What Does Earth Look Like?

Hey, Vsauce. Michael here. This point of light in the sky is Earth as seen from the surface of Mars. And this is Earth as seen from Saturn. Here’s an image taken only 45,000 kilometres away, the famous Blue Marble. But what does Earth really look like? Well, it depends on how you define “look”. The word look comes from
the old Breton word “lagud”, mean eye, the human eye. And that’s part of the problem.
Images like this are based on light humans can see. But we don’t see everything.
There’s a fantastic episode of Radiolab that uses sound to illustrate just how different other creature visual spaces are from our our own.
When we talk about the way something physically looks we are talking about the visual perception of emitted or reflected electromagnetic radiation. Specifically, visible light. Light we perceive as red has a longer wavelength than blue or violet.
But what if I crank the wavelength even shorter? Does it stop being light? No, it just becomes light you can’t see – ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays.
Going the other way, you get infrared, microwaves and finally, radio waves. In principle, the spectrum of possible electromagnetic wavelengths is infinite. But even within the range of wavelengths we observe, the breadth is breathtaking. If the entire practical spectrum of wavelengths was laid out linearly from New York to Los Angeles,
the visual portion we see would only be the size of 100 nanometers. Small enough to slip through a surgical mask. Point is, when it comes to what their is to see, our eyes miss out on lot. For instance, take a look a remote control.
Many of these things communicate with light of wavelengths we can’t see but mobile phone cameras can. Try this at home. Push a button on a
remote control and you won’t see much but use a mobile phone camera
to detect wavelengths you can’t see and have them rendered visible.
There’s a whole lot going on we miss out on. Our night sky is full of frequencies we can’t see with our eyes alone but Chromoscope.net allows you to extend your vision.
This is the Milky Way as we see it, the visible light it gives off. But slide to see how it would look if our eyes
sensed other frequencies. Of course, we are having to represent
these other frequencies with visible colours because even
electromagnetic pretend time is bounded by our puny limits. As for Earth, if we only saw infrared
frequencies it might look something like this in our minds.
Ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet vision would return
unrecognizable spheres. With X-ray vision auroras around the
poles would shine brightly and gamma ray vision would give
Earth a bright edge from high-energy electromagnetic
radiation hitting the atmosphere at a shallow angle. So, which view is correct? Is there an absolute true appearance of the Earth? We haven’t even started yet. Look back at the Blue Marble.
What’s with the tyranny of “north” meaning “up”? Perhaps, it’s because we often equate “up” with “better” and many early map makers were from
North of the equator. But upside-down maps are equally true, no matter how strange day may seem to us.
Funny enough, the famous Blue Marble itself is a
product of North equals up bias. It didn’t originally look like this. The crew of Apollo 17 originally took it like this. NASA rotated it to fit our traditional idea of up after the fact. Here’s a visual birth that comes from
the US Naval Observatory’s live animation of our planet.
You can see exactly what parts are in its shadow at this very moment.
Other shadows fall on Earth as well, like the Moon’s shadow. Last week @BadAstronomer shared this
image. The dark smudges on the left is actually the Moon’s shadow during a Solar Eclipse as seen from above Earth.
There’s another problem with the Blue Marble – it’s flat and the Earth is three-dimensional.
A globe is the best way to represent the Earth but globes are difficult to carry around
and even when displayed in two dimensions, well, you just can’t see everything at once. A flat map of the Earth is really convenient but requires projecting a globe onto something flat. And a sphere’s surface cannot be
represented on a plane without distortion.
The West Wing famously pointed out the limitations of flat maps. There’s no such thing as a perfect flat map of the entire world. Some maps are useful for some
things and other maps for other things but it is really fun to pick on the Mercator projection, mainly because it’s so popular and is
even used by Google Maps, mainly because it’s so easy to zoom in on. It preserves shape decently well but suffers when it comes to area. As I’ve shown before, Africa is huge. Its area is so large the
entire contiguous United States could fit inside of it, along with all of China, India, Japan and much of Europe. But on the Mercator projection scale near the poles is pretty wonky, distorted, which means Greenland appears to be as large as Africa, even though in reality it is only 1/14th the size. There’s more. Check out Alaska and Brazil on a
Mercator projection. They appear almost the same size but in reality Brazil is nearly five times bigger than Alaska. Areas near the equator are minimized, whereas areas closer to the poles are exaggerated. To have fun with this problem, play the Google Maps Mercator puzzle. The red pieces are
countries projected outside of their usual locations. Now, what the heck is this weird shape? Well, let’s pull it away from
the North Pole, where scale is distorted a lot and now it’s Australia. You can see how the math behind map
projections distort Earth by interacting with them on Jason Davies’ brilliant site. Notice how small
Greenland appears on the Mercator projection when pulled down to the equator and how exaggerated it becomes
when moved to the edge. To be fair, the Mercator projection is great for navigation. If you want something that is more fair
when it comes to area, try the Gall–Peters. Here, landmasses are the right relative size but shape is sacrificed. Everything looks a bit too narrow. Enter the Mollweide. This projection shows equal areas and is a bit more pleasant shape-wise. If you interrupt the Mollweide around
the oceans, relative area is preserved and the shape of land masses becomes even more accurate. When it comes to the shortest
route between two places on the surface of the Earth, Gnomonic projections are really cool. Every straight line journey taken on
Earth’s surface is actually part of a great circle. On Mercator projections actual straight line paths look curved. But every straight line on a Gnomonic projection is also a straight line in real life – the shortest route. If you want a compromise between shape and area,
you might try the pleasant Winkel tripel, which the
National Geographic Society has used for maps it produces since 1998. Or a beautiful butterfly map that could be a ball until it’s
flattened, say, under a pane of glass. The Dymaxion map can unfold to show how nearly connected Earth’s landmasses are. It’s a great way to visualize human migration overtime. It’s quite impressive how far and wide humans have traveled on earth,
but it remains a bit of a disappointment to realize just how narrow our slice of visual perception really is. But don’t feel bad.
This brings us to the story of Julian Bayliss. Yes, hello, is this doctor Julian Bayliss? [ON THE PHONE:] Yes, speaking. Bayliss told me about how
one day, while using Google Earth, he spotted some dark green vegetation. It looked like a rain forest.
An expedition was scheduled and it turned out to be just that – a rain forest we had previously never seen. I asked him more. So, what have you found there? [ON THE PHONE:]
That day we found about 12 new species just from Mabu.
So we found about 3 snakes, 2 chameleons and about 4 butterflies, 2 new species of plants and we’ve only really just been into the
forest edge. So, I read, read a paper the other day, a scientific paper.
They estimate that there’s maybe 8 million, 8.5 million species in this world
but we’ve only actually discovered 1.5 million or between 1.5 and 2 million. So, we’ve actually only discovered maybe one fist of everything that’s living on this planet. Wow, our eyes only see a tiny fraction of what there is to see. But within that tiny fraction there are still an enormous number of things left to find.
So keep searching, keep looking. [ON THE PHONE:]
And as always, thanks for watching.

