We continue with the analysis of the most used arguments to support the Flat Earth Theory. After having discussed in depth questions such as the visibility of the Earth horizon or whether our planet moves or not, on this occasion we will analyze the terrestrial doubts about gravity, apparently impossible air routes or eclipses. We will also study the fascinating biographies of essential figures in the history of science, such as Eratosthenes. We encourage you to join us. The learning in different fields of knowledge is assured!
We will begin by analyzing those postulates related to gravity. In order to keep this concept present at all times from now on, we are going to define it without delay.
What is gravity? The concept of gravity as we understand it today is mainly due to two great geniuses of human history: Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1747) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Newton was the first to define it, although he was not the first to realize that something made objects suffer an attraction to the earth’s surface, preventing them from flying through the air. The conception of his theory of universal gravitation was practically a revelation. Although the story of the apple that fell on his head while he was reflecting is apocryphal, it does seem that apples had something to do with this almost mystical revelation. While Newton was in a contemplative and meditative state, he found it very curious that the apples that fell from the trees always fell perpendicular to the earth’s surface. That same mysterious and powerful force did the same thing with all the bodies located near the surface of the Earth.
Newton’s discovery was an authentic scientific revolution and he expressed it as follows in his work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica:
According to this expression, the gravitational attraction (F) depends fundamentally on two variables: the mass of the interfering bodies and the square of the distance between those bodies. This force is directly proportional to the mass of the bodies that are attracting each other, in such a way that the more mass they possess, the greater the force of attraction between them. On the contrary, it is inversely proportional to the distance that separates the centers of those masses. Therefore, the further they are, the lesser the gravitational pull between them. G is the gravitational constant, whose value was not discovered by Newton but would be found years later. In this way many natural phenomena were explained: the movements of the celestial orbs around the Sun, the ebb and flow of the tides, etc. In addition, something falling will precipitate towards the Earth’s surface increasing its speed. To facilitate the calculations, the value of this acceleration caused by the gravitational pull of the Earth on the object has been standardized at 9.8 m/s2 (only applicable on Earth). Although many of his colleagues proposed similar ideas, Newton was the first to develop a mathematical formulation on which to base his premises and from which predictions that could be contrasted by experiments could be made.
Like the vast majority of scientific theories, the Newtonian theory of universal gravitation was not perfect (which does not imply it was false or useless, but is subjected to change). In fact, Newton failed to find a solution to how gravity can act at great distances, having to resort to the idea of ether (see part 2 in this blog). Moreover, his theory cannot be applied to all natural phenomena. Nevertheless, although his theory has some incongruities, it is still valid today because his calculations are very simple to apply and manageable. For example, in the nineteenth century was predicted the existence of the planet Neptune from the movement of Uranus using the Newtonian theory of gravity. This quality of gravitational theory allowed other scientists to improve and complete it. That is what Albert Einstein did when he postulated his theory of general relativity, a consequence of the inconsistence between his theory of special relativity with the Newtonian theory of gravity. Why?
One of the deductions of special relativity is that nothing can travel faster than light, which is deduced from the most famous mathematical expression in history:
E = m*c2
Einstein suggested that the energy (E) equivalent to a mass is equal to the product of that mass (m) by the square of the speed of light (c).
What does this imply? Let’s go to another great physicist, Stephen Hawking:
“Because of the equivalence of energy and mass, the energy which an object has due to its motion will add to its mass. In other words, it will make harder to increase its speed.”
The point is that the closer the speed of an object is to the speed of light, the faster the mass of that body increases and, by the equivalence between mass and energy, the energy needed to maintain that displacement would also increase. In this way, at the speed of light, the mass of the object would acquire an infinite value and, therefore, the energy necessary to produce that speed would be infinite, which is why it is not possible to reach the speed of light. As Stephen Hawking goes on to explain:
“Only light, or other waves that have no intrinsic mass, can move at the speed of light.”
So there is a problem with Newton’s gravitational theory, because if according to it the gravitational force depends on the distance between bodies, does this mean that if we move one of the objects there is an instant change in the magnitude of gravity? It follows that gravity would act at a much faster speed than light, since changes in its magnitude would be instantaneous. But haven’t we said that nothing can reach the speed of light (much less surpass it)? From this incongruity was born in 1915 the theory of general relativity.
In the context of this revolutionary theory, gravity was visualized as a property or characteristic of a curved universe: the space-time is curved by the distribution of mass and energy in it. Energies and bodies with massive densities are capable of curving the surrounding space-time. Therefore, gravity, as Einstein concluded, was a property of the effect of matter and energy on the space-time, contrary to what Newton thought, that gravity was an inherent property of matter. As the universe is warped by these stellar giants, the bodies that enter their field of influence will tend to follow the space-time curvature generated by their presence. If they pass close enough to these massive objects, they will eventually be captured and orbit around them. In other words, Einstein engendered a very novel stellar dynamics model that obviously took into account Newtonian laws of motion. It is inferred from it that celestial objects follow an imperturbable uniform rectilinear trajectory until something disturbs it, like the presence of a planet or a star, or in other words, of a body capable of deforming the space-time of its proximities. Consequently, this object will “modify” its route to follow a curved path corresponding to the space-time deformation. Basically, the object shall follow the route with the least resistance and the one requiring the least energy, which in this case is the curved trajectory, because it would require more energy to violate that curvature to continue with the straight trajectory. We can use as an analogy a car driving on a road that suddenly leans to the right. Obviously the car will not cross the road to continue straight, but will adapt to its inclination.
Contrary to what it may seem, both theories are not exclusive. In fact, many of the predictions obtained from them are fulfilled in practically the same way in both cases. The Newtonian theory continues to be useful for explaining planetary movements and the theory of relativity serves to solve doubts or empty spaces that Newton could not solve.
By the way, the theory of universal gravitation was obtained through empiricism (it comes from sensory or rational experience) and inductivism (obtained from several facts acquired through observation to elaborate a general principle). Then, why do flat earthers, defenders at all costs of empiricism and inductivism, refuse it?
If gravity is attributed a force of sufficient magnitude to keep oceans, buildings, animals, etc. subject to the surface of the Earth, then it is impossible for gravity in turn to be weak enough to allow aircraft, birds and insects to fly or for fish to swim.
Let us remember the expression of the Newtonian theory of universal gravitation:
Do you remember that the gravitational force was directly proportional to the masses of the bodies? So let’s imagine the tiny mass of an insect or a small bird. When the mass of one of the components is reduced, the attraction between the two bodies is reduced too. However, if these animals are capable of mocking gravity, it is thanks to their biological adaptations. The presence of wings, an aerodynamic shape and the reduction of body weight has helped them greatly. In fact, wings are such a magnificent invention of nature that we humans have mimicked them in our aircrafts.
