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Visualizing the True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

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The True Size of Nations

Note: Some of the land areas depicted in this graphic by Art.Lebedev are shown in separate components (e.g. U.S. and Malaysia) or are disputed and/or occupied territories (e.g. Abkhazia, Crimea, and Taiwan).

The True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

Is Greenland the size of the entire African continent?

No…

But looking at a map based on the Mercator projection, you would think so.

Today’s infographic comes from the design studio Art.Lebedev and shows the true size of the world’s land masses in order from largest to smallest using data from NASA and Google.

Check out the actual shape and size of each land mass without any distortions.

Distorting Reality: Mercator Misconceptions

Maps can deceive your eyes but they are still powerful tools for specific purposes. In 1569, the legendary cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, created a new map based on a cylindrical projection of sections of the Earth. These types of maps were suited for nautical navigation since every line on the sphere is a constant course, or loxodrome.

Despite the map’s nautical utility, the Mercator projection has an unwanted downside. The map type increases the sizes of land masses close to the poles (such as in North America, Europe, or North Asia) as a side effect. As a result, Canada and Russia appear to take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s surface, when in reality these nations only occupy 5%.

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” – Phaedrus

This collection of images above represents the world’s land masses in their correct proportions. Measurements are based on Google Maps 2016 and NASA Earth Observatory maps, with calculations based on the WGS84 reference ellipsoid, or more simply, a specific model of the Earth’s shape in two dimensions.

We take for granted Google Maps and satellite imaging. Making these accurate representations is no small task – the designers went through six steps and many different iterations of the graphic.

Countries are arranged by descending size and shown without external or dependent territories. For example, the total area for the contiguous United States shown does not include Hawaii, Alaska, or overseas territories.

Top 10 Largest Land Masses

Although Mercator maps distort the size of land masses in the Northern Hemisphere, many of these countries still cover massive territories.

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Russia16,440,626
Antarctica12,269,609
China9,258,246
Canada8,908,366
Brazil8,399,858
United States (contiguous)7,654,643
Australia7,602,329
India3,103,770
Argentina2,712,060
Kazakhstan2,653,464

The top 10 land masses by size account for 55% of the Earth’s total land. The remainder is split by the world’s 195 or so other countries.

Top 10 Smallest Land Masses

Here are the 10 tiniest jurisdictions highlighted on the map:

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Sealand0.001
Kingman Reef0.002
Vatican City0.5
Kure Atoll0.9
Tromelin Island1
Johnston Atoll1
Baker Island1
Howland Island2
Monaco2
Palmyra Atoll3

While the Earth’s land surface has been claimed by many authorities, the actual impact of human activity is less than one would think.

Human Impact: Humbled by Nature

Political borders have claimed virtually every piece of land available. Despite this, only 20% of land on the planet has been visibly impacted by human activity, and only 15% of Earth’s land surface is formally under protection.

The remaining 80% of the land hosts natural ecosystems that help to purify air and water, recycle nutrients, enhance soil fertility, pollinate plants, and break down waste products. The value of maintaining these services to the human economy is worth trillions of U.S. dollars each year.

While some nations are not as big as they look on the map, every piece of land counts.

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Business

How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

Ranking the the world’s most powerful passports based on access to visa-free destinations. Where does your country fall on the list?

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How Powerful is Your Passport in a Post-Pandemic World?

With COVID-19 cases falling in many parts of the world and vaccination programs ramping up at warp speed, international travel no longer seems like a distant dream.

The Henley Passport Index, which has been regularly monitoring the world’s most travel-friendly passports since 2006, has released its latest rankings and analysis.

The most recent data provides insight into what travel freedom will look like in a post-pandemic world as countries selectively begin to open their borders to international visitors.

Prominent Countries Still Holding Strong

The rankings are based on the visa-free score of a particular country. A visa-free score refers to the number of countries that a passport holder can visit without a visa, with a visa on arrival, or by obtaining an electronic travel authorization (ETA).

Without considering the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions, Japan firmly holds its position as the country with the strongest passport for the 4th year in a row.

This positioning is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)—with Japanese passport holders theoretically able to access a record 193 destinations from around the world visa-free.

The last time Japan didn’t hold the number one position was back in 2017, when it shared the 5th spot with countries like the United States, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
1🇯🇵 Japan1934170
2🇸🇬 Singapore1929164
3🇩🇪 Germany1912172
3🇰🇷 South Korea19110163
4🇫🇮 Finland1901173
4🇮🇹 Italy1903171
4🇱🇺 Luxembourg1903171
4🇪🇸 Spain1904170
5🇦🇹 Austria1896168
5🇩🇰 Denmark1891173

Singapore remains in 2nd place, with a visa-free score of 192, while Germany and South Korea again share joint-3rd place, each with access to 191 destinations.

Throughout the 16-year history of the Henley Index, EU countries have maintained a dominant position in the passport strength reports. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain all hold the 4th position while Austria and Denmark round up the top 5 with a visa-free score of 189.

CountryRank (2011)Rank (2021)Difference
🇺🇸 United States57-2
🇨🇦 Canada990
🇲🇽 Mexico29236
🇬🇧 United Kingdom37-4
🇧🇷 Brazil25178

The United States and the United Kingdom jointly share the 7th position with a visa-free score of 187 destinations. Canada, Mexico and Brazil hold the 9th, 23rd and 17th positions respectively, with Brazil experiencing a significant jump of eight places over the last 10 years.

