Most scientists I know are map-geeks. What’s not to love about a 2-dimensional abstraction that captures gobs of information in an economical way? For those of us who love biogeography–the study of the distribution of life across the planet–how one renders the globe is vital to understanding where and why the diversity is. And the Mercator projection, the view of the world one sees from most North American classrooms, leaves, let us say, a little bit to be desired in that department. In the Mercator, the area of the continents around the equator–where most of the diversity of life can be found, is shrunk relative to poles. The story goes that Mercator, a German, devised a map that made Germany look as big as possible (but, in a karmic backfire, made Russia look even bigger, and let’s not even get started about Greenland).
So enter the The Peirce Quincunial, where the equator is a square. Sheer beauty.
Big tip of the hat to Victoria Johnson at The Awl.
Nice! We’re discussing the latitudinal gradient in my class this week. It’s one thing to be told this is true. Another to see how the projection changes how you see something you’ve looked at all your life.