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The answer is clearly six
September 21, 2011 5:34 AM   Subscribe

How many continents are there?
posted by twoleftfeet (49 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Continents" are a human convention imposed on a messy physical reality. The most alarming part of this video is how many people appear to not understand this very basic idea.
posted by DU at 5:35 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The ocean between the Asian and European continents is called Russia.

This guy needs to bone up on his geography.
posted by three blind mice at 5:40 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Surprised that Zealandia didn't get a mention.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:42 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surprised that Zealandia didn't get a mention.

No shit! Its that god-damned nasa always trying to keep us new zealanders down.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:44 AM on September 21, 2011


I completely agree with DU on this one:* "continent" does not refer to any particular objective reality any more than national boundaries do. Fortunately, the convention doesn't actually mean anything. I can't think of a single activity other than Risk for which this convention matters, and I'm pretty sure Hasbro's promiscuous licensing of that particular property conclusively demonstrates that it's just as arbitrary there as it is in real life.

*Which may be a first, but whatever.
posted by valkyryn at 5:51 AM on September 21, 2011


Final Jeopardy: Ken Jennings - trivia God extraordinaire - has a new book about geography here, here, and there, but hasn't given an answer.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:52 AM on September 21, 2011


Oceania FTW!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:54 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


These videos are great! Thanks twoleftfeet :)
posted by rebent at 5:54 AM on September 21, 2011


I was lost the moment he brought Erasure into the equation.
posted by afx237vi at 5:54 AM on September 21, 2011


The definition depends on the sea level. The face of the planet changes remarkably with its rise or fall; I'm surprised that wasn't covered. Remove the ocean completely, and you have one continent (the entire crust, duh). Raise it high enough, and you still only have one (Everest, duh).

Ergo, there is only one continent, and we have always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by troll at 5:56 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, but the number's going down, way down! Just wait 250 million years or so.
posted by argonauta at 5:57 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I too was surprised sea level wasn't mentioned. There was even a perfect moment, during the "Antarctica is an archipeligo". What do you think an archipeligo is, other than a continent that is partially submerged?
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on September 21, 2011


A spelling mistake?
posted by Segundus at 6:04 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A spelling mistake?

Speaking of which, I was really willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until I saw TR taunting "Columbia."
posted by psoas at 6:07 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


He had me at "Madagascar: SHUT. DOWN. EVERYTHING!"
posted by amy lecteur at 6:08 AM on September 21, 2011


Well, if we want to go with science, the answer is that there are 15 primary and secondary plates. But then we'd have to ask why we're not including the tertiary plates......

Of those fifteen primary and secondary plates, eight have large quantities of land above sea level. But that doesn't match any of the traditional boundaries we use when talking about "continents". Eurasia is a single plate, but the far eastern chunk of Russia is actually part of the North American plate.

Since, like "planet", "continent" is more of a social term than a scientific term I suppose the traditional seven (assuming we count Australia as a continent, six if we don't) is no more or less bad than it might be. It's like arguing if Pluto is a planet or not.
posted by sotonohito at 6:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


This may sound like nitpicking, but it's kind of lame that a video that is supposed to illustrate a matter like this says:

"You could walk all the way from Northern Alaska, across the narrow Panama Canal and if it weren't for the deadly, impenetrable, poison-filled Brazilian rain-forests, make it to the Southern Point of Chile"

You don't need to even get close to Brazil to "walk" your way down to the southernmost point of the continent. Even the arrows used in the video to show the path don't touch Brazil. I know it sounds like a silly detail, but it's a little bit annoying to hear (once and again) everything south of the Panama Canal treated as 'whatever it is that is down there'.
posted by micayetoca at 6:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]



STEP RIGHT UP FOLKS AND SEE THE WORLDS LARGEST:

Island: Greenland
Lake: Caspian Sea
Lake on an island: Nettilling Lake, Canada
Island in a lake: Manitoulin Island, Canada
Island in a lake on an island: Pulau Samosir, Indonesia
Lake on an island in a lake: Lake Manitou, Canada
Lake on an island in a lake on an island: Crater Lake, Phillipines
Island in a lake on an island in a lake: Treasure Island, Canada
Island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island: Vulcan point, Phillipines



THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS!!! -->
 
posted by Herodios at 6:20 AM on September 21, 2011 [62 favorites]


What do you think an archipeligo is, other than a continent that is partially submerged?

A series of mountains rising from the ocean floor created as a plate moves across a hot spot?
posted by snofoam at 6:22 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Continents" are a human convention imposed on a messy physical reality. The most alarming part of this video is how many people appear to not understand this very basic idea.

It's hard to make a man understand something when his livelihood depends on him standing on it
 
posted by Herodios at 6:25 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always liked the idea that continents were defined by having the same first and letters in their name. America. Europe. Asia. Antarctica. Australia. Africa. Ohio.

I liked the idea that however tectonic plates and other geographic features of my planet may have been defined, there was always a some kind of spelling regularity that made it all make sense.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:29 AM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Haha, I came in here to make exactly the same pedantic points as psoas and micayetoca: it's Colombia and you don't pass through Brazil to get to the southern tip.

And what about Australasia?
posted by jontyjago at 6:30 AM on September 21, 2011


What are continents? Big. That's what they are (YMMV).
posted by ob at 6:44 AM on September 21, 2011


Lake on an island in a lake

I know that one! My in-laws live on Lake Manitou. It's nice, because it's about 30 degrees warmer than the lake in which the island on which it is located is located.

