Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Holy Shit, Earth is Round!


You may have observed in the picture of Earth above that our planet is round and portly. In fact, I'd wager that you've known that for quite some time. If you didn't, you're either obstinately ignorant or certifiably insane. "Silly blog," you're no doubt saying with a hint of derision, "Everyone knows that Christopher Columbus proved the Earth was round when he sailed to America in 1492!" To which I say, "Hah! That asshole?"
Christopher Columbus
Seriously, what an asshole.

No, reader, Christopher Columbus was full of many things, but intelligence was not one of them. When he set sail on his voyage to what he assumed to be India, he wasn't trying to prove that the Earth was round. He was trying to prove that India was way the fuck closer to Europe than it actually is. And he was wrong.

The naysayers that you made fun of in your elementary school play on Columbus day were actually completely right to doubt him. If, by sheer luck, there hadn't been an entire North and South America halfway between Europe and Asia, Columbus and his men would have surely died adrift at sea.
Earth with no Western continents
I've given some thought to what his memorial would look like.

"Now I remember," I hear you backtracking, "It was Copernicus and Galileo who proved the Earth was flat! They went against the church based on astronomy and stuff!"

Nope! I'm afraid that's just as wrong. First of all, the disagreements both men had with the church came well after 1492, and even well after Ferdinand Magellan (or more accurately, his crew) successfully circumnavigated the globe. Second, the disagreement centered on whether the Earth revolved around the sun or vice-versa. It's a pretty interesting debate in itself, but all parties pretty much agreed already that the Earth was round.
Rounder than my luscious curls, even.

So when did the Flat Earth myth die?

Sometime around the 6th Century.


While the idea of a flat Earth may have persisted among the lower classes, most educated people in Western Civilization (and most other civilizations) have been aware of the general shape of the Earth for much, much longer than we collectively imagine.

See, when you pay attention to where the stars are, how shadows work, and how ships seem to sink below the horizon when they get far enough away, it becomes pretty clear to the discerning mind that there's no way in hell this place is flat. As a matter of fact, the Greeks had pretty much figured out the Earth's circumference by 240 B.C, a good 1700 years before Columbus got it drastically wrong.

Holy shit.

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