Archimedes’ Principle and Gravity

Archimedes’ principle states that any object, totally or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object. Meanwhile, Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that every particle attracts each other with force directly proportional to their masses & inversely proportional to the square of their distances.

Flat-Earthers like to characterize gravity as if it was “invented” to “replace” Archimedes’ principle & that the two are competing theories. In reality, these are two different theories that explain different phenomena. Gravity does not explain anything that Archimedes’ principle explains and vice versa. Gravity does not replace Archimedes’ principle; both are valid and in use today.

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Countering Gravity

Gravity is not the only force. Other forms of force exist. Multiple forces can affect an object at the same time. Forces can counteract gravity, making an object move against the direction of gravity. These cases do not disprove gravity.

Objects can move against the direction of gravity, and flat-Earthers use it as “evidence” that gravity does not exist. In reality, there is at least a force other than gravity affecting the object, in the opposite direction from gravity, with a larger magnitude. Continue reading “Countering Gravity”

Reproduction of the Cavendish Experiment

The Cavendish experiment was the first experiment to measure gravity between masses in the laboratory. The experiment has been repeated numerous times over two centuries with consistent results. Many other types of experiments also confirmed it.

Flat-Earthers incorrectly claim the Cavendish experiment has never been reproduced. They focus solely on the original experiment to discredit it. In reality, there are far too many repeats of the experiment. To discredit the experiment, they have to address all and each of the repeats of the experiment.

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Attraction Between Masses

If gravity is the attraction between masses, then why two hanging masses do not appear attracted to each other? Because there is a really huge mass (the Earth) below both masses, attracting both masses with a much significantly larger force compared to that between each other.

The Schiehallion experiment used a massive mountain as one of the masses. And they were able to measure the effect, called the vertical deflection.

The Cavendish experiment controls the vertical attraction from Earth out of the equation. Therefore, we can observe and measure the weak and slow horizontal attraction between the masses, without interference from Earth.

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Density and Balance Experiment

Objects fall down because of gravity. Flat-Earthers deny gravity & wrongly claim they fall down because of density. We can disprove flat-Earthers’ claim by setting up two different weights of the same material (thus, the same density) against each other using a balance. We can see the objects’ densities are not why they fall down.

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Glass of Water

Earth’s gravity causes water’s surface to curve with the same radius as Earth’s. On glass with a diameter of 10 cm, Earth’s gravity causes the water to form a curvature of 0.00000002 cm, outside other factors like surface tension.

Flat-Earthers like to demand that we prove water curvature in a glass of water. In reality, whatever the container, the curvature of the water surface remains the same as Earth’s radius. On a glass of water, it will be too small to observe.

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How Satellites Can Orbit and Stay Up There

Earth’s gravity pulls things toward Earth. Satellites can stay up there because they are orbiting. They are moving at the right speed and right direction to counter the pull of gravity.

Flat-Earthers claim that satellites should fall down if gravity pulls toward Earth. In reality, we do not just launch satellites to space. We also give them the correct speed & direction, so they neither fall toward Earth nor keep going farther away.

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Wet, Spinning Tennis Ball False Analogy

The gravitational acceleration exerted by the mass of a wet, spinning tennis ball is too small compared to the centrifugal acceleration generated by its rotating motion. As a result, the water escapes away from the tennis ball, unlike Earth.

A wet spinning ball is a sphere, spinning & wet, like Earth. But the water goes away from the ball, unlike Earth. Flat Earthers use it to “disprove” spherical Earth. In reality, the magnitude of the involved accelerations in the two cases are different.

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Directions of Up and Down

“Down” is the same direction as Earth’s gravitational acceleration, toward Earth’s center. “Up” is the opposite, or away from Earth’s center. This applies to all observers on Earth.

Flat-Earthers like to question & ridicule about what would occur on the people “down” there. They just do not understand that to the people on the other side of Earth, “down” is still toward Earth’s center, like it appears to everyone else.

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Theories of Gravity

Gravity is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy are brought toward one another. Today, gravity is explained by two theories: Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Einstein’s general relativity.

