Natural Disaster Handbook – WIF HOF

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Biggest Natural Disasters

in Earth’s History

Butterfly Effect

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.


Natural Disaster Handbook

– WIF HOF


Hiking Wisconsin – WIF Travel

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 5 Hikes

to Make

In Wisconsin

The truth is, we have a hard time imagining that you’d only ever hike five of Wisconsin’s gorgeous trails. The unparalleled beauty of Wisconsin deserved to be explored on foot, so lace up your hiking boots, and start with these five trails. We have a feeling that once you hike these, you’ll be hooked…and will be game for even more!

The creator of Writing Is Fun-damental is from Oconomowoc… no hiking trails but lakes, lakes and more lakes.

5. Trails at Rib Mountain

Hiking in Wisconsin

– WIF Travel


Post Office Madness – WIF Travel

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Craziest Post Offices

on Earth

(and Beyond)

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane—and dreaded—items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

 10. Peach Springs and Supai, AZ

The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at—just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature—the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission—delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon–and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are rely on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office wassituated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe—including in the US, the UK,South Africa, and Germany—you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective—the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window—from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination—as of 2016, the post office charged about $1.45 USD to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about $0.30 USD.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)

Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides—the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)

Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office—the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).
 The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement—an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiberoptic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office

Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat… literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code—48222—and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:

Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo

Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t helpthat the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica

One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth

The final post office on our list is out of this world—literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts—one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode—901001—and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.


Post Office Madness

– WIF Travel

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

Source: https://i1.wp.com/andywoodruff.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/australia.jpg

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

Source: https://i0.wp.com/gypsy.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/413.jpg?ssl=1

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

Source: https://i0.wp.com/gypsy.ninja/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/upinarms-map-large.jpg?ssl=1

“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

Man-made Islands – WIF Travel

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Amazing

Man-Made

Islands

The gradual formation of the Earth has given us some impressive islands, which are home to some of humankind’s biggest cities and even countries. While humans can’t make islands as impressive as mother nature, we’ve certainly have made some very cool ones. These are 10 of the most amazing artificial islands from all around the globe.

 10. Notre Dame Island (Canada)

In order to get ready for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, the city of Montreal, Quebec, needed to build a metro system. In order to build one, they needed to dig out 15 million tons of rock, and they came up with an ingenious way to use it – they built Notre Dame Island in the Saint Lawrence River.

Today, the island is home to several tourist attractions, including the Jacques Villeneuve Circuit, which is where the Canadian Grand Prix is held, and it’s also where the Montreal Casino is located.

9. Wilhelmstein (Germany)

Wilhemstein is found on Lake Steinhude, which is the largest lake in northwestern Germany. Its construction was ordered by William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, and it was built between 1765 and 1767. Fisherman would take rocks over in their boats and then drop them in the water until the island was formed.

The island is 134,548 square feet and was originally designed to be a fortified hideaway for the Count. Today it is a museum and a tourist attraction.

8. Treasure Island (USA)

The artificial island with the best name started off as a sandy shoal off the coast of San Francisco. The city decided the shoal was a hazard for boats, so construction on the island started in 1936, overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 25 million cubic yards were taken from all over the bay to make the island, which is a mile by a mile-and-half. It was completed in 1939, just in time for the Golden Gate International Exposition. After the exposition came to an end in September 1940, the Navy took it over and it became Naval Station Treasure Island. It was closed in September 1997 for civilian use.

Today, the island is best known for its flea market and annual music festival called Treasure Island Music Fest, because if you’re holding a concert at a place like Treasure Island, you don’t really need a clever name.

It also has a restricted area of abandoned houses because the soil is contaminated with radioactive waste. The Navy never explained why there was radioactive waste, but there are two theories. The first is that they repaired ships there that may have been exposed to nuclear radiation during nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific. Another theory is that they purposefully covered a ship in radiation to train servicemen to wash off the radiation.

For decades, the Navy hid the fact that the island was contaminated with radioactive waste and then refused to investigate it when it was made

public. It was only in 2010 that they started to clean up the area.

Last year, after 20 years of planning, it was announced that 8,000 homes, a hotel, and parks are to be built on the island, which will cost $5 billion.

7. Hulhumalé (Maldives)

Found in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is a tropical country and home to a 0.7 square mile man-made island called Hulhumalé. People first moved onto the reclaimed island in 2004, and as of 2016, it is home to 40,000 people.

When developing the island, there was a focus on sustainability and the island was designed to be climate change resilient. It’s also the only smart city in Maldives; there is a smart grid built into the city and it has a state of the art traffic light system.

