Scientists create the most reliable flat map of Earth
Astrophysicists from Princeton University, USA, have reformulated the flat map of the Earth, with a less distorted and “radically different” projection of seeing the world. Look here.
We all learned at school the projections of the Earth's global map. But did you know that there is no "perfect" representation of our planet? This is because it is difficult to transform a three-dimensional surface into a two-dimensional plane (two dimensions, such as the Cartesian coordinates X and Y), so all maps have some kind of distortion (extensions and/or contractions).
And for such representation, cartographic projections are used, the basis for the construction of maps. These are mathematical techniques used to represent as accurately as possible the earth's surface, which is curved, on a flat map.
Cartographic projection is defined as a type of systematic tracing of lines on a flat surface intended for the representation of parallels and meridians of the Earth.
There are different types of cartographic projections, each prioritizing a certain aspect of the representation (dimension, shape, etc.), and their choice depends on the purpose of the map. However, researchers from Princeton University in New Jersey (USA) have created the most accurate flat map ever made. Look!
The best-known maps
The most famous map is based on the Mercator Projection, and is mainly used for maritime navigation. This projection, which was developed by the cartographer Gerhard Mercator in 1569, is of the cylindrical form type, characterized by the conservation of the shapes of the territories and distortion of their sizes, making the areas near the poles larger than they really are.
On this map, the meridians are represented by vertical parallel straight lines that are horizontally equidistant from each other, while the parallels are represented by horizontal straight lines, and the vertical distance between two parallels decreases towards the equator line. This geometry causes the earth's surface to be deformed in the north-south direction, and the greater the deformation the greater the latitude. An example: in this projection Greenland seems to be almost the same size as South America, although in reality it is eight times smaller.
The other map very well known and used in educational education is the one based on Robinson's projection, which seeks a balance between size and shape distortions, but is also not completely free of them, especially in areas further away from the equator.
It is a projection of the aphylactic type (not compliant or equivalent or equidistant) and pseudocylindrical (it has no projection surface, but has characteristics similar to those of cylindrical projection). It was developed by Arthur H. Robinson in 1963. This map shows the whole world at once, created in an attempt to find a good representation of the entire globe in a flat image.
The most reliable flat map on Earth
The researchers reread several maps, giving scores for the existing maps when measuring distortions, performed new calculations, and arrived at the creation of the most accurate and reliable plan map ever made.
The Winkel Tripel projection was the best score of all known projections. It was created in 1921 by the German cartographer Oswald Winkel and improved by Heinrich Tripel in 1929. It is a technique that seeks a good approximation of the real areas of the different parts of the globe, and tries to minimize the distortion of area, providing a more equitable representation.
The National Geographic Society (NGS) used Robinson's projection for world maps of general use since 1988, but in 1998, abandoned this projection and began to adopt the Winkel Tripel projection, as the latter reduces the distortion of the earth masses towards the poles.
Then, based on this projection, the astrophysicists created their own map, minimizing all kinds of distortions and using an equidistant azimuth projection. Antarctica and Australia are represented more accurately than on most other maps, and distances through the oceans or poles are accurate and easy to measure, unlike unilateral plane maps.
"The Winkel Tripel was the best score of all known projections. We present a new class of flat maps that have correct topology and improved error scores. We believe it is the most accurate flat map of the Earth so far (...)," the researchers said.
The "most reliable map of all" was called the Gott Projection, and you can check it out in an interactive version by clicking here.
Gott III, J. R.; Goldberg, D. M. ; Vanderbei, R. J. Flat Maps that improve on the Winkel Tripel. ArXiv, 2021.