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Thread: Flat earth

  1. #1
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    Flat earth

    I've been reading up on the history of the flat Earth... is it a hypothesis? I'm not sure. Conception. Yes. That works. The flat Earth conception. Anyway, what struck me is that there really wasn't any idea of a flat Earth until the 19th century. Early myths and legends hinted at the idea of a flat Earth, but it was pretty well established by about 1000 BC that the Earth was a sphere, and no one seemed to be very bothered about it. Well there were a few quibbles in the Middle Ages about how there could be nothing standing on the Antipodes, since they would fall off, but hey, who says anything was standing there? But then all of a sudden Washington Irving shows up and says Columbus proved the Earth was round, and the next thing you know we have a Flat Earth Society.

    I blame Washington Irving for this. OK. I like the guy. Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were great chillers. But if he hadn't created this idea that the round Earth was some weird modern theory, like evolution or geocentrism, invented by godless scientists, then I really doubt there would be any flat Earthers today.

    But there's more to it than that. Even among non-flat-Earthers (who, in defence of the human race, I'll grant are the majority), the idea that Columbus discovered that the world was round still persists. How is it possible that one bit of modern day legendmongering could create such a fundamental disconnection between the modern world and three thousand years of continuous history?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    I keep seeing people say that people think that, but I've never seen a single example of someone who actually thinks it.

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    1000BC?
    See Eratosthenes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes
    "Around 240 BC"
    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD View Post
    1000BC?
    See Eratosthenes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes
    "Around 240 BC"
    John
    Eratosthenes already knew the Earth was a sphere; Plato and Aristotle had offered good enough proofs two hundred years before Eratoshtenes measured its circumference, and Pythagoras held a belief in the spherical Earth even earlier than that (though what proofs he had for his position, if any, are unknown).

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    I keep seeing people say that people think that, but I've never seen a single example of someone who actually thinks it.
    I've met a few. My grandfather for one. He mentioned that Columbus's crew throught they were going to fall off the edge of the world, and when I explained the truth to him, he just ignored it, and then said the exact same thing a week later. My stepmother called me up once and asked me "who" discovered the world was round, and when I said that no one person can claim to have discovered it, since it has been known since antiquity, she refused to accept it.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    How is it possible that one bit of modern day legendmongering could create such a fundamental disconnection between the modern world and three thousand years of continuous history?
    Thinking about this, I'm surprised nobody has ever cited ancient depictions of heavenly bodies as basically round. Wouldn't that indicate that the earliest people to think about such things seriously knew that heavenly bodies were round. Now it could be that they thought so, but didn't see the Earth as one of those bodies.

    In all the Planet X drivel, don't the woo-woos cite ancient depictions of an "extra" body as proof of X, and doesn't that arguement insinuate knowledge of us being part of the population of bodies, and why would those ancients (and I'm talking about the smart ancients, not the we-don't-need-no-stinking-degree ancients) think our n't those , but that even Now that home body significantly different shaped than the others?

    And what shape would they have assigned? A 2-dimensional plane? A 3-dimensional box with roughly the same proportions as a deck of playing cards? And why would they think you would fall off one side but not another?

    I am moving toward agreement that the Flat Earth is more a modern goofy idea than anything else. When I was little and heard of it, i thought it was just some people being silly and having fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon View Post
    Thinking about this, I'm surprised nobody has ever cited ancient depictions of heavenly bodies as basically round...
    Well, they could see the most obvious heavenly objects, the sun and moon, were round.

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon View Post
    And what shape would they have assigned? A 2-dimensional plane? A 3-dimensional box with roughly the same proportions as a deck of playing cards?
    Yep.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarongsong View Post
    Well, they could see the most obvious heavenly objects, the sun and moon, were round.
    Actually, those would be the ONLY heavenly objects they could see as round. Everything else was a point of light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    ...there really wasn't any idea of a flat Earth until the 19th century. Early myths and legends hinted at the idea of a flat Earth, but it was pretty well established by about 1000 BC that the Earth was a sphere, and no one seemed to be very bothered about it. Well there were a few quibbles in the Middle Ages about how there could be nothing standing on the Antipodes, since they would fall off, but hey, who says anything was standing there? But then all of a sudden Washington Irving shows up and says Columbus proved the Earth was round, and the next thing you know we have a Flat Earth Society.

    ...

    Even among non-flat-Earthers (who, in defence of the human race, I'll grant are the majority), the idea that Columbus discovered that the world was round still persists. How is it possible that one bit of modern day legendmongering could create such a fundamental disconnection between the modern world and three thousand years of continuous history?
    There is a common assumption among modern people (even historians who should know better) that everyone who lived before the industrial revolution were primitive, superstitious savages. And of course, our modern system of miseducation does little or nothing to dispel such myths. In some cases it even spreads and reinforces them. Rumors and myths and old wives' tales often have more power to pursuade than plain, dry facts, particularly in historical subjects. Columbus was just flat-out wrong, until the day he died he thought he'd reached Asia (My Italian relatives would kill me if they heard me saying this). He thought the Earth was smaller than it is (based on one of the two prevailing round-Earth theories of the time) and that he'd sailed most of the way around it. How hitting an uncharted continent equals discovering the roundness of the planet in most people's minds puzzles me, but then most people's minds puzzle me anyway.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2007-Apr-19 at 04:24 PM. Reason: .
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    So, um... where does the sun go at night?
    Last edited by Jim; 2007-Apr-19 at 08:30 PM. Reason: oops, my mistake... no changes

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    I would be curiious if any sailors out there have anything to add. It seems to me that sailing over long distances would drive home the sphericity of the earth. For that matter 'hull down' is a very old term, and offers a direct demonstration of the sea's (earth's) shape. I know that in the days of tall sail the rough distance to another ship far off was judged by how much of it stuck up over the horizon.

