from the world's big
Solitude, Space Junk and Sea Monsters: the Eerieness of Point Nemo
Only in 1992 was science able to calculate the remotest part of the ocean
Q: What do sci fi pioneer Jules Verne, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and the Russian space programme have in common?
A: Their overlapping interest in an inhospitable corner of the South Pacific, only recently identified as the remotest part of the world’s oceans – Point Nemo.
Nowhere in the world can you find a place further from dry land than Point Nemo. This oceanic pole of inaccessibility (1) is located at 48°52.6’S 123°23.6’W.
Pinpointing the ’middle of the ocean’ sounds like something explorers and cartographers should have worked out centuries ago. Turns out it couldn’t be done before modern computing and GPS technology. In 1992, Croatian-Canadian survey engineer Hrvoje Lukatela wrote a geospatial programme called Hipparchus, and ’found Nemo’.
He named the place not after the cinematic clownfish – Finding Nemo hit the silver screens only in 2003 – but after the original Nemo, the eponymous submarine captain from Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Nemo is an appropriate name for what is arguably the remotest place on Earth (2), not only because it is Latin for 'nobody', but also because in his later novel The Mysterious Island, Verne revealed the base for Nemo's Nautilus to be an island in the South Pacific, subsequently destroyed by a volcanic eruption.
Because the Earth is round, the remotest part of the ocean will be in the middle of a circle – i.e. defined by at least three points. Following Mr. Lukatela's calculations, Point Nemo is located 1,670 miles (1,451 nautical miles, 2,688 km) from these three land masses:
The circle thus created, with Point Nemo at its centre, is an area of ocean 8,650,778 square miles (22,405,411 square km) in size – slightly bigger than the former Soviet Union, the largest country in modern history.
Talking about which – the Russian space programme has had its eye on this part of the South Pacific for some time. Even before its official designation as Point Nemo, it was obvious that this remote part of the world was the ideal place to dispose of space junk. Hundreds of decommissioned space vessels – many Soviet/Russian, but also European and Japanese - have been steered to their watery grave in this, the remotest part of the world, also nicknamed Spacecraft Cemetery.
These controlled descents are effected here for a reason: upon re-entry, the craft come into violent contact with the atmosphere, causing them to break apart and burn up, spreading fiery debris over an unpredictably large area. Even though this area is far from land and from regular shipping lanes and aviation corridors, protocol requires that the relevant space agency notifies the traffic authorities in Chile and New Zealand well before they send down another craft, so pilots and sailors can be duly warned to avoid the area.
Russia's Mir space station is perhaps the best remembered of the almost 300 spacecraft disposed of over Point Nemo since 1971. One of the best-documented re-entries over Point Nemo was that of ESA's aptly-named Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne, after a supply run to the International Space Station in 2008.
Decades before Point Nemo was named, and before satellites started raining down, H.P. Lovecraft used these lonely waters as the setting for R'lyeh, a "nightmare corpse city (…) built in measureless eons beyond history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars".
In The Call of Cthulhu (1928), R'lyeh is described as "a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth's supreme terror … loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours".
The sunken city is the prison of the giant monster Cthulhu, part octopus, part human, part dragon: "There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults". His followers pray for his regeneration, repeating the phrase: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ("In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming").
Remarkably, Lovecraft placed his lost city at 47°9′S 126°43′W, just 205 miles (330 km) away from Point Nemo. August Derleth, co-creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, placed Rlyeh at 49°51′S 128°34′W, also in the general neighbourhood. Clearly, both were looking for the furthest place from land, but without the benefit of modern satellites and computing.
Point Nemo is so remote that it is doubtful whether anyone has ever consciously visited it yet. The participants in the 2015 Volvo Ocean Race, on the leg from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, came closer than most. As they passed by Point Nemo, it was noted that the ships were closer to the occupants of the ISS, circling overhead at an altitude of around 250 miles (app. 400 km) on one of its 15 daily orbits around the globe, than to the rest of humanity.
Thinking like that could give you nightmares, especially considering that Point Nemo is not just remote and inhospitable, but also eerie to the extreme. And not just in lovecraftian fiction.
In 1997, oceanographers picked up an ultra-low-frequency sound emanating from the depths below Point Nemo. Named the Bloop, the enigmatic sound was too powerful to be produced even by blue whales, the largest known marine creatures. Scientists have since suggested that it was made by icebergs calving in Antarctica. It has not been excluded, however, that the Bloop emanates from a giant, as yet unknown underwater animal. Perhaps Cthulhu is finally stirring because of those occult incantations. Or could he have been awakened by that steady stream of space fragments raining down on his monstrous head?
Strange Maps #802
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Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
"One way the internet distorts our picture of ourselves is by feeding the human tendency to overestimate our knowledge of how the world works," writes philosophy professor Michael Patrick Lynch.
- Social media echo chambers have made us overconfident in our knowledge and abilities.
- Social psychologists have shown that publicly committing to an opinion makes you less willing to change your mind.
- To avoid a descent into epistemic arrogance and tribalism, we need to use social media with deep humility.
