Friday, December 29, 2017

Examining Claims by Flat Earth Theorists

I was surprised to see on the news a couple months ago that a conference of people who believe the earth is flat was held in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Nov. 9-10, 2017.  It was a sold-out event, with about 400 people attending.  The image above is the shape of the earth as most of them see it.  The white band around the edge is the "ice wall" (known to everyone else as "Antarctica") that keeps people and the oceans from falling over the edge.

A little more research turned up news stories about the Flat Earth Conference.  Examples: "Inside the first ever 'Flat Earth conference' where conspiracy theorists promise to 'reveal Nasa space lies' and prove our planet isn't spherical," "Fanatics descend on sell out 'Flat Earth' conference promising to 'reveal NASA space lies'," "GLOBE NOTTERS: These oddballs are convinced the Earth is FLAT … and they’re out to ‘prove’ their theories are true," "Sellout flat-earth conference discusses NASA lies, fictional 9/11 and government mind control." 

I also found that there are many web sites run by Flat Earthers, and they also have many YouTube videos where they explain their beliefs.  One Flat Earther, Eric Dubay, has a 35 page "book" in which he presents "200 Proofs Earth is Not a Spinning Ball."  Four of his more interesting "proofs" are #44, #46, #47 and #48.   Here they are: 
 44) If Earth was a ball, and Antarctica was too cold to fly over, the only logical way to fly from Sydney to Santiago would be a straight shot over the Pacific staying in the Southern hemisphere the entire way. Re-fueling could be done in New Zealand or other Southern hemisphere destinations along the way if absolutely necessary. In actual fact, however, Santiago-Sydney flights go into the Northern hemisphere making stop-overs at LAX and other North American airports before continuing back down to the Southern hemisphere. Such ridiculously wayward detours make no sense on the globe but make perfect sense and form nearly straight lines when shown on a flat Earth map.
46) On a ball-Earth Cape Town, South Africa to Buenos Aries, Argentina should be a straight shot over the Atlantic following the same line of latitude across, but instead every flight goes to connecting locations in the Northern hemisphere first, stopping over anywhere from London to Turkey to Dubai. Once again these make absolutely no sense on the globe but are completely understandable options when mapped on a flat Earth.
47) On a ball-Earth Johannesburg, South Africa to Sao Paolo, Brazil should be a quick straight shot along the 25th Southern latitude, but instead nearly every flight makes a re-fueling stop at the 50th degree North latitude in London first! The only reason such a ridiculous stop-over works in reality is because the Earth is flat.
48) On a ball-Earth Santiago, Chile to Johannesburg, South Africa should be an easy flight all taking place below the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern hemisphere, yet every listed flight makes a curious re-fueling stop in Senegal near the Tropic of Cancer in the North hemisphere first! When mapped on a flat Earth the reason why is clear to see, however, Senegal is actually directly in a straight-line path half-way between the two.
They are all basically both the same argument.  They just use different locations.  I found a graphic that some Flat Earthers use to illustrate this argument.  Here it is:

Note that the routes were clearly chosen so that they would cross Antarctica, and they ignore shorter, actual airline routes that go to and from the places depicted and do not require flying over Antarctica.  Moreover, the route they show from San Paolo, Brazil, to Perth, Australia, which goes closest to the South Pole, would be a 9,240 mile trip, and the range of a Boeing 747-400 is just 8,380 miles.

I did a little research and found that, contrary to the claims in the illustration and in the "proofs," anyone who has the money can fly around the earth (and around Antarctica) on commercial flights.  And it can be done on just 4 hops:

1.  Sydney, Australia, to Santiago, Chile, via Qantas Airlines.
      Distance: 7,055 miles.
      Time: 12 hours, 20 minutes.  5 non-stop flights per week
      Cost: $1,920, one way.
2.  Santiago, Chile, to San Paulo, Brazil, via  LATAM. 

