Some 300 people died off the island of Lampedusa in a shipwreck southern Italy in 2013. Here, their coffins fill a large room as they wait to be moved.
Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images
Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images
In July 2003, Elmas Ozmico died of blood poisoning in the U.K., where she had been seeking asylum with after fleeing Turkey in the back of a semi-trailer truck. Fatim Jawara, a 19-year-old who played on the Gambian national soccer team and dreamed of playing in Europe, drowned off the coast of Libya before she could make it to Italy. Mamadou Konate, 33, did manage to make it to Italy — but the Malian migrant died earlier this year in a blaze that consumed a ramshackle camp in San Severo.
Their stories are tragic, but they’re not uncommon. They comprise just a tiny fraction of the vast number of migrants and refugees who have died in the quest to reach safety in Europe, as Der Tagesspiegel made plain earlier this week.
The German newspaper published a list of people who it says died while trying to immigrate to the continent between 1993 and May of this year, a list that contains exactly 33,293 entries. These entries offer the circumstances of each migrant’s death, as well as name, age, and country of origin, where available.
The paper published the list to mark a date shared by two very different events in German history: Nov. 9 — when the Berlin Wall fall in 1989, but also when Nazis arrested thousands of Jews and burned Jewish establishments in 1938, a night that’s come to be known as Kristallnacht. The paper wanted to take this date, often a moment for reflection, to recognize the people it sees as victims of today’s “restrictive policies of Europe on the continent’s outer borders or inside Europe.”
“Many victims are recorded as having drowned in the Mediterranean or having frozen to death on Europe’s mainland,” Esme Nicholson reports for NPR’s Newcast unit. “Others are listed as having died in violent attacks in Europe or after taking their own lives in detention centers.”
And though the list may end in May of this year, the staggering human toll continues to rise. The International Organization for Migration notes that at least 2,961 people have died on the journey into Europe this year, as of Nov. 10.
“We want to honor them,” Der Tagesspiegel‘s Stephan-Andreas Casdorff and Lorenz Maroldt wrote in the introduction to the list, according to an Associated Press translation. “And at the same time we want to show that every line tells a story…and that the list keeps getting longer, day by day.”
In his first live interview since suddenly resigning, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri denied rumors that Saudi Arabia was holding him against his will. He said he planned to return to his country within days.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister gave his first television interview since suddenly resigning last weekend, a move that set off rumors that Saudi Arabia had orchestrated his departure from government.
During a live interview, Saad Hariri said he would return to Lebanon within days to formally submit his resignation, if not rescind it.
As NPR’s Ruth Sherlock has reported, Hariri’s sudden resignation last Saturday started rumors that Saudi Arabia was somehow involved in his resignation. There was even speculation that Hariri’s plane had been ambushed after landing in Riyadh and he was being held against his will.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Sunday that he believed Hariri was being held against his will with his movements restricted within the Saudi Capital.
Ruth tells our Newscast unit, Hariri denied those claims and attempted to clarify the reason for his departure:
“He originally said [he] was quitting in protest of the dominance of Hezbollah, an Iranian backed militia in Lebanese politics. But in this interview with Future TV, he suggested he may remain prime minister if Hezbollah, who has been fighting in neighboring Syria, respected Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts.”
A week after a gunmen killed more than two dozen at the First Baptist Church there, hundreds gathered in Sutherland Springs, Texas. for the congregation’s first Sunday service since the attack.
Members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas held their first Sunday service following last Sunday’s mass shooting there.
In an emotional sermon, Pastor Frank Pomeroy spoke of the 26 killed on Nov. 5., including his 14-year-old daughter, invoking a sense of both personal and communal loss.
“I know everyone who gave their life that day. Some of whom where my best friends and my daughter. I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today,” said Pomeroy, according to the Associated Press.
Pomeroy also reflected on the gunman, Devin Patrick Kelly, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
“Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” Pomeroy said.
The service was attended by hundreds, both the Associated Press and San Antonio Express-News report. Accommodations had been made for some 500 attendees, but the AP adds, dozens more seats had to be added and the flaps of a tent were opened to allow even more people to view the service.
The San Antonio Express-News paints the following scene:
“Prior to the service, people from other churches stopped to drop off prayer cloths and tiny wooden crosses and mental health organizations brought therapy dogs to the service.
“The prayer sealed in plastic bag went straight to the heart of this day’s service, which comes a week after the shooting left 26 worshippers dead and another 20 wounded.
” ‘Father God, we pray for the families that are grieving the loss of someone they love,’ it begins. ‘Lord, heal the hurting. Be with those that are alone after losing their loved ones. Give them the strength to go on. Be with the children that lost a parent, heal their broken lives and hearts. Provide love and nurture through others. Be with the parent that has lost a child. Heal the broken, heal the hurting. Touch them with your healing hand today. May the Holy Spirit speak peace to their hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray amen.’
