Strange Maps Joins Big Think

Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi has it in for peace-loving Switzerland.  He says he'd destroy the country if he had atomic weapons. But since he doesn't have them, he advocates wiping Switzerland off the map by partitioning it into three parts along linguistic lines and ceding those parts to neighboring France, Italy, and Germany.  Gadaffi's fanciful rearrangement of Switzerland is shown in a map on Big Think's marvelously quirky new blog, Strange Maps.

Since 2006, London journalist Frank Jacobs has served up 476 cartographic curiosities on Strange Maps, all of which can now be found on Big Think.  He collects all kinds of maps—real, fake, imagined, and historic—and publishes them with commentary.  His most popular map, "US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs," has been viewed more than 587,000 times.  Some 300,000 people enjoyed his Pop vs. Soda map, which showed by region of the country what locals call the 43 gallons of carbonated beverages that the average American drinks annually.  His post Europe, If the Nazis Had Won, which was viewed by 232,000 people, is sobering and chilling, and his map Where (and How) Evolution Is Taught in the US is disturbing in another way.

Not all his maps are serious.  For example, there is the map of the area codes of regions of the US where the rapper Ludacris sings about having "hoes."  In his post "Friends, Polypotamians, Countrymen!," Jacobs depicts Thomas Jefferson's vision for dividing the Northwest Territory into ten states with names such as Sylvania and Assenisipia.

Check back at Strange Maps every Monday for the latest bizarre map that Jacobs will be posting to Big Think.

We live in an age in which publishing on paper is in trouble.  But Strange Maps, which was launched on the Internet and has a large, devoted online following, inspired one successful print publication, an anthology of cartographic treats released by Penguin.

​Is science synonymous with 'truth'? Game theory says, 'not always.'

Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."

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  • Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
  • This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
  • On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
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Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

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NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test

Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.

ESA's Hera mission above asteroid 65803 Didymos. Credit: ESA/ScienceOffice.org
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  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
  • The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
  • A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
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