What Happened On The Flat Earth This Week? B.o.B. – What Happened On The Flat Earth This Week?

“Flat Earth” more popular than MRA, MGTOW and PUA combined, Google Trends suggests


SOURCE: http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2016/02/28/flat-earth-more-popular-than-mra-mgtow-and-pua-combined-google-trends-suggests/

Do we live in a giant terrarium?

So yesterday I fell into an internet hole watching “flat earth” videos on YouTube.

In case you haven’t heard, the ancient idea that the world we live on is flat, stationary, and perhaps the center of the universe has been having a bizarre revival lately.

The topic jumped off the internet and into the mainstream media last month when rapper/producer B.O.B. started Tweeting about his newfound faith in flatness, ultimately getting into a sort of rap battle with everyone’s favorite astrophysicist Neal deGrasse Tyson.

It turns out it’s not only B.O.B. who has decided that the globe is a lie. Over the past year, a sort of flat-earth counterculture has blown up online. On Youtube, a small battalion of flat earth “truthers” spread the new gospel to hundreds of thousands of fans in videos that range from the charmingly amateurish to the surprisingly slick.

The new flat earthers don’t just reject the idea of the earth as a spinning ball; they reject the concept of gravity itself (suggesting that things fall to earth simply because they’re denser than air, which, what?), not to mention evolution and pretty much most of modern science.

Many of them see the Bible as a better source of information about the earth than science, and rail against what they see as a vast conspiracy to keep the supposed truth about the flat earth from the public. Naturally, it’s all the fault of the freemasons and the Jews. (It’s telling that B.O.B. is not only a flat earther but also, apparently, a Holocaust denier who referenced the discredited historian David Irving in a dis track aimed at Tyson.)

One of the reasons I’ve been so obsessed with MRAs and other misogynists over the past five years or so is that I think they offer an instructive case study in the cultural and intellectual history of bad ideas, and the subcultures that nurture them. Obviously the flat earthers do as well.

The similarities between the “manosphere” and the flat earthers are considerable, and not just because both groups have found their ideal audiences on Youtube; like their MRA and MGTOW counterparts, popular flat earth Youtubers have tens of thousands of subscribers, and their most popular videos get hundreds of thousands of views.

Members of both subcultures not only have their own interpretations of the world but an array of shared “facts” as well, which they cling to with the misguided arrogance of the fanatical autodidacts they are: MRAs insist that domestic violence “isn’t gendered”; flat earthers insist that there are no direct flights from Australia to South America. (No, really.)

I may return to this topic in more detail later but I thought you’d find the following charts from Google Trends to be of some interest, since they show that the public’s newfound interest in flat earthery has evidently eclipsed its interest in Men’s Rights, MGTOW, and pickup artistry combined.

flat earth1


Not only is “flat earth” way more interesting to people than all that manosphere stuff but interest in Men’s Rights, pickup artistry, and MGTOW has been declining. Have they all peaked?

This isn’t a perfect representation of interest in these topics. People searching for “pua” might actually be interested in retired soccer star Víctor Púa; people searching for MRA might be interested in Magnetic Resonance Angiography. Alternately, people interested in any of these topics may have used different terms — though when I searched for ‘men’s rights” there were almost no searches for that term.

Hey, let’s add feminism to the mix.


D’oh! “Flat Earth” beats feminism, too! But, hey, at least feminism is still doing better than “men’s rights,” and it’s been on an upswing.

Let’s swap out feminism for “gamergate.”


No surprise it’s been on the decline, but I would have expected a lot more interest at its peak.

Now let’s put all this in perspective.



But I am a little puzzled by poop’s declining poopularity.

I’m going to keep watching the flat earthers, and will report any interesting findings. If I find an explanation for the poop conundrum I will share that as well.

In Defense of Flat Earthers


SOURCE: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/01/flat-earth-bob-outside-physicist/431583/


Rapper B.o.B’s theory may be ridiculous, but he’s motivated by the same questing spirit that gave us science.

When I first heard that rapper B.o.B apparently believes the Earth is flat, I sighed the weary sigh of a science writer facing down an anti-science culture. Evolution, climate change, vaccines, and now #FlatEarth? “Are you kidding me?” I thought. Will Americans insist on rejecting everything that 100 percent of scientists agree on? Aside from B.o.B’s delightful diss track aimed at Neil deGrasse Tyson (and Tyson’s equally delightful response), this latest dustup just felt like more of the same. But then I clicked through and read B.o.B’s original arguments, and they stirred my very soul.

No, he did not convince me that the Earth is flat, you dopes. You and I both know it’s round. NASA knows it’s round. It’s round. Ok? The Earth is round. But let’s take at look some samples from B.o.B’s #FlatEarth tweetstorm.