You may also like...

100 Responses

  1. God Son says:

    Explanations are clear thanks

  2. God Son says:

    Woooow!! Ahhhhhh 🤪😜😜🙀🙈👻

  3. Adacus79 says:


  4. Photo Finish says:

    Get bent bud.

    You’re lying 🤥

  5. Nene says:

    Why am i watching this at 4 am

  6. Mike P says:

    Honestly, I feel like that long tangent on maps was a bit unnecessary.

  7. obama is not real says:

    I fell asleep

  8. whiteclifffl says:

    Live animation. smh.

  9. dr.redstone nowak says:

    Hey Michael how high are you while making your episodes?

  10. supertinyblackhole _ says:

    2019: Flat Earth
    2084: Butterfly Earth

    08:52 wait, is that a cat earth?

  11. please help me i am hacked ONURHD says:

    it looks like a flat circle and Antarctica stops water

  12. Thomas Brogan says:


  13. Billy Kaelin says:

    Moral of the story:
    look in google maps and become a modern day explorer that makes everyone jealous that being lazy was better than actually exploring and searching

  14. Dragongamer171 says:

    me: tries to finish watching youtube for the day
    Youtube recommendations: wHaT dOEs THe EArtH lOOK lIKe?

  15. Aron Jensen says:

    Cola tastes good

    Or does it

  16. Greg Urbanek says:

    Wow, that is a lot of information to take in. Thank you.

