no, seriously, all planets are round
Science may still be debating exactly what is and isn’t a planet, but it knows for damn sure that in order for something to be a planet, it has to be round because every heavy enough object in the vacuum of space turns into a more or less spherical shape. Contrary to popular belief and jokes, even ancient scientists and astronomers knew that, and the myth that people thought the Earth was flat is just plain not true. If you were in any way educated, you’ve known the correct shape of the planet for the last 4,000-plus years. But yet, as we stand on the cusp of manipulating the very building blocks of life in a lab, creating powerful AI assistants, and are getting closer and closer to our dreams of colonizing other worlds, turning sci-fi into real life, some people in the public eye seem to have regressed on such a simple, well known fact, embracing what has been a fringe view for millennia based on either a total inability to read an elementary school science book, or a conspiracy theory according to which NASA is trying to fool us that the Earth is round to do a nefarious thing or embezzle funding for a space program that doesn’t exist, somehow getting other space agencies to play right along with it.
All right, so rapper B.o.B. thinks the planet is flat even though, as was just noted, it’s physically impossible to have a disk-shaped planet, though you’re fine with a UFO-shaped moon like Saturn because it’s technically not heavy enough to be considered a planet anyway. So does Tila Tequila but she’s not exactly known as a good source of scientific information. In fact her primary fame comes from gaming social media in its early days and currently going full blown Nazi, which is not an exaggeration. Across the internet there are communities of people who believe in every variation of this conspiracy but these are people who seem to spend all their time looking for anything they can interpret as a conspiracy to prove to themselves they’re not sheeple. It’s eyebrow-raising, but somewhat understandable. Conspiracy theorists exist everywhere and their beliefs can be all over the place, so not exactly much to fret about, especially when their influence is exaggerated on a slow news day rather than comes to light during an election. But alarmingly, as there’s now media coverage of this ignorance, more of those who ascribe to it seem eager to come out of the woodwork to defend it utter lack of merits.
Basketball player Kyrie Irving and the sport’s icon Shaq have both come out as flat Earth faithful and Shaq defended his weird position by saying that he doesn’t feel the curvature of the planet while he’s routinely taking road trips across the American Sun Belt and can’t seem to identify the horizon when in Atlanta. One wonders why he doesn’t seem to question why he can’t see the skyscrapers of Tokyo from the beach in Santa Monica, or why the container ships departing from Port of Long Beach seem to vanish in the ocean when they float too far down the coast. Another pertinent question is why is a 7' 1" ex-athlete driving across the country because that cannot be comfortable or convenient, but that’s none of my business I suppose. Even more disturbing than celebrities endorsing something so blatantly wrong is a growing trend of YouTube videos where flat Earthers claim that high altitude nuclear tests were trying to crack the Firmament, i.e. the dome over the supposed Earth disk , or that amateur rockets that stopped spinning and cut off their main engines at, or right around, 73 miles up actually hit this invisible barrier by noting that they stopped their stabilizing spin and rapid altitude gains.
Now the reason why I say it’s disturbing isn’t because this belief is really all that widespread, so most of the comments in the articles covering it fill up with users who can’t believe that in the age of routine space travel, there’s a contingent of people who think even that our planet might be flat. Why it’s disturbing is that at a time when politics have gone crazy and we’re all being told to leave our echo chambers and learn how to understand how people with radically different beliefs think, in a period of “alternative facts” and a hostile approach to actual science and knowledge, we are being confronted with people who can’t even agree that our planet is round despite it being a fundamental fact of physics that all planets will coalesce around a common center of gravity and become spheres. Not only is this something you could look up in seconds on Google, but we have pictures and videos of Earth from space, as well as pictures and videos of other planets in our, and other solar systems to show this incontrovertible fact. And when you realize the level of denial and contempt for science required for that, it’s rather unsettling.