19 March, 2009

The Flat Earth Society

20th March 2009

If you thought everyone knew that the world was a sphere, you were wrong, or rather, not everyone is convinced. The Flat Earth Society is a group of people who believe the earth to be flat – quite a self-explanatory name, I know, but as some of you may not believe it, I insist. It’s an absolutely serious organisation, and in my experience of them, a group of absolutely serious people.

I will not go into whether they are right or wrong, though feel free to do that yourself, just into what they actually think and how they make sense of such a world, which is what truly interested me in the beginning, and still does now. Many questions arise when you start thinking about our earth as a flat one, and I don’t even know where to start with those.

What of space photos? Flat earthers, as they are known, think that Nasa is simply lying to us. If you have inquired about Nasa a little or poked around the supposedly moon landing hoax and the likes, you might very easily believe that Nasa is indeed filled with liars – but that’s an entirely different subject. Flat earthers do not accept space photographs as valid evidence of the earth being a sphere because any photograph from space was taken under their control, and nobody can go to space and take pictures on their own.

Another thing you will love to know is that flat earthers don’t believe in gravity. Although, some do, but all agree that the earth itself doesn’t cause gravity, while other celestial bodies do. The argument is that other planets are round, as we can see from down here, but our own mother earth isn’t, and doesn’t have to be. This wouldn’t be the first singularity of our home planet: the tectonic plates are another one that isn’t shared by most planets, if I’m not mistaken.

So if there is no gravity, how do we stick to the ground? Simple. The earth is moving upwards. Not only is it moving, it’s also accelerating exponentially. If it was merely moving upwards, we’d be flying at the slightest jump. What makes the flat earth accelerates upwards like this? They don’t know. I think they call it “dark energy”. To be fair, and for all I know, even today we can’t quite explain how gravity actually functions.

I questioned them on many problems I had with their model. For instance, if the earth is continually accelerating upwards, wouldn’t that mean that eventually we would be moving at the speed of light? No, I was told. Answers differed from a flat earther to another. Some said the earth would eventually slow down, which, I guess, means we will one day just fly away and get lost into space, or something. What I love about all this is how it makes your mind work out on figuring stuff out with new parameters. For instance, moving at the speed of light, you would be unable to see anything directly below 90°, because the light rays wouldn’t be able to catch up with you! [Upon further reflection, I think you would see absolutely nothing unless you were looking upwards, since even light coming from the side would not have time to reach your eyes, or maybe you'd see things in front of you that in reality are much higher in space; the light from them, going horizontally would hit you in the eye as you move up. This is hard to explain, I hope you can figure it out.] In theory, nothing can top the speed of light, so I assume we would float away at this point.

So what does the earth look like for a flat earther? And how do they explain circumnavigation (sailing around the world)? I want you to visualise the UN’s flag now. That’s how they see the earth. Here’s an image so you get a better idea.

The North Pole is at the center of our world, and the South Pole does not exist as a pole. Indeed, Antarctica is not a continent, but a gigantic wall of ice surrounding our world. This explains why sailors felt like they were going around the world, and whenever they went South, they reached “Antarctica”, or that giant Ice Wall, for the magnetic poles still exist.

Giant Ice Wall you say? Yes. Flat earthers differ on this. Some say what we think of as Antarctica is the Ice Wall, while others say it just lays before it, but isn’t said Ice Wall. What happens at the end of the earth? Here again, flat earthers differ, and mostly don’t know. But they have some interesting examples of what could be.

Some think that beyond the Ice Wall is nothing but barren wastelands that expand on forever. Others think the world just drops off, and others still think there might be other worlds like ours, like so many fried eggs in an eternal frying pan, separated by vast deserts of wind-beaten icy snow.

The Ice Wall itself is in fact a chain of mountains covered with snow and ice. How deep is it? Deep enough to keep the oceans in. Flat earthers tend to believe that there is a conspiracy meant to keep us from exploring Antarctica for ourselves, and that anyone who goes there is somehow lured and never really sees things for what they are.

As to the origins of such a flat earth, I asked, expecting some kind of astronomical explanation. The only person who took the time to give me an answer simply gave me a link to an online version of the Book of Genesis. I hadn’t thought of that one. Many, though not all, flat earthers are religious people, or so I am led to believe, but don’t be fooled, if you go in there and discuss, you might find yourself unprepared to argue physics with some of them, as I did. I did not know that “c” represented light, or the speed of light, or whatever, and apparently that made me sound like a retard. Sorry, I’m no physicist.

What of the sun and moon? Easy: they just hover over our flat earth in circles. Said circles vary, and this causes seasons and the moon cycle. The sun never sets, it just goes far away and creates the illusion that it goes below the horizon, when in fact, it’s just beyond.

What of the earth’s curvature? You know, as when you see a ship in the distance somehow sinking into the horizon, and not just getting smaller. I asked about this, and was told that we need special telescopes to see truly. I did not manage to know what there was to correct, just that someone whose name I do not dare deface here invented special telescopes that restored true vision. Why such a distortion happens, I have no idea. Why we haven’t been able to build another one of these correcting devices, I have no idea either.

What of satellites? Flat earthers don’t believe in them. Instead, they think that on the edges of the world are poles or some such things that emit signals simulating satellites, or something like that. I don’t guarantee exactitude on this one. Why would Nasa and/or others fool us on this? They admit they don’t know, but suspect that a financial gain is the most likely reason. How do you make money from that? I’m not sure, but what I do know, however, is that the exploration of space is not at all where it could be. Given the obscene amounts of money they make by launching billionaires into space, they have no interest in developing technologies that would make the travel cheap and affordable to everyone. This is how greed hinders us severely. The rationale behind convincing the whole world that said world is flat is nothing too clear to me, be it for money, power, or some almighty alien warlord we know nothing of.

There are many more questions to be asked about this, and I assuredly forgot a few that I wanted to deal with here. Flat earthers themselves don’t claim to have all the answers. Feel free to question them directly on their own forum, but be warned, most people are very impolite towards them and abusive, and as a result, many flat earthers have the reflex of being harsh, giving very short answers without explanation, or downright insulting you. This doesn’t happen much if you are yourself polite and respectful, but expect animosity. That was my disappointment with the forum. I didn’t go there for a fight, and if you are a flat earther, I wouldn’t see the point in posting in a forum solely for fights. Why waste one’s time? That goes for every side of the issue.

But don’t get discouraged, there are a lot of people there who have things to say and reasons to give, and if only for those, it is worth being courteous. Often, you will ask things like “Then will the earth reach the speed of light?” and your only answer will be “No.” and I just hate that kind of answer. It’s as if they got tired of explaining stuff over and over, and just decided to give us the truth in miniature format. Feel free to insist on an explanation! Someone will always try to explain FE models to you if you are genuinely interested in an answer.

Conclusion? I was decidedly happy to find that there are people who really believe the earth is flat. Imagining my world in a new perspective was great fun, still is, and the kind of hostility these heretics of science have to face reminds you how intolerant people can be and how little credit they give anyone who doesn’t immediately accept the official paradigm without questions. I doubt most round eathers have studied the question before accepting that the earth was a sphere. You may accuse the flat earthers of being this and that, but one thing you can’t accuse them of is to not have done any research. They have a whole bunch of references ready for your eyes if you feel so inclined.

The following chapter will be about the Hollow Earth, stay tuned!

The Flat Eart Society forum.