Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth's Atmosphere
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Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth’s Atmosphere

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Earth's Atmosphere

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Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth’s Atmosphere

Earth is the only known planet that sustains life. Its atmosphere provides us with oxygen, protects us from the Sun’s radiation, and creates the barometric pressure needed so water stays liquid on our planet.

But while Earth’s atmosphere stretches for about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) above the planet’s surface, only a thin layer is actually habitable.

This graphic, inspired by Andrew Winter, shows just how small Earth’s “habitable zone” is, using the state of Florida as a point of reference.

Earth’s Like an Onion: It Has Layers

Our planet’s atmosphere is made up of a unique cocktail of gases—roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with trace amounts of water, argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases.

It’s separated into five different layers:

  • Exosphere: The uppermost layer of our atmosphere that melds into outer space.
  • Thermosphere: Begins at around 80 km (50 miles) above sea level and extends to approximately 600 km (372 miles), reaching temperatures as high as 2,000°C (3,600°F).
  • Mesosphere: Around 30 km (19 miles) in range, meteors burn as they pass through this layer, creating “shooting stars.”
  • Stratosphere: Home to the ozone layer, which is responsible for absorbing a majority of the sun’s radiation.
  • Troposphere: The closest layer to ground. It stretches about 7–15 kilometers (5–10 miles) from the surface.

The troposphere makes up approximately 75-80% of the atmosphere’s mass, as it’s where most of the dust, ash, and water vapor are stored. But only a part of this layer is suitable for human life—in fact, the atmosphere’s habitable zone is so small, several mountain ranges extend beyond it.

Reaching Into Earth’s Atmosphere: Extremely High Altitudes

Elevations above 5,500 meters (18,000 ft) are considered extremely high altitude and require special equipment and/or acclimatization in order to survive. Even then, those who choose to venture to extreme heights run the risk of getting altitude sickness.

When it comes to the world’s tallest mountain ranges, the Himalayas are the highest. At their peak, Mount Everest, the Himalayas reach 8,848 m (29,000 ft) above sea level.

Mountain rangeHighest mountainHeightCountries
HimalayasMount Everest8,848 mNepal, China
KarakoramK28,611 mPakistan
Hindu KushTirich Mir7,708 mPakistan
Kongur ShanKongur Tagh7,649 mChina
Daxue MountainsMount Gongga7,556 mChina
Pamir MountainsIsmoil Somoni Peak7,495 mTajikistan
Kakshaal TooJengish Chokusu7,439 mChina, Kyrgyzstan
Nyenchen Tanglha MountainsGyala Peri7,294 mChina
AndesAconcagua6,960 mArgentina
Kunlun MountainsChakragil6,760 mChina
Cordillera de la RamadaMercedario6,720 mArgentina
Tian ShanXuelian Feng6,627 mChina
Hindu RajBuni Zom6,542 mPakistan
Cordillera OccidentalChimborazo6,263 mEcuador
Alaska RangeDenali6,191 mUSA
Saint Elias MountainsMount Logan5,959 mCanada
Eastern Rift mountainsMount Kilimanjaro5,895 mTanzania
Sierra Nevada de Santa MartaPico Cristóbal Colón5,700 mColombia
Caucasus MountainsMount Elbrus5,642 mRussia
Trans-Mexican Volcanic BeltPico de Orizaba5,636 mMexico
AlborzMount Damavand5,610 mIran
Yun RangeJade Dragon Snow Mountain5,596 mChina
Bogda ShanBogda Peak5,445 mChina
Cordillera OrientalRitacuba Blanco5,410 mColombia
Armenian HighlandsMount Ararat5,137 mTurkey
Rwenzori MountainsMount Stanley5,109 mCongo, Uganda

Despite the dangers of extreme altitude, hundreds of mountaineers attempt to climb Mount Everest each year. On Everest, the region above 8,000 m (26,000 feet) is referred to as the “death zone,” and climbers have to bring bottled oxygen on their trek in order to survive.

Life Beyond Earth

Earth is the only known planet with an atmosphere we can survive in. And even on Earth, certain areas are considered dead zones.

But there may be other life forms out in the galaxy that we haven’t discovered. Recent research in The Astrophysical Journal predicts there are at least 36 intelligent civilizations throughout the galaxy today.

