Thursday, December 22, 2016

Eight Inches Per Mile Squared

It seems to be the only math which many flat-Earthers are willing to consider accurate. The Earth, they say, supposedly curves away at a rate of eight inches times the distance in miles squared. Which is true. Kind of. But not really.

The figure, which they say comes from NASA, or "science," actually comes from a very different source. Flat-Earthers, no matter where they got it themselves, owe it to none other than Samuel Birley Rowbotham, author of Zetetic Astronomy. He got it from the Encyclopedia Brittanica, where it is cited under the heading "Leveling." You'll find his lengthy quote (I doubt that he got permission to use it, by the way) starting on page 8 of the 1865 edition of his book.

The problem is that this is in the context of civil engineering, not mathematics, and it's just a rule of thumb employed by plane surveyors to compensate for the drop in a target of the same height as the surveyor's transit. It builds up inaccuracy as the distance increases for two reasons, the first being that it is not exact, and the second being that it is not based on the formula for a circle. It actually plots out to be a parabola.

Don't believe me? Let's take an extreme example, the most extreme possible in the globe model, in fact. So, what is the farthest apart two points can be on Earth? The answer is about 12,500 miles apart, because if they are any farther, they will be closer from another direction. What is the maximum drop a target can have? About 7950 miles, the diameter of the entire Earth (although, looked at another way, the drop at 12,500 miles is zero). How does the formula stack up?

The square of 12,500 is 156,250,000 and 156,250,000 times 8 inches is 1,250,000,000 inches, or 236,742 miles. About the distance to the moon. See what I mean? Eight inches per mile squared never curves back on itself, and becomes progressively less circular as the distance increases.

But that isn't even the biggest problem with eight inches per miles squared. The biggest problem is that flat-Earthers, with few exceptions, apply the formula to the wrong situation. They apply it to the question: how much of a distant building or land feature should I be able to see from a given distance? And for that question, eight inches per mile squared is useless, unless you want to posit that every observer is lying down with his face planted firmly on the ground with one eye closed.

The simple fact is that you can't answer this question without taking at least two things into account. The first is the height of the observer. I won't go into the math, because not only is there an excellent online calculator for this, but the math and source code are given for it right here.

The other thing you have to take into account is atmospheric refraction, the fact the different densities of fluids such as air bend light. Flat-Earthers love to invoke refraction to explain sunsets, as much as they like to disparage it as an excuse when viewing distant objects.

For just a little information on how refraction can skew observations, especially close to the ground, and especially over water, I refer you to none other than page 10 of the 1865 edition of Zetetic Astonomy.

Puts a whole new light, I think, on Rowbotham's experiment at the Old Bedford Level.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why I Don't Debate Flat-Earthers

I have many times been offered the opportunity to debate on the topic of whether or not the Earth is flat. And I have declined. I've been accused of being afraid to engage in such a debate, but really the reasons have nothing to do with how I might fare, and everything to do with the nature of the debate itself.

There Is No Debate

The shape of the Earth is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact. The Earth's curvature can be directly measured, and has been by geodetic surveyors over the last 200 years or so. Photographs of the Earth have been taken from space, and however much the flat-Earthers cry "fake," they have never been able to prove the claim, and never will be able to, because the photos are genuine.

The flat-Earth model, such as it is, can easily be disproved by something as simple as a sunset, no matter how many torturous hoops flat-Earthers jump through, and no matter how much they have to make up out of whole cloth in trying to prove otherwise.

In short, it would be like having a debate on the topic of triangles: "A triangle has three sides. Pro or con; give reasons for your position." There's just nowhere to go.

Undeserved Respect

Agreeing to debate on a topic on which there is no valid controversy gives the topic an aura of respect that it does not deserve. It elevates the purveyors of those ideas to a status they have not earned, relieving them of the burden of intellectual rigor of any kind, and encouraging anyone with a silly hypothesis to pass themselves off as an original thinker, or worse, a "true scientist."

The notion that all ideas have equal validity is something pseudoscientists use to play to people's sense of fairness and to gain a tactical upper hand by proposing that their "evidence," not matter how spurious, be given the same weight as scientific fact. But accusations, assertions, and outright lies are not facts and should never be treated as such. Ridiculous ideas deserve to be ridiculed, not debated.

Flat-Earthers Don't Do Debates

A debate is a formal argument on a single topic. But go to YouTube, search for any flat-Earth "debate," and you'll find that there is nothing formal about it, nor are any of these (often excruciatingly lengthy) "debates" held to a single topic, not even one as broad as "is the Earth flat?" They are nothing but a free-for-all, with plenty of personal insult and off-topic rambling, and whenever a flat-Earther gets backed into a corner on one aspect of their "evidence," instead of defending the indefensible, the flat-Earther will change to a completely new tack, hoping that the shifting of gears will throw everyone off the scent.

And for these reasons, whenever someone asks me to debate Jeranism or Jeffrey Grupp or DITRH, I just say no, knowing that nothing will be gained, either by me or by the quest for the truth, from such an exercise.

And I suggest that anyone else avoid this useless path as well.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Outside the Box

In a recent exchange on Twitter, a flat-Earther claimed that I only "believe" that the Earth is round because I'm not "thinking outside the box." The term immediately got my hackles up, not because it has any merit, but because it brands its user as a hack who's trying to impress someone with their creative thinking skills. I'm not the only one who feels that way; a poll from about eight years ago in Britain branded "thinking outside the box" as the most despised bit of business jargon.

The term seems to have originated with the "nine dot problem," wherein three rows of three dots must all be intersected with four straight lines drawn without lifting the pencil or pen. In order to solve the puzzle, you have to make the lines outside of the imaginary "box" defined by the nine dots. Every corporate creative consultant knows about this. But it's not such a great example of lateral thinking, after all.

I won't go into details, since it's somewhat off-topic, but here's a great article by a reformed corporate creative consultant about the problems with pegging too much on "thinking outside the box."

But let me add a couple of thoughts that I think relate specifically to flat-Earthers and other pseudoscientific types:

You're Not Thinking Outside the Box; You're Just Thinking Inside Another Box

I have been interacting with and reading and watching the works of flat-Earthers for about a year and a half now, and original thinking is extremely rare. And when there is something original, it's not really lateral thinking, approaching a problem from a unique angle to find a solution. It's just making stuff up.

Other than that, there hasn't been much original thinking in the flat-Earth world since Samuel Birley Rowbotham who, for all his faults, seems to have been a pretty creative guy. But Eric Dubay's material is mostly stolen from Rowbotham, and the vast majority of flat-Earthers on the Internet, especially YouTube and Twitter, are merely parroting what others have said, repeating the same poorly-designed experiments, and accusing anyone who disagrees with them of lying, or of being indoctrinated sheep.

Just Because Your Thinking Is Unconventional Doesn't Make It Worthwhile

Having something out of the mainstream to say doesn't mean that you have something important to add to the conversation. There has to be substance there; it can't be the first thing that pops into your head because you don't understand the world around you. You may think you're being profound and original, but more often than not (by far), you're just being annoying and wasting someone's time and energy with nonsense.

Before you say, or tweet, or vlog some amazing supposed fact you just found on the Internet, on Dubay's site or Mark Sargent's channel, or reposted for the thousandth time by someone who's just spamming anyway, stop and think: does this actually make sense?

If, for example, someone posts a video of the moon and the sun in the sky at the same time and says "this can't possibly happen on a globe," which makes more sense to do: repost it immediately with a nod of the head, or take a quick look at some sites on astronomy, by real astronomers, to see how the standard model of the solar system actually explains that situation?

