Is The Earth Round Or Flat? Here Is How We Know.

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What if we have been lied to this whole time in some grand conspiracy to hide the true shape of the Earth? Taken at face value, some of their arguments do make you think a bit. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into what Flat Earthers believe to be true, and then the real history and science proving why the earth is round so we can all be a bit more informed.

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How Science And History Prove The Earth Is Round

As of right now, we all live on the earth. We go about our daily lives, go to work, see family, hangout with friends, get into nature and much more. All of this is done on the earth, and despite its importance, how often do we actually recognize the planet we live on?

It’s a big, oblate spheroid rock that is flinging around the sun supporting all of our lives. It’s commonly known that the shape of the Earth looks like a sphere that is squished a little bit, right? Well, not for millions of Americans and many more millions of people worldwide that are part of the growing Flat Earth movement.

model of the globe.jpg

What if we have been lied to this whole time in some grand conspiracy to hide the true shape of the Earth? Taken at face value, some of their arguments do make you think a bit. If the earth is spinning, why doesn’t it move from beneath you when you jump?

Do we actually have pictures of the Earth from space or have they all been faked in an attempt to keep the truth from us? Have you ever actually SEEN the curvature of the Earth yourself? The official Flat Earth Society asks us as individuals to rely on our own observations of the Earth around us and then it’s up to us to make the decision for ourselves.

The homepage of the Flat Earth Society website states:

 “The evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on one’s own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what's called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses.”

The problem is that, for many of us, we really don’t know why we believe the Earth is round so when arguments such as these are given by the Flat Earth Society, there’s no rebuttal. From their point of view, we have been misled and are simply following what we have been told for centuries.

Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into what Flat Earthers believe to be true, and then the real history and science proving why the earth is round so we can all be a bit more informed.

round+earth+sunrise.jpg

We Need To Approach Disagreement Differently

Before we start, I want to clear up how I plan on approaching this subject, because I know it can get very personal. I’m going to come at this from an angle of understanding, rather than the name calling and patronization I normally witness because I believe that’s the best way to relay information.

Arguments and comments with the sole purpose of offending almost never lead to a common understanding when everything is said and done. With scientific facts and an open mind, we can start to make progress and hopefully reach some agreement.

 What Flat Earthers Believe To Be True

So, the Flat Earth. You might be wondering what the flat earth looks like, and with good reason since this is likely completely foreign for most of you. There are many different flat Earth models, but the most agreed upon among most Flat Earthers sort of looks like the round earth was squished down onto a circular, and of course, flat surface.

The Shape Of The Flat Earth

The North Pole is at the center of the map, and the continents are in somewhat similar positions as they are on the round earth, relative to each other. Antarctica, rather than being a continent is actually a wall of ice that holds the oceans in.

Well, how do we get day and night if the Earth isn’t orbiting the sun? According to the Flat Earth Society, that’s easy to explain. The sun moves in circles centered around the North Pole along with the moon. The moon moves slightly slower than the sun, which gives us the phases of the moon we see.

flat earth sun and moon orbit.gif

When the sun is over you, it is day, and when it’s far away, it’s night. The reason we don’t see the sun all the time is because the sun is actually much smaller than scientists have told us, 32 miles wide to be exact, so it’s light simply isn’t bright enough to cover the whole flat earth at once. It sort of acts like a spotlight. This is a big difference from the approximately 864,000 mile diameter sun we have been told about.

Rather than the spin of the Earth causing the sunset, it’s actually just explained by our perspective. It appears to touch the horizon because it is moving very far away from us. Also, instead of being 93 million miles away, it’s actually only 3000 miles away. The stars move in a plane that is 3100 miles away, all centered around the Earth of course.

Seasons are a bit hard to explain on the Flat Earth model, but the common explanation is that throughout the year, the suns orbit above the Earth changes. When it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun’s orbit is closer to the North Pole.

