What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

256 - The Surrealist Map of the World (1929)

March 17, 2008, 12:15 AM


Just as light is not supposed to bend, so the Equator should not waver from its rectitude. The fact that it snakes across this map like a hose through a garden indicates that this is a very weird world indeed.

How weird? A first indication is the size of Alaska – way too big even if you allow for the distortion of the Mercator projection, which is also ballooning Russia to a size much bigger than its already huge actual surface, but this super-sized Russia is not out of line with accepted mercatorial deviance.

Closer inspection of the American continent reveals a gigantic Labrador, bordering on Mexico, to which is appended an atrophied version of South America. Not just atrophied, but completely missing are the United States and Canada (not to mention all other Central and South American countries, save Peru, which takes up all of its subcontinent).

Two para-American islands are affected by gigantism: Easter Island, which looks like a teddy bear pointing towards Peru, and Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of the Americas, looking like a lizard running west… the low resolution of this image leaves much to the imagination.

Asia and Oceania are similarly blighted by gigantism (Hebrides, New Guinea and an illegible archipel, China and Afghanistan) dwarfism (Australia, India) and not-there-ism (Japan, Sri Lanka, much of the Middle East).

Africa is tiny, Europe is almost entirely covered by Germany, Ireland is looking straight at Europe across the Britain-less North Sea. Only two cities are marked on the map: Paris and Constantinople…What’s the point of this map? Well – its point is that it hasn’t any, except to bewilder and shock bourgeois viewers by presenting a bizarre alternative to the stale normality of their expectations.

Which is a neat summary of the surrealist world view – not co-incidentally, the title of this work is Surrealist Map of the World. It first appeared in 1929 in a special issue of ‘Variétés’, a Belgian magazine, dedicated to surrealism – an art form remembered for its absurdity, but less for its political views.

In discussing this map in her excellent book You Are Here, Katharine Harmon quotes a Surrealist manifesto from 1925:

“Even more than patriotism – which is a quite commonplace sort of hysteria, though emptier and shorter-lived than most – we are disgusted by the idea of belonging to a country at all, which is the most bestial and least philosophic of the concepts to which we are all subjected.. Wherever Western civilization is dominant, all human contact has disappeared, except contact from which money can be made – payment in hard cash.”

This map was found here.


256 - The Surrealist Map of...

Newsletter: Share: