A new map was created by a team of map specialists led by J Richard Gott, a Princeton professor of astrophysics. Although it is two-sided, the map may display both sides of the world without the limits of being two-dimensional.
Since the Earth is spherical, how can it be adequately represented on a 2D map? New research suggests flattening Earth into two pancakes, one representing the Northern Hemisphere and the other the Southern, with the equator running around the perimeter.
According to the study’s authors, these two “pancakes” constitute the most precise flat map of the Earth ever created. Unlike existing flat maps, the new round globe does not reduce or supersize the extent of certain seas or land surfaces.
“Our map is actually more like the globe than other flat maps. To see all of the globe, you have to rotate it. To see all of our new map, you simply have to flip it over,” said Gott.
Unlike other rectangular maps, “this is a map you can hold in your hand,” said Gott. “The map can be printed front-and-back on a single magazine page, ready for the reader to cut out.”
To date, two map projections widely used in reference books and atlases are the Mercator projection with a score of 8.296 and the Winkel Tripel flat map projection with a 4.563 score. However, Gott, Robert Vanderbei, and David Goldberg received a score of 0.881 with this new map.
The difficulty with the Mercator and Winkel Tripel projections is that distance discrepancies become a concern when one gets closer to the poles.
“We have continuity over the equator. Africa and South America are draped over the edge, like a sheet over a clothesline, but they’re continuous,” Gott explained.
With the Mercator projection, the polar areas are completely distorted – Antarctica appears to be larger than all of the other continents combined, and distances are confusing, with Japan and Hawaii appearing to be rather far away.
The team would want to print its maps on cardboard or plastic so that they may be arranged like records and stored in a box or placed into textbook covers.
Gott and his colleagues have also made pancake-style maps of Mars, Jupiter, the sun, and other celestial bodies, which can be viewed here.