Last Friday’s post looked at visualizations for the relative sizes of celestial objects. But for most of us, a Blue Supergiant Star remains something of an abstract concept. This week, a look closer to home, the actual sizes of countries found an a world map.

We’re all likely familiar with the standard map in use these days, called the Mercator Projection, but did you know that the sizes shown for various countries are wildly inaccurate? It turns out that it’s really hard to accurately adjust when going from a spherical world to a two dimensional map. As such, countries near the poles are shown as much larger than they actually are, and countries near the equator are shown smaller.

The video below does a nice job of showing some of the actual relative sizes of countries. We learn how small the UK is, how large countries like Japan and Brazil are, and how seemingly impossibly enormous Africa is. And then there’s Greenland, which on the map looks like a continent, but in reality is just a large island.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


1 Thought on "The Size of Things, Local Edition: Why Maps Are Wrong"

A map can argue that our inability to read and interpret it properly is the real culprit here, though.

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