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As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotation of Planets

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As the Worlds Turn: Visualizing the Rotations of Planets

The rotation of planets have a dramatic effect on their potential habitability.

Dr. James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency who has the creative ability to visually communicate space concepts like the speed of light and the vastness of the solar system, recently animated a video showing cross sections of different planets spinning at their own pace on one giant globe.

Cosmic Moves: The Rotation of the Planets

Each planet in the solar system moves to its own rhythm. The giant gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) spin more rapidly on their axes than the inner planets. The sun itself rotates slowly, only once a month.

PlanetRotation Periods (relative to stars)
Mercury58d 16h
Venus243d 26m
Earth23h 56m
Mars24h 36m
Jupiter9h 55m
Saturn10h 33m
Uranus17h 14m
Neptune16h

The planets all revolve around the sun in the same direction and in virtually the same plane. In addition, they all rotate in the same general direction, with the exceptions of Venus and Uranus.

In the following animation, their respective rotation speeds are compared directly:

The most visually striking result of planetary spin is on Jupiter, which has the fastest rotation in the solar system. Massive storms of frozen ammonia grains whip across the surface of the gas giant at speeds of 340 miles (550 km) per hour.

Interestingly, the patterns of each planet’s rotation can help in revealing whether they can support life or not.

Rotation and Habitability

As a fish in water is not aware it is wet, so it goes for humans and the atmosphere around us.

New research reveals that the rate at which a planet spins is an essential component for supporting life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, bit it influences atmospheric wind patterns and the formation of clouds.

The radiation the Earth receives from the Sun concentrates at the equator. The Sun heats the air in this region until it rises up through the atmosphere and moves towards the poles of the planet where it cools. This cool air falls through the atmosphere and flows back towards the equator.

This process is known as a Hadley cell, and atmospheres can have multiple cells:

Hadley Cells

A planet with a quick rotation forms Hadley cells at low latitudes into different bands that encircle the planet. Clouds become prominent at tropical regions, which reflect a proportion of the light back into space.

For a planet in a tighter orbit around its star, the radiation received from the star is much more extreme. This decreases the temperature difference between the equator and the poles, ultimately weakening Hadley cells. The result is fewer clouds in tropical regions available to protect the planet from intense heat, making the planet uninhabitable.

Slow Rotators: More Habitable

If a planet rotates slower, then the Hadley cells can expand to encircle the entire world. This is because the difference in temperature between the day and night side of the planet creates larger atmospheric circulation.

Slow rotation makes days and nights longer, such that half of the planet bathes in light from the sun for an extended period of time. Simultaneously, the night side of the planet is able to cool down.

This difference in temperature is large enough to cause the warm air from the day side to flow to the night side. This movement of air allows more clouds to form around a planet’s equator, protecting the surface from harmful space radiation, encouraging the possibility for the right conditions for life to form.

The Hunt for Habitable Planets

Measuring the rotation of planets is difficult with a telescope, so another good proxy would be to measure the level of heat emitted from a planet.

An infrared telescope can measure the heat emitted from a planet’s clouds that formed over its equator. An unusually low temperature at the hottest location on the planet could indicate that the planet is potentially a habitable slow rotator.

Of course, even if a planet’s rotation speed is just right, many other conditions come into play. The rotation of planets is just another piece in the puzzle in identifying the next Earth.

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Business

How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

Ranking the the world’s most powerful passports based on access to visa-free destinations. Where does your country fall on the list?

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How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

With COVID-19 cases falling in many parts of the world and vaccination programs ramping up at warp speed, international travel no longer seems like a distant dream.

The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has released its latest rankings and analysis.

The most recent data provides insight into what travel freedom will look like in a post-pandemic world as countries selectively begin to open their borders to international visitors.

Prominent Countries Still Holding Strong

The rankings are based on the visa-free score of a particular country. A visa-free score refers to the number of countries that a passport holder can visit without a visa, with a visa on arrival, or by obtaining an electronic travel authorization (ETA).

Without considering the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions, Japan firmly holds its position as the country with the strongest passport for the 4th year in a row.

This positioning is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)—with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations from around the world visa-free.

The last time Japan didn’t hold the number one position was back in 2017, when it shared the 5th spot with countries like the United States, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
1🇯🇵 Japan1934170
2🇸🇬 Singapore1929164
3🇩🇪 Germany1912172
3🇰🇷 South Korea19110163
4🇫🇮 Finland1901173
4🇮🇹 Italy1903171
4🇱🇺 Luxembourg1903171
4🇪🇸 Spain1904170
5🇦🇹 Austria1896168
5🇩🇰 Denmark1891173

Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a visa-free score of 192, while Germany and South Korea again share joint-3rd place, each with access to 191 destinations.

Throughout the 16-year history of the Henley Index, EU countries have maintained a dominant position in the passport strength reports. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain all hold the 4th position while Austria and Denmark round up the top 5 with a visa-free score of 189.

CountryRank (2011)Rank (2021)Difference
🇺🇸 United States57-2
🇨🇦 Canada990
🇲🇽 Mexico29236
🇬🇧 United Kingdom37-4
🇧🇷 Brazil25178

The United States and the United Kingdom jointly share the 7th position with a visa-free score of 187 destinations. Canada, Mexico and Brazil hold the 9th, 23rd and 17th positions respectively, with Brazil experiencing a significant jump of eight places over the last 10 years.

Editor’s note: Visit the Henley Passport Index site for a full list and ranking of all countries around the world.

