Flows of wealth

Map showing relative passenger car ownership
Worldmapper is a fascinating site containing a multitude of informative – if slightly odd-looking – maps. The maps use techniques based on the physics of heat flows to depict statistical information in a vivid and memorable manner.

Each country’s surface area is smoothly deformed so that the area reflects the particular statistic under consideration – whether that is population, fuel consumption, car ownership (pictured above) or any of a multitude of other developmental measures. New Scientist subscribers can read a brief article from earlier this year which explains the techniques (developed by a team at Sheffield University) in a little more detail.

The reason for posting now is that some particularly interesting maps have finally arrived on the site (the team is posting a total of 365 maps this year, one per day). These show the relative wealth of each country at different stages of the past 500 (and next ten) years:

Firefox users will find it particularly useful to open each of those links in a separate tab (work down the list clicking each item while holding the “Ctrl” key), and then using Ctrl+Page Down/Page Up to see a “flicker-book” animation of how wealth has ebbed and flowed over the past half-millennium. Note in particular the fall and rise of China, though the 2015 map is obviously rather speculative. Also, the collapse of Africa’s position.

One of those sites you could probably lose yourself in for days…

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