On the island, you can find hotels and restaurants, but the main attraction is the beautiful beach, which has water that is full of marine life. Water sports, like snorkeling, are available and boat trips are quite popular.

6. THUMS Islands (USA)

The THUMS Islands were constructed in 1965 in Long Beach, California. They’re a set of four artificial islands, and the name is an acronym for the five companies who had it constructed – Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union Oil, Mobil, and Shell. From the companies who built it, you’ve probably gathered that there aren’t any homes on the island, and you’d be totally correct. Instead, the islands are oil drilling facilities.

The problem facing the developers when constructing the islands is that oil drilling facilities aren’t exactly the prettiest structures and the area where they planned to build the facility was full of million dollar beach front properties. So to make it less of an eye sore, they hired architect Joseph Linesch, who was known for his work on theme parks like Disneyland. The final product is what The Los Angeles Times calls “…part Disney, part Jetsons, part Swiss Family Robinson.”

 The island is still used for oil drilling and as of 2015, there were about 1,550 active drills.

5. The World (United Arab Emirates)

The United Arab Emirates’ biggest and most populous city, Dubai, has several impressive man-made islands and one of the most interesting projects is the World Islands. Construction started on the islands in 2003, but momentum on the project came to a halt because of the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, the 300 islands that make up the seven continents have started to sink into the Persian Gulf.

In 2014, the project came back to life and construction restarted on the islands. The developers said that it will have lavish hotels and restaurants, along with half-submerged, half-skylit floating homes that are called seahorses. They cost $2.8 million each and 70 percent have already been sold.

4. Amwaj Islands (Bahrain)

Bahrain is a small country in the Persian Gulf and it is home to a group of beautiful artificial islands called the Amwaj Islands.

Construction on the islands started in 2002 and from the beginning it was designed to be a smart city. Cisco and Oracle were given contracts to develop fiber optic networks for all the homes and businesses on the islands.

The islands have different sections and one of the most impressive areas is Al Marsa, also known as the Floating City. The houses are surrounded by deep canals, which allows home owners to park their boats in front of their homes, making it look like a very modern version of Venice, Italy.

Another impressive area of the islands is the Central Lagoon, which is the commercial area of the islands. In the Central Lagoon, there is nearly 600,000 square feet of commercial space including open-air markets and two dozen restaurants.

3. IJburg (Netherlands)

In cities where there are housing shortages, governments and real estate developers have to get a little creative when it comes to building new homes. One city that is having a particularly difficult time with a lack of housing is Amsterdam. One of their solutions is a series of artificial islands called IJurb.

Construction on the islands started in 1996 in IJmeer, which is a lake east of the city. There are three islands: Steigereiland, Haveneiland, and Rieteilanden, and they are connected to each other and the mainland by bridges.

As of 2015, there were 20,000 residents living in IJurb, but once construction is completed, it will provide homes for 45,000 people. Also on the islands are schools, shopping centers, hospitals, restaurants, and beaches.

Within IJurg, there is a neighborhood called the Waterbuurt or the Water District. In that neighborhood, the homes are floating houseboats that are moored to jetties. People who don’t mind spending a little bit more even have a dock outside their home where they can dock their boat.

2. The Pearl-Qatar (Qatar)

Qatar is an oil rich country in the Middle East, and even though it may be physically impossible to play soccer there because of the extreme heat, it’s set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A few tourists coming to enjoy the World Cup will be able to stay on one of the most unique man-made islands in the world, the Pearl-Qatar. Construction on the infrastructure of the island took about 10 years and it was completed in 2014.

It has nearly 20 miles of coastline and on the island there are three five-star hotels, 492,000 square feet of international retail, restaurants, and entertainment. This includes a 64,000 square foot family entertainment center.

As of 2014, there were 12,000 people living on the island, but that number is expected to increase four-fold by 2018.

1. Palm Jumeirah (United Arab Emirates)

On both sides of the World Islands are the two Palm Islands. On the left is Palm Jumeirah and on the right is Palm Jebel Ali. Palm Jebel Ali has yet to be finished and it’s unclear when it will be completed. When the construction is finally done it’s expected to house 250,000 people, and it will have four theme parks. Construction on Palm Jumeirah went a bit smoother and in 2006 people started to move to the island.

When it was completed, it added 320 miles to the coastline. Amazingly, out of the two islands, Palm Jumeirah is the smaller one and it’s only about half the size of the Palm Jebel Ali. It’s home to several hotels, resorts, restaurants, and shopping centers. It also has a monorail to get around.

All three of Dubai’s artifical islands were built by dredging up millions of cubic feet of sand from the seafloor, and then sprayed into the pattern of the islands using GPS. Then, for the Palm Jumeirah, seven million tons of mountain rock were used to form a seven-mile breakwater around the 17-fronded palm tree to protect the island from waves and ocean storms.


