Map provides first glimpse of post-apocalypse states

Across the land, state-driven pacts, partnerships, councils and task forces replace a coordinated federal response.

Map provides first glimpse of post-apocalypse states

The patchwork of states' responses to the corona crisis.

Image: Alfred Twa, reproduced with kind permission.
  • Responding to the corona crisis, U.S. governors are banding together in regional clubs.
  • While some states are coordinating with more than one group, other states haven't joined any yet.
  • The phenomenon may not be a sign of the impending apocalypse, but it does indicate that something obvious is missing: a coordinated federal response.

A peek behind the curtain

Is it really such a big leap from New Normal to Mad Max?

Image: Massden, CC BY 3.0

What comes after the United States? If you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, you know the answer: successor countries with exotic names, weird flags, and strange customs.

  • In "The Hunger Games," there are the twelve districts of Panem – North America reduced due to rising sea levels – which owe tribute to the Capitol, tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.
  • "The Handmaid's Tale" is set in the Republic of Gilead, a fundamentalist dystopia that has replaced the United States.
  • Stephen King's "The Stand" has good and evil survivors of a global pandemic coalesce around Mother Abagail in Boulder and Randall Flagg in Las Vegas, respectively.

It looks like the current pandemic is providing us with a peek behind the curtain of the post-apocalypse, with individual states banding together to respond to the ongoing crisis.

On April 13, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announced that they would be coordinating their response to the coronavirus, in particular with regard to protecting senior citizens and other vulnerable groups, procuring protective gear for hospital staff, minimizing the impact of the emergency on living standards and healthcare provision, and rolling back the lockdown if and when appropriate.

On April 27, Nevada and Colorado joined this 'Western State Pact'. Short of joining the pact, Hawaii has announced that it will be coordinating with the group.

Furthermore, Washington state will be coordinating with its Canadian neighbor, the province of British Columbia, about border reopening; and the state has also indicated that Idaho may be invited to join the pact.

Names are important

Councils, partnerships and more.

Image: Alfred Twa, reproduced with kind permission.

Also on April 13, on the other side of the country, New York and other northeastern states inaugurated the Regional Advisory Council. With an appellation this ominously abstract, it is our favorite candidate for post-apocalyptic prominence.

Encompassing New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, the RAC is working on a coordinated reopening plan.

RAC member Massachusetts is shown in two colors, as it is also coordinating its efforts with three other northeastern states: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Vermont is striped in the same two colors, because it is thinking about joining the RAC.

Unless Maine and Vermont come up with a zippy name for their club, they're going to be swallowed up wholesale by the group headed by President – sorry, Governor – Cuomo.

Because yes, names are important. Take 'Midwest Partnership', for instance: it exudes the level-headed pragmatism for which the region likes to be known. But not everybody's equally pragmatic, it appears: while Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky banded together under the Midwestern banner, four other states were offered a seat at the table but declined, i.e. North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri.

Those four states, plus Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas, are working together as the Missouri River States. That doesn't seem like the most solid bloc of the bunch, though. A lot of members are hedging their bets. North Dakota is in a mutual-aid pact with Montana, while Kansas is also coordinating with Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. On a lower level, Missouri counties along the Mississippi are working with their counterparts on the other bank of the river, in Illinois.

A logical fit

Last one wins or last one loses?

Image: Alfred Twa, reproduced with kind permission.

And Arkansas is one of the 16 states participating in the Higher Education Recovery Task Force. Set up by the Southern Regional Education Board, the HERTF brings together higher education leaders from its member states to address the challenges facing colleges, universities, and students during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.

Out west the situation is complicated by the considerable overlap between the aforementioned coordination effort uniting Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and another coordination effort that brings together the latter two states, plus Arizona and the Navajo Nation, but not the other states. Why not just merge both and call it Four Corners Plus?

Back east, filling up the rest of the seaboard are two nameless collectives, one bringing together Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina; the other prospectively roping in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

A few states are still unsure whether they're playing a last-one-wins or a last-one-loses game. Apart from Idaho, five other states – Alaska, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas – are still completely without any association. The latter three seem a logical fit for a club of their own.

An "extraordinary step"

A map of the Untied States of America.

Image: Alfred Twa, reproduced with kind permission.

Several lower-level governments aren't waiting for the states – or the federal government, for that matter – and have started their own thing: a number of counties in Texas, as well as Tennessee's major metro areas, and four counties in southern Florida.

The latter will coordinate the phased re-opening of outdoor spaces, retail, and hotels, under the label 'New Normal Initiative'. Another top-notch post-apocalyptic name. It's not that hard to imagine them battling the Regional Advisory Council for the last of the country's dwindling strategic Twinkie reserve.

A caveat: this map is a few days old, and the situation it describes may have changed in the mean time. And another one: of course, states banding together to respond to a national emergency is not one of the warning signs of the apocalypse. It's an indication that something obvious is lacking: a coordinated federal response.

Or, as Andy Borowitz noted sardonically in The New Yorker: "In order to better coördinate their efforts to combat the coronavirus, the nation's governors are considering the extraordinary step of forming a country."

Strange Maps #1026

Map produced by Alfred Twa, reproduced with kind permission.Check out his twitter here.

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
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An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

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