Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Flat Earth Credibility

Dear Purveyors Of the Flat Earth:

You know how I feel about your beliefs. I would be perfectly willing to let your beliefs alone, though, if you would stop trying to dress them up as science, or even worse, "real science." But, I would like to point out a couple of subjects you should just avoid mentioning altogether if you want to retain even the appearance of credibility.

Andrea Barnes
Honestly, everyone who's paid any attention should know by now about Andrea Barnes, the woman who, in the film In Search Of the Edge, goes on a quest to find the edge of the Earth and is lost in Antartica, leaving nothing but a note, which is found three decades later, saying, "I have been there, the debate finally comes to an end," and a camera which is inadvertently opened, spoiling the film.

What you should certainly know by now is that Andrea Barnes and her story are fiction, not a hoax but a mock documentary created under the auspices of the Canadian Film Board for the purpose of teaching Canadian students critical thinking skills. There are clues scattered throughout the film that it is completely bogus, and the disclaimer at the end notes that all the characters are fictional, save for some of the on-screen talent and famous scientists from the past.

So, if you're tempted to use the story of Andrea Barnes to show that Antarctica is not a continent, but an impenetrable ice ring, resist the temptation.

Jarle Andhøy
Yet another Antarctic explorer, who was supposedly stopped at the ice wall, arrested, kidnapped, and heavily fined. Here's a more accurate account from The Old Salt Blog:
Last February, Jarle Andhøy and Samuel Massie set off from the yacht Berserk II in McMurdo Sound on the Antarctic coast in an attempt to drive ATVs towards the South Pole. Shortly thereafter, in an Antarctic storm, the EPIRB [emergency position indicating radiobeacon] from the Berserk II was activated. Following an extensive search by the New Zealand Coast Guard and private ships, the only sign of the yacht or the three crew aboard was debris and an empty life raft. Andhøy's ill-fated expedition was mounted without authorization or insurance. He later paid a fine of 25,000 NOK to the Norwegian Polar Institute.
It is important to note that 25,000 Norwegian kroner is about $3,000US. Jarle is still out on the high seas and getting in trouble with the law, but nothing that's killed him or even put him behind bars.

Cold Moonlight
I don't know where this one started, but it's long past its prime. There are two problems with the argument that moonlight is cold, and therefore the moon shines by its own light and not the light of the sun.

The first problem is that it's simply not true. Experiments designed to test this end up only demonstrating that something used to shade a thermometer from moonlight ends up trapping the heat rising from the ground from the day's sunshine. Even a flat-Earther, who did the obvious control of repeating the experiment during the new moon, concluded that cold moonlight is a non-starter.

The other problem, of course, is that it does nothing to prove that the Earth is flat. I supposed it's just supposed to be something else that "they" are lying about, but that's not evidence of any kind. And while we're on the subject of moonlight:

The Moon In Front Of the Clouds
There are lots of videos on YouTube purporting to show that the moon is closer to Earth than the clouds. They are shots of a big, featureless, fuzzy white moon, with clouds passing by and not showing up in front of it.

Of course, this can only be seen when the cloud cover is very thin, and the reason is simple: the moon is shining light through the clouds. If the shot were exposed for the moon instead of the clouds, you might be able to see them in front of the moon, but not easily because they are so thin, This never works with thick cloud cover.

And it has, again, nothing to do with the flat Earth, for the flat-Earth model has the moon 3000 miles above the ground just like the sun, which is far higher than any clouds, as anyone who's done any flying knows. And we're not done with the moon yet:

The Moon and the Sun Together In the Sky
I've lost count of how many videos I've seen showing the sun in the sky at the same time as the moon, with some comment about how the moon should be full, or how the moon isn't pointed toward the sun.

Okay, here's a basic rule about trying to overturn a standard model of anything: you can't debunk something by misrepresenting it. In the standard model of the solar system, the moon is a quarter million miles away, and the sun in around 93 million miles away. It's not going to look as if they are at the same distance. It just doesn't work that way.

