from the world's big
Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.
- J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
- But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
- These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Mental decolonisation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDU4Mjg3N30.pKS1PLxKYeJ6WDPAcleg7NCxzDn7Pddcg9rSJaul6no/img.png?width=980" id="56ee5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1d2ba98946accd12f7e0070c8d10154d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society." />
Menu page for Arda.ir, the website of the Persian Tolkien Society.
Image: Arda.ir<p>Where on earth was Middle-earth? Based on a few hints by Tolkien himself, we've always sort-of assumed that his stories of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were centered on Europe, but so long ago that the shape of the coasts and the land has changed. </p><p>But perhaps that's too easy and too Eurocentric an assumption; perhaps, like so many other things these days, Tolkien's fantasy realm too is in dire need of mental decolonisation.</p><p>And here's an excellent occasion: an Iranian Tolkienologist has found intriguing hints that the writer based some of Middle-earth's topography on mountains, rivers, and islands located in and near present-day Pakistan. </p><p>As mentioned in a previous article – recently reposted on the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/VeryStrangeMaps" target="_blank">Strange Maps Facebook page</a> on the occasion of the death of Ian Holm – Tolkien admitted that "The Shire is based on rural England, and not on any other country in the world," and that "the action of the story takes place in the North-West of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean."<br></p>
Non-European topography<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTQ4MzcyMX0.891LPW42L78fdrwUhXdgOab7cbhs3YOqZK4ukIQx-Rw/img.png?width=980" id="6741c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b50c57cb3b8a3a1cc8a4696c89ad954" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Tian-shan, the Himalayas, and the Pamirs" />
If you look at it like that, yes: that does resemble Mordor...
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Extrapolating from the location of the Shire in Middle-earth and from other clues dropped by Tolkien, geophysics and geology professor Peter Bird matched the geography of Middle-earth with that of Europe (more about that in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/121-where-on-earth-was-middle-earth?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0ZFYK1EXrf4J3B3X5_U4hSAgidgBs24ZNTYV9QEFbz2qI34OA_DpZsn70#Echobox=1592583835" target="_blank">aforementioned article</a>).</p><p>However, seeing Middle-earth as a mere palimpsest for present-day Europe is to place an undue limit on the imagination of its creator. As Tolkien also said about the shape of his world: "[It] was devised 'dramatically' rather than geologically or paleontologically."</p><p>In other words, certain parts of Middle-earth may very well have been inspired by other places than European ones. It is telling that it took a non-European connoisseur of Tolkien's topography to find some examples. <br></p>
"Seen that map before"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTQ3Njc3NH0.azDO1_NWm9q9FwMpmqBOV2troOX0ajAXS4lP2bLstJI/img.png?width=980" id="1b193" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="21c3d38b14503ba8edac18c0ef1cceb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Indus river" />
The Indus river is a prominent geographical feature of Pakistan. Its course is similar to that of the Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>In an article published on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, the web page for the Persian Tolkien Society, Mohammad Reza Kamali writes that during several years of cartographic study, "I found that maybe there are real lands [that] could have inspired Professor Tolkien, and some of them are not in Europe."</p><p>Around 2012, Kamali's eye stopped when it came across a Google Map of Central Asia that showed the mountain chain of the Himalayas, the peaks of the Pamirs bunched together in an almost circular area, and the huge, flat oval of the Takla Makan desert, bounded to the north by the Tian-Shan mountains. </p><p>"I had seen that map before," he writes. "This is of course Mordor, the land of Sauron and the dark powers of Middle-earth, where Frodo and Sam destroy the One Ring." </p><p>In <a href="http://lotrproject.com/map" target="_blank">Tolkien's world</a>, the Himalayas transform into Ephel Duath, the Mountains of Shadow; and the Tian Shan into Ered Lithui, the Ash Mountains. And the circle-shaped Pamirs "are the same shape and in exactly the same corner as the Udûn of Mordor, where Frodo and Sam originally tried getting into Mordor, via the Black Gate."<br></p>
Similar shapes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDQyODMzNX0.KHrY7rDCNNaKKJQz-xn431APM2TqxGPCaMsqNvBe1xA/img.jpg?width=980" id="7a9fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e87f1af97902201abc042640255606b2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Marine Corps helicopter flying over Tarbela Dam" />
A US Marine Corps helicopter flying over the Tarbela Dam on the Indus river in Pakistan. At its center: a former river island which may have been the inspiration for Cair Andros, a ship-shaped island in Middle-earth's Anduin river.
