The NULL Solution = Episode 94

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The NULL Solution = Episode 94

…There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper…

‘I want to see what Tycho looks like after all these years,” Sam suggests. 

As soon as they can sync the viewer with the geographical location of the Plain of Xanthe, it is clear that the neighborhood has changed. Not only are there clouds and oceans and vegetation, there is a towering structure dwarfing the tiny lander that once called Space Colony 1 its home base.

Sampson McKinney, formerly of Earth, Mars and now Eridanus, is as confused as his the Null next to him, “I thought you told me this planet was barren.”

“It was when I left,” he claims. He has to wonder why Celeste did not leave a clue about her hyperphysical trip back. Surely Crip would have mentioned a little thing like a colony on Mars. A friendly heads-up would have been nice.

Sure as Mars soil is red, a mile-high colossus rises up on the spot where humans once tread.

“Something like that would take centuries for Earth to build. There was supposed to be a small colony on Mars, not a freaking skyscraper. I wonder if the Chinese are responsible, they have always had money to burn?” He contemplates possible explanations.

Just as they get close enough to magnify their view, something strange, yet familiar pops into the scene.

“0” Skaldic has seen it before and so has Sampson, if only for seconds at a time.

Reliably so, it gives off a reflection.

“Harmonia,” reads Sampson.

#Harmonia# reads Skaldic in the Olde Language.

Twice read, once gone.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me? I saw that thing over Selljunk way.”

“I saw it out by our olde home world,” to each his own.

The recent visitors to the vicinity have stopped watching where they were going. The planned descent to the surface is met with a blinding rebuke.

The next thing you know, they are found back in Eridanus orbit; SNAP!

“Holy crap!” After recovering from unconsciousness, Sampson has his say.

Skaldic points to the same viewscreen that recently held pixels of the New Mars. It reads instead:

The Null runs the riddle past a comprehensive Eridanian database. It does not compute.

The Earthling utilizes an Earthly version, with the same results.

Nothing about the last few moments seems to add up.

Fuzzy math or bad Dr. Seuss,” Sam summarizes, “We are a full 180° off course, emptyhanded and confused.”

“That is not all Sampson McKinney.”

“Please Skaldy, I can’t take anymore.”

“The TSF drive is unavailable.”

“Swell. You can add going nowhere fast to the list.”

All in a ½ day’s work.


The NULL Solution =

Painting by MICHELE Z FARRIER

Episode 94


page 95

Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age – WIF Current Events

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 Stone Cold Facts

About

the Ice Age

Even though it’s hard to see it, our planet is in a continuous state of change. Continents constantly shift and clash with each other. Volcanoes erupt, glaciers expand and recede, and life has to keep up with all of it. Throughout its existence, Earth has at various times been covered by miles-high polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers, in periods that lasted for millions of years. Generally characterized by a long-term cold climate and ice as far as the eye can see, these Ice Ages will be the topic of discussion in today’s list.

10. What is an Ice Age?

 

Believe it or not, defining an Ice Age is not as straightforward as some may think. Sure, we can characterize it as a period in which global temperatures were much lower than they are today, and where both hemispheres are covered in huge sheets of ice that extend for thousands of miles towards the Equator. The problem with this definition, however, is that it analyzes any given Ice Age from today’s perspective, and doesn’t actually take the entire planetary history into account. Who’s to say, then, that we’re not actually living in a cooler period than the overall average? In which case, we would actually be in an Ice Age right now. Well, some scientists, who’ve dedicated their lives to the study of these sorts of phenomena,can say. And yes, we’re actually living in an Ice Age, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

A better description of an ice age would be that it’s a long stretch of time in which both the atmosphere and the planet’s surface have a low temperature, resulting in the presence of polar ice sheets and mountainous glaciers. These can last for several million years, during which time there are also periods of glaciation, characterized by ice sheet and glacier expansion over the face of the planet, and interglacial periods, where we would have an interval of several thousand years of warmer temperatures and receding ice. So, in other words, what we know as “the last Ice Age” is, in fact, one such glaciation stage, part of the larger Pleistocene Ice Age, and we’re currently in an interglacial period known as the Holocene, which began some 11,700 years ago.

9. What causes an Ice Age?

 

At first glance, an Ice Age would seem to be like some sort of global warming in reverse. But while this is true to a certain extent, there are several other factors that can initiate and contribute to one. It’s important to note that the study of Ice Ages is not that old, nor is our understanding complete. Nevertheless, there is some scientific consensus on several factors that do contribute to the onset of an Ice Age. One obvious element is the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is consistent evidence that the concentration of these gases in the air rises and falls with the retreat and advance of ice sheets. But some argue that these gases don’t necessarily kick start every Ice Age, and only influence their severity.

Another key factor that plays a part here are tectonic plates. Geological records point to a correlation between the position of the continents and the onset of an Ice Age. This means that, in certain positions, continents can obstruct the so-called Oceanic Conveyor Belt, a global-scale system of currents that bring cold water from the poles down to the Equator and vice versa. Continents can also sit right on top of a pole, as Antarctica does today, or can make a polar body of water become completely or semi-landlocked, similar to the Arctic Ocean. Both of these favor ice formation. Continents can also bulk up around the Equator, blocking the oceanic current – leading to an Ice Age. This happened during the Cryogenian period when the supercontinent Rodinia covered most of the Equator. Some specialists go even as far as saying that the Himalayas played a major role in the the current Ice Age. They say that after these mountains began forming some 70 million years ago, they increased the amount of global rainfall, which in turn led to a steady decrease of CO2 from the air.

Lastly, we have the Earth’s orbits. These also partially account for the glacial and interglacial periods within any given Ice Age. Known as the Milankovitch Cycles, the Earth experiences a series of periodic changes while circumnavigating the Sun. The first of these cycles is Earth’s eccentricity, which is characterized by the shape of our planet’s orbit around the Sun. Every 100,000 years or so, Earth’s orbit becomes more or less elliptical, meaning that it will receive more or less of the Sun’s rays. The second of these cycles is the axial tilt of the planet, which changes by several degrees every 41,000 years, on average. This tilt accounts for the Earth’s seasons and the difference in solar radiation between the poles and the equator. Thirdly, we have Earth’s precession, which translates to a wobble as Earth spins on its axis. This happens roughly every 23,000 years, and will cause winter in the Northern Hemisphere to happen when Earth is farthest away from the Sun, and summer when it’s closest. When this happens, the difference in severity between seasons will be greater than it is today. Besides these major factors, we also have the occasional lack of solar spots, large meteor impacts, huge volcanic eruptions, or nuclear wars, among other things, that can potentially lead to an Ice Age.

8. Why do they last so long?

 

We know that Ice Ages usually last for millions of years at a time. The reasons behind this can be explained through a phenomenon known as albedo. This is the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface when it comes to the Sun’s shortwave radiation. In other words, the more our planet is covered in white ice and snow, the more of the Sun’s radiation is reflected back into space, and the colder it gets. This leads to more ice and more reflectivity – in a positive feedback cycle that lasts for millions of years. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important for Greenland’s ice to remain where it is. Because if it doesn’t, the island’s reflectivity will decrease, adding to the overall global temperature increase.

Nevertheless, Ice Ages do eventually come to an end, and so do their glacial periods. As the air becomes colder, it can no longer hold as much moisture as it did before, leading, in turn, to less snowfall and the eventual impossibility for the ice to expand or even replenish itself. This starts a negative feedback cycle that marks the beginning of an interglacial period. By this logic, a theory was proposed back in 1956 which hypothesized that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would actually cause more snowfall at higher latitudes, above and below the Arctic Circle. This snow may eventually be in such great quantities that it will not melt during the summer months, increasing Earth’s albedo and reducing the overall temperature. In time, this will allow ice to form at lower altitudes and mid-latitudes – kick starting a glaciation event in the process.

