This innovative map at The Economist conveys quite a lot in just a few frames. The article, "The True Size of Africa, November 10, 2010, makes reference to an earlier map produced by "computer graphics guru" Kai Krause. The one above reworks Krause's projections somewhat--I couldn't really tell the difference--but reaffirms Krause's main point: Africa is much bigger than it looks on maps drawn on the Mercator projection. The Economist explains:
A sphere cannot be represented on a flat plane without distortion, which means all map projections distort in one way or another. Some projections show areas accurately but distort distances or scales, for example; others preserve the shapes of countries but misrepresent their areas. You can read all the gory details on Wikipedia.
Gerardus Mercator's projection, published in 1569, was immediately useful because it depicts a line of constant bearing as a straight line, which is handy for marine navigation. The drawback is that it distorts the shapes and areas of large land masses, and the distortion gets progressively worse as you get closer to the poles. (Africa looks about the same size as Greenland under the Mercator projection, for example, even though it is in fact 14 times bigger.) This was not a big problem for 16th-century sailors, of course, and the Mercator projection remains popular to this day.* * *
Thanks to Nick Pinto for sending this along.