All countries in the world are smaller than Google Maps shows, here’s why

Last Updated Date: July 6, 2022 - 16:53

USA, Canada, Russia and other countries. In reality, most countries look very different from what we know from school atlas and Google Maps.

Last Updated Date: July 6, 2022 - 16:53
All countries in the world are smaller than Google Maps shows, here’s why

Most of us will have encountered Google Maps at some point. Whether it’s pre-visiting the next vacation destination or going to an unknown destination. Maybe one or the other has long since walked away and studied the world in its entirety.

An image we know from various atlases. But did you know that countries don’t exist as we see them? Most are much smaller than they appear on regular world maps. And Germany is not in the form of a pistol or stun gun, but more of a smiley face – but why is that?

Cheat with world map

In fact, the matter is quite simple: It is known that the Earth is a sphere, not a two-dimensional surface. While the latter isn’t quite correct, it’s more like an egg, geometrically speaking, our home planet is an ellipsoid (the three-dimensional equivalent of an ellipse).

Now, an ellipsoid does not display as well as a two-dimensional map. This was particularly a problem for shipping and navigation, so Belgian cartographer Gerhard Mercator came up with a trick in the 16th century – the so-called Mercator projection.

Meridians (from north to south and vice versa) become straight lines. Normally these converge and intersect at the poles. The lines of latitude are already straight, so they just need to be extended.

So what we see as a two-dimensional map of the world is actually a distorted representation of the world. This has interesting consequences: Russia, for example, appears much larger on almost all world maps than the entire African continent. But in reality, it is slightly smaller, as the following image from the Engaging-Data website shows:

Why are countries in the south like Brazil shown more accurately than those in the north? This is because the closer the countries or continents are to the equator, the less distortion. And most of Earth’s land mass is in the northern hemisphere, well above the equator.

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