EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG! Well, sort of. Actually, not really. You’re probably right on par with everyone else. But how often do you get an opportunity to write such a hyperbolic headline and opening sentence? It had to be done. However, when it comes to maps, a lot of us are probably way off in how we think the world actually looks. And I’m not talking all the nut-jobs who buy into the whole flat Earth conspiracy nonsense. I’m talking pretty much every map and globe you’ve ever looked at. They’re all wrong.
OK, so “wrong” is too strong a word because what we’ve known to be the truth is accurate for how it’s drawn. What most of us are accustomed to when we look at a map is something called the Mercator projection which has been pretty much the gold standard in cartography for centuries. Some may be surprised to know that, in actuality, what we know to be “the world” (based on this projection) is wildly off when it comes to the sizes of countries. Which is why we just love the video above by YouTube’s RealLifeLore for breaking it down for us.
After its creation by Gerardus Mercator in 1569, his namesake projection became the standard map used for nautical travel because it – using math far too advanced for my feeble mind to handle right now – basically made setting a course and sticking to it a whole lot easier. The trade-off for a map like this is that in order for courses to be straight, the rest of the world had to be skewed more than a little bit. This resulted in adjusting the size of everything on it which meant things closer to the poles got larger and things closer to the equator got smaller. Oh geez, where are my manners? Let’s just have The West Wing explain things.
As mentioned and demonstrated in RealLifeLore’s video, you can visit thetruesize.com and play around with the accurate proportions of countries. And for you cartography buffs out there, there’s also this fantastic Vsauce video from 2013 that digs into an incredible amount of map resources and is sure to blow your mind.
What’s your favorite map projection? The Mercator? The Gall-Peters? Gnomonic? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Image: Wikimedia Commons Daniel R. Strebe 15 August 2011