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Planet Earth

The Physics of a Flat Earth Wouldn’t Be Pleasant

How would gravity work? Would we still have time zones? Change of seasons? Would the conditions for life here on Earth exist at all? Most early theories on the shape of the Earth were based on religious interpretations. But what about modern day believers in a non-round Earth?

Modern Day Flat Earthers

Some belief in a hypothetical Flat Earth continues to the modern day. Samuel Shenton established the Flat Earth Society in 1956, right around the beginning of the Space Race. While this iteration was less religious than previous or succeeding flat earth groups, Shenton did believe that Earth appeared round in photographs because of wide-lens cameras.

Today’s Flat Earth Society theorizes that the Earth is shaped like a disk, with the North Pole being located at the center and Antarctica being located around its edges. This theory is primarily based on interpretations of the Christian Bible. The first to popularize these theories was the 1865 book “Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe,” by a man named Samuel Rowbotham.

Is this what the edge of a flat Earth looks like?

Modern day flat earth theorists believe that Earth’s gravity is actually an illusion driven by dark energy. They believe that day-night cycles are driven by the Sun and Moon, which they believe are 32-kilometer long spheres, rotating in circles and illuminating different parts of the planet. Flat earth theories also often overlap with other, shall we say, fringe theories, such as the theory that the moon landing was fake.

To this day, flat earthers believe that people who believe in a round Earth are the ones who are misinterpreting facts. After the solar eclipse of 2017, many flat earth adherents made videos using footage of the event to prove that the earth is flat.

Additionally, many modern day Flat Earthers believe that they have been lied to by the media on many topics, and the Earth actually being flat, rather than round, is simply a symbol of a larger issue. Flat Earthers often believe that others believe on a round Earth simply because they have not been shown the facts proving that the Earth is, in fact, flat.

The Science of a Flat Earth:

First of all, forget about walking to its edge. Gravity would simply not let you. Wait, would gravity even be possible on a flat Earth? The answer is yes, of course. The force of gravity is what keeps our planet, or any other planet, together. It’s what forms a planet in the first place.

In the case of a pancake-shaped Earth, the force of gravity would pull you to the center, and would become stronger as you tried to walk away from it, pulling the top of your body backwards. It would feel as if you were climbing a hill that was getting steeper, and steeper, and steeper… By the time you reached the edge, ‘down’ and ‘behind you’ would become the same direction. Sound weird?

Gravity would pull everything to the center of the disk.

How about water being sucked to the center of the Earth? Or diagonal trees, growing in the opposite direction of gravity’s pull? And then there’s the sun. How would a flat Earth behave in space? One flat Earth theory is that the Sun revolves around the Earth… Not the other way around.

What if the Sun orbited the Earth just like the moon does? In that case, you would never suffer jet lag, as there would be no such thing as time zones. The sun would light up both the top and bottom of the planet. This would mean constant light, no day-and-night cycle. Also no seasons. Or solar eclipses.

The sun itself would have to be much smaller. Otherwise it would burn the Earth to a crisp. It would probably fry the planet anyway, as there would be no geomagnetic field to protect the Earth from its radiation. The geomagnetic field is generated in the solid core of the Earth, and keeps our atmosphere from escaping. Without it, cosmic rays would bombard our bodies, causing everything from cancer to DNA damage.

The oceans would escape into space, and so would the air, and all our oxygen. But let’s assume that a flat Earth had an alternative to our magnetic field. This way you’d still be alive to notice some strange flat Earth-effects. Like your shadow.

Say you had a friend just as tall as you, and they lived a thousand miles away. On a sunny day, your shadows would be the very same length. Because, unlike here on a spherical Earth, the sun’s rays would hit both of you at the same angle. And if you two were to meet up, traveling would turn out very different.

A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.

Let’s take a map introduced by the Flat Earth Society. Yes, the one that shows the Arctic at the center, and Antarctica as an “ice wall” around the edges. In such a world, it would take you 32 hours to fly from Australia to some parts of South America.

Did we mention there’d be no GPS? Satellites wouldn’t be able to orbit a flat Earth, leaving humanity with no navigation, and no synchronized time. This means no ATMs, no credit cards, and no high-speed market transactions.

On the bright side, with a good pair of binoculars you could see Dubai’s Burj Khalifa from any part of the flat world. But let’s be honest: you don’t need to build your own rocket to see the Earth is not flat.

The evidence is all around us.

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Planet Earth

Geologists have confirmed a strange unprecedented “boomerang” earthquake deep under the Atlantic Ocean

Earthquakes come and go, often leaving destruction behind. What they luckily don’t usually do is turn around immediately and come back for another push. Except … it looks like they can do it on very rare occasions.

In a new study, scientists have uncovered evidence of an unusual and almost unprecedented boomerang earthquake that shook the deep seafloor under the Atlantic Ocean in 2016.

This earthquake, dubbed “reverse super-shear rupture”, occurred along the Romansh fracture. It is an area that lies near the equator, about halfway between the east coast of Brazil and the west coast of Africa.

The rift, which stretches about 900 kilometers between the South American and African tectonic plates, adjacent to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, caused a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in August 2016, which was detected by underwater seismometers in the region, as well as by remote monitoring stations.

Analysis of the signals reveals that this was not an ordinary earthquake, but a strange earthquake that went one way before turning around and returning and with a significant increase in speed.

“While scientists have found that this reverse rupture mechanism is possible on the basis of theoretical models, our new study provides some of the clearest evidence that this mysterious mechanism actually occurs,” Stephen Hicks said, lead researcher and seismologist of Imperial College London.

According to the analysis of seismic data, the 2016 earthquake had two separate phases.

First, the rip extended upward and eastward towards the weak point where the rip zone meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Then, in a sudden U-turn, an “unusual westward propagation” occurred, with the tremors returning to the center of the fault and at significantly accelerated “super-shear” velocities of up to 6 kilometers per second.

“Even though the structure of the fault appears to be simple, the quake grew differently, and it was completely the opposite of how we expected the quake to look before we started analyzing the data.”

While the team’s explanation for how this boomerang unfolded remains speculative so far, the researchers speculate that the first, deep phase of the quake released enough fracture energy to initiate a reversal of the rift in the shallower, western underwater terrain.

“Either both sections of the fault were preseismically loaded enough to promote seismogenic failure, or the deeper SE1 fracture instantly increased static stress, immediately causing the shallower portion of SE2 to collapse,” the authors explain in their paper.

Although earthquakes propagating in the opposite direction have been studied by seismologists before, so far there has been little evidence of their existence, and this phenomenon is mainly observed in theoretical modeling.

Finding this type in the real world – in the middle of the ocean – is the first of its kind, not to mention the boomerang that returned at super shear speed.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time this has been reported,” geophysicist Yoshihiro Kaneko of GNS Science in New Zealand, who was not part of the research team, told National Geographic.

The results are reported to Nature Geoscience.

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Planet Earth

What is the real cause of explosions and fires around the world in the past few days?

What has caused all these giant explosions and apocalyptic fires in China, North Korea, Lebanon, India, USA, Iraq, Iran over the past few days?

China

It all began on August 3, 2020 in the Chinese province of Hubei, where an instant explosion at a chemical plant killed at least six people and injured four. The reason is under investigation.

North Korea

This first explosion was followed a few hours later by a giant explosion following a possible “gas leak” in Hyesan, Yangan Province, North Korea, killing 9 people and injuring at least 30 residents. The reason is being investigated.

Lebanon

The next day, the port area of ​​Beirut, Lebanon, was destroyed by a giant explosion, killing more than 140 people and injuring thousands.

India

Also on the afternoon of August 4, 2020, an explosion caused panic among residents living around the Vijayshree Pharma Company plant in the Rambilli Zone FEZ in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, India. The reason is being investigated.

Great Britain

On 4 August, an explosion occurred again in the middle of a residential street in Birmingham, UK, causing smoke and fireballs to rise into the air and residents fleeing to seek refuge. The explosion was so strong that fire alarms went off in the houses.

United States of America

Finally, on Tuesday, firefighters put out a massive fire in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, that engulfed a building under construction. When the firefighters arrived at about 4:20 am, the flames were flying high into the air, and the glow was visible for miles.

Iran

A fire broke out on Tuesday inside three industrial warehouses east of Tehran. The fire destroyed production materials, including lumber and leather.

Then, on August 5, at least seven ships burst into flames at a shipyard in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr. According to reports, the reason remains unclear, no casualties.

United Arab Emirates

On 5 August 2020, on Wednesday evening at 18:30, a fire broke out in a market in the emirate of Ajman, 50 km from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The reason is being investigated.

China

A gas pipeline exploded and several roads collapsed after torrential rains flooded parts of Yulin, a city in China’s northwestern Shaanxi province. Local authorities evacuated about 600 people from the area. The reason is being investigated.

United States of America

On the same day in Midland, Texas, an investigation is under way of an explosion and subsequent fire in an oil storage facility. The reason is also unknown.

Iraq

Again, on August 6, 2020, a major fire broke out in over 20 wholesale market warehouses in Najaf, Iraq. The reasons are being investigated.

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Planet Earth

Geneticists have clarified the origin of American slaves

Frame from the movie "Django Unchained" - imdb.com

It is the largest study of DNA from people living in the Americas. It shows where the slaves came from in the United States and reveals the details of their abuse.

The work includes information on 50 thousand people, of which 30 thousand are of African origin. The article, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics , serves as “evidence that genetics can shed light on history,” said Alondra Nelson, professor of social sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

The study began with the work of Joanna Mountain, senior director of research at the company 23andMe. Together with the team, she created a genetic database, which included mainly information about the company’s clients, whose grandparents were born in regions where slavery flourished. Dr. Stephen Micheletti, the geneticist at 23andMe who led the study, compared it to data from the Slave Travels digital project, which contains information about the people brought in: information on ports of embarkation and disembarkation, the number of enslaved men, women and children. He also collaborated with historians to learn more about the plight of African regions, such as contemporary Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the 17th and 19th centuries.

Scientists have found out: the DNA of the study participants from the United States showed their Nigerian origin. This means that there are far more ships that transported enslaved people directly to America from Nigeria than would be expected based on historical records. 

At first, historians “could not believe how many Nigerian ancestors were there in the United States,” Micheletti said. 

Later, after consulting with experts, the study authors learned that slaves were first sent to the British Caribbean Islands, and only then sold to the Americans.

Percentage of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Red denotes the descendants of slaves from Senegal and Gambia, blue - from the west coast of Africa, green - from Nigeria, orange - from Congo / © Stephen Micheletti
Percentage of people of African descent in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Red denotes the descendants of slaves from Senegal and Gambia, blue – from the west coast of Africa, green – from Nigeria, orange – from Congo / © Stephen Micheletti

Experts estimate that more than half of the people were brought into the United States and Latin America from West Africa. The study found that the modern black population is genetically related to six regions, among them Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria and Benin. Moreover, according to historical sources, there were more regions from which slaves were exported.

The work also showed that the brought women made a much greater contribution to the modern gene pool than men, although there were much fewer of them. Scientists have calculated that in the United States there are 1.5 times more descendants of slaves, and in Latin America and the Caribbean – 13-17 times. Moreover, in the United States, European men have influenced the modern gene pool of people of African descent three times more than European women, and 25 times more in the Caribbean.

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