Hold my beer, Elon
November 25, 2017 4:13 AM   Subscribe

On Saturday, a limousine driver plans to launch himself on a mile-long flight over the Mojave Desert in a rocket of his own making. His name is "Mad" Mike Hughes, his steam-powered rocket is built of salvaged metals, his launch pad is repurposed from a used mobile home — and he is confident this will mark the first step toward proving the Earth is flat, after all.
'I Don't Believe In Science,' Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket posted by peeedro (129 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
...and, probably to his disappointment, will prove that Darwin was right.
posted by at by at 4:15 AM on November 25 [8 favorites]


Well, not to his disappointment, but probably his next of kin
posted by Merus at 4:24 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


“I don’t believe in science,” says apparent rocket non-scientist
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:29 AM on November 25 [48 favorites]


I thought the launch was delayed until Tuesday.

Anyway, I like to think that I am above such primitive emotions as bloodlust, but then something like this comes along and I get excited for the opportunity to watch someone get seriously injured or die and I realize that nope, I am basically a shithead.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:32 AM on November 25 [54 favorites]


I’m pretty sure this guy is just a rocket nut, and has taken on the flat earth stuff just to get funding from loons.

Also: he could get more altitude mountaneering.
posted by pompomtom at 4:34 AM on November 25 [57 favorites]


> Well, not to his disappointment, but probably his next of kin

That would more likely disprove Darwin.
posted by at by at 4:34 AM on November 25 [12 favorites]


I Don't Believe In Science
posted by Flat-Earther

I am basically a shithead.
posted by Literaryhero
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 4:38 AM on November 25 [21 favorites]


I sincerely hope this guy is less nutty than he's letting on, and has at least packed a parachute, or has some amazing punchline prepared.
posted by threecheesetrees at 4:42 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


vz=v0·sin θ·e-g·t/vt - vt(1-e-g·t/vt)
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:50 AM on November 25 [25 favorites]


I’m pretty sure this guy is just a rocket nut, and has taken on the flat earth stuff just to get funding from loons.

Apparently so:
Still, Hughes converted to the flat-Earth belief recently, shortly after his first fundraising campaign for the rocket earned just $310 of its $150,000 goal. His second campaign, this time posted after his conversion and with the support of the flat-Earth community, succeeded in hitting its $7,875 goal.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:57 AM on November 25 [45 favorites]


He should rename it the Skycycle X-3. Also, what is wrong with using an airplane? Or a balloon? Or a TV transmitter?
posted by TedW at 5:10 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


So I read this article the other day and immediately had the thought, wouldn't a boat be the easiest way to prove the earth is flat So I went to the flat earth wiki to see what their response was to such an easy disqualifier. They think Antarctica is not an island continent, but rather a ring of ice that goes all the way around the perimeter of the earth disk. And that, boys and girls, is what keeps the water from falling off the edge.

Also, in the flat earth worldview, the moon and planets are spheres.

What I am still curious about is their cosmology. Exactly how did there come to be a gigantic coin that we live on while the moon and other planets are spheres. It is quite strange.
posted by ian1977 at 5:11 AM on November 25 [33 favorites]


There's a related discussion on Ask from the other day about how to properly convince a flat-earthier they are wrong.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:15 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


They think Antarctica is not an island continent, but rather a ring of ice that goes all the way around the perimeter of the earth disk. And that, boys and girls, is what keeps the water from falling off the edge.

So either they are also climate-change deniers, or their eschatology involves the entire ocean draining into space, I guess?
posted by busted_crayons at 5:20 AM on November 25 [14 favorites]


Exactly how did there come to be a gigantic coin that we live on

The giant tortoise carried it in on it's back.
posted by sammyo at 5:23 AM on November 25 [32 favorites]


"I don't believe in science," Hughes added. "I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air, about the certain size of rocket nozzles, and thrust. But that's not science, that's just a formula. There's no difference between science and science fiction."

I don't believe in language. I believe in words and grammar and how to combine them into sentences. But that's not language, that's writing. There's no difference between language and banana.
posted by PlusDistance at 5:23 AM on November 25 [119 favorites]


or has some amazing punchline prepared.

I think the punchline is going to be a very loud "doink" noise
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:36 AM on November 25 [11 favorites]


as long as this guy doesn't dismember a journalist in his next improbable transportation device, more power to him.
posted by mwhybark at 5:40 AM on November 25 [5 favorites]


> vz=v0·sin θ·e-g·t/vt - vt(1-e-g·t/vt)
That's some serious HTML artisanship.
posted by runcifex at 5:41 AM on November 25 [48 favorites]


> "What I am still curious about is their cosmology. Exactly how did there come to be a gigantic coin that we live on while the moon and other planets are spheres. It is quite strange."

The thing is ... it's the stupidest conspiracy theory.

It is the conspiracy theory that other conspiracy theories make fun of.

YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISTS have stuff up on their sites saying, "No, the earth isn't flat, please please please stop bothering us."

To believe in the flat earth hypothesis, you have to be able to dismiss observations that you can actually make with your naked eye. You don't need to take someone else's word for it, you don't even need a telescope.

And I mean, it's not just the ship's mast thing, or looking at skyscrapers across a big lake, although both of those will do it (as will a few hundred other simple tests). But if you have ever seen a sunrise or sunset, or moonrise or moonset, that disproves the flat earth hypothesis you're talking about. (They think the sun and moon are glowing balls a few miles up circling around. If that were true, the sun and moon would get visibly smaller as they got farther away before they disappeared from view. They don't. You can see they don't. They stay the same size, and drop below the horizon, as if they were staying at a relatively constant distance from you above a rotating surface. Fancy that.)

