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Austria like you’ve never seen it before
And after these 10 surprising maps, the Alpine republic will never look the same again.
- Austria has an almost-exclave, connected to the motherland via a single dot on a mountaintop.
- Habsburgs were so fancy, they were buried in three different locations across Vienna.
- These and other absurd and obscure facts about Austria are the subject of a highly entertaining Twitter account.
Picture-perfect: Schloss Schönbühel. But there's more to Austria than just being pretty.
Image: Uaoei1, CC BY-SA 4.0
Unless you're into skiing, double monarchies or "The Sound of Music," you probably don't give Austria much thought. Yet everybody's second-favorite Alpine republic is a locus of many weird and wonderful facts.
If you don't believe us, check out these infographics produced by @austrianmaps. Here are ten things you'll now never again be able to un-know about Austria.
Stuck in the middle
Image: Austrian Maps
Austria is far from anywhere. Or, comfortably in the middle of everywhere. Which of these two truths rings truer depends on the elasticity of your travel wants (or needs). As this map shows, the Austrian capital Vienna (that's that circular thingy in the top right-hand corner) is almost perfectly equidistant between the two megacities book-ending Europe in the northwest and southeast.
Other maps show Austria just as snugly halfway between Madrid and Moscow (if you're into city trips); and Ibiza and Crimea (if you're more of a beach person).
Image: Austrian Maps
In its mission statement on Twitter, Austrian Maps promises "maps of Austria from moderately interesting to plain terrible." In order to set the bar at the appropriate height, we get Austria's version of the 'Indiana/Outdiana' map.
Don't let this put you off, though: Innsbruck is a lovely city (go check out the Golden Roof, completed in 1500) and close to the Alps (take the funicular Hungerburgbahn from the city centre straight up into the mountains).
Left to right hand traffic
Image: Austrian Maps
A few centuries ago, which side of the road you drove on was political. That's because Napoleon, the great equaliser, introduced right-hand traffic wherever he went. Which may explain why his arch enemies, the Brits, so obstinately clung to the other side of the road. The Austrians weren't too keen on him either, so when he left, they went back to… chaos: right-hand traffic here, left-hand traffic there.
- In 1915, Austria-Hungary generalised left-hand traffic, but protests led to the reintroduction of right-hand traffic in Vorarlberg in 1921. Which was not that much of a bother, because at the time, this state was only connected to the rest of Austria via two mountain passes.
- Following a general pact across Europe in 1927 to go with right-hand traffic, the rest of Austria switched back as well, but not immediately and not all at once, because the states couldn't agree on a unified timetable.
- On 2 April 1930, the west of the country (up to the city of Lend) switched from left to right. Carinthia and Eastern Tyrol made the switch on 15 July 1935.
- Following Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany, on 1 July 1938 the German traffic code came into effect, imposing right-hand traffic.
- Except in Vienna and surrounding areas, where left-hand traffic remained in force until 19 September 1938.
Image: Austrian Maps
Jungholz is an Austrian town, but it's surrounded on all sides by Germany. Does that make it an exclave? It would, if it didn't touch the rest of Austria at a single point – the summit of Mount Sorgschrofen, where four borderlines meet: two German, two Austrian.
Which means Jungholz is a pene-exclave (i.e. an 'almost-exclave', just like a peninsula is an 'almost-island'). Nevertheless, because it can only be reached via German territory, it is cut off from direct access to the rest of Austria, and thus is a 'practical exclave'.
Because of this, the town has been economically aligned with its Bavarian (and later German) neighbors, but those differences have been mostly subsumed within the European Union. It still maintains both a German and an Austrian post code, though.
Ve meet again, Mr Bond!
Image: Austrian Maps
If you're a picturesque enough country, James Bond will come race your city centers to bits, killing any number of Her Majesty's foes and scaring the locals witless. Austria is a particular favorite – visited by no less than four iterations of secret agent 007:
- George Lazenby ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service"),
- Roger Moore ("The Spy Who Loved Me"),
- Timothy Dalton ("The Living Daylights") and
- Daniel Craig ("Spectre," "A Quantum of Solace").
And there's plenty more places to blow up in Austria, the map helpfully suggests. If we were scouting for locations for the next Bond (m/f), the dam at Kaprun and the nuclear plant at Zwentendorf would be on the top of our list, too.
World cities bigger than Austria
Image: Austrian Maps
Austria may be a proper country with a flag and a president and all the other trappings of modern statehood, but it's rather keenly aware of its own diminutiveness. That certainly has to do with the fact that it was once the senior partner in a much grander nation: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of Europe's major powers until its demise following World War I.