Man-made Islands

– WIF Travel

Down to Earth Facts – Planetary Platitudes

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Amazing Facts

About

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is an amazing place, to say the least. And even though we’ve been living on its surface our entire life, there are still a lot of things we don’t know about it. Many things that we do know are awe-inspiring. What’s even more interesting about some of these is the fact that they have wide-scale implications on everything around them. But why try to be so mysterious, if we can give you 10 such examples, right?

 10. Planet Earth and a Cue Ball

We all know the Earth is big, there’s no denying it. But when it really comes down to it, we have a hard time coming to grips with its actual dimensions. So, in order to make things more relatable, let’s take a look at mountains. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see or even climb Mount Everest can attest to the fact that it’s incredibly huge and incredibly humbling. But most people don’t even need to see any of the tallest mountains in the world to know that mountains are big. Now, let’s take our mental image of mountains as points of reference when we talk about the dimensions of the Earth. We know that the average diameter of the planet is of about 7,900 miles. It’s important to note here that Earth is not a perfect sphere, but rather  an oblate spheroid. This means that, because it’s spinning on its axis, the diameter at the equator is bigger than the distance between the poles by about 27 miles. And beside these differences, the planet also has some bumps and dents, but they’re much smaller than 27 miles.

With this information in mind, if we were to scale the planet down to the size of an average cue ball, we would come to an incredible realization. According to the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Tournament Table and Equipment Specifications, every new ball should measure 2.25 inches in diameter and only have imperfections that cannot exceed 0.005 inches. By making the proper calculations here, it turns out that the biggest “imperfection” on Earth can be 17 miles and fall within WPA standards. While Mount Everest is almost 5.5 miles tall, and the Mariana trench is 6.8 miles deep, if they were taken together, side by side, the sum is still below the 17 mile margin. The same thing applies to the difference in diameter between the poles and the equator. Each half of the planet is responsible for its 13.5 mile share out of the total 27, which again is below 17 miles. So, anyone who has ever held a brand new cue ball in their hand and is not amazed by the fact that the Earth is even smoother than that? Well, he or she seriously needs to revise their sense of wonder about the world.

9. The Earth’s Crust

If you liked the previous example, you’ll like this one too. The planet’s crust is the only place in the whole seemingly infinite universe that we call home; at least for the time being. And it’s not even the whole crust, per se, just the surface. The deepest humans have ever managed to go was to a depth of 7.5 miles with the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia. Temperatures reached well above 356 °F, so it was only the drilling equipment and measuring apparatus that made it down there, while the scientists stayed safely on the surface. The actual thickness of the crust, like its temperature, varies from one place to the other. While the average thickness is of about 9.3 miles, it can reach a maximum of 55 miles under the Himalayas and just about 3.7 miles under the oceans.

Now, by knowing the planet’s diameter to be 7,900 miles, if we were to scale it down again, but this time to the size of a basketball, the Earth’s crust would be the thickness of a postage stamp; a postage stamp floating on a ball of molten rock and metal. Yes, this is true. So, the next time you hear someone comparing the planet’s crust to that of a chicken egg shell, know that information to be false. The planet’s crust is far thinner than that. If Earth was the size of an actual egg, the crust would probably be even thinner than the thickness of human skin that peels off after a sunburn. Yuck! And since the crust is also broken up into pieces that we call tectonic plates, it’s now easier to understand how and why continents move around so much. So, now that you know these two pieces of information about the crust and the actual size of the Earth, how do you think we fare in size here on Earth by comparison to bacteria on an actual billiard ball?

8. Earth’s “Heartbeat”

With the previous two entries on this list, would it really come as a surprise to anyone that Earth might just have an actual heartbeat? Well, yeah, it would, and this isn’t actually true, but the planet does have something closely resembling one. Every moment of every day, Earth is going through roughly 2,000 thunderstorms everywhere on its surface. And these thunderstorms produce roughly 50 lightning strikes every second. And in turn, each of these lightning strikes produces a series of electromagnetic waves that are captured and then bounce between the planet’s surface and the lower ionosphere, some 60 miles up. If the wavelength is just right, then some of these waves combine and increase in strength, creating a repeating atmospheric “heartbeat”, a phenomenon known in science as the Schumann resonance. This phenomenon has been known for a while now, but in 2011 researchers came to realize that this resonance isn’t just confined to the planet’s atmosphere, since some of the waves actually extend more than 500 miles into space.