7. But how do we really know Ice Ages even exist?

 

The reason people began thinking about Ice Ages in the first place was because of some large boulders located seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and with no explanation as to how they got there. The study of glaciation started during the mid-18th century, when Swiss engineer and geographer Pierre Martel began documenting the erratic dispersal of rock formations inside an Alpine valley, and downhill from a glacier. The locals told to him that those huge boulders were pushed there by the glacier that once extended much farther down the mountain. Over the decades, many other similar features were documented around the world, forming the basis for the theory of Ice Ages. Since then, other forms of evidence have been taken into account. The geological features, among which are the previously mentioned rock formations, also contain moraines, carved valleys such as fjords, glacial lakes, and various other forms of land scarring. The problem with these, however, is that they’re extremely hard to date, and successive glaciations can distort, or even completely erase the previous geological formations.

6. The Big Ice Ages

 

At the moment, scientists are confident that there were five major Ice Ages throughout Earth’s long history. The first of them, known as the Huronian glaciation, happened roughly 2.4 billion years ago and lasted for about 300 million years, and is considered the longest. The Cryogenian Ice Age happened around 720 million years ago, and lasted until 630 million years ago. This one is considered to be the most severe. The third massive glaciation took place about 450 million years ago and lasted some 30 million years. It’s known as the Andean-Saharan Ice Age, and caused the second largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, after the so-called Great Dying. Lasting for 100 million years, the Karoo Ice Age happened between 360 and 260 million years ago, and was caused by the appearance of land plants, whose remains we now use as fossil fuels.

Lastly, we have the Pleistocene Ice Age, also known as the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation. It began roughly 2.58 million years ago and has since gone through several glacial and interglacial periods, roughly 40,000 to 100,000 years apart. Over the past 250,000 years, however, the climate changed more frequently and abruptly, with the previous interglacial period being interrupted by numerous cold spells that lasted for several centuries at a time. The current interglacial that began roughly 11,000 years ago is atypical because of the relatively stable climate it has had up until this point. It’s somewhat safe to say that humans may have not been able to discover agriculture and develop its current level of civilization if it wasn’t for this unusual period of temperature stability.

5. Witchcraft

“Wait, what?” We know that’s what you’re thinking when you see that header in this list. But let us explain…

For a period of several centuries, beginning sometime around 1300 and ending around 1850, the world went through a period known as the Little Ice Age. Several factors worked together to lower the overall temperature, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing many alpine glaciers to expand, rivers to freeze over, and crops to fail. Several villages in Switzerland were completely destroyed by the encroaching glaciers during the mid-17th century, and in 1622, even the southern section of the Bosporus Strait, around Istanbul, had completely frozen over. Things got worse in 1645 and lasted for the following 75 years, in a period known to scientists today as the Maunder Minimum.

During that time, the Sun was going through a period with little to no sunspots. These sunspots are regions on the surface of the Sun that are much lower in temperature. They are caused by concentrations in our star’s magnetic field flux. By themselves, these spots would probably be able of lower Earth’s temperature, but they’re also surrounded by some intensely-bright regions, known as faculae. These have a significantly higher radiation output that far outweighs the reduction caused by sunspots. So, a spot-free Sun actually has a lower radiation output than usual. During the 17th century, it’s estimated that the Sun dimmed by 0.2 percent – something which partially accounted for this Little Ice Age. Over 17 volcanic eruptions took place across the world during that time, dimming the sun’s rays even further.

Economic adversity brought on by this several-century-long cold spell had an incredible psychological impact on people. Frequent crop failures and firewood shortages led many from Salem, Massachusetts to suffer from a severe case of mass hysteria. In the winter of 1692, twenty people – fourteen of which were women – were hung on accusations that they were witches and to blame for everyone’s hardships. Five other people – two children included – later died in prison for the same thing. Because of unfavorable weather, some people in places like Africa occasionally accuse each other of being witches, even to this day. In other places, however, gay people are the scapegoats for the effects of global warming.

4. Snowball Earth

Earth’s first Ice Age was also its longest. As we mentioned earlier, it lasted a whopping 300 million years. Known as the Huronian Glaciation, this incredibly long and freezing epoch happened some 2.4 billion years ago, in a time when only single-celled organisms roamed the Earth. The landscape would have looked completely different than today, even before the ice took over. A series of events, however, happened that would eventually lead to an apocalyptic event of global proportions, engulfing much of the planet in a thick sheet of ice. Life prior to the Huronian Glaciation was dominated by anaerobic organisms that didn’t require oxygen to live. Oxygen was, in fact, poisonous to them, and extremely rare in the air at the time, making up just 0.02% of the atmospheric composition. But at some point, a different form of life evolved – the Cyanobacteria.

This tiny bacterium was the first being to ever make use of photosynthesis as a means of generating its food. A byproduct of this process is oxygen. As these tiny creatures thrived in the world’s oceans, they pumped millions upon millions of tons of oxygen, raising its concentration in the atmosphere to 21%, and almost driving the entire anaerobic life into extinction. This event is known as The Great Oxygenation Event. The air was also full of methane, and in contact with oxygen it turns into CO2 and water. Methane, however, is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, meaning that this transformation led to a drop in overall temperatures – which, in turn, began the Huronian Glaciation and the first mass extinction on Earth. The occasional volcano added further CO2 into the air, resulting in periodic interglacials.

3. Baked Alaska

 

If its name wasn’t clear enough, the Cryogenian Ice Age was the coldest period in Earth’s long history. It’s also the subject of much scientific controversy today. One topic of debate is whether the Earth was completely covered in ice, or a band of open water still remained around the equator – a Snowball, or Slushball Earth, as some call the two scenarios. The Cryogenian lasted from roughly 720 to 635 million years ago, and can be divided into two major glaciation events known as theSturtian (720 to 680 Ma) and the Marinoan (approximately 650 to 635 Ma). It’s important to note that there were no forms of multi-cellular life at that point, and some speculate that one such Snowball or Slushball Earth scenario was an early catalyst for their evolution during the so-called Cambrian explosion.

A particularly interesting study was published back in 2009, focusing on the Marinoan glaciation in particular. According to the analysis, Earth’s atmosphere was relatively warm, while its surface was covered in a thick layer of ice. This can only be possible if the planet was entirely, or almost entirely, covered in ice. They compared the phenomenon to a Baked Alaska dessert – where the ice cream doesn’t immediately melt when it’s placed in the oven. It turns out that the atmosphere had plenty of greenhouse gases in its composition, but that didn’t stop or mediate the Ice Age as we would expect. These gasses were present in such great quantities because of increased volcanic activity due to the breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent. This long volcanism is also thought to have helped start the Ice Age.

The science team warned us, however, that something similar could happen again if the atmosphere reflected too much of the Sun’s rays back into space. One such process could be triggered by a massive volcanic eruption, nuclear war, or our future attempts at mitigating the effects of global warming by spraying the atmosphere with too many sulphate aerosols.

2. Flood Myths

 

When the glacial ice began to melt some 14,500 years ago, the water didn’t flow to the ocean in a uniform pattern across the globe. In some places like North America, a huge proglacial lake began to form. These lakes are a result of damming, either by a moraine or an ice wall. In 1,600 years’ time, Lake Agassizcovered an estimated area of 170,000 sq. miles – larger than any lake currently in existence. It formed over parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. When the dam finally gave in, fresh water flooded into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River Valley. This great influx of fresh water weakened the oceanic current by up to 30%, plunging the planet into a 1,200-year-long period of glaciation known as the Younger Dryas. This unfortunate turn of events is suspected to have killed off the Clovis culture and the North American megafauna. Records also show that this cold spell came to an abrupt end some 11,500 years ago, with temperatures in Greenland rising by 18 degrees F in a mere decade.

