# Debunked: Rivers flow uphill

Discussion in 'Flat Earth' started by Rory, Jul 31, 2016.

1. ### RorySenior Member

In @ericdubay's "200 proofs" list he claims that rivers such as the Nile, the Paraná, the Congo, the Paraguay, and the Mississippi "flow uphill". The rationale behind it seems to be that rivers which flow from north to south (in the northern hemisphere), or south to north (in the southern), and therefore towards the bulge at the equator, will flow into mouths which are further from the centre of the earth than their sources.

For example:

http://www.atlanteanconspiracy.com/2015/08/200-proofs-earth-is-not-spinning-ball.html
As with most (all?) of Dubay's 'proofs', no explanation or evidence is offered, and it appears he is merely quoting from one of the Victorian 'first-wave' flat earth texts. In this case, rather than Rowbotham, he uses 'Terra Firma: The Earth not a Planet', a scripture-inspired book written in 1901 by David Wardlaw Scott.

https://ia800209.us.archive.org/6/items/cu31924031764594/cu31924031764594.pdf
How he arrives at the figure of 11 miles he doesn't say, though he does reference an 'Imperial Gazetteer' article, so it's possible he took it from this. In any case, I think we can assume that he did a rough calculation that went something along the lines of:

1. Earth's radius is 13.5 miles larger at equator than at poles
2. Length of Mississippi @3000 miles is 48% of the distance from the north pole to the equator (6215 miles)
3. Radius to mouth - radius to source = approximately 48% of 13.5
4. Answer is that the mouth is 6.24 miles 'higher' than the source (after subtracting 1,475 feet for the elevation at source)
5. Write down 11 miles, 'cos reasons.

Now, in actual fact the Mississippi is 2,320 miles long, while its 'as the crow flies' distance between source and mouth is 1,288 miles, and the distance between the lines of latitude at its source and mouth 1,248 miles. Using the above technique, this would make the mouth 2.44 miles 'higher' (further from the centre of the earth) than its source.

That's just a rough figure, of course, but one I would have expected a Victorian flat earth 'scientist' to have arrived at.

And using more modern methods, such as a geoid height calculator, I find a figure of 3.72 miles.

So there you go! The mouth of the Mississippi is not 11 miles higher than its source, it's a little under 4. Which is not an explanation of how this is possible, but another example of how Dubay repeats incorrect information without ever checking it, and yet presents it as fact.

The explanation is a little more straightforward than the laboured 'background check' above:

Why my calculation was 0.4 miles different to theirs, I'm not sure. But similar enough to debunk the "11 mile" claim. And whatever the figure, the explanation is still the same.

Sorry it was so long: I just like 'taking it back to the source' and uncovering the shoddyness in these "proofs".

Cheers.

Last edited: May 19, 2017
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2. ### deirdreModeratorStaff Member

um... huh?

It's a gradual change between the poles and the equator. So 13 miles difference over 6,000 miles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equatorial_bulge

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Although it does not exactly lift the crust of the earth (in the sense that might suggest - lifting the crust alone). It changes the overall shape of the Earth from a sphere to an oblate spheroid.

5. ### IntiActive Member

Thanks for sorting out the figures here. When I was first caught up in arguing with Dubay's supposed 200 proofs of flatness, this was one of a number that caused me to have to think carefully just to make any sense of what he was claiming. It's an interesting exercise reverse engineering his misconception, isn't it.

I tried to frame the replies with the minimum technicality, not only because of some uncertainty on my part in places, but because debating on YouTube under his video taught me that I was next thing to a Nobel laureate compared to the average level of background knowledge there. Hence I ended up talking about spinning pizza dough to explain the earth's oblateness.

I've included a link to this thread at roundearthsense.blogspot.co.uk. Every little helps, even if the likelihood of most FE believers taking note is small.

Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
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6. ### deirdreModeratorStaff Member

so.. the answer to why the Mississippi flows toward the equator is "because the Earth is spinning". Which makes the mouth technially 1,475 feet below the source. ?

http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0610/nospin.html

7. ### TrailblazerModeratorStaff Member

Yes, or rather, the reason the mouth is further from the earth's centre than the source is because the Earth is spinning.

All that matters is the potential energy. Rivers flow downhill relative to the geoid, ie the surface of the Earth that has an equal potential energy. That potential energy is the result of a combination of the downward force due to gravity and the upward force due to the Earth's rotation ("centrifugal force" in layman's terms).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoid

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8. ### RorySenior Member

Also, that the Mississippi flows towards the equator is arbitrary, really, purely because its source (highest point above mean sea level) is in the north and its mouth (lowest point amsl) is in the south. A river could just as easily flow from south to north, away from the equator, like the Mackenzie in Canada, or from south to north and south again, crossing the equator twice, such as the Congo in Africa.

