OPINION: The return of the Flat Earth Theory

Perhaps you haven’t visited the shady area of the internet devoted to conspiracy theories, but an outdated and disproven theory about the shape of the earth has been regaining ground on social media lately.

We aren’t speaking about cults like the Flat Earth Society here, famous people such as NBA star Kyrie Irving are saying the world might be flat. Irving joined NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal in publicly discussing their beliefs about the nature of our world.

After facing public backlash, they both have backed away from their original statements.

Rapper B.o.B. says that we are not living on a globe. After releasing a song called “Flatline” January 2016, the rapper got into a twitter war with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The scientist’s nephew even released a ‘diss track’ in defence of thousands of years of research suggesting the earth is in fact a spheroid globe and in defense of his uncle Neil.

B.o.B. now has a crowdsourced funding campaign to ‘find the curve’ which he hopes to prove scientists wrong by launching his own satellites into space.

Greek philosophers started thinking of the earth as a globe six centuries before the birth of Christ. So why is this Mesopotamian theory gaining ground again all of a sudden? Two factors.

A general distrust of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which has an annual $18.4 billion budget. That total may sound large but its only half a per cent of the $3.4 trillion U.S. federal budget. The American military budget is $598.8 billion in comparison.

The rise of self-education via internet is also to blame. Combine this with the distrust we mentioned and you have a perfect storm for the Flat Earth Theory to come back from the dead.

Although riddled with its own problems “Western” Education (Europe is to the east so I hate calling it that) attempts to provide balanced training through cautious study of all sides and perspectives. Studying a subject at a University will give you a complete understanding.

If you study only YouTube videos you will be presented with shocking evidence that can be very misleading for those without a background in the subject. Let’s look at some of the “evidence” that is presented.

  1. Using the Pythagorean Theorem the earth’s surface curves an average of eight inches per mile (squared) or 784 metres for every 100 kilometres in metric. Self-studied scientists are currently going bonkers with this fact and are using long distance camera lenses to “find the curve”. Optical refraction plays a part in why we can see so far beyond the curve. Bill Nye even got involved on this one using lasers over a large lake.
  2. Air plane flights seem to follow the map of the Flat Earth (FE), which is also the logo for the United Nations (see that doesn’t help). Airline passengers travelling from Sydney, Australia to Santiago, Chile are routed through Vancouver or Los Angeles airports which seems really out of the way on a globe but is a direct path on the flat model. Flights from Johannesburg, South Africa to Redcliffe, Australia usually stops at Dubai which seems really out of the way. According to travel websites it is possible to buy a direct flight ticket. Conspiracy theorists claim that the 12 hour direct flights are impossible but airline pilots say they have done it. Additionally after 9/11 security has risen and passenger flights can be tracked on flightaware.com/live/ (see for yourself). At the time of writing there were 10,239 airborne aircraft over planet earth.
  3. NASA is either ineffective at Public Relations or is simply mysterious. Why don’t they just show the Globe Earth in one unedited image? Instead of dumping the go-pro cameras when the fuel tanks drop off spacecraft they should release the footage of an actual rocket entering space and put the whole thing to rest. Instead their live feeds are suddenly stopped, wires and harnesses are visible on the ISS, and bubbles are visible during spacewalks. The “Blue Marble” picture of earth is an iconic image that we are all familiar with. NASA admitted it is a high-resolution composite by Data Visualizer and Designer Robert Simmon. Every image they have ever released is either CGI or has been edited in Adobe Photoshop apparently. More raw images and less Gaussian blur would be nice.

There is a mountain of evidence refuting the Flat Earth Theory but in a quick conversation you can mention a couple facts that make the FE impossible.

According to the FE worldview Antarctica is not a continent but a 150-ft. ice wall which acts as a ring-like barrier preventing humankind from reaching other lands. Filmmaker Anthony Powell captured a 24-hour time lapse video of the summer sun of Antarctica which happens for a few weeks around December 21 and also in June. This evidence creates a huge problem for the FE Theory because they believe the sun and moon are 32 miles in diameter circling 3000 feet above the earth like a child’s mobile toy.

Another fact that blows the old FE Theory out of the water is an effect called Coriolis. Long range snipers take into account for the spin of the earth, as do I when I miss my shots at deer 200 metres away. Hurricanes rotate counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s science.

In 1980 when Mt. St. Helens volcano erupted the plume of smoke reached 31 km (101,700 feet) into the atmosphere. The earth is rotating at a speed of 1670 km per hour. I have no idea why the column of smoke appears to rise in a straight line. If two airlines travel around the earth in opposite directions shouldn’t the flight going against the spin of the earth arrive faster? Apparently not.

Just because I personally don’t understand these problems does not mean that the scientific method is wrong.

Neil deGrasse Tyson had a great scientific TV show called Cosmos which was cancelled after only one season. After 199 original episodes Keeping Up with the Kardashians is on season 14 and that pretty much sums up everything we need to know about society and the current state of humanity.

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