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  • Fourteen Greenlands could fit in Africa,

  • but you wouldn't guess it from most maps of the world.

  • The fact is, every world map humans have ever made is wrong.

  • Actually, it's impossible to make a map of the world 100% right.

  • No, not you, globe, we know you're accurate.

  • Not you, Google Earth, you're just a digital globe.

  • We're talking about flat maps, which, let's face it, are way more convenient for a lot of things.

  • Anyway, as we were saying,

  • it's impossible to make a 100% accurate flat map of a spherical planet.

  • For a long time, people didn't even try.

  • They just plonked places down in arbitrary locations without any consistent scale.

  • Then in 150 AD, the Greek mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy systematically mapped the Earth on a grid

  • and placed locations on the grid according to coordinates,

  • so maps could be checked against others and replicated.

  • Ptolemy built his grid out of lines we still use today:

  • 180 lines of latitude and 360 lines of longitude.

  • In spite of these advances, people kept getting lost.

  • Part of the problem was a, shall we say, incomplete understanding of the world's geography.

  • But it was also just really difficult to navigate using a map.

  • Because the Earth is round.

  • The shortest route from one place to another is a path along a circle.

  • If we draw this route on a flat map,

  • it passes through every line of longitude at a different angle.

  • To follow the route, you'd have to constantly shift the direction you're traveling.

  • Any slight error would land you in the wrong place.

  • In 1569, Gerardus Mercator fixed this problem.

  • He created a world map proportioned

  • so these curved navigational routes would be straight,

  • passing through every line of longitude at the same angle

  • and therefore allowing navigators to set a constant bearing.

  • In other words, travel in one direction for a whole journey.

  • There was just one tiny hitch:

  • To do this, he had to distort land masses and bodies of water

  • so those furthest from the equator got larger

  • and those closest to the equator shrank.

  • In spite of its inaccuracies, Mercator's map was very useful.

  • In fact, it's still widely used today, including in online maps.

  • But it's still wrong!

  • In 1925, the Goode Homolosine Projection was created as, get this,

  • an interrupted pseudo-cylindrical equal area projection.

  • What does that mean? Not important.

  • The point was to minimize distortion for the entire world.

  • The map can be land-oriented or ocean-oriented.

  • Either way, the so-called orange peel map isn't very easy to read.

  • The Dymaxion Projection by American architect Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s is even better.

  • Sorry, did we say better?

  • It's not better if you want to understand where things are in the world.

  • It is better in the sense that there are no visibly evident distortions of the land masses.

  • Though if you wanted to know, say, how far Brazil is from Nigeria,

  • you won't get any sense of that from this map.

  • The most accurate projection to date is the AuthaGraph World Map

  • designed by Japanese architect Hajime Narukawa in 1999.

  • The continents and oceans are almost completely in proportion,

  • and the map is rectangular, just how we like it.

  • Could this be the perfect map?

  • Well... no.

  • Since the Mercator works for navigation and reads clearly,

  • why bother with all these whacky maps?

  • Arno Peters argued that by enlarging European and North American countries,

  • the Mercator projection gives white nations a sense of supremacy over non-white nations closer to the equator.

  • He adapted the Gall-Peters Projection, which counteracts that particular problem,

  • but the continents are still... stretched.

  • Today, we rely on maps less and less for navigation,

  • but they still play a vital role in education.

  • Peters was definitely on to something:

  • No matter what map we're looking at,

  • it's a story told from the perspective of the map's creator

  • that in turn shapes, perhaps unduly, our perception of our world.

  • Simple changes in map design, even changes that have nothing to do with how we transfer a round Earth to a flat surface,

  • can completely shift our point of view.

Fourteen Greenlands could fit in Africa,

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B1 TED-Ed map projection longitude world equator

Why every world map is wrong - Kayla Wolf

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/04/19
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