-largest eruption in North America in the past few million years, creating the Yellowstone Caldera.
It ejected only about 1,000 km3 (240 cubic miles) of material, i.e. less than half of the Huckleberry Ridge eruption. However, its debris is spread out over a significantly wider area: basically, Huckleberry Ridge plus larger slices of both Canada and Mexico, plus most of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.
This eruption occurred about 760,000 years ago. It was centered on southern California, where it created the Long Valley Caldera, and spewed out 580 km3 (139 cubic miles) of material. This makes it North America's third-largest eruption of the past few million years.
The material ejected by this eruption is known as the Bishop ash bed, and covers the central and western parts of the Lava Creek ash bed.
Mount St Helens
The eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980 was the deadliest and most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history: it created a mile-wide crater, killed 57 people and created economic damage in the neighborhood of $1 billion.
Yet by Yellowstone standards, it was tiny: Mount St Helens only ejected 0.25 km3 (0.06 cubic miles) of material, most of the ash settling in a relatively narrow band across Washington State and Idaho. By comparison, the Lava Creek eruption left a large swathe of North America in up to two metres of debris.
The difference between quakes and faults
The volume of dense rock equivalent (DRE) ejected by the Huckleberry Ridge event dwarfs all other North American eruptions. It is itself overshadowed by the DRE ejected at the most recent eruption at Toba (present-day Indonesia). This was one of the largest known eruptions ever and a relatively recent one: only 75,000 years ago. It is thought to have caused a global volcanic winter which lasted up to a decade and may be responsible for the bottleneck in human evolution: around that time, the total human population suddenly and drastically plummeted to between 1,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs.
Image: USGS – public domain
So, what are the chances of something that massive happening anytime soon? The aforementioned mongers of doom often claim that major eruptions occur at intervals of 600,000 years and point out that the last one was 640,000 years ago. Except that (a) the first interval was about 200,000 years longer, (b) two intervals is not a lot to base a prediction on, and (c) those intervals don't really mean anything anyway. Not in the case of volcanic eruptions, at least.
Earthquakes can be 'overdue' because the stress on fault lines is built up consistently over long periods, which means quakes can be predicted with a relative degree of accuracy. But this is not how volcanoes behave. They do not accumulate magma at constant rates. And the subterranean pressure that causes the magma to erupt does not follow a schedule.
What's more, previous super-eruptions do not necessarily imply future ones. Scientists are not convinced that there ever will be another big eruption at Yellowstone. Smaller eruptions, however, are much likelier. Since the Lava Creek eruption, there have been about 30 smaller outbreaks at Yellowstone, the last lava flow being about 70,000 years ago.
As for the immediate future (give or take a century): the magma chamber beneath Yellowstone is only 5 percent to 15 percent molten. Most scientists agree that is as un-alarming as it sounds. And that its statistically more relevant to worry about death by lightning, shark, or piano.
Strange Maps #1041
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Measuring a person's movements and poses, smart clothes could be used for athletic training, rehabilitation, or health-monitoring.
In recent years there have been exciting breakthroughs in wearable technologies, like smartwatches that can monitor your breathing and blood oxygen levels.
But what about a wearable that can detect how you move as you do a physical activity or play a sport, and could potentially even offer feedback on how to improve your technique?
And, as a major bonus, what if the wearable were something you'd actually already be wearing, like a shirt of a pair of socks?
That's the idea behind a new set of MIT-designed clothing that use special fibers to sense a person's movement via touch. Among other things, the researchers showed that their clothes can actually determine things like if someone is sitting, walking, or doing particular poses.
The group from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) says that their clothes could be used for athletic training and rehabilitation. With patients' permission, they could even help passively monitor the health of residents in assisted-care facilities and determine if, for example, someone has fallen or is unconscious.
The researchers have developed a range of prototypes, from socks and gloves to a full vest. The team's "tactile electronics" use a mix of more typical textile fibers alongside a small amount of custom-made functional fibers that sense pressure from the person wearing the garment.
According to CSAIL graduate student Yiyue Luo, a key advantage of the team's design is that, unlike many existing wearable electronics, theirs can be incorporated into traditional large-scale clothing production. The machine-knitted tactile textiles are soft, stretchable, breathable, and can take a wide range of forms.
"Traditionally it's been hard to develop a mass-production wearable that provides high-accuracy data across a large number of sensors," says Luo, lead author on a new paper about the project that is appearing in this month's edition of Nature Electronics. "When you manufacture lots of sensor arrays, some of them will not work and some of them will work worse than others, so we developed a self-correcting mechanism that uses a self-supervised machine learning algorithm to recognize and adjust when certain sensors in the design are off-base."
The team's clothes have a range of capabilities. Their socks predict motion by looking at how different sequences of tactile footprints correlate to different poses as the user transitions from one pose to another. The full-sized vest can also detect the wearers' pose, activity, and the texture of the contacted surfaces.
