Is the earth really flat? ( Pt. 2 )



This is a part two of a wonderful piece of work by Moriel.


6. Ride A Plane

Planes can travel in a relatively straight line for a very long time and not fall off any edges. They can also circle the Earth without stopping. If you look out the window on a trans-Atlantic flight, you can, most of the times, see the curvature of the Earth on the horizon. The best view of the curvature used to be on the concorde, but that plane's long gone. I can't wait to see the pictures from the new plane by Virgin Galactic—the horizon should look absolutely curved, as it actually is from a distance.



7. Look at other Planets

The Earth is different from other planets, that much is true. After all, we have life, and we haven’t found any other planets with life (yet). However, there are certain characteristics all planets have, and it will be quite logical to assume that if all planets behave a certain way, or show certain characteristics—specifically if those planets are in different places or were created under different circumstances—our planet is the same.


In other words: If so many planets that were created in different locations and under different circumstances show the same property, it’s likely that our own planet has the same property as well. All of our observations show that other planets are spherical (and since we know how they’re created, it’s also obvious why they take this shape). Unless we have a very good reason to think otherwise (which we don’t), our planet is very likely the same.


In 1610, Galileo Galilei observed the moons of Jupiter revolving around it. He described them as small planets orbiting a larger planet—a description (and observation) that was very difficult for the church to accept, as it challenged a geocentric model where everything was supposed to revolve around the Earth. This observation also showed that the planets (Jupiter, Neptune, and later Venus was observed too) are all spherical, and all orbit the sun.


A flat planet (ours or any other planet) would be such an incredible observation that it would pretty much go against everything we know about how planets form and behave. It would not only change everything we know about planet formation, but also about star formation (our sun would have to behave quite differently to accommodate the flat-earth theory) and what we know of speeds and movements in space (like planets' orbits and the effects of gravity). In short, we don’t just suspect that our planet is spherical. We know it.



8. The Existence of Timezones


The time in New York, at the moment these words are written, is 12:00pm. The sun is in the middle of the sky (though it’s hard to see with the current cloud coverage). In Beijing, it’s 12:00am, midnight, and the sun is nowhere to be found. In Adelaide, Australia, it is 1:30am. More than 13 hours ahead. There, the sunset is long gone—so much so, that the sun will soon rise up again at the beginning of a new day.


This can only be explained if the world is round, and rotating around its own axis. At a certain point when the sun is shining on one part of the Earth, the opposite side is dark, and vice versa. That allows for time differences and time zones, specifically ones that are larger than 12 hours.


Another point concerning timezones, the sun, and Earth: If the sun was a “spotlight” (very directionally located so that light only shines on a specific location) and the world was flat, we would see the sun even if it didn’t shine on top of us (as you can see in the drawing below). Similarly, you can see the light coming out of a spotlight on a stage in the theater, even though you—the crowd—are sitting in the dark. The only way to create two distinctly separate time zones, where there is complete darkness in one while there’s light in the other, is if the world is spherical.



9. The Pull of Gravity

Here's an interesting fact about mass: It attracts things to it. The force of attraction (gravity) between two objects depends on their mass and the distance between them. Simply said, gravity will pull toward the center of mass of the objects. To find the center of mass, you have to examine the object.



Consider a sphere. Since a sphere has a consistent shape, no matter where on it you stand, you have exactly the same amount of sphere under you. (Imagine an ant walking around on a crystal ball. From the insect's point of view, the only indication of movement would be the fact the ant is moving its feet—the shape of the surface would not change at all.) A sphere's center of mass is in the center of the sphere, which means gravity will pull anything on the surface of the sphere straight down toward the center of the sphere. This will occur no matter where on the surface the object is located.


Consider a flat plane. The center of mass of a flat plane is in its center, so the force of gravity will pull anything on the surface toward the middle of the plane. That means that if you stand on the edge of the plane, gravity will be pulling you sideways toward the plane's middle, not straight down like you usually experience when you stand on Earth.


You can learn more about Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation here.



10. Images from space


In the past 60 years of space exploration, we've launched satellites, probes, and people into space. Some of them got back, some of them still float through the solar system (and almost beyond it), and many transmit amazing images to our receivers on Earth. In all of these photos, the Earth is (wait for it) spherical. The curvature of the Earth is also visible in the many, many, many, many photos snapped by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.