There is an article out today that Stanley Kubrick’s daughter spoke out vehemently against the idea that her father, the legend himself, helped NASA fake the moon landings. She called it ‘grotesque.’ I thought it was an elegant response to an insane and stupid idea. You hear that popular culture? The moon landing was not faked. Point a laser at the retroreflector if you don’t believe me. (IIRC, there are also now satellite images from LRO of the original lunar landing sites, but then someone favoring the moon hoax would claim those are doctored)
While I was reading the comments to this article, I stumbled over a flat earther making his/her case. This person laid it out in a bulleted list saying “You have to accept or believe all of these inconsistencies in order to accept that the Earth is round,” and I could not help but write a comment replying to him. Since one of the purposes of this blog is to be a repository for the times I feel compelled to speak up in comment sections, here is an edited copy-paste of my original comment, which responded directly to each bullet point made by the flat earther.
>1. You are traveling 19 miles/second and you feel none of it.
And your point is? You can feel accelerations, not velocities. You can be in a train traveling 300 miles/hour with the shades drawn and not know it.
>2. The Earth is spinning at 1000 miles per hour and you feel none of it.
So? You feel accelerations, not velocities. Further, the only acceleration you feel in the rotation of the Earth is in a similar direction to gravity. Are you good enough to be able to tell the difference between gravity and centrifugal force?
>3. If you could dig a hole right now through the the earth you would eventually hit sky.
So? We have satellites that take pictures of this all the time. That the Earth is round is pretty well documented. Do you think these pictures are all generated only by NASA? I’m sure SpaceX has a couple.
>4. The Earths diameter is 7917 miles which means there is someone standing upside down in relation to you less that 8 thousand miles away right now, yet you are both unaware of it.
So? Would you be aware of someone 8,000 miles away if they were standing next to you instead of below you? I would wager not.
>5. Water can be shown to always find it’s level except on a planetary scale. Which means there is a wall of water 13000 statue of liberty’s high between California and Hawaii and only magical gravity keeps it from flooding the United States mainland.
Now you’re just being stupid. Gravity pulls downward locally, which is a different direction at Hawaii from the direction at Los Angeles. This is the nature of the solution of gravity from a sphere. Toward the center of the sphere!
>6. The nearest star is 25 trillion miles away which is why we never see parallax. Or have to explain parallax.
Parallax has been used to fairly accurately calculate the distance to the moon and the sun. It’s also been used to estimate distances to near stars. Why in the world have you included this point? In fact, the way parallax is used to calculate stellar distances really kind of harpoons your whole argument.
>7. The Chicago Skyline, from the opposite side of lake Michigan 60 miles away, is a mirage as the tallest building there should not be visible behind the earths curve. Yet it has been seen and photographed time and again.
Optical effect. Same thing as the green flash seen at the surface of the ocean when the sun goes down. Light is known to not always travel in straight lines and the conditions when it doesn’t are pretty completely understood. There’s even a name for the kind of mirage that lets you see Chicago from across the great lake: the Superior Mirage. Or, do you actually believe you’re seeing the sky below the road when you see a mirage on a hot day?
>8. The Coriolis effect has no effect on airplanes, yet is said to have an effect on munitions.
Dude, learn something about the Coriolis force. Munitions are unpowered while airplanes can continuously exert an acceleration. Of course Coriolis force must be corrected for to fly an airplane, but the airplane can actively maneuver throughout its flight to compensate.
>9. Firing a gun or cannon east or west will not be helped or hindered by the apparent rotation of 1000 miles/hour which means the Coriolis effect can be selective.
Flat out False: NASA launches rockets toward the east in order to take advantage of the surface velocity of the Earth to help reach orbit with less fuel. Further, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral were built in Florida in order to place them at the location in the continental United States that gives the greatest rotational kick during the rocket launch (closest to the Equator). They don’t need as big of rockets when they use Coriolis force in this way. You really should bother to learn some physics. It would surprise you to know that the Earth bulges away from spherical by something like 20 miles at the equator because of centrifugal force (How do they know this? GPS, dude.)
Moreover, if you’re using the GPS on your smartphone to travel anywhere, and you are espousing this sort of nonsense, you’re the biggest hypocrite alive.
>10. Gravity is strong enough to keep you and everything you see firmly stuck to the earth, yet birds and insects seem completely unaware as to the 1000 miles/hour rotation and have no trouble over coming gravity.
Bernoulli force, dude. You’re not impressing me. Do you think the wind should somehow be whipping past at 1000 miles/hour, as if the atmosphere was unhinged from the surface of the planet? Again, within the local frame of reference, the only acceleration you feel is along the direction of gravity and you can’t discriminate centrifugal force from gravity without a gravitometer. Further, the atmosphere is fairly tightly bound to the surface of the planet and mostly travels with the Earth as it rotates: in order to see effects of the Coriolis ‘force,’ you need to have a definite velocity and relatively little friction with the atmosphere. An object the size of a bird gets carried along by the atmosphere, which is interacting strongly with the surface on the scale of many miles.
>11. The wobble of the planet tilts sections of the equator to 45 degrees at distances that normally would be occupied by arctic tundra. Yet those same sections never form glaciers.
The tilt of the Earth is not the only factor determining the climate of regions on the surface. We have huge oceans that act as giant circulating heat sinks that move heat to places that might not otherwise receive light. Feel the wind? That moves heat too.
Moreover, the tilt of the earth is only ever 23 degrees from the plane of the ecliptic. This 45 degrees garbage is the full swing from extreme north to extreme south passage of the sun at the apex of the local sky during the solstices. The arctic circle is 66 degrees from the equator and the angular distance between arctic and antarctic circles is about 130 degrees. You have wildly expanded an angle somewhere.
>12. The moon takes the same path through the night sky each night in a 29.5 day cycle yet the shadows cast by moon phases would seem to suggest that the moon is not taking the same path through the night sky each night.
Rotation of the Earth, dude. Did you know that the moon actually travels in a west to east direction around the Earth? I’ll bet you didn’t. As the moon orbits, roughly 1/29th of its orbit around the Earth per day, the time when it rises during the day is displaced by 1/29th of the Earth’s day-long rotation cycle. Why do you think the moon never quite rises at the same time? It rises about 50 minutes later than it did the day before every single day.
>13. The summer solstice and winter equinox should completely flip our high noon and midnight with each 6 month rotation, but does not some how.
This is because you’re misunderstanding something about the travel of the earth around the sun: there is exactly no set period relation between the earth’s rotation and its revolution around the sun. The period of the year is only approximately 365 days… it’s actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than 365.25 days. In the case of the Earth, there is no reason to set an integer relationship between the number of rotations the planet makes and how many of those add up to a year. This is why we need leap year. The shift of daylight by the mechanism you’re talking about simply adds into our timing systems, which are totally independent from the period of the solar cycle. We have an agreed-upon ‘day long’ increment that we measure using atomic clocks and then we shift our calendars as necessary to correct for the drift of these ‘day’ increments against the non-integral period of the year.
One thing that does flip by 180 degrees every half year is the star constellations visible in the sky at night. Gee, I wonder why that is…
>14. The South pole has a ceremonial pole and you cannot go past there and are not allowed to visit it. You should never question as to why.
This is kind of an excessively stupid point, even for the quality of points on this list. I don’t understand why you left it freestanding. Don’t ya know: it’s the Man lording it over, keeping you from your right to visit the south pole, whenever you feel the urge to just hop on your skateboard and flip an Ollie.
>15. The oldest treaty in the world is the antarctic treaty of 1959, the same year NASA was started. The treaty prevents anyone from going to Antarctica without government approval from one of the treaty signers.
Something tells me you aren’t that familiar with international politics if you think a treaty signed in 1959 is the oldest in the world. Maybe this treaty exists because the Antarctic is such a difficult place to travel to and live in that it’s hard for anybody to just up and go. Did you ever wonder why it wasn’t until the 20th century that governments even bothered to decide who could lay claim to the Antarctic at all? If it were an issue of walking across the street, maybe you could visit. So, talk to Elon Musk and ask him to build you a hotel. Otherwise, pretty much the only entities that can afford to go and stay in Antarctica and pack in and out the food, water and expendables necessary to survive there are governments. If you use their facilities, you work within their rules.
Yeah, kind of snarky, but what can I say. These people do sometimes bring it out of me.
This sort of comment has a way of riling me up because it is incredibly clear that the person writing it has basically no idea what they’re talking about, yet they are smugly certain that they have the truth of it, as if his little observations should blow my mind. As a general note, if you have a C- to D+ understanding of the world around you, there is usually a passing good chance that anything you think you intuitively know is probably false. Paraphrasing Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nature is under no obligation to humanity to be easily understandable.
I’ve spent some time looking at more comprehensive lists of Flat Earther arguments. You may or may not have heard of it, but there’s a 200 point list that circulates now and then. “Two hundred proofs in favor of a flat earth,” or so they claim. I’ve said this elsewhere, but you can’t argue with a Flat Earther; they are so invested in a bad idea that there is no way of digging them out.
If you dig around in their arguments, you may note that there are really two fundamental critical failures that Flat Earthers make. Well, they make a lot of mistakes on how they handle facts, but there are two deep underlying failures that give rise to everything else they fail on. These are the failures.
1.) Flat Earthers rarely (or never) perform validation tests to check whether or not they even understand what their opposition is arguing for. This is the process of testing yourself to see if you are competent enough to handle the information you are arguing against. How do you knock down an opponent’s argument if you don’t understand it? Maybe the reason the notion of a round earth makes no sense to you is because you actually don’t really understand the claim. (An example: Terrence Howard thinks “math is wrong” because it doesn’t make sense that 2+2=4 and 2×2=4, and yet 3+3=6 and 3×3 does not. Terrence Howard fails to realize that the fault is in himself rather than in the math… that math is performed in a certain way regardless of what you think about it is why it works! If you don’t perform it in the same way as everyone else, using the shared rules, then there’s no reason why somebody else should reproduce your results.)
2.) Flat Earthers rarely (or never) offer a standard of falsification for discarding an idea. What would convince you that the idea you’re proposing is actually wrong? Flat Earth arguments usually take on the cast of a conspiratorial listing of all the weird things which seem to be wrong with the round earth model (usually these lists of points show a generous helping of point #1… that the Flat Earther didn’t understand a point to begin with), but Flat Earthers rarely offer any effective models of what they think the Earth actually is in order to go out and test whether their model works. Poking holes in the other guy’s model is pointless if you have nothing to offer which fits the facts better. That Flat Earthers fail at this should be clear to anybody seeking to carry out point #1, that is, seeking to clarify if you (as a round earth believer) understand the flat earther argument well enough to articulate whether or not it is right or wrong (yeah, I delved into 200 point list of flat earth proofs to see if I understood them.) Flat Earthers never offer a model of the flat earth that they truly go out and try to test; they only look for what they believe are holes in the round Earth model. They look for that one point, “Aha, you see, you see???”
Now, I said that you can’t argue with a Flat Earther, so why do these failings matter? I think that they matter because I look for them in myself. If I don’t understand an argument, how do I argue against it? Also, if I don’t have a standard expectation for why I would change my mind about something, why should I hold a stance? It’s a self diagnostic for human failings, checking that the inner universe of my brain matches the external universe that my body inhabits. I think that not making these self-tests is a big part of why there’s strife in the world today!
Further, you may not realize it, but much of the work posted on this blog is me attacking point #1 and point #2 in myself. Do I understand this or that well enough to have an opinion? Some things that I want to have opinions about are crazy hard to understand, so I work at it.