Does this world map finally tell the truth (or just lie a little less)?

Three scientists have produced a map of the world which accurately reflects the size of all the continents. They're calling the Equal Earth Projection.

All maps lie. They can't help it: they're two-dimensional representations of a three-dimensional object — the Earth.

The bigger the area shown on the map, the bigger the lie. The most egregious example is a world map in the classic Mercator projection. It shows Africa and Greenland as roughly the same size, but the mother continent is fourteen times bigger than the Arctic island.

Many cartographers have attempted to solve the problem, the Peters projection being a particularly infamous example. But it's a bit like trying to square a circle – meaning that it's impossible: there will always be some distortion.

Or maybe not.

This year, three scientists produced a map of the world they're calling the Equal Earth Projection, which does accurately reflect the size of all the continents.

The Equal Earth Projection, found here at The Map Room.

The Equal Earth map is an update of the Robinson projection, which was developed in 1963 specifically to reflect the true size of the earth's land masses. The National Geographic Society adopted Robinson for its world maps in 1988 (replacing the Van der Grinten projection), but abandoned it already in 1998 for the Winkel triple projection, as this did a better job of reducing the distortion of land masses near the poles.

While the Robinson and Equal Earth projections have a similar shape, the latter is slightly wider than the former (1:2.05 vs. 1:1.97). In technical terms, the Equal Earth map is an equal-area pseudocylindrical projection, which retains the relative size of areas.

Equal Earth, developed by Bojan Šavrič, Tom Patterson and Bernhard Jenny, aims to do a better job than Robinson at showing the true size and shape of the Earth's land masses – while keeping in mind that maps have to have an aesthetic appeal as well. Who would want our planet's continents to look ugly?

Four world maps, each showing the world in a very different projection. Map found here at the Daily Mail.

Some vindictive cartophiles would answer: Peters, that's who! The developers of Equal Earth seem to agree:

We created (this projection) to provide a visually pleasing alternative to the Gall-Peters projection, which some schools and organizations have adopted out of concern for fairness.

The Equal Earth map projection has had some success since its first publication earlier this year in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science: NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies used it for a world map of the global mean temperature anomaly for July 2018.

Fairness, however, also requires observers to point out that while Equal Earth may be (subjectively) prettier or (objectively) more accurate than Robinson, it can by its very nature not do what it seems to promise. And what world maps have never been able to do (unless they are globes): that is, to reflect the relative positions and sizes of the world's land masses with absolute accuracy.

Because all maps lie. And that's the truth.

The Tissot Indicatrices on this Equal Earth Projection, found here on Reddit, show that by keeping areas constant (in constrast to Robinson, which enlarges areas near the poles), it stretches objects near the equator.

Strange Maps #936

Got a strange map? Let me know at

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Scientists just voted to change the definition of a kilogram

The definition of a kilogram will now be fixed to Planck's constant, a fundamental part of quantum physics.

Greg L via Wikipedia
Surprising Science
  • The new definition of a kilogram is based on a physical constant in quantum physics.
  • Unlike the current definition of a kilogram, this measurement will never change.
  • Scientists also voted to update the definitions of several other measurements in physics.
Keep reading Show less