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Re: OT: Renaming the continents

From:Joseph Fatula <fatula3@...>
Date:Friday, December 20, 2002, 9:05
Tim May Have Written:
> Iran has virtually nothing in common with > Kamchatka that it does not also have in common with Spain.
(among other things) Which brings us to an essential point. What is the definition of a continent? If it is a very large area (say, at least the size of Australia) that shares X amount of the same features (with the X at least being defined by some examples), then perhaps we ought to break up the world quite differently. If we break it up by how history has been and what sort of interaction these areas have had, Iran and Spain might go together, but we've got other problems. It would seem logical to break Africa into supersaharan and subsaharan parts, but does it make sense to put Tanzania in the world of Senegal as opposed to Arabia? Or what about Ethiopia? And obviously we can't break up China, so the outlying regions that Chinese culture affected would include both Tibet and the Philipines, which have little in common. So we could use a definition like this "A continent is a body of land at least the size of Australia and bordered by water on the majority of its edge." This seems like an intuitive one to me. It does arbitrarily limit the size of a continent, but I don't think that can be helped. If we don't limit it anywhere, the definition starts including things like Newfoundland, Iceland, or even Manhattan as continents. What would this definition include? Looking at a map of the world, I think it would include the following: Australia (obviously) South America North America Africa Europe Asia But the problem is that it would also include ridiculous areas like: the Middle East Russia the USA Canada Latin America All of Africa south of the Sudan, simply as a topic of invention So how do we limit it? If we increase the requisite ratio of coastline to edge, that might do it. But what is to guide this decision? If we are simply trying to include or exclude Europe, as is mainly the goal of many of the arguments in this thread, we'd be using the inclusion or exclusion of Europe to define Europe as included or excluded. But I think such a thing would be inevitable. For the Eurasian supporters, we could have a clause regarding the thickest neck of land that could be the junction between two continents. If that isthmus were to be no more than 100 miles in width, it would eliminate Europe and Asia as continents. Perhaps what we need is a more hierarchical system: Old World - Eurasia - - Europe - - Asia - Africa - Australia New World - North America - South America Just my thoughts... Joe Fatula