Frame of Reference

A frame of reference consists of an abstract coordinate system and the set of physical reference points that uniquely fix the coordinate system and standardize measurements. Speed or velocity is relative to a frame of reference. It is possible that two speeds/velocities are measured relative to a different frame of reference and thus cannot be directly compared.

Flat-Earthers would often compare two different speed measurements like an airplane moving at 900 km/h (560 mph) and Earth’s surface near the equator at 1674 km/h (1040 mph). They would conclude the airplane should not be able to catch up with Earth’s surface and would not be able to land if the Earth is rotating. They are wrong. The speeds are measured relative to the different frame of reference, and therefore, cannot be compared directly.

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Sunlit Objects and Visibility of Stars

Generally, sunlit objects are far brighter than any stars. It is the reason stars are not visible in a lot of photographs showing sunlit objects unless the objects are overexposed and made much brighter than the correct exposure.

Flat-Earthers take the lack of stars in photographs as evidence of misconduct. They are wrong. If the primary object in the picture is sunlit, then in most cases, stars will not be visible.

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The Varying Continent Sizes in Different Images of Earth from Space

The amount of Earth’s surface we can see at once from a location in space depends on our distance to the Earth. The closer the observer, the smaller the amount of visible Earth’s surface. Conversely, the farther the observer, the larger the amount of Earth’s surface visible to them. But no matter how far the observer, they would not be able to see the entire hemisphere.

Flat-Earthers discovered that there are the differences in the sizes of continents in the different images of the Earth, and used the fact as ‘evidence’ of misconduct. They are wrong. Such differences in continent sizes are present because the images show the Earth from different distances and different field of view.

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Stellarium

Some flat-Earthers like to observe celestial phenomena and the positions of celestial objects. Sometimes, they insist such events cannot possibly happen if the Earth is a sphere orbiting the Sun, and took the wrong conclusion that the Earth must be flat.

We can try asking them the time of the occurrence and the position of the observer, then use Stellarium or similar applications to simulate it. If the result matches the observation, then they have nothing to complain about. Their confusion was only the result of their ignorance.

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Real Photos of the Earth

The first photo showing the entire Earth was taken in 1966 from the spacecraft Lunar Orbiter 1. Since then, there are too many photos showing the whole earth taken from various missions to space.

The advent of computers in the 80s introduced a new technique of generating such pictures. A satellite can be used to take many photos of the Earth from a low orbit, and computers can be used to assemble those pictures into a single photo of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers ‘discovered’ such technique, then they concluded that all pictures of the Earth taken from space are all composites, the results of manipulation or assembled by computers. They are wrong. Just because there were pictures created using such technique, it doesn’t mean there is no genuine picture showing the entire Earth, not composites, not stitched, and were taken from a single shot.

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Orbital Station-Keeping

A satellite in a high enough orbit can remain operational for a very long time because in space there is practically no air resistance. This is a situation that never occurs in our everyday life. A car requires a constant consumption of fuel to keep running, but a satellite can remain in motion without consuming any fuel because there’s practically no force stopping it.

Flat-Earthers claim that satellites cannot stay up there for such a very long time because ‘we never refuel any satellites.’ They are wrong. In space, there is practically no drag, and satellites only need to consume fuel to adjust their speed periodically.

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Geometry of a Full Moon

Some people are confused that a full moon is visible all night, and think if the full moon is the result of the opposition of the moon from the sun, then a full moon should be visible only at midnight.

Flat-Earthers who have such spatial visualization problem take a step further and use it as ‘evidence’ that the Earth is not a sphere. They are wrong. The full moon phenomenon can easily be explained in the spherical Earth model.

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Total Lunar Eclipse, Drawn to Scale

Any diagram showing two or more celestial bodies is almost never drawn in the correct scale. The reason is that in most cases, any two celestial bodies are spaced too far away relative to their sizes. It is just not possible to draw them in the correct scale and still effectively describes what we want to explain. We don’t have much choice other than drawing them not to scale.

The perpetrators of flat-Earth disseminate the allegations that the diagrams were drawn not to scale because of evil intentions, and not because of legitimate technical reasons. Some people don’t understand this and fell victim to flat-Earth indoctrination.

