Worldview

Worldview

It’s the end of the world as Boston public schools know it, but everyone feels fine. While the four horsemen of the apocalypse didn't show up in Beantown, new world maps did arrive at the local public schools.

What’s wrong with the old maps? Most likely when you were zoning off during social studies you looked at a map that looked a little something like this...

According to this map, Alaska definitely looks bigger than Mexico while North America and Greenland are for sure bigger than Africa. What you are seeing is a lie. Alaska could fit inside of Mexico and Africa is three times bigger than North America and fourteen times bigger than Greenland. 

Why does this map projection distort size so much? Difficulties arise when trying to translate a 3D object into a 2D wall hanging. Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator created this version of the world map in 1569. Over the last 400 years, this map projection has been used globally because of its accurate angles and preservation of the smaller intricacies of the land features making ocean navigation easier. The trouble comes, however, when the map is expanded latitudinally, making the landmasses nearer to the poles seem much larger than in reality. 

This is a more accurate depiction of your world. 

The Gall-Peters projection (above) was suggested by James Gall in 1855 and Arno Peters popularized this projection in the 1970s. Not only is this map a better representation of the earth, but the continent of Africa and South America are their proper size. This is important because maps have a lasting impression on the minds of bored elementary aged children. During the time that the Mercator projection was used, Europeans were colonizing Africa and the Americas. By centralizing and enlarging Europe while minimizing Africa and South America, onlookers could receive a distorted perception of power. As Peters remarked in his book, The New Cartography, the Mercator projection is based on a Eurocentric global concept while an “egalitarian world map…alone can demonstrate the parity of all peoples of the earth.” So, in hopes to “decolonize the curriculum” within the next three years, Boston public schools have made the switch. As one history teacher, Casey Cullen remarked, "If we’re going to try to tell the tale of people from other nations and where they come from, we need to be as accurate as possible.” While adults have no clue what the world looks like, hopefully future generations have a better idea, or at least can locate the US on a world map. 

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