Geographic maps don't just help us get from point A to point B. They can serve as a policy tool and a snapshot of history, and can reflect the fears and prejudices of their era, says historian Jerry Brotton. One of the amazing things about geographic maps is that people are reluctant to agree with the most basic fact of cartography, namely that a map cannot be a 100% objective, accurate representation of our world. Talk to any cartographer - and he will tell you that the algorithm for turning a globe into a flat image always leads to certain distortions, to manipulation and selectivity. Simply because you cannot turn a circle into a square. But for most people who use maps day in and day out - whether it's satellite navigation, online cartography, a mobile app, or even a plain old paper map - the idea that a map is just a partial, selective snapshot of the Earth is simply unbearable.

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