And moon phases are not caused by the Earth's shadow on the moon. That's an eclipse. If you can't figure out what you're seeing in the sky, get a book on astronomy. If you still think it doesn't match up, then you make your own model that makes it work. But don't think you're onto something just because you don't understand what you're looking at.

Bali To Los Angeles By Way Of Alaska
You must know this story by now. A woman went into labor on a flight from Bali to Los Angeles. The pilot diverted to Alaska, but the baby was born on the plane before the plane landed. Flat-Earthers made a big deal, doing videos that showed how the plane was going way out of the way on the globe map, but right on the way on the flat-Earth map.

Except that they weren't using the globe at all; they were using the Mercator projection. Plotting the path on an actual globe, it makes perfect sense. In fact, it would be something like this (the plane took off from Taiwan):

So if you're tempted to trot out the story of the baby born on the plane, just don't.

In fact, any time you're thinking about using the Mercator projection to make a point about the globe, just stop. You're comparing one distorted projection to another, and it's making you look ignorant or dishonest.

This has been a public service message. Carry on.


  1. The Canadian Film Board has no listings of any film made "under their auspices" about Andrea Barnes. I am unable to find any references to any of this on their website. Did you think that we weren't going to check your facts too?

    1. My mistake. Though the film had support from the Board, it was produced by Pancake Productions and distributed by Bullfrog Films. It is still available to rent or purchase here: http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/search.html

      And Andrea Barnes is still completely fictional. Check the disclaimer at the end of the film.

    2. Hey Gordon, thank you for taking the time to do what you do. This flat earth thing is sad. People trying to set us back centuries. Anyways, here is a link for you to give others that I found about andrea barns.
      Its a pdf that says the people interviewed, are actually globularists in real life. And that it was a documentary put together to try and get school kids to think on their own.
      It even says, and i quote exactly,
      "..a story was written about a fictional woman who devoted her life to convincing the world that the earth was indeed flat..."
      I love how flerthers use Andrea Barns and this MOCKumentary about her to try and prove their point. All the while not realizing that the entire thing was faked!! HAHA it makes me laugh. Take care my friend. Keep doing the good work you do!

    3. Some good points however the simple things are often the things that we forget. Dont need made up stories or anything else. Just use your eyes. tell me how the sun gets bigger as it rises? And smaller as it sets. Simple its perspective. This would not happen if the sun was 93million miles away.
      Also sun sets. If the sun was 93 million miles away the entire horizon would stay alight as the sun goes below the horizon (as we see in NASA videos). This is not what happens and anyone can observe this with the naked eye. As the sun drops the light fades following the sun and not lighting the entire horizon as it would if the sun was so far away. Then one last thing you can see with your own eyes.
      If the sun is 93 million miles away all sun rays would shine almost perfectly vertically through the clouds towards the earth yet we see them splay out like a fan. This would be impossible if indeed the sun is 93 million miles from earth.
      No fake stories not equipment needed just use your eyes and trust what you see not what you are told by so called experts.
      Prime example. We see cross section globes showing us the inner core, outer core, mantle and crust of our earth. Yes?
      Well if we have only ever managed to drill 12km into the crust and have never been further. How do we know? We don't it is either a lie or the best theory we have. So ignore the fact it could be a lie. Let's go with theory. So if this is our best guess why is it taught in schools as fact not theory???
      Instead of listening to so called experts do your own research. You don't need loads of equipment your own eyes can tell you so much if you use them properly. Wake up trust your own findings not what "experts" tell you......

    4. I'm tired of being told to "wake up" by people who obvious slept through science classes and only stirred when the conspiracy YouTube videos came along.

      Look, I'm not going to hash this out in the comments, but I'll throw out some short answers.

      1. The sun does not get smaller as it sets; any videos you've seen of it doing so are lousy photography. You need to get out more.

      2. The sun makes a bright spot on the horizon when it sets because of the way the photons are hitting you, the observer. Turn around and you will see that everything is lit evenly from side to side.

      3. The rays you are talking about are crepuscular rays. The are shining straight at you, and the apparent splaying is caused by that thing that flat-Earthers consistently get wrong: perspective.

