Flat Earthers will have to find a new map service
Last week, Google announced that its maps service would now present a more accurate picture of our planet. That is, it’s now round. That means that when you use Google Maps on your desktop, you can zoom out and see that Earth is now depicted in all its spherical glory. Google has yet to announce when this feature will be made available on the smartphone versions, but it’ll no doubt happen soon.
Thanks to Globe Mode, Greenland’s projection is no longer the size of Africa. Regions around the world actually have the relative size that they do in real life, Google Maps tweeted. Interestingly, the previous model they used was the Mercator projection, which is the same standard that most maps in schools have, despite them being wildly inaccurate.
With 3D Globe Mode on Google Maps desktop, Greenland's projection is no longer the size of Africa.
— Google Maps (@googlemaps) August 2, 2018
While the Mercator projection worked for mapping roads , it also grossly distorted countries and continents. A Google employee explained on a forum that their reason for adopting the Mercator projection was that it helps “preserve angles” of roads so that latitudes in higher-up places meet at the angles on the map. Considering the level of technology we have now though, it feels a little outdated to keep a projection that makes Europe look bigger than South America, or North America bigger than Africa.
Most people use Google Maps on their smartphones, so they won’t be affected by the change, but even if Globe Mode comes to your device, the planet’s curvature won’t really affect your ten-minute walk to the nearest train station. And if it bothered you still, just don’t update it.
While Google’s changes to their mapping service might be a big step in the right direction, it’s doubtful that it will change any Flat Earthers’ minds. After all, it’s just “a change from one inaccurate projection (Mercator) to another (a globe),” said Pete Svarrior, a social media manager at the Flat Earth Society.
While Flat Earthers might end up boycotting Google Maps or create their own service that “properly” depicts the Earth with an azimuthal equidistant projection, we hope that the new Globe Mode helps to continue normalising a fact that should have been normalised centuries ago. It might also help if we stop confusing everyone with the wrong maps in the first place.