Like the Earth, the most accurate map of the world is also spherical. But, did you know there is a new flat map that is the most accurate flat map ever made!
The First map ever created!
The first-ever map known to humankind appeared around 700-500 B.C. and was named Imago Mundi. It was a map that was carved in stone and was found in Sippar, Iraq. It is also known as the Babylonian Map of the world, and remains on display at the British Museum in London.
As people started exploring, they found out a whole new world that was waiting to be discovered. Navigators tried to write down all the coordinates they thought were true and started drawing maps of the places they found.
Eventually, the first-ever world map was made by Claudius Ptolemy. He produced this map in 1482. He was a geographer, mathematician and an astronomer who lived in Roman Egypt. He even published a book named Geographia in 150 AD, which had various parts of the world drawn with longitude and latitudes. This work of Ptolemy was of great importance for the European and Islamic scholars in the Renaissance(the 1500s).
The Mercator Projection Map
Of course, maps those days weren’t the most accurate, and none of us would expect them to be. Most of the world had not been discovered, and therefore any map created was incomplete. So far, only the circular globe is known to be the most accurate map of the world. But when it came to flat maps, none were perfect until the Mercator projection.
This map was presented by Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It was the first map to represent North in an upward direction and South in a downward direction. All of it was done without compromising any other directions and shapes of the continents, which was a major feat.
However, this map made people believe that some places were bigger or smaller than in reality. The most significant error was projecting Greenland as big as South America, whereas South America is more than eight times larger than Greenland. This map is surprisingly still in use, and do you know where? Google Maps!
New flat maps in the picture
More flat maps have come out, and Mr Mercator’s map may no longer be the most accurate flat map. A trio of scientists devised a new way to project a flat map, J. Richard Gott, Robert Vanderbei, and David Goldberg from Princeton and Drexel universities thought of a new way to represent the spherical globe as a flat map. They did this by splitting the globe into two and printing each hemisphere on separate sides of a double-sided circle on the paper.
Richard Gott wrote in an article published in Scientific American that the team has created the most accurate flat map ever. He also said that unlike some rectangular maps, which are too big to fit in hand, the map they created would easily fit in the palm easily.
The Winkel Tripel Map and the illusion it created
Gott and Goldberg had also created a scoring system for 2D maps based on six types of distortions. They said the closer map’s score is to zero, the more accurate the map it is. The only map with a perfect score of zero is the globe which is spherical like the Earth.
The Winkel Tripel map, which the National Geographic Society uses, scored 4.563. It is pretty close to zero, but the map’s fault was the boundaries it cut, like the Pacific Ocean. The ocean that appeared on this map had one part on the right and the other on the left. This created an illusion that Asia is farther apart from Hawaii than it really is. The Mercator projection, on the other hand, got a score of 8.296. Not so accurate now, is it?
The Flat pancake map by Gott
Gott believed they needed a different approach. Gott said, “we’re proposing a radically different kind of map, and we beat Winkel Tripel on every one of the six errors.” The result was the flat pancake-like map.
The idea for this pancake map came from the paper Gott wrote on “Envelope Polyhedra”. According to him, American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller in 1943, drew outlines of regular shapes of the continents and wrote instructions on how to fold them into a polyhedral globe. This approach had errors too, but we learn from our mistakes, and we learned indeed.
Gott said that this gave him the idea to make this map on a phonograph record, to represent the Northern Hemisphere on one side and the Southern Hemisphere on the other with an equator around the edges. What came out is as if someone had crushed the globe into a flat surface.
Most accurate flat map ever!
The map shows the north pole in the centre of the phonograph record with longitudes spreading out equally. These longitudes are uniform, and similar work is done for the southern side as well. The distance between cities is measured by stretching a string between them, and if the cities are sitting opposite on the hemisphere, the string stretches across the equator at the edge.
Although you can’t see the entire map together, this newly developed map got a Goldberg-Gott score of 0.881! We believe the numbers. The scientists say that their maps are much easier to manufacture as they can be taken out from a magazine and stuck on anything they want.