Well, it LOOKS flat. So how do we know it’s not?
I know two people who really the earth is flat, so I was curious. Is there a way we could answer the question directly, using understandable logic and measurements possible with the naked eye and a protractor.
I was especially intrigued when I found out that a fellow paramotor pilot believes this. Would he be willing to look at it critically?
This is how I approached it. For more on being a critical thinker go here.
Start by Making 2 Observations
Go out at night and look at Polaris, the North Star.
1. What angle above the horizon must you look to see it? That’s elevation.
2. What the angle relative to True North (aka True bearing)? In the U.S. magnetic North is pretty close to true North but there’s more error as you get west or east of Chicago. Google “magnetic declination” for more on that.
Here is what we would find by taking these measurements. In Chicago, it’ll be about 40 degrees above the horizon (elevation) and in orlando it’ll be about 30. Both bearings would be True North.
Above is the illustration I used to determine how far away Polaris would be on a flat earth. If the bearing (left/right) lines never overlap that would be problem in a planar model but we’ll ignore that for now.
Doing it this way avoids using Trig which is merely a quantification of angular and distance relationships anyway. You can use graph paper. Look at the North Star (Polaris). Every night on a clear sky you can see that it doesn’t move in the sky. All the stars go around it. It turns out we can learn a lot more.
Why It’s Ridiculous to Believe in a Flat Earth NOW
To think the world is flat now, with everything we know, with everything we use day to day, is completely absurd. *I* would have to be part of an absurd conspiracy. I’ve written navigation software back in the day that uses great circle calculations for a sphere. Besides how easy it is to prove using the technique above, there are many others. But beyond that consider how many people would have to be in onan IMMENSE conspiracy involving hundreds of millions of cohorts.
Flat earthers have to not believe that we don’t have anything orbiting earth–an extraordinary belief! Especially given that we can use consumer telescopes to see satellites or the ISS. They have to believe the ISS is somehow faked. And every single spacefaring country (now about 40) are in on the conspiracy. Here are some other ways to realize that yes, Earth must be a sphere.
- Internet on airliners is now ubiquitous. They now all use satellite dishes mounted ON TOP. Early systems used ground stations (antennas were mounted — not surprisingly — on the bottom) but they were less reliable. Satellite tracking antennas are pointed slightly upward depending how the target satellites are arrayed in orbit. They try to stay pointed primarily by rotating. Check out this video.
- We now see ships out in the ocean. That was possible using LORAN but the reverse wasn’t: we never got the data BACK on where the ship was. Now we do through a satellite link.
- GPS works EVERYWHERE. Notice that on vehicle and ship mounts GPS antenna’s must be given a clear view of THE SKY.
- There are now many THOUSANDS of private companies involved in spaceflight and its increasing rapidly.
- You can see the ISS with even an average telescope. They must believe that the ISS is a gigantic international conspiracy agreed to be perpetrated by every spacefaring country including good friends China and Russia.
- Every airliner flying uses navigation software that’s based on “Great Circle” calculations which only work on a sphere. I wrote such software in the early 1990’s.
- Millions of Americans get satellite TV. They don’t point those dishes at the ground, they point them based on a satellite at a fixed orbital point (geosynchronous) that’s based on latitude using a simple calculation that only works on a sphere! I can’t even imagine how you COULD fake that. Even a basic understanding of how parabolic antennas work makes this a showstopper to the belief that we don’t have satellites.
Other Ways to Know
There are many other ways to know. Reliable ways. Ignoring them, or letting a belief’s “tribal leaders” as I call them, dictate how to interpret observations is how the belief perpetuates. Bad or misunderstood science is promulgated. After I offered this explanation a flat earth “expert” was called in and brushed off these observations as “atmospheric distortions” at which point I gave up. Distortions would have to happen the exact same amount EVERY DAY all year. That’s ridiculous, of course, and shows that this is a belief not an understanding.
Google “how we know the earth is round” for more but here is a great resource.
This belief is the most depressing expose on the state of humanity’s ability to progress. That we must expend energy on such easily provable facts means that progress will be slowed. Other areas that rely on experts making esoteric measurements not easily understood will be that much harder. I fear whether people like this will believe it when NASA or another space agency discovers a meteor heading for earth.
Belief matters. Here’s hoping we convert belief to understanding and base it on the best evidence followed by believing those who base their understanding on the best evidence.
See another angle on JeffGoin.com.