These people are idiots. That is pretty much the answer to any, "How can they think that ...?" type question.
posted by kyrademon at 5:47 AM on November 25 [30 favorites]


I think the punchline is going to be a very loud "doink" noise

Nah, there's no way he'll get high enough to hit the skybox.
posted by metaBugs at 5:48 AM on November 25 [21 favorites]


And, the winner of the 2017 Darwin Award is...
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on November 25


Don't give encouragement, publicity, and donations to a dumb stunt that will end with him dead and his four cats without a feeding person.
posted by pracowity at 5:55 AM on November 25 [15 favorites]


One of the first signs I saw that America was going off the rails was a flat-earther guy who used to come and sit outside one of the science buildings at work. He seemed like a harmless crank at the time, kind of like how the alt-right seemed like a bunch of basement-dwelling keyboard commandos.

On another note, George Orwell wrote a short but actually a bit chilling in the event essay which I now see I'd remembered wrong - he reasons that he can prove to himself, without arguing from authority, that the earth is not flat, but then gets a little stuck arguing with a theoretical Oval Earther.
posted by Frowner at 5:57 AM on November 25 [5 favorites]


mad mike hughes is setting out to prove the earth is flat - in the meantime, the earth will be doing its best to prove mad mike hughes is flat, especially if his parachute doesn't work

i mean, my god, why didn't he just hire an airplane?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 AM on November 25 [13 favorites]


Gags aside, a few years ago the Be Reasonable podcast interviewed a flat-earther.
Marsh and Hayley spoke to Michael to find out why he believes the world is flat, how he and his fellow members reconcile their beliefs with the accepted science, and the criticisms his ideas are met with by the general public.
It's an interesting listen, but even by the end I wasn't sure whether the guy actually believed it or was just taking the piss.

There do seem to be at least a few true believers, though. In Edinburgh this summer someone had put up this banner, which at first I thought was Art but actually leads to quite extensive archives of YouTube "lectures", detailed webpages, etc. They're far too numerous and obsessively written to all be a pisstake. It genuinely fills me with despair that while we're trying to build a more rational, evidence-based society, so many people seem determined to believe this mad, trivially falsifiable bollocks.
posted by metaBugs at 6:03 AM on November 25 [4 favorites]


“I don’t believe in math,” says man determined to prove his direct deposit was wrong.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:14 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


Tbe earth may or may not be flat overall, but I confidently predict that it will take on the profile of a shallow bowl at his destination.

For those who are interested in such things, I warmly recommend researching the history of flat-eartherism to experience self-delusion and incredible resistance to evidence in its highest form. I first dug down into it when I was a foot-warrior in the online creationist/evolution stuff back in the 80s and 90s, and it really brought it home to me how naive it was to imagine that patient reasoning, honest debate, logic and evidence could shift someone who was determined not to be shifted.
posted by Devonian at 6:16 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


Actually, though, when I got to talking about all this flat-earther business with Actual Scientists (TM), it occurred to me to try to work out why I "believe in science", and how well-grounded my beliefs are. Now, my scientist buddies have the ability to test some big hypotheses - germ theory for some, flatness of the earth for others. And all have enough education in the scientific method and general background stuff that they can evaluate the plausibility of a publication unless it's extremely specialized. You could fool the germ theory people on physics pretty easily, but you would have to work to fool them in the biological sciences, etc.

For me, of course, it's harder. You can fool me with plausible-sounding nonsense about science pretty easily.

In terms of a flat earth: I don't think I'd ever even wonder about it if we somehow lived in a society which believed it flat. Like George Orwell, I can make some basic points about perspective to show that the earth can't be flat, but I might have trouble with the Oval Earther.

But fundamentally my arguments about the state of the earth hinge on accepting authority - I am not a pilot or a navigator and for all I know, when I fly somewhere the pilot is just lying to us and using True Sekrit Flat Earth Navigation. Maybe what I see at the horizon is just an illusion, right? I assume that all the things that work because of the roundness of the earth really work for that reason, and not for some other reason.

I accept germ theory mainly because of an argument from authority - it explains most of my experience, but so could some other theory about contagion. Antibiotics work, I've observed this in my own life, so that's a point in favor of germ theory - everyone could be lying, of course.

The biggest prop of my belief in science is actually "I don't think a conspiracy about the world could be sustained at that scale". It would be hard to lie about germs, antibiotics, the shape of the earth, etc etc, and fake all the stuff you need to fake, and also be conducting research to make non-germ-theory antibiotic-like medicines, etc and not have it come out. It's not the prop that I think about the most, because it's not a very self-flattering one, but it's also the one I have the most immediate confidence in. You could fool me about science, but I have spent most of my working life so far doing things that relate to grant administration and science-y money stuff, and I know how complicated our research infrastructure is. I believe in science because I have direct experience with how science is administered - on the one hand, this has made me skeptical of a lot of science reporting and kind of skeptical on the replicability issue, but on the other it's made me very confident that the enterprise itself is trying to do what it says it is.

In any case - that I believe that the world can be known through what we broadly call "scientific methods" doesn't really hinge on my own scientific literacy. I am not really a scientifically literate person (for instance, I once poured water on a grease fire).

Honestly, after the revolution we should not only increase the sorts of scientific education where you sit down in a lab with a bunsen burner or a cow eyeball (did not enjoy!) but should also do more history and philosophy of science and more "let's read the New Scientist and the general-interest Nature articles every Friday" stuff.
posted by Frowner at 6:23 AM on November 25 [54 favorites]


Don't give encouragement, publicity, and donations to a dumb stunt that will end with him dead and his four cats without a feeding person.

