Facebook has become the third-largest nation

The world's largest social network announced that it had reached 500m members on Wednesday July 21st. If Facebook were a physical nation, it would now be the third-most populous on earth. And if the service continues to grow as rapidly as in the three months to July, it will reach one billion in about 15 months—almost the size of India.

via www.economist.com

New Map of Global Forest Heights

Scientists have released a global map of forest canopy heights based on NASA data. “Although there are other local- and regional-scale forest canopy maps, the new map is the first that spans the entire globe based on one uniform method,” says the NASA press release. “The work — based on data collected by NASA’s ICESat, Terra, and Aqua satellites — should help scientists build an inventory of how much carbon the world’s forests store and how fast that carbon cycles through ecosystems and back into the atmosphere.”

via www.nasa.gov

World's Biggest Accidental Oil Spill

President Barack Obama meets Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, for talks in Washington on July 20th. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and allegations over the company's involvement in an “oil-for-terrorists” deal with Libya are likely to be on the agenda. BP is under pressure to satisfy government officials that the containment cap placed on the leaking well on July 15th is holding. Using the government task force's upper estimate, as many as 4.4m barrels of oil have escaped into the Gulf. This would make it the largest accidental oil spill in history (military attacks have created far bigger spills). Despite that, this quantity of refined oil is enough to keep America's cars and trucks on the road for just a quarter of a day. BP has spent almost $4 billion on clean-up costs to date, with the eventual total estimated at $39 billion.

via www.economist.com