Because “I Want to Believe” posters have apparently given us a reason to ignore scientific fact, our modern world is rife with batshit conspiracy theories. One of the more amusing ones—in that, unlike the shit peddled by people like Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich, it’s not ruining anyone’s life—is the theory that, actually, the Earth is flat.
If your interest is piqued, there’s a litany of flat-Earth Instagram accounts to sift through, but you could also just take it from the likes of believers like Tila Tequila, B.o.B., and half the NBA (not Shaq, though, he was just kidding). What, exactly, would it look like? Gizmodo rounded up a panel of “weather and climate researchers, seismologists, astronomers and physicists” to theorize on the phenomenon.
Susan Hough, a seismologist at the United States Geological Survey, says “all sorts of hell would break loose,” though it would “depend on how flat is flat.” Basically, she says there’d be no gravity, which is the same conclusion reached by Marek Kukula of the Royal Observatory in London, who says a flat Earth’s atmosphere would “float away into space, rapidly followed by anything else not physically attached to the surface,” which actually sounds really cool.
Other scientists pontificate on what might happen to volcanoes, mountains, hurricanes, and, well, all that water (Jeff Masters of Weather Underground imagines it being kept in by a large wall, one that Mexico would presumably pay for). Dave Stevenson, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute Of Technology, has no time for such fantasies. He keeps it short and sweet, and even has a time scale in mind.
It’s a rather ridiculous question. I’ll give you an answer that is, if you will, a physics answer. Imagine if you took the Earth as it is now and changed it into a flat pancake or a hockey puck. Then what would happen is that because of gravity, it would want to go back to being a sphere. It would do so catastrophically. The amount of energy released would be similar to what you would get if you made the entire Earth out of high explosive such as TNT. It would literally collapse upon itself and break. There’s no material strong enough to hold it up. It would collapse from something shaped like a hockey puck to something shaped like a sphere. It would do so on a timescale of an hour.
You would die for sure.
Stevenson’s testimony will surely change the minds of flat-earthers everywhere.
[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]