Where is China? (or Antarctica, or...)
It is down over there...

The idea: If looking down you could see through the earth, you would see the lands on the other side. We can't see through rock, so we don't see them. But they are really there, and you can still point to them, even though you can't see them. Just as you can point towards something you can't see because it's in another room. This can be a fun way to think about where things are, a supplement to a globe or map. So where is Australia? If you are in the continental US, its just about straight down.

As I sit here in Boston, facing northward...

Antarctica and Australia are almost straight down beneath my feet.
At eye level, the US wraps around me to the left (westward), Quebec to the north, and the Atlantic ocean to the east and south. Facing forward again, and slowly looking down, there is my back yard, then New Hampshire, Quebec, Baffin Island, Greenland, the Arctic ocean, Siberia, China, South East Asia, and Australia. Africa and Europe are down off to my right, and South America is behind me.

The view from Boston

There are some hints below...


You might imagine this as looking down at a bowl held in your lap. Or better, imagine standing inside the bowl. The dot in the center is straight down. The rim is straight out at eye level. And everything else is in-between. The red ring is halfway (45°) down. The other two rings are 1/4 and 3/4 down.
The continents appear flipped compared to regular maps, because we are peering through the earth, looking at them from underneath.

Hudson Bay
northern New England
Baffin Bay
Arctic ocean
northern Atlantic
Pacific ocean
Atlantic ocean
Gulf of Mexico
Central America
Pacific ocean
South America
Atlantic ocean
Atlantic ocean

Comments encouraged. - Mitchell N Charity <mcharity@lcs.mit.edu>

Some Notes

What I like about this concept is that it contributes concreteness. With a globe or a map, one has an abstraction, and thus must keep making the transition "this is a representation of a real thing which is actually someplace else". As opposed to the directness of pointing and knowing "it is right over there, even if I can't see it from where I am now".

A nice concept: "Use your head [...] imagine your own head as a model Earth. If you're in the northern hemisphere, imagine North America on the right side of your forehead and South America sitting on your left cheek, dripping off your chin like a kind of continental goatee. Africa is hung over your left ear, and Eurasia forms a skullcap across the back of your head. The right side of your head is almost all Pacific Ocean except for Australia, located "down under" and behind your right ear. [Turning your head, bring...] locations on your model Earth around to experience sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight. Where is the Sun rising while your part of the Earth sees it setting? Which part of the world is sleeping while you eat your lunch?" ["Getting a Global Sense" by LuAnn Dahlman, in Mercury, May-June 1998 p6]

Drawing the "view from Boston" map:
  The map is the World Coast Line data from USGS's Coastline Extractor.
  I hacked a quick perl script,
  and plotted the result as points with gnuplot (using these settings).
  Then quickly colorized it by hand.

    This has been a quick hack, and there is much which might be done.
    But I think I'll wait to see the response.

  Discuss slope (eg SouthAm slanting down and away)
      and orientation (eg, Africa).
  Dynamically draw maps for arbitrary locations.
  Perhaps using the Host name to Latitude/Longitude converter.
  Add some samples, perhaps a San Francisco and a mid-Europe.
  Do a second pass through the text.
  Elaborate on pointing, spatial memory, etc, etc.
  Add notes on deciphering the Boston map.
  A bowl diagram?  A earth crosssection, what does it mean to look down, diagram? 
  A stickfigure pointing down to illustrate the concept.
  Perhaps color the continents and add a key for easy identification.
  What else?

 1998.Sep.17 Added `Use your head' quote.
 1998.Feb.25 Created web page.
             I got the idea last week when about to hacksaw a globe
	     to create a Boston-centered hemispherical half-globe.