Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mythos: Flat Earth

The earth is flat, I tell you! FLAT!” This was repeated verbatim until around the 1500’s, when Magellan circumnavigated the globe. He, obviously, feared he would fall off the side of the plane where the oceans ended the entire time. He knew that as soon as he saw the majestic waterfall at world’s end, he would immediately ask for his brown pants. At least, that’s what everyone would want you to think. For some reason, this has been repeated for a long time…with evidence to the contrary! Here’s how it actually happened…

Well, we don’t actually know how it came about per-say, but what is known is the fact that by 5 B.C., no Greek in his/her right mind would say the earth was anything but a sphere. In all honesty, if they mapped out the stars and predicted events, they would have logically noticed something was amiss with a flat earth, no? Probably one of the more famous developments that came from the spherical earth was from an Ancient Greek poet, geographer (He invented geography! How many people can say that?!), and mathematician, Eratosthenes. This guy was the definition of a bad-ass. Not only did he invent latitude and longitude, but he also went on to measure the circumference of the earth using this system…then he wrote a poem about it afterwards!

Using the Summer Solstice, he knew that in Syene (modern day Aswan, Egypt) the sun would be directly overhead, but at the same time in Alexandria, it would cast a shadow. Using awesome math (the shadow showed that the angle of elevation of the sun was 7°12' south of directly overhead, the division of 360° by 7°12’ was 1/50, the distance from Syene to Alexandria was 1/50th the circumference of the earth, the distance between the two cities was around 500 miles, and presto!), he calculated the circumference of the planet. His calculations were so accurate that he was only off by about 2%.

The only reason why everyone “believed” the earth was flat was because of the Catholic Church. It exerted dominance over most of Europe for a long time, and kept differing ideas at bay. Eventually, though, the physical evidence from Magellan’s voyage was too much for their idiosyncrasy to remain.

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