Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The world map of the future might be vertical

Chinese world map focusing on the Arctic Passage

From Big Think by Franck Jacobs

A vertical map might better represent a world dominated by China and determined by shipping routes across the iceless Arctic.
  • Europe has dominated cartography for so long that its central place on the world map seems normal.
  • However, as the economic centre of gravity shifts east and the climate warms up, tomorrow's map may be very different.
  • Focusing on both China and Arctic shipping lanes, this vertical representation could be the world map of the future.

The world, but not as we know it

Europe is tucked away in a corner, an appendage of Asia dwarfed by neighboring Africa.
North America is stood on its head, facing the rest of the world from the top of the map — cut off from South America, which cuts a solitary figure at the bottom.
Africa is justifiably huge, but equally eccentric.

The eye scouts elsewhere for a place to land: not the Indian Ocean, which dominates the middle of the map, but some terra firma.
Antarctica and Australia are too small, mere stepping stones for the land mass of Asia.
Ultimately our gaze is drawn toward China, the lynchpin of this unfamiliar world.

A Chinese ‘vertical world map,’ showing the world in a different perspective from the one we’re used to.

Managing to leave both poles intact, this “vertical” world map is about as far away as you can get from the classic Mercator projection, which slices up both, giving center stage to a puffed-up Europe.
Perhaps this new map will become more familiar soon: It may do more justice to the world of the near future, dominated by China and determined by shipping routes across the iceless Arctic.

China’s ‘ten-dash line’

While there’s no indication that this map represents the Chinese government’s “official” worldview, it is no secret that China has a thing with maps – and more specifically, the country’s representation on them.

In China, the country’s current economic success is seen as a redress of the unequal treatment meted out by western superpowers in the 19th century.
China’s world dominance is a return to a more natural state of world affairs, many feel.
Cartographic rectifications are a symbolically significant corollary of that sentiment.

Fines are regularly imposed on companies – domestic and foreign – that fail to represent China to the fullest extent of its external borders, disputed though they may be by others (e.g.
India, Taiwan and any of the countries with claims overlapping China’s in the South China Sea).
But the People’s Republic’s cartographic obsession doesn’t end at China’s territory itself.
It also includes the country’s position on the world map.

Early Japanese color copy of Ricci’s world map.
(Credit: Public Domain)

The Kingdom at the Middle of the World

China’s name for itself is Zhōngguó, which means ‘Central State’ or ‘Middle Kingdom’, reflecting its ancient self-image as the civilized center (Huá) of the world, with wild tribes (Yí) at the edge.
That view is not unique to China.
Vietnam, for example, at certain times also styled itself as the “central state” (Trung Quóc) – considering the Chinese in turn as the uncouth outsiders.

It may be surprising to recall, but Europeans themselves once considered their own continent a relative backwater, viewing Jerusalem as the true center of the world.
That changed with the Age of Discovery, which placed Europe at the center of an ever-expanding world.
Maps reflected that worldview, and largely continue to do so.
That’s why today’s standard world map still has Europe at its center – with China off toward the periphery on the map’s right-hand side.

The most notable feature of the very first major modern world map produced in China, the Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (1602), is that it places China firmly at the center of the world.
Produced for the Chinese emperor by Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, it was the first map ever to combine that perspective with modern western knowledge: it was the first Chinese map to show the Americas, for instance.

That representation may not have taken off elsewhere, but it will be instantly recognizable to Chinese students, as it’s the standard format for world maps in China’s schools today.

Upside down you turn me: North America on its head, in Chinese character.
(Credit: Prior Probability)

America on its head

For those used to “classic” Eurocentric world maps, Europe’s marginalization may come across as a bit of an upset.
America’s new position on the horizontal Chinese world map is less jarring: It merely moves from the left- to the right-hand side of the picture.
But then there’s this vertical world map, which deals a similar blow to the American land mass: divided in two and pushed to the upper and lower edges of the map.

Unfamiliar? Sure.
Shocking? Perhaps.
Wrong? Not really.
First off, no world map is totally right, since it’s mathematically impossible to transfer the surface of a three-dimensional object onto a flat surface without some distortion.
And since the world is a globe, where you center that map is a matter of purely subjective choice.

Those choices have historical reasons.
Mercator’s map was not specifically designed to put an inflated Europe at the center of the world.
That was just a side effect; its main purpose was to aid shipping: Straight lines on the map correspond to straight lines sailed on the seas.

By 2050, a completely melted Arctic could enable the Transpolar Passage, shortening trade routes between Asia and Europe and boosting business for Alaskan ports like Nome and Dutch Harbor.
(Credit: The Maritime Executive)

The vertical world map, showing the relative proximity of China (and the rest of Asia) to Europe and (even the East Coast of) North America, has a similarly maritime raison d’être, or it will have by mid-century.
Experts project that by 2050 (if not sooner), the Arctic will be sufficiently ice-free to enable the so-called Transpolar Passage, i.e. shipping straight across the North Pole.

That would shave more than three weeks off a traditional sea voyage between Europe and Asia, via the Suez Canal – and even be significantly faster than other northern alternatives like the Northwest Passage (via Canada) or the Northern Sea Route (hugging the Siberian coast).
Since ships would not need to go through locks or pass over shallow waters, it would also remove current restrictions on tonnage per ship.