Image: Paul Duncan (USMC), public domain<p>Mulling over these similarities, Kamali became convinced that Tolkien's map work was heavily inspired by Asia. Looking further, he found more evidence. Consider Anduin, the Great River of Middle-earth, in whose waters the One Ring was lost for more than two thousand years. </p><p>On Tolkien's map, the Anduin bends toward the sea in a shape similar to that of another great river: the Indus, which runs the length of Pakistan. Like the Anduin, it flows to the west of a major mountain chain. A prominent feature of the Anduin is the river island of Cair Andros, just north of Osgiliath. Its name means 'Ship of Long Foam', a reference to its long and narrow shape, and the sharpness of its rocks, which split the waters of the Anduin like a prow. <br></p><p>Kamali is not entirely sure, but proposes that Tolkien may have been inspired by a similar-shaped island in the Indus. Now integrated into the Tarbela Dam, which was inaugurated in 1976, it would still have been a separate island in the 1930s and '40s, when Tolkien dreamed up his map.</p>
Kutch as Tolfalas Island<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTU5NjcyNn0.869W8iiowQb9_T3laFKOUe5o5UMXuMlSITb1VxRlC2g/img.png?width=980" id="9c49e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="548bafc6042cc7515e07f77657aa161c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Map of Kutch" />
During the rainy season, the coastal region of Kutch, near the mouth of the Indus, turns into an island that resembles Tolfalas Island, near the mouth of the Anduin.
Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission<p>Turning our eyes to the mouth of the Anduin and Indus, we see another pair of islands, and Kamali is more certain about the real one having inspired the fictional one. The fictional one is Tolfalas Island, the largest island in Belfalas Bay. <br></p><p>At first glance, it doesn't seem to have a real-life counterpart near where the Indus joins the Arabian Sea. But take a look at the coastal part of the Indian state of Gujarat. It is known as <em>Kutch</em>, a name which apparently refers to its alternately wet and dry states. In the rainy season, the shallow wetlands flood and Kutch becomes an island – the biggest island in the Gulf of Kutch, and not too dissimilar to Tolfalas Island. </p>
General knowledge<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDIwODkyOH0.aInJedv3tiQo1LmW-M6D5LV699oeWNltxeYcVKWwtF0/img.jpg?width=980" id="9bc6e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="01d97d3941f9ba732b4df35c3aedd977" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India" />
1909 map showing British India in pink (direct British control) and yellow (princely states). Circled: Kutch, clearly recognisable as an island.
Image: Edinburgh Geographical Institute; J. G. Bartholomew and Sons, public domain<p>But are these similarities really more than coincidences? Why would Tolkien, who was based in Oxford and steeped in English lore and Germanic mythology, turn to the Indian subcontinent for topographical inspiration? Perhaps because cartographic knowledge of that part of the world was far more general in Britain then than it is now. Until the late 1940s, the countries we know today as India and Pakistan were part of the British Empire. Detailed maps of the region would have been standard fare for British atlases. </p><p>Kamali is convinced that the topographical features on Tolkien's map of Middle-earth are not mere fantasy, but derive from actual places in our world, and were 'riddled' onto the map. In that case, we may look forward to more discoveries of Tolkien's real-world inspiration. <br></p>
From Frodingham to Frodo<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQzMDM1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NzgzMzE2OH0.uMd43VxS9WQSWr1Z0IQ-UxIhBYkERhxTU7hoPvNachk/img.jpg?width=980" id="05037" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff9aace7fc7c111df3639a276cedf63c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photograph of J. R. R. Tolkien in army uniform" />
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916, when he was 24. Around that time, he was stationed near the village of Frodingham, which may have given him the inspiration for the name of the main protagonist in Lord of the Rings.