The authors imagine a coach using the sensor to analyze people's postures and give suggestions on improvement. It could also be used by an experienced athlete to record their posture so that beginners can learn from them. In the long term, they even imagine that robots could be trained to learn how to do different activities using data from the wearables.
"Imagine robots that are no longer tactilely blind, and that have 'skins' that can provide tactile sensing just like we have as humans," says corresponding author Wan Shou, a postdoc at CSAIL. "Clothing with high-resolution tactile sensing opens up a lot of exciting new application areas for researchers to explore in the years to come."
The paper was co-written by MIT professors Antonio Torralba, Wojciech Matusik, and Tomás Palacios, alongside PhD students Yunzhu Li, Pratyusha Sharma, and Beichen Li; postdoc Kui Wu; and research engineer Michael Foshey.
The work was partially funded by Toyota Research Institute.
How imagining the worst case scenario can help calm anxiety.
- Stoicism is the philosophy that nothing about the world is good or bad in itself, and that we have control over both our judgments and our reactions to things.
- It is hardest to control our reactions to the things that come unexpectedly.
- By meditating every day on the "worst case scenario," we can take the sting out of the worst that life can throw our way.
Are you a worrier? Do you imagine nightmare scenarios and then get worked up and anxious about them? Does your mind get caught in a horrible spiral of catastrophizing over even the smallest of things? Worrying, particularly imagining the worst case scenario, seems to be a natural part of being human and comes easily to a lot of us. It's awful, perhaps even dangerous, when we do it.
But, there might just be an ancient wisdom that can help. It involves reframing this attitude for the better, and it comes from Stoicism. It's called "premeditation," and it could be the most useful trick we can learn.
Broadly speaking, Stoicism is the philosophy of choosing your judgments. Stoics believe that there is nothing about the universe that can be called good or bad, valuable or valueless, in itself. It's we who add these values to things. As Shakespeare's Hamlet says, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Our minds color the things we encounter as being "good" or "bad," and given that we control our minds, we therefore have control over all of our negative feelings.
Put another way, Stoicism maintains that there's a gap between our experience of an event and our judgment of it. For instance, if someone calls you a smelly goat, you have an opportunity, however small and hard it might be, to pause and ask yourself, "How will I judge this?" What's more, you can even ask, "How will I respond?" We have power over which thoughts we entertain and the final say on our actions. Today, Stoicism has influenced and finds modern expression in the hugely effective "cognitive behavioral therapy."
Helping you practice StoicismCredit: Robyn Beck via Getty Images
One of the principal fathers of ancient Stoicism was the Roman statesmen, Seneca, who argued that the unexpected and unforeseen blows of life are the hardest to take control over. The shock of a misfortune can strip away the power we have to choose our reaction. For instance, being burglarized feels so horrible because we had felt so safe at home. A stomach ache, out of the blue, is harder than a stitch thirty minutes into a run. A sudden bang makes us jump, but a firework makes us smile. Fell swoops hurt more than known hardships.
What could possibly go wrong?
So, how can we resolve this? Seneca suggests a Stoic technique called "premeditatio malorum" or "premeditation." At the start of every day, we ought to take time to indulge our anxious and catastrophizing mind. We should "rehearse in the mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck." We should meditate on the worst things that could happen: your partner will leave you, your boss will fire you, your house will burn down. Maybe, even, you'll die.
This might sound depressing, but the important thing is that we do not stop there.
Stoicism has influenced and finds modern expression in the hugely effective "cognitive behavioral therapy."
The Stoic also rehearses how they will react to these things as they come up. For instance, another Stoic (and Roman Emperor) Marcus Aurelius asks us to imagine all the mean, rude, selfish, and boorish people we'll come across today. Then, in our heads, we script how we'll respond when we meet them. We can shrug off their meanness, smile at their rudeness, and refuse to be "implicated in what is degrading." Thus prepared, we take control again of our reactions and behavior.
The Stoics cast themselves into the darkest and most desperate of conditions but then realize that they can and will endure. With premeditation, the Stoic is prepared and has the mental vigor necessary to take the blow on the chin and say, "Yep, l can deal with this."
Catastrophizing as a method of mental inoculation
Seneca wrote: "In times of peace, the soldier carries out maneuvers." This is also true of premeditation, which acts as the war room or training ground. The agonizing cut of the unexpected is blunted by preparedness. We can prepare the mind for whatever trials may come, in just the same way we can prepare the body for some endurance activity. The world can throw nothing as bad as that which our minds have already imagined.
Stoicism teaches us to embrace our worrying mind but to embrace it as a kind of inoculation. With a frown over breakfast, try to spend five minutes of your day deliberately catastrophizing. Get your anti-anxiety battle plan ready and then face the world.
A study on charity finds that reminding people how nice it feels to give yields better results than appealing to altruism.