What’s in a map projection?

If you take a look at the map below of the contiguous U.S. you might ask, “I see that Maine has the easternmost point in the lower 48, but shouldn’t it also have the northernmost point?”

Projections can sometimes be misleading. Well, they’re all misleading in some aspect or another. Take, for example, the Mercator projection, which is used in mapping services like those provided by Bing or Google. (There are sound technical reasons for this BTW). It greatly distorts areas the farther north or south you go. However, in this case, it does make it easy to see that the northernmost point of Maine is south of quite a bit of the U.S.-Canadian border:

So, how far north does Maine go? Approximately 47.46°, which puts it south of that large stretch of the border that runs along the 49th parallel. Incidentally, Sumas, WA – because of a surveying error – extends just slightly past the 49th parallel (49.002389,-122.261111).