The True Size of Countries

The true size of countries changes our perception of the world. Maps have so many uses in modern society. Google Maps and the navigation included were the main reason I got my first smart phone. But maps have one significant flaw.

Every map is a projection of a 3D object onto a 2D plane. That means we have to squeeze and stretch our map to fit properly. And that implies we have to get our priorities straight, what we need and what we let slide.

The Mercator Projection

Google maps use the Mercator projection. This type of map projection does a couple of things quite well:

  • It preserves distances.
  • It preserves angles
  • North is always up

This is great for navigation, but this type of projection does one thing amazingly bad:

  • Preserving areas

It stretches everything increasingly the closer we come to the poles. This makes Greenland look huge and in fact, Greenland is not as big as Africa.

I always knew this, but I never knew to what extent, until I found the following website. It’s amazing fun for any map enthusiast.

Did you know?

It’s the standard Google Maps map and you can overlay the outline of different countries or even states. As an example I have tried the following:

Did you know that Germany is in fact smaller than Madagascar? Yes that jungly island from the kids movie that likes to “Move it, Move it”.

Did you know that Brazil is bigger than entire Europe, including the North Sea?

Did you know that Australia would go all the way from the Hudson Bay down to the Gulf of Mexico?

Did you know the former Sudan, riddled by Civil War is bigger than Texas?

I’m seriously having a field day here. I was sitting in front of my computer with my mouth hanging open.

Now comes the best part, head over to the website, type in Chile and drag it around. I for myself was an ignorant fool to the size of some countries.

Which amazing comparisons did you discover? Share them in the comments!

The picture below is clickable and brings you straight to “my” map.

True Size of Brazil, Germany, Australia and Texas

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... is a geophysicist by heart. He works at the intersection of machine learning and geoscience. He is the founder of The Way of the Geophysicist and a deep learning enthusiast. Writing mostly about computational geoscience and interesting bits and pieces relevant to post-grad life.

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