So life may very well exist beyond Earth. It just might look a bit different than we’re used to.

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Misc

Visualized: The Most Googled Countries

This series of visualizations uses Google trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022.

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Visualized: The Most Googled Countries, Worldwide

View a higher resolution version of this network diagram.

Analyzing societal trends can teach us a lot about a population’s cultural fabric.

And since Google makes up more than 90% of internet searches outside of the Great Firewall, studying its usage is one of the best resources for modern social research.

This series of visualizations by Anders Sundell uses Google Trends search data to show the most googled countries around the world, from 2004 to 2022. These graphics provide thought-provoking insight into different cultural similarities and geopolitical dynamics.

A Quick Note on Methodology

The visualization above shows the most googled country in each nation around the world over the last couple of decades.

For example, the arrow pointing from Canada to the United States means that, between 2004 and 2022, people in Canada had more searches about the U.S. than any other country globally.

And since this study only looked at interest in other countries, queries of countries searching for themselves were not included in the data.

Finally, each country’s circle is scaled relative to its search interest, meaning the bigger the circle, the more countries pointing to it (and searching for it).

The Top Googled Countries Overall

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. is the most googled country on the list, ranking first place in 45 of the 190 countries included in the dataset.

CountryTop Googled Country
🇦🇩​ Andorra🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇪​ The United Arab Emirates 🇮🇳 India
🇦🇫​ Afghanistan🇮🇷 Iran
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇱 Albania🇮🇹 Italy
🇦🇲 Armenia🇷🇺 Russia
🇦🇴 Angola🇧🇷 Brazil
🇦🇷 Argentina🇪🇸​ Spain
🇦🇹 Austria🇩🇪 Germany
🇦🇺 Australia🇺🇸 The United States
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan🇹🇷 Turkey
🏴󠁢󠁡󠁢󠁩󠁨󠁿 Bosnia and Herzegovina🇷🇴 Romania
🇧🇧 Barbados🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇧🇩 Bangladesh🇮🇳 India
🇧🇪 Belgium🇫🇷 France
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso🇫🇷 France
🇧🇬 Bulgaria🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇭 Bahrain🇮🇳 India
🇧🇮 Burundi🇫🇷 France
🇧🇯 Benin🇫🇷 France
🇧🇳 Brunei🇲🇾 Malaysia
🇧🇴 Bolivia🇦🇷 Argentina
🇧🇷 Brazil🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇸 The Bahamas 🇺🇸 The United States
🇧🇹 Bhutan🇮🇳 India
🇧🇼 Botswana🇿🇦 South Africa
🇧🇾 Belarus🇷🇺 Russia
🇧🇿 Belize🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇦 Canada🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo🇫🇷 France
🇨🇫 The Central African Republic🇫🇷 France
🇨🇬 The Congo🇨🇩 The Democratic Republic of Congo
🇨🇭 Switzerland🇩🇪 Germany
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire🇫🇷 France
🇨🇱 Chile🇦🇷 Argentina
🇨🇲 Cameroon🇫🇷 France
🇨🇳 China🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇴 Colombia🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇷 Costa Rica 🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇺 Cuba🇪🇸​ Spain
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde🇺🇸 The United States
🇨🇾 Cyprus🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇨🇿 Czechia🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇪 Germany🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇯 Djibouti🇫🇷 France
🇩🇰 Denmark🇩🇪 Germany
🇩🇲 Dominica🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇴 The Dominican Republic🇺🇸 The United States
🇩🇿 Algeria🇫🇷 France
🇪🇨 Ecuador🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇪 Estonia🇷🇺 Russia
🇪🇬 Egypt🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇪🇷 Eritrea🇪🇹 Ethiopia
🇪🇸 Spain🇺🇸 The United States
🇪🇹 Ethiopia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇮 Finland🇸🇪 Sweden
🇫🇯 Fiji🇦🇺 Australia
🇫🇲 Micronesia🇺🇸 The United States
🇫🇷 France🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇦 Gabon🇫🇷 France
🇬🇧 United Kingdom🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇩 Grenada🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇪 Georgia🇷🇺 Russia
🇬🇭 Ghana🇺🇸 The United States
