Fun with maps

If you follow this link it will take you to a map of the world in which there are movable outlines of 15 countries and your task is to superimpose those outlines on the countries they represent.

What makes this interesting is that it also teaches you something about the issues involved in mapping countries that are on a globe onto a flat surface. There are many ways to do this and the one that we are most familiar with is Mercator projection that keeps the shapes of countries recognizable at the price of distorting the size, with the level of exaggeration increasing the further away you are from the equator. Greenland, for example, seems huge on a flat Mercator map but in reality it is smaller than either Kazakhstan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. So as you move the 15 outlines around trying to find their location on the map, you will see their size changing.

I thought it would be easy to fit the countries since I am fairly familiar with world maps but it took me a lot longer than I expected. I had not realized how much my ability of identify a country depended on its relative size with respect to others.


  1. Chiroptera says

    It should have taken me a long time to do because I didn’t recognize a certain Eastern European country, but I made a quick guess that it was Eastern European and found it quickly.

    It actually did take me a long time because although I recognized a certain Southeast Asian country (actually, I narrowed it down to one of two neighboring countries), but I had trouble lining it up correctly and so thought I was just wrong and spent a couple of minutes searching for the correct position. Hip tip: you can expand the map to be bigger.

    But even if I do say so myself, I was able to make most correct identifications based on the shape. But then, when I was a kid I was a nut for maps.

  2. Robert,+not+Bob says

    Pull an outline to a high latitude: it’ll expand it so you can see the outline better. The shape change is particularly great for one particular large country.

  3. Trickster Goddess says

    I knew the Mercator projection exaggerated size but I never realized just how much. Canada looks so large and Mexico so small, but when I dragged it onto Canada, I discovered you could drive the distance from Toronto all the way to the Alberta tarsands and still be within Mexico! Blew my mind.

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