      Distance: 1,604 miles
      Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes.  Many daily non-stop flights.
      Cost: $741, one way.
3.  San Paulo, Brazil, to Johannesburg, South Africa, via South African Airways

      Distance: 4,620 miles.
      Time: 10 hours 25 minutes.  1 - 2 non-stop flights per day.
      Cost: $1,982, one way.
4.  Johannesburg, South Africa, to Sydney, Australia, via Qantas. 

      Distance: 6,934 miles.
      Time:11 hours, 40 minutes.  1 non-stop flight per day.
      Cost: $1,270, one way. 

Total distance: 20,213 miles.
Total cost: $5,913

On a projected map with the South Pole in the center, the 4 hops look like this:

On the Flat Earth map, however, the 4 hops look like this:

And that is where the absurdity of the Flat Earth theory can be clearly seen.  To get from Sydney to Santiago, you have to fly across the flat earth world, passing over Los Angeles, California!  There doesn't seem to be any way to measure distances on the Flat Earth map, but on a globe, a flight from Sydney to Santiago that passes over Los Angeles would be 13,084 miles, much farther than directly from Sydney to Santiago on a globe, and far beyond the range of a Boeing 747-400.

And, of course, when flying on the flat earth from Johannesburg to Sydney, you would fly over Saudi Arabia and China.  On a globe, the flight is mostly over the Indian Ocean.

The question then becomes: When people take these flat earth flights, how is it they do not notice that they are flying over land when they should be flying over the ocean?  And how do they make it in one hop if the distance is greater than the distance the plane can fly without refueling?   Do the Flat Earthers believe all the passengers are hypnotized or drugged as soon as they get aboard?

Or maybe the Flat Earthers are just incapable of understanding simple logic.


  1. So, I guess your enthusiasm for the late Carl Sagan will wane, now that you know that he agreed with the "nonsense" --------or was that "total nonsense"?-------that(all?)"colleges and universities around the world" have taught/are teaching about the speed of light.....

    Tell me, Mister Lake, what does your research tell you about what Einstein was saying from 1905 to the year of his death in 1955 (He was a Prof. in Zurich, Prague, Berlin and then Princeton)? Did he say that ALL the other academic professors of physics over that half century had misinterpreted his ideas and were teaching their students, undergrads and grads, "nonsense"? If not, why not?

    1. Did Carl Sagan "agree with the 'nonsense' that universities around the world are teaching about the speed of light"?

      I didn't see anything in "The Demon Haunted World" about that. I just saw that he used the term "common sense" in a different way than how I use it. I also have copies of "Cosmos," "Dragons of Eden" and "Broca's Brain." All it says about the speed of light in "Broca's brain is what I say, that time slows down when you move fast, particularly when you move at speeds close to the speed of light. He says that would be "counter-intuitive" and "contrary to out everyday experience." I agree.

      My research indicates that Albert Einstein was arguing about the distortions of his theory of Special Relativity by mathematicians from 1905 until he died. His books SAY that he disagreed with the mathematicians and that an outside observer WOULD see light traveling at c+v or c-v, where v is the speed of the observer relative to the source of the light. I've written about this many times on my web site, and I've quoted from his books.

      Einstein didn't point at specific professors and complain that they were teaching nonsense, he just explained things the way his theory works. And according to his 1905 theory, the speed of the EMITTER does not change the speed of light that is emitted. He says NOTHING in that paper about what an outside observer will measure. But he says a lot about that in his books.

      Does that answer your question?


  2. Did Carl Sagan "agree with the 'nonsense' that universities around the world are teaching about the speed of light"?

    I didn't see anything in "The Demon Haunted World" about that. I just saw that he used the term "common sense" in a different way than how I use it.
    But saying physics isn't NECESSARY commonsensical is the BASIS for saying that you can't judge physics simply by applying the logic of every day experience to (here) electro-magnetic phenomena.

