What problems do mapmakers face in creating a world map? Why do we need more than one map to understand the world? How do the maps you use influence where you see your place in world affairs?

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One of the major problems with making world maps has to do with simple geometry. The world is a sphere, but maps are flat and two-dimensional. Therefore, the depictions of the world on maps are distorted. Most map projections make the area near the poles larger in scale than areas...

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One of the major problems with making world maps has to do with simple geometry. The world is a sphere, but maps are flat and two-dimensional. Therefore, the depictions of the world on maps are distorted. Most map projections make the area near the poles larger in scale than areas in the tropics. If you've ever looked at common world map projections, particularly the popular Mercator projection, you have experienced this. Simply put, maps can never be entirely accurate.

Comparing different world maps will help put these inaccuracies into perspective. Compare the Mercator projection with the Albers projection and the Azimuthal projection and you will see that landmasses appear to be sized differently in relation to each other. By looking at the world from the different perspectives of these maps, you will have a better idea of actual geography. It becomes clear that no single map is entirely accurate.

Another issue of world maps is how they are centered. Most modern map projections originated in Europe. You will notice that many maps, therefore, place Europe in the center. In contrast, many projections published in the United States place North America in the center. As a result, viewing the world from one of these projections may subtly influence the viewer to think that the place of the map's origin is more centrally located in the world. Since the world is a sphere, no place on its surface is more central than any other place. However, many maps give the impression that there is such a center. Someone from the periphery of these maps, such as the Pacific islands or South America, may consider their location to be less important than someone from Europe or North America if their worldview is shaped by these maps.

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