Assuming they're accurate, maps are usually the most literal and straightforward way to interpret the world around us possible: in terms of distances and terrain. When their parameters are shifted a bit, however, maps can reveal things about the world in a totally unique way. Case in point: a new series of computer-modified maps, called cartograms, publicized yesterday by the Daily Mail. They reshape the globe using measurements like military spending, alcohol consumption, toy imports and house prices as parameters, and the results are fascinating. Individual countries are exaggerated or diminished in size depending on how they measure up. (These studies were conducted in 2001.) Take a gander, for instance, at
It should come as no surprise that Africa is disproportionately large here; all ten territories with the highest prevalence of HIV are in central and southeastern Africa, with the highest -- 4 in 10 -- in Swaziland.