Across the World in 80 Days

“Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is." (Illustration by George Diebold/Getty)

The Flat-Earther movement is gaining momentum. The New Yorker’s Alan Burdick spent two days at a North Carolina convention discussing lies we’ve been fed, rotating primarily around the alleged shape of our planet. In a post-truth era, should more people shed their spherical beliefs and admit science may not be science at all?

To be clear, Hughes did not expect his flight to demonstrate Earth’s flatness to him; nineteen hundred feet up, or even a mile, is too low of a vantage point. And he doesn’t like that the mainstream media has portrayed things otherwise. This flight was just practice. His flat-Earth mission will come sometime in the future, when he will launch a rocket from a balloon (a “rockoon”) and go perhaps seventy miles up, where the splendor of our disk will be evident beyond dispute.

“Look around you,” Darryle Marble, the first featured speaker on the first morning of the conference, told the audience. “You’ll notice there’s not a single tinfoil hat.” He added, “We are normal people that have an abnormal perspective.”

To insiders, the message is empowering. Trust in your senses. Don’t accept the word of a talking head. (Set aside the paradox of a man onstage imploring his large audience to ignore him.) “We all live in the world; we can see what’s real and what’s not,” Campanella said. “Science is really an excuse for people to be stupid.” Mike Hughes, the rocket builder, told the A.P. in November, “I don’t believe in science. I know about aerodynamics and fluid dynamics and how things move through the air. But that’s not science, that’s just a formula.” 

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