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Maps can’t accurately depict the earth’s curved surface. But this one comes close

The AuthaGraph, which depicts the continents angled slightly to better represent their distances from each other, won a coveted design award last month.
The AuthaGraph, which depicts the continents angled slightly to better represent their distances from each other, won a coveted design award last month. Screenshot

It can be easy to forget, when looking at maps of the world, that the earth looks completely different. In flattening the curved surface of the earth, cartographers often sacrifice scale for size: Antarctica doesn’t stretch endlessly across the bottom of the earth, and China equals the size of the United States — including Alaska and Hawaii.

But the AuthaGraph has tried to get closer to the earth’s curved reality: by angling the continents themselves.

Hajime Narukawa at Keio University's Graduate School of Media and Governance in Tokyo designed the AuthaGraph to better represent the distances between continents as well as their size, according to design blog Spoon and Tamago. The map, which shrinks the distance between Russia and Alaska and depicts Antarctica in its entirety, also won the grand award in Japan’s Good Design Award last month, beating out more than a thousand other submissions including toilets, tractors and a CPAP machine.

The AuthaGraph, in its attempt to more accurately depict the globe, also transcends flat paper and can be folded into three-dimensional shapes like spheres and cones, which the map’s website advertises as assembly kits for various shapes.

Even flat versions of the map have solved another perpetual problem: what to do when you reach the edge of the paper. The website offers an extra-large version of the map that layers 40 copies of the map end-to-end, so users can measure distances from any geographic point to another.

"Walking on a globe, we do not meet an end," the item’s description reads. "Thus the world map reproduces the spherical world without dead end on a plane."

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