How the world map looks wildly different than you think

"The map of the world is a lot stranger than you think it is. Especially this map you've probably seen it a lot in classrooms or office buildings, but this map is extremely very badly wrong.

As we can all hopefully agree upon the Earth is a sphere and that means that it is impossible to accurately depict her surface on a two-dimensional map. 

This particular common map is called the Mercator projection and if you'd like to experiment with countries for yourself please go to this website called the

Let's take the U.S. state of Wyoming as an example. Under the assumption that Wyoming is actually a real place and not a land full of tumbleweeds with the population less than downtown Baltimore. This example will work perfectly because of the state's square shape. 

As we step one unit of Wyoming on top of each other, we get more and more distorted as we approach the North Pole to the point where we don't even really recognize its familiar boring shape anymore. When we move our Wyoming stack south they get more squished together as we approach the equator. 

This will happen with every other land mass in the world but first let's take a look at some other U.S. states. 

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, but what is Texas itself bigger than. Moving the borders over to Europe, the answer may surprise you. Texas is much bigger than spain and portugal put together and is also even bigger than France. But Texas is only the second biggest US State behind Alaska, which seems absolutely gargantuan at the top of our map, but while Alaska is large, it isn't that large. Taking down to the U.S. mainland it compares like this and taken to Europe it looks like this. And while we're here in Europe let's take the time to understand how much bigger Europe seems than what it actually should be.

Let's start by taking France and moving it down to Africa to get our first glimpse at this. The United Kingdom seems pretty large as well but let's take India and move it over to see just how small it really is. The united kingdom is actually smaller than quite a lot of places in the world that you might not expect. Places like Japan, The Philippines, Sumatra, Madagascar and New Zealand. Next door to New Zealand is Australia and the UK looks so small just off the east coast in comparison. 

And Australia in fact is much bigger than most people believe it to be. It can be placed to cover almost the entire continental U.S. Interestingly the combination of the following countries will not cover that same area: Portugal, The Netherlands, Estonia, Albania, Hungry, Belgium,  Bosnia & Herzegovina, Austria, Croatia, Latvia, The Czech Republic, Serbia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, The United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Norway.

And that's not even factoring in big but not too big Alaska to the north. Between Alaska and the United States is Canada, which also seems huge up here, and while Canada is a very large country it's actually roughly the same size as China. But still looks like a colossus when placed in Europe, where it stretches from east to west to Portugal to Iran and up north into the Barents Sea just above Russia. 

Slightly off-topic Japan is another bigger place than most people believe it to be. If Japan replaced off the U.S. East Coast it would look like this in comparison, but much much bigger than Japan and also not often thought about Brazil, which is an absolutely massive country.

It doesn't really look like it on our map, but when we move it to Australia, we can actually discover that Brazil is much bigger which makes Brazil larger than one of the world's seven continents.

Brazil is also almost larger than the United States, spans almost all of Europe, but it's rather snugly into Africa. We are about to discover that Africa is a colossal continent that we don't often realize. It can almost fit the entire contiguous United States into just the Sahara Desert, and the continent can also squeeze in China, Western Europe, India, Argentina, Scandinavia and the UK and still have some room left over. 

Russia is another place that looks pretty big at the top of the map, but dropped down next to Africa. She also seems much smaller than what our map was telling us beforehand. 

While we're still here in Africa the Democratic Republic of the Congo used to be a colony of Belgium. But Belgium in comparison looks like this. 

Finally we need to look at a few other places on the map to the north and the south. Let's start with Sweden which looks big, but comparing it to Madagascar again, we see that it actually isn't. 

Iceland also seems like a large island but it's actually roughly the same size as tasmania just south of Australia. 

And finally we have the white elephant in the room of Greenland which towers like a behemoth at the top of the map. Greenland masquerades as being a continent in her own right looking better than Australia, South America and being comparable to North America, but in reality Greenland is much much smaller. The globe reveals Greenland to be the island that she pretends that she isn't, and we get a much more accurate depiction this time when we compare her to Australia, South America and North America. 

And of course we can't forget about the most shy continent in the world, that everybody always forgets about. Antarctica who spends her time hiding away at the bottom of the map.

Most people don't truly have a good understanding of the size of Antarctica which could probably go either way between being larger or smaller than you think, but the truth is Antarctica is a huge continent, it is much bigger than Australia. it can stretch all the way from Kiev to Uganda, and incredibly can be placed between the southernmost tip of Texas in the United States and stretch all the way into the northernmost islands of Canada. 

There are many more examples like this but you've probably understood the point by now. The world is both a bigger place and a smaller place than you previously thought it to be."
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Alex E

“Maps are like campfires – everyone gathers around them, because they allow people to understand complex issues at a glance, and find agreement about how to help the land.”