Distort Geography in Amusing Ways with This Mercator Map Generator

The Mercator map, created in 1596 to help sailors navigate, is also why so many people think Greenland is larger than China. Now you can better appreciate how two-dimensional maps mess with geography, thanks to a site that lets you move the poles to anywhere in the world.

The Mercator belongs to a family of maps known as "compromise projections," so-called for their tendency to sacrifice things like accurate geographic size and shape in favor of nice, straight lines. Programmer Drew Roos has created an interactive visualization of the extreme distortions of the Mercator projection. "The end result," he says, "is a single map encompassing the entire surface of the Earth, yet containing both human scale and global scale." The map pictured above shows the world with the pole shifted to where it rightly belongs: Wrigley Field in Chicago.

You can try out the visualization for yourself, at Drew Roos' website.