During the Younger Dryas, the glacial ice replenished itself, and when the planet began to warm up again, Lake Agassiz also reappeared. This time, however, it joined with an equally large lake, known as Ojibway. Shortly after their merger, a new drainage took place, but this time in the Hudson Bay. Another cold spell happened 8,200 years ago, known as the 8.2 kiloyear event. Though cold temperatures lasted for only 150 years, this incident was able to raise sea levels by 13 feet. Interestingly, historians were able to link the origins of many flood myths from around the world to this exact time period. This sudden rise in sea levels also caused the Mediterranean to punch its way through the Bosporus Strait and flood the Black Sea, which at the time was only a freshwater lake.

1. Martian Ice Age

Influenced by forces beyond our control, Ice Ages are naturally occurring events that aren’t confined to Earth alone. Like our own planet, Mars also goes through periodical changes in its orbit and axial tilt. But unlike Earth, where an Ice Age implies polar ice caps growing in size, Mars experiences a different process. Because its axial tilt is more pronounced than Earth’s, and the poles receive more sunlight, a Martian Ice Age means that polar ice caps actually recede, while glaciers at the mid-latitude expand. This process is reversed during interglacial periods.

For the past 370,000 years, Mars has been slowly coming out of its own ice age and entering an interglacial period. Scientists estimate that roughly 20,900 cubic miles of ice has been accumulating at the poles since, most of it being in the Northern Hemisphere. Computer models have also shown that Mars has the capacity of being totally enveloped in ice during a glaciation event. This research is in its early stages, however, and given the fact that we’re still a long way away from fully understanding Earth’s own Ice Ages, we can’t logically expect to know everything that’s happening on Mars. Nevertheless, this research can prove useful, given our future plans for the Red Planet. It also helps us a great deal here on Earth. “Mars serves as a simplified laboratory for testing climate models and scenarios, without oceans and biology, which we can then use to better understand Earth systems,” said planetary scientist Isaac Smith.


Cold Hard Facts About the Ice Age

– WIF Current Events

Desert Oddities – WIF Geography

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Strange Things

Found

in the Desert

Deserts are nature’s perfect hiding places for strange things. The climate can be so hostile to traverse that few people will risk dying after a few hours exposure in the hopes of finding something worthwhile. The lack of even basic of life forms, like bacteria in some deserts, mean that bizarre and mysterious objects can be preserved much longer and more often than normal.

 The extreme environment is also good for creating all sorts of novel flora and fauna. For unsavory types, the desert is perfect for doing nefarious deeds, where they imagine there wouldn’t be prying eyes to worry about. So let’s search the sands, seeking something strange.

10. Chinese Desert Patterns

In 2011, Google Earth users found objects in Gobi Desert areas of China’s Xinjiang and Gansu provinces that made the supposedly paranormal crop circles look downright quaint. While a few large buildings were quickly identified, the more intriguing and seemingly haphazardly designed collections of white lines carved into the ground defied any immediate explanation and came off as especially suspicious for having been made in remote areas. These were not small objects, either.

The Guardian reported that some stretched out for as much as roughly half a mile to 1.15 miles.

The answer turned out to be a little ingenious but relatively benign. They’re used by the Chinese government to orient their spy satellites and calibrate their lenses. Knowing the relative distances and angles for different portions of the pattern allows the satellite operators to know if they’re reading certain distances properly or how well the focus is working. These, it should be noted, are not secret satellites, and it’s not a practice that’s unique to China, either. There’s one in Casa Grande, Arizona that serves the same purpose and which dates back to the 1960s.

9. Ancient Egyptian Burial Boat

For ancient Egyptians, it was fairly common practice to include a vehicle of some kind in the tomb. The famous tomb of King Tut had six chariots in it. Others favored putting boats in theirs, and this was hardly restricted to the elites. Even the peasant class would put cheap but affordable reed boats in their graves with them. But one that was discovered in the Saharan desert after 4,500 years in the sands of the Abusir Necropolis was quite baffling.

This vessel, unearthed in 2016, was sixty feet in length, only about six feet shorter than a warship of the time. It was made of especially high-quality wood, hence it still being relatively intact when it was excavated. What was odd was that it wasn’t buried in the grave of a noble, or a general, or anyone like that. Instead, the person entombed with it was a commoner. How could a peasant have afforded such a boat? How could the family have possibly afforded to pay to have the equivalent of a destroyer buried with him, or even have it transported inland? The answer for people curious about the true nature of the past is frustratingly lost to the sand swirls history.

8. Desert Graveyard for Sea Mammals

Speaking of graveyards, the mystery boat is hardly alone in terms of finding surprising burial sites in the sands. In the Atacama Desert in Chile, there’s a hill called Cerro Ballena (“Whale Hill”) forty meters above sea level that, during roadwork in 2010, was found to contain fossils of forty whales along with a collection of other marine mammals such as dolphins and seals, not to mention some fish related to swordfish. It initially seemed like an amazing case of mass fossilization: How could dozens of animals of various species have all died at once, and in so many cases have been preserved?

The most accepted explanation is that the numerous mammals and fish were deposited over time, and that the hill in question happened to be a place where the bodies were washed up, only to have nature preserved them for six to nine million years. The rather worrying suspect of the deaths that left them to washed up on land was a spontaneous algae infection. True or not, it certainly left an unusual resting place for quite a menagerie.

7. Sudden Tunisian Desert Lake


Desert Oddities

– WIF Geography

Incredible Maps – WIF Geography

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Cool Maps

of the Modern World

(and Beyond)

Mapping things is an incredibly useful tool for humanity. By analyzing a given situation or development and then putting the results on a map, scientists and researchers can better understand and predict future trends around the world. And more detailed that map is, the more accurate the predictions are. Now, maps don’t even need to be about something in particular to be cool or entertaining, but the more they are about something, the better… right? So with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the maps out there and see what we can learn from them about the world we live in… and beyond.

 10. Lights On Lights Out

With so many satellites orbiting our planet these days, it’s almost impossible for a person with access to the internet not to see the occasional photo of the Earth at night. But to their benefit, these maps are downright amazing and cool in their own right. And knowing how big the planet actually is by comparison to humans living on it, it does kinda make it look like we’re a bunch of bacteria that have just recently evolved to glow in the dark, right? Well, keeping in the spirit of mapping out the changes happening on Earth, cartographer John Nelson has made a map showing the changes in man-made light intensity around the world. He called it the ‘Lights On Lights Out’Map. He overlapped NASA’s 2012 Earth at Night map with the one from 2016. And in doing so, he was able to show the world what regions of the planet have been lit up more, while others dimmed over the course of four years. To mark the changes, he used the color purple to highlight the regions that become darker, while cyan stands for an increase in illumination.

Now, the map doesn’t explain the reasons for the changes in light intensity, but we can deduce them in some places, at least. The first region of the world that catches our eye is India. Without a shadow of a doubt, India has brightened over the past four years. The reason for this is the Indian government’s project to bring electricity to its rural areas and investing heavily in renewable sources of energy. Syria, on the other hand, has become dimmer. This might not come as a surprise, given the conflict happening there. Surprisingly enough, Puerto Rico is also dimming, but the reason is their fight to curb light pollution. In the United States, North Dakota has developed a huge bright spot – which is the result of the boom in the fracking industry there. Other regions’ change in light intensity is harder to explain. For instance, while Georgia is getting dimmer, the two Carolinas are brightening up. One explanation for this could be that these states have taken a different approach in regards to street lighting infrastructure.

9. The Gini Coefficient Map

Source: https://assets.weforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1511B11-global-inequality-work-map-GINI.png

According to the World Bank, the Gini coefficient “measures the extent to which the distribution of income among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution.” In other words, it highlights the difference in wealth and income between citizens of any given country, while at the same time taking into account other various factors such as taxation or social assistance. The figures range from zero – which represents perfect income equality among all citizens – to 100 – which expresses complete income inequality where only one person holds the entire wealth of that country while the rest have nothing. Both 0 and 100 are hypothetical scenarios, mind you, with no country being in either situation, but ranging somewhere in between. According to the CIA database, the countries with the highest Gini coefficient are Lesotho and South Africa, with 63.2 and 62.5 respectively, while on the other end of the spectrum we have Finland with an index of 21.5, and the Faroe Islands with 22.7.

