Recently, I had a get-together with family and friends, and we started discussing conspiracy theories. One of these that came up was the “Flat Earth Theory.” Yes, you heard it. Members of such groups as the Flat Earth Society and some celebrities, like NBA player Kyrie Irving, believe that the earth is not a sphere but a disc that the sun and moon rotate around in a circle above it. I will not get into their theories’ hows and why’s. Quite frankly, if you read any scientific article, physics refutes their claims. But hey, people can believe what they want to believe. What interested me about this theory is what would happen to food if the earth was flat. I wonder if they ever thought about it when they claimed a flat Earth.
Let’s Talk About Gravity and Our Earth
What is gravity? Great physicists like Albert Einstein, who presented his Theory of Relativity, argued that all objects with mass (like the Earth) push objects down as a result of space and time. The greater the mass of the two objects and the shorter the distance between them, the stronger the pull of the gravitational forces they exert on each other. From everything we have learned about gravity, if the Earth were flat, it would pull straight down at one point towards the center of the disk. Then, as you got farther away from that point, the pull would be more horizontal than vertical. As a result, the water on our Earth’s surface would be drawn to the center, and trees would grow diagonally.
Within our core lies a magnetic field whose constant movement keeps our planet from cosmic radiation and the charged particles emitted by the sun. Without it, we would fry like everything else on the Earth’s surface. Our atmosphere would cease to exist. On a flat earth, the sphered rotation of the magnetic field would need to replicate, which would not be possible if not in a sphere. The way that gravity works, every molecule of air would be drawn to the Earth’s center of mass. (On a spherical earth, the atmosphere settles around the Earth.) With air drawn towards the center, air pressure would range from near zero (no atmosphere) at the edge and massive values towards the middle. So if you lived in Australia, you would probably suffocate, and if you lived closer to the North Pole, you would get crushed by the weight of the atmosphere.
What Happens to Food?
Plant life as we know it depends on a few things working harmoniously together. They need the right temperature, light, water, and air. If our planet were indeed a flat disc with a sun that circles it, all plant life would cease to exist. Flat Earthers state that the sun is 32 miles wide and approximately 3,000 miles above the Earth. A flat Earth has about two and a half times more surface area to heat than a sphere. This tiny sun would not be strong enough to heat the entire Earth’s surface – plant life and all humanity would freeze.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Earth’s surface area remains the same. Distributing the same solar energy over this smaller area makes the Earth much hotter. As a result, most locations on Earth would become uninhabitable, where plant life would not be able to grow.
The Moon Cools Us
For every scientific argument presented, Flat Earth proponents have a counter-argument. So how does plant life continue to exist? The Moon. Yes, the Moon has cooling properties that balance out the sun’s warmth. According to them, the Moon has its own light. But this contradicts everything we know about heat and light. Light contains energy that objects absorb, and if the Moon does, in fact, have light, it should heat objects rather than cool them. In reality, our Moon does help make the Earth a more livable planet. It moderates the Earth’s axis’s wobble, leading to a relatively stable climate.
Most plants need cyclical exposure to moonlight for regeneration and growth. For example, leaf growth stimulates as moonlight increases (new Moon and second quarter). There is no scientific proof, however, that it can cool.
Light It Up
Paleontologists have found the earliest evidence of fire control from approximately 1.7 to 2.0 million years ago. They discovered fire and, with it, cooking methods. The rest, as they say, is history.
The flames that burn upwards are due to the changing density of the Earth’s atmosphere. Flames are essentially hot gases, and since they are less dense than their surroundings, they rise. On a flat earth, we may have a problem. Most fires require at least 16 percent oxygen content to burn. The unequal density of atmospheric pressure on a flat earth would make it near impossible to create fire in most areas. Without fire, man would never have invented barbeque, and that would be a shame.
Do You Believe?
In today’s troubled times, many people look to find things they can believe. Throughout history, conspiracy theories have flourished during times of sociopolitical uncertainty. Take, for example, the Salem Witch trials in the 1690s. These events resulted from social and political changes in Puritan New England. Puritanism created the feat that a network of women existed who plotted to do evil. The capture and murder of these women gave people a feeling of control and calmed their fears of the unknown. One can add today’s Flat Earth theory and all its variations to this list. (If you want to read a subsequent claim from Flat Earth proponents, read this fascinating article on why they don’t believe trees exist.) All I know is that if we did live on a flat earth, I would not be able to enjoy cooking and eating all the great food I do. That in itself is reason enough to ignore this theory. How about you?