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A Map of Countries Contributing Most, and Least, to Earth's (Over?)Population
Here are two maps that are also cartograms, using the same method to present each country's population size: one square represents one million people.
The world has added over 800 million people over the last decade – a number so vast it is almost meaningless. Unless you convert it to more familiar units of measurement: Four Brazils. Two and a half times the U.S. More than half of China. But nothing brings the size and shifts of the world's population into focus like a world map. Except perhaps two world maps.
Both maps compared here were published on July 11, World Population Day – the first one in 2004, the second one last Friday. They show the projected populations for 2005 and 2015 respectively. Both are cartograms, using the same method to present each country's population size: one square represents one million people. The resulting distortions show us a world map of relative population sizes, with China and India dwarfing the rest of the world.
World Population Map for 2005 (6.4 billion)
The U.N. designated July 11 as a day to 'reflect' on population issues, in commemoration of the fact that humanity passed the 5-billion mark on that date in 1987. Reflecting has done little to slow the rate of increase. Humanity reached 1 billion in 1804. It took us 123 years to add the second billion, 32 years for the third one. Since then, we've added another billion every 14 years or so, a breakneck speed that looks set to continue for a while. In 2005, we were at 6.4 billion. Right now, we're more than 7.2 billion. By 2042, we'll be 9 billion.
World Population Map for 2015 (7.2 billion)
Projected population growth between 2005 and 2015 represents an increase of about 12%. Comparing both cartograms shows how unevenly that growth is spread across the world. While a number of countries, notably in Africa and Asia, continue to add people at a very high rate, others have reached an equilibrium – most but not all in the so-called developed world. A few countries are even experiencing a decline in population.
Let's zoom in...
N. America Pop. 2005
This population-based cartogram for 2005 amplifies the dominance of the U.S. (296 million) of the North American continent, and reduces Canada (30 million), geographically larger but demographically much, much smaller, to the status of 'America's Hat (see also #339). Together with Mexico (106 million), they represent the bulk of North America's 512 million inhabitants. Of the other nations in the Carribean and Central America, only Cuba (11 million) and Guatemala (15 million) have over 10 million inhabitants. The purple square next to the Dominican Republic is Puerto Rico (4 million), the single square south of there is Trinidad and Tobago (1 million). Nations with less than 1 million are not shown on the map.
N. America Pop. 2015
By 2015, North America will have added about 50 million inhabitants, most of which in the U.S. (+26 million) and Mexico (+13 million). Some of the smaller nations add a million (e.g. Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica), but others are stagnant (Cuba, Guatemala) or even shrinking (El Salvador – 7 to 6 million). Both Haiti and the Dominican Republic join the 10-million club, adding 3 million people to the already rather crowded island of Hispaniola, shared by the two nations.
S. America Pop. 2005
In 2005, the population in South America is seemingly distributed in line with its geography – there don't seem to be any major distortions of the map. Although Ecuador (13 million) looks bigger than normal and the three Guyanas – all less than a million inhabitants – have disappeared. Brazil is the undisputed heavyweight of the continent, with Colombia (43 million) a distant second, and Argentina (40 million) only third.
S. America Pop. 2015
By 2015, Brazil has added 26 million inhabitants – as many as the U.S. - and breaks the 200-million limit. Only Uruguay (3 million) is stagnant, everybody else progresses. Colombia adds 4 million, as does Venezuela (to reach 29 million). Argentina and Ecuador add 3 million, Peru and Bolivia 2 million each (and reach 30 and 11 million, respectively). As a whole, South America grows from approximately 370 million to over 415 million – as in 2005, only 43% of the total for the Americas, which as a whole grow from 881 million to 975 million. Not long now til the billionth American.
Europe Pop. 2005
The E.U. also has its 'Big Five' – shorthand for the largest economies that many multinationals concentrate their efforts on. This 2005 population cartogram clearly shows which they are: Germany (82 million), France (61 million), the U.K. (60 million), Italy (58 million) and Spain (40 million). Taken together, these five alone outnumber the U.S. Most other European countries are tiny by comparison – remarkably often around the 10-million mark. Only Poland (39 million) and Ukraine (47 million) have similar demographic heft. Russia is a different matter: with its 143 million inhabitants, it plays in a different league as the other European states.
Europe Pop. 2015
The 2015 cartogram shows a stark dichotomy in Europe: remarkable shrinkage in some states, robust growth in others. The biggest loser is Russia, dropping 7 million, the biggest winner is France, gaining 5 million – Russia is only barely double the size of France now. The U.K. adds 4 million, looming ever larger over the Continent, where Germany has shed 1 million, as well as – more dramatically – Lithuania: from 4 to 3 million. Ukraine loses an entire Lithuania, dropping from 47 to 44 million. On paper, Serbia seems to have lost the biggest share of inhabitants: from 11 to 7 million. But that of course is due to less to dropping fertility rates than to the secession of both Kosovo and Montenegro. Remarkable: Spain and Italy, both severely hit by the economic crisis, both add substantial numbers – Spain grows 3 million to 46 million, Italy adds 4 million and totals 62 million. In all, the European continent manages to add 5 million, from 726 to 731 million – a virtual status quo.