With a certain masochism (named after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian), this map points out cities around the world – many not even capital cities – that have a larger population than Austria, which has 9 million inhabitants.
Between the mountains and the fields
Image: Austrian Maps
Austria's national anthem is the last melody written by Mozart before he died. That was the official story, but it turns out it's too good to be true: the masonic hymn was probably penned by one of Mozart's fellow lodgers.
The lyrics, of much later origin, describe Austria as "Land der Berge, Land am Strome, Land der Äcker, Land der Dome" ('Land of mountains, land by the river Donau, land of fields, land of cathedral domes').
What does that cover? Quite a lot, as this map shows, but not all of Austria, not by far. But then, "land of bits in between" doesn't quite have that anthemic ring to it.
Having a ball
Image: Austrian Maps
They're not quite on any Unesco world heritage list just yet, but Vienna's balls really should be. If not because they're a spectacular, centuries-old tradition replete with elaborate dresses, genteel manners and shedloads of classical music, then because they are both completely out of place in the modern world – and a wonderful escape from it.
Each winter season, the Hofburg Palace, Vienna's Rathaus (City Hall), the Vienna State Opera and other locations across town are filled with so many dancing debutantes and scheming socialites that you may be forgiven to think the Kaiser is still sitting on his throne.
In all, Vienna counts around 400 annual balls, many hosted by professional guilds, like the academic association, the medical profession or even the real estate sector. As the map shows, even some states have their own ball: Upper and Lower Austria, Tyrol, Styria and Vorarlberg, and… Moscow.
Of course, Moscow is not an Austrian state. Although there are plenty of moneyed Muscovites who wouldn't mind. Not all of Russia's bling gravitates to London. There's plenty to go around, and some of it likes to dress up and dance. And when that happens, it's not that hard to imagine that it's 1815 again, Vienna is the world's largest congregation of diplomats (there to hammer out the Treaty of Vienna), and there's still a Tsar on the throne in Moscow.
Egg-cellence in maps
Image: Austrian Maps
Q: How much fun can mapmakers have? A: As much as their imagination allows. Case in point: this Easter-themed map (hence the bleating lamb) comparing the egg-shapedness of Austria's various states.
Vienna is the state most overlapping with an egg of the same size (0.905), Elongated Burgenland (a.k.a. Austria's Chile) is the least egg-like state (0.521).
And what does this teach us? That it can be fun to follow the data, even if it leads you into a blind alley, where you get robbed of your seriousness. Sometimes, a good laugh is worth taking one on the chin.
Not that kind of church organ
Image: Austrian Maps
There are still emperors in Vienna, but they're all dead and buried. However, just going on the number of burial sites, you could think there are three times as many of the dead blighters as there actually were in real life.
That is because, lugubriously, emperors and other Habsburg royals were traditionally buried in three pieces: their bodies in the Capuchin Crypt, minus their hearts (which went to the Loreto Chapel) and also sans their inner organs (which were preserved – if that's the right word - at St Stephen's Cathedral).
All maps reproduced with kind permission. For more Austrian map madness, check out Austrian Maps on Twitter.
Strange Maps #1029
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
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"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
After former U.S. President William Henry Harrison delivered his inaugural speech on March 4, 1841, he posed for a daguerreotype, the first widely available photographic technology. It became the first photo taken of a sitting American president.
As for the eight presidents before Harrison, history can see them only through artistic renderings. (The exception is a handful of surviving daguerreotypes of John Quincy Adams, taken after he left office. In his diary, Adams described them as "hideous" and "too true to the original.")
But a recent project offers a glimpse of what early presidents might've looked like if photographed through modern cameras. Using FaceApp and Airbrush, Magdalene Visaggio, author of books such as "Eternity Girl" and "Kim & Kim," generated a collection of convincing portraits of the nation's first presidents, from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant.
Modern Presidents George Washington https://t.co/CURJQB0kap— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611952243.0
What might be surprising is that Visaggio was able to generate the images without a background in graphic design, using freely available tools. She wrote on Twitter:
"A lot of people think I'm a digital artist or whatever, so let me clarify how I work. Everything you see here is done in Faceapp+Airbrush on my phone. On the outside, each takes between 15-30 mins. Washington was a pretty simple one-and-done replacement."
Ulysses S Grant https://t.co/L1IGXLI3Vl— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611959480.0
"Other than that? I am not a visual artist in any sense, just a hobbyist using AI tools see what she can make. I'm actually a professional comics writer."
