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Spain. (Photo: Paul Bourke/Google Earth fractals)

What is this picture? Would you believe us if we told you that it's a European country?

While it resembles the crystalline edges of an AI dreamscape, the image above is actually Spain, massively zoomed out. It's also a fractal, a set of geometric structures that replicate themselves across infinite scales. If you've ever fallen down a YouTube rabbit hole, you've probably seen many fractal videos of constant zooming into mathematically perfected shapes—along with the requisite psychedelic colors and trippy music. 

The fractals in this collection all come from one source, namely Google Earth. Paul Bourke, a computer scientist at the University of Western Australia has painstakingly assembled a collection of 45 maps with help from online contributors on his website. Using Google Earth, Bourke looked at different areas across the globe: mountain ranges, river basins, sand dunes, grasslands, and forests. He found that, when zoomed out, these landscapes formed replicating patterns. If you think of a plant, with the veins within a leaf form the same dendritic shape as the stem and the branches, the same principle can be found in rivers. Tributaries branch off of the main stream, and so forth, following a similar pattern until you get down to the smallest springs. While not infinitely uniform, these natural fractals do replicate themselves across a smaller range of scales. 

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The aurora, from space (Image: NASA)

Last week, when it seemed like America was about to explode with grief and joy, the sun couldn't keep its own flare-ups in check. Early in the week, the star started gushing high-energy particles and sending them towards the Earth.

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Kenneth Rodman (Photo: Queensland Police)

Usually, when a person goes missing, they're found within 48 hours. To stay missing, it helps to want to stay missing. 

About four and a half years ago, Kenneth Rodman was touring around Australia in a green kayak. One day, he headed out towards a beach on the northeast coast of Australia…and disappeared. The next month, his kayak was found sunken in the water. It looked like someone had sunk it on purpose: the plugs were missing.

 

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1950's poster commissioned by the Government of Alberta to drive public support for a War on Rats. (Photo: Provincial Archives of Alberta)

The Canadian province of Alberta makes a claim that is so sweeping, so mind-bending that it basically redefines "big, if true."

According to the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the province has been free of rats for more than 60 years. But how is it that an entire Canadian province, of over 250,000 square miles and more than four million citizens, could have absolutely no rats?

“Alberta’s rat free designation means that we have zero tolerance for rats–there is no permanent population,” says Bruce Hamblin, a rat inspector there. “We haven’t allowed them to establish themselves.” Translation: the rat free status does not actually mean that there are no rats in the province, it just means they've been given notice. 

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A convict love token from the collection at the National Museum of Australia. (Photos: Katie Shanahan/National Museum of Australia)

In 1818, a teenage boy in London gave a memento to his parents. The sentiments expressed on each side of the copper token are impassioned, and with good reason: the gifter, 15-year-old John Camplin, had just been caught stealing a watch and sentenced to "transportation for life." He would never see his parents again.

The token read:
Dear Father Mother
A gift to you ~
From me a friend
Whose love for you
Shall never end
when this you
See Rembr me when
In som Foreign
Country

Transportation sentences were fixed at a duration of seven years, 14 years, or life. That said, even a seven-year sentence usually meant a one-way ticket to the United States, or later, Australia—convicts rarely had the means to return to Britain after serving their time.

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