I remember being taught at school that Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue to prove that the Earth was round and not flat. Mr Columbus seemed to be the only man in Europe to have thought this way and his gullible and rebellious sailors were afraid that they would slip over the edge unto their doom. Why spoil a rollicking good story with the truth (what is truth?). In fact, no one of this period thought that the Earth was flat. The Ancient Greeks had worked out that the Earth was a globe from empirical evidence. By observing a ship pass across the horizon it was noted that the ship started to disappear from the bottom up. This sequence of events could only be compatible with a globe Earth. In 240BC the Greek philosopher, Eratosthenes, measured the circumference of the Earth using a little nifty trigonometry. Considering the crudeness of his methodology his estimate was surprisingly accurate.
The evidence that the Earth is a globe is multivarious and undeniable and you would have to be an absolute and complete nutter to believe that the Earth is flat. Die-hard ‘Flat Earthers’ of the English Flat Earth society finally admitted defeat in the 1960s and disbanded mainly due to evidence obtained from the space programme. Now you would think that would be the end of the discussion and the flat Earth theory would be consigned to the bin of historical curiosities. But nay, it seems that the belief in a flat Earth has had a resurgence in recent years and according to a recent survey 4% of millennials in the US believe in a flat Earth. So in a modern technological society how is it possible to believe such obvious nonsense? I blame the internet. At the flick of the wrist, you can be exposed to all manner of treatises. There has never been an age where so much information has been at our fingertips. But not all information is created the same and therein lies the problem. Not everyone will exercise their critical faculty when obtaining ‘knowledge’ from the internet making them vulnerable to accepting crackpot and unsubstantiated ideas and hypotheses. Furthermore, there appears to be a growing trend to consider science and other authority systems as misleading. This appears allied to a conspiracy mindset. There is no doubt that government agencies lie to their citizens or withhold information on a regular basis. This has always been the case. In the past, people were more trusting of the government than today. And to be fair this is not a bad thing. Everything should be open to critical scrutiny and this sentiment applies especially to government. However, this does not mean that all our leaders and Justin Beiber are shape-shifting alien lizards from the planet Theton.
So what does the modern day flat Earther actually believe in? The mechanics of the flat Earth are extremely fluid and appear to be very much driven by individual imagination rather than sound scientific principles. The following exposition is just a general guide. Thus, the Arctic region is represented at the centre of the Earth and the edge consists of an ice wall (Antarctica) which prevents oceans from crashing over a precipice. The sun, moon and stars are envisaged as being uncomfortably close (a few miles away) and disconcertingly small. After this things get decidedly hazy. A raft of convoluted explanations is put forth to account for observed natural phenomena such as the progression of day/night and the seasons. Flat Earthers generally deny the existence of gravity and other well established scientific principles. Their explanations are heavily dependant on intuition. How can the Earth be round if we can’t observe curvature? Or if the Earth is spinning why is it we remain in the same place if we jump off the ground? Surely if the Earth is revolving thousands of miles per hour we would expect to land elsewhere? Simple well established physical principles seem unknown such as inertia and conservation of momentum. This mindset comes under the umbrella of ‘scientific ignorance’ or the principle of ‘personal incredulity’. Basically, this means that because the individual can’t grasp the principle then it cannot exist. The fact that the greatest minds that have ever existed have grappled and solved nature’s conundrums is completely lost on these folk. And this brings me to the next point. The general level of education is pitifully lacking. Their arguments are farcical to anyone with a half decent school education. Sadly, the flat Earth fraternity represents woeful evidence and advertisement for the Dunning-Kruger effect.
In addition, to believing in a flat world there appears to be necessary add ons. Thus, if the moon is a small disc then NASA did not go there or anywhere as space travel is impossible if the Earth is covered with a dome. The International Space Station is visible to the naked eye if you are patient and prepared to wait for a suitable conjunction. I’ve watched the station through my 10” Dobsonian reflector telescope on several occasions. Due to the high resolving power of the telescope, I can make out features on this man-made object 400 km above the Earth. Explain this away flatties?
|International Space Station through a 10" telescope|
A flat Earth conference was held last year in Denver, Colorado and a second is planned this year. Interestingly the location of the conference is given by GPS coordinates. The fact that GPS is dependent on Earth orbit satellites to provide locational data is lost on the attendees. While watching video coverage of last year’s highlights I couldn’t help but notice that the affair seemed to attract a certain type of person. No doubt they would describe themselves as ‘free thinkers’ but I noticed the usual suspects: ‘the mad, the bad and the sad’. The organisers and keynote speakers are happy to perform in the only arena they could shine and receive almost godlike adulation from their followers. Heady stuff for immature intellects and social inadequates. Although flatties would view themselves as individualistic and innovative thinkers all I can see is a load of intellectual sheep. And of course, where there are sheep there are wolves. Not all flat Earthers are genuine believers. As always the unscrupulous have found an easy mark to exploit and make money through youtube videos and merchandise.
By the way and if you are interested the next conference will cost a mere US$199 for a two-day event if you register early. See you there. I’ll be the blond fella wearing a tin foil hat. Wibble, bollocks.
|Let's take no chances|