Unique new atlas shows world from fresh perspective

Researchers from the University of Sheffield have created a new online atlas which displays images of the world, but not as we know it. The atlas includes over 200 maps which have been redrawn to show, at a glance, which cities are the largest, how all urban areas compare, and whether many or few people live in the countryside.

The new atlas, which will be published on Friday 2 October 2009, uses population distribution data, rather than land mass to reflect where people live in each country, so viewers are able to understand the real population distribution within that country.

For five hundred years world mapping has been dominated by conventional cartography that shows compass directions as straight lines. These new maps show where everyone on the planet lives, putting human beings as the focus rather than land.

All of these new images of the countries of the world have been produced using the gridded population of the world database of the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project. This data was combined with new projection techniques by Benjamin Hennig, a postgraduate researcher at the University´s Department of Geography.

Ben said: "The amazing thing about seeing these maps is that you get an immediate understanding of the country´s structure which you cannot get from conventional atlases. The new projections give an interesting insight into different countries. The map of Afghanistan, for example, shows a country dominated by Kabul and a few other urban centres. The UK on this new global projection is a tale of London and the other cities. The United States, on the other hand, has much more variety to its human geography whilst the new projection of China shows a sea of humanity bubbled up into a thousand cities in the Eastern part of the country. By substituting this population data for land mass, we are able to present a visually interesting look at the world from a completely new perspective."

The project is part of a Leverhulme Trust project to remap the world and extend the Worldmapper project. Worldmapper is the brainchild of Professor Danny Dorling in the Department of Geography. He and his team have assembled a comprehensive collection of 696 world maps, each presenting a unique perspective on a particular subject.