I know what most flat-Earthers will do: a jerk of the knee, and another tweet adding to the pseudoscientific noise. You think you're bringing something new to the world. But I have news for you: ignorance is nothing new.

You Always Have To Come Back To the Box

Even in the nine dot problem, you can't ignore the box; the lines still have to connect with every single dot. If you draw four lines outside the box that never connect the dots, you haven't solved the problem.

Even if you do apply lateral thinking to a problem, you have to come back and make sure your creative thinking actually matches reality. Without excuses. You can't just say, for example, "sunsets are the result of perspective as the sun moves away from you at a fixed height above the Earth," unless you have some evidence that such a notion can possibly produce observations that nearly everyone on the planet makes every day as part of being alive on Earth.

Similarly, merely accusing all of mainstream science of lying and conspiracy is not creative thinking. It's out of the mainstream, to be sure, it's "outside the box," but you can't expect anyone to take you seriously if you can't produce real evidence (not just videos of things you don't understand, or reposts of heavily quote-mined documentaries) that someone is lying. And make no mistake: you are making an accusation, and a serious one at that; the burden of proof rests solely with you.

Just Stop

Stop using terms like "outside the box." And while you're at it, stop saying that your belief in a flat Earth is based on "first-hand observation," because you're lying. And since we're on the subject, stop using words like "indoctrinated" and "sheep" and "shill" as well, because they just make you look paranoid and foolish.

Which is not what you want, I think. Even if it's true.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

More Ignorance Per Meme

And now we have four ignorant claims stuffed conveniently into a single meme:


Like all memes, these offer no explanation, just a bald claim that these four things are, somehow, evidence against the Earth being a globe. Not even evidence of a flat Earth, mind you, but just evidence that the Earth is not a globe.

How? You may well ask. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, I have been around this scene long enough to know what the maker of this meme is going on about. And to know that whoever it is is not only wrong, but actually leading us to evidence that the Earth is, indeed, a globe. Let's take these one at a time:

Periscopes
The conceit here is that periscopes would be useless on a curved Earth because the submariner using the scope would be limited by the horizon. And, in fact, that is the case. Which is why periscope masts are generally far taller than the one in the picture, to extend the horizon, something that is only necessary on a curved Earth.

Further, the fact that the Earth is curved by a, for all practical purposes, fixed amount was used by periscope operators, in the days before sonar, to target ships for attack. The distance to the horizon was calculated using the height of the mast above the water, something that can only be true on a curved Earth. Strike one.

Lighthouses
All kinds of wild claims are made for lighthouses by flat-Earthers. Eric Dubay, in his 200 Proofs the Earth Is Not a Spinning Ball, states that the Cape L’Agulhas lighthouse in South Africa can be seen from 50 miles away. Other flat-Earthers claim that lighthouses can be seen from hundreds of miles away. No sources are cited for these claims, and articles by real sailors state that the maximum distance any lighthouse can be seen, under the best of conditions, is a little over 20 miles.

But the telling question is: why are lighthouses so tall? In a flat world, lighthouses could be only tall enough to rise above the waves, which would save a lot of money on their construction. But lighthouses are made tall to be seen from greater distances. which is only necessary on a curved Earth. Strike two.

Gyroscopes
The notion that gyroscopes don't "work" on a globe Earth is, on its face, ludicrous. Whether the Earth is flat, round, or octahedral, a gyroscope will do what a gyroscope does. What does a gyroscope do? It maintains a fixed position in space, independent of gravity, absent any intervening force.

So what's the big deal? Gyroscopes are used in navigation, in artificial horizons. The flat-Earthers claim that the artificial horizon would roll back as the plane flies, because the plane would have to curve around the Earth while the gyroscope maintains its fixed position. And they are right about that. Which is why artificial horizons have a device to compensate for gravity built into them; they are not merely gyroscopes. If you're curious, look up "pendulous vanes."

Flat-Earthers have made YouTube videos about gyroscopes, filming them in time-lapse and noting that they do not move. All of these are flawed by several factors, not the least of which is the use of a toy gyroscope that is subject to a great deal of friction. They prove nothing except the experimenter's inability to design a controlled experiment. Strike three. Flat-Earthers are already out, but they still feel the need to come back to bat for a good chance at getting beaned with the ball, which leads us to:

Sundials
I think it was nice of the maker of this meme to save the most ridiculous claim for last. Sundials work on a globe. In fact, it is because the Earth is a sphere that different sundial designs are used at different latitudes. Furthermore, here is a video on how a crude sundial can be used to determine the shape of the Earth:






Strike four. Getting four strikes at a single at-bat means you should just give up the game altogether.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Geometric Follies

Consider, if you have the fortitude, the following meme:


There are so many things wrong in this meme that it makes my head hurt. First let's start with that expression, "directly above my head." The only way for the sun to be directly over your head, or at least apparently so, is at local noon on the correct date at a location somewhere between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. This is not true at the "bottom" of South Africa, and it's very definitely not true in the UK, where the southernmost point, in Cornwall, is nearly 50 degrees north of the equator.

So the crude little drawing of the sun shining down on the UK and another sun shining down on South Africa is just a lie. And then there is the scale of this ridiculous drawing. It does make a difference that the sun is 93 million miles away.

It is, on the other hand, quite possible to see the sun in the sky in both London and Cape Town at the same time. And there is nothing in the globe model that prevents this. They are only, after all, two time zones and 83 degrees latitude apart, so there is nothing in the way of the sun from either location. Why is this such a difficult thing to understand?

You can't, and I have said this many times, debunk a model by misrepresenting it. This is just one extremely blatant example of this kind of tactic.

And then there is the second half of the meme. Which backfires. Why? Because the angles at which a pair of observers would see the sun from London and Cape Town in the flat-Earth model is something someone can easily calculate, given the date and time and a little trig. And it wouldn't match the actual observations for those locations.

Because, and it's getting wearying to even say this, the Earth is not flat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hibernation

As I head into the New Hampshire winter, it's time for me to, in a sense, take a break. Although it's a working break. It's not just because of the upcoming cold weather, and the extra work I have to do to keep the plunging temperatures and snow at bay. It's that, in the months since The Earth Is Not Flat was released, my interactions with the flat-Earthers has lead me to think that it might be time to rewrite the book.

And, as with the last big writing session, I won't have much time left over to do battle with flat-Earthers on Twitter and YouTube. So you shouldn't expect to see much of me on those platforms until the spring when, I hope, there will be a new edition of the book to talk about.

I'll still post here on the blog from time to time, and I'll still answer comments here, if they are worth answering. There will still be automated Twitter posts reminding people that the first edition of the book is still for sale, and pointing readers to selected posts on this blog, and I may post research questions occasionally. But I'll be much too busy with new research and writing to spend even the relatively meager amount of time I now spend responding to flat-Earth posts.

And there are, of course, other writing projects. I have six new songs in the works, recordings of my existing songs, a theater project coming up, and my first juvenile fiction novella. Plus all the things I do for clients between my own projects.

But come the spring, when I can shut the heat back down and put the snow thrower away, I should have a shiny new edition of The Earth Is Not Flat to show off. Hope it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thinking Of an Experiment

In my last three posts (which have conveniently been combined onto a single page in the tabs), I proposed three tests which anyone with modest resources could perform to show whether or not the Earth is flat. But lately I've been wondering if there is a similarly simple experiment that would show that the Earth is turning.