The only country seriously preparing for such a future: China.
None of the other Arctic powers is giving the Transpolar route any strategic thought.
On the other hand, China’s Arctic Policy document, released in January 2018, already matter-of-factly refers to the Transpolar route as the ‘Central Passage’ – one of several ‘Polar Silk Roads’ that China seems to want to develop.
And they already have the world map to go with it.

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Monday, February 6, 2023

The ocean, a source of treatment for some of the world's worst diseases

The ocean could hold the cure to the worst threats to public health. Researchers and experts are using some of the most unknown marine bioresources to make compounds to improve our health and they're doing so without damaging the sea.

From Euronews (link)

The ocean is the cradle of all life on our planet.
Humans have known about its health benefits for centuries.
Today, scientists are going one step further with what they know about its medicinal potential, they are looking in the ocean itself for cures for some of the world's most stubborn diseases.

Part of this search begins in the Algarve, famous for its stunning coastline.
It's in this region that Portuguese biotech company, Sea4Us, is working on a non-opioid analgesic, a safe and effective remedy for chronic pain.

Why pain relief?

Pedro Lima is a neurophysiologist, marine biologist and co-founder of Sea4Us.
He tells us that the need for non-opioid analgesics is enormous, "one out of five of us has suffered from some kind of chronic pain".
His dream is to find in the sea something that can help these people.

Sea4Us was co-founded in 2013 and works on EU-supported projects, collecting and studying simple marine organisms like sponges and other invertebrates.
Scientists from Sea4Us spend their time between laboratories and the depths of the sea, making regular dives for new samples.

Why might marine invertebrates contain the molecules for pain relief?

Many marine invertebrates are stuck in the rock under the sea and they can't move.
Lima tells us that this means they've developed a venom that has "compounds that block the neuroactive signal related to pain".
This is one area of research into simple marine organisms, but they can also be used for a wide variety of purposes, not just healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

Blue biotechnology, biotechnology that uses aquatic organisms, is a fast-growing sector.
In Europe, this market is estimated to grow to around €10 billion by the end of the decade.
It's a whole world of unexplored potential, just waiting to be discovered.

Hidden in the depths

At a depth of around 20 meters, a variety of marine fauna covers the rocky cliffs.
Scientists look there for patterns that could indicate defensive venoms that sponges produce to protect themselves from their neighbours.
Lima describes the questions leading this search as "who eats what? What is avoided by whom? What's the next neighbour?".
The answers to these questions, the relationship between species, is what gives the team the clues as to what to choose.

Pedro Lima, Neurophysiologist, Marine Biologist and Co-founder of Sea4UsThe Algarve, Portugal

Inside dark underwater caves, the lack of light means that competition between fauna becomes more specific.
"Sponges don't need to compete against fast-growing species like algae.
They fight between each other and we are interested in that fight", Lima adds.

Protecting the ocean to protect ourselves

Diving at 20 metres or even to the bottom of the sea, you're not safe from plastic pollution.
Despite the fact that two areas in the Cape of Sao Vicente in the Algarve are protected, various waste can be found floating around.
On our dive there, we saw ropes that are evidence perhaps of illegal fishing.
Michał Babiarz is a R&D Scientist at Sea4Us.
He tells us that it's common to find octopus traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and metal cans in these areas.
However, he feels that "as long as we care about the ocean and try to avoid dumping plastics and other litter, we can receive something back from the ocean, from nature, to use for our health".

When scientists collect samples, they take the bare minimum to make sure they preserve populations.
Lima says "the impact is close to zero".
He tells us that the idea is "to be inspired by nature and then we can recreate it, upscale it to industrial scale, so we don't need to go back to the sea to count on the biomass.
The biomass is just inspiration".

The science behind it all

The collected samples are taken to Lisbon and studied by the Sea4Us physiology laboratory at NOVA University.
The process can take several months or even up to a few years of work.
Sponges and their symbiotic organisms produce hundreds of individual compounds.
Scientists test them for anti-pain bioactivity and gradually narrow their search.

Silvia LIno, marine biotechnologist at Sea4UsLisbon, Portugal

Silvia Lino, a marine biotechnologist at Sea4Us, describes the scientific process to us:
"It's the whole system, it has bacteria, it has a microbiome of its own.
So we just extract and test.
If it's OK, we keep on separating, and we separate as much as we can until we end up with one compound that's responsible for the activity".

So far Sea4Us say they have found two molecules that reduce pain activity in spinal ganglion neurons.
They plan to provide them to the pharmaceutical industry for the next stage: medicine development.

André Bastos, electrophysiologist and co-founder of Sea4Us, says results show that their compounds reduce the level of pain and that they mitigate the risk of developing addiction.
At Sea4Us they're optimistic that the compounds will pass clinical studies and reach the market.

Potential cures of well-known diseases

The ocean could hold cures for some of the worst threats to public health: viral outbreaks, antibiotic resistance, cancer.
Marine research and healthy oceans are some of the priorities of Horizon Europe, an EU programme that funds scientific projects in all the member states.

