Japanese design flattens the Earth to show how big landmasses and oceans really are

The map was made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron and unfolding it to be a rectangle. Photo / Authagraph
The map was made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron and unfolding it to be a rectangle. Photo / Authagraph

The traditional map of the world, known as the Mercator map, may be the most often seen image of our planet but it is also considered highly inaccurate because Antarctica and Greenland are greatly distorted.

Now, a Japanese artist and architect believes he has solved this 447 year old problem with an 'origami map' that represents landmasses and seas as accurately as possible.

To create the perfectly proportioned map, Hajime Narukawa divided the spherical globe into 96 triangles that are flattened and transferred to a tetrahedron.

This allows the image to be 'unfolded' into a rectangle while still maintaining an area's proportions.

Narukawa's map was awarded the coveted Grand Award of Japan's most well-known design award during the Good Design Award for 2016 - last year a personal mobility chair won and the year before it was a robotic arm, reports Spoon-Tamago.

Gerardus Mercator is widely known for creating the most generally accepted map of the world, and also created the term 'atlas' to describe a collection of maps.

In 1569, Mercator introduced his map of the world using a method called Mercator projection.

This process projected the world onto a cylinder in a way that all the parallels of latitude have the same length as the equator, used especially for marine charts and certain climatological maps.

And although it is used throughout the world, it is known for being greatly inaccurate - it was originally designed to help sailors navigate the world.

To give the world a more accurate depiction, Narukawa created a different method that aims to create a map where all the land areas and seas are accurately sized.

"This rectangular world map called AuthaGraph World Map is made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to be a rectangle," Narukawa shares on his website AuthaGraph.

"The world map can be tiled in any directions without visible seams."

"From this map-tiling, a new world map with triangular, rectangular or parallelogram's outline can be framed out with various regions at its center."

He told Spoon-Tamago that just a few years ago, this map would not be so precise.

A major portion of the world was dominated by an emphasis on East and West relations.

And now, there is also the issue of climate change, melting glaciers in Greenland and territorial sea claims that have changed our worlds surface.

Map lovers can also print out and fold the map to create their own proportional paper globe.

You can also purchase the AuthaGraph World Map from Narukawa's website, which is W841mm, H594mm, full color and silver print and available in both English and Japanese
Although the map appears to give each land mass and seas the space it deserves, it still is not perfect.

"The map need a further step to increase a number of subdivision for improving its accuracy to be officially called an area-equal map,' the Good Design Award description reads.

The familiar 'Mercator' projection gives the right shapes of land masses, but at the cost of distorting their sizes in favor of the wealthy lands to the north.

For instance, in the Mercator projection, North America looks at least as big, if not slightly larger, than Africa. And Greenland also looks of comparable size.

But in reality Africa is larger than both. In fact, you can fit north America into Africa and still have space for India, Argentina, Tunisia and some left over, notes Mr Wan.

Greenland, meanwhile, is 1/14th the size of the continent as can be seen in Gall-Peters equal projection, which provides the correct proportion of land mass to the continents.

The map suggests that Scandinavian countries are larger than India, whereas in reality India is three times the size of all Scandinavian countries put together.

As well, as this, it seems the fact that our maps typically put north at the top is a mere convention but has been accepted as correct in most of the world.

- Daily Mail

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