Why all world maps are wrong

Why all world maps are wrong

If I want to turn this globe into a flat map, I’m going to have to cut it open. In order to get this to look anything like a rectangle. I’ve had to cut it in places. I’ve had to stretch it so that the countries look all wonky. And even still, it’s almost impossible to get it to lie flat. And that right there is the eternal dilemma
of map makers: The surface of a sphere cannot be represented as a plane without some form
of distortion. This guy proved that with math a long time
ago. Since around 1500s, mathematicians have set
about creating algorithms that would translate the globe into something flat. To do this, they use a process called projection. Popular rectangular maps use a cylindrical
projections. Imagine putting a theoretical cylinder over
the globe and projecting each point of the sphere onto the cylinder’s surface. Unroll the cylinder, and you have a flat,
rectangular map. But you could also project the globe onto
other objects, and how exactly a map maker projects the globe will affect what the map
looks like once it’s all flattened out. And here’s the big problem: Every one of
these projections comes with trade offs in shape, distance, direction and land area. Certain map projections can be either misleading
or very helpful depending on what you are using them for. Here’s an example. This map is called the Mercator projection. If you’re American, you probably studied
it in school. It’s the projection Google Maps uses. Mercator projection is popular for a couple
of reasons. First, it generally preserves the shape of
the countries. Brazil on the globe has the same shape as
Brazil on the Mercator projection. But the real purpose of the Mercator projection
was navigation — it preserves direction, which is a big deal if you are trying to navigate
the ocean with only a compass. It was designed so that a line drawn between
two points on the map would provide the exact angle to follow on a compass to travel between
those points. If we go back into a globe, you can see that
this line is not shortest route. But it provides a simple, reliable way to
navigate across oceans. Gerardus Mercator, who created the projection
in the 16th century, was able to preserve direction by varying the distance between
latitude lines while also making them straight, creating a grid of right angles.. But that created other problems. Where mercator fails is its representation
of size. Look at the size of Africa as compared to
Greenland. On the mercator map they look about the same
size. But look at a globe for Greenland’s true
size, and you’ll see it’s way smaller than Africa. By a factor of 14 in fact. If we put some dot that are all the same size
on a globe, then we projected as a mercator map, we would end up with this. The circles retain their shape but are enlarged
the closer you get the poles. One modern critique is that this distortion
perpetuates imperialist attitudes of European domination over the southern hemisphere “The Mercator projection has fostered imperialist attitudes for centuries and created a ethnic bias against the third world.” “Really?” If you want to see a map that more accurately
displays size, you can use the Gall-Peters projection, which is called an equal-area
map. Look at Greenland and Africa. The size comparison is now accurate. Much better than the mercator. but it’s obvious that the country shapes
are now stretched. Here are the dots again so you can see how
the projection preserves area while totally distorting shape. Something happened in the late 60s that would
change the whole purpose of mapping and the way we think about projections. Satellites orbiting our planet started sending
location and navigation data to little receiver units all over the world. This global positioning system wiped out the
need for paper maps as a means of navigating both the seas and the sky. Map projection choices became less about navigational
imperatives and more about aesthetics, design, and presentation. The mercator map, that vital tool of pre-GPS
navigation, was shunned by cartographers who now saw it as misleading. But most web mapping tools like Google maps
still use the mercator. According to Google this is because the Mercator’s
ability to preserve shape and angles makes close-up views of cities more accurate — a
90 degree left turn on the map is a 90degree left turn on the street you’re driving down. But when trying to display something on a
world map, cartographers rarely use the mercator. Most modern cartographers have settled on
a variety of non-rectangular projections that split the difference between totally distorting
either size or shape. In 1998 The National Geographic Society adopted
The Winkel tripel projection because of it’s a pleasant balance between size and shape
accuracy. But the fact remains, that there is no one
right projection. cartographers and mathematicians have created
a huge library of available projections, each a new perspective on the planet. The best way to see what the earth really
looks like is to look at a globe. But as long we use flat maps, we will deal
with the tradeoffs of projections, Just remember: there’s no right answer.

100 thoughts on “Why all world maps are wrong

  1. After tearing apart a globe, Johnny Harris got a chance to travel to its most unique borders for our ambitious, international travel series – Vox Borders. Watch the full series now on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2QBGvwR

  2. Even here in India, Mercator projection is the most widely used map. Which basically means India is even bigger in reality than it looks on map, wow!!.

  3. So am I the only one here smart enough to wonder how NASA took pictures of the Mercator Projection from space? The Mercator Projection is just a projection created on Earth, not an actual depiction of Earth from space. Yet when NASA releases images of Earth from space, it looks just like the maps you see at school — the PROJECTION. What the!? Is everyone else asleep at the wheel, or did I miss something?
    You CANNOT take a picture of an imaginary projection, so how does NASA manage that?

  4. только что

    Добрый день советую всем попробовать светящуюся краску я себе приобрел качество просто супер,+ Быстрая доставка рекомендую попробовать всем.

  5. Everyone that has a heart: no opinion

    politics in the future: let’s make this politically racist because it should be!!!!

  6. Vox has yet to make a video without squeezing in white privilege.

    “Why is toilet paper white?”

    “It symbolizes how white Europeans have to come in and /save clean up brown people’s problems!”

  7. Technology is beyond the ability to consistently use gloves as maps…with 3d imaging and all. This video is more like a farewell to 2d space information and thanks for being there while we needed you

  8. Today I found that Greenland looks as big as USA in Google Map. But it is 1/3 of the USA. I strongly support your fact.

  9. Fantastic, report, I am big fan of geography and this map thing always confuse me. I have also same perceptions about size and shape on maps and in reality. Well explained by VOX

  10. Fun fact: the closest thing we have to an accurate map would be the Dymaxion globe, A map that is projected into an icosahedron.

  11. LOL!! The maps are not "wrong". They are what they are projected to be. If you have no understanding of this then you're going to have problems.

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