Not that a moving Earth and a sphere Earth are the same issue; educated people knew that the world was spherical long before they could tell if it moved or not. Some early thinkers, most notably Aristarchus, argued for a heliocentric model thousands of years ago, but it wasn't until the time of Copernicus and Galileo that we started having observation evidence to back it up.

Now, of course, we have lots of evidence; our entire space program depends heavily on the motion of our world and all of our solar neighbors. But flat-Earthers don't believe in any of that.

What I'm more concerned with is thinking of a way that, without the observational skills of an astronomer or sophisticated and expensive equipment, an average person could conduct a test to show that the Earth is turning.

I know of one that I find convincing, involving the Coriolis Effect. These synchronized videos show the experiment. I had another thought, but there is a problem that I'm not sure how to get around.

First, the idea. What if two people, one living very far north or south of the equator, and the other at the equator, were to weigh a standard reference weight at their respective latitudes using an accurate (but inexpensive) jeweler's scale? The precision of the scale is enough to show the difference due to gravity as long as the weight has enough mass.

Let's say that the reference weight is 100 grams. In theory, at either pole the reference weight would weigh 100 grams, and at the equator it would weight about 99.7 grams. That would show that some force is counteracting gravity at the equator. Maybe the flat-Earthers would make something up, but it seems obvious to me that the counteracting force is centrifugal (yes, I know, it's a pseudo-force, but it ACTS like a force, and shows that movement is taking place).

But there is one problem I do not have enough knowledge to overcome: calibration of the scales. When you buy a precision scale, the first thing you normally do is calibrate the scale to a reference weight just like the one I'm talking about. But, of course, when you calibrate the scale, you'd be calibrating it to local gravity, and the comparison would be invalid.

So my question to anyone who understands scales very well is this: why do you calibrate the scale? Is it because no two are exactly the same? Is it because something happens during shipping? Or is it, in fact, because of local gravity? Do you see a way around my little problem?

I'd love to hear from someone with the necessary expertise, because if this could be done with a pair of inexpensive jeweler's scales and reference weights, I think it would make a good addition to the everyman-approach to first-hand knowledge of the shape and motion of the world we live on.

Please leave comments below; I'm truly interested in hearing your thoughts on this.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Three Tests, Part Three: Extending Eratosthenes

Since the last experiment involved either getting wet or waiting for lakes to freeze. there is a way to show whether or not the Earth is curved quite easily with the same equipment we used in the sunset experiment (those of us who actually bothered to do it), and some international cooperation.

Around 240 BCE, the librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, devised a clever way to measure the circumference of the Earth. The method is described here for those who would like to repeat the experiment.

Flat-Earthers have pointed out that this experiment does not prove that the Earth is a sphere, because the same results could have been obtained from a close sun and a flat plane. And they are right about that; the experiment assumed a spherical Earth and a distant sun, because others before Eratosthenes had made compelling arguments to establish those facts, and Eratosthenes was only trying to figure out how big the Earth was.

But one little addition to the experiment would prove the sphericity of the Earth. And it is as simple as adding a third data point. Because the geometry of a curved surface does not match the geometry of a flat surface (see, for example this blog post of mine).

So, through the power of connecting over the Internet, all you need to do is find two people who live a latitudes quite a bit different from your own. More than two is even better. Each of you will need a yardstick, a level, and a measuring tape, and access to Time and Date and Google Maps.

I won't complicate this too much, because the details aren't nearly as important as the basic idea. You and your teammates choose a day, bury the yardsticks to the same depth, and measure the length of the sticks' shadows at solar noon (that's where Time and Date comes in). 

Google Maps will help determine the distances between the parallels from each location. Now, you can map out the triangulations on a flat plane, and then on a sphere and compare, but you can simplify it. Just assume a flat plane and try to use the triangulations to determine the distance to the sun. If the Earth is flat, and the sun is close, then the distances to the sun should be consistent. If they are not, then the assumptions of a flat plane and a close sun are incorrect.

Having determined that, you can then extend the math to conclude that the Earth is, indeed, a sphere, and that it was pretty close to the size that Eratosthenes worked out over 2200 years ago.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Three Tests, Part Two: Revisiting Wallace

Maybe my little test with the sunset hasn't convinced you, although as I write this, no one has come up with even an attempt at a flat-Earth explanation for the results. But here's another test, which requires quite a bit more time and effort than the last, but directly indicates that standing water curves, and even gives you a way to approximate by how much.

It is a variation on the test performed by biologists Alfred Russell Wallace at the Old Bedford Level in 1870. You can read more about that event here. But it requires a long stretch of relatively still water with a line of sight over at least five miles. And if the water is not shallow, the process can be rather harrowing.

So, I'm calling on flat-Earthers who live in very cold climates to try a simpler variation. You'll need a sufficiently large body of water that freezes over so that it's perfectly safe to walk on. You'll also need three stepladders that are at least 10 feet high (Gorilla or Little Giant ladders would work well), two targets big enough to see from miles away with a telescope, some hardware to affix the targets to the top of the ladders, and a telescope. A spotting scope would be easier to use than the type designed for astronomy.

Set up the ladders so that one is about 2-1/2 to 3 miles away from the first. Affix a target to that ladder and measure its distance from the frozen surface. Set up another ladder so that it forms a line of sight with the other two, and is the same distance from the second as the second is from the first. Affix a target to it at the same height.

Now go back to the first ladder and set up the scope so that it is also the same height above the surface as the two targets. Aim the scope at the furthest target. If the Earth is flat, the first target will be in the way of the second. In the Earth is concave, as "Lord" Steven Christ claims, the first target will be below the second target. And if the Earth is convex (and it is), the first target will be higher than the second.

If you measure how much higher, by having someone with a cell phone move another target until it is centered in your scope, you can use that information to estimate to circumference of the Earth, not with any great accuracy, but close enough to know that the "official" circumference is definitely in the ball park.

Have I done this experiment? No. First, the sunset tells me what I need to know, and I don't feel the need to go to the trouble. Second, Wallace did this in 1870 and I have no reason to doubt his veracity. And third, if I did the experiment and published the results, the flat-Earthers would only reward my efforts by declaring them fake. See, for example, what happened to Wallace.

That said, when the lakes in my area freeze over this winter, I may suggest to one of the science teachers at the local high school that this would make an interesting project to show that direct evidence is available to anyone willing to access it and evaluate it with an unprejudiced eye.

The question is, are any flat-Earthers willing to go out into the cold and do the same?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three Tests, Part One: Shadows At Sunset

Flat-Earthers will, it seems, go to great lengths to prove that the Earth is not a globe. They will try to raise money, unsuccessfully, to travel to Antartica, perhaps in order to demonstrate that they will be turned away at gunpoint for the attempt.

They will buy fairly expensive cameras with powerful zoom lenses and use the zoom to somehow prove that the ships don't go over the horizon, or that faraway skylines are visible when they shouldn't be, or that stars are really blurry undulating masses.

They will shoot lasers across lakes in an attempt to debunk a similar (but notably not identical) experiment performed on the series Genius recently.  And they will measure the temperature, so they say, of moonlight compared to moon shade which, somehow, is supposed to prove that the Earth is flat. But what they won't do is perform a few simple, definitive tests that show whether or not the Earth is flat.

So, if you seriously think that the Earth is flat, forget about high-tech, GoFundMe campaigns, and vague, badly designed experiments. Be prepared to get out, reach out, and find out. Warning: there's math involved.

