Members of the Flat Earth Society claim to believe the Earth is flat. Walking around on the planet’s surface, it looks andfeelsflat, so they deem all evidence to the contrary, such as satellite photos of Earth as a sphere, to be fabrications of a “round Earth conspiracy” orchestrated by NASA and other government agencies.
The belief that the Earth is flat has been described as the ultimate conspiracy theory. According to the Flat Earth Society’s leadership, its ranks have grown by 200 people (mostly Americans and Britons) per year since 2009. Judging by the exhaustive effort flat-earthers have invested in fleshing out the theory on their website, as well as the staunch defenses of their views they offer in media interviews and on Twitter, it would seem that these people genuinely believe the Earth is flat.
But in the 21st century, can they be serious? And if so, how is this psychologically possible?
Through a flat-earther’s eyes
First, a brief tour of the worldview of a flat-earther: While writing off buckets of concrete evidence that Earth is spherical, they readily accept a laundry list of propositions that some would call ludicrous. The leading flat-earther theory holds that Earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica, a 150-foot-tall wall of ice, around the rim. NASA employees, they say, guard this ice wall to prevent people from climbing over and falling off the disc. Earth’s day and night cycle is explained by positing that the sun and moon are spheres measuring 32 miles (51 kilometers) that move in circles 3,000 miles (4,828 km) above the plane of the Earth. (Stars, they say, move in a plane 3,100 miles up.) Like spotlights, these celestial spheres illuminate different portions of the planet in a 24-hour cycle. Flat-earthers believe there must also be an invisible “antimoon” that obscures the moon during lunar eclipses.
Furthermore, Earth’s gravity is an illusion, they say. Objects do not accelerate downward; instead, the disc of Earth accelerates upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), driven up by a mysterious force called dark energy. Currently, there is disagreement among flat-earthers about whether or not Einstein’s theory of relativity permits Earth to accelerate upward indefinitely without the planet eventually surpassing the speed of light. (Einstein’s laws apparently still hold in this alternate version of reality.)
As for what lies underneath the disc of Earth, this is unknown, but most flat-earthers believe it is composed of “rocks.” [Religion and Science: 6 Visions of Earth’s Core]
Then, there’s the conspiracy theory: Flat-earthers believe photos of the globe are photoshopped; GPS devices are rigged to make airplane pilots think they are flying in straight lines around a sphere when they are actually flying in circles above a disc. The motive for world governments’ concealment of the true shape of the Earth has not been ascertained, but flat-earthers believe it is probably financial. “In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the Conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government,” the flat-earther website’s FAQ page explains.
It’s no joke
In his latest stunt, illusionist David Blaine plans to make his body a conduit for an electric current flowing between two high-voltage electrodes for three days straight. The magician says he’ll face off with 1 million volts in what he told the Daily News would be his “most dangerous” feat ever, but at least one MIT physicist won’t be losing sleep over Blaine’s safety, saying the trick seems mostly risk-free.
A trailer for the stunt, which is set to begin on Manhattan’s Pier 54 on Oct. 5, shows Blaine standing at the center of a dark room, his mesh bodysuit lit only by two fluttering arcs of electricity emanating from his outstretched arms.
If the teaser gives any indication of what will actually transpire next month, Blaine’s odds of besting death in the trick he calls “Electrified: One Million Volts Always On” are pretty good.
“He has a conducting suit, all the current is going through the suit, nothing through his body,” said John Belcher, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-investigator on a plasma experiment aboard NASA’s Voyager 2 craft. “There is no danger in this that I see. I would do it, and I am 69 years old and risk-averse. I just would have to take a nap.”
- Illusionist David Blaine’s Electrifying Stunt is Shockingly Safe (livescience.com)
- Blaine’s New Stunt Safe? (foxnews.com)
- David Blaine Plans Electrifying New Stunt (contactmusic.com)
- David Blaine plans electrifying new stunt (hollywood.com)
- Magician David Blaine plans new electrifying stunt in New York (foxnews.com)
- Magician David Blaine ready to shock (news.com.au)
- David Blaine Is Back! Shocker (newsfeed.time.com)
- Magician David Blaine ready to shock (bigpondnews.com)