Flat Earth “Research”

You no doubt heard about this fellow in the last week with the steampunk rocket with “Flat Earth Research” written on the side. In my opinion, he was pretty clearly trolling the media; not much likelihood of resolving any issues about the shape of the Earth if the peak altitude of your rocket is only a fraction of the altitude of a commercial airline jet. He said a number of antiscience things and sort of repurposed mathematical formulae for aeronautics and fluid mechanics as “not science” as if physics is anything other than physics. The guy claimed he was using the flight as a test bed for a bigger rocket and wanted to create a media circus to announce his run for a seat in the California legislature. Not bad for a limo driver, I give him that.

Further in the background, I think it’s clear he was just after a publicity stunt; his do-it-yourself rocket cost a great deal of money, and his conversion to flat eartherism obviously helped to pay the bill. It really did make me wonder what exactly flat earthers think “research” is given that they were apparently willing to pony up a ton of money for this rocket, which won’t go high enough to resolve anything an airline ticket won’t resolve better.

My general feelings about flat earth nonsense are well recorded here and here.

A part of why I decided to write anything about this is that the guy wants to run for congress in California. This should be concerning to everyone: someone who is trusted to make decisions for a whole community had better be doing so based on a sound understanding of reality. Higher positions currently filled in the Federal government not withstanding, a disconnect seems to be forming in our self-governance which is allowing people to unhinge their decision-making processes from what is actually known about the world. I think that’s profoundly dangerous.

In my opinion also, this is not to heap blame on those who actually hold office now, but on everybody who elected to put them there. Our government is both by the people and for the people: anybody in power is at some level representative of the electorate, possessing all the same potentially fatal flaws. If you want to bitch about the government, the place to start is society itself.

Now, Flat Eartherism is one of those pastimes that is truly incredibly past its time. There are two reasons it subsists; the first is people trolling other people for kicks online, while the second is that some people are so distrusting and conspiracy-minded that they’re willing to believe just about anything if it feeds into their biases. There are some people who truly believe it. A part of why people have the ability to believe the conspiracy theories is that what they consider visual evidence of the Earth’s roundness comes through sources that they define as questionable because of their connection to ostensibly corrupt power –NASA, for all its earnest effort to keep space science accessible to the common man, has not been perfect. Further, not just anybody can go to a place where the roundness of the Earth is unambiguously visible given exactly how hard it is to get to very high altitudes over Earth in the first place. For all of SpaceX’s success, space flight still isn’t a commodity that everyone can sample. Travel into space is held under lock and key by the few and powerful.

Knowing and having worked a bit around scientists associated with space flight projects, I understand the mindset of the scientists, and it offends me very deeply to see their trustworthiness questioned when I know that many of them value honesty very highly. Part of why the conspiracy garbage circulates at all is because our society is so big that “these people” never meet “those people” and the two sides have little chance of bumping into one another. It’s easy to malign people who are faceless and its really easy to accuse someone of lying if they aren’t present to defend themselves. That doesn’t mean that either is due. This comes back to my old argument about the constitutionally defended right to spout lies in the form of “Freedom of Speech” being a very dangerous social norm.

Now, that said, another of the primary reasons I decided to write this post is because I saw a Youtube video of Eddie Bravo facing down two scientists and more or less humiliating them over their inability to defend “round eartherism.”

You may or may not know of him, but Eddie Bravo is a modern hero to the teenage boy; he’s another of these podcaster/micro-celebrity types who is widely accessible with a few keystrokes in an environment with basically zero editorial content control. He’s a visible face of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge) movement along with Joe Rogan. He’s attained wide acclaim for being a “Gracie Killer,” which is a big thing if you know anything about UFC… the Gracies being the renown Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu family who dominated the grappling world early in the UFC and brought the art of Jiu-Jutsu in its Brazilian form to the whole world. From this little history, you can easily guess why Bravo is a teenage boy hero: he’s a brash, cocky bad ass. He’s a world class Jiu-Jutsu fighter, hands down. Unfortunately, as with many celebrities, his Jiu-Jutsu street cred affords him the opportunity to open his mouth about whatever he feels like. Turns out he’s a bit of a crank magnet too, including being a flat earther.

To begin with, I don’t believe Mr. Bravo –or any other crank, for that matter– is stupid. I’ve long since seen that great intelligence can exist in people who for one reason or another don’t know better or choose not to “believe” in something for whatever reason. If he weren’t talented at some level, he wouldn’t be a hard enough worker to develop the acclaim he has attained. But, he conflates being able to shout over whoever he feels like to being able to beat them, which absolutely isn’t true in an intellectual debate.

In the Youtube clip I saw, Mr. Bravo confronts two scientists in a room full of people friendly to him. The first scientist is brought to the forefront where he introduces himself as an “Earth Scientist”… much to the rolling eyes and derision of the audience. Eddie Bravo then demands that he give the one bit of evidence which proves that the “Earth is round.” Put on the spot, this poor fellow then makes the mistake of trying to tell Mr. Bravo that science is a group of people who specialize in many different disciplines, across many different lines of research, and fails to provide Mr. Bravo with a direct answer to his question. It’s true that science is distributed, but by not answering the question, he gives the appearance of not having the answer and Eddie Bravo was completely aware that he’d said nothing to the point! When the second scientist comes forward, Eddie Bravo demands (a poorly worded demand at that, in my opinion) that since most people hold the disappearance of a ship’s mast over the horizon as the “proof” that the world is round, “why was it that people are able to take pictures of ships after they’re supposedly over the horizon?” This second scientist really did step up, I think: he tried to explain that light doesn’t necessarily travel in straight lines (which is true) and that the atmosphere can work like a fiber optic to bring images around the curve of the earth. Mr. Bravo derided this explanation, basically saying “Oh, please, that’s garbage, everybody knows you can’t see around corners.” And, at a superficial level, this will be regarded as a true response, despite the fact that the numbers always fall out the bottom of the strainer in a rhetorical confrontation. The second scientist ended up sounding like he was talking over everybody’s head with his too intricate explanation, and Eddie Bravo was able to use that to make him out as “other,” winning the popular argument at that point. Combine these incidents with a lot of shouting over the other guy, and Eddie Bravo came off well…. the video is listed as a “debate,” never mind that it was anything but.

If you are a science educator, I would recommend watching that video. Scientist #1 comes off as stupid and scientist #2 comes off as pompous.

You’ll love me for saying this, but that was all preface to the purpose of this blog post. Most modern flat earthers are Youtube trolls; they castrate their opposition by relying on the fact that evidence of the Earth’s roundness is provided by a source that is intrinsically tainted and questionable. And, the truth is that many people who believe the Earth is round really only understand this fact based on a line of evidence that people like Eddie Bravo will not accept. How do you straighten out a guy who will not accept the satellite images?

Well, how is it that we know the earth is round? We knew it before there were satellites, computer graphics and photoshop. With globalism and information society, these knowable, observable things are amplified. Flat earthers prove they are incompetent researchers every time they open their mouths and say “Well, have you researched it? I did and the earth is flat!”

Now, suppose I was a flat earth researcher, how would I go about the science of establishing the shape of the earth using a series of modern, readily available, cheap tools?

Hypothesis: The Earth is flat! It’s the stable, unmoving center of the universe and the sun and sky move over it.

1 flat earth model

One thing that we can immediately see about this model is a simple thing. When the sun is in the sky, every point on the plane can see it at the same time since there is nothing to obstruct the line of sight anywhere. In the 1800s, nobody could really travel fast enough to be able to tell whether or not this was the case: for every person in that time, it was enough to suppose that everybody on Earth wakes up from the night at the same time and goes about their day. For this flat earth modeled when seen from the side, the phenomenon of sunrise (a phenomenon as old as the beginning of the Earth, by the way) would look like this:

2 simple sunrise model

We have all seen this: the sun starts below the edge of the Eastern Horizon and pops up above it. For a majority of people on Earth, this is what the sun seems to do in the morning.

