34) Ship captains in navigating great distances at sea never need to factor the supposed curvature of the Earth into their calculations. Both Plane Sailing and Great Circle Sailing, the most popular navigation methods, use plane, not spherical trigonometry, making all mathematical calculations on the assumption that the Earth is perfectly flat. If the Earth were in fact a sphere, such an errant assumption would lead to constant glaring inaccuracies. Plane Sailing has worked perfectly fine in both theory and practice for thousands of years, however, and plane trigonometry has time and again proven more accurate than spherical trigonometry in determining distances across the oceans.
Humanity has known Earth is round for a few millenia, and I’ve been meaning to show more methods that prove the world is not flat. I’ve had a few ideas on how to do that, but recently got an interesting incentive, when Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, wrote about a recently published BBC article about “The Flat Earth” society. (Most recently, rapper B.o.B. went on a Twitter rant on the topic.) Phil claims it’s ridiculous to even bother rebutting the Flat Earth Society—and I tend to agree. But the history of our species’ intellectual pursuit is important and interesting. You don’t need to denounce all science and knowledge and believe in a kooky conspiracy theory to enjoy some historical factoids about humanity’s quest for space.
Mr. Lockyer, in describing his picture of the supposed proof of the Earth's rotundity by means of ships rounding a "hill of water," uses these words: - "Diagram showing how, when we suppose the earth is round, we explain how it is that ships at sea appear as they do." This is utterly unworthy of the name of Science! A science that begins by supposing, and ends by explaining the supposition, is, from beginning to end, a mere farce. The men who can do nothing better than amuse themselves in this way must be denounced as dreamers only, and their leading dogma a delusion. This is a proof that Earth, not a globe.
Aristotle (who made quite a lot of observations about the spherical nature of the Earth) noticed that during lunar eclipses (when the Earth’s orbit places it directly between the Sun and the Moon, creating a shadow in the process), the shadow on the Moon’s surface is round. This shadow is the planet's, and it’s a great clue about the spherical shape of the Earth.
The most commonly accepted explanation of this is that the space agencies of the world are involved in a conspiracy faking space travel and exploration. This likely began during the Cold War's 'Space Race', in which the USSR and USA were obsessed with beating each other into space to the point that each faked their accomplishments in an attempt to keep pace with the other's supposed achievements. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the conspiracy is most likely motivated by greed rather than political gains, and using only some of their funding to continue to fake space travel saves a lot of money to embezzle for themselves.