“Stuff is Flat”: Incorrect Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Claim About the Observation of Earth’s Curvature

Neil deGrasse Tyson once incorrectly stated that it is still too close to the surface to see Earth’s curvature from the height of Felix Baumgartner’s jump. In reality, we should be able to see it using our eyes.

Flat-Earthers believe people take Neil’s remarks as gospel and use Neil’s incorrect statement to dismiss any observation of Earth’s curvature. However, we have no problem saying that Neil was wrong. It is OK to be wrong as long as we are willing to revise our views when faced with new facts, and we are certain Neil will.

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Education vs. Propaganda

In our education, we are taught that the Earth is a sphere because it is really a sphere. It would be wrong if our educational system were to teach us that the Earth is flat.

Flat-Earthers claim we know Earth is a sphere from years of propaganda in our educational system. In reality, it is precisely how they themselves can believe something that can be easily shown wrong, like a flat Earth, except that it did not need years to deceive them.

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Photoshop Trolling

Photoshop trolling is prevalent in flat-Earth communities. The most common form involves finding a suitable landscape photo and using Photoshop or a similar app to turn it reddish as though it was taken on Mars. Then, the result is placed next to the original with a caption added to imply that the “Mars photo” was from NASA, and they faked it from the original.

Flat-Earthers will not bother confirming if the image was really from NASA. They cannot realize that they are being trolled —many memes containing such images spread in flat Earth communities as hoaxes.

Refraction and Water

Refraction is the change in the direction of light due to the change in the medium’s refractive index traveled by the light. It is convenient to use water in a demonstration of refraction. But water alone is not the cause of refraction.

Flat-Earthers falsely claim that just because our atmosphere has water vapor in it, it will produce the same effect as any demonstration of refraction involving water. In reality, it requires far more reasoning than just that water is involved.

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Sealioning

Sealioning is a type of trolling or harassment which consists of pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity. The sealion feigns ignorance and politeness so that if the target is provoked into making an angry response, they can then act as the aggrieved party. Flat-Earthers and adherents of other pseudoscience often employ sealioning to harass others.

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Incitement: How People Can Believe Scientific Hoaxes, Even a Blatantly Wrong Ones, Like Flat Earth

People can believe scientific hoaxes —like flat Earth— not because of their sheer stupidity, despite the appearances; but because they are being misled into believing it emotionally. In another matter, these people can still function just like normal human beings.

If the concept being presented requires us to accuse others of malice before we can accept the concept, there must be something wrong with it, and we must be careful. Real science does not depend on such accusations to be true. And thus, we can rule out many of the things being presented as science, but actually not, without having to delve deep into them.

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Anthropocentrism

Anthropocentrism is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe. Real-world evidence does not support many of the anthropocentric notions.

Anthropocentrism can be very emotional. Proponents of pseudoscience —like Flat-Earthers— exploit it to emotionally discredit science. However, scientific knowledge is gained from real-world evidence, not from what we prefer to be true. Science remains true whether or not we believe in it.

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Regress Argument and Infinite Regress

Flat-Earthers like to invoke the regress argument. They would keep asking “what is causing it?” on every statement in an attempt to turn the argument into an infinite regress. If they meet a question that gets unanswered, they would incorrectly declare the initial statement wrong.

In reality, we can know something exists even if we do not know what is causing it. Keep asking “what is causing it?” on pretty much anything will eventually give us an unanswerable question. But it does not mean we do not know it exists.

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2001 Mars Odyssey Launch Video

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Flat-Earthers often challenge us to provide a video of a rocket launch that was taken from the rocket itself, without interruption from launch to reaching space, as if it would convince them to accept that it is real and the Earth is a sphere.

The launch video of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission easily fulfills their demand. But whether they can manage to accept the reality that Earth is a sphere is entirely another matter.

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Simulation and Observation

To determine if an observation is consistent with the spherical Earth model, we can create simulations to understand the expected result, and then see if they match the actual observation.

Flat-Earthers like to reject the results of simulation as being unreal, not real-world observation. In reality, the simulations are presented not to dispute their observation, but to demonstrate that their observation is consistent with expectation if Earth is a sphere.

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Subjectivist or Relativist Fallacy

The subjectivist fallacy occurs when someone claims that something is true for some people but not for someone else, when, in fact, it is true for everyone, as demonstrated by empirical evidence.

The shape of Earth is not a matter of belief or preference, but an objective truth from observations that applies to everyone. It is impossible Earth is both spherical and flat at the same time, depending on what we prefer or believe.

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Human Senses

Human senses have limitations and cannot detect beyond a certain threshold of external stimuli. However, we humans possess intelligence that enables us to create instruments and allow us to perceive beyond the limitations of our senses.

Flat-Earthers argue if our senses cannot perceive a thing, then it does not exist. In reality, the instruments we made enable us to detect many things that our senses cannot.

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Conditions in School vs Science & Professional World

In an exam in school, students are expected to solve problems with limited references and tools to assess their knowledge. On the other hand, in the science & professional world, there are no such limitations. We are free to use any resources available to us to solve the problems at hand.

Some flat-Earthers become annoyed every time we use some things like computer simulations and other tools to solve problems, especially when they help us prove spherical Earth. They would proclaim because they feel they can solve their own specific problem with pen and paper, they think they are more right than these “cheaters” with computers and other technology. In reality, the tools being used do not decide which one is more right. These flat-Earthers are merely unfamiliar with real-world cases beyond school.

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Coriolis Effect Misconception & Strawman Argument

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The Coriolis effect acts on an object that is launched to another location closer to or farther from Earth’s axis of rotation. The object retains the inertia from the surface it was launched from, but it no longer matches what is required to keep it moving in a straight line, according to an observer on the surface.

On the equator, Earth’s surface is moving at a speed of 465 m/s. Flat-Earthers assert that if that is the case, then an object launched upward should move away from the observer at the same speed. It does not happen, and they use it to disprove the Coriolis effect and Earth’s rotation in general. In reality, the Coriolis effect is not what they describe.

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Argument from Incredulity

The argument from incredulity occurs if someone refuses to accept an argument simply because he cannot personally understand it. Flat-Earthers very frequently use this logical fallacy.

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Global Conspiracy Smoke and Mirrors

Some flat-Earthers use the so-called global conspiracy as an ‘escape hatch’ to abandon a losing argument. When being cornered, some flat-Earthers will tell us that flat Earth is a work in progress; it is normal for it to be incomplete, for now. “But the most important thing is to uncover the global conspiracy and save the world from these unscrupulous few!”

In reality, the global conspiracy theory is only one of so many concepts invented to prevent flat Earth from being falsified.

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Invalid Hypothesis for the Observation of a Distant Object

Flat-Earthers love to observe the visibility of a distant object. But the observation can never prove Earth is flat.

The observation of a distant object can only go as far as to disprove Earth is a sphere with a radius of 3959 miles. A flat Earth is merely one of the so many possibilities, but it is still possible the Earth is a sphere, only much larger.

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Fiber-Optic vs Satellite Communication

Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting data by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. These days, the majority of data communication involves a fiber-optic connection. However, other methods of transmitting data exist, including satellites.

Flat-Earthers use the prominence of fiber-optic communication as “proof” of the nonexistence of satellites. Such reasoning is a fallacy of hasty generalization. By the same “logic,” we can “prove” trains do not exist just by showing the existence of cars.

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Big Lie

The big lie is the propaganda method where an outrageous lie —like flat Earth— is said and repeated as if it is true, hoping people will assume it is true for granted rather than critically questioning it.

Even though anyone can easily verify that Earth is a sphere from simple personal observations, many still fall for the notion of a flat Earth. The reason is that it is such a big lie and does not fit their model of modest deception, so they think “it must be true.”

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Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest major galaxy. It is visible to the naked eye on dark nights and the easiest deep-sky object to capture even without special equipment.

There are many images of Andromeda on the Internet because it is not that hard to capture it. Flat-Earthers assumed the pictures are the Milky Way and immediately claimed those pictures as fakes. In reality, the galaxy in the photographs is the Andromeda, and it is not hard for anyone to take a picture of it. The “you are here” sign on some pictures of the Andromeda Galaxy is silly and an obvious spoof. It was merely an attempt on a joke.

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