Researchers Pinpoint the Geographic Location of "The Middle of Nowhere"

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The place to go when you want to get away from it all, The Washington Post reports, is Glasgow, Montana. About 4.5 hours from the nearest city, it's about as close as you can get to "the middle of nowhere" in the contiguous U.S. while still being in a decently-sized town.

Glasgow's isolated status was determined in a study from Oxford University published in the journal Nature [PDF]. Scientists at the Malaria Atlas Project, a part of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, wanted to use geography and demographic data to see which towns qualify as truly being in the middle of nowhere. For the study, a town was defined as having a population of at least 1000, and a metropolitan area as having 75,000 residents or more.

After crunching the numbers on the elevation levels, transportation options, and terrain types around America, they were able to say roughly how long it would take for someone to traverse any given square kilometer of land in the country. If you're one of the 3363 people living in Glasgow, which is nestled in northeastern Montana, it would take you between 4 and 5 hours to drive to the nearest metro area. That entire corner of the state lays claim to the title of Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. Scobey, Montana, less than 100 miles from Glasgow, is the second most isolated small town in the country, and Wolf Point, less than 50 miles away, takes third place.

Go beyond the continental U.S. and you'll find plenty of places that aren't even accessible by car. Here are more isolated towns you have to travel to the middle of nowhere to reach.

[h/t The Washington Post]

Lítla Dímun: The Smallest of the Faroe Islands Has Its Very Own Cloud

While some islands are known for their unusual geography or unique history, Lítla Dímun is notable for its weather. The island, which is the smallest of Denmark's Faroe Islands chain, is often capped by a lens-shaped cloud, making it resemble a scene from a fairytale.

According to Mental Floss's own Kerry Wolfe writing for Atlas Obscura, the cloud floating above Lítla Dímun is a lenticular cloud. This type of cloud forms when moist air flows over a protruding geological feature, like a mountain top. When the wind moving up the landmass hits the air current directly above it, a sort of wave is created on the downwind side of the mountain. The moist air falling down this wave evaporates and then condenses into a large, flying-saucer-shaped cloud atop the mountain peak as a result.

Another factor that makes Lítla Dímun distinct is that it's the only one of the 18 main Faroe Islands without human inhabitants. Visitors to the mystical location will instead find a thriving population of sheep. Originally, Lítla Dímun was home to a group of feral sheep likely dating back to the Neolithic era. But they were hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Domesticated sheep were introduced there around the same time, and today, farmers visit the island once a year to round up their flocks.

One of the few signs of human life are the ropes farmers use to scale the cliff faces bordering the island. Even if you have rock-climbing skills, Lítla Dímun may be dangerous to visit. A boat ride to the rocky shore is only possible when the surrounding sea is calm.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

10 Fascinating Facts About Daylight Saving Time

Time to spring into sleepiness.
Time to spring into sleepiness.
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Whether you savor the extra sunlight in the summer or dread the jarring time jump, Daylight Saving Time is inevitable (at least in most parts of the United States). Here are 10 things you should know before making the semiannual change.

1. Benjamin Franklin was half-joking when he suggested Daylight Saving Time.

More than a century before Daylight Saving Time (DST) was adopted by any major country, Benjamin Franklin proposed a similar concept in a satirical essay. In the piece, published in 1784, he argued:

"All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity [...] Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following."

In one prophetic passage, he pitched the idea as a money-saver (though at the time people would have been conserving candle wax rather than electricity). To enforce the out-there plan, Franklin suggested taxing shutters, rationing candles, banning non-emergency coach travel after dark, and firing cannons at sunrise to rouse late-sleepers. While his essay clearly brought up some practical points, Franklin may have originally written it as an excuse to poke fun at the French for being lazy. He wrote that the amount of sunlight that goes wasted each morning would likely come as a shock to readers who “have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon.”

