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Thread: How to deal with "space conspiracy theorists"

  1. #1
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    How to deal with "space conspiracy theorists"

    Up until I started my new job, my approach to dealing with folks who believed the Earth was flat or that the Moon landings did not happen was to simply ignore them, but this is no longer possible as my closest colleague pretty much thinks that the Earth is pear shaped (never heard of this theory before I met him), the Moon landings did not happen and if you travel 80 miles above the surface of the Earth you will get electrocuted by an invisible electrical fence and therefore all images taken in space are the products of poor photoshopping (I say poor because he considers himself to be an expert on photoshop and therefore able to rate the quality of the legions of photoshoppers working at NASA and other space agencies). The fact that he holds these views is in itself not a problem since I would be more than happy not to discuss these things with him, but I do enjoy talking about space exploration, physics and astronomy with my other colleagues, and the problem is that if he hears myself and another colleague talking about something space related, he will inevitably barge into the conversation enthousiastically explaining why everything we are talking about is all nonsense.

    Naturally I have told him off because of his behaviour, in private so as not to take off his pants hin public, but he just cannot stop himself. How to deal with people like him? Facts do not work as he seems to be immune to them, and he seems to have this weird thing for always expressing his views on things he does not agree with. Should I talk to HR? Simply change jobs? It probably sounds silly, but after a year of this it is driving me bonkers, so any advice and anecdotes about how you approached a similar situation would be much appreciated!

    The weirdest thing is that he is an awesome software developer that writes beautiful code that I enjoy reviewing, but apparently logic does not translate into all of his domains of thinking.

    Having said that, merry xmas everybody !

    //Slightly miffed Koala

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    Do Until Earth Is Round

    Quote Originally Posted by HappyKoala View Post
    Up until I started my new job, my approach to dealing with folks who believed the Earth was flat or that the Moon landings did not happen was to simply ignore them, but this is no longer possible as my closest colleague pretty much thinks that the Earth is pear shaped (never heard of this theory before I met him), the Moon landings did not happen and if you travel 80 miles above the surface of the Earth you will get electrocuted by an invisible electrical fence and therefore all images taken in space are the products of poor photoshopping (I say poor because he considers himself to be an expert on photoshop and therefore able to rate the quality of the legions of photoshoppers working at NASA and other space agencies). The fact that he holds these views is in itself not a problem since I would be more than happy not to discuss these things with him, but I do enjoy talking about space exploration, physics and astronomy with my other colleagues, and the problem is that if he hears myself and another colleague talking about something space related, he will inevitably barge into the conversation enthousiastically explaining why everything we are talking about is all nonsense.

    Naturally I have told him off because of his behaviour, in private so as not to take off his pants hin public, but he just cannot stop himself. How to deal with people like him? Facts do not work as he seems to be immune to them, and he seems to have this weird thing for always expressing his views on things he does not agree with. Should I talk to HR? Simply change jobs? It probably sounds silly, but after a year of this it is driving me bonkers, so any advice and anecdotes about how you approached a similar situation would be much appreciated!

    The weirdest thing is that he is an awesome software developer that writes beautiful code that I enjoy reviewing, but apparently logic does not translate into all of his domains of thinking.

    Having said that, merry xmas everybody !

    //Slightly miffed Koala
    Ask him to develop a flwchart and/or program to test if the Earth is flat.
    Last edited by John Mendenhall; 2018-Dec-20 at 12:58 AM.
    I'm not a hardnosed mainstreamer; I just like the observations, theories, predictions, and results to match.

    "Mainstream isnít a faith system. It is a verified body of work that must be taken into account if you wish to add to that body of work, or if you want to change the conclusions of that body of work." - korjik

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyKoala View Post
    Naturally I have told him off because of his behaviour, in private so as not to take off his pants hin public, but he just cannot stop himself. How to deal with people like him?
    So clearly the next step is to now take his pants off IN public. Seriously the next time he does this tell him off, right in front of his coworkers and friends. You already warned him in private, so now since he didn't take the hint it's time to eviscerate him in public. Especially since this will be in front of other people it doesn't matter if HE doesn't care about evidence because everyone else around you will. Embarrass him and I guarantee you he will never do this again. Just my 2 cents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave241 View Post
    So clearly the next step is to now take his pants off IN public. Seriously the next time he does this tell him off, right in front of his coworkers and friends. You already warned him in private, so now since he didn't take the hint it's time to eviscerate him in public. Especially since this will be in front of other people it doesn't matter if HE doesn't care about evidence because everyone else around you will. Embarrass him and I guarantee you he will never do this again. Just my 2 cents.
    That might be the next step if the top priority is to get him to stop. But I suspect Koala might assign a higher priority to a harmonious working relationship, which this approach might harm.

    Perhaps enlisting the support of colleagues in sort of an intervention might work. If three or four of you together privately have a chat with him, he might realize he needs to stop imposing his views on other people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by geonuc View Post
    That might be the next step if the top priority is to get him to stop. But I suspect Koala might assign a higher priority to a harmonious working relationship, which this approach might harm.

