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Mercator Misconceptions: Clever Map Shows the True Size of Countries

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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.

Geographic Inflation

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.

True size of countries animation Mercator

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.

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.

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Politics

Mapped: 2024 Global Elections by Country

It’s election year around the world, and this map of 2024 global elections by country shows just how many people will be impacted.

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2024 global elections map

Mapping 2024 Global Elections by Country

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

With almost half of the world’s population residing in countries holding executive or legislative elections in 2024, it’s set to be the busiest election year ever recorded.

This visualization uses collated 2024 global elections data from our 2024 Global Forecast Series as well as from Time, while country populations are taken from Worldometer as of January 2024.

Countries Holding 2024 Elections Around the World

Many people are already aware of the U.S. presidential and legislative elections set to be held on November 5th, especially due to American influence on the global political stage and media coverage.

But two governments affecting larger populations, India and the European Union, are also slated to have elections in 2024.

Below, we sort the countries expected to hold elections in 2024 by population (countries with no set election date yet have been marked “N/A”):

CountryElection DateTypePopulation
🇮🇳 IndiaN/ALegislative1,428,627,663
🇪🇺 European Union6/6/2024Legislative448,387,872
🇺🇸 United States11/5/2024Executive & Legislative339,996,563
🇮🇩 Indonesia2/14/2024Executive & Legislative277,534,122
🇵🇰 Pakistan2/8/2024Legislative240,485,658
🇧🇩 Bangladesh1/7/2024Legislative172,954,319
🇷🇺 Russia3/15/2024Executive144,444,359
🇲🇽 Mexico6/2/2024Executive & Legislative128,455,567
🇮🇷 Iran3/1/2024Legislative89,172,767
🇬🇧 UKN/ALegislative67,736,802
🇿🇦 South Africa5/29/2024Legislative60,414,495
🇰🇷 South Korea4/10/2024Legislative51,784,059
🇩🇿 AlgeriaN/AExecutive45,606,480
🇺🇦 Ukraine3/31/2024Executive36,744,634
🇺🇿 UzbekistanN/ALegislative35,163,944
🇬🇭 Ghana12/7/2024Executive & Legislative34,121,985
🇲🇿 Mozambique10/9/2024Executive & Legislative33,897,354
🇲🇬 MadagascarN/ALegislative30,325,732
🇻🇪 VenezuelaN/AExecutive28,838,499
🇰🇵 North KoreaN/ALegislative26,160,821
🇹🇼 Taiwan1/13/2024Executive & Legislative23,923,276
🇲🇱 MaliN/AExecutive23,293,698
🇸🇾 SyriaN/ALegislative23,227,014
🇱🇰 Sri LankaN/AExecutive & Legislative21,893,579
🇷🇴 RomaniaN/AExecutive & Legislative19,892,812
🇹🇩 ChadN/AExecutive18,278,568
🇸🇳 Senegal12/15/2024Executive17,763,163
🇰🇭 Cambodia2/25/2024Legislative16,944,826
🇷🇼 Rwanda7/15/2024Executive & Legislative14,094,683
🇹🇳 TunisiaN/AExecutive12,458,223
🇧🇪 Belgium6/9/2024Legislative11,686,140
🇯🇴 JordanN/ALegislative11,337,052
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic5/19/2024Executive & Legislative11,332,972
🇸🇸 South SudanN/AExecutive & Legislative11,088,796
🇨🇿 CzechiaN/ALegislative10,495,295
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan2/7/2024Executive10,412,651
🇵🇹 Portugal3/10/2024Legislative10,247,605
🇧🇾 Belarus2/25/2024Legislative9,498,238
🇹🇬 Togo4/20/2024Legislative9,053,799
🇦🇹 AustriaN/ALegislative8,958,960
🇸🇻 El Salvador2/4/2024Executive & Legislative6,364,943
🇸🇰 Slovakia3/23/2024Executive5,795,199
🇫🇮 Finland1/28/2024Executive5,545,475
🇲🇷 Mauritania6/22/2024Executive4,862,989
🇵🇦 Panama5/5/2024Executive & Legislative4,468,087
🇭🇷 Croatia9/22/2024Executive & Legislative4,008,617
🇬🇪 Georgia10/26/2024Executive & Legislative3,728,282
🇲🇳 Mongolia6/28/2024Legislative3,447,157
🇲🇩 MoldovaN/AExecutive3,435,931
🇺🇾 Uruguay10/27/2024Executive & Legislative3,423,108
🇱🇹 Lithuania5/12/2024Executive & Legislative2,718,352
🇧🇼 BotswanaN/ALegislative2,675,352
🇳🇦 NamibiaN/AExecutive & Legislative2,604,172
🇬🇼 Guinea BissauN/AExecutive2,150,842
🇲🇰 North Macedonia5/8/2024Executive & Legislative2,085,679
🇲🇺 Mauritius11/30/2024Legislative1300557
🇰🇲 Comoros1/14/2024Executive852,075
🇧🇹 Bhutan1/9/2024Legislative787,424
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands4/17/2024Legislative740,424
🇲🇻 Maldives3/17/2024Legislative521,021
🇮🇸 Iceland6/1/2024Executive375,318
🇰🇮 KiribatiN/AExecutive & Legislative133,515
🇸🇲 San MarinoN/ALegislative33,642
🇵🇼 Palau11/12/2024Executive & Legislative18,058
🇹🇻 Tuvalu1/26/2024Legislative11,396

A few notable elections have already occurred. Taiwan held general elections on January 13th, with the more anti-China Democratic Progressive Party retaining the presidency but losing its majority in the legislature.

Pakistan also held elections on February 8th, with former Prime Minster Imran Khan’s party and affiliates winning a plurality of seats but losing power to a military-backed coalition.

Pakistan’s election results were cast into doubt by foreign observers and media, with Khan having been arrested and sentenced to prison on corruption charges. It is far from the only country holding controversial and potentially undemocratic elections in 2024.

Bangladesh’s landslide January 7th elections were boycotted by the opposition and voters, and Russia’s March 15th elections had three anti-war presidential candidates barred from competing, including Alexei Navalny before his controversial death in February.

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