Newton’s Cannonball

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Newton’s cannonball was a thought experiment Isaac Newton used to explain the principle of orbital motion. It was the first explanation of an orbit and still the easiest to understand.

Newton visualizes a cannon on top of a very tall mountain where the air resistance is no longer a factor. As more charge is used with each cannon shot, the speed of the cannonball will be greater, and the cannonball will hit the ground farther and farther. Finally, at a certain speed, it will not hit the ground at all. It will fall toward the spherical Earth just as fast as the Earth curves away from it. In the absence of drag from the atmosphere, it will continue forever in orbit around the Earth.

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Uniform Circular Motion

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The motion of a specific location on Earth due to Earth’s rotation is a uniform circular motion. We can separate it into a uniform linear motion and a centripetal acceleration toward Earth’s center. From the reference frame of an observer on Earth, the latter results in a constant centrifugal acceleration, which is felt simultaneously with Earth’s gravitational acceleration.

We often use the uniform linear motion of everyday objects to explain the effect (or the lack of thereof) of uniform motion of Earth’s rotation. Flat-Earthers incorrectly reject it just because “it is not a circular motion unlike Earth’s rotation” In reality, a uniform linear motion is one component of a uniform circular motion. And these explanations are correct and still apply.

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Moving Vehicle Analogy: Inside vs Outside of the Vehicle

The moving vehicle analogy is often presented to explain how Earth’s rotation does not seem to affect an object’s motion. Similarly, a ball released inside a moving vehicle will not fall rearward because it retains its inertia.

Flat-Earthers offer the moving open-air vehicle as if it is the “correct ” analogy. In reality, with their analogy, the air moves relative to the vehicle, which exerts an additional force that does not exist in the fact being explained. Their analogy fails to represent the fact being explained.

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Flying a Drone Inside a Moving Vehicle

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If we fly a drone inside a vehicle that is moving in a constant speed and direction, the drone will hover normally because it preserves the motion it gets from the vehicle. It will not abruptly move toward the rear of the vehicle.

Flat-Earthers claim that it should not be possible for drones to hover if Earth is rotating. In reality, drones follow Newton’s first law of motion and will preserve their inertia. It is easy to demonstrate the phenomenon by flying a drone inside a moving vehicle. The fact that drones can hover still in mid-air is not evidence of stationary Earth.

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Airplanes and Earth’s Rotation

An airplane exists on Earth. It has the same motion as the surface of the Earth, including Earth’s rotating motion. The motion and speed of an airplane are measured relative to Earth’s surface.

Flat-Earthers claim that an airplane should not be able to fly eastward or land. In reality, an airplane is moving relative to the surface. It has Earth’s motion as a component of its motion and does not need to chase Earth’s rotation.

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Rock Balancing

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Rock balancing is an activity in which rocks are balanced on top of one another. It is possible to do it if Earth is rotating because the speed is constant and the rocks are affected by a constant net acceleration from gravity and Earth’s rotation.

Flat-Earthers use rock balancing as “evidence” that Earth is stationary. In reality, it is possible to balance objects on a moving platform, as long as it is moving in a straight line with a constant speed, and there is no force —like wind, affecting it.

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Pressure Difference Without a Barrier

Atmospheric pressure decreases as altitude increases. A pressure difference can occur without a barrier. Other factors, like gravity, can cause a pressure difference.

Flat-Earthers claim a pressure difference cannot possibly occur without a barrier, like Earth’s atmosphere next to the vacuum of space. In reality, it is not difficult to demonstrate that a pressure difference can exist without a barrier.

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Density Tower

A density tower is formed by layering immiscible liquids of different densities on top of each other. It is possible because Earth’s gravitational acceleration pulls denser fluid particles stronger and displace less dense ones upward.

Flat-Earthers claim that the possibility to have density towers disproves gravity. In reality, a density tower cannot form without the presence of acceleration, like Earth’s gravitational acceleration.

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Repulsive Force

Gravity does not possess repulsive force like magnetism. These are two different phenomena with different characteristics.

Flat-Earthers use the lack of a repulsive force in gravity to deny its existence. In reality, there is no requirement for an attractive force to have a repulsive force. Gravity does not act like magnetism, and the fact does not disprove gravity.

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Weightlessness, Free Fall, and Microgravity

In orbit, objects are weightless because both the objects and the spacecraft have the same speed and direction, and both are affected by the same gravitational influence. We use the spacecraft as the frame of reference. Because the objects are not in motion relative to the spacecraft, they appear to float.

