Friday, September 3, 2010

Four Corners of the Earth

Where are the four corners of the earth?
Joseph Farris gives us this cartoon about the 3D nature of the Earth.  If the little girls wants to learn about a flat Earth here are a few teachers who might accommodate her: This guy, this guy, and maybe whoever made this "globe" of Kansas.

For an absolutely wonderful map of the Four Corners of the Earth, please see this post at the excellent blog "Strange Maps" by Frank Jacobs, where you can learn, among other great things, that the origins of the "Four Corners of the Earth" concept typically come from these Bible references: 

  • Revelation 7:1
  • Isaiah 11:12
  • and to a slightly lesser extent, Job 28:24, 37:3

In truth, this brings up an interesting topic because one of the defining characteristics of cartography for hundreds of years has been involved the complex mathematics involved in projecting the 3-dimensional planet onto 2-dimensional surfaces, since making a 3D globe at a scale that was even remotely useful has been impractical... until now.  With the advent of powerful computers it's now possible to perform cartography directly in 3D, even at 1:1 scales, or sometimes even higher.  Hundreds of years of math projections could become almost obsolete, used only for the occasional hardcopy printout.  Google Earth would blow the collective minds of cartographers even 50 years ago.  And yet the leading modern professional mapping software is still solidly stuck in a 2D platform.  Go figure.

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