The Standard World Map is Misleading

by Anupum Pant

Mercator’s projection

Most of us have this image of the world in our minds. This kind of a map, today printed in almost every textbook, known as the Mercator’s projection was first created to make work easy for navigators. Even Google Maps uses a Mercator-derived technique to project the world on a flat surface. But, Mercator’s projection has only deceived our idea of geographical area for all these years. For instance, it has led us into believing that Greenland covers an area which is almost equal to Africa (Also, have a look at the size of Antarctica there. Gosh!). The comparison of these two land masses actually looks like this.

According to this infographic, the actual size of Africa is larger than US, China, India, Mexico, Peru, France, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Japan, Germany, Norway, Italy, New Zealand, the UK, Nepal, Bangladesh and Greece, all of them put together. In short, Africa is around 14 times larger than Greenland. Do not underestimate its area.

You can try playing with various combinations on this web app – map fight. Try these: Australia vs. Antarctica; US (contiguous) vs. Russia; and of course Greenland vs. Africa; they’ll leave you spellbound.

Why does this happen?

Since our planet is a sphere (an oblate ellipsoid really), to project it on a flat surface like paper, the actual shapes and sizes of landmasses have to be distorted to some extent. There is no way around it. Today, hundreds of different projection methods meant for various purposes are available, but none of them can exactly show the actual shapes & sizes of the landmasses. Some preserve the shape, some preserves the size, and others preserve direction…so on…

Mercator’s projection, the devious one discussed above, for example, uses a cylindrical projection. That means, it stretches the areas on a globe, which are nearer to the poles. Hence, the imprecise size of Greenland and Antarctica.

What is a perfect map, then?

Even after developing hundreds of projection method, we haven’t been able to spot the perfect method, nor will it happen in the future. But, to get the right sense of area, a projection method known as the Peters (also known as Gall-Peters projection) projection, is said to be the most accurate (in terms of area). It is also one of the most controversial maps.

Peter’s projection also has a huge fan following in spite of its terrible appearance.

Bonus Map Facts:

  1. National Geographic started using the, good looking, Robinson projection from the year 1988, and used it for ten years, then, it moved to the Winkel-Tripel in 1998.
  2. An ideal Mercator’s projection would have infinite height if it doesn’t truncate some area near the extreme poles.
  3. Peters pointed that the Mercator’s projection made developing countries seem much smaller than they actually are. He said that these errors made the struggles of developing nations near the equator looks much smaller to the developed world.
  4. XKCD published a comic on projections – “What your favorite map projection says about you.” 977. [see the explanation here]

Super-hydrophobic Surfaces are Unbelievable

by Anupum Pant

It is almost impossible to get a lotus leaf wet. If you try pouring water on it, you’ll see that it will form little beads of water and quickly roll out of the leaf. This happens because a lotus leaf is super-hydrophobic. Although, even your raincoat doesn’t get wet, it isn’t super-hydrophobic. Water sticks to on the surface of a raincoat. Super-hydrophobic surfaces don’t let water stick on it. But how do they manage to do that?

The science – Contact angle

Every time a liquid sits on the surface of a solid, the liquid drop forms an angle of contact as shown below. Things that don’t get wet have a contact angle greater than 90 degrees and the ones that get wet form an angle lesser than 90 degrees. The greatest angle is always less than 180 degrees. Theoretically, a perfect bead will form at that angle.

Super-hydrophobic surfaces are able to push this angle to as high as 175 degrees to form almost a perfectly spherical water droplet on the surface (due to very high surface energy). This ensures that as soon as water falls on it, it rolls away. The surface never gets wet.

Advantages

Imagine things never getting wet. How about a completely water resistant phone, a shoe that never gets dirty, shirts that repel ice-cream and wind-screens rolling away rain droplets like magic? All these things are possible, if they can be converted into super-hydrophobic surfaces. [They can be. Watch the video below]

Besides repelling water, these surfaces can also prevent formation of ice, resist corrosion and prevent bacteria from sticking to it. The possibilities are endless.

How to do it artificially?

Today, we have managed to develop several artificial methods to make almost any surface super-hydrophobic. Commercial services like NeverWet, HydroBead and Lotus leaf coatings are making a roar in the market by offering amazing promises. Normally, they use simplified spray coatings to convert normal surfaces to super-hydrophobic surfaces, so any one can use them, anywhere.

Things You Should Know About Farts

by Anupum Pant

Flatulence, an expulsion of intestinal gas, commonly known as fart, is something no one likes to talk about because it is considered a taboo, almost everywhere in the world. To top it all, some might even sideline this article by tagging it as a vulgar one. In my defense, that is exactly the purpose of my blog – To talk about things no one will talk to you at school (or anywhere else). Our inclination here is to learn.

Avoid shaming others for it.
Firstly, it is important to know that, irrespective or gender, race or nationality, farting is an invariable result of digestion and everyone does it about ten times a day. Even dead people fart. So, by shaming someone for letting it out in an accidentally loud way, is hypocritical on your part; it [shaming others] can be avoided. As Eric Auld says, it is okay to fart.

Do not hold it.
Secondly, it is not okay to hold flatulence to avoid embarrassment. Doing this, has the potential to cause a life threatening condition called diverticulitis. This disease is prevalent among the urban people for obvious reasons. Urban people have a greater societal pressure to hold it, than a free-living farmer. To give you an idea, 30 million Americans are currently suffering from it (old data).

What is it?

Principally, it is a mixture of gases taken in through mouth with food and gases which are produced while digesting food. The composition of ‘gas’ varies with, people, the kind of bacteria in their stomach and the kinds of food they eat. Oftentimes, people don’t hate their own smell; at the same time, detest the gases coming out from others. A fart is comprised of gases like Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, Oxygen and Methane. It smells bad due to the presence of Hydrogen Sulfide, Mercaptans and Ammonia. And the presence of inflammable gases like Hydrogen and Methane makes them inflammable.

Farts in a humid environment can seem worse because during such conditions, our sense of smell is enhanced. This is the reason why farts smell worse in a shower.

Minimizing the effect

Although, there is no way you can end this trouble from your life, you can adjust your diet a bit to prevent this from happening in excess. Beans, cauliflower, corn, eggs etc are some foods which are notorious for producing gas in your body. These foods release a relatively greater amount of gas than other foods while getting digested in the intestines. Cutting their intake can help (of course consult your doctor first).

Another way to lower the problem is to prevent the odor from troubling others. This can be done by using products like “odor-proof undies”.

Coughing or suddenly moving your chair could help you to mask the sound.