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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Do they really think the earth is flat?

In the 21st Century, the term "flat-earther" is used to describe someone who is spectacularly - and seemingly wilfully - ignorant. But there is a group of people who claim they believe the planet really is flat. Are they really out there or is it all an elaborate prank?
Nasa is celebrating its 50th birthday with much fanfare and pictures of past glories. But in half a century of extraordinary images of space, one stands out.

On 24 December 1968, the crew of the Apollo 8 mission took a photo now known as Earthrise. To many, this beautiful blue sphere viewed from the moon's orbit is a perfect visual summary of why it is right to strive to go into space.

Not to everybody though. There are people who say they think this image is fake - part of a worldwide conspiracy by space agencies, governments and scientists.

Welcome to the world of the flat-earther.

Our attitude towards those who once upon a time believed in the flatness of the earth is apparent in a new Microsoft advert.

Photos such as this one are deemed fakes by flat-earthers

Depicting an olden-days ship sailing on rough seas, presumably heading towards the "edge of the world", the advert is part of a $300m campaign aimed at rescuing the reputation of Windows Vista by comparing its critics to flat-earthers.

Satellite era

But are there any genuine flat-earthers left? Surely in our era of space exploration - where satellites take photos of our blue and clearly globular planet from space, and robots send back info about soil and water from Mars - no one can seriously still believe that the Earth is flat?

Flat earth map


Flat earth theory is still around. On the internet and in small meeting rooms in Britain and the US, flat earth believers get together to challenge the "conspiracy" that the Earth is round.

"People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers," says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

"Many use the term 'flat-earther' as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism."

Mr Davis, a 25-year-old computer scientist originally from Canada, first became interested in flat earth theory after "coming across some literature from the Flat Earth Society a few years ago".

"I came to realise how much we take at face value," he says. "We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses."

Mr Davis now believes "the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite - it stretches horizontally forever".

"And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep", he adds.

James McIntyre, a British-based moderator of a Flat Earth Society discussion website, has a slightly different take. "The Earth is, more or less, a disc," he states. "Obviously it isn't perfectly flat thanks to geological phenomena like hills and valleys. It is around 24,900 miles in diameter."

Mr McIntyre, who describes himself as having been "raised a globularist in the British state school system", says the reactions of his friends and family to his new beliefs vary from "sheer incredulity to the conviction that it's all just an elaborate joke".

So how many flat-earthers are around today? Neither Mr Davis nor Mr McIntyre can say.

Disappearing ships

Mr McIntyre estimates "there are thousands", but "without a platform for communication, a head-count is almost impossible", he says. Mr Davis says he is currently creating an "online information repository" to help to bring together local Flat Earth communities into a "global community".

"If you will forgive my use of the term 'global'", he says.

Aristotle knew the earth was not flat

And for the casual observer, it is hard to accept that all of this is not some bizarre 21st Century jape. After all, most schoolchildren know that ships can disappear over the horizon, that satellites orbit the earth and that if you head along the equator you will eventually come back on yourself.

What about all the photos from space that show, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Earth is round? "The space agencies of the world are involved in an international conspiracy to dupe the public for vast profit," says Mr McIntyre.

John Davis also says "these photos are fake".

And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world?

Mr McIntyre laughs. "This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions," he says. "A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason - the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth."

Ultimate conspiracy

Mr Davis says that being a flat-earther doesn't have an impact on how one lives every day. "As a rule of thumb, we don't have any fears of aircraft or other modes of transportation," he says.

Christine Garwood, author of Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea, is not surprised that flat-earthers simply write off the evidence that our planet is globular.

"Flat earth theory is one of the ultimate conspiracy theories," she says.

"Naturally, flat earth believers think that the moon landings were faked, as were the photographs of earth from space."

Illustration of Columbus sailing
When Columbus sailed, it was known the world was not flat

Perhaps one of the most surprising things in Garwood's book is her revelation that flat earth theory is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Ms Garwood says it is an "historic fallacy" that everyone from ancient times to the Dark Ages believed the earth to be flat, and were only disabused of this "mad idea" once Christopher Columbus successfully sailed to America without "falling off the edge of the world".

