March 26, 2013 11:19 am
Early in the 19th century, the state borders in the southeastern United States were in flux. As the Mississippi Territory began expanding, eventually earning statehood, along with Alabama, the new states encroached on land that had once been part of Georgia and Tennessee. Georgia gave up a bunch of territory to the new states on the block and the border between Georgia and Tennessee firmed up as one tracking the 35th parallel.
In 1818, a survey set to trace the line of the Georgia-Tennessee border missed the mark by a mile, putting the boundary south of where it should have been, says the Georgia General Assembly. They’ve been complaining ever since.
Over the past few years, the dispute has come and gone, and now, says The Atlantic Wire, Georgia has passed a resolution declaring “that it, not its neighbor to the north, controls part of the Tennessee River at Nickajack.” But it’s not Nickajack, a dammed-up lake, that matters.
“Georgia doesn’t want Nickajack,” says the Wire, “It wants that water.”
In the drought-stricken southern states, access to water is a serious issue.
During the summer of 2012, up to 95 percent of the state experienced some level of drought; in December, it hit 99 percent. Last May, nearly a quarter of the state experienced drought that registered as extreme. Despite the state legislature arguing that the drought wasn’t that bad (in an effort to avoid hurting the landscaping industry), it was.
So now, Georgia is digging up old claims to the Tennessee River, an oasis of blue that sits just out of the state’s current reach.
Other times this has come up, like in 2008 when Georgia was again succumbing to drought, not much happened. Tennessee representative Gary Odom in 2008:
“What I thought was a joke has turned out to be rather disturbing,” Rep. Odom said. “I thought it was important that the Tennessee General Assembly declare that we would not engage in any talks with Georgia regarding giving them a piece of Tennessee. That would be absurd.”
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March 15, 2013 12:35 pm
Enver Hoxha was as paranoid a dictator as they come. During his forty-year reign over Albania, in addition to generously dishing out death sentences and long prison terms for anyone who opposed him, he organized the building of more than 700,000 bunkers, or one for every four inhabitants in his country. Dubbed the “bunkerisation” program, the shelters were finally abandoned after Communism’s collapse.
The bunkers were never used since the military threat Hoxha imagined never arrived, and their construction drained Albania’s economy and diverted resources away from other, more pressing needs, such as road and housing improvement. On average, there are 24 bunkers for every square kilometer in Albania. Most of these unsightly concrete mushrooms still mar the landscape today, from mountain tops to cities to beaches.
Most bunkers are wasting away into the landscape, but some are used as shelters for animals or the homeless, or as kitschy cafes. Reportedly, their most common use now is sheltering amorous young Albanians looking for some privacy. Wired describes the problem:
Today, Albanian authorities are at a loss for what to do. The reinforced concrete domes are as difficult to repurpose as they are to destroy. Tourists are fascinated by the bunkers strewn like confetti across scenery, but for locals they’re a largely uninteresting, if obstructive, part of the landscape.
Besides being an eyesore, the bunkers really do pose problems for people. Expatica reports:
At least five holidaymakers, including two children and a 25-year-old woman, drowned last summer in whirlpools created by streams around the bunkers which are covered by slime, cracked and damaged by erosion.
In 2009, the government set out to take some action against the bunkers, recruiting old tanks to blow the ugly domes to smithereens. But things did not go as smoothly as planned—after two weeks only seven had been dealt with. Locals, too, usually fail at attempts to rid their land of the things. Expatica:
Some Albanians have tried to remove them on their own, but their efforts usually end in vain, leaving them resigned to living with the structures they refer to as “mushrooms.”
Some have converted them into sheds, toilets or even “zero-star hotels” for lovers, as they sometimes call the bunkers.
For curious tourists, however, some bunkers now serve as youth hostels. According to the BBC, a couple entrepreneurial students have set out to convert bunkers across the country into unique abodes for travels. If the project manages to be a success, the team said they’ll charge about 8 euros per night for the privilege of sleeping in a genuine Albanian bunker.
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March 11, 2013 2:09 pm
The further you get from the equator, the greater difference there is between summer and winter temperatures. It’s not just the cold or the heat that makes the most extreme environments so hostile, but this “seasonality” in the temperature—the range of conditions to which plants and animals living in these areas can be subjected. A thick layer of fat and a heavy coat of fur can keep you warm in winter, but the same insulation can be dangerous if the summer heat is too high.