Now, in and of itself, the Gini index doesn’t tell us all that much about the state of an economy or the general well-being of the citizens. A relatively poor country like Romania, for instance, has a coefficient of 27.3, whereas the United States is at 45. This index is often used as a frame of reference, and in combination with other statistics, in order to better understand what a country is doing right or wrong. For example, poorer countries as a whole have a higher crime rate than richer ones. But by combining this information with the Gini coefficient, it turns out that the crime rate usually drops the lower their respective coefficient is. There are, of course, other factors at play here, like the quality of education, but the trend is there. The same thing applies to richer countries as well.

Similarly, by combining the Gini index with the Human Development coefficient we can deduce which countries have or don’t have a broad middle class – the backbone of every thriving economy. Super wealthy people tend to hoard their earnings in bank accounts, never to see the light of day again. They might buy a yacht or a mansion (and even a mansion they’ll likely see as an investment as much as a dwelling) now and then, but most of their money will never return to the economy. The middle class, on the other hand, has enough saved for retirement while at the same time is able to invest in both business and pleasure – which in turn generates more business, an even wealthier and broader middle class, and a stronger economy in the process.

8. The Greening Earth

Source: https://i2.wp.com/gypsy.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/image-20160422-17390-1nsul4k-1.jpg?ssl=1

Over the past three decades, the planet has become greener and greener. This might seem a bit counterintuitive given the high levels of deforestation, and other such man-made activities, but believe it or not, this increase in vegetation is also because of indirect human involvement. Like with all carbon-based life forms on Earth, plants need carbon to grow. And with more CO2 in the air these days, it’s no wonder that plants have seen rapid growth in some areas. This phenomenon is known as CO2 fertilization.

“We were able to tie the greening largely to the fertilizing effect of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration by tasking several computer models to mimic plant growth observed in the satellite data,” says Prof. Ranga Myneni of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University. And this increase in leafy growth is not marginal, either. According to the study, the Earth has experienced a total of over 7 million square miles of greening since 1982. That area equals twice the size of mainland USA. This might seem as good news, given that more plants means less CO2 in the air, but this development may have some unforeseen side effects as well.

For starters, much of this greening has happened in areas previously unsuited for it – places like semi-deserts or arctic regions. Furthermore, the extra foliage in these areas can have unknown effects on the water and carbon cycles in nature that can negatively impact other regions in unexpected ways. It’s also important to note that plants can and will acclimatize to these rising CO2 levels and the effect of this fertilization will diminish over time. This trend has been observed in various experiments, as well as the fossil record from when the Earth had high levels of CO2 in the air.

7. Livestock Density

As we’ve said before, mapping things out can have a wide range of unexpected uses. By gathering information about something and then placing it on the map, researchers can determine with greater accuracy certain patterns or future events. And mapping out the density of livestock around the world is no different. In fact, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Environmental Research Group of Oxford, and the Université Libre de Bruxelles have all come together for this one. They’ve mapped out the overall density for cattle, pigs, chickens, and ducks for the entire world. And while it’s definitely interesting to see that neither Africa nor South America have any interest in raising ducks, and not surprising that Muslim countries have a general dislike for pork and India is full of cows, it’s also fascinating to see that Europe has a somewhat even distribution of all types of livestock over its entire surface, unlike most other places on Earth – except maybe China. But while these are more cultural factors than anything else, there are other reasons for the creation of these maps as well.

One such reason is acid rain. Acid rain forms when there are large quantities of ammonia in the air, and livestock are responsible for 68% of all ammonia in the atmosphere. This means that areas with high concentrations of livestock are more prone to this phenomenon. Large numbers of cattle are also responsible for land degradation in the form of trampling, which can cause a change in the natural water cycle. A high density area of livestock also produces large quantities of waste that ends up polluting rivers and lakes. And we should not forget the risk of disease. Domesticated animals have always played an important role when it comes to disease. Various strains of influenza, like the infamous swine and avian flues can and have jumped to humans. By knowing where the high risk areas are, scientists and governments can better prepare in case of a possible outbreak.

6. Fukushima and the Pacific

Source: https://i0.wp.com/ta1.universaltelegra.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/fukushima.jpg

On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since record-keeping began in back 1900. The undersea megathrust earthquake occurred some 43 miles off the coast, registering a whopping 9.1 on the Richter scale. The Japanese Prime Minister called it “the most difficult crisis for Japan since WWII.” Almost 16,000 people lost their lives, another 2,500 went missing, and more than 1.1 million buildings were either partially or completely destroyed. Tsunamis reached 6.6 feet high as far away as Chile, some 11,000 miles away, while in some parts of Japan, particularly in Miyako city, the waves were almost unimaginable – 128 feet high. The tsunamis also severely damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, damaging six reactors and leading them to release their radiation into the air and the ocean. Now, despite the Japanese’s best efforts at containing the problem, the power plant is still leaking, six years after the event.

This map shows how much of that radiation has spread throughout the Pacific Ocean ever since. But Ken Buesseler from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution tells us that the map, though accurate in the spread of radioactive material, can be misleading. He and his team have been studying the radiation leak ever since it started back in 2011. He went on to say that the rate of radionuclides release has slowed down significantly since the first month of the disaster, and it would take another 5,000 years before the plant will release the same amount of radioactive isotopes that it did during the first month after the meltdown. Most of the isotopes released have a short half-life of decay, spanning from a few days to a few months. Only cesium-134 has a half-life of 30 years, but as it spreads over the ocean, its radioactive power dissipates. The highest levels of cesium found in the ocean were some 1,500 miles north of Hawaii, but even if someone were to swim in these waters every day, the dose of radiation would be 1,000 times smaller than a single dental x-ray. He also goes on to say that we shouldn’t disregard additional sources of radiation in the ocean above the natural sources, but even the waters surrounding Japan are safe to swim in and there is no threat to marine life.

5. Beyond the Sea

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Almost anyone who has ever gone to the beach has, at least once, wondered what piece of land or country lies over the horizon. To answer that question, the people at the Washington Post have come up with a series of maps that put different countries on different continents on the same latitude across the oceans. But cartographer Andy Woodruff wanted to go a step further. He argued that coastlines aren’t actually straight lines – they bend and curve in all directions. So, depending on where you are on the coast, and assuming that you’re perpendicular to the ocean, you could actually be facing faraway places, uninterrupted by other landmasses. For instance, if you were to stand on a piece of coast in Southern Australia, depending on your angle, you could be looking straight at the East Coast of the United States. Incredible, right?

Well, yes and no. Our constant exposure to the world map that we’re all familiar with makes it kinda difficult to come to terms with this, but it is true. The Earth, as we all know, or should, is a sphere, and the shortest way between two points on the planet is actually a great circle arc, not an actual straight line drawn on the map. Another misconception that comes from looking at flat, rectangular maps is that Earth doesn’t really have any edges, or ups and downs for that matter. The continents are also skewed in size and shape, depending on how far away they are from the equator. So, the next time you see Antarctica covering the entire bottom of the map, know that its actual size is close to Brazil’s. With that in mind, if you were on the coast in Newfoundland, you could look all along the Atlantic, around Antarctica and onto Australia’s southern coast.

4. Large Mammals With or Without Humans

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It does seem kinda strange that Africa is the only continent in the world today that has large mammals, right? Okay, there are still bears and tigers on other continents, yes, but where are Europe’s equivalent to giraffes, or North America’s hippos, or Australia’s own type of rhino? The short answer is that they’re all gone. Now, of course these continents never had those species of animals in the first place, but there were once giant wombats, giant kangaroos, and large birds at least until humans made it to Australia. In Asia and Europe, cave bears, Irish elks, cave hyenas, and woolly rhinos were roaming the lands up until the end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago. And let’s not forget America’s own giant sloths, car-sized armored herbivores, and the famed Saber-toothed tigers. What happened to them? Well, the answer is kinda obvious, isn’t it?

