I am a fan of conspiracy theories. I think people with power are constantly pushing false narratives for their own benefit. Recently, especially surrounding Covid, many people have become aware of conspiracies that exist. With the increased interest in conspiracy theories, the king of conspiracy theories has been getting attention: the theory of flat earth. While I am a big supporter of skepticism, I’ve spent time looking into flat earth theory and from my research the evidence is against it.
One fundamental idea around flat earth theory is that we cannot see the earth as a globe from the ground, so anyone who believes globe earth is trusting some authority for their information, e.g., NASA. And whenever there is trust, there’s opportunity for not telling the truth. If you can’t see it, how do you know it is true?
In reality, there are many phenomena that can be experienced by regular people that favor globe earth over flat earth. This document outlines some of them.
First, is the pole stars. The main view on flat earth is like the symbol for the United Nations (shown above). That the north pole is the center of the earth and everything else surrounds it. That Antarctica isn’t the south pole, but rather an ice wall that surrounds the entire earth.
This theory accepts that compasses point toward the north pole in the northern hemisphere and that the north star is directly above the north pole, which is why compasses always point toward the north star. But what about the south star? Why do compasses point south in the southern hemisphere and why is south always the direction of the south star? If the earth were flat like shown above, how could the south star be south of Africa, South America, and Australia simultaneously?
Second, is the curvature of the earth. The claim of flat earth is that from the ground the earth appears flat, not curved. But the curvature is significant enough to be visible from the ground. I used to live in San Francisco, which has some small islands that can be seen off the coast called the Farallon Islands. With the globe model size of the earth, diameter of 7,900 miles, you can use the basic circle formula (x2 + y2 = r2) and calculate what the drop on the horizon should be .
The distance from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands is about 30 miles. If you plug that into the formula you get a value of about 300 vertical feet obscured from ground level. On a clear day I verified this by observation and it matched. From ground level looking at the islands you could only barely see the top of the largest island, which goes up about 350 feet. However, if you go to 300 feet elevation near the shore and look you can see all three islands just fine .
Third, is the transoceanic flights in the southern hemisphere. For example, you can fly direct from Chile (SCL) to New Zealand (AKL) in 12 hours. With them being 6,000 miles apart in globe earth model, flying at around 500 miles per hour would take the expected 12 hours. In the flat earth model South America and New Zealand would be on opposite ends of the earth.
I have not seen good explanations for these phenomena using the flat earth model. I think it is great to be a skeptic and I do not think people should blindly accept the globe earth model. But I do not know how the flat earth model can explain these observations.