Test One: Measure a Sunset, Watch the Moon Set
I've talked about sunrise and sunset before, and gotten a lot of excuses about perspective. But perspective is a visual phenomenon, and we're going to ignore it. Instead, we are going to cast and measure some shadows, and do some trigonometry. If you're not particularly good at trig (it's okay, I'm not either), I'll point you to an online calculator that you can use to help out.

It helps to be on an ocean beach that faces west for this. A beach that faces east also works, but then you should watch the moon rise and measure the sunrise. And if you don't have access to a beach, any big field without any really tall surrounding mountains will work almost as well. I'm going to assume a west-facing beach.

Pick a clear evening when the moon is full or nearly full. It will be easier to see. For tools you'll need a yardstick, a tape measure, a compass, a small level, binoculars, and paper and pencil. Get yourself a spot at least an hour before sunset. Plunge the yardstick into the sand until two feet are sticking up. Use the level to make sure it's straight up and down.

Half an hour before sunset, measure the shadow cast by the stick, and use the compass to work out the direction of the shadow. Believe it or not, that's all the data you need to gather. After the sun has fully set and no longer casts any usable light, try to bring it back into view with the binoculars.

Bring the binoculars back to the beach half an hour before the moon sets. Watch the moon sink below the horizon, note it's apparent size, and whether the horizon cuts it off as it sinks. When it's out of sight, try to bring it back into view with the binoculars.

Now it's time to go home and do some evaluation of what you just did.

Evaluation
Get out your simple data on the shadow. First, let's start with the length of the shadow. Open this triangle calculator. Erase any data already provided. In the box for side x, put the height of your stick, or two feet. In the box for angle a, put 90, since your stick formed a right angle with the ground. In the box for side z, put the length of the shadow, and click on "Calculate."

The key number is the angle that will show as opposite side 1 (the calculator should show side x and angle b; I don't know why it doesn't). This is the angle above the ground that the sun was when it cast it's shadow. In my test, it was 6.71 degrees. What does this say about the flat Earth? Well, let's apply this math in reverse.

The most common flat-Earth model has the sun 3000 miles above the "plane." Let's plug that back into the calculator: put 3000 into side x, erase side z, and put 6.71 into angle b. Calculate. Look at the figure for side 3. In my test, the stick cast a 17-foot shadow; if the sun were 3000 miles over a flat plane, it would be over 25,000 miles away at sunset. In other words, off the disc of the flat-Earth model.

Not a problem, you say? We know that when it's sunset where you're standing, it's noon somewhere else. Where else on Earth is 25,000 miles away? The model is breaking down.

Okay, what if the sun is not 3000 miles high? If the sunset happens when the sun is about 6000 miles away, which is one of the implications of the model, then how high would it be? Erase side x, put 6000 in side z (leaving the original figures for angles a and b). Calculate.

In my test, the sun would have to be 706 miles high to create that shadow. If you think that's possible, then it's time to go out and try to measure the height of the sun. I give you some idea of the difficulties of that task if you assume a flat Earth in this blog post. But before you go to the trouble, let's think about your other observations.

Get out your favorite azimuthal equidistant map projection, or another flat-Earth map if you have one. You can get the Gleason Map here.  Find yourself on the map. Then chart the angle of the sun based on the shadow angle you jotted down. Does it make any sense? In some lucky circumstances it might, but in most locations on most days, it won't match up.

When you watched the moon go down, it didn't shrink in size. It may have even looked a little larger as it came close to the horizon. And it moved down into the horizon, the horizon cutting through it until it sank out of sight. And you couldn't bring it back into view with the binoculars. So it wasn't just moving away from you. Relative to the ground, it was actually behind the ground. Same with the sun. Behind the curve. Because the Earth is curved.

I know of no other way to explain these observations. You're welcome to bring your own interpretation, but if it's vague, prepare to be challenged. Because on something as important as the truth, especially when you deign to rebuke a couple of thousand years of established scientific thought, you'd better be specific, or you'd better go home.

And if this doesn't convince you, the next experiment (in this post) is designed to directly indicate that water does, contrary to flat-Earth myth, curve over the surface of the Earth.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Message to Flat-Earthers

I left this comment awhile back on a video by Lori Gale, but when I re-read it today, it struck me as something anyone who buys into this flat-Earth idea should think about:
Could you, possibly, entertain the idea that the government doesn't give a hang about any of you, and that the entire flat-Earth "movement" is nothing more than a kind of mass hysteria, spread by the easy access to audiences afforded by YouTube and Twitter, the lack of scientific knowledge and skill in much of the general population, and a predisposition toward distrust?
Could it be that the more than 2000 years of science on the shape, size, motion, and position of the Earth have in fact produced reliable answers which, while they may be counter-intuitive, have allowed us to enjoy many fruits of civilization which have relied on this knowledge?
Could it be that the theoretical physicists, some of whom invented the core materials on which your digital technology is based, know more about the nature of things than the rest of us?
I am nearly a year into this flat-Earth fad, and I think that what I'm saying is far more likely.
 If you cannot, at the very least, entertain these ideas, then you are not being open-minded; you are merely latching onto to something, for whatever reason, instead of truly considering all the evidence available to you, and you do not deserve to call yourself a seeker of truth.

And it's time all of you faced that fact.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dave Murphy's Open Letter

There is a petition on petitions.whitehouse.gov asking the government to answer the twelve questions posed in the video entitled An Open Letter To Neil DeGrasse Tyson on YouTube by a fellow named Dave Murphy. Here's his "letter" in video format. I have not found a text version online.


Now, let me mention a couple of things before I even address the questions in the "letter." At the beginning of the video, Murphy calls himself a "former man of science." He has no background in science that I can see in his biography, and in fact he seems to specialize in pseudoscience of many kinds. So, this opening to the letter is, at least, disingenuous.

Murphy then goes on to criticize Dr. Tyson's out-of-hand rejection of the flat Earth. He thinks that the flat-Earth deserves the same respect as new ideas in real science. This is nonsense. You don't earn respect for you ideas for just throwing them out there; you earn it by presenting ideas with substance, that ask real questions about the world, and make predictions that can be tested. The flat-Earth crowd does none of this.

Further showing his ignorance of how science works, Mr. Murphy says "Nothing in science is ever settled." If that were true, no progress would be made in science. Facts are settled, laws are about as settled as anything gets in the world, and theories are settled for as long as they continue to be the best descriptions for observations.

Murphy also says "The scientific method demands that you treat each point of view with respect, as it has the potential to overturn the existing model." Only extraordinary evidence and theories of magnificent explanatory power can overturn established principles. It is through this process that we build on existing ideas to discover more about the Universe. But the flat Earth has none of this.

Lastly, Murphy uses the word "scientism." This is casting science as religion, and undermines Murphy's credibility, even before he poses his first question.

He also says he wants answers in simple layman's terms. Kind of lazy for a "former man of science," don't you think? Flat-Earthers often accuse others of not doing their research. If they have something so important to offer, shouldn't they at least do their homework?

But, of course, when he does get around to posing his questions, his credibility just flies out of the window. These are not legitimate scientific questions. These are attempts (and mighty poor ones) at "gotcha" questions,

Let's have a look at these twelve questions:

1. Why is there land at the equator?
Murphy is off to a bad start with this one. He's referring to the slight bulge of the Earth at its equator cause by the Earth's rotation, which makes the Earth slightly oblate. He includes a portion of an interview with Dr. Tyson in his video which explains this. But, like every flat-Earther, he omits the last, and most telling, part of the interview, meant to give its audience a sense of scale.

