The Flat-Earth Fallacy
When Fantasy and Science Collide
Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series of novels may seem like fantasy to most of us, but to some the vision of a flat disc-like world is a reality…
Incredibly, right now in the 21st Century, there is a growing surge in popularity for the belief that the Earth is flat. Once dismissed as irrational fools that would eventually go away, they are now starting to fight back with ever increasing complexity in their arguments to support their misguided conviction. They say that society has been misled by government conspiracy into believing that the Earth is a globe, although the reasons for why such a conspiracy would be needed are a little less clear. The most common hypothesis put forward seems to be that it is in order to continue faking space travel and embezzle the funds left over.
Think about it for a moment… how many people would need to be in on this cover-up?
Pilots, astronauts, governments, Elon Musk and his SpaceX Company and all its employees, meteorologists and the whole scientific community would need to be collaborating on this, not to mention most of their family members.
The Russian Roscomos Space Agency and America’s NASA, have apparently been so successful in fooling society that the Earth is round that China, Europe and India have started their own space programs, and have joined in on the conspiracy.
You couldn’t make it up. Well luckily, you don’t have to because the Flat Earth Society has done it all for you. You can visit this website here and gaze at it in awe, possibly in much the same way as you would watch a chimp’s tea party, or watch me attempting to dance gracefully.
Trolls or Genuine?
After initially discovering this ever growing community of the Flat Earth Theory on social media, I assumed they were just another version of online trolls. It wasn’t until I read some of the comments that I realised they genuinely believed what they were saying, although I am sure some of them are just doing it to amuse themselves and laugh at the outraged replies to their comments. It’s almost like coming across a fully grown man who believes in Santa Claus and who has managed to make a rationale for every law of physics such a mythical character would need to break in order to deliver on his role.
It’s almost like coming across a fully grown man who believes in Santa Claus and who has managed to make a rationale for every law of physics such a mythical character would need to break in order to deliver on his role.
Celebrities are starting to be rolled out by the Flat Earth Society too.
Shaquille O’Neal, the former NBA basketball star and B.O.B. whose real name is Bobby Ray Simmons Jr a rap artist, are two of the most well-known of these. Rumours originating from a spoof website that President Donald Trump is a proponent are false, however.
So, enough of my incredulity, let’s have a look at some of the claims that ‘prove’ the Earth is a flat disc and not a globe at all…
- Gravity is a lie.
- There is no curvature of the horizon.
- Satellites are a hoax and photographs of the Earth are photo-shopped, whilst Computer Generated Imagery is used to create videos of the planet’s global look.
- Water would fall off the planet’s surface if we are spinning on a globe.
- Space agencies are in reality using their huge budget to control missiles from space.
- The Arctic Circle is the centre of the disc and Antarctica is a 150-foot high wall of ice at the outer rim of the disc.
- NASA employees guard the rim.
- The sun and the moon are spheres (!) that move in circular motions 3,000 miles above the Earth, creating night and day.
- Albert Einstein was a fraud.
- An ‘Anti-moon’ causes eclipses
Let’s Break Down Some of These Outrageous Claims
Wow, where do we start with this one? What is holding the planet up if the gravitational pull of other celestial bodies is a lie? Four elephants and a turtle named the Great A’Tuin?
If you drop a hammer on your foot is that not painful proof enough? Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation can help us predict the speed the hammer will fall, its rate of acceleration before landing, how long it will take to hit the floor, and how much energy it will take to pick the hammer back up. This is a law of physics, meaning it is unlikely to ever change.
To examine ‘why’ the hammer falls we use Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Whilst this is not a law—which means it is subject to potential change—it has been tested numerous times by scientific peers and found to hold true in all circumstances.
The hammer will increase in speed as it falls until it reaches what is known as terminal velocity. This is when the weight of the object and the Earth’s gravitational pull, are counteracted by the upward force of air pressure (drag) and the two forces reach a balance.
Another thing to note is that due to gravitational forces, mass attracts mass and the logical outcome of this is a spherical shape for planets.
On the moon, there is no air resistance, just gravity, and astronaut David Scott did a famous lunar experiment using a hammer and a feather which you can see below.
The Hammer and the Feather
Curvature of the Earth
The Earth is not a perfect sphere, so the radius from the centre of the planet differs slightly depending on whether you go from the centre to the poles, or to the equator where it is slightly wider. However, it averages out at around 3,960 miles from the centre to the surface. This equates to a curvature ratio of around eight inches per square mile.
The distances one can see before the horizon dips below the field of vision depends entirely upon the height of the observer. To a person with a height of six feet, the horizon is approximately three miles away on a completely flat surface.
To see this curvature properly we need to go to a height of around 35,000 feet. Which means on a typical passenger jet aircraft you would be able to see the Earth’s curvature, on the condition that you have a large enough field of view and there are no clouds obscuring your view.
Another great way to see this curvature for yourself is to stand with a pair of binoculars at the coast and watch a ship disappear over the horizon. You will see that the hull of the ship disappears before the masts. This simple observation was used by the Ancient Greeks to figure out that the Earth was indeed round and yet here we are in the 21st Century trying to convince a ‘more educated’ population that the Earth isn’t flat.
Quite depressing isn't it?
The video below is an excellent example to insert here. It highlights the two subjects mentioned above: Gravity and the Earth’s curvature, as well as the bravery and intelligence of our species in pushing ourselves to new limits.
