JPEG Compression

JPEG is a method of lossy compression of digital images. When a photograph is saved in the JPEG format, some details imperceptible to our vision are discarded. The JPEG compression reduces the file size at the expense of perfect image reproduction.

Flat-Earthers like to perform “investigations” by adjusting brightness, contrast, levels or curve of an image to find evidence of tampering. If they find irregularities, they will proclaim the picture has been faked. In most cases, these are only JPEG compression artifacts and do not prove anything.

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Composite Photos of the Earth

NASA has published several pictures of the Earth that are composites. It means the pictures were the result of combining many images into a single picture. In most cases, the source pictures were taken from low-orbiting satellites to obtain higher resolution pictures of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers discovered the photos are composites and claimed to have exposed “yet another evidence” of wrongdoing. They would publish this “findings” everywhere to turn us emotional. They are wrong. Nobody is covering the fact the pictures are composites, and there is no intention to deceive. Information that the photos are composites can be readily found in NASA’s website, far before the claimed “discovery” by flat-Earthers.

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Circular Reasoning

Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared.

Flat-Earthers often commit the fallacy of circular reasoning to defend the notion that the Earth is flat. Such reasoning is never useful, and cannot be regarded as evidence of anything, despite what they are claiming.

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Real Photos of the Earth

The first photo showing the entire Earth was taken in 1966 from the spacecraft Lunar Orbiter 1. Since then, there are too many photos showing the whole earth taken from various missions to space.

The advent of computers in the 80s introduced a new technique of generating such pictures. A satellite can be used to take many photos of the Earth from a low orbit, and computers can be used to assemble those pictures into a single photo of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers ‘discovered’ such technique, then they concluded that all pictures of the Earth taken from space are all composites, the results of manipulation or assembled by computers. They are wrong. Just because there were pictures created using such technique, it doesn’t mean there is no genuine picture showing the entire Earth, not composites, not stitched, and were taken from a single shot.

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The Curvature Fitting Game

The amount of curvature that appears in a photograph of a sphere depends on 1. The radius of the sphere, 2. Camera distance from the sphere, 3. Field of view of the camera, and 4. The distortion characteristic of the camera being used.

The ‘curvature fitting game’ has been flat-Earthers’ favorite pastime. They would try to fit a photograph of Earth’s curvature with another. If they find the result is not proportionally correct, they will make fun of it. They are wrong. Two different photos of a sphere can be taken differently and would show a different curve, even if the object being photographed is the same object.

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The Starburst Effect is not Evidence of CGI

In photography, the starburst effect gives the illusion of light rays from strong light sources in an image. The effect happens when the lens’ aperture is not a perfect circle, and it gets more pronounced under a narrower aperture.

Flat-Earthers often find themselves looking for any peculiarity —no matter how small or unbelievable— to discredit any picture they deem unacceptable to their misguided causes. One of this peculiarity is the starburst effect.

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Appeal to CGI of the Second Form

Another CGI related fallacy regularly committed by flat-Earthers has the general form of:

  • Observation: there’s no photo or video of the object ‘X’ that is not made with CGI.
  • Conclusion: ‘X’ does not exist in the real world

This is invalid for two reasons:

  1. A real object is still real even if nobody has taken a photo of it.
  2. The premise itself might be invalid because there could be someone who has a photo of the object, and the perpetrator of the fallacy is simply unaware of its existence.

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Appeal to CGI of the First Form

A logical fallacy commonly committed by the victims of the flat-Earth ideology is CGI related. CGI —or computer graphics imagery— is the use of computers to produce realistic images or videos.

Because this fallacy is very common within the flat-Earth circles, let’s give it the name ‘appeal to CGI’. Its argument has the general form of:

  • Observation: a photo or video of an object ‘X’ is made with CGI
  • Conclusion: ‘X’ does not exist in the real world

This is a fallacy because it is definitely possible to create a CGI image or video of a real-world object.

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The Philosophy of CGI

When a photo of spherical Earth is pointed out to flat-earthers, they will dismiss it as CGI in the blink of an eye; even if they haven’t done any analysis at all. They do this because their belief in flat-Earth is not evidence-based, and any evidence contrary to their beliefs needs to be invalidated no matter how.

They are so used to doing it, and sometimes they become confused by it themselves, to the point that they would take the slightest hint of digital manipulation of any picture of the Earth as evidence of the flat Earth.

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