Scientists are finally starting to understand the centuries-old mystery of “ballooning.”
The answer is all over Quora and elsewhere on the web, but just to do it once again….
The question contains a conditional: “If we live on a Flat Earth”; and a consequent: “why don’t we fall off the edges?”
The consequent probes a situation we recognize to be true: we have no record of people falling off the edge of the Earth. We also have no record of people randomly disappearing for no other explicable reasons when they travel in certain regions.
One reason for the truth of the consequent is that there are no edges. We have observed nothing that looks like an edge and no-one has fallen off, so there is a high probability that there is no edge at all. This takes us back to question the validity and truth or the conditional.
How can there be no edge if the conditional is true? The flat Earth could be infinite in extent, which would account for the lack of an edge. However, we would also have an infinite area of surface that could be measured, and we don’t see this, either. We have a pretty good idea of the surface area of all land and water areas on Earth, and we know that area is large, but still finite. And we have found no indication of any barrier that stops movement in any directions (especially in the air), so we still don’t have any edge.
The other possibility is that the conditional is false. If the Earth is not flat, but some other shape, this would account for the absence of edges and the finite surface area. The shape must be a closed 3-D figure to avoid edges, and the absence of definite sharp ridges between surface facets tends to exclude a polyhedron. This leaves us with a range of smooth, closed figures, of which the simplest is a sphere. More complex ones include ellipsoids, toroids and the like.
So we have established that the Earth cannot be flat, because that model does not accord with evidence that we have collectively established over millennia. To go beyond that and determine the actual shape we need to consider more observations.
Consideration of what we can see as we travel across the planet suggests strongly that the curvature of the planet is consistent everywhere we look. The only 3-D figure that can manage this characteristic is a sphere, or something pretty close to it. If we also observe that every other large cohesive body in the universe that we can observe also looks like it is approximately spherical, and if we throw in some other observations (like the shadow of the Earth during lunar eclipses), we come to the conclusion that the Earth is approximately spherical.
This level of questioning and reasoning from observation was pretty much concluded to this point around 2,300 years ago. Since that time, we’ve been busy refining the details of that ‘approximately spherical’ conclusion, so we now have the shape down to millimeters over the entire Earth, in certain models of the planet. Note that the size and complexity of the shape of the Earth mean that we need to use a number of different models to minimize the complexity of dealing with the exact shape of the Earth for almost all tasks that we undertake.
So there is your answer: people don’t fall off the edges of the Earth because there are no edges, as a consequence of the Earth being approximately spherical, rather than flat. QED.
Here on Earth, we tend to take water for granted. We drink it, we swim in it, we brush our teeth with it. The sea is full of the stuff. It literally falls out of the sky.
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