How the World is Divided Regionally

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  • 0:02 What Divides Us?
  • 0:32 Continents & Pangaea
  • 2:10 Countries & Political Divides
  • 3:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Humans love to classify things. After watching this video, you will be able to explain what continents and countries are and how today's continents formed. A short quiz will follow.

What Divides Us?

The Earth can be divided up in a lot of ways. Humans love to name things and to draw boundaries and borders because they give us a sense of order. We can separate the world into countries, but that would be an arbitrary choice because it doesn't say as much about the world as it does about the people. Or you can separate the world into tectonic plates: the pieces of the Earth's crust that float on the hot magma beneath. But more often than not, people divide the Earth into continents.

Continents and Pangaea

A continent is one of several large landmasses on the Earth, usually separated by oceans. While Asia and Europe are not separated by an ocean, this is still the most common method. But continents are not really a scientific way of separating the different parts of the Earth. Rather, they're more a matter of historical convention. The words people used to describe areas of land have stuck over time, and now we officially recognize them as continents.

The Earth contains anything between four and seven continents, depending on who you ask. But the most common seven continents the Earth is divided into are North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, Africa, Asia (on the other side of the Pacific Ocean to America), and Australia. Sometimes Europe and Asia are lumped together into one continent called Eurasia, since they're connected by land. North America and South America are also sometimes just called America. So people can never quite agree. But if you ask, most people will say there are those seven continents.

The other problem with continents is that they're gradually changing. The Earth didn't always have the continents it does today. In fact, 300 million years ago, there was only one continent! Pangaea was a so-called supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. Pangaea formed 300 million years ago and gradually broke apart over the next 100 million years. So continents are changing all the time, even if only slowly.

Countries and Political Divides

You can also divide the world into countries. A country is a nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory. The continent of North America contains 23 countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, and many more. The continent of Asia contains 51 countries including China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Japan, among others. The borders of countries were usually decided by wars, many of them hundreds of years ago. Though warring about land still happens in many parts of the world to this day.

Drawing lines on a map is completely arbitrary, but has been a source of great human conflict; not just because of the lines, but because of the resources within those lines. A country that lacks food might invade a country that has plenty. An area that has strategic or religious importance, like parts of the Middle East for example, can be a source of war after war as people try to re-write the borders of countries.

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