“Pastor Frank Pomeroy slowly worked his way toward the stage, tears streaming from one eye as friends and members of his church greeted him.”
The AP notes the service was moved to a ballpark after initially being planned for a community center. A day before the service, First Baptist Church announced it would open the church itself as a memorial to the victims of the attack.
A day after meeting with the Russian president during an economic summit in Vietnam, President Trump told reporters he sided with U.S. intelligence agencies but believed that Putin “feels” his country “did not meddle in the election.”
Mixed statements from President Trump during his Asia trip drew criticisms at home Sunday, particularly over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that his country didn’t meddle in the 2016 U.S. Elections.
On CNN’s State of the Union, former CIA director John Brennan criticized comments Trump made after meeting Putin during the Asia Pacific economic summit in Vietnam in which the president said he believed Putin was “sincere” in his belief that Russia did not interfere in last year’s elections.
“It demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very worrisome from a national security standpoint,” Brennan told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Appearing alongside Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Russia “posed” a threat that is “manifest and obvious,” and echoed concerns about the president’s reputation among foreign leaders.
“I do think both the Chinese and the Russians think they can play him,” Clapper said.
Earlier that day, Trump had told reporters that both Clapper and Brennan, along with fired FBI director James Comey, were “political hacks.” Trump has continually insisted the investigation into Russia meddling is politically motivated, often calling it a witch hunt.
But even as his criticized the former intelligence heads, he said he sided with the agencies all three officials had once lead, as NPR’s Scott Horsely reports, over Putin:
” ‘He said he didn’t meddle,’ Trump said aboard Air Force One when asked whether he had discussed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election with Putin. ‘He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.’
” ‘He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did,’ Trump added.
“Later on Sunday in Hanoi, and after receiving criticism for his remarks, Trump was asked for clarification on the topic. Trump responded that he agrees with U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in last year’s election.
” ‘I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,’ he told reporters. “As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership.’ “
Scott goes on to report that a statement from the U.S. State Department says conversations between the two leaders were focused on Syria and defeating ISIS there.
The unmanned Antares rocket launched from Wallops Island, Va. Sunday, carrying with it a Cygnus capsule containing some 7,400 pounds of supplies for astronauts at the International Space Station.
Bill Ingalls/NASA/NASA via Getty Images
Bill Ingalls/NASA/NASA via Getty Images
An unmanned Antares rocket successfully lifted off from Wallop Islands, Va. Sunday, taking with it 7,400 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.
The launch took place just around 7:19 a.m. ET.
Here’s a video:
— NASA (@NASA) November 12, 2017
According to Orbital ATK, a private firm that delivers supplies for NASA, the Cygnus capsule entered orbit shortly after launch, and will remain in orbit for several days before rendezvousing with the International Space Station, delivering its payload including supplies and scientific equipment.
NASA expects that to happen on Tuesday.
The Associated Press reports that this is the first time in a year that the firm has launched a supply mission from its home state.
Citing Nasa, the news service also notes the provisions now circling the planet include: “sweet treats for the six station astronauts. There are frozen fruit bars, ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches and cups of chocolate and vanilla ice cream – about 80 in all.”
(Likely closer to the genuine article than museum gift shops would have you believe, says Phil Edwards over at Vox.)
A planned Saturday launch of the Gene Cernan capsule, named for the last man to walk on the moon, had been scrubbed after an aircraft was detected in the launch pad’s vicinity.
A long way off from her once-signature curls and guitar, Taylor Swift showed both her still-in-progress, grown-and-sexy and her acoustic confessional sides in two Saturday Night Live performances last night (Nov. 11).
Red lasers, smoke and choreographed hip gyrations accompanied Tay’s performance of ” …Ready For It?,” the second single from her latest album Reputation. Like the song’s music video, Taylor donned an all-black athleisure ‘fit, thick black eyeliner, singing into a bedazzled snake microphone. As Ann Powers wrote of Swift and her Reputation-era persona, “the direct invocations of black pop on Reputation are many and obvious.”
For her second song, Taylor got back to her roots by singing “Call It What You Want,” seated with an acoustic guitar. (She still gave a nod to the snakes though, wearing a Gucci sweater emblazoned with a red and white snake logo and smirking at her own lyrics.)
It was Swift’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live since 2009 and the singer’s first public performance of any song off the new album.
Swift’s sixth studio album, which dropped Friday, Nov. 10, is already setting records. Nielsen Music reports that Reputation sold around 700,000 copies in the U.S. its day of release, with first-week sales predicted to surpass one million units. That would propel Taylor to the top of the charts once again and make it the best-selling album of 2017 — besting bestie Ed Sheeran.
This view of a stellar nursery taken by the Very Large Telescope on May 23, 2013, also shows a group of thick clouds of dust known as the Thackeray globules silhouetted against the pale pink glowing gas of the nebula.
Often, as we go through the world, the key is to ask the right question.
