You must log in or register to comment.

Fellowes321 t1_jeeldaj wrote

There's no geographical reason but there is a reason.

It's the same reason many world maps are centrered on the prime meridian.


The_Undermind t1_jef6456 wrote

Because the Empire that, at it's peak, controlled around a quarter of the land on earth said so?


awfullotofocelots t1_jefm20k wrote

There is also a geographic reason. It's just not the sole reason. The Earth's poles and its rotation around its axis is the reason that pretty much everyone prefers a map with poles oriented vertically. If not for our rotation around our axis making the sun appear to move east west, we mightve preferred something different. From there we had it narrowed it down to two options (either south = up or north = up), and the one that stuck was the one that the people in power preferred at the time the convention became standardized.


michalsrb t1_jefqslk wrote

And since most land and therefore population is on Northern hemisphere, it was likely that whoever is in power will be there. And after all, it was a good choice as it's natural orientation for most people.


ringobob t1_jeg47mg wrote

I wonder if it's a personality thing, given a blank piece of paper and your own deduced position, if you would naturally place yourself on the upper half or the lower half.

I think if it was me, I'd probably place myself on the lower half, with the intention of climbing upward to explore, rather than delving lower to explore. Maybe that's because I'm not an explorer, and see possibilities in the sky, and inhospitabilities below.


michalsrb t1_jegbdv3 wrote

I think the actual answer is that you put yourself in the middle and then as you explore all around you you expand the map. So at the beginning you may choose South/North arbitrarily just based on the local features. Then as you explore you find out whether you are on top or bottom of the expanded map.

TBH this is one of the things someone knows the true answer and I could just Google it, but it's fun to speculate.


Muroid t1_jefw3tl wrote

You’re already assuming an “axis = vertical” model in that justification.

There’s no particular reason to think that the sun moving East-West means that East-West has to be side to side.

Maybe the sun is falling from “up” to “down” and the poles are the sides of the Earth.


morry32 t1_jefy6hx wrote

its that kind of thinking that sunk the crown




ringobob t1_jeg51ij wrote

There's a lot of truth to what you're saying, but there's an inherent natural inclination to see up/down as fixed and side/side as variable (seeing as that's where we do and don't have total freedom of movement) and using the (more or less) fixed poles as the fixed point makes a sort of sense that would arise naturally, I think.


awfullotofocelots t1_jegdl1w wrote

I'm not assuming anything: I have a modern understanding of the Earths relationship to the sun. Past humans collectively did assume based on their observations and measurements of the sun (see ancient structures marking the solstice or equinox), but it would be ignorant to discount that those early assumptions led to the modern conventions we use.


Muroid t1_jegef9x wrote

Yeah, but the orientation is still arbitrary. There’s nothing natural about associating the poles with up and down or the precession of the sun through the sky as side to side motion.

It’s purely an arbitrary convention that could easily be reversed with no impact on how any of it is observed now or in the past.


awfullotofocelots t1_jegewap wrote

Obviously it's arbitrary. The fact that it's arbitrary doesn't change the fact that we came to it through our model for the world and our reasoning. Even if that reasoning was based on assumptions that ended up invalid.

Lots of choices society makes are arbitrary. Red and green traffic signals, using commas for pauses and periods for stops, using these particular 26 shapes as an alphabet... but just because we make arbitrary collective choices that could have gone a different way, doesn't mean there wasn't a reason for the choice at the time we made it.


Muroid t1_jegfxuj wrote

You’re the one who said there was a geographic reason for it.

There’s no geographic reason for poles to be oriented vertically.

You’ve essentially just said “There’s a reason that we orient our maps so that North is up. It’s because that’s where the North Pole is and we orient our maps vertically based on the poles.”

Ok great, except that that doesn’t actually answer the question, because if you then ask “why do we orient our maps based on the poles” which is kind of implicit in the initial question, the answer is “No particularly good reason except that that’s how we do it.”

Edit: Sure, there are always reasons why an arbitrary choice went one way or the other. But you didn’t actually give the reason in this case. You’ve just asserted that there was one.


CalEPygous t1_jefqakt wrote

Disagree there is a geographical reason and the reason is most of the land mass of the earth, and its most populous countries, are north of the equator. Therefore, it does make sense.


ringobob t1_jeg5rtc wrote

Why does that make it make sense? You could just as easily say the land mass is more dense, so it should be considered the bottom, or considering populations, it makes more sense to consider the landmass as a mountain, and more people live in the valleys than the peaks.

