A classic map imposes distortions and orientations that reflect our preconceived notions of the world. The Mercator projection, which is the map we are most familiar with, unrolls the globe into a rectangle with even spacing of latitude and longitude, inflating Greenland into a massive tundra and smearing Antarctica into an unrecognizable white smudge at the bottom. It makes it seem like the Arctic is impassably vast, when actually flying over it is the fastest way to get to Europe from the US. More subtly, it reinforces the idea of a world split into West and East. Even a true globe typically has a fixed North-South axis, forcing us into a certain viewpoint.
The Earth puzzle is based on type of map called a polyhedral projection, where the sphere is projected onto a shape with planar faces and then unfolded flat. In this case, the globe is projected onto an icosahedron, a 20 sided shape of equilateral triangles. This reduces the distortion seen in most maps.
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