Image: public domain<p>Here's one example of Tolkienography—if that's what we can call the effect of actual geography on this particular writer's imagination—which I gleaned myself, some years ago in East Yorkshire. A local historian told me that Tolkien had been stationed in the area during the First World War, and had apparently stored away some local place names for later use. The name Frodo, he said, derived from a town where he had attended a few dances – Frodingham, a village across the Humber in northern Lincolnshire, not far from Scunthorpe (<em>Scunto</em>? We dodged a bullet there). </p><p>Whether that story is entirely true or not is beside the point. As fantasy fans know, any grail quest is ultimately about the quest, not the grail. In fact, to quote Mr Kamali, the treasure is important only because it's well hidden, "by a clever professor who enjoys riddles."</p><p><em>Unless otherwise indicated, illustrations are from Mr Kamali's <a href="https://arda.ir/the-tale-of-the-annotated-map-and-tolkien-hidden-riddles/?fbclid=IwAR3RmtU0ZdyzQGlK-iCsUjho4LA2W279fwO9dt8vv90FX2IeO3zrfMuMToU" target="_blank">article</a> on <a href="https://arda.ir/" target="_blank">Arda.ir</a>, reproduced with kind permission. </em><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1036</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em></p>
Tiger reserves and a concentrated public effort has brought this animal roaring back to India.
- India's tiger population has grown to nearly 3,000, making it, by far, the country with the largest wild population.
- Their wild population increased over 33 percent in just four years.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it his goal to increase tiger conservationist efforts.
India’s tiger reserves<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDUxOTgyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjY5NjAwN30.hwzoKp08HWLM1RLuOsHP207pystLoSlZY75sNm3gZDo/img.jpg?width=980" id="b0c1a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d7cda849b45cb31f4bcf0989249bfcd1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Wildlife Institute of India National Tiger Conservation Authority<p>In the past 10 years, India has created nearly two dozen new reserves. Aside from creating space for tigers to live and prosper, these protective areas also create new spaces for wildlife and forests to flourish.</p><p>Tens of thousands of Indian officials and scientists track and count these tigers once every four years. They utilize a mixture of camera traps and video recognition software that creates a three-dimensional representation of each individual tiger. They usually have to cover a landmass of about 193,000 square miles. </p><p>The conservation efforts come in the wake of a devastating loss that occurred over the span of the past century. It's estimated that between 1875 and 1925, 80,000 tigers were killed in just India alone. Sports hunting and official governmental sponsored killing sprees by kings and officials of the era sanctioned and encouraged this mass slaughter. </p><p>Eventually, the Indian government came to its senses and in 1972 enacted a law that essentially made it illegal to kill or capture any kind of protected wild animal. With continued awareness and strict enforcement, the hunting died down. With the help of global conservationists, India invested more money into the protection and growth of their reserves. </p><p>In certain parts of India, there is still strife between local villages and tigers. More will have to be done to educate the populace in these areas and strengthen the reserves.</p>
Tiger conservation threats<p>Some estimates suggest that the tigers are only breeding and living in 10 percent of the total habitat set aside for them. The tigers are underutilizing their space, which often makes them wander outside of these areas and come into conflict with villagers nearby. </p><p>Another report, titled "<a href="https://projecttiger.nic.in/WriteReadData/PublicationFile/MEE_report_60MB_compressed.pdf" target="_blank">Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of Tiger Reserves 2018,</a>" showed that at least half of India's reserves are facing encroachment threats from infrastructure like roads and rail lines. </p><p>Conservationists fear that the isolated conflicts that usually occurs on the edge of the reserves, will increase as protected areas grow. Tiger reserves are still threatened by illegal poachers, pollution, unchecked industrialism and climate change. </p><p>Modi believes that India's tiger habitats should be expanded:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is a very old debate — development or environment. . . and, both sides present views as if each is mutually exclusive."</p><p>He understands that there needs to be a balance struck between proper economic development and the protection of the environment.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In our policies, in our economics, we have to change the conversation about conservation. India will build more roads and India will have cleaner rivers. India will have better train connectivity and also greater tree coverage. India will build more homes for our citizens and at the same time create quality habitats for animals. India will have a vibrant marine economy and healthier marine ecology. This balance is what will contribute to a strong and inclusive India."</p><p>This may just be the beginning of a tiger resurgence, if this type of thought prevails over India's tiger conservationist efforts.</p>
Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.
