“Behind the Curve”: the Ring Laser Gyroscope Experiment

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“Behind the Curve” is a documentary showing behind the scenes on what is happening in the flat-Earth community in the United States just before a flat-Earth conference. In a section, the film shows us how a flat-Earther did an experiment involving a ring laser gyroscope, which proved the very thing he tried to disprove: Earth’s rotation; and that he was unwilling to accept the result.

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Ring Laser Gyroscopes are Sensitive Enough to Measure Earth’s Rotation

A ring laser gyroscope (RLG) is an instrument for measuring the change in orientation and rotational velocity. It is sensitive enough to measure Earth’s rotation easily.

Flat-Earthers claim that there is no instrument able to measure Earth’s rotation. Such claim arose from their ignorance. Ring laser gyroscopes —which are installed in some airplanes and ships— can easily detect and measure Earth’s rotation.

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Horizontal Motion of Smoke

Smoke rises due to convection current. The solid particles emitted from a combustion process are carried by the hot air that rises because of its lower density than the surrounding air. The horizontal motion of smoke itself is affected by the movement of air surrounding it.

Flat-Earthers claim that a rising smoke without horizontal motion “proves” a stationary Earth. They are wrong. The horizontal motion of smoke is an effect of the horizontal motion of air relative to the smoke, and the motion of the object emitting the smoke is inconsequential.

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Frame of Reference

A frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements. Speed or velocity is relative to a frame of reference. It is possible that two speeds/velocities are measured relative to a different frame of reference and thus cannot be directly compared.

Flat-Earthers would often compare two different speed measurements like an airplane moving at 900 km/h (560 mph) and Earth’s surface near the equator at 1674 km/h (1040 mph). They would conclude the airplane should not be able to catch up with Earth’s surface and would not be able to land if the Earth is rotating. They are wrong. The speeds are measured relative to the different frame of reference, and therefore, cannot be compared directly.

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Old Star Charts and Earth’s Axial Precession

Due to Earth’s axial precession, the positions of Earth’s celestial poles shift gradually in a cycle of approximately 26000 years. These days, Polaris is very close to the north celestial pole. However, 2000 years ago, Kochab is much closer to the celestial pole than Polaris. In the next 2000 years, Errai will replace Polaris as our pole star.

Flat-Earthers claim that the stars are always in the same position proves the Earth is stationary. They are wrong. By observing old star charts from a few centuries ago, the shift of celestial poles can be determined. It proves stars are not always in the same position as today, and that the Earth is rotating.

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Earth’s Atmosphere Rotation

Earth’s atmosphere is part of the Earth. It practically follows Earth’s rotating motion like the rest of the Earth. Due to various factors, Earth’s atmosphere has relatively small and uneven movement relative to the surface. We call it ‘wind.’ The fastest wind ever recorded is about 408 km/h, relative to Earth’s surface.

Many misconceptions about Earth arise from the wrong idea that only Earth’s solid body is rotating, but the atmosphere is not. If it is true, then we should always feel the wind with the speed of 1674 km/h near the equator, or more than 4× the fastest wind ever recorded. We don’t feel such a wind, and thus we know our atmosphere is moving at practically at the same speed as Earth’s surface.

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The Lack of Motion Blur in Earth Photos

The surface of the Earth close to the equator is moving at the speed of about 1670 km/h due to Earth’s rotation. To take a sharp picture of the Earth with the resolution of 10000×10000 from a stationary position in space, it would require the shutter speed faster than 2.7 seconds. It is not difficult at all to take a sharp picture of the entire Earth without perceivable motion blur.

Flat-Earthers claim that it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth from space due to the speed of Earth’s rotation. To them, the fact that a photographer cannot take a sharp photo of a speeding race car from the sidelines (they actually can) tells us it should be impossible to take a sharp picture of the Earth moving at 10× the speed.

They are wrong. Motion blur is caused by the angular speed of the object relative to the camera, not from its absolute speed. The vast distance required to take a photo of the Earth results in a very low angular speed, making it not difficult at all to take sharp images of the Earth.

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The Angle of a Shadow During Equinox

During an equinox (March 20 and September 22-23), the Sun is directly above the equator. If we are on the equator, an upright stick will not have a shadow in the middle of the day.

On any other location, the angle between the stick and the direction of sunlight will be the same as the observer’s latitude.

This fact can only occur if the Earth is a sphere, and only if the Sun is very far relative to the size of the Earth.

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Helicopter and Earth’s Rotating Motion

We cannot travel to another location by hovering inside a helicopter and wait for the Earth to rotate below us until we are above our destination. The reason is the phenomenon of inertia.