Let’s imagine a bird gliding. Their wings cut off the flow of air they are passing through in a very unique way, causing the flow of air that runs over the wing to be faster than the flow underneath. This is due to the fact that the surface of the upper part of the wings is larger than that of the lower part, therefore, the air has to travel a greater distance above than below (remember that the speed is equivalent to the distance traveled divided by time). When the velocity of the air flow increases a property of the fluids is fulfilled, since the increase in the movement of a fluid entails a reduction in the pressure it exerts. In this way the pressure exerted by the air on the wings is reduced while the lower airflow, having less speed, relatively increases the pressure it exerts under the wings, thus generating a lift force in the opposite direction to that of gravity that allows the bird or aircraft to remain in the air.
If we now consider a bird or an insect that flaps, the mechanics is very similar. To take off, birds take a small jump and, at the same time, they hit downwards with their wings. What do they get with this? They “compress” the air under their wings, increasing their pressure and causing the bird to push forward and upwards. The analogous system of our artificial birds are turbojets or propellers. With all these ingenuity, flying animals and devices can cross the skies without any problem. In addition, we can see how Newton’s third law of motion is constantly fulfilled: for each action there is an equal opposite action.
And how are fish able to stay at a certain height within a body of water by ignoring the gravity pull? In water, although we speak of a fluid that is more viscous and dense than air, practically the same forces are produced as in air. After all, both are fluids. The homologous force to that of sustentation in the air would be the hydrostatic force, enunciated by Archimedes in the 3rd century B.C., according to which every body submerged in a liquid suffers an upward thrust equal to the volume of water it displaces. A thrust that has the opposite direction as gravity. Eureka!
In order to maintain flotation it is essential to ensure that the opposing forces of gravity and hydrostatics are equalized or annulled, or at least that their values are as similar as possible, since if the body weighs too much it will end up sinking and if it weighs too little it will remain on the surface. Again, this is achieved through biological adaptations. One of them is the swimming bladder, an organ present in many fish. This chamber can be filled with air or water to control the level of flotation at will. So is the hydrodynamic shape of the body and the fins that generate similar effects when they plow through the water to those of the wings when they plow through the air, once again complying with the Newtonian laws of dynamics. With movement a system of sustentation can be generated.
On the contrary, we already know what happens when a fish stops swimming: depending on its weight, it either sinks or floats.
Gravity is not necessary, the pre-Newtonian laws of density and buoyancy are enough to explain why objects fall or float. According to these, objects ascend when they are placed in denser environments and sink if they are placed in less dense environments.
This, which does not cease to be Archimedes’ principle, does not present any incongruence with gravity. However, if this principle could eliminate gravity at a stroke, how could it be explained that, when air is at rest, ashes or other particles less dense than air can fall on a surface? Moreover, if gravity did not exist, a logical prediction would have to be fulfilled: namely, that heavier objects would have to fall faster to the ground than lighter ones, and since the time of the great Galileo we know that this is not the case (Galileo is said to have refuted this claim by throwing different weights from a balcony in the leaning tower of Pisa, although historians consider this story more as a myth than as a historical fact). If a feather falls more slowly than a bowling ball it is simply because of the resistance of the air, but if we throw two bodies with different weights and with a similar resistance to the air they would fall together. In fact, an incredible experiment was recently carried out in which both a bowling ball and some feathers were dropped into a vacuum generating chamber. You can see the results below:
It is incongruous that “magic” gravity is capable of maintaining the oceans and buildings subject to the Earth’s surface and that the Moon and satellites remain in perpetual circular orbit without falling to Earth. If this is so, why can’t we jump into orbit?
If all the variables are taking into account, there should be no problem in explaining these phenomena. Even so, surely on some occasion we have been assailed by the doubt as to why the objects orbiting our planet have not ended up falling to the surface because of gravity. This is due to the speed at which they are orbiting around our planet, and the same applies to the orbits of the planets around the Sun.
Johannes Kepler already predicted that the orbits of the planets around the Sun were elliptical in shape and not circular as Copernicus had argued. Precisely this type of orbit, which is also fulfilled in the case of natural satellites, fits perfectly with the existence of gravity. The speed of the Earth in its elliptical orbit around the Sun is not uniform. It is estimated to have an average speed of 29.8 Km/s, but the truth is that during its annual journey the Earth suffers accelerations and decelerations due to the gravity of the Sun. When our blue sphere is attracted to the Sun, solar gravity imprints an acceleration on our planet. Its speed increases and this allows it to move relatively far away from the Sun. But the starr does not cease in its effort to attract the Earth towards itself, so the gravitational attraction of the Sun slows down the Earth as it moves away and the blue planet returns to the starting point. Thus, it has been calculated that at the perihelion, that is, at the point of the orbit closest to the Sun, the velocity of our planet is 30.75 Km/s and at the aphelion, that is, the point of the orbit furthest from the Sun, is 28.76 Km/s.
To illustrate it better, we can imagine the typical hyperbolic funnel found in any science museum. If we flip a coin or a ball, we will observe that they irremediably move towards the centre of the funnel, forming increasingly narrow elliptical orbits. If there were no friction force generated by the contact of the ball or coin with the surface of the funnel that snatches energy from the moving body, it would remain in a constant orbit around the center of the funnel. These devices are an idealized representation of a gravitational field according to the theory of general relativity. The center of the funnel would be a massive astronomical body that causes a deformation of the space-time tissue, while the coin would be a body attracted by the gravitational field of that massive body.
Fortunately, in the vacuum there is no friction force that causes the gradual deceleration of celestial bodies. Otherwise, the Solar System would end up being engulfed by its central inhabitant. Our artificial satellites and the International Space Station cannot say the same. They are orbiting in the low Earth orbit, located between 160 and 2000 Km high. The outer layers of the atmosphere operate at these distances, generating a friction force that constantly slows down satellites. The unappealable consequence is their decay towards the Earth attracted by gravity, as it happens with the coin in a hyperbolic funnel. For this reason, these devices are equipped with the necessary systems to reposition themselves in orbit.
It is enough with everything exposed to clear the doubt of why a human being cannot put in orbit of a jump. Unless we get the necessary speed to get into orbit, gravity will continue doing its thing. Here’s a video on the subject (in Spanish):
The Moon’s uniform velocity and trajectory around the Earth should produce uniform effects on tides, but this is not the case. If the Moon has the gravitational pull attributed to it, why doesn’t it produce tides in lakes, lagoons and other bodies of stagnant water?
This can be read in Eric Dubay’s book where, as usual, we continue to meet important errors. First, neither the trajectory nor the speed of the Moon in its Earth orbit is uniform. The lunar orbit is elliptical, just like the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, so the distance of the Moon from the Earth varies between 363300 and 405000 Km. The same happens with its speed: when it approaches the Earth it moves at about 3873 Km and when it is far away at about 3470 Km, due to the acceleration and deceleration caused by terrestrial gravity.
What are tides? Those who are accustomed to life at sea or live near the coast know them well. Tides are the periodic and cyclic movements of ascent and descent of the oceanic waters (later we will add some nuances). The elevation of the waters is known as high tide and the descent as low tide. What factors influence these movements? Essentially two: the gravity generated by the Moon and, to a lesser extent, by the Sun and the centrifugal force produced by the rotation of our planet.
