Why, oh why, would anyone believe that the Earth is flat? For one reason or another, the flat-Earth movement has witnessed a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years (or at least a meteoric rise in publicity).
After wading through blog posts and hours of mind-numbing YouTube videos, we thought we would help you understand some of the arguments that a small number of Earthlings use to justify their belief in a flat-Earth – and why they are desperately wrong.
The Horizon Is Not Curved
The spirit level never lies, according to some. Prominent flat-Earther and rapper B.o.B regularly cites the horizon’s flatness as the main piece of evidence to plant doubt into the minds of the spherical-planet sheeple. In a since-deleted tweet, he showed a photograph of himself on a hill overlooking a built-up area with the caption: "The cities in the background are approx. 16 miles apart... where is the curve? please explain this.” He’s even got a song called “Flatline” about the issue. Get it? Flat. Line. Horizon.
This idea seems to forget that the Earth has an average diameter of 12,742 kilometers (7,918 miles). In other words, it's very, very big. Imagine an ant sitting on a bumpy, moss-covered ball that’s 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) in diameter – it wouldn’t be able to make out many curves. Just take a look at the images in the gallery below.
In theory, you should be able to discern a slight curve in the horizon from an airplane at over 10,600 meters (35,000 feet), although you’d need a fairly wide field of view (as in, not a tiny airplane window). However, there are other ways to clearly detect the curvature without the aid of NASA, ESA, or any governmental space agency. Physics students from the University of Leicester in the UK captured some awesome images of the Earth's stratosphere and curvature simply by using a high-altitude weather balloon.
Nobody Has Crossed The Wall Of Antarctica. Ever.
Some factions of flat-Earthers claim that Antarctica is a giant icy wall designed to keep us from falling off our disc-shaped world. Or, knowing what those sneaky NWO governments are like, to prevent us from finding out the hard truth that we don’t live on a globe. To back up this theory, they claim that no one has ever crossed the whole continent.
However, people have crossed Antartica. Many, many times. There is even the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, which is the furthest inland part of Antarctica (although its exact location is always up for debate). Here, you’ll find a radio shack, a tiny abandoned Soviet research lab, and a bust of ol’ Vladimir Lenin.
That said, it is still an incredibly hard feat to cross the Antarctic unaided. Experienced explorer and ex-Army officer Henry Worsley tragically died in the first weeks of 2016 during his attempt at the Antarctic crossing.
The Earth Is Stationary
Right now, the world is spinning at around 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) per hour. If that’s so, why aren’t we flying around?
Well, think about flying in a passenger plane at 926 kilometers (575 miles) per hour. Aside from take-off and landing (when there is a change in speed), you feel remarkably still. You can walk around the cabin, pour a drink, or go for a pee without too much trouble. Earth’s rotation is constant (even though it varies depending on what latitude you are located at), so it’s essentially the same effect. The atmosphere of Earth also plays a role in helping our space-voyaging capsule.
Then again, if the world were to suddenly stop spinning for some cosmically inexplicable reason, then we would certainly be able to feel its movement.
All Space Images Are Photoshopped
The most obvious proof that the world is not flat is to simply look at an image of Earth from space. In most realms of reality, photographic evidence is fairly inadmissible. However, faced with this evidence, a surprising number of people argue “well, who says it is not doctored?” If that's the case, NASA presumably spends all of its multi-billion-dollar budget on thousands of illustrators and graphic designers.
If you ever think that some of the awesome images taken from space look “a little off”, that’s because they are not always true-color photographs. Often, they are composite images or images taken using fancy imaging techniques. That isn’t to say they are “fake”, however. They are images composed using real data, often with color added to illustrate, enhance, or highlight certain features.
Just take a look at NASA's image AS17-148-22727, better known as "The Blue Marble”. This incredible true-color image was taken on December 7, 1972, using a 70-millimeter Hasselblad camera at a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) from Earth.
Some versions of the photo are simple true-color photographs. Nevertheless, many renditions of this image are cross-stitched mosaics made out of many satellite images. Speaking about this process for “The Blue Marble” image, NASA Data Visualizer and Designer Robert Simmon explains: “The hard part was creating a flat map of the Earth’s surface with four months’ of satellite data... My part was integrating the surface, clouds, and oceans to match people’s expectations of how Earth looks from space.”
My Senses Tell Me So
The “Zetetic method” is a fundamental cornerstone of the flat-Earther mindset. In contrast to the usual scientific method, this belief system says that your senses rule supreme. All knowledge about reality should be reached directly through your own personal observation (as opposed to building upon someone else's observations), building a theory, then testing whether it's true or false. As per the Zetetic method, our personal experience on Earth tells us that it feels flat and looks flat, ergo it is flat.
Of course, it doesn’t take much to prove that your senses can’t always be trusted; just take a look at an optical illusion. We know many things exist beyond our own observations and experience. A colorblind person might perceive a flower to be green, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is within a wider sense of external reality.
You Can See Venus And Mercury At Night
YouTuber conspiracy theorist D. Marble, the guy who took a spirit level onto a plane to prove the horizon was flat, once posed the question: “Dear Globe Suckers, If the Earth is a globe how can ‘planets’ between Earth and the Sun be viewed at night? I’ll wait.”
Presumably, he’s asking how we can see Mercury and Venus at night because he’s thinking they’d be placed between the Sun-lit side of Earth and Earth. Well, you can’t actually see Mercury and Venus in the dead of night, anyway. It’s also very rare that you can actually see Mercury with your naked eyes.
You can, however, occasionally see these two planets during the twilight hours around sunrise and sunset because they are not always directly between the Sun and Earth. It’s important to remember that the planets aren’t perfectly lined up as you sometimes see in an elementary school diagram. Each planet is on a different orbital path at different speeds.
The diagram below illustrates this is in a relatively self-explanatory way.
Some flat-Earthers argue that crepuscular rays (image below) prove that the Sun isn't actually that distant. If the Sun really was 149.6 million kilometers (92.95 miles) away, they argue, then the Sun's beams should fall parallel onto Earth, not fan out at a jaunty angle.
Unfortunately, the rays are indeed parallel. This fanning out effect is all just an illusion caused by your perspective. It's essentially the same effect that makes train tracks appear to converge as you look at them in the distance.