In this episode, we answer two listeners’ questions one about Flat-Earthers and one about astrology. Surprisingly, it is not as ranty as you might expect, at least not from Alfredo. No more spoilers, have a listen and get in touch if you have more questions.

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Welcome to the Astroholic explains. I’m your host Chris!

And I’m Alfredo, the Astroholic.

This is a podcast where I throw some cosmic conundrums your way

and I try my best to answer them. Let’s get started!

Right. Are you ready for today’s question?

I have no idea…

I am not ready for today’s question!

Oh god…

I’m apologizing in advance,

Who should we stop being friends online with?

So this comes from Alexander DL over in Singapore. He asks: “If you had to defend Flat Earth, how would you start?

Oh, Alex…

I don’t like this question. I absolutely loathe the concept of flat-earth. Actually, no, I don’t loathe the concept of a flat earth. I just can’t stand what it’s become on social media and.. are people trolling? Are they being serious? Are they for real? I think some people are for real, unfortunately. Okay, but this we have to talk about if we have to start defending it.

All right.

Sorry, I’ll calm down.

Yes. So this is The Astroholic Explains and not Producer Chris rants. I’m okay. I have a few ideas on defending them…

Go on…

First of all, they believe that the earth is flat doesn’t hurt anyone.

I think this is more along the lines of if you had to defend the concept, not the people.

Ah! Okay!

Because that was…. because, no, we’re not doing that!

No, we can defend the people as well. To be honest, if I need to pick between flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers: flat-earthers! If I need to pick between flat-earthers and climate change deniers: flat-earthers! So their beliefs that the earth is flat might be silly but at least they are not hurting anyone. So, yes, make fun of them but remember, who are the real villains with blood on their hands. So how to defend the ideas of a flat earth.

What I’m thinking, from the things that I’ve read over the years, they think that yes, the world is flat. They think that in order to explain what happens with the Sun… the Sun is just going around, I can’t remember exactly how high up in the sky, and it’s rotating around the world and sort of only casting light upon one part of the world at a time.

Yeah, but also the Sun must be a spotlight. And we had the wonderful wonderful talk by Joby (@jobium on Twitter) who works for NASA, in which he simulated what the sun would look like on a flat earth. And it’s hilarious because it’s definitely not what happens. So I would focus on a few different things to… I don’t know, to be the devil’s advocate.

This entire episode is just being devil’s advocate.

So what are the most obvious things that you can point out about the earth being a sphere? Something that people can experience regularly?

The horizon?

Yeah, you can say the horizon and even when you’re on planes, that is the ultimate limit. So I would say he just claimed that the haziness of that atmosphere stops you from seeing far away. Seriously Alex, if this ends up being on some stupid flat-earther website, and then I need to write a blog post about it…

Do you just want to do a disclaimer right here and now to say what you think is real and what you think is not real?

Well, the Earth is an oblate spheroid; we can approximate it to a sphere. It’s a globe. There’s no such thing as a flat-earth. That’s the disclaimer. If you want to teach or preach the controversy you want to build on people’s assumptions and people’s biases.

I think a lot of it is again, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in previous episodes. It’s this weird current climate we have where people are distrustful of scientists, and I think that’s been fueled by a lot of things that are politically happening but people don’t believe what they don’t see. And I think that my contribution to this would be if I had to defend the concept of there being an “edge of the world”… I believe if I’m not mistaken, they think Antarctica goes in a rim all the way around the world, which is guarded by a fleet of ships from the UN, stopping people reaching this edge of the world, because they don’t want people to know the truth. [My idea in defense is] I’ve never been there. I’ve never been to Antarctica. Maybe it is real! Maybe there is an edge. 

No, but you see, you can also work with that! So first of all, I want to put another disclaimer, we’ve been saying people don’t believe what they don’t see. That’s true! But I want for everyone to be clear that everyone has biases. Scientists are not immune to biases. So don’t think that because I am trying to challenge biases of flat-earthers that I don’t have my own. And some I know that I have some I might not even recognize, given that a little disclaimer, of “always check your own biases”. Let’s go and explore how would they justify scientifically that there is a wall in Antarctica? Again, Alex, I’ll hold you personally responsible if I need to write about this and disprove it at some point in the future.

There’s always been in the disc-world interpretation of the Earth that you have waterfall at the edge with water coming off the sides of our planet.

It’s very cinematic..

Very cinematic! But we are assuming that somehow there is the contact point between our Planet, our flat planet and space. And space is very cold. So we just make sense that the water of the ocean just freezes on the rim, creating a wall of ice, keeping the water in. So you don’t even have to justify where is the water come from and why it’s not all running off the sides.

Okay, okay. Okay.

Yes?

For a flat-earth mythos that is logical.

It’s not myth, this would be the scientific explanation! Like, you cannot work out why the upper atmosphere holds on to the flat-earth but at least there’s ice on the border.

