By the time we leave school, most of us have a elementary knowledge of our planet's geography. We know where the continents are and we know that they're big. I touched on this in a previous post about the Greenland Problem where, despite Greenland having a size of 0.2 million square miles and Africa having a size of 11.6 million square miles, Africa and Greenland appear roughly the same size on most of today's maps.
So we know that Africa is big; 11.6 million square miles of big. But that sort of bigness is difficult to get our heads around. As Douglas Adams once said
Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real 'wow, that's big', time ... just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.
And in the case of Africa, big means that, if you were playing jigsaw puzzles with other countries, you can fit the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, most of Eastern Europe, India, China and Japan into Africa and still have some space left over.
It's that sort of big. This map infographic from Kai Krause (yes, that Kai Krause) shows this sort of level of big-ness in a way that 11.6 million square miles just can't convey. There's more information on this map, together with an alternate version over at The Economist.