      4. The make up of the layers of the Earth is theory, carefully-constructed from geological evidence and inference from the laws of physics. This is where staying awake during science classes would have helped. This subject is also a red herring, since the makeup of the Earth's core has nothing to do with its directly-measurable shape.

      Click on the "Flat Earth Tests" tab at the top of this page. Do one or more of the tests and give me your data. Then you can talk to me about trusting my own findings, because you are obviously just listening to a bunch of flat-Earth nutcases.

  2. Hey, I agree with you that there are all these "questionable" or perhaps "non-conclusive" items touted as "proof" or at least "evidence". Letting those things aside, I am curious however, how does a globe-model adequately explain that the Pole Star is always and ever over our north pole, never ever moving (at least in relation to our viewing it), and that the rest of the stars draw perfect concentric circles around it during long exposure shots - and this can and has been duplicated thousands of times by everyone and their brother with a camera. If we are flying around the sun at 67000mph, while at the same time moving through space with our entire solar system at 515,000miles per hour, how can Polaris, at 433 LIGHT YEARS away from us, be ever perfectly motionless in our skies? I struggle to make any sense of it...

    I'm not being facetious - I really want to see what logic the globe model has for this phenomenon. Can you please shed some light on that? Thanks.

    1. I will endeavor to answer your question, but first I want to point out that nothing you've mentioned has anything to do with the Earth being a globe. The shape of the Earth and its motion in the Universe are two very separate issues, which is why the fact of the Earth's spherical nature was proved about 2000 years before its motion.

      As to Polaris, it is not always and ever over our North Pole. Thousands of years ago, there was a different pole star, and thousands of years from now there will be yet another. And somewhere in between, there will be no pole star, just as there is no single pole star for the Southern Hemisphere. As it is now, the Earth's axis points ever so slightly, a fraction of a degree, away from Polaris.

      Distant objects appear to move more slowly than nearby objects, and the distance to the stars is unimaginably big. Even Polaris, relatively nearby as stars go, is about 2,500,000,000,000,000 miles away. To put that in context, that's about 27 million times the distance from Earth to the sun.

      These things are not just products of someone's imagination. They have been worked out through literally millennia of careful observation by thousands of astronomers, amateur and professional. Instead of asking these questions on someone's blog, why not read some good books on astronomy? They are not only enlightening, but far more fascinating than any tales of a flat Earth.

    2. Your statement is completely false. The pole star has been documented for thousands and thousands of years and has NEVER moved. Your statements on the above accounts; Andrea Barnes, Cold Moon Light, and the Sun and Moon together are not legitimate examples to use to "Debunk" a flat earth. Your first step would be to utilize the theorized calculation of the "Round Earth" which is for every mile the earth drops 8 inches squared. There have been plenty of experiments on the salt flats of earth to prove there is NO curvature. So that's fact 1. Fact 2, it has been proven for hundreds of years, that ships sailing the seas can see light houses for HUNDREDS OF MILES from shore (that's why they build light houses), you would not see them on a "Round Earth". Fact 3, every single plan fight follows a flat earth, and any flight path that does not - DOES NOT EXIST. Fact 4, nah, i'll stop here for now.

    3. Mr. Tesley: "Your statement is completely false. The pole star has been documented for thousands and thousands of years and has NEVER moved." Source, please (and don't assume that a reference to a pole star always means Polaris).

      "Your statements on the above accounts; Andrea Barnes, Cold Moon Light, and the Sun and Moon together are not legitimate examples to use to "Debunk" a flat earth." I never said they were. Flat-Earth purveyors, however, use them as proof of a flat Earth, which is just stupid.

      "Your first step would be to utilize the theorized calculation of the "Round Earth" which is for every mile the earth drops 8 inches squared." Nope. That's a rule of thumb used over short distances by plane surveyors to compensate for target drop. It is actually a parabolic approximation of a circular section.

      "There have been plenty of experiments on the salt flats of earth to prove there is NO curvature." Salt flats? Really? And who did these experiments? What were the protocols? Where are they published?

