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Is the Earth Actually Round?

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In 1492, Christopher Columbus ran into North America while trying to sail across the Atlantic in search of India. Consequently, he allegedly discovered that the Earth was round. However, it is debated amongst scientists and historians whether Columbus actually discovered that the world was round or if it was common knowledge at that point. Regardless, for the past 500 years, the popular opinion has been that the Earth is round.

Today, I humbly beg the simple question: Do we know if the Earth is really round?

To my own knowledge, the Earth could be any multitude of shapes—a sphere, a cube, a pyramid, or a disk. The fact is, I am simply too small to fathom the size or shape of the Earth. When I wake up in the morning and look out my window, I don’t see any curve. When I go to the beach and look out at the horizon, I still don’t see any curve—the ocean just seems to go on forever.

The Earth could be any multitude of shapes.”

I have never sailed across the ocean and been able to see that the Earth is round. Furthermore, I have never been to outer space, so I cannot say for sure that I know the Earth’s true shape. Now, I know other people have, but why should I trust them? I have never met anyone who has been to space, nor have I met anyone who has sailed across the Earth. Am I expected to take a leap of faith and believe things I have never seen or experienced? No! I will not be your sheep.

Now, I must admit, there is a significant amount of scientific evidence to prove that the Earth is round. For example, in a lunar eclipse, while the Earth is traveling in front of the moon, you can see the curve on the edge of its shadow. Also, because of the laws of gravity, if the Earth were flat, it would fold over itself and collapse. Additionally, because mass attracts mass and gravity acts on matter equally, the possibility of the Earth being a cube is eliminated.

However, I do not really know that gravity acts on matter equally. To my own knowledge, yes, I am being pulled down to the Earth. But how do I really know that I am being pulled down towards the center of the Earth? Because of that I am able to say that there is a slight chance the the Earth is flat.

As I close off, I have to say that the shape of the Earth is most likely round. I have seen photos of a round Earth from space. I have never seen a photo of a flat Earth. Regardless, based on my own intuition and my own senses, there is reasonable doubt that the Earth is round. For that reason, I conclude that there simply isn’t enough information for me personally to believe that the Earth is round.

This piece also appears in our October print edition.

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The Student Newspaper of Cambridge Rindge and Latin
Is the Earth Actually Round?