So, Where’s the Curvature?

A human eye can only visually perceive the curvature of the Earth if we are at a considerable altitude from the surface, which is still beyond the reach of most humans today. A commercial jet airliner is the highest position realistically attainable by most humans today. At such altitude, we can only perceive very slight curvature, and only in an ideal condition.

The basis of flat-Earthers’ belief is that the horizon appears flat. They would say if we cannot see the curvature, then there’s no curvature, and thus, the Earth is flat. They are wrong. Most of us these days cannot travel high enough to see the curve.  The best we can do these days is going on board a commercial jet airliner, which can only go about 11-15 km up, only a fraction of the radius of the Earth.

Our eyes have a field of view (or rather the cone of visual attention) of about 55°. With that information, we can simulate how Earth’s curvature would appear to a human eye as shown in the illustration.

Cameras can have a different field of view, and thus Earth’s curvature can look different than how our eyes perceive it. Wider field of view (corresponds to a focal length less than 43mm) results in more curvature. Conversely, narrower field of view (having a focal length more than 43mm) results in less curvature. Keep this in mind when judging photographs of Earth’s horizon from a third party.

References