Debunked: View of Blue Ridge Mountains impossible on spherical earth

Rory

Senior Member.
A youtube video claims a discrepancy in the observed relative heights of four peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, supporting the flat earth hypothesis, however:
• The viewpoint indicated in the video does not match the actual viewpoint, as can be verified by looking at a map. By drawing a line from where he says he was, passing to the left of Fryingpan Mountain, Graybeard Mountain will be on the right of it, not on the left, as in his photo
• His stated altitude is wrong. Not only because the camera is not where he thought it was, but because he is relying on a cheap altimeter for his figures, whereas even good altimeters can often be 200-300 feet out
• His correct camera position and altitude can be found using image matching on Google Earth. He was actually a little to the north and west of where he says he was, and about 100 feet higher
• Some of the summit elevations given are incorrect
• When calculations are applied to the correct elevations, there is no discrepancy with the globe earth model.

Original OP

The video below shows a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina that, it is claimed, should be impossible on the spherical earth. The video is 1 hour long, but most of the first 45 minutes is background and methodology. The video maker is (seemingly) very thorough in his calculations and research, as shown in the first part of the video.

Ultimately, his claim resides on apparently being able to see mountain summits of similar heights but varying distances (6-41 miles) mostly aligned on the horizontal, whereas those that are 30+ miles away "should show substantial declination".

The key image is probably this one, from 51:30 of the video:

This shows an image of 4 summits taken from his vantage point, which he says is at an elevation of 5,382 feet. He doesn't give coordinates for where he is, but as explained below, I calculated his stated viewpoint to be at 35.345686, -82.851524.

The summits for those mountains from there are, in order from left to right, 41, 40.8, 39.1, and 5.5 miles away.

The premise then is that, given that the three distant summits should "drop" around 770 feet further than the nearby Fryingpan Mountain, the view is impossible on a spherical earth, and actually supports the flat earth model, if the posted elevations are correct.

Hypothesis #1: He's looking at the wrong mountains.

Because he was near the summit of Tennent Mountain he entered that as a location into peakfinder and received the following view:

Although he has said he was only 1.2 miles from the summit of Tennent Mountain - though over 650 feet lower - entering his actual viewpoint changes the picture substantially:

UPDATE: THE ABOVE VIEWPOINT IS WRONG. WHAT I'VE SUBSEQUENTLY LEARNED IS THAT WHEN INPUTTING GPS COORDINATES INTO PEAKFINDER, EVEN THOUGH IT SHOWS THEM IN THE BOX, IT ACTUALLY SWITCHES TO THE NEAREST AVAILABLE VIEWPOINT, WHICH CAN BE SOME DISTANCE AWAY

In this viewpoint there are several mountains to the west of Fryingpan Mountain that summit at around 6,600 feet, including some not named above which you can see if you click on the link and use the binoculars tool, such as Mount Craig, Big Tom, and Balsam Cone (around 45 miles in the distance).

40 miles further from Fryingpan, but 1200 feet higher, would put them roughly level from the viewing point of the photographer, and explain the "impossible view".

Determining his actual location

At 30:40 in his video he shows the camera location on a topo map:

Which is easily identified by following the elevation lines from Grassy Cove Gap:

In addition to the incorrect view shown in Peakfinder, if we draw a line from the camera location so that it passes to the west/left of Fryingpan, we can see that Greybeard is actually to the east/right of Fryingpan.

So it's quite possible he's mislabelling the three peaks, and actually looking at peaks with summits substantially higher. Or that his stated location is incorrect, and that the view from the right location works out just fine on the spherical earth.

Or, that the earth is flat.

But I need help figuring out which.

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skephu

Senior Member.
The shape of the three mountains he shows matches the image in Peakfinder well:

Even if his identification is correct, does he account for perspective? For refraction?

Mick West

Staff member
Google Earth can be very helpful here. I normally put polygon markers of different colors on the tops of various points of interest. Then use "add photo" to get a match. The general technique is included here:

(polygon marker at 4:20)

The GE view is a very good representation of the actual view without refraction. In claims like this the GE view invariably matches the photographed view, with refraction being an issue only near the horizon, and perhaps a slight vertical offset for standard atmospheric refraction.

I'm on the road (in the incredibly flat looking Louisiana) but will try this when I return.

