The working title was too bold of a claim, “Everything You Know of World Geography Is a Lie,” but it’s how outraged I was when I discovered the magnitude of how misleading of the Mercator Projection was. It’s not terribly new information, but it’s new to me and the interactive map I used (demonstration and link below) really opened my eyes.
In fact, if you’re a fan of political drama, you may have seen the now well known clip from The West Wing a long time ago. I only recently discovered the name of the map every school room in America uses – the Mercator Projection. Here is it, the ever familiar map, and it’s utterly misleading as you’ll see in a moment.
How does it mislead? This clip (mentioned above) does a good job explaining why it makes no sense from a scientific / geographic perspective to use, unless you’re a navigator on a ship from the 17th century maybe.
“Mercator never meant for his map to teach geography… Today, it’s still the most often used map.” Wired.com.
We reinforce the model on the world’s popular online mapping services. Google maps uses a Mercator projection and the reason they give is because they don’t have the technology to make the street angles look right. Hmm… I’m not sure I trust them to make a self driving car if that’s the case.
These images are from Google Maps and show how badly distorted this map is. See the red outline in this one? Take a guess what country that is.
I would never have guessed it, but it’s true… that’s Greenland.
This red outline might look more familiar with those in the Americas, but watch how it shrinks… crazy, right?
You can play around on the interactive Mercator puzzle here. I highly recommend it.