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    well, as an ex-sailor.. nope, nothing to add.

    However, IIRC the Egyptians - in the pyramid dynasties - knew not only that the earth was round, but also had a pretty good estimate of the diameter.

    Middle ages Persia also knew the diameter of the earth pretty accurately.

    I'm not sure about the ancient Chinese, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    How hitting an uncharted continent equals discovering the roundness of the planet in most people's minds puzzles me, but then most people's minds puzzle me anyway.
    He's not credited with *discovering* the earth is round, but *proving* it. Other than that, yeah, it's boggled my mind for a long time. All he really proved is that the earth is not 16 thousand miles around (which just about every other civilization in the world knew already)

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    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS View Post
    However, IIRC the Egyptians - in the pyramid dynasties - knew not only that the earth was round, but also had a pretty good estimate of the diameter.
    Well, I did a little searching from this post, because I wasn't sure why Eratosthenes originally thought the Earth was round, and the sun just wasn't closer to the Earth causing a differen angle of sunlight.
    Found out, they always thought the sphere was a "Godly" shape, and Aristarchus, ptolemy and hipparchus all had ways of determining the size and distance of the sun and moon.
    Pretty amazing for over 2000 years ago.


    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS View Post
    He's not credited with *discovering* the earth is round, but *proving* it. All he really proved is that the earth is not 16 thousand miles around
    I don't even think he set out to prove the earth was round, only to determine a better route because the Earth was known to be round.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS View Post
    However, IIRC the Egyptians - in the pyramid dynasties - knew not only that the earth was round, but also had a pretty good estimate of the diameter.
    Well, Egyptian mythology had the sun crossing the sky from east to west, and then travelling through a tunnel under the earth to get back to the east again. That doesn't sound like a round earth to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post

    I don't even think he set out to prove the earth was round, only to determine a better route because the Earth was known to be round.
    I agree that this was his intent - it's us modern folk who have assigned the "prove the earth is round" bit to his escapade. I stated it badly, since he didn't prove anything other than there was a great big hunk of rock in the way of anybody travelling west to get to India.

    Jim - I'm trying to find where I read that bit about the Egyptians (though I should point out that, as stated, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive).

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    Okay. In the meantime...

    The Egyptians thought the earth a square, (with four corners) with mountains at the edge supporting the vault of the sky.
    http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/flat/flateart.htm


    As neighbors, the ancient Hebrews had the Egyptians to the southwest and the Babylonians to the northeast. Both civilizations had flat-earth cosmologies.
    http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/flatearth.htm

    Ancient Egyptian: The sky was a tent canopy stretched between mountains at the four corners of the Earth.
    http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/...measearth.html

    Of course, the Egyptians may have revised their scientific thinking, and still retained their religous concepts. That's not without precedent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    Of course, the Egyptians may have revised their scientific thinking, and still retained their religous concepts. That's not without precedent.
    Good links... and I was just considering this last bit myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amber Robot View Post


    So, um... where does the sun go at night?


    I'm working on a theory......it's not easy

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    obviously it goes out

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amber Robot View Post
    [Snip!] So, um... where does the sun go at night?
    Hides behind one of the turtles?

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    Actually - this did raise a question in that feeble gelatinous mass I use for a brain.

    How do the flat-earthers explain it? If the sun is (for the sake of this argument, we'll use the dimensions in the image, but anything of a size to make part of their woowoo work would display the same issues) 27 miles across... why is there night?

    Sure, if you are surrounded by mountains I can imagine mountains, I can imagine the sun being far enough away to thow the valley into deep shadow, but the sky will still be lit.

    If you lived on the plain, or some island in the ocean, the sun would never go down.. this presents a serious conflict with observed facts.

    More interesting - if the sun doesn't go down, but just circled, it would be visibly smaller at the start / end of the day because it would be MUCH farther away.
    Again, a serious conflict with observed facts.

    In fact, the only way I can, as a flat earther, account for night is if the sun goes out and relights regularly.

    I take that back - if the sun does indeed orbit the earth, or the flat earth spins on one of the planar axis, that would work. But no.. the sun comes from the east, and flat earth is essentially a table - in some places it would actually rise in the west.. tsk.

    This is harder than I thought.

    Maybe if I kill off a few billion brain cells I can accept it - but I sure can't make it work.

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    I notice that that picture (where'd you find it, by the way?) still has a north pole. Old habits die hard I guess.