As the southern hemisphere shifts to summer, the sun actually moves away from the north pole so that it’s above the southern continents. The areas that the sun moves directly over are warmer, and vice versa.

 What Flat Earthers Think About Gravity

Then we move on to gravity. For most flat earthers, gravity is a mere scapegoat scientists use to make the round earth model work. It’s hard to find consensus among the flat earth community on an explanation for why we fall to the ground, though.

The Flat Earth Society says that the flat earth is accelerating upwards at 9.8 meters/s^2, or in other words, the same rate of acceleration scientists attribute to gravity.  Other theories include the idea that there is gravity, but the earth is an infinite plane so it will never form into a ball.

The final widespread explanation that I have heard states that everything separates by density. So, if you throw a rock, it will fall because it’s more dense than air. When you jump, you come back down because you as well are more dense than the air.

I think this gives a good overview of flat Earth beliefs, although there are hundreds, if not thousands of other theories floating around on the interwebs, and dare I say, the dark web.

 Why Believe The Earth Is Flat?

Like I said earlier, most Flat Earthers derive their beliefs based on a method of reasoning that holds personal observations to be supreme. They don’t trust the work of thousands of scientists over thousands of years because they haven’t witnessed the effects that prove a round earth themselves.

Once beyond this point, most flat earthers are under the assumption that there is a huge conspiracy to cover up the fact that the earth is flat. There are people who we don’t even know exist that use scientists as puppets to push the round earth agenda.

The reason why the truth is being held from us varies greatly from just maintaining the current power structure to driving out religion and diminishing the significance of humanity. Humanity would seem to be much more important if the earth and everything above it were made specifically for us by some supreme, god-like being.

With all this being said, let’s start to dig into how we actually know the earth is roun. I think the mistrust of science shown by Flat Earthers comes from a place of misunderstanding and misinformation, so let’s move on to how we actually know the earth is round to clear up some of the confusion.

 The First Hypotheses Pointing Towards A Round Earth

To the credit of people who believe in the flat earth today, many cultures and societies throughout history have thought the earth was flat. It’s my speculation that the reason was likely the same as well, being that it does look flat from the ground.

Without any knowledge otherwise, why would you assume it was round? This worked for a while, but some philosophers, mathematicians and scientists throughout history started to use their own observations and tests to show it was round.

It Wasn’t Christopher Columbus

Many believe that Christopher Columbus in the 15th century had his mind set on proving the earth was round by making an Westbound journey. Furthermore, it’s commonly said that he was the first to ‘prove’ the earth was round.

columbus journey across ocean.gif

I’ve heard many flat Earth proponents claim that this is where the conspiracy started. However, we’re going to learn that observations showing the earth was round went way farther back than this.

In my episode I did on how the heliocentric model of the solar system came about, or in other words, the sun-centered model of the universe, we learned that all the way back in the 9th century BC Indian philosophers used math.

They were the first on record to say “hey, maybe the sun is stationary and the earth revolves around it.” Amazingly, a philosopher named Yajnavalkya proposed the heliocentric solar system and even got a very accurate estimate of how far away the sun was. The initial belief was more philosophical than scientific, but still, it was a very long time ago.

Ancient Philosophers and Mathematicians Believed In A Round Earth

Ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle all the way back in the 4th century wrote the same ideas. Again, I do have to admit, many of these beliefs were just hypotheses and didn’t have much evidence at the time of their creation, but it goes to show that humans have had this idea of the Earth being round and not the center of the Universe for a long time.

Although Aristotle used the belief that fire was more important than Earth, so the sun therefore is more important and at the center. Along with this, he also used observations to come to the conclusion that the earth was round and not the center of the universe as well.

Location On Earth Changes The Stars

In his book On the Heavens, he wrote: “Again, our observations of the stars make it evident, not only that the Earth is circular, but also that it is a circle of no great size. For quite a small change of position to south or north causes a manifest alteration of the horizon.”