In Earth orbit, the objects are still affected by Earth’s gravity, but yet they float. Flat-Earthers use it to disprove spaceflight. In reality, the objects float because we are using the spacecraft as the frame of reference, which is also moving by the same amount and is affected by the same gravity as the objects themselves.

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Flight Dynamics: the Assumption of Flat & Non-Rotating Earth for Simplification

In making mathematical models, physicists often remove real-world details that have little influence over the final results for simplifications. In flight-dynamics, it is often perfectly adequate to assume Earth is flat & non-rotating, even if the final aircraft will be flying over spherical & rotating Earth.

Flat-Earthers claimed to have exposed ‘a secret document’ from NASA, saying that Earth is flat & non-rotating. In reality, the document is simply a derivation of a flight dynamics problem, assuming flat and non-rotating Earth, which is a common assumption made to simplify flight models. It does not imply the Earth is flat and non-rotating.

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Human Senses

Human senses have limitations and cannot detect beyond a certain threshold of external stimuli. However, we humans possess intelligence that enables us to create instruments and allow us to perceive beyond the limitations of our senses.

Flat-Earthers argue if our senses cannot perceive a thing, then it does not exist. In reality, the instruments we made enable us to detect many things that our senses cannot.

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Apparent Motion

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Apparent motion is the appearance that celestial objects move due to the motion of Earth. If all the objects that appear in the sky are moving similarly, then it is far more likely that the movement is only apparent and caused by the motion of the observer.

Flat-Earthers claim that the motion of celestial objects “proves” that Earth is stationary, and the celestial objects are moving. By the same “reasoning,” we can conclude that the train we are in is stationary, it is just all the objects outside, as luck would have it, are moving in a very similar fashion.

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Fictitious Force

A fictitious force is a force that appears to act on every object when the frame of reference is accelerating. The term “fictitious” does not mean the force does not exist, but it is not an actual force that arises from an interaction between objects.

Flat-Earthers noticed gravity is considered a fictitious force and use the fact to “prove” gravity does not exist. In reality, we can feel a fictitious force. It is merely a term we use for forces that arise due to an accelerating frame of reference.

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Cavendish Experiment

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The Cavendish experiment was the first experiment to measure the force of gravity between masses in the laboratory and the first to yield accurate values for the gravitational constant.

Flat-Earthers are in a constant effort to discredit the Cavendish experiment. They would invent various “explanations” to “explain” the result of the experiments. However, the experiment was not only done once by Henry Cavendish in 1797-1798, and has been replicated numerous times by multiple independent parties for centuries, all yielding consistent results.

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Coriolis Effect in Sports

Many sports involve launching balls into the air. Launched balls are projectiles and will be deflected by a tiny amount due to the Coriolis effect from Earth’s rotation.

Athletes never account for the Coriolis effect, and flat-Earthers use it to “disprove” Earth’s rotation. In reality, the deflection from the Coriolis effect in sports is very tiny. It does not mean the Coriolis effect does not exist.

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Teaching Aid

Teaching aids are used by teachers to help students learn a subject more easily. A scale model of an eclipse is a teaching aid. It is not presented as evidence about how an eclipse can occur, but to help students to understand the mechanism of an eclipse.

Flat-Earthers often incorrectly consider a teaching aid is presented as if it is evidence of a phenomenon, then demand a similar thing as “evidence” of another phenomenon. In reality, a natural phenomenon is studied from the observation of the phenomenon itself. A teaching aid is there merely to help students learn.

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Refraction: Only a Baseless Technobabble in Flat Earth Community

Flat-Earthers use the phenomenon of refraction as a catch-all “explanation” every time they observe something not appearing in the expected position if the Earth is flat. They use the term “refraction” as mere technobabble without any underlying explanation.

The following are how we can distinguish real-world, scientific refraction from the technobabble used by flat-Earthers:

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Atmospheric Pressure and the Vacuum in Space

Atmospheric pressure decreases as altitude increases. There is no visible boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space in terms of pressure. There is no abrupt drop in pressure where space begins.

Flat-Earthers assert that it is impossible for the pressurized atmosphere to meet the vacuum of space without any barrier. In reality, the pressure changes gradually. There is no sudden pressure drop between the atmosphere and space.

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Switching in Telecommunication Network

Switching is used to establish a telecommunication network between two non-adjacent communication nodes. The information is relayed by one or more intermediate nodes that might use very different means of data transmission.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon called the Apollo 11 astronauts from the White House using a landline phone. Flat-Earthers regard the fact as ridiculous. According to them, if we cannot reliably make a phone call to the next room, then it must have been impossible for President Nixon to make a phone call to a location 384000 km away using a corded phone. Such allegation only stems from their lack of understanding of telecommunication.

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