Rory

Senior Member.
The shape of the three mountains he shows matches the image in Peakfinder well.
It does, amazingly well, apart from the mountains in the peakfinder view all being at significantly different "apparent elevations" (ie, degrees below the horizontal).

This could be accounted for by the viewer in his peakfinder image being at 6000 feet, whereas in he says he was at 5382 feet.

The fact remains, though, that the viewing point entered was the wrong one, and that entering the right one totally transforms the projected view.

Is it possible that the point he says he's at is wrong, but that his original peakfinder image is right?

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CeruleanBlu

Senior Member.

He is almost pointing his camera at my house

But seriously, I live approximately 5 miles from the summit of Mt. Pisgah "as the crow flies" (35 minutes by road), so if you need someone to head up there and take some photos back in his direction I might be persuaded to do so, (after the gas crisis due to local pipeline leak is over, and I get some goofing off fuel in the tank).

Senior Member.
Straight off the bat, there does seem to be one error he's making, in that he has entered 0, rather than 5382 feet for "viewer height". But as he's looking at "drop" rather than "obscured height" he still arrives at the right figure for his purposes (770 feet).

The key image is probably this one, from 51:30 of the video:

This shows an image of 4 summits taken from his vantage point at elevation 5,382 feet (GPS coordinates 35.345686, -82.851524).

The summits for those mountains from his viewpoint are, in order from left to right, 41, 40.8, 39.1, and 5.5 miles away.

Hypothesis #1: He's looking at the wrong mountains.

Because he was near the summit of Tennent Mountain he entered that as a location into peakfinder and received the following view:

Although he was only 1.2 miles from the summit of Tennent Mountain - though over 650 feet lower - entering his actual viewpoint changes the picture substantially:

In this viewpoint there are several mountains to the west of Fryingpan Mountain that summit at around 6,600 feet, including some not named above which you can see if you click on the link and use the binoculars tool, such as Mount Craig, Big Tom, and Balsam Cone (around 45 miles in the distance).

I plotted out most of the mountain tips that would locate easily on Google Earth

Distance to Fryingpan Mountain (as accurately stated):

Distance to Graybeard Mountain (as accurately stated):

I tried to recreate the image with the 4 peaks (had trouble pinning "Pinnacle" so it's not in the image.. but "Bald Knob" lines up in the right place, even though it is so far away [its possible there's another "Bald Knob" as it seems some of these mountain/peak names are common, even throughout a close proximity to this area]) <--(Update: noted in following posts)

(The Bald Knob Mountain labeled in this Google Earth picture is 267 miles away, not 41 miles)

Cropped to:

(red = Graybeard Mountain, blue = Fryingpan Mountain, white = Bald Knob Mountain)
(The Bald Knob Mountain in my Google Earth photo is not 41 miles away, but 267 miles away)

Comparison:

(I noticed my spelling error in Google Earth: "Graybread"... forgive me )

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Senior Member.
At the 45 minute mark, I think he mistook Patton Knob for Bald Knob?

^From left to right: Bald Knob (267 miles away), Patton Knob, Graybeard, Fryingpan

(Pinnacle Mountain should be in between Patton and Graybeard but I couldn't accurately find/pin it in Google Earth)

Patton Knob is 41 miles away, which would make his numbers correct for that 4 peak photo

This shows an image of 4 summits taken from his vantage point at elevation 5,382 feet (GPS coordinates 35.345686, -82.851524).

The summits for those mountains from his viewpoint are, in order from left to right, 41, 40.8, 39.1, and 5.5 miles away.

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Senior Member.
Ok I found where the video states where Bald Knob and Pinnacle are

compared to:

..So I marked those in Google Earth:

Distance to Bald Knob:

Senior Member.
I tried to recreate his shot from the correct location, so I added colored polygons to their correct elevations and turned on the sun (haha feeling powerful) so they would contrast better.

Still from the beginning:

Zoomed:

If I could get a finer grain I would, but that's as good as I can get in Google Earth, in visually comparing with this photo

Senior Member.
At the 54:39 mark he asks why Graybeard isn't lower in the photo.. but never takes into account perspective when measuring the height distance between the 39mi and further peaks in that photo, and then with the 5.5 mi distant peak which would obviously be sitting lower in the photo due to perspective. I don't know why he ignores that?

Couldn't we presumably do the math to figure out where the peak should be relative to our "horizon" line?

