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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Hill Sphere

The Moon orbits the Earth —not the Sun— because the Moon lies well within Earth’s Hill sphere. Hill sphere is the region around Earth where Earth —instead of the Sun— dominates the attraction of satellites.

Flat-Earthers noticed the Sun exerts a stronger pull to the Moon than Earth does to the Moon. They incorrectly concluded that according to science, the Moon should orbit the Sun, then proceeded to use it to discredit science. In reality, they did not account for the centrifugal acceleration resulting from the motion around the Sun, which is one of the factors that determines Earth’s Hill sphere.

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Our understanding of gravity explains a phenomenon clearly and directly. It is one idea, easy to understand, explains so many phenomena, can account for a large amount of data, and answers many questions. In other words, we can say that gravity is elegant.

In contrast, each of the different concepts in the flat Earth model requires a separate explanation and often in conflict with each other. We can say it is ugly. It is why flat-Earthers cannot accept that a single idea of gravity can explain so many phenomena.

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“What is Gravity”

In a StarTalk episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson was given the question “what is gravity?” He quipped “we have no idea” before elaborating more. Flat-Earthers quoted it out of context to discredit Neil and gravity, completely disregarding what Neil explained afterward.

In reality, Neil did provide a very comprehensive answer to the question “what is gravity” but flat-Earthers only gave an emphasis to the “we have no idea” part of his answer, and skipped the rest of his answer.

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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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Richard Garriott’s “Pocket of Gravity” Magic Trick

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Richard Garriott is a video-game developer and entrepreneur who is also an avid magician. In October 2008, he flew to the ISS onboard a Soyuz rocket as a private astronaut. During his time on the ISS, he performed several magic tricks.

One of his magic tricks involves a hammer that floats and a card that seems to fall as if it is pulled down by gravity. Flat-Earthers were unaware it was a mere magic trick and wrongly assume it demonstrates things are falling in the ISS, despite other objects in the scene that float.

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Eötvös Effect: Direct Evidence Earth is a Rotating Sphere

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

The slight difference in weight due to the Eötvös effect can be measured in an experiment on a flight. The Eötvös effect is direct evidence that the Earth is a rotating sphere.

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Flat-Earthers’ Alternative Facts for Gravity

Flat-Earthers reject gravity because it does not support the flat Earth model. To explain the various phenomena explained by gravity, they invented many different ‘alternative facts’ in place of gravity.

Flat-Earthers agree only on a single thing that the Earth is flat. However, as flat Earth is not fact-based, flat-Earthers cannot agree on practically everything else. Different flat-Earth denominations have their alternative explanations for gravity, all of which lacks predictive power and cannot adequately explain real-world facts.

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Geostationary Satellites

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If a satellite is placed in an orbit 35786 km above the equator, it will be in motion at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation. As a result, the satellite will appear practically motionless from an observer on Earth’s surface. Many communication satellites are in this orbit so that a satellite receiver does not need to track the satellite continuously.

Flat-Earthers often take the fact that satellites are in motion, and most satellite dishes have a fixed direction as ‘proof’ the receivers cannot be pointing to satellites. In reality, it is possible to place a satellite in a geostationary orbit to make it appear in a fixed position in the sky relative to an observer on Earth.

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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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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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Spirit Level on an Airplane

During cruising, an airplane is practically level. It is flying perpendicular to the direction of gravity. The aircraft is still flying following Earth’s curvature and continuously changes its orientation. However, not only its orientation changing but also the direction of gravity, having the same amount of change. As a result, a spirit level on a flight will not show us the difference in orientation of the airplane due to its motion following the curvature of the Earth.

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The electromagnetic force is a type of physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles. Electromagnetism is different from gravity. Both phenomena are real but have different characteristics.

Flat-Earthers refuse to accept gravity, and some of them use electromagnetism in place of gravity to explain the various phenomena that are explained by gravity. In reality, electromagnetism has different characteristic from gravity, and cannot explain the various phenomena that are explained by gravity.

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Antipodal Tide

Tides are the result of the variation of lunar gravitational acceleration over all the material of which the Earth is composed. They are not caused by the magnitude of such acceleration exerted on a specific location only.

Flat-Earthers discovered that the position away from the Moon is also having a tide, not just the location where the Moon is directly overhead. Then, they were happy to proclaim that it is a failure of science to explain tides. In reality, tides are the result of the variation of lunar gravity over the entire Earth, not just the magnitude of the lunar acceleration on a single location only.

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Egg and Salt Water

An egg will generally sink in freshwater, but if we pour salt into the water and stir it, then the egg will start to float. The reason is that after salt is added, the density of water increases. However, the relationship between density and if the egg floats or sinks is not a direct causality.

Flat-Earthers claim that the phenomenon “proves” things fall because of density, and that gravity does not exist. In reality, the density of the water determines the magnitude of buoyancy the egg receives. If the buoyancy is higher than the weight of the egg, the egg will float, and vice versa.

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Shell Theorem

Shell theorem is a simplification stating that a spherical body affects external objects gravitationally as though all of its mass were concentrated at a point at its center.

The direction of Earth’s gravity toward the center of the Earth made some flat-Earthers to assume that we think gravity is caused by something in the center, and that our inability to go there “disproves” gravity. They are wrong. Earth’s gravity is the result of the entire mass of Earth. Using the center of the Earth is merely a simplification.

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Vacuum in Space and Earth’s Atmospheric Retention

The Earth retains an atmosphere because gravity pulls air particles toward the center of the Earth. Without something affecting the air —like gravity— air particles would move toward lower pressure, and Earth would lose its atmosphere.

Flat-Earthers claim that Earth should not be able to have an atmosphere because without any barrier separating Earth’s atmosphere and space, it would have been sucked by the vacuum in space. They are wrong. Gravity pulls air and allows Earth to retain an atmosphere.

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