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We've come a long way since the days when information in the form of mail correspondence or newspapers was transported by couriers on foot or horses. And even as roads began to be paved and railroad tracks laid, the speed in which information traveled is hardly comparable to how quick it does now that we have the internet and an endless supply of connected devices. Jalopnik recently analyzed how travel evolved throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, pointing out how fast the time it took to get from one place to another decreased as a result of new transportation technology and additional travel routes.

In the article, Jalopnik compares the speed of present-day air flight to the time it took to get to Detroit from New York City in 1800....

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In the fall of 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover—after years of travel—finally reached its destination, touching down on the Red Planet and transmitting back to Earth a series of strange landscapes of the planet’s surface. Here on Earth, the scenery sometimes resembled the barren Martian terrain, as wildfires, droughts and natural disasters shaped the landscapes of Earth. Climate change, too, had a say on Earth’s canvas—bringing a cold snap to Europe, a dusting of snow to the Middle East and a super-powered hurricane to the East Coast of the United States.

But as much as natural phenomena shaped Earth’s landscapes, humans forced their intentions upon Earth as well. Wars in the DRC and Syria reduced entire city structures to rubble. Careless chemical spills dyed our waters strange and unnatural colors, and continued deforestation in Brazil’s rainforests left huge swathes arid and bare. And finally, large-scale accidents remind us of man’s hubris, like the Costa Concordia in Italy— it’s abandoned carcass standing as a monument to man’s recklessness.

Here, TIME looks back on the byproducts of man’s folly and nature’s fury in a gallery of the year’s strange and surreal landscapes.

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This Friday, November 9th, New Yorkers can see the East Coast premiere of Kevin Schreck’s new documentary Persistence of Vision, about Richard William’s never-completed-as-envisioned The Thief and the Cobbler. Williams worked on the film from the mid-1960s through the early-1990s before it was taken away from him and finished by producer Fred Calvert.

I’m looking forward to seeing Schreck’s film, which includes interviews with many people who worked on the film, though not Williams who declined to participate. And if the film is playing at a festival near you, see it! The documentary likely won’t be released on home video anytime soon because Schreck didn’t obtain permission from the copyright holders whose animation appears in the film. Sadly, Schreck’s approach is just about the only way nowadays to create animation history projects since the handful of conglomerates that own the film libraries don’t understand the value of cooperating with historians and researchers to present an accurate historical and critical portrait of the animation they own.

The film screens on Friday at 9:15pm at the SVA Theater (333 W. 23rd Street, NY, NY). The director will do a Q&A after the film. Tickets cannot be purchased at the theater. They must be purchased in advance, either at the IFC Center or online HERE. There’s also a Facebook page for the film where you can bug the filmmakers to bring a screening to your city.

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Superstorm Sandy struck the U.S. East Coast leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Hugo Chavez sealed another term as Venezuela’s President and the space shuttle Endeavour took its final voyage through the L.A. streets.

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Confession. I see the East Coast today and feel something (among many other things) unwelcome: jealousy. I moved back West only a month ago, leaving behind Maryland after five years. The landscapes and psychic geography are still fresh in my mind, and, for the past four days or so, the entirety of my online social life has revolved around Hurricane Sandy: stories, photos, worried exchanges; flickering lights, wine, Scrabble. Biking to the bar against solid sheets of water; planning Christmas decorations for downed trees; infrastructure losing the battle. I’m missing out on something, a chance to scratch that ugly itch for doom, to feel the unique and terrible pleasure of catastrophe.

It is terrible, of course. People are dead, at least 17 at last count, while many billions of dollars in damage has been done. That misery is real, and all of the blood and money extracted by any disaster comes from somewhere also very real. But the pull persists. Think of staring at the burning towers of 9/11 — and staring and staring and staring. Or at a car accident or fire-gutted building or train derailment. The feeling isn’t entirely repulsive. I’m not even sure it’s mostly repulsive. Isn’t that awful?