    You seem unable to locate yourself in terms of the consensus on this: Carl Sagan wasn't just a popularizer of science and a TV personality. He was a university 'fellow' (Berkeley), a lecturer-turned-assistant professor (Harvard), then a professor at Cornell (where he remained for 30 years).
    Given his specializations (astronomy, cosmology, astrobiology), he certainly couldn't have 'abstained' on the speed-of-light question or ducked it. He is just ONE of those (thousands and thousands of) college and university instructors/professors who, according to you, have taught "nonsense" on this question since 1905.

    Indeed, given Sagan's fame in the wider pop culture, had he been a dissenter of your sort on the 'light question', it would not have been easy to conceal it, and Sagan would, once he had tenure at Cornell anyway!, not have wanted to conceal it.
    My research indicates that Albert Einstein was arguing about the distortions of his theory of Special Relativity by mathematicians from 1905 until he died.
    Never read that. And if you quoted Einstein's statements to that effect, you would make far more 'converts' than via your current scattershot approach.

    1. Anonymous wrote: "But saying physics isn't NECESSARY commonsensical is the BASIS for saying that you can't judge physics simply by applying the logic of every day experience to (here) electro-magnetic phenomena."

      The comment on my site stated that people evidently have different definitions of "common sense." You're twisting things to create an argument. I don't need to use "every day experience" to have "common sense." "Common sense" would also apply to physics questions, such as: If A = B and B = C, then "common sense" says that A = C.

      Common sense also says that if Carl Sagan never mentioned the conflict over Einstein's Second Postulate in any of his books, that ONLY means he didn't have any reason to mention it. It does NOT mean he agreed with the "nonsense."

      (I see I also have a copy of his book "The Cosmic Connection" in my library. It also says nothing about Einstein's Second Postulate.")

      Anonymous also wrote: "Never read that. And if you quoted Einstein's statements to that effect, you would make far more 'converts' than via your current scattershot approach."

      I have a scientific paper on the subject at this link:

      It begins with this information:

      ------- start quote ----

      In early 1912, seven years after his Special Theory of Relativity was published, Einstein famously lamented, “Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity I do not understand it myself anymore.” Nine years later, in a talk he gave to the Prussian Academy of Sciences, he stated, “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” In one of his letters, he referred to the interpretations by mathematicians as a disease when he wrote to his friend Paul Ehrenfest, “You are one of the few theoreticians who has not been robbed of his common sense by the mathematical contagion.” Einstein went to his grave arguing with mathematicians and advocates of Quantum Mechanics over how to interpret his theories of Relativity.

      ----- end quote ---

      My paper on "Relativity: The Theory vs the Principle" has quotes from Einstein's books and explains the problem in greater detail:

      If all you read is my web site, then you are just getting my thoughts at a particular moment as I try to figure things out. When I have finished collecting my thoughts, I put them down in writing in a scientific paper which I "publish" here:

      Let me know if you have any other questions.


  3. "[F]or the last 50 years of his life, Einstein endlessly complained about the way the mathematicians were misinterpreting his theories."
    That's funny, I've read full biographies of Einstein and never read anything like that. Would a biographer really leave that out?!? What bios of Einstein have YOU read? Can you quote from them----like based on the index---to that effect? I think you've ginned up a version of Einstein to conform to your wishes. Those wishes? To IMAGINE that physicists and mathematicians----the latter term which you use pejoratively, as people at the Google discussion group have noted-------are in some sort of opposition to each other
    on aspects of post-Einsteinian physics. Don't see it. There are controversies in physics, but they certainly don't break out as 'mathematicians vs scientists' or 'mathematicians vs. physicists'. To be a physicist you pretty much HAVE to be a mathematician, and that has been true for centuries:
    If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics. (Galileo)

    Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe. (Galileo)

    The latest authors, like the most ancient, strove to subordinate the phenomena of nature to the laws of mathematics. (Isaac Newton )

    Mathematics is a more powerful instrument of knowledge than any other that has been bequeathed to us by human agency. (Rene Descartes )

  4. I read "Einstein: The Life and Times" by Ronald W. Clark. I still have it on a bookshelf in front of me. A biography wouldn't be the place to look for information about his problems with mathematicians. Not unless the biographer found it to be something HE wanted to write about.

