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'Charcoal Australia': This viral image isn't the full story
Viral 'photo' is composite image, but other map shows true and growing size of devastation
- A viral photo shows Australia smoldering like a piece of charcoal about to ignite.
- The composite image shows all fires over an entire month, which is not the same as all fires raging at the same time.
- That's not to say the devastation isn't real, and growing–as proven by another map.
Bushfires from space
Police and firefighters near the scene of a bushfire in Yanderra, New South Wales, in late December 2019.
Image: Helitak430, CC BY-SA 4.0
How bad are the fires in Australia? They're huge, deadly and apocalyptic. But not quite this bad. This three-dimensional visualization of the bushfires Down Under is going viral, in part because it was 'miscaptioned' – to the horror of its creator, Anthony Hearsey.
The image purports to be a view on the country's bushfires from space. It shows Australia lit up all over, like a smoldering piece of charcoal about to ignite entirely. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And nothing illustrates more eloquently the devastating emergency of Australia's bushfires than this horrific map.
3D composite image of bushfires in Australia from 5 December 2019 to 5 January 2020.
However, this is not "a photo of Australian fires taken from the Space Station', as some would have it. The truth is a bit more nuanced.
Yes, Mr Hearsey—a photography and post-production specialist—based his map of Australia on actual images from NASA satellites. But it's not a single image of fires raging at the same time; rather, it's a composite image, of all fires that have raged between 5 December 2019 and 5 January 2020. "This is NOT A PHOTO," Mr Hearsey says. "Think of it as a prettier-looking graph."
As a 'collection' of all the fires that raged within the limited time frame of a single month, the image remains a shocking enough indicator of the fiery emergency that Australia is facing at the moment. All the areas lit up have been affected by bushfires over the past month—but they are not all still burning.
Fact-checking website Snopes.com referenced the image under the heading fauxtography, providing the context that is lacking in the many other places that the picture is showing up: "Composite images created from multiple data inputs are often mistaken for literal photographs."
The size of Denmark
3 January: if the bushfires had centered on London and burned in a neat square, they would have engulfed Cambridge, Oxford and Southampton.
Image: The Guardian
Here are two other maps that help put the Australian bushfires in a proper context. They both show the combined area burned by bushfires in the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Both are centered on London.
The first one dates from 3 January, at which time the affected area comprised 4.3 million hectares. That's 43,000 km2 (16,600 sq. mi.), which corresponds to a square that includes Oxford, Cambridge and Southampton and extends to the coast of Kent. For the less London-centric, that's an area about the size of Denmark, or slightly larger than Maryland.
8.4 million hectares
6 January: The square has doubled in size, now also covering the north of France.
Image: The Guardian
The second one dates from 6 January, when the burned lands totaled 8.4 million hectares. That corresponds to 84,000 km2 (32,400 sq. mi.). In just a few days, the area devastated by fire has virtually doubled. The square has grown significantly, now encompassing England up to the Wash and well into the Midlands and covering a much larger part of the English Channel, up to and including a strip of northern France. That corresponds to about the size of Austria, or South Carolina.
The size of the affected area is monitored by this map at The Guardian. Sadly, there seems little doubt that the square will continue to grow, covering an ever greater area of the UK and France. The map is interactive: It allows you to zoom out and recenter the square over any part of the world you may be more familiar with, to—literally—bring home the size of Australia's trial by fire.
To donate much-needed funds to help fight the fires and support its victims, visit this list of places to donate, compiled by The New York Times.
Strange Maps #1005
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.