Posted by: blogone | July 22, 2007

Looking at the world from another point of view

Recently a friend made the big move from Ireland to Australia. She’s engaged to an Aussie who’s been living in Ireland for about seven years. Good for her, good for him, good for them.

Last year I read Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything‘ an epic story of how we got to where we are today. Its a fantastic read, packed with so many interesting tidbits of information and research that I’m baffled by how much I don’t know; about everything. If I had a list of ‘must have’ dinner party guests Bryson would be on it. I downloaded the audio book from iTunes last week to listen to it and its fantastic. I can’t recommend this audio / book enough.

This has started me thinking about all sorts of things; Life, the Universe and Everything as Douglas Adams might say and about how the world must look from the Southern Hemisphere. Needless to say Google searches ensued as did many link clicking on Wikipedia and I was off all over the Internet reading and viewing all sorts of information that intrigued and baffled me.

You should recognize this image. Its commonly know as ‘Earth’. Its also known as ‘The Blue Marble‘. Original caption: “View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon. This translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap.

Blue Marble upside down

The image above is not oriented correctly. It was turned upside down to fit with our common view of the world; North at the top. The ‘correct’ shot is below with the south pole at the top of the image. The island of Madagascar visible just left of center, and the continent of Africa at its right.

Blue Marble right way up

So why should North always be at the top? Who decided that? Well it has something do with an Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy (90-168 AD). Perhaps because the better known places in the world were in the Northern Hemisphere and made it easier to study by placing so on sheets of paper or parchment or whatever he might have used.

So for my friend who’s gone to Australia what way should she view her world? Should she view it in the traditional sense or should she look at it from the alternative point of view?

Here’s a traditional map of the world:

and here’s how someone in the Southern Hemisphere might view the world, look where Australia now sits and look out for Ireland in the bottom right hand corner. In this view the United States sits on top of Canada. Here’s a link to the large size image.

As usual, I’ve always taken for granted that North is at the top and south is at the bottom. It didn’t occur to me that someone in Australia might see it quite differently. Its a bias to think that North should be at the top.

Anyway, Andrea has appeared to ask me to go get ‘muffin tins’ so I’m off for an early morning trip to Dunnes Stores.

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