Great Britain has its fair share of bonkers people. You don’t have to go far before you meet people who are, really, three stops from Dagenham. In the space of a few minutes I can think of that bloke who arrived at the Daily Express in Manchester in a full suit of armour. (He wasn’t publicising something, he wanted to complain to the editor about the cookery column). And then there was that scientist in Cambridge who walked around the town with a tube up his bum so he could record how much he farted. And then there’s the druids, and the Morris Dancers, and that woman I met who sewed herself into a greased vest every autumn. They’re not clinically insane, or dangerous, they’re just, well, nuts.
Still, I was slightly taken aback the other day when, on a whim, I Googled the Flat Earth Society and found it still exists. That is a society for people who believe the earth is flat. In fact Google returned 856,000 hits on the subject.
Truly, I say unto you. There are people alive who believe we are living on a disc, that below us are the fires of hell and that Antartica is a wall of ice surrounding us.
Their forum is well worth a look. Especially the Q&A for ‘newbies’. In it you learn that other planets may be round, but the Earth is different. When the sun isn’t overhead, it’s night-time. The Venerated Official of the High Zetetic Council (that’s the guy who edits the forum) asserts:
the Earth isn’t in the shape of a Mercator map. That would be silly. Magellan and many others simply made a circle around the disk of the Earth.
As for horizons,
apparently large waves will obscure apparently small objects. Therefore, looking out long distances over water you will of course be unable to see land on the other side. In addition, refraction has an effect. Some flat Earthers theorize an electromagnetic acceleration which appears to bend light upward.
The society was formed in Victorian times by an English inventor called Samuel Rowbotham, who wrote a book called Earth not a globe. His followers included the US Consul to China and the superintendent of Baltimore public schools (Because America has bonkers people too, let’s be fair).
After his death, Rowbotham’s work was carried on by Lady Elizabeth Blount, wife of explorer Sir Walter de Sodington Blount. Google does not reveal where Sir Walter went, or what he discovered but I think its worth noting, just for the extraordinary names, that his fellow Blount baronets lived in Tittenhanger, in Hertfordshire.
The Flat Earth website is a joy. I especially like the page on the dangers of moonlight, and the advice that if you are foolish enough to risk getting moonburn by going for a walk in the dark, you and your dog should wear all-over body coverings.
Here are some headlines from the society’s Flat Earth News:
“Whole World Deceived… Except the Very Elect” (Dec. 1977)
“Australia Not Down Under” (May 1978)
“Sun Is a Light 32 Miles Across” (Dec. 1978)
“The Earth Has No Motion” (Jun. 1979)
“Nikita Krushchev Father of NASA” (Mar. 1980)
“Galileo Was a Liar” (Dec. 1980)
“Science Insults Your Intelligence” (Sep. 1980)
“World IS Flat, and That’s That” (Sep. 1980)
“The Earth Is Not a Ball; Gravity Does Not Exist” (Mar. 1981)
So there you have it. Eccentric people are great. They make the world go round. Unless of course, you’re a flat earther.
(Apparently there are still people who believe the earth was created in seven days. Wonder how many hits I’d get on Google for that?)
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