There's not a geographical reason, there's a sociological reason, informed by geography.


CalEPygous t1_jegenk6 wrote

You realize your comments make no sense. That the prime meridian is at zero in Greenwich England is a sociological/historical fact. That north is on top makes sense based upon the geographic fact that most of the landmass of the earth is north of the equator. Therefore the names on the maps would be read (as one reads a book) from top to bottom. These latter two facts have nothing to do with the UK or anything other than geographic facts and common sense.


ringobob t1_jegm9ou wrote

>That north is on top makes sense based upon the geographic fact that most of the landmass of the earth is north of the equator.

You say that like it's the obvious choice to make. It's not. It could just as easily make sense to put south on top because most of the landmass of the earth is north of the equator, and most of the landmass of the earth is below our feet, i.e. down. That's my entire point from beginning to end. Someone has to choose that majority of landmass equals higher up on the map. It's not a universal constant that someone would choose to put that at the top of the map. Nor is it a universal constant that my comment, therefore, makes no sense.


eternalankh t1_jef6o3l wrote

There isn't any reason for anything. We're just all out here doing our best, man.

Edit: except u/Eranevore, he ain't doing his best.


M0ndmann t1_jef6uwd wrote

Of course there is a reason. It's way easier to navigate with maps when they are always identically oriented


Vibinbee t1_jefci9a wrote

Yeah but why north


KingHeroical t1_jeffmze wrote

My guess would be that navigation in the northern hemisphere relied heavily on Polaris (the north Star), so the 'north arrow' would point in the correct direction if you were holding the map while facing the north star.

It would also coincide with the direction a compass points...


M0ndmann t1_jefe827 wrote

There are many, mostly cultural and practical reasons for that. Google will help you If you wanna know exactly.


AllDressedRuffles t1_jefuw4z wrote

I don't think he's literally asking. He's replying to the person who didn't address the point of the post


RailAurai t1_jefi2jm wrote

The entire purpose of the cardinal directions is to improve navigation and link it with something constant. If we don't follow the concept of keeping it constant across the board then it'll make navigation much harder.


showMeYourPitties10 t1_jefkthj wrote

River flow would be my guess. "Water runs down, put at bottom of map" I know plenty of rivers flow north, but that is usually the exception. Like, did you know the Nile flows north?!?!??


Belnak t1_jefgwsv wrote

Because the giant iron mass in the artic pulls a compass point that way, and you align your map to the compass when navigating.


DIXIExCUP t1_jefi72j wrote

You’re close but the giant iron mass in actually in the core of the earth not in the arctic. It’s just how the invisible flux lines runs through the planet. We essentially live on a giant magnet


Craw__ t1_jefvbc6 wrote

But iron is heavy and sinks to the bottom.

South on top baby!


tyrom22 t1_jef2xyk wrote

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a map with the south on top once. Forgot which country made it.

North is probably on top more often due to more of the landmasses being there and the countries that made the maps being from there


PerpetuallyLurking t1_jefuphh wrote

I know ancient Egypt oriented their maps with south facing up. That’s the way the river flowed.


Kolbin8tor t1_jefv2kj wrote

Ancient Egyptian maps had south at the top. Likely because the Nile River started in the south and flowed north.


TCGHexenwahn t1_jefvfe3 wrote

I saw a medieval map in Stockholm that had the south up


warpedashell t1_jeekg8h wrote

You’re sure it has nothing to do with a compass needle pointing north?


GuinnessTheBestBoi OP t1_jeelrq9 wrote

Why is north up? Why isn't north down and south up? They are the only two references


JIN_DIANA_PWNS t1_jeethc8 wrote

There’s a tribe of aboriginees in Austrailia that reference direction solely on the point of shadow from the sun at that particular time. Too lazy to google it, but it fits with your observation.


BurnOutBrighter6 t1_jefbaw8 wrote

Because the countries that were making the maps when this convention was established are all in the north and put themselves "on top".

And you can't really blame is useful to have maps always pointing the same way. So they had to put themselves either always at the bottom or always on top. Top is what I'd have done too.


KingHeroical t1_jefhr2b wrote

If you were holding a map, and trying to figure out which way to orient it so that it matched your surroundings, you'd want to have some sort of reference 'arrow' to line up with something. Historically, the most common physical reference point used in navigation was the north star.

