Monday, September 03, 2007

The great map flap

A fan of geography though not beauty pageants, I was unaware until I read Steve Duin's "Unable to find empathy on the map" in yesterday's Oregonian, that Caitlin Upton flubbed the question part of the Miss Teen USA competition. Then, this morning, I saw that my friend Michael had posted on "This Map Stuff has Hardly Gone Far Enough" both the video of Caitlin's flubbed answer and a great YouTube excerpt from The West Wing on the Peters Projection Map (something I definitely want to know more about - espec1ally in light of the obvious point that the Mercator maps do in fact distort relative size of countries and relative centrality (favoring Europe of course). However, not everyone agrees with the Peters Projection. See this discussion on "". That also links to further discussion of Mercator, and the key point that of course no flat square representation of a globe can be accurate. Matt T. Rosenberg recommends alternatives:


Non-rectangular maps have been around for a long time. The National Geographic Society adopted the Van der Grinten projection in 1922. The Van der Grinten encloses the world in a circle. In 1988, they switched to the Robinson projection, on which the high latitudes are less distorted in size (but more so in shape). In 1998, the Society began using the Winkel Tripel projection, which provides a slightly better balance between size and shape than the Robinson projection.

Compromise projections like the Robinson or Winkle Tripel present the world in a more globe-like look and are strongly encouraged by geographers. These are the types of projections you'll see on maps of continents or of the world today.

But what ever happened to the map that looks like a pealed orange? Apparently that is called "Sinusoidal." Read about it here.

Last Christmas on the bargain book table, I found and bought Island of the Lost Maps, a true story of "cartographic crime." Sadly I haven't read it yet - but now I am inspired to do that.

Credits: Map on top left from Carlos Furuti

Map at top right = Mollweide (Sanson Flamsteed flattened map) from Colorado State



Blogger PaulaMc said...

George Will's commentary in the most recent Newsweek (9/10/07) really descried the crass sensibility that takes a blunder like the beauty pageant candidate's and makes it into major news (apparently CNN and FOX had a field day replaying this segment, to say nothing of --according to Will--10 million hits on U-Tube clip(s?)). It is a sad state of affairs. Not that I'm defending her, but really, she's just one person and why should she be so persecuted. People will become perhaps more and more afraid to open their mouths, try new things, stand on a public forum??

3:52 PM  

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