Circling the World in 18 Days

Posted 25 Sep 2016 to travel and has Comments

I’m going on a trip in October to further the namesake of this blog; I’m going to find some science as I make a circle on the great flat plane of the earth. What follows is some background for the reasoning behind my trip, followed by a description of my plan.

Background: The Untaught Controversy

Like most people who are products of the American education system, I once believed the “round Earth” theory as a fact. No alternative theories were given, the robust scientific controversy was hidden, and the idea of a flat Earth was presented as an “Archaic concept” from our distant ancestors. Robert J. Schadewald, a former president of the National Center for Science Education, even spoke out about the failures of the South Carolina school system in their supression of a valid alternative theory:

Only spherical-earth science is presented to students in virtually all of those courses that discuss the shape and origin of the earth. Public schools generally censor flat-earth science and evidence contrary to the spinning ball theory … Public school instruction in only the spherical theory also violates the principle of academic freedom, because it denies students a choice between scientific models and instead indoctrinates them in spherical-earth science alone.

Schadewald wrote this as a part of a bill written for the SC legislature demanding equal time in classrooms for flat-earth science. As head of the National Center for Science Education, he acknowledged the pressure from so-called “experts” to silence alternative theories and ignore the scientific controversy. Round-earthers teach their theory as fact rather than the hypothesis that it is.

It’s not just scientists and educators, though, who have advocated for greater transparency in alternative theories. None other than President George W Bush provided his support for teaching the scientific controversy wherever it exists:

I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about. I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought… you’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.

When you look at the support that exists for competing theories to spherical-earth “science” it’s hard to believe that so many people still dismiss it outright. Everyone from musicians like BoB to the political leader Mohammed Yusuf (the former leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria) have spoken out in support of what so many plainly see is true: there is no curvature to the earth, the ground we walk on is flat.

The opposition is strong, though. The famously outspoken biologist Richard Dawkins (who hasn’t published a scientific paper since 1990) had this to say:

If you give the idea that there are two schools of thought within science, one that says the earth is round and one that says the earth is flat, you are misleading children.

Coming from a biologist without any training in physics or geography, that’s fairly rich. Perhaps he has been too busy spreading militant atheism to see the clear scientific experiments dating back to 1838 that show the Earth can’t be round.

It’s clear that the science is far from settled - but many still can’t bring themselves to admit that the flat surface they see with their eyes should be evidence enough. It’s tough to buck the trend and stand against what many portray as “consensus” (which, clearly, it isn’t). Daniel Shenton (the president of The Flat Earth Society) said this to The Guardian:

I haven’t taken this position just to be difficult. To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is incumbent on others to prove decisively that it isn’t. And I don’t think that burden of proof has been met yet.

Mr. Shenton leads one of the largest and best organized groups trying to spread awareness of the flat Earth theory. The very first member of the group was the famous musician Thomas Dolby who joined the Flat Earth Society in 2009. Thomas Dolby understands the power of science - having written a number of songs about it’s power to enlighten and to blind, like this gem:

The group of folks who question spherical-earth “science” are not some fringe group of backwards conspiracy theorists. Eric Oliver, a political scientists at the University of Chicago, acknowledges this openly:

If they were like other conspiracy theorists, they should be exhibiting a tendency toward a lot of magical thinking, such as believing in UFOs, ESP, ghosts, the Devil, or other unseen, intentional forces. It doesn’t sound like they do, which makes them very anomalous relative to most Americans who believe in conspiracy theories.

One final note: There’s one very large, worldwide, internationally recognized group that appears to know the truth, too. Here are two logos: The one on the left is the logo for The Flat Earth Society, and the one on the right is for the United Nations:

Both show exactly the same thing: the earth is in the form of a disk with the North Pole in the center and Antarctica as a wall around the edge. No globe, no sphere - just a flat disk.

The Trip

Starting on October 12, I’ll be making my way across the top of the disk in a giant circle. I’ll leave from NYC and return on October 30th, making stops at these locations:

As I travel, I will spreading knowledge of the flat-earth alternative theory, hopefully helping to change hearts and minds. I’ll also have a compass and be taking readings as I travel. As some have suggested, if the earth is round then I should see a compass pointing into the earth (through the earth to the north pole), especially from such locals as Sydney outside of the equator. I’ll be measuring the angle of the compass needle as compared with the level horizon.

I welcome any additional ideas for experiments in the comments, and look forward to posting my results. I’ve got a list of folks I’m meeting with along my way, but if anyone will be in any of the cities above during my travels I’d love to meet up, talk through the science, and find ways to support the academic freedom of inquiring minds all over the great earth plane!