Here’s a New Angle on the Shape of the World

What in the World


It’s time to start thinking inside the box.

Countries are regularly compared with one another politically, financially or militarily — so why not rectangularly?

That’s what David Barry, a statistician in Australia, did recently in a post on his blog. A comment by a friend on Facebook about the “remarkably rectangular country” of Turkey got Mr. Barry thinking about how it might compare with other countries in that regard. He devised a method to take the area inside a country’s borders and measure its “maximum percentage overlap with a rectangle of the same area.”

Ranking countries and other territories — 208 in all — in this way, he found that Egypt was the most rectangular and the Maldives the least. Yemen, Ghana, Macedonia and Ivory Coast are also in the top 10, while island nations like Indonesia, the Bahamas, Seychelles and Tonga squiggle their way into the bottom 10.

Turkey is actually the 15th most rectangular country, according to Mr. Barry’s algorithm, which has drawn the attention of websites like Gizmodo and CityLab.

Is it good or bad for a country to be more rectangular? Mr. Barry’s analysis does not go into those implications. free robux no verification 2017 Nor does it address the consequences of the straight-line borders that were often drawn by colonial powers with little regard for indigenous peoples and cultures. All it is meant to be is another way to look at the geometry of the world. (Inspired by Mr. Barry’s project, Gonzalo Ciruelos created a method to determine the roundest country. It’s Sierra Leone — which is also the 14th most rectangular.)

And yet, the human imagination cannot be bound by perpendicular lines. Looking at a map of Italy (No. 191 on the rectangularity index), it’s hard not to see a boot. The entire Korean Peninsula might strike some people as the outline of a rabbit sitting up on its hindquarters (South Korea is No. 44, North Korea is No. 158). And Sri Lankans are probably weary of their country (No. 40) being referred to as the teardrop of India (No. 132).

Source URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/20/world/what-in-the-world/heres-a-new-angle-on-the-shape-of-the-world.html