Most People Live in a Flat Earth and Struggle to Visualize Climate and a Three-Dimensional Atmosphere.

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

In a recent article, I used an illustration of 1200 km circles around a weather station to illustrate the extent the IPCC considered it represented. A comment about the article asked if I was aware of the map distortion and its effect on the circle of coverage. It was an arcane but important observation. He was pointing to the distortion created by using a Mercator projection map.

I am very aware of the distortion. My entire career involved working with maps. This included flying in the Air Force; teaching courses and running labs about maps and map reading; studying climate weather maps; the movement and migration of people driven by climate change; and teaching a course in political geography. I provided major research for a book on the search for the Northwest Passage on the Pacific west coast written by Sam Bawlf titled, “The Secret Voyages of Sir Francis Drake.” Dr. John Dee, science advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, gave Drake his sailing and scientific instructions. This included accurately determining the longitude of the west coast of North America. This research resulted in Drake visiting the Dutch map maker Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) after his return. Two months after Drake’s visit Ortelius produced a new world map with the coast shifted 60° of longitude to its proper position.

Dee drew a map for Elizabeth I that illustrates his spatial awareness of the world (Figure 1). It is a unique perspective, even for today’s space-age citizen because it is looking down on the North Pole. Our view of the world and spatial relationships were distorted by the Mercator map introduced in 1569. Its specific purpose was to make navigating a three-dimensional world using a two-dimensional map easier.

The distortion of a Mercator map increases as you move away from the Equator until the North and South Poles, single points on the Earth, become as long, 40,075 km, as the Equator (Figure 2). The problem is it became the standard projection in the classroom and society. In many ways, it set back understanding of the spatial form and relationships on the Earth and in our solar system. This seriously hampered the understanding of geographic relationships, climate, and climate change.

Historians talk about the Greek Miracle, a period from 700 to 400 BC. The global climate of the period, which began cooling around 850 BC, was cooler than today. Greece was cooler and wetter and conducive to plant growth similar to France today. Central to the Greek Miracle was the understanding of the third dimension. It is manifest in the construction of the Parthenon. They built the center of the base higher than the ends to offset the distortions caused by the eye to make it appear level. The columns bowed out in the middle to prevent them from looking bent in when viewed from below.

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Figure 1

Awareness of space and the third dimension allowed them to calculate the Earth’s circumference accurately. Eratosthenes did it by measuring the difference in the length of the shadow of a stick at noon at two locations (Figure 3).

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

The idea of a differing angle of the sun is critical to understanding climate and climate change. This is why the word climate derives from the Greek word for inclination. It is also why the Greeks were able to identify three climate zones, the Torrid, Temperate, and Frigid, (Figure 4).

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Figure 4

The three-dimensional (3-D) understanding disappeared during what some historians call the Dark Ages. Regardless of the semantics about the phrase, it was a period when the Catholic church dictated the western view of the world. They supported the Ptolemaic view of a geocentric universe, that is with the planets, including the Sun, orbiting the earth at the center.

This view held until Copernicus (1473-1543) proposed the heliocentric, Sun-centred system, in 1514. In fact, his theory did not receive public disclosure until after his death in 1543. He knew the dangers associated with opposing prevailing wisdom. The other problem is all the visual and other evidence for the public contradicts the theory. Physical evidence to prove the theory didn’t appear for 182 years. It occurred in 1725 with the discovery of parallax. Few know or understand it, but then it is of no consequence to most people’s lives. A survey shows that 1 in 4 Americans believe the Sun orbits the earth.

The Copernican Revolution marked a return of the 3-D perception of the world. It also marked the return of the Greek perception in all aspects of western society, known as the Renaissance, or rebirth. (Some wag in England dubbed it the ‘Wrenaissance’ after Christopher Wren who reintroduced classic Greek architecture to England). Music introduced the concept of harmony. Art rediscovered the vanishing point exemplified in the works of Canaletto (Figure 5).

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Figure 5

Most people live in the world they perceive. For example, the Inuit tradition is the Earth is saucer-shaped because there is a mirage effect in the arctic called looming. A thin layer of warm air close to the surface that makes the horizon ‘rise up’ creates it. The visual evidence for most people is that the Earth is flat with a surrounding rim.

There are few places where you can be high enough with a flat surrounding to see the Earth’s curvature. That doesn’t mean they don’t know the Earth is round, it is simply their experience. It also means they rarely think about things in a 3-D way, which brings us back to the Mercator projection and its influence on spatial perceptions of the Earth.

Benjamin Franklin (1706 –1790) was one of the most perceptive and aware people in history. He was, by all measures, a legitimate polymath. However, he also spanned the onset of the Renaissance. As the first joint postmaster general for the American colonies he increased the speed of mail between America and France. This was especially important during the US Revolution. He provided thermometers to postal ships, so they could stay in the warm, strong North Atlantic Drift going east and avoid it going west.

Despite this, and his experiments with kites and lightning, Franklin could not understand the wind patterns associated with mid-latitude cyclones. This was a spinning motion around a low-pressure center that moved across the country. It wasn’t until 1857 that Dutch meteorologist Buys Ballot established the relationship between wind direction and the horizontal pressure pattern. As part of my instructions for Canadian farmers on how to track weather systems, I taught the simple method based on Buys Ballot’s Law for tracking the movement for the center of a low-pressure system. In the Northern hemisphere with the wind at your back, the low is on your left. They combine with this with a barometer to determine the direction and movement of the system. They can calculate when it will pass and allow them to plan to get chores done.

The public lack of 3-D perception continues. Most are unable to imagine or even explain how the moon orbits the Earth. People look at weather maps but are unable to visualize the 3-D atmosphere. Few know the Troposphere that effectively marks the top of the atmosphere in which weather occurs is twice as high over the Equator with an extreme difference between 20 km at the equator in summer and 7 km over the Poles in winter. For most people, the weather is 1-D, while climate is 3-D. The Milankovitch Effect illustrates the challenge to understanding climate change (Figure 6).

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Figure 6.

Most people understand that the Tilt of the Earth is a constant 23.5°. They understand the Orbit is unchanging and slightly elliptical. They have more difficulty imagining the orbital change, even when they learn it is due mostly to the changing gravitational pull from Jupiter. The Tilt is more difficult to grasp because they don’t know how slow the Earth rotates relative to its size, and there is no established cause for the change. They really get lost when trying to understand the Precession of the Equinox, which is a combination of different effects. All this lack of knowledge is about information known to science starting 176 years ago.

Another complicated 3-D concept for 2-D people to grasp is Coriolis Force. The name is incorrect because there is no force. It is properly the Coriolis Effect that in reality appears to create a force affecting anything moving across the surface of the Earth. I illustrated the difficulty of imagining and intellectualizing the process by telling the students that if you look down on the North Pole, the Earth is spinning counterclockwise, but it is a clockwise spin when looking down on the South Pole. I then took a globe pointing the North Pole toward them, and while spinning it in the same direction, slowly turned the South pole toward them. Some thought it was a trick globe, others asked for a repeat of the demonstration, most looked very puzzled.

The challenge in climate is somewhat similar to map making. That is, to take a globe (3-D) and display it on a flat surface (2-D). If you only want to focus on one issue like Great Circle routes (the shortest distance between two points) as with the Mercator projection, you can effectively ignore all other factors. Science calls this ceteris paribus.

It was what early claims of anthropogenic global warming did. They said if we raise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere temperature will increase, with the critical limitation of ceteris paribus. It is far from that in a complex spherical world that is rotating. Unfortunately, for those trying to explain climate and climate change, none of this is of any consequence to most people. They are quite happy in their 2-D world. The 3-D world of climate only became an intrusion into their 2-D people world when it was exploited by a few for a political agenda.

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200 thoughts on “Most People Live in a Flat Earth and Struggle to Visualize Climate and a Three-Dimensional Atmosphere.

  1. A survey shows that 1 in 4 Americans believe the Sun orbits the earth.

    That can’t be true.
    Either US education is competent and 25% of Americans would not believe that.
    Or US education isn’t competent and far more than 25% would be deceived by their own eyes.

    It sounds like one of those statistics people want to be true but no-one can find a reliable reference for.