Africa Pop. 2005
Even back in 2005, it was clear which country was Africa's demographic superpower. Not Egypt, a respectable second with 78 million, but Nigeria, almost double that size at 141 million. Other big hitters: Ethiopia with 70 million and DR Congo with 60 million. South Africa came in only 5th, with 43 million. The continent's biggest countries in area, Sudan (40 million) and Algeria (33 million), are only second-tier when it comes to population.
Africa Pop. 2015
From about 889 million in 2005, Africa reaches 1.1 billion in 2015. In just a decade, six countries manage double-digit gains in millions of inhabitants: Nigeria adds 43 million (total: 184 million), Ethiopia adds 33 million (and joins the Triple-Digit League: 103 million), DR Congo adds 19 million (and reaches 79 million), Kenya adds 14 million (and goes from 32 to 46 million), Uganda adds 13 million (adding 50% to its 27 million, reaching 40 million), and Egypt adds 10 million (78 to 88 million). Sudan seems to lose a million (40 to 39 million), but this is due to the secession of South Sudan (11 million), so in truth here too we have double-digit growth. Remarkably, the tiny Central African countries of Rwanda and Burundi have both grown beyond 10 million (13 and 12 million respectively). But according to these maps, Angola takes the crown: growing from 11 million to 20 million, it has almost doubled in size over the course of a single decade.
Middle East Pop. 2005
This 2005 map explains some of Saudi Arabia's geopolitical unease. It (26 million) is squeeze between Iran, a powerful and much larger (68 million) archenemy to the north, and Yemen, its poor, unstable and crowded (21 million) neighbour to the south. Israel (6 million) is shown as a vice, gripping the West Bank (2 million) and isolating Gaza (1 million). Turkey's 70 million give it strategic weight in the region. As would Pakistan's 162 million – if it weren't occupied with the insurgencies at home and in Afghanistan (30 million).
Middle East Pop. 2015
By 2015, Yemen (27 million) has almost caught up with Saudi Arabia (28 million), while Qatar and Bahrain make it on the map for the first time (both 1 million). Kuwait adds a million (3 million), while the United Arab Emirates grows Angola-style, doubling in size (3 to 6 million). But nobody comes close to the region's biggest growers, Iran (plus 14 million, to 82 million) and Turkey, (plus 12 million, to 82 million). Even war-torn countries like Syria (18 to 23 million) and Iraq (26 to 33 million) manage robust growth – although it's unclear whether everybody included in those numbers is in-country or living abroad as refugees.
E. Asia Pop. 2005
China and India are too huge to see on any other than the main maps above. The biggest absolute growth in population is found in these two countries: plus 56 million in China, to 1.36 billion inhabitants. China is still the biggest country in the world, population-wise, but its one-child policy has slowed down growth, especially compared to India, where such restrictions do not exist. India grew more than any other country in the last decade, adding 172 million. It now has 1.25 billion inhabitants, and will soon overtake China as the world's most populous country. Interesting to see how Mongolia (3 million) is completely dwarfed by its neighbour to the south (and even by Russia to the north). Bangladesh is small, but very crowded (144 million) and Vietnam (84 million) is much more populous than you'd think.
E. Asia Pop. 2015
Even though China and India will take the biggest chunk of Asia's population growth, other countries also will have grown significantly. The Philippines (88 million) adds another 22 million people to round the 100-million mark. Bangladesh grows by 25 million, and reaches 169 million. What a contrast to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan: these highly developed nations break even, staying put at 127, 49 and 23 million inhabitants. North Korea, on the other hand, adds 2 million, to reach 27 million. One of Asia's biggest relative growers is Malaysia, adding around 30% to its population: from 24 to 31 million.
South Asia and Oceania
S. Asia/Oceania Pop. 2005
Most Pacific island nations have less than 1 million inhabitants, so they don't appear on the map. And those that do make it, are dwarfed by Indonesia (242 million). East Timor (1 million), Papua New Guinea (4 million) and Singapore (4 million) are but drops in the Indonesian ocean. Even Australia (20 million) and New Zealand (4 million) look like wayward appendices to the archipelago in the north.
S. Asia/Oceania Pop. 2015
In 2015, those demographic relations are essentially maintained, and even exacerbated by Indonesia's growth by 14 million – adding more than half an Australia (although it too grew by more than 10%, to 23 million). Remarkable how tiny Singapore added 50% to its population, and now boasts 6 million inhabitants.
Strange Maps #667
Many thanks to Bob Abramms at ODT Maps for sending in these maps. Figures used are U.S. State Department projections. Zoomable images from the 2005 map found here at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. Buy a copy of the 2005 map here. Have a look at the different options for the 2015 map here.
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
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The potential of CRISPR technology is incredible, but the threats are too serious to ignore.
- CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a revolutionary technology that gives scientists the ability to alter DNA. On the one hand, this tool could mean the elimination of certain diseases. On the other, there are concerns (both ethical and practical) about its misuse and the yet-unknown consequences of such experimentation.
- "The technique could be misused in horrible ways," says counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke. Clarke lists biological weapons as one of the potential threats, "Threats for which we don't have any known antidote." CRISPR co-inventor, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, echos the concern, recounting a nightmare involving the technology, eugenics, and a meeting with Adolf Hitler.
- Should this kind of tool even exist? Do the positives outweigh the potential dangers? How could something like this ever be regulated, and should it be? These questions and more are considered by Doudna, Clarke, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, psychologist Steven Pinker, and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee.
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.