Globular – an impossible balancing act?
Flat Earth believers seem to think so.
In 2016, the US rapper, B.o.B released a series of Tweets revealing that he believes the world to be flat.
In 2017, he even attempted to crowdfund a million dollars to send a satellite into orbit in order to photograph ‘the edge’ of the flat disc he believes our planet to be. Needless to say, the project soon went pear-shaped.
When I heard about this, it put me in mind of a story a friend once recounted to me. When she was around 10 years of age, my friend had a classmate whose father was a committed Flat Earther, and this child had begun furthering her beloved dad’s beliefs in the playground.
My friend had felt challenged to argue her own parent’s belief (and, let’s be honest, the belief of all sighted and sane people, past, present and future) that the Earth was as round as anything her muddle-headed friend could cite.
“If the planet was round we’d all fall off it,” said the girl.
Being only 10, my friend fought to find an argument against that logic and opted instead for simple denial, based on the fact that neither she, nor her friend, nor anyone else, was falling off at that moment.
“Which proves the planet is flat!” shouted the girl triumphantly.
“Well, why is it like a football in all the pictures and photographs?” offered my friend, just as a football rolled off the playing field and came to a halt beside her feet.
“There’s a football,” shouted the girl. “If you can stand on a round planet, then surely you can stand on a football!”
Since debating skills have never been widely taught in junior school, my friend felt a duty to prove her theory and promptly put one foot on the ball.
Trying to give it her best shot, she lifted the other foot quickly but before she could place it beside the first, came down with an agonising thump on the regulation school playground concrete.
Laughter rippled through the gathering as my friend leapt to her feet to prove she was unhurt, but in the days that followed, her bruised arm became more painful.
Her mother finally took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a greenstick fracture of the humerus.
Proof, if it were needed, for the Flat Earther’s dedicated daughter that the world is self-evidently as flat as a pancake.
The mad-cap theories and propositions hitherto put forward by generations of Flat Earthers are well-known and roundly mocked, of course.
For instance, one such hypothesis is that a massive wall of ice (i.e. Antarctica) supports the vast rims which run around the edges of our “flat planet” to stop people falling off, and to prevent oceans draining into space.
However, the glaring issue of why no one has ever reported navigating the ‘edge’ of the planet has always persisted. Which was presumably the motivation behind B.o.B’s failed crowdfunding endeavour.
According to B.oB, if the Earth were curved, the horizon in the distance would also display a curvature, and distant cities would be hidden from view.
As one of his Tweets explains: “No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”
For a further taste of the modern day debate from a Flat Earther’s perspective, another leading exponent of the movement, NBA star Shaquille O’Neal stated on the Kyle & Jackie O Show that he didn’t “tip over” or “turn upside down” on a flight from the U.S to Australia.
How can people who have managed to become so successful entertain such beliefs when, in this day and age, we barely need to strain an index finger to discover that there is, of course, overwhelming contrary evidence in support of a spherical Earth?
We only have to look back in time, look all around us, and look at Wikipedia, after all!
This scientific truth first emerged when Greek polymath Aristotle, after arriving in Egypt one day, noted a completely new array of constellations when he observed the night sky.
This, together with a total absence of the constellations he knew well from home, was sufficient evidence alone, he reasoned, that the Earth was a sphere.
However modern day Flat Earthers would simply deny this as more conspiratorial revisionist editing of our history.
Of course, they could simply try it out for themselves, but that would mean rocking the foundations of their closely guarded beliefs, leaving them anxious and destabilised, and no one would wish that for them.
While I can see that Globular believers such as myself might share some common ground with Flat Earthers who believe that world governments are in some way malevolent and more than a tad shady, I cannot see how those governments might gain anything by conspiring to present the Earth as a globe rather than a disc.
Even among the Flat Earthers themselves, there seems to be no shared understanding or consensus about what the end game here might be, apart from perhaps a general campaign to sow confusion and division among the estimated 7.5 billion so-called ‘intelligent’ human inhabitants of Earth.
In which case, and in view of the relatively small army of believers, this would have to go down as history’s least successful attempt at brainwashing the masses.
So, why are such strange musings gaining momentum around the globe? (Yep, that was intentional 😉).
And why would some of our fellow human beings put so much energy into what would appear to be a conspiratorial, reward-free world view?
Are these Flat Earth ideas gaining traction in spite of or because of our fast-paced, universally connected digital age? Has modern life really become so dull that we feel the need to once again contemplate such obvious nonsense?
My 10 year-old friend – who is now in her late 50s and scared of balls – would keenly advocate the kind of research that doesn’t necessitate doing bodily harm to one’s self.
After all, there is a wealth of photographic imagery, as well as vast tomes of rigorous, empirical evidence out there, strongly countering these fringe conspiracy theories – and all of this evidence is more easily available to anyone wishing to become informed than at any other time in our history.
And yet, today, more and more people are insisting that the earth is flat.
It’s an inexplicable paradox …
Meanwhile, if you want to know the actual facts, you could do a lot worse than giving this classic Monty Python song a listen.