  17. Alexia Harrison says:

    flat earthers: >:O

  18. Frank Smoak Jr says:

    I love science. I just found this channel and I am really enjoying it. Thanks.

  19. Doc Emit Brown says:

    Ahem If one can see earth as a bright dot like that from just outside of Saturn then why can't we see Saturn at 10x as big as the earths dot from earth's surface

  20. xhemexx says:

    quite nice, yourself?

  21. Aragti says:

    what holds the earth, i see all these circular planets like mars,jupiter ,earth rotating in parallel.and how come we cant fall off at the edge.

  22. Pete Wilson says:

    is it me or does earth looks the same size from both Mars and Saturn.

  23. Ted says:

    1:50 This claim is completely meaningless. What is the "practical spectrum of wavelengths"? Why are we plotting by wavelength anyway? The bandwidth and the maximum data rate of transmission of the visible spectrum are larger than that of the entire practical spectrum of larger wavelengths. I really wish people would stop repeating this claim that the visible spectrum is somehow small. It's just a syndrome of the representation.

  24. cogtroper says:


  25. Ratchet0203 says:

    Great job. Quality video.

  26. goodtasteification says:

    Bottom line, the image depends on the artists Concept?

  27. awesomeness86 says:

    Yeah the Milky Way is barely visible with all this light pollution

  28. Netheryk says:

    2:21 Why is there a pie underneath the remote and phone?

  29. Chris W says:

    You believe lies told by pathological liars. No one went to the moon that's physically impossible. that picture supposedly taken from space in 1972 what bullshit we don't have the technology to go to the moon today what makes you think we could in 1972. You believe liars wake up and think for yourself don't let the propaganda driven government think for you

  30. Untwisted says:

    Why are your titles in german? I don't get it, are they being translated?

  31. Taco Vato says:

    Can't believe people swallow this period if you do not know this information already, you will be let astray by his seemingly knowledgeable approach. There are several other maps they have left out on purpose.

  32. The end of ur life says:

    What does it really look like?


  33. TRUTH says:

    #LocalSun #StationaryLevelEarth #RobertFoertsch

  34. Kevin Bassett says:

    Earth is flat.

  35. My body is ready says:

    2.8k flat earthers disliked this video

  36. Lizard King says:

    i like to keep my remote control under a cloche too. makes changing channel feel much more fancy.

  37. Kitty Craft0 says:

    2:31 MY remote shows red to my eyes! I see it!

    Edit: changed my to MY

  38. Suga Kookie says:

    So nobody seen the milkshake change

  39. TheIceyZZ says:

    Vsauce: (pulls remote control out of pie display)

  40. Vincent Delao says:

    What about the flat earth map . He he

  41. Mickey D says:

    I love this fucking guy

  42. Chernobyl Raisins says:

    He's about to do a pro gamer move

  43. Trance Emerson says:

    using words like tyranny for Noth = up kills your credibility.. sorry Mr. Stephens. up is the direction that is above your head. if you were hurtling through space that direction would change all the time, as it does in real life because the earth is always spinning, and following the sun. just because northern hemisphere dwellers put a map on the wall in the direction that makes sense for them doesn't make them tyrants. and no up does not mean better.

  44. Andrei Gabriel says:

    Answer: earth

  45. Chinese Jay YouTube says:


  46. Erick Badrutt says:

    08:45 omg the minecraft map released!

  47. Bechir Ncib says:

    8:43 Okay! it's not just me right???

  48. Rion Lyle says:

    Perspective and science. Those are two reasons I like Andrew Yang for US President in 2020

  49. Gary Gilbenson says:

    to flat earthers:

    I cant see microwaves, so they must not exist!

  50. Godly Snake says:

    Who else is looking for flat earthers?

  51. Esequiel Tovar says:

    Arent those other light waves useless to us when it comes to getting what we need? Its so cool how out of all the light we could of detected we settled at the most useful light. Gamma ray vision would be useless in finding plants for food.

  52. Cognome Nome says:

    1:07 Floyd fans rise up

  53. Piløt says:

    Hey Vsauce Michael here,
    how often did you take a shit in your life?

