: Why there are N-E-S-W directions when our Earth is round(spherical).


Why America is always referred to WEST and countries towards India referred to EAST?

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7 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

For the second part of your question. Most/Many modern maps in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia have been using the worldview centered on Europe since the colonial era (Because Europe was basically the center of that world at that time). And it’s now historical tradition to put up the maps that way.

This also where the naming of “The West” and “The East” comes from.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Cardinal directions existed before humans figured out the true shape of their planet. The key thing is to separate your understanding of direction and area. “The West” and “The East” can be used as ill-defined terms for certain areas, but travelling east or west is akin to travelling the circumference clockwise or anticlockwise. You can head in a west direction indefinitely, looping the planet over and over, crossing “The East” as many times as you like, but it doesn’t change that *you* are travelling *west*.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because people live and move on a plane. There are also two other named directions, “zenith” and “nadir” but because most humans move on the plane and not above/below it, they are less used. And with 4 points (actually just two axes) you can describe all movement on the plane: “three steps east + one step north” is sufficient to describe your position. The most common way to arrive to a consensus on naming those directions is to look at phenomena that most people in the immediate vicinity experience the same – like sunrise/sunset. Now that you have the two most obvious defined, you can also agree on the others, and they are basically perpendicular to east west, and conveniently named north/south. The fact that you can use magnetic needles to point to them is just an added convenience. But in general there is an infinite number of directions you could use. Instead of saying 6°N you can call it “Phillip”. And hope that other people accept your convention and know where to go when you tell you’re at Philipp and west corner….

Why is the New World considered west is another convention – after European exploration and map making, it made sense to put themselves in the center, eventually imperial powers landed on the prime meridian that divides the hemispheres into West and East.

Anonymous 0 Comments

While the earth is a sphere, humans, until recently, can really only move conveniently on its surface. For the purposes of travel and mapping, the earth can be represented by a plane with 4 cardinal directions (no up or down).

The generally accepted nomenclature of East and West comes about because the international 0 degree longitude passes through Greenwich England. (Long history, they were challenged by Paris but managed to “win”). Anything “left” (ie North America) is “West” and anything “right” of Greenwich is “East”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There is no one correct way of viewing a map. You could flip the map upside down and it would still be correct. Antarctica would be on top but still south of Argentina and the Americas would still be west of Europe. So the NESW works perfect on a sphere.
Put Japan as the center of the map and all the references are still maintained, the US would still be east from Asia.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The four directions come from when humans weren’t able to move around the whole world: they go back at least to the early days of civilization; and probably before. East is the direction the sun rises, West is where the sun sets, North is to the left of East, South to the right of East.

As Europe conquered/colonized the world, they centered the world on themselves. That meant “The East” was anywhere they traveled east to get to; and “The West” is anywhere they traveled West to get to (specifically, the Americas). Because there was so much east, they divided it into the “Near East” or “Middle East”; and the “Far East” (China, Japan, and India primarily).

Then World War II and the Cold War happened, and Europe was largely grouped with the US; which resulted in them being added to “The West”.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Back in the day the dominant powers were centered in Europe. So things were generally describe in relation to those nations, particular France, England, etc. However different countries and groups used different map standards to determine where the prime meridian or “center” of the maps would be (the French based theirs on Paris for example). This is an imaginary line extending from the north to the South Pole, a line of longitude. The British prime meridian was based on an observatory in Greenwich England in 1851 and by 1884 it was used by a sizable majority of countries, ships, etc. In October of 1884, US President Chester Arthur brought delegates from 25 countries to establish an international standard for the meridian, and due to its popularity the Greenwich meridian was chosen, though some countries (again France) continued to use other values for awhile. The Prime Meridian was 0º, and marked the boundary between the Western Hemisphere (the side which contained the Americas) and the Eastern Hemisphere (the side which contained Asia and Australia). Europe and Africa were split. But even before that Asia, etc. were generally referred to as being in the east (the Orient) by Europeans.