On a somewhat similar note, a Dutch artist by the name of Lotte Geeven, in collaboration with geoscientists from the German Research Centre for Geosciences, have recorded the sounds made by the planet, deep inside its crust. The recording was done in Germany, in a hole similar to the one in Russia mentioned before. The German Continental Deep Drilling Program, or more commonly known as the KTB borehole, goes to a depth of six miles inside the Earth’s crust and here, scientists were able to capture the sounds made by the planet. Some have described these sounds as a “melancholic howl” or “a bell-like alarm denoting histories in the making.”

7. The Amazing Story about Oxygen

It’s no real mystery that Earth hasn’t always looked like it does today. In fact, our planet is in constant change even at the current moment, and for the better part of its existence, the conditions on the surface have almost always been different than they are now. So, with this in mind, let’s talk about oxygen and how it got here. Oxygen only became predominant in the atmosphere roughly 2.3 billion years ago, during an incident called the Great Oxygenation Event. Before this time, oxygen levels were marginal at best, making up just around 0.02% of all the gases in the air. But during the GOE, it reached levels of above 21%. This big rise is thanks to a tiny organism that is still alive today – Cyanobacteria, or more commonly known as the blue-green algae. These organisms are not algae, as their common name might suggest, but unicellular bacteria that can manufacture their own food. They live in water, form huge colonies, and use photosynthesis to turn the sun’s rays directly into energy. A byproduct of photosynthesis, as some of us know, is oxygen.

Over billions of years , these tiny creatures inhabited the world’s oceans, releasing more and more oxygen as they multiplied and spread. It’s safe to say that we owe thanks to these Cyanobacteria for our very existence and the world we live in today. It is, however, important to note that this new change in the planet’s chemistry did not go as smoothly as some might think. For starters, oxygen was toxic for all other living creatures on the planet at that time and nearly drove all previous anaerobic life into extinction. Secondly, the growing amount of oxygen in the air reacted with the already existing methane, which was in abundance at the time, creating CO2. And since methane is 25 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, Earth went through a severe cold spell that lasted for 300 million years and almost drove even the “mighty” Cyanobacteria into extinction.

Lastly, the higher levels of oxygen triggered an explosion, so to speak, in the number of minerals on the surface of the planet – minerals that otherwise would not have existed if it weren’t for the blue-green algae. More than 2,500 of the total 4,500 minerals now common on Earth appeared during the Great Oxygenation Event. So, the next time you think of humans as being the only species capable of changing the planet beyond recognition and having the capacity to drive life, including itself, into extinction… think again.

6. The Origins of Life

For all the credit we can give our men and women of science when it comes to all the discoveries they’ve made over the years, we still have to take into account the fact that we know surprisingly little when it comes to life and how it came into being

in the first place. Up until fairly recently, we believed we knew with a relatively high degree of certainty when life first appeared on Earth, and we had our presumptions on how it happened. But it seems that this theory has now changed. According to a recent study, we can now move the appearance of life back by another 300 million years, bringing it quite close to the moment when the planet actually formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

 If the research is confirmed, then it would seem that life formed 4.1 billion years ago, from a primordial disk of dust and gas surrounding the Sun just before the Earth started forming. The researchers came to this conclusion after observing tiny specks of graphite trapped inside zircon crystals. This graphite is usually associated with signs of life. Another theory that can account for its existence in the crystals is a massive meteor impact. But given the amount needed to explain these findings, it makes the meteor theory highly unlikely, though not entirely dismissible. If proven true, however, and life is as old as this new evidence suggests, then it would seem it’s even older than the Moon itself. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly,” said Mark Harrison, a professor of geochemistry at UCLA and member in this study.

5. Two Planets Become One

Ever thought about how the Moon was formed? Probably because it’s visible up in the sky almost every other night, people have grown accustomed to seeing it and don’t give it a second thought. But the Moon’s history, and especially its birth, are amazing and terrifying, to say the least. Back in the early days of the solar system, and soon after our planet began to take shape, fate would place young Earth on a direct collision course with another planet we now call Theia. Now, even though it’s hard to know for certain if this actually happened, there are strong indications that it did. According to the calculations, this sister planet of ours was roughly the size of Mars (or slightly smaller), and because of the still unpredictable and chaotic nature of the solar system at the time, it was flung in the direction of Earth.

In the aftermath of the collision, two things happened. The two planets merged to form this one we are all standing on right now. And secondly, much of the debris that was flung into space came together and formed the Moon. Now, as we said before, this collision theory is not certain. But the relatively large size of the Moon as compared to the Earth points to this hypostasis. So do the rocks brought back during the Apollo missions, which are virtually indistinguishable from those here on Earth when it comes to their oxygen isotopes. This theory can also explain our planet’s unusually large core as compared to all the other rocky worlds in the solar system.