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Total Solar Eclipse, Drawn to Scale

Any diagram showing two or more celestial bodies is almost never drawn in the correct scale. The reason is that in most cases, any two celestial bodies are spaced too far away relative to their sizes. It is just not possible to draw them in the correct scale and still effectively describes what we want to explain. We don’t have much choice other than drawing them not to scale.

The perpetrators of flat-Earth disseminate the allegations that the diagrams were drawn not to scale because of evil intentions, and not because of legitimate technical reasons. Some people don’t understand this and fell victim to flat-Earth indoctrination.

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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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“Earth is a Sphere” Semantic Games

The Earth is spherical, but not perfectly spherical. Its diameter is longer across the equator than between both poles. The shape is called ‘oblate spheroid’. The difference between both diameters is tiny, only about 0.33%. It is perfectly fine to say that the Earth is round or spherical.

Some flat-Earthers take this issue very seriously. They think if that’s the case, then we can’t say the Earth is spherical. They are wrong. If we can’t say the Earth is a sphere, then we can’t describe every other spherical object as spherical, because nothing is perfectly spherical.

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Observing Mercury and Venus

Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun compared to the Earth. The best condition to observe these planets is during some time after sunset or before sunrise. In some cases, they are even visible in the day.

Many flat-Earthers think that it should be impossible to observe Mercury & Venus as they are closer to the Sun. They are wrong.

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The Lack of Stars in the Pictures of Space

In many pictures taken from space, stars are not visible, even with a dark sky. The reason is that stars are very dim compared to the primary object in the pictures. If the camera is set to take a correctly exposed image of an object that is much brighter than the stars, then the stars would not be visible in the picture. The same thing would happen everywhere, in space, or on the surface of the Earth.

Flat-Earthers often take the lack of stars as fakery. They are wrong. This is simply a limitation of any camera.

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Velocity is Measured From Specific Frame of Reference

A widespread misunderstanding within the flat-Earth victims is related to velocity/speed. They seem to think velocity is absolute, while in reality it is measured from a specific frame of reference. Example:

“If the Earth is in motion around the Sun at 30 km/s, and Apollo traveled at only 11 km/s, then how could Apollo astronauts possibly make it back to the Earth?”

We used to measure velocity/speed relative to the surface of the Earth. But it is not always like that.

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Our Ability to Perceive Speed and Acceleration

When we are aboard a plane flying at cruising speed, we will not be able to feel that the plane is in fact moving at speed of more than 900 km/h. But if the plane changes speed, turns or changes its altitude, we can easily feel it.

Same thing happens with the motion of the Earth. Because of the Earth’s rotation, the surface of the Earths moves at a speed of 1656 km/h near the equator. It also travels around the Sun at a speed of about 107000 km/h. We never feel any of these because the speed is constant, or in other words, the acceleration is zero.

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Not to Scale: Illustration of the Solar System

Practically every illustration showing the Sun, Earth, and Moon is drawn not to scale. The reason is that the sizes of celestial bodies are far too small compared to the distances between them.

Flat-Earthers sometimes use this fact to point out the alleged “failure of modern science” to describe celestial bodies, or even “a mean to deceive us all.” However, the real reason is just that it is practically impossible to create a model of the solar system in the actual scale, using static images, that still effectively describes the objects it is trying to explain.

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The False Analogy of a Spinning Tennis Ball

The mass of the Earth exerts the gravitational acceleration of about 9.79 m/s² to everything on Earth’s surface toward the center of the Earth. On the other hand, the rotational motion of the Earth generates the centrifugal acceleration of about 0.03 m/s² away from the Earth. The net acceleration is about 9.79 m/s² toward the center of the Earth. That is why everything on Earth’s surface stays on the surface, not flying away to space.

Flat-Earthers often make a false comparison using a wet spinning ball. Water on the surface of a wet spinning ball does not stick to the ball; but the Earth is also round, wet and spins, yet everything stays on the surface. Then they make the erroneous conclusion that the Earth cannot be a spinning ball.

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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.

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