Map Projection and Distortion

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The Earth is a sphere, a three-dimensional shape. But most of the time, we work with two-dimensional media, including paper, computer displays, televisions, phone screens, whiteboards, etc. To represent the Earth on a two-dimensional medium, it is necessary to transform the curved shape of the Earth’s surface into a planar form using one of the many map projections.

All map projections necessarily introduce distortion into the results. Some flat-Earthers think that distortions are ‘evidence’ of failure of modern science to explain the world. They are wrong.

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James Cook’s Second Voyage

James Cook made three significant voyages to the Pacific Ocean. Flat-Earthers often made their case with his second voyage. In this voyage, James Cook was tasked to find the hypothetical continent, the Terra Australis, that was predicted to be around the southern Pacific Ocean. In his second voyage, James Cook proved no such continent exists.

Flat-Earthers often take the second voyage of James Cook as ‘proof’ that Antarctica is not a continent, but a massive landmass encircling the flat-Earth. Their ‘proof’ is that Cook traveled more than 60000 miles, and 60000 miles is much farther than the circumference of Antarctica. They are wrong.

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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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Emergency Landings and Flight Route

It is a mistake to 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 are emergency landings.

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