You Have Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me.

That was the thought that ran through my head several months ago when I heard about the Flat Earth Movement. These “Flat Earthers”, as they call themselves, truly believe the world is a flat, spherical disc with a dome, and that NASA and the UN have ships and personnel stationed at the edges to divert anyone from coming too close and possibly falling off the edge of the world.

 

 

Let that sink in for a moment before I continue. Just give it 30 seconds to fully grasp the magnitude of this theory.

 

 

Okay, now that we all have finished laughing at the outright silliness of this idea, let’s get to the why of me writing this rebuttal. Do I take this seriously? No. At least, I don’t take the notion of the earth being a flat disc suspended in nothingness seriously, what I do take seriously is the fact that people actually believe this. Search YouTube, there are many videos posted by many users who claim to have actual proof that the earth is flat.

 

 

Many of these people, well, I don’t necessarily want to use the phrase “useful as a sack of wet hammers”, but I struggle to find any positives from these videos other than they’re good for getting your daily laugh in. Only you realize once the laughter is over, there’s a person who truly believes in this preposterous notion.

 

 

One of the videos I watched was of the person saying that he pored over the “evidence” for 10 months before deciding the earth is flat. Then he went on to state that he refused to listen to anyone suffering from the cognitive dissonance of a spherical earth belief. My head actually hurts at the logic of this man.

 

So again, why am I writing this? Well for several reasons, first of which I found this idea bothering me for literally, months. While I am not, nor claim to be a scientist, I feel my experiences in the Navy as a Quartermaster give me a certain insight to this topic, and I feel like I can explain this very logically and simplistically so that if anyone is reading this and honestly feels the world is flat, they’ll realize this simply couldn’t be the case.

 

I haven’t written a persuasive argument in quite a while, so if it’s jumbled or doesn’t have a smooth transition, please forgive me. However with that said, the following argument is comprised of facts as well as logical conclusions to counter the Flat Earth Theory. Without further ado…

 

Let’s begin with cartography; mapping a 3D object onto a 2D plane. The Earth is a geoid, an irregular surface that is constantly shifting in increments over time; think of a beach ball fully inflated and then someone sitting on this ball. Imagine how the edges would bulge outwards, this is more of what the Earth is actually like. Now also imagine a lemon in your outstretched hand, held the furthest away from your eyes as it can go. It appears to have a smooth surface. Now, hold the lemon close up to your eyes. Notice you can now see the dimples and pits in its surface.

 

The earth is reminiscent of this lemon, complete with mountains and hills, valleys and canyons. It is no more a smooth edge than the lemon, yet when pulled farther away our perspective changes. How does this apply to our Earth?

 

Perspective is everything when it comes to our sight, and how we process information. We are, perspective-wise, a flea on the back of a dog. The Earth is so big that in order to view the entire picture, we have to be so far away the peaks and valleys give way to a smooth edge; the oblong shapes appear to be perfectly spherical. Look at the sun, with its spherical shape, yet there are constant solar flares and shifts on its surface. This is the exact same perception; there is no difference between these perceptions.

 

With that in mind, let’s move onward to geodesy, which summed up, is the study of the exact size and shape of the Earth. Because the Earth is 71% water and has rising tides and currents, the surface is in constant flux, so there has to be a way to make a constantly shifting surface perfectly still in order to extrapolate the data. Enter the “ellipsoid”, scientists’ way of assuming the Earth has a smooth surface.

 

Now, the Earth is flattened slightly at the poles due to gravity, and bulges at the equator (remember the beach ball and lemon?) so the geometric figure used in geodesy is called an oblate spheroid; the 3D shape obtained by rotating an ellipse on its minor axis.

 

Enter datum. A numerical or geometrical quantity or set of such quantities which serve as a reference point from which to measure other quantities. Basically, an agreed upon assumption. Who is agreeing upon them? Well, most of the world’s nations, actually, with the most recent version being 1984.

