Join 3,554 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Join the fight against rampant immappacy
October 13, 2010 7:03 AM   Subscribe

You have no idea how big Africa really is. But this map does.
posted by MrMoonPie (144 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well I learned something today
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:08 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Africa is like totally the biggest country in the world.
posted by exogenous at 7:08 AM on October 13, 2010 [64 favorites]


Yeah, that's big. Bigger than I realized. That map is cool.

But I don't really think immappacy is the problem with the way we talk about "Africa" in the US. The larger problem is the tendency to treat it as one country, in a kind of shorthand that creates big conceptual problems.
posted by OmieWise at 7:09 AM on October 13, 2010 [26 favorites]


Why is a continent being compared to countries?
This is...weak.
posted by MrMulan at 7:11 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


An eccentric professor interviews a continent.
posted by oulipian at 7:12 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Russia + Canada = Africa.
posted by smackfu at 7:13 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that really put it into context for me was learning that Africa is almost twice as large as Russia. 'Cause Russia is freaking huge.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


You have no idea how big Africa really is.

You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to Africa, listen . . .
posted by The Bellman at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2010 [58 favorites]


No, I already knew how big Africa was, and I resent the impertinence of articles that tell me I didn't.
posted by Decani at 7:14 AM on October 13, 2010 [23 favorites]


Well, going by number of square kilometers, Russia + Canada is actually about 5 million sq km smaller than Africa.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:15 AM on October 13, 2010


Why is a continent being compared to countries?

Compare it to a regular map though - see the difference.

But I don't really think immappacy is the problem with the way we talk about "Africa" in the US. The larger problem is the tendency to treat it as one country, in a kind of shorthand that creates big conceptual problems.

That's a good point; and true not just for the US (I feel like some Americans do this for Europe, too, for what it's worth).
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:15 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


what surprises me in that map is that china and the US look approximately the same size.

But really land mass isn't the crucial issue, and (as alluded to above) the African continent is made up of over 50 distinct countries, so it's not a monolithic entity...
posted by mdn at 7:15 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my god! Really, I had no clue!
posted by Flex1970 at 7:16 AM on October 13, 2010


Why is a continent being compared to countries?

That would be news ("Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease'') to some people.
posted by exogenous at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2010


You're right, I can't believe a continent is about the size of a handful of arbitrarily chosen countries.

Wait no, I can. Carry on though.
posted by cj_ at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


So that's why there are a lot of Italians on the East Coast and Germans in the Midwest. And Chinese along the Gulf Coast.

Plate tectonics is interesting!
posted by chasing at 7:17 AM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


The larger problem is the tendency to treat it as one country, in a kind of shorthand that creates big conceptual problems.

As per diversity, language maps are much more revealing.
posted by iamck at 7:18 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Where are the longhorn anti-Leninists of Texas and capitalist convicts and kangaroos who inhabit this godforsaken place, Australia?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's Gondwana all over again.
posted by chavenet at 7:19 AM on October 13, 2010


I, too, have seen The West Wing.
posted by timdicator at 7:19 AM on October 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


You people at home are enjoying this I'll bet!
posted by Joe Beese at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2010


What Fits Into Russia.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I visited just Morocco a few years ago, and went down to what is often thought of as the south - Agadir, and from there caught a bus south again, to El Aaiyun, in the north of Western Sahara. It took forever, 24 hours non-stop I think. Point being, I though that this quite an impressive bi-ass trip, but when you look at it on the map, it's just a very very tiny part of the African coast.
posted by carter at 7:21 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, too, have seen The West Wing.

And I was just about to post this.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


Graphs! Of countries' land areas!

So Russia is by far the largest, at 16 million sq km, followed by China, the US and Canada clocking in at about 9 million sq km, and then you've got Brazil and Australia at 8 million and 7 million sq km respectively. Add in India (2 million sq km) and you've got about half the land mass in the world.

As a resident of a 600 sq km-sized city-state these numbers are pretty much incomprehensible to me.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why, despite being slightly larger (and labeled as such), is the U.S. ranked behind China in size twice in that graphic?
posted by Vectorcon Systems at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2010


(crap, missed ricochet biscuit's post.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2010


lol "India Part 2"

Also, Ireland is labelled under "UK". Scandal!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:23 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You have no idea how big Africa really is.

