Boston school district switches to a more accurate world map, blows kids' minds

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The first of a few oblig. xkcds in this topic:


i could suggest three alternatives.

Or possibly just using a globe.


Mercator designed his projection to preserve angles. You could read bearings off it provided A and B were not separated by a significant part of the Earth’s dimensions. This would be helpful for sea trade. It was not as useful to know the area of things at that scale then. These days, the Mercator projection will look more like the view from space than the Peters one over most latitudes. The Peters projection is a good tool in schools. It shows that there is more than one way of presenting data; that presentation is important; and the relative areas of regions may be not what you thought it was.

I don’t think Mercator was deliberatly crafting a propaganda tool for cultural and mercantile imperialism.


Map just encourage kids to think about places other than the US of A.


I recommend again:

Talks more in detail about why the Peters projection is used. Most people think it’s to shift away from a Eurocentric and US-centric worldview, but it’s actually because Africa, South America, and Australia are way bigger than they’re pictured on maps. Just look at Greenland vs Australia (almost the size of the US in real life) on a Mercator projection. It was a Eurocentric (and commerce driven) worldview that got us the Mercator in the first place, and the Peters projection is an attempt to be more realistic.


May I suggest the Yertle-Gall Stereographic? It puts the observer at the top of the map and everything else is somewhere to the south. You, too, can be king of all you survey.

Yertle-Gall Stereographic by Philip Chapman-Bell,
on Flickr


Oh, so naturally, they chose the map with the loudest lobby.


Goode homolosine is the only one I can actually remember being on a wall in high school; but that may be because the Mercator maps were unremarkable so that one stood out.


Plus, it still honors the Cartographer (Gall), while shutting out the Propagandist (Peters).


It is important to know the enemy and where they live. :wink:

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Gall developed his projection 100 years earlier, and Peters only adopted it.

It was also not the only map of its time to represent the continents with proportionate areas.


You know what’s the most accurate map? A globe. If you’re telling me a school doesn’t have one when covering geography then we have a problem. An interactive 3D globe on a projector would work nicely as well.


Exactly. It helps to think of a map as a model. Like any model, it will be good at capturing certain aspects of reality and probably not so good at capturing others. Yet we need models to make complex problems tractable.

Agree with @Grey_Devil that they should all have access to a globe. By globe was my favorite thing as a kid.



That’s how systemic racism works. Lots of people who don’t, individually, mean to cause any harm.

But they do.


I’d be the first to agree that Mercator is a poor projection for talking about stuff happening on land; and downright bad if you want good representations of area; but it does more than ‘emphasize colonial trade routes’; it is projected so that rhumb lines all show up as straight lines on the map. For very long distance work, those routes aren’t the shortest paths; but if you are working at moderate distances, or need to navigate with a compass and not a whole lot of really hairy math, that is quite a virtue.

I have no idea what insanity caused it to become the more-or-less-default for uses that have no navigation involved and are mostly concerned with what people are doing on land; but it’s a good projection for its objective(fitting everything neatly into a rectangle with no huge blanks is just gravy).

That aside, what grade level are these students whose minds are getting blown? I thought that discussing the inherent trade-offs of trying to project the geoid onto a plane was a pretty routine part of ‘geography’.


Dymaxion has always been one of my favorites, because it shows how close North America really is to Eurasia, in contrast to how far apart they look in most projections.


To quote your book.

Plus, the 12th map is “Google Earth”, which is far more useful in a educational context.


I still have my globe. It’s useful for representing the world on a level that maps can’t. It also has far fewer countries than exist today, plus strange places called USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia… and two Germanies! Don’t let me get started on Africa…

I like these old maps and old globes because they remind me of how quickly things change, even borders and names of nation states.


In a technical sense, it’s the only accurate map due to Gauss’s Theorema Egregium.