So, face the north star while holding the map oriented correctly and north will be on the top of the map.


amandack t1_jefmemp wrote

The north star is only applicable in the northern hemisphere. The Southern cross is what is used in the southern hemisphere, and your argument would work with that. Orient your map to the southern cross, and south will be on the top of the map.


KingHeroical t1_jefohjt wrote

We're speaking practically rather than technically here:

Nearly 90% of humans live in the northern hemisphere. People who were developing mapping and navigation techniques did so primarily in the northern hemisphere. So for them, 'north on top' was not arbitrary at all but rather very practical.


john2218 t1_jefpj6x wrote

Because most of the world population economy and land is in the Northern hemisphere.


Kevatan t1_jeemqth wrote

It's just a convention that's been around for a while.
Back in the day, maps were oriented towards the east, but then compasses came around and everyone started using them to orient towards north.


rdeternalkid t1_jefid1v wrote

Maps are drawn by the winners as history is always written by the winners


buchoops37 t1_jefk7vw wrote

Yep. That's almost everything in human history... wait til OP learns that languages were made up too


TheCuriousSages t1_jeelnky wrote

The compass points to magnetic north, which I think likely influenced the decision to place north at the top.


raff7 t1_jeep60u wrote

well.. technically the compass points towards the magnetic south of the earth magnetic field.. which is at the north pole...

That's because the magnetic north of your compass is attracted by the magnetic south of earth, so what we call "north" is actually the magnetic south... pretty weird I know


Umpteenth_zebra t1_jeeovnh wrote

We could have named the direction the compass points to magnetic south. And that's still no up or down. Magnetic north could be in the same place as Svalbard, in the bottom of the map.


dihydrocodeine t1_jefflo7 wrote

Compasses align themselves with the magnetic field, meaning they orient to the north-south in a line (not a ray). We just decided to paint one side of the compass needle red and call that north.


DiggingThisAir t1_jeffej2 wrote

There are a ton of reason, all of which can be found with a google search


Mohammed_Chang t1_jefkfwy wrote

North is on top because early navigation was made with stars. The brightest star is northern from Mediterranean Sea. Also compass was explored at some point which shows in northern direction. In Christian times Maps were often facing East.


cantbenotrandom t1_jefkmig wrote

If you think about it, there's no reason to call north north and south south


AggyResult t1_jefolv9 wrote

Are we not orientated as such in space, albeit slightly pissed?


Showerthoughts_Mod t1_jeejqcp wrote

This is a friendly reminder to read our rules.

Remember, /r/Showerthoughts is for showerthoughts, not "thoughts had in the shower!"

(For an explanation of what a "showerthought" is, please read this page.)

Rule-breaking posts may result in bans.


Rowan-Trees t1_jef2z8g wrote

My old college campus had maps South-oriented to have the main entrance at the top, but then most across campus were physically East or West-facing. So you had to mentally flip the map-orientation, then 90° your physical position to find your bearings. It was so needlessly confusing.


Serialad t1_jefb29w wrote

You have to think of the map as laying flat on a table, then there is no up or down (besides text orientation)


whodiditnotme28 t1_jefhryz wrote

Theres not a reason to life at all. We're just supposed to live


Terrible-Swim-6786 t1_jefi8f7 wrote

The higher you go on a mountain the colder it gets, northern europe is colder.


St34m9unk t1_jefj47t wrote

Convenience and just map makers decisions

What direction a map is doesn't matter only which way you are facing, where north really is on the compass, and that you know what way north is on the map

If your map isn't a perfect square area like say a long oval park you can flip it any way to fit regular paper better or maybe it's a face like shape and you want it right-side up for quirky tourist things, or maybe just so the entrance is on top or bottom to somewhere to avoid confusion if it's not perfectly in line with a cardinal direction

You only really want north to be always up when it's large and official Iike states, continents, city's atlas maps, ect also mostly just to avoid confusion


showMeYourPitties10 t1_jefl5cb wrote

What if flordia was seen as the cool top end instead of the drain pipe on the bottom end?