    One day, I'm going to meet a flat-earther on a business trip, and as boards the plane, I'll remind him to reset his watch.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've been reading up on the history of the flat Earth... is it a hypothesis? I'm not sure. Conception. Yes. That works. The flat Earth conception. Anyway, what struck me is that there really wasn't any idea of a flat Earth until the 19th century. Early myths and legends hinted at the idea of a flat Earth, but it was pretty well established by about 1000 BC that the Earth was a sphere, and no one seemed to be very bothered about it. Well there were a few quibbles in the Middle Ages about how there could be nothing standing on the Antipodes, since they would fall off, but hey, who says anything was standing there? But then all of a sudden Washington Irving shows up and says Columbus proved the Earth was round, and the next thing you know we have a Flat Earth Society.

    I blame Washington Irving for this. OK. I like the guy. Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow were great chillers. But if he hadn't created this idea that the round Earth was some weird modern theory, like evolution or geocentrism, invented by godless scientists, then I really doubt there would be any flat Earthers today.

    But there's more to it than that. Even among non-flat-Earthers (who, in defence of the human race, I'll grant are the majority), the idea that Columbus discovered that the world was round still persists. How is it possible that one bit of modern day legendmongering could create such a fundamental disconnection between the modern world and three thousand years of continuous history?
    I don't know about irving being the cause of the flat earth syndrome. However, on my drives to the nearest city from here, my mind starts to wander and I begin to wonder if the world heaquarters for the Flat Earth Society isn't just around the next curve. I feel confident that the first time a fire ant mound get's established along that road - someone will plant a flag on top.

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    I don't know if this is how it worked in any real culture with a flat-earth cosmology, but in Terry Pratchett's Discworld cosmology, the sun and moon just go under the Earth. If you didn't know that there were other cultures experiencing night when you experienced day, that would work. (Also, he has light slow down in the presence of a strong magical field, but that's different.)
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    Here's how I figure a flat Earth must work. The Sun starts in the East at a (nearly) infinite distance. It comes roaring toward us first thing in the morning, eventually coming close enough to be barely visible on the horizon. This is the crack of dawn. Now, the speed at which it moves is inversely proportional (actually some slightly more complicated function, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader) to its distance from the Earth. That means it slows down as it passes overhead, then speeds up as it goes West. It gets off the edge of the Earth and screams away, eventually disappearing from sight.

    Of course, as it comes toward us, it exceeds the speed of light, and a lot of the photons coming off it are delayed. They're also blue-shifted, which is why the daytime sky is blue. When it moves away, it's going so fast that it appears red-shifted, which is why sunsets are red.

    In addition, there are some residual, very low energy photons as it moves away to infinity. These account for the CMB anisotropy.

    What happens to the Sun after it's disappeared to the West? Well, I'm not exactly sure. It could be that it just keeps going, and we get a new Sun every day. Or it could be that it moves back to the East, taking some long, circuitous path that is beyond our field of vision. If it took a different path every time, then that would account for the CMB: the photons from the Sun moving at that distance a long time in the past would only be getting here today. You could even calculate the distance at which it must be travelling during the night based on those observations.

    Oh, yes... and what about time zones, and the fact that you can go around the world? You can't, really. It's a conspiracy. Only the rich can afford to do that, and they like to keep the rest of us ignorant. Duh.


    Aside: you can actually measure the curvature of the Earth with pretty basic surveying equipment. A friend and I were thinking of doing it while hiking this summer. There's a really neat book on the development of the metric system called "The Measure of All Things" that describes it well (at least, I think that's where I learned it). Even better would be flying a plane between two cities, taking the flat map route once, and the great circle route the other, and measuring the distances travelled.

    Aside 2: I love Discworld. I am reading "Thud!" right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celestial Mechanic View Post
    Hides behind one of the turtles?





    Bummer! you published before me

    How about a joint paper


    David

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    What I don't understand is if it's a flat earth, how do the crystaline spheres maintain their distance? Or is that why the sun and moon are so big at the horizon?

    I was reading thru the book of Job once a long time ago - not too popular even in the bible thumping arena. I was surprised to find the description of the earth as an orb, hung on nothing. As such, I'd be surprised to find any culture based on christianity to have a flat earth cosmology. If the story of the egyptian 'civil engineer' noticing the shadow in water well digging projects varied by lattitude is true, it would help explain the Job connection. It would also imply that this was fairly common knowledge back then and not something known only to the initiates and elites.

    As for knowing the sun and moon were sphere's - that's not something for casual eyeballing. Sure, they're round - but so is a dinner plate. Jupiter's disk and rotation isn't apparent without a telescope which didn't become available for thousands of years after these early observations about earth.

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    I have often heard about "Flat Earthers" on the internet. But I have NEVER found ONE serious website, or one person online who believes in a flat earth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pizzaguy View Post
    I have often heard about "Flat Earthers" on the internet. But I have NEVER found ONE serious website, or one person online who believes in a flat earth.
    That's because he died . I suppose it's a bit like the 'Dread Pirate Roberts' really

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    Ok, I take it back - he MIGHT have believed it. But I think it was a means of raising money, nothing more.

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