See the Sun Set on Europe
An impossible map of all the sunset shadows across Europe
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
One theory about the origin of the name 'Europe' is that it means 'sunset' (1) – Asia, by the same token, would mean 'sunrise'. In that case, here we have a sunset map of sunset-land.
Imagine the westering sun disappearing over the horizon on the left hand side of this map. These are the shadows cast by the hills and mountains of Europe.
Darker means more mountainous; lighter equals flatter. Hence the near-invisibility of the Netherlands, on the western edge of the Northern European Plain that extends all the way into Russia.
Other remarkably flat areas include the Hungarian Plain and the Po Valley in northern Italy, both surrounded by mountain chains.
The darkest shadows – and the highest mountains – can be found in the Alps (clearly the result of Italy pushing into Europe). The Balkans are almost completely mountainous, the Carpathian mountain range writes a Z for Zorro across the map of Eastern Europe, from southern Poland to the Romanian-Bulgarian border. The Pyrenees form the Franco-Spanish border, but extend almost all the way to the northwestern extremity of the Iberian peninsula.
Mountains often prefigure borders: that Z shape in Romania marks the edge of Transylvania. The mountainous peninsula in the west of Great Britain is contiguous with Wales. The zone where Belgium's flat north transforms into its hilly south, is almost exactly the same as the language border between Dutch and French. And Switzerland's independence has more to do with its mountainous inaccessibility than with the convenience of its banking system.
This sunset map of Europe is based on actual topographical information, but is a computer-generated image rather than an actual snapshot by satellite. That would be impossible: those mountains and plains are draped over a globe, so by the time the shadows start lengthening in Spain, night has long fallen in the Balkans.
Strange Maps #858
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) See also #331
Our experience of time may be blinding us to its true nature, say scientists.
- Time may not be passing at all, says the Block Universe Theory.
- Time travel may be possible.
- Your perception of time is likely relative to you and limited.
From questionable shipwrecks to outright attacks, they clearly don't want to be bothered.
- Many have tried to contact the Sentinelese, to write about them, or otherwise.
- But the inhabitants of the 23 square mile island in the Bay of Bengal don't want anything to do with the outside world.
- Their numbers are unknown, but either 40 or 500 remain.
At least he wasn't burned at the stake, right?
- The letter suggests Galileo censored himself a bit in order to fly more under the radar. It didn't work, though.
- The Royal Society Journal will publish the variants of the letters shortly, and scholars will begin to analyze the results.
- The letter was in obscurity for hundreds of years in Royal Society Library in London.
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