There are a number of simple tests of this model, but the simplest question to ask is this: Does everybody on Earth see the sun appear at the same time? Everybody is standing on that flat plane: when the sun comes up from below the horizon, does everybody on Earth see it at once?

3 simple sunrise model at sunrise

Notice, this is a requirement: if the Earth is flat, people all across the plane of the Earth will be able to see something big coming over the edge of that plane almost simultaneously, depending on nearby impediments, like mountains for instance.

So, here’s the experiment! If you live in California, grab your smart phone, buy an airplane ticket and fly to New York. The government has no control at all over where you fly in the continental US of A and they really won’t care if you take this trip. New York, New York is actually a kind of fun place to visit, so I recommend going and maybe catching a Broadway show while you’re there. When you get to New York, find someplace along the waterline where you can look east over the ocean and go there in the morning before sunrise. After the sun rises, wait 30 minutes and then place a phone call back to one of your buddies in California and ask him if the sun is up.

This experiment can be repeated with any two east-west related locations on Earth, though the time delays will depend on the separation so that maybe a half hour is long enough for the sun to rise in both places. Any real flat earth “researcher” should be running this experiment.

For the set-up written above, the sun comes up in New York four hours before it actually comes up in California! A California view of the sun is blocked below the horizon of the Earth for four hours after it has become visible in New York.

Now, you might argue, New York is on the east side of the US and is much closer to where the sun comes up on our hypothetical plane, so maybe the Rocky Mountains are obstructing some view of the sun in LA.

4 mountain occlusion

And that this blocking effect lasts 4 hours.

So, here’s the new experiment. Drive your car from LA to NY and watch the odometer; you can even get a mechanic you trust to assure you that the government hasn’t fiddled with it. You now know the approximate distance from LA to NY by the odometer read-out. Next, you buy a barometer and use the pressure change of the air to measure how high the Rocky Mountains are… or, you could just use a surveying scope to measure the angular height of the mountains and your car to check distances, then work a bit of trig to estimate the height of the mountains.

5 measure mountain height

The Rockies are well understood to be just a bit taller than 14,000 ft.

With these distances available, you do the following experiment with surveying scopes. When the sun appears above the horizon in LA, your friend measures the angle above ground level where it is visible (surveying scopes have bubble levels for leveling the scope). You measure the angle above the horizon at the same time using a survey scope of your own in New York. Remember, you’ve got smartphones, you can talk to each other and coordinate these measurements.

For the flat earth, the position of the sun in the sky should obey the following simple triangular model:

6 flat earth trig model

This technique is as old as the hills and is called “triangulation.” Notice, I’ve used three measurements made with cheap modern equipment: angle at LA, angle at NY and the distance from LA to NY (approximate from the odometer). What I have in hand from this is the ability to determine the approximate altitude of the sun using a bit of high school level trig. Use law of sines and it’s easy to forecast the altitude of the sun from these measurements:

7 height of sun

I won’t do the derivation this once, but you just plug in the distance and the angles, then voila, the height of the sun over the flat earth. (I’m not being snide here: Flat Earthers don’t even seem to try to use trig.)

What we know so far is that the sun comes up four hours earlier in New York than LA and that we would expect that the sun should be visible everywhere on the flat earth at the same time as it comes over the horizon. Maybe the Rockies are blocking LA from seeing the sun for four hours. This would give rise to the following situation:

9 mountain triangle

You end up with similar triangles formed by the triangle of LA to the Rocky Mountains and the triangle of LA to the sun. Knowing the height of the mountains and the distance from LA to the mountains, you get the angle that the sun must be at when it appears in LA. This gives us a relation where the angle from LA to the top of the mountains must be the same as the angle from LA to the sun when it appears. We would expect the angle to be very small since the Rockies are really not that high, so finding it nearly zero to within the noise of the instrument would be expected.

Now, LA to New York is about 2,800 miles and the distance from LA to Denver is 1,020 miles. The mountains are 14,000 feet tall. In four hours of morning, from New York, the sun will appear to be at an angle of ~60 degrees over the horizon (neglecting latitude effects… leave that for later). If you start plugging these figures into equations, the altitude of the sun must be 7.3 miles up in the sky, or 38,500 ft.


You can fly at 40,000 ft in an airliner. Easy hypothesis to test. If the sun is only 7.3 miles up and visible at 60 degrees inclination in New York, you could go fly around it with an airplane.

Has anybody ever done that?

A good scientist would keep looking at the sun through the whole day and might notice that the angular difference of the sun’s inclination observed in the spotting scopes at New York and in LA does not change. Both inclinations increase at the same rate. There is always something like 60 degree difference in inclination in the sky from where the sun rose between these two places (again, neglecting latitude effects; this argument will appear a tiny bit janky since New York and Los Angeles are not at the same latitude, but the effect should be very close to what I described).

For this flat earth model to be true, the sun would need to radically and aphysically change altitude from one part of the day to the next in order for the reported angles to be real. We know with pretty good accuracy that the sun does not just pop out of the Atlantic ocean several dozen miles off the coast every morning when it rises over the United States, whatever the flat earthers want to tell you. And, this is pretty much observable without any NASA satellites. Grab yourself a boat and go see! The other possibility is that the sun is much further away than 7 miles and that the physical obstruction between LA and New York is much larger than just the height the Rocky Mountains over sea level –and also maybe that the angles on the levels of the spotting scopes somehow don’t agree with each other.

For this alone, the vanilla flat earth model must be discarded. You cannot validate any of the predictions in the model above: LA and New York do not see the sunrise at the same time and the sun clearly is not only 7 miles high in New York. To give them some credit, most modern flat earthers, including Eddie Bravo, do not subscribe directly to this model.

For a point, I would mention that every flat earth model struggles with the observable phenomenon of time zones and jet lag. If any flat earther ever asks you what convinced you of a round Earth, just say “Time Zones” in order to forestall him or her and to not look like you’re avoiding the question. Generally speaking, time zones exist because the curve of the Earth (something that flat earthers claim shouldn’t exist) obstructs the sun from lighting every point on the surface of the Earth at the same time.

So then, now that we’ve made basically two tests of a flat earther hypothesis and seen that it fails rather dramatically in the face of simple modern do-it-yourself measurements, what model do these people actually believe in?


Most modern flat earthers believe in some version of the model above (one of the major purveyors of this is Eric Dubay. I won’t link his site because I won’t give him traffic.) In this model, you can think about the Earth as a big disc centered on an axle that passes through the north pole. The sun, the moon and the night sky spin around this axle over the Earth (or maybe the Earth spins like a record beneath the sky). The southern tips of South America, Africa and Australia are placed at extreme distances from one another and Antarctica is expanded into an ice wall that surrounds the whole disc. The model here is actually not a new one and originated some time in the 1800s.

For the image depicted here, I would point out once again that if the sun is an emissive sphere, projecting light in all directions, the model above gives a clear line of sight for every location on Earth to see the sun at all times. For this reason, the flat earthers usually insist that the sun is more like a flashlight or a street lamp which projects light in a preferred direction so that light from it can’t be seen at locations other than where the light is being projected (never mind that this prospect immediately begins to suffer for trying to generate the appropriate phases of the moon).

To generate this model, the flat earthers have actually cherry-picked a few rather interesting observations about the sky. You can find a Youtube video where Eddie Bravo tries to articulate these observations to Joe Rogan. Central among them is that the North Star, Polaris, seems to not move in the night sky and that all the stars and even the sun seem to pivot around this point. In particular, during the season of white nights above the arctic circle, the sun seems to travel around the horizon without really setting (never mind that during the winter months, the sun disappears below the horizon for weeks on end… again with that pesky horizon thing; on the flat earth, the sun is not allowed to drop below the horizon and still be visible elsewhere on the same longitude since that intrinsically implies that the Earth’s surface must curve to accomplish said feat).


Taken from Scijinks.gov, this image demonstrates the real observation of what the sun does during the season of white nights as viewed at the arctic circle. The flat earth model amplifies this into the depiction given above.

If this is our hypothetical model, we could say that the sun is suspended over the flat Earth so that it sits on a ring at the radius of the equator in its revolution around the pole.

10 disc model

This image shows you right away the first thing to test. As seen at a distance of 3/4 of the disc’s diameter away, the sun cannot ever be seen in the sky at a lower angle of inclination than is allowed by its altitude over the surface. In other words, it can never go down below the horizon or come up over it.

11 min angle of inclination

Here, theta is the minimum angle of inclination that the sun will visit in the sky. I’ve heard flat earthers quote ~3,000 miles for the height of the sun and the absolute length of the longitude would be (3/4)*24,000 miles = 18,000 miles, which gives a minimum inclination angle of about 9 degrees over the horizon. And, that’s seen from the maximum possible distance across the width of the disc, where the flat earthers claim the sunlight can’t be seen. As a result, the sun will always have to *appear* in the sky at some inclination greater than 9 degrees –just suddenly start making light– at the time when the sun supposedly rises.

The truth of that is directly observable: do you ever see the sun just appear in the sky when day breaks? I certainly haven’t.

This failure to ever reach the horizon mixed with the requirement for time zones is enough to kill the flat earth model above: it can’t produce the observations available from the world around us that can be obtained with just the tiniest bit of leg work! The model can’t handle sunrises (period). There’s a reason that the round earth was postulated in 2,500 BC; it’s based on a series of clever but damn easy measurements. And I reiterate, those measurements are easier to make with modern technology.

It is inevitable that this logic won’t satisfy someone. The altitude number for the sun, 3,000 miles, was cribbed from flat earth chatter. Suppose that this number is actually different and that they don’t actually know what it is (surprise, surprise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen evidence of any one of them doing something other than making YouTube videos or staring through big cameras trying to see ships disappear over the horizon and not understanding why they don’t. Time to get to work, guys, you need to measure the altitude of the sun over the flat earth or you’ll all just keep looking like a bunch of dumbasses staring at tea leaves!)

Now, then, in some attempt to justify this model, a measurement needs to be made of the altitude of the sun (again). You can do it basically in the same way you did it before; you mark out a base length along the surface of the Earth and station two guys with surveying scopes at either end: you count “1,2,3” over the smartphone and then both of you report the angle you measure for the inclination of the sun. In this case, I recommend that one guy be stationed south of the equator and the other guy stationed north, both off the equator by the same distance along a longitude line. The measurement should be made on either the Vernal or Autumnal equinox and it should be made at noon during the day when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. This should make calculations easier by producing an isosceles triangle. How do you know you’re on the same longitude line? The sun should rise at the same time for both of you on the equinox. And, I specify equinox because I would rather not get into effects caused by the Earth’s axial tilt, like the significance of the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (you want to know about those, go learn about them yourself).

12 height of sun ver 2

From this measurement how do you get the height of the sun? You use the following piece of very easy trig:

13 trig height

And, note, this trig will not work unless both angles measured above are the same… but you can orchestrate this with a couple spotters, an accurate clock and a couple surveying scopes.

If you do this very close to the equator, where d is small, you will find that the sun is at some crazily high altitude. You may not be able to distinguish it because of the sizeable angular width of the sun, but it will be very high… in the millions of miles. This by itself will push the minimum allowed angular height of the sun up, not down, because it’s larger than what was taken for the calculation above. To handle the horizon problem where the sun can only appear to be higher than about 9 degrees in the sky and never cross the horizon, the height of the sun must be lower than 3,000 miles, not higher. Humans were unable to do this calculation in prehistory and used a different set of triangles to try to estimate the height of the sun.

If you are a good scientist, you will repeat this measurement a number of times with different base distances between the spotters. If the Earth is flat, every base length you choose between the spotters should produce the same height for the sun (this is an example of the scientific concept of Replication).

Here’s what you will actually find:

14 three measurements

At a latitude close to the equator, during the first measurement, the sun will appear to be very far away at a really high altitude. With the second measurement, at mid latitudes on either side of the equator, the sun will appear to be at a significantly lower altitude. During the final measurement, at distant latitudes, as far north and south as you can get, the sun will appear to actually sit down on the face of the Earth. If you coordinate this experiment with six people on group chat all at once, this is what they will all see simultaneously. Could I coordinate the measurement locations so that the sun appears to be 3,000 miles high? Sure, but who in the hell would ever take that as honest? Flat earthers blame scientists for being dishonest… what if the flat earthers are the ones being dishonest? Does it not count for them somehow?

Since the sun suddenly appears to be speeding toward the Earth, does this mean that it’s about to crash down onto the experimenters you have stationed at the equator? No. It just means that your model is completely wrong because it hasn’t produced a self-consistent measurement. A mature scientist would consider the flat earth a dead hypothesis at this point.

Why does the round earth manage to succeed at explaining this series of observations? For one thing, the round earth doesn’t assume that the spotting scopes are stationed at the same angular level.

15 round earth contrast

The leveling bubble on the spotting scope can only assume the local level. And, the angle that you end up measuring is the one between the local horizon and the sight line. On the equinox (very important) the sun will only appear to be directly overhead at noon on the equator.

If you’re still unconvinced that the flat earth is a dead hypothesis which doesn’t live up to testing and continue to focus on strange mirages seen over the surface of the ocean on warm days as evidence that the round earth can’t be right, consider the following observations.

Flat earthers use Polaris as the pivot around which the sky spins. Why is it that Polaris is not visible in the sky from latitudes south of the equator? Why is it that the Southern Cross star constellation is not visible from the northern hemisphere? Eddie Bravo, as a Gracie hunter, surely must have visited Brazil: did he ever go outside and look for the north star during a visit? Pending that, did he look for the Southern Cross from Las Vegas?

Flat earthers use the observation that the stars in the sky rotate counterclockwise around Polaris as evidence that the sky is rotating around the disc of the Earth. Have they ever gone and observed at night from the tip of Argentina in South America that the sky seems to rotate clockwise around some axis to the south? How can the sky rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time? In the flat earth model, it can’t, but in reality, it does! As an extension, why in the hell does the sun come straight up from the east and set straight in the west on equinox at the equator? When seen at the North Pole, on equinox day, simultaneously, the sun rolls around the horizon at the level of the ground and never quite rises. Use your smartphone and take the trip to see! Send a friend to Panama while you go to Juneau Alaska and talk on the smartphone to see that it happens this way in both places at once.

Don’t take my word for it, go and make the observations yourself!

How is this all possible?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because flat earthers never test the models they put forward with the tools that are at their flipping fingertips. “Flat Earth ‘Research'” my ass.

Do I need NASA satellite pictures or rocket launches to know that the Earth is round? Pardon my french, but Fucking hell, no! Give me the combination of time zones with the fact that the sun actually pops up over the horizon when it rises and your ass is grass. Flat earth models can’t explain these observations simultaneously, they can only do one or the other.

Edit 11-28-17

Yeah, I have a tiny bit more to say.

If all of what I’ve said still does not convince you, likely you’re hopeless. But, here’s a comparison between what the sun does in the sky over the disc shaped flat earth and what it actually does.

Here’s how the sun travels across the sky on the disc-shaped earth:

16 flat earth sun track

Here’s what the sun really does depending on latitude:

17 earth sun track

This particular set of sun behaviors in the sky is actually visible year round, but the latitude where the sun travels from East, straight over the apex, to West varies North to South depending on the season when you look. At equinox, the observation is symmetric at the equator, but it shifts north and south of there as the months move on, producing the same general pattern above. In the winter, the axial tilt of the Earth prevents the sun from rising over the north pole –ever– while the same is true at the south pole during the summer of the northern hemisphere. Flat earthers seem to never make any observations about what happens in the sky to the sun south of the equator. Do they not go to Australia or South America to take a look?

