Hey, geography nerds! Can you name the roundest country in the world? People who have really studied world maps might be able to. People who haven’t might be able to find it in the map above. Yes, it’s Sierra Leone. Yes, there have been people who study and rank the earth’s nations by the geometry of their borders. Australian geo-statistician David Barry ranked them by how rectangular each country is, using an algorithm he devised. Argentinian mathematician Gonzalo Ciruelo ranked the world’s countries by how round they are. With two ranked lists from two different experts, you have to wonder if there’s any overlap. Yes, there is.
Sierra Leone may be the roundest nation on Ciruelo’s list, but it also came in as the 14th most rectangular nation in Barry’s list. The strangest anomaly is Vatican City, which is the fourth roundest in the world but also the second most rectangular! Vatican City may have confounded the algorithms because of its tiny size, which gives it fewer pixels in the data set. On a map, it looks neither round nor rectangular. How to explain Sierra Leone? Well, once you consider all the weird shapes of the other countries in the world, there really aren’t all that many that are anywhere near round or rectangular. Find out what countries rank high in roundness and in rectangularity, and how they were calculated, at Atlas Obscura.
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