Monday, September 12, 2011

Challenging the status quo

A NewScientist letter complains:
How the Earth wasn't

RESIDENTS of Winnipeg in Canada (and doubtless elsewhere) have recently been bombarded with a television advert for Infiniti, apparently a brand of luxury personal transport, that opens with the suggestion that: "If no one ever challenged the status quo, the Earth would still be flat."

James Daun, clearly a believer in an objective reality that exists independently of our beliefs, says he "would hesitate to deal with a company that believed that the Earth ever was flat".
The ad goes on to Einstein E=mc2, Elvis Presley, and the Berlin Wall.

Of course the Earth was never flat, and there was never a prevailing scientific opinion that it was flat. The ancient Greeks knew the diameter of the Earth. See Myth of the Flat Earth.

It is a big myth that Einstein's special relativity was challenging the status quo. At the
time of his big paper (1905), it was the best established theory as Lorentz had already
gotten the Nobel Prize in 1902 and Michelson was about to get it (in 1907).

If anything, the theory at the time that was challenging the status quo was that of Max Abraham. It was popular mainly among younger physicists.

At least the ad did not credit Columbus or Galileo with disproving the flat Earth.

Update: There are ancient Roman coins showing a round Earth. For example, here is a picture of one with the description, Gordian in military dress, standing r., holding transverse scepter and globe.

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