In fact, Africa is larger in area than the United States, China, India and almost all of Europe combined. But from the generally accepted projections of geographical maps, the illusion is formed that this is not so. The so-called Mercator projection, which is used for many maps, distorts the areas closer to the poles the most. Small Greenland (smaller than the Congo) seems like a gigantic territory. Antarctica too. The area of Russia is significantly exaggerated relative to the southern countries. Or take Ukraine, which is actually the size of Madagascar.
All maps of the world have been lying to us for many centuries. Moreover, in different countries - Russia, Europe, USA, China, Australia, Chile, South Africa - the world maps are very different.
Distortions on cartographic maps are a completely natural phenomenon, because cartographers need to unroll the Earth's ellipsoid on a plane. This, in principle, cannot be done without distortion. The only question is what exactly can be distorted and what cannot.
Distortions are of four types:
- length distortion;
- distortion of angles;
- distortion of areas;
- distortion of forms.
The Common Mercator projection was invented by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerard Mercator in 1569 and is still used as the standard cartographic projection in nautical navigation today because it virtually eliminates distortion of angles. Allows you to determine the correct bearing and direction of travel. It is critical in sailing to go in the right direction. In the Mercator projection, the angle on the terrain is always equal to the angle on the map. A straight line on the ground is a straight line on the map.
Why don't most people realize the true scale of giant Africa or the more modest size of Russia, Canada or Greenland? Because for some reason, the Mercator projection is used not only in nautical navigation, but also in many other geographical maps. These cards are taught in schools, they are shown on TV. Hence the characteristic cognitive distortion in many ordinary people.
The main thing is that it is not at all necessary for us to use the Mercator projection in our everyday life. We are not sea navigators and we do not plan air raids on neighboring countries, where we need to fly in a straight line. We are simple peaceful people. Why do we need perfect, accurate straight line direction between geographic points? If you fantasize, then in ordinary life it can be convenient only when planning large trips by car for several thousand kilometers. In other cases, few people travel by their own transport. Mostly people use airplanes and trains, so even travelers do not need to plan the route on their own.
Why, then, is the Mercator projection used in school charts, on television, etc.? This is not entirely clear. Perhaps, for the modern man in the street, it is still more important to understand the comparative sizes of the countries of the world, and not to determine direct directions along the routes.
As we have already noted, in the Mercator projection, real areas are shown only near the equator, and all other areas on the globe are very distorted. These distortions are the price we pay for knowing the exact directions when navigating.
How can we draw up a more accurate and fair map of the world with the least distortion of areas? In 2009, designers from AuthaGraph tried to solve this problem. Their job is to apply geometric modeling ideas to practical problems. One of these tasks is designing a more visual map of the world. Then they drew up the AuthaGraph World Map, which most fairly reflects the areas of geographic countries and territories.
Here, a kind of so-called isometric projection is used, in which in the display of a three-dimensional object on a plane, the distortion coefficient (the ratio of the length of a segment projected onto the plane parallel to the coordinate axis to the actual length of the segment) is the same along all three axes.
The projection is made up in several stages. First, the elliptical surface of the globe is divided into 96 equal triangles. They are projected onto 96 regions of the modified tetrahedron. Then the tetrahedron is "flattened" to the correct shape and trimmed so that it can be expanded into a rectangular shape, that is, into a standard rectangular flat map of the usual shape.
Of course, it was possible to immediately project the sphere onto the tetrahedron in the usual optical way, but this creates strong distortions that are striking. The idea of preliminary division into 96 regions was to minimize such distortions and preserve the proportions of territories relative to each other.
But there is no limit to perfection. Based on the original AuthaGraph map, Japanese designer Hajime Narukawa has created a new version (https://hsto.org/getpro/geektimes/post_images/4a0/d21 ..) that looks great while also maintaining the proportions of countries and continents relative to each other, as well as the ratio of the earth's mass and the World Ocean.
This fairer and more proportional map can be used both in school textbooks and in the media, since it more accurately shows the projection of the earth on a plane and gives a better idea of what our Earth looks like. Its advantage is also that it shows all continents without breaking the map, including Antarctica (and of course Japan is in the center, as on many Japanese maps: this is quite normal, on Russian maps the vertical axis of the world also passes through Moscow). And several more of these maps are stitched into a single space, so that you can clearly imagine the relative position of the continents. Here it is clear, for example, which point in European Russia is closest to Alaska.
All existing geographic maps are distortions. The most accurate picture of the world is shown only by the globe. But if we are forced to use flat surfaces, then at least we will try to minimize the amount of distortion.