The two Macedonias

Here’s a geolinguistic dispute I didn’t know existed:

Matthew Nimetz wants to make something clear – he has not spent every waking moment of the past 23 years thinking about one word: “Macedonia”.

“I have probably thought about it more than anyone else – including in the country,” says the 78-year-old US diplomat. “But I have to disappoint anyone that thinks it’s my full-time job.”

Since 1994, Nimetz has been trying to negotiate an end to arguably the world’s strangest international dispute, in which Greece is objecting to Macedonia’s name and refusing to let it join either Nato or the EU until it’s changed.

Greece says the name “Macedonia” suggests that the country has territorial ambitions over Greece’s own Macedonia – a province in the north of the country – and is a blatant attempt to lay claim to Greece’s national heritage.

When you look at it on a map, you can appreciate the potential confusion:

Even when a nation has a fixed, agreed name, people call it different things. See this Quora answer to the question “Why is the word Germany different in different languages?”:

Basically, because there were Germans before there was a Germany. Each of the Germans’ neighbors came up with their own name for them, long before there was a German state that people might want to refer to uniformly.

And spare a thought for Guinea. Which one though?

Guinea. Equatorial Guinea. Guinea-Bissau. Papua New Guinea. The Gulf of Guinea. Guinea, Virginia. Guinea, Nova Scotia. The world has more Guineas than a pirate’s treasure chest. What explains the prevalence of the name?

The effect of wolves in Yellowstone

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after a 70-year absence. The changes were more far-reaching than anyone expected.

It started with them thinning the deer population, and the resulting chain reaction saw a huge increase in biodiversity and even unexpected changes in physical geography. The wolves changed the rivers!

Every river that feeds the Mississippi 

Betsy Mason, for National Geographic:

The Mississippi River is impressive on its own, but when you consider all the other rivers that feed it on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, it seems all the mightier. The Mississippi’s massive watershed stretches from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Appalachian Mountains in the east. It covers all or part of 31 states and reaches into two Canadian provinces. It drains nearly 40 percent of the contiguous United States—1.2 million square miles in total.

The article contains an excellent animation showing how the rivers feed into the Mississippi, and examples of these 19th century comparative charts:

An 1829 comparative chart of the principal rivers and mountains of the world, published in a French atlas. The Mississippi River is second from the left.

Twitter map bots

@unchartedatlas is a Twitter bot that programatically generates maps of fictional lands:

Here’s a bit of background on how the bot does its thing.

See also @emojiatlas: