W2 | Do Maps Lie?

Mercator’s Projection

Geradus Mercator’s projection of the world, published in 1569, set the standard for world-view projections. The primary purpose of this projection was its accuracy in navigability east-west.

It is the projection used most widely today, and it is likely the projection with which you are most familiar.

Tissot’s indicatrix used to explain the distortion of the Mercator Projection:

In fact, Google Maps uses the Mercator Projection for its maps. Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s Bing Maps also uses the Mercator projection…


To read more about Google’s mapping practices, see the following articles:


Greg Miller, “The Huge, Unseen Operation Behind the Accuracy of Google Maps,” Wired Magazine (08 Dec 2014)

Alexis Madrigal, “How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything,” The Atlantic (06 Sept 2012)

Explaining projections:

A video animating the transition of the globe’s surface to a two-dimensional plane, using Mercator’s projection:


Do you know how big the continents are in relation to one another? Are you sure??

So, what’s problematic about the Mercator projection? Here are a couple of news articles that may be of interest:

Christina Sterbenz, “The Most Popular Map Of The World Is Highly Misleading,” Business Insider (12 Dec 2013)

James Wan, “Why Google Maps gets Africa wrong,” Guardian (02 Apr 2014)


On the true size of Africa, see Kai Kraus‘s map:

Gall-Peter’s Projection

An episode of West Wing from years ago…(2001)…still brings home the important points

Tissot’s indicatrix shows that no projection is without distortion.

This is the Gall-Peter’s Projection:

The Winkel tripel projection:


And, we haven’t even mentioned orientation!!

How does this map view make you feel??


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *