Flat Earth – pseudoscience in the offensive. What is the shape of our planet?
In recent years, we have seen a growing trend that the Earth is flat. What were the origins of the flat Earth theory? Why is it nonsense? Do you think the Earth is a perfect sphere? We invite you to read the article – you will learn everything!
What does the flat Earth theory assume and why?
The flat Earth theory has a rather complex history. It was first heard about in the 19th century from the English inventor Samuel Birley Rowbotham, who believed that the words of the Bible should be understood literally. The Englishman created a vision of the Earth as a flat disk about 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away from the Sun and Moon that were “suspended” above it. The rest of the cosmos was to levitate above the Earth’s disk 3,100 miles (5,000 km) apart. Firm of his imagination, Rowbotham has published several publications on the theory of the flat Earth. In them, he denied scientific evidence that would contradict the flatness of the planet. His main argument was that astronomy is a collection of human assumptions, while the Bible is the infallible source of divine knowledge.
Rowbotham’s views echoed loudly throughout the world. The flat Earth theory has gained great popularity by presenting its ideological arguments in debates with famous scholars. The pseudoscientific movement even founded an association called the Universal Zetetic Society with the aim of promoting the “truth” about the shape of the Earth. The flat-earther group did not collapse after the founder’s death.
Rowbotham had followers and successors who are now members of the Flat Earth Society, which is a reactivation of the historic organization. Founded in the 1950s, the association proclaims that the Earth is flat, with its center at the North Pole, and is surrounded by a wall of Antarctic ice approximately 50 meters high. Flat Earth worshipers are skeptical about satellite imagery, claiming that the planet’s curvature is an optical illusion caused by the camera’s wide-angle lens. Pseudoscientists also believe that gravity does not exist and that the illusion of gravity is caused by the uniformly accelerated upward motion of the Earth.
Interestingly, flat Earthers have one more, slightly different vision of our planet. According to some of them, the Earth is not surrounded by Antarctica, which would protect it from falling into space, but it is a disk with an infinitely large surface. Despite the inconsistencies in the views expressed by pseudoscientists, the flat Earth theory is accepted by a large number of people. It gained great popularity thanks to numerous publications of flat-earth associations and a discussion forum established in 2009, which brought together followers of the flat planet from around the world.
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Evidence That the Earth Is Not Flat
Strenuous efforts to prove that the spherical planet is a fake are being made to prove that the globe is not reaching a large proportion of the population. Science, unlike the Flat Earth Society, presents sensible evidence that our planet does not have the shape of a pancake. What proves the spherical shape of the Earth?
The first evidence that supports the thesis that the Earth is spherical is the lunar eclipse. This astronomical phenomenon occurs when our planet is between the Sun and the Silver Globe in the full phase. At this point, the sun’s rays are blocked by the Earth, whose shadow is cast on the Moon. The lunar eclipse not only negates the flat-earth notion that the sun and the moon should hang above the planet’s surface, it also proves it’s spherical. The shadow cast by the Earth on its natural satellite is round, as Aristotle observed in antiquity.
The existence of time zones
Time zones are not a strange invention of people who have decided to make it difficult for travelers to acclimatize in another country or on a distant continent. The existence of time zones is a response to the change in insolation of individual parts of our globe. It is the rotation (i.e. around its axis) of the Earth that causes the Sun to illuminate its various parts. If the Earth were flat and the Sun suspended above it, as flat-earthers say, the entire planet would be lit evenly and, therefore, we would have the same time of day or night everywhere. Therefore, it is easy to challenge the flat Earth theory by comparing the current position of the Sun, for example, in Europe and Australia. When we have a dark night, in a time zone different from ours by 8 hours, the world will already be waking up to start the day.