He used the observation that since the view of the night sky changes depending on where you were on Earth, it can’t be flat. If it were flat, you should see the same stars all the time. This is even more observable today with high speed travel and the ability to share photos of the night sky online. The sky in the southern hemisphere of the globe is completely different than that of the northern hemisphere.

Interestingly, this time-lapse video also shows that the stars move in opposite direction depending on which hemisphere you are located on. This is impossible on the flat earth.

Lunar Eclipses Show a Round Curve

Aristotle wasn’t done here though. He also made another observation that anybody can make when there is a lunar eclipse. He noticed that the shadow on the moon was always round. He made it clear by saying, “on eclipses the outline is always curved: and, since it is the interposition of the earth that makes the eclipse, the form of this line will be caused by the form of the earth's surface, which is therefore spherical."

And finally, Aristotle noted that ships sailing over the horizon would disappear bottom up. So, the hull would be the first to go and the rest would follow. This would only happen on a round earth. Even with the crude telescopes of the time, he was able to figure this out.

This idea was spread to as far as some parts of Asia, so it wasn’t somebody hiding in their basement coming up with strange hypotheses. It also wasn’t just some lie conjured up in the 15th century like many Flat Earthers believe.

Saying it was started in the 15th century makes it seem like there was a whole pile of ancient wisdom that was smothered in an attempt to abruptly change how humanity views itself, but historic evidence shows us that this isn’t the case.

 Measuring The Circumference Of Earth

Moving forward in history, an ancient Greek scientist and philosopher named Eratosthenes lived in the 2nd century BC and excelled in many areas from comedy to history. One of his skills was in math and he also had a dying curiosity about the shape and size of the Earth.

He noticed that in the city of Syene, at midday on the longest day of the year when the sun was directly overhead, the city walls didn’t cast a shadow. However, when he was in Alexandria to the North, there were shadows cast by the walls on the longest day.

Credit: Britannica.com

Credit: Britannica.com

He thought this was strange, but at the same time realized that with math, you could actually measure how big the earth was if you knew how far apart the two cities were, which he did. With trigonometry, you could then figure out how large the earth was. I’ll put a picture of his equation in the show notes.

Now, I didn’t go too deep into this because it wasn’t meant to act as proof of the round earth, but rather to show that all the way back in the 3rd century BC, the circumference of the earth had been calculated. Once again, this isn’t a recent idea.

The First Globe Earth Model

Moving to the 2nd century AD, another Greek philosopher named Ptolemy came out with an entire model of the globe earth. At this point, they didn’t know about north America, but it was widely used throughout much of the old world until the 15th and 16th centuries when America was discovered.

It was, however, in the 1400’s to 1800’s, from Galileo to Isaac Newton, that the round earth model and the theory of gravity started to have much more concrete science and math behind it. Astronomers were making observations about how planets move and how the Earth’s night sky changes and came to the conclusion that we must be orbiting the sun.

Interestingly, the story of Galileo shows us an example of how the religious and government institutions of the time actually tried to suppress the round Earth model. Galileo was placed under house arrest for his findings and beliefs. Now, if it’s the government and surrounding institutions trying to fool people, why would they suppress it at the same time?

Animated account of Galileo's case that the Sun is at the center of the solar system and how this case was received by the Catholic Church at the time.

 Using Stellar Parallax To Determine Distances of Planets and Stars

Again, in my heliocentric podcast, we learned about another way you can use fairly simple math to calculate that the sun, stars and planets are not a mere 3000 miles away, but 10’s of millions of miles and even millions of light years. Astronomers did this using something called stellar parallax.

The first person in history to very accurately do this was an astronomer named Gian Cassini in 1672. He used parallax to calculate the distance from earth to mars. Again, this is a bit hard to explain, so go to the show article for some visuals.

Here’s a simple explanation of how it works. First, hold your thumb up in front of you. Look at it with your right eye, and then your left eye. Notice how the background behind your thumb appears to change based off your eye’s perspective.