4. Shifting Poles

No, this has nothing to do with any voting or elections – it’s about the Earth’s magnetic field. Thanks in part to our planet’s larger-than-usual molten core and its relatively fast spin on its axis, both of which may be the result of the previously mentioned collision between Earth and Theia, our planet has a very strong magnetic field relative to its size. In fact, only Mercury, of all the other rocky planets, has a magnetic field, but it’s far weaker than our own. Venus doesn’t have one, even though we’re fairly certain it has a molten metal core. Scientists believe the reason behind this is because Venus has a slow rotation around its axis and the temperatures inside are more evenly distributed. Mars, on the other hand, did have a magnetic field once, but its metallic core has since cooled and solidified. In any case, our strong magnetic field protects us from the sun’s deadly solar radiation, it keeps our atmosphere from being blown away into space, and it gives us the beautiful aurora borealis around the poles.

But over the past century and a half, scientists have come to realize that this magnetic field is weakening. As it turns out, the magnetic poles of our planet are shifting. This means that someday in the future, north will be south and vice-versa, and the process has already begun. While in the early 20th century the poles were moving at a rate of about 10 miles per year, today that speed has increased to 40. There’s no real need to panic, though, since this phenomenon has happened hundreds of times before. In fact, over the past 20 million years, the poles have shifted every 200 to 300 thousand years or so. The last time it happened, however, was more than 780,000 years ago, so, we’re due for another one. And according to the fossil record from previous pole reversals, it seems that there were no major changes in plant or animal life.

What we would expect to see in this several-century-process would be an increased vulnerability to solar flares that could knock out entire power grids. Holes could be made in the ozone layer, exposing us and the environment to higher degrees of radiation. There would be more than two magnetic poles at a time, scattered all across the face of the planet, leading compasses to spin uncontrollably. Some animals could become disoriented, and we would see the northern lights in unusual places. The actual timeframe here is nowhere near to being exact. Scientists are still having a hard time understanding all the inner workings of our planet, but estimates say that this shouldn’t take more than 1,000 years or so. Probably even less. And before you say anything, it is important to note that from our planet’s perspective, a millennium is a literal geological instant.

3. Mother Nature is an Expert at Recycling

Over the many millions of years, Earth has become an expert at recycling. If given enough time, our planet has and will continue to reshape itself in a continuous cycle of renewal and rebirth. Every natural system on Earth is involved in this process in one degree or another, and the whole thing could take hours to explain properly. But because we know your time is valuable, we’ll keep it short. Let’s start with life. As time marches on, organisms grow, develop, and multiply, and then they eventually die. Their remains fall to the ground and become the very soil they once drew their nourishment from. Layer upon layer of this soil is produced, one on top of the other, slowly but surely turning into stone. This bottom layer of stone moves along with the tectonic plates they’re sitting on, eventually sliding underneath one another, or becoming a mountain if it ends up on top.

If this rock layer turns into a mountain, as two plate tectonics bump into each other, over time, rain, wind, the many rivers, as well as other natural phenomena, grind away at that rock, eroding it and washing it out to sea where it sinks at the bottom and turns into sedimentary rock on the ocean floor. Once here, it again transforms into metamorphic rock due to very high heat and pressure, and eventually ends up in the upper mantle of the Earth in a process known as subduction. Here, this rock is turned into magma which eventually finds its way back to the surface via an oceanic ridge system, or through the many volcanoes that dot the Earth – and the cycle repeats itself. Now, this whole process has been overly simplified here, but this cycle the crustal rock goes through, not only recycles carbon across the globe, but it also provides the nutrients necessary for life to thrive in abundance. If it weren’t for this process, life’s chances on the planet would be severely compromised.

2. The Earth is Growing

There is a theory circulating out there that states the planet has been in a continuous process of expansion and contraction throughout its entire lifetime. Known as theExpanding Earth theory, it says that at some point in the past, Earth was 80% smaller than it is today, at which point the continents formed its entire surface. Then it began expanding, forming the ocean floor. While the theory does seem to have some intriguing concepts, it does have a lot of scientific inconsistencies and is extremely unlikely. What we are really talking about here, when we say the Earth is growing, is the fact that our planet takes in roughly 60 to 100 tons of cosmic dust every single day. This can’t really come as a surprise to anyone since this is the exact same process through which all other heavenly bodies in the universe have been created since the dawn of time, including Earth itself. But we don’t really think about it still happening, right? Well, even though it has toned down a bit since the early days of the solar system, the process is still pretty much alive.

Even if space seems to be empty, it’s really littered with fine particles of dust, and these particles get swept up by our planet and, in a sense, become part of Earth. Only a small fraction of this material actually leaves a visible trail in the sky, since most of it is too tiny for that to happen. Now, even though scientists have been aware of this phenomenon happening for a while, only with the advent of more sophisticated technology did they come to comprehend its actual scale. Researchers are now looking at what effects these particles have on our environment. For starters, it was observed that these particles are incremental in the formation of the highest clouds in our atmosphere. It also acts as fertilizer for phytoplankton, and can even affect the ozone layer’s chemistry. But these effects can be just the tip of the iceberg, and scientists are trying to figure out cosmic dust’s many other implications.

1. But it’s Actually Getting Lighter

How can this be? We’ve just concluded that Earth takes in around 30,000 tons of space dust every year, so… how is this possible? It’s not like we’re throwing stuff into outer space – not that much, at least – and it’s not like we’re using any of the weight to build stuff, since that mass still adds to the overall load of the planet. Well, as it turns out, Earth is losing mass via two major ways. One is through its core, as it consumes energy in the form of heat. But this loss accounts for just 16 tons a year. The real mass loss comes in the form of hydrogen and helium. These two gases are the lightest in the universe and oftentimes they just simply float away from Earth. They do so at a rate of 95,000 tons of hydrogen and 1,600 tons of helium each year. So, even though we get roughly 30,000 tons of dust, we lose almost 97,000 tons of gas.

Now, when it comes to hydrogen, there’s nothing to really be afraid of. Even at this current rate, it would take it trillions of years before all of it could be depleted from the atmosphere and by that time, the sun will have died out, and there will be no Earth to speak of. (Um, yay?) But helium is another matter. Even though it’s the second most abundant element in the universe, it’s disappearing here on Earth. We’re now using it for a great deal of things, on an unprecedented scale, and there’s only so much to go around.


Down to Earth Facts

– Planetary Platitudes

Russia – Enough Said

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We Should

Be Scared

of Russia

 

Russia has been talked about in the news a lot in the past several years, and has garnered an incredible amount of attention in the USA of late. They have been accused of hacking a political party’s files in order to favor one over the other. They have been accused of blackmailing our politicians and planting their own agents. They have been accused of spreading a huge amount of fake news throughout our country, in order to change the course of the general election.

 On top of that, some in Europe believe that President Vladimir Putin was pushing for Brexit to weaken the EU, because he would like to take back more of Eastern Europe. While it would be nice to consider this alarmism, he has already taken Crimea, half of Ukraine, and doesn’t seem interested in stopping anytime soon. Below are 10 reasons why we should keep a careful eye on Russia and their actions over the next several years.

10. They Shut Down Estonia’s Internet Infrastructure For Almost a Month

Estonia is an Eastern European country near the Russian border, and they are actually quite unique when it comes to any country in the world, because they rely on the internet for almost everything. They use the internet for paying parking fines, voting, paying utility bills and taxes, and almost anything else you could imagine. Children in Estonia are taught to use the internet properly in school at a young age, and it is considered one of the most tech savvy countries in the world.

That’s why, in 2007, Estonians understandably freaked out when their internet infrastructure was hit by a cyber-attack that managed to keep the entire system down for three whole weeks. Estonians are understandably worried that it was a test for a possible Russian invasion down the road. Estonia was once part of the Soviet Union, is seeded with ethnic Russians so Putin could attempt to pull something similar to Crimea, and with their infrastructure down, it would be hard for them to resist the chaos Putin could create. With the recent aggressive moves by Russia both in terms of cyber-crime and their continuing ventures in Ukraine, Estonia fears they may be next and is preparing for war.

9. The Russian Mock Invasion That Would Take Key Islands From Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden

Some may think that Russia would never dare go that far into Eastern Europe, or really keep pushing at all much beyond Ukraine. However, people back during WWII said that Hitler would stop after he took the Rhineland, and they were very, very wrong. The truth is that Putin has no reason to stop unless someone makes him, and he has already taken Crimea and roughly half of Ukraine. While some may be skeptical, back in March of 2015, Russia conducted a mock set of invasions that were set on the rather insane and clearly made up idea that the West was trying to physically overthrow Putin and pull off some kind of coup.

In response to this fake threat, the test invasion conducted would have them take away key islandsfrom Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, making it almost impossible for the NATO allies to come to the rescue. While the Russians tried to give a flimsy pretext that it was in response to a Western based attack, that doesn’t really hold water, because the real strategic value of those islands is that it would cut off the Baltic States from NATO. This means that Russia would be able to easily take Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and force them back into the Soviet Union, and it would be almost impossible for NATO to provide any kind of proper support or help. The fact that Russia put so much time and effort into practicing such an attack is troubling, to say the least.