Before clicking, I guessed "about three times as large as the USA", and I was pretty much correct. I totally have an idea how big Africa is.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:23 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think the problem is that we try to put labels or names on land. We choose an arbitrary land mass and name it something and it is a size and then some other arbitrary land mass is named something else and it is a size and who cares? I could just name the land from the north pole to Branson, Missouri "Funkytown" and it would be a certain size and it would be bigger or smaller than some other made up area of land but who gives a fuck? It is all just land and it is what it is. People live there. Or sometimes just animals or fish. But land is land. Land doesn't care what name you give it and it is all just land no matter what label you try to hang on it. Geography is a lie.
posted by ND¢ at 7:23 AM on October 13, 2010


Africa is still nothing but elephants and lions and child soldiers, right?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:24 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, I didn't know. I enjoyed and was informed by the graphic.
posted by josher71 at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


George_Spiggott, Yes when continents can fit into countries, that's...not weak.
posted by MrMulan at 7:26 AM on October 13, 2010


I'm confused. Are there really that many people who don't know the size of Africa? Oh, sorry, I was homeschooled.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:27 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mapfrappe is a Google Maps mashup/tool that lets you make such size comparisons yourself.
posted by oulipian at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did you know that you can fit ALL 50 STATES into a map of the USA? It's true!
posted by briank at 7:28 AM on October 13, 2010 [17 favorites]


Also, if he wants to fight immappacy (ughhg, really?), he should make an infographic called "You have no idea how big Greenland really is."
posted by 23skidoo at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Do you know how many time zones there are in Africa?"
"and about power ..."
"d'you kn--"
"we got so much power now ..."
"Do you know how many time zones there are in Africa?"
"we got so much power now, that's ridiculous."
posted by sourwookie at 7:29 AM on October 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Would it blow your mind if I told you that Africa is in reality fourteen times larger?"
posted by yeti at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


When I was a kid it was reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. Now there are so many more ways to be dumb. You have to have financial literacy, logical literacy, and now there's immappancy? Good thing I came to grips with being an idiot.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another interesting stat: Africa is ~30,000,000 square km in area, while the Moon is ~38,000,000. So the area of the Moon is just a bit larger than Africa.
posted by Blackanvil at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2010 [36 favorites]


oh dammit.
posted by yeti at 7:33 AM on October 13, 2010


When I was a kid and still writing in pencil science fiction stories inspired by some of the wackier 40s and 50s era SF (you know, where someone would take crown glass and make something with a wildly adjustable index of refraction so they could store up a year's worth of sunlight and then drop n down to near 1 and zap someone), I had a mad scientist who had invented The Mercator Projector.

It had a lot of scenes where someone stuffy would say, "I think you're quite confused. The Mercator projection is a way of drawing out maps flat," and then the scientist would pull out The Mercator Projector and hit the individual in question with the beam, which would flatten them out and horribly distort their bodies into unrecognizable shapes in doing so.

My scientist was really mad.
posted by adipocere at 7:34 AM on October 13, 2010 [57 favorites]


Compare it to a regular map though - see the difference.

Not really. The countries they use for the size comparison aren't particularly distorted by the common map projections. It's actually China that is smaller than I thought it was, given the huge population.
posted by smackfu at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2010


I'm trying to remember basic geography here, because I think the cutting and pasting of countries into Africa is flawed. Africa is larger than we think only because most standard maps of the globe we are familiar with are mercator projections, and those over-emphasize the size of things in higher latitudes (away from the equator).

So I think the "immappacy" stems from almost every world map we've seen since we were children de-emphasized the actual size of the African continent while overstating the size of Northern Europe and Canada.
posted by mathowie at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I knew it was that big. But then, I crossed the Sahara, overland, 30 years ago. Traveling every day (with the exception of about 4 days when I was laid up sick), it took a solid month. That's from Algiers to Kano, Nigeria.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:35 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Compare it to a regular map though - see the difference

I'm not sure a Mercator projection is really considered a regular map anymore.
posted by atrazine at 7:37 AM on October 13, 2010


Did you know that you can fit ALL 50 STATES into a map of the USA? It's true!

And you'd still have room left over!
posted by echo target at 7:37 AM on October 13, 2010


So the area of the Moon is just a bit larger than Africa.

And with the decreased gravity, moon elephants are two, sometimes three times the size of their terrestrial counterparts.

*sigh*

I love the giant moon elephants.

But I really hate the giant moon hippos. Fuckers are big enough to eat your car.
posted by quin at 7:39 AM on October 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Just on the walk to work I saw two things which were not put on top of another thing in any way whatsoever. SHAME!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:40 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Africa is bigger than the sun.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 7:40 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Do you know how many time zones there are in Africa?"

