This one I blame on Netflix.
After a lifetime of loyally expounding the virtues of free-to-air television and tut-tutting those who chose to part with their hard-earned and PAY for viewing content, last week the streaming revolution finally landed at our place. Better late to the party then no party at all, I say.
One of the first things I hit play on was a documentary called BEHIND THE CURVE.
It’s about the idea – and people who believe with every breath of their body in the idea – that our planet is NOT ball-shaped, as we have all been brought up to believe, but flat.
That’s flat as in something that has edges. Flat as in something you can fall over the side of.
Barely had the opening credits rolled when the admittedly underused rational side of my brain spoke up loud and clear, challenging “Do you really need to sit through the next 90 minutes of this tin-foil hat brigade lunacy?”
Incredibly, even… unimaginatively, the answer turned out to be “Yes”.
I say incredibly because, well… there’s this –
I did end up indulging my curiosity for the entire 90 minutes of this ‘show’.
I was interested to see what type of person chooses to deliberately go against the last two thousand years of empirical scientific fact.
In fact, what type of individual champions the sort of nutty idea with double whack that could only ever fly in our ‘anything goes’ internet age; an age where proven knowledge has little choice but to cozy-up alongside way-out theories, speculation and the dreaded ‘fake news’.
What type of person? Labeling the ‘flat Earthers‘ – as they like to be called – as typically age 30+ adults who still live in Mum’s basement might come across as a little harsh or sarcastic. Instead I’ll broadly categorize them as the type of person who could be inclined to believe other far-out conspiracy theories, like um… oh don’t know, maybe that one about the government being able to control the weather or that other dandy about chemicals in the water supply turning frogs gay.
For the record, the idea that the Earth is a sphere was all but settled by ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle (384–322 BC), who obtained empirical evidence after travelling to Egypt and seeing new constellations of stars.
Eratosthenes, in the third century BC, became the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth. Islamic scholars made further advanced measurements from about the 9th century AD onwards, while European navigators circled the Earth in the 16th century. Images from space were final proof, if any were needed.
It would be easy to dismiss flat-Earthers as simply being misguided due to a lack of education. While there are indications that those susceptible to such views have low levels of scientific literacy, there is most likely something else at play here, to account for such wayward views. Views that fly in the face of all generally accepted laws and principles of science.
That something is a conspiracy mentality. There are arguments to suggest that such conspirists view the world through a really quite dark filter, whereby it’s assumed all authorities, institutions, corporations and governments are there to simply exploit people and keep various truths from leaking out, thus maintaining the status quo.
You can keep up that degree of denial and fact-twisting for a while I guess, but in the long-term, reality and tested, proven science have to surface at some stage. Don’t they? Well, don’t they?
For some reason that saying about never arguing with a fool in case people may not be able to tell the difference is playing through my head like some kind of rabid earworm at this very moment. And yet... I now deliberately fly in the face of such wisdom and offer these two proofs of a round Earth...
Different locations on Earth experience seasons at different times. Ever notice how summer in the United States corresponds to winter in Australia? Or how winter in Italy lines up with summer in Argentina? If the Earth were flat, Australia, Italy, and Argentina would all experience the seasons the same exact way. The flat Earth idea can’t explain this.
The second proof can be done simply by watching a sunset. Pick a nice spot from which you can watch a sunset (Point A) Ideally, you’d have a clear horizon in front of you, and behind you would be some sort of elevated point that you can quickly access (a hill, a building with at least two floors, or perhaps a tree; this is your Point B).
Watch the sunset from Point A, and once the sun is out of sight, hurry on over to Point B. With the added elevation provided by Point B, you should be able to see the sun above the horizon. If Earth were flat, the sun would not be visible at any elevation once it had set.
If you don’t have a hill, you could even try lying on your stomach to watch the sunset and then standing up to get a higher line of sight.