Egos in echo chambers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2ODI5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTQyNjU0N30.xnwbPsm30g2e27f24SqYr4rTleVRaWoHI21DKw9pMSs/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C393%2C0%2C364&height=700" id="9bb82" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91dac428fbfff07936186e088bc977c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
An echo chamber is an infinity of mirrors.
Photo: Robert Brook via Getty Images<p>"One way the internet distorts our picture of ourselves is by feeding the human tendency to overestimate our knowledge of how the world works," <a href="https://www.chronicle.com/article/Teaching-Humility-in-an-Age-of/240266" target="_blank">writes</a> philosophy professor Michael Patrick Lynch, author of the book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Internet-Us-Knowing-More-Understanding/dp/1631492772/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+internet+of+us&qid=1578414237&sr=8-1" target="_blank"><em>The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data</em></a>, in <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em>. "The Internet of Us becomes one big reinforcement mechanism, getting us all the information we are already biased to believe, and encouraging us to regard those in other bubbles as misinformed miscreants. We know it all—the internet tells us so."</p> <p>In other words, the internet encourages epistemic arrogance—the belief that one knows much more than one does. The internet's tailored social media feeds and algorithms have herded us into echo chambers where our own views are cheered and opposing views are mocked. Sheltered from serious challenge, celebrated by our chosen mob, we gradually lose the capacity for accurate self-assessment and begin to believe ourselves vastly more knowledgeable than we actually are. </p>
The consequences of public commitment<p>But it's not just the social reinforcement mechanism of like-minded crowds that is killing intellectual humility. It's also our own digital trails—the permanent records of our previous opinions.</p> <p>"Here's another way that Twitter may harm democratic debate," New York University Stern School of Business professor Jonathan Haidt <a href="https://twitter.com/jonhaidt/status/1214008345893523457" target="_blank">tweeted</a> in January 2020, attaching a couple pages from Robert Cialdini's seminal marketing book <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Influence-Practice-Robert-B-Cialdini/dp/0205609996/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=influence+cialdini&qid=1580757318&s=books&sr=1-1" target="_blank"><em>Influence</em></a>. "Publicly committing to an answer makes people less receptive to info suggesting they were wrong." In the excerpt from <em>Influence</em>, Cialdini summarizes an experiment by social psychologists Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard in which three groups of students were shown a set of lines. One group was asked to write down their estimates of the lines' length and turn their estimates in to the experimenter; the second group was asked to write down their estimates on a Magic Pad, then erase the pad before anyone could see; and the third group didn't write down their estimates at all. After the students were shown new evidence that suggested their original estimates were inaccurate, Cialdini writes: </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">The students who had never written down their first choices were least loyal to those choices. . . . [B]y far, it was the students who had publicly recorded their initial positions who most resolutely refused to shift from those positions later. Public commitment had hardened them into the most stubborn of all.</p> <p>Thanks to social media, most of us have publicly committed ourselves to our opinions. Our feeds are years of publicly published diary entries with our frozen-in-time thoughts on politics, news, relationships, religion, and more. Savvy social media users worry about how their digital trails will affect their future job prospects, but few people worry about how their digital trails might be affecting their own minds. By committing ourselves publicly to our present opinions, we may be hardening ourselves to future information that would otherwise change our minds—and thereby foreclosing upon our capacity for intellectual humility. </p>
Rewarding hot-takes and takedowns<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2ODMwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjA3NDE0MX0.OAlSZ6lODdoQmy6t_sDjPaZgz4OIaM2kdowbtaTOV4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="fe928" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6a3297818bfebe40c5e4d3cbb88c80db" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
All we need is more likes.
Use social media with humility<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b500b34517ad4ebc17d84476dcee8c7"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AWUDFge4t-4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>"Think about the last conversation you had where you thought, golly, that was such a great conversation," <a href="https://theihs.org/" target="_blank">Institute for Humane Studies</a> president Emily Chamlee-Wright said in an <a href="https://bigthink.com/sponsored-institute-for-humane-studies/master-conversation" target="_self">interview with Big Think</a>. "The chances are good that it was a kind of conversation that left you feeling smarter. It was the kind of conversation where you felt like you discovered something new, that it left you deeply curious about something else."</p> <p>Chamlee-Wright, a former economics professor and provost who has <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-missing-campus-speech-debate-discursive-ethics-chamlee-wright/" target="_blank">written</a> <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12115-019-00413-1" target="_blank">extensively</a> about discursive ethics, explains why intellectual humility is the first basic design principle of a good conversation. </p> <p style="margin-left: 20px;">[T]he world is an incredibly complicated place. None of us can ever have the full lock on truth. We can only see the world from a particular vantage point. And that means that our knowledge is going to have special insight because of our vantage point, but it's also going to be limited because of our vantage point. And so that limited knowledge that we can have about the world means that we must enter into any conversation with a deep sense of humility, because I need you to help me fill in my knowledge gaps. Right? And you need me. </p> <p>Consider this: Social media presents limitless possibilities for good, learning conversations—like deep canvassing—between strangers across the globe. If each social media user approached online interactions from a position of deep intellectual humility, recognizing that every other user represents an opportunity to fill knowledge gaps and grow, our social networks could become an unprecedented engine of human progress—instead of the drag-down into tribalism they currently seem to be. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.