Even these Terrible Maps can teach us something

Despite itself, this collection of awful cartography may just make a few useful observations.

  • Since 2016, Terrible Maps has been collecting, well… terrible maps.
  • They're awful, pointless and stupid, but also funny (and sometimes even instructive).
  • Here are 10 examples. Dive into the Twitter account for hundreds more.

What a strange map. How can I store it and collect more? That's how the Strange Maps blog got started back in 2006. Replace 'strange' with 'terrible', and you've got the idea behind Terrible Maps, a Twitter account that has been spewing awful, pointless, stupid maps since 2016.

Luckily, most are also quite funny – at least a chuckle, sometimes a snort – and not a few actually offer an insight worth contemplating. Here are our ten favorites. Click on the link below for the Twitter account.

All directions north

You can't go further south than the South Pole, which means that any other point is north again. Wait, does that mean you can't go east or west from the South Pole?

​Iggy Coke?

Iggy Pop is a mercurial character. To some, he's The Passenger, a rock 'n roll legend; to others, he's a car insurance salesman. This map grafts his persona on the map of the US that shows the border between people who call a carbonated drink 'pop', and those for whom that's a 'soda'. (see also #308)

Moon on Flag and Flag on Moon

The Moon is frequently used in Islamic iconography: on top of mosques, and on the flags of several majority-Muslim nations, but also Croatia and Moldova (in red on this map). But while 13 countries have the moon on their flag, there is just one country with its flag on the moon. That's right: USA! USA!

​Ding Dong, TX

Most people with have heard of Boring, Oregon. Here are some of America's other odd town names – one per state – that you might not have been aware of. Jackpot, NV and Okay, OK: yes, we see how those names came about. But Ding Dong, TX? Chugwater, WY? Booger Hole, WV?

Moose maps

Alaska is the biggest state in the U.S. But why is Maine second, Idaho third? The animal at the bottom is the key, and the legend of the map: each state is sized for their moose population. Even Nevada has a few.

Ages of the world

This map is a compound of the situation on the ground, and the prejudices of the mapmaker. Much of Africa, South America and the Arctic is living in the Stone Age. The interior of Australia, the north of Africa and elsewhere: colonial times. Russia, most of the US and China: the 1900s. The UK, the inhabited parts of Canada, Southern Europe, New Zealand: the present. Germany, Scandinavia, Japan, northeastern US, coastal China: the future. If you want to experience all at once: go to India.

​Airus Forcus Romanus

Take any outline map and think of a legend that doesn't require you to alter it. Like this map of Roman Air Force bases in the second century AD. Also in this series: Electricity consumption in Europe in 1507. Countries arranged by geographical location. Knowledge of Cherokee in the EU. Popes per square mile. Alcoholism in Russia. Map of Earth if there was no land (i.e. blank). Saudi Arabia mapped only by its rivers (also blank). Map of Europe showing population per capita (a '1' in each country).

​World Map of Bill Gates

Bill Gates is rich. Very rich. How rich? Richer than each of the countries on this map that have his grinning face superimposed on them.

​Brexit vs. Mad Cow Disease

Left, in blue: UK areas that voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Right, in dark grey: areas affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, a.k.a. 'Mad Cow Disease') during the 1992 outbreak. The correspondence between both maps is perfect. The message: the people who voted for Brexit were crazy, suffering from residual BSE. But the perfect correspondence is not that surprising: the second map is a black and white version of the first, with a different date slapped on. Point made. Fake data. Terrible map!

Gubernatorial eye colour map

A large, contiguous part of the US is ruled by blue-eyed governors: from Washington state all the way down to Florida. There are two blue-eyed islands in the northeast (Delaware-New Jersey and Massachusetts-New Hampshire). Virginia is the only state with a green-eyed governor. All the other states are ruled by brown-eyed top executives. Mind you, this map predates the mid-terms. Someone update this one, please!

Browsing through the Terrible Maps account, a few overlaps with Strange Maps jump out, including this map of potential EU leaving names, this world map of the metric system, and this map of the shortest route between all pubs in the UK. Are they terribly strange or just strangely terrible?

Find these and other terrible maps at Terrible Maps on Twitter or on Facebook. Thank you O. Jones for suggesting it. Strange Maps is also on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Strange Maps #952

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

Stand up against religious discrimination – even if it’s not your religion

As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
  • Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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Why Epicurean ideas suit the challenges of modern secular life

Sure, Epicureans focused on seeking pleasure – but they also did so much more.

Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Culture & Religion

'The pursuit of Happiness' is a famous phrase in a famous document, the United States Declaration of Independence (1776). But few know that its author was inspired by an ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Thomas Jefferson considered himself an Epicurean. He probably found the phrase in John Locke, who, like Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and Adam Smith, had also been influenced by Epicurus.

