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Flat Earth Fun

When I was a toddler back in the early 1970s, I myself thought the Earth was flat. I thought we were living on this big lunch tray floating around in space, and I once had a dream of people jumping off the edge of that tray. I also remember watching someone performing on TV playing a piano on a platform moving through a slowly-moving star field, not realizing that he was just greenscreened in a TV studio. Then I saw an image of the planet Earth as a globe, but I thought it was a planet off in space somewhere else. It took me a while to realize that I was actually living on that planet and not some big floating lunch tray.
    As an adult going on fifty next year, I now know better. But YouTube has recently been suffering from a plague of flat earthers, delusional adults who really believe that the Earth is flat. Albeit instead of the rectangular lunch tray my toddler self thought we lived on, orthodox flat earthers believe the Earth is shaped like a vinyl phonograph record with the North Pole at the center and the South Pole … well … not really existing. So delusional are they that they won’t accept the hard evidence presented before them. They claim that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA for short, is embroiled in a conspiracy to deceive the public with images of the globe Earth from space. They tout the globe-Earth model as an elaborate hoax designed to hide the alleged “truth” that the Earth is a large disc. They claim that Antarctica, which they tout as a “wall of ice” holding in the world’s oceans, is so off limits that you risk being shot if you try going there. Never, however, do they explain what motive NASA could have for allegedly lying about the shape of the Earth. NASA would have absolutely nothing to gain from lying about something so innocuous. If the Earth were indeed flat, NASA would’ve told us.
    Our own observations would’ve told us as well. The globe Earth model, which flat earthers denounce as a NASA hoax, is so easy to prove that even the ancient Greeks knew the Earth was a globe. (If indeed the globe Earth model originated with NASA, then Eratosthenes somehow managed to found an agency over two thousand years before its associated government existed.) If you live in Argentina or New Zealand, all you have to do is set up a long-exposure camera aimed due south on a clear night and see how the stars rotate clockwise around the South Celestial Pole. If the flat Earth model were true, the stars would just all move straight from left to right.
    Speaking of the Sun, a flat Earth model would always have the Sun to the north in these two countries, but at their summer solstice in December, the Sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest. Do you work for Qantas? Which way do you leave Sydney when you fly out to Santiago? By the flat Earth model, you’d have to fly north by northeast, but most flight charts I’ve checked are consistent with the globe Earth model, which would have you flying southeast first past Antarctica. (Be careful that NASA doesn’t shoot you down on the way.)
    Flat earthers claim that the Sun and Moon are only about 55 kilometers across, which, calculating a distance-to-diameter ratio of about 110 for both, would put them about 6 megameters above the Earth. (A megameter, you may ask? That’s simply a million meters, or a thousand kilometers. Ah, the wonders of the Metric System you Americans are missing out on!) The modelled flat Earth would have to be 40 megameters in diameter. The problem, however, is that the Sun and Moon would literally have nowhere to hide in the sky in the flat Earth model. Not only wouldn’t there be any moonless nights, but there wouldn’t be any nights at all, because the Sun would never dip any lower than 9.6° above the horizon, and that’s in Antarctica. In the United States, it would dip no lower than 15.1°. Not only that, the Sun and Moon would vary much more in apparent size, the Sun shrinking to as much as 17% of its maximum size in Antarctica.
    However, the Sun and Moon often drop below the horizon completely out of sight, which is what we call “night” when the Sun does so, and they always appear very much the same size when visible. This is easy to explain with the Globe Earth model, where the Sun and Moon simply don’t appear on the side of the Earth turned away from them. Also, both bodies have very little variation in their apparent size due to having very little variation in their actual distance from each location on Earth. The Moon, which is actually 3.5 megameters in diameter, sits 385 megameters away from Earth. Given that the Earth’s radius is about 6 megameters, that allows the Moon to appear no less than 98% of its maximum apparent size, such a tiny variation that it’s hardly noticeable. The Sun varies even less than that in apparent size, being 1.4 gigameters in diameter, and it has to be that big to support nuclear fusion in its core. (A gigameter is a billion meters, or a million kilometers, by the way.) Compared to the 150 gigameter distance between the Sun and the Earth, the 6 megameter distance variation is almost nothing. In order to see the Sun reduced to 17% of its apparent Earth size in the globe Earth reality, you’d have to go out past the orbit of Jupiter.
    I guess I have to admit it, then: My own two eyes and my sense of reasoning are all in on the “Globe Earth Conspiracy.”


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