But, with global climate change, says a new study, that temperature seasonality is going down. And satellite records and other observations from the past 30 years, says NASA, show that this change in temperature seasonality is already affecting plant growth in higher latitudes. Higher temperatures and longer growing season mean that large portions of the Arctic, subarctic and temperate ecosystems are seeing more plant growth than they did in the past.
In practice, that means the Arctic is turning green. NASA:
The Arctic’s greenness is visible on the ground as an increasing abundance of tall shrubs and trees in locations all over the circumpolar Arctic. Greening in the adjacent boreal areas is more pronounced in Eurasia than in North America.
So far, the effect has been only a small shift in vegetation patterns, with plant growth in one location mimicking how it was 30 years ago in a location five degrees latitude to the south. By the end of the century, however, scientists think that the changes will be equivalent to a 20 degree shift. Think Alaska’s capital Juneau, at 58 °North, acting more like Louisville, Kentucky, at 38 °North.
However, rising temperatures aren’t the only thing to take into account, and the other effects of climate change could actually hurt the increasingly lush Arctic.
Researchers note that plant growth in the north may not continue on its current trajectory. The ramifications of an amplified greenhouse effect, such as frequent forest fires, outbreak of pest infestations and summertime droughts, may slow plant growth.
And, if a nice green Arctic sounds like a pleasant consequence of climate change, just try to imagine what a 20 degree shift in climate would do to somewhere further south.
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March 6, 2013 1:12 pm
In the mid-1970s, the Mariner 10 spacecraft took a few passes by Mercury, snapping photos of the innermost planet. These disco-era images, says Space.com, only actually captured about half of the planet, but until recently, they were the best we’ve had.
Now, drawing on the observations of the Messenger satellite, which has been in orbit around Mercury since 2011, NASA put together the first full map of Mercury’s surface, a stunning vista of craters and smooth lava plains that looks more like the Moon than a planet. Space.com:
We can now say we have imaged every square meter of Mercury’s surface from orbit,” said Messenger principal investigator Sean Solomon of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. “Admittedly, some regions are in permanent shadow, but we’re actually peering into those shadows with our imaging systems.
In this video, which showcases NASA’s new map, the image has been color-coded to represent the different ages and chemical properties of Mercury’s surface, with younger rocks appearing brighter and than older rocks while old lava plains are tan.
The map as seen right now is more than big enough for a new desktop wallpaper, but NASA says that they will be releasing the full version of the map in the next few days. The Messenger satellite observations are so good that just one kilometer of Mercury’s surface is represented by one pixel in the full resolution image.
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March 6, 2013 11:48 am
A self-appointed German bishop from the order of Corpus Dei (spoiler alert: it’s not an official order of the Catholic church) made it through Vatican security and infiltrated a meeting of cardinals preparing for the arduous process of choosing a new pope.
Ralph Napierski, the fake bishop in question, has been on the church’s radar for some time, says Time:
“He does not work with any of our institutions in any way,” a spokesman for the Berlin Catholic diocese told the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, according to Spiegel Online. The spokesman said Napierski is “self-aggrandizing,” writes angry letters and preaches about sex.
On Napierski’s website, which feature photographs of him posing as a priest with Church officials and politicians, he claims to be adept in “revealing the ancient hidden spiritual practices.” He is a proponent of “Jesus Yoga” and claims to have invented a system that allows people to control computers with their minds.
While the higher-ups of the Catholic church are unlikely to let a little Jesus Yoga distract them from the historic process of pope-selecting, the official police force of Vatican City, the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City State, has acknowledged a need for tighter security during this week’s meetings:
Following Napierski’s attempted infiltration, the Vatican held discussions on improving their security procedures — which already include sweeping the Sistine Chapel for listening devices.
Monday’s meeting was the first in a series happening at the Vatican this week, during which the 103 cardinals present (out of 115 who are eligible to participate in the process) will mingle, discuss the future of the church and prepare themselves for the official Conclave, at which a new pope will be elected. Vatican officials have been working around the clock to get St. Peter’s Basilica and other important buildings ready for the process:
“It is unlikely we will set a date today,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica told reporters. “For one thing, the chapel is not yet ready.”
Workers have started installing floorboards to protect the chapel’s marble floors as well as the stove to burn the ballots and communicate the election results.
The last Conclave happened in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II and lasted for just over 24 hours.
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