Bill Nye and the “Closed System” Quote

In a Big Think Q&A, Bill Nye gave his opinion on why we cannot throw our trash into space. Flat-Earthers took Bill’s words out of context and used it to “disprove” space flight.

“Why we don’t throw trash into space? Because it’s too expensive. Lifting a ton of material into space takes an extraordinary amount of rocket fuel. And, by the way, when people want to send this much plutonium-238 which is not even the weapon’s plutonium, a baseball size, a grapefruit size, people freak out because the rockets sometimes blow up.”

“Now, one thing I really want your generation to embrace is that the Earth is a closed system. We cannot leave the Earth. There’s no place to go. There’s no place to throw your trash. And I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe not you but your kids develop ways to mine our landfills.”

Unscrupulous flat-Earthers took the specific part “Earth is a closed system. We cannot leave the Earth. There’s no place to go,” and presented it as if Bill was telling us we cannot go to space. From the complete video, it is clear that it is not what Bill meant.

Bill Nye is a space colonization skeptic. He does not believe space colonization is realistic. It does not mean Bill thinks we cannot go to space. In another Q&A, he said we need to have a presence on Mars for research purposes.

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Albert Michelson in “Michelson and the Speed of Light”

In 1881, Albert A. Michelson performed an experiment in an attempt to prove the existence of aether. Aether was a hypothesized material that fills the region of the universe. Scientists knew light is a form of wave, and because all other waves require a medium to propagate, they formulated the aether hypothesis, in which light can propagate. However, Michelson’s experiment produced a zero effect.

In 1960, Bernard Jaffe wrote Michelson’s biography in the book “Michelson & the Speed of Light.” Unscrupulous flat-Earthers quoted a lone paragraph from the book out of the intended context, and present it as if Michelson proved the Earth is stationary.

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Buzz Aldrin’s Interview & the Quote-Mining by Flat Earthers

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In September 2015, Buzz Aldrin gave an interview at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Flat-Earthers misrepresented and quoted it out of context as if Buzz was admitting that the Apollo Moon landings never happened.

The original interview was 17 minutes long, and there were other occasions Buzz clearly said the Moon landings happened, without any possibility of misinterpretation.

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Nikola Tesla was not a Flat Earther

Nikola Tesla was a genuine physicist, engineer, and inventor. He knew very well that the Earth is a rotating sphere, gravity exists, stars are very far, planets are not stars, etc.

Flat-Earthers often claim Nikola Tesla as their own, as if he believed in a flat Earth. These claims are quickly proven wrong by merely reading some of Tesla’s writings. It is obvious from his writings that he was not a flat-Earther.

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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. On October 2008, he flew to the ISS on board of 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 seem to fall down 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 down in the ISS, despite other objects in the scene that float.

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James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts

In 1958, James Van Allen discovered the existence of the Van Allen radiation belts. Conspiracy theorists, including flat-Earthers, use it to “prove” the Apollo Moon landings were faked and never happened. To dispel the hoax, James Van Allen himself wrote letters clarifying the false allegation.

“The recent Fox TV show, which I saw, is an ingenious & entertaining assemblage of nonsense. The claim that radiation exposure during the Apollo missions would have been fatal to the astronauts is only one example of such nonsense.”

Both the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the statement that the radiation belts do not prevent space travel came from James Van Allen. Conspiracy theorists cannot merely quote one when it appears to support their belief and conveniently reject the other if it is against them. Continue reading “James Van Allen and the Van Allen Radiation Belts”

Remedy Drive’s “Commodity” Album Cover Image Confusion

In 2014, the Christian rock band Remedy Drive released the album “Commodity”. Its cover image is a small hole from NASA’s Solar Max Satellite that was caused by space debris. NASA first published the original photos in 2006.

In 2018, astronaut Chris Hadfield showed the picture to illustrate how space debris can do to a spacecraft. Flat-Earthers were happy to accuse Hadfield of stealing the cover image from the “Commodity” album. They were simply looking for any reason do discredit space flight and did not realize NASA published the image first before anyone else, including Remedy Drive.

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The ‘Destroyed Technology’ to go to the Moon

In an interview, Donald Pettit —a NASA astronaut— mentioned that he’d go the moon, but they no longer have the technology to do that. All the technology from the Apollo mission has been destroyed, and it is a painful process to build it back again.

Flat-Earthers interpreted the statement rather too freely and took that as “proof” we never had the technology in the first place. In reality, the word “technology” is polyseme. It has two different related meanings. Flat-Earthers misinterpreted Don’s statement as one meaning, while Don’s intention was another.

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The Space Protest by ASAN That Was Hijacked by Flat-Earthers for Provocation

In 2017, the group who name themselves ‘ASAN’ staged a protest to Donald Trump by sending a high-altitude balloon carrying a camera and a crude message, which was quoted from a statement by Edgar Mitchell, an astronaut from the Apollo 14 mission.

Some unscrupulous flat-Earthers hijacked the protest and turned it as if ASAN did it to prove Earth’s curvature and to insult them. These flat-Earthers pointed out that ASAN somehow “forgot” to conceal the fact that a fisheye lens was used. In reality, it is never the intention of ASAN to prove Earth’s curvature, nor to throw insults to flat-Earthers.

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Auguste Piccard, Another Scientist Falsely Claimed by Flat-Earthers

Auguste Piccard was a Swiss-Belgian physicist, inventor, and explorer, known for his record-breaking balloon flights to the stratosphere, as well as the invention for bathyscaphe to allow for deep ocean exploration.

Unfortunately for him, flat-Earthers are claiming him as their own these days. It started from a Popular Science article from 1931, saying:

Through portholes, the observers saw the earth through copper-colored then bluish, haze. It seemed a flat disk with upturned edge.

But, no. In reality, Auguste Piccard was not even close to being a flat-Earther.

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Determining the Distance to the Sun from the Transit of Venus

The distance to the Sun was first determined with a good accuracy from worldwide observations of the transit of Venus. A transit of Venus is a phenomenon where Venus passes in front of the Sun. By measuring the time Venus spends crossing in front of the Sun from two or more locations on the surface of the Earth, it is possible to calculate the distance to the Sun.

Flat-Earthers insist that it is impossible to determine the distance to the Sun in the globe model because sun rays are practically parallel. They are wrong. Using simple geometry, the distance to the Sun can be determined from the observations of the transit of Venus.

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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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Galilean Moons: The First Objects Observed to Orbit Another Object

Jupiter possesses four large moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. These are called the Galilean Moons. They are easy to observe and the first objects found to orbit a planet other than the Earth.

Flat-Earthers are often seen demanding proof that an object can orbit another object. All they have to do is to use a telescope to observe Jupiter and its Galilean moons.

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Fraunhofer Lines

Sunlight can be broken into its constituent colors using a prism. The colors are the optical spectrum of the Sun. They are the same colors on rainbows. On careful observation, the spectrum is not perfectly continuous, but it has dark lines scattered over the entire spectrum. It turned out that from the lines, we can tell the composition of the Sun without physically getting there.

Some flat-Earthers think that it is impossible for us to determine the composition of the Sun, as it is impossible for anyone to visit the Sun without getting roasted in the process. They are wrong. The composition of the Sun can be determined from the spectral lines, or more specifically for the Sun: the Fraunhofer lines.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson and His ‘Pear-Shaped’ Analogy

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In a talk show, Neil deGrasse Tyson explained the figure of the Earth. He told the audience that the Earth is practically round, but it is a little farther from the center near the equator compared to the poles. And that in the southern parts, it is a bit farther from the center than in its northern regions. To illustrate the fact, Neil used the analogy ‘pear-shaped.’

Flat-Earthers really love to ridicule the ‘pear-shaped’ analogy. But they are mistaken. If they watch the entire unaltered video, they will find Neil explained the fact very clearly.

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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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The Eratosthenes Experiment: Proving the Earth is Spherical

In 205 BC, Eratosthenes successfully determined the circumference of the Earth by measuring the length of the shadow cast by a rod. He did the measurement in Alexandria and timed it to coincidence when the Sun is directly overhead Syene.

2222 years after that, some flat-Earthers tried to refute the Eratosthenes experiment. They say the experiment can be applied to the flat-Earth model.

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The Aether Experiments are Never Evidence of Flat and Stationary Earth

Aether was the hypothetical material that fills the region of space. It was assumed to be the medium that allows light and gravity to propagate in space. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, some experiments were carried out to prove if the aether exists.

Flat-Earthers (and geocentrists alike) often use the results of these experiments to support their case that the Earth is stationary. But they are wrong. These experiments were conducted to prove if the Aether theory, or if one of its competing hypotheses —like the Special Relativity— better explains reality.

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