Do you know how many time zones there are in China?

One. Just one. Cause the CCP is batshit.
posted by kmz at 7:41 AM on October 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


Sure, but how important is it?

/American
posted by shakespeherian at 7:41 AM on October 13, 2010


Africa is bigger than the sun.

Rhythmically speaking, Africa is the sun.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:42 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


> we are familiar with are mercator projections, and those over-emphasize the size of things in higher latitudes (away from the poles)

or, more accurately, away from the equator.
posted by puffmoike at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2010


So Russia is by far the largest, at 16 million sq km, followed by China, the US and Canada clocking in at about 9 million sq km, and then you've got Brazil and Australia at 8 million and 7 million sq km respectively.

What is the authoritative source on this question? Every other list I've ever seen (and the first dozen or so google hits) puts the order as Russia-Canada-US-China.
posted by Adam_S at 7:47 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Graphs! Of countries' land areas!
So Russia is by far the largest, at 16 million sq km, followed by China, the US and Canada clocking in at about 9 million sq km


I did a spit-take at this. I was positive Canada is larger than the USA. I was pretty sure it's larger than China, too. So I did some digging...this chart is for "land area", a measure that subtracts the area of inland lakes. Hell, Canada has so many lakes you're subtracting half the country! Countries by "total area":
Russia
Canada
USA
China
Brazil
Australia
posted by rocket88 at 7:53 AM on October 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


You know what's bigger than Africa?

The West's indifference.

snap!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:54 AM on October 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


Since the person who made this map is so concerned about "immappacy" (I don't like that word but can't think of a better one), I wonder why he left off about 20% of the US.
posted by TedW at 8:00 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I think the "immappacy" stems from almost every world map we've seen since we were children de-emphasized the actual size of the African continent while overstating the size of Northern Europe and Canada.

Ding.

The other thing that really gets me about Africa is how *implicitly* huge it is. I've lived in a number of countries and traveled to almost 20 of them on the continent in the last few years. With the exception of most parts of South Africa - and maybe a few parts on the edges of north Africa that I've not been to (Morocco, Egypt), what most people from rest of the world don't understand is that infrastructure simply doesn't exist over here, in so many myriad ways.

Take roads. Lubumbashi in southern DRC is maybe a day's drive down through Zambia and Zimbabwe on often questionable roads and through often questionable countries (gas can reach well over $10 / gallon at times in Zambia, sometimes you can only find it on the black market or not at all in Zim). But to go roughly the same distance *within the country* to the capital of Kinshasa? Well, when its possible (bridges aren't out or armed militias haven't barricaded the road), it takes roughly 1-2 weeks depending on the state the roads are in. Assuming you arrive alive. Our staff based in Lubumbashi, if they need to get to Goma, on the eastern border with Rwanda, they have to fly to Nairobi, from there to Kigali, and then drive 3 hours by (bad) road from Kigali to the border to get back into DRC. Because no direct flight between the two exists and the roads have never really been an option.

That's just a couple of examples from DRC, which is the 3rd largest country on the continent (roughly the size of western Europe). The friggin country is so crippled from a sheer roads and airports perspective that people have to leave the country to travel long distances within it.

And there's 56 friggin countries on the continent - I can't even remember if that includes the handful of small island nations or not. And the vast majority of them share the same problems - few roads, the vast majority of them in horrible disrepair, and maybe 1-2 major working airport per country, at least for most of the continental ones.

I remember how I used to think driving from Pittsburgh to Denver in 24 hours was an accomplishment. Peanuts. Its hard to fathom what getting around in Africa is like when you grow up in a context of working roads and standing bridges and available gas and non-corrupt cops and customs officials and on and on and on.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:06 AM on October 13, 2010 [34 favorites]


Africa doesn't surprise me, but Japan does. Thought it was smaller.
posted by fungible at 8:12 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Imcartic perhaps? And projection is surely everything, in the continent that gave us life.
posted by JL Sadstone at 8:14 AM on October 13, 2010


Asia still wins.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:25 AM on October 13, 2010


This reminds me of all the maps that show Hawaii just off the coast of California.
posted by tommasz at 8:27 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google isn't helping this perception with their "satellite" map (picture).
posted by zephyr_words at 8:52 AM on October 13, 2010


I'm not quarreling with the main point of the graphic, which is a decent one. However, they forgot to show Alaska as part of the United States (even though it is included in the 9.6 million square kilometers they used in their chart.) At 1.5 million square kilometers, it would knock Spain, France and Germany right off the map. Seems like kind of a big oversight.

