We Finally Figured Out How to Accurately Map Out Earth

George Tinari

We’ve made a lot of incredible progress as human species. We walked on the moon, created lifelike robots and put nearly all the information in the world right in the palm of our hands. Yet for some reason, we have never been able to properly master flattening out Earth on a map… until now, anyway.

authagraph-world-map-projection-good-design-award
It looks odd, but it’s the most accurate projection we have. | Photo: Authagraph

You might have seen plenty of maps in your lifetime and are wondering, what was wrong with those? Truthfully, none of them have ever been completely accurate portrayals of Earth. In fact, some of them don’t even come close. The Mercator projection, a very popular one up until the last few decades, is dramatically inaccurate. The most notable fault is that Greenland looks huge compared to tiny Australia, when the reality is that Australia is order of magnitude larger.

The more widely adopted Robinson projection since the 1980s, often seen in school classrooms, still has continental distortions as well.

The most notable fault is that Greenland looks huge compared to tiny Australia, when the reality is that Australia is order of magnitude larger.

Earth Has a New Look

Perhaps the reality that we’re uncertain how to map our own reality is coming to an end. Artist and founder of AuthaGraph Hajime Narukawa won this year’s Good Design Award in Japan for his totally new projection of Earth. It’s the AuthaGraph World Map. Yes, it looks a little bit weird compared to other maps, but it’s the most accurate one yet. The flat surface preserves the size of oceans and continents that normally form a sphere on our big blue planet.

A diagram from AuthaGraph explains how the map was made. First, they divide a sphere into 96 regions and pasted on a tetrahedron (read: triangular pyramid) while maintaining their aspect ratios. Finally, they achieve a rectangle by cutting out the tetrahedron and laying the four sides next to each other.

While the AuthaGraph projection is a fantastic scientific and cartographic achievement, it’s not 100 percent spot-on just yet.

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Photo: Authagraph

The AuthaGraph projection also has the added of perk of being infinitely tiled in a mosaic-like fashion. This means you can select different specific portions that cover all of Earth and have a new, but still totally accurate map as shown in the image above without seams.

As you can tell though, this might be one of the weirdest maps of Earth you’ve ever looked at. The continents don’t look neatly aligned with one another. Africa and South America have clear slants. South America in particular looks like it’s being sucked off the map by a vacuum cleaner. But really, who says Earth has to be pleasing to the eye?

Photo: Authagraph
Photo: Authagraph

The Good Design Award committee takes notice of some of the minor flaws as well. “The map needs a further step to increase a number of subdivision for improving its accuracy to be officially called an area-equal map,” it said. That means that while the AuthaGraph projection is a fantastic scientific and cartographic achievement, it’s not 100 percent spot-on just yet.

Still, if you’re interested in treasuring this new map projection, you can buy it on AuthaGraph’s website. The company also sells the world map mosaic mentioned earlier and a full globe.

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George Tinari

Written By

George Tinari

George Tinari has written about technology for over seven years: guides, how-tos, news, reviews and more. He's usually sitting in front of his laptop, eating, listening to music or singing along loudly to said music. You can also follow him on Twitter @gtinari if you need more complaints and sarcasm in your timeline.