Categories
Press and Pop Culture

The Mythical Flat Earth Past

The common claim that Columbus proved that the earth was round is the zombie myth from hell. It refuses to die. Every year students arrive in my intro class having been taught that people in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat and that Columbus proved them wrong. This past semester, every student believed […]

Categories
HoS Advent Calendar 2016

A Tabernacle-Shaped Earth

Although Cosmas Indicopleustes is far from a household name, he enjoys an outsized reputation (at least in the abstract) as a representative of the benighted medieval belief that the earth was flat. To be sure, in his “Topographia Christiana” he says the earth is a parallelogram surrounded by oceans. Moreover, this parallelogram-shaped earth was stuffed […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Myth vs. History

In a recent NY Times opinion piece Hallie Lieberman laments the persistence, prevalence, and perniciousness of a particular historical myth, i.e., the story of the invention of the vibrator as told in The Technology of Orgasm. The standard story is, according to Lieberman: A mutton-chopped, bow-tie-clad doctor stands in an operating theater, where the silhouette […]

Categories
Press and Pop Culture

Jimmy Kimmel & Galileo

A couple nights ago Jimmy Kimmel aired a segment that followed “Jake Byrd” at last fall’s Flat Earth Conference in Dallas. In true “Jake Byrd” fashion, he is quick witted and irreverent. But I am not particularly interested in Byrd’s performance or the content of the segment itself.1 I am more interested in Jimmy Kimmel’s […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Newton Relics

In an editorial taking Kyrie Irving to task for his comments about the shape of the earth, “Between Kyrie Irving’s flat Earth and Isaac Newton’s apple tree, science remains a process of understanding,” Glenn Starkman and Patricia Princehouse remark: We have an apple tree on the Case Western Reserve University campus grown from a twig […]

Categories
History

A. R. Wallace and “preter-human intelligences”

In “Wallace’s Woeful Wager” Dana Hunter tells the story of A. R. Wallace’s bet with John Hampden about the shape of the earth. In her version, Wallace—“venerable 19th century man of science”—was duped by scheming, doltish, young-earth creationists who assailed science with Biblical passages and ignored evidence in defense of their flat-earth beliefs. Hunter is […]

Categories
Speaking

Eratosthenes and Second Graders

One recent sunny afternoon, I took a bunch of exercise balls with little sticks taped to them to the local grammar school where I met a class of second graders. As part of my war on the flat earth myth, I had encouraged their teacher to read Kathryn Lasky’s The Librarian Who Measured the Earth […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

A Call for Historical Accuracy

If we inveigh against people who distort science and ignore facts to prove their point and we label them dogmatic knuckleheads, we should at least guard against committing the same missteps in our criticisms of them. Phil Plait recently drew attention to and rightly criticized a pseudo-documentary promoting geocentrism.[1] The same day, Lawrence Krauss—a theoretical […]

Categories
Academia

Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bruno

By now it seems clear: Neil deGrasse Tyson and Cosmos got Bruno wrong.[1] People have pointed out, and out, and out, and out, and out the various errors.[2] Meg Rosenburg starts to move the discussion beyond the errors by offering a bit more about Bruno. In her post Becky Ferreira adds still more detail. But […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

And yet the Legend Lives

Scott Huler is right to take the North Carolina legislature to task for trying to legislate whether or not ocean levels are rising: NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal. Yet like President Obama before him, Huler reveals his own ignorance when he invokes another tired historical myth. Contrary to what Huler would like, there […]