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A physical map is a term composed of two words, we will try to arrive at a correct definition by shredding the meaning of each one of them.

First, Map it is a term that descends from the Latin concept of mappa, and refers to a drawing which represents a territorial region. Typically, it is developed on a paper or other flat element, but there is also the globe which is a kind of spherical map. Physical , on the other hand, is an adjective associated with body , which opposes the abstract or symbolic. From the fusion of these two words we can understand that a physical map is a graphical representation on paper of the physical aspects of a place, terrain, geographical features and other related aspects.

The notion of physical map refers to a type of map in particular that exhibits the natural phenomena of the geology of a land and allows to understand its composition.

On a physical map, we will find a representation of the rivers , the mountains and the deserts , for example. In this way, the physical maps clearly differ from the political maps , whose purpose is to portray the organization of a territory arranged by the human being through entities such as countries , the provinces waves cities .

It should be noted, anyway, that there are physical-political maps . As the name implies, these maps present both geological phenomena and political entities.

Physical maps are made to scale and respecting the metric properties, which helps the user to calculate surfaces and distances easily. Those responsible for developing the maps are the cartographers , experts in the discipline called mapping .

These representations are carried out using different colors, according to the altitude of the terrain or depth, these colors are more or less dark. For example, the water of the sea that surrounds the coast is painted in a light blue, while the ocean of dark blue, to explain that in the first case the depth is less than in the second.

These maps also record the names of the most important cities, but without making clear the limits of it (for this it will be necessary to observe a political map ).

Elements of a map

It is necessary to clarify that any map is formed by a certain amount of elements, these are: Space and location (it represents a certain place with particular information), bidimensionality (Only two axes are registered, width and length, the depth is not registered. This element is changing with the arrival of the third dimension to societies), verticality (they represent reality from a vertical perspective, it is as if the terrain is always seen from above), abstraction and idealization (an abstraction is performed and the elements of the terrain are represented by symbols established in a conventional manner), scale (they are not made in real size but a scale representation is made where it is indicated how many times the reality has been reduced when plotting; 1cm of the map can be equivalent to 1000 real km, for example), and references (indications that allow us to know what each represented symbol means and dimensions necessary to understand the map).

Physical maps can have different degrees of detail and coverage. That is, they can be from a small territory (municipality) or from a larger space (continent).

As the technologies advance the design of the maps becomes something simpler; At present, for example, most of the maps are made from aerial and satellite photographs, which allows for greater precision in the elaboration of them.

To finish with this definition, it is important to keep in mind that, in another sense, the concept of physical map is also used in the genetics . In this case, the physical maps represent the genes and the genetic markers that are in a chromosome . This representation is ordered and contemplates the relative physical distance.

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