The whole of our civilisation relies on thin strands of fibre no more than a few centimetres across, strung like a coelacanth’s party lights in the crushing depths of the world’s oceans. Sometimes an errant anchor or angry sperm whale will sever a link and for the briefest moment the lights on your modem will flicker, but the internet just routes around the damage and, for the most part, you and I will barely notice. Well, usually.
(Click the image above to see an enormous map of all the submarine cables around the world, along with their capacities, costs, and carriers.)
Lurking beneath the houses and high rises of Roosevelt Island, NY lies a network of pneumatic tunnels called Avac: a vacuum-driven garbage collection system that sucks away trash at sixty miles an hour.