- At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
- See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
- There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
China and India are huge religious outliers<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMwMzU4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTIzNDY4OX0.Dhx4GXm4KxhFQc-o3GWSe8y_zMtxtCm5vHjOj0mq7sg/img.jpg?width=980" id="ff12f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2bf8e21d5e5caa8e2a3c79b965058990" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Carrie Osgood<p>A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level. </p><p>Strictly speaking it's an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation. </p><p>The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways: </p><ul><li>Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa. </li><li>Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia. </li><li>India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange). </li><li>Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan</li><li>China is the country with the world's largest 'atheist/agnostic' population (grey) as well as worshippers of 'other' religions (yellow). <span></span></li></ul>
The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMwMzU2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzUzMjcxM30.ux57o9GPQZqElrQH0oWFK18Ws9h0CPMTCK7kLxgGkQ4/img.png?width=980" id="6ae9d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="93afdae68a977dd6526a534da80e990a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Which is the least Christian country in the Americas? The answer may surprise you.
Credit: Carrie Osgood<p>But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations. <br></p><ul><li>Yes, the United States is majority Christian, but the atheist/agnostic share of its population alone is bigger than the total population of most other countries, in the Americas and elsewhere. Uruguay has the highest share of atheists/agnostics in the Americas. Other countries with a lot of 'grey' in their pies include Canada, Cuba, Argentina and Chile.</li><li>All belief systems represented on the scale below are present in the US and Canada. Most other countries in the Americas are more mono-religiously Christian, with 'other' (often syncretic folk religions such as Candomblé in Brazil or Santería in Cuba) the only main alternative.</li><li>Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago are the only American nations with significant shares of Hindus, as well as the largest share of Muslim populations – and consequently have the lowest share of Christians in the Americas (just under half in the case of Suriname). <span></span></li></ul>
Lots of grey area in Europe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMwMzU2MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5ODAzMTc5MH0.J2Z4haj9vzjhlD6luRAGnDyMmhfPXKr0Q6it13Ff1eY/img.jpg?width=980" id="c3f21" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e09a73de0b872c301b34ff3bc8cedc2c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The second-biggest religious affiliation in Europe isn't Islam, but 'none'.
Credit: Carrie Osgood<ul><li>Christianity is still the biggest belief system in most European countries, but the atheist/agnostic share is strong in many places, mainly in Western Europe, but especially in the Czech Republic, where it is close to half the total.</li><li>Islam represents a significant slice (and a large absolute number) in France, Germany and the UK, and is stronger in the Balkans: The majority in Albania, almost half in Bosnia and around a quarter in Serbia (although that probably indicates the <a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/kosovo-land-swap-to-end-conflict-could-restart-war" target="_blank">de facto independent province of Kosovo</a>).</li></ul>
Islam in the north, Christianity in the south<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMwMzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTk0NzAxNH0.aHLjSqkCDHWGgEYfYrWW4gzV_DZzHXiZ2--mhGLDceU/img.png?width=980" id="f7f1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3d8f74478e1a71cece9df69462480522" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The map of Africa and is dominated by the world's two largest religions
Credit: Carrie Osgood<ul><li>Israel is the world's only majority-Jewish state (75%, with 18% Muslim). The West Bank, shown separate, also has a significant Jewish presence (20%, with 80% Muslim). Counted as one country, the Jewish majority would drop to around 55%.</li><li>Strictly Islamic Saudi Arabia, but also some of its neighbors in the Gulf, have significant non-Muslim populations – virtually all guest workers and ex-pats.</li><li>Nigeria, due to its large population and even split between Islam and Christianity, has more Muslims <em>and</em> more Christians than most other African nations. </li></ul>
Different majorities across Asia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMwMzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Mzc4OTk3MX0.zlTFt5VUmOQjyI0rbfcdbSybTbCD126_UFE5MTAWaow/img.png?width=980" id="debad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c1545f6c2d2cfe70f36c3b2e5414b5ec" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Close neighbors India, Bangladesh and Myanmar each have a different majority religion.