    • I read the linked article. It wads skewed to insult Americans, apparently. Farther down there is this quote:

      “Only 66 percent of people in a 2005 European Union poll answered the basic astronomy question correctly.”

      So the title should have been: “One in Three Europeans Think the Sun Orbits the Earth”

      That is truly the more shocking number.

      • There’s certainly something highly Americo-centric about it. They have these strange beliefs about Benjamin Franklin………

          • orbit n eye-socket, whence the border around the eye of a bird or an insect.
            (Concise Oxford 4th Ed, 1950.)
            🙂

          • It comes ultimately from the Latin “orbita”, meaning “wheel track, rut”. Proximally it appears in mid-15th century English to signify “sphere, globe, something spherical or circular,” from 13th century Old French orbe “orb, globe”, or directly from Latin “orbem” (nominative “orbis”), “circle, disk, ring, hoop, orbit”. At that time English was absorbing a lot of words directly from Latin.

            As per Tim’s article, “orbit” is a three-dimensional extension of a word originally describing two-dimensional shapes. Its first astronomical use referred to the hollow spheres carrying the planets and stars in the Ptolemaic system. As a verb, it’s first attested from c. AD 1600.

            The ritual of the papal Easter and Christmas blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and the World”) developed in the 13th century during the papacy of Gregory X, who consulted before his election with travelers Niccolò and Maffeo Polo, father and uncle of Marco.

    • Not to argue whether this 25%-believe-sun-orbits-earth statement is accurate, but your either-or premise is certainly wrong. A mediocre educational system could easily be 75% effective in imparting accurate understanding of this topic. Consider public acceptance of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. Despite an incompetent educational system, only about half the general population accepts the false belief.

        • LOL but no, the Civil War was caused by the Russians attacking the Alamo. The Germans didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor until WWI, in the 1920s, like 300 years after the Civil War, duh. Luckily Julius Caesar and the other pharoahs were on our side in that one.

          Ovviously you attended publick skool.

          • But Spartacus saves all of us by repulsing the Japanese at Thermopylae. He said so during the Kasvanaugh hearings.

          • Rich, it was the Persians that repulsed Japanese at Thermopylae. (With the help of the Ecuadorian fleet.)
            If they hadn’t won, we’d all be speaking Apache!

          • The dates I always get confused are William the Conqueror burning down the White House and Shaka Zulu marching on Moscow at the start of winter.

            Which came first and were they before or after Ned Stark got his arm cut off?

            Mind you, my Australian Military history is MUCH better. Like all Australians I know the Monash invented the tank, the aircraft, the ballistic missile, bullets, the divisional command structure, the stump jump plow and then single handedly ended the Great War by defeating Stalin in a cage match armed only with Peter FitzSimon’s red bandana and a box of his unsold novels.

            Australian Schools = Heaps Good 😀

          • Craig,

            My money would be on Prussian Jewish-Australian LG Monash v. Georgian Communist Generalisimo Stalin (1878-1953) even in the last year of LG Monash’s life (1865-1931).

        • Well, if this is the history you studied, you may ignore it without consequence. There is a very small chance of it repeating as you’ve been led to believe.

      • Whatever….

        If it ain’t the German and French, it must the the Japanese.
        Not that it matters, it all Russian fake news !

    • I think it more likely that 1 in 4 Americans thought the survey was so ridiculous that a totally bogus answer was appropriate.

    • A large fraction of people believe the alarmists claims of a CO2 induced catastrophe as well. Any rational person would think that this can’t be true either. The lesson to be learned is that political bias has the power to turn brains into mush enabling anyone to believe anything that supports their politics.

    • But, of course it’s true. “Everyone knows” that the sun rises in the east in the morning, and sets in the west at dusk. The “east” is in one direction, and the “west” in ‘tother, so the sun comes up and goes down, QED.

    • The Mercator projection is the greatest lie ever, and it is constantly used by IPCC, in all their devious products. As a reviewer for the IPCC reports early on, I constantly commented on their blind use of Mercator projections. There was no alteration at all – it still continues, as it probably serves their purpose. I have had no feedback as to why they don’t heed such comments.

  2. Thank you for a fascinating article, which has explained many things that have always puzzled me.
    How do the climate models deal with the varying angles of incoming solar radiation, and do thay make allowances for cloud cover?

  3. Putting it more simply, as I understand it, a Mercator projection consists of punching holes at north and south poles and stretching the sphere into a cylinder. The distortion at the poles is so great, the projections are usually based on punching large holes, rather than small points, leaving out some of the area right around the poles. Typical maps would only show from roughly 82ºN to 82ºS.

  4. If you visit the southern hemisphere, New Zealand for example, It’s difficult to know which way north is. We are used to the sun rising in the east and moving though the southern sky until it sets in the west. Besides that the moon rises upside down, their sun dials run counter-clockwise and all the damn fools drive on the wrong side of the road.

      • Always one f my favorites. Easy to tell it was from south of the Tropic of Capricorn as the moon was rising from the right side of the screen and moving slightly left (toward the location of the equator) as it progressed

        • Bryan,
          I believe that the Moon’s orb should also seem to turn as the angle of view from the ground changes with the rotation of the Earth. This effect is more obvious when the Moon is in its first or last quarter, and the angle of the terminator line changes during the course of the night.

          One of the things that truly annoys me is the scientific laziness of some film makers. I once saw an advert for holidays in Australia, which showed a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with the sun rising behind it and climbing to the right (yes, to the right). They were trying to pass off a southern hemisphere sunset, run backwards as a sunrise over a world famous bridge, taken from an impossible angle. Impressively wrong.

          And then there was the example from the Last Kingdom; the Saxons had arranged to meet the Vikings on the first Wodens day after the new moon. The scene opened with a time setting shot, that showed a crescent moon, low in the evening sky after dark. The angle of the crescent was correct for the time of year; the problem was that the crescent moon was lit on the left hand side. The scene was a dawn shot of the waning moon, easier to film following a clear, cold and cloudless night.

          And finally my all-time favourite from the BBC; an animated diagram of the Queensland total eclipse that showed the moon shadow, passing from east to west across the continent. After all, the sun does rise in the east doesn’t it? and so the Moon must also orbit from east to west.
          /rant about film makers’ scientific ignorance.

          • Last time I was in England (I live in South Africa) I was heading for Wales from Salisbury. But I didn’t have a map, and there were roads closed, with signposts giving only road numbers, without destinations. (The names must all have been taken away for Douglas Adams’ ‘The Meaning Of Liff’). But I was headed West, so all I had to do was keep the Sun on my right and I’d end up at least at the Bristol Channel. Er – wrong hemisphere! I ended up more-or-less due North in Bath. So, watch out with laws or whatever that are hemisphere sensitive!

          • But I was headed West, so all I had to do was keep the Sun on my right and I’d end up at least at the Bristol Channel. Er – wrong hemisphere! I ended up more-or-less due North in Bath.

            You were heading NW not due North, had you kept going in the same direction you would have ended up at the Bristol Channel.

      • What got me was seeing Orion upside down on a trip to Chile many years ago. Seeing Betelgeuse at the bottom and Rigel at the top and Aldebaran below and Sirius above was surreal for a NH native star gazer. I remember thinking at the time, “So it really is round!” The interesting cultural side note was that my host, an educated former Chilean Air Force officer, had never heard of Orion but was very familiar with the belt which he called “las tres Marias.”

        • Bill,
          Thanks, you have now provided me with a much more sophisticated explanation for a story that has puzzled me for a long time. In ancient times the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II sent an expedition of Phoenician sailors south from Egypt with orders to circumnavigate Africa. Leaving aside the issue of how he knew it was possible to do this; the fact is that his expedition succeeded. On their return to Egypt the Phoenician navigators reported to Necho II that they travelled so far south that they had reached a land where the Sun rose in the west.

          Until now I have assumed that what happened was that as they sailed south with the Mozambique Current the Sun would rise over the Indian Ocean on their left side. On reaching the Cape of Good Hope and turning north with the Benguela Current, the Sun would start to rise over the African coast to their right. The Sun now rises over the land and not over the sea, but you could only think this direction was west if you were completely disorientated, and this is unlikely as they were skilled navigators.

          Suppose instead, in the absence of a magnetic compass, the Phoenician sailors, schooled in the art of navigating the Mediterranean Sea, orientated themselves by observing the position of Orion in the night sky. On reaching southern Africa most of the familiar northern constellations are missing. Instead the southern sky is filled with a totally different pattern of stars forming new and unknown constellations. However equatorial Orion is still visible. Standing on the coast of South Africa and orientating yourself to Orion, now seen head down instead of head up, would mean that the Sun will now rise on your right hand side and no longer on your left. You have indeed reached a land where the Sun rises in the west.

          • The Phoenician sailors didn’t say that the sun rose in the west, but that they had it on their right while sailing west. Naturally, in the NH, it’s on the left when headed west.

            Herodotus, The Histories 4.42: The first circumnavigation of Africa (“Libya”)

            “Libya is washed on all sides by the sea except where it joins Asia, as was first demonstrated, so far as our knowledge goes, by the Egyptian king Neco, who, after calling off the construction of the canal between the Nile and the Arabian gulf, sent out a fleet manned by a Phoenician crew with orders to sail west about and return to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the Straits of Gibraltar. The Phoenicians sailed from the Arabian gulf into the southern ocean, and every autumn put in at some convenient spot on the Libyan coast, sowed a patch of ground, and waited for next year’s harvest. Then, having got in their grain, they put to sea again, and after two full years rounded the Pillars of Heracles in the course of the third, and returned to Egypt. These men made a statement which I do not myself believe, though others may, to the effect that as they sailed on a westerly course round the southern end of Libya, they had the sun on their right – to northward of them. This is how Libya was first discovered by sea.”

          • John,

            I stand corrected. Sun to the north it is.
            I still wonder how the Pharaoh who ordered the expedition knew in advance that it was possible to circumnavigate Libya (Africa).

          • Philip,

            I don’t think that “Neco” did know. I imagine, pure speculation, that, failing to dig his canal, he sent the Phoenicians on their mission of exploration and discovery.

            Or maybe information had over the centuries moved down the Nile from East Africa that South Africa is washed by saltwater on three sides.

      • steve,
        A truly beautiful and awe inspiring video. I have never visited the southern hemisphere, so thank you for posting that link.
        Many years ago I was taken to see a Christmas panto of Peter Pan at the Playhouse in Liverpool. I was very annoyed at the time when the scene on the pirate ship changed from daytime to night-time. The props had the golden ball of the sun fall down on the left side of the stage (with a suitable clash of cymbals for the sound effect), while the silver orb of a full moon was hoisted up on the right. I remember at the time thinking that that was not correct, because the sun always sets to the right and the moon always rises from the left. However thinking back now, as the pirates’ scene was set in the South Seas, they were factually right after all, and I was wrong, (this was the port of Liverpool, so plenty of marine experience for the stage director to tap into).

    • Even in the northern hemisphere, many people cannot judge direction by the sun. I often encounter people who base their understanding of direction upon some convention they learned as a kid.

      In southern California, the convention is that the ocean is to the west, and north/south is parallel to the coast. Highway signage confirms the confusion. In San Diego, San Fransisco was judged to be directly north. When I was considering a move to Spokane, Wa., my family was surprised to learn it was further west than S.D.

      Once in Washington state, I discovered the seasonal differences in the direction of sunrise/sunset prevented most people from depending upon the sun for direction. (I could not convince anyone that time of day mattered.) Instead, most learned to base their directional sense upon some readily visible landmark, such as a mountain range. Of course, when they move to a different town with different mountains, utter confusion reigns.

      My experience confirms that most people have a head knowledge of the spherical form of the Earth, and of the relative direction of rotation (east), but those are just learned “facts” that they do not correlate with the apparent movement of the sun in the sky.

      SR

    • You forgot rotation of pressure systems. We went to Australia in the winter, darn thing came from wrong direction. Seriously, the whole matter of scale is very important. I’ve seen numerous examples, myself included, of failing to appreciate it. Wonder how much geography is taught now, very critical for helping understand geometry, and planning long trips.

      Also the whole history of cartography is so insightful. It would also help to examine how tidal theory developed. Or is still developing? Keep thinking, how about parallax understanding with new phone/camera miniaturization?

      • Australia is a very good place for getting lost. The sun is usually straight overhead an not much help and the landscape is mostly dead flat and looks much the same everywhere. I never go out of sight of the road in the outback without a compass.

        • A compass by itself won’t do you much good. Even if you know exactly where you are, there are still miles and miles of bugger-all between you and civilization. Or even water.

        • It will tell you which way the road is. I’m not stupid enough to go into the bush without knowing in which direction I’m heading.

    • I had that problem when I visited the northern hemisphere.

      I hadn’t realised how much I relied on the sun until it started moving in the wrong direction.

      My friends who had grown up in cities didn’t understand what I was complaining about.

      • As a kiwi the sun is in the north and the sun goes from right to left. But I was travelling in Pakistan early morning and I thought we were travelling northeast but the sun was on our right. Very confusing.

    • steve case

      I’m sorry, they drive on the right side of the road in NZ, which is the left side of the road.

      My understanding is it was thus transposed from the UK where we also drive on the left side of the road, which isn’t right, to ensure the horse whips, of the predominantly right handed carriage drivers, didn’t snag in the hedgerows on the left side of the road, which also isn’t right.

      The rest of Europe doesn’t drive on the left side of the road, which also isn’t right, they drive on the right side of the road, which represents their left political inclinations and a predisposition for right handed carriage drivers to get their whips tangled in hedgerows on the right, which also isn’t right.

      My conclusions from this exhaustive study are thus:

      1. Europeans are predominantly left handed, that’s not right.
      2. Europeans have no hedgerows on the right, which isn’t right.
      3. Europeans didn’t use horse whips on the right, which isn’t right either.
      4. Europeans are just stupid leftists, that is right.

      As a vocal supporter of Brexit I can now announce that of the four options, there is only one right answer to this conundrum and that is the leftist Europeans actually despise the left but disguise it by driving on the right, which isn’t right.

      Which is, right.

      • steve case

        I’m sorry, they drive on the right side of the road in NZ, which is the left side of the road.

        My understanding is it was thus transposed from the UK where we also drive on the left side of the road, which isn’t right, to ensure the horse whips, of the predominantly right handed carriage drivers, didn’t snag in the hedgerows on the left side of the road, which also isn’t right.

        Correct, also frequently passengers sat on top of the stage coaches so the whip of a right handed driver would be outside the coach and the passengers would be safe.

        The rest of Europe doesn’t drive on the left side of the road, which also isn’t right, they drive on the right side of the road, which represents their left political inclinations and a predisposition for right handed carriage drivers to get their whips tangled in hedgerows on the right, which also isn’t right.

        Actually this is something that can be blamed on the French. After the French revolution everything from the ancient regime had to be changed: currency (livres-francs), calendar (12×30 day months, 3×10 day weeks, each day, 10 hrs, 100 mins each), the decimal system of measurement, and finally the side of the road they drove on! The French introduced this into the countries they occupied so the western european countries, except the British Isles and Sweden, drove on the right. Sweden finally changed in 1967.

        • I had heard – perhaps just a tale – that driving on the left in Europe evolved as a cavalry strategy derived by Napoleon. With charges “choreographed” to pass to the left of the attacker and engaging with the right arm holding the sword, Napoleon evolved this – probably short-lived – advantage of swerving to pass on the right. It was then celebrated and evolved into driving on the right!
          Maybe just a tale – but I found it intriguing!

    • However in the New Zealand I live in, the sun rises in the East, moves through the northern sky and sets in the west, as it is about to as I write.
      Only in the Northern (lower*) hemisphere does the sun move via the south. In simple terms the sun moves east to west over the equator in both hemispheres. (to the right in the north and to the left in the south and over the top in the middle)
      *There is more land mass in the northern hemisphere so as the earth spins the heavier (more land) is at the bottom. The search for the obvious ‘southern continent’ was a failure as the early explorers had their maps upside down. See the Wizard’s world map.

  5. The world cannot be flat. If it were then cats would have pushed everything off if it by now. (Stolen from the Ace of Spades GQ bolg).

