How the Zombie Fungus Takes Over Ants’ Bodies to Control Their Minds

To find the world’s most sinister examples of mind control, don’t look to science fiction. Instead, go to a tropical country like Brazil, and venture deep into the jungle. Find a leaf that’s hanging almost exactly 25 centimeters above the forest floor, no more and no less. Now look underneath it. If you’re in luck, you might find an ant clinging to the leaf’s central vein, jaws clamped tight for dear life. But this ant’s life is already over. And its body belongs to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the zombie-ant fungus.

When the fungus infects a carpenter ant, it grows through the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its mind. Over the course of a week, it compels the ant to leave the safety of … Read the rest

Introducing MapLab

Welcome to the first edition of MapLab, a newsletter exploring how maps illuminate the world around us. Here there will be many, friendly dragons: featurettes on newsworthy mapping efforts, fascinating cartographers, snippets of history, eye-popping data visuals, and intriguing map links. I’ll drop you a mix every two weeks.

You’re probably getting this because you subscribe to another CityLab newsletter. Yes, your inbox is jammed. But these dispatches won’t be designed for passive receipt. I want to pull map makers and map lovers together, to share and discuss the incredible landscape of cartographic work this digital century has spawned.

To get started, sign up here. You won’t continue to receive MapLab unless you do!

Anchors aweigh,


Orient yourself: gerrymandering


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Global Warming Really Did Make Hurricane Harvey More Likely

Think of the Earth’s climate system as a pair of dice. You never know exactly how a roll will end. But some outcomes, like rolling a seven, are much more likely than others, like snake eyes. But when we warm the globe, we essentially load the dice to favor extreme outcomes, including some of the most unpleasant weather possible in the United States.

A new study, rapidly conducted in September and published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that the dice are increasingly likely to roll some very unpleasant weather indeed. Global warming may not have caused Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged Houston over the course of a week earlier this year, but it made it much more likely.

The … Read the rest

Paris’s Car Debate Gets Personal

If you’re sick of Paris’s traffic jams, go ahead and tell the mayor directly. That’s the gist of a motorists’ campaign launched Monday, which shared Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s direct phone number in a bid to encourage protestors to jam it.

Working under the hashtag #disleaAnne (“#tellAnne” in English), the motorist pressure group “40 Million Drivers” plans to do to City Hall’s switchboards what they say the administration has done to the roads: clog them up. Their goal is to ensure the mayor can no longer ignore their calls, and, more generally, force her to the negotiating table over the future of Paris’s streets.

The spat—and the distinctly personal assault on one figure—is a sign of how heated the city’s debate around cars has become. … Read the rest

What’s the Future of the Urban Farmers’ Market?

Locally sourced food, it seems, is pervasive these days—especially in cities. Once only available at a farmers’ market one morning a week in front of city hall, it’s now on offer at most urban supermarkets, many bodegas and corner stores, on converted buses driven deep into neighborhoods, and even delivered straight to the doorstep. Now that Amazon has acquired Whole Foods, some are speculating that drones will bring us our fresh produce in the not-too-distant future.

But don’t count out the traditional farmers’ market just yet. These aren’t the fusty, American Gothic-like experiences of your parents and grandparents. Farmers’ markets, especially the ones in cities, are adapting to the times, getting smart about data and technology, catering to new customer bases, and offering lots … Read the rest

Inside the Radical Community Response to Baltimore’s Spiking Murder Rate

Forty-one hours into a 72-hour ceasefire called by a group of Baltimore citizens, someone shot Lamontrey Tynes, a 24-year-old African American man. Tynes was the 209th person murdered in Baltimore this year.

“Everybody got the wind knocked out of them that weekend hearing that news,” Erricka Bridgeford, one of the people behind the Ceasefire movement, said of Tynes’ murder. “It made us realize that we hadn’t reacted to hearing about murder before like that and we must have been numb.”

A second person was shot five hours later.

