from the world's big
The World's Data Holes, Quantified
It's not the ice that turns Greenland white, but the lack of data
Finally, a map that focuses on those corners of the world that are usually left out. And quantifies how little we know about them. Most data-free zone: Western Sahara. Where is that? Exactly.
You may not know the word choropleth – from the Greek for 'many shades' – but you have seen the principle applied on maps. Any map that variously shades or patterns areas in proportion to a statistical variable is a choropleth map. Except that on a world map, some countries or regions are likely to be left blank.
More often than not, those blank spaces include some or all of the following line-up of usual suspects: Greenland, French Guyana, Western Sahara, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and North Korea.
UN Human Development Index map from 2001. Data holes: Greenland, Cuba, French Guiana, Western Sahara, Liberia, Somalia, Belarus, Afghanistan, North Korea.
These are either highly secretive countries, nations too war-torn and/or chaotic to produce sound statistical data, or territories whose data is subsumed in that of their colonising/occupying power.
For The Unmeasured World, the mapmaker analysed 100 choropleth world maps, adding up how many times each country contributed data. Not only does this provide us with a ranking of the world's most notorious data holes, it also reveals a much longer list of data-weak countries.
Let's start with the world's worst blind spots:
You will have seen these blind spots stare blankly at your from many a world map. But in a way, these 'known unknowns' are the lucky ones. As a close examination of this map shows, there are plenty of much smaller, lesser-known data holes - even if most of the world is doing fairly okay on the statistical front.
Countries in the darkest shade of brown appear in more than 90% of the examined maps. Many countries achieve a near-perfect score, including France and the UK (both 99), Germany and the U.S. (both 98) and India and Russia (both 97).
In Latin America, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia and Chile all score above 90, but the rest of the region lingers in the 80s (Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, among others), the 70s (Uruguay, Bolivia, Costa Rica) or even the 60s (Cuba, Jamaica, Suriname).
With the exception of South Africa (94) and Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya (all in the 80s), Africa seems particularly lacking in consistent data. Worst performers, except the aforementioned blank spots, are Equatorial Guinea (52), Lesotho (53), Guinea Bissau (54), Gabon and Congo (both 59).
Even Europe has its data-weak neighbourhoods, mainly ex-Yugoslavia, but also Albania, Moldova and Belarus (all in the 70s). Cyprus, because of its particular status – split between an internationally recognised south and a virtually unrecognised north – scores 42, atypically low for Europe, and is another data hole.
Jordan (82) is doing well in a region stuck in the 70s, except war-torn Yemen (64), outsider Israel (91) and special case Palestine (35) – yet another data blind spot, albeit a tiny one.
Remarkably, Afghanistan (70), although extremely poor and conflicted, is doing a lot better than peaceful, but secretive Turkmenistan (58). In Asia and Oceania, Bhutan (68), Birma/Myanmar (62) and Papua New Guinea (59) stand out as fairly remarkable data holes. But not as bad as tiny East Timor (24) – we almost missed it, just north of Australia. Oh, and look at Brunei (37) a bit further north.
East Timor is another young, poor nation. And Brunei is the personal fiefdom of a sultan who may not value statistical transparency with the same keenness as a democratic government would. At least, that is how we rationalise the low scores of those two countries. But what is Singapore's (41) excuse? The high-tech city-state surely does not lack in stats, vital and otherwise?
As indicated by the list of nations printed at the bottom of the map, choropleth world maps have a problem with showing data for the world's smallest nations – and often leave them out. That is why the Caribbean nations generally score pretty bad, and the Vatican appears on only 44 out of a hundred maps. Who would have guessed that the Pope runs a data hole even deeper than South Sudan?
Strange Maps #843
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
China moves to Russia and India takes over Canada. The Swiss get Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi India. And the U.S.? It stays where it is.
What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.