Think you know what the world looks like? Think again. Today’s Cool Websites and Apps has five sites that give you a new perspective on the world we live in.
The Internet makes it possible to learn all kinds of things about the world, be it from connecting with people across the planet or just by learning new information. You can find new ways to compare your country with others, or discover how rich you are compared to the world, and generally just become more aware of how the world you live on works.
Let’s look at five sites that can teach us just a little bit more – it’s going to be fun.
True Size Of: Compare Countries by Size, Without Distortion
Representing the surface of a spherical object – like our planet – on a flat surface – like a paper map – means a few things are going to be distorted. That’s a given.
Even so, it’s really easy to forget the ways in which things are distorted – until you can visualize them. This site lets you do that.
If you’re like me, you didn’t quite grasp how vast Africa is until you saw the USA, China and India overlapping it. Why does this seem so odd?
Because this map is adjusted for the shortcomings of The Mercator Projection. This is the method by which most of our maps are drawn, which while useful for navigation has the unfortunate side affect of stretching places near the poles. A famous scene from The West Wing explained how this works, and why it’s important:
With True Size Of you can play with this mind-blowing concept a little more. Move countries around to see how Mercator distorts things, and even add whatever countries you like by running a quick search. Places like Greenland and Canada aren’t as big as you think – and places like Africa are way bigger.
There are many maps that let you see the world with different eyes, and they’ll all give you cause to think.
Mercator Puzzle Redux: Puzzle Made Complex by Mapping Distortions
Still not convinced that the Mercator projection distorts your view of the world? Prove it with this game, which gives you a random assortment of countries and asks you to put them in the right spot.
It’s harder than you think, especially when something from one of the poles is placed toward the equator. I seriously couldn’t recognize tiny, tiny Greenland when it was placed by the equator.
Global Trend Tracker: See What’s Trending, Worldwide
Of course, countries aren’t just land masses of varying sizes: they’re collection of people, many of them online. You might think you know what “the Internet” is talking about on a particular day, but what you perceive as “the Internet” is probably just a tiny fraction of it. Last week I showed you some maps that let you watch the web happen; today I point another. See what people are searching for most, around the world.
There are places, across the sea, where no one is even thinking about Donald Trump.
VisaMapper: Find Out Which Countries You Need Visas to Visit
If countries like that sound great to you, you might want to visit – but there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa. This site gives you a quick way to learn which nations you do and do not need a visa for.
Just indicate which nation you are a citizen of and the map will fill in, letting you know whether or not you need an advanced visa to visit. If you’re planning a trip involving several countries this is must-know information, so make sure you bookmark this one for later.
RadioISS: Hear What’s Playing at Radio Stations
Far above the clouds is a literal castle in the sky – at least, if you think of the International Space Station as a castle. We’ve shown you all the cool websites offered by NASA, including a few ways to monitor the location of the space station, but RadioISS is just a little bit cooler. This site combines a video stream live from the station with a realtime map of its location – all accompanied by the audio from the closest terrestrial radio station.
Leave this tab open and you can travel the world, in a sense. You’ll hear some of the same pop music everywhere, sure, but you’ll also hear broadcasters speaking every language on earth. Soak it in.
Our Big Beautiful Planet
The Internet is making the world smaller every day, but only if you’re paying attention. Take the time to reach out to the planet – we all have a lot to learn from doing so.
Of course, it’s not just other nations you can learn about: you could use the web to learn more about your hometown if you want. Just remember: you have access to a level of knowledge unimaginable to every other generation in history. I want to know which sites teach you the most, so let’s compile some more in the comments below.