Also, what's up with listing China as #3 and US as #4 even though the US area is larger? Somehow, I suspect that there wasn't a lot of proofreading of the graphic before it went out.
posted by notmtwain at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


what surprises me in that map is that china and the US look approximately the same size.

Surprise! They are.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:58 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool layout for a map project. I think this would be a good resource for kiddos...mine specifically.
posted by ms.jones at 8:59 AM on October 13, 2010


According to my calculations, Africa is as big as 10901647091.65 Hitlers, but only 8721317673.33 Shaqs!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:04 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I, too, have seen The West Wing.

And I was just about to post this.


I love that bit, and CJ and Josh are just the people for it. Though Sam was great on the move to eradicate the penny.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 AM on October 13, 2010


I was watching "The King and I" when I was about 8 years old. There is a scene where Anna is beginning her first lesson of geography. She has a new "accurate" map of the world which shows Siam is being very small.
The Prince becomes very angry since they had been using a map which showed Siam as being about half the size of China.

I learned shortly after that my own literal view of the world had been altered by where I was living.

/No point, just hadn't though about that at all in many years.
posted by zephyr_words at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2010


I feel so inadequate. First I find out that Africa is fucking huge, then I find out that I'm evidently the only person who doesn't already know it.
posted by digsrus at 9:16 AM on October 13, 2010


So I'm the only one who noticed that this map is comparing the size of a continent to the size of countries.
posted by Bonzai at 9:19 AM on October 13, 2010


Africa is ~30,000,000 square km in area, while the Moon is ~38,000,000. So the area of the Moon is just a bit larger than Africa.

That impresses me, not that Africa is so big, just that the Moon is so small. Smallass punk satellite.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:21 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


All of which brings us back to that classic chestnut, How to Write about Africa. Remember, not only is it one ginormous country, but it's dark and dusky too.
posted by Gator at 9:25 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Surprise! They are.

yeah, I got that, I was just saying I was more ignorant of how small China was than how big Africa was. I guess because I have smushed it in with Russia in my head and because the population's so big... So that's what I learned, rather than anything about the continent of Africa, which looks about the size I thought it was.
posted by mdn at 9:27 AM on October 13, 2010


So I'm the only one who noticed that this map is comparing the size of a continent to the size of countries.
No, but you're the only one who's outed himself as not having read previous comments.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:29 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess that West Wing episode had it's effect on me as well, as I was not surprised at all by this. Well, frankly I was a bit surprised that the US was that large in relation to Africa.
posted by brundlefly at 9:29 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone's been playing with Wolfram!
posted by Mister_A at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2010


I think it is a good map, and it's nice to see the sizes laid out like that--I did not know that thanks to the wacky-ass mercator projection.

What's with all the defensiveness? Damn, people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:32 AM on October 13, 2010


Africa is 38,618 NYCs!
posted by Mister_A at 9:35 AM on October 13, 2010


And Greenland is about the size of Saudi Arabia! I don't want to get stuck in either of those places.
posted by Mister_A at 9:37 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So. Africa: Way bigger than NYC, way smaller than Neptune.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on October 13, 2010


The larger problem is the tendency to treat it as one country, in a kind of shorthand that creates big conceptual problems.

Oh god, don't get me started. My World Folk Lit students often refer to "the African culture" when discussing an Ashanti tale. (Or "the Arab culture" [WTF?] when discussing India.) Just this week, I posted pictures of one of the ancient Timbuktu fortified mosques after someone commented that it's weird to hear Sunjata's Mali empire called a "kingdom" because African architecture then was "grass and sticks" rather than something similar to a 12th century European castle.

But yes, the class exists to help everyone learn otherwise. I hope. Win!

Except I still twitch a little when a coworker tells me about how every time he teaches Heart of Darkness, roughly 80% of students refer to the Congolese as "African-Americans" on the exam.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:49 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Did you know that you can fit ALL 50 STATES into a map of the USA? It's true!"

Huh. Most maps of the US I've seen only fit 48 of the states.
posted by Eideteker at 9:53 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, what's up with listing China as #3 and US as #4

I would be interested in seeing how China and India react to being crudely partitioned in the name of Africa-centrism. They have responded poorly in the past to foreign efforts at reorganization.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:55 AM on October 13, 2010


Most interesting to me was the fact that Italy, Japan, and the U.S. east coast are all around the same size (as well as shape).
posted by ericbop at 9:57 AM on October 13, 2010


A few years ago, it took me two months straight to travel this far across Africa, all by public transportation: boat, bus, bike, motorcycle.

