The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fascinating maps show just how empty one half of the world is

Do you live in the human half of the world? Unless you're reading this from Australia, Indonesia or South America's Southern Cone, the chances are that you do.

Bill Rankin, a Yale professor who runs the blog Radical Cartography, did some extensive calculations to create the fascinating maps below. For every point on earth, he computed the percent of the world's population that lives on the half of the globe that is centered on that point. This is actually the same thing as computing the percent of the population that is within 10,000 kilometers from that point. (A little history lesson: The distance of a meter was originally set as one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator. So for any way you slice the world in half, that hemisphere will have a radius of around 10,000 kilometers.)

What Rankin finds is that one part of the globe is especially human-centric. The numbers on the map below show what proportion of humanity lives in the half of the world centered on that point. For most points in Europe and northwestern Russia, over 80 percent of humanity lives in the half of the globe centered there, and for large part of Europe the figure is above 92 percent, Rankin says.

If you look at the graphs below of world population by longitude and latitude, also by Rankin, the reason for this becomes clearer. The human population bulges at a specific latitude and longitude. Set your coordinates to capture those bulges, and you'll have a good proportion of the population within 10,000 kilometers.

These findings led Rankin to dub one half of the world -- the half with the big population centers of Asia, Europe and North America -- "the Human Hemisphere." When divided this way, this half of the globe has an incredible 92.9 percent of the world's population and most of its land.

The Human Hemisphere is shown in the first map below. The pink dots indicate the population density within a 10,000 square kilometer space. The larger and redder the dot, the more people living in that area.

The hemisphere that's left is mostly ocean, with only 7 percent of the world's people. That is shown in the bottom map below. Notice that the globe has been flipped in the image so that South Pole faces upward. The bottom of South America is on the left side, while New Zealand, Australia and parts of Southeast Asia are on the right.

Watch human population grow from 1 CE to present and see projected growth in under six minutes. (Video: WorldPopulationHistory)

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