UNDERWATER: Facts from an Aquatic Semester

So, this is my first semester of freedom at MIT. That is, the first semester where I was in charge of choosing all of my classes- no core studios, no required classes on how to make a grasshopper script, no droning lectures on planning theory. So I should be having a lot of fun, right? But the curse of picking only classes that you like, is that you want to work on all of them, all of the time.

The process of creating your own curriculum is also self-revealing. Somehow, 3 of my classes are taught by landscape architects. And 3.5 of them are about water.

So, as I try to keep my head above water (ha!) I’ll share a few aquatic facts that I’ve found especially exciting these last few weeks. So, dive in!



1. Those cables that bring internet under the ocean are only 2.7 inches wide. And most of them arrive at one building in London (the Telehouse).

Map of sea surface level (Wikimedia Commons)

Map of sea surface level (Wikimedia Commons)

2. The surface of the ocean isn’t even- but since it’s a useful index, it has a specific location called the “Mean Sea Level” (MSL). Its determined by a lot of factors including tides, weather patterns, and temperature, but most interesting to me is the fact that as ice caps melt, the sea around them actually gets higher, because of the gravitational force they are losing. That’s right, glacial gravity!

3. Speaking of ocean temperature, sea level rise is primarily not due to melting ice caps, but actually the thermal expansion of water molecules as the ocean grows warmer.

Oceania EEZs (Wikimedia Commons)

Oceania EEZs (Wikimedia Commons)

4. Nations generally have a 12 mile “territorial zone” off of their coast where they have nearly full control over their waters. They also have a 200 Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that allows them rights to fishing and undersea oil and minerals. This makes islands especially important for controlling natural resources, as demonstrated in recent news by the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute.


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