In case it’s not, let’s discuss it a bit. One reason could be climate change. After all, the planet was emerging from an ice age, and there were changes happening that could have affected some of the animals. But as Yadvinder Malhi, professor of ecosystem science at Oxford University said:

Creatures like megatherium, the giant sloth, and the glyptodon, a car-sized species of armadillo, disappeared in North and South America about 10,000 years ago, when there were major changes to climates – which some scientists believe triggered their extinctions. However, it is also the case that tribes of modern humans were moving into these creatures’ territories at these times – and many of us believe it is too much of a coincidence that this happened just as these animals vanished. These creatures had endured millions of years of climate change before then, after all. However, this was the first time they had encountered humans.”

These maps show the current distribution of large mammals around the globe and their possible distribution if humans didn’t exist.

3. Ideological America

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“The country has been arguing about a lot of fundamental things lately including state roles and individual liberty. In order to have any productive conversation on these issues you need to know where you come from. Once you know where you are coming from it will help move the conversation forward,” says Colin Woodard, an award winning journalist, who also conducted the research for this map. Illustrator Brian Stauffer is responsible for the creation of the actual map. Based on their research into ideology, Stauffer divided North America into 11 distinct nations.

One of them is Yankeedom and is comprised of the Northeast and the Great Lakes region. According to Woodard, the region put a “great emphasis on perfecting earthly civilization through social engineering, denial of self for the common good, and assimilation of outsiders.” Then there’s New Netherland, made up of the lands surrounding New York City. They are “materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience… It emerged as a center of publishing, trade, and finance, a magnet for immigrants, and a refuge for those persecuted by other regional culture.” Tidewater is made out of part of North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. They started off as a feudal land that embraced slavery.

The Midlands are described by Woodard as “America’s Great Swing Region.” It’s an ethnic mosaic tied together by the “inherent goodness” of the Quakers. South of The Midlands we have Greater Appalachia. During the Revolutionary War, they shifted their alliances depending on who“appeared to be the greatest threat to their freedom.” The Deep South was made by slave lords from Barbados who styled their society based on the West Indies. New France has two separate areas. One is centered in New Orleans and the other is in Southeastern Canada (so, centered in French Quebec, obviously). These are quite liberal, and are a “blend of ancient régime northern French peasantry with the traditions and values of the aboriginal people.”

The region of El Norte is characterized as “a place apart” and heavily influenced by Hispanics. They value independence, hard work, and self-sufficiency. The Left Coast is a sort of combination of Yankeedom and Greater Appalachia. The Far West region is by far the largest, and was influenced mostly by the harsh environment, rather than by the ideology of the first settlers there. And lastly, the First Nation is inhabited by Native Americans that never truly relinquished their lands or old ways of life. Located so far north, it’s also the most sparsely populated.

2. Our Fair Share of Arctic Ice

Source: https://i1.wp.com/gypsy.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/sea_ice_web.jpg?ssl=1

It’s no surprise that the Arctic Ice is melting at an alarming rate. And it’s no surprise either that we’re all to blame for it. Now, when talking about air pollution, people are quick to point the finger at China – and with good cause, too. It’s the world’s leading polluter, after all. But there’s more to the story than that. China is also the leading producer of renewable sources of energy, particularly when it comes to solar panels. To date, China is spewing roughly twice as much CO2 into the air as the United States, but its population is more than four times as large. This means that on average, each US citizen is responsible for two times as much CO2 than an average person from China. But this doesn’t make the average American the most pollutant person, either. By looking at the CO2 emission per capita in every country, we see that China is at 6.52 tons of CO2 per person, while the US is at 17.62. Saudi Arabia and Australia are at 19.65 and 18.02 respectively. In India, every citizen is responsible for just 1.45 tons.

Now, what this map shows is the amount of arctic ice melt every person in the world is responsible for, based on the CO2 per capita in their respective country. Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany has made the calculations to see how much carbon is needed in the air to melt the ice. And as it turns out, each ton of CO2 emissions translates to about 3 square meters, or about 32 square feet. Based on data from 2013, each US resident led to the melting of about 49 square meters (527 sq. feet) of ice in the Arctic. This map and these numbers shouldn’t be taken as a means to pass blame on others, but rather as a way to look at ourselves and what we can do to lower our own CO2 emissions. Air pollution, after all, doesn’t keep track of national borders, so we’re all in this together.

1. The Geological Map of Mars

Now, we can’t go through an entire list of maps about the modern world without addressing the Red Planet. Mars is, or will soon be part of the modern world, so we need to have it in here.People have been studying Mars and have been trying to guess its geology for the past 400 years. But it was only during the 1970s with the Mariner 9 and Viking programs that we were able to take a closer look. In more recent years, however, with the advent of high resolution cameras and sensors, astronomers were able to pinpoint with even greater accuracy the entire geology of the planet. An interesting feature visible even for those who have no idea at what they’re actually looking at is the fact that the Northern Hemisphere is basically one large depression – seen on the map in green. The crustal thickness here is approximated at a maximum of about 20 miles, whereas the southern part of the planet is at 36 miles.

Close to the equator on the Western Hemisphere, we can also see some of the most striking features the Red Planet has to offer. On the one hand, we have Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the entire solar system. It’s actually three times the size of Mount Everest, and covers an area roughly the size of Arizona. Close to it rise another three huge mountains, and all of them are shield volcanoes. This means that every time there’s an eruption, there’s no volcanic explosion, and the lava gently slides along their sides. We still don’t know whether these volcanoes are active or not. That’s probably for the future colonists to find out. Hope they have fun with that!

Another equally striking feature is the Valles Marineris. This is the largest canyon in the entire solar system and sits there like a huge scar on Mars’ face. To understand its immenseness, know that it stretches for 1,900 miles, is 500 miles wide, and 5 miles deep. The Grand Canyon, on the other hand, is 500 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. Its creation still remains a mystery, but some speculate that it initially formed as a crack that got wider and wider as the planet cooled. Now, if you think that geological maps of Earth are important, you can only imagine how important this one will be for the people who will hopefully call Mars home one day.


Incredible Maps

– WIF Geography

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 176

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 176

…And they shall turn their Plowshares into Space Colonies…

Space Colony2

Roy Crippen shares his view of the future.

Sometimes it is a curse to have a clear view of the future, knowing precisely where the planet is heading, if it chooses to remain isolated from the rest of the galaxy. “How shortsighted,” he would say. Earth has already squandered most of its non-renewable resources that it started with when modern man took over management some 8000 years ago. 8 x 1000 is a long time, but it is in the last 150 that 99.9% of it has been stripped away.

To impart these gloomy predictions, without looking like a doomsday-ist, he must convince the naysayers that the quest for space and the benefits from its demands is worth it. Everyday things like plastics/polymers, adhesives, and batteries have all had their biggest advancement because of the stress of space.

When his opponent speaks to people who don’t care that space-induced innovations keep their digital devices stay charged for 12 hours or that Gorilla Glue will mend just about anything they break, Vice President Sylvia Freelove will pounce on space expenditures and label them wasteful, when that money could be spent clothing and feeding the poor.

“Reaching for the stars do require a financial commitment,” he goes on to say that early autumn Chicago evening, “but please consider the alternatives:

  • Global overcrowding and hunger—some countries are running out of suitable ground.
  • Dwindling lumber & copper/iron resources—deforestation is at an all-time high & recycling can only provide enough metal.
  • Fossil fuels reserves are hovering on empty—how do we heat our homes or meet the needs of a mobile society.
  • Hopelessness is the dominant worldview—left with a barren planet that has been hollowed out by mining, drilling, and plundering.”