The Ceasefire plan was simple. “Nobody kill anybody for 72 hours.” The conceit of citizens calling a ceasefire is a radical, first-of-its-kind tack to addressing the city’s historically high homicide rate. And whether it has yet been successful … Read the rest

How to Solve the Environmental Information Divide

The cattle herders of Mongolia’s Tuul River Basin can’t use cell phones—the only technology readily available to them—to access their government’s online portals on pollution data. Herders are left in the dark about effects that nearby mining is having on their land, groundwater, and livestock. This lack of accessibility is not solely a Mongolian problem. In a recent report, the World Resources Institute has found that information about water quality is not being broadcast in a way that vulnerable communities can easily find or utilize.

The report, “Thirsting for Justice: Transparency and Poor People’s Struggle for Clean Water in Indonesia, Mongolia, and Thailand,” is the result of a three-year investigation into the efficiency of approaches these governments are taking to release water quality data. … Read the rest

Lab Report: Judge Rips Into Texas’s Anti-Sanctuary Cities Law

‘Arbitrary and discriminatory’: Texas’s controversial ban on so-called sanctuary cities won’t be taking effect Friday as planned. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law on Wednesday, dealing a blow to one of the toughest state-issued immigration laws in the country. The New York Times reports:

In his ruling, Judge Garcia said that the law’s provision banning policies that limit enforcement of immigration laws was unconstitutionally vague and failed to define the specific prohibited conduct. The provision, the judge wrote, “ascribes criminal and quasi-criminal penalties based upon violations of an inscrutable standard, in a manner that invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement against disfavored localities.”

Texas vowed to appeal Judge Garcia’s decision, setting the stage for the case to be heard by the United States Court of Appeals

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Genetic Testing Is Recreating Bonds Broken by Slavery

“These tests at their best allow new forms of connection that might not have been otherwise possible,” says Alondra Nelson, president-elect of the Social Science Research Council. Though African American communities experienced a troubled history with genetics, primarily through eugenics, individuals are now using DNA testing to answer questions about their ancestors and connect with their African heritage. Interviewed at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival, Nelson discusses how biology can provide information once lost through the transatlantic slave trade.… Read the rest

Southern Crawfish Are the Newest Scourge to Northern Infrastructure

Wildlife authorities in Michigan received the two reports just days apart in July, one from a lake near Vicksburg and another 100 miles away in a retention pond outside of Detroit. Both tips concerned the same critters—red swamp crawfish, or Procambarus clarkii, pint-sized crustaceans with a bloodletting pinch native to Southern states like Louisiana.

When state workers visited the Detroit-adjacent pond in Novi, they found the land around the water shot through with what looked like cannon fire. “You wouldn’t be able to walk through without probably sinking your shoes in,” says Michelle Crook, a senior project engineer for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources. “On better than half of the pond, I’d say there’s probably a two-foot width of the shoreline where there … Read the rest

The Next Houston

The last time a major hurricane struck Miami directly, in 1926, it left almost 400 people dead, making it one of the 10 deadliest hurricanes on the record books in the United States. Yet that storm ravaged a sleepy, relatively small resort town of just 100,000. Today, the Miami metropolitan area has more than 6 million residents.

Even as Harvey lingers in the Gulf Coast, dumping rain on an already deluged region, the Atlantic hurricane season continues, and threatens to bring more nasty storms in short order. In the central Atlantic, Irma is some 3,000 miles southwest of Miami Wednesday afternoon, and is expected to become a hurricane later this week.

While it’s impossible to reliably predict where Irma might hit, and what strength it would … Read the rest

This Map Wants You to Stereotype Your City

You probably know where the hipsters, students, or rich people people hang out in your city. But when you’re traveling somewhere new and want to know the same thing, where can you go to figure it out?

Hoodmaps might have your back. Launched in July, this crowdsourced, color-coded map features more than 2,000 cities around the world, letting users draw and highlight parts of each city depending on what kind of urbanite they think is most likely to be found there.

Each city is divided into six color-coded categories: hipsters, “normies,” suits, tourists, “uni” (students), and rich. Users can also add tags wherever they want to say something that goes beyond one of the six categories.

Pieter Levels, the developer behind Hoodmaps, said in a … Read the rest