2016-01-30_063106 2016-01-30_063136 2016-01-30_063204

Take a look especially at the tweet that started it all: “The cities in the background are approx. 16 miles apart … where is the curve? please explain this.” There’s something touchingly genuine about this to me, some deep seated desire to work through confusion and toward truth. This isn’t a man who never learned science, or who has some fundamentalist objection to examining empirical evidence about the world. This is a man who has looked at the world around him and decided that mainstream science isn’t doing a good job at explaining what he sees. So he’s collecting evidence, seeking out literature by well-versed “experts,” and working out a better theory on his own.

 This is the hallmark of people I’ve come to think of as outsider physicists. You might know them by other names: loons, kooks, crackpots. Most scientists and science writers consider them a nuisance, as they often clog up our inboxes and even (shudder) voicemails with their wacky theories, desperate for validation. I occasionally get those emails, and I almost always ignore them. But years ago, the physicist-turned-science-writer Margaret Wertheim decided to pay attention to the fringe theories that came her way. “The Big Bang theory accepted by a majority of scientists constitutes the greatest blunder and misinterpretation in the history of cosmology.” The universe is a “12 lobed Raspberry in a dodecahedral configuration.” And oh so many more. Some had an internal logic she could follow. Others made no sense at all. But as she wrote in her 2011 book Physics on the Fringe, their architects all shared a sense that physics had veered woefully off-track somewhere around the time it started relying on differential equations to describe invisible phenomenon, from magnetic fields to Higgs bosons.


In the last 150 years or so, physics has taken a turn away from the intuitive and toward the abstract. It’s not rolling balls and falling apples anymore; it’s quantum states and curved spacetime. (And let’s not even get into string theory, which might as well be an outsider theory itself for all the experimental evidence it has backing it up—i.e., none so far.) That turn has left some people—perhaps B.o.B included—extremely unsettled. Physics is supposed to be about understanding the world I live in, they think. But I don’t see any time dilation/entangled quarks/curvature of the Earth when I look around me. Why should I trust this math I can’t understand over what I see with my own eyes?

Most of us are content to passively swallow the harsh truth that the fundamental laws of the universe are too complicated to grasp without a graduate education in math. We trust that somewhere along the way, scientists smarter than we are actually did the calculations and got the right answers. The evidence is right there in our GPS satellites, our smart phones, our space station. I don’t need to check their work, we think. Not outsider physicists. They insist on figuring everything out for themselves, in ways they can understand. They are driven by the sense that their “own experience must be the starting point for [their] understanding of the world,” Wertheim wrote in her remarkably generous and empathetic book. So they come up with their own ideas, sometimes even designing and performing experiments to back them up.

Most of the current crop of outsider physicists are out to prove Einstein and/or quantum mechanics wrong; arguing that the Earth is flat is a fringe position in a fringe movement. But B.o.B’s Twitter crusade illuminates the best qualities of outsider physics: its skepticism, its curiosity, and its fierce desire to make sense of a confusing world in a rigorous way. These same values lie at the heart of mainstream science, too. They are what make science special. They are what make science science.

But theoretical physics isn’t just science. It’s also a creative pursuit, one that exists in parallel to and sometimes even ahead of experimental evidence. (Remember those string theorists?) One of Wertheim’s central arguments is that theoretical physics helps us feel at home in the universe in the same way that music, literature, and art do. Many professional physicists would agree, with their odes to the beauty of their formulas and the poetry of the deep symmetries they reveal. If you buy into that premise—and I do—there’s a corollary waiting for you: Anyone can make art. It won’t all be good, but for most people looking for a creative outlet, being good isn’t really the point.

That, to me, is what makes #FlatEarth fundamentally different from climate change denial, creationism, or the anti-vaxx movement. It’s not really about exposing a supposed scientific “fraud,” it doesn’t have a political or religious agenda, and it’s not out to stop professional scientists from doing their important work and applying what they learn to improve the world. It’s just a bunch of amateur theorists trying their best to feel at home in the universe, in a way many scientists might well recognize if they let themselves. Theoretical physics isn’t brain surgery; unless you are in charge of Soyuz reentry paths or something, no one is going to die if you do it wrong. At worst, you’ll irritate some mainstream scientists or become briefly infamous on social media. At best, you’ll blaze your own trail through the universe’s mysteries and end up somewhere wondrous—even if you’re the only one who knows it. So let a million theories flourish, including #FlatEarth. When they come from a place of such genuine curiosity and creativity, who cares if they’re wrong?