Continent just goes on forever.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:00 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh. Most maps of the US I've seen only fit 48 of the states.

Including the one in the post.
posted by TedW at 10:01 AM on October 13, 2010


Compare it to a regular map though - see the difference

I'm not sure a Mercator projection is really considered a regular map anymore.


Try the Gall-Peters projection for an equal-area projection.
posted by Kabanos at 10:03 AM on October 13, 2010


One of my biggest revelations about big countries has been Indonesia. We don't give it much credit because it's quite small on those Mercator projections, but from one end of the country to the other it's the distance between Portugal and the Caspian Sea, or from Miami to Juneau. That would be a 7-hour flight if there was such a route.
posted by crapmatic at 10:06 AM on October 13, 2010


Juneau should change its name to Rock City, USA or something cool if it wants me to take it seriously.
posted by Mister_A at 10:10 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


As per diversity, language maps are much more revealing.

That was a fascinating map. Let me put this in context: the language map of Burkina Faso identifies 65 distinct languages in a country of 274,000 km square, the size of Nevada, or Colarado. Damn.
posted by whatzit at 10:18 AM on October 13, 2010


He gets close here, but he could do better. If he used the countries of Africa, he'd find that, placed correctly in the puzzle, that they're exactly the same size as the continent of Africa! It's friggin' amazing how they all fit in there just right, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:20 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


For the record, I knew about the distortion of size caused by the Mercator projection and the relative size of Africa before this post and before the West Wing.

Cool map, though.
posted by spaltavian at 10:30 AM on October 13, 2010


The Bellman: "You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to Africa, listen . . ."

I just clicked on the comments and searched for "chemist."
posted by roll truck roll at 10:32 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


The larger problem is the tendency to treat it as one country, in a kind of shorthand that creates big conceptual problems.

Yeah, I guess I do that sometimes, especially when listening to the news. But that reaction is mostly associated with the context of the story, not the name of the country. When I hear about the Van Gogh stolen in Egypt, for example, I don't really think of it as having happened in Africa. High-profile art theft just feels more European-y. It wouldn't be too far a stretch to say I've mentally promoted Egypt out of Africa and slotted Haiti into the vacant space.

I guess I tend to think of "Africa" not as a continent, or even a country, but more of a plight. Kind of fucked up, I suppose.
posted by ryanrs at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why people are freaking out so royally about the fact that this map is contrasting the sizes of countries and a continent. As the creator of the map points out, it's to demonstrate to American schoolkids that their perception that the United States is the largest country in the world is wrong. Thus -- the use of countries, as versus using the North American continent. Jeez.

The whole "A continent is bigger than a country? Who knew!" snark is missing the whole damn point. American children do NOT know. That's the point.
posted by blucevalo at 10:43 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


As the creator of the map points out, it's to demonstrate to American schoolkids that their perception that the United States is the largest country in the world is wrong.

American kids tend to not know geography, but I don't this this perception is especially common. I think most kids will say that Russia is tbe biggest country. The actual locations and sizes of Asian and African countries, their international importance and their general culture is a different matter.
posted by spaltavian at 10:46 AM on October 13, 2010


I'm pretty sure I first saw this here at Metafilter: Social and Economic World Maps.
posted by malocchio at 10:47 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder if "Immapuracy" wouldn't make more sense?
A Malpropmanteu of Inimitable (or, I guess just the prefix "Im"), Map, and (In)accuracy
I just don't like how "Mappacy" sounds... if feels like it is missing letters.

I have seen detailed maps that show pre-contact cultures of the Americas, I cannot find any right now, but those are also awesome, much like the language maps of Africa.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:48 AM on October 13, 2010


As the creator of the map points out, it's to demonstrate to American schoolkids that their perception that the United States is the largest country in the world is wrong. Thus -- the use of countries, as versus using the North American continent. Jeez.

The whole "A continent is bigger than a country? Who knew!" snark is missing the whole damn point. American children do NOT know. That's the point.


How do we get from "Kids in the USA think that the USA is the biggest country" to "Kids in the USA do not know that ANYTHING is bigger than the USA"?
posted by 23skidoo at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2010


In case anyone besides me feels like reviewing the countries of Africa.
posted by albrecht at 10:58 AM on October 13, 2010


And more specifically, if you just look at the infographic, the USA is the largest country included.

