Weird Fact: You think you know what the world looks like. But you don’t.
Everyone knows what the world looks like, right?
Well, no. While we are educated to believe the below world map is accurate, it simply isn’t. In fact, it’s horribly distorted.
The problem lies with compressing a 3D image onto a 2D plane. Just imagine trying to open up a deflated beach ball and flatten it – it just won’t go. So trying to represent a spherical object such as the Earth on a flat piece of paper creates gross distortions of scale.
For instance, in the world map above, Greenland looks about the same size as South America. In reality, it’s one-eighth its size. And just look at the size of Antarctica, like it’s accelerating toward the next Ice Age. So while the distortion around the equator is barely nil, the further you get to the poles, the more inaccurate your map gets.
This particular map is called the Mercator Projection and tends to flatter Western egos, making North America and Russia look massive, while South America and Africa appear much smaller than they realistically are.
Check out these other map projections: the Gall-Peters projection, the Azimuthal equidistant projection, the heart-shaped Werner Projection and the Albers Projection (below). In this version of the world map, you only have to compare Greenland to South America once again to see the difference in scale:
Map makers are yet to discover a proper solution to the distortion of world maps, instead focusing on the best aspect to preserve in each particular style of projection.