It’s perplexing to see that belief in a “flat earth” is gaining traction, despite being thoroughly debunked for millennia. This idea was almost non-existent until the last decade, yet this particular branch of pseudoscience is making inroads.
Many of my peers claim it’s ridiculous to even bother rebutting the Flat Earth Society—and I tend to agree. But the history of our species’ intellectual pursuit is important, and captures the spirit of human innovation, so I believe it is worth delving into.
Debunking ideas that would not exist were it not for the Internet
Even the ancient Greeks, in their quest for knowledge, theorized the Earth was round. Aristotle noticed that during a lunar eclipse, the shadow cast by the Earth on the surface of the Moon is round. This shadow is the planet’s, and it’s a fairly obvious indication of the spherical shape of the Earth.
Another observation made by Aristotle, is the varying constellations visible in the night sky, depending on the viewer’s location above or below the equator. After returning from a trip to Egypt, Aristotle stated, “There are stars seen in Egypt and…Cyprus which are not seen in the northerly regions.” This phenomenon can only be explained if people were viewing the stars from a round surface, Aristotle theorized, claiming that the sphere of the Earth is “of no great size, for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be quickly apparent.” (De caelo, 298a2-10)
Upon making this discovery, Aristotle declared the Earth was round, judging from the different constellations one sees while moving away from the equator.
Another prominent figure from Ancient Greece also made a discovery that proved the Earth was round. Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE) used an ancient practice of telling time to calculate the circumference of the Earth with surprising precision. He noticed that when he placed two sticks in the ground in separate locations, the shadows they cast did not match, but were of different lengths. If the world had been flat, then two sticks in different locations would produce the same shadow. This discovery would lead the mathematician and astronomer Theodosius of Bithynia (ca. 160 BCE-ca. 100 BCE) to invent the sundial, a device that measures the time of day based on the movement of the sun’s position in the sky.
But let’s discuss an even more basic principle that highlights the improbability of a flat earth. Imagine a bubble. Every bubble you’ve ever seen is spherical, because when surface tension is applied equally to all sides of an air pocket, it naturally forms a sphere to occupy the least amount of space. The Earth, which is being acted upon by the force of gravity from all sides, is also shaped as a sphere due to a similar principle. Every object of mass will attract mass, and objects of mass greater than 1,000km will round themselves into a spheroid.
My only conclusion is that the Internet is breeding people who are not capable of critical thought. But perhaps you can use these facts in your next encounter with a flerfer, if they do indeed actually exist. I think flat earthers themselves are a hoax, as I’ve never met one. I sure hope I’m right. I’m still waiting for a flat Earther to explain latitude.