China Sets Its Sights on Taiwan
Nothing fans the flames of nationalism like the sense of historical wrongs as yet "unrighted."
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
By building islands and stationing soldiers where before there were only reefs and sea turtles, China has literally cemented its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Middle Kingdom seems confident that its sheer economic size and growing military might will defeat the overlapping claims of other countries. Should Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia eventually accept China’s takeover of the area as a fait accompli, that would also be a defeat for the U.S.
Since its much-vaunted "pivot to Asia" a few years back, Washington’s undeclared policy has been to counterbalance Beijing’s growing geopolitical ambitions in the region. However, if Beijing manages to take possession of the Spratlys, Paracels, and other disputed islands, banks, and reefs without a fight, it will have successfully called Washington’s bluff. America’s allies in the region will wonder if the U.S. will do anything to come to their defense. It will make the next item on China’s wish list that much easier to acquire.
That such a wish list exists, can be glanced from the new passports China introduced in 2012. They’re watermarked with a map of China that not only includes Taiwan (as could be expected), but also the disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea, and some territories also claimed (and currently administered) by India.
Irredentist map on China's new passports
But Chinese irredentism runs much deeper than that. As daunting as it is now, China throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries was the "Sick Man of Asia," and outside powers abused the Empire’s weakness to obtain concessions, be they territorial or commercial. Nothing fans the flames of nationalism like the sense of historical wrongs as yet un-righted, so these ‘unequal treaties’ feature prominently in Chinese school curriculums.
This is not a recent development, nor is the present Communist regime the first to exploit these injustices for its own purposes. The map shown is one of several that populated the textbooks of elementary schools in 1930s nationalist China, usually titled "A Map of National Shame" (國恥地圖) or something like it. It shows the territorial expanse of the Chinese Empire in all its former glory. This mega-China runs as far west as the Aral Sea and as far east as Sakhalin Island; it incorporates both Afghanistan and Singapore, and virtually all lands and territories in between.
The pink bit in the middle shows the extent of China’s borders in the republican period. This already was an exercise in wish-fulfillment, as Japan was occupying a large part of coastal China, and much of the interior was ruled by warlords. Nevertheless, "pink" China also comprised the now independent state of Mongolia and (by the look of it) also Tuva, now a part of Russia (and home of the famous throat singers). A wide belt of green and red indicates territories unjustly detached from the Chinese motherland. These include:
+ Russia’s Far East
+ The entire Korean peninsula
+ The Ryukyu Islands (a much wider range than the currently disputed Senkaku Islands)
+ Taiwan (aka the "Republic of China" – with its own irredentist claims, see #221)
+ The South China Sea
+ All the currently independent nations of Southeast Asia, i.e. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore
+ Bhutan and Nepal
+ Northern parts of Pakistan and India
+ Large parts of the Central Asian republics
The blue line demarcates the widest extent of the Chinese Empire. It should be pointed out, however, that this is a very generous and somewhat misleading definition of what constituted the Chinese Empire, as it also includes states that merely paid tribute to it without otherwise falling under its sway.
China remains committed to a policy of "peaceful rise"; the list of "official" territorial disputes is fairly short (and includes, of course, the South China Sea and, for example, most of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls "South Tibet"). But perhaps these old school maps may some day be de-dustified. One Indian geostrategist claims to have insight into the People’s Liberation Army’s timetable for China’s not-so-peaceful rise:
1. Unification with Taiwan (2020-2025)
2. Recovery of islands in the South China Sea (2025-2030)
3. Recovery of Southern Tibet / India’s Arunachal Pradesh (2035-2040)
4. Recovery of Diaoyutai/Senkaku and Ryukyus (2045-2050)
5. Unification with "Outer Mongolia" (2045-2050)
6. Recovery of territory seized by Russia (2055-2060)
China’s current president Xi Jinping will probably still be in power in 2019, when the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100th birthday. Announcing the return of Taiwan to the Motherland would be a nice birthday present.
Strange Maps #759
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It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.
Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv
Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.
The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.
While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.
One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.
"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"
Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.
The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.
Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.
Source: Wolovick et al.
An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.
But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.
Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.
"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.
"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."
A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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