I think that's the real takeaway here.

Instead of giving these people publicity, a guest spot on Oprah, or promoting them to the head of the EPA they should be marginalized and put on the fringes where they belong.

IMO part of how we got to where we are today is because we let these idiots have a louder voice than the sane majority. Or it's excellent clickbait. Probably both.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:24 AM on November 25 [9 favorites]


Maybe they're really just postmodern pranksters trying to make a point about preserving cultural space for prescientific modes of thinking. It doesn't make any sense otherwise. Unless there's something unique about the neuroanatomy of flat earthers that messes with their intuitive spatial reasoning abilities and they just literally will never be able to feel like it makes sense the earth's not flat, in which case, maybe they'll just always be with us at the margins, mistaking their own cognitive weaknesses and intuitive blindspots for evidence about reality. What else could it be? I think for most people, it's pretty easy to assimilate and find intuitively appealing the fact the earth is round. As a kid, maybe you don't really give it much thought and tend toward the naively realistic view of the earth as flat but as soon as you start seeing evidence with your own eyes--and unless you don't get out much to explore, you inevitably do--encountering the idea the earth is more like a ball than like a sheet of paper just seems like one of those obvious facts you only needed someone to point out to you for the first time to see clearly for yourself. That was my experience with it anyway, so it's really hard to understand and identify with others who don't see it that way, even recognizing we must still have most things in common.

Maybe it's like a kind of spatial aphasia that limits some people's abilities to intuit complex spatial topologies. Maybe it's got nothing to do with logical arguments or ideas and beliefs at all under the surface, except to the extent identity and self-image issues generally overlapping with neurological ones can have real social consequences.

Either way, I hope the dude doesn't die. Seems to me he's likely not even a flatearth true believer, just opportunistically tapping into that community's enthusiasm to fund his real interests. That's a little shady if true, but realistically, it's such common practice in our winning at all costs oriented culture, it seems a little harsh to single the guy out as uniquely deserving bad karma for that when his life's on the line.

Still, it illustrates how corrupting that sort of opportunism can be. He's bound his own personal success to the success of a cause that's arguably harmful to society because that makes it easier to fund his own ambitions. He might as well be in party politics or pitching a tech startup.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:30 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Maybe what I see at the horizon is just an illusion, right?

Probably just another illusion devised by an evil demon to ensnare your judgment.
posted by sfenders at 6:44 AM on November 25


i mean, my god, why didn't he just hire an airplane?

Reading between the lines in the story, it appears that this launch is more of a proof-of-concept for a more ambitious future launch that would enter Earth orbit. There, it seems, Mike plans to take photos that "prove" Flat Earth theory.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I think the punchline is going to be a very loud "doink" noise

Scientific regress goes "Doink"!?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:51 AM on November 25 [25 favorites]


this launch is more of a proof-of-concept for a more ambitious future launch that would enter Earth orbit rise high enough to take a picture of the whole surface of the Earth at once
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:56 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


Unless there's something unique about the neuroanatomy of flat earthers that messes with their intuitive spatial reasoning abilities

this is great shade and i shall enter it into my shadeonomicon
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:58 AM on November 25 [9 favorites]


I want the Flat Earth Society that sadly accepts the current state of globe earth but proposes to make it flat through a civilizational program of astroengineering.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:07 AM on November 25 [16 favorites]


Well, to be fair:
Getting to space is easy. It's not, like, something you could do in your car, but it's not a huge challenge. You could get a person to space with a small sounding rocket the size of a telephone pole. The X-15 aircraft reached space just by going fast and then steering up.

But getting to space is easy. The problem is staying there.
(Also, for those who haven't already read Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, it specifically talks about how we figured out / how we can know about things like the inside of the earth, and subatomic particles, and the Big Bang, and a lot of that stuff, because he realized he didn't know. I Heartily Endorse, &c.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:13 AM on November 25 [13 favorites]


with him dead and his four cats without a feeding person

I don't know, four cats could probably survive a fair amount of time feeding off him.

So what is there to gain by a vast worldwide conspiracy to dupe the public into thinking the earth is round instead of flat? Something so valuable that the Soviets wouldn't have exposed NASA, for instance? What is the benefit of faking a round earth?

I thought Flat Earthers were like FSM believers - a group sharing a somewhat complicated joke/social comment. I refuse to believe anybody who has given it more than a moment's attention actually believes this stuff.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:13 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]


The earth may not be flat, but he soon will be.
posted by azpenguin at 7:14 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I originally thought "someone stop this deluded man from killing himself," now I guess I hope he's just a con artist? Yep, it's 2017.
posted by emjaybee at 7:17 AM on November 25 [9 favorites]


A hero in ancient times.
posted by metallrabbit at 7:17 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I swear that I read a story with this same premise when i was a kid. Like, maybe, one of Bertrand Brinley's Mad Scientists' Club stories, with the would be flatronaut being that one kid that grown-up me would suspect of being a future John Bircher and/or a regular on /r/MGTOW? Or maybe I'm thinking of Salvage 1 or even, yes, Evel Knievel? Maybe there's just something in certain dudes that goes, "Fuck the rocket science, I wanna go up, I'll worry about coming down once I'm up there."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:20 AM on November 25


It’s a hell of a story arc.
posted by chavenet at 7:20 AM on November 25 [8 favorites]


I sincerely hope this guy is less nutty than he's letting on, and has at least packed a parachute, or has some amazing punchline prepared.