    Perhaps enlisting the support of colleagues in sort of an intervention might work. If three or four of you together privately have a chat with him, he might realize he needs to stop imposing his views on other people.
    I like this approach: it has excellent potential to be effective; it maintains a good working environment; it does not incorporate the over-optimistic expectation of Dave241's approach - that solution fails to appreciate the depth of stupidity and self delusion homo sapiens is capable of.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave241 View Post
    So clearly the next step is to now take his pants off IN public. Seriously the next time he does this tell him off, right in front of his coworkers and friends. You already warned him in private, so now since he didn't take the hint it's time to eviscerate him in public. Especially since this will be in front of other people it doesn't matter if HE doesn't care about evidence because everyone else around you will. Embarrass him and I guarantee you he will never do this again. Just my 2 cents.
    This will likely fail if he is a true CT with arguments heated tempers and shouting. My suggestion ignore the subject matter(politics and religion also) and enjoy the worker.

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    I'd just tell him to go buy a good telescope for Christmas.

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    Since he isn't responsive to facts, his beliefs are more religion than anything else.

    Point out to him that it is in poor form to discuss one's religious views in a pubic workplace, and that if he wants to discuss such things, a private place with wiling participants is more appropriate.

    Every time he starts in, just politely interrupt him and say "This is a business environment. Please refrain from preaching your religion."

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    Geonuc is correct in suspecting that that I'm keen on maintaining a positive and constructive working relationship, and while making him look like a fool in public is tempting, I don't think it would be a very constructive approach - it would probably feel really good in the moment, but in the long term I guess it could sour things between us - but I do like Geonuc's idea about talking to him about his behaviour with some of my other colleagues. An even better approach might even be to ask them to simply make a remark about him butting in being inappropriate when he does it so that he gets to hear it from other people without the confrontation of a "intervention".

    Thanks for your help folks!

  10. #10
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    I would say the thread title is misleading. It appears that the issue here is alleged troublesome behavior that is making your workplace unpleasant for you and perhaps your other coworkers. I would have to actually observe the HB/CTer's behavior and the reactions of you and the others. Only then could I decide whether or not he should be squelched by whatever legal, ethical or moral means are appropriate for this particular workplace.

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    You're correct in saying that the title of the thread is misleading, as, arguably, it is not a problem that is restricted to people who, say, don't accept that the Moon landings happened; it's more of a general behavioural issue. Having said that, I must stress that as stated above, I'm not looking to smite him, but to have him understand that I find his conduct vexing and that he should not jump into conversations where his participation has not been asked for. I'm aware he might look at it differently. For instance, he might think he's speaking truth to power, or maybe he genuinely wants us to see the light, but I don't think that would justify his behaviour. I'm gonna run with what I outlined above, and hopefully he'll take the hint and get better at respecting the boundaries of others.

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    If you want to run down a completely different rabbit hole, ask him what he thinks you should do about it. Basically, "what problem are your trying to solve", in a slightly different context.
    Solfe

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    Solfe, that's a very good suggestion!

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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyKoala View Post
    my closest colleague pretty much thinks that the Earth is pear shaped (never heard of this theory before I met him)
    It is.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson says so, so it must be true!

    I'm having problems finding a full-text copy of a paper about it that's not behind a paywall, though. The two I found predate Arxiv.org (~1960)

    Here's one abstract:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...9;s_Pear_Shape
    QUITE soon after the launching of the first artificial satellites, analysis of their orbits led to the reshaping of the world. The orbital plane of Sputnik 2 rotated less rapidly than expected, indicating1 that the polar flattening was about 0.35% less (the polar diameter about 150 m greater) than had been thought. The variations in the perigee height of Vanguard 1, as perigee moved successfully north and south of the equator, showed2 that the polar section of the geoid-the profile of the sealevel surface revealed by a cut through the poles-was not symmetrical about the equator but had a slight pear-shape tendency, with the stem at the North Pole. Floating at sealevel at the North Pole, one would be about 40 m further from the equator than an equally undauntable explorer who bored down to sealevel at the South Pole.
    Selden

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    Holy guacamole... I feel like all my preconceived notions of reality are crashing down. I live on a pear shaped planet. Does that make the solar system a fruit bowl? The imprint the mass of the solar system leaves on the fabric of space and time sure has me thinking so!!! And wait, wait... The Milkyway is flat, which means it's table shaped... Hmms... I wonder if NASA has known all along that what we call reality is a hooting dining table and we're the hooting pear in a hooting fruit bowl on that table. What does that make Planet 9? A grape on the edge of forver?! Now I finally understand what Neo must have felt like when he was tripping balls on that red pill.