Flat-Earthers claim that we cannot do such a thing as ‘proof’ of a motionless Earth. They are wrong. When on the ground, the helicopter itself is already moving at the same velocity as Earth’s surface.

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The Moving Vehicle Analogy

“If the Earth is rotating, why when we throw a rock upward, it would fall to the original location?” The explanation is that the rock maintains the momentum before it is thrown. Before it is thrown, the rock has the same velocity as the surface of the Earth, it does not suddenly lose its momentum after being thrown, and there’s nothing exerting a force to alter its trajectory.

We usually use the moving vehicle analogy to illustrate this. If we throw the rock upward inside a moving vehicle, it would also fall to the original location, despite the fact that the vehicle is moving.

Flat-Earthers reject the analogy. Their usual excuse is that the atmosphere is not separated from space, and the rock is thrown “inside” the vehicle, separated by the body of the vehicle from the outside. They offer the analogy of being on the top of a moving vehicle as the correct analogy. They are wrong.

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The Foucault Pendulum Proves Spherical and Rotating Earth

The Foucault Pendulum is an experiment to demonstrate Earth’s rotation, named after French physicist Léon Foucault. The Foucault pendulum is the first simple and direct evidence of the Earth’s rotation. It is a straightforward experiment: a huge pendulum is allowed to swing throughout the day, and it will slowly rotate because of Earth’s rotation.

For any flat-Earthers, the Foucault pendulum is one of the facts that must be discredited. They would invent various “explanations” to reject the conclusion of the experiment. They are wrong. Anyone is free to repeat the experiment, and when done correctly, it will result in a consistent result and in line with expectations.

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Total Lunar Eclipse, Drawn to Scale

Any diagram showing two or more celestial bodies is almost never drawn in the correct scale. The reason is that in most cases, any two celestial bodies are spaced too far away relative to their sizes. It is just not possible to draw them in the correct scale and still effectively describes what we want to explain. We don’t have much choice other than drawing them not to scale.

The perpetrators of flat-Earth disseminate the allegations that the diagrams were drawn not to scale because of evil intentions, and not because of legitimate technical reasons. Some people don’t understand this and fell victim to flat-Earth indoctrination.

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Orbital Inclination: The Reason an Eclipse Does Not Occur Every Month

The orbit of the Earth and that of the Moon are not perfectly aligned in the same plane. The orbital plane of the Moon is inclined 5.145° from the Earth’s orbital plane. This is the reason an eclipse does not happen every month.

Sometimes we see flat-Earthers claim that an eclipse should happen every month. But it does not, and they take that as ‘evidence’ of the failure of modern science to explain the occurrence of an eclipse. Their mistake is that they don’t account for the orbital inclination.

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Total Solar Eclipse, Drawn to Scale

Any diagram showing two or more celestial bodies is almost never drawn in the correct scale. The reason is that in most cases, any two celestial bodies are spaced too far away relative to their sizes. It is just not possible to draw them in the correct scale and still effectively describes what we want to explain. We don’t have much choice other than drawing them not to scale.

The perpetrators of flat-Earth disseminate the allegations that the diagrams were drawn not to scale because of evil intentions, and not because of legitimate technical reasons. Some people don’t understand this and fell victim to flat-Earth indoctrination.

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The Galileo Affair was Never About the Shape of the Earth

Flat-Earthers often bring Galileo into the discussion. They treat him as a ‘villain’ who supported the spherical Earth but unable to prove it as he failed to demonstrate the occurrence of stellar parallax.

They are wrong. The Galileo affair was in fact not about the shape of the Earth at all. It was about geocentrism vs. heliocentrism. Everyone involved already knew that the Earth is spherical.

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The Distance to Polaris

Anyone who is in the northern hemisphere can observe the star Polaris, located very close to the north celestial pole. As a result, when observed casually, Polaris appears practically stationary in the same position.

Flat-Earthers claim that the fact Polaris appears stationary as ‘evidence’ that the Earth is stationary: if the Earth is in motion, then Polaris should appear in motion too. They are wrong. Polaris appears stationary because it is very far and its motion can’t be visually observed in the scale of a human life.

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Geostationary Satellites

If a satellite has the orbit of 35786 km above Earth’s surface, the satellite will be in motion at the same speed as the Earth’s rotational rate. As a result, the satellite will appear practically motionless when observed from the surface. Many communication satellites reside in this orbit, and a satellite dish receiving signals from the satellite does not have to track the satellite.

Flat-Earthers often take the fact that satellites are in motion and most satellite dishes have a fixed direction as ‘proof’ the dishes cannot be pointing to satellites. They are wrong.

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