Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III
Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

Scientists Create Enormous 3D Map of Distant Galaxies

Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III
Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III

To us, the image above may look like a messperhaps the product of a bored person playing around in Microsoft Paint. To the trained eye, it contains multitudes: 48,741 galaxies, to be exact. And what we see here is just 3 percent of the big picture: the largest-ever map of the effects of dark energy on our universe. 

Measuring objects on Earth is typically a straightforward process. We can put something on a scale and see how much it weighs, or pull out a tape measure to determine its height, width and depth. But objects in space are a very different story. The distance between our eyes and the stars is so great that it adds another dimension: time. By accounting for this time, scientists can understand not only what’s going on in space now, but everything that has come before. 

One way to do that is to track baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO), or consistently sized variations in the density of visible normal (baryonic) matter. These variations work much like the inch lines on a ruler, allowing scientists to effectively measure distances. Comparing the distances between and distribution of galaxies over time essentially creates a time-lapse image that shows how, moment by moment, eon over eon, dark matter and energy are pushing apart our universe.

Capturing this information is a massive undertaking. Hundreds of astronomers and physicists joined forces to convert BAO data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III’s Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) program. They collected measurements on more than 1.2 million galaxies over one quarter of the sky, resulting in a 3D map depicting 650 cubic billion light years.

A 2D image of the sky (left) transformed into a 3D map including 120,000 galaxies—just 10 percent of the survey area. Image credit: Jeremy Tinker and SDSS-III

David Schlegel is an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a BOSS principal investigator. He and his colleagues are very proud of their work. “We’ve made the largest map for studying the 95 percent of the universe that is dark,” he said in a press statement. “In this map, we can see galaxies being gravitationally pulled towards other galaxies by dark matter. And on much larger scales, we see the effect of dark energy ripping the universe apart.”

A suite of papers on the map’s creation and contents has been submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

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Dan Bell
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.


All images by Dan Bell

Leon Neal, Getty Images
The Best and Worst States for Online Dating, Mapped
 Leon Neal, Getty Images
Leon Neal, Getty Images

If your online dating experience is more awkward than romantic, maybe you have geography to blame. An AT&T retailer called All Home Connections recently crunched some data on the online dating landscape, and let's just say we hope you aren’t trying to Tinder in New Mexico.

The southwestern state turns out to be one of the worst for online dating prospects, at least according to this methodology, which looked at dating opportunities, demographics, and safety. It took into account the state’s percentage of singles and gender balance, along with things like unemployment rate and median earnings, percentage of people with smartphones, data on whether or not people there say they are even interested in online dating, and the violent crime rate.

A map of the U.S. with states colored on a gradient from red to white to show online dating prospects
All Home Connections

According to this data, if you want to find love online, you should head to the Northeast: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine topped the list. That may not be surprising considering the data that went into the calculation—those states have some of the highest incomes in the U.S., and fairly high rates of educational attainment.

By contrast, the lowest states on the list, New Mexico and Arkansas, both come out looking pretty bad by those standards. So if you’re not looking for a rich spouse with a bachelor’s degree, you might not necessarily agree with some of rankings. (Although those states also have some of the highest violent crime rates, so you might want to do a little extra online sleuthing to background check your dates before you meet up there.)

Here are the 10 best states for online dating, according to the data:

1. New Hampshire
2. Massachusetts
3. Rhode Island
4. Connecticut
5. Maine
6. North Dakota
7. Washington
8. Minnesota
9. New York
10. New Jersey

And these are the 10 worst:

1. Arkansas
2. New Mexico
3. Mississippi
4. Louisiana
5. South Carolina
6. Tennessee
7. Alabama
8. Oklahoma
9. Texas
10. Nevada

For those still struggling to find a Valentine, the map might be a little comforting, in a way. If you’re not finding the love of your life on Tinder in the South, know that you might not be the only one struggling. It’s not you; it’s the state.


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