|Image: National Geographic Education|
As National Geographic explains, all flat maps involve distortion, just as flattening an orange peel will require some combination of stretching and tearing. But on this date -- December 2 -- it is important to think about the projection that has probably caused more confusion about the world than any other. For it was on December 2, 1594 that German cartographer Gerardus Mercator died.
The image above represents the most modern remote-sensing technologies, with the Digital Numbers captured by many satellites in countless data files expertly converted to meaningful colors and stitched together into a single map. It also represents a projection technique best suited to the age of sail -- Mercator makes the poles infinite in order to represent direction clearly. In its recognition of Mercator's death, National Geographic Education explains the problems that widespread adoption of this map has caused.