Flat-Earthers like to perform the experiment involving lasers to ‘disprove’ Earth’s curvature. If they observe a laser beam from the other side of a lake or an ocean, they would wrongly conclude Earth’s curve does not exist. It was merely a misunderstanding of how lasers work.
The “eight inches per mile squared” is a rule of thumb to determine the drop height due to the curvature of the Earth. It does not account for the observer’s height and atmospheric refraction. And therefore, the rule is unsuitable to determine the amount of obstruction of a distant object due to Earth’s curvature.
Many Flat-Earthers often use the “8 inches” rule to reach the conclusion similar to “X is visible, but at the distance of Y miles, X should be Z feet below the horizon, so the Earth is flat.” They are wrong. The “8 inches” rule is the wrong tool for the purpose as it does not account for the height of the observer and atmospheric refraction.
In most situations, atmospheric refraction bends light downwards and causes objects to appear higher than they actually are. The strength of atmospheric refraction is not constant. It depends on weather condition and varies on the different seasons, different days, and even different times of the day.
Because of the variability of atmospheric refraction, a distant object that is usually obstructed by Earth’s curvature can sometimes be visible. Some flat-Earthers would cherry-pick moments when the object is visible. They would show such specific moments to everyone and use them to “disprove” Earth’s curvature; happily ignoring the cases where Earth’s curvature partly or entirely obstructs the object.
The amount of obstruction of a distant object that is caused by Earth’s curvature depends on:
- The distance of the object.
- The height of the observer.
- The height of the object.
- The magnitude of atmospheric refraction.
Flat-Earthers like to use the visibility of a distant object to prove Earth’s curvature does not exist. Very often, they failed to account for observer’s height and atmospheric refraction, or make other mistakes, like unit conversions errors, distance calculation errors, etc. Once all are considered for, and mistakes are fixed, everything will be consistent with spherical Earth.
If the Earth is flat, then the Sun would have been visible from the entire Earth, but that’s not the reality. So, to rescue the concept of the flat-Earth from being falsified, they invented an ad-hoc hypothesis that the Sun appears to set because of perspective and refraction.