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Cosmology, the study of the origin & structure of the universe:

Proofs 15 to 26 that the Earth is not flat.
What does the public believe its shape is?
Amount of interest in a flat earth

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Part 9

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Proof 15: Sundials:

The Sun's shadow produced by a sundial rotates clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. That would be impossible with a flat earth, but is a necessary observation if the Earth is close to a sphere.

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Proof 16: Star trails:

Photographing star trails around Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere shows that the stars appear to draw circles in a counterclockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere. A photograph in the Southern Hemisphere shows them apparently moving counterclockwise. Again, that would be impossible with a flat Earth, but is a necessary observation in a spherical Earth.

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Proof 17: Apparent rotation of the Sun:

As viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to rotates clockwise. In the Southern Hemisphere rotation is counterclockwise. This can be observed, with suitable precautions to avoid damage to one's eyes, by tracking sunspots across the surface of the Sun. Again this is impossible with a flat Earth, but is a necessary observation in a spherical Earth.

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Proof 18: Duration of sunlight:

The Arctic region lies north of the Arctic Circle, which is a line at 66┬░33' North Latitude. At that latitude, the sun remains completely below the horizon throughout the 24 hours at the date of the Winter Solstice, about DEC-21. As one moves closer to the North pole the number of days without sunlight increase. Also at the Arctic Circle, the sun remains completely above the horizon near the time of the Summer Solstice (about JUN-21). As one moves closer to the North pole the number of days with 24 hours of sunlight increase. The same is true near the South Pole, except that the dates are reversed.

However, if the Earth were flat, then when the sun rose above the horizon, it would be visible everywhere on Earth. The number of hours of sunlight and darkness would be the same on every day and at every location around the Earth.

Earth, as seen from the moon on an Apollo missionEarth portrait by Appollo mission

Earth rise or set. View of the Earth.
As seen from the moon on an Apollo mission: real or hoax? 1

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Proof 19: How the moon appears in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere:

The "Ask an Astronomer" web site is updated by volunteers in the Astronomy Department of Cornell University. They attempt to give answers to questions posed by their site visitors.

One question was answered by Laural Spitler who lives in Australia. She was visited by people who lived in the U.S. The visitors noted that the moon looks inverted in Australia to what it appears in the U.S. This is to be expected, if the Earth is near spherical in shape. People looking at the moon are typically standing with their feet on the earth. Therefore, people in Australia are upside down when compared to people in the U.S. The web site stated:

"... imagine for simplicity that the orbit of the Moon was exactly in the same plane as the Earth's equator. From the northern hemisphere, the Moon is in the southern sky because that's the direction of the Earth's equator. In the southern hemisphere the situation is reversed.

Now imagine that you are standing on the equator. The Moon would be directly overhead. First face north and look straight up at the Moon. It should look like it does in Australia. Now turn and face south and look at the Moon. You are now looking at the Moon flipped from how it looked when facing north. This is how the moon looks in the northern hemisphere to your American friends." 2

If the Earth were flat, then everybody on earth would see the moon in the same orientation.

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Proof 20: Appearance of the stars and star constellations in the sky:

constellation orion The constellation of Orion appears upside down in the Southern Hemisphere -- say in Australia or New Zealand -- compared to how it appears in the Northern Hemisphere -- say in North America or Europe.

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Proof 21: Measuring the distance from the Earth to the Moon:

Orthodox flat-earth teachings include a belief that the sun and moon are both small objects, approximately the same size, and both located about the same distance from the earth. Both are believed to rotate around the flat earth. Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816-1884), a believer in fundamentalist Christianity, was the first major promoter in a flat earth in modern times. He used several pseudonyms: Tryon, S. Goulden, Parallax, and Dr. Birley. 3 He was the first flat-earth believer to estimate the diameter of the sun and moon in a flat Earth system. He estimated both to be about 32 miles. Many flat earthers still use this value. They further believe that both are about 3,000 miles from Earth. Meanwhile, astronomers believe the distance between the Earth and moon is about 239,000 miles or 384,400 km. The two values differ by a factor of about 80.

Fortunately, it is now possible to measure the distance to the moon from Earth by generating a radar pulse on Earth, bouncing the signal off of the moon, and measuring the elapsed time between the transmission of the signal and the detection of the return pulse. The Apollo 11 missions left reflectors on the surface of the moon to facilitate such measurements by enhancing the return signal's strength. Knowing the speed of radar signals, which is about 300 million meters per second, the distance can be accurately measured, if you have the right equipment.

This type of measurement was shown on Season 3, Episode 23 of the TV program "The Big Bang Theory." 3 The episode is called "The Lunar Excitation." The team said that they used equipment borrowed from the California Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Caltech ) where most of the show's main characters are supposed to work. At a distance of 384,400 km, the signal would have taken 2.56 seconds to travel from the earth to moon and back. If the moon was only 3,000 miles away, the interval would have been about 0.032 seconds, or 32 milliseconds. Needless to say, astronomers measure intervals close to the 2.5 seconds estimated by Leonard on the program.

During the TV episode, Leonard demolished another NASA conspiracy theory. He commented that this type of measurement is the only definitive technique to prove currently that humans actually did reach the moon and leave objects on its surface.

This type of measurement only proves that one part of the Flat Earth belief system is incorrect and that the distance from the Earth to the moon is about 80 times that estimated by Flat Earthers. This proof does not prove that the Earth is roughly spherical in shape.

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Proof 22: Directly observing the curvature of the Earth from the International Space Station (ISS):

earth from the ISS  10

The image is from NASA. It was taken by an astronaut in the International Space Station (ISS) on 2018 OCT-07. The ISS was over 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Australia at the time. According to NASA, the strikingly beautiful orange light is:

"... caused by chemical reactions high in Earth's atmosphere. ... This ghostly glow usually happens when ultraviolet radiation from sunlight energizes molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, sodium and ozone in the atmosphere. These energized molecules then bump into each other and lose energy as they collide, resulting in a faint but spectacular afterglow."

The dark, complex shapes in the bottom of the above photograph are parts of the ISS.

earth from the ISS  11

This NASA photograph shows the ISS circling the Earth. It was taken from the space shuttle Endeavour on 2011-MAY-30.

A superb 169 second NASA video is available on You Tube.

If 92 similar photographs at the rate of one a minute were taken, then ISS would have made one complete orbit of the Earth, The first and 92nd photos could then be seen to show the same part of the Earth's surface. Examination of the other photographs would show the various continents. One would see one sunrise and sunset, and seen absolute proof that the Earth's shape approximates a sphere. But, skeptics would probably claim that the 92 photos were all created on the Earth using the Adobe's« Photoshop« or similar program.

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Proof 23: Directly observing curvature of the Earth's surface from the Earth:

A series of famous experiments were conducted on a portion of the Old Bedford River in the UK. It is a drainage canal with nearly stationary water. It has a six-mile (9.7 km) straight section called the "Bedford Level" near the village of Wellness. If the Earth is a sphere, then water in the river will follow the curvature of the Earth. If the Earth has a circumference on the order of 25,000 miles, then the water level will form an arc that dips downwards from an observer at one point on the river by about 8" at a location one mile away, dip about 32 inches at a distance of two miles, and dip about 6 feet at a distance of three miles.

During 1901:

"Henry Yule Oldham. a reader in geography at King's College, Cambridge fixed three poles along the river at equal height above water level. When viewed through a theodolite, the middle pole was found to be almost three feet (0.91┬ m) higher than the poles at each end. His findings were taught in UK schools for many years until actual photographs of the Earth from space were taken that proved a spherical Earth."14

The difference that Old-ham found agreed with an Earth's circumference of 25,000 miles.

A similar experiment was earlier performed by a believer in a spherical Earth: Alfred Russel Wallace. He and Charles Darwin independently discovered the Theory of Evolution by natural selection. He accepted and won a bet by John Hampden who was a believer in a flat Earth. During 1870, Wallace also used three poles, and "set a sight line 13 feet (4 m) above the water." He observe the bump in the middle pole that proved that the Earth is spherical.

Still earlier, in 1838, Samuel Birley Rowbotham conducted the first attempt to find the shape of the Earth. He stood in the river with a telescope that he held just 8 inches (20 cm) above the water level. He watched a boat with a flag on its mast row away from him for six miles (9.7 km). He reported that he was able to see the flag through the entire experiment. He concluded that the Earth is flat. During 1865, he published a book using the pseudonym Parallax. His finding are still accepted today by many believers in a Flat Earth. Unfortunately, his line of sight was so close to the surface of the river that atmospheric refraction distorted his view.

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Proof 24: Circumnavigating Antarctica:

Most followers of the flat earth believe that Antarctica is not a normal continent like Australia in the form of a large hunk of land. They ignore the exploration, mapping, and surveying of Antarctica, and the photographs of the continent from space. Instead, they teach that it is a relatively narrow piece of land that encircles a flat Earth, and that nobody is permitted to visit or explore there.

An article in Wikipedia states that the coastline of Antarctica has been surveyed and is 17,968 km or 11,165 miles in length. 16

A search of the Flat Earth Society’s web site for the string: length ice wall found an article:
Flat Earth Theory / Re: Using airline flight data by geckothegeek on August 12, 2017, that stated “The circumference of the ice wall is 78,000 miles.”

This is a difference of almost 8 times! For the flat earthers to be correct, the surveyors must have made a massive error when measuring Antarctica’s shoreline!

Fortunately, there is an independent method of checking whether the surveyors or the flat earthers are correct. There is an annual Antarctica Cup Ocean Race in which sailing boats circumnavigate Antarctica at a distance, in a trip of 16,400 miles. The racetrack is an area between latitude 45┬░ South and latitude 60┬░ South. The Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov completed the race in 102 days. If the trip were 78,000 miles long, then he would have taken over a year to make the trip. See: Antartica Cup Ocean Race

Therefore, it can be concluded that the most common model of the Earth by flat earth believers is in major error.

Robbie Davidson is planning a cruise during 2020 to what is referred to as “the edge of the world.” It seems to be a cruise from a port in South Africa, South America, Australia, or New Zealand to the edge of Antarctica and return. If the cruise were to sail completely around Antarctica, the distance travelled and time taken would settle the argument about the shape of the Earth. However such a trip would be unlikely to be sponsored by flat earters because they might finish the cruise with many of their passengers believing in a spherical Earth.

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Proof 25: Comparing what the sky looks like in North and South America:

If the Earth were flat, then it would have only one pole: the North pole.

A person in the U.S. is in the Northern Hemisphere at a latitude somewhere between that of South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii (about 19┬░ North of the Equator) and Point Barrow in Alaska (about 71┬░ North). Looking upwards at the night sky on a clear night, they would observe a large array of stars appearing to rotate counterclockwise around a point in the sky called the North Celestial Pole. This point is currently very close to the star named Polaris, a.k.a. North Star. However, since the Earth is very slowly wobbling on its axis like a spinning top, the location in the sky where the pole is pointing moves very slowly in a small circle and will return to its current location in about the year 28000 CE/AD. Thus a sequence of stars act as the North Star over time, and repeat about every 26,000 years.

If the person moves Southward, the visible constallations in the sky change. At the southern tip of mainline South America (about 54┬░ South) near Cape Froward, Chile, they would see a different set of constellations circulating around the south celestial pole. Currently, there is a star Sigma Octantis in the constellation Octans, the Octant. (An Octant is an obsolete navigational instrument that was popular during the mid 18th Century). Octans is a little more than one degree away from the pole, and has a magnitude of only 5.5. Thus it is only barely visible, and then only only when the sky is clear.

The North Star is not visible from southern Chile, and the Sigma Octantis is not visible from the U.S.

Also, those constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere that are also visible in the Southern Hemisphere are seen upside down below the Equator. Similarly, the Moon is seen upside down there, when compared to how it is viewed in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the Northern Hemisphere, stars move from East to West in a counter-clockwise direction. In the Southern Hemisphere, stars move from East to West in a clockwise direction.

Thus, there are a North celestial pole, a South celestial pole, a North Star and a South Star. Two poles require a non-flat Earth. If the Earth were flat, then there would be only one pole, marked by one Star. Thus, the Earth must be something like a sphere. It has been measured and found to be an oblate spheroid. That is, a rotating sphere that is slightly bulging at the equator. Of course, the Earth is BIG by human recogning, and thus appears to be flat to an observer on its surface.

An excellent You Tube video shows how life on Earth would be very different if it were actually flat:

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Proof 26: Lack of photographs:

There have been many experiments in which an individual or small group attached a camera to a balloon and photographed the Earth from a high altitude. They all showed that the Earth is not flat. These have all been discounted by believers in a Flat Earth as simple frauds. If the Earth were flat, then by now a group of Flat Earth believers would have performed the same experiment and proven the Earth to be flat. But to our knowledge, none have done this.

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2018-FEB/MAR: "Mad Man Hughes" and his home-made rocket:

Mike Hughes, 61, has built a steam-powered rocket called Liberty 1. He had originally planned to launch a rocket from public land in California. However, the Bureau of Land Management prohibited the launch. He later arranged to take off from private land at Amby, CA.

Hughes' rocket  5

His goal is to find out the actual shape of the Earth. However his plans do not seem to make a lot of sense. He only expected to reach an altitude of a few thousand feet. He could do the same by renting a private plane at far less cost. Also, at that altitude, the view of the horizon will be essentially the same as at ground level. To see the curvature of the Earth, he would need to go much higher.

"Anonymous No. 16764" commented on the Goldwater web site that he had traveled to Russia where one can allegedly pay 15,000 Euros to go into the stratosphere in a Mig29. 6 Some suggest that he could buy a ticket on a conventional airliner; they typically cruise at 28 to 35 thousand feet altitude.

Prajjwal Pathak, at SciTech Labs commented on Quora that a person:

"... should be able to detect it from an airplane at a cruising height of around 10,600 metres (35,000 feet), but you need a fairly wide field of view (i.e. 60 degrees) and a virtually cloud-free horizon. The reality is that clouds, hills and mountains mean we rarely get to see the kind of perfectly flat horizon where the curve would be most obvious.7

On 2018-FEB-03, Hughes made his first attempt to take off in his steam-powered rocket, but it never left its launching pad.

During the afternoon of Saturday, 2018-MAR-24, he made his second attempt near Amboy, CA in a the Mojave Desert. His rocket reached an altitude of about 572 meters (1,875 feet). He survived the return to earth with only a few aches and pains. Unfortunately, he would not have been able to sense the actual shape of the Earth from that altitude. He plans to refine his rocket design and try again. He also plans to run for Governor of California. 8

The Concorde airplanes, which are now grounded, typically flew at 60,000 feet (18,000 meters). Passengers could routinely and clearly see the curvature of the Earth. Passenger jets that fly today typically cruise at 30,000 feet. On rare occasions, when conditions are optimum, the curvature is visible to passengers.

Mike Hughes could probably save a lot of money if he were to stop his current experiments, buy a bunch of airplane tickets for high-flying flights, and keep looking out the window to see the Earth's curvature.

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How to settle the disagreement about the shape of the Earth:

During 2017-JAN, students at the University of Leicester in the UK attached cameras to a weather balloon which reached an altitude of 44,429 feet or 23.6 km. Their color images clearly showed the earth's curvature. 13 However, believers in a flat earth would probably be convinced that these pictures were faked in some way.

This experiment could be replicated by a group consisting of both spherical Earth and flat Earth believers. They could coordinate a joint experiment to obtain cameras, verify that they had no images stored in them, launch the cameras on a weather balloon(s), take pictures of the Earth, jointly retrieve the cameras, and study their images. If the process was done carefully, and if they participants all thought logically, then the entire group would have confidence that the photographs were real.

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Public opinion polls about the shape of the Earth:

A YouGov public opinion poll found that, among U.S. adults:

  • 84% believe the Earth is spherical.

  • 5% once believed in a spherical earth but now have doubts.

  • 2% believe that the Earth is flat.

Among young U.S. adults, aged 18 to 24 years:

  • 4% believe that the Earth is flat. This is the highest belief in a flat Earth among all age groups.

There is a linkage between religion and belief in a flat Earth:

  • 52% of those who believe in a flat Earth consider themselves to be "very religious." This compares with 20% for the general population. This difference may be caused by the multiple references in the Bible to a flat Earth surrounded by a firmament -- a metal dome on which the stars, moon, sun, and planets are free to move.

