Flat Earthers: A Global Issue


[Unsplash] There is a full society of people who believe the Earth is flat.

Elle Richardson, Science Editor

In 1961, the Soviet Union launched the first human into space. For the first time in the existence of our planet, we got to see the Earth from the outside. Since then, we have sent over 600 individuals into space and countless satellites equipped with state-of-the-art cameras. So why on Earth do people in 2023 still think the Earth is flat? 

Twitter post by the Flat Earth Society and replied to by Physics-Astronomy.com, displaying their hypocrisy.

In America, 1% of the population believes the Earth is flat and 6% are “unsure”. While this may not seem like a lot on the surface, this is over 3 million people. These so-called “Flat Earthers” first started to group together back in the 1950s. Infamous conspiracy theorist Samuel Shelton first founded the International Flat Earth Research Society in England. This society would soon grow into the Flat Earth Society, which is what Flat Earthers organize under today. The Flat Earth Society spreads their conspiracy theories through online chat rooms and social media apps, most commonly Twitter and Facebook. This results in widespread misinformation.

Flat Earthers avidly dismiss that the photos taken from the International Space Station by NASA are hoaxes. They say that these photos are created by the government to confuse the people and that the only reason we don’t fall off the flat Earth is because of giant ice walls that surround the world. This belief is because they cannot see the curve of the horizon from the ground. 

To try and prove that the Earth was flat no matter what elevation, one Flat Earther attempted to DIY a space mission. “Mad” Mike Hughes was an avid Flat Earther who was heavily involved in “spreading the message”. In 2020, Hughes decided that the best way to show that the Earth truly is flat was to build a rocket and fly to close-Earth orbit with a camera. Yet the rocket only made it a couple thousand feet into the air before an engine failure sent the craft disastrously crashing into the ground. 

A less deadly experiment conducted by a Flat Earther was a $20,000 experiment to prove the Earth was flat via an at-home experiment. This experiment involved an individual standing behind two fences with holes and a laser gyroscope. A camera was placed a distance away and pointed at the hole. If the Earth really was flat, then the holes in the fence and the gyroscope light would be the same distance from the ground. Yet there was a distinct 6 foot distance between the gyroscope light and the holes. The Flat Earther had no comment for this result.

Koreshan State Park: The Hollow Earth History Of Estero Florida — Naples Florida Travel Guide
The Koreshan Unity believed that space was in the center of the world and the land and oceans were surrounding the outside. Photo used with permission from Naples Florida Travel Guide

There are many variations of the Flat Earth theory that have developed over the years. One of the most bizarre formed a cult right down the road in Estero, Florida. Called the Koreshan Unity, this group was founded in the 1870s and migrated to Estero in 1894. The cult was active until the last member passed away in 1981. The cult believed that the Earth was spherical, but that we lived on the inside of the crust and space is located at the center of the Earth. They had a university on the cult grounds that furthered this ideology.

Many astronomers and social scientists alike have worked to show these various groups that the world is, in fact, spherical in shape. Yet little sense can be made to these groups as they are too tunneled into their flawed ideology. Misinformation in the media is the main reason why such conspiracy theories have spread so far. The spread of misinformation can clearly have disastrous and occasionally deadly consequences, which proves the importance of fact checking media before spreading it.