Why Are Most Maps Unable To Accurately Depict Earth?
Maps are an essential tool for navigation, but it is impossible to portray the Earth’s round shape accurately on a two-dimensional surface. In order to accurately represent the Earth’s true shape, more advanced mathematical and graphical processes must be used. That is why traditional maps must rely on certain artistic interpretations and approximations to depict the Earth’s surface.
The Problem with 3D Images
The publication of three-dimensional images showing the entire Earth has become more commonplace in recent years. However, these images do not truly show the entire planet with perfect accuracy either. They are still an approximation of the Earth’s shape, requiring a smaller area than the actual globe in order to be able to be displayed in an appealing form.
The only way to accurately depict the Earth’s shape is to use mathematical processes, such as projections and conversion formulas. These mathematical processes convert the three-dimensional shape of the Earth into a two-dimensional representation, thus creating a globe that can be accurately portrayed on a flat surface.
Types of Maps
Other types of maps, such as topographic, political and physical maps, must also rely on mathematical processes in order to accurately portray the Earth’s surface. These different types of maps are created by taking into account different variables and data in order to accurately represent the Earth’s features on a flat surface.
Despite the advances in technology, it remains impossible to accurately depict the Earth’s true shape in a two-dimensional form. Even with the use of advanced mathematical and graphical processes, an artist’s interpretation of the Earth’s shape is inevitable in traditional maps. Nevertheless, these maps can still be useful as reliable guidance tools, provided that the user takes into account their limitations.
- Anderson, C. (2020). Map Projections and What They Mean. US Geological Survey.
- Beal, M. (2019). How to Make a Map? National Geographic.
- McKay, G. (2020). What Is a Map Projection? Geology.com.
4) How have advances in remote sensing, geographic information systems, and other tools helped to improve map accuracy?
Advances in remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) have allowed for the collection of more detailed and accurate data than ever before. Through remote sensing, scientists are able to use satellite imagery, aerial photography, or LiDAR to collect detailed, up-to-date information about the land. This information can then be transferred into a GIS, which allows for the manipulation and analysis of the data, leading to more accurate and detailed maps. Additionally, GIS tools such as route finding and navigation can be used to improve accuracy to more complex spatial data, helping map makers to accurately portray features such as rivers, streets, and paths.
3) What types of projections are used to create maps of Earth and why?
Map projections are used to transform the surface of the three-dimensional Earth into a two-dimensional representation. There are three major types of map projections: cylindrical, conic and azimuthal.
Cylindrical projections center around the equator, resulting in a map that is wide and short. This type of projection is generally used to show large areas of the Earth’s surface.
Conic projections use concentric circles to create a map that is closer to a geographic area. It is more commonly used for smaller regions, such as the United States.
Azimuthal projections produce a map that is circular in shape with a point of origin in its center. This type of projection is generally used when an exact direction from one location is required.