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Our Expert Voices conversation on space.

There's an obvious connection between how far away I am from something and the degree to which that thing can physically affect me. A rhinoceros, or an explosion, or a tornado, or what have you, is more dangerous to me the closer it is to me, and less dangerous to me the farther away it is from me. And we usually explain this to ourselves by saying that a distant explosion is less dangerous to me than a near one because the effects of a distant explosion have more space to cross, before they get to me, than the effects of a near one do.

New idea: With increasing excitement and intensity over the past 20 years or so, the following thought has occurred to scientists and philosophers: Maybe there is a way of eliminating the middleman here. We're used to thinking of the 'distances' between things as something that helps explain why some things affect one another a lot and others affect one another less – but maybe that's all backwards: maybe there's a way of thinking about the distances between things as nothing more than a measure of how much they affect one another!

Bottom line: Maybe the world, at its most fundamental level, is just this formless void in which things float, and affect one another – a void in which there is no distance, and no geometry, and no space – and that all the talk about distance and geometry and space is really just a way of keeping track of how those things affect one another.

Other voices in the conversation:

Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist, California Institute of Technology: Space is overrated

Izabella Laba, mathematician, University of British Columbia: We can work with space without understanding its essence

Bridget Falck, astrophysicist, University of Oslo: Space is a relation between things, not a thing itself

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.

Scoop: Over 200 papers quietly sue Big Tech

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Newspapers all over the country have been quietly filing antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook for the past year, alleging the two firms monopolized the digital ad market for revenue that would otherwise go to local news. 

Why it matters: What started as a small-town effort to take a stand against Big Tech has turned into a national movement, with over 200 newspapers involved across dozens of states.