What an Independent Catalonia Would Do to the Map of Spain
Nothing says "late great nation" like a new map of your country with its territory reduced
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.
This is what the map of the Iberian peninsula may look like if Spain's semi-autonomous region of Catalonia (Catalunya) were to become independent. The peninsula is shared by three instead of two countries. The Pyrenees (1) no longer neatly double as Spain's natural northern border.
That third country, taking up the northeastern part of the peninsula, is Catalonia. Despite objections and obstructions by the Spanish government (and perhaps partly because of it), That autonomous region held an independence referendum on October 1st, almost 92% of the votes went to the "Yes" camp.
In a rare direct intervention, the Spanish king Felipe VI strongly denounced the move towards Catalan independence as disloyal to the unity of the Spanish state and an affront to the Spanish government. The Spanish senate also approved direct Spanish rule over the region. The move effectively prevented any consideration of an official constitutional court to adjudicate the matter.
Undaunted, Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont said, from his government headquarters in Barcelona, the ratified results of the referendum would be used to effectively declare independence "at the end of this week or the beginning of next". Francisco Franco, a military general who ruled over Spain and actively oppressed Catalan culture, still lives in the minds of Catalans. Catalonia's executive government, headquartered in Barcelona, is known as the "generalitat"— a Catalan world. Its parliament is also located in Barcelona.
For its part, Spain's central government in Madrid has threatened to revoke Catalonia's current autonomous status if the separatists in Barcelona continue with their 'conscious decoupling'. Catalonia has called on the EU to mediate via its Brussels headquarters. That would be a de facto recognition of Catalonia's separate status on the global stage. For precisely that reason, the EU is unlikely to get involved, leaving the Catalan parliament and the Spanish government to face off. For its part, the United States has publicly sided with the central Spanish government.
So are Madrid and Barcelona headed for a Yugoslav scenario? Perhaps, but then the question is which one. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is remembered mostly through the prism of the horrible, protracted Bosnian war, but the first country to skip the club was Slovenia, the northernmost, wealthiest and ethnically most homogenous of the Yugoslav republics. It did so in the Ten-Days War of 1991, which claimed the lives of less than 70 combatants.
Bloody or not, if Catalonia gets its independence and direct rule, it will be the most dramatic change in Spain's cartographic persona since the completion of the Reconquista in 1492 (2). After the defeat and absorption of Granada, the last Muslim kingdom on the peninsula, and with both the independence of Portugal and the northern natural border firmly established, the idea of Spain has become synonymous with its current geographic extension. A Catalan republic would have historical and global implications.
From a Spanish point of view, the new map is depressing. Nothing says “late great nation” like a new map of your country with its former territory reduced. Just imagine a map of the U.S. from which Texas and/or California (and/or Vermont) has vanished. This cartographic slight to Spanish pride may at least partially explain Madrid's frankly counterproductive inflexibility towards recent Catalan manoeuvres.
The Catalan perspective, of course, is the diametrical opposite. Catalonia is the wealthiest region in Spain (in 2014 GDP, even edging out Madrid, and way ahead of all other regions). Its economy on its own is greater than than of each country marked red on this map. The region also suffered under the rule of military general Francisco Franco, who privileged Spanish heritage over Catalan culture, forbidding the Catalan language from being taught in public schools.
Larger not just than that of all those micronations (those red dots) or tiny Iceland and nearby Portugal, but also of virtually all countries in Eastern Europe – from the Baltics all the way down to Greece, with the inclusion of countries with much larger populations and resources, such as Romania and Ukraine. Poland, which has 38 million inhabitants to Catalonia's 7.5 million, is the only exception.
Will Catalan independence be a success story? Which Catalan leader would carry the region to independence? Its economy will probably have to stomach a setback, as trade will suffer under Spanish anger and European uncertainty on what to do with the first successful separatist movement within the EU. Similar economic concerns prevented Scotland from achieving independence from the EU in its latest referendum for direct rule.
But there's a large internal problem too with Catalonia's independence movement. The result of the recent referendum may have been overwhelmingly pro independence, that's because the turnout was relatively low, at just 42%. The actual divide is much closer to fifty-fifty: a July poll put the "Yes" camp at 41% and the "No" camp at 49%.
This map is an interesting, although imperfect, gauge of the relative strength of Catalan national feeling. It shows the percentage of Catalan speakers in each of Catalonia's regions, and that paints a more fragmented picture than the overwhelming majority of the referendum. The independence movement is passionate but not exactly united, at least not geographically.
The share of Catalan speakers in Catalonia is lowest in Metropolita, the region which includes the capital Barcelona: here, just over a quarter of the inhabitants speak Catalan. The highest share, almost three quarter, is achieved in the southern Terres de l'Ebre region. The two regions in between both have scores in the mid-30s. The Comarques Gironnes, between Barcelona and France, manage just over 50%. The three inland regions have more comfortable majorities, of just over 60%.
Strange Maps #861
All maps from @OnlMaps. To see three thousand years of Spanish (and Portuguese) borders evolve and change in just 3:55, click here. Even when independent, Catalonia will never be able to get rid of Spain: see #793.
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
(1) Greek myths say the mountain chain was named after Pyrene, daughter of Bebrix, a Gallic king visited by Hercules. The Greek hero got drunk and raped Pyrene, who later gave birth to a snake. Afraid of her father's anger, she ran into the woods, shouting out her story to the trees. This attracted the attention of wild animals, who tore her to pieces. Sober again, Hercules finds her remains and laments his crime, burying Pyrene. When he shouts out her name, the mountaintops echo it back to him. The land has remembered her name ever since.
(2) The two main exceptions: when Spain and Portugal were united (1580-1640) and Catalonia was annexed by France (1812-14). Minor ones include the British annexations of Menorca (twice, but impermanent) and Gibraltar (ongoing).
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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