Ask ARSE: How Do I Shut Down a Flat Earther?

We have an interesting, and at times flustering, question from a follower who has sought our help.

So let us go ahead and: Ask ARSE.

"Hey guys, I'm reaching out to you because I really need help with my son. He is in grade 9 and plays heaps of Fortnite with kids and they all pressure him into some strange beliefs like the flat earth theory. He told me if he doesn't believe it they will ostracize and make fun of him. 

I have tried to help him understand that there's no real science suggesting the earth is flat but I'm out of my league. He has started arguments with his science teacher over it and at times he is flat out (pun not intended) refusing to hear reason.

He's said there's an ice wall on Antarctica, all planes show the world flat and the stars move but we don't. 

I don't want this to affect our relationship any further and would love to have some real help to show him how we undestand the earth is round, just to smooth over the way I speak to him about the issue. I have a modest understanding, but the amount of YouTube he watches it is like he always has an "out" whenever I say something.

Really need some guidance here guys."

- Marc

Thanks for being so honest and reaching out mate. 

Firstly, I'd take a look at how your son measures friendships outside of online gaming.

Does he have face-to-face relationships with kids his own age?

Does he curb the amount of screen time he has with outdoor exercise and general roughhousing?

We don't mean to divert your question, however, what you are describing can have serious psychological and social problems for your son in the future. 

It sounds like the amount of stock he puts into these online "friends" means he might not have too many on the playground or doesn't involve himself in any sports or team activities.

We are not psychologists by any means, more so that the data is out about the implications of screen time and online interactions for kids and it is not good. 

But to your question, here are some very useful and practical ways we know the earth is round, apart from just looking at it from space. 

Also, we will throw in some ways to counter the typical arguments the flat earth dogma is built on. 

 1. Aether One

A couple of physics students from the University of Leicester strapped a camera to a high altitude weather balloon and sent it just shy of 24 kilometres into the stratosphere, almost twice the altitude of a 747 airliner. 

As you can tell from the video below, when the camera perspective evens out the horizon is very much rounded when it should be flat. Important t note that the type of lens used would actually make the curvature of the earth flatter when stabilised and more rounded the further from this it gets, as you can see when the balloon bobs down toward earth and the curvature inverts. 

 

 

 2. Unenhanced perspective.

Ever heard the saying "can't see the forest from the trees"?

Well, that is exactly what is happening when flat earthers say that from our perspective the horizon is flat.

Here is an interesting experiment you can do at home if you like. 

Magnified a ball looks like it is flat. This is the same as our perspective from earth.

From our very extremely intimate position on earth and the fact that we are vastly smaller than it, we cannot see the curve due to the fact the earth is gigantic. 

Earth has a diameter of 12,742km, which is the equivalent of a tiny flea sitting atop a ball two times larger than Uluru. It simply looks flat because of its small perspective. 

"But when we are on a plane we can't see the curve?"

True, this is because of the need to have a fairly wide field of view and not a window barely a foot wide. Additionally, the curve is still not exceptionally pronounced until you have a line to gauge it by as below. 

The curvature of the earth explained in one picture

Another image this time with a Concorde Jet for scope. 

3. The Ice Wall.

Groan...

Probably the most fanciful Game of Thrones-inspired theory out there. 

Antarctica has been traversed many, many times from as early as the mid-1950s with virtually no aid. 

To this day at the south pole, or as the flattie call it the "pole of inaccessibility",  you can find an abandoned Russian research shack complete with a bust of Lenin. 

So much for inaccessible. 

4. "Earth is stationary".

As you're reading this you are hurtling through a spin cycle at a modest 1,600km/h. 

The reason we don't fly off the earth is simple.

Inertia. 

Get on a plane and when in flight you will be tearing across the sky but can nap soundly as if nothing is out of the ordinary. 

Get on a rickety old bus with a terrible driver and you will feel the shift in acceleration incline and declines as you sway back and forth.

When the bus gets to speed and cruises along it is more akin to the plane, right?

This is inertia in effect. 

As people, we can use our proprioceptive sense to navigate where we are in space, like if we are falling. Very useful for survival. 

The thing is we did not evolve to ride transport and our systems can still get a shock or info overload from acceleration. 

Here is an interesting video from astrophotographer >Aryeh Nirenberg who caught a timelapse of how the earth is spinning in contrast to the regular view of the milky way spinning.

5. "All composite images are photoshopped"

We've already addressed this in a blog called "It's Not CGI: Composite Imagery in Space is Great".

Definitely worth a read to get a better understanding of how necessary understanding reality outside of our world is, especially in regards to our very limited senses. 

I'll just add that photoshop had not existed in 1972 during Apollo 17 where the below image famously titled 'The Blue Marble' was taken. 

The blue marble

Not a terribly exhaustive list but at least it is a start on you guys attacking this one together. 

Some more interesting and simple concepts are:

  • The moon and its cycles especially in regards to lunar eclipses.
  • How ships appear to come from beneath the horizon.
  • Seeing further from higher.
  • Timezones.
  • Observing every other planet ever discovered.
  • Gravity.

Cognitive dissonance is a troubling thing especially for youth so we recommend being gentle with him as a lot of this science will contradict something he wants to believe so he fits in with his clique. 

We wish you the best and would love an update on the progress you guys make. 

Thanks, Marc and keep spreading ARSE far and wide.
#Space_Aus