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

665 - Argentina v. Netherlands: Does Size Matter?

July 8, 2014, 8:52 PM

Brazil v. Germany: 1-7. After the shock elimination of the Football World Cup's host country Tuesday evening – by a historical and humiliating margin – one kind of expects as much spectacle and surprise from Wednesday's other semifinal.

After all, that game will pit another European football giant against another South American one. But giants come in very different sizes, especially in the World Cup of the game some insist on calling soccer. Does a country's size matter?

By sheer accident, this old map form the vaults of Strange Maps nicely reflects the size difference between the next match's opponents, Argentina and the Netherlands.

Not that that is the map's main purpose. It attempts to capture the hugeness of Argentina by stuffing it with as many other countries as possible – a technique cited before on this blog, with maps designed to impress upon the map reader just how huge Africa is (see #35), or how big Portugal's pre-1975 colonial empire was (see #390).


According to this map, Argentina comprises 2,789,461 km2. Which is as much as – in fact, even a bit more than – the following 10 countries combined (listed in order of size):

  • * Germany (540,777 km2)
  • * France (536,464 km2)
  • * Spain (497,244 km2)
  • * Sweden (447,864 km2)
  • * Norway (322,987 km2)
  • * Portugal (91,943 km2)
  • * Switzerland (41,149 km2)
  • * Denmark (40,386 km2)
  • * Netherlands (33,079 km2)
  • * Belgium (29,456 km2)

That tallies up to 2,581,349 km2, still more than 200,000 km2 less than Argentina – room enough to stuff another six Netherlands in there. If you're looking for the original one: that's the Netherlands right there, close to the northeast corner of Argentina, squeezed between Spain and Switzerland. Belgium is caught between France, Germany and the Iberian peninsula, while Denmark free-floats on the other side of France and Germany, almost bumping in to Norway. Funnily enough, Norway's extreme north points south here, mirroring Argentina's half of Tierra del Fuego. The climate of both areas won't be all that different from each other.

As can be deduced from the shape of Germany (and of France, although that is less obvious on the map), this cartographic comparison was drawn up some time between 1871 (when France lost Alsace-Lorraine to Germany) and 1919 (when it got that border region back). So the area indicated for metropolitan France is somewhat less than it is today. For Germany, the situation is reversed, but more extreme, since it would go on to lose even more territory after both World Wars.

Nor is the area indicated for the Netherlands applicable any longer, but not due to the fortunes of war: the country today measures 41,543 km2, about 20% bigger than on this map, thanks mainly to the land reclamation in the IJsselmeer.

But of course a country's area is only one measure of its size. Cruciall – for football at least – is its population: the more people to pick from, the likelier you can select a winning team. At the time this graph was made, the Netherlands had 5.8 million inhabitants and Argentina 6.5 million. That not only puts both countries in the same league, demographically speaking, but also allows us to date the map more precisely to around 1905.

In the intervening 110 years, both populations have grown substantially, but not in equal measure. The Netherlands now houses about 17 million people, triple the amount mentioned on the map. Argentina, however, thanks to large-scale immigration (perhaps lured in by maps like these, promising wide open spaces) now is home to 42 million inhabitants – almost sevenfold the previous figure. Does that mean the odds of the Argentinian team beating the Dutch are 7 to 3? Curiously, the Brazilian and German population are in almost the exact same relation to each other (203 vs. 80 million). And look how that turned out.

This map taken here from imgur.


665 - Argentina v. Netherla...

Newsletter: Share: