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Is Earth Actually Flat?

"Some people say 'How can you live without knowing?' I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing - that is easy.

By Osinachi JoovenPublished about a year ago 3 min read

In 2003, researchers conducted measurements and discovered that Kansas is actually flatter than a pancake. However, it's important to note that the Earth is not flat but round. If the Earth were a flat disk instead of a spherical shape, gravity would behave differently as you move towards the edge. My friend Nick from 'yeti dynamics' created a simulation demonstrating this effect. As a runner approaches the edge, gravity would make it feel like they are climbing a steeper hill. Buildings near the edge would need to be constructed in a way that maintains a sense of "down" being perpendicular to the floor, just like on our round Earth. Approaching the edge would be scary, as it would feel like a sheer drop-off. However, this model ignores the fact that a flat disc-shaped planet would eventually collapse due to gravity, making it impossible.

Contrary to the misconception that Christopher Columbus discovered the Earth's roundness, the concept of a round Earth was widely accepted by scholars and major religions in the West for centuries. Ancient Greeks, for example, observed that boats disappear bottom-first when sailing away and noticed the appearance and disappearance of stars as one moves north or south. The idea that many people believed the Earth was flat only a few hundred years ago emerged as an insult in modern times. This false narrative was repeated so frequently that it became accepted as historical fact, linking the term "Flat-Earther" with being "Anti-science."

The curvature of the Earth had practical implications even in the design of structures like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which had to account for the Earth's roundness. Eratosthenes, in the 3rd century BC, calculated the Earth's circumference using the differences in shadows cast by poles in Syene and Alexandria, demonstrating an understanding of the Earth's round shape long before space exploration. However, in 1906, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, the leader of a religious sect, propagated the belief in a flat Earth and enforced it in schools in Zion, Illinois. He believed the sun was much closer and smaller than scientific measurements suggest, and his teachings persisted.

Today, modern-day flat Earthers, utilizing the power of the internet, continue to provide explanations that challenge the evidence supporting a round Earth. They argue that phenomena such as circumnavigation, lunar eclipses, and time zones can be explained within a flat Earth model. They even propose that gravity, as we understand it, doesn't exist, suggesting that Earth is constantly accelerating upwards. Flat Earth proponents dismiss photos and videos of a round Earth as fabrications, claiming a vast conspiracy involving space agencies, airlines, and globe manufacturers.

While these flat Earth theories may seem clever, they are often ad hoc explanations that address only specific issues and fail to account for the comprehensive body of evidence supporting a round Earth. Science rejects theories when better ones align with a broader range of observations. However, it's important to consider that different observers can perceive the Earth's shape differently based on their frame of reference. For instance, cosmic ray particles traveling at near-light speeds experience time dilation and length contraction, making Earth appear flat to them but round to us.

In the pursuit of knowledge, we must recognize that answers interweave with new questions, reinforcing one another. Our understanding is akin to a crossword puzzle, where clues guide us, and the way answers fit into a predetermined grid builds confidence in our progress. However, this doesn't guarantee a final, definitive answer. Similar to a crossword puzzle without an answer key, our knowledge may be an on-going endeavour, with reassurance that our current answers align and might be correct. It's possible that some clues, or even all of them, may not have a singular, satisfying answer.

Richard Feynman captured this sentiment well, stating that he always lives without knowing but is curious about how we come to know. Life may be a puzzle without a definitive solution, but the process of seeking knowledge and understanding is what drives us forward.

Natureshort storyScience

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Osinachi Jooven

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    Osinachi JoovenWritten by Osinachi Jooven

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