- Look at the world map taken from Google maps above. Looks familiar, right?
- Look at that huge land to North America's upper right. That's Greenland.
- Look at Africa; it seems like Africa is about the size of Greenland.
Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland.Size of Africa: 30,221,532 sq km
Size of Greenland: 2,166,086 sq km
30,221,532 / 2,166,086 = 13.95
(Data from CIA and Wikipedia)
Now look at the Google map again. What the hell is going on? Answer after the jump.
The world map that you and I are so familiar with is a very old cylindrical map projection, the Mercator projection, created in 1569.
Although this map serves its navigational purposes, it greatly misrepresents size relations between different areas. There is no sensible reason to use it for educational, geostatistical and thematic purposes. Not only is Africa depicted as being similar size as Greenland,
- Europe seems to be larger than South America when South America is actually almost twice the size of Europe.
- Alaska appears to be three times larger than Mexico, although Mexico actually is larger than Alaska.
- Russia seems to be larger than Africa when the opposite is true in reality
- The Northern Hemisphere is enlarged significantly making Europe appears to be larger and center of the map.
While it is impossible to create an absolutely accurate map by flattening out the Earth’s land masses, there are projections that do a MUCH better job of displaying the true size relations between land masses.
The CIA uses the Robinson projection.
In 1973, Arno Peters introduced the Gall–Peters projection (first appeared in 1855) and promoted it as much more realistic perception of the world than the Mercator projection. It's a equal-area cylindric projection and "all areas, both land and water, are of relatively proportional size: one square inch anywhere on the map represents 158,000 square miles on the Earth’s surface." It would be better suited for educational purposes comparing to the Mercator projection because of its realistic portrayal of proportion.
Although the Gall-Peters projection portrayed a more realistic view of the Earth, map publishers didn't see the need to replace the Mercator projection because of its popularity. People feel more familiar and comfortable with the Mercator projection; it remains to be a popular choice for schools, wall maps and popular illustration.
Why is Google Maps using the Mercator projection?
Many people had the same urge as me to ask this question.
The Mercator Projection distorts the world, giving the false impression that Greenland is the size of South America, Asia is ginormous and Alaska is bigger than Mexico - all inaccuracies that are being presented by Google. Google's reputation for accuracy means that these distortions are reinforced in our conscience as facts.
The Mercator Projection is 440 years old and provided one practical purpose - bearings can be accurately drawn. The utility of this begins and ends with nautical navigation - clearly not the primary purpose of Google maps.
And this,I urge Google to be responsible with the world's knowledge and follow the advice of numerous cartographic associations that request that the Mercator Project not be used. For anything. Ever.
A Google employee's response:if you zoom out of any google map you will notice a huge difference in sizes and incredible inaccuracies for example, according to google maps Greenland is bigger than South America. and Antartica looks like its the size of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia combined. Why would Google start off with the most outdated map known as Mercator's Map of the 18th century and not go with the most accurate map out there known as the Cahill-Keyes map made in 1975
The world deserves to know what the world really looks like rather than a distorted perception of the world.
Thanks for the feedback. Maps uses Mercator because it preserves angles. The first launch of Maps actually did not use Mercator, and streets in high latitude places like Stockholm did not meet at right angles on the map the way they do in reality. While this distorts a 'zoomed-out view' of the map, it allows close-ups (street level) to appear more like reality. The majority of our users are looking down at the street level for businesses, directions, etc... so we're sticking with this projection for now. In the meantime, you might want to look at our favorite 3D view of the world.Okay, so the Winkel tripel projection doesn't work because of the angles; but what about the Gall-Peters projection?
Different map projections serve different purposes and all of them have distortion of some kind. However, the distortions in the Mercator projection are pretty ridiculous considering its popularity. I see parallels between the Mercator Map and our old common senses. Even when we know they're bull, we continue to use them and teach them to our children for our own comfort. Maybe we should try sticking this on the wall for a change:
Of course, the most accurate world map is a globe. You could see it at http://earth.google.com/.
At last, I'll leave you with this video clip from The West Wing:
Map Projections: Preserving Areas
A More Realistic View of Our World
Evolution of the Dymaxion Map: An Illustrated Tour and Critique
Why does Google maps use the inaccurate, ancient and distorted Mercator Projection?
Why is google maps using the wrong base map?
Arno Peters: Radical Map, Remarkable Man TRAILER (Youtube)