« George Steinmetz | Main | 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous: Olympus's Lavish Lens »

Wednesday, 01 August 2018


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Conspiracy theories have gotten a rather bad rap lately- or should I say, an even worse one? And perhaps rightly so, many have devolved from possible alternative theories to outrageous and thoroughly disproven "alternative facts" (eg- flat earth, fake lunar landing, child shooting actors, etc).

Although I take everything with a grain (or more) of salt- sometimes (sometimes) just because something sounds "disagreeable," doesn't necessarily make it false...


Back in the mid-1970s I subscribed to The Braheian Debater (as in Tycho Brahe), a newsletter published by a group known as DOTGU.

DOTGU stood for Defenders of the Geocentric Universe, and that's exactly what the newsletters propounded: that the earth stands still and the universe revolves around it. The newsletters were dense with physics written by professors from major universities and other scientists, so I couldn't actually follow most of what they wrote, but it was all fascinating and, at least on the surface, completely serious.

I could never determine if they were a bunch of crackpots or (more likely I decided) a bunch of physicists playing with mathematics, academic writing, and the scientific method as a kind of a hoot, as an exercise in extremism, just to make some point about proof and knowledge. I guess. But I was totally fascinated by them.

Anyway, googling results in close to zero information about the group, but this one resulting page provides a hint: http://www.geocentricity.com/ba1/no120/physngeo.html

Nice try, Mike, but unfortunately crackpots take delight in being contrarian for it's own sake. When was the last time you heard one of them say, "I used to think the Earth was flat, but then I saw this video on YouTube and it convinced me the Earth is actually a sphere. Who knew?"

It used to be (back when) that wacky theories were quaint and amusing. Now with the grand and glorious Internet dispensing wisdom, theories of all types are twisted to appeal to the deranged among us (and there seems to be quite a few of them)for profit and power. Consider what is going on right now, in court, concerning the claim that the Newtown shooting was a hoax. I would bet that if the person spreading that conspiracy theory told his "followers" that the earth was flat and the "round earth theory" was "fake news", they would support it. Scary...

So, the laser experiment, as described, doesn't actually show that the Earth is not flat. Because it depends on the laser being level: if it's not then of course the laser seems higher. What you have to do, instead, is measure the rate of change of the height of the beam with distance along the lake. If this rate of change is constant, then the lake is flat, and the laser is just not level. But if the rate of change increases the further you go (hint: it does) then the lake must be curved down (which it is). They sort-of allude to this in the clip, but they don't quite say it. Sadly, this will give flat-earth people a way in.

By the way, you said that for most of your life belief in a flat Earth was synonymous with terms like 'ignoramus'. Here's the thing: it still is: all that has changed is that the ignoramuses are now in charge.

They've even reached here.

Establish proof? No, there's no proof the Earth is round. It's all fake. How could that be? Think about it for a few seconds: if the Earth were round, there would be nobody living on the so-called "southern hemisphere." They'd all fall into space. Even people from the northern hemisphere living near the Equator would keep sliding down - unless they used some clever sort of suction cups.


Any large flat area will show you the curvature of the earth. On the Bonneville Salt Flats you can see a car disappear as it crosses the horizon.

The reason that old sailing ships had crows nests was to see farther over the horizon than you could from the deck. Distance to the horizon calculator http://www.ringbell.co.uk/info/hdist.htm

Priceless. It's undignified, but that moment in the program made me giggle uncontrollably. Not a laughing matter, its more like scary—this is the same kind of of thinking hat leads to the denial of climate change.

As someone who has three cats, the only proof I need that the earth isn't flat is that there's stuff left that they haven't pushed off the edge ;)

It doesn't help those who struggle to evaluate competing claims when news channels wheel on a crank to provide 'balance'.

This is a bit like having my testimony in court challenged by a convicted con-artist, or a politician (a con-artist yet to be convicted).

Nor does it help that almost ever society on earth clings fervently to systems of belief that are not only unproveable, but extremely unlikely.

I believe they call it 'faith'.

Well, I'm no longer amused. Internet has been an empowering force for a lot of people in a not so positive way. Seems these days that everybody views are equal and therefore knowledge is no longer required.