Nowadays, educated English-speaking urbanites might call you an epicure if you complain to a waiter about over-salted soup, and stoical if you don't. In the popular mind, an epicure fine-tunes pleasure, consuming beautifully, while a stoic lives a life of virtue, pleasure sublimated for good. But this doesn't do justice to Epicurus, who came closest of all the ancient philosophers to understanding the challenges of modern secular life.

Epicureanism competed with Stoicism to dominate Greek and Roman culture. Born in 341 BCE, only six years after Plato's death, Epicurus came of age at a good time to achieve influence. He was 18 when Alexander the Great died at the tail end of classical Greece – identified through its collection of independent city-states – and the emergence of the dynastic rule that spread across the Persian Empire. Zeno, who founded Stoicism in Cyprus and later taught it in Athens, lived during the same period. Later, the Roman Stoic Seneca both critiqued Epicurus and quoted him favourably.

Today, these two great contesting philosophies of ancient times have been reduced to attitudes about comfort and pleasure – will you send back the soup or not? That very misunderstanding tells me that Epicurean ideas won, hands down, though bowdlerised, without the full logic of the philosophy. Epicureans were concerned with how people felt. The Stoics focused on a hierarchy of value. If the Stoics had won, stoical would now mean noble and an epicure would be trivial.

Epicureans did focus on seeking pleasure – but they did so much more. They talked as much about reducing pain – and even more about being rational. They were interested in intelligent living, an idea that has evolved in our day to mean knowledgeable consumption. But equating knowing what will make you happiest with knowing the best wine means Epicurus is misunderstood.

The rationality he wedded to democracy relied on science. We now know Epicurus mainly through a poem, De rerum natura, or 'On the Nature of Things', a 7,400 line exposition by the Roman philosopher Lucretius, who lived c250 years after Epicurus. The poem was circulated only among a small number of people of letters until it was said to be rediscovered in the 15th century, when it radically challenged Christianity.

Its principles read as astonishingly modern, down to the physics. In six books, Lucretius states that everything is made of invisible particles, space and time are infinite, nature is an endless experiment, human society began as a battle to survive, there is no afterlife, religions are cruel delusions, and the universe has no clear purpose. The world is material – with a smidgen of free will. How should we live? Rationally, by dropping illusion. False ideas largely make us unhappy. If we minimise the pain they cause, we maximise our pleasure.

Secular moderns are so Epicurean that we might not hear this thunderclap. He didn't stress perfectionism or fine discriminations in pleasure – sending back the soup. He understood what the Buddhists call samsara, the suffering of endless craving. Pleasures are poisoned when we require that they do not end. So, for example, it is natural to enjoy sex, but sex will make you unhappy if you hope to possess your lover for all time.

Epicurus also seems uncannily modern in his attitude to parenting. Children are likely to bring at least as much pain as pleasure, he noted, so you might want to skip it. Modern couples who choose to be 'child-free' fit within the largely Epicurean culture we have today. Does it make sense to tell people to pursue their happiness and then expect them to take on decades of responsibility for other humans? Well, maybe, if you seek meaning. Our idea of meaning is something like the virtue embraced by the Stoics, who claimed it would bring you happiness.

Both the Stoics and the Epicureans understood that some good things are better than others. Thus you necessarily run into choices, and the need to forgo one good to protect or gain another. When you make those choices wisely, you'll be happier. But the Stoics think you'll be acting in line with a grand plan by a just grand designer, and the Epicureans don't.

As secular moderns, we pursue short-term happiness and achieve deeper pleasure in work well done. We seek the esteem of peers. It all makes sense in the light of science, which has documented that happiness for most of us arises from social ties – not the perfect rose garden or a closet of haute couture. Epicurus would not only appreciate the science, but was a big fan of friendship.

The Stoics and Epicureans diverge when it comes to politics. Epicurus thought politics brought only frustration. The Stoics believed that you should engage in politics as virtuously as you can. Here in the US where I live, half the country refrains from voting in non-presidential years, which seems Epicurean at heart.

Yet Epicurus was a democrat. In a garden on the outskirts of Athens, he set up a school scandalously open to women and slaves – a practice that his contemporaries saw as proof of his depravity. When Jefferson advocated education for American slaves, he might have had Epicurus in mind.

I imagine Epicurus would see far more consumption than necessary in my own American life and too little self-discipline. Above all, he wanted us to take responsibility for our choices. Here he is in his Letter to Menoeceus:

For it is not drinking bouts and continuous partying and enjoying boys and women, or consuming fish and the other dainties of an extravagant table, which produce the pleasant life, but sober calculation which searches out the reasons for every choice and avoidance and drives out the opinions which are the source of the greatest turmoil for men's souls.

Do you see the 'pursuit of happiness' as a tough research project and kick yourself when you're glum? You're Epicurean. We think of the Stoics as tougher, but they provided the comfort of faith. Accept your fate, they said. Epicurus said: It's a mess. Be smarter than the rest of them. How modern can you get?Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. Read the original article.


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Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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