MrMToomey t1_jefn7rx wrote

You start looking north when you orient yourself using a map. North may not necessarily be "up" but it is forward. North was determined by a combination of Polaris and compass direction. So, 2 reasons right there. Same concept of why clocks turn clockwise, sundials.


dennismike123 t1_jefo538 wrote

Yeah, I bet you hear a lot of arguments like this in Australia, and Chile, and Argentina, and the Union of South Africa. Go with whatever works.


skittlebog t1_jefp18k wrote

Consistency. It is easier to understand maps if they are all orientated the same way. Otherwise you have to study each map to find which direction it is showing you. That might be okay if you are only looking at one map, but gets confusing if you are looking at several maps.


PckMan t1_jefpbex wrote

No there isn't, but trust me when I saw we save a ton of hassle with common conventions like these.


triteratops1 t1_jefs68o wrote

Everything is fake. We made it all up. Even the most fundamental things, we invented/named/created. Everything we do is a social construct. Do what you will with this knowledge.


usernamedunbeentaken t1_jefsi68 wrote

You are right. An upside down globe would still be a perfectly accurate representation of the world.

I wouldn't mind having an upside down globe. I mean I could turn mine upside down but then all the letters would be upside down.


AccordionORama t1_jefsqot wrote

For world maps, the usual items of interest (land) are mostly in the Northern hemisphere, and so are more evident on the page by being at the top.


brandontaylor1 t1_jefsup2 wrote

There is more ice in Antarctica than at the North Pole. This imbalance makes the South Pole heavier, so the maps have a natural tendency to self right. Like a Weeble Wobble.


FourEyedTroll t1_jeftmgf wrote

It's a relatively modern convention. I've seen plenty of C17th maps that place north at the right of the map.


PerpetuallyLurking t1_jefuicp wrote

We used to face maps to the East - that’s why you can “orient” your map to the Oriental. It’s literally the origins of those two words.


aklein11 t1_jefwh1j wrote

There’s still a reason. Consistency makes it easier to read things


Tesseractcubed t1_jefxtxj wrote

Depends on the type of map.

Arguably, some operation maps (in military history) are drawn with the attacker at the bottom, and the defender at the top, or vice versa, or along a left right axis. North is a convenient up, but some compass roses are not pointed up with north.


_Don-Corleone_ t1_jefyij8 wrote

Ohh..bud..there is..its because North can be clearly distinguished from the other poles thanks to the magnetic field of the Earth..which makes it a building a map with the North..a constant..which can also be a stand in for the North Star..which most of Europe sailors used was just logical for them.. in other parts like India East was the top..and I think in Egypt South was the top..but somewhere during the European expansion..(colonialism) ..all the maps have been set to suit them..thus the standard North top maps were made..


gabawhee t1_jefyjy7 wrote

Someone a long time ago probably made the first map and set the foundation for the rest of the maps to be up or down


SOSOBOSO t1_jefyqmv wrote

European maps originally had east at the top because that is where the sun rises. That was their "orientation." The silk road brought with it the magnetic compass. After that, it began to make more sense to have north at the top of the map. Source: The history of the English language podcast.


Oraanu22 t1_jefzcbf wrote

It is much easier to compare maps and correctly identify features on maps when they are always in the same orientation.


craz1000 t1_jeg09av wrote

It is because of magnetism, a special star the northern hemisphere only has, and standardization.


ExpertYolo t1_jeg6kfi wrote

Actually there’s a reason. When you get an erection , it generally goes up. So the North Pole? Think about it


Jajayce77 t1_jeek79c wrote

Fun fact every 200 000 to 300 000 years north and south switch places another fact it’s been 702 000 years and our north/south is still in places it should change in less than 1000 years


Umpteenth_zebra t1_jeeolgz wrote

That's just magnetic polarity, not geographical north.


Jajayce77 t1_jeeop7w wrote

I’m talking about the geomagnetic pole magnetic geografic and geomagnetic is different


goodvibes1441 t1_jef8zw6 wrote

Most white cultures are in the northern hemisphere and many non-white cultures are in the southern hemisphere. The whites have to be on top and in the middle to feel more powerful.


DigitalSteven1 t1_jef9n80 wrote

This might be the dumbest response I've seen on this site.


DraconisImperius t1_jefay6s wrote

We are white because our ancestors were from areas where the sun is not the strongest.. otherwise we would have developed like the people in Africa.. its location and genetics. Not like we all of a sudden were like oh we need to move up here.. we were already there and thats how we developed. The Human race has been around for a very long time.


mdg-raampie t1_jefci1w wrote

Ah yes 90% of the worlds population is white apparently