The amount the background moves relative to your thumb is the parallax. If we know the distance between your eyes and then the angle the background has changed, we can measure the distance between your eyes and your thumb.

 The Distance To Mars

We can do the same thing with the change in angles of objects in the sky as we move around different places on Earth. Our perspective of the night sky changes as our position on earth changes. It’s sort of like having two different eyes to look at the night sky as we did with our thumb.

All the way back in 1672, astronomers could measure the angle the background would change relative to a point in the night sky at different places on Earth. This can then tell us its distance from earth after applying geometry and trigonometry.

Credit: astro.princeton.edu

Credit: astro.princeton.edu

Using this knowledge, Cassini got to work. He was stationed in Paris and had a colleague stationed in South America, thousands of miles away. They noted the position of Mars in the night sky and then reconnected to find the angle change depending on their location.

With this knowledge, the distance to Mars was calculated and the distance to the Sun and Saturn quickly followed. Again, they just used trigonometry and angles in the night sky, which isn’t speculative.

The Distance To The Closest Star

 As measurement devices became more and more accurate, we could measure smaller and smaller parallax differences. The smaller the parallax, the farther away the stellar object is. In 1835, with better telescopes and measuring devices, two astronomers named Bessel and Henderson measured the distance to the closest stars using this method.

Instead of different points on Earth, they utilized the orbit of the Earth around the Sun to get a larger parallax angle. At this point it was well known and widely accepted that the Earth orbited the Sun. The parallax in the stars is also the greatest 6 months away from each other which is very hard to explain if we aren’t orbiting the sun.

They didn’t find that the star was 3100 miles away, but instead that the closest star to Earth was 11 lightyears away. In other words, it would take light 11 years to travel there.

This is a good video explaining parallax and how it is used to calculate the distance to stars.

Now, scientists have the ability to beam radio waves at planets to find their precise distance as well. We know how fast these waves travel, so when they bounce off of a planet and come back to earth, we know how far away it is.

This isn’t some fringe science experiment that can be one big lie. Thousands if not 10’s of thousands of independent astronomers have been using stellar parallax to measure the distance of the Earth to the sun, other planets and even stars for about 500 years now. If you got good enough at astronomy and trigonometry, this is something you could do in your back yard.

Trigonometry also isn’t something that can be ‘fudged’ to make objects look farther away. There are a strict set of rules that it operates by and is essentially always correct.

The round earth model closely follows the evidence and timeline of the heliocentric model of the universe as well. If you want to learn more about that, again just check out that episode.

 Arguments Made By Flat Earthers

Let’s move into some of the arguments made that ‘prove’ to Flat Earthers that the earth is flat. What I hear often times is that since the horizon isn’t curved, then how could the earth be round? Well, what they forget to take into account is that the Earth has a circumference of almost 25,000 miles.

Why We Don’t See A Curve

From our perspective, we can’t see enough of the horizon to observe a curve. Since we are all about observations you can actually make for yourself, get a high powered camera and a basketball. If you zoom in enough to make the visual field the same as a person’s visual field on Earth, the basketball actually looks flat. The higher you go, the more of the Earth you can see and therefore more of a curve.

 

People Have Travelled ALL The Way Across Antarctica

Another one that is pretty common is that nobody has ever travelled or flown across Antarctica. After, all, in the Flat-Earth model, it is a massive wall that spans the outer edge of the Earth, so travelling across it would be detrimental to their theory.

However, Antarctica has been travelled across many times. At the southern-most point, there is actually an old Soviet research lab from the Lenin era. It has also been travelled across either by foot or by machine numerous times by extreme explorers, and it’s well documented.

This is something you could also do yourself if you are dedicated enough to really find the truth. Do as others have done, which is go to the edge, and travel due south until you hit the middle, and then start heading north to get to the other side.

