If you’ve never made the mistake of scrolling down into the comments section of a NASA video on YouTube, you’d be forgiven for having a shred of optimism left for the future of our world. Around 600 BC, the Greek philosopher Pythagoras started telling people that the Earth was a sphere.
It seemed like a silly notion then. But as we know now, it was the first true step in understanding the nature of planetary behavior in the universe at large. By the Middle Ages, that knowledge was firmly entrenched in the annals of science. They still had to work out that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, much to Galileo’s dismay, but there was no question that it was a ball.
Then, in the mid-1800s, Samuel Rowbotham came along and told everyone that they’d been wrong all along—the Earth was flat. Somehow, the idea picked up steam, and after a tumultuous century and a half, it hit the Internet in the form of the Flat Earth Society. And yes, they’re serious.
The modern flat Earth conspiracy theory is much denser than most other theories, mainly because nobody can quite agree on what they believe. It’s a globular web of claims, counterclaims, ad hominem attacks on nonbelievers and believers alike, and denial of the scientific process to an extent that borders on neurosis.
The only unifying belief within the theory is, in fact, belief in the theory. This leaves believers free to paint away from that core tenet in brush strokes wide enough to cover all the gaping cracks.
Featured image credit: StinkyCash via YouTube
10. Space Images Are Fake
If nothing else, the mind-set engendered by flat-Earthers is at least admirable. It’s a sense of pioneering, of discovery, of showing the world that there’s always something more to uncover in life. Aristotle, Galileo, and all the great minds of history must have felt the same spark of excitement when faced with the mysteries of their own times.
But some things are just stupid.
One of the more popular flat Earth mantras is: “I don’t know know for sure that the Earth is flat, but until I see proof either way, it makes more sense than a globe Earth.” It’s insanity at its finest, the equivalent of spending your whole life in a house with windows and questioning the existence of your front lawn because you don’t have grass in your living room.
It’s easy to see Earth from space. Just look at any of the countless ISS videos, or spend a few minutes watching a time-lapse video from Japan’s Himawari-8 satellite, which takes a photo of Earth every 10 minutes from 35,000 kilometers (22,000 mi) up.
Check out that gorgeous Earthrise (pictured above) that William Anders snapped from the Moon in 1968 or the humbling perspective offered by the Cassini probe when it glanced back at our little blue dot on its trip past Saturn.
According to the Flat Earth Society, those examples—and the millions like them—aren’t proof because they’re all fake. If you’ve ever wanted a reason to burn your computer, watch some videos like this one. (If you really want to punish yourself, read the comments.)
The idea is that all the videos released by NASA, the ESA, the CNSA, Roscosmos, and all the other space agencies are simply computer graphics. Pictures are photoshopped. Of course, the flat-Earthers disregard the amount of time and money needed to make just one video like that, let alone days’ worth of continuous footage.
Using the flat-Earthers’ conditional logic, if the Earth is flat and space images are fake (as flat-Earthers believe), then the world’s space agencies are lying about the Earth. And if an organization has spent 70 years—from 1946 to the present—creating fake images just to lie to people, they must have some kind of evil agenda. Otherwise, that’s a long joke even by Dane Cook standards.