As an extra, I have made the mistake of rooting through Eric Dubay’s “200 proofs” gallop. I once even thought about writing a blog post about the experience, but decided it was too exhausting. For one thing, quantity does not assure quality. Many of the 200 proofs are taken from accounts of 19th century navigation errors, and one must wonder whether such accounts hold as valid in the 21st century world. Further, some of the proofs are simple, flat out lies: among the proofs is an exhaustive observation of the lack of airline flight routes in the southern hemisphere, twisting route information to show that flights must pass through the northern hemisphere to reach destinations as far separated as the tip of South America and the tip of South Africa, which simply ignores the fact that flight routes exist for these destinations that do not go to the northern hemisphere. Are there more flight routes in the Northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere? Yes, most of the human population lives at or north of the equator… most of the places anybody would want to go are in the northern hemisphere. If you doubt that such a flight route exists, go to the Southern hemisphere and take an airline flight from Argentina to South Africa and use a stopwatch during the flight to see if it’s a fraction of the length Dubay would claim –commerical airline jets have a known flight profile that would be impossible to hide; the rate at which they cross distance is well-characterized. Did Dubay do this experiment? Nope. What should stun a person about Dubay is that he does not merely make wrong claims, it’s that he repeats the same wrong claims 60 times in a row to an audience that not only fawns over it, but fails to point out the giant logical gaps that are detailed above. How hard is it to see that you not only need to cope with time zones, but with sunrises too?

Pointing out a tiny detail, like not understanding how mirages work on the surface of the ocean, does not somehow validate a model that can’t handle the big ticket items, like time zones and sunrises. It only shows that you can’t understand how the small details work. I can also sort of understand that people are losing touch with the world around them as they grow more and more entrenched in the online world, but if you fail to understand that the online world does not dictate the physics of the real world, you are in big trouble.

(Edit 3-26-18:)

The steam rocket dude finally shot himself 1,800 ft into the air. Oh yeah, and “flat earth and stuff.” Tell me again how his little stunt was supposed to test anything. His interest was in launching himself in a steam powered rocket, it had nothing to do with finding out the roundness (or lack thereof) of the Earth.

If you vote for him for Governor, you deserve what you get.

For anybody actually interested in a test that did something, check this out. For the record, there are aberrations to the lenses here which do effect exactly what you see along the edges of the image, but ask yourself how the rocket can appear straight while the background appears curved. Further, if you doubt it, that test is something that can be done by someone with the limo driver’s means.


Revoke Shaquille’s Doctorate in Education… he doesn’t deserve it.

We are in a world where truth doesn’t matter.

Read this and weep. These men are apparently the authorities of truth in our world.

Everywhere you look, truth itself is under assault. It doesn’t really matter whether you believe, it really doesn’t matter what you want it to say. Truth is not beholden to human whims. We can’t ultimately change it by manipulating it with cellphone apps. We can’t reinterpret it if we wanted to. One of these days, in however great of importance we hold ourselves, the truth will catch up. And we will deserve what happens to us after that point in time.

“It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. Yes, it is. Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America. So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this s*** is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

This spoken by a man with a public platform and a Doctorate in Education. This is the paragon of teachers!

{Edit: 3-20-17 since I’m thinking better about this now, I will rebut his meaningless points.

First, arguments about whether or not Columbus discovered America are a non-sequitur as to whether or not the Earth is round.

Second, driving coast to coast can tell you very little about the overall roundness of the Earth, especially if you aren’t paying attention to the things that do. The curvature of the earth is extremely small: only about 8 inches per mile. This means that on the scale of feet, the curvature is in thousandths of an inch, so that you can’t measure it to not be flat at the dimensions that a human being can meaningfully experience standing directly on the surface. Can you see the couple feet of curvature at a distance of fifty miles looking off a sky scraper in the middle of Atlanta, or distinguish the deviation from the same direction of ‘up’ of two sky scrapers separated by ten miles? You can’t resolve tens of feet with your eyes at a distance of miles. That said, you actually can see Pikes Peak emerge over the horizon as you come out of Kansas into Colorado, but I suppose you would explain that away by some sort of giant conspiracy theory elevator device. To actually start to directly see the curvature at a meaningful degree with your eyes, you need to be at an altitude of hundreds of thousands of feet above the surface… which you could actually do as somebody with ridiculous wealth.

Third, how would you know that China is not ‘under?’ How would you know where China isn’t when you wouldn’t be able to see that distance along a flat surface no matter which direction you look? Can you explain the phase factor that you pick up to your day that causes your damn jet lag every time your wealthy, ignorant ass travels to places like China? By your logic, you should be able to use your colossal wealth to travel to where the globe of the sun pops out of the plane of the Earth in the east every morning. Hasn’t it once occurred to you that if you’re truly right, you should test a hypothesis first before making an assertion that can be easily shown to be wrong?}

You made a mint of money on the backs of a lot of people who made it possible for you to be internationally known, all because of the truth that they determined for you! You do not respect them, you do not understand the depth of their efforts, you do not know how hard they worked. You do not deserve the soapbox they built for you.

For everyone who values the truth, take a moment to share a little about it. Read other things in my blog to see what else I have to say. I have very little I can say right this second; I’m aghast and I feel the need to cry. My hard work is rendered essentially meaningless by morons like Shaquille O’Neal… men of no particular intellect or real skill dictating what reality ‘actually is’ while having no particular capacity to judge it for themselves.

From a time before cellphone apps and computer graphics manipulation, I leave you with one of the greatest pinnacles of truth ever to be achieved by the human species:


Like it or not, that’s Earth.

If you care to, I ask you to go and hug the scientist or engineer in your life. Tell them that you care about what they do and that you value their hard work. The flame of enlightenment kindled in our world is precious and at dire risk of guttering out.


An open letter to the Shaq:

Dear Shaquille O’Neal,

I’m incredibly dismayed by your use of your public personae to endorse an intellectually bankrupt idea like flat earth conspiracy theories particularly in light of your Doctorate Degree in Education. If you are truly educated, and value truth, you should know that holding this stance devalues the hard work of generations of physicists and engineers and jeopardizes the standing of actual scientific truth in the public arena. The purpose of an educator is to educate, not to misinform… the difference is in whether you spread the truth or not.

There is so much evidence of the round earth available in the world around us without appeal to digital media, the cycle of the seasons, scheduled passages of the moon and the planets, observations of Coriolis forces in the weather patterns and simple ballistics, the capacity to jump in an airplane heading west and continue to head west until you get back to where you started, the passage of satellites and spacecraft visible from the surface of the Earth over our heads, the very existence of GPS available on your goddamn smart phone, to the common shapes of objects like the moon and planets visible through telescopes in the night skies around us, that appeals to flat earth conspiracies show a breathtaking lack of capacity to understand how the world fits together. That it comes from a figure who is ostensibly a force of truth –an educator– is truly deeply hurtful to those of us who developed that truth… modern scientists and engineers.

Since you are so profoundly wealthy, you among all people are singularly in a position to prove to yourself the roundness of our world. I bet you 50 million dollars that I don’t even have and will spend my entire life trying to repay, that you can rent an airliner with an honest pilot of your choice and fly west along a route also of your choice, and come back to the airport you originally departed from without any significant eastward travel. Heck, you can do the same exercise heading north or south if you want. And, if that experiment isn’t enough, use your celebrity to talk to Elon Musk: I hear he’s selling tickets now to rich people for flights around the moon. I bet he would build you a specially-sized two-person-converted-to-one berth in his Dragon capsule to give you a ride high enough to take a look for yourself at the shape of the world, if your eyes are the only thing you’ll believe. If you lose, you pay a 49 million dollar endowment to the University of Colorado Department of Physics for the support of Physics Education –and a million to me for the heartache you caused making a mockery of my education and profession by use of your ill-gotten public soapbox and mindlessly open mouth. Moreover, if you lose, you relinquish your Doctorate and make a public apology for standing for exactly the opposite of what that degree means.