🇬🇲 Gambia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇳 Guinea🇫🇷 France
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea🇪🇸​ Spain
🇬🇷 Greece🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇬🇹 Guatemala🇸🇻 El Salvador
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau🇵🇹 Portugal
🇬🇾 Guyana🇮🇳 India
🇭🇳 Honduras🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇷 Croatia🇩🇪 Germany
🇭🇹 Haiti 🇺🇸 The United States
🇭🇺 Hungary🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇩 Indonesia🇯🇵 Japan
🇮🇪 Ireland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇱 Israel🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇳 India🇺🇸 The United States
🇮🇶 Iraq🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇷 Iran 🇹🇷 Turkey
🇮🇸 Iceland🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇮🇹 Italy🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇲 Jamaica🇺🇸 The United States
🇯🇴 Jordan🇪🇬 Egypt
🇯🇵 Japan🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇪 Kenya🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇰🇭 Cambodia🇹🇭 Thailand
🇰🇮 Kiribati🇫🇯 Fiji
🇰🇲 Comoros🇫🇷 France
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇵 North Korea🇺🇸 The United States
🇰🇷 South Korea🇯🇵 Japan
🇰🇼 Kuwait🇮🇳 India
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇦 Laos🇹🇭 Thailand
🇱🇧 Lebanon🇸🇾 Syria
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein🇨🇭 Switzerland
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka🇮🇳 India
🇱🇷 Liberia🇺🇸 The United States
🇱🇸 Lesotho🇿🇦 South Africa
🇱🇹 Lithuania🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇺 Luxembourg🇫🇷 France
🇱🇻 Latvia🇷🇺 Russia
🇱🇾 Libya🇪🇬 Egypt
🇲🇦 Morocco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇨 Monaco🇫🇷 France
🇲🇩 Moldova 🇷🇺 Russia
🇲🇪 Montenegro🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇬​ Madagascar🇫🇷 France
🇲🇰 Republic of North Macedonia🇷🇸 Serbia
🇲🇱 Mali🇫🇷 France
🇲🇲 Myanmar🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇳 Mongolia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇷 Mauritania🇫🇷 France
🇲🇹 Malta🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇲🇺 Mauritius🇮🇳 India
🇲🇻 Maldives🇮🇳 India
🇲🇼 Malawi🇿🇦 South Africa
🇲🇽 Mexico🇺🇸 The United States
🇲🇾 Malaysia🇯🇵 Japan
🇲🇿 Mozambique🇧🇷 Brazil
🇳🇪 The Niger🇫🇷 France
🇳🇬 Nigeria🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇮 Nicaragua🇺🇸 The United States
🇳🇱 The Netherlands🇩🇪 Germany
🇳🇴 Norway🇸🇪 Sweden
🇳🇵 Nepal🇮🇳 India
🇳🇿 New Zealand🇦🇺 Australia
🇴🇲 Oman🇮🇳 India
🇵🇦 Panama🇺🇸 The United States
🇵🇪 Peru🇪🇸​ Spain
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea🇦🇺 Australia
🇵🇭 The Philippines🇯🇵 Japan
🇵🇰 Pakistan🇮🇳 India
🇵🇱 Poland🇩🇪 Germany
🇵🇸 Palestine🇮🇱 Israel
🇵🇹 Portugal🇧🇷 Brazil
🇵🇾 Paraguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇶🇦 Qatar🇮🇳 India
🇷🇴 Romania🇮🇹 Italy
🇷🇸 Serbia🇽🇰 Kosovo
🇷🇺 Russia🇺🇸 The United States
🇷🇼 Rwanda🇺🇬 Uganda
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands🇦🇺 Australia
🇸🇨 Seychelles🇮🇳 India
🇸🇩 Sudan 🇪🇬 Egypt
🇸🇪 Sweden🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇬 Singapore🇯🇵 Japan
🇸🇮 Slovenia🇭🇷 Croatia
🇸🇰 Slovakia🇨🇿 Czechia
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone🇬🇳 Guinea
🇸🇲 San Marino 🇮🇹 Italy
🇸🇳 Senegal🇫🇷 France
🇸🇴 Somalia🇮🇳 India
🇸🇷 Suriname🇳🇱 The Netherlands
🇸🇸 South Sudan🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe🇵🇹 Portugal
🇸🇻 El Salvador🇺🇸 The United States
🇸🇾 Syria🇱🇧 Lebanon
🇸🇿 Eswatini🇿🇦 South Africa
🇹🇩 Chad🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇬 Togo🇫🇷 France
🇹🇭 Thailand🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇯 Tajikistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste🇸🇬 Singapore
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇹🇳 Tunisia🇫🇷 France
🇹🇴 Tonga🇳🇿 New Zealand
🇹🇷 Turkey🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago🇺🇸 The United States
🇹🇼 Taiwan🇯🇵 Japan
🇹🇿 Tanzania🇰🇪 Kenya
🇺🇦 Ukraine🇷🇺 Russia
🇺🇬 Uganda🇺🇸 The United States
🇺🇸 The United States🇲🇽 Mexico
🇺🇾 Uruguay🇦🇷 Argentina
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan🇷🇺 Russia
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines🇧🇧 Barbados
🇻🇪 Venezuela 🇨🇴 Colombia
🇻🇳 Vietnam🇯🇵 Japan
🇻🇺 Vanuatu🇦🇺 Australia
🇽🇰 Kosovo🇦🇱 Albania
🇾🇪 Yemen🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇿🇦 South Africa🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇿🇲 Zambia🇿🇦 South Africa
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe🇿🇦 South Africa

