Hello listeners of the Mad Scientist Podcast, and welcome to episode 18. This week has been a big one for the show, with a lot of really exciting developments happening for us here. First off we have been accepted into the Dark Myths Collective, a group of really awesome podcasts that I’ve been listening to since I started this adventure about a year and a half ago. The site for this podcast collection can be found at DarkMyths.org all one word, and includes such great shows as The Eastern Border, The Night Time Podcast, Astonishing Legends, History on Fire, and a whole slew of others. Give them a listen, because your support of those shows helps to support The Mad Scientist Podcast. Dark Myths is really careful about the quality of the shows they accept, and I’m just insanely proud and happy to say we’ve gotten their stamp of approval. Anyways, we’ve gotten so much love and support for the show so far, and it’s all been really great and appreciated. This show as always wouldn’t be possible without you listeners enjoying it, and so please consider reaching out to the show on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or even just shooting us a quite review on i-tunes. I’ve so far gotten to send out a few stickers to people who have left reviews, and if you want a sticker of the show’s logo send me a message with your review and address and you’ll get your sticker and a hand drawn doodle by yours truly.
So last week capped off the series on medical weirdness. I was thinking that an episode on vaccines and the controversy around those topics could be interesting, but honestly that has been covered so extremely well by documentaries, investigative journalists, and even some other podcasts, and so I am a little hesitant to throw my take on this story and topic if there isn’t really anything new for me to put out there. However if listener response to a potential show on vaccines is really big or something I am always open to doing topics that people think would be interesting.
Anyways, this week’s episode will focus on a weird topic that we sort of covered slightly in the Roundtables, where I said I would give a better answer. And hopefully, this episode will provide some of those answers. This episode we’ll look at the Flat Earth Theory, or at least modern views of Non-normal Earth theories and the surrounding conspiracy theories that are out there to try and promote these ideas. The Weird Earth topic was one that I had planned on doing for a while with this show, but it was only really until we got a question by listener Shawn Locke that the question came up in the episodes. He asked why we were so sure that the Earth was solid, as opposed to hollow as some online claim. And the answer I gave was pretty much “because science”, a not very good answer I admit, but the one that I gave at the point, with the promise of more information to come. And so this episode fulfills that promise, hopefully, allowing for more detailed information on the Earth, why we know its round, why we know its not hollow, and how we know that Nazi’s aren’t living down there with the lizard people plotting our demise.
EPISODE 18: The Delicious Possibilities of the Donut Earth
Soooo in the middle of this week Shaquille O’Neil came out and said that he believed in the Flat Earth Theory. He’s now joined Kyrie Irving as a contingent of the NBA’s Flat Earth Society I suppose, although for what its worth considering they are paid to literally shoot a ball into a hoop it’s a little hard to take their opinion on this thing seriously. Not trying to throw my lab coat around or anything, I’m just saying is all. Anyways, the Flat Earth thing and the Earth’s shape kind of being up for debate has become pretty popular online nowadays, at least if the very frustrating arguments I get into on Reddit are any indication. I think partially this is a mistrust of science generally, probably because of the sort of anti-basketball jokes I just made, and the sort of pigheaded assumptions about my superior knowledge on this subject compared to the average person. But then again, I don’t go around telling professional basketball players how best to score jump shots and shit, so I’m thinking I’m alright on this one.
Anyways, the shape of the Earth is a really interesting thing for conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. To begin with, only a very small part of the population will actually get to see the shape of the Earth with their own eyes, so it makes it a lot easier to start to sow doubt. At the same time, a lot of the evidence for the Earth’s shape that most people see or come into contact with during their lifetimes comes from the scientific establishment, and even at times from the government. People tend not to trust everything the government tells them, I mean even sometimes the guy running the government doesn’t believe the stuff the government tells us. And just think about all the other stuff people think the government is hiding. If NASA faked the moon landings, how difficult is it to imagine that they’re faking the shape of the Earth? Have YOU ever seen the shape of the Earth with your own eyes?
