Here's a quick way to get new Twitter followers: say the Earth is flat. It worked on me.
Last night, rapper B.o.B. let loose an impressive string of tweets in which he declared that the Earth is a flat plane, the government is able to send our consciousness into clones while we sleep, and there are humanoid robots all around us, pretending to be human (FYI, Cameron Diaz is one such robot, apparently). Tila Tequila also recently announced her devotion to the Flat Earth theory, though she also believes she died in 2012. Yikes.
Flat Earthers are so rare and quaint in today's world, that you might wonder what exactly they believe. If we get to the edge, will we fall off? Why are there photos of a round Earth? And why would anyone pretend Earth is a sphere if it isn't? Here, we review Flat Earther's basic beliefs, and how they arrived at their short-sighted conclusions. Note that, like any group of people, the beliefs of Flat Earthers are not uniform. Some of them will disagree with the list below. But it gives you a good, basic idea of the theories they generally accept.
1. If the Earth were round, people on the "bottom" would fall off.
Flat Earthers believe that everything falls "down" rather than toward the Earth's center. Thus, a person standing on the top of the Earth would easily stay there, but a person on the sides would be slowly pulled downward, and someone on the very bottom would just plain fall off. Picture it like a globe: if you set a doll on top of your globe, she'd sit there, happily staring into space. But try to put your doll on the bottom of the globe. What happens? She falls the hell off, that's what happens! So it is in space. QED.
But here's the kicker:
2. Gravity doesn't exist.
Instead, the Earth is constantly accelerating upward, like an elevator that never stops. And they've figured out exactly how fast. As you read this article, the ground below you is hurtling upward at a rate of 32 feet per second! That's what most Flat Earthers claim, and it is their response to gravity requiring a spherical Earth with poles.
3. Antarctica surrounds Earth.
According to the Flat Earth Society, Earth is actually a disc with the "North Pole" in the middle. The disc is surrounded by "ice walls" commonly referred to as deep Antarctica. This explains why no one has seen the edge of the earth, except the people (if any exist) who have traveled to Antarctica's deepest depths. Which leads us to:
4. The sun circles over Earth.
If we accept that the Earth is flat and doesn't rotate, then the sun must be rotating above Earth. You might think that the whole day-night thing kind of proves that Earth is spherical and orbiting the sun. But au contraire, the sun and moon are turning like the hands of a clock, looping across the surface of the Earth (see a pretty good animation, here). The sun also moves in and out a bit, causing the seasons. See? Makes sense.
5. The edges of the Earth are too inhospitable for nearly anyone to go there.
Because the sun is rotating in an elliptical pattern, it will only hit certain parts of the Earth consistently. These areas, say the Flat Earthers, are where known civilization lives. Everything on the outer edges is out of the sun's reach and therefore uninhabitable by advanced life. So NASA or the world government or some other powers-that-be are keeping people from going to Antarctica, where we would either see the truth, or fall off, or be unable to breathe, or all three. By the way, here's a list of ways to get to Antarctica without being a scientist or government employee.
6. Astronauts know the Earth is flat but are playing along with the gimmick.
Flat Earthers love to find quotations from scientists where they "screw up" and admit the Earth is flat. Here's one video where they believe Neil Armstrong admits that the world has edges. Of course, Armstrong is actually talking about the boundaries of human knowledge, not of the Earth.
7. No one knows what's on the other side of the flat Earth. Or there isn't one.
Since the ground is constantly shooting upward, according to these folks, going to the other side of Earth would be impossible. Conjecturing about the other side would be nothing more than guesswork. However, some Flat Earthers believe that Earth's plane is literally endless. There is no other side, then, because the ground goes on for infinity.
8. Other planets are flat, too, or don't exist, or Earth isn't a planet.
This is one of the main points of disagreement among Flat Earthers. Some say other disc-shaped planets exist on their own planes, moving upward in space just like ours. Some say that the Earth is not a planet, but its own type of celestial body, so the other planets shoot over our head just like our sun and moon. And yet others say that the space photos are faked, just as are the photos of Earth from space, and video of the moon landing.
9. What about satellites?
10. The most important thing is to trust your own senses.
The central point of view for the Flat Earth theorist is that observation is the founding principle of science. So, Flat Earthers reason, if you look at the horizon and it seems flat, it must be flat. Of course, following this logic that everything is always exactly how it seems, optical illusions simply wouldn't exist, and smoking would be great for you.
In short, the Flat Earthers don't buy the official story. They think it's all made up so that space programs can extort money from taxpayers and spend it on booze and trips to Disneyland, or whatever politicians do with their stolen millions. You can't help but be a little charmed by their old-world charm.
You can read more about what Flat Earth believers think, at the Flat Earth Society. Don't be a troll.