Felix Baumgartner: Highest Skydive Ever Attempted
Satellites Are a Hoax
Big businesses pay millions of pounds for satellites to be launched and used. We use satellites for TV broadcasts, telecommunications, GPS systems and government agencies use them for defence. They are used by military observers to study the movements of foreign armies and missile placement in other countries.
If you have any doubt, simply go to Google Earth and use their satellite imagery to zoom all the way down to your own house and back up into space again – take as much time as you need to convince yourself…
As for photographs and satellite images being faked, the very existence of satellites negates this argument. Once costly satellites are proved to be real, then is it so hard to believe that satellite images are real too?
One of the most famous images used by Flat-Earth believers is the one created by Robert Simmon, who works for the Earth Science Imagery Division of NASA. The photograph was used on the iPhone home screen and is familiar to millions. He readily admits that Photoshop was used to create the final image.
Now let's explain why this is so.
As satellites orbit the Earth taking their images, due to the slightly elliptical shape of the globe, each orbit means a small wedge of the photograph is missing and someone has to put these together to make a complete picture. This is the job of experts like Robert and the final picture involves a bit of manipulation. This does not make them fake. Think of it more as editing a newspaper article to make it more readable. If you remember the Mars Rover on the surface of the Red Planet, the same technique was used to piece together the pictures it sent back to create a fuller picture of the landscape.
You could also read this link which tells how satellite imagery has been used to expose a housing fraud by a Mexican company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. You can read the details about this story in more depth here.
Satellites are also used by meteorologists to warn of severe storms approaching land.
Another oxymoron amongst Flat Earth theorists is that a large number of them believe in global warming and climate change. The irony of this is quite staggering when you consider a lot of the knowledge on this is gained from satellite images.
Are Satellites a Hoax? No!
Water Should Fall off If We Are on a Spinning Sphere
It really shouldn’t need saying that water is subject to the same gravitational forces as everything else, including light and time. However, once you have decided gravity is a lie, then I guess it becomes harder.
The Earth has a greater mass than that of water and therefore the Earth’s gravity keeps the water attracted to the surface, although the gravitational pull of the moon does cause the tides to wax and wane.
If we are on a flat planet that is not revolving on its axis and subject to gravitational pull, maybe someone can explain how the oceans and seas – even some lakes and rivers—have tides if it’s not the moon's gravitational pull?
If the Earth didn’t have its own stronger gravitational pull, then indeed the water would fall off the surface.
Thank goodness Isaac Newton wasn’t a fraud.
NASA: Integral Part of the Conspiracy or Space Pioneers?
Geography of the Flat Earth
The Arctic circle is the centre of the Earth and Antarctica is the outer rim—night and day cycles.
We can combine both of these claims and refute both with the same answer.
It’s an Interesting claim to make when you consider the Flat Earth model of the sun and the moon is a lot smaller than we have been taught and that they circle above the Earth creating day and night.
If that was so, maybe someone from amongst their number could explain why both Antarctica in the Southern Hemisphere and countries within the Arctic Circle in the Northern Hemisphere, experience 24 hour days and nights while the rest of the planet gets normal seasonal hours of each?
How can that possibly happen when the sun and the moon are moving in a circle around a Flat Earth?
Moving swiftly on…
Albert Einstein a Fraud?
The only reason they claim this is because of his pesky scientific facts that destroy the claims of the Flat Earth Theory. All that talk of gravity, mass, energy, special relativity and e=mc2 stuff has to be written off as fraudulent just like satellites and NASA’s true intentions for their theory to work. This is the only reason the genius of Einstein is dismissed.
There is a coinciding theory of Einstein being a plagiarist on the internet which I’m sure has been hungrily ingested by Flat Earthers too. However, there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate it. It may be true that his wife had a bearing on the writing of this piece of work due to the paper being a lot easier to read than his other published work, but to call him a fraud is plainly ridiculous and an insult to one of the world’s greatest ever scientific minds
A lot of scientists were working on similar ideas to Einstein at the time and no doubt each other’s ideas would be heard of by their peers. However, it was Einstein who pieced everything together to give us his remarkable insight into the Theory of Relativity that still bears so much importance to science over 100 years later.
They have absolutely no evidence to back up this claim other than it ‘has to exist’ in order to make their world model work. They also don't mention how solar eclipses would work, other than my own assumption that there must be an Anti-Sun too?
We know in their minds that it cannot be the moon coming between us and the sun because the moon and the sun are in a permanently opposite field of trajectory using the Flat Earth model of the solar system.
Either way, it seems patently absurd to accept this claim and to ridicule every other scientific explanation. Presumably, all the ancient civilisations that have studied the stars and celestial bodies have all just happened to miss out on discovering this anti-moon?
Lunar and solar eclipses are predictable, so surely the path of this mysterious celestial body could be charted and therefore become predictable too?
If it existed it would block out certain parts of the night sky and other celestial bodies too.
For more about eclipses, visit the NASA website here.
To sum up, each and every claim they make is easily refuted and the only answer they have in return is to say scientific evidence is a hoax.
They don't embrace science to substantiate their claims, they merely compare scientists to medieval court magicians, shaping the worldview to suit their own agenda, whatever that may be.
I hope this worrying trend in the belief of a 'Flat Earth' doesn't continue to grow, simply because it marks a regression in our advancement as a species and hampers scientists who are trying to make further breakthroughs.
Although the rumour about Mr Trump being a Flat Earther was not true, imagine one day having a president of the largest superpower on this global planet who has been brought up to sincerely believe this ludicrous theory to be true... scary thought.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Ian McKay