"You think the USA is the largest country in the world? Well, you'd be wrong! Just look take a look at this infographic of Africa, which doesn't show any other countries that are larger than the USA. Wait. FUUUUCK"
posted by 23skidoo at 10:59 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


My beans, let me show you it.
posted by Mister_A at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there any reason they didn't just compare continents? Like, say, comparing the size of Africa vs North America? Africa is still bigger, but not by that much really.
posted by smartypantz at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2010


Well, count me in the very short column of people who thought Africa was much larger.

Not that that makes me any smrter.

I think I saw one of these sorts of maps as a kid [in public school] and because of how surprised I was at the time, overestimated its size for decades beyond the discovery. In my head, all I had was the idea of an almost endless void of land. It was a totally ridiculous notion, I'm realizing—I essentially believed that you'd be better off flying like you were Magellan around the continent than to fly over it. Some part of me probably understood it correctly, but not the part that related to other concepts. Given the idea of infinite territory, I assumed helping development on the continent was—although necessary—ultimately futile. The land mass was simply too large to develop.

Obviously, visiting every corner of Africa is still an incredible feat, but it's oddly encouraging to understand that its area isn't exclusively spelling its doom.
posted by pokermonk at 11:13 AM on October 13, 2010


I find the clinal distribution maps of Human Blood types to be pretty great at showing Human interconnectedness (as opposed to the old typological models of 'outward physical difference').


Ughhh, seriously, just using google to find these links again, and I realized that "the reptilian agenda" "theorists" have EATEN up google usefulness for public intellectualism, they are now getting top spots in beside science work, on searches to do with blood types and distribution,Grumble, something something RH factors. No wonder we are all know nothings. To someone who knows little about Anthropology those links must be VERY seducing, so much easier to understand, and so much more "exotic" than reality.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:16 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sorry - is this something that I would have to live on the planet Earth to know anything about?
posted by chinston at 11:18 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The smallest country in the world, according to the list WalterMitty linked above, is called Bassas da India and it has a population of 0! Thanks Walter and the CIA!
posted by mareli at 11:28 AM on October 13, 2010


"In case anyone besides me feels like reviewing the countries of Africa."

I was really hoping that this would actually be reviews of the countries in Africa, like, "Ghana: Good chocolate, mostly speak English as a second language. B+. Chad: Mostly hot and dry; does not answer to name. D. Congo: Mostly hot and wet, not to be confused with Conga, which is a sweet dance. C-."
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Those blood type maps are pretty sweet. I wish there was a better map, that overlaid all three major types (RGB, maybe?).
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on October 13, 2010


klang, Libya sets the curve.
posted by ryanrs at 11:44 AM on October 13, 2010


it's to demonstrate to American schoolkids that their perception that the United States is the largest country in the world is wrong.

But it does not demonstrate that at all. The US is apparently the 3rd or 4th largest country, depending on who's counting, and numbers 1 & 2 are not on this map.
posted by mdn at 11:46 AM on October 13, 2010


That's a good point; and true not just for the US (I feel like some Americans do this for Europe, too, for what it's worth).

Definitely. And to some extent, people do it with U.S. as well, forgetting it's a big place. Even Americans do this with individual U.S. states. California is reduced to San Francisco / Silicon Valley / The Bay Area and DisneyLand / Hollywood / Los Angeles. Nevada is reduced to Las Vegas. Iowa is where they grow corn. Utah is where those Mormons live. Kansas is flat.

I'm talking about U.S. states as an example for a rather American audience, in part because I'm guessing everybody reading this has experienced misconceptions about communities or states in which they've lived, but I'm not really talking about U.S. geography per se.

This is a general human problem. A considerable chunk of what we think we know is extrapolated from the very small handful of facts and stories we're likely to encounter simply by floating through life. Without looking more closely, without consciously choosing to explore more deeply and learn more, this small handful of facts slowly slides into an accepted synecdoche. All of the things I wrote above about individual U.S. states are more or less true, but if this is largely what you know about those places, you really know practically nothing about them and what life is like there or even what it's like to make more than a shallow visit.

