How Maps Distort Reality

How we see the world is how we experience the world. 

We are all very familiar with the Mercator type map. This type of map is used in schools all across the world and is the reference on Google Maps.


This map was established by Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. Used primarily for navigation purposes, it is now more and more put into question. If you can a closer look, it is clear that land away form the equator is magnified.

Greenland, appears to be the same size as the African continent, when in reality their superficy is respectively 2 166 086 KM2  or 836,330 sq mi for Greenland and 30,370,000 km2 or 11,730,000 sq mi for Africa. Greenland is fourteen times smaller than Africa!download (24)

Alaska seems to be bigger than Mexico, when in reality, Mexico is slightly bigger. Similarly, you can easily fit the country of Russia two times in the African continent.

220px-Tissot_mercatorThe classic way of showing the distortion inherent in a projection is to use Tissot’s indicatrix.

Conceived for navigation, the primary goal of such map was to keep correct angles and forms of the lands in order to navigate efficiently. The goal was thus not to depict the correct size of countries.

To conclude, cartography is more than we think, it is an art. Drawing maps is not an innocent act…

 Fool’s Cap Map of the World


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