      "{I]t has been proven for hundreds of years, that ships sailing the seas can see light houses for HUNDREDS OF MILES from shore." Source, please. In fact, the longest recorded sighting of the light house (not the light reflecting on the light, but the actual light) was a little over 20 miles. That's according to actual sailors. If the Earth is not curved, why are lighthouses so tall?

      "[E]very single plan fight follows a flat earth, and any flight path that does not - DOES NOT EXIST." Ever hear of a great circle route? And what is your evidence for these flights that supposedly do not exist?

      Every single claim you have made can only be found at flat-Earth conspiracy websites and YouTube accounts. They are nonsense, just as sure as Andrea Barnes is fictional, and moonlight is not cold. Do some real research before you go telling others what is "completely false."

    4. "Even Polaris, relatively nearby as stars go, is about 2,500,000,000,000,000 miles away. To put that in context, that's about 27 million times the distance from Earth to the sun" - can we really see that far? That's amazing!!

    5. awestruck: Yes, we can see that far, and much, much further. Apparent size and brightness, not distance by itself, are what limit our ability to see distant objects. And yes, it's amazing.

  3. It is commendable to debunk flat earthers. However, I suspect that most "flat earthers" don't believe in a flat earth at all and are chuckling at whoever takes them seriously.

    1. A year ago I might have agreed. Now I think that it's more than half who have really swallowed this, the true believers, as convinced of this as creationists, anti-vaxxers, and climate-change "skeptics." I don't know numbers, because a lot of YouTube videos, for example, are just reposted for monetary gain by bots, but it is enough to make me worry that too many very gullible people (and there are certainly a lot of those) who are prone to distrust authority anyway, are actually jumping on this bandwagon.

      And it's not just flat-Earth. I'm seeing more and more of this kind of anti-intellectual, to-hell-with-the-facts bias in all kind of arenas, not the least of which is the American political system of late. That's why I think this is worth the fight.

  4. So I'm almost sold. Please answer the questions below so that I can join the flat earthers without any doubt in my mind:

    At the solstice, Cape Horn, the Cape of Good Hope and Invercargill NZ all experience mutual daylight from 8am to 10am and 6pm to 7pm Greenwich time. Being that they are all at nearly 120 degree extremes of the flat map, how is this possible? Is there a special ring shaped sun that comes out for summer in the south?

    The distance between Buenos Aires and Capetown is about the same as the distance between New York and Lisbon. However on the flat map, its about 10 times further. Please explain this discrepancy.

    When seen from North America, Gemini is to the left of Orion and from South America, it's on the right. How does this work when the stars are attached to the firmament?

    On the flat map, the shore of Antarctica is about 99,000 miles long. How is it possible that this is being patrolled to keep someone from sneaking up to the edge?

  5. Dude you cant just draw a straight line like that on a globe. come on. If you actually have a globe draw that line and see how that path takes. It actually makes a quite a big curve. Lol. you cant draw a 2D line on a photo of a 3D object. It does not work that way.

    1. I didn't draw the line on a photo, I drew it on Google Earth, which takes the curve into account. If you actually have a globe, you are welcome to draw the same lines and see where they lead. You will find, though, that if you take a picture of those lines straght-on they will appear straight.

  6. How does gravity hold the oceans to the ball, yet a mesquite floats with no resistance? How do we build railroads without considering the curvature of the earth? Why can I fly straight and level for 1000 miles and remain the same distance above sea level? Why does 99% of international data travel through under sea cables? Why can't a single satellite be seen orbiting our earth and why don't they ever collide? Lets start there with some easy ones. I appreciate your explanation and I hope your explanation of gravity is better than Neil Theass Tyson.

    1. I have published your comment even though it is completely off-topic, not because I think it is worthy (in fact, it shows that you've read very little of this blog, much less anything else), but because I want other readers to note the tactic of changing the subject and the vacuity of the questions.

      Gravity: Mosquitoes do not float without resistance. Relative to their size, they actually expend a great deal of energy in order to fly. They are just as affected by the Earth's gravity as are the molecules of water in the oceans which, if you had any powers of observation, you will often see being thrown up from the surface in waves and mists and, in case you didn't know this, clouds.

      Flight: You can't fly straight and level and stay at the same distance above sea level. The decrease in air density will cause your airplane to follow the curve of the Earth unless you speed up, and even then your plane will at some point reach its maximum altitude according to its weight, wing span, and maximum speed.

      Undersea cables: Cables have a higher capacity and speed than satellite transmission. They are easy to repair and are reliable. Satellites are better for reaching areas that are hard or expensive or unsafe to cable.

      Satellites: When I lived in the mountains, I used to watch satellites go by during the summer. My brother knew how to find out when the satellites would pass overhead (this was before the Internet; now it's really easy to find out). They don't crash because of careful planning and the vast size of the area over the Earth. However, it has happened, just once, in 2009.

      Now, you could have found out any of this yourself. You're just being a pest and trying to avoid providing any actual evidence for the Earth being flat. I will not publish any more of your comments if you don't have something useful to add, and you fail to comment on posts for which the comment is actually appropriate.

  7. Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.

    flat earth map

  8. This is cardboard, teip and aluminiumsfoil: http://imgur.com/a/ULCZc

    1. Claims like this are exactly why no one takes flat-Earth people seriously.

  9. Flat Earth people couldn't care less about reality denialists.

    The Moon Landing Hoax is only indirectly part of Flat Earth and is not needed to prove that the spinning ball is pure fantasy. Everyday reality is good enough:

    1. Water has to always be contained. It does not conform to the exterior of shapes.
    2. The higher one ascends the further one can look. The horizon always stays at eye level - there is no drop whatsoever that we should see rising from a sphere. Never. Not at 10.000 feet, not at 30.000 feet not at 100.000 feet.

    1. Can you people never stay on topic? Oh well...

      1. Have you never gotten anything wet?

      2. If going higher allows you to see farther, then that's evidence for a curved surface, not a flat one. And the horizon never rises to eye level, as you can discover for yourself with a simple theodolite application for a smart phone.

      It would help if you actually read the blog before spouting.

  10. Oh, and btw. how do you explain away the missing blast crater?

    1. Is there a blast crater missing? Did someone take it?

      Why do you expect there to have been one? No one landing on the moon blew anything up.

    2. Use some logic and common sense ... and stay on topic yourself.

      A blast crater should be created by the single jet engine of this thing that more looks like a homeless tweakers shelter than a space ship.

      As can be seen in some footage that has been officially provided by NASA, AstroNots throw up dust clouds, thereby we can assume the moon to be COVERED WITH DUST or other loose matter of some sort, NOT tarmac as you can expect to find on a first world airfield.

      So the force from the exhaust jet required to land that tin-foil and curtain rod thing should have blown away some of that dust, thereby creating a crater of some sort (and also threwn some dust on the pods ...).

      But, of course, anyone who looked into that stuff deeper and isn't a reality denialist knows that rocket engines do not work in a vaccum. It is physically impossible.

      It does work though with math and computer animations where you are free to define the parameters as you please, which in nature you unfortunately can't.

    3. The topic of the post that you commented on was all the stupid things that flat-Earthers use as proof. It was not about moon physics and geology, which you seem bent on staying ignorant about.

      So the LEM threw up dust clouds. Does that mean that the entire surface was dust? No, and in fact the astronauts and the planetary scientists were surprised to discover (and somewhat relieved) that the layer of dust is actually pretty shallow. They weren't expecting that, which is why the landing pads were so big.

      As to why the pod were not covered in dust, you are imposing your Earth-bound experience on a world with less gravitational pull and no atmosphere. The dust doesn't linger in the air to "settle" back down. It goes where it is thrown, falling to the ground and staying there.

      In fact, the behavior of the dirt in the moon broadcasts is a very string piece of evidence against them having been faked.

      And yes, there is no reason for rockets not to work in a vacuum, in spite of what some YouTube guru has told you.

      And if you think that we were watching computer animations on live TV in 1969, you're completely delusional.


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