Opinion: Can The Earth Really Be Flat?

Anyone who's driven around Denton has likely seen the infamous flat earth vehicles or the flat earth house owned by Denton’s own flat earth conspiracist Patrick Burke. All of which say some sort of “fact” or claim to capture attention and direct people to this “truth.” The main piece of curriculum from this study of Earth being flat is 200 Proofs Earth is Not a Spinning Ball by Eric Dubay, which is a 2-hour long YouTube video that serves to “prove” the Earth is flat and not spherical.

Is Earth the only planet that is considered to be flat? Would the Earth being flat mean the sun then revolves around the Earth? Flat Earthers believe because the Earth’s round horizon line isn't visible then it must be straight; and to them, basic logic means flat geographical maps are more correct than how globes represent the shape of the Earth.

With all the jokes on the Internet, it's easy to forget people do seriously believe Earth is flat and use mathematics and “common logic” to prove it. Delving into a select few of these 200 “proofs”, it seems there are 200 proofs about the Earth being spherical to match.

Proof 29 talks about eastward and westward motions to prove the earth being flat. As stated in the video, “no one in history has ever experienced this eastward motion; meanwhile, however, we can hear, feel and experimentally measure even the slightest westward breeze.”

Dave Van Domelen attempts to explain the east/west motion with the Coriolis effect. In his journal, Van Domelen states that “the earth rotates to the east at an effectively constant angular velocity, but different latitudes have different linear speeds.”

Moving an object East to West is tricky because it depends “on a slightly tougher concept and also on the fact that the object is confined to the surface of the sphere,” according to Van Domelen.

In Proof 15, Dubay states “if the Earth were truly a sphere 25 thousand miles in circumference, airplane pilots would have to constantly correct their altitudes downwards so as not to fly straight off into “outer space.”

Van Domelen also explains gravity keeps most objects from flying away into space and moving away from the axis will make them move further south and moving towards the axis will make them go north. The objects trying to move west, trying to leave, will move south so that they do not leave the atmosphere.

Proof 7 claims surveyors, engineers and architects are never required to factor the supposed curvature of the Earth into their projects. Dubay uses canals, railways, bridges and tunnels as examples saying they are “always cut and laid horizontally, often without any allowance for curvature.”

One test that disproves this theory is a particular challenge to the Bedford Level Experiment conducted in 1838 by Samuel Rowbotham of the Flat Earth Society. In 1901, Henry Yule Oldham conducted the exact same experiment as Alfred Russel Wallace did in 1870 by using three poles that were fixed at an equal height above water. 

According to the Annual Report from the British Association for the Advancement of Science, “when viewed through a theodolite (a precision instrument for measuring angles), the middle pole was found to be almost three feet (0.91 m) higher than the poles at each end.”

Dubay’s 32nd proof claims gravity can’t be the driving force for the Earth being round because it is “impossible” for Earth to be simultaneously strong enough to keep people grounded but weak enough to allow birds and airplanes to fly freely.

By this logic, Earth has the same gravity of the Moon (which is not questioned as being round or flat). The Moon has a gravity that is somewhat strong enough to keep a person grounded but weak enough to let them almost float when walking on the surface.

Carl Sagan discusses the flat earth theory by using sticks and creating shadows on a model, demonstrating how Eratosthenes, a Greek astronomer, defeated the theory in BC era.

Sagan says if the Earth was flat, then the sticks, placed in Alexandria, Greece and Cyrene, Libya, would cast no shadow or the same shadow. In the video, Sagan says that this would make sense.

Sagan continues by saying that there being no shadow on the stick in Cyrene and a large shadow on the stick in Alexandria could only mean the Earth is curved. He goes on to say the sticks had to be spread apart at an angle of seven degrees, so when they meet in the center of the Earth they create a seven-degree angle.

Sure, one can “do your research” and see why people may think Earth is flat, but research on why many other scientists have concluded it is round and spherical can also be found,which debunks all of these proofs several times over and by several scientists over.

Header image from Strange Denton Ep. 1
Header image designed by Christopher Rodgers.