This year’s conference had a different flavor from the previous two. The theme for this meeting was “Finding the Creator in Creation.” As before, there were presentations about flat earth purportedly from a biblical approach, but this year there were more quotations or allusions to biblical passages in other talks than before. On the second day of the conference, there were two speakers, Jared Crestman and Nathan Reynolds, who didn’t speak about flat earth per se but emphasized what is truly important in our lives, or at least what ought to be important. Jared lapsed into preaching a little. Judging by the reaction of the audience, most seemed to approve. Even I agreed with much of what he said. For instance, Jared contrasted the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. The kingdom of light is God’s kingdom. Jared included all the many evil conspiracies that flat-earthers entertain in the kingdom of darkness, but the kingdom of darkness contains far more than this. Jared concluded by asking, “Which kingdom do you belong to?” He answered that if one day, you stand before God as your judge with Christ’s blood on your hands, saying, “But I knew what shape the earth was!” won’t cut it. I know that at the first FEIC, there were some complaints about one speaker who got a little too preachy for some peoples’ tastes, so I asked the MC of all three FEICs, Rick Hummer, if he had heard any complaints about the more explicit statements this year. Rick said that he hadn’t heard any.
“Which kingdom do you belong to?”
Speaking of Rick, on the first evening of the meeting, comedian Owen Benjamin performed for more than an hour. I didn’t attend that performance because I retired early. From what I heard, many people were offended by some things he said, to the point of walking out during the performance. In his opening remarks the next morning, Rick apologized to the audience. Rick came by and spoke to me about it. I told him that no apology was necessary because I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t be offended. Rick and I had some time to talk more at this FEIC than at previous ones. We have a good relationship, and he is a very likable person. Believe it or not, I’ve made some friendships with Rick and other people at the FEIC meetings. It shows that people can disagree without being disagreeable. For the most part, people at the FEIC meetings have treated me well. However, there was one exception, which I’ll get to later.
One of the more interesting presentations was “Testing the Moon: A Globe Lie Perspective” by the Englishman, David Marsh. David has spent much time observing the moon and taking some very good photographs of the moon. This is unusual because few flat-earthers have done this, relying instead entirely upon the pronouncements of other flat-earthers who apparently haven’t spent much time looking at the moon themselves. Consequently, David refuted some common flat-earth claims about the moon. For instance, David doesn’t think we can see blue sky shining through the moon when it is visible during the day. Nor does he believe that stars are visible through the moon, something that I’ve commented on before. David also documented differences in the apparent size of the moon throughout the anomalistic month due to the moon’s changing distance. He said that this needs to be accounted for in the flat-earth model.
David even acknowledged the problem of the daily motion of the stars around the south celestial pole south of the equator for a flat earth. He illustrated this with his own time-lapse videos of the stars. But rather than questioning whether the earth is truly flat, David talked about the stars spinning around two magnetic poles, one near the North Pole, and the other near the edge of the flat-earth model, along the Antarctic ice wall. I don’t see how this could possibly work.
It was refreshing to see a flat-earther state in a public way that some of the flat-earth claims are wrong. I wonder if many flat-earthers will take his word on these erroneous things commonly believed by other flat-earthers. I also wonder if these problems might eventually dissuade David from the belief that the earth is flat.
Cami Knodel and Zach Zabala
Cami Knodel and Zach Zabala gave a presentation entitled “How the World Works.” This had promise, as I hoped that it would provide some details of a flat-earth model. Unfortunately, the talk was plagued with technical difficulties. But even setting those aside, I was disappointed. It amounted to appealing to several physical principles, such as magnets, electric and magnetic fields, gyroscopes, perspective, lenses, the Rayleigh criterion, and Lenz’s law, along with handwaving as to how these principles might solve some problems for the flat-earth model. But none of this was tied together or explained in a coherent way.