Selene, our Moon, is the one who mainly animates the movement of the tides. Let us remember the Newtonian formula of gravitation, according to which the gravitational force is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between bodies. Consequently, as Newton wisely established, when the Moon is closer to a certain terrestrial point, gravitational attraction increases in that region (because distances have been reduced) and high tide is produced, while in turn in the farthest points low tide is produced.
Every day two alternate cycles of two high tides and two low tides occur every 6 hours in most of our planet. How is it possible if the lunar orbit lasts approximately 24 hours? This is another evidence that the Earth rotates on itself, as this duplication of cycles is due to the centrifugal force associated with the Earth’s rotation (that which occurs out of our planet).
The Sun also has something to say on this issue. Its influence is 46% weaker than that of the Moon, evidently because it is farther away from the Earth. Yet its influence is there. In fact, the conjunction of the gravitational attractions of the Sun and the Moon is what causes living tides and dead tides. The first occur twice a month, every 15 days, at times when the Sun and Moon are aligned with the Earth, or in other words, when there is a full Moon or new Moon. In these moments, the gravitational attraction is maximum because the Moon’s attraction is added to those of the Sun. On the contrary, when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth form a right angle, or in other words, when the Moon is in the waning or rising quarter, the gravitational attraction is minimal and dead tides occur.
Another error incurred by Dubay is the absence of tides in lakes or inland seas. Although it is a more unknown phenomenon, they also occur because of the elements we have already mentioned, although it is true that they are more noticeable in those bodies of water of large dimensions. The more water there is, the more significant the tides are, which is why the coasts oriented towards the oceans are the main protagonists of this phenomenon (although it also depends on the orography of the coast). Even in the Mediterranean, with its splendid size, the tides are less palpable than in the oceans, so imagine what the tides will be like in lakes or in smaller inland seas. Precisely this factor is related to the fact that our knowledge about tides and the causes that produce them is so recent. The tides began to have a plausible interpretation very recently, specifically as a result of the advances made by Newton in the seventeenth century, although they began to be studied by Pytheas of Massalia in 300 BC. This is because the cradle of western civilization developed around the Mediterranean, where tides are less appreciable.
Gravity has never been experimentally verified.
We have already provided some data and several explanations of phenomena that would be impossible if gravity were a myth. Is there any more proof of the existence of gravity? More like a few. Let’s see…
Newton’s gravitational theory was a great leap forward in understanding certain phenomena of the cosmos, such as planetary orbits. Let us remember that one of the three laws that Johannes Kepler established defined the orbit of planets as ellipses in which the Sun occupies one of the focal points (as we indicated in the previous post, the precise calculations of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe helped Kepler to elaborate his laws). However, these precepts required a more precise mathematical confirmation, which was finally provided by Isaac Newton. We have also nuanced that his law of universal gravitation, like many scientific laws, cannot explain everything without exception. In fact, although his postulate was the best tool for calculating the orbit of the planets of the Solar System, there was one question he could not resolve. The orbit of the first planet in the Solar System, Mercury, suffers from a deviation that could not be explained by Newtonian laws. When astronomers worked on this aspect, they realized that there was a minimal, almost absurd difference between the calculations and direct observations of Mercury’s orbit and its apparent position as seen from Earth. Mercury’s actual position seemed to change every year when it was measured in its perihelion at only about 5.75 arc seconds. Although it may seem a trifle, astronomers needed to solve this problem, since astronomy works with even more precise measurements.
Astronomers tried to consider the gravitational influences of the rest of the orbs of the Solar System, therefore they managed to explain much of that error, but a very tiny percentage of error still persisted. It was not until Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity that this error was completely solved. Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun, one of so many massive bodies that deform the space-time tissue around it, therefore, its gravitational field is the most intense, and this would be the cause of the distortion of its orbit.
Another prediction Einstein made from his theory is that the trajectory of light should also be diverted as it passes through the space region deformed by these massive astronomical objects. In this way, the influence of the mass of the Sun on the rays of light from other stars could be measured. These tests would be carried out by the astronomer and physicist Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944) on May 29, 1919, discoverer on the other hand of the relation between the mass of a star and its luminosity.
Taking advantage of that day’s total solar eclipse, the astronomer set out to observe the relative position of the stars of the Hyades Cluster in the constellation Taurus. To do so, he travelled to Prince Island, located in the Gulf of Guinea, ready to photograph the eclipse of the Sun and the effect of the gravitational field of the Sun on the luminosity of these stars. If the Sun deforms the surrounding space-time tissue, then the light rays of the Hyades should be deflected when they circulate close to the Sun, thus altering the apparent position of the stars. Both this observation, which was almost ruined by a group of clouds that dissipated at the last moment, and the one made the same day in Sobral, Brazil, undoubtedly confirmed Einstein’s theory. Indeed, the rays of light had deviated to the degree predicted by general relativity.
Further evidence in favour of relativistic gravity was also provided by Eddington. The physicist established the bases of the phenomenon known as redshift, which we already talked about in the previous post and which would be another prediction of general relativity. Eddington proposed that a ray of light leaving a massive body (a star for example) loses energy. It makes sense, because it has to abandon the gravitational field generated by its source, for which it needs to consume energy. This energetic expense entails a loss of frequency, or in other words, an increase of the wavelength (the distance between the crests of a wave), since they are inversely related magnitudes, and the consequent loss of luminous intensity. This is known as redshift and was first tested in 1925 in light emitted by Sirius B, a very dense star and, consequently, with a very intense gravitational field.
As if there were not enough evidence given, we will provide two more. One is Einstein’s rings, a type of light distortion generated by space-time deformations. Basically they are ring-shaped distortions of the light emitted by a distant galaxy called “source”. This phenomenon is generated when between the source and the observer there is another galaxy called “lens”, which is the one that curves the trajectory of the light rays, leaving us for posterity idyllic images of cosmic rings.
The last proof of gravity that we provide are gravitational waves, another phenomenon that predicted general relativity. However, this prediction, one of the few that remained to be demonstrated, was definitively confirmed a few years ago, in 2015. What are they? They are disturbances of the space-time but which propagate as waves at the speed of light and are generated by violent cosmic events involving huge energies or massive bodies. The first direct detection of these waves occurred on September 14, 2015 thanks to the strenuous efforts of the astrophysicists of the LIGO project (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). Actually, since the 90’s there was already indirect evidence and hypothesis that predicted the existence of these waves, but it is not until more recently, when we have extremely precise instruments, that we have been able to measure these disturbances, because the truth is that they are very difficult to detect. So much so that we had to wait for a ferocious cosmic event such as the collision of two black holes of cyclopean masses located 1300 million light years from us. The fusion of both, which resulted in an even more massive black hole, triggered those gravitational waves that were measured by the LIGO detector, thus opening new doors to know more deeply the universe.
There is sufficient evidence to ensure beyond any doubt that gravity is a reality. Here are a few. Whoever continues in denial has either not investigated enough or prefers to live in ignorance.
