The Northern Hemisphere Bias: What if Down was Up?

The Earth is a sphere rotating around the sun. There is no up and there is no down. However, history has forced us to define the north as up with the south below. This dates back to the time when the North Star was used for navigation. All maps were drawn with reference to this star and the north was placed at the top of the map as a result. Before this North Star episode, all maps were drawn with the East at the top or in other words, they were oriented to the East. And hence the East is known as the Orient.

But what happens if we throw caution to the winds and flip this map on its head?

The World Upside Down

World Turned Upside Down

Looks wrong doesn’t it?

We’ve been so desensitized to recognizing Countries on a World map that it requires a drastic phase shift for us to see the World for the distribution of land across its surface. From this view, Europe looks far less significant than the gigantic Asian landmass and Africa can’t be written off as a poor Continent that everyone ignores.

Psychiatrists have concluded that our fickle human brains are usually fooled into believing that up is good and down is bad. I’ll leave the science behind that to the experts. However an implication of this thinking is that we assume that the good Countries are to the North and the Countries South of the Equator are considered not as good. This bias towards the north is so strong that the historic ‘Blue Marble’ photo taken from the Apollo 17 had to be flipped because it was taken with Africa on the top with Europe below it.

The Earth seen from Apollo_17The Original Blue Marble Photo

Since most of the Worlds population lives in the North, most of our references and assumptions are based on living in the North. For example, Christmases must be cold, snowy and white. Barbeques at Christmas (an Australian tradition) are ridiculous. I’ll leave you with a Caribbean song that beautifully illustrates this Northern Hemisphere bias.

Merry Christmas.

(thanks to the Caribbean Music King for this awesome find)

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3 Comments on “The Northern Hemisphere Bias: What if Down was Up?

  1. A very interesting read indeed. Considering that most of the well known (I use the term guardedly) explorations were undertaken by Europeans – English, Portuguese and the Spaniards, I guess the so called “Northern Hemisphere” bias was to be expected.

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