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Why Cahill? What about Buckminster Fuller?

Evolution of the Dymaxion Map:
An Illustrated Tour and Critique

Part 9.3

by Gene Keyes

Summary: I love Bucky, but Cahill's map is a lot better. Here's how.

Click inside boxes to open other sections in separate windows.
1) Introduction and
Background Notes

2) 1943:
Split Continents

3) 1944:
Whole Continents

4) 1946:
The Dymaxion Map Patent

5) 1954
Whole Continents

6) 1967 ff:
Later Editions and
World Game Versions

7) 1995 ff
Dymaxion Maps
on the Internet

8) Notes on Scaling Dymaxion Maps
9) Critique:
Dymaxion Map Compared to Cahill

9) Critique: Seven Design Flaws of Fuller's Map as Compared to Cahill's
9.1) Layout assymetrical
9.2) Graticule irregular
9.3) Korea distorted
9.4) Scalability poor
9.5) Anti-metric edges
9.6) Globe fidelity poor
9.7-a) Learnability poor
9.7-b) Learnability poor
9.8) Conclusion

Part 9.3
The East Asia and Scandinavia Distortion

Fig. 9.3.1 below: If you saw a world map in which Florida looked like this, would you call it "undistorted"? Hardly.
Dymaxion map, with distorted Florida

Source: [1967?] outline wall map, 1/21,000,000
R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, cartographers.
© 1954, 1967 by Buckminster Fuller
Florida adapted, and portion scanned by Gene Keyes.

Fig. 9.3.2 below: But that is just what the Dymaxion icosahedral map does to Korea, a north-south peninsula of similar extent, shown again here from the same map at the same scale, 1/21,000,000:
Dymaxion map, with distorted East Asia

Source: [1967?] outline wall map, 1/21,000,000
R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, cartographers.
© 1954, 1967 by Buckminster Fuller
Portion scanned by Gene Keyes.

It was the Korea and East Asia distortion which for me proved the undoing of the Dymaxion map. At a small scale, one hardly notices it. At 1/21,000,000 (above), it becomes more glaring. Then I drew, by hand, a four-square-meter blow-up of that area, at 1/1,000,000, What a mess! That was when I began to see how bad the graticule looked at such a large scale in that area, and also how bad the Dymaxion graticule is in general.

The problem is that one of Fuller's so-called sinuses entered and dilated China's Bohai Sea, and dislocated Korea away from the Asian mainland by 60º.

I have already shown how East Asia should look, in the orthographic map and globe pictures on the previous page, Figs. 9.2.7 and 9.2.8. Reprised below are the same three map excerpts in smaller scale: the cracked-mirror 15 degree graticule in Fuller's, on the right, compared to the regular 5-degree graticule of Cahill's, on the left:

To review the Korea distortion and Florida comparison (sources same as above, and reduced to 1/50,000,000):
Fig. 9.3.3 below: Cahill

Fig. 9.3.2-b below: Fuller

As  mentioned, if it was Florida, this
distortion. would be unacceptable. It so happens that Florida is a peninsular land mass of similar extent to Korea. Consider what becomes of Florida on the same map at the same scale, if that state were dislocated away from the US mainland by 60º: (I could have done the same thing to Nova Scotia, where I live — upper right on this map, between "Montreal" and "Halifax" — but Florida makes the point.)

Fig. 9.3.1-b below: Fuller, adapted by Keyes

This defect was a severe impediment for me, because my MA thesis contained 49 maps of the joint history of China and Russia, and I had intended to use the Dymaxion as the base map. Because of that ruinous rupture,  I decided at the last minute, to replace it with an interim orthographic globe-like map, marked as if Fuller-icosahedral. But that spoiled my aspiration for a single all-purpose all-world map with good fidelity to a globe.

— Until I saw (too late for my thesis) that Cahill had already accomplished in toto what I had sought, and what Fuller had missed.

Fig. 9.3.4 below: Not that the Korea flank is the Fuller map's only sore spot. At the other end of the same triangle, we bump into Norway and northern Europe, which also exhibits a tortuous dispersion of its graticule:
Dymaxion map, major weak spots

Source: Dymaxion Map as drawn by Eric Gaba, Wikimedia Commons
(svg file converted to jpeg, marked and reduced by Gene Keyes.)

Fig. 9.3.5 below: A close-up of Scandinavia, from a 15º graticule World Game map, 1/21,000,000, which I hand-enhanced with a 5º and 1º graticule in 1974. Strangely enough, in 1954 Fuller had used the expression "runover porcupine" in reference to other maps; but that is just what we have here. Norway and Sweden, like Korea, suffer a big bend; which in their case, dislocates the southern portions from their northern parts..
Dymaxion map, distorted Norway

Source: excerpt from [1967?] Dymaxion Map:
same one as Figs. 9.3.1 and 9.3.2 above and Fig. 6.8 in Part 6,
  except in this copy, 1º graticule added by Gene Keyes in 1974;
scanned and slightly enlarged to 1/20,000,000.
R. Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao, Cartographers
© 1954, 1967 by Buckminster Fuller

The Korea / Norway problem brings to the fore the next defect of the Dymaxion map: its poor scalability.

Go to Part 9.4
Poor Scalability
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Text cc. 2009 by Gene Keyes; Cahill-Keyes Map c. 1975, 2009  by Gene Keyes