I ☠️ flat-earthers

I refuse to watch this new Netflix documentary, Behind the Curve, because even if it is ripping ruthlessly into those idjits, it’s giving them more attention than they deserve. They’re also intellectually dishonest.

One of those Flat Earthers is Bob Knodel, who hosts a YouTube channel entirely dedicated to the theory and who is one of the team relying on a $20,000 laser gyroscope to prove the Earth doesn’t actually rotate.

Except… It does.

“What we found is, when we turned on that gyroscope, we found that we were picking up a drift,” Knodel explains. “A 15-degree per hour drift.

“Now, obviously we were taken aback by that – ‘Wow, that’s kind of a problem.’

“We obviously were not willing to accept that, and so we started looking for easy to disprove it was actually registering the motion of the Earth.”

You know what they say: If your experiment proves you wrong, just disregard the results!

“We don’t want to blow this, you know?” Knodel then says to another Flat Earther. “When you’ve got $20,000 in this freaking gyro.

“If we dumped what we found right now, it would be bad? It would be bad.

“What I just told you was confidential.”

Wow. They spent $20,000 on an instrument that they then chose to ignore. As one of those small college scientists who is trying to patch together gear on little bitty $400, $600 grants, and who bought a microscope camera for $2000 out of his own pocket, I’m more than a little appalled. Next time someone decides to drop a chunk of money on some crackpot, could they just send it to me, instead? I’ll use it responsibly.

If nothing else, that kind of money would fund summer research projects for at least six students, and would help produce competent scientists for the future.


  1. Scott Petrovits says

    “This expensive, highly sophisticated and precise piece of measurement equipment says I’m wrong. Must be a piece of junk.”

    How in the round, round Earth does someone get that inured? It’s mind-boggling.

  2. davidc1 says

    Reminds me of those poor sods who were waiting for the spaceship what they thought was hiding behind that comet in 1996 ,they bought a telescope to look for the spaceship .
    When they could not find any spaceship they took the telescope back to the shop and said it was faulty .

  3. erichoug says

    I am baffled by anyone who tries using logic and argument with flat-earthers. They are mostly religious kooks with a few trolls mixed in for good measure.

    Their like creationists if they set their stupidity level to expert.

  4. 00001000bit says

    I watched it this weekend. I was curious the types of personalities behind it, as I (to my knowledge) only know one flat-earther, and that one is rooted in religious nuttery.

    There was one depressing scene where the woman Youtuber they were predominantly featuring was commenting on how others in the movement were vilifying her. She mentions how they’re just making crazy things up about her to discredit her (that she’s a government plant, or a lizard person, etc.) and wondering if that’s how SHE looks to those outside FE. But then she falls right back to her safe place of thinking it couldn’t be, because she is right.

    She came within about a millimeter of being self aware and just didn’t quite cross that finish line.

  5. woozy says

    I have to wonder what they expected to happen.

    Surely they realize round earthers would have already done the experiment. That’s what a gyroscope was invented for. But if they believe the round earth was a conspiracy and the round earthers are lying about the results they wouldn’t make up results others can do themselves. Surely they’d believe a gyrosope doesn’t work the way round earthers claim it does.

  6. paulparnell says

    I watched the documentary and it actually wasn’t bad. It didn’t try to refute the flat earth. It simply treated flat earthers as a specimen on a slide to be examined.

  7. Snarki, child of Loki says

    The Flat Earther’s claim to have a rapidly growing movement. They even claim to have believers all round the world, it’s true.

  8. aziraphale says

    Snarki, if we lived on a flat disk, wouldn’t you expect people to say “all around the world”? “All around the town” is a common enough phrase – it’s even a song and a movie title – and no-one thinks their town is a globe.

  9. Walter Solomon says

    He could have bought three Foucault pendulums for that amount of scratch and gotten the same answer.

  10. weylguy says

    “We obviously were not willing to accept that.”

    This says it all. Christians, Muslims, Jews and the entire Trump party of science deniers aren’t going to ever change their minds about anything, because to them evidence is smevidence.

    To paraphrase Myers, I ☠️ them all.

  11. johnson catman says

    weylguy @12: To them, evidence is only good if it confirms your already decided-upon premise.

  12. ShowMetheData says

    The math on this is very exposing:

    “… we found that we were picking up a drift,” Knodel explains. “A 15-degree per hour drift.”

    15 degrees per hour x 24 hours per day = 360 degrees in a day
    Hmmmm, much like a round, spherical object rotating on its axes. When it rotates 360 degrees, it will be back at its original position.

