Mapping project shows warped world

2014-01-13 09:00
Google has launched a new mapping application for iOS. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Google has launched a new mapping application for iOS. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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Cape Town - Do you know the world around you? That's a question that mankind has been asking for centuries and part of the push that has contributed to the technology for the creation of maps.

In a world of instant direction with GPS, it turns out that ordinary people have a somewhat limited knowledge of the world.

In an art project, high school student Zak Ziebell asked 29 random strangers at the University of Michigan to draw a world map from memory.

After he too completed the task, he compiled the maps into a graphics editing program and overlaid satellite data to produce one map of the world.

The results show a recognisable Africa and Australia, but Central America and Asia are quite warped.

Ancient navigation

Since the time of Greek philosopher Anaximander who created world maps in his lifetime, 610 - 546 BCE (Before Common Era), knowledge about the world has informed the ability of humans to traverse great land and ocean barriers.

But maps have also created controversy.

Some argue that modern navigation was known to ancient people and they cite the Piri Reis maps compiled in 1513 that purport to show Antarctica without ice and accurate depictions of the Americas before these were generally known.

Credit for the accurate maps of the New World, though, goes to Diogo Ribeiro who depicted the known global land masses in his signature work, the Padrón Real in 1527.

Today, accurate local maps can be produced on any smartphone and navigation has become consumarised with the production of mapping devices from companies like TomTom.

However, despite the essential nature of maps to help you know where in the world you are, it appears from Ziebell's project that many people only look inward to what affects them directly.

Ziebell said, perhaps as a disclaimer, that the project was not a scientific study and the overall majority of participants were American.

"Before anyone calls me out for participating in my own study, this really wasn't meant to be scientific at all, just a fun side project," he said.

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