2. Official credit for the Daylight Saving Time idea goes to a bug collector.

A kitten chases a butterfly
Like the entomologist, this kitten enjoys springing forward in pursuit of insects.
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The first serious case for DST came from a peculiar place. While working at a post office by day, an entomologist who did most of his bug hunting at night soon became frustrated by how early the Sun set during the summer months. He reasoned springing the clocks forward would allow more daylight for bug collecting—along with other evening activities. The clocks could be switched back in the winter when people (and bugs) were less likely to be found outdoors.

When the idea was proposed to a scientific society in New Zealand in 1895, it was panned for being pointless and overly complicated. Just two decades later, Daylight Saving Time would begin its spread across the developed world.

3. World War I pushed Daylight Saving Time into law.

In 1916, Germany became the first country to officially adopt Daylight Saving Time. It was born out of an effort to conserve coal during World War I, and Britain, along with many other European nations, was quick to follow the Germans’ lead. It wasn’t until 1918 that the time change spread to the U.S. A year after entering the war, America began practicing DST as an electricity-saving measure. Most countries, including the U.S., ceased official observation of the switch following wartime.

4. Daylight Saving Time gained renewed popularity during the energy crisis.

The U.S. reconsidered DST in the 1970s, when, once again, the argument pivoted back to energy conservation. The oil embargo of 1973 had kicked off a nationwide energy crisis and the government was looking for ways to reduce public consumption. Daylight Saving Time was imposed in the beginning of 1974 to save energy in the winter months. Not everyone was enthusiastic about the change: Some of the harshest critics were parents suddenly forced to send their children to school before sunrise.

5. Daylight Saving Time may actually be an energy waster.

Despite Daylight Saving Time’s origins as an energy-saving strategy, research suggests it might actually be hurting the cause. One 2008 study conducted in Indiana found the statewide implementation of DST two years earlier had boosted overall energy consumption by 1 percent. While it’s true that changing the clocks can save residents money on lighting, the cost of heating and air conditioning tends to go up. That extra hour of daylight is only beneficial when people are willing to go outside to enjoy it.

6. Daylight Saving Time is also a health hazard.

A bulldog in human clothes slumps over a desk
Losing an extra hour of sleep can take a ruff physical toll.
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Even if DST was good for your energy bill, that wouldn’t negate the adverse impact it can have on human health. Numerous studies show the extra hour of sleep we lose by springing ahead can affect us in dangerous ways. An increased risk of heart attack, stroke, susceptibility to illness, and seasonal depression have all been linked to the time change.

7. But there are some benefits to Daylight Saving Time.

Though people love to complain about it, Daylight Saving Time isn’t all bad news. One notable benefit of the change is a decrease in crime. One study published in 2015 found that the start of DST in the spring was associated with a drop in robberies.

8. Daylight Saving Time is not observed nationwide.

DST has been widely accepted across the country, but it’s still not mandated by federal law. U.S. residents resistant to springing forward and falling back each year might consider moving to Arizona. The state isn’t exactly desperate for extra sunlight, so every spring they skip the time jump. This leaves the Navajo Nation, which does observe the change, in a peculiar situation. The reservation is fully located within Arizona, and the smaller Hopi reservation is fully located within the Navajo Nation. The Hopi ignore DST like the rest of Arizona, making the Navajo Nation a Daylight Saving donut of sorts, suspended one hour in the future for half the year.

9. Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 a.m. for a reason.

A dog wearing an eye mask sleeps next to an alarm clock
No time disruption worries or schedule snafus here!
damedeeso/iStock via Getty Images

Daylight Saving Time doesn’t begin at the stroke of midnight like you might expect it to. Rather, the time change is delayed until most people (hopefully) aren’t awake to notice it. By waiting until 2 a.m. to give or take an hour, the idea is that most workers with early shifts will still be in bed and most bars and restaurants will already be closed.

10. The candy industry lobbied for an extension of Daylight Saving Time.

Until recently, losing an hour of daylight in the fall presented a problem for the candy industry. That’s because Daylight Saving Time traditionally ended on the last Sunday in October, a.k.a. before Halloween night. Intense lobbying to push back the date went on for decades. According to one report, candy lobbyists even went so far as to place tiny candy pumpkins on the seats of everyone in the Senate in 1985. A law extending DST into November finally went into effect in 2007.

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