      • You will note that I said ‘observable’ even though few recognize that time is a dimension. You can model what’s observed with as many dimensions as needed to quantify what isn’t understood and it will have the capability to be a valid model of what’s observed, but a greater possibility of being absolutely wrong none the less. Consider how they quantified the observed behavior of the planets as Earth-centric orbits. The degree of freedom they added was allowing orbits that violated the laws of motion in much the same way as the IPCC supports its insanely large ECS with the possibility of massive amplification by positive feedback as the degree of freedom that allows violating the laws of physics.

  6. All this 3d stuff may matter but so do the Maxwell’s equations, hardly anyone ever heard of, or even of the name of the man on whose shoulders Einstein stood, but it doesn’t stop people using mobile phones for looking at the facebook or twitter.

  7. Hmm, don’t they have globes in schools any more? ;p. I was fairly young when I learned the right hand rule for rotation. It works for torques, too. Point your right hand’s thumb up (N). Curl your fingers around your thumb. They point counter clockwise. Point your right hand’s thumb down (S). Again curl your fingers. They point clockwise. Later, when I studied chemistry, they did the same for rotating polarized light from chiral molecules.

    That said, stand anywhere and look around yourself. You are naturally the center of the sphere you can observe. That does not mean that you can over-extrapolate from that. 😉

      • Depends on whether or not you use a “positive” electron (flow) for current direction, or a negative electron flow for current that creates the magnetic field. The US Navy, for example, uses a “positive” current flow. Physics (and electrical engineers!) uses the actual (negative) electron charge.

        As long as you are consistent within your training, both systems “work”.

        • >>
          Physics (and electrical engineers!) uses the actual (negative) electron charge.
          <<

          My hobby in high school was electronics. To explain how vacuum tubes work, you must use the electron-flow method. Imagine my surprise in senior physics class to learn that current flows from positive to negative and physicists use positive current flow. The standard that current flows from positive to negative comes from Benjamin Franklin. As an electrical engineer, we use positive current flow too. In fact a negative current moving from negative to positive is the same as a positive current moving from positive to negative.

          Jim

    • I tell folks that I’m not the center of the universe, it’s 3″ in front of my nose. — where I can keep an eye on it — I just pretend the Earth goes around the Sun to make the math easier.

    • @ cdquarles,
      Here are a couple of observations,
      2 people standing on the equator arguing which way the Earth spins.
      Hold your arms out in front, rotate your hands in opposite directions, while still rotating point your fingers at each other, and now there rotating in the same direction.
      And now it gets a bit tricky for some to follow. It’s about Earths high and low pressure systems, they say high’s and low’s work in opposite directions. By using the left and right hand rule and the direction of force, they are rotating in the same direction. High’s work in the down direction known as the fair weather electric field (good weather) and low’s work in the up direction and create the foul weather electric field (bad weather) . I think the Coriolis Effect can be explained by this rising air (hot) in the tropics and descending air (cold) in the temperate zone.

      • Interesting. Earth rotates from the west to the east, per our convention. That is why the sun appears to rise in the east always, which it will do even at the equator. That said, the sun will only pass overhead on the equinox days. It will pass north of you during the NH summer and south of you during the SH summer, if I am not mistaken.

        About clocks, well, it isn’t that hard to make a makeshift sundial with a stick shoved into the ground. The catch is that you still have to be aware of the effects of the orbit on when the sun will cross the local ‘noon’ meridian. Right now, the sun ‘rises’ a few minutes early and sets a few minutes early, where I am. I am a few degrees east of the prime time zone meridian, so it ‘rises’ a few minutes early relative to that, too.

        That old globe that my schools had on display also had the analemma marked on it.
        Thanks for the memories, everyone :).

    • That said, stand anywhere and look around yourself. You are naturally the center of the sphere you can observe. That does not mean that you can over-extrapolate from that.

      When I roll and weld-up custom-built large armillary spheres (/gratuitous advertisement for metal-working astronomical hobby!) , I issue the following “Operating Instructions” with each sphere:

      Set your armillary sphere on flat ground, rotate the pedestal so the polar axis (arrow head) points due north.
      Raise the polar axis (arrowhead) to your latitude. (Your axis will now point towards the Polaris, the North Star.)
      The Universe will now begin rotating about your armillary sphere.

  8. 2D video display should perhaps take a lot of the blame for the current loss of perspective on the 3D universe. I now know why I found the 3D models in Edwardian science museums so appealing.
    Same goes for model trains, physical architectural models and toy vehicles with working steering. Watch people trying to park who can not visualize a connection between steering wheel and front wheel direction, nor the different movement of the front of a car moving forward or backing with the same wheel position.
    Anyone who thinks Dr Ball is exaggerating the low level of understanding of our simple solar system should watch Harvard grads trying to explain the seasons in “Our Private Universe”. Read the comments on the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrXaQu_qGeo

  9. The three-dimensional (3-D) understanding disappeared during what some historians call the Dark Ages.

    Why disappeared? Ptolemaic view of the round Earth as the center of the Universe was maintained. They knew that the Earth can be circumnavigated – that’s why efforts of searching new trade routes. They also knew approximate size of the Earth and therefore challenges and risks such long-haul trade brings, considering available to them technology.

    The other problem is all the visual and other evidence for the public contradicts the theory. Physical evidence to prove the theory didn’t appear for 182 years.

    Does it mean that helicentric model has been proven right and the Sun is the center of the universe?

    • That claim would appear to make no sense. Apparently the greeks had a 3D view of the
      world as shown by the work of Ptolemy and others. But when the Catholic church taught
      the Ptolemaic view this 3D view suddenly became 2D?

      The rest of the article is riddled with errors as well. Franklin did not span the onset of
      the renaissance but was rather born about 300 years after it started. The Mercator projection
      maintains angles and not great circles.

      • The Renaissance comment is obviously just a simple error and should say Enlightenment.

        And “riddled” rarely means two.

        If you don’t understand the 3-D/2-D point, I wouldn’t tell everyone, makes you look a bit dim.

        • Phoenix,
          Tim Ball does not appear to understand what dimension are. Consider the statement
          “Another complicated 3-D concept for 2-D people people to grasp is Coriolis Force”.
          Here as throughout the entire essay he would appear to confusing the third dimension
          with curvature. The Coriolis force comes about when trying to do Newtonian physics using
          a rotating reference frame. It would occur in 2D or 3D and has nothing to do with the number
          of dimensions. Similarly the issues he mentions regarding the Mercator projection are to do
          with the fact that the earth is a curved 2D object while a map is a flat 2D object. Again it has
          nothing to do with the dimensionality of the problem — you cannot uniformly project a 2D
          curved surface onto a 2D flat one.

          And if you want to consider dimension then the Medieval cathedral builders had an understanding
          of Arches which spread the force through 3 dimensions and show a much greater understanding of
          the third dimension than the greeks with their planar structures.

          • You are correct about the Coriolis force. It is a manifest of rotation and occurs in 2D or 3D. I don’t often reference Wikipedia but here is a pretty good explanation and the classic video of the the 2D case at the beginning.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_force

            Perhaps Tim Ball should review what a Coriolis force is exactly.

          • Is that why so many medieval cathedrals fell down either during or after construction? It was purely trial and error. The flyings buttress was introduced as an afterthought because they didn’t understand or anticipate the downward and outward thrust. Notre Dame in Paris is a good early example.

            I studied cathedral architecture and took many people on tours of English, French and German cathedrals, including a tour from Canterbury Cathedral ending gat York Minster. I consider Wells to be the most beautiful and Salisbury the most remarkable because of the spire but also because it was built in such a short time.

          • Tim,
            Cathedrals and other buildings fell down because people were learning essentially by trial and error. But the basic understanding of Arches and thrusts was present in the medieval times while it was lacking in greek thought. Showing that in some areas at least the medieval builders were ahead of their greek counterparts. I am similarly sure that lots of greek building fell down but we just don’t know about them due to the lack of evidence.

          • Alan,
            You can have a rotation without a third dimension. Consider inhabitants of
            flat land where there is a merry-go-round, i.e. a 2D disk rotating relative to the
            rest of flatland. People on the disk would see the rest of the world rotate once
            per revolution etc. We find it easier to describe this in reference to an axis of rotation
            in the third dimension but that is not necessary. In flatland they would say that it rotated about a point.

      • The rest of the article is riddled with errors as well. Franklin did not span the onset of the renaissance but was rather born about 300 years after it started. The Mercator projection maintains angles and not great circles.