Flat-Earthers treat the existence of the two theories as a supposed conflict, and they use it as “evidence” of wrongdoing. In reality, these are two separate theories that explain the phenomenon of gravity. Einstein’s is more accurate yet more complex. In contrast, Newton’s is simpler but less accurate. Despite having been superseded, Newton’s gravity continues to be used as an excellent approximation of the effect of gravity in most applications.

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Isaac Newton and the “Hypotheses non Fingo”

Isaac Newton formulated the law of universal gravitation, which adequately explained the motion of all bodies in space known at his time. He also showed it is the same law that is causing everyday objects to fall on Earth.

In his famous phrase “hypothesis non fingo,” Newton stated that he did not know what causes gravity and refused to speculate. Flat-Earthers use it to discredit him. In reality, just because he did not know what causes gravity, it does not mean his law of universal gravitation is wrong.

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Curvature of Water Surface

If Earth is a sphere, why is the surface of water always flat?

Due to Earth’s gravity, water seeks the lowest potential or as close as possible to the center of Earth. It forms a practically spherical surface centered on Earth’s center. The width of the surface in everyday cases is tiny compared to Earth’s radius. Thus, the water surface looks practically flat but not perfectly flat.

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Weight and Air Density Experiment

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Using a precise digital kitchen scale and a smartphone with a pressure sensor, we can easily measure the change in weight and atmospheric pressure in different locations.

Flat-Earthers claim that an object falls down because it is denser than the air surrounding it. However, simple measurements show that things weigh less at a higher altitude where the air is less dense, contrary to the expectation if their claim is true.

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Air Density vs Object’s Weight

At a lower altitude, the air is denser, and objects weigh more. On the other hand, at a higher altitude, the air is less dense, and objects weigh less.

Flat-Earthers deny gravity and invented the “explanation” that an object falls only because it is denser than the air surrounding it. But if it were true, objects should weigh more at a higher altitude where the air is less dense. But they weigh less instead, disproving flat-Earthers’ density theory.

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Gravitational Acceleration in Archimedes’ Formula

Archimedes’ principle states that the upward buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Today we usually use B =  -ρgV to calculate the buoyant force, where ρ is the fluid’s density, g is the gravitational acceleration, and V is the volume of the displaced fluid.

Archimedes discovered buoyancy earlier than Newton discovered gravity, and flat-Earthers dispute the presence of g in the buoyancy formula. In reality, buoyancy depends on the weight of the fluid, and the distinction between weight and mass only occurred after Newton. Archimedes’ principle still applies, only that we now have a better understanding of what weight is.

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Isaac Newton and the Falling Apple

The fall of an apple inspired Isaac Newton to understand that the same force that brought the apple falling toward the ground also keeps the Moon in motion around Earth. However, his work involved much more than just observing the falling apple.

Flat-Earthers downplay Newton’s contribution as if it was only about the falling Apple and use the episode as a means of ridicule. In reality, Newton’s works were much more than that.

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Variation of Earth’s Gravitational Acceleration

The acceleration of free-falling objects on Earth varies. It depends on various factors. The figure of 9.8 m/s² is just a nominal value to use if the actual local value is unknown or unimportant. These variations can only be explained using the law of gravity and that the Earth is a rotating sphere.

Flat-Earthers claim that science tells us that Earth’s gravitational acceleration is always 9.8 m/s² everywhere on Earth, and they use it as “evidence” Earth is flat and stationary. But, in reality, Earth’s gravitational acceleration does indeed vary in different locations.

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What We Feel as “Weight” is the Force of Gravity

The weight of an object is the force exerted on the object by gravity. The gravitational force exerted by the Earth on an object is what we feel as the ‘weight’ of the object.

Many flat-Earthers fail to understand that the gravitational force is just another name for ‘weight’. Much misinformation in flat Earth communities arises from this misunderstanding.

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Force Vectors

Many misinformation within flat-Earth communities is present only because of their lack of understanding on how forces work on an object.

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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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