Minor, perspective changing facts

It is almost as big as the whole continent of Europe

Huh. I thought Canada would be a lot bigger than Europe, probably because I know that Western Europe is not that big and tend to forget how big Eastern Europe, especially the European parts of the former USSR, is.

Speaking of European countries and size/distance, according to google maps it takes almost an hour less time to drive between London and Paris as it does to drive between San Francisco and LA.

4NancyLebovitz7yAnother possible factor is that Mercator maps increase the size of areas that are farther from the equator.

Minor, perspective changing facts

by Stuart_Armstrong 1 min read22nd Apr 2013158 comments


There's a lot of background mess in our mental pictures of the world. We try and be accurate on important issues, but a whole lot of the less important stuff we pick up from the media, the movies, and random impressions. And once these impressions are in our mental pictures, they just don't go away - until we find a fact that causes us to say "huh", and reassess.

Here are three facts that have caused that "huh" in me, recently, and completely rearranged minor parts of my mental map. I'm sharing them here, because that experience is a valuable one.

  1. Think terrorist attack on Israel - did the phrase "suicide bombing" spring to mind? If so, you're so out of fashion: the last suicide bombing in Israel was in 2008 - a year where dedicated suicide bombers managed the feat of killing a grand total of 1 victim. Suicide bombings haven't happened in Israel for over half a decade.
  2. Large scale plane crashes seem to happen all the time, all over the world. They must happen at least a few times a year, in every major country, right? Well, if I'm reading this page right, the last time there was an airline crash in the USA that killed more that 50 people was... in 2001 (2 months after 9/11). Nothing on that scale since then. And though there has been crashes on route to/from Spain and France since then, it seems that major air crashes in western countries is something that essentially never happens.
  3. The major cost of a rocket isn't the fuel, as I'd always thought. It seems that the Falcon 9 rocket costs $54 million per launch, of which fuel is only $0.2 million (or, as I prefer to think of it - I could sell my house to get enough fuel to fly to space). In the difference between those two prices, lies the potential for private spaceflight to low-Earth orbit.