Thursday, December 5, 2013

Apparently it's a controversial... area.

I'm a Canadian. I'm proud to be a Canadian. I'm proud of my fellow Canadians. But gee whiz, we can sure be sensitive sometimes.

In my post two weeks ago, I pointed out how the Mercator projection exaggerates the surface area of Canada. Map-lovers loved my post; Canadians hated it. Many seemed to think I was trying to cast aspersions on Canada's proud place as the world's second-largest country.

Far from it. But as big a fan of Canada as I am, I'm also a fan of the truth: it's a tight race for second place. If we lost Labrador, we'd drop to fourth. This fact is rather disguised by the Mercator projection:



Poor China, they really get the shaft: they drop a place and end up looking a third as big in relation to their Russian neighbours. The United States is partially buffered from this ignominious fate by Alaska.

I understand why Google Maps uses Mercator: having north, south, east and west perfectly correspond to the edges of the map is handy when you're giving directions. Plus equal-area projections (there are many different ones, because there are many different ways to do this) just look weird, with their elongated, phallic Africa:


There are hybrid projections that do a pretty good compromise, but most of the best ones aren't rectangular, and that can be inconvenient if you don't happen to have, say, a hexagonal iPhone screen.

There. Go Canada. You're big, but my favourite fact about you is that you share the world's largest undefended border. Well, that and the fact that we have the world's largest island inside a lake inside an island inside a lake.

Oh, one more thing: Relevant xkcd.

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