For the Force of Fascination, the News Fails at Science

There are now several news articles going around generally spouting “Zealandia? Eighth continent! Betcha didn’t know!”.

Most of these articles bother to go into what a geologic definition of a continent looks like, and shows that Zealandia would be categorized as such, but two of the ones linked above never manage to take a step back and realize that it’s completely preposterous for Europe and Asia to be considered geologically the same continent, despite many of them actually including a map that says ‘Eurasia’ (and the others mostly mention this as just a convention, and not something that is as geologically decidable as the topic they are bringing forward).

(I’m particularly saddened that my favorite bastion of journalism, The Guardian, one of very few media sources I actually respect, joined in on this train. At least it mentioned Eurasia.)

If they actually bothered to consider Eurasia beyond mention, they would realize that Zealandia really wouldn’t be the 8th continent, but the 7th. (Rather ironically, the first article is the only one that manages to get to this, despite being written in the most flippant tone.)

But beyond this, not a single one of these articles managed to point out that Zealandia is not the first proposed submerged continent. I’ve ran Ctrl+F through all of them for Kerguela. None of the articles return finds. Some of the maps on the articles point out Kerguela, but evidently none of the authors of these articles decided that was something they might want to take note on when they chose to include that map. This news, that Zealandia is a new continent, really isn’t that earth-shattering when one considers that this idea isn’t new. And since among these articles the demotion of Pluto has been mentioned, this is like how Pluto’s demotion from planetary status isn’t really that unprecedented given this happened to (to give one example) Ceres prior.

And really, this is what most news on science is like. Much of it just exists to catch people’s attention at the cost of any semblance of scientific legitimacy. It turns out most the public is too ignorant on science to realize lacks of background that really change what articles on science are putting forward. This is why ‘Science’ is usually one of my least favorite categories of news.

You Keep Using That Word

Define the following terms. Then, determine which of the items listed below each term are examples of the term, based on your definition.

1. continent

Africa
Antarctica
Australia
Borneo
Europe
Eurasia
Eurafrasia
Greenland
Kerguela
Madagascar
Mars’ surface
New Guinea
Oceania

(If you changed ‘continent’ to ‘island’, what would change?)

2. country

Abkhazia
Antarctica
Chechnya
Costa Rica
England
Estonia
European Union
Gibraltar
Hong Kong
Islamic State
Kosovo
Kurdistan
Monaco
Nauru
Northern Ireland
Palestine
Quebec
Sealand
Taiwan
Texas
Vatican City

(If you changed ‘country’ to ‘nation’, what would change? What about to ‘state’?)

3. digestive organ

appendix
brain
gallbladder
kidney
mouth
liver
lymph node
nose
salivary gland
spleen

4. Eastern Europe

eastern_europe

5. fruit

acorn
artichoke
banana
beet
blackberry
blueberry
corn
hazelnut
mango
peach
strawberry
tomato

(If you changed ‘fruit’ to ‘berry’, what would change?)

6. functional language

C#
Haskell
Java
Javascript
Julia
Lojban
Python
R
Rust
Scala

Continue reading “You Keep Using That Word”

Bodies of Water

The following graphs compare bodies of water on Earth in surface area and depth.

bodies_of_water.small

This first chart consists mostly of lakes. Previously, I’ve made an elevation-scaled graph showing the elevations at surface and maximum depth of several lakes. Notice the massive variety in the shapes of the African Great Lakes (green).

One can see in this chart the magnitude of human impact, both to create bodies of water that can rank among the great natural bodies (Lake Volta in magenta) and to misuse natural resources drastically (dying bodies of water in red).

Zooming out slightly, we compare some inland and marginal seas to the largest of the lakes.

bodies_of_water.medium

Notice that the Hudson Bay is shallower than Lake Superior, and also several Canadian lakes.

One more step outward:

bodies_of_water.large

The Arctic Ocean, smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans in the 5-connected-oceans model, is comparable in depth to the Mediterranean and Banda Seas, despite covering humongously more area. The other four oceans stretch significantly deeper, the deepest (the Pacific) going down to 10916 m (while also covering one-third the entire Earth’s surface).

Geography Isn’t Nearly All Memorization #3

For each of the following countries, state whether it has experienced a moment magnitude 8.0+ earthquake and whether it has experienced a cyclonic storm at least as strong as a North American category 4 storm in the past fifty years.

Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia

(highlight below for answers)

Chile, Indonesia, Japan, and Mexico have experienced 8.0+ magnitude earthquakes in the past fifty years.

China, Cuba, India, Mexico, and the Philippines have experienced cyclonic storms equivalent to at least North American category 4.

For a further challenge, how correlated will major earthquakes be with volcanic eruptions?

Lakes

The horizontal size at the top of the lake is proportional to the square root of the surface area, as it’s a one-dimensional representation of a two-dimensional quantity.

Mean depth is represented by vertical size 1/4 and 3/4 of the way across the lake.

Note that color on this graph does not translate directly to the color of water; at this color, already enough light has been absorbed by water above such that photosynthesis can no longer be sustained, and at this color, the lake is actually pitch black.

Note also that areas on this graph are not in proportion with volumes of water the corresponding actual lakes hold, as vertical distance is much more pronounced than horizontal distance on this graph. Crater Lake is still about 14 times longer across than deep.

 

lakes

This image made using Raphael.js.