And that's just American geography, let alone the world, or fields of thought, the universe inside of hundreds of thousands of communities and billions of individual people.
posted by weston at 12:07 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Definitely. And to some extent, people do it with U.S. as well, forgetting it's a big place. Even Americans do this with individual U.S. states. California is reduced to San Francisco / Silicon Valley / The Bay Area and DisneyLand / Hollywood / Los Angeles. Nevada is reduced to Las Vegas. Iowa is where they grow corn. Utah is where those Mormons live. Kansas is flat. "

I know that I'll take flak for this, but driving out to California made me feel better about the plans to store nuclear waste out in the middle of the desert. I'd driven it before, but until I had to do it in four days, I didn't realize just how HUGE and relatively empty a lot of the West is. (I know, I know, it's got wildlife and habitats and stuff, but an acre here or there really isn't going to matter much unless it's a really specific micro-environment).
posted by klangklangston at 12:10 PM on October 13, 2010


This was illustrative to me, but then I adore shit like this. Anything cartography-related, really.

For instance, did you know that Saudi Arabia and Texas are roughly equal in size? And that Saudi Arabia has zero rivers in all of that land area?

As for de-emphasizing the size of Africa having the result of de-emphasizing its importance to Americans, possibly, but I think the much greater reason for disinterest and the fallacy of homogeny is that the power majority (read: whites) in the U.S. generally have an idea of where they came from. Not just from Europe, but which countries in Europe. And considering that European countries are romanticized in American culture, the whites have reason and ability to look into their heritages. So Italy is different from Spain is different from France is different from England (is different from Ireland) and so on. They know the wars and historical relations at least somewhat. And so Europe is heterogeneous.

African-Americans, however, are largely descended from slaves brought over and not taught their ancestry, or really anything at all for some time. And of course true economic and political equity between blacks and whites is still a long ways away. And it probably doesn't help that the African wars of that period facilitated the slave trade themselves. In a very big continent, when you don't know which part of it to lay claim to as "your own," learning the history becomes disincentivised, and the whites don't give much of a shit.

So it gets homogenized, because black culture was forcibly homogenized (to a degree at least) within the U.S.

Which seems more important to me than not knowing how big the place is.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 PM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


In case anyone besides me feels like reviewing the countries of Africa.

Damn you Guinea-Bissau!

I refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of this quiz because it does not include Spain.
posted by GodricVT at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"So it gets homogenized, because black culture was forcibly homogenized (to a degree at least) within the U.S."

Alex Haley has a great book/mini-series about this.

(Only snarking towards Americans a little. Every black person I met in college had either read or seen and loved Roots, while the vast majority of white folks were at best indifferent.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on October 13, 2010


No-one else favorite the Bellman's post at the start of the thread. It's at 42 favorites and should stay there.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:56 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I always thought the Robinson projection used by National Geogrpahic in my childhood was a perfectly reasonable map. That said, I liked my globe better than any flat map.
posted by wierdo at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2010


Holy shit. I really had no clue. Thank you. This explains some things though.
posted by PuppyCat at 1:15 PM on October 13, 2010


Dammit!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:28 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, so, if the USA and the entire continent of Africa were rolled up into a ball and shot into space, we'd be BIGGER THAN OUR MOON?!

SHUT. UP.
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:54 PM on October 13, 2010


But I really hate the giant moon hippos, the most dangerous animal in all of Africa. Fuckers are big enough to eat your car.

(I fixed this for you.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:08 PM on October 13, 2010


I hate to be picky, but Africa is not larger than the USA, China, India, Japan, and all of Europe combined. (Unless by all of Europe they mean the all the countries in the European Union).

Europe = 10,180,000 sq km
USA= 9,629,000 sq Km
China= 9,597,000 sq km
India= 3,287,000 sq km
Japan= 378,000 sq km
Total= 33,071,000 sq km

Africa = 30,221,000 sq km

That said, in college, I saw a copy of the Gall-Peters projection with inserts showing how the correction changed the apparent relative sizes of different countries compared to the Mercator projection. I was blown away by how large Sudan, Congo and Algeria actual are.
posted by chrisulonic at 2:09 PM on October 13, 2010


I always thought the Robinson projection used by National Geogrpahic in my childhood was a perfectly reasonable map. That said, I liked my globe better than any flat map.

We had Mercator projection world maps when I was in elementary school. I learned they were crap at a pretty early age, and have always hated them. I mean come on. Greenland is not the same size as Africa, really -- just look at this globe.

