[January 14, 2015]
We know Mercator because of the squares and streets, but we hardly know who he actually was, even though he is the catalyst of a very influential error in our perception that quietly slipped into our minds. It is about the size and relative proportions of the countries on Earth. Mercator used to make maps for 16th century sailors and introduced the “Mercator-projection” in 1569. Sailors were able to use this projection very well, since compass bearings were correctly displayed. Yet, as a result of the fact that the meridians were perpendicular even though the Earth is a globe and the meridians should thus meet at the poles, the size of the physical surfaces is projected in a totally wrong way! I always think of Greenland and Saudi-Arabia: in reality they are equally as big, yet on our Mercator-maps, Greenland is way bigger.
Of all continents, the continent of Africa is the most centered around the center of the Earth. That is why Africa suffers the most of this Mercator-discrepancy.
A German graphic designer composed maps that show this discrepancy. He did this by plotting large countries on the African continent. This is very enlightening! France is not bigger than Algeria or Mali, the Sahara desert is bigger than the United States, and Japan can easily be placed in Mozambique. Tanzania and Kenia together are just as big as India, and almost all of Eastern-Europe fits into Egypt.
Krause himself says: "Africa is so mind-numbingly immense, that it exceeds the common assumptions by just about anyone I ever met," he writes at his website. "It contains the entirety of the US, all of China, India, as well as Japan and pretty much all of Europe as well - all combined!"