When the Boston Public School District recently decided to change what type of map it used, that move inspired a group of scientists to develop a brand new type of world map. They claim it is the most accurate yet.
The big problem with mapmaking is that while maps are flat, the Earth is a globe. It’s impossible to accurately represent a curved planet on a flat surface without cutting or stretching part of it.
There are plenty of different ways to deal with this issue. For instance, the most common type of map is called the Mercator projection, which stretches the poles and shrinks the equatorial regions to create fixed lines of longitude and latitude. The result is that equatorial land masses like Africa and South America appear much smaller than they actually are, while Greenland appears to be enormous.
To combat this distortion, projections like the Gall-Peters map attempt to depict all the continents as the correct size. This leads to a different problem: the continents all have distorted shapes, making them look too stretched out. Some other maps, like the Robinson projection, attempt a compromise, sacrificing some accuracy for a better appearance.
This new map, created by a trio of researchers from across the U.S. and Australia, improves on the design of the Robinson projection by preserving its aesthetic appeal while also correctly proportioning the continents. Their map, called the Equal Earth projection, has the same size and outline as the Robinson projection, but also increases the size of equatorial regions.
The authors hope that their new map projection will be used by the Boston Public School District as well as everyone else looking for a more accurate representation of our planet.
Previously published by: Popular Mechanics USA