Maps are a great way to illustrate the world, but I've always been fascinated by maps that illustrate worlds that might have been. To me, redditor frayuk's new map of the world divided into 200 countries with equal populations hits both of those bugs. It's somewhat reminiscent of Neil Freeman's plan to redraw the US states to be equal in population, but since frayuk's map is global in scale, it's less familiar.
Here's the whole thing:
Zoom in on North America, and you can get a grounding in how this works:
It turns out that Canada contains approximately 1/200th of the world's population, so its borders are unchanged in this scenario. There's another recognizable shape here in the form of a basically California-ish country. New England is a country. So are the islands of the Caribbean Basin. Mexico is chopped up into about three countries, and Central America is generally united into one.
The changes are particularly drastic in Asia:
Population density is higher in this region than anywhere else on earth, so dividing up your Indias and your Chinas into Canada-size bits entails drastic transformation. This slice of the map is a powerful reminder that while broad generalizations are always risky, they're especially deadly when it comes to the super-giant countries of Asia. China may be a single political unit, but it contains more Canadas' worth of people than Europe and North America combined.
Speaking of Europe, one last zoom:
These redrawn lines help us see how skewed the UK's population is toward London and the Southeast. The division of Italy into what amounts to two halves is reminiscent of the Lega Nord party's platform in Italy, and the fact that Italy can be divided in this exercise while a whole bunch of Nordic and Baltic countries need to be lumped together shows that the basic math of a smaller Italy works.
You can, of course, illustrate many of these same points about population density with a cartogram, which takes familiar borders and then scales the size of the country to match its population. But in a lot of ways I find keeping the familiar shapes and redrawing the borders to be more evocative.
WATCH: 220 years of population shifts in one map