His presentation has such detail that even the graphs have charts and it is evident that unless Jesus Christ returns soon, the situation is bordering on dire.


THE RETURN TRIP

Dire Wolf Forest Spirit Original by Erin C Potter

Episode 176


page 212

Contents TRT

Dangerous Places to Live – WIF Travel

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Dangerous Places to Live

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10. The Anomalous Lake Maracaibo In Venezuela

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While there are other lightning activity hotspots in the world, they tend to be more spread out, or only during certain seasons. By far the highest concentration of lightning in one place in the world, goes to the bizarre lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. In this spot, on most nights, you can essentially see lightning flashing over and over again. In the area around the lake, there are roughly 250 lightning flashes per square kilometer a year. During the right time of year, when a storm is really going, you can see up to 28 lightning flashes per minute.

When the lightning flashes are going they can be seen as far as 250 miles away, and some say sailors from long ago used it as a navigational beacon. Interestingly, experts are unsure as to why this particular area is a hotspot for lightning. Some suggested uranium in the bedrock, others suggested wind patterns or other similar ideas. Right now, there isno solid theory to explain what is happening that anyone is willing to stake their reputation on.

9. The Coldest Inhabited Village In The World

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The village of Oymyakon, in Russia, is the coldest known inhabited city in the world, and is easily one of the most extreme environments you can choose to live. The temperature averages -58F during the winter, something most of us cannot even imagine dealing with. When asked how they deal with the cold, the locals responded with typical Russian humor, and credited vodka to their ability to deal with the cold.

Walking outside for a few minutes, even when properly equipped, can cause glasses to become stuck to your face, and cars that are turned off in the cold will not turn back on. Being outside for just a few minutes without the proper gear could quickly lead to frostbite or death, depending on how little gear you have. Indoor plumbing is pretty much nonexistent due to the frozen ground, so people use outhouses. Locals mainly consume raw meat and fish, washed down with liberal amounts of vodka of course.

8. The Colombian Village Where Children Zipline Across A Canyon To Get To School

Some young people will complain about taking the bus to school, and how annoying it can be to sit with the other children. Some parents will half-joke about walking uphill both ways to get to school when they were a small child. However, in some places in the world, getting to school is actually quite a real chore. In some poorer countries, kids walk miles every morning so they can learn, but one small village in Colombia has them all beat.

As seen in the video above, these children are actually ziplining across a canyon every morning so they can get to their school quickly from their village. While it may look kind of fun, the average child or adult would be absolutely terrified, especially at how little safety equipment they are using. It just goes to show that if you truly want something, you will brave almost anything to get it.

7. Honduras, The Murder Capital Of The World

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When most people hear about immigrants coming to the United States to seek shelter, whether they do so illegally, or attempt to seek asylum officially at our borders, they think of people coming from Mexico. However, there are many other South American countries from which people are fleeing to the United States. One of the chief of these is Honduras, often called the murder capital of the world.

Honduras is plagued by the worst kind of gang activity. Those who do have money live in extremely tightly secured houses, with private security, that may as well be fortresses. Most people live in fear, and many people have to join the gangs in some way or simply be killed. Many young people end up killed by gang violence regardless of what choices they make. Hundreds of young people die in the gang wars every year, and less than ten percent of the cases are even investigated at all — the resources simply aren’t there. This allows the murders to continue unabated.

6. Flint, Michigan — Known For Lead Contaminated Water And Sky High Murder Rates

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Flint, Michigan has been in the news recently because of the lead contaminated water. The governor appointed emergency city managers, and the one in Flint forced through a water change to a cheaper source that hadn’t been properly vetted. Even though the governor and the manager were warned by the EPA and others, they did not listen and went ahead. The water was not only contaminated and poor quality, but the change caused corrosion damage to the already old infrastructure, worsening the contamination.

However, this was only the most recent of Flint’s problems. Even before the water crisis, Flint was starting to fall apart in terms of wealth, infrastructure and pretty much everything else. They were once a bustling manufacturing town, but once the industry left, the jobs were gone and most who were stuck there fell into extreme poverty. In recent years Flint has either been the murder capital of the USA, or been in the top three to five. With gang activity ramping up, jobs continuing to disappear and the water problem not going anywhere, Flint may be the most dangerous city in America.

5. Life In A Submarine Is Definitely Not Fun

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Many movies have romanticized submarines, especially classics like The Hunt For Red October. However, in truth submarines are an absolutely wretched place to live in, and those who work in them often do essentially live in them long term. If severely damaged during wartime, submarines may have some survivors, but in many cases it would be the end.

More to the point though, even in times of relative peace, living in a submarine is a terrible prospect. They are incredibly cramped spaces with no view, no fresh air, and no variation in meals. There is nothing to talk about, no up to date television or news and nothing from the surface apart from occasional command updates. Many people start to go insane due to the extreme feeling of isolation and loss of personal space, as everyone has to sleep in tiny communal areas, and no one has their own personal bed except the command staff. While it is unlikely in peacetime for you to die on a submarine, having a bout of temporary insanity is not at all uncommon.

4. Astronauts Always Come Back From Space With Numerous Health Problems

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Being an astronaut and going up into space sounds like an incredibly cool job to have. Some people spend their entire lives aspiring to it and never get there. To even be considered, you have to have a masters degree or higher in a relevant field, have several years of experience, be of near perfect physical fitness, have the right height and weight range, and preferably have military experience, especially if you want to be considered for a command position. If you are interested in being a pilot, you also require a lot of experience flying. Even then, they will only select a handful of people to consider when they are looking for more, and only a few of those people will be trained.

However, the truth is that all of this stringent selection is done because being in space is incredibly taxing on the human body. Just being up for a few months will eat away at the structure of your bones. The general rule of thumb is that for every month in space you are going to need two months to recover your bone density. It can also give returning astronauts serious low blood pressure for some time, and can cause permanent damage to vision due to the strange way low gravity effects pressure on the eyes, among other effects.

3. Working And Living On An Oil Rig Is Incredibly Dangerous

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When people hear about a disaster like Deepwater Horizon, they think of the horrible environmental impact. As the oil continued to flow into the ocean unabated, and it took what felt like way too long to stop it, the loss of life was mostly forgotten in the media. The loss of marine life was talked about, but not much went into the fact that eleven oil rig workers went missing that day and were presumed dead — they were never found.

Working on an oil rig is an incredibly dangerous job, and when safety precautions are ignored — and they have been many times in the past — it is the workers who suffer first. Life isn’t much safer for oil field workers either, and especially in North Dakota’s oil fields, things are not in good shape. The federal authorities are investigating safety standards, after reports that there is roughly one accidental death every six weeks.

2. Any Of The Alleged Cancer Villages That Are Spread All Over The Country Of China

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If you ask the Chinese government, there is no such thing as a cancer village. For the longest time, they even denied the pollution clouds surrounding their major cities, until the international visits during the Olympics made it impossible to deny to the entire world any longer. Anything that may make them look bad, or pressure them to tamp down on industry, is swept under the rug. Unfortunately, this is causing great harm to many Chinese citizens.

All over China, the country is dotted with what some call “cancer villages”. They are so dubbed because within these villages, generally everyone knows a minimum of one person who has serious cancer. These villages are always way too close to industrial plants, and often have strange particles very visible in the air. Even living there for years, the citizens never get used to it. One journalist who risked going to these villages to talk to people found himself coughing up strange brown sediment after being there only a short time — and people were angry about it. Despite the Chinese government’s policy of crackdown against dissent, these people were upset enough that they were willing to speak out about it to outsiders.

1. The Island That Is So Overrun By Snakes Hardly Anyone Dares Set Foot

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The island known as Ilha da Queimada Grande, is owned by Brazil and within close enough distance that it would normally be put to more use. However, the issue is that the island is overrun by golden lancehead vipers, an insanely venomous variety of lancehead only found on this particular island. They evolved with too many other snakes, and too little of their regular prey, forcing them to evolve incredibly strong venom to take out more difficult foes.

