The sad, pointless death of Mad Mike Hughes

I’ve mentioned Mad Mike Hughes here a few times before. He claims to be using a rocket to research “flat earth” hypotheses; every time I’ve mentioned him, I’ve pointed out that flying a steam-powered rocket to a height of a few thousand feet doesn’t test the hypothesis at all. Basic Research 101: design your experiment to discriminate between your hypothesis and alternatives. People fly as high as that rocket, and higher, all the time in commercial and private planes, and they do so safely with the leisure to look out the window. Professional astronauts go much, much higher (with more risk), and they depend on a theory of gravity that the flat earth loons have to deny. There was no reason to strap yourself into an amateur rocket and launch yourself to amateur altitudes.

Now Mad Mike Hughes is dead.

The death was filmed by a crew of ghouls from the Science Channel for airing on the Discovery Channel, along with their usual professionally filmed trash fires about the Bermuda Triangle, Ancient Aliens, and stories about the “Secret Life of Jesus”. He was encouraged by flocks of idiots who think the shape of the earth is an open question, who gawp and play stupid gotcha games, and who reject well-tested evidence because it doesn’t fit their hollow-brained theories.

They, and his own ego, killed Mad Mike Hughes. What a colossal waste.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Ugh! Can’t better than this sort of spectacle be done by or expected from our cable networks with misleading branding (Discovery, Science, The Learning Channel, History…). The aforementioned incident is tragic, but why are they stooping to coverage of such “exploration” of our epistemic frontiers?

    As much as cable costs, we are getting crap for product. At least Motor Trend stays squarely in their lane, actually providing product as signified by their network moniker. We can witness rebuilds, restorations, and no holds barred street racing. Unlike with Ancient Aliens the rubber actually meets the road. The Weather Channel too provides apt though sensational content regarding winter storms, hurricanes, and looming tornado outbreaks. Weather Underground is a decent show and the knowledgable hosts try to convey the underlying scientific knowledge to us laypeople. One could learn more from one hour of WU than a month of the other allegedly educational channel programming combined. Watching Tsoukalos is not edifying at all. Cable educational channels are crap. Well Weather Channel and Motor Trend may be exceptions.

  2. says

    It may be that “Mad Mike” was more of a daredevil than a flat-earth exponent. From what some of his friends are saying, he was exploiting the flat-earth nonsense for the sake of publicity. Still sad, but perhaps more a case of over-the-top thrill-seeking than a matter of scientific illiteracy.

  3. hemidactylus says

    @4- anthonybarcellos

    It was part of some homemade astronaut show too. Daredevils do thrive on putting their lives on the line and there have been no shortage. Some people push speed boundaries on salt flats. Others risk it all on Formula One tracks. Senna comes to mind. Earnhardt with NASCAR.

    With Discovery I was a fan of their StormChasers series and some of the crews on that show went well into harms way. There is probably much to criticize about a show like that which glued my eyes to the screen, but some of the footage of close up strong twisters was mind blowing. Unfortunately one of the crews that had been featured on that show got caught in a bad one and passed away. Sad.

  4. says

    @4 anthony
    Pardon me for being pedantic, but don’t you mean “proponent” instead of “exponent”. I really doubt this was a guy who raised any numbers to any higher value.

  5. Ishikiri says

    I’m feeling rather ashamed of myself, because I couldn’t stop laughing at some of the jokes in that Twitter thread.

  6. lotharloo says

    Okay, okay, instead of shooting yourself into the sky, why not find a high mountain to climb? There are higer mountains than what he hoped to be launched to. Or does flat Earth hypothesis means “no mountains” as well?

  7. microraptor says

    @11: As others have said, he seems to have been more of a daredevil who liked shooting himself into the sky on a homemade rocket. He wasn’t actually trying to disprove the idea that the Earth is round, he had just signed up with the flat Earthers as a means of getting funding and publicity.

  8. brightmoon says

    I just thought he was being an idiot. I wonder if the Darwin Awards are still being given out even though I thought they were kinda crass

  9. says

    @Ray Ceera:

    Pardon me for being pedantic, but don’t you mean “proponent” instead of “exponent”

    Mr. Praline: Last week maybe. I took the liberty of examining that ‘ponent when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on his couch in the first place was that he had been NAILED there.


    Owner: Well, o’course it was nailed there! If I hadn’t nailed that daredevil down, he would have nuzzled up to another rocket, jumped inside, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

    Mr. Praline: “VOOM”?!? Mate, this flat earther wouldn’t “voom” if you put four million volts through him! ‘E’s bleedin’ demised!

    Owner: No no! ‘E’s pining!

    Mr. Praline: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This ‘ponent is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the couch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!

  10. harryblack says

    This man was probably not well and should have been protected from doing stupid shit like this.
    For profit media has a lot to answer for in the way it exploits the vulnerable and the desperate (in this case desperate for attention). Whether its shit like this, ancient aliens or some crap that was on at my friends house last night where dim witted pretty strangers get engaged and married for the sake of manufactured drama, its clear that some sort of oversight is required for these amoral opportunists and we should not let that slip away because we are busy heaping scorn on the victims (not that this guy did not contribute to and participate in harm himself).
    Of course the fuckwits will start some theory about him being shot down to stop the truth getting out.

  11. says

    Why was he even allowed to do this? Flying single propellor aircraft is heavily regulated, but launching a rocket that could crash and kill dozens or hundreds isn’t?

    Oh, right. It’s the land of “individual gun ownership”.

  12. davidc1 says

    He spent $18,000 building his death trap ,in Russia there is a company that for 17,000 Euros will fly you to the edge of space in a Mig 29 Fulcrum so you could see the earth is not flat..
    Yes i know flat earthers say windows in planes are designed to show it is curved .

  13. simonhadley says

    Watching that video all I could think was this is something straight from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

  14. prfesser says

    I’ve launched a number of large model high-power rockets (typical 1 – 10 m tall, 5 – 30 cm diameter, altitudes up to ~40,000 m) with the Tripoli Rocketry Association. Yes, you have to get FAA permission. If you go to one of those launches you’ll see people taking enormous care to assemble the parts correctly, use two altimeters to insure that the parachutes are out at the proper time, install GPS systems, etc. Even with all the care that’s taken preflight, at a larger weekend launch you’ll usually see several that don’t deploy the chute properly, and at least one that doesn’t deploy at all: a “lawn dart” or “core sample” :)

    All of these are unmanned rockets; even that usually requires filling out the proper form and waiting weeks or months. We’ve had the occasional person wanting to do something like Hughes did. Ain’t gonna happen. Getting permission for a manned rocket is way beyond trivial. One wonders if Hughes actually went through the appropriate papermill of approvals. Of course, it’s now moot.

    Robert Heinlein had something to say about this.

  15. Mark says

    I think he knew what he was doing as far as self-promotion goes. By latching onto the flat-Earth movement he got donations and a gig on the shameless Discovery Channel.

  16. waydude says

    WMDKitty – I doubt it, people love that saying. “died doing what he loved” but probably at the end he wasn’t that happy about it and more screaming shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shiiiiiiiiiiiii

  17. Ed Seedhouse says

    @23:”Robert Heinlein had something to say about this”

    Yes, but he oversimplified as usual. I think it generally requires a combination of stupidity and bad luck. It takes world class stupidity to kill you all on it’s own. Most stupidity is survivable as witness traffic on our roads, among other things.

    If normal stupidity was fatal I would certainly not have survived past 30.

  18. says

    @18 Protected? What kind of cryptofascist Nazi are you? This mas is – was – a noble and mysterious anti-hero (at least according to every rock anthem I’ve ever heard) who doesn’t play by your rules, man! It’s his life and you can’t tell him what to do man! Roger Waters is probably writing a Rock Opera right now about this misunderstood figure (“We don’t need no gravitation/we don’t need no flight control”).

    Seriously, the media only sells what we’re buying. The media only gave us speedball-by-speedball coverage of Amy Winehouse’s elaborate suicide, for example, because they knew millions would keep tuning in, vaguely disappointed that she was still alive. And hoping that the many people who might have helped her didn’t so they wouldn’t spoil the fun.

    How many people here were really wishing on some level that he’d bite it where we could see and what does that say about all of us?

  19. mykroft says

    I’d love to meet a flat Eather, so many questions. How do you explain time zones, where it could be noon here and midnight somewhere else? At what point does an airplane fly over the edge of the Earth, and why hasn’t that been reported? How can they persist with all the apparent contradictions to their world-view?

  20. mykroft says

    Of course I’ve worked with Trumpsters, and can see how they persist with their world view. But flat Earthers don’t have Fox news.

  21. Scott Petrovits says

    @30 They just come up with an explanation that sounds plausible if you don’t do more than watch some YouTube videos. Or think much about it. It’s pretty much a religion. There is a documentary called Behind The Curve on Netflix, where there is a stunning example of disconfirmation bias. They come up with a hypothesis (if the earth is round, a compass should drift 15 degrees per hour), they get an expensive piece of equipment ($20k laser compass) to test their hypothesis, and run the test. When the compass drifts 15 degrees per hour, they record the data and admit that the world is indeed round. Wait, no, just kidding, they start coming up with explanations involving cosmic energy interfering with the compass, which should of course have stayed steady, because as we all know, the earth is flat. As someone smarter than me said, you can’t argue someone out of a position they didn’t argue themselves into.

  22. JustaTech says

    I watched most of a documentary about him called Rocketman (not the Elton John one) on Amazon and it was very … weird. (First I checked that he didn’t die in that movie, because I’m not going to watch someone kill themselves.)

    It was abundantly clear that whatever he thought about a flat Earth, he was very much into a lot of conspiracy theories, and it had cost him. Like, he was into “sovereign citizen” and so didn’t have a real license plate, and it cost him the limo that was most of him livelihood. In the movie you even overhear him talking about gold fringe on a flag (another big thing in the sovereign citizen movement).
    He was also inclined to violence, in ways that were pretty distressing.

    But he really loved his cats. I hope someone is taking good care of them. He loved his cats more than he loved his kids (and said so).

  23. says

    Whether he was crazy, stupid, reckless, a complete asshole, or whatever…. If I had ever met him, there would have been an excellent chance that I’d have despised him.

    But a person died a needless death, and had enough time to fully comprehend that his own death was imminent and inevitable.

    That makes me sad.