The longest straight line you can walk without hitting the ocean

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If you were the next Forest Gump and wanted to walk Earth in a straight line without hitting the water, here’s your guide.

The path starts east in China and ends in Liberia.

Lace up those walking shoes, we’ve got a project for you. An intrepid cartographer has, with the help of Google Earth, tracked down the longest-possible straight land path on earth – and it starts in China.

Just start walking due west from Shitangzhen, a town south of Taizhou, in Zhejiang Province. Keep on moseying, and in about 589 miles you’ll hit Wuhan. You will then, eventually, pass just south of Xi’an and (sooner or later) hit Qinghai. Getting tired yet?

After a brisk hike (i.e. crossing the Himalayas) you’ll end up in Tajikistan. From there, it’s just a quick poke through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Egypt (right through the heart of Cairo!) Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and, finally, hit Liberia.

via Amazing Maps

The Lindy Effect

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via giphy

Similar to the Zeigarnik Effect in resuming motivation, the Lindy Effect in economics explains the likeliness of durability. Lindy’s deli/restaurant, which the effect is named after, is celebrating nearly a century of existence since its Manhattan debut in 1921.

As the author Nassim Taleb describes it:

“If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years . . . Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy.”

Writer Walter Isaacson recently alluded to the longevity of books in his chat on Leonardo Da Vinci, arguing that anything in print will always outlast a Tweet.

Hat tip to Ryan Holiday who’s new book Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts examines the reasons why some art endures while others disappear. PS. No one will be listening to Taylor Swift nor caring about the Kardashians in fifty years.  

The history behind the modern definition of ‘average’

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Everybody is unique, but on the whole, there’s still the average. Average height, average SAT score, there is even ‘average looking.’ From clothing to education to body features, there’s always been a standard.

According to 99% Invisible’s podcast ‘On Average,’ Belgian astronomer/mathematician Adolphe Quetelet discovered what we now know today as the ‘average’ when he aggregated the mean chest size of five thousand Scottish soldiers. Consequently, he took his philosophy and applied to other areas such as marriage and human lifespan, forever stamping his law of averages on the world, starting most notably with the Civil War.

The reason we have small, medium, and large clothing sizes today is that Abraham Lincoln needed a way to mass produce uniforms for the Union army. The US military would standardize both uniforms and airplanes in 1926, “the distance to the pedals and the stick, and even the shape of the flight helmets.”

However, with increased manpower required for World War II, the Air Force jettisoned the average American pilot for new planes with customizable seating, later adapted to account for female pilots such as five foot four Senior Air Force pilot Kim Campbell. She successfully flew her A10 Warthog to safety despite getting hit and losing all hydraulics during the aerial raid of Baghdad in 2003 Iraq.

So despite the continued standardization of certain clothing sizes and educational tests, today we are at least more flexible and egalitarian. You still have the option–albeit an expensive one–to order custom-made Nikes and a bespoke suit. The world is yours. Kind of.

Listen to ‘On Average’ from 99% Invisible

 

Why train travel in the US sucks

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Trains suck in the US for more reasons than one. Here’s why America will continue to lag behind Western Europe and Japan.

  • America is too vast: There aren’t enough dense cities close enough to each other than East Coast, West Coast, and SouthWest.
  • Expensive/slow: It costs $40 to travel from DC to NYC, a 3 hour and 30-minute ride. The Amtrak Acela can get there in 2 hours and 50 minutes at a cost of $120. Conversely, it costs $30 and just a little over 2 hours to go the same distance from Rennes, France to Paris.
  • Weak demand: Amtrak runs 300 train journeys per day while France’s state-owned SNCF operates 14,000 train journeys per day.
  • Little Funding: Amtrak estimates that it will cost $151 Billion to build a high-speed track like France’s in the Northeast Corridor. But the government has other budgetary priorities. So Amtrak is stuck sharing the tracks with freight trains–Union Pacific and BNSF–who own a combined 98.6% of America’s railways.

Given other methods of travel – planes, buses, and soon to come self-driving cars, not to mention Elon Musk’s ‘Hyperloop,’ train travel is not going to get any faster, cheaper, and overall more convenient. However, at least Amtrak is upgrading the next important thing: WiFi.