Foolish Physicist
of Poetry in Physics

Edit 4-5-17:

So, Shaq walked back his comments.

O’Neal: “The first part of the theory is, I’m joking, you idiots. That’s the first part of the theory. The second part is, I said jokingly that when I’m in my bus and I drive from Florida to California, which I do every summer, it seems to be flat. When I’m in my plane, and we’re getting ready to land, and I open up the window, and I’m looking at all the land that we’re flying over, it seems to be flat.”

“This world we live in, people take things too seriously, but I’m going to give the people answers to my test,” he said. “Knowing that I’m a funny guy, if something seems controversial or boom, boom, boom, you’ve got to have my funny points on, right? So now, once you have my funny points on, that should eradicate and get rid of all your negative thoughts, right? That’s what you should do when you hear a Shaquille O’Neal statement, OK? You should know that he has funny points right over here, and what did he say? Boom, boom, boom, add the funny points. You either laugh or you don’t laugh, but don’t take me seriously. When I want you to take me seriously, you will know by the tone of my voice that I’m being serious.”

“No, I don’t think that,” O’Neal told Harbinger of a flat Earth. “It was a joke, OK? So know that when Shaquille O’Neal says something, 80 percent of the time I’m being humorous, and it is a joke. And 20 percent of the time, I’m being serious, but when I’m being serious, you’ll know. You want to see me, seriously? See me and Charles Barkley going back and forth on TNT. That’s when I’m mad and when I’m serious. Other than that, you’re not going to get that out of me, so I was just joking people. The Earth is not round, it’s flat. I mean, the Earth is not flat, it’s round.”

One thing that should be added to these statements is this: there are people who are actively spreading misinformation about the state of the world, for instance that the earth is flat. The internet, Youtube, blogs, you name it, has given these people a soapbox that they would not otherwise have. Given that there is a blatant antiscientific thread in the United States which is attacking accepted, settled science as a big cover-up designed to destroy the rights of the everyday man, it is the duty of scientists and educators to take the truth seriously. In a world where Theory of Evolution, Climatology and Vaccine science are all actively politicized, we have to stand up for the truth.

Where real scientists are about studying and doing our work, the antiscientific activists are solely about spreading their belief… they don’t study, they don’t question, they spend their time actively lobbying the government and appealing to legislators, running for and getting onto school boards where they have an opportunity to pick which books are presented to school districts and various places where they can actively undercut what students are told about the truth of the world. They aren’t spending their energy studying, they are spending their energy solely on tinkering with the social mechanisms which provide our society with the next generation of scientists. As such, their efforts are more directed at undercutting the mechanisms that preserve the truth rather than on evaluating the truth… as scientists do. These people can do huge damage to us all. Every screwball coming out of a diploma mill “Quantum University” with a useless, unaccredited ‘PhD’… who goes off to promote woo-bong herbalist healthcare as an alternative to science based medicine, does damage to us all by undercutting what it means to get healthcare and by putting crankery and quackery in all seriousness at the same level as scientific truth when there should be no comparison.

If everybody understood that there is no ‘alternative’ to the truth, joking about what is true would mean something totally different to me. But, we live in a world where ‘alternative facts’ are a real thing and where everyone with a soapbox can say whatever they wish without fear of reprisal. Lying is a protected right! But someone has to stand up for truth. That someone should be scientists and educators. That should include an ‘education doctorate’ like the Shaq. If he were an NBA numbskull without the doctorate, I would care less: Kyrie Irving is a joke. But he isn’t; he’s got a doctorate and he has a responsibility to uphold what that degree means! The only reason humor in irony can work is if it can be clear that one is being ironic instead of serious… and that is never completely clear in this world.

The Difference Between Trees and Rocks

This post is in response to a Flat Earther youtube video entitled “There are no forests on Flat Earth Wake Up.” I won’t link directly to this video because I refuse to help provide it with traffic.

I first happened across a description of this video in an article from The Atlantic. At the time, I sort of sat there and fulminated as I read it. That article in and of itself was not enough to stimulate a response from me because there’s really not much to say. Flat Earth believers are a train wreck of misconception and arrogance. They do not deserve acknowledgement for their ideas except to say that they are not merely wrong, but willfully contrarian to reality.

There is no arguing with a Flat Earther.

Fact is that such a person is so invested in a bad idea that they cannot be dissuaded from it. There are so many things that happen or are happening around you all the time that provide evidence against the flat earth that you need only open your eyes to see them. It takes a willful investment in the avoidance of reality to believe in a flat earth. You can look back at my response to a set of flat earth claims to know my general thoughts.

The video I mentioned above goes a step beyond the usual flat earth nonsense and makes the rather extravagant claim that there used to be forests on earth where the trees are miles tall and that land features like mesas or volcanic plugs like Devil’s Tower are stumps left from these huge trees. And, further, at some point those trees were all toppled and that the ‘man’ has a conspiracy going to cover up that they ever existed. Scientists are apparently actively complicit in hiding ‘the truth’ by distorting findings about fossils.


Devil’s Tower is a striking piece of landscape. I’ve seen it for myself and it is visceral and impressive. The structure is sort of biological after a fashion, I will admit. It does look like a tree stump. However, making the claim that an object has a biological form is not the same as claiming the object is biological. Nature has an incredible repertoire of mechanisms for producing complicated patterns that are absolutely not biological.

How was the following pattern constructed?


Tell me what you think this is! I know what it is, but I’m not going to identify it right away. Is it biological? Is this in an art museum? What do you think? More than that, how would you go about figuring out what this is? Think about it while you read.

The video I mentioned above goes on and on about things looking like other things actually being the other thing. That video is an hour and a half of blanket assertion. I admittedly could only stomach about 20 minutes of the video before it became completely clear that I wasn’t about to encounter anything resembling reality at any point along the way. Watching it all the way through is a waste of time… it should chill one to the bone that the number of ‘likes’ on this video is in the hundreds of thousands. Do that many people really get stuck on this topic?

The first thing you’ll note about that video is that the narrator very frequently says “This is bullshit” or “That’s bullshit!” Does an assertion of falsehood uproot a truth? He characterizes claims made by scientists using the words “Contrary to all laws of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.” What are those laws? What does science actually say? How do you know when a scientist is contradicting the ‘laws of science?’ You have to know what the science is, right? He goes on at length showing goofy pictures of apparently inept scientists while attacking the notion of fossilization, that a biological relic can be subsumed into a route of decomposition where the carbon structure is replaced by a long-term silicon structure.

Of course, in order to justify his mile-tall trees, he needs to completely throw out the window basically everything known about geology. His mile-tall trees weren’t actually carbon, but silicon (never mind that his entire treatise started out on the assertion that everything that’s left of these trees is carbon trapped in ice: carbon, silicon, carbon, iron, apparently self-consistency isn’t required in the rarefied atmosphere he inhabits)… and that relics of these huge trees are stumps formed by mesa-like mountains or that fossil trees from petrified forests are actually branches from some huge silicon tree. Early on, he makes the claim that trees produce a constant current of electricity (which is false) and that there was a silicon era (never mind that there is no such thing as silicon based life… that we know of on Earth. And, no, diatoms are not silicon based).

Coming back to Devil’s tower, he spends a huge amount of time claiming that there’s no way the structure of the tower could be naturally occurring without the patterning provided by life because it’s far too regular. If you look closely at the tower, it has this fascinating hexagonal columnar structure that almost looks built rather than deposited.