I did learn something at this presentation, though. One of the suggestions was that astronomical bodies might be projections, such as with a mirascope. I had never heard of a mirascope, so when I got home, I ordered one. A mirascope has an enclosed parabolic reflector with a small opening on top. When a small object is placed on the bottom, at the center of the reflector, and when viewed at the proper angle, a three-dimensional image of the object appears above the opening. The package that the mirascope came it claims that it “creates a 3-D hologram image.” This is incorrect. Holograms are created with light interference, but a mirascope uses the reflection of light. Still, this is a fun illusion. But to seriously suggest that astronomical bodies are illusions without any plausible explanation amounts to handwaving. And such a proposal ought not to please most Christian flat-earthers because the Bible says that God made the astronomical bodies on day four. It says nothing about God making illusions of astronomical bodies on day four.
I looked forward to Bob Knodel’s presentation, “Oh My Stars . . . It’s Impossible!” with the subtitle, “Exposé of Inverse Relationship of Size and Distance and Inverse-Square Relationships of Intensity and Distance.” He began with a discussion of how much smaller and dimmer the sun would appear from an increasingly greater distance. He produced some numbers on a slide for some distances. While those figures were correct, they didn’t support Bob’s claims that followed. For instance, Bob noted that being a billion miles away from the sun, Saturn receives only 1/100 the intensity of light that the earth receives from the sun, and at Saturn, the sun appears only 1/10 the size as it does on earth. He then asked if it made any sense that we can see Saturn and concluded that it does not, because Saturn would be too faint. Since Bob offered no calculations to back up this conclusion, let me do them for him.
Bob is correct in saying that since Saturn is about ten times farther from the sun, it receives approximately 1/100 the light that we do from the sun. The moon is the same average distance from the sun than the earth is, so we can make a comparison of Saturn’s brightness to that of the full moon to test Bob’s claim. Saturn’s diameter is 33.5 times the moon’s diameter, so Saturn has (33.5)2 the collecting area of the moon. The albedo (reflectivity) of Saturn is 3.7 times greater than that of the moon. Since Saturn is about ten times the distance of the earth and moon from the sun, and the sun is 400 times farther away than the moon, then Saturn is 4,000 times farther away than the moon. Putting this together, Saturn ought to appear
as bright as the moon. Astronomers usually express brightness in magnitudes. This difference in brightness corresponds to 13.96 magnitudes. Since the full moon averages magnitude -12.7, this simply calculated magnitude of Saturn is 1.26. This is a first magnitude, which is easy to see from earth, but it is slightly fainter than the observed average apparent magnitude of Saturn at 0.46. However, this calculation was done with Saturn’s near greatest distance from earth, not the average distance. At the greatest distance, Saturn’s observed apparent magnitude is 1.17 (this is 9% brighter than my calculated value). However, my calculation is only an estimate, and it doesn’t consider the contribution of Saturn’s rings. With these caveats, the agreement is excellent, and it clearly refutes Bob’s uninformed opinion that if the conventional cosmology were correct that Saturn would not be visible.
Bob probably would dismiss this by arguing that the angular diameter of the sun is only 1/10 as seen from earth. But this has no bearing on the light that Saturn receives from the sun or how well we see Saturn’s light. Bob keeps trying to factor both decreasing angular size and brightness with increasing distance, but this would violate the conservation of energy. Bob went on to opine that if the stars were light-years away, they’d be too faint to be visible. Bob made the same claim at the first FEIC two years ago. In my report on the first FEIC, I corrected Bob on this, using Bob’s numbers. At the last FEIC, Bob and I talked, and Bob told me that he didn’t agree and was going to respond to my correction. To my knowledge, he has not.
At last year’s FEIC, Bob attempted to disprove the Apollo moon landings. Using the inverse square law of the distance, he computed what the brightness of the moon would be at the lunar surface. Of course, the result was fantastically, blazingly bright. When one compares the photographs of the Apollo moon landings, the lunar landscape isn’t nearly that bright. Hence, Bob claimed to have debunked the Apollo moon landings using NASA’s own photos. However, Bob blundered in doing his calculation as if all the lunar surface (half of the total) that we see from earth would be visible from any location on the moon. This obviously is incorrect, because only a tiny portion of the lunar surface is visible from the moon. In my report of last year’s FEIC, I made the proper correction for this and showed how wrong Bob was. I spoke to Bob a couple of nights before his presentation this year. I provided him with that information. It apparently didn’t change his mind, because he repeated the same discredited conclusion this year. But the crowd didn’t care—they were very enthusiastic in their response.
