The most shocking moment of my first semester of college was, by far, finding out that actual students on this campus believed the Earth is flat. So, just to be clear, with scientific authority on my side I’ll say, the Earth is in fact NOT flat.
Science is certain our Earth is a sphere. To be real technical, it’s true shape is an oblate ellipsoid, not a perfect sphere since the Earth is slightly wider at the equator than at the poles due to its rotation. However, the difference between this and a sphere is negligible for this discussion. We’ve sent people into space and have put many objects in orbit around our planet, none of which would be possible to do if we believed the Earth was flat.
It’s absolutely ridiculous to me to have to prove that the Earth is not flat in modern times, but here it goes. People have known since ancient times that the Earth is round. In fact, Eratosthenes, a Greek scientist, was able to measure the circumference of the Earth over 2000 years ago. During the summer solstice, he noticed that there was a difference between shadows cast in two different places, Alexandria and Syene, at noon. This shows that the Earth must be round since this would not be possible if the Earth were flat like a piece of paper. By measuring the differences of the shadows cast when the sun was at zenith in both places, he used some simple geometry to accurately calculate the size of the Earth, since he knew the distances between these two places.
There are many other ways to tell that the Earth is round. For example, when you travel to different locations on the planet, different constellations are visible in the night sky. This is because at certain latitudes, only certain constellations can be seen based on their location on the celestial sphere. If the Earth wasn’t round, you would be able to see the same parts of the sky from whatever location you looked. Another form of proof is seen during a lunar eclipse. The shadow of the Earth on the moon is round.
The Earth, as a sphere, has its center of mass in the center of the sphere. Which means that at any same distance you are away from the center of the Earth, you will experience the same force of gravity.
So why is something that was proven centuries ago being questioned today? The scientific certainty about the shape of the Earth has not changed in recent times, but the opinions of the flat earth believers have a growing presence in the past few years.
The flat earth idea has seen much coverage in media outlets lately. Often, writers and reporters feel the need to present both sides of a story that they are covering, which has given a platform to many unscientific ideas. In media pieces about scientific issues where a vast majority of scientists are at a consensus, a dissenting opinion is considered as well. In the need to make our news seem balanced by presenting both sides of an argument, the story is over-representing an opinion from a small minority of scientists or non-experts on the topic.
The Flat Earth movement has been able to gain popularity and interest as a result of its increasing presence online, but the Flat Earth Society has been around since the 19th century. The Flat Earth Society has gone through periodic declines in that time period, but has been active since 2004 and recruiting new members since 2009.
The only other thing I want to say to flat earthers: so, where is the edge?