The Earth is spherical, but the belief in a flat Earth refuses to die. A revealing blog from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University explains what would happen if the Earth was really flat.
First, a flattened planet such as the one that defends the Flat Earth Society may not have gravity. It is not clear how gravity would work or be created in such a world, says Lamont-Doherty geophysicist James Davis.
It is a big problem, since gravity explains a wide range of terrestrial and cosmic observations. The same measurable force that causes an apple to fall from a tree also causes the moon to orbit around the Earth and all the planets orbit around the sun.
People who believe in a flat Earth assume that gravity acts directly, but there is no evidence to suggest that it worked that way. What we know about gravity suggests that it would pull toward the center of the disk that forms the so-called flat Earth.
That means that it would only pull down at a point in the center of the disk. As it moved further and further away from the center, gravity would pull more and more horizontally. This would have some strange impacts, such as sucking up all the water towards the center of the world and making trees and plants grow diagonally, as they develop in the opposite direction to the pull of gravity.
Then there is the Sun. In the scientifically supported model of the solar system, the Earth revolves around the sun because the latter is much more massive and has more gravity. However, the Earth does not fall to the Sun because it travels in an orbit. In other words, the sun’s gravity is not acting alone.
The planet is also traveling in a direction perpendicular to the gravitational pull of the star; if it were possible to deactivate that gravity, the Earth would shoot straight and come out of the solar system. In contrast, the linear pulse and the sun’s gravity combine, resulting in a circular orbit around the sun.
The plane model of the Earth locates our planet at the center of the universe, but does not suggest that the Sun orbits the Earth. On the contrary, the sun rotates on the upper side of the world like a carousel, emitting light and heat downwards like a desk lamp. Without the linear and perpendicular impulse that helps generate an orbit, it is not clear what force would prevent the Sun and the Moon from hovering above the Earth, says Davis, instead of hitting it.
Similarly, in a flat world, artificial satellites would probably not be possible. How would you orbit a plane?
“There is a series of satellite missions that society depends on that simply would not work,” says Davis. For this reason, he says: “I can not think how GPS would work on a flat Earth.”
If the Sun and Moon simply revolve around one side of a flat Earth, there is likely to be a procession of days and nights. But it would not explain the seasons, the eclipses and many other phenomena. The Sun should also be, presumably, smaller than Earth so as not to burn or crash into our planet or the Moon. However, we know that the Sun has more than 100 times the diameter of the Earth.
Deep beneath the earth, the solid core of the Earth generates the planet’s magnetic field. But on a flat planet, that would have to be replaced by something else. Maybe a sheet of liquid metal. That, however, would not rotate in a way that would create a magnetic field. Without a magnetic field, charged particles from the sun would fry the planet. They could eliminate the atmosphere, as they did after Mars lost its magnetic field, and air and oceans escaped into space.
The movement of the tectonic plate and the seismicity depend on a round Earth, because only one sphere fits all the plates in a sensible way, says Davis. The movements of the plates on one side of the Earth affect the movements on the other. The areas of the Earth that create bark, such as the mid-Atlantic mountain range, are counteracted by places that consume bark, such as subduction zones.
On a flat Earth, none of this could be adequately explained. There should also be an explanation of what happens on the edge of the world. One could imagine that it could fall, but that would probably endanger the proposed wall that prevents people from falling out of the world in the form of a disk.
Perhaps one of the most striking oddities is that the proposed map of the flat Earth is totally different. Place the Arctic in the center while Antarctica forms an “ice wall” around the edges. In such a world, traveling would be very different. Flying from Australia to certain parts of Antarctica would be, for example, an eternity: you would have to travel through the Arctic and both Americas to get there. In addition, certain feats of the real world, such as traveling through Antarctica (which has been done many times), would be impossible.
Contrary to popular belief, it is a mistake to think that many societies of serious and educated people once truly believed in the theory of the flat Earth.
“With few extraordinary exceptions, no one educated in the history of Western civilization since the third century AD believed that the Earth was flat,” said historian Jeffrey Burton Russell in 1997. “A round Earth appears at least since the century VI before Christ with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others, observing that the earth was a sphere,“ adds Davis.