Randall Munroe is a bad man who is back with another bad map projection to make our eyes bleed. (If he does this often enough he’ll have enough for a book. Heaven forfend.) This one is, like his other maps, fiendishly subtle: it stretches and compresses countries to fit where their time zones ought to be, longitudinally speaking.
Almost all web mapping libraries render maps using Web Mercator, making an assumption that you generally can’t change out-of-the-box. This has advantages, but it posed a real challenge for us when we set out to build the Washington Post’s live election results map, where using the Albers USA projection was an important requirement. To meet that requirement, we built a pipeline to pre-process geometries.
It’s a bit of a kludge, a way of fooling Mapbox into showing a different projection—latitude/longitude coordinates aren’t accurate any more—but it’s an impressive stab at a real problem. The Dirty Reprojectors web app demonstrates the possibilities, with all the projections available through the d3-geo and d3-geo-projection libraries. [James Fee]
This morning’s post about the AuthaGraph World Map reminded me of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion map (which after all was explicitly referenced by its creator). Designer Brendan Ravenhill has produced a version of Fuller’s map in the form of a magnetic folding globe. Wired: “Like Fuller’s original map, Ravenhill’s globe can exist in two or three dimensions. Laid flat, it’s a series of 20 triangles that show Fuller’s projection as a single landmass. The back of each triangle features a magnet so you can fold the map into an angular globe. ‘Really it’s a toy, but a toy that has a lot of resonance and importance,’ Ravenhill says.” $15 each, in three colours. [Sociative GIS]
Japan’s Good Design Awards have been announced for 2016, and the Grand Award has gone to an unusual map. The AuthaGraph World Map “is made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to be a rectangle.” Follow that? Sphere to tetrahedron to rectangle.
The brainchild of designer Hajime Narukawa, the AuthaGraph map was first released in 2010. What’s it for? In many ways it’s sort of a Japanese Peters projection: it aims to maintain the relative sizes of the continents. From the page selling the map outside Japan:
Every world map that has been invented since the Mercator Projection was first revealed in 1569 can be divided into two groups. One group fits the world into a rectangle by distorting the continents. The other group corrects the distortion, but at the cost of the rectangular shape. This is what drove Narukawa to create a map which is rectangular like the Mercator Projection map, and yet correctly projects the continents like the Dyxmaxion Map (revealed in 1946).
In a June 2015 piece for Al Jazeera America, history Ph.D. candidate Nick Danforth offered a contrarian opinion piece in defence of the Mercator projection. The usual (i.e. Peters) critique of the Mercator is that it emphasizes northern countries at the expense of equatorial countries. Danforth questions the premise behind that critique:
I first sided with the Mercator against its critics when, on one of the rare occasions I thought about Greenland, I realized just how rarely I thought about Greenland. Despite seeing it hanging there like a giant icy sword of Damocles atop every wall map, we just don’t seem to care about it. Antarctica, too, is massively inflated on the Mercator, to the point that it’s as big around as the entire earth. But few would argue that mapmakers intended to depict it as a superpower. Meanwhile, if maps lead us to ignore Africa, they should also lead us to treat cartographically bloated Canada as one of the most important countries in the world. We don’t.
He goes on to argue that if the Mercator projection was a reflection of European power, Africa would have been emphasized, not minimized.
Of all the problems with criticizing the way our maps depict Africa, the most ironic is that it ignores the continent’s history of colonialism. Consider the motives of a colonial-era British cartographer—perhaps the kind of guy who made this bold, colorful propaganda map […] showing off the queen’s dominions.
His incentive, if anything, would have been to make Africa appear as large as possible, since Britain then ruled a large share of it. With India along the same latitude, expanding the size of the earth’s equatorial region would have been a perfect way to color more of the map imperial pink.
Previously: How the Mercator Projection Won the Internet.
Further reading: Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection by Mark Monmonier (my review).