I follow NASA's Instagram feed. The comments are infested with flat earthers, who seem to be so insecure about their belief that they need to inflict their delusion on we normal folks. Some of them may just be trolling for the fun of it, but they're deranged too.

However, I make lemonade out of lemons by asking them a question they can't answer. Because they believe satellites are a hoax and don't exist, I ask them why this does exist: https://transit-finder.com. Then I invite them to check out Instagram #isstransit. I haven't gotten an answer yet.

And at some point down the road, I'm going to use the ISS Transit Finder to get a transit photo of my own. By the way, the best way to do this is to take video with a 1/1000 second or better shutter speed and extract the jpegs.

Flat-earthers won't believe that video. They will say it is faked... and I have to say, it could be with the footage they show.

I'm afraid I don't see these folks as amusing. Just (potentially) dangerously deluded. I'd like to understand them, but haven't a clue.

Delete this if you like. It may be offensive to some.

I knew a guy years ago who said he was immune to cyanide BECAUSE he always chewed apple seeds which, he said, built up an immunity in his body. Who knew?

I have in my library a history of the flat earth movement (it began in the mid-19th century), and I thought all that was left was a small handful of cranks. I'm amazed at how many there were at that convention, a number I attribute largely to the Web. The naiveté with which they approach the subject and dismiss any evidence against a flat earth reminds me of the large number of people who still think President Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya.

I agree with Steve Jacob. I think that some in the media have responsibility for this because they constantly create false equivalences by always having a representative of opposing views on any subject on their programs. They will have a legitimate scientist represent the view that human activities have contributed significantly to climate change (the accepted view of 99.9% of climate scientists in the world based upon reviewing the data) and another person represent the view that humans have nothing to do with climate change (the view of maybe three scientists on the payroll of oil companies), and they are given equal time and their views equal respect on the program. Sorry, this isn't like having two opposing political candidates present for the sake of fairness. It's about evidence and facts, that is to say, science. They are not equivalent in any way, but, this approach has distorted the debate in destructive ways. I often wonder if the kid of one of these science deniers got sick and 99 doctors tell them the kid has rampaging pneumonia that will kill the kid if they don't get antibiotics right away, and one doctor tells them the kid should chew apple seeds, if they would go with the apple seeds. Maybe they would, I don't know, but I kind of doubt it.

After their hard-earned victory, the clerks continue to "sail the wide accountan-sea" (as they sing in their heroic sea shanty), until unceremoniously meeting their end by falling off the edge of the world, due to their belief about the shape of the world being "disastrously wrong".

from The Crimson Permanent Assurance

Time- and priceless, like almost everything Monty Python.

Don't you know, things don't move towards or away from us. They just keep getting larger or smaller! :)

I wonder if flat earths think a basketball is flat?


It's a sort of mass brainwashing we are seeing across the board to not trust the media and science. It's not surprising that we are seeing a spike in crackpot theories and denial of established science.

Mike The flat Earthers believe the world is flat because few of us can really fathom this reality. If one opens their eyes a bit existence in this 3/D atom based universe is mind blowing. I mean I cannot fathom why I live on a round ball but feel upright no matter where I stand on it yet we do. The best brains still ponder gravity. The big killer of the flat Earth is the Antarctic Ice Ring holding the oceans in place. With all our modern transportation no has flown past or traveled beyond it? Hmm

The flat-earthers are absolutely right that you should question everything and that no belief is beyond scrutiny. The problem is they don't know how to reason or run scientific tests. Ironically, what they actually end up proving is that the people who do are skilled and that the training they received is valuable.

Regarding telescopes: one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen with my own two eyes (well, one actually) was Saturn and its rings through a large standing telescope. You can see clearly that it is round. Much like the startled reaction of the man watching the helicopter disappear under the horizon, it makes concrete what our everyday experience hides from us about the nature of reality. We are floating on a ball in the great expanse of space.

Tim Bradshaw is right but there are other criticisms—is there a humidity layer that is deflecting the beam etc. etc.

The question is easily resolved in a very visceral way by inviting any flat-earth-inclined person to jump in a basket under a balloon (no "windows" you see) and take them up to 50,000 feet providing oxygen so they don't think they've been hallucinating. %^)


I think I'm in love with the lady in the white blouse.

