OK I spent the whole of the previous post explaining the lack of updates here recently. Here’s what I actually wanted to post:
Here’s a recent xkcd post: What Your Favorite Map Projection Says About You (thanks, Ransom!). It’s pretty funny, in a snarky way, and as ever, the jokes are intensely geeky (Dymaxion map fans like toe shoes! – hold on, I really like the Dymaxion projection and wait, yes, I have recently been thinking that maybe if I got into jogging then some of those toe shoes would be the way to go…). I just really didn’t get the ending (the punchline, if you will): if your favourite map is the Peters projection then “I hate you.” Back when I was about 6 then my friend Matthew had a Peters projection world map on his bedroom wall and I found it quite enlightening. So this hatred seemed a little harsh and I went and looked up the Peters (wait sorry, Gall-Peters) projection on Wikipedia and I found that it was surrounded by controversy!
To start with, it’s called Gall-Peters because while the projection was originally devised by a clergyman named James Gall in 1855, but it was only popularised in the 1970s by German filmmaker and historian Arno Peters. Peters apparently came up with the projection independently and he presented it in 1973 as his own original work. His intention was explicitly political: he wanted to correct what he saw as the Eurocentric worldview that was exemplified by the widely-printed Mercator projection, which distorts the sizes of landmasses such that Greenland appears the size of Africa. The thing is that Peters was neither the first person to point this out nor the first person to promote an equal-area projection (as well as his predecessor Gall, other cartographers had developed their own equal-area projections). By the sounds of things (and I’m going by Wikipedia here), Peters was a pretty disagreeable individual, essentially labelling anyone who disagreed that his was the best projection as some sort of neo-imperialist. The whole thing rumbled on for a couple of decades, eventually leading several North American geographic associations to reject any rectangular map projection whatsoever.
There is more highly enlightening stuff on map projections here at The Awl. I would also invite you to revel in the sheer awesomeness of the Dymaxion map, right here: