|MadSci Network: Other|
Dear Tim, An upside down map may look awkward, simply because you are used to seeing it “right side” up. A reversed U.S. flag too would look awkward for the same reason that you have accustomed to thinking that a correct U.S. flag should have the stars on the upper left-hand corner, not on the upper right-hand corner. Whether the continents seem unbalanced or not probably depends more on the type of projection used to make a map than on the orientation of the map. To learn more about how different map projections change the way continents look consult the following books: How to Lie With Maps by Mark Monmonier and Mapping by David Greenhood. I have not noticed that on upside down maps “rivers seem to run from the ocean to the mountains.” On the contrary, I have noticed that when using a large scale topographic map (a large scale map shows more detail but covers a smaller area than does a small scale map), changing one’s orientation with respect to the map sometimes helps to recognize the topographic features on the ground. For example, if you are facing a hill on the ground and want to know which of the hills on the map it corresponds to, it is best to orient the map correctly in the North-South direction, but to look at it from the same angle (relative to the N-S line) you are looking at the feature on the ground. Depending on the circumstances, for example, if the hill you are trying to identify is to the south, this may require that you place yourself to the north of the map and view it “upside down”. In such cases, the map doesn’t look awkward at all, perhaps because the way you view it better corresponds to reality. Along the same line, if you looked down at the earth from the space shuttle and saw the coast of North Carolina below you and Florida ahead of you, would that look bizarre? Aydin Orstan
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