 

Confused yet? Good, that means you’re actually learning something! All of my new Sailors would have the same look on their face when I went through that very same speech. Summed up, it’s the foundation of logic to my argument; you cannot project a geoid onto a flat surface without assuming the Earth has a smooth edge. In order to ensure the projection is accurate, certain assumptions HAVE to be made in order for the math to work. The development of the World Geodetic System, or WGS84 for those navigational types, is a mathematical system used in order to graph gravimetric, astronomic, satellite, and horizontal and vertical datum measurements and observations of the Earth’s outer crust.

 

On to projections! One of my favorite parts about navigation were in the projections of charts! The math used to extrapolate the datum and project it onto a flat surface were deliciously complex yet easily graspable! Considering of course you have a good grasp on the datum portion.

 

There is no way to transfer a sphere onto a flat surface without distortion. There is no way it can be done. Want to prove me wrong? Get any round ball, mark North and South Poles on it, then cut it up and make it a rectangle or square. No way it can be done. This is why Africa is tiny on a map, yet Greenland is gigantic. There has to be distortion in the representation of the ellipsoid, or sphere, or any other round object you wish to try.

 

Many projections have been devised of the Earth: Mercator, cylindrical, transverse, conical, Lambert conformal, polyconic, azimuthal, gnomonic, stereographic, and orthographic. That’s quite a lot of ways of expressing a sphere! Since it is impractical to navigate on most of these projections, we in the Navy primarily used Mercator and gnomonic projections, and sometimes referenced stereographic projections in order to get the “bigger picture”.

 

While all of these projections are mathematically accurate within the confines of geodetic datum, there are certain projections that are more accurate than others, pertaining to what part of the world you’re in as well as the scale of the projection that you’re utilizing.

 

The issue that Flat Earthers get hung up on is the fact that with a Mercator projection (which almost all charts and maps are based upon), is that Africa and Greenland are not accurately portrayed. Africa is actually much bigger and Greenland is actually much smaller (as well as Russia) on a world map that utilizes the Mercator projection. Again, this is due to how the world is graphed, and the ensuing expression of datum contained within said map.

 

This brings me to my final point on why the Earth isn’t flat: How the earth is graphed into sections. Again, taking into account the assumption the Earth is a smooth surface and sitting upright on its poles instead of slightly slanted, with true North being the highest point. The Earth’s Longitudinal lines are divided into what are called Great Circles, meaning each line of circumference divides the Earth perfectly in half, while the Latitudinal lines comprise of only one Great Circle, the Equator.

 

The easiest way to envision this is to imagine the Longitudinal lines dividing the Earth up like an Orange. Each line will neatly divide the Earth in two if it makes its circumference. Now imagine the Earth is an onion being cut up, with the first cut at the Equator and moving towards the knobs; this is representative of Latitudinal lines, slowly getting smaller and smaller the further away from the middle they get.

 

Once you fully grasp this understanding of everything thus far, you’ll see there is no mathematically sound way of proportioning the Earth from a spheroid onto a flat, rectangular, 2D object. It simply must be stretched in order to fit a graph.

 

The only way to rectify this issue is if everywhere you stood was Zero; 000° 00’ 00” by 00° 00’ 00”, with your orientation pointing to True North. However, due to the Earth’s shape, assuming you’re utilizing a Mercator projection, only the area about 45° North or South of your position will hold any true shape; everything else will again be skewed.

 

Well if you’re reading this, then you made it through my pedantic response to why the Earth isn’t flat. If you don’t understand this, or still believe (even though my logic is impeccable) it’s flat, slap yourself because I’ve sailed completely around the world several times over and it isn’t flat. There is a curvature, you can see ships sailing over the horizon and everything, IT’S NOT FUCKING FLAT.

 

If you want any references that I used to conclude my logic, links or pictures, please leave a comment or send me an email and I would be happy to discuss with you further. As it stands, I believe this and this alone should be definitive of why it’s impossible the Earth is flat, as it explains the biggest “issue” with why people truly believe the Earth isn’t circular. Also, I should point out that I am not a scientist, nor am I a cartographer, I merely understand the algebraic expressions utilized in the expressions of graphing our planet.

 

Oh and most definitely, if there are any mistakes, PLEASE bring them to my attention so that I may make a retraction and edit this paper, thanks for your time!

 

Joey Velasco

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