The recent flare up between rapper B.o.B and Neil DeGrasse Tyson over earth curvature has been interesting to watch. A nice summary can be found here (NPR link). B.o.B asserts not only that the earth is flat but that there is also a NASA coverup. It’s not clear why there would be a coverup.
So lets unpack this a bit. The tweet below is what set off the whole thing:
First, lets explain why our perceptions can be mistaken. B.o.B asks, “Where is the curve?”. Well it is right in front of his eyes but over a distance of 16 miles it is not perceptible. Sixteen miles is only about 0.064 % of the earths circumference (if you believe it has a circumference) which means there are over 1500 more of these distances in the great circle that includes these two cities. Now, imagine you cut a pie or an orange 1500 times, pull out a single slice and looked at its edge. How much evidence of the original curve do you think you will see? This is a classic mistake where we think we are seeing everything we need to see. And ‘seeing is believing’. ‘Our eyes are never mistaken’. This is wrong. And there is a litany of optical illusions on line that can demonstrate this. A classic is the straight lines that look bent.
It’s a different phenomenon but it illustrates the problem.
Another tweet B.o.B put out appears to be a from a list of reasons why the earth is flat. No doubt from a very trusted online source.
This contains a lie and demonstrates that the earth is curved, all in one poorly thought out argument. To begin, you can’t see Polaris 20 degrees South. But thanks for using a curved metric (what does 20 degrees mean if the earth is flat?) to prove the earth is not curved. Polaris is about 2 degrees off the Northern Pole so Polaris is visible from the Southern Hemisphere so long as you are very close to the equator and not too far south into the Southern Hemisphere. Any further south than Nairobi in Kenya and it does indeed never rise above the horizon.
So I guess Barak Obama never saw it either until he moved to the US. Yes, that is how dumb this all sounds.
Now lets get personal. I know all this about Polaris because I was born and grew up in the Southern Hemisphere. I never saw Polaris until one day I moved to the US. One of the first things I did was go out at night and look up at the night sky and look for all the constellations I had been told about but could never see. Heh, maybe I had been lied to. Think of it from my perspective. Time and again, we of the Southern Hemisphere are told how to find north by using the Pole Star and how to find it using the ‘Big Dipper’ (North American media is strong – it’s not called the big dipper anywhere else). What utter crap! There is no Big Dipper, no Pole Star! From my 33 Degrees South location, none of this is visible. But I could see the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds, neither of which can be seen from most of the Northern Hemisphere and certainly not Atlanta (just saying).
These things are real, but you have probably never seen them for two reasons. 1) You probably have never heard about them and 2) You are probably from the Northern Hemisphere (see first reason) and the earth beneath you makes you point in the wrong direction to see it… because the earth is round. Just like it is impossible to see the Pole Star from the Southern Hemisphere. This is how I knew for sure the earth was curved – not that I ever doubted it but it was amazing to have it demonstrated. It was mind blowing and humbling. The Pole star was there, but my Southern Cross was gone. It hadn’t just been moved further down in the sky (like if the earth of flat)… it was gone!
So this is the fundamental problem. Our perspective can be so limiting some times its hard to think outside it. It’s easier to accept our small world view and assume a conspiracy of lies:
For what purpose? Doesn’t matter. We just assume we can’t be mistaken.
And that is so damn arrogant. The realm of twitter feeds.