How many continents are there? If you grew
up in the English-Speaking world you might think that the answer is obvious: 1, 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, 7. But not everyone count continents the same
way. The usual deffiniton, that they’re large
land masses separated from others by oceans is fine, until you actually start to think
about it, and then you run into problems. Problems, like, this: Here’s Europe, here’s Asia and you’ll
notice the lack of ocean between them. Why then, are they two different continents? The usual reason for this split is a cultural
one: that Europe is so different from Asia that it’s best to pretend it’s a separate
entity. OK… maybe. But if the cultural argument is valid then
surely it also applies to India and the middle east. Now you have nine continents and a new
problem: if culture defines continents then you’ll never stop drawing increasingly unhelpful
lines. So some places ditch the culture division
and combine Europe and Asia into Eurasia. This Eurasia is not to be confused with this
Eurasia, which has always been at war with Eastasia
Making Eurasia gives a six continent view of the world. But what about over here: North America and
South America? They’re connected at Panama – or at least
they were until Teddy Roosevelt decided that someone had to cut that country in half and
it might as well be him. But even still the Canal is only 13 meters
deep. You could walk all the way from Northern Alaska
across the narrow Panama canal and, if it weren’t for the deadly, impenetrable, poison
filled Brazilian rain forest, make it all the way to the southern tip of Chile. So North
and South America, despite the canal, aren’t really divided.
Which is why some places, particularly South America, treat America as a single continent,
not two. Which brings the total number of continents down to five. But… if you discard the Panama Canal then
you also have to discard the Suez Canal and you’ve just created the monstrously large
Afro-Eurasian continent: 85 million square kilometers home to 5.7 billion people. With this four-continent view of the world
we must be done because there are no more continents to merge and our deffiniton from
the beginning is now consistent. Except we’re not done because of that troublesome
word ‘large’. Exactly how large is continental large? Is Australia really a dinky continent or is
it the king of the Islands? Why not make Greenland the smallest continent? It’s pretty big,
even if you took away its ice. And speaking of ice, what about Antarctica?
The forgotten continent unfairly smushed against the bottom of maps just because no one lives
there. Remove the ice sheet that covers Antarctica
and you reveal it for the archipelago it really is not the single land mass it pretends to
be. And, to complicate matters, the largest of
these Antarctic Islands is smaller than Australia. So if you want to keep calling Antarctica
a continent, then there’s a bunch of other islands that might want to be continents too. Islands like New Guinea, Borneo, Madagascar,
Baffin Island, Sumatra, and Honshu. While this seems inclusive to the point of
silliness, ultimately someone has to decide what ‘large’ means and that’s going
to be an arbitrary line. This problem will be familiar to anyone who
remembers the is-Pluto-a-planet-or-not-a-planet fiasco which hinged — mostly — on this same
issue of size. So now we’re more confused than before we
started: there might be three continents or dozens. You know what will sort this out: SCIENCE! Confusion + science=answers Let’s ask a Geologist what a continent is. For them a continent is a tectonic plate:
parts of the Earth’s crust that move together. So, geologists, show us your continents. The Antarctic, plate, the Australian plate,
the Eurasian plate, the South American plate, the African plate. So far, this looks pretty
good. The… middle eastern plate. The… indian
plate. The Caribbean plate? The pacific plate? Well, there isn’t even
anything there. Well, there’s mostly nothing there. The
Nazca plate? The scotia plate? Really? At least North America is still lookin’
reasonable. Until you include a chuck of Russia, and half of japan and half of Iceland! Well, this is unhelpful — thanks a lot, Geologists. The heart of the problem is that the word
‘continent’ doesn’t have a simple & consistent deffiniton for every day use. So how many
continents are there? Well, how many do you want there to be? Six. The answer is clearly six.�

100 thoughts on “What are Continents?

  1. 6 the answer is 6 South/North America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica. Stupid school district saying "oh there is 7"

  2. brilliant … It's one of those human issues..such as the idea of tea-time, where time being an illusion and teatime double so (hitchhikers guide to the galaxy quote)

  3. groovy, I always thought that the Euro-Asian continent is two continental plates jammed into one another in the point of the Ural mountain range…but according to Wikipedia that was some other continents (which we don't talk about today anymore) "due to the collision of the eastern edge of the supercontinent Laurussia with the young and rheologically weak continent of Kazakhstania"

  4. We only have 1 continent:
    And also 1 big ocean!!
    wow life is 1 big lie

  5. You were wrong about Pluto (and yes I know this video was posted EIGHT years ago but I'm triggled let me have this) it has nothing to do with size at all. Dwarf Planet classification comes down to if it has cleared it's orbit or not. If a celestial object is big enough to have become spherical it's a planet or a dwarf planet, but the difference between those two has nothing to do with size.

  6. I find it somewhat amusing that you say you couldn't walk across the Americas because of the Brazilian rainforest, because you ignore the much bigger problem of the Darien Gap.

  7. I want there to be two:

    Australia is too small, and you don’t count the continental shelf in the land area, so no Oceania either.
    You also don’t count sea ice, so no Antarctica.

  8. Haven't seen this in the comments so i might as well point it out. At 1:03 you Spelled Colombia with a U (Columbia) this is the correct spelling for the district of Columbia found in the United States more commonly known as Washington D.C the country found in south America is spelled Colombia. This is a common mistake which happens for two reasons #1: If you were born in a country that is not in South America you don't learn much about Colombia in school (Unless you specifically choose to take a course on southern America [not to be confused with the southern United States]) and #2 in school (at least in the U.S) you learn about Christopher Columbus who "discovered" America. The word Columbus is spelled with a U and so people believe that the Country is spelled the same way since the country is named after him

  9. There are six if we ignore isthmuses (which are tiny), thick land ice (which is pretty land-like), and Greenland (which is not for sale):
    1. Eurasia
    2. Africa
    3. North America
    4. South America
    5. Antarctica
    6. Australia (aka Bushworld)
    At the very least I think Eurasia is pretty damn unambiguous…

  10. India
    Middle east
    Polar, including Iceland Greenland Northern Canada
    North America
    South America
    And all the rest is the same
    But there’s a hell Himalayas plate

  11. 2 so they can add a new rule, any continent must be accompanied by another previous continent and then combined to create one continent, this only repeats once for America and twice for Afro-Eurasia and disregards Australia and Antarctica

  12. If there are so many disagreements then do we even need to use the word continent? Do we even need to distinguish what a continent is?

  13. I think it should be 8
    North America & South America (divided by the Panama Canal)

    Europe & Asia (divided by the Ural Mountains) & Africa (divided by the Suez Canal)

    And Oceania & Australia & Antarctica (all technically made up of islands but whatevs)

  14. 70000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 continents

  15. How about as long as they are not connected and are not just islands connected to actual continents by something like hawaii is a state then were good it’s a continent

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