BoB v Neil deGrasse Tyson: flat-earth rap beef takes on new dimension

SOURCE: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/27/bob-stephen-neil-degrasse-tyson-flat-to-fact-flatline-rap-beef


The astrophysicist’s rapping nephew Stephen Tyson has released Flat to Fact in response to BoB’s diss track Flatline

You got schooled … Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, right, was among the first scientists to publicly respond to claims about the curvature of the Easth made by rapper BoB, left.

The week’s most ridiculous music news story just got more ridiculous: the rapper BoB’s insistent claim that the earth is actually flat now seems to be producing musical results. After prominent astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson questioned the rapper’s scientific rigour, he was met with a diss track from BoB called Flatline, which contains the line: “Neil Tyson need to loosen up his vest / They’ll probably write that man one hell of a cheque.” Now Tyson’s nephew has released his own track in response.

Flat to Fact by Stephen Tyson backs up his uncle, who promoted the track by tweeting: “As an astrophysicist I don’t rap, but I know people who do. This one has my back.”

The song, which is reminiscent of Drake’s Meek Mill diss track Back to Back Freestyle, features the astrophysicist himself reciting two of his tweets to BoB. The lyrics include lines such as: “I’m in the Hayden Planetarium gettin’ shoulder rubs / I think it’s very clear, that Bobby didn’t read enough / And he’s believing all this conspiracy theory stuff / Are these all of your thoughts or is the loud talkin?”

BoB has provoked much bemusement since he took to Twitter to post his flat-earth views. Tyson was one of the first scientists to publicly debunk the rapper’s claims, along with the memorable burn: “Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn’t mean we all can’t still like your music.”

BoB’s Flatline is a bizarre record that asks listeners to look up Holocaust denier David Irving and makes reference to the freemasons and “mirror lizards”. What can we expect next? Maybe a trap banger from Brian Cox?

Why Is the Flat-Earth Conspiracy Still a Thing?

SOURCE: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/why-is-the-flat-earth-conspiracy-still-a-thing-b-o-b-neil-degrasse-tyson


By now, you’ve probably heard about C-list rapper B.o.B.’s Twitter rant, where he insisted that the Earth is in fact flat and that NASA has been using CGI to lie to us for decades. You’ve probably heard that Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who has somehow gone from culturally beloved to the human personification of “well actually,” took on his claims. Now B.o.B., real name Bobby Ray Simmons, has responded with a diss track aimed at Tyson (and Tyson’s nephew shot back with a diss track of his own) as this story rockets further and further into the stratosphere of surreality.


In the wake of Simmons’ pronouncements, the world at large seems stunned that there are, in 2016, people out there who still think the Earth is flat. After all, we’ve known that the Earth is round since the days of Greek antiquity—Pythagoras is credited with setting forth the proposition, and the idea was generally accepted worldwide from then on. In 1522, Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe by ship provided experiential proof that the world was round.

Despite all of this, flat-earth truthers persist. They’ve been around since at least the 1800s, when British writer Samuel Rowbotham published his book Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe.

Rowbotham frequently used a six-mile-long drainage canal off the Old Bedford River to prove to others that the Earth was flat—if it was not, Rowbotham said, you wouldn’t be able to see boats at the other end of the canal because they would be obscured by the curvature of the globe.

Rowbotham’s claims were disproved by a surveyor, Alfred Russel Wallace, who saw a 500 pound bounty for proof of a curved Earth offered by early flat-earthers and took them up on it.

The Bedford Canal Rowbotham used was the stage for Wallace’s experiment, which relied on a telescope, a sheet of fabric, and two red discs for reference points as detailed by Scientific American. Wallace’s experiment was successful, but that didn’t make a difference to the ideological flat-earth truthers, who simply insisted the results instead proved them right. Wallace called the frustrating experience “the most regrettable incident in my life.”

After Rowbotham died, a woman named Lady Elizabeth Blount took up the cause and formed the Universal Zetetic Society. (“Zetetic” comes from the Greek for “proceeding by inquiry.”) The Society was basically a club for adherents to the flat-earth belief, and published literature to that effect in an effort to convince others.

If Simmons were alone in his belief that the Earth is flat, he’d be deemed delusional. But he isn’t

After Blount, the movement lay dormant for awhile, until it was revived in the mid-twentieth century by Englishman Samuel Shenton and American Charles K. Johnson. Renamed The Flat Earth Society, this is the movement that persists today. According to The Flat Earth Society’s website, Johnson was an especially charismatic leader, and managed to increase the group’s membership to 3,000. (As of now, 554 names are on the group’s online register.)

So why does this belief persist? When VICE interviewed some flat-earthers back in 2014, they summed it up by saying simply that they trust “sensory observations” over scientific theory. But there’s more to it than that.

What’s most interesting about these flat-earth truthers, and what makes them worth more than just a couple of punchlines, is that such a belief can’t be chalked up to simple stupidity or ignorance. You could never go to school a day in your life and you’d still accept that the Earth was round as a point of fact.

To dig into why people still cling to such an absurd belief, I called up Dr. Joel Gold, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. Since 2003, Gold and his brother Ian (also a doctor) have identified several psychiatric patients who possess a new and specific delusion that they are the subjects of a reality show and their every moment is being filmed. The brothers termed it “the Truman Show delusion,” after the 1998 Jim Carrey movie with a similar plot. They also wrote a book on their work with these patients and the nature of delusion, so Gold seemed like a good candidate to talk to about people who believe in conspiracies.

But Gold was immediately careful to make the distinction between delusions and conspiracy theories. “This flat-earth conspiracy doesn’t really fit that model [of delusion],” Gold said. “One of the definitions of delusion…is that despite the fact that there’s evidence to the contrary, people still believe it. And there’s a little sort of asterisk, that if enough people believe something—if a community believes it—it’s not a delusion. So if this rapper was the only person on Earth who believed that the Earth was flat, then psychiatrists would probably deem him delusional.”

But Simmons isn’t alone, and that seemed to stump Gold just as much as anyone else.

In their work, Gold and his brother hypothesized that delusions come from a deficiency in one of the brain’s basic systems. “We have this theory that there’s a part of the mind called the suspicion system, that we all have, that’s necessary for survival…and then there’s something called the reflective system which oversees the suspicion system.”

The example Gold gave was hearing a branch snap when you’re out in the woods. Your suspicion system would alert—is that a predator?—and then your reflective system would rationalize the sound as most likely not a significant threat. “When the suspicion system overtakes the reflective system, or they become disconnected in some fashion, that fear…becomes the reality.”

But in the absence of a triggering event—a branch snap, if you will—the flat-earth conspiracy doesn’t fit the Golds’ model. Events like the moon landing, the assassination of JFK, and 9/11 spawned conspiracies galore, but there’s “nothing new,” Gold said, that would trigger a belief in a flat Earth.

When Molly Osberg wrote about the psychology of conspiracy theories for Motherboard back in October, she interviewed Rob Brotherton, a science writer who published a book on why people believe in conspiracies.

Brotherton chalks it up to biases “built into our brains,” like the intentionality bias (tendency to ascribe motives where there are none) and our natural ability to detect patterns, a talent that doesn’t always lead us in the right direction and can cause us to turn coincidences into something sinister. Said Brotherton, “there’s not that much of a difference, really, between conspiracy theorists and the rest of us.” (For his part, Gold made clear that he did not intend to belittle people who believed in conspiracy theories, either.)

A Netherlands study cited by Osberg also found that people were more inclined to believe in conspiracies when they felt powerless and inconsequential in their own lives. In a way, believing that 9/11 was perpetrated by the US government is more comforting than believing it was carried out by foreign terrorists—it preserves the feeling of American exceptionality, of our total security. The need to believe that only we could do such damage to ourselves is tied to needing to feel like America is safe from outside actors.

But the flat-earth theory doesn’t provide any obvious benefit. What, exactly, would NASA stand to gain by lying to us about a spheroid Earth? “The world is so complex that conspiracies ease our minds a little bit,” Gold told me. But how is believing in a flat Earth comforting?

I’m still not sure what psychological purpose being a flat-earth truther fulfills

But after reading Simmons’ tweets, researching the Flat-Earth Society, and speaking to a specialist on the science of delusion, I’m still not sure what psychological purpose being a flat-earth truther fulfills. Though it makes me grit my teeth, I understand the mental mechanisms behind conspiracy theories about Sandy Hook and the Paris attacks. Senseless violence just hurts too much; and conspiracies try to make sense of it as a kind of relief.

But belief in a flat Earth defies all other models. The fact that the Earth is round has outlived generations, governments, and entire civilizations. It’s not something one can ascribe to just Bush, or Obama, or even the United States. But who knows? Maybe Pythagoras was in on it too.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Gets Into A Rap Battle With B.o.B Over Flat Earth Theory


So, a Twitter spat between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and rapper B.o.B over the flat Earth theory has turned into a full-blown rap battle (and it’s way better than Drake vs. Meek Mill).

B.o.B, whom you might know from his hits “Airplanes,” “Nothin’ On You” and “Strange Clouds,” kicked things off Monday when he started tweeting about how he believes the Earth is flat. He also tweeted about why he believes NASA is hiding the truth about the edge of the world. And he shared several meaningless diagrams about the planet including one about flight routes.