Credit: Carrie Osgood<ul><li>Because countries are sized for population rather than area, some are much bigger or smaller than you'd expect – with some interesting results: There are more Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia than there are in mainly Christian Australia, for example.</li><li>Hindus are a minority everywhere outside India, except in Nepal.</li><li>North Korea is shown as three-quarters atheist/agnostic, but this is debatable, on two counts. In what is often referred to as the last Stalinist state on Earth, religious adherence is probably underreported. And the state-sponsored ideology of 'Juche', although in essence based on materialism, makes some supernatural claims. For instance: despite having died in 1994, Kim Il-sung was declared 'president for eternity' in 1998. </li></ul>Of course, clarity comes at the cost of detail. The map bands together various Christian and Islamic schools of thought that don't necessarily accept each other as 'true believers'. It includes Judaism (only 15 million adherents, but the older sibling of the two largest religious groups) yet groups Sikhism (27 million) and various other more numerous faiths in with 'others'. And it doesn't make the distinction between atheism ("<em>There is no god</em>") with agnosticism ("<em>T</em><em>here may or may not be a god, we just don't know</em>") *.<p>And then there's the whole minefield of nuance between those who practice a religion (but may do so out of social coercion rather than personally held belief), and those who believe in something (but don't participate in the rituals of any particular faith). To be fair, that requires more nuance than even a great map like this can probably provide.<span></span></p>
The report also predicts India's economy will surpass the U.S. by 2030.
- The Standard Chartered Bank, a British multinational banking and financial services company, recently issued a report to clients outlining projections about the world economy up until 2030.
- The report predicts Asian economies will grow significantly in the next decade, taking seven of the top 10 spots on the list of the world's biggest economies by 2030.
- However, the researchers formed their predictions by measuring purchasing power parity at GDP, which is an approach that not all economists would use in these kinds of projections.
Not so fast: Different measurements keep the U.S. on top<p>It's important to note that the report forms its predictions by measuring PPP at GDP, while some economists would use market exchange rates instead of PPP (you can read about the differences in these economic approaches <a href="the price of a nation's currency in terms of another currency" target="_blank">here</a>).</p><p>"By [using simple market exchange rates] the U.S. is still today the world's biggest economy, with a $7 trillion lead over China," wrote Ben Chu for <em><a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/uk-world-economy-india-china-turkey-brazil-prediction-market-change-rates-a8720861.html" target="_blank">The Independent</a></em>. "Using market exchange rates rather than PPP would also most likely change the 2030 picture. The International Monetary Fund does not forecast beyond 2023, but at this date the Fund thinks the U.S. will still be the world's largest economy at market exchange rates and that the U.K. will still have a comfortable lead over the likes of Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Russia and the rest with little evidence of catchup."</p><p>Chu continued: "The reason why China is larger than the U.S. at PPP exchange rates is because it has a population four times larger. If one measures GDP at PPP per person a very different picture emerges, with China on $18,000 and the US on $63,000."</p><p>What's more, the most important thing to keep in mind when considering these kinds of economic predictions is probably the fact that none of these measurements necessarily gives you an accurate picture of the standards of life in a given country. So, just because a country has a bigger economy doesn't necessarily mean it has more freedom, higher wellbeing or better institutions.</p>
The social media company has long been expected to make a move into blockchain.
- Facebook is reportedly developing a stablecoin for WhatsApp users in India.
- A stablecoin is a class of cryptocurrency that's pegged to a stable asset like fiat currency or gold.
- India currently has more than 200 million WhatsApp users, and it sees more than $60 billion in global remittances every year.