When it comes to figuring out the nature of physical reality, part of that process starts at the absolute edge of the observable universe — the cosmic horizon, a distant layer from which light has only just, in this very instant, managed to reach us after more than 13 billion years of racing through space.
This intangible boundary between the knowable and the unknowable is, at present, roughly a thousand, trillion, trillion meters across — should you possess the means to measure it.
At the other end, in the deepest innards of every single speck of cosmos, is a scale of a hundred billion, trillion, trillionths of a meter. It represents the last meaningful physical scale within our present understanding of physics, a place where space-time itself gets choppy, uncertain, and decidedly problematic.
These two extremes span a jaw-dropping 63 orders of magnitude. To be fair, though, this isn’t an immutable constant of nature. Turn the clock back more than 13 billion years and you’d be able to find a moment when this number was merely 1. Over time, the expansion of the cosmos and the passage of light has unlocked all of those other scales, each one a new opportunity for novelty and complexity.
It wasn’t until the cosmic horizon spanned a colossal 10-15 meters that the possibility of a coherent, causally connected atomic nucleus even existed, had the universe been cool enough. It was another nail-biting wait before the observable universe covered 10-10 meters so that a whole atom could, in principle, exist as we know it.
A self-respecting universe couldn’t have a hope of ever producing a bacterium if it hadn’t opened up to a scale of at least half a micrometer. And, in truth, for anything like a microorganism to exist, the casually connected universe had to become much, much larger. Sizeable enough for its innards to begin to feel their mutual gravitational attractions across a mammoth range of distances, from 109 meters to at least 1021 meters. Enough for it to have a chance of brewing the stars and elements — ingredients that would, in turn, feed their novelty back to a microscopic scale, unleashing a blizzard of chemistry and complexification that would eventually build something akin to a single-celled living thing.
In other words, the real question is: How big a universe is needed to allow you to be sitting here reading these words?
Actually, 63 orders of magnitude might be a little more than is absolutely necessary. After all, the cosmos has been churning out stars and planets since well before our solar system came along, back to a time when we might drop a couple powers of ten in the scale of the cosmic horizon. But we don’t yet know whether anything quite like us has happened before, so the only thing we can say with certainty is that — in our very specific case — 63 is, and will always be, the magic number.
Our own horizon of ignorance has crept gradually outwards and inwards from a place surprisingly close to the logarithmic midway point of this cosmic range. That touchstone sits at about a tenth of a millimeter, like the very tip of your sharpened pencil, or the thickness of an eyelash. Barely a century ago, we hadn’t appreciated the real size of the universe that surrounds our sun and our galaxy. And while the nature of the tiny atomic and subatomic realm was rapidly becoming apparent, that inner gulf hadn’t revealed its true depths. It’s unarguable that, since then, we have made pretty spectacular progress.
But we don’t step back very often to take a look at the whole thing, our map of existence as it stands today, from end-to-end. I got to do this recently while writing, and wrestling with, a book — The Zoomable Universe. This project started out with a modest idea: revisiting the themes of several illustrated classics, from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia to Charles and Ray Eames’s famous Powers of Ten. It quickly evolved into a genre-bending, mind-twisting exploration of all we know and, more critically, an exposé of all that we don’t know.
Some of the most obvious gaps in our knowledge of the physical universe occur in what also appear to be the most boring pieces of existence: the spaces between luminous matter on a cosmic scale, and the more-than-million-trillion-fold span between the size of a proton and the Planck scale.
On the large scales, it’s the puzzle of unseen gravitating matter and unseen cosmic pressure, the dark stuff — matter and energy. On the small scales, it’s the decidedly bizarre nature of the subatomic, or at least the bizarre implications of our current physical models for the subatomic. Virtual quarks swarm around inside protons and neutrons, making these nuclear specks themselves composites of fields and their quanta, with perhaps little or no structure in the usual sense of the word. That peculiar condition seems to persist across some 20 orders of magnitude in scale.
These are great mysteries. Except I think that the mysteries with the biggest impact on how we perceive reality are those happening in plain sight, across that cluttered midway point in scale, and our realm of the senses.
It’s on our biological scales that the universe does something very, very funky. Billions of years of elemental and chemical brewing have produced structures capable of awareness, and capable of trying to decode the very thing out of which they’ve come. It’s the ultimate bootstrap, going from a near featureless primordial reality to something that deduces its own existence.
That’s what exploring 63 orders of magnitude leads us to. The nature of us.
So, I’m hoping that somewhere among the pages of The Zoomable Universe, filled with galaxies, planets, moons, mountains, wildlife, molecules, and quanta, someone will find the inspiration they need to figure out the next big question — and maybe find the answer, too.
Caleb Scharf is director of astrobiology at Columbia University and author of Gravity’s Engines, The Copernicus Complex and The Zoomable Universe (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, October 2017). Follow him on Twitter @caleb_scharf.