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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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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Curvature of Water Surface

If Earth is a sphere, why is the surface of water always flat?

Due to Earth’s gravity, water seeks the lowest potential or as close as possible to the center of Earth. It forms a practically spherical surface centered on Earth’s center. The width of the surface in everyday cases is tiny compared to Earth’s radius. Thus, the water surface looks practically flat but not perfectly flat.

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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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Spirit Level on an Airplane

During cruising, an airplane is practically level. It is flying perpendicular to the direction of gravity. The aircraft is still flying following Earth’s curvature and continuously changes its orientation. However, not only its orientation changing but also the direction of gravity, having the same amount of change. As a result, a spirit level on a flight will not show us the difference in orientation of the airplane due to its motion following the curvature of the Earth.

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‘Flat’ vs ‘Level’

‘Flat’ and ‘Level can mean approximately the same thing in everyday conversation. But in the context of science and engineering, they have different meanings. ‘Flat’ describes a planar surface. ‘Level’ means at the same height or perpendicular to the direction of Earth’s gravity.

Flat-Earthers interpret the word ‘level’ as if it always has the same meaning as ‘flat.’ However, in the scientific context, the two words have different meanings. Insisting that both words to have the same meaning is the fallacy of appeal to definition.

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The Ball and Water ‘Experiment’

Gravity is the attraction between objects with mass. The higher the mass, the greater is the gravitational attraction. Gravity is not the result of the shapes of the objects.

Flat-Earthers like to perform the ball-and-water ‘experiment.’ They spray water to a ball, then observe the water does not stick to the ball the same way the ocean water curves over the surface of the Earth. They would wrongly conclude that “gravity does not exist.” Gravity does not come from the spherical shape of objects, Continue reading “The Ball and Water ‘Experiment’”

Bottled Water: A Simple Device for Observing the Dip of the Horizon

On many flights, they would give away leveling devices to all passengers for free, so that everyone would be able to observe the dip of the horizon and proves Earth is a sphere. And as a nice side effect, to quench our thirsts, too!

Such devices are called ‘bottled water’. Using these simple ‘instruments’ on a flight, we can demonstrate that Earth is a sphere.

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Level, Higher and Lower

A higher position is farther up, away from the center of the Earth, relative to sea level. Conversely, a lower position is closer toward Earth’s center, relative to sea level. Two positions are level if they are at the same height from sea level.

Some flat-Earthers are unable to understand this. To them, ‘level’ means straight. They are wrong. In Earth sciences, height is measured from a plane of reference, usually the sea level.

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Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is a waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The level of water on both seas is practically the same, and the Suez Canal contains no locks system.

Flat-Earthers are claiming that the Suez Canal was constructed without accounting for curvature. They said if the Earth were spherical, then the middle of the canal should have been 1666 ft deep. This is merely a misconception. The surface of the water is equipotential. It has roughly the same distance to the Earth’s center of gravity. It is not necessary to dig 1666 ft in the middle of the Suez Canal. The engineers only need to ensure the base of the canal is below sea level for sea water to flow.

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The Earth is Spherical and The Nile Never Flows Uphill Anywhere

The Nile never flows uphill, or in other words, ascend to a location farther from sea level anywhere in the Nile basin.

Flat-Earthers often claim that if the Earth is spherical, then the Nile will have to flow uphill to overcome the curvature of the Earth. They are wrong.

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A Glass of Water

The surface of the water in a glass of water is practically flat. Some flat-Earthers claim this is ‘evidence’ that the surface of the water is flat, and it will always be flat no matter how wide the container. They are wrong.

If the Earth is a sphere with the radius of 6371 km (3960 miles), then the surface of the water in a 10 cm (4 in) wide glass will have a bulge of 0.00000002 cm as the result of gravity, excluding other effects like the surface tension.

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The Earth is Spherical and The Mississippi River Never Flows Uphill Anywhere

The Mississippi River never flows uphill, or in other words, ascend to a location farther from sea level anywhere in the Mississippi River basin.

Flat-Earthers often claim that if the Earth is spherical, then the Mississippi River will have to flow uphill to overcome the curvature of the Earth. They are wrong.

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Water Level Demonstrates The Dip of the Horizon and Proves Earth’s Curvature

As the Earth is spherical, the horizon is below the eye-level (or the astronomical horizon). The angle between the eye-level and the horizon is the dip of the horizon. The angle becomes larger as we go higher.

Flat-Earthers often claim that “the horizon always rises to eye-level”, and thus ‘proving’ the flat Earth claim. Despite their insistence to use a water level to ‘prove’ water is flat, the same device can be used to demonstrate the dip of the horizon, proving the water surface has curvature, and consistent with the spherical Earth model.

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The Earth is Spherical and The Amazon Never Flows Uphill Anywhere

The Amazon never flows uphill, or in other words, ascend to a location farther from sea level anywhere in the Amazon basin.

Flat-Earthers often claim that if the Earth is spherical, then the Amazon will have to flow uphill to overcome the curvature of the Earth. They are wrong.

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Equipotential: a Property of the Surface of Water

Gravity causes water to seek the lowest potential, which can be simplified as the position as close as possible to the Earth’s center of gravity. As a result, the surface of the water will have equipotential surface and form an approximately spherical surface which has the same center as the Earth. Every location along the surface has the same potential.

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Lake Pontchartrain Power Transmission Lines: Evidence of Earth’s Curvature

Lake Pontchartrain is a lake in Louisiana, United States. There are power transmission lines about 24.27 km (15 mi) across this lake. They are practically straight, and each tower is uniform and has the same height, making these towers ideal for observing the curvature of the Earth.

They were first popularized by Soundly who presented evidence of Earth’s curvature using a series of photos and videos of the power lines in June 2017. As of now, the towers and other objects on the lake are probably the most popular Earth curvature tourism spot in the world.

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Surface of Water and Communicating Vessels

Gravity is not the result of a particular shape of an object. It is caused by mass. All objects with mass exert gravity to each other. The larger the mass of an object, the greater the force of gravity.

On Earth, water forms a spherical surface which has the same center as the Earth. It applies to every surface of fluid which is under influence by Earth’s gravity, unaffected by another force. In a 10 cm wide container, the amount of curvature is only 0.0000002 mm. It is the reason the surface appears flat in small containers.

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