As he was marveling at Devil’s Tower and how the structure is inexplicable, I turned him off…

Let’s consider this one particular claim and distinguish how an actual scientist thinks in contrast to the nonsense put forth by this crank. The claim is that there’s no way a non-biological process can produce regular hexagonal column structures of the size seen at Devil’s tower. Claims by geologists that these structures are rock formed from lava are therefore ‘bullshit.’ I do hear scientists use the word ‘bullshit’ once in a while, but here’s the difference. The crank says ‘the structures are too big and too regular, therefore they had to have been made from a tree.’ On the other hand, a scientist would say this: ‘These structures are very big and very regular, I do not accept that they were made without the patterning provided by life, but I would change my mind about this if I could find an example of this kind of structure where I know the patterning is by a non-living process.’

Jumping to the money shot, one obvious candidate is crystallization. This process is well known to make geometrical inorganic shapes and it is understood that it happens spontaneously. Crystallization has a hefty contact to physics, chemistry and biology and there is huge literature of it outside of scientific fields. This is, of course, where gemstones come from. The objects in Devil’s Tower look very much like crystals. Can crystals become that large? Can they bend like the fluting of a tree trunk?

With Devil’s Tower in mind, I went to Google and performed an image search looking for ‘large industrially produced crystals.’ How big can crystals be made? This turned up a company by the name of Cleveland Crystals which produces large crystals:


So, first off, crystals can be made that are ‘big.’ How big is big enough? Can it be scaled up without limit? There’s no reason to think not. The website for the company says pretty clearly that there is a correlation between the size of the crystal and the time it took to form.

Now, second, if crystals are ‘made’ by a company, does that mean that nature can’t also make crystals? Certainly a valid question since humans almost certainly caused the structures in the picture above to exist. Maybe nature can’t make them that big.

I therefore did an image search for ‘large natural crystals.’ Which produced this:


This is found in a mine in Mexico.

Do I believe that crystals can be big? Clearly they can be. But, are those things in Devil’s Tower crystals?

I then started to search for natural crystals that are hexagonal in cross section that look like rocks:


This is a mineral called aquamarine. One rapidly descends into mineralogy at some point, necessitating at least some cursory respect for geology.

Now, I have big hexagonal crystals. But do they bend like the gentle curvature seen in Devil’s Tower? I mean, crystals are renown for their geometric straightness, so maybe the failure would be if crystals don’t bend.

A quick search gave me this example in Quartz:


As it turns out, crystal lattices do have the ability to deform their dimensions over long distances.

What I have now is this. There’s a process called ‘crystallization’ which is totally non-living that produces big, patterned objects that can have hexagonal, geometric cross sections that can be slightly bent all while still looking like rock. Crystallization is well known to be spontaneous and to not depend on the presence of life, even if it can occur in a factory. ‘Crystallization’ is a bit of a leap because I was simply fishing for non-living processes that can produce large, geometrically patterned objects. A bundle of crystals could conceivably be piled together into a formation like a tree stump.

So then, is Devil’s Tower a crystal formation? If it’s from a living thing, you should be able to walk over to it and break off a piece to look for biological cells… in reality, if you look at a piece of Devil’s Tower under the microscope, you would find no cells and if you put it into a mass spectrometer, you would find minerals, maybe like the ones above. There is even a testable model for how a structure like Devil’s Tower might form… it would be like a much longer term version of the conditions that happen in the factory at Cleveland Crystals, but just sitting out in the world. You could melt rock of similar chemical composition to Devil’s Tower in a crucible shaped like a tree stump and then set the crucible in conditions that support crystallization. Would it then spontaneously crystallize so that the crystals filled a volume shaped like a stump?

Notice, there are details that can be chased as long as you keep asking logical questions. A scientist will say, “I know this and this and this, but I’m not quite sure about that.”

Here’s the big difference between the scientist and the crank. The crank decided ahead of time that the formation was too *whatever* to have occurred by any means other than his preferred crankery. The scientist may start with a similar idea to the crank, but he’s got to include ‘falsification’ in his process (either directly by his own hand, or by peer review). Falsification is a loop hole that you must always add which gives you some way of being able to change your mind if better evidence or explanations come along. What evidence would I have to find in order to prove this theory wrong? A big part of the scientific method is deliberately trying to knock a theory down, to falsify it. In the case of Devil’s Tower, a crystal forming process might well have created the observed pattern, so the Tower isn’t necessarily a biological product. Since other processes exist which can produce the same outcome, the “huge tree” hypothesis is in immediate jeopardy as one among competing theories –Occam’s razor would give an adequate coup de gras to finish the argument right here since the “huge tree” theory can’t support all the evidence that the full field of geology can throw at it. But, if you’re stubborn and absolutely certain that the Tower is biological in origin, you would have to look and see if it has a biological fabric… if it has no fundamental biological structure, like evidence of cells, then it can’t be a living product and the hypothesis that it’s the stump of some huge tree must be discarded. Eventually, the combined weights of Biology and Geology would crush this fanciful little pet theory.

This may confuse some people. I’m saying that a necessary core of the scientific method is that you must go out and look for evidence that disproves your thesis. With a lot of science, it doesn’t look like this is happening anymore, which is why certain science is called ‘settled.’ The creationist will say “I’m trying to attack a hypothesis: I’m offering evidence that shows that Evolution is wrong.” The Flat Earther who made the video will say “Everything in geology is bullshit: don’t you see all the explanations I’m offering?” Even an antivaxxer will say “If you’re so confident in vaccines, why aren’t you still testing to see if they cause autism?” To many cranks, science looks like this united party who thoughtlessly discards every challenge to the hallowed orthodoxy. If science is based on tearing down accepted theories, why won’t they test my version?

In some ways, certain parts of science take on the aura of a hallowed ground. This is the result of the last generation of active theories weathering all the assaults waged against them… scientists have tried for decades to knock old theories down and offered modifications to strengthen those theories wherever an attack succeeded. As a result, the old theories became the modern theories and their weaknesses vanished. The fights occurring between scientists to falsify modern theories happen at a level above where most of the public and laymen are competent to contribute. You have to pick your fights, and if you’re smart, you understand not to pick a losing fight! In most cases, cranks are not seeing that the relevant fights have already been long since fought. The young earth creationist is typically attacking science where the fight was settled about a hundred years ago: any scientifically justifiable modification to the modern theories that would work better than Darwin’s evolution inevitably still looks too much like evolution to do anything but offend creationist sensibilities, making it a losing fight. The Flat Earther in the video needs literally to throw out the entire geology textbook and the last five hundred years of human history to get to where he has a competent fight, which means he may as well be headbutting a 10 ton granite rock. Antivaxxers are fighting a science that is more recently settled, ten years or twenty years, but settled –at some point, you can’t keep testing a discarded hypothesis. The climatology that global warming deniers question is very fresh and still contains questions, but certain parts are as settled as heliocentricism.

To contribute to science, you must be at the level of the science! Crankery often hinges on not merely willful ignorance, but on someone not understanding the limits of what they understand.

What did you think that pattern was in the mystery picture I posted above? The material depicted is also a kind of crystal, but its a type of cholesteric liquid crystal, meaning that the pattern formed spontaneously and is not biological in nature. Did you guess what it was? How easy is it to look at a pattern and be wrong about what you’re seeing? Human perception is fragile and easily fooled.

Edit 12-7-17:

I went back through the article of “The Atlantic” today which describes the Flat Earth Forests video addressed in this post and I had a couple additional thoughts.

The author of this article speaks about the geological features like Devil’s Tower having an “organic” shape. What constitutes an “organic” shape?

The word “organic” has a fairly complicated meaning, it turns out. It seems to mean “relating to or derived from living matter.” That a shape can be described as “organic” would seem to imply that it has a “biologically derived” shape.

