MadSci Network: Other

Re: Why does Upside Down Map of the World looks so weird?

Date: Thu Dec 6 11:49:44 2001
Posted By: Aydin Orstan, Staff, Office of Food Additive Safety, Food and Drug Administration
Area of science: Other
ID: 1007232612.Ot

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 

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

Current Queue | Current Queue for Other | Other archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Other.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2001. All rights reserved.