In fact, people have known since at least the 4th century BC that the earth is round, and the pseudo-scientific conviction that we actually live on a disc didn't emerge until Victorian times.

Theories about the earth being flat really came to the fore in 19th Century England. With the rise and rise of scientific rationalism, which seemed to undermine Biblical authority, some Christian thinkers decided to launch an attack on established science.

Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816-1884) assumed the pseudonym of "Parallax" and founded a new school of "Zetetic astronomy". He toured England arguing that the Earth was a stationary disc and the Sun was only 400 miles away.

In the 1870s, Christian polemicist John Hampden wrote numerous works about the Earth being flat, and described Isaac Newton as "in liquor or insane".

And the spirit of these attacks lives on to the present day. The flat-earth myth remains the outlandish king in the realm of the conspiracy theorist.

And while we all respect a degree of scepticism towards the authorities, says Ms Garwood, the flat-earthers show things can go too far.

"It is always good to question 'how we know what we know', but it is also good to have the ability to accept compelling evidence - such as the photographs of Earth from space."

List Of Things Man Wants To Do Before He Dies Just List Of TV Shows

SCHAUMBURG, IL—When Jack Mannahan's elderly father passed away this spring, the 53-year-old decided to draw up a list of things that he had to do before he could die a happy man. The document, which was recently leaked to the press, turned out to be nothing more than a listing of popular television shows. "There's so much I have yet to experience, like finally catching up on the last couple years of 24," Mannahan said. "My life won't feel complete if I never see what Veronica Mars is all about. And I need to finish about a half-dozen seasons of The Simpsons. Also, I'm ashamed to say it, but I've never even seen an episode of that House show that's gotten such rave reviews." Mannahan added that the loss of his father has given him a new perspective on the importance of family, motivating him to finally crack the plastic on the Battlestar Galactica DVDs his son bought him last Christmas.
Original here

Church Signs That Won’t Make You Go To Church

Driving across the rural parts of America you’ll undoubtedly notice the large number of churches that use their signs to try and draw people into their church with a joke or a pun or some good old fashioned fire and brimstone fear. The problem is, the comedy stylings of most church pastors is kind of like a combination of Yakov Smirnoff and Rush Limbaugh. You either get the world’s crappiest puns or some sort of evil, hate filled message that’s supposed to scare you into attending, or a totally awesome unintentional double entrendre. Either way, these signs are the only interesting thing to look at when you’re driving from Pennsylvania to Colorado.

Um, what?

Now there’s a well thought out marketing pitch.

OK, so maybe this one makes me want to go to church.

Waitstaff Tired Of Sleeping With Each Other

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—After years on the job, members of the Manilla Grill waitstaff reported Monday that they are tired of having sex with each other.

Enlarge Image Waitstaff Tired Of Sleeping With Each Other

Four members of the Manilla Grill waitstaff.

"I'm closing tonight, so I'll probably end up sleeping with [assistant manager] Robert [Stein]," waitress Katie Glenn said. "A few months ago, I would've been excited. He's really cute, and [coworker] Lynette [Hardy] says he's a great lay, but now... I don't know. We have nothing in common, except that we're both working a double and neither of us can stand [manager] Dan Musket."

Glenn said workplace stress, youth, and access to the restaurant's tap beer contribute to the waitstaff couplings.

"When I first had sex with [hostess] Tracy [Ballucci], I thought she was the one," waiter Kevin Cobb said. "Two months later, I had sex with Katie, but I still had to work with Tracy. I should've learned my lesson when Tracy 'accidentally' threw away a shrimp scampi that was supposed to go to a 14-top. But it's a little too late now, since there's not a waitress left that I haven't slept with."

"Oh, Kelly [Spencer]—I haven't had sex with Kelly, yet," Cobb added. "Man, I'm not looking forward to that."

While most of the intercourse occurs off the premises, the waitstaff said they sometimes have sex with each other in the restaurant's storage areas.

"I don't know how much more of this I can take," hostess Jill Stern said. "I've gone through every waiter and even two waitresses. Maybe I should get a new job. I definitely need a change."

"But there is the line cook," Stern added. "It might be fun to back him into the walk-in cooler and fuck his brains out. I've never had sex with anyone from the back of the house before. Kelly said it's pretty hot."