Did another pass at Lincoln. https://t.co/PdT4QVpMbn— Magdalene Visaggio (@Magdalene Visaggio)1611973947.0
Of course, Visaggio isn't the first person to create deepfakes (or "cheap fakes") of politicians.
In 2017, many people got their first glimpse of the technology through a video depicting former President Barack Obama warning: "We're entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time." The video quickly reveals itself to be fake, with comedian Jordan Peele speaking for the computer-generated Obama.
While deepfakes haven't yet caused significant chaos in the U.S., incidents in other nations may offer clues of what's to come.
The future of deepfakes
In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.
But the video is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real.
The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a 2020 report from The Brookings Institution. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes.
As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:
"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."
The author of 'How We Read' Now explains.
During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework.
As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material?
The answers to both questions are often “no," as I discuss in my book “How We Read Now," released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.
Print versus digital reading
The benefits of print particularly shine through when experimenters move from posing simple tasks – like identifying the main idea in a reading passage – to ones that require mental abstraction – such as drawing inferences from a text. Print reading also improves the likelihood of recalling details – like “What was the color of the actor's hair?" – and remembering where in a story events occurred – “Did the accident happen before or after the political coup?"
Studies show that both grade school students and college students assume they'll get higher scores on a comprehension test if they have done the reading digitally. And yet, they actually score higher when they have read the material in print before being tested.
Educators need to be aware that the method used for standardized testing can affect results. Studies of Norwegian tenth graders and U.S. third through eighth graders report higher scores when standardized tests were administered using paper. In the U.S. study, the negative effects of digital testing were strongest among students with low reading achievement scores, English language learners and special education students.
My own research and that of colleagues approached the question differently. Rather than having students read and take a test, we asked how they perceived their overall learning when they used print or digital reading materials. Both high school and college students overwhelmingly judged reading on paper as better for concentration, learning and remembering than reading digitally.
The discrepancies between print and digital results are partly related to paper's physical properties. With paper, there is a literal laying on of hands, along with the visual geography of distinct pages. People often link their memory of what they've read to how far into the book it was or where it was on the page.
But equally important is mental perspective, and what reading researchers call a “shallowing hypothesis." According to this theory, people approach digital texts with a mindset suited to casual social media, and devote less mental effort than when they are reading print.
Podcasts and online video
Given increased use of flipped classrooms – where students listen to or view lecture content before coming to class – along with more publicly available podcasts and online video content, many school assignments that previously entailed reading have been replaced with listening or viewing. These substitutions have accelerated during the pandemic and move to virtual learning.
Surveying U.S. and Norwegian university faculty in 2019, University of Stavanger Professor Anne Mangen and I found that 32% of U.S. faculty were now replacing texts with video materials, and 15% reported doing so with audio. The numbers were somewhat lower in Norway. But in both countries, 40% of respondents who had changed their course requirements over the past five to 10 years reported assigning less reading today.
A primary reason for the shift to audio and video is students refusing to do assigned reading. While the problem is hardly new, a 2015 study of more than 18,000 college seniors found only 21% usually completed all their assigned course reading.
Maximizing mental focus
Researchers found similar results with university students reading an article versus listening to a podcast of the text. A related study confirms that students do more mind-wandering when listening to audio than when reading.
Results with younger students are similar, but with a twist. A study in Cyprus concluded that the relationship between listening and reading skills flips as children become more fluent readers. While second graders had better comprehension with listening, eighth graders showed better comprehension when reading.
Research on learning from video versus text echoes what we see with audio. For example, researchers in Spain found that fourth through sixth graders who read texts showed far more mental integration of the material than those watching videos. The authors suspect that students “read" the videos more superficially because they associate video with entertainment, not learning.
The collective research shows that digital media have common features and user practices that can constrain learning. These include diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset, a propensity to multitask, lack of a fixed physical reference point, reduced use of annotation and less frequent reviewing of what has been read, heard or viewed.
Digital texts, audio and video all have educational roles, especially when providing resources not available in print. However, for maximizing learning where mental focus and reflection are called for, educators – and parents – shouldn't assume all media are the same, even when they contain identical words.
Humans may have evolved to be tribalistic. Is that a bad thing?
- From politics to every day life, humans have a tendency to form social groups that are defined in part by how they differ from other groups.
- Neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, author Dan Shapiro, and others explore the ways that tribalism functions in society, and discuss how—as social creatures—humans have evolved for bias.
- But bias is not inherently bad. The key to seeing things differently, according to Beau Lotto, is to "embody the fact" that everything is grounded in assumptions, to identify those assumptions, and then to question them.
Ancient corridors below the French capital have served as its ossuary, playground, brewery, and perhaps soon, air conditioning.