Here's a terrific video by the YouTube user fiverredpears on the interview with Dr. Tyson:



So, let's move on from that bit of flat-Earth trickery to his next point. He claims the equator should be covered in water because water is "easier to move" than rock. As if the Earth was made from nothing but water and rock. And if if a spin of one revolution per day has enough force to pull the seas out to cover all the land masses at the equator.

Look, Mr. Murphy, this oblateness, this bulging at the equator, has happened gradually throughout the four-billion-year history of the planet, and affects all of its components. Your out-of-scale diagrams (a favorite tool of flat-Earthers going all the way back to Rowbotham) don't change the physics involved.

Ultimately, it's just a very silly question.

2. Am I able to see the curvature or not?
I addressed this question myself in this blog entry.  But I'll say this much more. Murphy is making some very odd assumptions in the video about how we see, and more importantly how much we see, when we look at the horizon. If you see five miles out, do you see 10 miles across? Only with a 90-degree field of view, and though the total human view is nearly 180 degrees, we can only focus in the middle two or so, and our perception of both detail and color drops off quickly outside that area.

So the answer is, no, for the most part, unless you are very high above the Earth with a nice wide view, you will not see the curve from side-to-side even when you can detect it by watching ships go over the horizon.

3. Why haven't we ever seen curved water?
We have. Every time we can't see something—or even a portion of something—beyond the ocean horizon, we're looking at a curve in the water. Murphy alludes to a very large frozen lake in Siberia. Now, if he would like to travel there, it seems that it would be the perfect place to reproduce Wallace's version of the Bedford Level experiment, since, on top of the ice, you need not worry about your depth in the water.

The experiment can be performed with three tall ladders, some simple wood targets, and an inexpensive spotting scope. And lots of hot coffee. Next question.

4. How are we breathing right now?
This is Mr. Murphy confusing the vacuum of space, which is the absence of matter, with a vacuum cleaner, which actively pulls things into it. The vacuum of space doesn't pull the atmosphere away; it is not negative pressure. We have an atmosphere because we have gravity. If the gravity was stronger (because the planet was more massive) our atmosphere would be denser. Also because of gravity, the air is less dense as you get further from the surface. Because of this, Mr. Murphy's column of rising hot air will not escape the planet because it will eventually meet an area of less dense air through which it can not longer rise.

5. Is the Earth very very small, or is the sun very very near?
The video that accompanies this question is so rife with errors it's hard to know where to begin. No, the "official" explanation (as if there was some government-approved version, instead of a standard scientific explanation) of crepuscular rays (those seemingly divergent rays in the picture) is not light refracting around the Earth. Refraction only comes into play because that's what allows to see the rays in the first place; you can only see light rays that enter your eye, not from the side.

The explanation for crepuscular rays is that they are, indeed, parallel, are coming right at you (which is why you can only see them close to sunrise or sunset), and the angling is an illusion caused by perspective.

So much for refracting, divergent rays, which also pulls the rug under Murphy's little bit about Eratosthenes' experiment.

6. How does a convex lens make light diverge?
It doesn't, at least not between the lens and its focal point. But, since the light doesn't diverge, it's a silly question. So why is the shadow of the airplane Murphy shows appear larger than the plane itself? Perspective. The shadow is closer to the camera than the plane, and so appears bigger. This is really basic stuff.

7. Why doesn't the artificial horizon roll backwards during straight and level flight?
Murphy shows a shot early in this video of a meter labelled "Bullshit Detector." Mine pinned the needle in this segment. He talks of two conversations he had, one with airline crew members, and one with the manufacturer of the airliner's artificial horizon. I see two problems with this. It is doubtful that the crew on this jet knew who manufactured their horizon indicator, and it is doubtful that the commercial jet had a mechanical artificial horizon.

Modern avionics has moved to the AHRS, the Attitude and Heading Reference System which, as the pilots said (if this conversation actually took place), contains sophisticated electronics, including three-dimension accelerometers and magnetometers, and no mechanical rotors at all.

To be fair, though, older artificial horizons are, indeed, completely mechanical devices, which have, as a little research will show, completely mechanical gravity compensators installed.

8. Why is the Coriolis Effect so selective?
The Coriolis Effect does influence planes, just not as much as prevailing winds and the airplanes' engines. Pilots don't think about it because course corrections are made for all forces in play throughout the flight. Artillery gunners and (to a lesser extent) snipers have to compensate up front because they don't get to make course corrections once the projectile has left the barrel.

As is so often the case, the graphic for this is overly exaggerated; the plane (and the guns) are already moving with the Earth, and so the Coriolis Effect is, relatively speaking, quite small.

9. What is the International Space Station flying over?
The Earth. Murphy's evaluation of the change in speed of surface features is wrong; the features do move faster as they get closer, but not as much as the landing airplane, because you aren't as close to them. This is how perspective works, and Murphy's choice of video footage is extremely misleading.

10. How can microgravity be selective?
It can't. Why is it that flat-Earthers identify every little blurry blob of something that moves across the screen in a video shot in space as a drop of water? Murphy's "drop of water" is likely no such thing. And the ketchup bottle has Velcro on it.

11. Why are there craters on the moon?
This reflects Murphy's awful sense of scale. Yes, the Earth is four times the diameter of its moon. But it is more than 30 times its own diameter away from it. That leaves lots of room for debris to miss the Earth and hit the moon.

The Earth has craters, too, and was hit many times in its early formation. But having an atmosphere, and water, does much to erode those features over billions of years.

12. Why don't we see permanent hills, mountains, and valleys in the ocean?
Because the natural physics of fluids (not just liquids) make them tend to find their lowest-energy state. The path of least resistance is to go with gravity (something I keep having to remind my teenagers of when they put bowls in the dish drainer with the opening up) toward the center of the Earth. That results in a surface that tends to be (but isn't always!) perpendicular to the center of gravity.

Why not always perpendicular to the center of gravity? Because, as with everything else in the Universe, there are always other forces at play that have to be taken into account. That's why we have waves and waterfalls and raindrops and all of the other familiar water features that are not, for a time at least, perpendicular to the center of gravity.

The Petition
So, after posting this video, Murphy posted the petition on the White House site, asking the government to answer these 12 questions, despite the fact that he originally posed these questions to Dr. Tyson, who doesn't work for the US Government; he is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, which is under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History, a private organization.

As we can see here, it doesn't take a astrophysicist to answer these questions. Mr. Murphy, in fact, could easily have answered them himself if he were interested in the truth instead of "winning" an argument or convincing people of the "truth" of the flat Earth.

The petition, nine days old as I write this, has about 1,050 signatures out of the 100,000 needed to receive a response from the White House. So there's little chance that anyone in the government is going to have to waste their time on this nonsense.

Meanwhile, if Mr. Murphy or anyone else wants to probe the possibilities of a non-spherical Earth, I think they could start with some better questions.

And more than a little research.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Yet Another Stupid Meme

One of the things flat-Earthers can't admit to, of course, because it destroys their entire world-view, is that men actually travelled to the moon. It's not only flat-Earthers that contest this, of course, but you cannot seriously believe that the Earth is flat and that we've traveled to the moon at the same time. So it was from a flat-Earther that I ran across this meme:


The implication of this meme is, of course, that they are inside this zero-G plane, faking the moon walk. Hmm. Ostensibly, they are faking photos like this one:


I hope, if you are not completely brain-dead, you can see how ridiculous this notion is. But let's do a quick run-down. First of all, yes, this is Buzz Aldrin doing training in a zero-G plane (though probably not at zero-G, but at 1/6th G to simulate conditions on the moon). That's the only thing this meme got right.