Maybe, but also maybe not so much. There’s a great many reasons why we love disasters, and none of them have to do with enjoying the suffering of others. So take some comfort. We’re not into disasters because we’re secretly evil villains; we’re into disasters (in large part) to connect to others. At the very root of human morality isn’t supernatural dictates — it’s empathy, or the ability to share in the experiences of others.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of gawking at an auto wreck, your eyes passing a little too non-nonchalantly over the ambulance lights and crumpled car-frames and sizzling flares, when, unexpectedly, you meet the gaze of a victim. And you’ve gone cold, like a trapdoor opened in your body letting out all of the warm feelings and comfort in a gush. It’s not the feeling of being “caught,” rather it’s the feeling of connecting. We’re neurologically constructed to do this, put ourselves within the perspective of another.

We don’t enjoy that perspective, but, like a great many creatures, we need it. It’s fundamental to pro-social behavior, or the things we do to help to help others. Those things keep societies together, and societies keep their constituents alive and breeding longer. So, yes: evolution. We stare because we want to empathize and, at the very end of things, to survive.

But before you get to the end of things, you have some great stuff, like community and generosity. Which are things usually pretty well hidden behind a veil of assholedom and routine. But then something happens and people feel impelled to get together into groups — maybe just for boozing and board games — and maybe offer up their couch and electricity to someone they don’t know very well. Or maybe even do something really brave and selfless. The sky’s the limit.

Metro-North plus boat, via MTA

There’s other reasons we love disasters that are maybe more psychological. Perhaps there is a dark side. Psychologist Eric G. Wilson writes:

[Carl Jung] maintained that our mental health depends on our shadow, that part of our psyche that harbors our darkest energies, such as murderousness. The more we repress the morbid, the more it foments neuroses or psychoses. To achieve wholeness, we must acknowledge our most demonic inclinations.

Yes, I took pleasure in my enemy’s tumble from grace. No, I couldn’t stop watching 9/11 footage. Once we welcome these unseemly admissions as integral portions of our being, the devils turn into angels. Luke owns the Vader within, offers affection to the actual villain; off comes the scary mask, and there stands a father, loving and in need of love.

Empathy doesn’t usually extend to things, but our fascination with catastrophe sure does. Some of the most alluring photos from Hurricane Sandy are totally empty landscapes: the waterfalled construction site of the World Trade Center, a flooded FDR, empty Grand Central Station. We’re attracted to these in part because they’re empty. They are vulnerable.

Which is crucial because, in a city, it’s these landscapes that run us. There’s that odd, dull terror of urban claustrophobia, that we’re not in control. All of these buildings and tunnels we’ve created in the general interests of civilization, but we’ve also given up quite a bit to their grid-lines. There’s power and possibility in a big storm. Loss of control is its own power. And sometimes we don’t realize how disempowered we feel in the city, no matter that cities are where we go to feel just the opposite (to find possibilities). To, ahem, paraphrase the Anarchist Cookbook (with a wide variety of apologies), when outcomes are uncertain, anything is possible.

I think that’s true. Last night, in the depths of the storm, maybe you didn’t know how today would look. You had some idea, of course, but compared to last Tuesday, today was wide open. That’s pretty important. Even if your life in New York City is perfect and awesome and every day is ice cream and puppies and big fat checks, without possibility — even if most of them are bad — something isn’t quite complete.

Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.

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After cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage along the East Coast this week. Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and brought with it major flooding, travel disruption, structural damage, and power outages. New York City was especially hard hit. The storm system was so large ­-- nearly 1,000 miles wide at times -- it brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and 20 foot waves to Lake Michigan. It is projected Sandy will have caused about $30 billion in damages in the United States. To date, the storm claimed more than 100 lives. -- Lloyd Young ( 57 photos total)
Flooded homes in Tuckerton, N.J., on Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the southern New Jersey coastline on Oct. 29. (US Coast Guard via AFP/Getty Images)

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Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without power, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Hurricane Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore [...]

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