A Rather Flattering Worldview

Greetings Dear Reader,

Read your compass, position your sextant, and laugh maniacally as you burn your geography textbook (we’ve all wanted to do it at some point), today we look at topographical sensation that’s claiming the nations! Well, technically it’s only claiming a small portion of the Internet, but you get the point. Today, we delve  into: The Flat Earth Conspiracy

It is the very nature of humanity to question our surroundings

Historical Context

Although Flat-Earthers are usually synonymous with irrational YouTube videos and insane Reddit posts, the idea that the Earth is flat has actually held prudence since 800 B.C.

It was the Greek philosophers Homer and Hesiod who initially conceived that the Earth was flatter than a Trojan Shield. Later philosophers like Democritus (conceptualised the atom) and Anaximander (has a cool name) also corroborated this idea. Such beliefs were echoed by  in all continents, from ancient Hindu texts to the early Ming Dynasty, to varying extents, and so for a very long time nearly everyone thought the Earth was flat.

This of course, could be forgiven. After all, the body of Science was a mere toddler at this time, and scientific theories that the Earth was round weren’t readily accepted till approximately the 15th century. But what about in more current times? Who pointed at ancient Greek drawings and said ‘Hey, that sounds plausible?

Said Greek drawing, courtesy of Anaximander

It is believed that the very first person to bring the initial ideas of flat-earth theory to the public was English writer Samuel Rowbotham, who published pamphlets and manuscripts asserting the claim that the Earth was flat in 1849, incorporating a great deal of Biblical exposition to prove his point (because Jesus Christ really IS the answer to everything). He soon gained supporters who embraced this new perspective, and more journals would be published, detailing of experiments that ‘proved’ (pay special attention to the quotation marks) the Earth’s non-globiness. Fast-forward to 1956, and Samuel Shenton founds the International Flat Earth Research Society (IRFS), a safe haven for flat-earthers and a magnet for criticism.

The movement died down a bit afterwards, nearly fading into obscurity, until there came the invention of humanity’s greatest source of joy and gravest source of agony, the Internet. The flat-earth conspiracy theory resurged in 2015, and, like a geography textbook held close to a lighter, the theory caught fire. Subscribers to the literature of alternative thinking became subscribers to YouTube conspiracy channels, and the rest is history.

The Theories

According to flat-earthers, the earth is not round, as prior evidence and scientific law would suggest; rather, flat-earthers believe the earth to be flat (surprising, I know).

The flat-earth theory proclaims that the earth is shaped like a 2-dimensional disc, with us insignificant humans squatting on the top surface. The Arctic Circle is supposed to be smack-dab in the centre, surrounded by the other continents and enclosed by Antarctica, a ringed wall of ice that prevents thrill-seekers from venturing off the edge of the Earth with the threat of an icy death. An addendum to this already wild claim is that gravity doesn’t exist. Rather, the Earth is actually accelerating upwards, propelled by something called ‘dark energy’ (the meaning of which even the flat-earth community is unsure about).

An illustrated guide on how to successfully fail at drawing the world map

The flat-earthers provide many explanations as to why the Earth is as pancake-like as they say it is. Some of the more common ones include:

  • If the earth was spinning, we’d feel dizzy at some point
  • If the Earth was round then water bodies wouldn’t remain level
  • If the Earth was round then the horizon wouldn’t always remain at eye level

The answers to these dubious doubts can be found in any suitable physics textbook (provided you haven’t burned it yet), and these are respectively:

  • We are on the earth and so move at the same speed, therefore we cannot perceive the earth underneath us moving (think of being able to freely walk around in an aeroplane despite the plane flying at neck-break speeds)
  • Any liquid is pulled on equally by gravity, so there is no reason for water to splash about unless disturbed
  • This is an error in perception, and the horizon is most likely slightly above or below our line of sight at any time

There are more instances of ridiculous claims, and even more ridiculous experiments carried out in their name. For example, flat-earther Mike Hughes built invested $20,000 in a homebuilt manned-rocket, so he could go to space and himself see the rotundity (or lack there of) of the Earth. This ended about exactly as well as you would expect a homebuilt manned-rocket attempting to fly into space could end. With a crash landing.

And WHY exactly is it flat?

Well now, seems we’ve reached the heart of all this hubbub. The central cause for all this cantankerous calamity. The purveyor of all this pretentious prattling. And that is:

Well…

It’s kinda, sorta, more or less… under debate.

Some flat-earthers strongly believe that NASA lied about the Earth being round as an excuse to gain more funds from the US Govt. The space missions being a failure, they cooked up a story based on speculations by late Greek philosophers (remember those guys?) that the Earth was round, and stuck with it. Others argue that there are actually additional land masses behind the icy ring of Antarctica, and the Govt. is hiding these ‘new worlds’ from the public, allowing them to take all the new resources for themselves without having to share.

The more obscure theories go all the place, ranging from aliens carrying away any wayward homo sapiens that reach the edge of the Earth, to space-time vortexes that send anything that falls off the edge of the Earth into the centre again.

Regardless, these theories all share a common strain: the Earth is flat, and any evidence suggesting otherwise is fake/altered by some unknown organization. Of course, pretty much no one believes them.

Soooooo, where does this leave flat-earthers?

Conclusion

In ending this article, I would like to say that, despite my many jabs and jeers and jests, I mean no offence to the flat-earthers. While I wouldn’t trust them with answering my Physics IA, I must acknowledge that they are allowed to believe whatever they want, and that they aren’t directly harming or disrespecting anyone (the collective body of science excluding). Flat-earthers will just be another group of people that make this world the fun, odd, and unpredictable place that it is.

Thank you for your time. This has been: the flat-earth conspiracy.

P.S. Don’t burn your textbooks just because I mentioned it throughout the article. Or at least, don’t take my name when you do.

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