Have you ever heard of Null Island? It’s an incredibly busy island off the coast of Africa that, over the last couple years, has attracted thousands of people to visit and even live there, even more people to take photos there, and has a very large Internet presence. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of it; in fact, I’d bet you haven’t. That’s because it doesn’t exist. And yet, if you ask a computer, it would say that everything I said above was true.
What’s going on here? The video above, a collaboration between Tom Scott and MinuteEarth, explains the interesting phenomenon of “Null Island”. Let’s be clear: the only thing that exists at the point where Null Island is supposed to be is a whole lot of ocean and one lonely buoy. Its whole existence is because of one unfortunate overthought in code embedded into computers and apps all over the world, an overthought that is explained in an interesting and entertaining way in the video above.