While it’s the top googled country in neighboring places like Canada and Mexico, it’s also number one in countries much farther away like Nigeria, Sweden, and Australia.

The U.S. is currently the world’s largest economy by nominal GDP, and one of the biggest cultural influences globally. However, it’s worth noting that China, the world’s second-largest economy and the most populated, had very little search interest in comparison, at least based on Google Trends data.

Zooming into Specific Regions

In addition to the network map highlighting the overall top googled countries, Sundell created a series of videos breaking down the data monthly, by regions. Here are the videos for the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The United States

Since 2004, there have been a high number of searches for Canada, Mexico and India in America.

The searches for Mexico seem to be concentrated in the Western U.S., which is also where a large portion of the country’s Hispanic population lives. In contrast, searches for India seem to come mostly from the eastern side of the country.

Europe

The U.S. is by the far the most commonly googled country across Europe, ranking number one consistently over the last two decades.

However, Russia stole the limelight in 2014, the year that they invaded and ultimately annexed Crimea.

Asia

In the early 2000s, the U.S. held the top googled spot in Asia, but over time, relative searches for the U.S. go down. India stole the top spot to become the most googled country in Asia for a majority of the 2010s.

One anomaly occurred when Japan briefly took the top spot in March 2011, which is when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the northern coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami.

What will future search results reveal about the global landscape? Were any of the results surprising?

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Politics

Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

There is a clear correlation between trust in government and trust in public institutions, but a few countries buck the trend.

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Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?

In many countries around the world, vast portions of the population do not trust their own government.

Lack of faith in government and politics is nothing new, but in times of uncertainty, that lack of trust can coalesce into movements that challenge the authority of ruling parties and even threaten the stability of nations.

This visualization uses data from the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor to look at how much various populations trust their government and public institutions.

Tracking Trust in Government

Since the beginning of the pandemic, global trust in government has improved by eight percentage points, but that is only a small improvement on an otherwise low score.

At the country level, feelings towards government can vary widely. India, Germany, Netherlands, and Malaysia had the highest government trust levels.

Many of the countries with the lowest levels of trust were located in Latin America. This makes sense, as trust in politicians in this region is almost non-existent. For example, in Colombia, only 4% of the population consider politicians trustworthy. In Argentina, that figure falls to just 3%.

Trust in Public Institutions

Broadly speaking, people trust their public services more than the governments in charge of managing and funding them. This makes sense as civil servants fare much better than politicians and government ministers in trustworthiness.

chart showing global trust in professions. Politicians and government ministers rank the lowest.

As our main chart demonstrates, there is a correlation between faith in government and trust in public institutions. There are clear “high trust” and “low trust” groupings in the countries included in the polling, but there is also a third group that stands out—the countries that have high trust in public institutions, but not in their government. Leading this group is Japan, which has a stark difference in trust between public services and politicians. There are many factors that explain this difference, such as values, corruption levels, and the reliability of public services in various countries.

While trust scores for government improved slightly during the pandemic, trust in public institutions stayed nearly the same.

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