In his presentation, “Flat Earth 101,” Nathan Thompson presented what he thought were several impossibilities if the earth were a spinning globe. Of course, there are relatively simple answers to each one of his claimed impossibilities, though I doubt many people in attendance knew this. For instance, one of Nathan’s impossibilities was the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse. He showed the path of totality and commented that the direction was from west to east. Nathan reasoned that since in conventional cosmology, the earth spins west to east, causing astronomical bodies to move east to west in the sky, this west-to-east track is impossible, thus disproving the conventional cosmology. However, this leaves out the west-to-east motion of the moon as it orbits the earth each month. But don’t take my word for this – check this out for yourself. Watch the moon at the same time over several evenings (or mornings). You will see that each evening, the moon is east of where it was the evening before. It will take a month to get back to where it started from, moving eastward the entire time (the word “month” comes from our English word “moon”).
When a solar eclipse occurs, the moon is moving eastward between us and the sun; hence, its shadow must move eastward across the earth. How fast does the shadow move across the earth? The moon’s orbital radius is approximately 240,000 miles. The speed of the shadow is the circumference of the moon’s orbit divided by the number of hours in the synodic month (the orbital period of the moon with respect to the sun, 29.5 days). This is about 2,130 mph. Since the earth is spinning in the same direction, the speed of the moon’s shadow relative to the earth’s surface is the difference of the moon’s shadow absolute speed and the speed of rotation. The rotation speed depends upon latitude, with the greatest speed, 1,036 mph, being on the equator. Notice that this is about half the speed of the moon’s shadow, so the west-to-east motion of the moon’s shadow will be predominant. Hence, the slowest possible speed eastward that the moon’s shadow makes on the earth is over 1,000 mph, and it is eastward. Therefore, Nathan’s analysis of this is completely wrong.
In another of his supposed impossibilities, Nathan said that if we are orbiting the sun, then after six months, we will be on the other side of the sun, and so we ought to see different stars at night. It is true. However, Nathan then claimed that the stars we see are the same all the time, and that is not true. The stars change throughout the night due to the earth’s rotation. But they come back to almost the same locations the next evening. I say “almost” because the stars arrive back to their locations about four minutes earlier each night. After a month, the stars arrive back to their same locations two hours earlier. After six months, the stars are 12 hours more prior. Thus, the stars that we see at night gradually change throughout the year. That is why one must use seasonal or even monthly star charts. I could say more about what Nathan said in his presentation, but you get the drift. As I said, there are relatively simple answers to each of his supposed impossibilities.
But Nathan wasn’t finished. I wrote earlier that there was one exception to the overall good treatment that flat-earthers extended to me at the FEIC. The final evening of the meeting, I was slowly walking in the hallway looking at the vendor tables, when Nathan came up behind me. He placed one hand on my shoulder with his cell phone recording on the other hand. He then began loudly asking me condescending and inflammatory questions, such as how it felt to see the globe-earth model demolished at the FEIC, and why I was lying about the earth’s shape. Nathan is famous for these sort of guerilla tactics. He wasn’t looking for answers to his questions; he was looking for a reaction from me that he could place on the internet. I immediately knew that anything I might say would be edited and put on the internet with Nathan putting his own spin on it, so I said nothing. I kept walking with a smile on my face. I even chuckled a few times, because Nathan was being so outrageous. It was a little funny. I made my way to where I was sitting for the closing session. After I sat down, Nathan continued the barrage. He said that I was lying to children, and, based upon Matthew 18:6, I ought to kill myself. When he seemed to reach a conclusion, I finally spoke and asked Nathan if he had asked my permission to record me. He responded that he hadn’t and immediately asked if I had asked permission before I lied to children. And some people wonder why I was doing my best to ignore Nathan.