Editor’s note: Visit the Henley Passport Index site for a full list and ranking of all countries around the world.

The Countries With The Least Travel Freedom

Afghanistan continues to be the country with the least amount of travel freedom, coming in last place (110th rank) with a visa-free score of 26 destinations. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen have access to slightly more visa-free travel, but still linger at the bottom of the overall ranking.

Rank (2021)CountryVisa-Free Score (2021)Rank (2011)Visa-Free Score (2011)
110🇦🇫 Afghanistan2610124
109🇮🇶 Iraq2810028
108🇸🇾 Syria299337
107🇵🇰 Pakistan329931
106🇾🇪 Yemen339139

The latest report indicates that the gap in travel freedom is now at its largest since the index began in 2006. Japanese passport holders can access 167 more destinations than citizens of Afghanistan, who can visit only 26.

The Biggest Gainers In a Decade

Over time, small annual moves in the Henley Passport Index can make a big impact—and in the last decade, countries like China and the UAE have been the biggest movers:

China has risen by 22 places in the ranking since 2011 by going from a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 40 destinations to now 77.

The most remarkable turnaround story on the index by far, however, is the UAE. In 2011, the UAE was ranked 65th with a visa-free score of 67 destinations. Today, thanks to the Emirates’ ongoing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with countries across the globe, it is now ranked 15th with a remarkable visa-free score of 174 destinations.

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Politics

Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending

Global military spending is now at a 32-year high. We show countries’ military spending by dollars and as a portion of GDP.

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Mapped: The World’s Top Countries for Military Spending

By practically any measure, the world today is more peaceful and less war-torn on a global scale, relative to the past.

For instance, declarations of war between nations and soldier casualties have both dropped drastically since the 20th century. Yet, military spending has not followed this trend.

The Top 10 Military Spenders

According to SIPRI, global military spend reached almost $2 trillion in 2020. The top 10 countries represent roughly 75% of this figure, and have increased their spending by $51 billion since the year prior.

Here’s how the worlds top 10 military spenders compare to each other:

RankCountryMilitary Spend 2020 ($B)% ChangeMilitary Spend 2019 ($B)
#1🇺🇸 United States $778.0+6.2%$732.0
#2🇨🇳 China$252.0-3.4%$261.0
#3🇮🇳 India$72.9+2.5%$71.1
#4🇷🇺 Russia$61.7-5.2%$65.1
#5🇬🇧 United Kingdom$59.2+21.5%$48.7
#6🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$57.5-7.1%$61.9
#7🇩🇪 Germany$52.8+7.1%$61.9
#8🇫🇷 France$52.7+5.1%$50.1
#9🇯🇵 Japan$49.1+3.1%$47.6
#10🇰🇷 South Korea$45.7+4.1%$43.9
Total$1,481.6+3.5%$1,430.7

The U.S. isn’t labeled as a global superpower for nothing. The country is by far the largest military spender, and its $778 billion budget trumps the remainder of the list’s collective $703.6 billion. On its own, the U.S. represents just under 40% of global military spending.

This year, Saudi Arabia has lost out on a top five seat to the UK, after a 7.1% decline in spending compared to a 21.5% increase for the UK.

Military Spend as a Percentage of GDP

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP can be used to compare military spending relative to the size of a country’s economy.

Military Spend as a Share of GDP

Click here to view a high-resolution version of this image.

When looking at things this way, many of the top spenders above do not appear. This may be an indication of their economic prowess or a demonstration that the money might be used for other vital areas such as education, healthcare, or infrastructure.

RankCountryRegionSpend as a % of GDP (2020)
#1🇴🇲 OmanMiddle East11.0%
#2🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaMiddle East8.4%
#3🇩🇿 AlgeriaNorth Africa6.7%
#4🇰🇼 KuwaitMiddle East6.5%
#5🇮🇱 IsraelMiddle East5.6%
#6🇷🇺 RussiaEurope/Asia4.3%
#7🇲🇦 MoroccoNorth Africa4.3%
#8🇮🇶 IraqMiddle East4.1%
#9🇺🇦 UkraineEurope4.1%
#10🇵🇰 PakistanSouth Asia4.0%

It’s pretty rare for countries to reach double digits for military spending as a percentage of GDP. In this case, Oman is an outlier, as the Middle Eastern country’s spending relative to GDP grew from 8.8% last year, to 11% in 2020.

Many of the countries with the highest military spending to GDP are located in the Middle East—a reflection of the escalating conflicts that have persisted in the region for well over two decades.

It’s worth noting that some data for the Middle Eastern region are estimates, due to the aforementioned regional instability.

More Spending to Come?

Global military spending figures are at a 32-year high, despite the pandemic’s effect on shrinking economic output.

World Military Spend 1988-2020

Although a major war hasn’t occurred in some time, it’s not to say the geopolitical mood hasn’t been tense.

The last 12 months or so have witnessed some nail-biting moments including:

  • Border disputes between China and India
  • Heightening tensions between China and Taiwan
  • Russia’s military presence in eastern Ukraine
  • The hacking of SolarWinds, a Texas-based company, by Russia
  • The ongoing Yemen crisis
  • An Israel-Iran feud

Will 2021 extend the trend of peace, or will rising military spending mean even higher tensions?

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