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#1    Alara

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 10:32 AM

Hi all,

I'm new here so I'm quite unsure if this is the right section to post this topic. I'm curious, why is the map of our planet positioned so that Arctic is "up" and Antarctica is "down"? Why isn't it the other way around?

I'm sorry if the question is a bit silly but I'm curious when and by whom was this decided.

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#2    Lilly

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 01:19 PM

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... I'm curious, why is the map of our planet positioned so that Arctic is "up" and Antarctica is "down"? Why isn't it the other way around?


Well, one could think of it the other way around if one chooses to (up and down are relative concepts). I think positioning Earth with the Arctic "up" and the Antarctic "down" is more a matter of convention. That's my understanding anyway.

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#3    Tiggs

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 01:51 PM

Convention is pretty much the right answer. There are, however, lots of other ways to look at the world, including my favourite: a dymaxion map.


#4    Sun Raven

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 03:24 PM

Quote

Hi all,

I'm new here so I'm quite unsure if this is the right section to post this topic. I'm curious, why is the map of our planet positioned so that Arctic is "up" and Antarctica is "down"? Why isn't it the other way around?

I'm sorry if the question is a bit silly but I'm curious when and by whom was this decided.



Because of the coordinates. North, South , East and west.

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#5    MID

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 05:32 PM

Quote

Hi all,

I'm new here so I'm quite unsure if this is the right section to post this topic. I'm curious, why is the map of our planet positioned so that Arctic is "up" and Antarctica is "down"? Why isn't it the other way around?

I'm sorry if the question is a bit silly but I'm curious when and by whom was this decided.




This is actually a very good question.  Not silly at all.

The concept of North being at the top of maps, or "up" was actually originated by the Greek astronomer, mathematician, and geographer Clauidus Ptolemaeus (a.k.a. Ptolemy) sometime around 150 c.e.   Since his original World maps, the convention has stuck, and that's been for over 1850 years.

I think the reason for the concept of North being up stems from the fact that at the time, most of the known world (at least to Ptolemy) was in the Northern Hemisphere, and virtually everyone in modern civilization lived there (again, that he or his contemporaries knew about).   The cardinal direction of North was established by observing the stars in the night sky, and seeing that they all seemed to rotate around a single point, very close to what today is called the North Star (Polaris).  This rather naturally became the cardinal direction of North, and logically became the primary direction from which everything else could be plottred in a coordinate system. Everything easily became oriented around that stationery point in the sky, at least in Western culture.  It was essentially fixed in one place, whereas the position of the rising or setting Sun, although generally at 90 degree angles to North, varied quite a bit throughout the year.  

Thus, it was some ancient Greek astronomer who lived about 18-1900 years ago who established this convention.




#6    Waspie_Dwarf

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 09:14 PM

As has been said, it is merely a matter of convention and it has not always been the case. Many ancient Chinese maps have East at the top. In fact the word orientation originally meant "to face East".

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