Last edited: Aug 1, 2016
9. ### deirdreModeratorStaff Member

what's amsl? let's remember people, a debunk is only as good as the number of people who can understand it.

10. ### Spectrar GhostSenior Member

AMSL = Above Mean Sea Level

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11. ### IonNew Member

First, I have to apologize for my poor English!

I have made the account on metabunk in order to see how the "flowing uphill" problem is adressed and I found this thread.

If the Mississippi is flowing towards equator because the earth is spinning that would not be an uniform motion, but an uniform accelerate motion, resulting in a speed of water which is not matched by reality. As any other river the Mississippi speed is greater toward Itasca lake at a similar slope of the riverbed. Only the volume of the water is bigger toward the Gulf of Mexico, which means we need more energy to move the water uphill.

If we take into consideration a certain volume of water, can we calculate a point on the riverbed where the centrifugal force is not enough to move that volume uphill because it became equal with the gravitational force of the volume of water from that point to the Gulf of Mexico?

12. ### Spectrar GhostSenior Member

The Mississippi flows towards the equator because the Gulf of Mexico is at a lower altitude than Lake Itasca. At no point does the centripetal force of earths rotation overcome gravity, because if that were the case the planet would simply break apart.

13. ### RorySenior Member

As pointed out above, that's not why the Mississippi flows towards the equator, but rather because its mouth (at sea level) is located to the south of its source (1475 feet amsl). It's actually kind of arbitrary that it flows "towards the equator" - it's simple probability that, of all the rivers in the world, some will flow south (in the northern hemisphere), and some north (in the southern hemisphere), and therefore "towards the equator". But what they all have in common is that they flow from a higher elevation to a lower one (as measured in relation to sea level).
I'm not really sure what this means. Is the speed you refer to the velocity of the water flow? Why would this be the case? Wouldn't the speed of the water depend on other more localized factors, such as width, depth, tributaries, cascades, snowmelt, etc?
Though it's been described as doing so elsewhere, I don't think the river can be said to actually "flow uphill" - it is still flowing 'down', towards the sea - though in one sense I get your point, since it is moving further away from "the centre of gravity". In general, though, we define higher and lower by their relation to sea level, rather than the centre of the earth - which is why Mount Everest is viewed as the highest mountain, rather than Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo.
As above. And, if you think about the oceans that straddle the equator, it becomes clear that the volume of water isn't really a factor in this.

Good questions, though: it definitely takes a little while to get one's head around it.

PPS An interesting question for flat earthers - why did scientists, whose job it is to hide the fact we "don't live on a spinning ball", suddenly decide to describe this "fictional globe" as being an "oblate spheroid", thereby creating a whole bunch of myriad problems which wouldn't be understood by the layman, thereby opening the door to more arguments from incredulity? One would think they'd have been better off just keeping it simple.

Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
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14. ### Clouds GivemethewilliesActive Member

That jars a bit on the units and dimensions front.

Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
15. ### TrailblazerModeratorStaff Member

That is overcomplicating matters, really. On Earth, we measure altitudes relative to mean sea level. And the whole point of that is that the sea finds its own level: namely, it settles to the configuration where it has the lowest potential energy. (Minor fluctuations due to tides and atmospheric pressure patterns aside.)

So effectively you can treat sea level as being a "lowest energy surface" that water will flow down towards. That's what "down" means: travelling from higher potential energy to lower potential energy.

If the globe was a stationary ball of uniform density then sea level would form a perfect sphere, because the only force would be gravity. However, because it rotates, the centripetal centrifugal force (which is highest at the equator) offsets a small fraction of the gravitational force, resulting in sea level bulging outwards a little at the equator. But sea level still represents the lowest energy surface, so anything above sea level is still "uphill" from it.

The distance from the centre of the Earth is irrelevant: what matters is the distance above sea level - or, more precisely, above the "geoid", which is the surface of equal potential energy, taking into account gravity, centrifugal force and variations in density. The source of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca is about 1,500ft above sea level, so clearly the river will flow downwards to the sea.

Trying to separate out the gravitational and centripetal components is not really helpful. All that matters is where you are relative to sea level, because the sea does the work of finding the "lowest energy" shape for you.

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16. ### Spectrar GhostSenior Member

How so? Centripetal force vs force of gravity, no?

Gravity towards earths CoG, centripetal force away from the axis of rotation.

Am I missing something? I guess you could claim it would be more precise to use centripetal and gravitational acceleration?