[Grammar check in progress ... OK]
posted by CaseyB at 6:47 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll go with Maria Montessori. The Continent Song!
posted by R. Mutt at 6:56 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


On the Brazil quip, at first I thought he was thinking of the DariƩn Gap, but had just made one Colombia gag and didn't want to get repetitious.

Actually though, I think the threat of Brazilian jungles is just meant as a shorthard for "practically speaking, walking across a continent is going to be very difficult".
posted by Winnemac at 7:18 AM on September 21, 2011


FOUR.

I see FOUR lights.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how NetCulture this video is. The narration sounds like a mix of Yahtzee and Honey Badger. And the liberal use of 4chan images and Minecraft images and the like would make no sense to someone who only watches TV, never Internet.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 AM on September 21, 2011


Real studying, not humanities studying.

Because what we all need more is geek-on-geek dismissiveness.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:44 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Continents" are a human convention imposed on a messy physical reality. The most alarming part of this video is how many people appear to not understand this very basic idea.

Let me see if I understand: you object to a video which entertainingly explains something on the grounds that people should know it already. Is that right?
posted by stebulus at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Australia is the Pluto of landmasses.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:58 AM on September 21, 2011


I swear I made the previous comment before I saw the part of the video that referred to Pluto.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:00 AM on September 21, 2011


valkyryn: "I can't think of a single activity other than Risk for which this convention matters"

UKRAINE IS WEAK!

posted by Chrysostom at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2011


psst... they're all connected underwater.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2011


How is conttinent formed?
posted by kmz at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2011


Island: Greenland

I am astonished to learn that the estimated January 2011 population of Greenland is 56,615! This is the 12th largest country by area in the world.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2011


Greenland: country or outlying territory?
posted by psoas at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2011


How am I supposed to never get involved in a land war in Asia, if "Asia" isn't clearly defined?

OK, sure, I could never get involved in a land war at all, and then I'd be sure of never getting involved in a land war in Asia, but where's the fun in that?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:53 AM on September 21, 2011


As Sun Tzu said, the highest form of generalship is to convince the enemy that the war will be fought in Asia.
posted by stebulus at 10:12 AM on September 21, 2011


I was told it was major geographical features, specifically the Ural/Caucasus Mountains in Eurasia, that delineated continents. But what a useless question (and I didn't need a 4 minute video to tell you that).
posted by Eideteker at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2011


Herodios: "Island in a lake on an island: Pulau Samosir, Indonesia "
From Wikipedia: "The island is linked to the mainland of Sumatra on its western part by a narrow land connecting the town of Pangururan on Samosir and Tele on mainland Sumatra."

That would kind of make it a non-island, yes? It's a peninsula.
psoas: "Greenland: country or outlying territory?"
Autonomous, constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark. Fun fact: Denmark is part of EU, but Greenland isn't (they jumped ship after a referendum over, yeah what else, fishing rights). They still have two seats in the Danish Parliament.
posted by brokkr at 11:57 AM on September 21, 2011


major geographical features, specifically the Ural/Caucasus Mountains in Eurasia

According to Wikipedia, the distinction between Europe and Asia was originally made by the Greeks, and to them it was all about which side of the Aegean Sea–Black Sea corridor you were talking about. It seems like later efforts to find sensible grounds for dividing Eurasia (like the one you recall) would have been in part efforts to maintain consistency with the original, and of course parochial, concept. A good example of "historical reasons".

But what a useless question (and I didn't need a 4 minute video to tell you that).

I don't care how many continents there are either, and I didn't need this video to tell me that traditional conventions often can't be given any kind of principled basis. But gee, I know a good explanation when I see one, I don't hold people in contempt for making good explanations of things I already know, and I'm able to enjoy an entertaining exercise in rhetoric even when I am already convinced of the conclusion.

Not to mention that, if I ever meet someone, a child perhaps, who wants to know how many continents there are, I would like to treat their curiosity with patient respect rather than dismissive scorn, so instead of exclaiming, "Your question is useless!", I think I will try to explain that the notion of "continent" is a traditional one which no simple and satisfying objective criterion can exactly reproduce. How convenient for me, then, that someone has already taken the time to work out this argument in detail.
posted by stebulus at 12:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Continents are better than incontinence.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2011


Real studying, not humanities studying.

Yeah, but when you get into definitions (such as what "large" means), this is where humanities come into play. At the very least, this is Foucault's big thing about legitimation--that science cannot legitimate itself because it must use language (non-science) to communicate.

If you're interested in reading more "humanities studying" on this issue, The Myth of Continents is a solid introduction to this topic. The authors propose a regional sort of division (which has its own problems), but it's an interesting read nonetheless.
posted by BlooPen at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is kinda like the Zero Punctuation video game reviews, except the guy doesn't talk as fast, swear as much, or include as many fun stick figures. I still liked it though.

And the answer is 7. There are 7 continents. That's what I learned in the 4th grade (or earlier? Who knows at this point?) and that's the answer I'm sticking to.

Also, Pluto is a planet. I.Q. 2000 taught me that one.
posted by antifuse at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2011


Pluto is a planet.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:13 PM on September 21, 2011


I am not dismissive with children. My natural response would be "What do you mean by ______?" So yes, with a child I would basically follow the script of this video, but, you know, without a script and tailored to the child.
posted by Eideteker at 2:17 PM on September 21, 2011


Can we all at least agree that "Arctica" is not a continent?
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:57 PM on September 21, 2011


Trick question: Only one, pangaea. How many sections is pangaea broken into, now that's another question.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:50 AM on September 22, 2011


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