# Proving the Earth is round at home

I am looking for practical ways to prove the Earth is round using materials accessible to the average person. I have zero interest in disproving Flat Earth folks.

I am inspired by Dan Olson's (Folding Ideas) excellent video where he is able to do this measuring the curvature of a lake near his home that has a very specific geography that lends itself to this sort of experiment. I've seen all sorts of ways to prove this measuring shadows and poles, using gyroscopes, etc. and wanted to know if there are any practical guides for proving once and for all that the Earth is round for yourself relying on nothing more than experimentation.

What I'm not looking for:

• Math relying on flight times/charts
• Video/picture evidence
• Deductive proofs built on agreed upon premises
• Expensive tests
• Extremely time consuming projects
• Underwhelming results (relying on a probabilistic argument for a round Earth from the evidence.)

What I am looking for:

• Practical experiments
• Things I could potentially do without spending much money
• Tests that aren't largely comprised of accepting someone else's research
• Potentially math-heavy evidence
• Results that are strong and conclusive

I've thought of finding some easy to test version of Eratosthenes' proof using two poles. I've also thought about using a balloon and sending something to space like what is done in this Tom Scott video. Nothing seems well documented in such a way as for me to be able to follow it at home.

TL;DR: I think it would be a meaningful experience to have the power to prove the Earth is round by myself, for myself. I can only compare this desire to the desire a child with a telescope has when wishing to observe Saturn or Mars themselves for the first time. It's not to prove anything or to settle doubts, but for the personal value of independently observing this astronomical fact oneself.

1. Staross
If you're willing to drive a bit you should be able to use Eratosthenes method, this guy did it with a bike : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaPa4esJJx4

If you're willing to drive a bit you should be able to use Eratosthenes method, this guy did it with a bike :

2. [3]
Greg
Foucault's pendulum hits your brief pretty much perfectly, I'd say.

Foucault's pendulum hits your brief pretty much perfectly, I'd say.

1. [2]
whbboyd
A Foucault pendulum proves the Earth rotates (as long as you don't set it up on the equator). A pendulum on a rotating discworld would precess in the same way. You could move your pendulum a...

A Foucault pendulum proves the Earth rotates (as long as you don't set it up on the equator). A pendulum on a rotating discworld would precess in the same way.

You could move your pendulum a significant distance north-to-south and observe the change in rate of precession, I guess. That's probably convincing that the world is curved in some way; going from those observations to concluding that it is (roughly) spherical is definitely getting into some complicated geometrical math.

1. Greg
My thinking was as simple as "set up pendulum, time the precession, check own latitude on map, confirm the proportionality" - but it's definitely fair to point out the distinction in what that's...

My thinking was as simple as "set up pendulum, time the precession, check own latitude on map, confirm the proportionality" - but it's definitely fair to point out the distinction in what that's actually showing, and maybe taking the latitude as an input isn't in the spirit of the post. Call it a verification of existing data, more than a proof, perhaps!

3. [2]
aphoenix
I think that the two sticks method of Eratosthenes (mentioned by @Staross) cannot be beat for simplicity, repeatability, and actual proofiness which many "proofs" often lack. It's the one that...

I think that the two sticks method of Eratosthenes (mentioned by @Staross) cannot be beat for simplicity, repeatability, and actual proofiness which many "proofs" often lack. It's the one that feels the most rigorous to me. However, there are a number of other great indicators that the earth is round that you could do to build up understanding; if you're open to doing multiple things on a budget, then perhaps doing many of the things mentioned would be possible?

In addition to a foucault pendulum mentioned by @Greg and considering the phases of the moon as mentioned by @nsz (both of which I recommend doing if you have the means to do multiple things) there are some other fun experiments you can do.

One of my favourite simple indicators requires the use of a tall building with a good elevator. It's also a way to experience the sunset twice in one day.

• observe the sun setting from the ground
• enter building and elevator and go to the roof
• if the elevator is fast enough and the building is high enough, observe the sun once again setting

More broadly this can be used to observe further along the circumference of the earth while being higher up; ie you don't need a building and a sunset to do this, but you can do so with a high place and a low place that are quite close together.

You can also use Gravity to "prove" the spherical nature of planets, though this is often hand-waved away by flat earthers because it's seen as assumption of the antecedent. If Earth were flat, then the weight that we experience from gravity would fluctuate base on our distance from the centre of mass. Since moving a distance laterally does not change your weight, moving laterally cannot change the distance you are from the centre of mass.

1. Staross
I was wondering how the sunset is supposed to look in a flat earth model and I stumbled upon that pretty cool method that uses the reflection of the sun on water :...

I was wondering how the sunset is supposed to look in a flat earth model and I stumbled upon that pretty cool method that uses the reflection of the sun on water :

4. [2]
nsz
(edited )
Probably the easiest and most straightforward way is to just look at the Moon, observe it's illuminated side change shape throughout the month, then have a think what shape could cause such an...

Probably the easiest and most straightforward way is to just look at the Moon, observe it's illuminated side change shape throughout the month, then have a think what shape could cause such an effect, keeping in mind a single lightsource, the Sun.

EDIT: Peel half of an orange then rotate it while looking at it with one eye closed (to remove parallax), you should see the phases of the moon!

Here's the leap, extrapolate that earth will most likely have the same or at least similar shape. Is there a good explanation why it shouldn't? To back it up, try explaining time-zones. If you've done any travel you'll have first had experience of their effect. What are the possible shapes earth can take that make time-zones possible? Try getting a call with someone a few time zones away, see the sun set twice in one day. Try explain the phenomenon.

1. aphoenix
(edited )
While I enjoy what you've written and think it's a great piece of learning, I don't think it actually proves anything about the Earth; it presents compelling evidence that your hypothesis should...

While I enjoy what you've written and think it's a great piece of learning, I don't think it actually proves anything about the Earth; it presents compelling evidence that your hypothesis should be "the Earth is round" but not proof that the Earth is round.

Edit: I expanded a bit on this in a comment below - I think this is an important experiment, and I'm wondering if @RNG would consider doing multiple experiments to build up the proof about the earth.

Edit 2: In addition to being a delightful thought experiment, the bit with the orange is also scrumptious if done right.

5. [3]
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1. [2]
Eric_the_Cerise
Works on the Great Lakes, too. Probably other large lakes out there. Not sure of the math, but off the top of my head, I'd guesstimate anything more than 40-50 miles across would be big enough.

Works on the Great Lakes, too. Probably other large lakes out there. Not sure of the math, but off the top of my head, I'd guesstimate anything more than 40-50 miles across would be big enough.

1. j3n
Much less than that in fact. The distance to the horizon is only ~5km (~3mi) for a 2m person standing on the ground (ignoring some details that change the exact numbers but not the general idea)....

Much less than that in fact. The distance to the horizon is only ~5km (~3mi) for a 2m person standing on the ground (ignoring some details that change the exact numbers but not the general idea). Of course that means that you could just barely see another 2m tall person who is standing 10km away since both of your heads would be just barely above the curvature of the intervening Earth. Now, ships are a lot taller than people, but even from 50m up the distance to the horizon is only 25km/15mi, so even on a lake just 20 miles across the hardest part of demonstrating the effect is probably finding a boat tall enough that you actually need the whole 20 miles.

6. RiderOfGiraffes
(edited )
I wrote about this sort of thing here: https://www.solipsys.co.uk/new/TheRadiusOfTheEarth.html?tj22tl I give a talk in which I compute the distance to the Moon, and then as part of that I show how...

I give a talk in which I compute the distance to the Moon, and then as part of that I show how you can compute the size of the Earth using nothing more than a stopwatch, a ruler, and a clear view of the horizon. The simple version starts with that link, then there's a more refined version, and then a further refined version. As a bonus the series also includes how to compute your latitude just by watching the Sun rise or set.

I was pretty sure I'd posted those, but maybe I didn't.