We Don’t Feel The Earth’s Spin Because It Has No Acceleration

So, if the earth is truly spinning at 1,000 miles per hour, why don’t we feel that? Why doesn’t the ground move out from underneath you if you jump in the air? The easiest way to explain this is by imagining you are in an airplane or a car. When you accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour, you feel a force pushing you back into your seat.

That’s because Newton’s equation describing forces is Force= Mass*Acceleration. The force you feel is your mass multiplied by how fast the car or airplane is accelerating. This is a proven equation and something you can test.

Now when the vehicle reaches a max speed, you no longer feel a force pushing you into your seat because you’re no longer accelerating. In other words, you have stopped going faster and faster. Well, the same thing happens on Earth.

We are moving at a constant speed with the Earth as it spins. It’s like the vehicle going max speed. It neither speeds up or slows down, so we don’t feel its movement. If the earth were to start speeding up or slowing down, things would get messy and everything on the surface would start shifting around.

This video provides another good explanation along with some nice visuals explaining why we don’t feel the movement of the Earth.

So, those are some common arguments that Flat Earthers use to try and fight the round Earth model, among many others of course. My point here isn’t really to make an all encompassing review of the flat Earth and round Earth models, but rather to give examples of the reasoning and show how simple, observational science and facts can be used to prove the earth is round.

How We Know The Earth Isn’t Flat

Let’s move on to some reasons why basic science and reasoning show us that the flat Earth model doesn’t work with the physics of our universe. Again, I’m not going to go everything, but there are a few that stick out to me.

The Sun Can’t Be 32 Miles Across

Let’s start with the sun. The sun in the current scientific model of the universe has a huge mass, and therefore it has enough gravity to cause pressure sufficient enough to cause nuclear fusion. So, smaller atoms get fused into larger ones and this releases the energy that we feel on Earth.

Unfortunately, there is no way this would ever work with a sun that is 32 miles across. So, there really is no good explanation for how the sun releases energy or what its fuel source is. A sun that small simply wouldn’t work with any science that the world knows.

 The Sunset

Next, let’s talk about the sun setting on the horizon. Like we said earlier, the flat Earth theory says that as the sun moves away from us, it doesn’t actually ‘set’, but rather it just gets too far away from us to see. However, there are a few parts where this breaks down.

First is that after the sun sets, there is still a tremendous amount of light at dusk. It’s not like the moment the sun goes beyond the horizon everything turns to night. So, if there was a significant amount of light coming off of the sun, we should still be able to see it on the horizon. You can clearly see lights as small as those from a house very far away, so a 32 mile wide ball of flames should be visible for a much longer time.

The next issue is that, again, there are no good answers for why the sun and moon circle around the earth and why their positions change throughout the year. In the flat Earth model, they are just masses that seem to hover above the Earth for no reason.

I’ve personally witnessed many sunsets like this one. The sun isn’t just getting smaller in this photo. Here, you can clearly see that a large sun is going beyond the horizon which would only happen if the Earth was spinning.

I’ve personally witnessed many sunsets like this one. The sun isn’t just getting smaller in this photo. Here, you can clearly see that a large sun is going beyond the horizon which would only happen if the Earth was spinning.

 There are a Plethora of Other Ways To Prove The Earth Is Round

Then, of course there are a plethora of other reasons the flat Earth model doesn’t make sense. Seismic activity and tectonic plate movement depend on the Earth being round. Seasons don’t work if the Earth is flat. The Sun can’t be too dim to see but then strong enough to make a full moon shine bright when it’s even farther away from the sun than we are.

You can pretty much throw out all naval navigation that has been used for centuries when you get to the outside portions of the map. In addition to this, the reason GPS and other satellite systems are able to work is because they are far enough away to cover large swaths of land.

They would have to be so close in the flat earth model that they just wouldn’t be able to function. Also, it’s theorized by flat Earthers that satellites are actually high-altitude planes rather than satellites which brings up a whole different can of worms and logistical issues.