The CIIMAR Centre in Porto works on several of Horizon Europe's funded research projects and there they are researching a variety of marine life forms, big and small.

They collect cyanobacteria, "ancient organisms and they can grow basically everywhere", Teresa Martins a biochemist at CIIMAR tells us.
Not only can they grow anywhere, but they also contain molecules, chemicals "that might have really interesting applications in the future", she adds.

CIIMAR scientists collecting cyanobacteria on the rocksPorto, Portugal

Cyanobacteria are known for their potent toxicity, but for scientists, this can be the flip side of medicinal properties.
According to Pedro Leão, a researcher in cyanobacterial natural products at CIIMAR, "any disease could be cured as long as we find a molecule that can treat it".
That's why they look for cyanobacteria "because they produce such a wide variety of compounds that it is possible that we can find an interesting molecule to develop into a medicine".

The scientists at CIIMAR take samples from various countries, isolating and cultivating new species of cyanobacteria.
Their library of over 1000 strains is open to researchers from Europe and from around the world.
Studies show that some of the toxic compounds can precisely target cancer cells, which may pave the way for new therapies.
Experiments on fish larvae show encouraging results that could help in the fight against diabetes and obesity.

Ralph Urbatzka, a researcher in marine biotechnology at CIIMAR believes we are still "a long way from solving the problems of cancer and obesity, but we are on the first line of research to find the solution that can be developed to tackle these diseases".
The future looks promising.

Marine biotechnology could be a sea change humanity needs, but only if we find a way to use its healing potentials without damaging the ocean.
As Vítor Manuel Oliveira Vasconcelos director at CIIMAR says, "life started in the ocean and I believe that our life can be saved by the ocean as well".

Links :

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Iridium GO! exec powered by Certus 100 service

Introducing the Iridium GO! exec - a smart companion for your smart devices.
Powered by the Iridium Certus® 100 midband service, it enables Wi-Fi connectivity for select messaging, email, social media, weather, and light web browsing apps, as well as simultaneous access to two high quality voice lines for calls.
To learn more, visit: https://www.iridium.com/go-exec/
Links :

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Peter Gabriel song : Mercy street

Let's take the boat out
Wait until darkness
Let's take the boat out
Wait until darkness comes

Riding the water
Riding the waves 
On the sea

Friday, February 3, 2023

UKHO delays phase out of Admiralty paper charts till at least 2030

UKHO said in response to feedback it will delay ending production of paper charts (UKHO)

From Maritime Executive

Six months after setting a 2026 target for the complete withdrawal from production of all paper navigation charts, the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) said today that in response to user feedback, it now plans to continue to provide a paper chart service until at least 2030.
While saying that still believes the future of navigation is digital, they said consultations with users and various organizations highlighted several important transnational and regulatory factors that need further consideration.

In July 2022, UKHO announced its intention to end the production of Admiralty paper charts, long considered one of the standards of the maritime world.
Like the sextant, mariners for hundreds of years
relied on paper charts for positioning and voyage planning.
One of the standards for reliability and accuracy was and remains the UK, but the office noted that most mariners had already made the switch to digital, especially after the SOLAS mandate for the transition to ECDIS took effect.

Timetable for withdrawal of Standard Nautical Charts and Thematic Charts to be extended beyond 2026 in response to user feedback.
The plan for the phase-out of charts they noted is subject to the development of digital solutions for those remaining users of Admiralty Standard Nautical Charts (SNCs) and Thematic Charts, ensuring that they have viable, official alternatives, as well as meeting the required technical and regulatory steps.
The UKHO highlights that it made a commitment to consult closely and more widely with its UK and international stakeholders on the proposal to stop production and to listen to the feedback of the users and different organizations.
It became clear to the UKHO that more time is required to address the needs of those specific users who do not yet have viable alternatives to paper chart products.

“As we further develop digital navigation solutions, our long-term intention to withdraw from paper chart production remains unchanged and we will continue to withdraw elements of our chart portfolio over the coming period, on a case-by-case basis,” said Peter Sparkes, Chief Executive of UKHO.
“Having listened to the feedback we have received and in light of the consequential impact of the international technical and regulatory steps required to develop digital alternatives, we will be extending the overall timetable for this process.”

The UKHO is seeking to assure users that the elements of its paper chart portfolio necessary to support safe navigation will be maintained throughout the transitional period.
In addition, they said they will be working with international colleagues and partners, including through the IMO and the IHO, to move forward at an appropriate pace.

The UK efforts follow a similar plan by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which in March 2021 reported it had officially begun the effort to sunset paper charts as it transitions exclusively to electronic navigation charts.
NOAA expected to complete its phase-out by January 2025 but highlighted that users will still be able to create their paper and PDF charts from the latest NOAA ENC data.

Despite the decision to extend the timetable for withdrawal by at least four years, the UKHO reports rapidly declining demand for paper products saying the future is clearly digital.
They point to the advantages including the potential for near real-time updates with digital charts, which they said greatly improves the accuracy of navigation and ease of use.
These benefits they said will be further enhanced with the introduction of the next generation of navigation solutions.

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