The Earth is flat: dealing with fringe viewpoints in the pervasive internet era


I was looking forward to that guy dying.


Never give up hope.


I feel less dumb for totally not getting it, even now.


the idea of this guy flaming out in a blaze of glory… the last thought running through his mind… “Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!
I wonder if it will be friends with me?”


I like to think it was actually a scam to pay his mortgage.

I mean… he crowdfunds this rocket and then it breaks down. Here is the thing about rockets most of the time… a “break down” means it explodes or careens out of control and then explodes. Ignition isn’t the hard part of rocket science. It’s the whole not exploding part.


And if he was really that determined to fly it, there’s nothing the government could do to stop him. He could just drive it out somewhere a take off without announcing it in advance.


Also, since the whole point of this is supposedly to just go up really high and see the edge of the earth, you could do that with a camera.


Wasn’t there a guy that jumped from a super high altitude balloon a few years ago that was basically in space? I remember footage from his helmet cam all the way down, no editing. Seems like that would be a good bit of evidence, I’m sure you could see the curvature of the earth from high enough.


There was also a jump from about 20 miles up back in 1960. There is better, more complete footage available but I like this one:


Baumgartner, as my Codenames peoples will know ;-) @Dave_Perkins @rowe33 etc :-D


Watch this guy to get a good idea (at least for as long as you can stand) to see a view of how this stuff works.

It’s very much part of the same method that evangelical non-denominational preachers use today. Eroding faith in the establishment (or status quo), talking for tens of minutes about “common sense” things that don’t lead anywhere until providing the first relevant facts, the whole point of the presentation is reinforcing pre-existing beliefs.

That there’s a whole overlap between nonsensical Christianity and nonsensical conspiracy theories can’t be a coincidence. In a society full of magical, irrational thinking, huckers like Rob Skiba can find an audience full of the foolishly credulous. But most importantly this weird mixing up of faith based reasoning and pseudo-science, using “faith” and biblical misinterpretations to patch holes in whatever illogical things proposed.


Trickier when you deny the whole ‘science’ bit though.


“Fringe” people aren’t the only ones with dumb ideas. And let’s face it, except for a few decades after WWII, scientists have also mostly existed on the “fringe”.


I’m pretty sure there is a war right now on science and education from the Republican sphere. They want them in the fringe. We know it’s easier to control an uneducated populace.

This earth flat thing is a lot more… shall we say uncommon than rare than I thought. The idea that the world is flat, I saw an interview from some lady on TV and it had something to do with staring at the horizon and her not see the land literally curve before her eyes…


Some guys in my high school claimed to be flat earthers. But they were doing it to troll people and be dicks. Yes, they were conservatives.


The key difference is, at least since the 17th century, scientists actually adhere to a method and an epistemology that privileges empirical data, observability, and repeatability. Flat-earther fringers don’t. Even the oddest scientific forays into weirdness, if they are really science, play by science’s rules. They may hold weird hypotheses, but they still have to test them.


Human bias can play havoc with testing though:

The Control Group Is Out of Control

Trying to set up placebo science would be a logistical nightmare. You’d have to find a phenomenon that definitely doesn’t exist, somehow convince a whole community of scientists across the world that it does, and fund them to study it for a couple of decades without them figuring it out.

Luckily we have a natural experiment in terms of parapsychology – the study of psychic phenomena – which most reasonable people believe don’t exist, but which a community of practicing scientists believes in and publishes papers on all the time.

The results are pretty dismal. Parapsychologists are able to produce experimental evidence for psychic phenomena about as easily as normal scientists are able to produce such evidence for normal, non-psychic phenomena. This suggests the existence of a very large “placebo effect” in science – ie with enough energy focused on a subject, you can always produce “experimental evidence” for it that meets the usual scientific standards.


Heh, cool stuff. Of course, the fact that we’re writing and talking about it pretty much ensures it’s actually under control. Parapsychology is in the limbo it is in precisely because science as a community works.


You’re missing my point that, sadly, most people throughout history (except maybe during the Cold War) haven’t cared. When I say “fringe”, I’m not talking about wackos being on the fringe of science, but about scientists being on the fringe of society/culture, and not considered legitimate by many people.


I largely agree, although there was a time Edison was one of the most respected people in the nation, for instance (albeit this was partly due to his knack for PR). Historically, various sciences were buoyed by waves of popularity which ebbed and flowed around major achievements; these would be in the public’s mind and were an easy bridge from esoteric research to palpable gains (or potential dangers). But yeah, otherwise the image of some crazy person stuck in wizard’s tower is pretty apt for how the public has viewed science over the centuries.