I’m not sure if it’s anything to do with the atmosphere. But I think people have asked in terms of gravity, at least, with the Earth spins and this entire gravity spiel that happens in science and let’s not go into that right now. But within the Flat Earth Theory, I think the flat earth is moving upwards at such a rate that everything is just staying on top of it. Everything is sort of basically glued by the force of it moving up. If you try and jump up, you are pushed back down. it’s not being pulled back down by gravity, I think you’re being pushed back down by the force of the world moving upwards.

So by acceleration.

I think that’s the theory.

That is genius!

[Chris laughs]

No, I’ll tell you why! Because that is general relativity. One of the things general relativity is Einstein realizing –

Einstein’s theory of flat-Earth..?!

No, but one of the things in general relativity is Einstein realizing that we cannot tell the difference between being in a gravitational field and being in an accelerated system. So if you’re in a closed lift and you are being accelerated in empty space, or you’re in this closed lift the integration of field, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Okay?

And it’s not just you, Chris Carpineti in this lift screaming “Oh my god, what’s happening?”

…Offensive.

No, but it’s literally it. We don’t have a way to measure the difference. There is nothing special about it, which makes it complicated because we think there should be a way to measure it with particle physics maybe but we don’t have that theory yet so we cannot work it out. So the fact that they use acceleration to justify gravity… oh, it’s fascinating! Because the gravity of a thin disk is a mess. You would have gravity in the sort of center of the earth geographically, so somewhere will actually probably somewhere in off the coast of the Democratic Republic of Congo because you need to be in…

Wait, because flat-earth, everything is wrapped around the center. So if you think of the UN flag, that center would be the North Pole.

Yes, I think you’re right because the edges are the South Pole, so at the North Pole you’d have the most gravity. So it means that if you’re like in Australia you will be like jumping off… and seriously don’t trip or anything or you’ll slam on to the wall of Antarctica!

You say that but I don’t think they think Australia is real!

But there are Australian flat earthers which is hilarious

I think maybe they think that they live in South America and they’ve just been tricked. I don’t know, I might be mixing up two different theories here but I know that there is a theory Australia isn’t real. It’s just a cutaway part of South America filled with actors telling people that that is Australia.

Yeah, there was one of the flat-earthers saying that. You see you just you want to build on people’s own biases. Look at it historically. It is easy tell people that the Sun goes around the Earth, rather than the Earth goes around the Sun because you see the sun moving the sky, is when you scratch the surface of things that you can actually challenge those things. And I think it’s not so much the case for flat-earthers but of all the other conspiracy theories that have a real impact on the world. That is the complicated thing! People don’t see viruses and bacteria but they see a doctor injecting children with something. And if you tell people like “Oh, look at all the ingredients, they all have weird names! They all have complicated stuff!” they are suddenly worried “Oh what are the effects on my children?” Most of the outspoken anti-vaxxers are just out there trying to make money out of the fear of parents. Of course they’re gonna play on that! Climate change deniers are not random people in the streets saying: “Oh, it’s not true!” There are people that have lots of interests.

Invested interests in fossil fuel!

Yes. And they stand to make a buck for convincing as many people as possible that what’s happening is not happening. Hence why I feel that the flat-earthers are the least of our worries. But if we were to be on their side and try to build up “scientific consensus”, it’s definitely by giving the public ideas it can relate to. Why can’t you see stuff far away? And the reason is because of haziness. Why is there a wall of ice around Antarctica? It is because the water of the ocean is touching space, so it’s very cold! And I absolutely love the fact that they use general relativity and an upward motion to explain that gravity.

Well, I guess we will soon know one way or another, what lies beyond the far reaches of the snowy wall of Antarctica since a group of flat earthers are intending a trip there to see what they can find. So that should be quite interesting. I would watch that. If they document I would watch that.

I would watch that too. But you see, it’s like so many times people say: “Oh, we should just grab the flat-earther and take them into space.” But I’m like, I want to go into space. I want to appreciate our beautiful global world. Why should we send somebody to death who doesn’t even care about the truth? So no, send me to space. Not the flat-earthers.

Okay, I think that’s enough for this particular one. I think I think I’ve had enough thinking that way for one day, and I think I’m going to move swiftly on to another question.

All right.

This question comes from MVPiazza. Asking thoughts on the positioning of the constellations when you’re born?

Okay, so this episode –

is about going for all of the things that annoy Alfredo!

Yes. So, astrology. Very simply, astrology is nonsense. The position of the constellations when you’re born and the position of the planets have no influence on your life whatsoever. And it is as simple as that. I could rant about astrology, but I don’t know… it’s very complicated at the moment. There is definitely a resurgence of astrology on social media.

Do you think? Are you sure you just hadn’t muted them?

No, it’s just looking at how people interact with astrology. There are so many apps and so many memes. There is not a general resurgence in terms of people. I think there’s a resurgence in people trying to capitalize on either money or social media kudos.

And I think that’s the thing about it is that it according to its own rules that applies to everyone, so everyone should take notice. Allow me for a moment to again play devil’s advocate for this. There is the influence the moon has upon the waves. So you have this body in the sky, there, is affecting fluids on the ground. Does the moon affect the liquids in our body? Does it affect the blood? Does it affect other things? Do the stars affect us in a physical way?

So the moon and the sun affect us because we are natural beings. So evolution brought us up to deal with the two bright things in the sky in certain ways. But the question that I can pose to you is, how much influence do you have on the moon?

Absolutely none. Hopefully, hopefully it likes me.

Wow, you are insecure even with the moon. “What did the moon say about me?”

Tell it I like it, I think it’s pretty!

Okay. I will when I go. So it’s Newton’s third law of dynamics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So the moon as a tiny, tiny gravitational force on you, but you have the same tiny, tiny gravitational force on it.

And because it’s so much bigger, it does even less.

Like the Earth as a whole is a thing that the Moon cares about and then there’s the Sun. We are negligible, which is something that, I guess no one wants to hear that we’re negligible. But also when it comes to astrology, you’re believing that the entire positioning of the universe or at least the visible universe is there specifically for you, to just tell if today you’re going to have salad or not, or if you’re going to meet somebody attractive, a tall, dark stranger..

It’s fate. It’s the concept of fate. I think, to believe in astrology, by its rules implies a belief in fate that everything is written, everything is predetermined.

It comes very hypocritical for me say that is extremely arrogant. You believe that all the stars and planets are just there to justify, I don’t know, your mood swings. You can believe whatever you want. At the end of the day, I shouldn’t care what you believe. But if you’re out there on social media being rude and saying “Oh, it’s because Mercury’s in retrograde.” And trust me, you don’t know what retrograde means, because retrograde means that it’s literally moving backwards. So if you believe the Mercury’s in retrograde, you believe the mercury was going forward, around the sun, then decide to stop, go backward for a bit and then go forward again.

Devil’s advocate again, in terms of this when astronomers used to watch the sky and they would plot out the paths of the stars and the planets. Did they not at any point look like they were going one way, and then go the other way. Is that not what’s being implied?

Yeah, true but you’re saying that by believing the Mercury’s in retrograde, you’re saying that you believe that the planets and the Sun are essentially doing it by rotating around the Earth,

okay.

And something that I found particularly ugly is the amount of preconception, sometimes even hate, for certain signs and any group of people because of the month of the year they’re born.

So like, ugh typical Leo doing bla bla bla

Yeah, or there’s Gemini or ‘you can’t trust cancers’ and just like, do we really need to put more hate on social media, especially based on something people cannot control? You know what, like, go for silly stuff like, I don’t know, I have seen the memes going in like, oh, ‘all Aquarius every time they see a mirror, they check themselves out.’ It’s full disclosure. I was born on February 19. So depending on your interpretation, I’m Aquarius or Pisces. So I am literally thinking of something that I’d constantly do walking in front of a mirror and check myself out. So that could be something silly. It’s harmless.

You also like seafood.

Because I’m a Pisces?

It’s either Pisces or Aquarius, and they’re both watery. And you were born near the sea.

I was born near the sea but Aquarius technically is an air sign.

Well, that makes no sense.

But it carries the water anyway.

Why then has the word aqua in it?

Yeah, is the water bearer.

Oh, the sign is the person carrying the jugs of water.

Yes! Anyway. So make silly memes don’t make hateful ones. And again, if you think that all but maybe there is some truth in it, there is some things that we might not know. I will tell you this thing. Astrology has been known and used in quotation marks for thousands of years. If there was any truth behind it, don’t you think that ruthless capitalism would have employed it to well make money, exploit people, etc?

But they do!

They exploited it as an end but not as a mean. They don’t consult horoscopes to decide what to invest in. So by saying that you believe in astrology, you claim that capitalism is not ruthlessly profit-driven.

That’s an interesting take. I’ve never thought of that one. How do you know, they’re not actually behind the scenes. There’s not all of these.. psychics working in their board office meeting saying “Oh, you shouldn’t put all that money into that one today. Mercury’s in retrograde, you’re gonna lose all that..”

MVPiazz, if I’m getting people starting doing a stock market prediction… actually, to be honest, do stock market predictions based on astrology, lose your money, see if I care!

Okay, I think we’re going to leave it there for today on controversial questions, at least for the Astroholic. All right. And we’ll be back next time with probably another space question for you.

Well, I would like some space questions! But thank you for the questions. I enjoyed answering them. We had fun today.

Do you have any burning questions for the Astroholic? If so send them into me out @illucifer on Twitter, and I will spring it on him in an upcoming episode. See you next time!