The Countries With The Least Travel Freedom

Afghanistan continues to be the country with the least amount of travel freedom, coming in last place (110th rank) with a visa-free score of 26 destinations. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen have access to slightly more visa-free travel, but still linger at the bottom of the overall ranking.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
110🇦🇫 Afghanistan2610124
109🇮🇶 Iraq2810028
108🇸🇾 Syria299337
107🇵🇰 Pakistan329931
106🇾🇪 Yemen339139

The latest report indicates that the gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006. Japanese passport holders can access 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit only 26.

The Biggest Gainers In a Decade

Over time, small annual moves in the Henley Passport Index can make a big impact—and in the last decade, countries like China and the UAE have been the biggest movers:

China has risen by 22 places in the ranking since 2011 by going from a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 40 destinations to now 77.

The most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far, however, is the UAE. In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th with a visa-free score of 67 destinations. Today, thanks to the Emirates’ ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe, it is now ranked 15th with a remarkable visa-free score of 174 destinations.

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Maps

A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

This unique map provides an in-depth snapshot of the state of the world wide web, highlighting the most popular websites on the internet.

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A Map of the Online World in Incredible Detail

The internet is intangible, and because you can’t see it, it can be hard to comprehend its sheer vastness. As well, it’s difficult to gauge the relative size of different web properties. However, this map of the internet by Halcyon Maps offers a unique solution to these problems.

Inspired by the look and design of historical maps, this graphic provides a snapshot of the current state of the World Wide Web, as of April 2021. Let’s take a closer look!

But First, Methodology

Before diving into an analysis, it’s worth touching on the methodology behind this graphic’s design.

This map highlights thousands of the world’s most popular websites by visualizing them as “countries.” These “countries” are organized into clusters that are grouped by their content type (whether it’s a news website, search engine, e-commerce platform, etc).

Visual Capitalist on the mapEditor’s fun fact: Can you spot Visual Capitalist? We’re right in between TechCrunch and The Guardian above.

The colored borders represent a website’s logo or user interface. In terms of scale, each website’s territory size is based on its average Alexa web traffic ranking. The data is a yearly average, measured from January 2020 to January 2021.

Along the borders of the map, you can find additional information, from ranked lists of social media consumption to a mini-map of average download speeds across the globe.

According to the designer Martin Vargic, this map took about a year to complete.

Top 50 Most Popular Websites

Google and YouTube take up a lot of space, which is unsurprising—they’re the two highest-ranked websites on the list:

RankWebsiteCountry
1Google.com🇺🇲 U.S.
2Youtube.com🇺🇲 U.S.
3Tmall.com🇨🇳 China
4Baidu.com🇨🇳 China
5QQ.com🇨🇳 China
6Sohu.com🇨🇳 China
7Facebook.com🇺🇲 U.S.
8Taobao.com🇨🇳 China
9Amazon.com🇺🇲 U.S.
10360.cn🇨🇳 China
11Yahoo.com🇺🇲 U.S.
12Jd.com🇨🇳 China
13Zoom.us🇺🇲 U.S.
14Wikipedia.com🇺🇲 U.S.
15Weibo.com🇨🇳 China
16Sina.com.cn🇨🇳 China
17Live.com🇺🇲 U.S.
18Xinhuanet.com🇨🇳 China
19Microsoft.com🇺🇲 U.S.
20Reddit.com🇺🇲 U.S.
21Office.com🇺🇲 U.S.
22Netflix.com🇺🇲 U.S.
23Microsoftonline.com🇺🇲 U.S.
24Panda.tv🇨🇳 China
25Zhanqi.tv🇨🇳 China
26Instagram.com🇺🇲 U.S.
27Force.com🇺🇲 U.S.
28Google.com.hk🇭🇰 Hong Kong
29VK.com🇷🇺 Russia
30Alipay.com🇨🇳 China
31Csdn.net🇨🇳 China
32Myshopify.com🇨🇦 Canada
33Okezone.com🇮🇩 Indonesia
34Bing.com🇺🇲 U.S.
35Yahoo.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
36Naver.com🇰🇷 South Korea
37Adobe.com🇺🇲 U.S.
38Salesforce.com🇺🇲 U.S.
39Ebay.com🇺🇲 U.S.
40Twitch.tv🇺🇲 U.S.
41Bongacams.com🇳🇱 Netherlands
42Twitter.com🇺🇲 U.S.
43Apple.com🇺🇲 U.S.
44Amazon.in🇮🇳 India
45Amazon.co.jp🇯🇵 Japan
46Aliexpress.com🇨🇳 China
47Aparat.com🇮🇷 Iran
48Linkedin.com🇺🇲 U.S.
49Huanqiu.com🇨🇳 China
50YY.com🇨🇳 China

Google has held the title as the internet’s most popular website since 2010. While Google’s popularity is well understood, the company’s dominance might be even more widespread than you’d think—across all Google-owned platforms (including YouTube) the company accounts for 90% of all internet searches.

The third highest ranked website is Tmall. For those who don’t know, Tmall is a Chinese e-commerce platform, owned by Alibaba Group. It focuses on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) transactions, and has established itself as the most popular e-commerce website in China—in Q1 2021, Tmall accounted for more than 50% of China’s B2C online transactions.

A High Level Look

When it comes to the top 50 websites overall, a majority are either social networking platforms, search engines, or online marketplaces—while this may not come as a surprise, it’s still powerful to see visualized. For instance, even a huge, well-known website like the New York Times is just a tiny country on this map.

And of course, a map of the internet isn’t complete without mention of the dark web.

While it’s challenging to determine its true size, research indicates that the dark web accounts for a large portion of the internet’s true size. And apparently, it’s growing steadily, with the help of anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

For the most part, it’s believed that the dark web is used for unsavory reasons—however, it’s not all bad. Because of its anonymous nature, it can be used as a safe space for whistleblowing or activism.

Overall, this map, and the internet as a whole, has many places for us to explore. When you dive in, what “countries” catch your eye?

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