The True Size of the Earth

If, like me, you love maps, you’ll love a website called Worldmapper. Worldmapper is a collaboration between a British and an American university. They have created a series of cartographs, maps that represent statistical, rather than geographic, parameters. For instance, if each country’s size is based on its population, then you’d have something like this:

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Notice how a large landmasses like Australia or Canada shrink down because of their relatively low populations. Of course the already large China and India, balloon even larger, making their large neighbors like Pakistan and Japan, each with over 100 million people, appear small in comparison. The relatively small landmass of the the two Koreas, about the size of the UK, grows larger than any country in Western Europe except Germany, because of their combined 70 million people.

Most of us are familiar with the Mercator map that profoundly distorts the world. In the Mercator, not only is the equator placed near the bottom third of the map (it should be in the center of course), but the lands on the margins of the northern hemisphere are enlarged to many times their relative sizes. Greenland, for instance, appears to be about the same size as Africa when actually Africa is 14 times bigger. More significantly, Europe is placed at the very center of the world and enlarged to nearly three times its relative size.

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For a comparison, let’s look at a map that represents the true geographic size of each country, showing the true proportions of the sizes of countries.

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Notice how dominating Africa is and how Europe appears to be a marginal peninsula of the Eurasian landmass. I also find it striking that the Arabian Peninsula is about the size of Western Europe. But in a cartograph of wealth, Western Europe balloons way out of proportion to its landmass and population.

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Not surprisingly, Japan and the U.S. are also large. What is surprising is that by 2002, China and India were also quite substantial. My guess is that now they are both bigger. Also of note is that a small landmass like South Korea grows quite large but is still wedged between two giants. If it were in Europe, it’d be right up there with the big boys.

Another area where South Korea is disproportionately large is in the size of its armed forces.

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Other big militaries that jump out are the U.S., India, and China. But that’s just numbers of soldiers. The real strength of a military is its budget and the U.S. spends about as much as the whole rest of the world combined.

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Also of note is that although China’s military is bigger, Japan spends more. And once again, South Korea’s right there like a big fist in between them. Where is the fearsome North Korea in all this? Just a sliver, an afterthought in the East Asian neighborhood. It puts into perspective the scale of the NORTH KOREAN THREAT. No wonder Kim Jong Il tries to make as much noise as possible, puffing up his chest and shouting as loud as he can to mask North Korea’s relative weaknesses. It’s amazing that in a playground full of bigger, richer kids with the best toys, he’s still able to bully everyone else.

There are hundreds more cartographs at the website and I recommend perusing them to get a better idea of the true size of the earth.


6 thoughts on “The True Size of the Earth”

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