17. ### WhitebeardSenior Member

Rivers go downhill, taking the path of least resistance. The Mississippi just happens to go south. The Rhine in Europe and The Nile in Africa both spend most of their courses going in a Northerly direction towards the North Sea and the Mediterranean respectively. In South America the Amazon and The Orinoco both head East towards the Atlantic, while going back to Africa the Congo flows mainly in a westerly direction, again to Atlantic. Its all down to gravity and the path of least resistance, the spinning of the earth has nothing to do with it.

18. ### Clouds GivemethewilliesActive Member

"The most basic rule of dimensional analysis is that of dimensional homogeneity.[6] Only commensurable quantities (physical quantities having the same dimension) may be compared, equated, added, or subtracted. "
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensional_analysis
I am not bothered by centripetal v centrifugal, or whether you compare forces or accelerations.

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19. ### Village Cat DadNew Member

The St. Johns River, in Florida, flows from south to north. The elevation drop is about 30 ft from headwaters to mouth. If the spinning of the earth had anything to do with, you'd think that it would impact a "lazy" river like the St. Johns. But it doesn't.

You are being a bit pedantic there. We know F = ma, and we know things don’t fly off into space. So for any given object the force due to gravity is more than the effective force due to the earth spinning. We don’t need more for the purposes of this thread.

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21. ### Ranon151New Member

The point isn't that the centrifugal forces cause all rivers to go southwards, but rather that the Earth's rotation helps set the line of sea level where total gravitational potential is zero.

22. ### RorySenior Member

I'm not 100% sure what you mean with this. Can you explain a little further please?

23. ### Village Cat DadNew Member

So the TGP=0 line is to the south if you're in the South Florida, but to the north if you're in Central or North Florida? How why isn't simple elevation/geography/gravity a better explanation? Why does the St. Johns flow north, but many of the other rivers in the Jacksonville area flow in other directions? Rivers flow towards it, because water flows downhill. Even as an ovoid, sea level is sea level. The direction that rivers flow is based upon height above sea level and hard rocks.

24. ### RorySenior Member

I'm not really sure what you mean by "the TGP=0 line" but, basically, the rivers in Florida, like everywhere in the world, are following routes from higher elevations to lower elevations, eventually reaching sea level. The compass direction they flow in is arbitrary - it could be any direction, and it could change between all directions many times over its course (like the Congo). A river's direction is dictated by terrain.

25. ### Village Cat DadNew Member

Hey Rory! Sorry, will try to elaborate -- The St. Johns flows from topography (high to low). Given that the elevation change is very small given the length of the watershed/river, basic physics would indicate that any outside influence (other than simple gravity) would have a noticeable influence on the flow and direction of the river. Having lived here for more than 30 yrs, I can attest that the St. Johns flows south to north. The St. Johns river flows downhill, regardless of the compass direction.

26. ### Village Cat DadNew Member

We're in adamant agreement! Apologize for any misunderstanding, was trying to support the debunk position.

27. ### RorySenior Member

Yup. I was just re-reading and was like, hold on, I'm just saying exactly what he just said - duh, he knows full well why rivers flow in the direction that they do.
Or, to put it another way, the rotation of the earth generates centrifugal force, which causes the earth to be an oblate spheroid rather than a perfect sphere. This means sea level is not always the same distance from the centre of the earth, but neither the rotation nor the shape of the planet have any bearing on which directions rivers flow in: that is solely subject to changes in elevation (above sea level) and topography.

Would that be an accurate paraphrase?

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28. ### Village Cat DadNew Member

Rory, no sweat. I had to dredge up my high school physics after Irma, as had to drain down pool with no power (for four days). Set up a garden hose siphon, and viola! Overnight, drained 4 inches of water from pool to (lower elevation) backyard. No harm, no foul, just communicating!

29. ### RorySenior Member

Indeed - if there was any foul it was mine.

Cheers!

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30. ### Z.W. WolfActive Member

This thought experiment by Isaac Newton should clarify...
http://www.phy6.org/stargaze/Srotfram1.htm
If the earth stopped spinning, (but somehow maintained its oblate shape!), the Mississippi would not flow south, and the oceans would pile up in the northern and southern hemispheres.

If the earth did rotate, but somehow was a perfect sphere and did not have an equatorial bulge, the seas would pile up around the equator and leave the northern and southern poles dry. As Newton argued.

But neither situation is possible, because land and sea are both matter and are affected in identical ways by gravity and "centrifugal force."

The simplest, intuitive way to understand this is: "Centrifugal force" creates the earth's bulge -AND- this same exact "force" also helps water flow that same distance farther away from the center of the earth's mass. It's the same force and it has the same effect on land and sea. That's natural, isn't it?

Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
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31. ### RorySenior Member

I wonder where exactly?

And - wow - I didn't know Jupiter's equitorial rotation is about 28,000mph. That's fast!

