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All maps are wrong. I cut open a globe to show why.

Maps are flat representations of our spherical planet. I cut open a plastic globe to understand just what it takes to turn a sphere into something flat:

My struggle to make a flat map out of the plastic globe is indicative of a challenge mapmakers have faced for centuries: It is mathematically impossible to translate the surface of a sphere onto a plane without some form of distortion.

To solve this problem, mathematicians and cartographers have developed a huge library of representations of the globe, each distorting a certain attribute and preserving others.

For instance, the Mercator projection preserves the shape of countries while distorting the size, especially near the north and south pole.

Tissot Tissot

These circles are all the same size on the globe. The Mercator distorts size to preserve shape.

For a more accurate view of land area look at the Gall-Peters projection, which preserves area while distorting shape.

Gall Peters Wikimedia Commons

The Gall-Peters projection.

In the end, there's not "right" map projection. Each comes with trade-offs, and cartographers make projection decisions based on the particular tasks at hand. But if you are interested in seeing an accurate depiction of the planet, it's best to stick with a globe.

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