Maps Distort How We See the World

30 Maps to Rethink the World

Tomas Pueyo


Maps twist our perception of the world.

Countries closer to the equator — which happen to be poorer— seem smaller than they are.

Proportions of apparent size and real size (animated), Jakub Nowosad. Source.

This is because the world is a 3D sphere, but maps are 2D projections on a plane. That means distortion!

Here is a static version showing the equator, to compare more easily and see how much the projection differs from​​ reality as you move away from it:

We should be wary of flattening balls!

Depending on your reference, Chad appears bigger or smaller than expected.

So we develop a poor intuition for comparative region sizes.

The biggest loser is Africa, which is humongous:

Here’s another take on it, to drive the point home.

If you compare the most affected regions, you realize that Africa is about as wide as Russia!

I confirmed this by using the width of Africa from Encyclopedia Britannica and the Russian width by checking the distance between the contiguous Russia’s most extreme points.

Somalia, Japan, and New Zealand are all approximately the same size as the US East Coast.

The website from which this comes from shows Somalia separate from Somaliland. I don’t know enough to have an opinion about it yet. Source.

Brazil is the most short-changed country, as it’s right on the equator and huge. Here it is compared to Europe.



Tomas Pueyo

2 MSc in Engineering. Stanford MBA. Ex-Consultant. Creator of applications with >20M users. Currently leading a billion-dollar business @ Course Hero