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The Quick 10: 10 Extreme Points in the United States

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We're working on planning our annual Halloween trip to Disney, but we're thinking about veering a little bit off of our usual trip this year to spend a couple of days in Key West. I was researching the city when I discovered that it's the southernmost point in the United States ... or is it?! See #7 for that little debate. Anyway, it made me wonder what other far-flung spots lie in the U.S., and here is the answer:

1. Point Barrow, Alaska - Northernmost Point in the U.S. Named for geographer Sir John Barrow, Point Barrow is often the starting point for Arctic expeditions. Sadly, it was also the ending point for entertainer Will Rogers and his pilot in 1935. Their airplane crashed near there on their way from Fairbanks. Point Barrow was also the test point for sounding rockets between 1965 and 1972.

2. Ka Lae, Hawaii - Southernmost Point in the 50 states. It's also known, fittingly, as South Point. But it might as well be known as Hawaii's Windy City, because this place is blustery. Some of the trees have been blown sideways for so long that they just grow that way now.

3. Peacock Point, Wake Island - First sunrise in all U.S. territories. It's actually an entire day ahead of the 50 states, so of course it has the first sunrise.

4. Cape Wrangell, Attu Island, Alaska - Last sunset in all U.S. territories. Attu Island is special for a few reasons. There's the last sunset thing, obviously, but it's also the westernmost point on all land on earth according to the path of the International Date Line. Finally, it was the site of the only battle during WWII to take place on American soil - that's the peace memorial there in the picture.

5. Mount Whitney, California - Highest elevation in the 48 contiguous states. You might think the highest elevation would be somewhere in Colorado, but you'd be wrong. In fact, the highest elevation is just 76 miles from the lowest elevation ...

6. Badwater Basin, Death Valley, California - Lowest elevation in all U.S. territories. Yep, California has it all. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is actually the lowest point in all of North America, not just the U.S. You can't actually get to the lowest point because it's so hazardous to get there, so the sign commemorating the spot is located at a spring-fed pool next to the road.

7. Western Dry Rocks, Florida - Southernmost point in the 48 contiguous states. It's still a part of Key West, I believe, but the southernmost point in the states isn't that big buoy-looking thing tourists like to get their pictures by in the town that Hemingway used to haunt. It's really the Western Dry Rocks, but maybe it doesn't really count since it's not always above land (it depends on the tide). Even if we don't count it, that buoy still isn't the southernmost point - that title belongs to a bit of land on the Truman Annex of Key West, but because that land belongs to the Navy and isn't accessible to the public, the photo op was created at the next-most southern point. I guess it wouldn't be quite as impressive if the buoy read, "The Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. that's always above land and is accessible to the public."

8. Ipnavik River, Alaska - Most remote point in all U.S. territory. It's more than 120 miles away from the nearest sign of civilization and has been called "the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States." And I thought my in-laws were remote when they lived an hour from the nearest Wal-Mart!

9. Smith County, Kansas - the center of the 48 contiguous states. It's near the city of Lebanon and is almost in Nebraska. And hey, if you're doing a road trip of extreme points, take a quick jaunt over to Osborne County, which is right next door: it's home to the geodetic center. I had to look that one up too: it's the reference point for all land survey measurements. Read more about it here.

10. Belle Fourche, South Dakota - the center of all 50 states. OK, it's actually about 20 miles north of Belle Fourche, but it's close enough that the town claims it.

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Most People Consistently Visit 25 Different Places in Their Daily Lives
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We move around a lot less during our daily lives than you might expect. Based on data from 40,000 people, a new study on human mobility finds that we tend to frequent only 25 places at any given time in our lives.

In the study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers from City, University of London, the Technical University of Denmark, and Sony Mobile Communications found that people tend to have a maximum number of 25 places that they visit regularly, and if they begin frequenting a new place, they probably stop going to another, keeping their total number of haunts constant.

The researchers used several different datasets to understand how people move through their lives, including studies with college students and university employees, data from a smartphone activity tracker called Lifelog, and a Nokia research project that tracked the behavior of a group of cell phone users living near Lake Geneva in Switzerland between 2009 and 2011.

They found that people constantly face trade-offs between the curiosity that drives us to check out new places and the laziness and comfort that keeps us going back to our regular haunts. As a result, the number of locations we tend to visit stays relatively steady. People “continually explore new places yet they are loyal to a limited number of familiar ones,” the authors write.

Though that number may sound a little low to anyone with wanderlust, it makes sense. People don’t have infinite time or resources. Even the number of friends we’re capable of keeping up with is rather limited—anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously hypothesizes that humans can only sustain around 150 friendships at a time, and only five of those friends will be truly close ones. And if that’s our upper limit for connections we can technically maintain without ever leaving our computers, it makes sense that we would be able to sustain even fewer connections to places, which by nature require some amount of travel. If you find a new restaurant and become a regular, it’s probably at the expense of another restaurant you used to visit all the time.

However, the study found that the number of places you frequent can’t necessarily be explained only by the amount of free time you have. The researchers argue that “the fixed capacity is an inherent property of human behavior.” The 25-place rule held even if they adjusted for the time people spent at each location. They also found that the more social a person was, the more places they visited.

The researchers hope to continue their work by looking at connections between mobility and Dunbar’s work on social ties, figuring out how exactly your social life plays into how you move around the world.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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