8. With the EU Increasingly Weakening, Russia is in a Stronger Position to Invade Eastern Europe

When the Brexit vote occurred, Putin tried to remain indifferent on the surface, but many experts believe he was very excited. The main thing that stops Putin from taking back the former Soviet States is a strong European Union and a strong NATO, which kind of coincide in a lot of ways right now. Unfortunately, both NATO and the European Union are in historically weak positions, and it seems like that problem is only going to increase as time goes on. With the United Kingdom out of the EU, it is possible more people could leave, and it may be much harder for the Western Europeans to mount any kind of proper defensive support if Putin rolls into Eastern Europe.

This also hurts the sanctions put on him by the United States and the European Union, as the sanctions are only as strong as the united front the countries performing them keep up against the Russians. If the European Union continues to dissolve, Russia will have more negotiating power with individual states, and will find it easy to bully small European countries with their comparatively large economy. In the end, both in terms of potential invasions and in terms of negotiating power, the Russians win big whenever Europe becomes weaker. To make matters worse for the Eastern Europeans, we have a US president who knows little about NATO and campaigned, in part, on it being obsolete (though he’sfinally coming around on its importance), and cares about our agreements to protect small countries even less.

7. Russia Today is Kremlin Controlled and Russian Fake News Propaganda is a Global Machine

President Putin tries to dance around the issue, so it isn’t quite as obvious to everyone, but the truth is that Russia Today might as well be Putin’s personal blog. It is funded, owned and operated by the Kremlin – in other words the Russian government. The government claims that it is not totally government controlled, but Putin also admits that it should kind of be expected that they will say things that are positive about the government and its agenda. While not saying it outright, it is clear the purpose of Russia Today is simply to spread the Kremlin’s propaganda all over the world. It is perhaps one of the most unreliable sources on the planet, but many people who see Russia Today in other countries do not realize just how unreliable it is.

To make matters worse, a lot of fake news regarding the US election was traced right back to Russians, and there is reason to believe many of them were even paid trolls. Despite America’s best efforts to handle its own elections, it is scary to think how easily the Russians have managed to manipulate emotions and decisions simply by posting fake stories. If that wasn’t enough, there is reason to believe that a lot of similar propaganda is being spread in Europe as well, in order to weaken support for the EU and bolster the image of Vladimir Putin around the world.

6. We May Call Putin a Tyrant, but He’s Extremely Popular in Russia

Putin may be a man who is very interested in conquest, and he has some very grand plans. For this reason, many people like to put him in the realm of comic book villain, and look at him as a truly evil individual. While he does support a lot of draconian laws, especially against gay people, the truth is that Russia has always had very fascistic laws and very little freedom. The Russian people are fairly used to hardship, rationing, and not having a particularly strong say in government. When it comes to being a fascist, if anything Putin is lenient compared to some of the leaders of the past. What this means is that while he is dangerous to us, when we act is if he is horrible to the Russian people and posit the possibility of them one day rising up against them, it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of our Russian rivals.

We assume that they have the same priorities we do, but they simply don’t. Americans are more concerned with individual freedoms and don’t particularly care about refighting old battles. However, when Putin took back Crimea, it came with a great surge of popularity back home, because he was bringing back a certain amount of Russian pride as well. The Russian people felt stronger, and better to know that Putin was bringing back the old Soviet Union. Many of them now see him not as another politician, but as a transformational figure that has helped bring Russia back to what it once was. Russians still complain about politics and the country in general, but Putin still keeps his approvals in the low 80s, and even watchdogs from other countries believe the polls are at least mostly accurate. We aren’t saying Putin is a nice guy, but it is important to understand the people you are up against. We may not like Putin, but the fact that he is popular at home is not just Russian propaganda.

5. Putin Has Consolidated Power and May Very Well be President for Life

One of the things that makes it harder for a country like Europe or the United States to deal with threats from dictators is that the dictator has the advantage of remaining in power forever, consolidating his holdings, making him capable of carrying out truly long term plans. On the other hand, countries like the USA have regular elections that change our governmental leaders, which means we constantly have to refresh our policies to deal with the latest threats. Every president will have a different idea on how to deal with our foreign enemies or rivals, and that means an entirely new road map. In the meantime, someone like Putin can remain in office for nearly two decades, ensuring he can slowly work on his goals.

Putin was first term limited, then made a new position for himself that was above the president to get that problem out of the way. Then, he managed to become president again after taking care of the pesky term limit issue. And, while he hasn’t said he will run yet, many expect him to run again next year, and with his popularity, it would be hard for him to lose unless something catastrophic happened to Russia to completely tank his poll numbers. And with calls from some within the

Russian government for Vladimir Putin to remain president for life, it seems clear that has been the plan for quite some time now.

