If the earth is a sphere, why does the earth look so flat to us? In our every day existence, we would be hard-pressed to find evidence the earth is a sphere (technically a spheroid). As a result of this, lately, there has been a meteoric rise of People Who Believe the Earth is Flat and they use the fact the earth looks flat as absolute proof it really IS flat. And anyone who thinks otherwise is simply a brainwashed fool who repeats what they learned in elementary school. You can SEE it’s flat, therefore, it is!

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Aside from the concept we discussed in our last article that You Can’t Really Trust Your Senses, there are some very good reasons the earth seems flat when it’s not. It has to do with the fact this globe we live on is just unfathomably immense on a level that it is incredibly difficult to conceptualize.

How Can a Ball Also Be Flat?

One of the main explanations for this is a concept called local flatness. Local flatness can be a bit counterintuitive, which is why we cannot always trust our senses and should use measurements, whenever possible, before coming to any conclusions derived entirely from our senses. Local flatness or local straightness a very well-understood concept whereby an object can appear flat if you zoom in close enough.

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Case in point is the basketball zoomed in above. You can even take an image like this at home yourself to see if you get the same results. Imagine being an ant on a basketball, because of local flatness, it would look flat to the ant. On the earth, we are hundreds of times tinier than the ant on a basketball. In fact, an ant on a basketball is larger, relatively, than the Himalayan mountains are on the earth! The earth is just SO huge, it appears flat to us. The curve is just so slight it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to detect without instruments to help you.

How Much Curvature Should There Be?

Flat earthers will often show an image of the earth from a high altitude balloon, like the one below, and say the horizon is flat when it should be curved. Well, it does look flat, but it’s not. It’s just that it’s too small a bit of the HUMONGOUS world to actually see the curve.

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If you were to go higher, or you were able to pan out further, you can then start to see the curve. But the world is SO incredibly big that you have to go extraordinary high to see it even start to curve. This video, How Much of the Earth Can You See At Once is a great lesson on how big the earth actually is, and how little of it even a high altitude balloon or a satellite can see.

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Satellite Local Flatness Image Credit: Vsauce

Even a satellite can only see about 7% of the earth at once (But flat earthers do not believe satellites exist anyway, as we talk about on our page 5 Insane Things Flat Earthers Believe). It’s really difficult for us to even imagine how incredibly large the earth is. It’s simply irrational and unrealistic to believe that you can just see the curvature of the earth from the ground, or even at as high an elevation as many high altitude balloons go, around 100,000 feet, like in this image below.

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Curvature at 30,000 m Image credit: Finding the Curvature of the Earth Calculator

It’s this amount of curvature that flat earthers will look at and say, “See, there is no curvature”. They can be forgiven for thinking there’s no curvature if they have not bothered to research how MUCH curvature there should actually be. It does look pretty flat. But if you compare the curvature from 1000 feet, as in this gif, it’s pretty clear that there is a small amount of curvature.

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Curvature of Earth Gif Image credit: Finding the Curvature of the Earth Calculator

To put this altitude into perspective on why you can’t see much curvature, if at all, at such an altitude, just think about it for a minute: 100,000 feet is about 19 miles. While that seems like it’s incredibly high, it’s not considering the immense size of the earth. 19 miles is less than the length of a MARATHON, in fact it’s in between a half marathon and a full marathon. The New York City Marathon is run from Staten Island to the Bronx, and a world class marathoner can run that distance in less than 2 hours! It is a ridiculously small amount compared to the entire scale of the earth’s immensity.

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Curvature Marathon-100,000 Feet                                       Image credit: The New York City Marathon

Flat earthers often ask, incredulously, “How high DO you have to go to see the curve”. Well, you’ll be able to tell them exactly how high you have to go to see the curve using the interactive Finding the Curvature of the Earth Calculator that the image above was taken from. This Video on Local Flatness is also an excellent tutorial on how flat the earth is going to look to anyone standing on it or looking at it from above.

Now that you have an idea of the amount of curve you should actually be seeing, if you look at the first image above, you can see that if you take a straight edge to it or overlay a graph onto it, you’ll see just about the same amount of curvature you see on those high altitude balloon images! That same website even shows you how you can Overlay His Curvature Grid Onto Images to actually measure if the images line up with what we would expect in reality.

How to Spot Flat Earther Half Truths
Why Does the Earth Look So Flat

Indeed, if you take these images of high altitude balloon images that are put up by flat earthers who state they are flat, you’ll find one of four ‘half truths’ for why there is no curvature:

  1. The image was shot with a fish eye lens and the image was caught at JUST the exact moment between concave and convex that looks perfectly flat. If you watch the whole video, you’ll see where the horizon bulges up and down.
  2. The image was taken at a very low altitude
  3. They zoomed in on a shot with actual curvature and are showing the local flatness
  4. There actually IS curvature, but they didn’t put a straight edge to it to measure it

Flat earthers seem to have a love-hate relationship with measurements. They love measurements when they think it confirms their bias, but will intentionally fail to measure when it does not confirm their bias. In the case of high altitude balloon images and satellites, they will simply look at the image, declare there is not curvature, and keep crowing, “Where’s the curvature” over and over again. Well, you can see it here, in this Amateur Rocket Launch without a fish eye lens. The curvature is slight, but it’s measurable, and consistent with what we should expect to see from an altitude of 121,000 feet on an enormous ball, which is not very much.

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Curvature Amateur rocket Image Credit: Amateur Rocket Launch

Since they do not believe in either satellites or space, they simply reject any images from these sources, despite the fact that the European Space Agency allows anyone from the public to use the Copernicus Open Source Raw Satellite Data, and that you can see the Live Feed of the Himawari Satellite anytime you like.

In essence, that is why the earth looks so flat even though it’s a sphere. Don’t be fooled by these high altitude balloon shots and statements that you should ‘trust your senses’ and your senses alone to determine the shape of the earth. There are very good reasons why the earth seems flat, even though it’s not. And like on our page Use this Simple Camera Accessory to Debunk the Whole Flat Earth Argument, we’ll be giving you lots of ways you can even debunk flat earth claims yourself, including seeing the curvature.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and that you will continue to support these articles that are providing fact and logic-based arguments to counter this tide of antiscientific thinking, particularly in what is quickly becoming an epidemic of people who believe in a flat earth.