Or Flat Jupiters, maybe. I'm imagining a space station with a large population orbiting very close to a gas giant. The horizon stretches away in all directions and an infinite variety of cloud patterns wiz by below. Some individuals get it in their head that they are flying over an infinite flat plane rather than going around an impossibly large sphere. Assume that, like modern Flat Earthers, they reject information from authorities outside of their social circles and measurements from equipment they can't use themselves. These people also wont or can't (perhaps for economic reasons) leave the space station to view the planetary system from a different vantage point.

Is there something about their situation aboard the station that would make it plainly obvious that the planet they orbit is spherical and prevent this idea from spreading?

  • $\begingroup$ What creates their perceived gravity? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 5 '17 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ Rotation, or pseudo-magical super science, or nothing. Maybe they live in free fall. Gravity is a lie perpetuated by "Big Orbit". They perceive no gravity except as supplied by machines that can be turned on and off. $\endgroup$ – Luke Dec 5 '17 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ OK, funny, but not worldbuilding. Besides, I have it on as much authority as they have that they're afraid of heights. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 5 '17 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ +1 because it is a good question, and it is worldbuilding in the sense that people will delude themselves as humans have done throughout recorded history $\endgroup$ – paulzag Dec 5 '17 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ 'Obvious' tends to be subjective when you are dealing with people who are convinced, possibly religiously, that a converse irrational belief is, in fact, undeniable truth. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Dec 5 '17 at 8:27

I'm pretty sure that it was Winston Churchill who was once quoted as saying that 'the principal failing of reason is its conviction in its ability to convince unreason'. Bottom line is that people believe what they want to believe and evidence is only useful in cases where it will be accepted. Another way to put that is that given that there's a wealth of evidence against a flat Earth today and we still have flat Earthers, the chances of stamping out such a belief on a station like you describe has to be even smaller.

That said; what has always bothered me about flat Earthers is the star field at night. Surely they have to be able to see that it's the same stars, altered for season and planetary orbits, etc. If the Earth is flat, how come the stars are mostly (not perfectly) the same each night?

I'm thinking that's at least in part your answer; unless you can't see the star field from the windows looking down on Jupiter, you'd have to notice they're not moving anywhere near as quickly as the clouds below are. That has to tell you something is wrong with a flat Jupiter theory.

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    $\begingroup$ If you take the time to read through the various websites supporting a flat earth, you will find they have reasonable (if flawed) explanations for everything from why the stars move to why you can travel in one direction and arrive at the same point to why ships don't sink beneath a horizon. They've perfected self-delusion (no offence intended, just calling a spade a spade). $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 5 '17 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH; Interesting. I have to concede that I haven't read much on flat Earth theory. Most of the conspiracy questions I've been asked in the past are about things like the moon landing so I've taken some time on that in the past to understand it properly. Come to think of it, these would have to be related topics; you can't believe in a flat Earth AND believe the moon landings were genuine, right? Right? $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Dec 5 '17 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ LOL! I've never thought about that. I don't know. I wonder if they think the moon is flat? It would be like launching darts between dart boards. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 5 '17 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH A valid point although I would never underestimate the ability of blind faith to convince people. Some people just need to believe certain things. I once had an argument with a creationist about the biblical flood. They accepted that the world had been flooded to a depth sufficient to cover Mount Everest without question and when asked where had all this water gone (an additional 5 mile deep ocean covering the entire planet), they simply assumed it had been dried up by the sun and gone down cracks in the ground. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Dec 5 '17 at 13:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH why of course moon is flat. You think, why do we only get to see one side? Why it isn't darker on the edges, like a ball when you shine a lamp on it? One side and uniformly lit, it must be flat! $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 5 '17 at 22:22

Repeating cloud formations akin to the Big Red Spot and other long-lasting storms, plus other satellites in orbit, and the documented history of the habitat, would all need to be explained. That said, the human capacity for self-delusion is almost as infinite as space itself.

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say the same thing, so just upvoted. Except, what if the space station is not really a space station and it is close enough that the planet provides 1G gravity (so no need to rotate the station itself) and maybe even some manner of atmosphere? Then they would be too close to see the formations, all they would perceive is that the "ground" beneath their city changes colours for some reason. They could say it's just weather. $\endgroup$ – Real Subtle Dec 5 '17 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Real Subtle : If there's 1G of gravity felt by the crew, then you're not in a real orbit, because you'd have to use continually your thrusters to stay afloat. $\endgroup$ – Keelhaul Dec 5 '17 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Keelhaul yes, that's what I meant by "not really a space station". Sorry if I was unclear. $\endgroup$ – Real Subtle Dec 5 '17 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 6 '17 at 11:31

If the space station is in "geosynchronous" orbit (i.e. stationery relative to the gas giant) then they can delude themselves into believing the planet is flat.

I'd argue that it is easier for them to believe they have found the singular exception in the universe. While every other body in the system could be observed to be spherical, if it is a gas giant without repeating patterns they can claim it is just very massive but flat. Especially if this planet does not have satellites (spherical moons) orbiting it. Even if there are satellites they probably justify them orbiting around the "dark side" of the giant.

All the flat-Earth arguments hold but even stronger because they do not have to prove anything from the surface. Plus they are not trying to prove that the universe still works with their single flat planet.

From their vantage point they are looking a the broad top-surface of a shallow cylinder. Like the top of a glass of water or petri dish. The changes in gas patterns happen because of whatever process is happening in the deep clouds.


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