Flat-Earthers : what is?
The Earth has yet again made a revolution about the sun.
But not so fast. If you subscribe to the idea of a flat Earth, then you’d believe that no such thing happened, because the sun rotates in a circle around the sky.
Humans have known for thousands of years that the planet is round, yet the belief in a flat Earth refuses to die. Members of the Flat Earth Society and several celebrities, including Atlanta rapper B.o.B and NBA player Kyrie Irving, claim to hold such beliefs.
Let’s examine, then, how the well-known principles of physics and science would work (or not) on a flat Earth.
First of all, a pancaked planet might not have any gravity.
It’s unclear how gravity would work, or be created, in such a world, says James Davis, a geophysicist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
That’s a pretty big deal, since gravity explains a wide range of Earthly and cosmic observations.
The same measurable force that causes an apple to fall from a tree also causes the moon to orbit the Earth and all the planets to orbit the sun.
People who believe in a flat Earth assume that gravity would pull straight down, but there’s no evidence to suggest it would work that way.
What we know about gravity suggests it would pull toward the center of the disk.
That means it would only pull straight down at one point on the center of the disk.
As you got increasingly far from the center, gravity would tug more and more horizontally. This would have some strange impacts, like sucking all the water toward the center of the world, and making trees and plants grow diagonally, since they develop in the opposite direction of gravity’s pull.
Then there’s the sun. In the scientifically supported model of the solar system, the Earth revolves around the sun because the latter is much more massive and has more gravity.
However, the Earth doesn’t fall into the sun because it is traveling in an orbit.
In other words, the sun’s gravity isn’t acting alone.
The planet is also traveling in a direction perpendicular to the star’s gravitational tug; if it were possible to switch off that gravity, the Earth would shoot away in a straight line and hightail it out of the solar system.
Instead, the linear momentum and the sun’s gravity combine, resulting in a circular orbit around the sun.
The flat Earth model places our planet at the center of the universe, but doesn’t suggest that the sun orbits the Earth.
Rather, the sun circles over the top side of the world like a carousel, broadcasting light and warmth downward like a desk lamp.
Without the linear, perpendicular momentum that helps generate an orbit, it’s unclear what force would keep the sun and moon hovering above the Earth, Davis says, instead of crashing into it.
Likewise, in a flat world, satellites likely wouldn’t be possible. How would they orbit a plane? “There are a number of satellite missions that society depends on that just wouldn’t work,” Davis says.
For this reason, he says, “I cannot think of how GPS would work on a flat Earth.”
If the sun and moon just loop around one side of a flat Earth, there could presumably be a procession of days and nights.
But it wouldn’t explain seasons, eclipses and many other phenomena.
The sun would also presumably have to be smaller than Earth so as to not burn up or bump into our planet or the moon.
However, we know the sun to be more than 100 times the diameter of the Earth.
Removing Heaven and Earth
Deep below ground, the solid core of the Earth generates the planet’s magnetic field.
But in a flat planet, that would have to be replaced by something else.
Perhaps a flat sheet of liquid metal.
That, however, wouldn’t rotate in a way that creates a magnetic field.
Without a magnetic field, charged particles from the sun would fry the planet.
They could strip away the atmosphere, as they did after Mars lost its magnetic field, and the air and oceans would escape into space.
Tectonic plate movement and seismicity depend on a round Earth, because only on a sphere do all the plates fit together in a sensible way, Davis says.
Movements of plates on one side of the Earth effect movements on the other.
The areas of the Earth that create crust, like the mid-Atlantic ridge, are counterbalanced by places that consume crust, like subduction zones.
On a flat Earth, none of this could be adequately explained.
There’d also have to be an explanation for what happens to plates at the edge of the world. One could imagine they might fall off, but that would presumably jeopardize the proposed wall that prevents people from falling off the disk-shaped world.
Perhaps one of the most glaring oddities is that the proposed map of the flat Earth is totally different.
It places the Arctic at the center while Antarctica forms an “ice wall” around the edges.