  13. doubtthat says


    That scene you mention was the loose thread that they missed.

    Overall, I liked the doc. I thought they treated the flat Earthers with humanity while still showing how completely idiotic their world view is.
    But…you could have sympathy for these weirdo conspiracy theorists in 1985 or 1996. With the exception of some of the Clinton stuff, which was the first rumbling of the Earthquakes to come, it was mostly harmless bullshittery.
    But now we have Trump and Pizzagate and the full-on weaponization of the insane internet conspiracy theorist. The woman becoming the focal point of disgusting abuse was the window into the real darkness this horseshit really represents.
    You could see it hinted at – the angry Evangelical, the Alex Jones-like dude who was smearing the rest of them – we know where this goes. Start with Flat Earth and you’re two steps from screaming about the Jews, attacking women online, and aggressively supporting Trump.

  14. doubtthat says


    That was the funniest part. He’s predicting no drift, globe model predicts EXACTLY 15 degrees per hour.
    Like, if the result was 9deg or 54deg or something, ok…there’s a problem. But…EXACTLY 15. Over and over, 15, 15, 15…
    Just amazing. Depressing, but amazing.

  15. chrislawson says

    Anyone can make their own Foucault pendulum for less than a hundred bucks at a cheap hardware store to replicate the original 1851 experiment. Even cheaper: Foucault’s pendulum has been replicated as a working observational experiment for the public in just about every science museum around the world (many of which have free entry!). No need for $20K gyroscopes.

  16. chrislawson says


    I’m all for humanising conspiracy theorists, but I think for true balance it has to be done in the context of showing the harms that these beliefs can cause. Obviously flat-earthers (and cryptid hunters) are mostly just wasting their own time and money, but it’s part of a general anti-evidence movement that has real implications (anti-vaxx, alternative medicine, fatal exorcisms, etc.).

  17. doubtthat says


    Absolutely. It’s become a disgusting ecosystem, and in the documentary, another little detail that wasn’t dug into was when the Flat Earthers started rambling, the conspiracy theories started pouring out – “They want to fill you full of vaccines and tell you about the dinosaurs they made up and try and convince you they landed on the moon and that climate change is real…”
    Flat Earth, on its own, is easily the dumbest conspiracy theory I’ve ever encountered, and I’m a bit of a hobbyist in that world. It’s so utterly stupid on its own, that I think it incentives these goofballs to branch out real quickly. Or it’s just the case that if you’re deluded/ridiculous/unhealthy enough to buy Flat Earth, you’ve probably bought everything else.

  18. stevewatson says

    @18: Science museums? Heck, just drop round to your nearest university. Both of my almas have Foucault pendula hanging in the foyers of their respective physics buildings.

    @21: Crank magnetism, I believe it’s called. I encountered an anti-vaxx FB group, which was full of chem-trails and other assorted crackpot conspiracy theories, plus gun-nuttery, Trumpism and generally toxic Christian-American exceptionalism. Don’t notice any flat-earthers but I didn’t hang around very long.

  19. ShowMetheData says

    Step 1: Claim that the earth is flat.
    Step 2: Build a community from Youtube viewership and keep producing revenue from views and later selling books.
    Step 3: Profit.

  20. curbyrdogma says

    Yeah, what is going on with all the science denial these days? Probably because it’s so much easier to fear or doubt the unknown than to study and learn the science behind it.

    @ShowMetheData haha, you might be onto something. Troll the world with Wrong Stuff and reap monetized rewards every time someone drops by to argue on your YouTube channel.

  21. bcwebb says

    But wouldn’t the gyro also drift if the earth was a flat disk that was spinning? It seems they are testing rotation, not flatness.
    Or is there some idea that it’s only the sun that moves? Although, if the flat earth rotates once a day, then the sun rises and sets in the same physical place – kind of bouncing up and down along a track – almost logical in a way.
    Since nothing the flat earthers claim makes sense, I’m just wondering what their image looks like. Not sure how they handle celestial and planetary navigation…

  22. rimmo says

    I used to think flat-earthers were just stupid or religious, but this video from Philosophy Tube gave me a much more interesting perspective on the whole thing.


    It’s really an illustration of how society as a whole is experiencing a crisis of confidence in our methods of generating knowledge, a process which we too are an active part of. It affects different people in different ways. Flat Earthers know there’s something wrong with the way we receive information, but they’re can’t figure out what, so they’re randomly venting their frustration at established concepts. It’s a pattern that appears in many other parts of society, such as the way Republicans are so willing to blame economic stagnation on welfare and migrants.

    We are experiencing a crisis of knowledge. Nobody can agree on how to know anything, and it’s a process that’s accelerating.

  23. gijoel says

    @24 Yeah, unfortunately there’s a lot of money to be made in feeding people bullshit/making arseholes feel good about being arseholes.

  24. curbyrdogma says

    @Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    It’s gotten worse since the Internet became more “user friendly”. There have always been science deniers, but now the internet gives them a platform to spread their propaganda and misinformation and become more emboldened as a political force. We truly are in an era of “info wars”.

  25. khms says

    #29 @rimmo:

    Nobody can agree on how to know anything, and it’s a process that’s accelerating.

    Except that doesn’t seem true, from where I sit. Large percentages of the population seem to agree how it should work. Except there are two large, incompatible camps (vastly oversimplified: “science” vs. “Rupert Murdoch”), and quite a bit of fringe.

  26. Daniel Martin says

    I watched nearly all of the Netflix documentary. (had some time to kill, but not quite enough to finish it) It was okay, and I liked how they pulled together the details on that particular gyroscope experiment to skewer the flat earthers without appearing to do anything editorially – it was all their own words.

    The one thing I thought that the documentary didn’t adequately address was the responsibility of YouTube’s recommendation algorithms in promoting the theory. This occurred to me when one of the flat-earth celebrities was talking about how searching for “flat earth” on YouTube when he started in 2015 would yield a relatively small number of videos, but whenever they were filming (late 2017, I think) you’d get tens of millions of results.

    You know how almost all conspiracy theories require some hidden force brainwashing people? Well we actually have such a force, only it’s not so hidden, and we understand much of how and why its brainwashing people. There is an actual machine learning algorithm at YouTube that was built and designed to increase the amount of time people watch videos. That was its primary goal: more eyeball time on YouTube. Around 2015, it started to get really good.

    Remember, the algorithm doesn’t care if you’re watching true things, outrageous conspiracy theories, music videos, whatever. (In fact, classifying “conspiracy theory” versus “science blogger” is probably not a distinction the algorithm could make even if there were a reason to) It only cares about getting you to spend time in front of the screen; the quality of that time is irrelevant. It turns out that there’s a subset of the population that’ll spend days wandering through YouTube watching conspiracy theories, and the algorithm “found” them. It also “discovered” that, on average, promoting conspiracy videos leads to more eyeball time.

    I’ve read various sci-fi stories that talk about the world being destroyed by addictive entertainment of one kind or another. Usually it’s talking about something like a holodeck or that “feely” technology in Brave New World, and the entertainment everyone gets addicted to is sexual in some way. However, as often happens once science fiction predictions start to come true, the prediction was not quite on the mark: it turns out sex isn’t the only feeling humans can become addicted to; outrage and a sense of being in on a secret works too.

    So now we have this machine intelligence programmed by a corporation to increase eyeball time as its only goal, using the power of recommendations. The result? Lots of fringe ideas get boosted beyond where they’d be without something focused so closely on eyeball time and we now have to deal with an extra flood of flat earthers, QAnon nutjobs, 9/11 truthers, and white supremacists.

  27. Rob Curtis says

    the laser gyroscope is obviously programmed to give incorrect results. NASA and the UN have agents everywhere!!11!!!1!!!

  28. says

    It’s pretty obvious by the deep and nefarious ties between the UN and scientists just who this conspiracy against the (just use your eyes, sheeple!) flat earth is being waged by: the Globalists.

  29. curbyrdogma says

    WRT the plethora of conspiracy theorists & current Hollywood trends:
    Someone should consider doing a remake/mashup of TRON, Alice in Wonderland, The Matrix and Lord of the Flies

  30. taraskan says

    I saw the film at Doc NY 18, and I’m surprised to hear you disregard it so out of hand. It’s right up your alley, looking for the human side of the equation. It shows how blatantly dishonest Flat Heart adherents are, sure, but it also recognizes that none of them are invested in it being proven true or false. It’s a self-help group at this point for people who have navigated from other conspiracy theorist movements and not found validation there. It’s an important documentary in showing the interconnectedness of conspiracy movements, since most people who believe their own woo are prepared to believe everyone else’s woo in short order, as a quid pro quo for validation, but also because they lack the ability to discriminate. Please give it a try.

  31. bryanfeir says

    My take on that sort of thing is as follows:

    The good news is that the Internet is absolutely great at community building.

    The bad news is that the Internet isn’t fussy about exactly what types of communities get built.