The ladder is a mock-up of the LEM ladder, but it's obvious that the rest of the mock-up looks nothing like the LEM. The background is the walls of the plane, not a picture of the moon surface with the black sky in the background or a chromakey screen to matte it in later (and the notion of placing a chromakey screen in such a tight space is ludicrous to anyone who's ever shot chromakey, especially in the 60s or 70s). The lighting is completely wrong, and couldn't be made right in so tight a space.

Then there is the matter of time. The reduced-gravity effects in the plane are very short-lived. For zero-G, you get 25 seconds of weightlessness for every 65 seconds of flight. The times are probably somewhat longer for 1/6th G, but certainly it cannot be sustained for the length of a live broadcast from the moon, with no cuts to hide the special effects.

And finally there is the matter of the "film crew." For a film crew, they are missing something: any of the essential equipment that would have been needed to film in 1969: a camera, camera mounts, lights, sound equipment, grip equipment. The only reasonable conclusion is that what you're seeing is not, in fact, a film crew.

The other reasonable conclusion is that the flat-Earthers and moon-hoaxers are really reaching in their vain quest to "prove" that the moon landings never happened.

It's going to take more than some stupid memes.



Monday, May 16, 2016

We've Been Doing This Wrong

I've known for a long time that I've been taking the wrong approach to flat-Earthers. It's just so damned easy to slip into the habit of trying to teach, to correct the scientific and observational mistakes, to give good information to the innocent who might be looking in on this whole silly business. It's tempting, in other words, the defend the globe model and all the legitimate science that goes with it.

But it's futile. Flat-Earthers just call "fake" and "liar" and taunt "you don't really believe..." followed by some long-verified scientific or historical fact that they seem incapable of understanding.

But here's one thing that flat-Earthers can't do. They cannot provide any real evidence that the Earth is flat. They can nibble away at poorly-understood (especially by them) phenomenon that might superficially make it look like the Earth and the Universe are not exactly as science describes them. But this is not that same as providing any kind of proof of their bold claim: that the Earth is, in fact, flat.

There are, of course, many ways for them to do this, and I've mentioned but a few on this blog. And even absent their field experiments, they could come up with a working computer model that explains all observed phenomena. They have failed to do so, and that's what we, as defenders of not only prevailing scientific knowledge, but of the scientific method itself, need to call them to task for.

I admit this is hard and I don't expect any of us to go cold turkey, but we have to stop wasting our time trying to teach basic science to those who have refused to learn it. Instead, we have to insist on proof of the basic claim: that the Earth is flat.

We need to refuse to be sidetracked into discussions about the moon landings, CGI, refraction, secret societies, Antarctica, whether or not satellites exist, gravity, and perspective. It's not enough for them to come up with possible explanations for observations that might, if twisted far enough, work on a flat plane; the flat-Earthers have to come up with hypotheses that make predictions, and experiments which can confirm or falsify those hypotheses.

If they even want to use the word "theory," then they need to come up with an actual theory, something with explanatory power that matches everything we see, all at once, and can be tested against the real world.

We can't just let them say that the work of the last several hundred, and few thousand, years is all a lie. We can't let them rewrite the laws of physics, or the rules of perspective, in their bizarre quest to redefine not only the shape of the Earth, but the nature of scientific inquiry.

We can't let them get by with claiming that by using the "Zetetic" method they are somehow employing some superior approach to understanding the natural world.

The hardest part, of course, is knowing when to shut up, and when to just say "that's not what we were talking about," or "that has nothing to do with proving that the Earth is flat." It's so easy to get pulled in the direction of a discussion about some topic which, though it may have merit on its own, is just a distraction from the main task of showing the flat-Earthers for what they are: purveyors of nonsense.

The best of the pseudoscientists know this. They know that the use of tactics and taunts are effective ways of distracting from the complete lack of factual information they are selling. If you let yourself get dragged onto their sidetrack, you'll soon find yourself derailed completely, and while the flat-Earth will not have won, since it is simply not true, you will have lost points in the eyes of those who are on the fence.

I don't know about you, but it's those people I think about when I argue with flat-Earthers. Otherwise, I would just let them say whatever garbage they want and leave it alone. It's already a huge temptation.

But I'm not ready to let it go. Not just yet.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why Nobody Should Take the Flat Earth Seriously

At least some of you flat-Earthers seem to want to be taken seriously, as if you have some great truth to offer, some insight that the rest of the world is missing, some revelation that is going to save us from, well, whatever it’s going to save us from. But there are several reasons why none of you should be taken seriously.

You’re Wrong

I’ve just got to put that out there first. You’re just plain wrong. The Earth is approximately a sphere, about 7900 miles in diameter, orbiting the sun at a mean distance of roughly 93 million miles. That’s not indoctrination; it’s fact, proven and verified by the process of science over the past couple of millennia. Not only do we have overwhelming evidence that the Earth is a globe, but we’ve used that knowledge in the creation of all sorts of incredibly useful technologies. Yes, satellite communications, weather monitoring, and global positioning systems, but also such ancient wonders as international navigation and the practice of making war at sea. Humankind put the idea of a flat Earth behind them at least several hundred years ago, and in most of the world, thousands of years before that. Get over it.

You’re Dishonest

Instead of trying to come up with any serious evidence, you quote-mine, attribute all science to some vast conspiracy involving the Masons or the Jesuits or the Illuminati, and accuse everyone involved in science of belonging to those groups. You try to claim that famous thinkers from the past would support your ridiculous notion, and you cite experiments that actually show the very opposite of what you claim they show. You post photos that you claim are official NASA photos, when in fact they are just random pictures found in Wikimedia Commons.

You lay claim to knowledge you simply do not have, sometimes to the point of claiming to have worked as a professional in a field you obviously know nothing about.

You dismiss all contrary evidence as fake. You put words in people’s mouths, say you’ve answered questions you haven’t actually answered (while changing the subject to avoid answering), and use tactics in the place of reasonable discourse. And then, to top it all off, you call anyone who disagrees with you a liar, a troll, a shill, and/or a sheep. Why should anyone believe anything you say?

You’re Ignorant

This is assuming that what you’re saying is actually what you believe, which, I am increasingly convinced, is a stretch. In most cases, the argument for a flat Earth boils down to: “I have no idea what I’m looking at, therefore the Earth is flat." And here, for the benefit of those who run across the flat-Earthers and think there is anything in what they have to say, is the meat of the matter.

Some of these people who are posting tweets and videos and memes may actually believe that what they are posting has some real significance, but in general those who do are not the people who created the ideas in the first place. In most cases, those ideas were created by dishonest people trying either to earn a little cash (which is relatively rare, because there isn’t that much to be made from the flat Earth) or to gain some notoriety to inflate their egos or leverage into some kind of advantage at a later date. And I will take that all the way back, over 150 years, to none other than Samuel Birley Rowbotham, itinerant lecturer and snake-oil salesman who eked out a living selling patent medicines and the flat Earth to unwitting suckers.

You see the sun and the moon at the same time, and you think they should not be sharing the sky, or that they should point at each other as if they were the same distance from Earth. You think the moon should be full whenever the sun is out, because you think the Earth’s shadow causes the phases of the moon. You think that there should be a lunar eclipse every time the moon is full because you can’t be bothered to research the orbits of the Earth and the moon.