 All Navigation Would Have To Be Thrown Out

Wouldn’t every pilot know that the Earth was flat? After all, it would drastically change flight patterns if the Earth wasn’t a globe. Speaking of flight travel, here is an observation that you can make while going on vacation at the same time.

Book a flight from South America to Australia. In the Flat Earth model, these two continents are on opposite sides of the map. You would have to fly all the way over the north pole to get there. That’s one long flight! In reality, flights from South America to Australia don’t follow that path or take nearly as long.

There are almost endless observations such as these that can be made in your own living room with a bit of research and thought.

On the flat Earth map, you would have to fly over the speed of sound to make the trip in time.  Credit: metabunk.com

On the flat Earth map, you would have to fly over the speed of sound to make the trip in time.

Credit: metabunk.com

Should We Really Rely On Just Our Own Senses?

Finally, you have to ask yourself if you really should only rely on your own senses and judgement to come to conclusions about the world around you. How often can our senses mislead us? Some topics, such as ones we can’t directly observe or even understand require a more in-depth look, and many times, this is done by scientists.

Science is really just a person running an experiment and then observing what happens. We can all do that. A scientist is just someone who has dedicated their studies and life to doing this for one aspect of the world around us. When you put forth this much time and effort to a single topic, you’re able to dive much deeper than people on the outside.

The scientist can go much deeper into a subject than most others, and therefore can go beyond what someone outside of the field would be able to make as a simple observation.

One Person Simply Can’t Observe Everything There Is To Know

Do you believe that viruses make us sick? How about the fact that our body is made up of cells? You probably do, but have you ever seen a virus or a single cell? Do you know how cells and viruses work? What about chemistry? Chemistry is vital to our world, but despite its importance, we have never even seen a single atom!

I know you believe in water, but do you believe that it consists of 2 hydrogens and one oxygen? Hundreds to thousands of years of experiments, data collection, and trial and error have all led to this information. It’s impossible to just make an observation by yourself and come to the conclusion that water is made of two hydrogens and one oxygen.

We should always question science, but at the same time, we have to trust it once it has been put to the test. Everything that I have observed and researched enough to understand makes me confident in saying that the earth is round. I hope that after hearing this podcast, you won’t necessarily believe it at face value, but at least open your mind and trust the methods put in place that have allowed us to arrive at this conclusion.

 

References

https://www.astro.princeton.edu/~dns/teachersguide/ParBkgd.html

https://www.livescience.com/24310-flat-earth-belief.html

https://wiki.tfes.org/The_Conspiracy

https://www.cs.mcgill.ca/~rwest/wikispeedia/wpcd/wp/h/Heliocentrism.htm

https://books.google.nl/books?id=Aqzi9txGpPsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=eratosthenes+measurement+of+earth+circumference&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=eratosthenes%20measurement%20of%20earth%20circumference&f=false

https://www.famousscientists.org/eratosthenes/

https://www.wired.com/2016/02/people-cross-antarctica-all-the-time-its-still-crazy-hard/

https://www.iflscience.com/environment/seven-things-that-prove-the-earth-is-flat-according-to-flatearthers/page-4/

https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/review/dr-marc-solar-system/planet-distances.html

http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/about-us/41-our-solar-system/the-earth/orbit/87-how-do-you-measure-the-distance-between-earth-and-the-sun-intermediate

http://tonic.physics.sunysb.edu/~dteaney/F12_mystery/lectures/l6notes.pdf

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Eratosthenes

http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/about-us/41-our-solar-system/the-earth/orbit/87-how-do-you-measure-the-distance-between-earth-and-the-sun-intermediate

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160126-how-we-know-earth-is-round

http://launchistory.blogspot.com/2012/06/history-of-round-earth-theory.html

http://www.discovery.com/dscovrd/nature/no-earth-isnt-flat-heres-how-ancients-proved-it/

https://www.livescience.com/24310-flat-earth-belief.html