4. There’s a Possibility They Have Blackmail Material on the US President

While we know that Donald Trump has business dealings in Russia, which have been the subject of much suspicion and rumor, and that many in his campaign were said to have contacted Russia during the campaign, which has led some to believe that there is far more to the story. According to a dossier of information, much of which is hard to verify, Trump visited Russia as part of a beauty pageant, and while staying in a hotel room, he got up to some antics that were quite risqué and embarrassing. Heallegedly had prostitutes pee on a hotel bed that had once been used by Barack and Michelle Obama.

And according to the dossier, the Russians had been monitoring this room, and now have incredible dirt on Trump. Due to his many business dealings with them, and this blackmail they had, they decided to push him toward politics, and did their best to help him succeed, because they believed that they could use their blackmail to get sanctions lifted or other pro-Russia policies put in place. Of course, there is no proof that this blackmail exists, or that the event occurred as alleged, but the thought that they have blackmail on our president is very troubling. And even if they do not have that kind of blackmail, the fact he once admitted to having a large amount of business dealings with Russia, and would not disclose his taxes, still makes things suspicious for other reasons.

3. The Gay Concentration Camps Currently Operating in Chechnya

Right now in Chechnya, a region which is now part of the Russian Federation, gay people are being rounded up like dangerous animals and either tortured for days on end or killed. These men are being held in what are essentially being described as concentration camps for gay people. Bounties are being paid for gangs of mercenaries to round up gay men wherever they can find them. This includes their homes, secret gay hangout spots, and they will even perform sting operations to find gay people.

There are reports that they are receiving beatings and electric shocks, and are sometimes even being released simply so they can be re-caught for sport, and so that the hunter can double dip on the bounty for the captured gay person. Some are blackmailed and threatened with much worse torture or death if they don’t pay large sums of money – because being gay is illegal in Chechnya, these men are all too eager to agree to avoid even worse punishment. Unfortunately, the only group that really has the power to stop this is the Russian government, and they are denying that there is any purge going on. Considering their knowledge of what happens in their territories, it boggles the mind that they do not know. And when you look at their own reputation when it comes to gay people, the sad truth is that the Kremlin likely understands what is happening and approves of it – gay people are not welcome in Russia.

2. Russia Currently Has the Largest Active Nuclear Stockpile in the World

When most people think of the most powerful nuclear country, they tend to immediately think of the United States. But the truth is that Russia actually has a slightly larger stockpile of nuclear weapons than the US does – this includes both stockpiled warheads and those that are fully operational and ready to go. The United States has close to 7,000 nuclear warheads, but Russia has over 7,000, beating the US by a small margin. They also have about forty more active nuclear warheads than America does, with both countries having close to 2,000 that they are ready to launch. Some may think China is close, but they actually don’t have any operational warheads at the moment. The next closest countries are actually France, with a few hundred, and the United Kingdom, with a little over 100 in terms of operational nuclear weapons.

For this reason alone, Russia has to be respected. With one of the largest economies, areas of sheer territory, and that many nuclear weapons, they are a very strong force to be reckoned with. A ground invasion of Russia has already been proven to be all but impossible, and a serious air battle would lead to them threatening nukes against the US. In the meantime, it is hard to prevent Russia from taking back countries in Eastern Europe without starting some kind of full blown war, or threatening the use of nuclear weapons – an empty threat because we know Russia could respond in kind. Due to being such a strong nuclear power, apart from fighting proxy wars over the ground Russia is trying to occupy, there isn’t a lot we can do to slow them down.

1. Military Service is Compulsory for Young Men, so Nearly All Russian Males Have Military Experience

The Russians are also dangerous because nearly every male of any decent health has at least a few years of military service under his belt. The Russians have made it compulsory for young men between the ages of 18 and 27 to serve in the military so that every capable citizen will be ready if necessary, and also to keep the military strong, full, and well-disciplined at all times. Now, draft dodging is fairly common for this reason, as not everyone wants to join the military, but it can actually be quite hard to do. Without a legitimate medical reason, you often need to pay thousands of dollars for fake documents to forge your way out of it. And you may still be caught and forced into service anyways, especially if you try tricks like staying at a different address than the one you put down officially.

And despite the draft dodgers, this means Russia still has a very, very large portion of its healthy young men learning the ways of the military lifestyle, and how to fight and die for their country if needed. With a percentage of men with military training much higher than that of other countries, they have a very large pool of capable people to pull from if they end up in any extended wars or conflicts spread throughout the world. Some countries near Russia, such as Sweden, have recently added compulsory military service in order to prepare for the potential threat they see coming down the road. The world has to be very watchful of Russia, and those who live in Eastern Europe have the most to fear.


Russia

– Enough Said