Maps are lying to you

Mike Krumboltz

Maps lie, and that's inevitable. That's what happens when you try to take a spherical object like our planet and flatten it on a piece of paper.

Inspired by a recent post on Upworthy that included a clip from "The West Wing" in which characters have their minds blown (blown!) by truth-telling cartographers, we decided to take another look at the maps mentioned.

In the clip from "The West Wing" that's going viral, the cartographers speak about the differences between the Mercator projection vs. the Gall-Peters projection.

Here's the Mercator map:

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Now, here's an example of the Gall-Peters projection, also mentioned in the clip:

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See the differences? In the first map, created by a Flemish cartographer named Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century (here's the original), the rectangular grid made it relatively simple for sailors to navigate the oceans. The problem was that when it came to land masses, it wasn't exactly accurate.

In 1973, Arno Peters aimed to change that by creating his own map that more accurately took into account the size of developing nations. Mental Floss explains that the map was quite controversial, but many experts believed it was far superior and more accurate than Mercator's.

Via Mental Floss:

"Eventually his map became so well received that some were calling for an all-out ban on the Mercator map, believing it to be an outmoded symbol of colonialism.

"The thing is, cartographers agreed that the Mercator map was outdated, inaccurate, and wasn't the best way to represent the world's landmasses. They'd been calling for the use of a new projection since the 1940s."

There are, of course, countless ways to map the Earth. The National Geographic Society, which knows a thing or two about getting around, have used the Winkel tripel projection map since 1988.

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Happy exploring!