This venom can kill a human in under an hour, and that is from just one good bite. Some reports estimate that this island has as many as one snake per square meter. This essentially means that in any given part of the island, you could look in any direction, and see at least one snake a few feet away. Legends say the lighthouse was once manned by a small family, who died when the snakes slipped through the cracks and murdered them. While that particular story is hard to verify, there is an old lighthouse on the island, that is now automated and is maintained once a year by the Brazilian Navy — hopefully they bring flamethrowers when they visit.


Dangerous Places to Live

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– WIF Travel

Natural Disaster Digest – WIF Geography

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Biggest Natural Disasters

in Earth’s History

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The Butterfly Effect principle simply states that, given enough time, whatever event, no matter how small, can and will have tremendous reverberations into the future. And when talking about past disasters, natural or otherwise, we always have to keep in mind that, even though devastating, they are part of what brought us here in the first place. Without them the world and everything in it would have taken a totally different turn, ending up completely different than it is today. The further back in time any particular event takes place, the more indirect influence it has on the present and future, altering them beyond recognition.

 We may try to speculate on how things would have turned out if any particular disaster from our past didn’t happen, but the variables are so small and infinitely numerous, that we may never know the right answer. Similar to weather prediction (which is looking into the future, by the way), we can only make our best guess with the limited information we have. With this being said, let’s take a look at 10 natural disasters from our past, and maybe later imagine how the world would have looked like without them.

10. Outburst of Lake Agassiz, North America

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Roughly 14,500 years ago the planet was beginning to emerge from its last Great Ice Age. And as temperatures began to rise, the Arctic Ice Sheet that gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere began to melt away. Fast forward 1,600 years, and what is now the middle of the northern part of North America (parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario) was under a huge proglacial lake, formed by melting water being trapped by a wall of ice or another natural dam. With an estimated area of 170,000 sq. miles, Lake Agassiz was larger than any currently existing lake in the world, and roughly the size of the Black Sea.

Then, for whatever reason, the dam broke and all the fresh water trapped there escaped into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River Valley. And even if the deluge itself was bad enough, what followed next may be what killed off the megafauna in North America, as well as the Clovis culture. As the insane amounts of fresh water flooded the Arctic Ocean, it severely weakened the Atlantic “conveyor belt” by 30% or even more. This belt cycles warm water up to the Arctic, where it cools, sinks to the bottom and travels back south along the ocean floor. With the new influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz, the cycle slowed down and the Northern Hemisphere returned to near-glacial temperatures and conditions for about 1,200 years, in a period known as The Younger Dryas. The end of this period, roughly 11,500 years ago, was even more abrupt than when it first started, with temperatures in Greenland rising by 18 degrees Fahrenheit in a just a mere decade.

9. The Siberian Traps Eruption, Central Russia

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Some 252 million years ago, planet Earth looked a lot different than it does today. Life was as alien as life can get and the continents were all pushed together, forming a single, super-continent known as Pangaea. Evolution was following its normal path, with life flourishing on both land and sea. Then, as if out of nowhere, all of it would change in a geological instant. In the far north of Pangaea, in what is now Siberia, a super volcano of Biblical proportions began to erupt. The eruption was so massive and so devastating, it covered an area of almost 1.7 million sq. miles (roughly the size of the continental US) in a one mile deep sea of lava. Only about 500,000 sq. miles of it are still visible today, in a region now called “The Siberian Traps.

This eruption itself and subsequent lava flows, while devastating in their own right, were only a catalyst for an unstoppable chain of events that would kill off 75 percent of life on land and over 95 percent of all marine creatures. This apocalyptic event marked the transition between the Permian and Triassic periods, and is sometimes known as The Great Dying. The immediate effects of the super volcano completely devastated the Northern Hemisphere, turning the air into literal acid and plunging the entire food chain into complete disarray. With the several century-long volcanic winter that followed, 10% of the world’s species had perished. After the dust settled, the planet was immediately thrusted into a massive global warming, raising the global temperatures by 5 degrees Celsius and killing another 35% of all land creatures.

The oceans were next, with much of the CO2 in the atmosphere being absorbed by the water and turning it into carbonic acid. With the increasing temperatures, the oxygen-depleted waters from the ocean floor began to expand and rise from the depths, trapping all marine life “between a rock and a hard place.” The massive amounts of methane hydrate, found even today on the ocean floor, began bubbling to the surface due to the warming waters, and raising the planet’s temperatures by another 5 degrees Celsius. At this point in time, almost all of marine species had died off and only the sturdiest of land creatures managed to survive. This event is the single largest case of a mass extinction to have ever happened on Earth. But at this point we are able to generate four times as much CO2 into the atmosphere as that super volcano all those million years ago, with most of the above mentioned effects already beginning to happen.

8. The Storegga Slide, Norwegian Sea

Some 8,000 years ago, 60 miles off the Norwegian coast to the north, a huge chunk of land roughly the size of Iceland broke off of the European continental shelf and plunged into the depths of the Norwegian Sea. Most likely caused by an earthquake that destabilized the methane hydrates found trapped there, the 840 cubic miles of sediment spread itself over 1,000 miles into the abyssal plain below, covering an area of about 36,700 sq. miles. The ensuing tsunami following the landslide wreaked havoc on all surrounding landmasses at that time.

As the planet was emerging from a previous Ice Age, sea levels were 46 feet lower than they are today. But even so, sediment deposits originating from the Storegga Slide have been discovered 50 miles inland in some places, and 20 feet above current tide levels. With waves exceeding 80 feet and travelling in all directions, Scotland, England, Norway, Iceland, Faroe, Orkney and Shetland Islands, Greenland, Ireland, and the Netherlands were all severely affected by this natural disaster. The last remnant of land that once connected the British Isles to mainland Europe, known as Doggerland, was completely swept over by the deluge, thus creating the North Sea we know today.

This was not the first or the last time this happened, with several other smaller landslides off the Norwegian coast taking place between 50,000 and 6,000 years ago. Companies involved in petroleum and gas exploration take special precautions so as not to trigger another such event by accident.

7. Laki Eruption, Iceland

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Iceland sits directly on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where two large tectonic plates are pulling away from each other. This makes the island nation one of the most volcanically-active regions in the world. In 1783, an 18 mile-long crack on the island’s surface, known as the Laki Fissure, ripped open. Along its length, 130 craters formed, spewing 3.4 cubic miles of basaltic lava over a period of 8 months. Incomparable in size and devastation with what happened in Siberia 252 million years ago, the Laki event featured very similar characteristics, and was the largest volcano eruption of the past 500 years. Thanks to a network of underground tunnels known as lava tubes, the molten rock was able to spread hundreds of miles away from the fissure and raze a total of 20 villages to the ground.

The most devastating effect of Laki however was not the lava itself, but the toxic gases it spewed into the atmosphere. An estimated 8 million tons of hydrogen fluoride and 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide were released, poisoning the air and forming acid rains. Three quarters of Iceland’s sheep and over half of all its livestock died as a result. Due to starvation and disease, over 20 percent of Iceland’s population was killed over the following months. Furthermore, the sulfur dioxide was spread over much of the Northern Hemisphere, blocking the sun’s rays and plunging the planet into a mini volcanic winter. Europe was most affected by it, causing crop failures and starvation, leading to the infamous French Revolution.

The rest of the world is affected as well. North America experiences the longest and harshest winter on record, one sixth of Egypt’s population dies of starvation, and the monsoon seasons are thrown into disarray, affecting regions as far away as India and Southeast Asia.