From the WaPo article linked in the FPP, this is not his first rodeo:
He built his first manned rocket in 2014, the Associated Press reported, and managed to fly a quarter-mile over Winkelman, Ariz.

As seen in a YouTube video, the flight ended with Hughes being dragged, moaning from the remains of the rocket. The injuries he suffered put him in a walker for two weeks, he said.
So . . . I would guess no parachute.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:20 AM on November 25 [4 favorites]


The FA says he has parachutes. Also that he had parachutes the last time but one didn’t open. Also, it was the first time he had ever parachuted.

Meanwhile the pay per view streaming site mentions the Guiness Book of World Records is involved. That organization has devolved into something almost as ridiculous and unscientific as the Flat Earth Society.
posted by chavenet at 7:25 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I swear that I read a story with this same premise when i was a kid.

You might be thinking about this.
posted by peeedro at 7:27 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


I thought the launch was delayed until Tuesday.

An update, A flat-Earther’s plan to launch himself in a homemade rocket just hit a speed bump
A California man who planned to launch himself 1,800 feet high Saturday in a homemade scrap-metal rocket — in an effort to prove that Earth is flat — said he is postponing the experiment after he couldn't get permission from a federal agency to conduct it on public land.

Instead, Mike Hughes said the launch will take place sometime next week on private property, albeit still in Amboy, Calif., an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert along historic Route 66.
posted by peeedro at 7:49 AM on November 25


There, it seems, Mike plans to take photos that "prove" Flat Earth theory.

Wait till he finds out that They* have modified the firmware of every camera made to make the earth appear round in photos.

* or possibly Them
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:53 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


"I don't believe in science" says man setting out to gather evidence in order to confirm or refute a hypothesis?
posted by qntm at 7:53 AM on November 25 [85 favorites]


A plan to preserve cultural space for prescientific thinking? That's as otiose as the Society To Save Braggadocio In Rap.
posted by Devonian at 8:16 AM on November 25 [4 favorites]


it appears that this launch is more of a proof-of-concept for a more ambitious future launch that would enter Earth orbit
"ORBIT"
posted by idiopath at 8:19 AM on November 25 [12 favorites]


I wonder if his rocket has GPS guidance?
posted by MattD at 8:19 AM on November 25 [5 favorites]


Actually, how do these people think satellites work? Like a mechanical albatross continually riding an updraft? Just another fake thing?
posted by idiopath at 8:22 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


Anything is possible when you reject Occam's Razor.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:29 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Actually, how do these people think satellites work? Like a mechanical albatross continually riding an updraft? Just another fake thing?
Suction cups sticking to the aforementioned skybox. The tricky part is licking the cup and polishing the right bit of sky (using the customary Acme™ polishing cloth) during the Wylie Window® (the moments between ascending and descending for those not in the know). Timing is everything here people.
posted by mce at 8:30 AM on November 25 [4 favorites]


Still, Hughes converted to the flat-Earth belief recently, shortly after his first fundraising campaign for the rocket earned just $310 of its $150,000 goal. His second campaign, this time posted after his conversion and with the support of the flat-Earth community, succeeded in hitting its $7,875 goal.

Ah, this whole thing suddenly makes a lot more sense.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:32 AM on November 25 [4 favorites]


the Guiness Book of World Records is involved. That organization has devolved into something almost as ridiculous and unscientific as the Flat Earth Society.

You can pretty much buy any Guiness record you want if the price is right.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:44 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Unless there's something unique about the neuroanatomy of flat earthers that messes with their intuitive spatial reasoning abilities and they just literally will never be able to feel like it makes sense the earth's not flat, in which case, maybe they'll just always be with us at the margins, mistaking their own cognitive weaknesses and intuitive blindspots for evidence about reality. What else could it be?

Not taking the above seriously, but I love this paper. The illustrations on 549 show how kids initially make sense of people telling them that the earth is round.

Vosniadou S, Brewer WF. Mental models of the earth: A study of conceptual change in childhood. Cognitive psychology. 1992 Oct 31;24(4):535-85.

http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/24989675/1129755629/name/vosniadoubrewer-mentalmodels.pdf
posted by zeek321 at 8:45 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


A hero in ancient times.

Nah, ancient mathematicians had already proved the earth's curvature around the time that Hannibal was promising his dad that he would never be a subject of Rome, several hundred years after it became a popular theory.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:50 AM on November 25 [5 favorites]


I love that the WaPo article describes his plan as a "journey into the atmosflat".
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:59 AM on November 25 [19 favorites]


Oh No Ross and Carrie is a podcast wherein the titular Ross and Carrie go undercover at various pseudoscientific gatherings and report back. They just did a Flat Earth series this past few weeks, after going to a couple of pizza meetups. I highly recommend it.

They covered the fact that the Flat Earth belief is never alone -- it's generally comorbid with other beliefs, some of them daffy and some very dark, depending on the believer. Some are kind of tragic. The Flat Earther rapper B.o.B. apparently believes that slave ships never existed, because of a white conspiracy to make people believe that black people do not belong in America. There is a bitter story to be told there about the blending of American anti-intellectualism with the very real ways in which the educational and scientific establishment have failed African-Americans, but B.o.B. is into Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic theories so I'm not making any excuses for him today.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:01 AM on November 25 [19 favorites]


There's a related discussion on Ask from the other day about how to properly convince a flat-earthier they are wrong.

The challenge is to start with their main problem of avoiding reality, which takes some knowledge of the person. If the person is unknown, then the goal is to gently reinforce the idea of keeping any jobs and friends while ignoring any impulsive thoughts.
posted by Brian B. at 9:07 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


ObSF: C.M. Kornbluth, "The Rocket of 1955".

(It's very short)
posted by Chrysostom at 9:31 AM on November 25 [5 favorites]


A fool and his science are soon parted.
posted by Catblack at 9:32 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I suspect a lot of the supposed believers in wacky conspiracies talk this shit up because they think it's a cool stance to take -- iconoclastic, anti-government, too smart to be outsmarted -- something that makes an otherwise uninteresting person slightly interesting. I doubt the majority of "Flat-Earthers" actually believe the world is flat or care one way or the other.
posted by pracowity at 9:49 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I believe in a spheroid earth for the reasons Frowner outlines above, but it sure feels flat. All of my casual observation points to a flat earth.

Even watching ships go over the horizon: When I walk down to the beach, it looks like the water is gradually rising up from the beach, and the horizon is above level. It's kind of like when you pour a bit of water on a flat surface; the water rises up from the edge. If I were doing pre-scientific reasoning, I'd analogize that the oceans are just doing the same thing on a grand scale. I'm watching the ship gradually rise up the hump, and then when it gets over the hump it would start disappearing from my view. I would have to do lots of careful measurement and math from various heights near a sea shore to show that this idea didn't fit the evidence, and I doubt I'd ever do those measurements. Even then, I'm sure I could explain it away to myself as local curvature rather than global curvature.

This is all to say that my belief in a round earth is based on faith in scientists and scientific reasoning. If everybody else believed in a flat earth - if humanity hadn't accumulated centuries of evidence in favour of a round earth - I would, too.
posted by clawsoon at 9:50 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


he is postponing the experiment after he couldn't get permission from a federal agency to conduct it on public land.

Well the gummint's strenuous efforts to keep this man on the ground are suspicious! What are they hiding? Do they need extra time to get the 3-D curvature projectors into place?! Wake up sheeple!
posted by chavenet at 9:56 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


So, what are the odds that when he does get to “launch” his rocket will crap out and he’ll have to start another round of fundraising for the next attempt? I mean, I figure he spends about $500 to slap together something that looks like a rocket, pockets the remaining $7300, rinses, and repeats. Next round he can even talk about how the government and Big Science sabotaged him so he can ask for more
money for “security”.
posted by nubs at 10:42 AM on November 25


Great paper, zeek321.
posted by clawsoon at 10:48 AM on November 25


...although I gotta say: Asking children to draw a 3D earth on a 2D piece of paper is a bit of a dirty trick.
posted by clawsoon at 10:57 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]



...and, probably to his disappointment, will prove that Darwin was right.


It's OK. He doesn't believe in Darwin, either.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:04 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


All of my casual observation points to a flat earth.

You must observe things differently than I do, because almost all of my casual observations of the world don't suggest any particular shape for it. Far as I can tell from where I'm sitting, it could be flat, it could be round, it could be a tetrahedron.

There are a couple of exceptions: 1. I've seen a lunar eclipse, and that other celestial objects are round. 2. I've watched a sunrise at sea from a small boat. It sure looks like a round planet rotating beneath the stars from that point of view.

Arguing for a flat earth, all I can think of is to assume that the surface of the ocean, like that of a bucket of water, should be level and therefore flat. It's not as simple an observation, relying on more indirect reasoning. Raindrops are a counter-example. On balance, I'm going to say it's probably round-ish.
posted by sfenders at 11:06 AM on November 25


almost all of my casual observations of the world don't suggest any particular shape for it.

I think I could rule out a bowl shape from casual observation, because we don't see the sides of the bowl rising up.
posted by clawsoon at 11:09 AM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I believe in science because I have direct experience with how science is administered - on the one hand, this has made me skeptical of a lot of science reporting and kind of skeptical on the replicability issue, but on the other it's made me very confident that the enterprise itself is trying to do what it says it is.

I believe in science because I know a lot of scientists. If there's a big hoax, then the scientists I know must either be a) taken in by it, or b) in on it.

As for a), they're generally pretty sharp, therefore unlikely to be taken in by a hoax in their own field.

As for b), they are not the sort of people to want to seriously perpetrate a hoax.

In fact, they're pretty much the exact opposite of that sort of person. That's why they're scientists.
posted by BrashTech at 11:23 AM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Have the scientists ever taken the time to categorically rule out the possibility of a cylindrical earth, like a long strand of spaghetti?
posted by sfenders at 11:28 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


They've done some noodling.
posted by clawsoon at 11:30 AM on November 25 [17 favorites]


It would be cool if there were Hindu fundamentalists who believe that the world-elephants and the World Turtle are literally real.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:40 AM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I'm getting more and more serious about my plan to have me and a number of my closest friends take a sailing ship out to the edge to document once and for all the flatness of the earth and send back images from what will probably a doomed voyage. As we will almost certainly die heroically going over the edge in the end, I think it's only fair that our ship be well-stocked with only the finest food and booze, of course, and that's really not all that much to ask of those flat-earthers among us who will be funding my kickstarter.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:41 AM on November 25 [6 favorites]


What. The. Fuck.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:45 AM on November 25


I believe in spherical Earth like I believe in Cleveland, Ohio.

I've never been to Cleveland, and none of my casual firsthand observations tell me there must be a Cleveland, but people who should know, people I have every reason to believe, tell me Cleveland is there. They have stories and pictures that all hang together and fit with the rest of the world as I know it. I would have to believe some very wacky, very elaborate bullshit, stuff that is contrary to lots of other stuff and people I believe, to believe Cleveland is a hoax.

I've never seen spherical Earth firsthand, and none of my casual firsthand observations tell me Earth must be spherical, but people who should know, people I have every reason to believe, tell me Earth is round. People have flown around Earth in spaceships and planes. They say it's obviously spherical from space, and even from near-space. They have pictures, movies, and the testimony of many people. I would have to believe some very wacky, very elaborate bullshit, stuff that is contrary to lots of other stuff I believe, to believe spherical Earth is a hoax.

Are a lot of Flat Earthers something like contrarian Trump voters -- willing to support the dumbest thing, even as a joke, because everyone they hate is against the dumbest thing?
posted by pracowity at 11:48 AM on November 25 [22 favorites]


More like Splat Earth, amirite?
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:52 AM on November 25


He should make sure to join the Man Will Never Fly Memorial Society.
posted by Grandysaur at 12:04 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he's using this map.
(Previously)
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:14 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


none of my casual firsthand observations tell me Earth must be spherical

Boats disappear upwards, you can only see skyscrapers across a lake.
posted by Talez at 12:18 PM on November 25


Spoiler alert: he survives and the Trump administration makes him director of NASA.
posted by lydhre at 12:18 PM on November 25 [13 favorites]


Hell, the fact that solstices even exist immediately disprove a flat earth.
posted by Talez at 12:19 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Boats disappear upwards, you can only see skyscrapers across a lake.

Without detailed measurements, both of those also fit my "hump of water" half-baked theory.
posted by clawsoon at 12:29 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


It occurs to me that the use of non-Euclidean geometry could keep a flat-earth theory alive even in the face of a fair bit of (ground-based) evidence. Who says that light or gravity travel in straight lines?

...and they don't, of course, given the curvature of spacetime, but they're close enough to straight that early scientists could assume a Euclidean universe, make careful measurements, and come to the conclusion that the earth was spherical without leaving the surface.

But if light and gravity travel on curved lines, then all the astrolabe and plumb-line measurements used to prove the curvature of the earth become much more challenging to interpret.
posted by clawsoon at 12:58 PM on November 25


I think I could rule out a bowl shape from casual observation, because we don't see the sides of the bowl rising up.

It's not as straight forward as you may think without accounting for the refraction, bending, of light. It is not uncommon for there to be a temperature inversion so that as a ship sails away from you, instead of sinking lower, it appears to be rising up, sailing up a hill and the mast taller, exactly like a bowl shape. You can see the entire ship even though it is below the true horizon.
posted by JackFlash at 1:13 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Belief in a flat earth seems to me like a mostly harmless eccentricity and a sign of a healthy society. In a world where harmful lies seem to have taken the upper hand for the moment I feel a little protective towards these people, be they trolls or true believers. Safe flight my friend.
posted by night_train at 2:01 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


seems legit
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:41 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


> Belief in a flat earth seems to me like a mostly harmless eccentricity and a sign of a healthy society.

Beliefs that normalize magical thinking are anything but harmless. Magical thinking is where we get climate change denial, the anti-vaccine movement, and all manner of horrible race-based conspiracy theories peddled by the Alex Jones of the world.
posted by cirgue at 2:57 PM on November 25 [28 favorites]


I want my god to smite this unbeliever so hard.
posted by whuppy at 3:15 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


I agree cirque. When this stuff becomes mainstream it causes a lot of harm. And yet I don't want to live in a society where eccentricity isn't tolerated. I want to go back to a world where the fringe stays in the fringe.
posted by night_train at 3:18 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Well, I got my important historical data from cartoons, and according to bugs bunny, the world is round.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:27 PM on November 25


I know he has safety measures but at what point can/should a society step in and prevent someone from loudly, publicly, committing suicide? I know that is not his stated aim but if declared I’m going to jump off a tall building tomorrow and Mary Poppins my way down because science is a conspiracy, shouldn’t I be stopped even if present no harm to anyone else?

Darwin awards and jokes and all that, but this man is likely going to die.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:43 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


> And yet I don't want to live in a society where eccentricity isn't tolerated.

I agree but...

Tolerance of eccentricity is a great thing, but tolerance and uncritical acceptance are two radically different things. Society or government certainly should not punish this person for believing what he believes, and his beliefs don't give anyone a reason harbor ill feeling to him as an individual, but we should never be afraid to condemn bullshit ideas for being bullshit ideas. Beliefs are not the person and ideologies are not the people.

We do others a great disservice by not being critical of the things they say in public: it indicates that we do not hold them in high enough regard to take seriously.
posted by cirgue at 4:46 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


I used to laugh at flat-earthers, but they aren't really funny when you start reading up on them. The obvious questions of "why is there a conspiracy about a round earth?" and "who's behind it?" are often "to deny the truth of the Bible" and "the Jews".

They are as worrisome as people who believe (or want people to believe) that Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya. Though flat-earthers are often savvy enough to say "Masons" instead of "Jews" to cover their anti-Semitism.

> In fact, many notable space explorers came in for Hughes' criticism during the interview, including the "Freemason" NASA astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Yeah, there we go. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Masonic_conspiracy_theory
posted by AlSweigart at 4:55 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


Belief in a flat earth seems to me like a mostly harmless eccentricity

Not in the slightest.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:00 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


So the Jews are trying to convince us that the Bible, a book written entirely by Jews, isn't true? Hmm.
posted by clawsoon at 5:32 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


Sneaky, aren’t they?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:53 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


No, it was written by Jesus Sr. himself, who lived in England until 1776 when he crossed the Atlantic to help the Americans win their freedom.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 6:01 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Just a moment, he's planning to eventually go into orbit ... Won't he hit an elephant or something?
posted by mbo at 6:34 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


No, it was written by Jesus Sr. himself, who lived in England until 1776 when he crossed the Atlantic to help the Americans win their freedom.

History of the world:

Adam and Eve
Noah
King David
Jesus
Third Reformed Baptist Church of Moose Jaw
The Rapture
posted by clawsoon at 6:47 PM on November 25 [12 favorites]


I swear that I read a story with this same premise when i was a kid. Like, maybe, one of Bertrand Brinley's Mad Scientists' Club stories, with the would be flatronaut being that one kid that grown-up me would suspect of being a future John Bircher and/or a regular on /r/MGTOW? Or maybe I'm thinking of Salvage 1 or even, yes, Evel Knievel? Maybe there's just something in certain dudes that goes, "Fuck the rocket science, I wanna go up, I'll worry about coming down once I'm up there."

GodDAMN it, Metafilter! Stop reminding me of great old shows I used to love that I now need to spend time (short) and money (non-existent) to refresh my memory of!

(This is one of the FEW times being single can be handy.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:19 PM on November 25


If he reaches escape velociitiy, that third dimension will be interesting, much like the shadow of a tessaract passing through our world.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:21 PM on November 25


If the Earth were flat surely someone would have pushed him off the edge by now.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:50 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer: "I'm getting more and more serious about my plan to have me and a number of my closest friends take a sailing ship out to the edge to document once and for all the flatness of the earth and send back images from what will probably a doomed voyage."

Perhaps you'll only find that the sea is really, really big, a la Silverberg's "In the Fifth Year of the Voyage".
posted by Chrysostom at 9:00 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Adam and Eve
Noah
King David
Jesus
Third Reformed Baptist Church of Moose Jaw
The Rapture


"Are you Third Reformed Baptist Church, Reformation of 1879, or Third Reformed Baptist Church, Reformation of 1915?"
posted by leotrotsky at 9:05 PM on November 25 [6 favorites]


But fundamentally my arguments about the state of the earth hinge on accepting authority

This is all to say that my belief in a round earth is based on faith in scientists and scientific reasoning.

Y'all remark on it like it's a bad thing.

Like if you had to establish all your beliefs from firsthand experience, you'd never leave the house. (I mean you wouldn't live in a house because you wouldn't trust "engineers" who claim to know how to build things; you'd have to figure it out yourself via trial and error.) This is how civilization is meant to work. It's a web of trust and heuristics that literally make the entirely of our lives possible. "Accepting authority" is how I am typing on a computer I didn't program myself, made out of materials I didn't mine, smelt, and refine, or you know discover the physical laws that predict how electrons do their thing.

I know the standard metafilter posture has to be anti-establishment and anti-authority but do you remember when being a knowledgable expert was a... good thing? Something to be admired? You remember when we looked up to smart people?

Flat-earth isn't a rejection of blind faith in science, it's an embrace of a story someone else came up with and handed you. It's not even solipsistic.
posted by danny the boy at 9:14 PM on November 25 [11 favorites]


But the thing is, one is always saying "I believe in science not irrational nonsense like those other people" as if that proves anything. Like, okay, I "believe in science", I know the earth is more or less round, I know that vaccination is important - but really, I "know" all that not because I can even provide even a wikipedia-level argument for it but because I grew up as a relatively conventional person in a middle class family that values conventional markers of education, because my family is liberal, etc. This proves nothing about me except that I am the unthinking product of my environment, at least as far as scientific reasoning goes. If it were proper for conventional middle class people to believe that the earth is flat, that's probably what I'd believe.

Doesn't it give you the least little bit of a chill to reflect that much of your worldview is - and of necessity always will be - reasoning from authority about stuff you can't even sort of prove? Doesn't it make you worry just a little bit about whether you actually believe quite a lot of nonsense? Doesn't looking at those poor pitiful flat-earthers make you wonder whether your beliefs about, eg, economics or foreign policy are actually incredibly idiotic or based on lies and misinformation? Do you ever worry that your class, social circles and habits determine a tremendous amount of your beliefs?

If there is one thing I believe based on firsthand experience, it's that if a large group of people tend to do a fool thing, it is extraordinarily unlikely that I will never, ever do anything similarly foolish. Not that I'm going to start believing that the earth is flat, or that it's about ethics in videogame journalism or whatever - but properly educated leftwing people have ardently believed a lot of dumb stuff in the past.
posted by Frowner at 9:34 PM on November 25 [11 favorites]


I want to believe that this is the same guy, before he retired to a life of daredevil stunts.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:03 PM on November 25


As an addendum to Frowner's thought above, there are flat-earthers (and practitioners of other eccentricities) who point to the authority of the scriptures for their belief. It's a little jarring to realize that I, too, argue from authority for what I believe to be true. Science is testable and reproducible, unlike miracles, and that's a crucial distinction. To me. But it's still an argument from authority. And in trying to convince a Bible-believer of something, saying "I believe in the authority of scientists" will always pale to them when compared to their "I believe in the word of God." In a battle of authorities, mere mortals in white coats don't stand a chance.

I also don't like to say, "I believe in science." It matters not a damn whether I believe in scientific results, whether I accept them. They exist unless and until they are disproved. That formation seems better used with something religious, e.g., "I believe in the Bible." There must be a better way to express my comfort level with what scientists have learned.
posted by bryon at 10:10 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


Doesn't it give you the least little bit of a chill to reflect that much of your worldview is - and of necessity always will be - reasoning from authority about stuff you can't even sort of prove?

The point you're avoiding in order to support the idea that there's equivalence here is that there is always an audit trail when you put faith in rationality. That's basically the definition. You don't believe in things for no reason—so you can always go do the diligence. Which journals? Who reviewed it? What else has the author published? What are the steps so I can replicate this myself? Etc.

What greatly speed up progress—what basically allows for civilization to exist—is that while I can conceivably verify it all myself, I don't have to. I have trusted someone else to do all that for me, for other very real and rational reasons. It's reasons all the way down.

Irrationality... doesn't have any of that. Like if you think trusting "authority" is a weakness because we sometimes get things wrong, or get fooled, have you considered what the alternative to that is? This isn't about trust or laziness, it's that you either fundamentally believe in an evidence based methodology, or you don't. If we lived in a society that believed very deeply in a flat earth... it would necessarily suppress questioning, because questions spotlight inconsistencies with reality. I believe in things when I can ask questions and get reasonable answers. Science doesn't just standup to questioning, it IS questioning.
posted by danny the boy at 10:46 PM on November 25 [14 favorites]


> I wonder if he's using this map [crazy so-called Biblical literalism map of 1893].
(Previously) [Time Cube]
posted by Pallas Athena
Anti-eponysterical.
posted by runcifex at 12:08 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


I know the standard metafilter posture has to be anti-establishment and anti-authority...

I think you should reexamine this "knowledge."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:17 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


The obvious questions of "why is there a conspiracy about a round earth?" and "who's behind it?" are often "to deny the truth of the Bible" and "the Jews".

This has been my experience of "flat-eartherism." And frankly, my patience with conspiratorial cranks is throughly exhausted. I might've smiled indulgently at the dude for just wanting to be Evel Knievel; now I hope his end is as humiliatingly catatstrophic as possible.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:12 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


This proves nothing about me except that I am the unthinking product of my environment, at least as far as scientific reasoning goes.

I've identified the issue here.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:21 AM on November 26


> "Doesn't it give you the least little bit of a chill to reflect that much of your worldview is - and of necessity always will be - reasoning from authority about stuff you can't even sort of prove?"

No.

I mean, I'm absolutely sure I have erroneous beliefs. How would it be possible for me not to? I am imperfect, information transmission is imperfect, evidence can be misleading, misinterpreted, or in some cases falsified, etc.

But for one thing, it's not like there's no basis for what I decide to trust and what i don't. For example, I generally give more credence to "the vast bulk of experts in the field agree, based on evidence" than I do to, "the vast bulk of experts are mistaken about the evidence" which I trust more than "the vast bulk of experts are being paid to hide the evidence" which I trust more than "the vast bulk of experts are hiding the evidence for no particularly comprehensible reason" which I trust more than "an invisible being you can't talk to told me so".

Could that steer me wrong sometimes? Sure! But ... so? That's just a fact of life. The most I can do is to attempt to be diligent about correcting erroneous beliefs when I discover I have them. That's happened a few times, and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard. But beyond that, it's not worth the worry.

It's just the human condition.
posted by kyrademon at 6:15 AM on November 26 [10 favorites]


Launch cancelled. Federal government agents are trying to keep him quiet. The conspiracy deepens.

'Mad' Mike Hughes cancels rocket launch to prove Earth is flat when BLM seeks permits
posted by rh at 7:11 AM on November 26


The Earth is round. I've seen the pictures, and pictures don't lie.
posted by mule98J at 10:21 AM on November 26


It's round yes jsut like a pizza or a frisbee.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:02 PM on November 26 [1 favorite]


Flat earth people
Creationists
Climate Change Deniers
???
What else? Are there any other even semi-organized groups denying the science behind basic stuff? Societies of People Who Know Force Isn't Equal to Acceleration Times Mass? Cell-Theory Deniers? I know anti-vaxxers have a ton of bad and wrong science going on, but I don't think they discredit virus theory, just think that it has unintended consequences.

Creationists and Climate Deniers pretty much help the fossil fuel industry and are often funded by same. I've had a pro-oil legislator literally tell me that "God will heal the earth" if there were an oil spill. If you can get people to believe that the world is 6,000 years old, concepts like "oil" don't mean the same thing as if they understood that it takes hundreds of millions of years to replenish that "natural resource," and burning up centuries-worth per year might be a bad idea.

I wonder how much overlap there is with Creationists, Climate Deniers, and Flat Earthers.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:08 AM on November 27


Once upon a time there were people who denied irrational numbers. Certain Christian sects reject math post Cantor because to them God is infinity so multiple infinities is sacrilege. It's hard to distinguish the denial of statistics as a field from massive failure to understand the discipline. People still reject germ theory and natural selection. Social science and psychology are widely rejected.
posted by idiopath at 7:49 AM on November 27


Oh, and if course it's mainstream to believe all sorts of disproven nonsense about sexuality, gender, food, and race. More people reject science than accept it in these subjects.
posted by idiopath at 7:54 AM on November 27


Every quack who knows some math (and plenty who don't) reject relativity and quantum physics, despite the fact that they're the most experimentally validated theories we've got.
posted by clawsoon at 7:59 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Oh, and "quantum, therefore magic" probably counts here too. That one is depressing common amount people who should be smart enough to know better.
posted by idiopath at 8:15 AM on November 27


Anti-vaxxers also belong on any list of semi-organised groups denying the science behind basic stuff. Edit: Oops, didn't read your comment well enough.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:14 PM on November 28


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