Well, the funny thing is that for a lot of people the answer to that question might actually be yes, although you may not have noticed it as such at the moment. First off, if you’ve ever taken a plane ride then you may have actually seen the curvature of the Earth. An even more interesting argument would be to just like, take a plane and fly all the way around. If you keep going in one direction, eventually you’ll end up at the same damn starting point. That’s a pretty cool trick if the Earth is flat or something. Another one would be to strap a go-pro to a bunch of balloons and let it fly up to space, something that loads of people have done on youtube. So just go take a look at that, unless those people are also NASA shills of course. More down to Earth arguments, forgive the pun, exist as well. First off, you can see boats dip below the horizon as they sail out towards sea. Try to imagine some scenario where this would be possible on a Flat Earth. I suppose one could argue that we’re actually on a slightly curved Earth, but again we have ocean liners that can sail from end to End of the Earth. There is no terminal point for the Earths end, so this idea of a flat earth in the sort of like, sail off the edge of the Earth mythology isn’t really tenable at all in a modern world with shipping and flying and sailing and all kinds of other transport around the globe. I mean, just ask yourself how the hell would it be possible for it to be simultaneously daytime and nighttime if the Sun is the only source of daytime light available to us? Does it make sense that on the surface of the Earth there could be areas of sunlight and sunset at the exact same moment, if the sun was shining onto a flat object. How about how stars change position in the night sky as the Earth Rotates? Maybe the best case scenario is a sort of weird final fantasy on the super Nintendo esque world map where if you fly to one end of the Flat Expanse you just end up on the other end where it would connect linearally. And some of the Flat Earth arguments do sort of try to make this claim.
However, in some cases of Flat or Near Flat Earth arguments, it isn’t so much about the shape of the Earth as it is the shape of the whole universe, or rather the make up of that universe. For example, if we take the problem of sunlight we just mentioned, well that’s only a problem if you think of a Flat Earth existing in a universe with a sun as some celestial object far away from the planet. What if the Earth was instead part of a number of concentric rings sort of system, with the light from the Sun or the Moon and the stars only showing up due to light shining from some heavenly plane behind a series of rotating panels above the surface. In other words, imagine a universe where the Earths surface is the outer surface of a ring, which faces outwards towards another series of concentric rings. The outermost ring is a bright light, which provides all light in the form of the moon, the stars, the sun, everthing. The blackness of space could then be explained as simply another ring in front of the very bright one, with some areas where it is colored and allows in enough light for it to be considered day, and other areas where it is not translucent and so instead we see night. The sun and moon in this case are then simply cutouts from that ring closest to the Earth. The clouds and weather and whatever would then be another ring. In many ways this argument holds more water even then some of the Flat Earth Theories out there on the internet, I mean hell, at least this Cogswell Universe accounts for daytime and nighttime happening at different points in the day, while some Flat Earth theories just can’t.
Anyways, how did the Flat Earth idea sort of develop over time? This idea of the Earth existing as a flat plane or curved surface is one that dates way back, and is one of the earliest sorts of cosmologies we hear about. The Bible for example has the following quote “Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day
This is more fully described in the Jewish Encyclopedia as a sort of dome like structure, quote” The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars. So slight is this elevation that birds may rise to it and fly along its expanse
“. In this description, the firmament is the vault where the stars and sun are fastened. Other ancient religions had similar sorts of ideas, for example Native American cultures believed that the universe was broken up into an upper, middle, and lower world which can roughly be translated into ideas of a heavens, earth, and hell sort of system. On the other hand, some verses of texts from the ancient Hindu religion suggest that the Earth is round, although since the entire Hindu Cosmology centers around circular cycles of birth, life, destruction, and rebirth its hard to point out exactly what is meant here. A rough translation is quote” The living entities residing on Sumeru Mountain are always very warm, as at midday, because for them the sun is always overhead. Although the sun moves counterclockwise, facing the constellations, with Sumeru Mountain on its left, it also moves clockwise and appears to have the mountain on its right because it is influenced by the dakṣiṇāvarta wind. People living in countries at points diametrically opposite to where the sun is first seen rising will see the sun setting, and if a straight line were drawn from a point where the sun is at midday, the people in countries at the opposite end of the line would be experiencing midnight. Similarly, if people residing where the sun is setting were to go to countries diametrically opposite, they would not see the sun in the same condition.” From the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Still, it is a vast oversimplification to say that all cultures had this idea of a Flat Earth, or that all ideas about cosmology were similar in some ways.
Anyways, this idea of a Flat Earth in the west really wasn’t all that set in stone as people seem to think anyways. In fact, the idea that the people as recent as Columbus believed the Earth was flat is it itself considered a modern myth, since the vast majority of ancient scholars believed that the Earth was spherical thanks to the works of a number of the ancient Greek Philosophers. For example Plato, and Aristotle both believed the Earth was round, based on the observations of the stars made by seafarers, and Aristotle specifically described some of his evidences for this fact. For example, star clusters behave slightly differently depending on where in the Earth you are, and in particular even in areas as close as some of the city states of the Ancient Greeks. So as you go towards the equator constellations will appear to rise higher above the horizon at night on the same days and at the same times, suggesting that your angle to those constellations is different than at some other point. This is not significantly possible for example on a flat plane. Another observation Aristotle used to support this notion of a flat Earth is that a lunar eclipse shows the shape of the Earth’s shadow as being a round circle, which only makes sense with a sphere.
And remember, thanks to the work of the Greek Mathematicians such as those in the school of Pythagoras we had much of the trigonometric algebra which allows for us to get some idea of the size of the earth and its shape from relatively simple math. The greek astronomer Eratosthenes in fact got a rough idea of the circumference of a spherical Earth in 240 BC, by using astronomical findings during the summer solstice at different parts of the Earth. This works in the following sort of way. First we find a particular time of day, in this case the solstice, and then two different places, which in the case of Eratosthenes was Syene and Alexandria. We can then measure what angle the sun is at normal to our particular surface by looking at the length of shadows cast by the sun on objects, and comparing that to their actual length. ng trigonometry we can get the angle of the sun causing this shadow by comparing those lengths. Now trigonometry is all about right angle triangles, which means a triangle that has one edge that makes a 90 degree angle like a square. The ratio of the arm distances are all then set into required ratios depending on the angle of the corners around that triangle, and this all works because we have stated that this triangle MUST have a 90 degree angle. The way these things are related to each other are known as trigonometric functions, which have names like sin, cosine, and tangent, and which relate the three sides to each other in relation to their position relative to the square side. I’m not trying to teach trigonometry on your way to work here, but basically the ratio of the height of the object to the shadow cast will be equal to the tangent of the angle the sun makes. I will put a drawing of this up on the website for you to check out! Anyways, if we know that angle in two places, then we can draw lines from the surface of the Earth to the center of the Earth, or at least see where those straight lines must converge to Each other. This distance is approximately the radius of the Earth! We can now get the circumference by using the equation for circumference of a circle, which is circumference = 2 pi r squared. Now this assumes that he rays from the sun are parallel since the source of sunlight is so far away, so his argument is slightly off. But still, pretty good for someone with just a ruler.
Probably one of the biggest attacks to the Flat Earth theory was really the ability to sail around the globe, and make sailing calculations based on the idea that the Earth must be spherical. And all of the reports from sailors coming in to scholars and governments really made it clear that a flat earth couldn’t be really supported over time. Herodotus for example in his Histories discusses a strange story of the sun sitting on their wrong side as they sailed past the Equator. This concerned Herodotus, but it sure makes sense to modern readers who know the Earth is spherical. And as we got better at sailing, we found that we could in fact go all around the globe, circumnavigating it and making good calculations of how long trips should take, how far away things were, and where the sun and stars should be in the sky. As my Quantum Mechanics for Spectroscopy professor used to say, the proof is in the pudding, and in this case there is so very much pudding with such a quantity of proof that its almost embarrassing that people still believe the Earth is Flat.
So why do WE think that the ancients had some idea about the flat earth? Or rather, that this idea continued all the way up to the time of Christopher Columbus for example. In fact modern views of this idea of a historical flat Earth seem to converge on the idea that this was mostly put out there as a way to discredit organized religion. Even during the middle ages there just isn’t a whole lot of evidence that supports the idea that learned peoples and even theologians believed that the Earth was Flat, instead supporting the ideas passed down by the Greek philosophers and continually improved and refined by scholars all around the world. This argument was made especially important during the time of the argument against creationism in lieu of evolution, where this idea of a simple minded Bible scholar arguing that the Earth was Flat and God made Adam from Clay and Eve from a Rib was used to attack those in favor of creationism with a straw man argument that continues to be sort of believed today. aAnyways, there isn’t a lot of proof for this flat Earth argument historically, besides in the far ancient history of the planet significantly before the times of the ancient Greeks. By the time of the 14h century approximately, this idea just was completely gone from serious scholasticism. But it was in the popularization of the story of Christopher Columbus, and particularly the biography of him published by Washington Irving in 1828, that put this idea forward in really serious historical detail. Irving suggested that in the arguing before Columbus’s trip the more religious fanatical members of the Spanish court argued with him that the Bible raised the idea of the Earth being flat, and so his argument that it was spherical and that he could therefore sail around it was mistaken. This was just a sort of romantic twist put into the book though, and the real argument was how big the Earth was, not whether or not it was spherical.
Alright, so historically there is very little argument about the Earth being spherical really, at least for the last like, 700 years or so. So where did this modern day idea come from? If we look at the Flat Earth Society website, they claim that this idea mostly began when the governments of the world began to attempt to trick their people into believing that we had been into space. And we find that the farthest back their digital library of items goes back is to around the 70’s, so its possible that this is the case. Anyways, they think that the Flat Earth truth movement sort of started or really became obvious with the trickery against the public that occurred during the space race. That’s right, they think that the Moon landing was faked, we’ve never been into space really, and all of this is a wide ranging conspiracy to keep some evil and probably cacking “Them” getting rich off of “us”. This is their response to “People have been into space” on their site.
The most commonly accepted explanation of this is that the space agencies of the world are involved in a conspiracy faking space travel and exploration. This likely began during the Cold War's 'Space Race', in which the USSR and USA were obsessed with beating each other into space to the point that each faked their accomplishments in an attempt to keep pace with the other's supposed achievements. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the conspiracy is most likely motivated by greed rather than political gains, and using only some of their funding to continue to fake space travel saves a lot of money to embezzle for themselves.
In light of the above, please note that we are not suggesting that space agencies are aware that the earth is flat and actively covering the fact up. They depict the earth as being round simply because that is what they expect it to be.
They also state that they don’t believe photographic evidence since its so easy to trick around with. Ok, so then what is their evidence? They state the following:
The evidence for a flat earth is derived from many different facets of science and philosophy. The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what's called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes' method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
Perhaps the best example of flat earth proof is the Bedford Level Experiment. In short, this was an experiment performed many times on a six-mile stretch of water that proved the surface of the water to be flat. It did not conform to the curvature of the earth that round earth proponents teach.
Which is a little startling, frankly. I don’t know if those guys read Descartes all that well, or the empiricists, but basically they are misusing both in some way. While its true that Descartes claimed that the evidence of the senses was misleading, probably one of the best examples of that is the very fact that he discusses is the problem of judging distance or shape from far away, i.e. like on the surface of a giant sphere when you’re a teeny tiny dot on that spheres surface. And maybe some of the best arguments against the flat Earth come from empirical science! So I’m not sure why they use these names here, unless to maybe try and give some legitimacy to their idea.
Anyways, they claim that the Earth is actually a flat disk, with the north pole at the center of the disk. At the edges of the disk sit Antarctica, which they claim is really a giant wall of ice, and which holds in the water of the oceans from whatever the hell is on the other side of the wall. The sun and moon therefore float above the flat disk, sort of circling around the disk to give the day and night cycle. They don’t believe in gravity, but instead in some kind of constant acceleration that brings us towards the disk itself, which I don’t know why they refuse to call it gravity cause it would be one less hurdle for them to pass to convince people the damn Earth is flat. Anyways, this idea is first seen in the literature in a book published in 1881 by Samuel Rowbotham under the pseudonym Parallax. The book called Zetetic Astronomy: Earth not a Globe proposed this sort of ice wall circle model. Anyways, this is the basic idea of the major arguments today, and unfortunately seems to be the source for most of their evidence for why the Earth is flat still today, at least according to their page on experimental evidence on their website. One of their arguments seems to be that since the Earth is curved we shouldn’t be able to see very far with telescopes or something, basically that our line of sight should drop off. Which is something we see with boats on the horizon for example, so I don’t’ fully understand their point maybe? And we know that higher up you get the more you can see in the distance, even with a telescope, something that again wouldn’t be possible with a flat Earth.
One of their strongest arguments supposedly is the Bedford Level experiment, which if you follow the show on Instagram you saw me solving with a pen and paper. So the experiment comes straight from that book published in 1881, and supposedly has not been solved according to the Flat Earth people, although its actually been scientifically proven false over and over again. Anyways, the argument for the experiment goes like this. If the Earth is curved, then over a big enough distance the drop in the height of the Earths position should be noticeable. In other words, if we are on a sphere, then the farther away you get from your starting point the more your distance should in theory drop. So they used a very straight river, the Old Bedford River in fact, in Norfolk, England, and set up height markers at 6 feet over a 6 mile expanse in the river. And what they found was that when looking through a telescope you could view all of those markers as lining up with one another, something that they believe should be impossible on a curved Earth. But, as with most experiments explained breathlessly in the same sentence as Lizard People, they didn’t take into account a number of very important factors. First off, the Earth has an atmosphere, and that atmosphere is pretty dense. And like light shining through a cup of water, the light from two points in the Earths atmosphere will refract, causing things that are farther away from us to appear closer, and causing us to be able to see much farther towards the horizon than should theoretically be possible using just the geometry of the Earths surface. But besides that, just how much of a drop should we expect over 6 miles of distance? They claim that it is something like 11 feet, but does this pan out? Well, doing all the calculations myself, it was found that with an arc length of 6 miles (the distance of the river) we should expect a drop of approximately 6 feet from the highest point of the arc, which is in the middle by definition. But lets not forget either just the sheer immenseness of the Earth we’re talking about. They took a 6 mile piece to call the Earth flat, while the radius of the Earth is 3959 miles, and the circumference or length around the whole outer-circle of the Earth is around 24,901 miles. If we calculate how far someone can see if they are around 6 feet tall to the horizon, it should be around 3 miles. With refraction averages, its 3.5 miles. That means that even with this experiment, the error needed to account for a 6 mile difference is only a drop in elevation along that part of the river/that part of the land of like 3-6 feet given different changes in refraction with weather and everything. In other words, it is pretty easy for at some parts of the river to see farther than you expect, and at others to see less than you expect, since the margin of error is only like 3 feet along a 6 mile stretch. And as far as I can tell, the topographical height of the river can vary between 1 to 2 meters, or 3 to 6 feet up and down the rivers length. So yea, a maybe unnoticeable change in elevation standing on a rivers edge looking down, but something that makes a big difference over sight of the horizon here.
Ok, so the Flat Earth isn’t really that tenable of an idea. Besides these relatively simple errors in calculation and human error in terms of measurement, we also of course have pretty standard ways of seeing what the Earth looks like, for example looking at pictures of the planet itself. And as Occam’s razor tells us, we should usually go with the simplest explanation that fits all the facts available. And that explanation is that the Earth is round, as opposed to the shape of the Earth being kept from us due to some weird super conspiracy which only the likes of Shazam is brave enough to fight against in the public sphere. What are some other weird shapes of the Earth out there. Strangely, one of the most common versions of this theory we find online is the idea that the Earth is floating on the back of a gigantic turtle. No, not like the Frank Reynolds floating on a turtle in outer space, a more serious version. Seriously.
This idea is pretty popularly attributed to the tribes of the Eastern and Northeastern Americas, particularly the region spanning from Delaware up towards Northern New York and New England. A pretty good explanation of this idea, and its symbolic meaning, is found in a letter by Jay Miller in the Journal Man, published by the Royal Antrhopological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Journal in 1974. The letter states the following:
During his visit to the New World, between 1678 and 1680, Jaspar Danckaerts recorded the most quoted account of the Origin Myth of the Delaware Indians of the Eastern United States. I will paraphrase it: First there was only water, then the Great Turtle gradually rose above water level and the Creator Placed mud on his shell. The mud dried and the Great Tree grew in the middle of the Earth. As the Tree Grew towards the sky a sprout became a man, then the Great Tree bent down and in touching the Earth caused a sprout to become a woman. From this man and woman all of humanity descended. The traditional Delaware belief that the earth rests on the back of a turtle is also shared by other tribes of the Northeastern Woodlands, most notably the Iroquois. ….The turtle is more than it appears. Speck noted that the turtle is the earth, is life. Speck saw this assertion based on qualities of the turtle that the Delaware admired in life; perserverance, longevity, and steadfastness. Also the Delawares viewed all life, time, and turtles as continuously moving from east to west. …Among the Delaware, one quality of life has priority. This is the quality of consciousness.” He goes on to discuss how the turtle represents consciousness as well, a mixing of the mind and body, just as it represents a mending of the earth and water since it is amphibious, and because it is omnivorous. There are other versions of this creation or cosmogony myth floating around too, with a tortoise or turtle being a somewhat common animal to support the Earth. I suppose it is this mixing of land/water duality, as well as the animals noted longevity and steadfastness that make it a pretty good animal to seem to be part of the planet itself. It also sort of can be easily mistaken for a rock I guess, so yea, fits pretty well. The turtle supporting the Earth itself thing isn’t really taken so seriously anymore, but it really is only slightly more silly than the flat earth idea itself. I mean according to the Flat Earth society itself we don’t really know whats on the other side of that Ice wall right? Could be turtles as far as the eye can see. Which I am all for by the way, turtles and tortoises are adorable.
Maybe my favorite somewhat more modern version of this sort of thinking is that the Earth isn’t Flat but its hollow. This myth shows up all the time on Ancient Aliens, with just as many supposed ways to get into the hollow Earth as there are groups or alien races or whatever who are living down there, or at the very least staying down there until they can plot the destruction of the rest of us. You’ve got the Denver airport, Area 51, the Marianas trench, the Bermuda triangle, the North Pole, the South Pole, the East and West Poles, shit there is probably an upcoming episode claiming that the polish guy down at your local pub might be the Pole with the hidden bunkers secrets. The argument basically sates that the Earth itself has an outer shell where we live, and then some secret underground society that is basically living there with no interference from us, but who may or may not be trying to get up here to do experiments on all of our mutilated cattle. This idea goes back a long way, I mean its not that far off from the idea of Hell or an underworld really. But in less religious views probably one of the first science positions for the hollow Earth came from Edmond Halley. He suggested in 1692 that the Earth may potentially be composed of two concentric shells with an atmosphere in between each one. But this was posited as a method to explain experimental errors in magnetic compasses and things, and he didn’t say anything about civilizations or anything. It wasn’t until later on in like the 18th and 19th centuries that people started taking this potential idea seriously. And just like the Ancient Astronaut theorists of today, one of the major reasons this was taken seriously at all was because some people can’t discern mythology from reality.
In 1781 Le Clerc Milfort began an expedition into caverns near the red river junction with the Mississippi river. This was primarily undertaken on the belief of the Creek Indians in the area, who had a myth about where they came from. They suggested that the came from the Earth, and more specifically from a subterranean Earth layer underneath are own, which is connected to the top by these caverns. Now this idea is pretty common in tribal mythologies, with similar stories appearing across South America as well. And, frankly, appearing in our own religious beliefs today to some extent. Anyways, they went on this expedition, and what do you know, didn’t find the entrance to the underworld. But they did claim that the caves were pretty big, so I guess there is that. But these weren’t the only proposed expeditions to find the hollow Earth center. John Celves Symmes Jr. suggested that we could get to the hollow Earth via the poles again. He even wanted to set an expedition up, but the kabash was put on that one by the US government refusing to fund the trip. But his ideas were really important to this field. He released various circulars and pamphlets arguing his point, the first one which contains the famous quote “I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentrick spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees; I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.
His idea is sort of different than what we think of with the hollow Earth. He thought that the transition at the poles was so slight that we wouldn’t know we were falling into the center per se, but instead sort of sailing on one continuous never ending Earth donut. He started off with five of these sort of spheres, but when that argument became untenable instead kept to just a single sphere-donut sort of weird thing. I guess more like a flattened donut. Maybe more of a bagel or croissant. You get the idea, some kind of buttery and delicious earth pastry. He thought in fact that all planets were composed in this way, and eventually his idea went on to spawn a whole bunch of hollow Earth sort of ideas. His giant polar holes became known as Symmes holes, which I guess is better than what that referred too before his pamphlets publication, but anyways his ideas weren’t really taken all that seriously. His son kept his work up, and even erecting a monument to his Father which still stands today in Hamilton Ohio.
Another person who is often referred too as being a hollow Earth prononent is Leonard Euler, who is seriously one of my favorite mathematicians, and so his inclusion in hollow Earth theory is pretty annoying. Euler discovered like, half the stuff we need to make modern differential equations work, and has so much stuff named after him that we might as well call anything past calculus 1 “Euler and Friends”. Anyways, there is absolutely no evidence that Euler really believed in the hollow Earth, instead he just sort of maybe used it as a thought experiment, although there isn’t super good evidence on that count either. Anyways, if someone states definitively that Euler believed this it probably means they aren’t trying super hard at their research.
Ok, so this finally gets us to Shawn’s Question. How do we know that it’s solid in the first place? Well, we can pretty definitively rule out Symmes holes at the poles, since plenty of people have been to the poles, and also since we have taken pictures of them. Although if the last half hour of podcast has proved anything, its that the only thing which will seemingly convince people of the shape of the Earth is either a badly written wordpress article or seeing the stupid thing itself from space. For the inside of the Earth, a lot of our evidence is circumstantial, but not circumstantial in the he said she said sort of way, more in the “every single experiment we’ve ever done confirms these assumptions about the make up of the Earth” sort of way. First off, what is the current view of the Earths make up? Well, first we have the crust, which is around 0-25 kilometers in depth. This is mostly silica and other sorts of rock and minerals. Next we have the Mantle, which is from 35 to 2890 Kilometers deep. This is made up of sort of flowy, ductile but solid silica, with some iron and magnesium present within the silicates as well. The mantle is what allows the tectonic plates to move, and it’s the heat from the core as well as convection up to the mantle that makes the extremely slowly flowing silica rocks move the continental plates. Anyways, after the mantle we get to the core. The core is made up of iron and a small amount of nickel we think, with a solid inner core and a liquid outer core. Whether or not that solid inner core is crystalline is still up for debate, but tests seem to support the idea that it is crystalline. Anyways, this is the general idea of the Earths composition.
So how do we have any idea about this composition? Well number one, we can measure some of the compositions of stuff here by actually digging it up in some cases, or by looking at composition of material that flows up from lower geological sections by things like volcanoes. We can also collect samples from the bottom of the ocean floor, or look at areas where giant caverns exist that go much deeper into the Earth than we would be able to normally. Another thing we can do is collect indirect evidence, by testing things that should be the case given a certain composition of the Earth. So for example, we can get a rough idea of what is present in the center of the Earth by looking at the ways seismic waves propagate through the planet. This happens when we perform nuclear tests, when there is an Earthquake, and when the tectonic plates of the planet shift around over time. If the Earth were hollow it would be significantly more bouncy, for lack of a better term, than how it really behaves in practice, sort of like the difference between a lead ball and a tennis ball. We also know that there must be some significant amount of a magnetic material in the center of the Earth because the Earth itself has a magnetic field, the flux of which coincides with how a giant core of iron would behave. We have an idea that the Earth must be composed of some heavy elements, and must be solid, because of the way that it moves in space, the gravity we have, and pretty much anything else that depends on the mass of the planet. In other words, a much less massive Earth would have a far smaller gravitational field, and again would not move about the sun itself in the same way. Another sort of series of tests that we do is to simulate the conditions we expect at the center of the Earth or at various levels, for instance by applying high heats and high pressures to material here in labs on the surface, to see what sort of material properties result. This is for example how we make laboratory diamonds, how we have some idea about how oil is made from organic material, and the sorts of metal crystals that might compose the inner core. Ultimately, we have a huge amount of evidence that suggests our assumptions about the Earth being solid are correct, since all of our mathematics and all the science built around those assumptions work. But we don’t have direct evidence just yet of what the core is like, because we just can’t reach there. The farthest anyone has gone to the core is 12 kilometers down, which means not super far. But again, the evidence for the Earth being solid is just as good as the evidence for things like evolution, gravity, electrons, and all kinds of other stuff that we just take for granted as existing.
That’s it for this weeks episode. Thank you again so much for listening. This weeks musical outro comes from the third album of Debajo del Agua. The song is called La Primera, and comes from their album ArteCura, which means Art Cures. I really love their stuff, they are extremely musically talented and you can hear the love for music that comes through in all of their albums. This particular albums is about the different ways music can help us heal and get through different points in our life, and honestly all of their stuff is worth giving a listen too, haven’t heard a bad song yet. Check them out on bandcamp, spotify, and itunes. Heres Debajo Del Agua with La Primera.