Eratosthenes and crepuscular rays
In the third century B.C. Eratosthenes of Cyrene presumably demonstrated the sphericity of the Earth through a well-known experiment with which he calculated the circumference of the planet. However, the results obtained are not due to the terrestrial sphericity but to crepuscular rays.
Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276-194 B.C.) fulfilled the archetype of Greek philosopher and sage. In addition to philosophy, he mastered geography, mathematics, music, poetry and astronomy. It cannot be said that he wasted his time. For a time he directed the tragically disappeared Library of Alexandria, he elaborated several cartographies and a more precise calendar than those existing until his time, he is attributed with the manufacture of the armilar sphere, etc. But if Eratosthenes is known today is to determine the length of the Earth’s circumference and the inclination of the Earth’s axis with astonishing precision. Eratosthenes concluded after an experiment that we will tell next that the terrestrial circumference measured between 39000 and 45000 Km (today we know that it measures near 40075 Km) and calculated an inclination of the terrestrial axis of 23º51′ (today we know that it is of 23º3′ approximately).
How did Eratosthenes determine the circumference of our planet? It all began with a fact that really attract his attention. Somehow he knew that in Siena (present-day Aswan), Egypt, Sun’s rays strike perpendicularly in the wells of the locality during the midday of the summer solstices. It is not known exactly how he obtained this information, some think that he consulted it in one of the scrolls of the Library of Alexandria, others that he heard it from travelers coming from Siena and others that he checked it for himself. Be that as it may, it caught his attention, because in Alexandria sun’s rays strike at an angle of 7.2° during the midday of the summer solstice as he could calculate from the shadows cast by stakes and columns. In Siena, obviously, the objects did not cast any shadow, as the sun’s rays struck the Earth’s surface perpendicularly. What then did the Greek sage suggest? That this phenomenon was due to the enormous distance that separates us from the Sun and to the fact that its luminous rays strike the planet in parallel.
The calculation of the Earth’s circumference was a true show of genius. Eratosthenes imaginatively prolonged towards the center of the Earth the vertical of the column or stake in Alexandria that he used to measure the angle at which the solar rays struck and the same he did with the solar rays that struck vertically on the wells of Siena. In this way, and assuming that the sun’s rays strike the Earth parallel, the angle formed by the intersection between the vertical of the Alexandrian column and the well of Siena in the center of the Earth would be equal to the opposite internal angle, that is, that formed by the incidence of the sun’s rays on the Alexandrian column: 7.2º. This is also the value of the arc that separates Alexandria from Siena. On the other hand, Eratosthenes knew that the length between both localities was about 5000 stadia.
If our planet was a sphere as Eratosthenes conceived it and, consequently, each meridian or imaginary circle has an angle of 360º, then 7,2º of arc were equivalent to 1/50 part of the total of the meridian. This means that the total length of the meridian is 50 times 5000 stadia, i.e. 250000 stadia in total. The stade measure differed in Greek and Egyptian metrics, equivalent to 174 meters or 157 meters respectively, which would give us a measure in our metric system encompassed within the range we pointed out at the beginning. A measurement of the circumference of our planet extremely exact for the time, and more so considering that the most precise measurement of the Earth’s circumference has been obtained very recently with a much more advanced technology than the Greek…
Indeed, we must yield to the critics of the spherical Earth that Eratosthenes did not seek to demonstrate the sphericity of the Earth. In fact, he already started from the premise that the Earth was round, otherwise his calculations would be meaningless. Even so, what is certain is that his discovery is implicitly accompanied by the fact that the Earth is an orb.
However, flat earthers deny Eratosthenes’ contributions arguing he was confused by the crepuscular rays. Eratosthenes erroneously assumed that the Sun’s rays struck the surface in parallel, when the reality is that the Sun’s rays are divergent, as can be appreciated.
Crepuscular rays are an optical phenomenon that can be observed primarily at twilight or dawn. These solar rays seem to radiate from a specific point in the sky, from which they seem to diverge forming a sort of fan. It is curious, because they seem to widen more the closer they are to the observer, which already gives us clues to their true nature. They are most conspicuous at twilight and dawn because it is when the contrast of light and darkness is most pronounced, although they can also be visible at other times of the day when they pass through stained glass windows, banks of clouds, groves, etc. Their counterpart is the anti-crepuscular rays, although the latter are observed on the opposite side of the Sun in the sky. Crepuscular rays seem to converge on the Sun and anti-crepuscular rays in the opposite direction. However, their divergent appearance is nothing more than an optical and perspective illusion, although the composition of our atmosphere also influences since refracts, diffracts and reflects Sun’s rays. It is the same optical illusion as when we observe a train track getting lost in the distance: its rails, although parallel, seem to join at the vanishing point. A mere deception of our senses. It seems that another basic principle of perception has escaped to the flat earther Law of Perspective. Our senses are not totally reliable.
Lunar eclipses, an unsolved problem
Ptolemy was already able to predict eclipses based on its geocentric model, so no heliocentric model is necessary for this purpose. Also, in several occasions it has been described how, during lunar eclipses, the Sun and the Moon could be observed at the same time. However, for these eclipses to take place it is necessary that the Sun, the Moon and the Earth are aligned at an angle of 180º, so the Sun and the Moon should not be seen at the same time.
Effectively, Claudio Ptolemy was able to predict several lunar eclipses basing on his geocentric model. The problem is that his model became more and more complicated with the passage of time and showed more and more incongruities to try to explain the new astronomical findings that were being produced, so it was finally discarded by the simpler and more adjusted models of Copernicus, Galileo and others.
The Ptolemaic system or model was widely accepted from its time until the Copernican revolution. According to this model, which appears in the Ptolemy’s book Almagesto, the Earth would be located in the center of the universe and around it would orbit in different concentric spheres the Sun, the Moon, the known planets and the stars.
This cosmology contemplated a series of movements known as epicycles. Actually this concept was not devised by Ptolemy, but was already widely used by other Greek philosophers such as Hipparchus of Nicea and Apollonius of Perga. Epicycles were conceived as small circles in which planets rotated. In turn, these epicycles revolved around larger circles known as deferents. These concepts were necessary to explain the variations in the speed and direction of the movement of the stars. As we have mentioned, with the passage of time it became necessary to add more and more epicycles to adapt the new discoveries to the model, to such an extent that in the end it became physically and mathematically unsustainable. In fact, in scientific jargon there is the expression “adding epicycles”, which refers to the scientific malpractice of conveniently adjusting a theory to obtain predictions that fit the facts. Why then this desire to discredit the heliocentric model if it is also capable of predicting eclipses even in a simpler way?
That said, let’s see what happens to lunar eclipses. The lunar eclipse, or better known as Blood Moon, protagonist of hundreds of prophecies and superstitions, occurs when the Earth, Sun and Moon align. The Earth interposes itself between the Sun and the Moon, in such a way that a lunar eclipse is simply the projection on its face of the Earth’s shadow. The shadow projected by the Earth consists of two cone-shaped regions: the central region, known as the umbra or shadow region, and the peripheral or penumbra region. In this way, three types of lunar eclipses are distinguished:
The partial eclipse, which is generated when a fraction of our satellite enters the shadow region.
