Believe it or not, some people still believe the flat Earth theory, according to well-known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, but in a new video, he offered up logical arguments for why it’s actually a sphere. He also explained why he thinks some Americans still believe the earth is flat, blaming our educational system and one thing most would consider to be a basic human right: the right to say whatever you want.
At first, I was skeptical that a significant number of Americans believe the flat Earth theory, but it appears that the belief is actually growing. Late last year, hundreds of people who believe Earth is flat attended the first annual Flat Earth International Conference, The Economist reported. In fact, Google Trends data indicates that over the last couple of years, searches for the keyword “flat earth” have gone up more than three times, the news outlet reported at the time. Indeed, flat-Earthers are making their voice known more and more, as recently, they claimed SpaceX’s launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket was fake.
So why does it seem like more and more people are subscribing to the flat Earth theory? In a recent video posted on his StarTalk YouTube channel (which is embedded below), reputable American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson blamed free speech and failure in the educational system. His view differs from that of astronomer and author Stuart Clark, who told Business Insider UK earlier this year that he believes flat-Earthers are simply being funny by saying that Earth is flat.
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It’s easy to see why Clark is skeptical that anyone actually still subscribes to the flat Earth theory in light of the logic presented by Tyson. In his video, Tyson answered questions posed by comedian Chuck Nice, who started it off by simply asking him if Earth is flat.
Neil deGrasse Tyson started by pointing to the videos taken from space which show that the Earth is a sphere that’s rotating. He also said that some flat-Earthers believe the moon is round even though they think Earth is flat. He noted that the other planets in our solar system are also spheres, explaining that it’s due to the laws of physics, which favor spherical shapes whenever bodies are forming in space.
He added that spheres can seem to be distorted because of how fast they are rotating, but most of the bodies in the universe are spheres or close to being spherical in shape. One exception is asteroids, Space.com notes, and Tyson did not address this issue. Scientists generally believe that asteroids do not have enough gravity to draw their masses into the shape of a sphere.
Tyson also explained how lunar eclipses prove the Earth is spherical because the moon moves between the sun and Earth. The shadow cast by our planet is always round, he noted, but if Earth were flat then sometimes, the shadow cast on the moon would be flat. He also pointed out that when a ship sails away across the horizon, it eventually disappears because it drops below the horizon as it travels around Earth.
Neil deGrasse Tyson blames the educational system in the U.S. for the perpetuation of the flat Earth theory because he doesn’t think it teaches critical thinking skills. The ability to think critically about evidence that’s presented on various topics enables logic, and he believes that if today’s students were taught to think logically, there wouldn’t be so many people who still believe Earth is flat.