6. The 2011 Tornado Super Outbreak, Central United States

tornadoes

Tornadoes in general leave few remnants of their existence over long periods of time. Their effects can be devastating, but from an archaeological point of view, not much evidence can be unearthed. However, the biggest and most destructive tornado event in recorded history took place in 2011 over an area colloquially known as “tornado alley” in both the US and Canada. From April 25-28 a total of 362 tornadoes were reported and confirmed across 15 states by the National Weather Service. Violent tornadoes occurred each day, with April 27 being the most active, with a record of 218 tornadoes touching down. Four of these were classified as EF5, the highest ranking possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale. On average around the world, one such EF5 tornado is reported once a year or less.

 In total, 348 people were killed as a result of this outbreak, 324 of which were direct tornado-related deaths. The other 24 casualties were caused either by flash floods, fist-sized hail, or lightning strikes. Another 2,200 people were injured. The most affected state was Alabama, with 252 fatalities. The hardest-hit area was the city of Tuscaloosa in Alabama, where one EF4 tornado, with a diameter measuring nearly 1 mile and wind speeds exceeding 200 mph, ravaged through residential areas of the city. Total material damages have been calculated to be around $11 billion, making the 2011 Super Outbreak one of the most expensive natural disasters to grip the US.

5. The Spanish Flu, All Over the Globe

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As the world was gripped by the horrors of WWI, an even deadlier killer was beginning to make its presence felt throughout the planet. The Spanish Flu, or Influenza, was the deadliest pandemic in modern history, with 500 million people infected worldwide – about a third of the population – and an estimated 20 to 50 million people killed in less than six months. Around a quarter of all US citizens became infected and 675,000 of them died because of it, lowering the average life expectancy by 10 years. As the First World War was slowly drawing to a close in 1918, the Influenza virus was given little attention at first, especially on the battlefield, which quickly became a perfect hotbed for the airborne disease.

For years, scientists believed the origins of the flu began in the trenches of France, and neutral Spain was conducting heavy research on it, earning it the name “Spanish Flu.” The harsh conditions of the battlefield were perfect for such a disease to be created, with large numbers of people being packed together in squalor and often times in close proximity with animals such as pigs. Moreover, the many deadly chemicals used throughout WWI gave ample chance for the virus to mutate.

A decade after the war, however, Kansas was being seriously considered as another possible breeding ground for the N1H1 influenza virus, when it was discovered that 48 infantry men died in a military camp there. More recent evidence indicates to a group of 96,000 Chinese laborers who were sent to work behind the British and French lines. Reports of a respiratory illness that struck northern China in November 1917 was identified a year later by Chinese health officials as identical to the Spanish flu. However, no direct link had been made between the Chinese illness and the worldwide outbreak. The effects of the pandemic can be felt even to this day, 100 years later, with several other related strains of the virus hitting in 1957, 1968 and again in 2009 and 2010 during the “swine flu” crisis. None of these instances have been as deadly as the one at the end of WWI however, when only the isolated Marajó Island in Brazil’s Amazon River Delta had not reported an outbreak.

4. Last Outburst of Lake Agassiz and the Black Sea Deluge, Eastern Europe

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Once again Lake Agassiz makes it on this list, this time with its final drainage which occurred around 8,200 years ago. After the lake’s last major drainage mentioned above, the ice sheet replenished itself due to the cooling caused by the lake’s fresh waters gushing into the Arctic Ocean. But as the planet began to warm up again 1,200 years later, the lake reappeared. But this time Agassiz seems to have merged with another equally large Lake Ojibway. The joining was short lived, however, with their complete drainage taking place, this time into Hudson Bay. Like before, the planet was plunged into another cold spell, called the 8.2 kiloyear event. However, this event was far shorter than the Younger Dryas, lasting for only about 150 years. Nevertheless, this sudden supply of water into the world ocean, raised sea levels by a staggering 13 feet.

Major flooding took place in all corners of the world, from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Arabia, South Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Many submerged settlements have been found all over the world, which seem to date from this period. This time in history may also be when all the Flood Myths around the world came into being. But the biggest case of flooding came about in Eastern Europe’s Black Sea, which at that time was no more than a fresh water lake. With the fast sea level rise, the Bosporus Strait partially gave in and water from the Mediterranean poured into the lake to form the Black Sea. The speed at which water poured in is still debated to this day, as is the quantity. Some believe that over 10 cubic miles of water entered the strait with 200 times the flow of Niagara Falls. This lasted for three centuries and flooded 60,000 sq. miles of land, with waters rising by six inches per day. Others believe the flooding was more gradual and covered just 770 sq. miles.

3. The Zanclean Flood and the Mediterranean Sea

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Just like the Black Sea above, the Mediterranean was also a lake once. As the African and Eurasian tectonic plates moved closer and closer together over a course of many millions of years, they eventually collided. Their initial point of contact was between the Iberian Peninsula and the northern coast of West Africa some 5.6 million years ago. Isolated from the Atlantic Ocean, the now Mediterranean lake began to evaporatedue to the arid conditions over the course of several hundred thousand years. In most places the sea floor was covered by a mile-high layer of salt. This salt was then blown by the winds, wreaking havoc on the surrounding landscape.

Luckily, 300,000 later the Mediterranean was full once again. The likely cause is believed to have been the continuing shift of the crustal plates, which in turn caused the ground around the Gibraltar Strait to subside. Over the course of several thousand years, an instant in geological terms, the Atlantic dug its way through the 124-mile-long channel. The flow of water reaching the Mediterranean basin was slow at first, but still three times the rate of discharge of the Amazon River today. However, it is believed that once the channel was wide enough, the surge of water was tremendous, filling the remaining 90% of the Mediterranean basin in a course of several months to two years. The water level rise may have been as high as 33 feet per day. This event is known asthe Zanclean Flood. And even today, more than 5 million years later, the Mediterranean is much saltier than the Ocean, due to the narrow strait that connects them.

2. North China Drought, 1876-79

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Between 1876 and 1879 a serious and large-scale drought occurred in China, leaving some 13 million people dead out of the total of 108 million. As the world was emerging from its last period of cooling known as “The Little Ice Age,” a drought in the Yellow River basin area began in earnest in 1876, worsening the following year with the almost total failure of rain. This was by far the worst drought to hit the region in the past 300 years, and definitely caused the largest number of casualties. Shanxi province was the most affected by the famine, with an estimated 5.5 million dead out of a total population of 15 million.

This was not the first time China was faced with a severe drought, and up until the 18thcentury the nation was heavily invested in the storing and distribution of grains in cases of dire situations such as this. In fact, the state on several occasions was effective in preventing serious droughts from resulting in mass starvation. This time however, the Qing state was considerably weakened by the mid-century rebellions and strong British imperialism, and was totally unprepared for a crisis on this scale. Foreign and local relief efforts had been made, but much of rural China had been depopulated by starvation, disease and migration.

1. The Collision Between Earth and Theia

Though this list was not written in any particular order, we’ve decided to end it with a huge, cataclysmic event of literal astronomic proportions, which made our planet what it is today. And even if scientists are not 100 percent certain it happened, there are strong indications that it did. Some 100 million years after our planet had been formed by the gradual collection of asteroids and other space debris, the young Earth was headed on a direct collision course with Theia, a hypothesized planet in our young Solar System. This other planetary-mass object is believed to have been roughly the size of Mars, or somewhat smaller, and which 4.31 billion years ago was flung towards Earth and smashed head-on into it.

 The force of the impact merged the two planets together, forming the Earth we know and love today. The pieces that were blown out from the collision were captured by the planet’s gravitational pull and slowly formed the Moon. The large size of our natural satellite relative to Earth backs up the collision hypothesis. Moreover, scientists analyzing moon rocks from three Apollo missions have compared them to volcanic rocks found in Hawaii and Arizona and discovered no difference in their oxygen isotopes. Another indication of the collision is the unusually large core and mantle of our planet compared to the other rocky worlds in our Solar System, as Theia’s core and mantle mixed with Earth’s.

Natural Disaster Digest

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– WIF Geography