The total eclipse, which occurs when the Moon fully penetrates the shadow region.
The penumbral eclipse, generated when the Moon only crosses the regions of penumbra. This is the least visible, since too much sunlight still reaches the penumbra region and, therefore, the Moon barely darkens.
The striking crimson colour that the Moon presents during total eclipses is due to a phenomenon of which we spoke at length in the previous post: atmospheric refraction, which causes the red wavelengths to be the ones that are essentially reflected on the lunar surface. If the atmosphere did not exist, the eclipsed Moon would not be visible because there would be no light reflection. Obviously, lunar eclipses occur when there is full Moon, from which a logical question arises: Why are there no lunar eclipses every month? This is because the plane of the lunar orbit around the Earth does not coincide with the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Thus, the plane of the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 5º with respect to the Earth’s orbital plane, so the Moon does not always coincide with the shadow projected by the Earth.
Is it inexplicable or does it have any mystery that the Sun and the Moon can appear at the same time during a lunar eclipse? Certainly not. In fact, we invite the reader to consult some table of lunar eclipses to realize at what time of day this phenomenon usually happens. Many times it happens at twilight. Again we go back to our previous post, in which we described that curious visual illusion according to which, when the Sun is setting on the horizon we are not seeing its real silhouette, but a mirage due to the refraction of light in our atmosphere. Consequently, it is nothing unusual that on some occasions both astronomical bodies can be visualized at the same time.
On the other hand, lunar eclipses can be wielded as evidence that our planet is spherical, not in vain if it had any other form the shadow it would cast upon the Moon would not be as we see it. Even so, lunar eclipses are still an ulcer in the stomach of flat earthers, because in their model there would be no place for it. If the Sun and the Moon orbit around the North Pole, located in the center of the flat Earth, there could never be an alignment between the three. In addition, and always according to flat earthers, the light emitted by the Moon does not come from the Sun, but is itself the source of that light, which would also have different characteristics to sunlight, so it is weird the traffic light behavior that our satellite has suddenly acquired. However, flat earthers have come up with a solution. It seems that during lunar eclipses there is a sort of shadowy object that stands between the Sun and the Moon. The limits of this imaginary body are less dense than the nucleus, so it would let the Sun’s rays pass through its periphery, thus giving the Blood Moon its red colour. Needless to say, as usual, flat earthers have not given a single piece of evidence in favor of this shadowy body.
Another proof of heliocentrism, terrestrial sphericity and rotation
It is posible that the reader may not have noticed a constant that can be observed in various sundials around the world, regardless of whether they are equatorial, horizontal or vertical. Well, the time lines or the radios that indicate the hours of these clocks are separated by angles of 15º. The motif is very simple and has been known for centuries. If the day consists of 24 hours and we live in a sphere formed by meridians or imaginary circles that have an angle of 360º, dividing 360 by 24 we obtain the angle that separates the hours. In this way we know that the shadow projected by the gnomon on the sundial travels 15º every hour. From here arises a serious problem that flat earthers conveniently forget to mention.
Sundials installed in the center of the North Pole of a flat Earth where the Sun orbits around it would correctly mark the time. The problem arises when sundials are in any other latitude. See the following diagram depicting a sundial installed in Valencia, Spain. Throughout the day, the shadow projected by the gnomon traverses uneven angles, making it impossible to measure the passage of time using sundials.
Antarctica, forbidden land
Possibly, Antarctica is the continent that has generated more conspiracies and suspicions. If we give them credibility, there would be an international pact that vetoes access to this continent to everyone except the scientific and military community, which would allow suspicion of something that is been plotted in the frozen desert and is only accessible to the elites. According to some, Nazi bases and redoubts would be hidden there, for others they would be extraterrestrial bases or the entrance to the center of the Earth. In short, something of such magnitude that if it were to be unveiled it would change the course of history. In the case of flat earther theses, the presumed secrecy around Antarctica is the true geographical situation of this land. The icy continent would not be located at the south pole of the spherical Earth, first of all because the Earth is not spherical. Antarctica really is terra incognita, a gigantic icy esplanade that begins with an impenetrable wall of ice that rises about 50 meters above sea level and surrounds the periphery of the planetary disk. Little or nothing is known about this territory, because according to flat earthers, it has not yet succumbed to the empirical scrutiny of the human being. Although it doesn’t seem to be the case at all; we would know something, although what we know doesn’t exactly invite us to venture beyond the frozen wall, because violent storms, hurricanes, snow, cold and hail are always there. Nothing else is known, although some flat earther groups assert with complete certainty that the extension of Antarctica is eternal, while the majority branch thinks that this territory extends to the beginnings of the dome that covers the Earth disc. This conception keeps interesting connections with the classic legends of lost worlds, full of dangers and/or wonders, hidden or forbidden for the common of mortals.
It is said that the frozen wall had been discovered by Royal Navy explorer and officer James Clark Ross (1800-1862), who was petrified by the sight of such impenetrable cliffs. First mistake. Ross’ first expedition to the Antarctic continent took place in 1841. However, 20 years earlier, in 1819 and 1821, the Russians Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev had already sailed the seas of the Antarctic Polar Circle, even locating what would ultimately be known as the Fimbul ice shelf.
But is Antarctica as vetoed as it is often stated on the Internet? All these suspicions began on 1 December 1959 with the publication of the Antarctic Treaty, a set of agreements that would be completed during the coming years. Antarctic Treaty sought to make Antarctica the last redoubt of peace between the world powers and the last natural virgin sanctuary. Among other issues, the countries adhered to the agreement are expressly prohibited from militarizing any part of the territory, carrying out military manoeuvres or installing military bases, unless these facilities have a clear scientific objective. The agreement also calls for international cooperation in scientific research and the protection of the Antarctica environment and biodiversity. The consequent lucubrations are obvious: Antarctica is then relegated solely to the scientific and military community.
Despite viral informations, however, Antarctica can be visited today and has been for decades. In fact, the main organization in charge of organizing tourism in Antarctica is IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), founded in 1991. As indicated in its objectives, the organization was founded
“To advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.”
IAATO, which operates under the legal framework of the Antarctic Treaty, organises both cruises and air travels. The latter have the advantage of taking the tourist to the interior of the continent for unforgettable panoramic views, although they are obviously more expensive. If anyone still has doubts about what we are saying, you can solve them by asking one of the 44367 tourists who approached the frozen continent between 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, it is true that these crossings take tourists to latitudes no higher than 70º S, so anyone who likes to complicate matters could object that the rest of the territory is forbidden for any ulterior motive, even because there is nothing beyond. Is there anyone who has dared to surpass those latitudes?
