From xkcd, a look at what your favorite map projection says about you. Strange geographies: Ransom Riggs on beautiful, alien Iceland. Atlas Obscura visits New Iceland, a settlement in Manitoba established in 1875; Tristan da Cunha, the world's most remote permanent settlement; and the Republic of Molossia, the smallest country in the world. From National Geographic, a look at the ten least crowded places in the world. Researchers flying over West Antarctica were at the right place at the right time, spotting an actively growing rift that they expect will spawn an iceberg about 10 times the size of Manhattan. Why not build your own island country? An interview with Eric Klien, whose effort to create a seastead called the Atlantis Project in the early 90s fizzled out due to lack of interest. David Brin on seasteading and some problems on the way to Castle Sovereign. Sometimes, fascinating maps are resistant to exegesis — maybe because all they need to explain is right there, in the image itself. A not-so-straight story: The American-Canadian border, famously said to run straight across the 49th parallel for hundreds of miles, actually zigzags. It’s complicated: Haley Sweetland Edwards on 5 puzzling international borders. Haley Sweetland Edwards on 7 giant fences dividing good neighbors. Martin W. Lewis on contested French islands and sea-space in the western Indian Ocean. Here is the website with sample chapters from The New Atlas of World History: Global Events at a Glance. Two sunken islands almost at the site of Tasmania have been discovered in the Indian Ocean west of the Australian city of Perth. Herman Sorgel’s Atlantropa is the craziest, most megalomaniacal scheme from the 20th century you never heard of.

A new issue of Air and Space Magazine is out. Ningchuan Wang and Yuze Zou (SAU): Yin-Yang Theory and Globalization. From Cato Unbound, Paul Armentano on how cannabis’ impact on health justifies its legalization, not its criminal prohibition. Prepare to fight back, Obama: In 2012, the president will get hammered on the individual mandate and the Bush tax cuts — here’s how he can seize those issues. From TLS, here’s a suggestion about how to read the literary canon: treat it as an exercise in pretence. From the Asia-Pacific Journal, Stephen Epstein and Rumi Sakamoto on the true origins of pizza: Irony, the Internet and East Asian nationalisms. The self-attribution fallacy: Intelligence, talent? No, the ultra-rich got to where they are through luck and brutality. From NYRB, what really happened to Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Edward Jay Epstein investigates. Elizabeth Warren isn't interested in small improvements: In seeking transformational changes, the Senate candidate may squander the chance to marginally better America. Our aesthetic categories: An interview with Sianne Ngai, author of The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde. Hitch’s Rolls-Royce mind is still purring: The great polemicist is certain to be remembered, but perhaps not as he would like. Glenn Greenwald on the "We are at War" mentality. Amanda Marcotte on 6 kinds of sex scandals: What should be exposed, and what should be left private? From Discover, an interview with radical linguist Noam Chomsky. Jonah Lehrer on the psychology of nakedness. The return of states’ rights: Tom Barry on why Rick Perry is important even if he loses. Time Zero: Nobel lectures in economics can be something of an anticlimax. Here come the top-10 lists: A round table debates whether they help sort the year — or just add to the clutter.

From Standpoint, Geza Vermes on Jews, Christians and Judaeo-Christians. When atheists fib to protect God: A certain breed of nonbelievers are anxious to avoid pointing out the real flaws of religion. A review of The Law of Organized Religions: Between Establishment and Secularism by Julian Rivers. From New English Review, Richard L. Rubenstein on Islam and Christianity and the roots of Europe’s religious identity; and Rebecca Bynum on why Islam is not a religion. America’s top heathen: Odin himself might have had a hard time predicting Dan Halloran’s strange career on New York’s City Council. The first chapter from Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam by William F. McCants. A look at how sexual strategies underlie religious inclinations. A review of Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies by Marcello Pera. Adam Lee on Christians defending genocide and on how religion imprisons women. The claim that Christianity provides the bedrock of Western culture might serve the interests of extremists, but it is a betrayal of a far more complex history. Edward Feser on his work The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. From Butterflies and Wheels, Leo Igwe on atheism for the world. How do you shift the Overton window? The answer is simple: You have to stand outside it and pull. A review of Divinity of Doubt: The God Question by Vincent Bugliosi. The Islamic case for religious liberty: A close reading of the Qur’an and the Prophet leads to supporting religious tolerance. Filip Spagnoli on the attractiveness of religious liberty to those who hate it. Any religious belief seeking to explain the 'how's of the universe is competing with science — and in this sphere science will always win.