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Posted by Ellen

When Italian architect Renzo Picasso visited New York City in the 1920s, he correctly identified traffic and parking as bad problems that would become much worse over time.

There was no more land in Manhattan to pave over, so Picasso (no relation to that Spanish guy) took his cue from the skyscrapers and proposed to build the streets up vertically. He envisioned at least four transportation levels: trains up on top, express automobile traffic on the layer second to top, parking on the level below that, and local traffic on the bottom.

Picasso's vision for this American Multiple Highway, which he presented in 1929, was one of many utopian projects he sketched out for cities in the United States and Europe. None of them was ever built. 

Posted by Ellen

In 1919, when George Thomas was an eight-year-old growing up in the town of Sheffield in northern England, he and his brothers and friends felt they owned the streets of Sheffield and the fields and forests all around. Their parents didn't mind when they wandered off on adventures of their own devising; even at the young age of eight, he often walked six miles to a fishing pond.

In 1950, when George Thomas's son-in-law Jack Hattersley was eight years old in Sheffield, children still routinely walked long distances from home unsupervised. Almost daily, Jack walked a mile to play with his friends (unsupervised) in the woods.

But by 1979, when Jack Hattersley's daughter Vicky was eight years old in Sheffield, children stuck closer to home. Vicky grew up in a suburban subdivision, which she never left except in cars driven by her parents or her friends' parents. Still, she was allowed to walk or ride her bike by herself as far as about half a mile through the neighborhood to her friends' homes or to the swimming pool. And like her father and grandfather, she walked to school every day.

By 2007, when Vicky's son Edward Grant turned eight, unscripted and unsupervised childhood wandering was a thing of the past. Ed has a bike, but to ride it he and his parents travel by car to safe bike paths. His mother drives him to school. He is allowed to walk by himself to the end of his block, about 300 yards, but his parents say he never wants to do that because no other children in the neighborhood are allowed out by themselves to play.

Like many eight-year-olds nowadays, Ed basically stays in his house except when his parents drive him somewhere. This is not a miserable situation for him; unlike his great-grandfather, whose childhood home was cramped and crowded and unadorned with childhood playthings, Ed has a room of his own at home, with plenty of toys and electronic diversions. Since he's never known the freedom to wander that was treasured by generations of children past, he doesn't seem to miss it.

His mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather mourn the loss for him. They are nostalgic for this aspect of their own childhoods. They suspect that some of the fears leading parents to keep children so entirely caged nowadays are overblown. But still, societal norms have become so fiercely hostile to the very idea of letting children loose that no challenge seems possible. It is their duty to keep Ed safe and supervised, even if the consequence is that his childhood is being spent in a gilded prison.

Wonder what will happen to Ed's children?

Posted by Ellen

In this map, each of the fifty states has been renamed for the country that matches it most closely in terms of overall economic activity; in other words, the country's gross national product is similar in size to the state's gross domestic product.

For example, if California were its own country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world, comparable to that of Italy. And if Illinois were its own country--big, bustling, wealthy Illinois--its economy would be comparable in size to that of . . . Turkey? When did Turkey crash this party?

I'm pretty certain that the data shouldn't be used like this; there must be good econometric reasons why countries and states can't be compared so easily, on the basis of a single number. But hey. In 2007, a Norwegian software consultant named Carl Størmer posted a version of this map using older data, and I decided to update it--partly to see if the country-state similarities have changed (they really haven't), but mostly as an excuse to play with a really cool map.

I love seeing all those foreign countries mapped in all the wrong places, and all those American states mislabeled so ridiculously. I like seeing that I grew up in Denmark and recently moved from Ecuador to Indonesia. Who wouldn't like that?