In virtually all standard class rooms in schools around the world exist a map showcasing the geographical position of the universe. The students in these classroom are made to believe that the picture on the flat surface placed on the wall is exactly how the world looks. Even adults have been made to believe this fact in time past. But, there is a little issue about questioning the authenticity and accurate representation of territories on the map. In other words, is the map actually showing how our world really looks like? History has it that the map was created in 1596 to help sailors of that period in moving round the world at a certain level of ease. This shows the genuine intention for it invention, although, it was marred with some inconsistencies. Some of these inconsistencies vary from a misinformation on how large some territories on the map are compared to other territories, misinformation of the extent of the space of some land mass on the map. We would back this claims with clear evidences and reasons. Firstly, on the world map, a territory like North America looks larger than Africa, while in reality, thus is not so. In fact, it might interest you to note that Africa is three times North America.
Secondly, it is projected on the map that the Greenland is bigger than china but in the real sense, china is four times bigger than the Greenland. Although, counter arguments and questions might be raised as to which yard stick or parameters should be used in representing these territories accurately on the map. Is it to use the shape of these territories to represent them in the map or to use the size of these territories on the map?
This two question might look dicey and quite difficult to answer but it is important to look at them holistically. The representation by size will show more appropriateness and will be much more factual but the aesthetic value of the map will be lost at the same time. On the other hand, representation by shape will retain the aesthetic value and appreciation of the map and while the appropriateness of the map’s fact will be questionable. The question or issue here now remains which side should one pitch its tents. Hence, Matthew Edney, a professor of geography in the University of Southern Maine says “every world map is distorted in some respect”. The earth is obviously spherical in shape, but it is represented on a flat surface. This is a major problem. How can one perfectly represent what is deemed to be a three dimensional object on a two dimensional surface. How? This impossible task will give you a glimpse of what the issue is all about. Gerardus Mercator created the Mercator projection around 1569, it has ever since then become the commonly used map in the depiction of the world. This projection however favoured navigators for years as it helped them in their work to a certain extent.
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Of courses, this map is not an holy grail, it has its own lapses. According to Edney, “some projections distort more than others”. He further stated that “This combination of properties produce significant real distortions on the globe, meridians converge as they approach a pole, and the lengths of parallels of latitude grow shorter until the pole. But when mapping the earth into rectangle, the pole are stretched from points into lines the length of the equator “. Still explaining these lapses, Edney explains that “on the globe, parallels are equally spaced but to get the special property of great circles and straight lines, mercator’s projection exponentially increases the separation of parallels as one moves poleward”. In a nut shell, what Edney is trying to say here is that , with these lapses on the Mercator’s map , some territories looked much bigger on the map than it is in the real sense while others are smaller than they appear on the map in the real sense. Instances of these lapses are earlier stated above in this write up. Now that we have noticed the flaws of the Mercator projection, the question on the mind of every rational readers of this article is to ask if there are other world maps that can be used with little or no lapses at all?
In the opinion of Edney “one alternative to Mercator’s projection that was popularized in the 1970s and 1980s is the Gall-peters projection, which is equal area but quite ugly… it made the continets look like long underwear hung on a like to dry”. It is ugly in the sense that, though the Gall-peters projection actually projected the correct size of territories on the map but these territories are not drawn in there rights shapes. As it stands the Gall-peters has also failed to achieve exactness in size and shapes of territories on the map.
Other maps have tried to look around a way of solving this inconsistencies. For example, the Winkel Tripel projection which was invented in 1921. It is relieved a warm welcome from National geographical society. However, it was marked with certain inconsistency. For instance, the Pacific ocean looks wide on this map than it actually is in it real sense. This shows that the map is somehow inaccurate in some ways, although it not totally inconsistent.
In 2021, some astrophysicist invented a map which was regarded or known to be much more exact in projecting the Earth. The map is made in a way that enables it to be viewed from both sides and even from behind. Although this type of map is yet to be widely adopted but one will only hope that it will be adopted in schools sooner or later. Interestingly, this map will attract the keen interest of some geographers will be on the look out for lapses or inconsistencies in this map and then we arrive at the same problem we have always wanted to solve. The question now remains if we can have an accurate projecting of the world on rectangular map. Yes or no? Of course time will tell.