    The first quote I provided is from "Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist," published in 1998. It's seems to have a lot on the subject, but my digital copy doesn't allow copy and pasting, nor searching.

    The second quote is from a talk Einstein gave to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in January 1921. It's on-line here:

    The third quote is from a book of Einstein's letters. The problem is that Einstein never spoke very good English and did all of his writing in German, so everything has to be translated.

    The problem with mathematics and mathematicians is that they do not seem to care about reality. Mathematicians like Plato "proved" with mathematics that the sun went around the earth. But then that turned out to be FALSE. So, the later mathematicians changed their math. Mathematicians also proved that orbits were circular. They're not. They're mostly elliptical. I could write a whole list of things that were "proven" with math, which turned out to be false.

    The problem with math and mathematicians is that they seem to think math is "the word of God," as in your quote from Galileo. It's really nothing more than a TOOL. You first have to figure things out LOGICALLY, then you can use math to create EXPERIMENTS which will confirm or disprove what you figured out LOGICALLY. That's what Einstein argued.

    Mathematicians are wasting BILLIONS on ideas like multiple universes and string theory which CANNOT BE PROVED OR DISPROVED. So, it's basically just a waste of time and money. It accomplishes NOTHING.

    You probably need to be good at math to be a physicist, but being good at math doesn't make you a good physicist.

    My arguments on Google's forums showed me that mathematicians think math IS LOGIC. It's not. It's logicAL, but it's not logic. Those mathematicians lack common sense. They find mathematical solutions to everything, but their solutions have no meaning in our real world.

    Read the lecture Einstein gave to the Prussian Academy in 1921. It's at the link I provided. It's all about math versus reality. Einstein considered mathematicians to be a DISEASE infecting science and physics.

    As far as I'm concerned, the mathematicians' interpretation of Einstein's First and Second Postulates are not merely wrong, they are STUPID. Their version has been shown to be wrong by countless experiments, but they believe it anyway - because they believe that math is superior to all logic and reasoning. It's stupid beyond belief.


  5. A biography wouldn't be the place to look for information about his problems with mathematicians. Not unless the biographer found it to be something HE wanted to write about.

    You mean if Einstein "endlessly complained" about mathematicians FOR HALF A CENTURY (!!!!!!), it wouldn't occur to a biographer that this was an important fact (or series of facts/statements) for the reader trying to understand Einstein/his ideas? For the man's psychology and/or the light(!!)it would shed on the nature of Einstein's true thinking, both about the role of mathematics in physics, by his lights, and about the role of mathematics in his own determinations?

    Boy, I find that hard to believe. "Einstein" is an attractive
    name with lots of book-selling cachet to insert in the titles/themes of books. I'm guessing hundreds of titles. Not just in bios, popularizations of his ideas, but in books like 'How to think like an Einstein' etc. Had there been a REAL 50-year conflict between Einstein and mathematicians AS A CLASS, someone would have made the conflict itself the subject of an entire book (or a series of books by various authors, each book with its own take on the conflict!).

    I think you've taken perhaps 3 to 6 statements by Einstein on mathematics out of context and made a mountain out of a molehill. But if I'm wrong, then you've got a sure-fire
    quasi-best seller just waiting for someone to write: the long-overlooked conflict between Einstein and mathematicians.

    (I agree that math is a tool; but so is logic).

    1. You're the only one who said that Einstein "endlessly complained." So, why do you put that in quotation marks? Who are you quoting?

      I said, "My research indicates that Albert Einstein was arguing about the distortions of his theory of Special Relativity by mathematicians from 1905 until he died."

      Arguing is not complaining. He argued by writing papers and books explaining his theories. And the mathematicians would then DISTORT everything. So, Einstein would write more books and papers. And he'd give lectures and talks.