In such a world, travel would look very different. Flying from Australia to certain parts of Antarctica would, for example, take forever—you’d have to travel over the Arctic and both Americas to get there. In addition, certain real-world feats, such as traveling across Antarctica (which has been done many times), would be impossible.
Flat-Earthers : How Explain the Equinox ?
The autumn equinox is upon us. On Saturday (Sept. 22), the sun will shine directly on the Earth’s equator, autumn will officially begin in the northern hemisphere, and the length of day and night will be nearly equal across the globe … or, “across the disc,” if you’re a flat-Earther.
For flat-Earthers — the vocal online community of folks who believe the world is actually flat and science is a conspiracy — the equinox can be tricky to explain.
Without axial tilt, the phenomenon in which the rotating, spherical Earth angles its poles toward or away from the sun, how can the changing seasons be reliably explained?
How can sunrises and sunsets occur if the sun is constantly shining on the entire, flat surface of the planet?
If the North Pole sits at the exact center of the world, can compass directions even exist?
Flat-Earth thinkers have come up with many answers to these niggling questions over the last century or so, and we’ve scoured the literature to share the explanations with you.
Be warned: Understanding them requires discarding a few thousand years of what you might consider accepted scientific knowledge. For starters, forget the heliocentric modelof the solar system. You won’t need it here.
The sun is really, really small
In the most popular flat-Earth maps, the North Pole sits roughly at the center of the planetary disc, while Antarctica forms a giant ice wall along the planet’s circumference.
The equator forms a ring hallway between the two.
Many flat-Earthers agree that the sun perfectly circles the ring of the equator on the equinox; however, to account for the equal hours of daytime and nighttime, the models make a few tweaks to how the sun itself looks and behaves.
While you might envision the sun as an enormous ball of exploding gas located 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away, a flat-Earther would see it as a teeny, tiny spotlight hovering just over the Earth.
How teeny and how close is it?
According to the early flat-Earth thinker Samuel Birley Rowbotham, who published the influential treatise “Zetetic Astronomy
: Earth Not a Globe” in 1881, the sun is only about 32 miles (52 km) in diameter and hovers anywhere from 400 to 700 miles (640 to 1,130 km) above the Earth, depending on the month.
Many modern flat-Earthers now believe that the sun sits about 3,000 miles (5,000 km) over the Earth, but Rowbotham’s general idea remains popular in the community.
Here’s how members of the Flat Earth Society (one of the foremost flat-Earth activist groups in the world) describe the idea on their official wiki page:
“The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confinedto a limited area, and its light acts like a spotlight upon the Earth.”
The diameter of these sun-circles governs the seasons.
According to one popular theory, the sun circles closest to the North Pole in June, then spends the next six months spiraling slowly outward toward the ice wall at the edge of the world.
In December, the sun reverses course and spirals back inward again.During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun circles in a perfect loop around the equator, casting light on half of the disc world at any given time. Voila: seasons!
Is that … possible?
This explanation has its problems. For starters, a sun circling 3,000 miles (5,000 km) above a flat Earth would never actually “set,” even at the most southern latitudes.
YouTube user Wolfie6020, a globe-Earth proponent, demonstrated this by building a scale model of the flat-Earth-style sun as it would be seen from Sydney on a vernal equinox.
As shown in his video, the sun (actually a drone carrying a ping-pong ball) never dips below the horizon, even at its farthest point from the observer.
Moreover, during an equinox, the sun appears to rise due east and set due west everywhere on Earth except at the poles.
For this to hold true on a flat Earth, where some cities are physically many times farther away from the sun than others, the sunlight would have to bend at hundreds of different angles simultaneously.
That’s the only way it could appear as if it was always coming from the east.
YouTube user Flat Out, another prolific globe-Earth proponent, demonstrated the impossibility of this explanation using simple computer simulations in 2017.
So far, no flat-Earth model has been able to resolve these problems.
But that doesn’t stop the community from trying — or, in some cases, not trying.
Like many conspiracy theories, it’s the uncertainty that makes flat-Earth theory a mystery worth obsessing over for its proponents. So, whatever you believe, we hope this year’s equinox restores your wonder in the globe/disc we call home.