As we’ve learned more about science, we’ve had to come to terms with a disconnect between our gut feelings and how the world actually works.
Some gut feelings are remarkably difficult to shake, even thousands of years after they’ve been disproved.
Take the so-called “flat Earth theory” . I
If you put a level on the ground, it appears flat, and if you look around your neighborhood, there is no curvature to be seen.
Earth “feels” flat, but it is most definitely a sphere. This is how we know and why it’s important to know the science behind it.
So let’s consider the flat Earth. Just remember, don’t feed the trolls.
Flat Earth Theory
The flat Earth “theory” is actually not a theory at all. Flat Earthers have a collection of bad models, many of which contradict one another. Each is crafted in an ad hoc fashion to explain why one or two scientific observations that suggest round Earth really “prove” flat Earth.
In most flat Earth theories, Earth is a disk with the North Pole located at the center, and the South Pole is an impassable mountain range that runs the perimeter of the disk. The Sun and Moon rotate at a fixed distance above Earth and shine like spotlights on the surface, creating the appearance of day and night.
To those of us who live in the real world and acknowledge that Earth is a sphere, the evidence is all around us. We’ve all observed eclipses and videos and photos from space, and perhaps even seen the horizon recede as we take an elevator up a tall building.
But a constant onslaught of trolling flat Earthers forces us to think critically about the evidence for spherical Earth. In some cases, a tweaked flat Earth model can adequately explain an observation that seems to obviously support spherical Earth. In others, flat Earthers can only respond with ad hominem. For the next few days, we’ll break down which observations truly support spherical Earth and which can be explained by a persistent and creative flat Earther.
Newtonian gravity predicts a constant gravitational acceleration on Earth’s surface towards its core, due to the gravitational field of Earth attracting any nearby objects.
In most flat Earth theories, gravity is explained in a much more pedestrian and intuitive way: When do you feel accelerated in everyday life? In an elevator. So the flat Earth must be accelerating upwards at exactly 9.8 m/s^2
What practical experiment could you perform to distinguish the force from acceleration from the force of gravity?