(Roughly) Daily

“Being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing”*…

Maps are crucial– and they’re also often crucially wrong… or at least misleading. Any attempt to reduce our 3-D world in 2-D results in distortion.

It is hard to represent our spherical world on flat piece of paper. Cartographers use something called a “projection” to morph the globe into 2D map. The most popular of these is the Mercator projection.

Every map projection introduces distortion, and each has its own set of problems. One of the most common criticisms of the Mercator map is that it exaggerates the size of countries nearer the poles (US, Russia, Europe), while downplaying the size of those near the equator (the African Continent). On the Mercator projection Greenland appears to be roughly the same size as Africa. In reality, Greenland is 0.8 million sq. miles and Africa is 11.6 million sq. miles, nearly 14 and a half times larger.

This app was created by James Talmage and Damon Maneice. It was inspired by an episode of The West Wing and an infographic by Kai Krause entitled “The True Size of Africa“. We hope teachers will use it to show their students just how big the world actually is…

The world as it actually is: “The True Size,” an interactive tool that let’s one compare the real scale of any two countries.

Apposite: “Animated Map: Where Are the Largest Cities Throughout History?” (with thanks to friend JA)

* Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


As we muse on measurement, we might recall that it was on this date in 1513 that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon came ashore and claimed “La Florida” [the “land of flowers”] for Spain.  While it has long been accepted that de Leon landed with his three caravels near St. Augustine and became the first European of record to see the peninsula, scholars have recently challenged details of that historical account, suggesting that he actually beached near Melbourne.

In any event, he went on to map the Atlantic coast down to the Florida Keys and north along the Gulf coast; historian John Reed Swanton believed that he sailed perhaps as far as Apalachee Bay on Florida’s western coast. Though popular lore has it that he was searching for the Fountain of Youth, there is no contemporary evidence to support the story, which most modern historians consider a myth.

Juan Ponce de Leon is commemorated on a stamp in Spain, left, while St. Augustine residents in 1923 re-enact his landing, right.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 2, 2023 at 1:00 am

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