There were many expeditions that achieved such a feat. Some of the best known were the ones starring Ernest Shackleton. The first, known as the Discovery expedition, took him along with Doctor Edward Wilson and Captain Robert Falcon Scott to reach 82º17′ S latitude from the McMurdo Strait in 1902 after a very hard crossing of more than 1000 Km through the inclement Antarctic meteorological conditions. But this expedition was a child’s play compared to the one he would command shortly afterwards in his eagerness to be the first to conquer the southernmost point in the world (90ºS 0ºE). The second expedition, known as the Nimrod expedition, had as its objective to cover more than 2700 km until reaching the true geographic South Pole. The inclemencies and the meteorological punishments happened again with the determination to interrupt the expedition. Shackleton and company stayed a little more than 187 Km from reaching their objective in 1909, but having clearly surpassed the previous goal. Finally, who would conquer the geographical South Pole would be the Norwegian Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen in 1911.
They weren’t the only ones through Antarctica. We could mention the crossings of Vivian Fuchs and Edmund Hillary in 1958 (the second, in addition to crowning Everest, also reached the 90ºS latitude), those of Ramón Hernando de Larramendi and company in 2005-2006 and 2011-2012, that of Felicity Aston in 2012, the first woman to cross Antarctica, and even more impressive, alone (also reached 90ºS), or, more recently, that made by The Coldest Journey team in 2013. We see, therefore, that Antarctica is unrestricted and more explored than what flat earthers tell us. Not only that, if Antarctica did not have the geographical position it really has, all these expeditions would not have succeeded in crossing Antarctica and reaching the South Pole.
The climatic differences between the two poles also tend to confuse flat earthers, who ponder that, being polar regions, should have the same conditions. It is well known that the Antarctic continent is much colder than the Arctic region, which conditions the fauna and flora that inhabit each place. This difference lies in the geography of both regions. Antarctica, as we have mentioned, is a continent, that is to say, it is a gigantic mass of land, with the peculiarity of being covered by a thick layer of ice. The Arctic region, on the other hand, is made up of blocks of ice floating in the ocean, that is to say, it is basically an ocean surrounded by continents. Water is a more effective heat reservoir than land, absorbing 95% of solar radiation (the rest is reflected), while land can reflect up to 35%, so it keeps much less heat. Here is one of the reasons for these thermal differences. The other main reason is the ice surface that makes up both regions. Antarctica’s icy surface is estimated to be almost 8 times larger than that of the Arctic, thus increasing the so-called albedo effect, i.e. the percentage of radiation reflected by a surface of the radiation incident on it, an effect whose magnitude increases when the surface is clear and bright, like ice. For these reasons it makes sense that the South Pole can reach -62º C of minimum temperature and in the Arctic -32º C of minimum temperature at most.
Another gratuitous statement that is usually made is that the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun has not been demonstrated in Antarctica or other locations located in latitudes far to the south. It is said that all existing videos and images on this phenomenon correspond to the Midnight Sun of the northern hemisphere. Before proceeding to dismantle this fallacy let’s see what the Midnight Sun is.
This is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs during the summer solstice and nearby dates in northernmost latitudes (where the summer solstice begins on June 21) and, as we will see below, in southernmost latitudes (where the summer solstice begins on December 21). In fact, days with Midnight Sun increase as we approach 90ºN or 90ºS. It is a direct consequence of the translation of the Earth around the Sun and the inclination of the Earth’s axis about 23.5º (and, therefore, another evidence in favour of these facts). During these summer dates the Sun does not completely set on the horizon and, consequently, at 00:00 hours the Sun is still visible. Is there evidence of this in the southernmost latitudes? Of course. Below we provide a couple of time-lapse footage, the first made during 24 hours in the summer peak from Scott base, located on Ross Island (77ºS), and the second made during 5 days in March also in the Antarctic Polar Circle.
And for those who wonder if it is possible to fly over Antarctica, the answer is yes. For the last few years, the Australian airline Qantas has been offering exclusive 12-hour trips to enjoy Antarctica from the air. It offers 5 dates at the end of the year. Also, Norwegian Airlaines has recently presented an initiative to establish a transpolar air route between South America and Asia with a stopover in Perth (Australia). Much of this route would cross Antarctica for the enjoyment of its crew.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be anything new if someone flew over Antarctica. U.S. Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd (a character with a biography surrounded by legends and mystery) was a pioneer in this regard for making several air expeditions between the 1940s and 1950s through Antarctica that provided fundamental data on the geographic limits of the frozen continent.
Impossible air routes
According to several arguments collected by Dubay in his book, there are too many flights and air routes that do not make sense, because they could be more direct, a reality that reinforces the flat Earth theory, because such journeys are more logical in this model. According to this author, flights from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Perth, Australia, should not go to Dubai, Hong Kong or Malaysia but travel directly across the Indian Ocean; the flight connecting Cape Town, South Africa, with Buenos Aires, Argentina, should be direct following the parallel that joins them instead of going first to some countries in the northern hemisphere; the same happens with the flight connecting Johannesburg with Sao Paulo, Brazil, which instead of being direct first makes a stopover in London. These are only a few examples, if the reader wants to see more he can consult Dubay’s book, although the analysis of these three will be enough to draw a conclusion on the matter. If we represent these routes in a map of the flat Earth they would make more sense than in a spherical Earth according to Dubay, presumably because the routes follow a more logical path in the first case than in the second.
The problem is that both Dubay and those who have replicated his book have not devoted the slightest effort to carrying out any research. Let’s go in order:
There are direct flights between Johannesburg and Perth. They are offered by South African Airways once a day for a duration of between 9 and 11 hours.
Since 2009, the above-mentioned airline has operated several direct weekly flights between South Africa and Argentina.
Again, the flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo is also direct and is carried out by South African Airways.
It is not necessary to insist more, the rest of examples are, in the same way, easily refutable consulting the websites of different airlines.
The “anomalous” launching of rockets
Rockets launched by space agencies always follow a parabolic trajectory. Wouldn’t it be more logical to launch them vertically at a 90º angle?
This is not only reiterated by flat earthers, it is also one of the favorite “arguments” of those that deny the space race and space travels.
It is necessary to distinguish different phases in the take-off of a rocket. In a first phase, the rocket is launched vertically. During this period, the rocket accelerates progressively and consumes a large part of the fuel. The aim is to overcome much of the atmospheric resistance by travelling the shortest distance as quickly as possible to reach a minimum height before the fuel runs out.
When the rocket has reached a certain height, its trajectory begins to incline progressively. What’s the reason? To reach Earth’s orbit at the right speed to stay in it and to use it as a means of propulsion to save fuel. In this way, the inclination of the rockets aims to reach the horizontal velocity necessary to orbit the Earth (which we have already discussed in the section about gravity), at which point, in fact, it will have consumed practically all of its fuel. If the rocket constantly followed a vertical trajectory, it would not be able to acquire an orbit around the Earth, nor would it have enough fuel to escape from the clutches of gravity. In short, it would end where it began, on the ground, but with some damages.
Another curiosity about launching rockets is that they are always launched from west to east. Remember the reader where the Earth rotates to? Also from west to east, so in this way rockets takes advantage of the speed of terrestrial rotation to reach the orbit. Let’s remember that thanks to inertia, the speed of an aircraft travelling in the direction of the Earth’s rotation is added to the speed of the terrestrial movement, which makes it easier to gain greater speed to reach Earth’s orbit.