Enlarge Image Waitstaff Tired Of Sleeping With Each Other jump

Stern listlessly observes Cobb bend over.

Psychologist Dorian Ledin, an expert in workplace relationships, said the best way to solve the problems brought about by sleeping with too many coworkers is to find a new job.

"Jill would do best to follow her first impulse," Ledin said. "Quitting is the best way to break the cycle. This behavior is inhibiting her ability to forge permanent relationships. And it's also keeping her from refilling her customers' glasses of ice water."

Ledin said food-service employees may initially be disoriented when they start working at new locations, but after a short adjustment period, a new sense of purpose will often fill their lives.

"There is hope," Ledin said. "Many former waitstaff members go on to form long-term, monogamous relationships with people in fields such as telemarketing or hotel management."

Former Manilla Grill employee Greg Nelson agreed with Ledin's theory.

"Almost immediately after I quit, I got work at Loews Cinema," said Nelson, who tendered his resignation in August 2004. "That's where I met this totally hot usher. We've been going out, like, six weeks."

Nelson added, "I went back to the bar at Manilla Grill last week, and I barely had anything to say to those people, much less a desire to have sex with them."

Regardless of the easy solution leaving offers, many waiters and waitresses try to modify their behavior by refraining from having sex with their coworkers. They report little success.

"When I left Pizzeria Prima, I had a motto: 'Don't get laid where you get paid,'" waiter Jack Dulles said. "Then I started working at Manilla Grill. One night after a football-game rush, I wound up sleeping with Pat in what's turned into a three-month, eight-waitress binge. I keep telling my roommates it's the last time, but even I don't believe it anymore."
Original here

America OWNS the moon

The Moon is sucha’ beautiful place, ya’ll, and thank goodness America owns the intellectual right to it. Ya’see, it’s ’cause we’re the only country that’s EVER been. And we only needed to go once to claim it all, and because we have proof, we have the ability to boast and say, “Russia, sucks for you!”.

When ‘Merica joined the great ‘Space Race’ in December of 1956, it made a vow to kick some USSR ass, and by golly ya’ll, it sure did. We were in peril of the Russian’s wippin’ out their stuff and showin’ us who’s boss, with sendin’ that there monkey and all in to space. Not to mention Sputnik, that spy satalite that kept watch on EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN SOUL, when we was eatin’, bathin’, makin’ relations, readin’, usin’ the bathroom, the Russians knew what any of us was doin’ at any given’ time.

Now ya’ see, ‘Merica, we couldn’t have that, so our great president announced to the world that we would be the first to touch foot on the moon. And millions of dollars and thousands of man hours went in to the Apollo project that would ultimately take us to the moon. Finally on July 20th, 1969, America got it’s wake up call and found out that the hippies neaded to cease and disist ’cause we were now space dwellers. Those silly bastards on Apollo 11 stepped foot on the moon. Now, it’s true that we don’t have the technology to get back to the moon - maybe someone lost it, like a Janitor or whatnot. It’s not like they had advanced computer systems or anything and they all weren’t rocket scientists.

And in spite of that “VAN ALLEN BELT”, that thick layer of radiation that would kill anyone who passes through it within a matter of minutes, we had God’s love to carry us through. If God invented that belt of radiation that kills any life that passes through it, he could just turn it off for a minute or two… I mean it’s only there to protect us against solar winds and harmful rays that the sun emits. That’s all.

Now, I know that you’re thinkin’, the shadows intersect on the moon, as seen in most of the pictures NASA released, and it couldn’t be logically possible to only have one light-source like NASA had claimed, and that light source being the sun. Well, you ain’t ever been to the moon so ya’ll don’t know what it’s like up there. It could be different, maybe shadows intersect up there. Until you’ve been to tha’ moon, you can keep your mouth shut. And maybe they only release 2% of the pictures taken ’cause they didn’t look good in the other 98% of them. And no, just ’cause fast-forwarding the at 2X the “recorded” speed of the moon walk depicts average earth gravity doesn’t mean it was shot on earth. Maybe everything is just EXACTLY 2 times slower up there on the moon.

I mean, just ’cause there isn’t much proof that we were there and the proof that it was faked is more thoroughly mapped out doesn’t mean we weren’t there. We still own the moon and that’s just another reason why America is the best.