Bleats

Here's How To Quickly Shut Down Flat Earthers Without Even Spilling Your Drink

Don't them ruin your booze time with their crazy talk.

Flat Earthers are among the most irritating of people and if your life is going well then you’re hopefully never going to encounter them in your day-to-day goings-on.

But every so often you’re going to be doing something like, say, buying a beer and wearing a shirt of the Cassini mission to Saturn like a big nerd, and some jerk will want to tell you that it’s all a hoax and the Earth is a flat disc and NASA is a hoax.

And look, you don’t want to spill your drink. So what’s a good quick response beyond “off you pop, weirdo?”

My god… it’s full of stars…

What’s with the different constellations?

You may not be an astronomer, but you’re most likely aware that you see different stars from different places.

For example, if you’re in Europe or the US and feeling homesick, looking up for the comfortingly patriotic sight of the Southern Cross will leave you confused and terrified since it’s not there.

A similar thing happened if you watched US kids science TV shows and ran out into your back yard in Adelaide to see the Big Dipper and felt like an idiot when you couldn’t find it. Sorry, little me.

It’s just not visible from there, because there’s a big round planet in the way. That, incidentally, is one of the reasons why NASA set up the Deep Space Communications Complex in Tidbinbilla, just outside of Canberra, because there’s a whole half a sky that can’t be seen from the US (which is why it was used to communication for the Moon Landing and stuff: it would have been a very unnecessary investment if the Moon was just floating overhead all the time).

But maybe you’re not super across the skies in other places. Fair enough. Here’s something you probably know pretty well:

Go Moon!

The Moon’s a bit weird, huh?

Let’s assume that the Moon is just a lovely big grey ball pockmarked with asteroid impacts, floating serenely above the flat Earth. You look up, and so does someone in say, London. You both take photos of the full Moon.

How come theirs is upside down compared with yours?

Given how much media we consume from the northern hemisphere it can sometimes be a bit of a shock to see what movies would assure you is an upside-down Moon here in Australia.

And the global-conspiracy folks would say that it’s because you’re looking at the Moon from a different angle because you’re standing in the Southern Hemisphere of a globe, so you’re upside down relative to someone in the nothern hemisphere.

But for a flearther? That’s… that’s kind of tricky.

So… so no eclipses, then?

Ask To See A Map

Here’s a quick one: ask them to pull up a map of this flat Earth, and also a flight comparison site.

The first bit’s a bit mean because there is no agreed-upon Flat Earth Map, and part of the reason is because none come remotely close to accurately representing the flight times between countries.

For example, if you want to fly from Sydney to Santiago in Chile, then it’s either a pretty solid 13 hours flying over the ocean on a round Earth, or (using most of the maps that exist) flying over the North Pole and US on a flat earth.

Or maybe the plane takes a massive curve over the ocean to preserve the illusion of a round planet because airlines are prepared to waste fuel and money maintaining an inefficient conspiracy for… um, reasons?

In which case airlines are also hiding the fact that their fleets can travel at sci-fi supersonic speeds to cover those distances in that time.

Or you know, just buy another drink and ignore ’em. That’s probably easier.

Oh God, The Conspiracy Theorists Were (Sort Of) Right About Aeroplane Contrails After All

At least it's not aliens. As best as we can work out.

One of the most pervasive conspiracy theories is that the guvmint are controlling the population via chemtrails, the white streaming gas-looking things coming from the wings of jets as they go about their gravity defying business.

And it’s bollocks, just to be clear – that’s a super inefficient way to distribute mind-control serum, for one thing, and there’d be noticeable cluster of unusually placid people under flightpaths which doesn’t appear to be the case in Sydney’s inner west.

Also, it’s a really silly theory.

So wait… Springfield is in Sydenham?

But it turns out that contrails are genuinely worse than we’d realised. Just not for mind control reasons.

Contrails – condensation trails – happen when the moisture from jet exhaust freezes into ice crystals in the cold upper atmosphere. And, counter-intuitively, that actually has an effect on global warming because it forms short-lived cloud layers called contrail cirrus which contributes to the heating of the earth by preventing heat from escaping into space.

And yes, those clouds only exist for hours or days – but given the level of global air traffic, there’s a hell of lot of it. And recent calculations suggest that the effect on climate change is greater than the effect of CO2 from aeroplane fuel emissions.

And that… look, that’s bad.

Not least because all the work on reducing the impact of air travel is based around CO2 reduction, and because more and more planes are flying at higher altitudes where the contrail cirrus effect is made greater.

“It all makes sense… you know, because of assiduous peer-reviewed research by experts in the field!”

So yes, the conspiracy theorists were right, a bit – if not about the mechanism, then certainly about it being bad.

Honestly, if it turns out that tinfoil hats really do stop people reading our minds then we might have rethink everything.

What Keeps Me Up At Night: There's Only One Reason Octopuses Haven't Taken Over Yet

Humans still have the edge… for now.

Life got a foothold on Earth a long, long time ago. The first signs of life appeared barely a billion years after the planet congealed out of the elemental gas and dust and rock left over from the Sun’s formation five billion years ago.

However, life then spent almost the entire period since creating nothing more complex than algae, before finally conditions were right for Earth to bring forth all sorts of cool stuff like trilobites and dinosaurs and insects and Steve.

Settle down there, Steve.

And among the countless hundreds of millions of different species on Earth, exactly one has developed complex language, tool use and technology. And the general thinking is that there are other species which are smart (dolphins, crows), or are great at delicately manipulating objects with prehensile bits of their bodies (marmosets, moose), but only a few that have both qualities.

Elephants do, and apes. And, perhaps most of all, octopi.

And we should notice that, because they’re so very much better than humans in almost every way imaginable.

“NO PAPARAZZI! RESPECT MY PRIVACY!”

They have better eyes. They have their brain spread out through their entire body. They can squeeze though any space big enough for their beak to fit. They regenerate when wounded. They can change colour and texture in milliseconds to the point that you could be surrounded by them RIGHT NOW and have no idea.

And they watch, and they learn.

Stories about octopi escaping from labs and aquaria are legion, if often wildly exaggerated, but what’s not in doubt is that they can look at things in their environment and go “hey, I can totally use that.”

You know, like people do.

“Hey, these wood-pants are awesome!”

So what’s preventing them from overthrowing us and becoming the planet’s dominant species? There are a few things.

One suggestion is that it’s hard to see an obvious path to technological society without dabbling in the useful properties of fire, which is a big ask for an aquatic species. Another is that octopi don’t play well together, with many species tending to eat one another rather than team up to take on us land-jerks.

But the biggest reason is probably the most practical: they die real quick.

Even the mighty giant Pacific octopus is estimated to cark it at around the five year mark. And I’ve dealt with a lot of five year olds in my time – I was one myself for about 12 months – and much of their technology is strongly cardboard and paint-based. They pose little threat.

On the other hand…

But evolution is nothing if not unpredictably zany.

All we need is one tiny random tweak to the right octopus gene – a mutation which is perhaps happening right now in our fathomless deeps – and suddenly we could be facing a long-lived species of camouflaged stealth hunters waiting with giant brains and time on their hands (tentacles?), just waiting for the sea levels to rise and make our largest cities the domain of the Kraken.

So we should keep poisoning the oceans the way we’re doing, is what I’m saying. Think of it as a pre-emptive strike.

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