Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: carolw-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 30 Dec 2003 06:52 PST
Expires: 29 Jan 2004 06:52 PST
Question ID: 291395
Want information about the revised world map versus the
traditional-view world map (mentioned on a 'West Wing' TV show episode
recently, involving a U. S. Geographical or Geological agency desiring
offical approval/support for the more accurate, but politically
controversial world map).

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 30 Dec 2003 07:21 PST
Hello Carol,

There are a number of "alternative" types of maps that show the world
from a different perspective than the conventional Mercator-projection
maps. They aren't "more accurate" -- all flat maps necessarily
introduce distortions -- but they distort the globe in a different and
interesting way.

I'm not aware of any US government agency seeking official White House
approval for an alternative map, and given that the West Wing is
fictional, there may not be such an action underway.

However, I'd be happy to post links to some of the key alternative
maps of the world, if you'd be interested in that information as an
answer to your question.

Let me know.
Subject: Re: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 30 Dec 2003 10:13 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
The Peters Projection world map was featured in the NBC show "The West
Wing", June 20, 2001. The map was introduced in 1974 by Arno Peters,
in large part to correct what he considered was a distorted political
view of the relative importance of Europe as the "center" of the
world. Arguably, the Eurocentric political world view could be said to
be reinforced by the Mercator projection that is typically used in the
US. Peters's map is an "area accurate" or equal area map, in which one
square unit of area is depicted equally everywhere on the map, as
opposed to the Mercator map, which exaggerates areas to a
progressively greater degree the farther they are from the Equator.
Thus, on a Mercator map, Greenland is almost the same size as Africa,
although Africa is 14 times the area of Greenland. The Peters
Projection preserves the relative sizes by stretching Equatorial
regions on a North-South direction and compressing the Polar regions.
The main advantage of the Mercator map is that direction lines are
always straight within its boundaries, and are accurate within about
15 degrees of the Equator.

The Peters Projection is a recreated version of an earlier map
familiar to cartographers as the Gall Orthographic Projection (James
Gall, 1855). The Peters Projection is controversial mainly because of
the sociopolitical arguments that Peters chose to use to advocate the
adoption of the map.

Map Makes History On WEST WING

"TV's favorite press secretary, West Wing's CJ Craig "freaked out" at
the sight of a new view of the world. The show is fictional, but the
map is fact! CJ was stunned by the real Peters Projection world map.

What CJ Craig saw on June 20th's episode of NBC's WEST WING is a map
commonly seen in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America although
almost unheard of in North America. Until West Wing's script writers
discovered the map! A fictional group, the Organization of
Cartographers for Social Equality, pitched President Bartlet's staff
to "aggressively support" legislation mandating every public school in
America teach geography using the Peters Projection map."
"Peters Projection World maps are available from local book or map
stores or directly from ODT, Inc. at 1-800-736-1293. (E-mail: <>)"
"To get the full story on this controversial world map, go to . There you can download Chapter One of
the groundbreaking new book "SEEING THROUGH MAPS: THE POWER OF IMAGES
TO SHAPE OUR WORLD VIEW" by Ward L. Kaiser and Denis Wood."



"The Gall-Peters Projection has created controversy in recent history
for its unique representation. It is a combination of Gall's work in
the 1880s and Peter's Projection from 1972. The philosophy behind
creating this projection was the thought that the Mercator projection
is not accurate enough because of distorted area shapes and because
Europe appears too large and dominant."

Map Projections

"A map projection is used to portray all or part of the round Earth on
a flat surface. This cannot be done without some distortion.

Every projection has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
There is no "best" projection.

The mapmaker must select the one best suited to the needs, reducing
distortion of the most important features."

Used for navigation or maps of equatorial regions. Any straight line
on the map is a rhumb line (line of constant direction). Directions
along a rhumb line are true between any two points on map, but a rhumb
line is usually not the shortest distance between points. (Sometimes
used with Gnomonic map on which any straight line is on a great circle
and shows shortest path between two points).

Distances are true only along Equator, but are reasonably correct
within 15 of Equator; special scales can be used to measure distances
along other parallels. Two particular parallels can be made correct in
scale instead of the Equator.

Areas and shapes of large areas are distorted. Distortion increases
away from Equator and is extreme in polar regions. Map, however, is
conformal in that angles and shapes within any small area (such as
that shown by USGS topographic map) is essentially true.

The map is not perspective, equal area, or equidistant.

Equator and other parallels are straight lines (spacing increases
toward poles) and meet meridians (equally spaced straight lines) at
right angles. Poles are not shown.

Presented by Mercator in 1569."

Peters Projection
(Gall?s Orthographic Projection)

"The need to show area relationships correctly on a world map and the
simplicity of cylindrical projection has led to the development many
equal area cylindrical projections with various choices of standard
parallels as the lines of no distortion....In 1855, James Gall
developed his orthographic projection which used standard parallels at
45E N and S. ...In 1967, Arno Peters re-created Gall?s version of the
equal area cylindrical projection with standard parallels at 45E N and
S and in 1973 presented it at a press conference. Peters insisted that
he created the projection but cartographers recognized it as the same
as Gall?s orthographic.

In Gall?s orthographic or the so-called Peters projection, all
equatorial regions, such as Africa and northern South America, are
stretched to appear about twice as long in a north-south direction as
they should appear relative to the east-west directions. Thus, the
less developed regions have far more shape distortion on this
projection than do the industrialized regions near latitudes 45E,
which have no shape distortion at that latitude. The polar areas
contain even more shape distortion. Because of the extended
north-south areas near the equator, the projection has been referred
to as the ?hanging laundry? projection. The projection appears in the
associated graphic."

Gall's Orthographic or "Peters" Projection


"The Peters World Map

An area accurate map is a great complement to other maps, as well as a
useful aid in teaching geography. In the classroom, boardroom or
bedroom an alternate presentation of the planet will jostle our
thinking and help us create new mental maps which in turn will foster
creativity and innovation."

Geography 222 The Power of Maps

"* the developable surface it is based on: a cylinder

* what it preserves from the spherical earth: areas

* and what it distorts: shape

But we can also look at the map projection as a human created object

* while it is based on equations and the science of map projection

* it was created for specific, political and ideological purposes

* and it was criticized by cartographers for having a political agenda"



Also searched USGS site for Peters Projection.

carolw-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map
From: hlabadie-ga on 30 Dec 2003 07:49 PST
The map referred to in the West Wing was the cylindrical projection
commonly called the Peters Projection, also known as an "area
accurate" map, advocated by Arno Peters.

The guiding principle is that the familiar Mercator projection
emphasizes Europe, while diminishing the Equatorial areas, whereas the
cylindrical projection preserves relative area proportionality,
thereby shifting the focus. Greenland becomes a problem, however.

Subject: Re: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map
From: carolw-ga on 30 Dec 2003 08:27 PST
Thanks so much; we were discussing it this morning and couldn't
remember any details.  Is there any particular site I could check for
more details and a copy of the map?
Subject: Re: revised world map vs. traditional (modern Western-world view) map
From: hlabadie-ga on 30 Dec 2003 14:12 PST
Thank you for the rating.


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy