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“The map is not the territory”*…

 

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Across the board, the Mercator projection of the Earth—which has been our baseline for world maps since the 16th century—skews the actual size of countries so they look bigger (and therefore, more important than they are) when they fall within the middle of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s not just bad design, it has real geopolitical implications. For example, in most people’s minds, Greenland is a much larger country than Australia. But the reality is that Australia dwarfs Greenland. Likewise, you probably think Africa and North America are roughly the same size, but Africa can swallow all of North America and Greenland with room for all of Western Europe to spare. And so on…  [To redress misperception] James Talmage and Damon Maneice created The True Size. The web app lets you drag-and-drop different countries on a world map and see how they shrink or grow on a standard Mercator Projection map. It’s a simple tool, but an eye-opening one that can be quickly used to show just how skewed our maps really are…

More at “This Interactive Proves Just How Wrong Our World Maps Really Are.”  Visit The True Size here.

Alfred Korzybski (and here)

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As we ponder perspective, we might might spare a thought for Eratosthenes of Cyrene; he may have died on this date in 194 or 195 BC.  (His exact birth and death dates are lost, so this is as good a day as any to celebrate him.)  A mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, music theorist, and Chief Librarian at Alexandria, Eratosthenes is probably best remembered as the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth (which he did remarkably accurately), to calculate the tilt of the Earth’s axis, and to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun (which, again, he did very accurately); and he created the Leap Day.

In his three-volume work Geography (Geographika), Eratosthenes described and mapped his entire known world, dividing the Earth into five climate zones: two freezing zones around the pole, two temperate zones, and a zone encompassing the equator and the tropics.  He placed grids of overlapping lines over the surface of the Earth, using parallels and meridians to link together every place in the world– in the process, coining terminology still in use… He had invented the discipline of Geography.

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Written by LW

June 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The map is not the territory”…

The Treachery of Images,” René Magritte, 1928-9

Alfred Korzybski reminds one (in the title-line quote, above), as does Surrealist wit like Magritte’s, that representations are not the things they represent.

Still, they fascinate us– precisely because of their power to evoke the thing that they aren’t.  And when the things that maps evoke aren’t real things at all?  Even niftier!

Consider, for example, two kinds of maps of fictional territories…

For nine years, from 1943 to 1952, Dell published 557 mystery novels with “map backs.”  Some charted fictional action on “real” terrain, for instance…

But most located the imagined plot in an imaginary setting, for example…

and…

In a different imaginary arena (not to say “a parallel universe”), the world of comics, comic books, and graphic novels, maps also play an important role…

Sometimes they are used to elaborate on a conceit in a way that adds narrative credibility through detail, e.g…

Nick Fury’s Tunnel, Strange Tales #141

…and sometimes, simply for dramatic effect, e.g…

Superman throws out the first pitch

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hypperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is never the less the map that proceeds the territory – pressesion of simulacra- that engenders the territory.
– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra & Simulation, 1994

Or, as someone who isn’t a French Post-Structuralist might say, way cool!

Readers can find more Bantam map-backs at Marble River’s Ephemera (from whence, the examples above) and at Mystery Scene.  Readers can get more graphic guidance at Comic Book Cartography (the source of those examples).  Grateful TotH to reader MH-H for the lead to CBC.

As we endeavor (but not too hard) to avoid the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1987 (44 years to the day after “Bicycle Day,” the day that  Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, deliberately took the hallucinogen for the first time) that The Simpsons debuted, as a short within The Tracey Ullman Show.

The Simpsons, as they first appeared

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