You watch a YouTube video and think that photographs of Earth taken from space are CGI, or taken out of a round window in a spacecraft that had no round windows. You think a map projection used by several global organizations for its ability to show all the world’s nations on a single flat page is proof that the Earth is actually flat. You blindly invoke perspective to explain sunsets on a flat Earth without finding out what perspective is, and why it works, and that there truly is mathematics behind it.

You claim that video shot aboard the International Space Station is made using green-screens, zero-G airplane flights and even (I kid you not) vertical wind tunnels. And yet you have no knowledge of how that would be accomplished on the scale of output transmitted from ISS each day.

You claim that satellites don’t exist, and that dish tv systems use ground antennae, without exploring just a little to see how ludicrous that notion is. Like creationists, you cite scientific laws like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, without even the slightest understanding of thermodynamics, and you misuse the word “theory,” ignorant of its scientific meaning to the point where you apply it to the flat-Earth hypothesis with no sense of irony.

You eat up every word that Eric DuBay and Brian Mullins say, without studying further to discern whether or not they have any idea what they are talking about. You claim that rockets can’t work in a vacuum, that gravity is a myth, that Antarctica is an ice ring guarded by UN troops, that water is always flat, that Southern Hemisphere flight routes do not exist, that the midnight sun in Antartica, circumpolar navigation, and space flights are all faked. You don’t say any of these things because you have proof. You saw them on YouTube, or in a tweet, or on a website, and you just parrot them, again and again, because, perhaps, it makes you feel smart.

But you’re even ignorant of your own flat Earth model. You point out that sometimes it appears that the moon seems to be in front of the clouds, without considering that the clouds are at most 10 miles up (which you know if you’ve ever flown) and that the flat-Earth moon is supposed to be 3000 miles up. The same can be said of using crepuscular rays as proof of a close sun. And then there’s the GoFast amateur rocket launch, which many flat-Earthers claim “hit the dome.” The GoFast rose to an altitude of 73 miles, and the dome is supposed to be higher than the sun and the moon. Which fanciful story are you going to tell?

You’ll claim that the sun is at an altitude of 3000 miles and post memes purporting to prove this as fact, without bothering to check to see if the information in the meme is even factual, nor to think out how measuring the distance to the sun would work from different locations on Earth. You claim that the moon shines by its own light, without even trying to figure out how moon phases and the shadows of craters would work on such a moon.

In short, you have no facts, no theory, no evidence to back up the silly notion that the Earth is flat—yes, I do mean silly, for it is an idea that has earned no respect. And yet, you continue to put it forth, not even as a hypothesis, but as fact, and more than that, as “truth."

You’re Jerks

Not every one of you, but far more than any of you will admit. You keep telling me that flat-Earthers are nice people looking for answers. But nice people don’t call heroic explorers liars. Nice people don’t call brilliant scientists stupid. Nice people don’t mount personal attacks on someone for publicly disagreeing with them. Nice people don’t troll the accounts of astronauts telling them that all their pictures are fake, and that they never left the Earth. Nice people don’t block users on Twitter, only to talk about them behind their backs, using terms like “Globetard,” “Fuckwit,” “Godless Trash,” and “Atheist Garbage.” Nice people don’t make veiled threats against people who disagree with them, and against their families.

Yes, this is all true. I’ve read all of this from regular contributors to the flat-Earth noise on the Internet.

Want To Prove Me Wrong?

You can’t, and I know it, but if you want to give it a shot, start with this: give up the stupid memes, the uncontrolled “experiments” with thermometers in the shade from the “cold moonlight,” the model rocket engines in vacuum chambers, the zoom shots of ships on the horizon with no data, the computer models that aren’t rendered from the ground so that they can be matched with ground-based observations, and the panning shots of the horizon.

Learn some textbook science. You don’t have to believe it, but if you really want to debunk it, then learn it backwards and forwards. If you’re going to overturn 2600 years of scientific investigation, you have to know it better than anyone. Isn’t it worth that to reveal “the truth”?

Then, do what real scientists would do. Put together a solid hypothesis, make predictions, and then go try to disprove your hypothesis. Flat-Earthers keep telling me that they have tried to debunk the flat-Earth, but they’re lying. All they’ve done is capitalize on their own (and their audience’s) misunderstanding of the science involved. Go measure the curvature as Wallace did in 1871. Take a trip to Antarctica from Australia, take a supply plane to the other side, and fly to Chile. Drive the breadth of Australia and check your mileage against your model. Hell, make it easy on yourself and learn to aim a satellite dish, then install one in London, and another in Quito. Explain the difference. Calculate the distance to the sun assuming a flat plane, from five pairs of locations at different latitudes and explain the discrepancy. Get out there in the field and prove something.


And while you’re laying the groundwork for this startling revelation, keep your mouth shut. Until you have something of substance to present, hold your tongue. Otherwise there is no, nil, nada, not a ghost of a reason for anyone, anywhere on this quite spherical Earth, to take you seriously. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pictures Of Earth From Space

Flat-Earthers claim, confidently, that there are no real pictures of the Earth from space. Which is, of course, poppycock, a claim made with no evidence, and stemming from gross ignorance of photography, scale, digital imaging, and the history of both manned and unmanned space travel.

There is no sense arguing this point with a dyed-in-the-wool flat-Earther; any image you show them is CGI or a painting, any explanation is an excuse or an outright lie.

But to those who are at least willing to listen, let's point out some of the more outrageous examples of what passes for proof of NASA fakery.

All Images Of Earth Are Composites

The first fallacy here is that composite is the same as fake. In fact, every digital color photo is a composite, and that's the sort of compositing used to create color images from Himawari-8 and DISCOVR, among others.

Some famous images of the Earth are composites of strips of satellite data digitally pasted together to form a single image. The Earth image dubbed "Blue Marble II" is such an image, and certain portions had to be cloned to fill in gaps in the data.

This has many flat-Earthers and space-hoaxers crying foul, as if the manipulation of available image data to create one single image, at a time in history when no camera could produce a single, full-hemisphere color photo of the Earth, negates every other photo of the Earth, and (in some conspiracy circles), everything else any space agency has ever said or done.

Much has been made of the fact that the artist who created this image was using "data" instead of "photographs." Really? Everyone who processes or manipulates digital photos refers to the image information as data. That's what digital photography does: it converts light into data. It doesn't mean the data are made up. Pick up your phone, snap a picture, you now have picture data. Open Instagram, crop, add a filter, and you've just manipulated the data. Does that mean that whatever you took the picture of does not actually exist? Nonsense.

And, of course, there were pictures of the entire Earth shot on film, starting in 1968, then brought back, processed in a lab, and printed. That practice stopped in 1972. Why? Because we stopped sending humans that far into space, and probes and satellites don't send film back to the lab, that's why.

The flat-Earthers, naturally, will claim that these famous photographs are paintings. Paintings, no less. I invite you to look at the Apollo archives on Flickr. Thousands of photographs, scanned directly from the original reversal 70mm films at 1800 dpi.

There, in a roll of film from Apollo 17, you will find not one but several shots of the planet Earth. These were not, as Bart Sibral so stupidly suggests, shot out of a round window in low-Earth orbit, for the Command Module had no round windows.

They are not all great shots. In fact, absent cropping by an art director, they are all pretty lousy. But one of them got picked to be the original "Blue Marble."

And that was just one mission. Apollo 8 took Earth's first full-length portrait. It's in the archives, too, somewhere. There are so many that it's actually hard to discern which one was published.

