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Why All Maps are Wrong about Africa

7 Views· 23 Jul 2021
Ambakisye-Okang Dukuzumurenyi
24

Take a look at any map of the world. As most maps in schools do, then your whole perception of our world is incredibly inaccurate. We all know that Africa is big, it is in fact a gargantuan place which is something that our maps have often failed to portray. However, despite the common perception that Africa is a large landmass, it’s still one that is vastly underestimated by most casual map viewers. As map nerds already know, this is due to the common use of the Mercator projection.

The Mercator projection has distorted our geographical view of the world in a crucial way - one that often leads to misconceptions about the relative sizes of countries and continents. Because the world is a sphere, it is impossible to draw it on a flat surface without distorting it in some way. It's almost impossible to get it to lie flat.

Our perception and interpretation of big countries is different compared to small ones because bigger countries appear more powerful and intimidating, so when we shrink and stretch countries it gives us an inaccurate mental yardstick for judging the relative sizes of countries. As we all know perceptions are definitively powerful. It is widely perceived that smaller countries or continents are weaker and less significant.

What makes the Mercator projection particularly controversial is that it makes Europe and the United States look much larger than they really are in reality, giving them more prominence. If you want to see the true size of countries and continents, you can use the Gall Peters Projection. As with all map projections, Gall-Peters is accurate in terms of size but inaccurate when it comes to other properties, most notably shapes. This projection also has its flaws.

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