from the world's big
The World's 26 Biggest Islands, in One Handy Map
World's biggest island? Up for discussion. The next 25? See this map.
Here's a question that can turn any pub quiz into a pub brawl: Which is the world's largest island? In the left corner, those who favour Greenland. In the right, the pro-Australians. Fighting it out is as good a way to settle the dispute as any, because there is no correct answer.
Not that both places are the same size – far from it: at nearly 7.62 million km2 (2.94 million sq mi), Australia is 3.5 times as big as Greenland, which measures almost 2.17 million km2 (836,000 sq mi).
That makes Australia almost exactly as big as the contiguous U.S. (1), and Greenland a bit smaller than Algeria, Africa's largest country. If you thought Greenland was almost exactly as big as Africa, you fell for the Mercator projection, which helps sailors get from port A to port B in a straight line on the map (2), but only at the cost of increasing the distortion of the land masses towards the poles. In actual fact, Africa is 14 times the size of Greenland. Like so:
But back to the geographical fisticuffs.
The whole thing hinges on your definition of island, or more exactly, on your definition of continent. An island is any land entirely surrounded by water – just as long as it's smaller than a continent. So what's a continent? Well: a very large land mass (3). What keeps one from being the other? Nothing more than the convention that you can't be both at the same time.
Quite arbitrary indeed, and easily brushed aside by Australia's teachers, who can't resist imparting to their students the beautiful symmetry of a questionable fact: that their country is the world's smallest continent, as well as its largest island.
To the rest of the world, that's a clear case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. So Greenland gets the green light: most observers agree that it is the world's biggest island.
Now that that is settled, do you know which is the world's second-biggest island? If your a geo-nerd, you may know that it's New Guinea, the island split between Indonesia and the independent state of Papua New Guinea (4). Extra points if you know that numbers three and four are Borneo and Madagascar.
But that is about where our own heady mix of knowledge, luck and intuition would run out. For future reference (and highly specialised pub quizzes), memorise this roster of the world's 26 biggest islands. Peek all you want, but look away after a minute or so. Now, how many can you name?
They sure are a collection of strange bedfellows. Number five is Baffin Island, in Canada's Arctic, frozen and desolate (population: 11,000). Number six is Sumatra, another pearl in the string of tropical islands that is Indonesia (population: 50 million). Filling out the second row are Japan's main island Honshu (pop: 103 million) and another one of Canada's northern islands, Victoria (pop: 2,000).
Great Britain, at #9, is the first European entry. With 61 million inhabitants, it is the third most populated island in the world (Honshu is the second). At #10, Ellesmere Island is Canada's northernmost and most desolate island (population: about 100 shivering souls). It bears a strange resemblance to Westeros, the main continent in the Game of Thrones universe. Sulawesi, at #11, is another Indonesian island, and also has a shape reminiscent of elsewhere (see #675). New Zealand's South Island (#12) shares the prize for most generic name with its North Island (#14). Combined, they are home to 4.5 million kiwis (5). That is less than 1/30th of the population of Java, the island separating them in the size ranking. With 145 million inhabitants, Java is the world's most populous island (density: over 1,100 people per km2), representing almost 60% of Indonesia's total.
Not Indonesian but from around there, Luzon (#15) is the main island of the Philippines. Newfoundland (#16) is one of five Canadian islands on this map, but could have been an independent nation of its own, had that 1948 referendum gone the other way (see also #31). Cuba (#17) and Iceland (#18) are two of the four islands on this map that are also independent nations (6). Mindanao (#19) is the other large Filipino island on the map. Its neighbour Ireland (#20) is used to having Great Britain next door, but probably won't mind the change.
Hokkaido (#21) and Sakhalin (#23) are also geographical neighbours, separated by a size sibling, Hispaniola (#22). Banks Island (#24) is probably the least familiar name of the bunch. Frozen and treeless, this Canadian island is home to no more than 112 people – all in the 'capital', Sachs Harbour – and two-thirds of the world's population of lesser snow geese. Bringing up the rear are Sri Lanka (#25) and Tasmania (#26).
Nice about this map is not just that it's a handy cheat sheet for that island/continent-themed pub quiz that will probably never happen, but also that the islands are brought together in the same scale (eat that, Mercator!). So it's obvious at a glance how much bigger Madagascar is than Britain, for example. Or that Hispaniola and Hokkaido are virtually the same size (world maps tend to stretch the latter, making it appear much bigger).
Strange Maps #777
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(1) from the Latin 'contiguus', meaning 'Lower Forty-Eight'.
(2) a.k.a. a rhumb line, or a loxodrome.
(3) the vagueness of that definition explains the different counts. The minimalist option is three continents (America, Afro-Eurasia, Australia). The four-continent model adds Antarctica. The five-model one counts Africa and Eurasia separately. There are two six-continent models: one separating Europe and Asia, the other splitting North from South America. Subtracting Antarctica from either leads to an alternative five-continent model. The seven-continent model includes all aforementioned parts separately.
(4) One of only four islands on this map divided between two (or more) sovereign states. The others are Borneo (Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia), Ireland (the republic of Ireland and the UK), Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
(5) Common nickname for the inhabitants of New Zealand. Not to be confused with the fruit or the various bird species of the same name. For more info, go to Kiwipedia.
(6) The other two are Madagascar and Sri Lanka.
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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