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    "A second theory, more complicated than triaxiality, proposed that observed long periodic orbital variations of the first Earth satellites indicate an additional depression at the south pole accompanied by a bulge of the same degree at the north pole. It is also contended that the northern middle latitudes were slightly flattened and the southern middle latitudes bulged in a similar amount. This concept suggested a slightly pear-shaped Earth and was the subject of much public discussion"
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure...h#Other_shapes

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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyKoala View Post
    Holy guacamole... I feel like all my preconceived notions of reality are crashing down. I live on a pear shaped planet. Does that make the solar system a fruit bowl? The imprint the mass of the solar system leaves on the fabric of space and time sure has me thinking so!!! And wait, wait... The Milkyway is flat, which means it's table shaped... Hmms... I wonder if NASA has known all along that what we call reality is a hooting dining table and we're the hooting pear in a hooting fruit bowl on that table. What does that make Planet 9? A grape on the edge of forver?! Now I finally understand what Neo must have felt like when he was tripping balls on that red pill.
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426916
    "A second theory, more complicated than triaxiality, proposed that observed long periodic orbital variations of the first Earth satellites indicate an additional depression at the south pole accompanied by a bulge of the same degree at the north pole. It is also contended that the northern middle latitudes were slightly flattened and the southern middle latitudes bulged in a similar amount. This concept suggested a slightly pear-shaped Earth and was the subject of much public discussion"
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figure...h#Other_shapes
    If I remember correctly, that figure is about 50 feet above the reference oblate spheroid at the North Pole, 50 feet below at the South Pole, 25 feet below in mid-northern latitudes, and 25 feet above in mid-southern latitudes. If we exaggerate it by a factor of perhaps 100,000 it will resemble a pear.

    My father spent 16 years evaluating this and many more smaller terms in keeping track of the orbital elements of U.S. Navy navigation satellites. He did this as an adjunct to his primary work with the electronics aboard these satellites and the radar sets used to track them. He needed something like 17 of these empirically determined terms to get good orbital elements a few days out. I imagine that in the 44 years since his retirement this sort of work has been much further refined.

    The Earth is not only misshapen relative to the reference spheroid, but is rather lumpy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selden View Post
    It is.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson says so, so it must be true!

    I'm having problems finding a full-text copy of a paper about it that's not behind a paywall, though. The two I found predate Arxiv.org (~1960)

    Here's one abstract:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...9;s_Pear_Shape
    The problem with your average loon is that they fail to distinguish between "literally shaped like a pear" and "you'll find this amusing but technically if you look at the proportions the bottom half is a teensy bit bigger than the top".

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    FWIW, some words from Tyson's book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry:

    This general flattening of objects that rotate is why Earth’s pole-to-pole diameter is smaller than its diameter at the equator. Not by much: three-tenths of one percent—about twenty-six miles. But Earth is small, mostly solid, and doesn’t rotate all that fast. At twenty-four hours per day, Earth carries anything on its equator at a mere 1,000 miles per hour. Consider the jumbo, fast-rotating, gaseous planet Saturn. Completing a day in just ten and a half hours, its equator revolves at 22,000 miles per hour and its pole-to-pole dimension is a full ten percent flatter than its middle, a difference noticeable even through a small amateur telescope. Flattened spheres are more generally called oblate spheroids, while spheres that are elongated pole-to-pole are called prolate.

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    LOL. Is there a message board equivalent of "polar wander"? If so, I think it could be used to describe this thread Anyhow, an update; I took my colleague out for lunch and explained to him, in a very honest and disarming way, why it is that I'm so passionate about space and physics, and, moreover, why I like talking to other people about this subject. I also told him that regardless of how different our views of the world may be, we're clearly both interested in the truth, and that we should try to focus on that instead of bickering about the differences in how we view the world and the Universe for that matter, and that there's no need for us to feel threatened by each other's point of views. Since we had this conversation, he hasn't barged into my conversations about for instance the Ultima Thule flyby with my colleagues, and I also feel like it's had the effect of reducing the tension between the two of us, which makes working together so much more enjoyable.

    In any case, I think it shows how sometimes being nice to somebody and honest about your motivations can go a long way towards resolving disagreements you may have.

    Please continue talking about fruit shaped objects in space, now. Tell me, are there any avocado shaped objects out there???

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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyKoala View Post
    LOL. Is there a message board equivalent of "polar wander"? If so, I think it could be used to describe this thread Anyhow, an update; I took my colleague out for lunch and explained to him, in a very honest and disarming way, why it is that I'm so passionate about space and physics, and, moreover, why I like talking to other people about this subject. I also told him that regardless of how different our views of the world may be, we're clearly both interested in the truth, and that we should try to focus on that instead of bickering about the differences in how we view the world and the Universe for that matter, and that there's no need for us to feel threatened by each other's point of views. Since we had this conversation, he hasn't barged into my conversations about for instance the Ultima Thule flyby with my colleagues, and I also feel like it's had the effect of reducing the tension between the two of us, which makes working together so much more enjoyable.

    In any case, I think it shows how sometimes being nice to somebody and honest about your motivations can go a long way towards resolving disagreements you may have.
    Brilliant.
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    Oh, and I think this covers derailments

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  23. #23
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    Never argue with a conspiracy theorist. Just do not do it. If they start, say firmly and politely that you do not want to hear any of that, thank you. Ask them how their kids or pets are doing instead.

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