As I stopped and thought about it, this word usage came to trouble me. It is not a lie to claim that Devil’s Tower looks like a tree stump and that this would mean that stone can have a biological shape. But, what about the shape of a stump is particular to life? Wouldn’t it be as accurate to say that a tree stump has the shape of a volcanic plug and that tree stumps are therefore igneous?

You could fix on the notion of rounded curves as being particular to “organic” shapes. But, wheels have rounded curves and basically no living thing has wheels, so wouldn’t that make an organic curve “wheel-like” and similar to an unnatural wheel?

People seem to sometimes mean “organic” as in “occurring like nature intended.” But, again, I have no idea what that means since nature produces all kinds of bizarre shapes, from the exceedingly regular to the exceedingly irregular.

It seems to me that the word “organic” in the common vernacular has come to mean basically nothing in particular except “harkening to life” whenever someone wants a cool word that means “like life” even though what they’re about to describe has just a much in common with non-living or otherwise unnatural things.

By the definitions of a chemist, an asphalt road is organic.


(Edit 3-19-18:)

Oh boy, crank comment! Rather than leaving it in the comments, I’m going to quote it here and respond as far as I care to. Anybody want to see what a Gish Gallop looks like? Read on:

I fully agree to that the flat earth guy, or russian guy is a egomanic or have a giant ego, but that doesn’t mean he is wrong about the devils tower. his iq is far above most people so thats where his ego comes from. how i know. well im in the same category when it comes to iq.

Never argue from a perspective of “IQ.” IQ does not equal “correct.”

the author of this site have only used a single example to couterweight the tree argument and it does not add up since i have looked at hundreds of examples and seen plenty of indications of structures that looks like giant trees. i know what you the author of this page feel, as its your world view that is about to crumble if these tree’s were real.

You don’t understand what the above post was about. I used an example of scientific thought to follow logic and falsify a hypothesis. All I needed to do was to produce a simpler example to explain the same thing and then rely on Occam’s Razor. My world view really doesn’t matter; the author of the original flat earth screed used nothing resembling science.

i know why you don’t want to look at the whole video, and its because your mind decided it was crackpottery the moment you saw the title.

When the original author can’t even decide whether his trees are silicon or carbon, I don’t see why I should waste the time. The internet is five times as deep as it is wide and most of what’s written there is useless.

it have never in history been as small tree’s on earth as its now.

Broad statement dude. Too bad you fail to back that up. The fossil record for trees is pretty well understood.

the biggest tree’s on earth is the tallest biggest and the oldest that we currently know of.
the probability that tree’s have evovled upward anytime recently by getting bigger is small.
even the dinosaurs was bigger than what currenly lives now.

“was” versus “were”… your superior intelligence related to your superior word use?

there is no indication based on what we know about that have existed from before and uptil now that have evolved upward into bigger beings.
its rather the opposite that we have seen that beings have become smaller.

Mammals are known to have been shrew-sized at the time of the dinosaurs and gotten bigger. Whales have a common ancestor with dogs and have gotten bigger.

what we currently know is rock is not as dense as people think since sinkholes are able to form even trough solid rock.

Sinkholes are a special case where the water table has washed away underlying rock and the surface can implode. Geologists know all about how they form. Please, at least bother to know what you’re talking about before opening your mouth. The density of particular types of mineral is extremely well understood: it hasn’t changed.

that means that much of what is known to be rock is actually different densities of sand or dirt.
water have been detected deep underground the crust all over the world, so there is no reason to think that a giant tree the size of devils tower could not get acess to water beneath the crust.

Devil’s tower is not made of biological material, you’re jumping the gun.

much of what we think of the earths solidity appear not so solid after all.
there are hundreds if not thousands of examples of what looks like giant tree’s just like devils tower and if you saw the whole video, you would know that.

Again, why waste time on a piece of crap? I have better things to do.

i don’t believe the earth is flat, how ever as round it is much larger than what people generally think.

The size of the earth is extremely precisely understood based upon GPS measurements. If you’re going to claim the Earth should be bigger than it is, you’d better have very compelling evidence.

we live on a very big planet and its more than enough room on this earth to support tree’s the size of devils tower or bigger.
for me its likely that if devils tower was a tree that it was organic.
its not true for us, animals and tree’s and plants that we are not silicon based.
actually we humans have silicon in our cells, blood and bone.

Having silicon in our bodies is not the same as “Silicon based.” Further, Devil’s Tower is known to be non-organic… it’s rock and it contains no biological structure relics. I invite you to go look for these huge trees; pretty much every corner of our planet is accessible with a plane ticket or a satellite photo.

everything on this planet evolved on the dependency of what the earth provides that is mostly abundant in form of silicon.
if we think we evovled from dinosaurs, is it not rational to think that dinosaurs evovled from somthing bigger than dinosaurs and would not the same go for tree’s?

Organisms evolve to fit whatever niche is available to them; they get bigger and smaller depending on whatever pressures they survive, as long as those pressures occur slowly enough for genetic drift to shape their bodies and behaviors. There is a lot of evidence of both occurring… even modern humans have evolved from the smaller homo habilis, who was no more than 4 ft tall.

the reason for claiming that giant tree’s the size of devils tower could not eixst, are not good enough, since there is plenty of water and minerals in the crust for these tree’s to get their nutrition from and as far as the sun is concerned, tree’s does not need oxygen to live or survive since they actually breath carbondioxide.
if you feed tree’s with higher consentrations of carbondioxide, they actually grow faster and better as long as there is plenty of water available.

False, oxidative metabolism relies on oxygen and trees do use it. They just produce more oxygen by photosynthesis than they consume by the rest of their metabolism.

anything disturbing is only so because its alien and because your not used to or familiar with it.

So far, you’re not impressing me. You don’t even know enough about the biochemistry to understand how trees live and grow.

if you want to debunk somthing, you have to come up with somthing better that seaching google for fast evidence to prove your side of the story since there is no way to know what is natural, like real crystal if the only thing you see is a piece of a hexagonal fossil and there no way to tell, this was not part of a tree either since tree brances sometimes turns into crystal over time and is indistinguisable from naturally grown crystals in that sense.

Since you don’t understand the concept of falsification, let me give you a quick lesson. If I can easily produce a different explanation that also fits the facts but doesn’t require an hour and a half of over-warmed video, the initial hypothesis isn’t the only possible explanation of the observations. My aim was not more than to place a possibility on the table which would break better in the face of Occam’s Razor, which I did. It actually wasn’t hard since the “Russian guy” doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about to begin with. If you want to prove me wrong, go to Devil’s Tower, drill out a core sample, throw it under the microscope and show me that it contains an intact continuum of cells, even fossilized. If it’s a tree stump, it had better look like a tree stump under the microscope. It doesn’t, it contains mineral structures and is better explained by geology than biology.

i think your evidence on favior of science is rather poor as your evidence to the contrary of giant tree is more sloppy that the russian guy.

Given that you can’t even spell “favior” or capitalize “I,” I’m not impressed with your claim that I should think anything about what you say. You’re confusing being able to open your mouth with being able to articulate a cogent opinion.

it seems like you tried to find a quickfix get away from giant tree’s in the first place.
even if crystal could grow the size of devils tower, would you not have problems to accept that as well?

Something to do with the fact that the “Russian guy” can’t even figure out whether his trees are made of carbon or silicon and has a problem with basic consistency. Do you know what a Gish Gallop is? You’re doing a remarkable job of exemplifying one.

the fact that this material is not transparent or quarts crystal in the first place just indicate that the material is unlikely to form from crystalisation since the strenght of crystals is so strong of these types that they simply would never erode like this.

How do you know how strong a crystal is? Most hydrated protein crystals can be crushed with your fingers. An iron crystal will resist crushing with a hammer.

crystals are alive in the sennce they absorb minerals and grows but have a geometry to their growt and does not break easly.

