Strange Canadian Bedfellows

On December 27, 2012 · 1 Comments

I posted an article a few months ago called Strange Bedfellows. It explored country size comparisons included within the CIA World Factbook ("Botswana is about the size of Texas"). It was a great resource, I noted, for readers from the United States because landmasses were compared to US-based equivalents. The Central Intelligence Agency is a unit of the US government so that’s to be expected. However these comparisons would be less helpful to the large preponderance of the world with different geographic references.

Imagine an alternate reality where the CIA shifted from Washington to Ottawa. Let’s ignore all of the meaningful consequences of such an action and consider only the impacts upon the World Factbook. Suddenly Botswana compares more equivalently to Saskatchewan or Manitoba. Why Canada? I have a couple of reasons. First, the Twelve Mile Circle has a surprisingly robust Canadian readership. Second, while I’m not in Canada at the moment, I almost feel like I’m there in spirit (in Wisconsin for the holidays where it has not gone above freezing the entire time I’ve been here, albeit it’s better than one of my previous wintertime trips).

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Creating Canadian comparisons became a tedious, time-consuming process. Fortunately I have nothing but time to kill during a holiday week and I could focus on it without interruption. I’ve shared the results in a public Google spreadsheet file which everyone should feel to peruse, copy or steal without any feelings of guilt. I can’t imagine there are more than a few people who would find this spreadsheet even remotely interesting and a large percentage of them are probably 12MC readers. Knock yourselves out.

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Canadian provinces and territories introduced a number of comparison challenges vis-à-vis US states. There are far fewer of them for one thing. Canada also includes an unfortunate size cluster — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all weigh-in at around 650k sq km. Then there are huge size drop-offs between Newfoundland & Labrador and New Brunswick, and then again between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately many nations fell right within those ranges so I ended up with weird fractional comparisons like "Jamaica is about one-fifth the size of Nova Scotia" which wasn’t very helpful. I also developed a couple of proxy comparisons for micro-nations. The CIA selected Washington, DC and the National Mall to bounce against the tiniest nations so I converted them to Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

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I compared every land unit referenced by the World Factbook to Canada as a whole, to every province and territory, and to the two proxies. That was easy, just copying a formula down each column on a spreadsheet. It created some interesting facts that you should feel free to mention at your next friendly get-together. You can be smug in knowing that few others realize that Russia is about 114 million times the size of Parliament Hill.

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Then I developed what I considered the most appropriate comparative size descriptions. That was the time-consuming step and admittedly rather subjective. Some sample comps included:

  • Nunavut: DR Congo; Greenland; Saudi Arabia.
  • Québec: Iran; Mongolia.
  • Northwest Territories: Perú; Chad.
  • Ontario: Ethiopia; Bolivia; Mauritania.
  • British Columbia: Tanzania; Nigeria, Venezuela.
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan & Manitoba: Burma; Afghanistan; South Sudan; France; Somalia; Central African Republic
  • Yukon Territory: Spain; Turkmenistan; Cameroon; Papua New Guinea
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Paraguay.
  • New Brunswick: Panama; Sierra Leone; Ireland; Georgia
  • Nova Scotia: Togo; Croatia
  • Prince Edward Island: West Bank; Brunei
  • Ottawa: Samoa
  • Parliament Hill: Holy See (Vatican City) is about three times the size of Parliament Hill.

A special mention goes to reader "Rhodent" who noted the Yukon-Spain comparison in a comment on the previous article.

I’ll consider developing comparisons for other nations if I perceive sufficient interest. Likewise readers can always develop something on their own and link a spreadsheet to a comment.

Totally Unrelated

It took me only two years to finally summon sufficient motivation to convert the 12MC Complete Index from v2 to v3 of the Google Maps API. The map should load a lot faster now.

On December 27, 2012 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Strange Canadian Bedfellows”

  1. Philip Newton says:

    I wonder whether the various constituents of the Russian Federation (and/or of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics before that) would lend itself to similar comparisons.

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