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.
10Space 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.
9ISS Videos Are Shot In A Zero-G Plane
Even if space pictures are fake, we still have to account for all the videos of weightless astronauts inside the International Space Station (ISS). According to flat Earth theory, these are faked, too.
But this is a different, more blatant form of fakery. Rather than rely on CGI, most of these videos were filmed in parabolic flight, more commonly known as a zero-G airplane. Parabolic flight is real, of course, and it’s often used to train astronauts to deal with movement in microgravity.
Greatly simplified, it’s when a plane enters a controlled descent that allows the people onboard to “float” inside the plane. You can ride one yourself if you have a little extra spending money lying around.
But it takes a heroic leap of logic to assume that simply because it’s possible to do such a thing, NASA has spent more than half a century using it to counterfeit an entire public space program. The sheer number of videos spent picking apart this inane point is breathtaking.
But this wouldn’t be a true flat Earth theory if there weren’t multiple, opposing viewpoints. So it’s also possible or even 100 percent confirmed (depending on whom you talk to) that NASA films their weightless astronauts under the ocean or in front of blue screens with wires that have been “computer graphicked out.”
8Antarctica Is An Impenetrable Ice Wall
In the generally accepted flat Earth model, the world is a disc with the North Pole in the center. The outer rim is an unbroken ice wall that runs around the entire circumference of the Earth—Antarctica.
For a visual, if the Earth was a pizza pie in this model, Antarctica would be the doughy crust. This ice wall serves to keep the Earth’s oceans from spilling away, and nobody knows what exists on the other side. There could be unknown wonders out there, or the ice could simply go on forever.
Theories range from scientific speculation to religious fanaticism. One claim is that the Antarctic ice wall is surrounded by another ocean. Beyond that is “the forbidden continent, Antichtone.”
Samuel Rowbotham gave up trying to guess and simply said, “Human ingress is barred by unsealed escarpments of perpetual ice, extending farther than eye or telescope can penetrate and becoming lost in gloom or darkness.”
Considering that many explorers have traversed Antarctica and that the South Pole is now essentially a tourist destination, it’s impossible to imagine anyone still falling for the “escarpments of perpetual ice” line. But then again, impossible is just another Tuesday on a flat Earth.
7The Earth Has No Curvature
This seems like a given because the prevailing idea with this whole thing is that the Earth is flat. But when satellites and space stations don’t exist, proof is suddenly hard to come by, and that’s why this claim is so vehemently espoused.
It’s also probably the start of the whole thing, and it’s worth taking a look at why. If you look out toward any unbroken horizon line, it looks like a flat line. But if the Earth was a sphere, it would curve somewhere because that’s what balls do. Anyone can look at a Ping-Pong ball and see the curve.
The important bit, of course, is scale and position. From the surface of a large enough sphere, a 360-degree view shows a disc because your line of sight doesn’t show anything beyond where the curve drops below the horizon line.
You also can’t look straight ahead and see the horizon dip on either side because the Earth isn’t a cylinder, either. If you had an unbroken view of the horizon in all directions with no prior frame of reference, it would be easy enough to assume that you were standing on a flat, circular plane.
Obviously, we do have a frame of reference. This isn’t an uncharted mystery of the cosmos. It’s something that kids learn in elementary school. But once you take the position that you’re being lied to, suddenly all you can trust is your own eyes. And hey, the eye shows flat lines on all the horizons.
6Gravity Doesn’t Exist
Gravity is the force by which objects with mass attract each other. It’s what keeps you on the ground, causes the tides, and keeps the planets orbiting the Sun. It’s also why the Earth is a sphere or at least close to it. Gravity pulls the mass of our planet into hydrostatic equilibrium, the middle ground between inward- and outward-pushing forces.
Since a flat Earth wouldn’t adhere to the laws of gravitation, it stands to someone’s idea of reason that gravity doesn’t exist. Instead, we have Universal Acceleration (UA).
UA says that the flat disc of Earth is constantly accelerating upward, like a big rocket ship. The effect, in principle, is the same. If you jump, you’ll land again. But instead of you falling back to Earth, Earth is rising up to meet you.
So what causes it? This is where the waters transition from muddy to septic. One theory is that the acceleration is caused by a blanket of dark energy rising up under the Earth. But again, nobody knows how that’s supposed to work or why things that fly, like birds, don’t just plummet to the ground. It’s not like they constantly fly upward just to escape the giant Frisbee chasing them.
5The Sun Isn’t Millions Of Miles Away
The Sun is really only 4,800 kilometers (3,000 mi) away, and it’s only 51 kilometers (32 mi) wide. It’s also a giant, interdimensional lightbulb that moves in a circle and shines on the flat surface of the world like a lighthouse. That sounds like a jab at flat-Earthers, but it’s nearly word for word how they describe it themselves.
As previously mentioned, in the flat Earth model, the world is a circle with the North Pole at the center and a giant ice ring (Antarctica) around the edges. Now move a flashlight in a gentle clockwise motion over a paper plate, and that’s the Sun. Its circle of light doesn’t touch the whole plate at once, which accounts for night and day. More importantly, it’s something that anyone can envision without a science degree (93 million miles is hard to wrap your head around).
So what about seasons or the midnight Sun at the poles? Assume for a second that the Sun does move around the Earth like that. Maybe it wobbles a little, making the seasons. Cool. Maybe it moves closer to the North Pole in the summer and farther away in the winter, giving the northern latitudes periods of increased sunlight. Also cool.
But what about summer in the southern hemisphere when Antarctica has periods of 24-hour sunlight? If Antarctica was a ring around the perimeter of the Earth, there’s no possible way that one segment of the ring would receive constant light unless the entire Earth was illuminated as well.
Unless Antarctica’s midnight Sun was a lie, too. If you’re sensing a pattern, you’re not alone. But here’s where it gets crazy.
4The Sky Is A Glass Dome
To be fair, not every flat-Earther believes this. Only the crazy ones. The idea is that the sky and everything in it are fake. What you’re actually seeing is a dome that serves to hide the true nature of the heavens. Nobody knows what’s up there because the dome gets in the way. Aliens, maybe. Or God, watching us like the good cop behind a two-way mirror while his partner takes a turn bashing us into a murder confession.
The origins of the dome theory are highly biblical and point to scriptures that describe God putting a “firmament” above the Earth. Theories about what’s on the other side of this dome range from a huge ocean to vast amounts of nothingness.
Most people say that the Sun and the atmosphere are inside the dome—it’s actually what holds the atmosphere in place in lieu of gravity. Nearly everyone agrees that whatever’s out there, it isn’t the outer space we know and love.
If living in a Stephen King novel isn’t bizarre enough for you, there’s an additional theory which says that there’s also a hologram being projected onto the surface of the dome that gives us all the spacey things we see at night.
To believe the hologram theory, you have to lube up and slide around some pretty damning questions—like who put it there, how, and why? As usual, the answers fit neatly into two categories: paranoia and aliens.
More widespread is the belief that even if the whole sky isn’t a hologram, the Moon certainly is. There are hours of YouTube videos of the Moon “glitching,” “melting,” and otherwise misbehaving, which is sure proof of a massive, centuries-old global conspiracy in anyone’s book. It’s definitely not an atmospheric effect, camera malfunction, video distortion, compression artifact, or any other reasonable explanation.
3The Shadow Object Causes Lunar Eclipses
Some people call it the Shadow Object; others call it the Nega Moon. Nobody knows what it is, just that there has to be something that causes lunar eclipses. Traditionally, lunar eclipses occur when the Sun, Earth, and Moon line up, with the Earth in the middle casting its shadow onto the Moon’s surface.
If the Sun is only a couple of miles away and the Earth is flat, however, that kind of thing can’t happen. So we’ve got the Shadow Object. This mysterious object is always in the sky. Periodically, it passes in front of the Moon, causing an eclipse.
It’s sometimes said to be another version of the Moon that’s normally obscured by the glare of the Sun. Others say that it’s really more of a generalized “thick darkness” that the Moon stumbles into now and then. As always, if the Moon is a hologram, there doesn’t need to be any further explanation.
2Rockets Can’t Reach Space
In the past several years, advances in rocket technology have reached new highs. In December 2015, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket after carrying a satellite payload into orbit. In January 2016, Blue Origin completed their second landing with their own rocket, the New Shepard.
Have you ever watched a rocket launch? It’s an awe-inspiring sight. But unfortunately, it’s one that strikes a chord with flat-Earthers. Whether suborbital like the Falcon and Shepard or fully space-bound like those that resupply the ISS, rockets don’t launch entirely vertically. Instead, they take an arc trajectory known as a gravity turn.
As it leaves the launchpad, a rocket travels straight up. However, gravity is acting directly against the rocket’s thrust in this position. So as the rocket gains altitude, it will pitch slightly.
This allows gravity to eventually pull the rocket nearly horizontal as it approaches the Karman line, the point where the Earth’s atmosphere technically becomes space about 100 kilometers (62 mi) up. It’s a valuable technique for saving fuel because rockets use the majority of their fuel to accelerate to orbital speed in the moments before breaking past the Karman line.
But if you watch this flight arc from the ground, it looks like the rocket is curving along the bottom of a glass ceiling. According to flat Earth theory with its dome firmament, this trajectory arc is proof that rockets can’t get into outer space.
God forbid that the rocket malfunction and explode because that’s the rocket hitting the ceiling. Every time. Never mind the tragic loss of life.
1NASA Was Founded By Nazis
To the Flat Earth Society, NASA is the penultimate baddie. Throw a healthy mix of Freemasons, Illuminati, lizards, and satanic forces into a blender, dust your slurry with magic fairy powder, and let it ferment. In a week, you’ll end up with a fully formed NASA. The only thing worse is the people who control them. But since nobody’s ever taken a picture of those guys, we don’t know who to blame.
However, it might be Nazis.
To tell this tale, we need to travel back to the magical decade known as the 1940s. World War II was in full swing, and a young engineer named Wernher von Braun was building rockets for the Nazis. Von Braun is now famous for designing the V-2 ballistic missile that rained hellfire on London in 1944.
After his surrender to the Allies in 1945, von Braun went to work for the US Army and became one of the pivotal figures in the creation of the fledgling US space program. Von Braun spearheaded the development of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo shuttles. NASA has since called him “the greatest rocket scientist in history.”
From these inauspicious beginnings came some of the greatest technological advances in history and a chance to finally dream of visiting new worlds. At least, depending on the shape of your planet.
In flat Earth theory, NASA’s Nazi origins were just the start. The whole organization is nothing more than a “pack of professional liars, pseudoscientists, charlatans, Freemasons, and Mormons.” After all, “Apollo” is another name for Satan, right? What further proof do you need?
All said and done, it’s that line of thinking that almost makes sense of this whole thing. Everyone needs someone to blame, whether it manifests as benign angst toward the government or vitriolic hate against the satanic Masonic warlocks who keep putting Matt Damon into great movies. If you have to change the literal shape of your world to finger a scapegoat for the unfocused discontent you feel with life, so be it.
That’s just part of being human.
Eli Nixon might have cried once or twice researching this list. His new book, Mind of Tesla, is available for preorder, and keep an eye out for his upcoming zombie drug thriller, Heartland Junk.