8 Times Flat-Earthers Tried to Challenge Science (and Failed) in 2017

In the sea of false info and conspiracy theories which swirls online, perhaps no concept is as flummoxing as the belief in a flat Earth.

Flat-Earthers believe that the Earth is just a flat disk ringed by an ice wall. All those smooth versions of a round Earth that absolutely explain seasons, eclipses, sunrises and sunsets? That’s only lies and cover-ups, they state. Pictures of the round Earth from space? Government conspiracies, of course. The fact that you can see ships disappearing hull-first over the curve of the horizon with your eyes? Well, flat-Earthers claim to see something completely different.

  • Shaq attacks Earth’s roundness

Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal has been recently mocked online when he declared on his podcast in March that Earth is “level to me.” He went on: “I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all of that stuff about gravity. Have you really looked outside Atlanta recently and noticed these buildings? China is beneath us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

A couple of days later, though, Shaq declared that he was only messing with everyone: “I’m kidding, you idiots,” he clarified.

But people who believe the world is flat are not automatically primed to believe their ears when they hear a celebrity saying that he was just making a joke of their notions. A quick stroll through the Flat Earth Society discussion indicates some true believers today believe Shaq was only pressured to make these statements and that he is on their side.

  • The rapper’s B.o.B satellite

The rapper B.o.B, also called Bobby Ray Simmons Jr., became famous for having a Twitter fight with physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson over if the Earth is round or flat. B.o.B raised his profile further this year with an endeavor to crowdfund his very own rocket launching to carry a camera into area to start looking for the curvature of the planet. Flat-Earthers, obviously, do not think that in the Earth’s curvature (which  becomes observable to the eye at about 35,000 ft elevation, but merely given at least a 60-degree area of view, which makes it difficult to detect from a regular passenger airliner window). Two months after the fundraiser had been published, B.o.B had reached $6,883 of his $1 million goal, the first thousand of which he contributed himself based on his GoFundMe page.

  • Kyrie Irving gets on board

What is it with NBA players? As SB Nation breaks it down, the point guard declared that the Earth flat to a podcast in February, and then one month later returned to the same podcast to state that he was just trying to start a conversation. In September, he was asked by CBS Boston that which he actually believed and said his original statements were just an “exploration tactic” and that people must do their own study. In October, he floated the idea that the question of whether Earth is up for discussion, stating he didn’t understand whether pictures of Earth from space were real.

  • Solar eclipse like a fuel for conspiracy theories

Eclipses are moments when it becomes possible to just look far up  and remember that you live on a spinning ball. Well, unless you’re a flat-Earther. Then, they are proof, duh, that the Earth is – flat!

Flat-Earthers used the solar eclipse that happened on the Aug. 21 which crossed the contiguous United States as “proof” of their faith. According to Forbes, they argued that the west-to-east eclipse route was evidence of something fishy, since the sun moves across the sky from east to west, right? Flat-Earthers additionally contended, using coins and flashlights, the moon’s shadow must have been bigger than the moon itself. The trouble with this debate is that the sun is a very remote, diffuse source of light, and not just a nearby point source, so the flashlight analogy doesn’t really fit. Rather, the moon is similar to a tiny speck against the background of the sun’s massive light.

  • Homemade rocket launch fizzles

Back in November, flat-Earther “Mad” Mike Hughes has announced plans to establish himself 1,800 feet (550 m) above the Mojave Desert at a steam-powered rocket that he made out of salvaged parts. His strategy was to try to photograph the lack of curvature of the horizon in order to “prove” the Earth’s flatness. The curvature of the horizon is subtle enough as not to be visible until 35,000 ft, so it’s unclear exactly what Hughes expected to prove. Nevertheless, his homemade rocket cost a reported $20,000, which makes it a lot compared with B.o.B’s estimated $1 million rocket-launch scheme.

Regrettably for Hughes, his launch was to take place on public land, along with the Bureau of Land Management shut him down in the very last moment.

  • Flat-Earthers conference

The world wide web has definitely expanded flat-Earth believers’ reach. The Economist recently reported that, based on Google Trends data, interest in “flat earth” as a search term has improved significantly over the past couple of years. Flat-Earthers are now meeting in person, also. The secretary of the conference told Live Science that about around 500 people has attended.

  • Earth is flat; Mars is around

As creator of SpaceX, Elon Musk knows a little something about the struggles of launching rockets off an obloid sphere into space. When he tweeted in November, “Why isn’t any Flat Mars Society?!” He likely didn’t anticipate an actual answer.

He didn’t get one, either. But he did receive a response, directly away from the Flat Earth Society itself (@FlatEarthOrg): “Hi Elon, thanks to this question. Contrary to the Earth, Mars was observed to be around. We hope you have a fantastic day!”

Who knows. However, flat-Earthers tend to have complex, often contradictory, explanations of how astronomy works in the lack of a round Earth. The Flat Earth Society compels a view where the sun rotates on the top of the disc of the Earth just like a infant’s cellphone at a much closer distance than the 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) off that it actually is. The other planets — that, in this concept, are also much smaller and nearer than they’re actually — orbit the sun, the Flat Earth Society believes.

  • Another athlete asks questions

Whatever is in the water at the NBA is seemingly affecting the cricket world as well. The Former English cricketer Freddie Flintoff lately struck the tabloid circuit with his opinion that the Earth is flat, or maybe turnip-shaped (OK, sure). Flintoff discussed his view on his BBC Radio 5 podcast in November, inquiring why the water in the sea does not wobble if Earth is hurtling through space. (It is because Earth’s rotational speed is basically continuous, forgiving an undetectable downturn of about 2 milliseconds per century. The oceans move with this constant spin as a passenger in a vehicle traveling down the street moves at precisely the exact same speed as the car. Rotation does induce Earth to bulge at the equator, however, that explains why the planet is an obloid contour rather than a perfect sphere.)


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