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

HIV prevalence
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.

Military spending
Out of a world total of $789 billion in military spending, the U.S. spent $353 billion. Thus, it takes up 45% of the world's land mass on this

Toy exports
Perhaps because we spend so much on guns, we feel like we don't have to share -- er, export -- our toys. China, on the other hand, is by far the world's largest exporter of G.I. Joes, Transformers and Tickle Me Elmos, and so becomes a jolly green giant on this