World

1.7 million drowned by Hurricane Florence

Horrific no matter what species you’re talking about. A tragic result of factory farming.

Mapping people

Map

A fascinating map where country size is scaled by the number of residents.

What defines a country’s importance? Its GDP; its military, its resources? More than anything, the most important attribute of a country is its people–who are they, where are they, and how many of them are there? Population density will define not only opportunity, but also our impact on the earth in the next 100 years.

Population can also be a blessing or a curse for a country. I recall (but can’t attribute) one quote about China’s rise…”When the West sees a billion workers threatening their jobs, Chinese leaders see a billion mouths to feed.” Meanwhile their neighbors to the east in Japan increasingly live alone, and find themselves needing to train robots for companionship.

Should you head toward areas of high density, or away from them? Will technology make it easier to spread out, or harder? Answering these questions will be critical to success in the future.

How Fungi Saved the World

For all that we humans worry about saving the world, it was [mushrooms that rescued an Earth that had drowned in wood for 40 million years](http://feedthedatamonster.com/home/2014/7/11/how-fungi-saved-the-world), and even gave us the coal to jumpstart modern civilization:

> Here is the crux of our problem: lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm. They grew and died in vast quantities, and their trunks piled up in swamps, eventually becoming submerged and locking huge quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for good in the form of coal. Without any decomposition to recycle this carbon, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels crashed, leading to global cooling and making it much harder for plants to grow. Atmospheric oxygen concentration, in turn, soared to an estimated 35%, much higher than the 20% of modern times.

A list of human universals

Things that everybody does, in every culture worldwide: [Human Universals](https://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/humunivers.htm)

For example:

> * Dance
* Jokes
* Language
* Laws
* Planning for future
* “Snakes, wariness around”
* Tickling
* “Weather control (attempts to)”

via Alan Kay, who says “Suppose you want to make a lot of money. Well, just take the top 20 human universals and build a technological amplifier for them.”

How images change the world

An interesting argument about how and why to look at photographs of suffering.
First, put yourself in the position of the photographer; imagine you are seeing what they did right in front of you:
> Azoulay asks her readers to project themselves into the scenes of photographs, to notice the power dynamics at play, to identify the participants, and to view the outcomes not as inevitable but as one possibility among many.

Then prepare yourself to act when you see similar situations in the future:

> Viewers, through careful observation of images of horror, become witnesses who “can occasionally foresee or predict the future,” she writes. As a result, they can warn others of “dangers that lie ahead” and take action to prevent them…

> To be resisted, it seems, violence must be seen, and photography makes such vision possible.

Ways to stop climate change, ranked

[A fascinating list of ways to reduce global warming](http://www.drawdown.org/solutions-summary-by-rank), ranked by effectiveness and cost, with some surprising findings.

Refrigerant management–basically what happens when you discard an air conditioner–is the top opportunity, above anything energy-related. After that comes onshore wind farms, then two food-related items: reducing waste and eating more plants.

Pragmatic and encouraging! The authors have edited a book around all of the opportunities, Drawdown.

Lessons from living with an Amazonian tribe

[Or, how to unlearn your first-world problems](https://www.fastcompany.com/40403574/i-spent-a-month-living-with-an-amazonian-tribe-at-23-and-it-changed-my-career-forever):

* You learn to ignore the mosquitoes. And hunger. And all the other stuff too.
* Everyone depends on everyone else
* Lack of distraction leads to deeper thinking
* Everything else seems easier afterward

The shape of time

I thought I’d posted about this before, but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the [“B-Theory” of time](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-theory_of_time), and [world lines](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_line), and the possibility of our actions in the present forming something visible outside of time. So here’s a post that includes all those words that I can add to when I find new stuff.

  • The Growing Block universe is another formulation: “The present is an objective property, to be compared with a moving spotlight. By the passage of time more of the world comes into being; therefore, the block universe is said to be growing. The growth of the block is supposed to happen in the present, a very thin slice of spacetime, where more of spacetime is continually coming into being.”

[](
http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/a20784)
“Pretty good. The ending was a bit predictable.”- [New Yorker](
http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/a20784)

The state of the world

> In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.

Wallace Stevens

Clare Hollingworth, “the most interesting woman in the world”?

Her [obituary in The Economist](http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21714964-foreign-correspondent-was-105-obituary-clare-hollingworth-died-january-10th) reads like one of [those Dos Equis commercials](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3VIJjdjbxw):

> She gained the first interview with the last Shah of Iran in 1941; after his fall in 1979, he said he would speak only to her…she commandeered a British consulate car and drove into Germany from Poland. A gust of wind lifted a roadside hessian screen, revealing Hitler’s army, mustered for the invasion…Aged nearly 80, she was seen climbing a lamppost to gain a better look at the crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

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