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Further Investigations: Map Distortion


  1. Calculate the total surface area of the earth. Use the accepted value for the radius of the earth (6.38 x 103 km = 6,380km) to calculate its total surface area. The formula for the surface area of a sphere is given below. The symbol π stands for pi, which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

    Surface area of a sphere = 4π r3
    π = 3.14 
    Compare this surface area value to the value you calculated in Table 1.5.
  2. Using the values in Table 1.6, calculate the total volume of water on the earth.
  3. Table 1.6 simplifies the average depth of the ocean basins. Research how these average depths were calculated. 
  4. If the Southern ocean basin were to be included in the How Much Water? Activity, how do you hypothesize that it would affect the comparison of ocean basin size? Using the tables 1.4 and 1.6 in as a guide, make a new table that includes the Southern ocean basin and re-do the surface area calculation to test your hypothesis. Ask your teacher to provide the accepted values for area and volume. The average depth of the Southern ocean basin is 4.5 km.
  5. Examine maps and online resources to learn about cartography (mapmaking). What are some of the different types of flat maps and map projections? Why are different types of maps used? What are their advantages and disadvantages? How has technology influenced maps and cartography? In what new ways are people using maps?
  6. Compare old maps of the whole world showing the way the world was thought to be in each of the following eras. How are these maps similar to the maps we use today? How are they different?
    1. when Phoenicians traded extensively around Africa 
    2. when Vikings explored the Atlantic 
    3. when Columbus discovered America 
    4. when Captain Cook explored the Pacific
  7. While geological features on earth are relatively stable, their names and the political boundaries surrounding them are not. An example of an ongoing political conflict over the name of a geological feature is the disputed name of the sea between mainland Eurasia and Japan. What do Japanese maps call this sea? What do Korean maps call this sea?  Research other examples of political geographical conflicts. 


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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.