A few seconds clicking and dragging on this interactive map will change your view of the world forever.

The map of the globe we all know is a trick of mathematics. It was designed to simplify navigation for sailors setting out on voyages of discovery centuries ago.

Making the world flat

In 1569 the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator took our planetary sphere and squashed it flat. One consequence of doing this was to make countries along the Equator appear smaller than they really are. Nations to the far north or south of the Equator appear much larger.

When Russia is selected on the map, the landmass appears huge. But drag it southwards and lay it across equatorial Africa and a more representative scale emerges.

 This is the true size of Russia
Image: truesize.com

Shrinking America

The traditional projection of the United States suggests the superpower occupies a vast area of land.

 This is the true size of the US
Image: truesize.com

But when overlaid on Brazil, it’s immediately apparent that the 48 states of mainland America barely cover Brazil. (Alaska and Hawaii are not included)

Giant Algeria

In Mercator’s view, Algeria appears a little larger than France, the former colonial power.

But when Algeria’s outline is superimposed on France, its borders also cover the United Kingdom, a good part of Germany and Mercator’s own homeland, Belgium.

 This is the true size of Algeria.
Image: truesize.com

When we use traditional world maps, it’s tempting to assume the most powerful nations also have the largest geographical areas. But that assumption rapidly disintegrates when a more direct comparison can be made.

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