With the arrival of the internet and the digital age, the world might have become a mere global village, but our view of the physical entity might have been slightly tainted all along.
This is what the typical map looked like, way back when at school …
Nothing wrong with it. We all knew that the world is round and this map … well, isn’t. The “problem” with this map however is the projection. When you convert any 3D object into a 2D one, some form of compromise needs to take place. The Mercator projection is by far the most used type of map projection, ever since it was introduced by Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It soon became popular among navigators, as a straight line on the map equates to a line of constant true bearing, to plot a straight line course. Great, if you are a pirate cruising the seven seas. What our educators failed to bring to our attention is that the true area (or landmass) is greatly distorted towards to top and bottom of the map.
We grew up with the knowledge that to the right we have a colossal Russia, supported by a rather large China and of course the massive United States on the opposite end. Shame, slap-bang in the middle was this forgotten backwater of a place called Africa, we tend to overlook. (Ever wondered why we reference “first world” and “third world”, but no mention ever of the “second world”?!)
On a Mercator projection, the scale is distorted, the further you move away from the equator. For example: Greenland appears to be enormous, where in fact – based on land size – it is slightly bigger than Saudi Arabia. This brings us then to Africa. If you correct the distortion, this continent starts to become rather big. This is what you can fit into it…
If you want to play around with this yourself, hop over to thetruesize.com.
There is no right or wrong way to draw a map – it really comes down to what you view to be important and what you would like to portray. But don’t rely on other people’s opinion of what the world really looks like. With sufficient planning and preparing, you can grab your passport and go see for yourself!!
Check out these interesting airline statistics.