Frame of Reference

A frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements. Speed or velocity is relative to a frame of reference. It is possible that two speeds/velocities are measured relative to a different frame of reference and thus cannot be directly compared.

Flat-Earthers would often compare two different speed measurements like an airplane moving at 900 km/h (560 mph) and Earth’s surface near the equator at 1674 km/h (1040 mph). They would conclude the airplane should not be able to catch up with Earth’s surface and would not be able to land if the Earth is rotating. They are wrong. The speeds are measured relative to the different frame of reference, and therefore, cannot be compared directly.

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Earth’s Atmosphere Rotation

Earth’s atmosphere is part of the Earth. It practically follows Earth’s rotating motion like the rest of the Earth. Due to various factors, Earth’s atmosphere has relatively small and uneven movement relative to the surface. We call it ‘wind.’ The fastest wind ever recorded is about 408 km/h, relative to Earth’s surface.

Many misconceptions about Earth arise from the wrong idea that only Earth’s solid body is rotating, but the atmosphere is not. If it is true, then we should always feel the wind with the speed of 1674 km/h near the equator, or more than 4× the fastest wind ever recorded. We don’t feel such a wind, and thus we know our atmosphere is moving at practically at the same speed as Earth’s surface.

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The Taiwan–Los Angeles Flight (not from Bali) that was Diverted to Anchorage

There was a flight from Taiwan to Los Angeles that was diverted to Anchorage because one of the passengers gave birth to a baby. Flat-Earthers use the case as one of the first “evidence” from flight routes proving Earth is flat.

They are wrong. The case only tells us about the ignorance of these flat-Earthers about the distortion in a map projection. Their argument started with an elementary mistake of taking a straight line on a Mercator map between Taiwan and Los Angeles, and assume it as the “intended flight path.”

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Helicopter and Earth’s Rotating Motion

We cannot travel to another location by hovering inside a helicopter and wait for the Earth to rotate below us until we are above our destination. The reason is the phenomenon of inertia.

Flat-Earthers claim that we cannot do such a thing as ‘proof’ of a motionless Earth. They are wrong. When on the ground, the helicopter itself is already moving at the same velocity as Earth’s surface.

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The Failure of Flat-Earth Model to Explain Emergency Landings That Occur More to the South

The perpetrators of flat-Earth often take emergency landings as ‘proof’ of a flat Earth. They would point out that the diversion airports used for such emergency landings are somehow consistent with the flat-Earth map.

It is not a coincidence that all the cases of emergency landing they pointed out occurred far in the north. At the locations closer to the north pole, the distortion of the azimuthal-equidistant map (claimed by flat-Earthers as the ‘flat-Earth map’) diminishes. It would seemingly appear as if the ‘flat-Earth map’ can explain the choice of the diversion airports. In many other locations, though, the flat-Earth map would fail to explain it.

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Drag

Drag is a force acting opposite to the relative motion of an object moving with respect to a surrounding fluid. The higher the density of the fluid, the higher the magnitude of the drag.

Flat-Earthers claim that it is impossible for satellites to have such high speed. Usually, they would compare the speed of satellites to something like the SR-71 Blackbird, which holds the record as the fastest aircraft. They are wrong. At the altitude where satellites reside, the air density is several magnitudes smaller compared to near the surface, and thus, the drag experienced by satellites is also several magnitude smaller.

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Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C): Mitigating Limited Radar Range Due to Earth’s Curvature

An AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) system is a radar system attached to an aircraft. It can detect objects at a very long range compared to any surface mounted radar system.

The reason is that Earth’s curvature limits the range of a surface-based radar. An airborne radar system mitigates this problem.

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The MH370 Disaster and the Inability of the GPS System to Locate It

The GPS system is one-way. The satellites broadcast signals. GPS devices receive and process the signals to determine their location.

Flat-Earthers often point out the fact we were unable to locate the ill-fated MH370 as ‘evidence’ GPS doesn’t work and therefore doesn’t exist. They are wrong. GPS satellites never receive any signal from GPS devices, and it is not possible for them to locate MH370.

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The Sydney-Santiago Flight Route: An Impossible Route on the Flat-Earth Model

We can use the duration of a flight route to roughly determine the distance between two locations. Then, we can use this to determine which model better represents reality: the flat-Earth model or the spherical Earth model.

In the flat-Earth Model, the distances between two locations become more unreasonable as we go further south. To illustrate this fact, we can use the flight route of Sydney-Santiago to help us with the calculations. This flight route is one of the most southernly flight routes. Continue reading “The Sydney-Santiago Flight Route: An Impossible Route on the Flat-Earth Model”

Our Ability to Perceive Speed and Acceleration

When we are aboard a plane flying at cruising speed, we will not be able to feel that the plane is in fact moving at speed of more than 900 km/h. But if the plane changes speed, turns or changes its altitude, we can easily feel it.

Same thing happens with the motion of the Earth. Because of the Earth’s rotation, the surface of the Earths moves at a speed of 1656 km/h near the equator. It also travels around the Sun at a speed of about 107000 km/h. We never feel any of these because the speed is constant, or in other words, the acceleration is zero.

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Polar Circumnavigation

Flat-Earthers think there hasn’t been anyone who has circumnavigated the Earth by traversing both the north pole and south pole in the process. All we have are explorers who have circumnavigated the Earth to the east or west, parallel to the equator; explorers like James Cook or Ferdinand Magellan. They don’t really have the choice, because if polar circumnavigation is possible, then the flat-Earth assumption falls flat.

But, like a lot of assumption in the flat-Earth community, it is simply not true. There are in fact many people who have done a polar circumnavigation, and the information can be easily found on the Internet.

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Eötvös Effect: Evidence of Spherical, Rotating Earth

Eötvös effect is the change in perceived gravitational acceleration when moving eastward vs westward. An object will weigh more when moving eastward than when it is stationary or moving westward.

The effect was discovered by Loránd Eötvös in the 1900s after noticing the difference in gravity measurement on moving ships. He noticed that the readings were lower when the boat moved eastwards, higher when it moved westward. He identified this as primarily a consequence of the rotation of the Earth.

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Non-Stop Long-Haul Flight Routes in the Southern Hemisphere

There are many non-stop long-haul flight routes between two locations in the southern hemisphere, all without crossing the northern hemisphere. These routes can only exist if Earth is a sphere.

Some flat-Earthers claim there is no non-stop long-haul flights between two locations in the southern hemisphere. Flights need to make a stop in a location in the northern hemisphere because the distance will be too far and such flight will traverse the northern hemisphere, or more accurately, the center of the Earth according to their model. They are wrong. There are many such flight routes.

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Flight Altitude and Sphericity of the Earth

So, there was a flat-earther who took a spirit level on a flight. His intention was to determine whether the plane periodically adjust its angle in order to make it level in relation to the surface of the Earth. According to him, if the Earth were really spherical, then the plane would need to make these periodic adjustments; otherwise it would fly away straight into space!

His video became viral, and predictably, the plane did not make these periodic adjustments. The conclusion, surely, is not that the Earth is flat. The following are some explanations why the plane doesn’t have to make those periodic adjustments, and still reaches its destination.

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Emergency Landings and Flight Route

We cannot take a straight line between two locations on a map and consider that line the shortest distance between the two locations. With a very short distance —like within a city— it wouldn’t usually matter. But for long-haul flights across continents, then it would matter a lot.

Flat-Earthers are known to use this mistake —whether deliberately or not— as a ‘proof’ that the Earth is flat. A common case they would bring is emergency landings.

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