Various versions of this “interview” have appeared on the internet since, with much editing and commenting by Nathan and other flat-earthers. The one question that I ignored that seems to have attracted the most attention was, “So, how do you have gas pressure without a container?” This part of the video has made its way on flat-earth websites, so I’ve been asked this question several times since the FEIC. Therefore, I’ll take the time to answer it here.
The Vacuum of Space
First, some background on Nathan’s question. One of the arguments that flat-earthers use is that in the conventional cosmology, there is the vacuum of space sitting next to the pressure of the earth’s atmosphere. Flat-earthers reason that this is impossible, so the conventional cosmology must be wrong. Flat-earthers insist that you can’t have air pressure next to a vacuum without a container. Since the FEIC, flat-earthers increasingly have asked me to give an example, just one example, of high pressure that exists apart from a container to hold that pressure in. Why the sudden surge in this one argument directed primarily at me? The only thing I can figure is that at least one flat-earther read my book and realized that this is one flat-earth argument that I didn’t discuss. If flat-earthers are spending their time bringing up things that I didn’t discuss in my book rather than the things I did discuss, that must mean that my refutation is very good, though perhaps incomplete.
When I get this question from flat-earthers, I generally ask them several questions to gauge how much they know about how gases behave. I’ve never gotten very far with any of them, indicating that flat-earthers know practically nothing about such matters. There appear to be several misunderstandings that flat-earthers have about gases and vacuums. First, what is a vacuum? Most dictionary definitions are something like “a space entirely devoid of matter.” But if that is what a vacuum is, then there is no such thing as a vacuum, because there is no place in the universe that is entirely devoid of matter. No knowledgeable person claims that space is entirely devoid of matter, so, by this definition, space can’t be a vacuum. In physics, we often deal with idealized situations, and, if this is the definition of a vacuum, then a vacuum certainly is idealized. Practically speaking, then what is a vacuum? A vacuum is a place of lower pressure.
There are many examples of vacuums. Sucking on a straw creates a vacuum. An internal combustion engine produces a vacuum that can be harnessed to power various devices. The best example of these devices is a carburetor. I’ve owned two old automobiles that used the vacuum to power the windshield wipers. The ductwork for the heating and air conditioning in many cars operate with vacuum bulbs that run off the vacuum produced by the engine. What is the difference between these vacuums and “the vacuum of space?” The latter vacuum is much harder, meaning that it has far less pressure than those other vacuums. But make no mistake: while it is feeble, there is pressure in space. There is no fundamental difference between space and other vacuums—it is merely a matter of degree.
That brings up the second question I ask flat-earthers about this subject. What is the mechanism that compels gas at higher pressure to move toward gas at a lower pressure (a vacuum)? Again, the flat-earthers that I’ve talked to can’t answer that question. They seem to think that vacuums have this magical property of simply sucking everything toward them. I can’t fault flat-earthers too much on this point, because this is a common misconception. But vacuums don’t suck. Pressure is the force per unit area. If adjacent regions separated by an area are at different pressures, then there will be a force across that area equal to the product of the pressure and the area. It is this force that pushes air, or any other fluid, from a region of higher pressure to a region of lower pressure. Hence, the force pushes fluids from higher to lower pressure; the force doesn’t pull fluid toward lower pressure to higher pressure. A good example of this is sucking on a straw to bring a beverage up the tube. Sucking on the upper end of a straw produces a vacuum there. It is the higher air pressure on the beverage in the bottle or glass that provides a force that drives the beverage up the straw.
Clearly, the greater the pressure difference, the greater the force tending to equalize the pressures. This is why a pressure difference in a static situation usually requires a container. Think of the thick walls of a high-pressure gas cylinder. If the wall is breached, the higher-pressure gas rapidly expands through the breach. But there is nothing magical about it; it is all in accordance with what we know about how gases behave. The force driving the outward motion of gas equals the product of the pressure difference and the area of the breach. This brings up the question that flat-earthers ask: how can the gas pressure of the atmosphere exist next to the vacuum of space without a container? To prove their point, they demand one example of a gas at higher pressure existing next to a vacuum (lower pressure) without a barrier or a container.