Pictures taken by astronauts
Photographs taken during numerous space expeditions provide further evidence of the spherical shape of the Earth. To see the planet in its full glory, you need to ascend to an altitude of close to 1,000 km. Pictures taken at such an altitude are undeniable evidence of the spherical shape of the Earth. Contrary to the flat-earthers’ beliefs, you will not see all the continents, seas and oceans spread out in the palm of your hand. The photos from space flights show only some of the areas on the planet – for example, if you are directly above America, you will not see Africa, which is located beyond the horizon. The places invisible from the spacecraft are located behind the curved edge of the planet captured in the photos.
The Curvature of the Earth from a Great Height
You don’t need to go on a space cruise to experience the curved horizon view. All you need to do is take a regular plane. Already at a cruising altitude of about 10 km, which is achieved by normal passenger cruises, the curved edges of the horizon can be observed. The curvature of the Earth will be clearly visible in good weather and when you fly over a large sea or ocean.
Observing a Ship on the Horizon
Another piece of scientific evidence that you can observe with your own eyes relates to the horizon, or rather the objects visible on it. While observing the ship sailing on the sea, first notice its mast, then the bow and other parts. This phenomenon looks as if the boat emerges from under the water, but it is well known that it is above its surface. The “ascent” of the ship is an optical illusion that occurs precisely due to the spherical curvature of the Earth. If the planet were flat, the oncoming boat would not partially emerge (starting with the highest elements), but would be visible immediately in all its glory.
The change of stars visible in the night sky
In addition to observing points such as ships, mountains or tall skyscrapers “emerging” from behind the horizon, the thesis that the Earth is spherical can also be based on observations about the night sky. If the Earth were flat, you would see the same starry canopy from every point of it. However, the reality is quite different. Inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere see different star constellations than people in the southern part of the planet.
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What is the shape of the Earth really?
A series of scientific evidence shows that the Earth is not flat. However, the statement that it is round will also not be true. So what is the shape of the Earth really? The development of satellite geodesy and modern measurement techniques (astronomical, topographic, gravimetric) have shown that our planet has a shape similar to a rotational ellipsoid, i.e. a slightly flattened sphere. Despite having the flattened poles caused by rotation, the shape of the Earth does not represent the ellipsoid one hundred percent and at the same time does not correspond to any other known geometric figure. Therefore, the mass of the Earth was introduced into the world of geometry under its own name – geoid (Greek: gea – Earth, eidos – appearance, shape).
The evidence of flat-earthers to support their thesis
Among the evidence that a planet is non-spherical, there are many theses that can be easily disputed. One of the flat-earther claims is based on the operation of a gyroscope, a device that keeps the axis of rotation constant in relation to a specific point. Gyroscopes are used to determine spatial orientation in, for example, airplanes. If the plane traverses a number of degrees, the gyroscope in the cockpit will not rotate. It is equipped with a corrector, which allows you to indicate the correct location of an object moving even diagonally. Flat-earthers say, however, that such correctors do not exist, and lack of a gyro rotation is evidence that the plane was moving in a straight line. There are also opinions that an airplane traveling over a round Earth would eventually go into space.
Another “evidence” distinguished by the flat-earthers of the planet’s non-spherical shape is the even distribution of sea and ocean waters. According to them, if the Earth were round, fluids should have accumulated around the equator, which would flood the areas there. They base this claim on the example of a wet ball from which drops of liquid fly when set into rotation. The theory of the flooded equator is denied by the size of the planet, the mass of water, land uplift and the effects of gravity (which is also not recognized by the flat-earthers).
Some flat Earth believers also use the UN flag placed on a cartographic grid map of the world. For flat earths, however, this is a projection of a flat Earth proving a government conspiracy.
Flat Earth is a theme that amuses some and fascinates others. It is amazing how many scientific arguments are opposed by fanatics of this theory. Today’s science and technology have proven many times that our planet is not flat and it is impossible to reach its end because it does not exist. But the scientific evidence means nothing to the flat-earthers. For them, it is a part of a mythical conspiracy involving governments, scientists and engineers from all over the world.