      The problems Einstein had with mathematicians are very technical. Basically they boil down to how to interpret what he wrote in his 1905 paper on Special Relativity. If you do not even understand what the problem is, how can argue that all of his biographers would understand the problem and its importance?

      You can read for yourself what he wrote, and you can then read dozens of books which DISTORT what he wrote and say almost the opposite of what Einstein said.

      Time will tell if I'm "making a mountain out of a molehill" or not. Either way, I'm learning a lot, and it is all VERY interesting.

      Logic is a "tool" like thinking is a "tool." It is essential for almost everything in physics. Math is a "tool" like a monkey wrench is a tool. It has specific (but important) uses.


  6. Anonymous,

    It occurs to me that the fight between Einstein and the mathematicians simply isn't stated that way. It is stated as an incompatibility between Quantum Mechanics and Relativity.

    There are countless news articles about that incompatibility. A few recent examples:

    So, what I'm saying seems to be part of a problem that others also talk about, and which IS mentioned in Einstein's biographies. I'm just looking at it from a different angle.


  7. So, what I'm saying seems to be part of a problem that others also talk about, and which IS mentioned in Einstein's biographies. I'm just looking at it from a different angle.
    I've only listened to the first couple minutes of this you tube video but Michio Kaku therein gives a wonderfully condensed version of what Einstein didn't like about Quantum Mechanics. Can't say as I blame him (Einstein).

    1. Great! Thanks very much. I haven't watched the whole video, either, but the first two segments are fascinating.

      I would say that Einstein is more likely the one who is "right." Quantum mechanics simply "works" and is therefore ASSUMED to be "right." But someday someone might make a new discovery that will show that Einstein was right and the Quantum Mechanical view of the universe was total nonsense.

      I just put the video on my web site. Thanks again!


  8. This youtube video was over my head on first viewing. I'll probably give it 10 to 15 more viewings before giving up.
    The expression "speed of causality" particularly intrigued me. Maybe it's of interest to you?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I watched the video at the link you provided, but it isn't really about anything that I'm arguing about. Plus, it begins badly by suggesting at the 0:25 second mark that all observers measure the same speed of light.

    Thanks anyway.


  10. From the end of today's comment:
    Hafele and Keating compared ELAPSED PROPER TIMES of clocks, not clock rates.

    And that was that. "Proper times" has some meaning to him that he won't explain. [...]
    Proper time
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    In relativity, proper time along a timelike world line is defined as the time as measured by a clock following that line. It is thus independent of coordinates, and a Lorentz scalar.[1] The proper time interval between two events on a world line is the change in proper time. This interval is the quantity of interest, since proper time itself is fixed only up to an arbitrary additive constant, namely the setting of the clock at some event along the world line. The proper time between two events depends not only on the events but also the world line connecting them, and hence on the motion of the clock between the events. It is expressed as an integral over the world line. An accelerated clock will measure a smaller elapsed time between two events than that measured by a non-accelerated (inertial) clock between the same two events. The twin paradox is an example of this effect.

    The dark blue vertical line represents an inertial observer measuring a coordinate time interval t between events E1 and E2. The red curve represents a clock measuring its proper time interval τ between the same two events.
    In terms of four-dimensional spacetime, proper time is analogous to arc length in three-dimensional (Euclidean) space. By convention, proper time is usually represented by the Greek letter τ (tau) to distinguish it from coordinate time represented by t.

    By contrast, coordinate time is the time between two events as measured by an observer using that observer's own method of assigning a time to an event. In the special case of an inertial observer in special relativity, the time is measured using the observer's clock and the observer's definition of simultaneity.

    The concept of proper time was introduced by Hermann Minkowski in 1908,[2] and is a feature of Minkowski diagrams.
    Google is your friend.

  11. Thanks, but I'd looked it up the first time tjrob137 used the term. All it says is that it is a mathematical term, and that I have to look up a lot of other terms ("world line, etc.) to decipher what he's trying to say. And, there is no point to doing that, since it is all about the workings of a mathematical model, and it's not about what is actually happening in the real world.