In search of a real image of the spherical Earth
There is no authentic photograph of the round Earth. All those that are presupposed as such are frauds carried out through CGI by NASA and the other space agencies.
Flat earthers do not consider all images of space agencies and amateurs to be false actually. Some snapshot or other filming made at quite a height and in which a flat horizon is still observed are not manipulated. Of course, they are authentic, not in vain they serve to flat earthers’ arguments.
The image we offer next is virally spread by flat earthers:
It really is a frame obtained from an amazing film made by specialists in action cameras. Attached a camera to a balloon, they made it ascend to 33 Km of altitude, obtaining indescribable views. In the previous post we specified that at that height an observer could only contemplate 6º of arc of the terrestrial curvature due to the immensity of our planet. A trifle.
The atmosphere makes it very difficult to see the curve of the horizon, but still something can be distinguished if we increase the contrasts of the image with any digital image editor, as can be seen below.
There are more amateur experiments that show a slight Earth curvature, like this one:
Obviously, the best images and videos are obtained by astronauts and space satellites, many of which are at an altitude of 400 Km. The problem is that all of them would be frauds and photographic manipulations according to flat earthers. This fallacy is problematic because it is circular and feeds back constantly. It is enough for flat earthers to say that all those images that show the terrestrial sphericity are generated by computer. They never specify what techniques have supposedly been used and what steps have been taken to obtain the final result. They don’t really prove anything and this fallacy has the same validity as if we affirm that the sky is green and that if the rest of the world sees it blue it is because they are victims of a hologram.
The reader can obtain a clearer image of these fallacies in the analogy of the dragon in the garage devised by the brilliant disseminator and astrophysicist Carl Sagan and which he narrated in his book The Demon-Haunted World. In this metaphor a conversation is developed in which one speaker assures another that he has a dragon that spits fire living in his garage. The other asks to see it to corroborate that he is not making it up. When they arrive at the garage there is no flying reptile, only the typical junk that is stored in a garage. Faced with the confusion of his companion, the owner of the alleged dragon tells him that he forgot to tell that his dragon was invisible. His interlocutor proposes an experiment to find palpable proof of his existence by smearing the garage floor with flour so that the dragon’s footprints appear. The owner tells him, however, that the dragon floats and does not step on the ground. Then his companion suggests that they may use an infrared sensor to measure the heat of the fire that the dragon spits out, however it would not work either, because the fire is also invisible and does not emit heat, and so on and so forth. In other words, a loop is generated in which in the end only faith in the word of the dragon’s owner is allowed. In the total absence of evidence, as happens flat earthers’ arguments, they are asking us to trust their rhetoric faithfully.
One of the pillars of their displeasure at NASA’s deceptive activities is the testimony of alleged whistleblowers who ended up leaving the space institution fed up with the manipulation to which they have subjected the population through the adulteration of images. One of the most well known is a certain Thomas Simms, who, according to an incomplete interview a thousand times shared, would have worked as an image data analyst for NASA. His mission was basically to manipulate and to make computer generated images (CGI) from the data his superiors sent him so that the space agency could later divulge them and thus feed the deception. If the reader continues to see the alleged interview, he will quickly conclude that it is a gross humorous farce and that, even so, many use it as evidence of the existence of a worldwide conspiracy. This Thomas Simms, whose link with NASA and his contributions are non-existent, became a flat earther by chance when he started diving for the “proofs” wielded by this group and which we have already reviewed in this pair of posts. The colophon comes when Simms tells how he found the definitive proof that the Earth is flat: a sort of destroyed photograph that Simms, with his unparalleled astuteness, manages to reconstruct with glue. That’s all there is to say. This is the seriousness of the flat Earth basis.
To make matters worse, the protagonist of the video is given the name of another person, Robert Simmon (see the title of the video, although at the beginning of the video you can clearly hear the name of Thomas Simms pronounced by the voice-over). Apart from the fact that this is another of the frequent mistakes made by flat earthers, Robert Simmon does indeed exist and his identity has also been used to support the flat Earth conspiracy, although he is not exactly who we are told in various blogs and videos. Although Robert Simmon is presented as another wistleblower who has circumvented NASA’s censorship, the truth is that he was employed by NASA. Not long ago he worked for the space agency at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (Maryland) as a senior program analyst. His role was to transform data from NASA Earth Observing System space satellites into images. Among other milestones, Simmon was one of the most prominent members of The Blue Marble project, which presented the world first high-definition color snapshot of the Earth globe following the implementation of several images, some of which were taken by astronauts on the Apollo XVII mission in 1972. It was such the repercussion of the image that earned him the nickname of Mr Blue Marble.
Robert Simmon left the agency in 2014, when he would start working for Planet, a commercial satellite network, as a senior data visualization engineer. Robert Simmon has never offered an interview in which he exposes NASA’s lies.
Nevertheless, we must yield to flat earthers that NASA and its employees manipulate the images of the Earth. In this case they are right. Unfortunately and to their disappointment, it is no secret or conspiracy that NASA images are modified, enhanced and composed of several photographs. In fact, NASA engineers and computer scientists publish the computer methods they have used to generate the images we can enjoy from satellite data, which are frankly similar to how the Earth really is, not in vain its composition is based on snapshots taken by satellites and astronauts, as happened with The Blue Marble. Therefore, it makes no sense to label NASA or other space agencies as conspirators. If so, they would hide behind the most opaque veil the techniques used to generate such images. If they are available, it is precisely so that whoever wants to can replicate them, complying with one of the basic principles of the scientific method.
Let’s take for example the idyllic image The Blue Marble. Robert Simmon himself tells us where he obtained the data to generate the image:
“The last time anyone took a photograph from above low Earth orbit that showed an entire hemisphere (one side of a globe) was in 1972 during Apollo 17. NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites were designed to give a check-up of Earth’s health. By 2002, we finally had enough data to make a snap shot of the entire Earth. So we did. The hard part was creating a flat map of the Earth’s surface with four months’ of satellite data. Reto Stockli, now at the Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, did much of this work. Then we wrapped the flat map around a ball. My part was integrating the surface, clouds, and oceans to match people’s expectations of how Earth looks from space. That ball became the famous Blue Marble.”
Without any obscurantism or secrecy, this is how the famous snapshot was made. If it were part of a conspiracy, this information would be classified under the strictest secrecy. Nor can it be argued that these data are known by leakage, as they have long appeared on the NASA website and have been kindly provided by Simmon in various public interviews. This is how many images of our globe are composed, uniting and increasing the quality of fragmented images of our planet.
NASA may keep a few secrets. We must not forget that NASA has had a very strong military character, especially during the Cold War, and cooperates with the US Department of Defense. But these secrets have nothing to do with the shape of our planet and its situation in the universe, at most they will be of a military and warlike nature that concerns national security.