32. ### Z.W. WolfActive Member

Good ask, because I can point to an article that explores exactly that.
https://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0610/nospin.html

Edit: The same one that was cited earlier in this thread, btw...

The "Northern Circumpolar Ocean"

That last is important because one mustn't imagine that the earth's current equatorial bulge is a legacy of an earlier time when the earth rotated faster. It wasn't solidified or frozen into the earth. It's a dynamic system. The present equatorial bulge is a result of the current speed of the earth's rotation.

Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
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33. ### Z.W. WolfActive Member

Edited a bit to correct some things and add one more flavor.

There are different flavors of the FE belief in rivers flowing the wrong way.

1. The most common: FE believers have a naive intuitive belief that south is "down" and north is "up" simply because maps and globes traditionally are made to be displayed that way. It goes back to the immutable direction of "down." In this case it's not the Mississippi that outrages them. It's the Nile. The Nile flows "up." To them the sphere earth is an impossible figure to live on, with most of it either a vertical surface or upside down.

2. Another common one: The earth curves such and such miles along the course of the river; therefore the river would have to climb (or fall) such and such miles. Confusing curve with gain or loss in elevation.

3. The more savvy argument is a legacy from Victorian Edwardian times when Rowbotham David Wardlaw Scott produced more skilled sophistries. And it's exactly that argument you presented in the OP. That water would have to "climb" the "slope" of the equatorial bulge, away from the center of the earth and fighting gravity.

Although this antique FE argument is presented, only a minority of current day FE believers actually understand it on any level. When these same are presented with the argument that water is helped up the bulge by centrifugal force they become outraged at the silly ad hoc nature of this. It would be a bizarrely unlikely coincidence that centrifugal force would give water just the exact amount of force to "climb" the "slope" of the bulge - no more, no less. This is because they don't link the bulge itself to that same centrifugal force. They seem to think it's just an arbitrary lump or what-not.

Rowbotham David Wardlaw Scott had no excuse to make this argument, as Isaac Newton had explained all this long before he was born.

Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
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34. ### Z.W. WolfActive Member

You shouldn't speak in terms of simply gravitational potential energy. Not taking everything into account. Trailbalzer said it best.

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35. ### IonNew Member

Agreed with you, but the altitude from wikipedia.org is 450 meters and the difference r1-r2, where r1 is Earth radii at the Gulf of Mexico latitude and r2 is Earth radii at the Itasca lake latitude is more than six thousands meters if you use WGS84 and very similar if you use an other geodedic system. As nobody sees a river flowing uphill, looks like we have to replace our geodedic systems.

36. ### RorySenior Member

Sounds about right: in the OP it's stated that I calculated the difference at 3.72 miles, while the article I quoted had it at 4.12 miles.

Still nothing wrong with either the geodetic system or the idea that rivers can end further from the centre of the earth than they begin though.

PS I do hope we're not losing track of what this thread's actually about, what with all this interesting discussion of rotation, centrifugal force, and oblate spheroids - namely, that Eric Dubay can't be relied upon to perform even the most basic level of research on his "proofs".

Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
37. ### IonNew Member

For Rory: The spinning of Earth reason regarding the Mississippi was taken from this thread, maybe it was my poor understanding... anyway, you said that the Mississippi mouth beeing 1475 feet below its source is the reason and I cannot but agreed. Now we have two possibilities: in the first case the altitude is included in r2, where r2 is the Earth radii at the source of Mississippi latitude, in the second case the altitude of the Itasca lake is not included in r2.

If you calculate r1, the Earth radii at the Mississippi mouth latitude, you will have a diference r2-r1 in excess of six thousand meters in case you are going to use WGS84, which renders irrelevant which of the above cases you wish to consider. That was the reason for which I wrote in my answer to Spectrar Ghost that we have to change our geodedic systems.

38. ### RorySenior Member

I understand the calculation - I did it myself in the OP - but what I'm curious about is what you think is wrong with the source of the Mississippi being around 6000 metres further from the centre of the earth than its mouth?

39. ### IonNew Member

The distance from the center of the Earth cannot be irrelevant because the ocean cannot be below its own floor, which floor is included in r1, where r1 is the Earth radii at the mouth of Mississippi latitude. The "lowest energy surface" about which you wrote is above ocean floor and ocean floor is above Itasca lake in our geodedic systems, including WGS84. I do not have enough altitude at the r2, where r2 is the Earth radii at the Itasca lake latitude, in order to make r1-r2 difference a negative number.

40. ### RorySenior Member

I think you're overcomplicating matters. All relevant explanations are in the thread already, so maybe having another read through may clear things up.

Also, I'm not really sure why you think "ocean floor" would be relevant - unless you mean "ocean surface" (i.e., "sea level").

PS I fully agree with you that the ocean cannot be below its own floor.