Pick any two spots in the air with one directly above the other, and you will have an example of a vacuum (lower pressure) coexisting with higher pressure with no barrier between or a container holding one back from the other.
You can find the answer to that question in the atmosphere itself. Nearly everyone knows that air pressure decreases with increasing elevation. For instance, the air pressure atop Pike’s Peak (14,100 feet above sea level) is about 60% of the air pressure at sea level. Anyone who has driven through mountains can attest to this. Our ears pop from the pressure changes we experience as we gain or lose elevation. With a good barometer, anyone can test this for themselves and obtain quantitative results. We say that there is a pressure gradient in the atmosphere. This gradient is smooth, meaning that it doesn’t make sudden jumps. Therefore, as I am typing this, the air around my head is at a very slightly lower pressure than the air around my feet. Pick any two spots in the air with one directly above the other, and you will have an example of a vacuum (lower pressure) coexisting with higher pressure with no barrier between or a container holding one back from the other. Therefore, I have answered the flat-earth challenge of giving an example of such a thing, though I expect very few flat earthers to acknowledge that fact. If they can’t or won’t understand this, it’s not my fault.
The Gravity of the Situation
I usually ask flat-earthers, given this pressure imbalance in the atmosphere, why there is no upward rush of air from ground level to equalize the much lower pressure aloft? I’ve never had a flat-earther answer this question, though the answer is obvious. If the pressure difference results in an upward force on air to move upward, yet the air does not move upward, there must be some downward balancing force. What could that downward force be? Uh-oh, that brings up the dreaded g-word, gravity, something that flat-earthers insist doesn’t exist. But I doubt that flat-earthers really don’t believe in gravity. They are being a bit sloppy. What I think they mean is that they reject Newton’s law of gravity. That is very different from what we usually mean when we use the word gravity, the tendency of objects to fall downward. It is an observable fact that objects fall downward and that they generally accelerate downward at the rate of 9.8 m/s2. Given this observational fact, there ought to be nothing in the flat-earth world to preclude some downward force counteracting the upward force due to lower pressure aloft. They can even call it something else other than gravity. But I’ve found that flat-earthers resist this with every fiber of their being.
Why does this matter? Therein lies the answer to the original flat-earth question here; how the earth’s atmosphere can exist next to “the vacuum of space.” The simple answer is that no one suggests that it does. Remember, with increasing elevation, air pressure decreases. At 100,000 feet (20 miles), the air pressure is only 1% of the air pressure at sea level. That is well below the elevation of “the vacuum of space.” Even if space, which is much higher than 20 miles, had absolutely zero pressure, the difference in pressure between the air at 20 miles and the “vacuum of space” is only 1/100 the pressure difference between the ground and 20 miles. Yet, the air at ground level doesn’t rise to equalize that pressure difference. So, why would a much feebler pressure at 20 miles move upward to equalize the zero pressure at a much greater height? That makes no sense. Only if one believes that “the vacuum of space” has some magical powers that slightly less vacuums lack is it possible to believe that there is a problem here. The rational answer is that the pressure in the atmosphere slowly decreases with increasing elevation to merge with the very low (but not zero) pressure that exists in space. At every level in the atmosphere, the upward force due to the pressure gradient is balanced by the downward force, whatever you call it. By the way, we call this balance between the upward force of pressure and the downward force of gravity hydrostatic equilibrium.
Also, note that lower pressure at a higher elevation is an observational fact and doesn’t depend upon the earth’s shape or if there is a dome overtop the earth. If the supposed dome is any more than 20 miles high (and it is much higher in the estimation of most flat-earthers), then there is a good vacuum under that dome and above the air. But how can that be, a vacuum coexisting with air pressure all inside a container without a partition between the different pressures inside? Thus, this supposed problem for the globe earth also exists for the flat-earth model as well.