Diamond is a carbon crystal with no minerals in it, it absorbs no minerals to grow. Protein crystals and ice crystals are frequently so fragile you can break them with your fingers. Nematic liquid crystals would flow straight through a sieve. Do you have any knowledge at all of crystallization? Given that you don’t even know something as basic as this, how in the world do you believe you have enough knowledge of any of this subject to make a clear, capable judgement about the reality of it? You can’t! This is why laymen don’t determine how professional fields operate.

organic material on the other hand, when fossilized, break easly and can turn into structures like these.

Diamond is organic, bud. Strike four, but keep swinging.

when mud sand and organics turns into fossils and erode, they can break of into many pieces and fall down.

real science is not where you ego takes you but rather where the evidence leads, and if its in favior of giant trees then we need to accept that or we begin practice somthing called a dogma.

I think I’m unimpressed with what you believe science to be. It’s really a good thing you’re in no position to dictate to scientific authorities what they ought to be studying because you don’t know and are completely ill equipped to judge the reality of pretty much everything. Time to take stock of your own ego since you’ve placed such a gish gallop on such a insignificant blog.

dogmatic thinking have never resulted in advancement of knowlege and kept people in limbo for ages.

Are you familiar with the Galileo Gambit? This is the crank’s mantra that eventually history will exonerate you. Sorry, but you’re just wrong and, no, history will not record otherwise. Moreover, your comment is engraved forever in my blog for the world to see and laugh.

Anyway, I’m basically tired. I have better things to do. Anyone who wants to read the rest of this rather epic whine, be my guest. Judge for yourself:

the greeks had many dogmatic ideas that was leading nowhere but was of such a caracter as it would not differ much from established framework of science.

even if you discover many things scientifically that goes agaist the establisment, you rather have to change the theories than denying the discoveries.

we have the same problem with everything in the world when we have made a geological clock or meter that we measure ages of material.

there is plenty of geological models that don’t hold water when you go into the physics of it when it is accepted purly on the basis of no further investigaiton than the trust in the people in the field of study.

some of these are so dumb that i don’t even want to bother nameing them or explain why i think so as they violate many laws of physics or make it improbable at best but is entertaing since they have no basis in realty that we can observe or explained in such a way that we can’t even test them,
the best evidence agaist physics in favior of dogma is models based on ingredients that can not be tested directly or not at all.

i love good science and is fascinated by it and love to look into things on a deeper level that triggers my curiosity and makes me really think. bad science on the other hand is what is the problem.
at least more than half the time i have had guesses about science in various things, i have guessed right as many advancement have been on par with my own level of discovery of science.
when i was a little younger let say from 6 to 10 years ago, i had guesses about conclusions of things that i found online to be state of the art or frontier scientific discovery that i came up with on my own in a few months and these scientists had used many many years to come to the same conclusions so if i was an idiot, i would not be able to draw such such conclusions in the first place and definetly not able to look up and find science articles of these discoveries.

my impression is that smart people look into all lots of information at once and is able to vade trough it without getting lost.

avarage people must have predispsed filters and would rather find shortcuts to get satifiable answers.

small minded people would simply make up their minds straight away without any research at all.

Just keep telling yourself that, friend. From your writing style, I’m guessing you’re like thirteen years old. As long as you continue to rationalize that you think you understand what you consume, you’ll continue to tell yourself that having a “good” IQ is enough. And, no, you don’t have any idea what science is and aren’t capable of judging whether any part of it is true or not. Fortunately, I won’t ever need to compete with you for a job.

(Edit 3-21-18:)

Still thinking a little bit about the comment above; reading the writing again still feels like it was produced by a preteen. I would be more apologetic about the tone I strike, but people really do need to understand what their limits are and this person’s limits are much smaller than they believe them to be. The sooner he or she discards the notion that “smart is enough,” the sooner this person will become able to build into something I would actually respect on the other side of an argument.

There are a couple things that I thought I would address which may be relevant to a broader audience. There are a few appeals that I should have watched all the way through the original video and that I would know better since there were many more examples to see.

In the age of filter bubbles, this appeal should ring to the heart of many people. The information is available, if only *you* (or me) bothered to see it. It’s true that people should be willing to consume information that goes against preconceived notions. Republicans should be willing to listen to the arguments made by Democrats and vice versa. But there is a limit. One should be willing to be exposed to true information that goes against preconceived notions.

The problem is this. The internet grants you access to so much information that you have no choice but to filter which information you consume in order to have enough time to simply live. There is more on the internet than you could consume if you spent a lifetime trying. But, there is a vast depth of complete and utter crap ensconced there too –it contains no provenance and no quality at all. And, if you spend your time consuming it, you will not get back that time later to do whatever it is that you would rather be doing. We are fighting for sufficient time to filter out the information we need from the information that simply keeps us preoccupied and we, all of us –me included–, have basically no capacity to tell which piece of information we need and which we want. These two things are different: you may need a car to drive to work on time, and while you may want a porche or a lamborghini, you can definitely get by without one. Which information should one consume? You can only tell what you need part of the time: even newsfeed information about another mass school shooting may not actually impact how you would live your life that day… you may want to hear about it because it’s dramatic, but you may not actually need to know that it happened since it won’t impact your life one way or the other in the foreseeable future anyway. Lots of people would claim they need to know about events like this, but do they really? On the other hand, your niece is kidnapped by a some stranger in a black mask and you didn’t even recognize the information from the Amber Alert. Didn’t you need to know that?

The video that I commented on above is a very long video. It’s like an hour and a half long. What criterion would you use to decide that you need to see it? I gave it a chance: I watched like 20 minutes of it. I know that I need time to do other things in my life and I gave it a chance anyway. Unfortunately, the first twenty minutes didn’t merely “buck my preconceived world view,” it showed me that the creator of the video has no regard for even a basic level of self-consistency or logic. With that judgment in place, I feel completely confident that I would be missing nothing by not watching another hour of the same crap. If I’m not finding self-consistency or logic in the first 20 minutes, why should I expect to find it later?

Now then, I have a completely different metric of measure from the commentor who posted that exceptionally long and vacuous comment yesterday. I feel deeply sorry for this person, but yes, that comment was vacuous. My measure for why I would watch that video is informed by my career; I am trained to evaluate information and toss it aside if it doesn’t measure up. I’m not claiming to be “smart”… oh, no, not smart, I’m claiming something else. I’m claiming that my training puts that video beneath me and I would rather spend time on something else. By no means am I perfect, and I’m aware of this, and yet I know flat out that there’s nothing useful in that video from a true scientific perspective.

A scientist has some obligation to engage with the public about what scientific truth is. I do the best I can with that in the time I have available. However, I also do not suffer fools well. One of the fundamental tales of intelligence in my book is not merely “being correct,” it’s recognizing that nobody is always correct all the time and being able to dump a wrong view out the window on choice. Assuming you understood something is easier than realizing that you didn’t completely understand it and being able to both admit to that and act upon it is profoundly hard. Knowing I didn’t have anything else to gain from that video after only watching twenty minutes shows that I was too stupid to make the same decision after only ten minutes. But, does this mean I didn’t give the video an adequate chance? How long must I sit still watching someone make basic logical mistakes before I decide that they have no idea what they’re talking about? Do you expect me to give false balance? Bleating about how I’m not engaging outside my world view is positively insipid when “world view” essentially amounts to the night and day admission that someone would rather vacillate over a fiction than accept a truth. Truth is pretty damn stark: it doesn’t require anybody to believe in it and it will continue to be true regardless of the relativism of a “world view.” For example, claiming that the world is flat is not an alternative world view, it is literally sticking your head in the sand and ignoring reality.

Flat Earth Swan Dive

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.


edit 11-9-17

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.