A new map from XKCD’s Randal Monroe offers a glimpse into a bizarre alternate world where each country is forcibly squeezed into its respective time zone(s).
In principle, time zones are based on the position of the Sun relative to the Earth’s surface, but most countries choose time zones that work best for them. China, for example, has only one time zone, even though it technically covers five designated ones. Canada has six time zones and Russia has a whopping 11. Other countries, for either geographical or commercial purposes, choose nearby time zones to make things a bit easier.
But as Monroe’s new map shows, the globe looks pretty weird when the shapes of countries are modified to make their chosen time zone(s) accommodate the physical realities of the Earth.
China, with its lone time zone, gets absolutely smushed, while Greenland—with eastern territories that leapfrog across several time zones—grows a creepy pair of arms. Finland, Mongolia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo suddenly get disproportionate geographical representation, while Argentina and Chile look like toothpicks. Canada and the United States look reasonably rational, while Russia, with its skewed time zones, is practically unrecognizable.
Above is a version of the map showing the globe’s 24 time zones and how the countries’ preferred ways of keeping time were shifted to fit. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that humanity’s way of doing things is rarely well-aligned with nature.