11 Jan

Map of the Week: The Topologist’s Map of the World













By Ivana Mowry-Mora

This map, at first glance, similar to a medieval map of the world ‘mappa mundi’, is the topologist’s map of the world, showing international borders. This map is showing the basic adjacency within regions, without consideration for the complicated shapes the areas take.

Topology in math is the study of properties that are preserved when a shape is curved or elongated. This map, found here, is described as a “topologist’s map because topology is a branch of mathematics concerned with the way that space is connected. In topology it’s common to think of stretchy, distortable surfaces that can be moved around without being punctured or torn.” The cartographer did this by first making a list of the countries, and specifying which countries they border. From this list, he made a graph, and relaxed the points so that they would end up reasonably spaced. Finally, he made a Voronoi diagram of the points, and created this topologist’s map.

The map shows the topology of national borders; all information about a country’s shape and size are ignored. This kind of map has a few interesting quirks: for example, Spain and Morocco appear nowhere near each other here, and Indonesia, Brunei, and Timor-Leste make an appearance, despite being on totally separate landmasses to the other nations.


Source: The topologist’s map of the world – Vivid Maps