I also got pretty damn sick of all those world maps that put N. & S. America smack dab in the middle and sliced Asia in half. I remember being in the third grade and thinking "Seriously, people. Can we not slice it through the middle of the damn Pacific Ocean?" (not in those exact words)
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a perfect world, TheWhiteSkull. In a perfect world.
posted by The Bellman at 2:56 PM on October 13, 2010


"Seriously, people. Can we not slice it through the middle of the damn Pacific Ocean?"

Over my dead body.

Sincerely,
Pitcairn Island
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:01 PM on October 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


this is neat, thanks for posting it. ditto those blood type maps.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2010


Call me when you've figured out how many regulation basketballs fit inside the sun.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:14 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like some Americans do this for Europe, too, for what it's worth

Definitely. And to some extent, people do it with U.S. as well, forgetting it's a big place.

Absolutely. I boggled some friends of mine from London by asking them to guess at a comparison re: distance of driving from NYC to L.A. vs. driving distance from London to "somewhere." They didn't even come close. (Answer: driving from NY to LA is just about 200 miles less than driving from London to Moscow... and back.)
posted by tzikeh at 4:41 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Call me when you've figured out how many regulation basketballs fit inside the sun.

1.98873239 × 1029.

I lost your number, so I had to post the answer here.
posted by klangklangston at 4:59 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Call me when you've figured out how many regulation basketballs fit inside the sun.

All of them.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:40 PM on October 13, 2010 [18 favorites]


Greenland, you lying sack of shit.
posted by benzenedream at 11:04 PM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Blackanvil: "Another interesting stat: Africa is ~30,000,000 square km in area, while the Moon is ~38,000,000. So the area of the Moon is just a bit larger than Africa."

I mentioned this interesting statistic to my boyfriend. His response:

Why...? Does someone have some kind of a plan?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Devil's Rancher wins. You may redeem this coupon for one beer.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:03 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did not know this.

Not even close.

I feel like I should write a letter to my Year 8 Geography teacher. I'm not sure whether I should apologise or tell her she's an idiot, because I wasn't paying attention.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:14 AM on October 14, 2010


(klangklangston:
Good try, but you forgot about the Kepler Conjecture, which states that one can pack basketballs with a density of at most pi/sqrt(18). I believe this reduces the number of (inflated!) balls one could pack to 1.43854779532e+29.)

posted by kaibutsu at 1:26 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to my calculations, Africa is as big as 10901647091.65 Hitlers, but only 8721317673.33 Shaqs!

You know who else was as big as ten billion Hitlers?

It was Gigahitler.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 AM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


rocket88 writes "I did a spit-take at this. I was positive Canada is larger than the USA. I was pretty sure it's larger than China, too. So I did some digging...this chart is for 'land area', a measure that subtracts the area of inland lakes. Hell, Canada has so many lakes you're subtracting half the country! Countries by 'total area':"

I too was quite surprised to see the US listed as bigger than Canada. Typical stat juking.

FelliniBlank writes "Except I still twitch a little when a coworker tells me about how every time he teaches Heart of Darkness, roughly 80% of students refer to the Congolese as 'African-Americans' on the exam."

That's because African American = black and kids are smart enough to see it without being sophisticated enough to play the game. A black friend of mine who emigrated to the US describes himself to Americans over the phone as Canadian American and the resolving of cogitative dissonance when they meet him in person is hilarious to watch.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


FelliniBlank: Except I still twitch a little when a coworker tells me about how every time he teaches Heart of Darkness, roughly 80% of students refer to the Congolese as "African-Americans" on the exam.

That's always made me laugh a little bit. It's the same kind of thing as Americans being slightly surprised that the English speak, well, English.
posted by Lleyam at 5:00 AM on October 14, 2010


Devil's Rancher wins.

I actually owe Charles Schultz a debt of gratitude for that bit of Zen mastery.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:02 AM on October 14, 2010


I guess I tend to think of "Africa" not as a continent, or even a country, but more of a plight. Kind of fucked up, I suppose.

A couple weeks after posting that, I heard a very interesting talk on the economic growth of African countries. The speaker, James Manyika, started off by discussing continent-wide African economic trends, then moved into more specific discussions of countries, broadly classified by economic character (i.e. resource extraction economy, diversified economy, etc).

A very upbeat discussion of economic growth in a heterogeneous Africa.

Is Africa the Next China? [1 hour | 60MB mp3]
Speaker: James Manyika, McKinsey Global Institute
posted by ryanrs at 5:54 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


« Older Man phones Asda to complain about a pizza. (SLYT)...  |  It has been a dramatic start o... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments