A long-time reader, who we will call Steve, sent me a note this weekend that I’d get a real kick out of looking into the flat earth theories of one Edward Hendrie.
Per his note, the author has a book on Amazon that makes a “case” for the world being flat. See The Greatest Lie on Earth: Proof That Our World Is Not a Moving Globe.
Apparently, if I follow the book comments, the idea goes that a) the earth is flat, b) here are some “proofs”, c) this means there is a huge conspiracy, and d) if you “get it” you are somehow one of the elect – which is to say, not a sheep. In Biblical terms, no less.
Fine. I poke around a bit.
Time for a little discussion, because there are a lot of math-challenged folks who have NOT lived on a sailboat for over a decade, as I have, who might be taken-in by such flat-landish claims.
Typically, people who want to “Prove” conspiracies, go to an “official” Source.
One often-cited “source” is nautical charts…which is too bad, because I have forgotten more about said charts than most people ever learn. Aeronautical charts, too.
The charts supposedly “prove” by noting the visibility of certain coastal lights may be up to 28 miles under ideal conditions. All true.
About here is when the flat-landers come out with their version of how science ought to work for people who would believe the world flat: They launch into PROOF MODE. OK, let’s…
We’ll take that light house which stands 137 feet tall, at the light, from the upper mean high water level of the ocean in that vicinity of Florida, was it? (Where is Sea Level? We don’t need to go there, but it’s a very long, ugly, and math-based discussion…which will make you need to go to the diurnal.)
There is a simple formula for figuring how far that light should be visible. The flat-landers haul out the simple formula (1.23 times the square root of the light source) as visible distance to the horizon. Gospel, they figure.
Which is fine….sort of, in a limited thinking, ignore the rest of science way.
This means that the distance in miles from the light house light to the distance sea surface would be 11.7047 times 1.23 or about 14.4 miles.
“So how can said light be visible 28 miles on a chart?” they wonder.
Allow me to explain.
First off, depending on atmospheric conditions, light does strange things over water.
I have personally experienced conditions on Puget Sound, when leaving from Agate Pass (North end of Braindead Island) to head back over to the Seattle side, where optical conditions resulted in my destination looked further away after sailing toward it for 45 minutes that it did when I hoisted the mainsail 6-miles back.
Yep, that is a weird experience, no question.
But there is a real scientific explanation because when moisture and temps are just so, you can have wide variance in optics that will dramatically change how far a light may be seen.
In practice, that 1.23 multiplier may be upwards of 1.35 or higher, and so to account for general refraction, we use 1.32 as a multiplier.
Watch how this changes the flatlander math:
We still have a light 137 feet up from sea level. And the square root is still 11.7047…but when we multiply to account for refraction at 1.32, suddenly the light house is visible 15.45 miles away – another full mile.
Now let us suppose that the tide is out. It tends to do that a couple of times a day – so dial in 5 additional feet of effective height for tidal change. That’d be 142 feet.
Now we have a particularly refractive day…how about 1.35? Not unheard of…
Suddenly, the light is now visible 16 miles down to the surface.
Hop in the Whaler with me and let’s go out 28 miles and take over a large container ship. Once we subdue the crew, the OMB (one-man bridge) doesn’t really care about lights because in reality a computer is steering by GPS (whose satellites magically circle this “non-flat earth”) but whose helm station happens to be 140 feet above the water on the same actively refractive day.
From up here (plugging in the square root of 140 times the 1.35 refractive index) we can see 15.97 miles.
See what happened?
The early didn’t go flat at all. We can see the light 32 miles and say, look at those flashing blues at 18 miles out…hmmm…Homeland coming to take back the containership we just seized.
“To the Whaler, maties…radar in passive mode, rig for quiet running…”
Back in the sailing pub ashore, we notice that over half the distance to the ship was made by the light itself, helped along by a highly refractive set of conditions. And from the bridge of the containership, we can see 16 miles basically, so with very good binoculars and knowing how to look for “loom” at night, you might actually be able to pick out where the light is from 33 miles out…remember, much of the ocean has 5-10 feet of swell that will change things as well.
We managed our escape to the grog grotto by running further to sea in the radar shadow of the ship and then heading south 20 miles to look less interesting when in sight of the authorities…but you knew all the small boat evasion tactics from BUD/S, right?
Years ago, I was fascinated as Carl Hansen, a Danish friend of our family (on the Jensen side) would explain what life was like aloft in the square-rigger days. Seeing exceptional distances when nearly 200 feet up t’weren’t no big deal. Doing so in a sopping fresh gale while barefoot took some skill, though.
So thanks, Steve, for the link, but I’ve been high enough in jets (45,000 feet) to where you can begin to see curvature, and I’ve made enough cross-country fights in our old plane to trust that GPS satellites aren’t dancing around a pancake.
Is Flat Earthing appealing?
Oh, that it is. And if you want to confuse religion, science, and failing navigation all into a stew, then by all means, there are books – like that will satisfy this yearning in you for an earlier, simpler time.
We keep an open mind around here, but not so open as to allow the brain to fall out. Too much time in hard science has jaundiced me, I guess. I’ve done enough sun sights with a sextant and had too many miles pass under my keel to be so easily taken in.
Or maybe I’m just too serious to see the fun of it all. So if you see the fun of purging scientific thought and navigation, maybe flat-landing is a fine hobby to take up.
Me? I just don’t have time for another hobby…especially one that really ought to have crashed our boat or plane long before now.
More Missing Time
This is not to say that all is as it seems. Yes, there are things like demonic possessions, and yes, lots (thousands) of credible reports of alien abductions and other grist for CoastToCoast AM.
I would never argue otherwise.
Over the past two weeks (before the most recent pair of eye surgeries last week) I did have a couple of odd “missing time” experiences I meant to mention.
In one case, 15 minutes of gap between the master bedroom battery powered clock and the mains powered kitchen stove clock occurred.
And two nights before that, there was a two hour gap, which I didn’t fix by resetting clocks, but which disappeared by the time I woke up again.
Yes…this kind of thing is strange, alright.
I used to worry about it..especially when accompanied by “teaching dreams” – in which I’m in some kind of a class. Mostly, I just shrug it off and try to move on.
I did have one Friday night (*that ended at 1:01 AM) that involved a lesson about attacking people from behind rather than head-on…and there was a lecture about art in there as well: A mural of a rolling landscape on the right that morphed into a reposing female’s shoulders and head…and then into a mountain-scape. It all meant something (though it escapes me now) but I remember I the presence of hedge clippers and a shovel for grounds work. WTH? Very bizarre…been watching the headlines for whatever that was about.
The best news from Dreamland, though, has nothing to do with missing time or odd symbolic messages about (we’ll find out).
No, it’s that the directions in my dreams have straightened out!
Yes…north in dreams is now north here in Waking World…so with luck, when the precognitive backgrounds pick up again, things will not require so much work getting directions right.
New Peoplenomics Project
Elaine has volunteered to take up investing.
Which will make for an interesting series on Peoplenomics.com as we track her through the process of going from happily retired to thoughtful investor.
Her first question – which we will cover Wednesday – is “How much time is this going to take?”
It seems like that ought to be a really simple one…but in fact, it’s one of the hardest investment questions there is for reasons we will explain…
Hallelujah…Friday I was told to put in five flavors of eye drops and don’t come back until tomorrow for another check-back.
Although the vision in the left eye is fuzzy as hell, that is from a bit of blood in the eye fluid that will settle out in time (a month or two) so for now we are at last on the road to recovery, or so goes the theory.
Still in the magnifier-mode on the computer, but straining less now…whew. Annual inspection of the plane will start this week, or next. (Safer than driving, lol.)
Thank you for your prayers and support during what has been one hell of a tough month and a half so far…only another month or two to plod through, but as they say, cinch by the inch but hard by the yard…
There we go – another weekend in the memory bank.
Try to make as many deposits there as you can… you can’t take money with you, for sure, but the jury is out on memories.
And write when you get rich…