We think that it is enough with this sample of arguments, in our opinion quite representative, to give us a general idea of the veracity of contemporary flat Earth movement. There are more types of arguments, of course, but the majority are nothing more than repetitions and insistences of what has been presented in this blog.
This sample is also sufficient to draw a conclusion. We can safely say that among the flat earther ranks, malpractice, contradictions, unfounded prejudices, lack of appetite for learning and acquiring knowledge, pseudoscience, superstition, deliberate information biases, authoritarianism, lack of foundation, fallacies, a very fragile cultural base, exacerbated dogmatism, and a worrying mental narcosis and obstinacy stand out. In short, they demonstrate everything they are supposed to be up against: indoctrination and sleeping consciousness, while they brand scientists and anyone who opposes their view of the world as such.
They criticize science because with the passage of time it has modified its paradigms, presumably to adapt to the interests of the hidden powers. Nothing could be further from the truth, science has been transmuted as new discoveries were manifested, leaving in mere anecdotes past models, much more complex and inaccurate than those that replaced them. This is the root of the open mind: the possibility of change and self-criticism before our errors, two traits that, we insist, are absent in the flat Earth movement, because no matter what evidence is exposed before their acolytes, this will be denied even if it is the most logical thing in the world and even if they say that they are willing to change their beliefs before the slightest proof.
For us it is clear: the flat Earth movement is fraudulent and deceitful and they do not deserve the slightest credibility. We hope that we are not misunderstood when we speak about flat Earth. We are not referring to the classical flat Earth thinking, the one that rose centuries ago and was a child of its time, due to a more limited availability of technical and scientific knowledge. A model that, after all, was not an obstacle of any kind, but quite the opposite: it helped the coming sages to advance in knowledge and to approach the real nature of the phenomena that govern reality. We have always wanted to refer to the “recent” flat Earth movement, that which was born from the poison expelled by Samuel Birley Rowbotham on the basis of an illogical hatred against scientific naturalism, the same which has suffered an unexpected and growing acceptance in the age of the Internet. The flat Earth movement is the palpable proof that misrepresenters and manipulators are not exclusive members of the elite. They are also widely distributed on the Internet and social networks.
As always, it is now the reader’s turn to draw his or her own conclusions. Even so, the flat Earth belief continues to be an interesting phenomenon, and not only from a sociological point of view. This movement is an uchronia, a potential dystopian world that could have taken place if science had not evolved sufficiently and if the most extreme indoctrination had triumphed.
Perhaps one of the most hypocritical facets of this movement is the distortion of science and its principles. We have reiterated on several occasions that flat earthers consider themselves empiricists, that is, they base their truths on the sensitive experience of reality. The problem is that the scientists they have despised so much are also, and were, empiricists. How else was it possible to gestate universal gravitation, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection or the laws of genetics? Without a previous sensory and rational experience and a process of intermediate experimentation, these theses would not have taken place. Another frequent criticism is aimed at scientific theories (when, ironically, flat earthers consider the principles of their flat Earth beliefs as a “theory”) and the deductive inferences that can be made from them. Inductivism (the process by which general theories are arrived at from observed facts) and deduction (the essential process of the scientific method by which, from general theories, particular phenomena can be predicted and explained) are in fact two stages of the same process, two sides of the same coin. Therefore, it makes no sense to despise deduction to the detriment of inductivism, because both processes are closely twinned. Moreover, the deductive process is supported by hypotheses, which are not just anything. In addition to being predictive, hypotheses must fulfil two traits in order to obtain quality results: they must be verifiable and refutable, that is to say, they must be able to be submitted to experiments or approaches that put them in a predicament. These features greatly reduce the possibility of fraud and malpractice. The more obstacles they overcome, the more solid they will be. Precisely, scientific theories are a composition of diverse hypotheses that have been submitted on several occasions (and may continue to be so) to different approaches that put their veracity in check, overcoming them and thus obtaining greater firmness. Therefore, a theory is not “just” a theory, as is often seen, a theory is a wording supported by a broad set of evidence. Theories are, in other words, an evolution of hypotheses.
The problem lies in the fallacious interpretation of empiricism made by flat earthers. Empiricism does not consist in seeing something and relating it to the first idiocy that one has in mind. Many more factors have to be taken into account. For more inri, the terraplanistas cultivate an exacerbated dualism between empiricism and rationalism. This second epistemological school maintains that reason is the main source of knowledge, leaving empiricism in the background, but it cannot be discarded. In a way, this school had its confrontations with empiricism, but experience has finally shown that the mechanisms of nature are more intricate than they seem at first sight (never better said) and that, undoubtedly, they have to be subjected to rational and experimental scrutiny, the sensory experience being insufficient and incomplete. Moreover, there is an extra problem in this materialistic empiricism raised by flat earthers: an object observed from the same perspective by two observers may lead to the same perception, but the visual experience may vary perfectly, there being consequently more than one interpretation of what is observed. For example, two observers may contemplate a fireball penetrating our atmosphere, but one of them may interpret it as a damaged extraterrestrial vehicle about to crash and another as a space rock disintegrating by the friction with the atmosphere. The truth is that human experience is truly complex and diverse.
Conspiracies exist. They always have and always will, in all social and intellectual strata. They are part of history and are intricate in human nature. And for that very reason, because they exist, it is imperative to know how to differentiate between grain and chaff. It is necessary to eliminate the fraudulent ones in order to focus on the real deceptions, those that really exist or could exist. Let us make a small reflection. Flat earthers claim that the round Earth model is a tool of a great conspiracy and that those who believe in science are victims of it. Why don’t they reflect on the opposite case? What if they were the real victims of this polemic? It would not be the first time that a think tank, a government and other institutions use ideologies as a tool to sow attacks and confrontations between different collectives. As a kind of panem et circenses, the polemic of the flat Earth could serve as an entertainment that diverts us from the real problems to be dealt with. Perhaps it is, therefore, the flat Earth belief and not the spherical model that serves as a tool for conspirators…
The aim of this series of posts is not to convince flat earthers to abandon their stubbornness. It is very difficult if not impossible. They will stand in their ground, even if they have the evidences in front of them. In fact, the most recent refutation has been suffered by Jeran Campanella, a flat earther youtuber who has been protagonist of the Netflix documentary Behind the curve. He installed two polystyrene walls with holes 17 feet above water level. The objective was to make a ray of light pass through the holes keeping the fountain at the same height of 17 feet so that it could be captured by a camera situated at the same height as these holes and the light source. If the Earth was flat, the beam of light would pass through the obstacles without problems. If the earth’s surface is curved, the light source will have to be raised a couple of meters for the light to impact the target. When the experiment began, Campanella, who controlled the result from the camera, saw no light, so he had to ask his companion to raise the flashlight above his head. It was then that he was able to visualize the light. “Interesting…” was his last word…
If you would like to find out more about the flat Earth social phenomenon, visit the first post:
If you want to read more analysis of flat earther arguments, go to the second part of this dossier:
Dossier terraplanismo (parte 2): Tierra plana VS Tierra esférica. La “Teoría de la Tierra Plana”, a examen
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