Post FEIC Discussion
In some online discussion with some flat-earthers after the FEIC, I discovered a couple of more misconceptions that many flat-earthers have that further fuel their misunderstanding on these matters. Some flat-earthers have read somewhere in discussions of gases that gas pressure is caused by collisions of gas molecules with the walls of a container. From this simple statement, flat-earthers have concluded that without a container, pressure cannot exist. Therefore, they reason, this proves that since we have air pressure, there must be a container to provide that pressure. Of course, they further conclude that this container must be the dome atop the flat earth. Flat-earthers don’t seem to notice that if their understanding of pressure is true, then pressure only exists at the walls of a container and nowhere else in the gas within the container. So, their explanation utterly fails to explain air pressure near the earth’s surface. The correct answer is that molecules of gas collide with each other, and it is these collisions that provide pressure throughout a gas. Since it is the mutual collisions of gas molecules that provide pressure within a gas, a container isn’t necessary to provide pressure. Hence, it is possible to have a container-less gas, as I’ve described above.
Regarding this ongoing discussion, some flat-earthers recently have begun arguing that physicists now don’t think that gravity is a force at all. That would be news to all the physicists that I know. It certainly was news to me (yes, in addition to being an astronomer, I am a physicist). What’s going on? In Newtonian theory, gravity is a force that acts across empty space. Physicists call this “action at a distance.” How does gravity do this? The Newtonian theory has no explanation. Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity (GR) a century ago. GR attempts to explain gravity’s action at a distance. According to GR, the presence of matter bends four-dimensional spacetime. Objects move on paths called geodesics through spacetime. As objects encounter the curvature of spacetime caused by other masses, their geodesics depart from the linear path that they would otherwise follow. It is this departure that we perceive as acceleration due to gravity. If one looks at the world in only this way, then in some sense one could say that gravity isn’t a force. That has prompted some prominent physicists to make statements to this effect. It is these statements that flat-earthers like to trumpet. The problem is, these same physicists also make statements in other contexts that make it clear that gravity is a force. Are they being inconsistent? No. In physics, there usually is more than one way of looking at a problem. Within GR, one doesn’t have to view gravity as being a force, but that doesn’t mean that gravity isn’t a force. As with studying Scripture, discussing physics properly sometimes requires context. Flat-earthers here have run off with a misunderstanding of what they have read. Gravity is a force.
Physicists call gravity a fundamental force. There are four fundamental forces. Along with gravity, the fundamental forces are the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Some sources say that there are three fundamental forces, with the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces being unified into a single theory four decades ago. The hope is that all the fundamental forces eventually can be combined into a single, elegant theory. The unification of the strong nuclear force with the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force would be called the Grand Unified Theory. Gravity appears to be the most difficult force to unite with the other fundamental forces. That elusive future theory has been named the Theory of Everything. In quantum mechanics, the fundamental forces are viewed as being mediated by ghostly exchange particles. The exchange particles of three of the fundamental forces have been found, but the graviton, the hypothetical exchange particle that mediates gravity, remains elusive. There is a good reason for this: the inferred properties of the graviton place it far beyond our current experimental abilities. One flat-earther that I’ve had discussion with insisted that since we haven’t yet found the graviton, then it must not exist. However, I reminded him that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I also asked him that if tomorrow the graviton was discovered, would that change his mind? It is unlikely because flat-earthers frequently claim that much data of the conventional understanding of the world is made up. Why would this be any different with gravitons?
Will I attend the fourth FEIC in the United States? It’s not clear that there will be another FEIC next year. Shortly after the Dallas conference, FEIC organizer Robbie Davidson announced that he no longer will run these events, and that’s he is looking for someone to take over the responsibility. And how much longer will I research and write about the flat-earth movement? My book is a very detailed treatment, though I didn’t discuss every flat-earth argument. I seriously doubt that I’ll write another book on the subject. Instead, I will continue to publish additional responses to the flat-earth movement in my blog and other venues here on the Answers in Genesis website. As I clearly stated in my book, I didn’t write it to convince flat-earthers that they are wrong. I wrote the book to answer questions that people have about flat earth. Flat-earthers aren’t looking for answers, because they believe that they already have the answers.