Um, what were you saying?

"Even lunatic-fringe denialisms, such as flat Earth theories, while hard to take seriously, help to create an environment in which real scholarship and political attempts to engage with reality, break down in favour of an all-encompassing suspicion that nothing is what it seems."


The Ice Ring.

The thing is, the ring is easy to cross without falling off: it's actually quite thick - commensurate with the thickness of the disc upon which we all live - and gravitational attraction keeps us firmly in place, walking the walk as if nothing had happened.

The "crossing the Equator" ceremony was devised as a trailer for the slightly more adventurous - if certainly colder one - of "doing the edge".

At this stage, if you have been reading closely, and paying proper attention to this thread, you will be wondering why the edge of this disk is cooler, so much so as to have developed an edge of ice.

The explanation is simple: consider your bowl of hot soup: take from the edges and it is less hot than taking from the middle of the bowl: it's how heat is dissipated: from the centre of the mass outwards or, if you want to reverse-engineer it (as with E=mc2, you could proclaim that mc2=E), the outer edge cools the quickest.

You see? Perfectly logical, once it's been explained in layman terms.

Somebody at Google must be a TOP reader …

Google Maps now zooms out to a globe instead of a flat Earth

I'm not interested in converting flat-earthers into globalists -- they are too few to bother with -- but if I was, the impossibility of representing all the continents of the world at their true size and relationship on a flat map might convert a few more.

With 3D Globe Mode on Google Maps desktop, Greenland's projection is no longer the size of Africa.

Relevant (and well-written), from today's Guardian: 'Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth'


Science (and engineering) deniers should simply be left alone to live... without the benefit of any science (or engineering). Let's how they go... without modern housing, cars, plastics, steel, aluminium, etc. , etc. Just sayin'.

One day at a flea market I wandered by a couple of people engaged in an earnest discussion. One of them drove their point home with “And do you know how I know it’s true? I read it on the internet!” And there I was without my trusty Clue X Four.

I guess none of them has ever been in a boat. I forget the exact number but I believe it’s something like a ship moving 30 knots (admittedly that’s hauling) can come from under the horizon to on top of you in about 15 minutes. That means, basically, that you need to be constantly looking out for potential collisions while you are sailing.

Sailing would generally be easier if the earth was flat.

The funnest proof for flatearthers is to just jump up and come down at the same spot. Then grin triumphantly: see? If the 'globe' would 'rotate' it'd had rotated while I was up and I would've landed somewhere else. Case closed.

Oh boy. I thought I had him when I offered to jump up in a moving train or bus, and if he expects to be smashed against the back of the train, but he dismissed that as pointless and irrelevant.

I don't think flatearthers (or all the other denialists) actually care about their claims. What thy care about is the value of knowledge, science, the concept of truth in our society. This is what offends them.

Once the concept of truth is eroded, it's sufficient to be the one who screams loudest in order to get your way. Unfortunately, this has been achieved already in many parts of the world.

The problem with working on water for a stunt like that is that water, especially a large expanse of water, is subject to small atmospheric variations of pressure and may not actually be flat, especially across three miles or more. Did they have a suitably accurate barometer on the boat and check it when in position? No? I thought not.

Then, in addition, you need to check the base of the lake and any wind driven movement of water over peaks and hollows on the lake bottom. Any variations in water flow (remember Laminar Flow Theory) over those peaks and hollows will create variations in surface height. Did they scuba dive first, to check it all out and create a map? Use accurate sonar? No? I thought not.

Even all that will not be good enough. Variations in water temperature of parts of the lake will add their own little 'bumps' and 'hollows' at the surface. So will the wind, clearly apparent in the film.

I am not sorry to be pedantic or 'mansplaining' here. I just want to stand up for good science. When you measure things you have to think of possible variables that may upset your measurements. Remember and use all the science, in other words.

I do, however, apologise if I'm duplicating another post.

PS: I am not a Flat-Earther'. I do not believe our home in the universe is a flat disc or anything other than global in shape, despite what a budget Canon 28-90mm lens once showed me at various focal lengths. ;-)

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007