Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

November 23, 2013

Children’s book has some interesting facts

Even though I have not traveled much, I have always been interested in geography.

In my upper primary grades I had a geography class each day. One of my favorite books then was an Atlas of the World.

We have a fine geography department at Frostburg State with concentrations in cartography & GIS (Geographic Information Systems), Earth Science and Urban Planning.

Yesterday I saw “Children’s World Atlas” at a local book store and I couldn’t resist. This book has ISBN 978-0-85734-886-0-and was published in 2012 by Igloo books. Here are some interesting facts from this book about our planet and humans.

Consider the world population: if you selected 100 people at random: 61 would live in Asia, only five would be from the U.S. and Canada, 25 would be white, 48 would live on less than $2 a day, 48 would lack access to basic sanitation, 16 would lack access to safe drinking water, 16 would be unable to read or write and eight would have Internet access at home.

Our own continent of North America has 16.3 per cent of the Earth’s land area and 7.7 per cent of the human population. The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, containing 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

The coastlines of Canada total 125,600 miles, more than five times the Earth’s equatorial circumference. The difference in area between Canada and the U.S. is only 3.7 percent (Canada being slightly larger) but the United State’s population is nine times bigger. Mexico’s capitol, Mexico City has the largest population of any city in North America.

South America has 12 per cent of the world’s land area and 5.6 per cent of the human population. The Andes in South America is the world’s longest mountain chain on land, at 4,350 miles. The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest.

Chile is 2,880 miles from North to South and is the favored site for large optical telescopes in its Atacama Desert, being the driest place on Earth. Brazil’s urban area of Sao Paolo has more than 20 million people and is the most populous city in the Americas.

Europe has 7.1 per cent of the world’s land and 10.7 per cent of the human population. It has 46 countries with the smallest being Vatican City at one sixth of a square mile with less than 900 inhabitants.

The European part of Russia has the longest river (Volga at 2,299 miles) and tallest mountain (Mount Elbrus at 18,510 feet). European Russia has the world’s largest lake, the Caspian Sea. Finland has more lakes than any other country with its 187,888 lakes covering 10 per cent of Finland’s area.

Africa has 20.4 per cent of the world’s land area and 15 per cent of the human population. Africans speak as many as one thousand different languages, divided into four main groups. There are 55 countries in Africa.

The two most populous countries are Ethiopia and Egypt, both with over 80 million people. The Nile River is the world’s longest river at 4,160 miles. The Sahara Desert which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea is the world’s largest desert; 8,000 years ago this region was wet and fertile.

The Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa are a continuation of our Alleghany Mountains, formed when North America and Africa collided.

Asia has 46 countries, 31 percent of the world’s arable land and 61 percent of the world’s humans.

The longest train route in the world is the Trans Siberian Railway, which goes from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast. It is 5,744 miles long and a train takes eight days to make the trip.

The Himalayan mountain range has eight peaks over 26,247 feet in altitude. Lake Baikal in Siberia is the deepest and oldest fresh water lake on Earth, containing one fifth of the Earth’s fresh water.

Australia, the smallest continent has 5.3 per cent of the world’s lands and 0.45 per cent of the population. Australia had humans living there 40,000 years ago, long before humans came over the Bering Strait Land bridge and began to settle in North and South America.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of northeastern Australia is 1,243 miles long.

Antarctica has 8.9 per cent of Earth’s land area and a transient human population of several thousand scientists. The only plants are hardy mosses and lichens near the coast. Antarctica is considerably colder than the Arctic with much of the continent being 10,000 feet above sea level.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: Venus is a splendid sight in the western dusk, outshining any night star. Venus’steady, non twinkling light tells you that you are looking at a bright planet.

 The very bright planet Jupiter is now rising in the east about 8 p.m., just after Venus sets. Comet ISON may be seen low in the 6 to 6:30 a.m. east-southeast.

Its tail may be several degrees in length (pointing upward) and may be seen even before the comet’s center appears. Late Thanksgiving, ISON will pass very close to the sun.

It is anybody’s guess as to how the comet and its tail will appear in the last two days of November. To the left of the comet’s tail are the planets Saturn and brighter Mercury.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
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