Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries
This Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries
Maps are hugely important tools in our everyday life, whether it’s guiding our journeys from point A to B, or shaping our big picture perceptions about geopolitics and the environment.
For many people, the Earth as they know it is heavily informed by the Mercator projection—a tool used for nautical navigation that eventually became the world’s most widely recognized map.
Mercator’s Rise to the Top
With any map projection style, the big challenge lies in depicting a spherical object as a 2D graphic. There are various trade-offs with any map style, and those trade-offs can vary depending on how the map is meant to be used.
In 1569, the great cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, created a revolutionary new map based on a cylindrical projection. The new map was well-suited to nautical navigation since every line on the sphere is a constant course, or loxodrome.
The vast majority of us aren’t using paper maps to chart our course across the ocean anymore, so critics of the Mercator projection argue that the continued use of this style of map gives users a warped sense of the true size of countries—particularly in the case of the African continent.
Mercator’s map inadvertently also pumps up the sizes of Europe and North America. Visually speaking, Canada and Russia appear to take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s surface, when in reality they occupy a mere 5%.
As the animated GIF below—created by Reddit user, neilrkaye – demonstrates, northern nations such as Canada and Russia have been artificially “pumped up” in the minds of many people around the world.
Greenland, which appears as a massive icy landmass in Mercator projection, shrinks way down. The continent of Africa takes a much more prominent position in this new, correctly-scaled map.
This visualization also highlights how distorted neighboring countries can look in Mercator projection. In the GIF above, Scandinavian countries no longer loom imposingly over their European neighbors, and Canada deflates to a size similar to the United States.
Despite inaccurate visual features—or perhaps because of them—the Mercator projection has achieved widespread adoption around the world. This includes in the classroom, where young minds are first learning about geography and forming opinions on the relationships between countries.
Getting Reacquainted with Globes
Google, whose map app is used by approximately 150 million people per month, took the bold step of using different projections for different purposes in 2018.
The Earth is depicted as a globe at further zoom levels, sidestepping map projection issues completely and displaying the world as it actually is: round. The result is a more accurate depiction of countries and landmasses.
With 3D Globe Mode on Google Maps desktop, Greenland's projection is no longer the size of Africa.
Just zoom all the way out at https://t.co/mIZTya01K3 😎🌍 pic.twitter.com/CIkkS7It8d
— Google Maps (@googlemaps) August 2, 2018
At closer zoom levels, users are typically using maps for things like navigation, which the Mercator projection was designed for. The exact angles of roads and borders are preserved in this projection.
In the Right Direction
In a more globally connected world, geographic literacy is more important than ever. As people become more accustomed to equal area maps and seeing the Earth in its spherical form, misconceptions about the size of continents may become a thing of the past.
This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.
Ranked: The Best Selling Video Games in History
This chart shows the top ten best selling video games, ranked by software units sold. Six of them have been released in the last 12 years.
Ranked: The Best Selling Video Games in History
It’s a good time to be a video game fan. Not only is the gaming industry booming and projected to grow to $320 billion by 2026, but every year is bringing new evolutions in the medium.
2022 saw massive launches in both games (Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarök) and media based on games (the films Uncharted and Sonic the Hedgehog 2). 2023 has already seen the release of major flagship TV series based on a game, HBO’s The Last of Us, and the much-anticipated The Super Mario Bros. Movie is slated to release in April.
But which game is the best, or most successful? That debate may never end, but from company reports and sales data aggregated by Wikipedia, Samuel Parker’s chart of the most-sold video games as of March 3, 2023 can at least tell us which ones have been the most popular.
Top Ten Video Games Sold in History
The best selling video game didn’t need multimillion dollar budgets, sixty-hour narratives, or celebrity voice actors and ad spots. The independently-developed (indie) Minecraft, with its pixelated blocks, takes the top spot on this list.
|Rank||Game||Sales (units)||Year Released||Developer|
|3||Tetris (EA)||100.0M||2006||EA Mobile|
|5||PUBG: Battlegrounds||75.0M||2017||PUBG Corp|
|6||Mario Kart 8||60.5M||2014||Nintendo|
|7||Super Mario Bros.||58.0M||1985||Nintendo|
|8||Read Dead Redemption 2||50.0M||2018||Rockstar|
Minecraft sold more units than the combined forces of Grand Theft Auto 5 (#2) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (#8), both made by industry giant Rockstar. Its immense popularity has been credited to its simple gameplay (no goals), creative structure (build anything), and engaged community with player-run servers and additional feature creations (known as mods).
Another simple favorite, Tetris, comes in at third place with 100 million units sold of its 2006 re-release. Millennials continue to make up a large chunk of the video game playing demographic which might explain Tetris’ sales.
But newer games are making up the majority of sales records. PUBG: Battlegrounds, a battle-royale shooter game which helped popularize the genre (and eventually its competitor Fortnite) asserts its popularity at #5. That puts it well ahead of the better-known shooter Call of Duty, even despite PUBG being banned in a number of countries for the alleged impact on the mental health of gamers.
The oldest game to make the list is Super Mario Bros. (#7), apt considering it is credited with reviving the video game industry after it crashed in 1983. The original staple side-scroller has sold 58 million copies worldwide.
Though the top selling games span various series of games, a few developers managed to repeatedly find success.
|Developer||Top 20 Best-Selling Games|
Japanese video game titan Nintendo developed three games (Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Wii Sport/Fitness) in the top 10 and another eight in the top 20. That’s not including its co-ownership of Pokémon, the world’s highest-grossing media franchise.
American publisher Rockstar Games also managed to score multiple hits, though its longer development cycle necessary to create cinematic games gives it fewer potential candidates. That might change with the much-anticipated GTA 6 reportedly in production.
Best Selling Genres
The most popular genres in the top 10 give players the freedom to impose their will upon the world and pursue objectives at their leisure:
Two games (Minecraft, Terraria) are classic sandbox games, where worlds are procedurally generated and there are no gameplay goals. Another two (GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2) are in the adjacent open-world genre, with a combination of sandbox elements and a narrative structure.
However, with new games launching and selling millions of units every year, new entrants to the top 10 list of best selling video games of all-time seems likely. How will these developers, genres, and games fare over time?
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