And yet, for the flat-Earth and space-hoax claims to be true, every single one of these has to be fake. And not CGI in this case, unless you want to posit that CGI and film scanning had reached this level in 1968.

And, "well, you don't know what kind of technology NASA had" doesn't constitute proof.

So let's look at some of the other "evidence" that flat-Earthers like to offer.

Relative Size Of the Moon and Earth

Just last year, the NOAA satellite DSCOVR, as one of it's very earliest transmissions, captured images of the moon transiting the Earth.


Space-hoaxers and flat-Earthers immediately labeled it as a fake for various reasons—the moon is not bright enough, no shadow on the Earth, not enough cloud movement, the moon is moving faster than the Earth's rotation—which I'll address presently. But the one that keep returning in memes, is the relative size of the moon and Earth in the DSCOVR shot compared with this:


This is earthrise as captured on film by the crew of Apollo 8. The argument goes that the relative size of the moon and Earth should not change from shot to shot. Actually, the argument is usually more along the lines of "did the moon shrink between 1968 and 2015?"

What seems to have shrunk is understanding of the basic principles of perspective and the effect of lens choice on photography. First, a couple of quick stats: the 1968 image was taken with a 70 mm film camera with a 250 mm lens, from moon orbit, so the distance to the Earth is somewhere in the neighborhood of 240,000 miles (I could get closer with some research, but in this case the exact distance isn't important).

The 2015 image was shot with a 1-inch sensor array. The focal length of the lens is in the neighborhood of 2800 mm, and the distance to the Earth was around 1,000,000 miles, and the distance to the moon about 750,000 miles. The effects of this should be obvious, but if you don't get it at this point, bear with me.

Consider this image:


We know that the golf ball is smaller than the baseball, but because the golf ball is closer to the camera than the baseball is, the baseball appears smaller. And now, without moving either ball:


The golf ball is still closer to the camera than the baseball, but now the camera is much further away from both, and we've zoomed in. The golf ball is now clearly smaller than the baseball, although the apparent size difference is still smaller than the actual size difference, because the golf ball is closer to the camera.

This is exactly the effect we see in the two shots of the Earth, one from very close to the moon, and one from very far away. You can duplicate this yourself; it's just simple perspective at work. There really is no mystery.

What of the other objections? The moon is not bright enough? Well the moon is not, actually, bright. It only reflects about 11% of the light that falls on it. It just looks bright compared with the night sky when we see it from Earth. No shadow? There is a shadow on the Earth from the moon. It's behind the moon because the sun is behind the camera. That's where DSCOVR is, between the sun and the Earth. Cloud motion? You're not really seeing individual clouds, just major storm systems. They don't move that much, relative to the size of the entire face of the planet, in the six hours of this transit. And as for the moon moving faster than the Earth's rotation? Well, it just does.

The surface of the Earth passes by the camera at over 1100 miles per hour at the equator. And it takes 27 days for the moon to circle the Earth. But, and I think this is the point that's lost on flat-Earthers, it has to travel about 1.5 million miles in those 27 days, which means it's moving more than 2300 miles per hour. Add the fact that the moon is 25% closer to the camera in this shot than the Earth, and that means that the moon will pass through the frame at least twice as fast as any feature on the Earth's surface.

Of course, none of this will convince any obsessive anti-NASA fanatic, but it shows that their objection are based on nothing other than ignorance.

Why Not Just Turn the Hubble Telescope Around And Take a Picture Of the Earth?

Boy, it just sounds so easy. But here's another experiment you can do yourself to see if this makes any sense. First, a couple of numbers. The Earth is about 7900 miles in diameter. The Hubble is orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 347 miles. That is to say, the Hubble is orbiting at about .044 Earth diameters.

Now, take a basketball, which has a diameter of about 9.5 inches. Hold a camera at .044 basketball diameters away from it's surface. That's less than half an inch. Now take a picture of the entire basketball. That's what flat-Earthers are asking NASA to do, and furthermore,they are asking them to do it with an instrument designed to collect light from deep space.

The Changing Globe Meme

Here is a popular meme among the "space doesn't exist" crowd:


The meme makes a big deal out of the fact that the pictures look different. But they were acquired using different methods and, again, as these come from media outlets, color-corrected by different art directors. That explains the colors. Let's address the other questions posed in the meme:

How big is America? Same size as it always it. If you perceive it as a different size from one image to the next, you have to consider that this is a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object, and is, of necessity, distorted. The nature of the distortion depends on the angle with respect to the Earth, and the distance from the camera to the Earth. You don't have to take my word for it; get a globe and a camera with a zoom lens, and take pictures of the globe from various angles and distances.

What color are the oceans, and the land? Again, it depends on the art director who did the color correction before the image was published. This isn't just true of images of the Earth; it's true of any image prepared for publication in national media. The reason you don't see as much variation in, for example, the skin tones in pictures of people, is that we all have seen people and have a much clearer idea of what skin tones look like. The colors of the Earth from space are more subject to interpretation, since only a relative handful of people have ever actually been there.

Why is there never any real video of the Earth spinning, only still? Because that's a lot of data to send from a satellite, the only object that could broadcast such a video, which would then need to be processed and stored, and there's no reason for that. It would be worse than watching paint dry. Any feature moving across the face of the Earth would take twelve hours to get from one side to the other.

The Himawari-8 transmits an image every ten minutes. Furthermore, the satellite is not up there to take pretty picture to satisfy some fanatic who might have gotten the idea that the Earth is flat; its 16-channel multi-spectral camera is there to do real scientific research. Satellites aren't in space for fun; they're there to do a job.

The other questions aren't worth addressing any further. Here you have people making fantastical claims about the nature of the Earth, and the best they have to offer is some ignorant memes.

And the ever-present tactic of calling all contrary evidence the product of some great conspiracy.

ADDENDUM: It has been pointed out to me that early Apollo CM capsules had a 10-1/2-inch round window on the hatch. I stand corrected; Apollo 14 and later craft had a rounded square window on the hatch. So, does this mean that Bart Sibrel could have been right? Well, let's think about that.

First of all, if you're sitting in the seats in the CM, where is the hatch? Imagine that you are in a very small car with a sunroof. The hatch window is where the sunroof is. So, you have this camera. What kind of camera? Well, the footage used in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Moon was shot with a 16mm film camera. One of the lenses available to the crew was a 5mm wide-angle lens. So, this sounds like it could be plausible. If you crouched down as much as you could and held the camera straight at the hatch, you could manage to get the whole circle in, with just a couple of inches to spare on each side.

But there are a few problems that show up when you actually look at the footage. One is that there's a lot more than a couple inches around that circle. To get that shot, you'd have to turn yourself around, lie with your back on the seat, with no place to put your legs to keep them out of the shot. Good luck with that.

Then there is the fact that the circle is wandering around in the shot, because it was being done handheld. Had that actually been a portion of the Earth shot through a circle, the image inside the circle would have shifted around. Try shooting a distance object through round opening and you'll see what I mean.

Speaking of shifting around, a craft in low-Earth orbit is moving around 17,000 miles an hour, just like the ISS. So why isn't the image of the Earth moving past the window? I think the answer is obvious.

Also obvious is that the image of the Earth, well, isn't round. It's not a fully-lit hemisphere, which is precisely the illusion you'd get if you shot through a round window. Add all of this up, and it doesn't pass the laugh test.

And one more thing: this has nothing to do with a flat Earth. There is no low-Earth orbit on a flat Earth. Even Sibrel thinks that flat-Earthers are crazy.