It's hard to top the holy shit news that Antarctica is, as we've long feared, irreversibly melting, but this week's Landscape Reads is chock full of other great stories. Could the difference between rice and wheat farming also explain cultural differences? (By the way, those are rice terraces above!) What's a 19th-century map doing in Minecraft? Is China's coal addiction going to fuck us all?
There are infinite possibilities in the world of Minecraft, so why not dabble in some time travel? The good folks at the New York Public Library have recreated an 1850 map of northern Manhattan in Minecraft. You can download it at the NYPL's website and even play it in survival mode. [NYPL]
(Did you see that the entirety of Denmark was recreated in Minecraft, and Americans promptly set about vandalizing it? America!)
...if we really want to find extraterrestrial life. "The uncomfortable truth is that, despite the technical tour-de-force of our robotic reconnaissance, looking for water on Mars has become one of the most humdrum pursuits imaginable in all of 21st-century space science," writes Lee Billings, "It is the safest possible bet, the astrobiological equivalent of the bland-yet-filling casserole your in-laws sometimes make." Where should we be exploring instead? The oceans of Europa, Jupiter's moon. [Aeon]
Growing rice is hard. It requires dikes and canals and elaborate terraces like those in the photo above. It requires, in essence, you to work together with your neighbors. A new study finds that northern Chinese, who traditionally farmed wheat, were more individualistic compared to their southern counterparts who traditionally grew rice. Could differences in landscape thousands of years ago even explain some of the differences in Eastern and Western cultures today? [Science via Per Square Mile]
China's dependence on coal can seem like a far-off problem—the problem of a developing country that hasn't "modernized" to a cleaner energy source. "Yet those of us who live here already are helping stoke Asian carbon emissions. That's because so much industry has been outsourced to China, where coal provides the energy to produce stainless steel for our refrigerators, the plastics in our toys and the computer chips in our iPhones," writes Hal Bernton in a wide-ranging three-part piece on coal that covers water, carbon capture, and the potential clean energy of the future in China. [Seattle Times]
Top image: Rice terraces in China's Yunnan province. These strikingly colored terraces are carved into the mountainside, irrigated by streams that flow from top to bottom. To learn more about rice terracing, check out this post. Credit: Jialiang Gao/Wikimedia Commons