Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. When I started penning the title to this column, I began with "Have you got the globes?" and then the British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise popped into my mind, and I could imagine Ernie Wise asking this question and I could hear Eric Morecambe respond "No, I always walk this way!" (The old jokes are the best ones :-)
But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about…
Yesterday evening I was chatting with my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) about a friend of ours who recently adopted a young kid from China. I'm not sure how it came about, but I suggested that it might be a good idea for them to have a World Globe to they could talk about where we are and where China is and suchlike.
So I went for a rummage in my study, and emerged triumphant with just such a globe, which had been basking in the back of the closet. I was going to give the globe to Gina to give to our friend, but then I started looking at it in more detail, and I got sucked in…
You tend to forget just how much more information there seems to be when you are looking at globe as opposed to a flat map / projection. You get a much better impression as to how all of the countries relate to each other spatially. To be perfectly honest, I was amazed by how many things I found I didn’t know. I spent half my time saying "So that's where that is!"
and the other half saying "What the heck is that?"
When coupled with my trusty iPad, the result is almost a case of information overload. Have you heard of San Marino
, for example? Also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino
, this is an "Enclaved Microstate" surrounded by Italy.
Only 24 square miles in size, and with a population of around 30,000, it turns out that San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It started as a monastic community founded on 3 September 301, and the constitution of San Marino, which was enacted in 1600, is the world's oldest constitution still in effect.
Or what about Indonesia
? I'm ashamed to say that if you had asked me yesterday morning, I would have known hardly anything about this country. If pushed, I would have taken a stab and said it was somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, but I couldn’t have told you if it was part of a continent or an island.
In fact, it turns out that Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 17,508 islands! If you are American, think how hard it is remembering the names of the 50 states. In my case, being English, I just tried to jot down the names of all the English counties, and I came out painfully short. So can you imagine being the citizen of a country formed from 17,500+ islands? How would you like to be a geography teacher in an Indonesian school? With over 238 million people, Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country
, which makes it all the more embarrassing that I know so little about it!
And speaking of continents, what exactly is a continent and how many are there? (I've mentioned this before, but it's a question that's well worth pondering.) The conventional definition of a continent is that it is a large, continuous, discrete mass of land, ideally separated by expanses of water. The only small problem with this definition – a teeny tiny fly in the soup, as it were – is that many of the seven most commonly recognized continents identified by convention (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia) are not in fact discrete landmasses separated by water.
Actually, depending on your point of view, there are either seven
, or four
continents. Yes, I know I said six twice. This is because one flavor of six continents has North America and South America as separate continents, while Eurasia (Europe and Asia) is considered to be a single continent. An alternative point of view has America as a single continent that encompasses both North and South America, while Europe and Asia are considered to be two distinct entities.
The seven-continent model is usually taught in China, India, and most English-speaking Countries, while the six-continent (combined-America) model is taught in Latin America and some parts of Europe.
By some strange quirk of fate, this leads us back to the Olympics (see my recent blog The 2012 Olympics opening ceremony … WOW!
) Have you ever wondered why the Olympic logo features five rings?
Well, the Olympics uses a six-continent model as a starting point, but it then excludes Antarctica on the basis that it makes sense (in the context of athletic competition) to include only the inhabited continents – hence the five-continent model.
But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about…
Back to my globe, which I am NOT giving to our friend's kid! It's mine, all mine, I tell you! (We can buy them one for Christmas.) We've all seen images of different continents and super-continents from hundreds of millions of years ago. Names like Yigarn
, and Pangaea
spring to mind (Click Here
to see an amazing animation showing the continents drifting around the globe).
Well, it just struck me that I would love to have a collection of world globes reflecting the state of play at different times, like 550 million years ago, 250 million years ago, and 65 million years ago. The last one is, of course, particularly "close to home" temporally speaking. How many times have you heard that a giant meteorite struck the earth 65 million years ago wiping out the dinosaurs? How many times have you heard that it formed a crater 180 kilometers (110 miles) in diameter, and that it landed off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico?
OK … now here's the big question, where exactly was the Yucatán Peninsula 65 million years ago in relation to everything else? I believe that part of North America was connected to Scotland at that time, so I'm guessing that North America was separated from South America.
I could look this up on the Internet, but I'm gasping for another cup of coffee, so this will have to wait until later. In the meantime, do you know of anyone who sells World Globes showing the continents 550, 250, and 65 million years ago? If so, please let me know, because based on how much additional information I'm gleaning from my present-day World Globe, I really would like to see the ancient continents presented in this way.
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