  54. Happy Doggo says:

    Vsauce, Micheal

    Master of the Dramatic Pauses since 20XX

  55. Evangel Akillian says:

    I want a donut

  56. Rome Gutierre says:

    He didnt use the only tru map which is the united nation picture on their flag thatz the way earth really lookz. The only really he doesnt ever tell u the correct answer is because hill get his channel demonetizied

  57. Ali Zandy says:

    Flat earthier’s have entered the chat

  58. Javier g says:

    When u realize that the Pilgrims could have just traveled through a puny snowy area rather than an ocean to find 'merica

  59. I make radom crap says:

    He ordered so many milkshakes

  60. Marqus PW says:

    Not flat

  61. Aqua Rius says:

    A cat playing with australia

  62. ANormalSmile 23237 says:

    i wish snacks appeared in front of me all of a sudden

  63. Jo Mama says:

    How can you square the circle ? Michael

  64. Julia says:

    You know what, I'm done. My phone can't take pictures of the moon for shit but sees more than I do or what

  65. Elijah Etheridge says:

    Would you be able to copy what the land looks like from the globe or will it still be distorted please let me know i am curious

  66. Rapha RL says:

    i want that calactic burger please

  67. Ignacio Resendiz says:

    Girl: Your not pregnant
    Vsauce: or am I ?

  68. Lupe Pena says:

    blah blah blahblah blah

  69. Aleksandr Makhno Artamonov says:

    Cold air is heavier than hot air isn't it?
    Wich pole is the coldest? That's south pole 😌

  70. Creative Genius says:

    Had to pause this to make hot soup. Now I eat soup and continue to watch. 👍

  71. Judson Christudas says:

    I thought Asia was larger 😀

  72. Chimakwa says:

    There could be beings out there, that are only visible at wavelengths we can't see.

  73. Harashi says:

    I thought earth looks like earth

  74. Dimitris Efstratiou says:

    4:10 so nasa photoshoped the image to make us believe the earth is round but the earth is flat

    -Flat Earther's logic

  75. Epic Nerd Gacha says:

    That is just crazy that a website humans made found a place before we did

  76. Agit Pi says:

    1:24 Michael predicted the Keanu Reeves breathtaking meme. now that is breathtaking

  77. Benizok says:

    Why did his drink keep changing

  78. Benizok says:

    Why did his drink keep changing

  79. Brian Willis says:

    I feel like I've been lied to my entire life

  80. alex9theo10 says:

    The food next him changed ever time the camera went back to him

  81. Preda Daniel says:

    earth is flat

  82. Xenomorph Biologist - XX121 says:

    Doctor (with back turned to patient): you have 5 minutes to live… or do you?

    Turns around

    Doctor: hey Vsauce, Michael here

  83. dhy5342 says:

    The dynastic Egyptians saw south as up. the African sources of the Nile were in Upper Egypt and the Nile delta was Lower Egypt.

  84. kagat kagat says:

    your breath taking

  85. BakedPhoria says:

    Cheesy balls, curried ET Meatballs , Intergalactic burger, square ribs…this sounds soooo good right now!

  86. John DED says:

    "Look" does not come from old breton, it comes from English, Through proto-Germanic. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/locian

  87. samplin same says:

    Earth Has Fire Aspect

    Also i know im late i just found dis in my recommend

  88. nattie cob says:

    2:17 I Swear Our Tv Has A Remote Like That.

  89. Aimi Hanibal says:

    Flat-Earthers are quaking

  90. Matta's Account says:

    what the i saw the remote comunicate with my naked eye

  91. Elder Grumper says:

    "What does the Earth look like" CGI rendering of my butthole

  92. Kennith Stroude says:

    When you reallised he was recording in a resturant XD

  93. ethan alexander says:

    I'm so sad you didn't use the electromagnetic spectrum song

  94. Jong The Jazzer says:

    So we don't get problems, JUST USE A FRICKING GLOBE PEOPLE!! yeah it's much easier.

  95. Baruch Hashem says:

    You have to watch this one to the end to understand why there are no Flat-Earthers commenting here.

  96. ArtsyRamen says:

    “You’re breath taking!”

  97. William Healy says:

    F L A T

  98. Mugiwara no I says:


  99. Anruimentair says:


  100. Mildred Lopez says:

    This should be in d!ng

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *