Bedford Level Experiment Confirmed the Curvature of the Earth

In 1870, Alfred Russell Wallace took a challenge from a flat-Earther and successfully confirmed the existence of Earth’s curvature in the Bedford level experiment.

Wallace did the experiment on the Bedford Canal. Wallace fixed a black band on the Old Bedford Bridge and observed it with a telescope from the Welney Bridge 6 miles away. Right in the middle, he placed a pole with two discs on it. The telescope, the top disc, and the black band are at the same height above the water.

From the telescope, both discs were seen above the black band, proving the existence of Earth’s curvature.

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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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Archimedes and the Surface of any Fluid

In the 3rd century BCE, Archimedes of Syracuse wrote what we now call the Archimedes’ principle in his book “On Floating Bodies” using the spherical Earth model.

Flat-Earthers like to misuse Archimedes’ principle as if it supports their claim that Earth is flat. In particular, they abuse Archimedes’ principle as if it is a competing explanation against gravity. In reality, Archimedes and other Greek scientists at the time already knew Earth is a sphere, and he explicitly mentioned it in his writings.

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Tesla’s “Scientists Have Substituted” Quote

In the article “Radio Power will Revolutionize the World” in “Modern Mechanix and Inventions” magazine, July 1934 edition, Nikola Tesla stated:

“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments and they wander off through equation after equation and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.”

Flat-Earthers like to use the quote to discredit science and scientists, unaware that in the article, Tesla mentioned that Earth is a sphere multiple times.

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Allais Effect

The Allais effect is the alleged anomaly of pendulums or gravimeters, which is purportedly observed during a solar eclipse. The effect has not been able to be consistently measured and was most likely caused by experimental error.

Flat-Earthers use the Allais effect to dismiss the result of Foucault’s pendulum. In reality, the Allais effect is still not conclusive. Even if it is true, it only occurs during an eclipse and does not rule out that the pendulum’s precession is due to Earth’s rotation. Not to mention that there is plenty of other evidence that Earth is in motion.

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Fake Moon Rock That Turns Out to Be a Petrified Wood

The Apollo missions brought back moon rocks to Earth. Some of the moon rocks Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 brought back were gifted twice by President Nixon to 135 countries. In the Netherlands, both of these gifts are intact and preserved in a museum. However, there is another unrelated gift, in the form of petrified wood that was mistaken to be a moon rock for several years.

Flat-Earthers use the petrified wood incident to discredit the Apollo missions. In reality, the incident is not related to the two moon rocks that the United States officially gifted to the Netherlands, which are still displayed in Museum Boerhaave, Leiden.

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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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Nikola Tesla Was Not Erased From History and Modern Education

Nikola Tesla was a very influential physicist, engineer, and inventor. Due to his influences, various things are named after him.

Many conspiracy theories hijack the reputation of Nikola Tesla, including flat-Earth. They claim Tesla was a flat Earth scientist, and his name was deliberately erased from history books and modern education. In reality, Tesla was a genuine scientist, and it is not hard to find out that many things today are named after Nikola Tesla.

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Earthrise in President Nixon’s Oval Office

Earthrise is a photograph of Earth taken from lunar orbit during the Apollo 8 mission, seven months before the first Moon landing by the Apollo 11 mission. President Nixon hung a copy of Earthrise on the wall next to his desk in the Oval Office.

The picture of Earthrise was prominently visible during news coverage of President Nixon’s call with Apollo 11 astronauts on the lunar surface. Flat-Earthers find it strange Nixon already had the photo hung on the wall when the mission was still ongoing. These people are unaware that there are already several Apollo missions before Apollo 11, and Apollo 11 was only the first to land on the Moon.

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James Cook’s Second Voyage

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The second voyage of James Cook was commissioned to search for the hypothetical continent Terra Australis in the Southern Pacific Ocean.  He explored the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process and proved there is no such continent unless it is over the South Pole itself, which we now call Antarctica.

Some sources stated that Cook traveled over 60000 miles in his second voyage. Flat-Earthers use the figure as Antarctica’s circumference and claim it as “evidence” that Antarctica is much more than a continent. In reality, James Cook explored the vast ocean and did much more than just circumnavigating Antarctica.

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“What is Gravity”

In a StarTalk episode, Neil deGrasse Tyson was given the question “what is gravity?” He quipped “we have no idea” before elaborating more. Flat-Earthers quoted it out of context to discredit Neil and gravity, completely disregarding what Neil explained afterward.

In reality, Neil did provide a very comprehensive answer to the question “what is gravity” but flat-Earthers only gave an emphasis to the “we have no idea” part of his answer, and skipped the rest of his answer.

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“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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Mirosław Hermaszewski

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General Mirosław Hermaszewski is a former Polish cosmonaut. He gave an interview in late 2019 that flat-Earthers misrepresented and quoted his statements out of context as if he admitted in the interview that Earth is flat.

In the interview, he received some ridiculous questions, and he answered them with equally ridiculous answers in a joking tone, including the question at the end of the interview where he was asked if Earth is flat. The General was surprised by the question, but he decided to play along and answered “it is flat” for a hilarious ending.

Unfortunately, as with many other cases, flat-Earthers are not aware they are being ridiculed in the interview, and take the General’s statement as serious. That small part at the end of the interview is often seen in flat-Earth circles as a hoax that claims it as an endorsement of flat Earth by the General.

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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. In October 2008, he flew to the ISS onboard 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 seems to fall 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 in the ISS, despite other objects in the scene that float.

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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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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”