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Common Misconceptions: What are some things nearly everyone believes that actually aren’t true?


Depictions of countries on a world map do justice to their sizes.

Okay, this may not be something everyone believes, but I’ve had experiences where people immediately refer to a flat world map to see if country A is larger than country B. The map we’re all accustomed to seeing (shown below) is the result of a phenomenon called Mercator projection which is a way of projecting a spherical 3-D object into a rectangular 2-D plane.

The above image makes Greenland look much larger than Australia, while in reality, Australia is nearly three-and-a-half times larger then Greenland. Similarly, distances are also distorted and places in the higher latitudes are closer than depicted in the image.

Although not perfect, a better way of visualizing distances in a projection of the globe is using equal-image projections.

Here’s how the world looks when you use an equal image projection

(Source – Gall–Peters projection)

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