There’s off the map, and then there’s Argleton. The English town was visible on Google Maps until 2009, which is notable for one major reason: No such place exists. So how did it get listed? Though never confirmed by Google, it’s been speculated that Argleton may have been akin to a trap street — a fictitious road used by cartographers to catch anyone copying their work. The reasoning is as simple as it is clever: If a street (or, in this case, town) that you made up ends up on another map, you’ll have caught its creator red-handed in copyright infringement.
Though little more than an empty field in West Lancashire, Argleton once had its own (presumably auto-generated) job listings and weather forecasts. Once its (non-)existence became known on the internet, humorous T-shirts with slogans such as “New York, London, Paris, Argleton” and “I visited Argleton and all I got was this T-shirt” appeared online, too. Google itself was tight-lipped on the subject, releasing a brief statement noting that “Google Maps data comes from a variety of data sources. While the vast majority of this information is correct there are occasional errors.” The good people of Argleton likely would have been highly offended by that characterization — if they actually existed.
If you ever had a map of the world on one of your classroom walls, there’s a good chance it used the Mercator projection. Created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569, it has proved popular for centuries — but it also distorts sizes and distances near the North and South poles, resulting in major discrepancies. Perhaps the most notable of these is how small Africa appears: Greenland looks larger than the continent, for instance, despite being about 14.5 times smaller. To demonstrate this, a graphic artist created a map of his own showing that the United States, China, India, Japan, and most of Europe could all fit inside Africa.