  • 17% of those who believe in a flat Earth consider themselves to be "not religious at all." This compares with 25% for the general population.

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Google data showing interest in the Flat Earth belief:

Google.com has published a graph showing the level of Internet activity about belief in a Flat Earth, from 2014-SEP-14 to the present time. A copy of their graph was downloaded on 2019-SEP-08 and is shown below. The maximum level of interest. which curred during late 2017-NOV, is set to 100%.

If the curve were smoothed, it would show a gradual increase in interest from 5% in 2014-SEP, to a maximum of about 50% in 2018-FEB and then a decline to 25% at the end of 2019-AUG. Superimposed on this gradual curve were many spikes indicating short term interest increases.

It appears that the level of interest in Flat Earth beliefs is gradually dropping.

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RELATED FEATURE ESSAYS in this web site about Cosmology, the study of the origin & structure of the universe:

  • Part 1: Overview about cosmological beliefs. The Ancient Pagan view originating in Sumer.

  • Part 2: The revised Pagan view, as generally accepted within early Christianity.

  • Part 3: Greek Pagan cosmology (Continued). Modern view of the solar system. Church taught an Earth-centered system. The big hoax: that the church taught a flat Earth during the Middle Ages.

  • Part 4: A modern-day return to the belief that the Earth is flat, and that there is a massive, false conspiracy teaching that the Earth is similar to a sphere

  • Part 5: Three more proofs that the Earth is more or less spherical and not flat.

  • Part 6: Five more proofs that the Earth is more or less spherical and not flat

  • Part 7: Arguments about the Earth's shape. A weak proof of a spherical Earth. More Old Testament passages about the Earth's shape.

  • Part 8: Passages from the New Testament about the Earth's shape. Proofs 13 & 14 that the Earth is not flat.

  • Part 10: More that the Earth is not flat. Are Flat Earthers Creating a Hoax?

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "NASA Got Sick of Moon Landing Conspirators and Released 10,000 Photos From Apollo Mission," Before It's News, 2016-AUG-12, at: http://beforeitsnews.com/
  2. Laura Spitler, "Does the Moon look different in the northern and southern hemispheres?" Ask an Astronomer. Undated, at http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/
  3. A segment of "HD The Big Bang Theory - The Lunar Excitation Episode," can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/
  4. "10 Things That Would Happen If The Earth Was FLAT," The Hub, 2017-JUL-16, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  5. Avery Thompson, "Flat Earth Rocket Man Will Take to the Sky in February," Popular Mechanics, 2018-JAN-23, at: https://www.popularmechanics.com/
  6. Kyle James, "Flat Earth Rocket Man Will Launch In February, This Time On Private Land," The Goldwater, 2018-JAN-24 at: http://www.thegoldwater.com/
  7. Prajjwal Pathak, "At what altitude do you see the curvature of the Earth?," Quora, 2017-NOV-19, at: https://www.quora.com/
  8. "Flat-Earther's steam-powered rocket lofts him 1,875 feet up into Mojave Desert sky," Los Angeles Times, 2018-MAR-25, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  9. Hoang Nguyen, "Most flat earthers consider themselves very religious," YouGov, 2018-APR-02, at: https://today.yougov.com/
  10. "Ghostly Orange Light Envelopes Earth During Rare Airglow," NASA image on Live Science, 2018-NOV-07, at: https://www.livescience.com/
  11. Deanna Connors, "How to spot ISS in your sky," NASA image on Earth Sky, 2018-OCT-12, at: https://earthsky.org/
  12. "First time in the Universe: Spacewalk filmed in 360, 2017-OCT-03, at: https://www.youtube.com/
  13. s, "7 Ways to Prove the Earth Is Round (Without Launching a Satellite)," Live Science, 2017-SEP-28, at: https://www.livescience.com/
  14. "Flat Earth: Interest over time," Google, at: https://trends.google.com/
  15. "Bedford Level experiment," Wikipedia, as on 2019-SEP-13, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  16. "Antarctica," Wikipedia as on 2019-SEP-30 at: https://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright ę 2016 & 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2016-AUG-12
Latest update and review: 2019-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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