        Yes Franklin spanned the end of the Renaissance not the onset. Also a straight line on a Mercator is a rhumb line, when navigating you draw a straight line on a gnomonic projection which is a great circle, then you transfer the waypoints to a Mercator chart and draw straight lines which give you the headings needed for a approximate great circle. Given his background Ball should know that.

        The circles in figure 2 of the original article seem to be too small. The circle on the right side extends from the souther tip of the Hudson Bay to about Charlotte, North Carolina. I measured that distance in Google maps and found it is about 1800 km, which would be a radius of only 900 km. A circle with a radius of 1200 km would extend from Montreal to The Bahamas.

        Dr. Ball says that the alarmist scientists claim, “that a station is representative of a 1200 km radius region.”

        Hansen’s paper showed the correlation between temperature anomaly and spatial separation over the globe. They found that outside the tropics there was a correlation of 0.5 or more for separation less than 1200km. Hansen drew circles of 1200km radius on their map but on their Mercator projection they accounted for the distortion due to the projection.

  10. The circles in figure 2 of the original article seem to be too small. The circle on the right side extends from the souther tip of the Hudson Bay to about Charlotte, North Carolina. I measured that distance in Google maps and found it is about 1800 km, which would be a radius of only 900 km. A circle with a radius of 1200 km would extend from Montreal to The Bahamas.

    Dr. Ball says that the alarmist scientists claim, “that a station is representative of a 1200 km radius region.” The idea is that if the temperature anomaly at a station is high, it will tend to be equally high at other locations within some radius of the chosen station. Let’s call this the Equal Local Anomaly Theory.

    It’s easy to imagine that if the temperature is high in Montreal, it will also tend to be high in Manhattan, even though they are separated by 550 km. The actual temperatures could be different because Montreal is cooler than Manhattan. But, if it’s a degree warmer in Montreal, the theory predicts it would also tend to be a degree warmer in Manhattan.

    I looked on wunderground.com to find the high temperatures and historical averages for yesterday, November 3rd, in several cities in the easter U.S.

    Here is what I found.

    *High Temperatures and Historical Averages on November 3, 2018*

    New York City: high 66 °F, historical average 59 °F (7 °F warmer than average).

    Boston (300 km from NYC): high 68 °F, historical average 56 °F (12 °F warmer than average).

    Washington DC (330 km from NYC): high 61 °F, historical average 63 °F (2 °F cooler than average)

    Syracuse NY (320 km from NYC): high 46 °F, historical average 54 °F (8 °F cooler than average).

    NYC and Boston were both hotter than average but Boston much more so. Washington DC is about as far from NYC as Boston but it was 2 °F cooler than average. Syracuse NY is also about as far from NYC but it was 8 °F cooler than average.

    The numbers are all over the map, so to speak (and literally).

    The Equal Local Anomaly Theory seems to be wrong.

  11. I’ve been studying Flat Earth ‘geometry’ and geocentrism for the last couple of months. If anyone need a chuckle watch this https://youtu.be/JgY8zNZ35uw . If you want to proceed down the rabbit hole, read the comments. Also, although parallex was important in explaining heliocentric model there was a more important discovery. The problem with Copernicus, Ptolemy, and Brahe were that they all were legitimate models and predicted the same events. It wasn’t until Kepler realized that planets did not orbit in Platonic circles but ellipses that the Copernican model was proven correct.

    • One w/e watching YouTube videos (Of radio controlled models) YouTube offered up some suggested videos to watch. Some were flat-earthers. Absolutely hilarious!

    • Galileo’s observation of the phases of Venus showed the Ptolemaic model to be false. That left Tycho and Copernicus, with the latter model much simpler.

      Keplet showed orbits to be elliptical rather than circular, as still maintained by Copernicus and Galileo, but that was a separate issue from geocentrism v heliocentrism. Galileo and Kepler were both Copernicans. Due to his maintaining Ptolemaic and Aristotelian circular orbits, Copernicus still needed epicycles.

      • Kepler was fundamentally different to Ptolemy, Copernicus, Brahe – they were all Aristotelian geometers. Kepler discovered something outside geometry, universal physical gravitation for the first time. This is the key breakthrough to modern physics. With that the door opened from circles of constant change to elliptical change.

        Ptolemy not only added epicycles, he moved the “Equant” goalposts to account for Mars’ retrograde motion episodes. Kepler dismissed both capers.

        That left the famous Kepler Problem for Leibniz. It really took Einstein’s Riemannian approach to solve that.

        • Copernicus and Brahe did both imagine perfectly circular, Aristotelian orbits. Galileo as well.

          I wouldn’t say that Kepler discovered universal gravitation. He derived the laws of planetary motion, which Newton showed that gravitation explained. Kepler used Brahe’s precise observations in order to discover elliptical orbits. Mars was the best candidate, as the most elliptical, thanks, we now know, to the powerful gravitation of its neighbor, giant Jupiter.

    • “It wasn’t until Kepler realized that planets did not orbit in Platonic circles but ellipses that the Copernican model was proven correct.”

      The model Copernicus described has never been proved correct, and is obviously not correct, in fact Kepler’s model refutes that of Copernicus.

      If you mean the broader model of Heliocentrism, then Kepler did not “prove” that either. What he did was to describe a more plausible model. But there was no “proof” or empirical evidence of the Earth moving until the 18th century. Until then you only had the fact that Heliocentrism was the far better theory.

  12. Most People Live in a Flat Earth and Struggle to Visualize Climate

    Unfortunately that appears to be the case with Climate Scientist that specialise in the Arctic and/or the prediction of an ice free Arctic. They simply fail to understand and appreciate the basic geometry of the planet, and its axial tilt, the effect of this on the seasons, length of day and the incidence and strength of solar irradiance.

    It is because of this basic failing, and the stabilising negative feed back that is built in as a result of the axial tilt, that wild claims are made regarding an ice free Arctic. Due to the geometry of the planet, it is very difficult (but not impossible) to have an Arctic free of summer sea ice. There is always plenty of time during the period of low solar irradiance and darkness for ice conditions to recover.

    PS. I once saw a survey of American University students that showed that the vast majority of the students thought that the reason why it is cold in winter is that the planet is further away from the sun. They either had not been taught, or had forgotten, or failed to appreciate the axial tilt of the planet and how this controls the seasons.

    I expect that UK University students would not fair any better.

    Educational standards across the developed West are woefully low.

  13. Calling ENSO and the AMO ‘internal variability’ is veritably 2-D.

    Some history:
    In 1437, Ulugh Beg determined the length of the sidereal year as 365.2570370…d = 365d 6h 10m 8s (an error of +58 seconds). In his measurements over the course of many years he used a 50 m high gnomon. This value was improved by 28 seconds in 1525 by Nicolaus Copernicus, who appealed to the estimation of Thabit ibn Qurra (826–901), which had an error of +2 seconds. However, Ulugh Beg later measured another more precise value of tropical year as 365d 5h 49m 15s, which has an error of +25 seconds, making it more accurate than Copernicus’s estimate which had an error of +30 seconds. Ulugh Beg also determined the Earth’s axial tilt as 23°30’17” in the sexagesimal system of degrees, minutes and seconds of arc, which in decimal notation converts to 23.5047 degrees.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C4%81bit_ibn_Qurra

    • However Ulugh Begs measurements were unknown in Europe. He was the last moslem astronomer of any stature and nobody in the moslem world was interested. It took more than 200 years before his work became known in the west.

      It was much the same with Averroes (Ibn Rushd) the last great moslem philosopher. The moslem world was so little interested in his works that several of them are only known from latin translations!

      The moslem world has been an intellectual disaster area the last 700 years.

      • The same also with Alhazen’s (Hasan Ibn al-Haytham ) Book of Optics, translated around 1200 into Latin, which laid the mathematical foundation for perspective in Europe. (precedes Ibn Rushd) The west understood his physics and incorporated perspective into their art.

        Also interesting that currently 50% of the population see with extravision. Even though Alhazen showed that intromission theory is likely correct.

      • tty, however: In 1525 Nicolaus Copernicus, appealed to the estimation of Thabit ibn Qurra. and 1525 is less than 100 years after 1437.

        • Copernicus could read ancient science in its original Greek, thanks to the exodus of savants from Byzantium after the Turks conquered the city in 1453, and earlier to escape Ottoman occupation of Thrace and Macedonia.

  14. Sitting in a metal and plastic tube some 35,000 feet above the ground and traveling at close to the speed of sound, the flight attendant tells you to lower the window shade because the light disturbs other passengers watching small screens. Detachment from reality. perhaps?

    • Yes, that is so annoying…especially if you have paid extra for a window seat to observe the clouds (climate science) and rocks (geology) below. I’ve had more than one altercation with flight attendants over that.

      • I feel the same. Avoid flying in the B787. The glass in the windows is self darkening and the liquid crystals ruin the view. Always foggy looking, terrible.

  15. We are a long way from terrestrial maps (I also know oil industry mapping) – try mapping this :

    https://scienceofcycles.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/heliosphere25_m.png

    That’s the physical geometric environment of climate.

    The danger of the Copernican narrative was shown by Kepler – All of Ptolemy, Brahe, Copernicus had one thing in common – they were based on geometry – all 3 could give the same positions.
    The real world however is not – it is based on physical principles, first identified by Kepler as universal gravitation. Gauss then started mapping the terrestrial magnetic field, no mere geometric question.
    As Riemann pointed out, any investigation of geometric axioms (which is what mapping is about) leads straight to physics. This is exactly Leibniz’s discovery of dynamics – the motion of a billiard ball cannot be understood as Descartes thought, by geometry alone- force is the issue (today kinetic energy), following Kepler with much better maths (calculus).
    And precession of the equinoxes (usually from Hipparchus 200BCE) was known very early :
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet%27s_Mill or archaeoastronomy investigations.
    It sure appears like Ptolemy was a deliberate fraud considering what was known before.
    Aristarchus and Diodorus Siculus both mention heliocentrism before the Ptolemy fraud.

    • Before radio and radar, the main way to determine longitude in the absence of landmarks (like at open sea) was to compare the difference between two clocks, one set to local time and the other set to a standard time at a location on the Prime Meridian. Minutes difference could be calculated into degrees offset from the Prime Meridian. This naturally required timepieces that could reliably keep time regardless of weather conditions or the motions of a ship. Latitude was determined by measuring the angle and position of stars with a sextant, a more advanced and refined version of a prior tool for the same purpose, the astrolabe.

      Nowadays of course, we have satellite-based GPS and any moron can find out where (s)he is on Earth with a glance at a smartphone.

      • Longitude can be determined without a chronometer by determining the absolute time by measuring the position of the Moon relative a fixed star. It is a simple measurement but a quite messy procedure computationally, but until quite recently navigators had to learn it, both as a fallback in case of chronometer failure, and because before radio time signals it was the only method to check the accuracy of the chronometer.

        By the way it was long known theoretically that this was possible, but it was only in the late 18th century that sufficiently exact tables of moon movements became available.

  16. To visualise in 3D and to understand interconnected systems and structures as opposed to linear narrative information, it helps if you have a certain degree of autism / dyslexia.

    This will improve your chance of understanding a complex system like climate. Although understanding climate – really understanding it – is not good for you politically. Of course, ASD folks aren’t great at politics.

    I suspect that the percentage of autism / dyslexia among climate skeptics is higher than among the ranks of warmists / climate conformers.

    • You have to be careful with that. Those are streamlines on a 2-D plane, not actual parcel trajectories in 3-D. For an introduction to wind have a look here,

      http://derecho.math.uwm.edu/classes/SynI/Kinematics.pdf

      A main point of the article is,
      “streamlines are often analyzed only using the horizontal wind, trajectories are typically analyzed using the fully three-dimensional wind”

      Or if you really want to get into the physics you can start with books like An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology by Holton.

      It is not easy to imagine a fully 3-D flow and I have been doing this for many, many years.

  17. I learnt the earth was square over 50 years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Square_World

    To be more serious; the obvious flaw in the idea that seasons are caused by distance from the sun, is that it would mean that season would be the same everywhere on earth, actual observations show that the southern hemisphere has winter when the northern has summer. Don’t these people know anything about the other hemisphere?

    • Distance is a factor, but it’s more the incoming angle of the sun’s rays as affected by the earth’s tilt. More oblique angle -> more reflected rays, fewer absorbed rays -> colder weather.

  18. There are few places where you can be high enough with a flat surrounding to see the Earth’s curvature.

    Just on any sea with any ship.

    Or on any cliff overlooking the sea.

    Being ‘hull down’ – i.e. only masts visible round te curvature, is a phrase that entered the English language centuries ago.

    What scholars and monks thought and what sailors knew were worlds apart 1000 yeasrs ago or more.

    • As a matter of fact monks knew that the Earth is spherical throughout the dark ages.

      Look at what the Venerable Bede chose as title for Chapter 46 of De Natura Rerum written in c. 700 AD: “Terram globo similem” , i e the Earth is like a globe,

      • The Jewish prophet Isaiah (8c BC)and his predecessor by a few millennia Job both described the earth as a globe held by nothing in space.

        • AWG,

          No, they didn’t.

          In both the Old and New Testaments, the Earth is flat and covered by a solid dome. It is not a planet in space orbiting the sun, but rests immobile on pillars, with waters above and below it. The sun and moon move over the earth, to return to the place of their rising outside the dome. Stars, the singing heavenly host, hang from the dome, in danger of falling to earth. God walks on this vault of heaven, personally operating the levers which let down rain, snow, hail, etc. from the storehouses of such precipitation.

          The meaning of Job 26:7, ie “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (KJV) was mysterious before the discovery of the Ugaritic texts. By the time that Jewish scholars in Alexandria translated the OT into Greek in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, “Zaphon” had come to mean “north”, derived from Mt. Zaphon at the northern end of the Levant. But at the time of the composition of Job, it still referred to the mountain, the lair of the Canaanite storm god Ba’al, their version of Babylonian Marduk.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baal-zephon

          The Hebrew word translated as “empty place” is the famous “tohu” from the creation myth in Genesis 1:2, ie “tohu wa-bohu”, “without form and void” (KJV). The two words occur again in parallel in Isaiah 34:11, where the King James Version translates with tohu and bohu as “emptiness” and “confusion”. “Tohu” thus in the context of Job means “desert” or “wasteland”.

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H8414&t=KJV

          The first word of the verse is “mah”, the interrogative “what is”, followed by “beli”, in its only occurrence in the Bible, translated as “nothing”, followed by “al eres”, “on earth”, which noun has the same range of meanings as it does in English. The next phrase begins with “to leh”, “and hangs”, again in its only occurrence, then “tohu”, the “wasteland”, followed once more by the preposition “al”, which can mean “on, upon, over or above”, among other connotations. Then comes “Zaphon”, Ba’al’s mountain, which later came to mean “north”, and finally “no teh”, which can mean “I offer” or “he, she or it stretches out”.

          Thus we have, thanks to the Ugaritic texts not available to the Hebrew scholars who translated the OT into Greek, something like, “What is nothing on earth, for Him to stretch out Zaphon on the wasteland?”. This could refer either to the mountain or to the competing storm god himself.

          So the passage in Job has to do with the Hebrews’ chief tribal god YHWH’s victory over Ba’al, although some think that “zaphon” could also refer to the skies in general rather than to the storm god in particular.

          https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/baal-worship-jewish-virtual-library

          The OT is pre-scientific. Its authors clearly subscribed to the standard ancient Near Eastern cosmology, with a fixed, flat, domed earth, not to the scientific concept of a spherical earth in space.

  19. It’s no surprise that many people believe that the sun goes round the earth. That’s what it looks like every day when they see the sun rise, track across the sky and set. Based on what we see it is the most obvious explanation.

    • It is only obvious if one never observes the stars. They also rise, track across the sky and set. Ditto for the Moon. Ditto for the visible planets.

      Either all astronomical objects circle the Earth in near perfect synchronization (necessary for constellations to persist), or the Earth rotates. Earth rotating is the most obvious explanation if one also looks up at night.

      SR

  20. Actually, the vast majority of people DON’T CARE. All they really care about is having the environtards severely punished and removed from ANY part of ANY government ANYWHERE. They want electricity, food, gasoline and prosperity and do not care what the Sun is doing as long as it comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening, that is it’s job and the only thing people expect from it. As for a flat Earth? It is not nearly as flat as the delineating curve of the IGs of warminitas who keep screeching about how humans are destroying the environment and causing climate to change, there just ain’t much curvature between 0 and 1.

  21. Many years ago, 75, to be exact my Father would sit with me by the fire and peel an apple, starting at the stem and rotating the apple to form one long continues peel. By my eighth year I began to peel my own apple the same way, however I being left handed I held the knife in my left hand and rotated the apple clockwise while peeling.

    Some few years later I discovered that when I neared the end of peeling the apple the rotation had become counter-clockwise while the motion of the apple had not changed. That was my first understanding of perspective. I unconsciously grasped perspective before my fifth birthday by realizing that no matter how far the wall, there would always be space behind the next wall and on to infinity. At the time I always believed I lived in the middle of the world because the sky seemed to be highest directly above me.

    Before Google I was known to have the largest collection of maps of anyone. My life has been nothing less than a grand adventure.

  22. Dr. Ball, the whole map theme was interesting but left me with a question. Which map projection do you favor? I like a globe because it has the least distortion, but most people work with flat maps. As an aside, there is a new TV show called “Relative Race” where teams follow maps to meet new relatives and do things. No cell phones or GPS allowed. The younger contestants cannot read street maps very well, while the older contestants do fine.

    • I have used a multiplicity of projections with each providing the easiest understanding and solution to the job at hand. I always predetermine the objectives before I choose the projection.

      The problem is not so much the projection as the lack of education about the limitations, strengths, and weaknesses.

      I think maps and their construction must be a compulsory section of the high school curriculum for all students who are future citizens of the Earth.

      • I have used a multiplicity of projections with each providing the easiest understanding and solution to the job at hand. I always predetermine the objectives before I choose the projection.

        So choosing Mercator for this presentation wasn’t the best so the original objection wasn’t ‘arcane’. If you wanted to use Mercator you should have accounted for distortion of the circles, like Hansen did.

      • Projections mean money, a lot. Every country has special grid projection data – get it wrong and oil wells go lost (as in Columbia jungle). A lot of software out there messes that up, whether precision or bad grid data. Just try merging coastline from one dataset and projection with well license areas in another. A good test is rivers in the sea!

    • Even a globe is an imperfect projection, since the earth is not perfectly spherical. Centrifugal force from rotation pushes its molten insides outward around the equator, forming a slight bulge.

      Each projection focuses on getting one aspect as accurate as possible, so it depends on what you’re using the map for.

  23. Dr. Tim Ball,
    “The idea of a differing angle of the sun is critical to understanding climate and climate change. This is why the word climate derives from the Greek word for inclination. It is also why the Greeks were able to identify three climate zones, the Torrid, Temperate, and Frigid,”

    When I went to school , those dotted lines depicting the different zones were solid black lines and there was dotted lines on either side of all solid black line. The dotted lines where the outer limits were the solid black lines shifted between depending on inclination (angle) between Sun and Earth as we rotated round the sun.
    This shifting inclination is responsible for the seasons (climate change).
    Tim writes
    “They have more difficulty imagining the orbital change,”
    Here’s how our 3D solar system really travels on it’s journey through space.

  24. ” It occurred in 1725 with the discovery of parallax.”

    I don’t think that’s correct. What James Bradley discovered was stellar aberration, not parallax.

    • Here is the link that explains what Bradley did.

      http://www.flamsteed.org/fasbradley_files/page0001.htm

      Parallax is a similar phenomenon to holding up your finger against a fixed background then noting how the finger appears to move by looking at it by each eye separately. The Earth is in the position of each eye as it orbits the Sun and the stars are the finger against the fixed star background.

      • Yes I know what parallax is, and Bradley couldn’t measure it. The article you link to explains that

        “Bradley got the right result for the wrong reason. To prove the Earth is in orbit around the Sun, he’d set-out to measure the apparent change of position of the star Gamma Draconis, expected due to the different viewpoints from the extreme positions of the Earth at each end of its orbit six months apart. Measurement of this annual ‘parallax’ would finally prove that the Earth was indeed orbiting the Sun. However, instead of measuring the apparent change of the star’s position due to parallax, Bradley stumbled onto the first direct evidence for the Earth’s motion through space round the Sun, an effect he called the aberration of light.

        As the article says

        “It was not to be until 1838 that the first reliable measurement of stellar parallax was announced by Friedrich Bessel in Germany.”

          • Right you are.

            Aberration of light showed that earth is moving, but not necessarily around the sun.

            Final observational confirmation of the heliocentrism came in 1838, when F.W. Bessel (1784-1846) determined the first firm trigonometric parallax for the two stars of 61 Cygni (Gliese 820).

            The rotation of the earth was demonstrated experimentally in 1851 by physicist Léon Foucault’s pendulum.

            Even so, that earth goes around the sun in an elliptical orbit was generally accepted by the late 17th century. Newton invented his calculus to demonstrate how universal gravitation explains celestial mechanics.

  25. “The Tilt is more difficult to grasp because they don’t know how slow the Earth rotates relative to its size, and there is no established cause for the change. ”
    There is a mostly forgotten 1976 study about the earth’s orbit

    http://www.mantleplumes.org/WebDocuments/Hays1976.pdf
    In it they explain what causes all the major climactic changes. What they don’t explain is exactly the mechanism that causes the change in total heat flux when tilt/ obliquity, precession, and orbital eccentricity all change on cycles of 42000, 21000, and 100000 years respectively. It took a long time for Milankovitch to be accepted and a lot of alarmists still don’t. Apparently the tilt changes up to 2 degrees over 42000 years.

    • “There is a mostly forgotten 1976 study about the earth’s orbit”
      You must remember 1976 was a quaint pre-historic time before CAGW took center stage and when the prevailing consensus was a ‘cooling’ planet was in store.

    • alan, you must remember nothing significant happened to the earth prior to 1979 and the launch of satellites according to cagw. pre 79 all we had was stasis .

  26. “A comment about the article asked if I was aware of the map distortion and its effect on the circle of coverage. It was an arcane but important observation. He was pointing to the distortion created by using a Mercator projection map.”

    Either the commenter did not go to school, or thought that Dr. Ball didn’t. Those of us who did go to school all learned about the distortions of the Mercator projection before we were twelve.

    • Indeed that’s about when I first learned about the distortions.
      However, according to Ball:
      The challenge in climate is somewhat similar to map making. That is, to take a globe (3-D) and display it on a flat surface (2-D). If you only want to focus on one issue like Great Circle routes (the shortest distance between two points) as with the Mercator projection, you can effectively ignore all other factors.
      Well as I learned when I was twelve you don’t get a Great Circle route from a Mercator projection, you use a gnomonic projection! You use a Mercator when you want the heading between two points. By his comments Ball appears to be misinformed about projections, surprising given his background.

    • Belief in Young Earth Creationism in the US has been falling.

      https://news.gallup.com/poll/210956/belief-creationist-view-humans-new-low.aspx

      “The percentage of U.S. adults who believe that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years or so — the strict creationist view — has reached a new low. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults now accept creationism, while 57% believe in some form of evolution — either God-guided or not — saying man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.”

  27. “… (Some wag in England dubbed it the ‘Wrenaissance’ after Christopher Wren who reintroduced classic Greek architecture to England) …”.
    Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446) was the first architect since the classical era to use the Ancient Greek Classical orders, he was also the first to devise accurate linear perspective and is regarded as the first Renaissance architect.
    Christoper Wren’s (1632 – 1723) St Paul’s was completed three centuries later and is generally regarded as restrained late Baroque-cum-Neoclassical.
    Inigo Jones (1573 – 1692) was the first architect to introduce classical architect to Britain.

  28. Tim,
    We flew a large airborne geophysical survey of Iran before the Shah was deposed about 1979. The Iranian scientists wanted us to supply them with thousands of maps, but they wanted them all to be rectangular, all of the same size and all of the same scale. It took us some days to talk about earth curvature and scale changes as one moved from equator to pole.
    BTW, something related. When on TV we see a depiction of a typical front moving from Perth to Melbourne in a day or two, does the parcel of air around the front also move that distance, or is the front more like a wave motion? Geoff.

    • geoff, i lived in iran from 1975 until we left during the revolution. who were you flying with ? my grandfather and father both worked for iran air at the time,you may have met them, certainly my grandfather if you were in and around tehran airport regularly. he was in line to look after the concorde the shah had ordered that sadly was never needed.

  29. They said if we raise the level of CO2 in the atmosphere temperature will increase, with the critical limitation of ceteris paribus.

    Yes, the critical point. The application of heat to a complex system does not necessarily result in a rise of temperature of some particular component of it.

    Its certain that doubling CO2 ppm would raise the temperature of the surface atmosphere by 1C if nothing else changes in response to the doubling and the resultant heating.

    However, in a complex and chaotic system it is entirely possible that further changes in response to the doubling will maintain the previous temperature. It is logically possible that raising CO2 ppm actually has no effect on long term global temperatures. The effect, if there is one, needs to be established and quantified independently of the argument that it has a heating effect.

    The logical fallacy committed by most of the ‘just physics’ arguments for CAGW is to assume that this does not happen. To assume that the totality of changes caused by the heating will amplify it.

    This is an entirely different point from the argument that CO2 doubling has a heating effect. It certainly does. But that does not mean that the planet warms as a result.

    Two cars have the same capacity gas tank. Does that mean both go equally far on it? Certainly not, there are more variables than the energy content of the gas. You have to consider whether the two systems are comparable in relevant respects affecting fuel efficiency.

    We apply heat to a pan filled with boiling water. Does that mean that the temperature of the water rises? Certainly not, it means that evaporation increases.

    The issue is how the climate system as a whole works, how it reacts to forcing or to the removal of forcing. This is why Nic Lewis and Judith Curry’s work on the observational evidence for the magnitude of the effect of rises in CO2 are so important. This is why it is simply dishonest to argue, as many who know better unfortunately still do, from the physics of the CO2 absorption spectrum to a given magnitude of warming.

    • michel, that is my argument against cagw in a nutshell. until we know all the earth,atmospheric and oceanic responses to anthropogenic inputs we are just guessing at the possible outcomes.

  30. “…it was a period when the Catholic church dictated the western view of the world.”

    Why we have to drag out this old saw each time we discuss science in the Middle Ages? Just because the fabulous ‘West’ sunk into ignorance in the Dark Ages doesn’t mean the rest of the world did too.

    The MesoAmericans were well aware that the planets orbited the Sun and used their understanding to accurately predict solar and lunar eclipses. They had a system for making such calculations taught in their observatories. They back-calculated eclipses (for some unknown reason) back 200,000,000 years.

    As for the relative ignorance of Europeans living in close proximity to the more advanced Islamic centres of learning, consider who the doctors were in the courts of every wealthy king in Europe. Where do you suppose words like ‘Abracadabra’ and ‘alchemy’ come from? Why do wizards, even in Hogwarts and Mickey Mouse movies wear long robes and conical hats with a crescent moon and stars?

    We should avoid peddling the ignorance of Europe as the sum total of human understanding about life, the universe and everything.

    The peak of Islamic civilisation was about 1350 and it was by then that it’s influence was well established in Europe, particularly in science and mathematics. It was the instructor and mentor of Thomas Aquinas who brought the texts of the great universities in Alexandria and Baghdad to European attention. Not Thomas, his instructor, a bookish and retiring sort called Magnus.

    My brother used to teach a course on the history of Chinese technology – a subject which even today remains out of reach of most 2D and 3D thinkers.

    Metal forgers in Liberia and and Swaziland were making stainless steel before the Europeans discovered it. When it comes to medicine, even now, the Western approach, for all its vaunted success, is outshone in certain cases by African and Chinese traditional medicine because Africans and Chinese (and others) think in 4D, not the 2D of bacteriocause and chemicure.

    Technocure is not only the ‘medieval church teachings’ of the modern era, it interferes with the treatment of social ills and psychological pathologies. And now we have the simplistic doctrines of GHG’s and the advocacy of the Wisdom of Gaia simultaneously advertising the complete subjugation of humanity to the all-natural forces of nature, while schizophrenically claiming that humans can control the weather they way medieval witches did in Hamlet and Würzburg.

    Well which is it? Are we finally in control of the weather through mystical computer models or are we subject to the 2D universe of ‘nature controls all and we are refuse this fact at our peril’?

    What is remarkable is how little things change, save the faces and the coinage changing hands.

    • “Abracadabra” doesn’t come from Arabic, although some have suggested Hebrew or Aramaic. From whatever origin, it long predates Islam. The first known use of the magic word was in the didactic medical poem, “Liber Medicinalis”, by Emperor Caracalla’s tutor, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus (died AD 212).

      Southern Africa has major chromium deposits, so stainless steel could be made there. I don’t know about West Africa. Stainless steel wasn’t developed in Europe and America until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    • Islam peaked as an ideology around 1000 AD, when the gates of ijtihad, interpretation, were closed. Reason could not be used further, neither to understand theology nor the world. Allah was totally beyond reason, beyond justice, beyond morality, beyond understanding. Regularities in the natural order were simply ada, Allah’s habits. Using such regularities to develop theories about the natural world was shirk, blasphemy.

      Contrary to the Dark Age nonsense, the Scholastics forged ahead with technological development long after Rome fell. Indeed, sociologist Rodney Stark has argued that, for the average European, Rome’s fall was a net benefit.

  31. Dr Ball, thank you for an excellent article.

    To be somewhat pedantic it is quite correct to say that the sun goes round the earth if you so define it. Equally well you could say that the earth orbits Mars or any other point in space. Designers of sundials assume that the sun goes round the earth as the maths is much easier.

    It is easy to find north using a watch. Tie it to a piece of string, whirl it round your head and let it go. It will go west! Explanation for non UK readers saying that it has gone west is a way of saying it is lost or broken.

  32. Thanks for the article, Dr Ball. I learned from it.

    Back to the levity:

    Gallup conducted a poll, asking if there was too much ignorance, and too much apathy.

    The majority of the respondents said they didn’t know, and they didn’t care.

    I’ll get my coat . . . .

  33. 1. The best way to observe the curvature of the Earth is from a low perspective, not a high one. Stand on the edge of a body of water about 5 miles wide and look to the opposite shore. You can see the curvature as an obvious hill of water between you and the opposite shore. Step up a few feet and the hill disappears.

    2. Please stop blaming “the Catholic Church” for everything it’s nonsense that the Church demanded this.

    • Tim’s assertion that the 3D view ended because the Church adopted the Ptolemaic system makes no sense. Ptolemy (c. AD 100 to c.  170) improved on the Aristotelian system. His view of the cosmos was just as 3D, if not more so, than his more ancient Greek predecessors.

      Both systems envisage concentric spheres, with the earth at the center (slightly offset by Ptolemy’s “eccentric”), with the sun, moon and each planet riding on its own sphere (with epicycles) around the earth, with finally the sphere of the fixed stars moved by the last sphere, the Prime Mover. In Ptolemy’s system, each planet is moved by two spheres, its “deferent” and epicycle. He also introduced the equant, controlling planetary speed.

      The 3D view wasn’t lost during the Dark Ages. Educated people then still knew that earth is spherical, to include the Catholic Anglo-Saxons and heretical Christian Visigoths. Before Copernicus and Galileo, however, Church doctrine was geocentric, since the Bible is clear on this point. Kepler was a Lutheran, but Luther also cited Joshua’s stopping the sun and moon to ridicule Copernicus.

      Early Church Fathers were flat-earthers, because the Bible is also clear on this point. However, from Augustine onward, ie c. AD 400, the Church adopted the unbiblical spherical earth but adhered to its biblical central, immobile position relative to the sun, moon, planets and stars.

      • The Bible is not clear that the Earth is flat, any more than it clearly teaches it is 6,000 years old. To think so is to indulge in hyperliteralism of what is obviously not meant to be taken literally, just as we speak today about “sunset.”

  34. “The challenge in climate is somewhat similar to map making. That is, to take a globe (3-D) and display it on a flat surface (2-D). If you only want to focus on one issue like Great Circle routes (the shortest distance between two points) as with the Mercator projection, you can effectively ignore all other factors….”

    Pardon me for a tiny little point, here … don’t you mean “rhumb lines,” not Great Circle routes?

    Sorry, Dr. Ball, but as a fellow cartographer, I couldn’t resist.

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