One world, many faces: A brief look at map projections


Each and every map represents a distorted view of reality. Therefore, cartograms are not as unusual as they might appear at a first glance. Map projections are a central aspect of the Worldmapper project because the maps (respectively cartograms) featured in the project are basically not different from some sort of re-projection of the world, albeit in a different way than conventional projections used in cartography. Rather than trying to solve the conflicts of distortion when drawing a three dimensional surface on to a two dimensional area (be it a screen or a paper map), the worldmapper cartograms distort our image of the world on purpose and show each country in proportion to a specific topic. This is reason enough to reflect a little bit on what map projections are and in what way they create a distorted view of the world.

Worldmapper map using different projections

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South Africa: A people’s view

The ball is rolling, and the football world looks at South Africa and the South African people, who keep the world entertained with the unique Vuvuzela sounds. There are an estimated 49,320,000 living in the country, with an area of 1 221 037 square km this makes a population density of 41/km2. But the population is far from being equally distributed across the country. The following special worldcup edition of worldmapper’s gridded population cartograms shows where people are really living, and in which dimension the cities strike out in the population distribution. For easy orientation, all worldcup host cities are labelled. In addition elevation information is added to the map, so that one can see how many people live at which elevations.

A map of the population distribution and elevation in South Africa, including all 2010 Worldcup host citiesClick here for a larger view

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

The shape of the Football World

Jabulani, the official ball at this year’s Football Worldcup in South Africa is almost making its rounds across the pitch – only a few days to go until the first kickoff. But how much is it a real “World” cup? This map shows, whose game it has been since the first Worldcup in 1930. The countries in this map are resized according to the number of participations in the FIFA Worldcups (including the 2010 Worldcup). This year’s participants are coloured white, non-participants are black. The stars in a country indicate how often this country has won the Fifa Worldcup so far: All former champions are back on stage in South Africa.

A map of all football worldcup participants 1930-2010
Click here for a larger view of the map

Despite having 208 national associations in the Fifa, the map reveals the domination of Europe and South America in the tournament (in participation, as well as in the world cup winners), those regions with football being among the most popular sports. This inequality in the football worldcup can be explained by having a look at how the qualification process is organised: “For each tournament, FIFA decides the number of places awarded to each of the continental zones beforehand, generally based on the relative strength of the confederations’ teams” (see here). The football may be of global significance, but it is far from being a global game. The world map of football looks different than the map of the world…

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

The Real World at Night

The night view of the earth has become a very popular depiction of this planet. Although the NASA itself says that “The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated” many people mistake this view as a representation of the inhabited places on the globe. Our gridded population cartogram can help to get a better understanding of the relation of people and light. The following map is a reprojection of the earth at night that shows the nightview in relation to the population distribution. The gridlines are kept in a light colour and thus allow to identify those areas where the lines converge (representing the unpopulated regions). In contrast, the populated areas are given the most space, so that one can easily see which populated areas are literally illuminated at night – and where there are people living in darkness. The resulting map is an impressive picture of an unequal world, with large parts of Africa living in darkness, and the affluent countries in Europe and North America glowing in the dark:

The Earth at Night projected on a gridded population cartogram(click for large image)
See here for an updated and more detailed version of this map

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2005-2010: Change?

Now that you know the results of the general election, and also had a look back at earlier elections, see here what has really changed: This is a short animation shows the British general election results in relation to the population distribution from 2005 transforming into the 2010 results and back in a loop:

Changing election landscape in Britain 2005-2010
(click to view larger version)

If the animation doesn’t start straight away, give it a few seconds or minutes to load completely. It has 7 MB in size and may take a while depending on the speed of your internet connection.

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin Hennig. Please contact me for further details on the terms of use.

The World in Crisis

The following two maps show the countries of Europe and the World resized according to their total external debt, whereas the colours indicate a country’s debt by gdp ratio. The maps are an outcome of a commissioned work for the Times newspaper, and putting those two slightly different values on one map may raise criticism, even if both values on it’s own make for a good depiction of the current state of the economic world – or the burden that some national governments currently face. Also, the data used must be judged carefully. Not just since Greece went on the global stage with its crisis it is quite obvious that economic statistics do not always reveal the real truth. Having said all that, these maps still draw an impressive picture of the current crisis in Europe and the world:

Map of debt and the debt/gdp ratio in the countries of the European Union 2010(click map for larger view)

(click here for large map)

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