Friday, 6 May 2011

Flat Earth

A couple of years ago, I met the lovely Christine Garwood, author of “Flat Earth: the History of an Infamous Idea”. She was presenting her findings about the very interesting Flat Earth Society at a Lodge History seminar. The Flat Earth Society asks some very interesting questions about some things we take for granted.

One of the most difficult things for me to do when I first started studying astronomy several (a-hem) years ago was to get the images in my head to move in a 3-D circular motion. For example, on paper, the phases of the moon look like this:

But in reality, it looks nothing like this as we experience it on earth and it was difficult to train my brain to get the earth and moon to move in rotation and revolution. It was a similar problem with understanding retrograde motion:

But I do understand (I think) anyway why the earth must be a sphere and not a flattened disk: because Aristotle said so!

OK, maybe it’s more to do with the fact that these days I am much more adept at getting the imaginary earth in my head to rotate and revolve around an imaginary sun. All the same, it’s not such a bad idea to try to see something from another person’s point of view every now and again. Even if you do think they’re wrong.

To celebrate getting it wrong. . .here’s a little Mars opposite Uranus joke just for you:

Tony was 6 years old and was staying with his grandmother for a few days.

He'd been playing outside with the other kids, when he came into the house and asked her, 'Grandma, what's that called when two people sleep in the same bedroom and one is on top of the other?' She was a little taken aback, but she decided to tell him the truth. 'Well, dear, it's called sexual intercourse. Oh, Little Tony said, 'OK,' and went back outside to play with the other kids.

A few minutes later he came back in and said angrily, 'Grandma, it isn't called sexual intercourse. It's called Bunk Beds. And Jimmy's mom wants to talk to you.'

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