Given you know the distance to the object, (and the lens?) ,cant we figure out with a perspective grid where "sea level" or "0" elevation is anywhere in a photograph, and calculate where a mountain's peak should lay relative to the photo's middle "horizon" line? (as long as there is something in the photo that can be referenced as a "sea level" flat so the grid can be applied accurately, unless this can be done without a reference point?)

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Staff member

tinkertailor

Senior Member.
Am I correct in assuming that all this stuff can only be done in Google Earth, and not in Google Maps on a browser? I've tried to do similar things on Maps and it's //very// difficult and laborious to do.
I was too busy laughing at 'bald knob' and its meaning to our UK members to notice..

Mick West

Staff member
Am I correct in assuming that all this stuff can only be done in Google Earth, and not in Google Maps on a browser? I've tried to do similar things on Maps and it's //very// difficult and laborious to do.

You've got a lot more flexibility and tools in Google Earth. You can do a little in Maps, but it's fiddy to set the viewpoint, and you can't set markers or zoom quite as well.

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Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
At the 54:39 mark he asks why Graybeard isn't lower in the photo.. but never takes into account perspective when measuring the height distance between the 39mi and further peaks in that photo, and then with the 5.5 mi distant peak which would obviously be sitting lower in the photo due to perspective. I don't know why he ignores that?

Isn't the guy's whole point that straight lines of sight should apply between his vantage point and other peaks? How would perspective affect that?

Rory

Senior Member.
Great work, @Bass In Your Face - I'm a total GE novice so would've struggled with any of that.

So it does seem that he had the correct mountains labelled? Though I'm still confused as to why Greybeard appears to the right of the line through Fryingpan.

I'm not sure why perspective would play a role in this - actually, it seems like a large scale Wallace experiment: he has three points, pretty much the same height, and is measuring between them.

So it does seem that either Fryingpan - the mid-point - should be higher, or that the far mountains should be lower. Unless Fryingpan - being actually only 14% of the way there - is too close to make a difference.

As for where the horizontal/0 degrees should be - isn't it drop height plus object height?

Viewer height = 5382 feet (plus however high he climbed the tree)
Fryingpan peak = c. 5310 feet
Lookout tower = 70 feet, therefore red line is at about 20 feet above the summit

Predicted drop height for 5.5 miles = 20.17 feet (link)

Red line = Fryingpan summit + portion of tower + drop height

So assuming the viewer was about 10-15 feet off the ground (5392-5397 feet), and the red line is at 5350 feet, I make it that the red line is approximately 0.12 degrees below the horizontal.

Or, to put it another way, the horizontal should be around where the top of the tower is.

In looking at those figures, though, I've significant uncertainty over the height of Fryingpan Mountain.

The USGS figures put it between 1610 and 1619 metres (5282 and 5312 feet).
Google maps and peakfinder has it at 5318 feet.
Summitpost at 5340 feet.
The guy in the video has it at 5380 feet.

Obviously using any of those figures would change things.

Hypothesis #2: It's exactly as it should be

Someone with better software and skills than me could probably work out, as he has done (from about 51:00 in his video), how far the distant peaks actually are below the horizontal, and how this compares with the geometric predictions.

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Rory

Senior Member.
Isn't the guy's whole point that straight lines of sight should apply between his vantage point and other peaks? How would perspective affect that?
I think his point is that, in being at the same approximate elevation as a mountain 5.5 miles away, he's setting himself up similar to how Wallace did at Bedford Levels, or how Mick suggested during the build-up to Lake Balaton.

In those cases, though, the points were actually in the middle, rather than 1/7th of the way there.

I don't think perspective would affect it. It would change the sizes of the mountains, but really all we're using here are single points, such as the summits or, in the case of Fryingpan, a mark about 20 feet up the fire tower.

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Senior Member.
Isn't the guy's whole point that straight lines of sight should apply between his vantage point and other peaks? How would perspective affect that?

At 53:56 he claims that Graybeard SHOULD be lower than it is, because he is measuring everything in the photo with one linear scale, even though everything in the photo is at different distances and therefore different scales.

Those screenshots of the 3 '39mi-41mi' distant mountains are being compared with this horizontal line

He is saying Graybeard should be lower than Fryingpan, but thats if perspective didn't exist, and we saw things with parallel lines and not converging lines.

And from what I discovered, Google Earth didnt have a problem with it (see below). I will revisit this GE shot later tonight, and hope for a finer grain as Mick suggested I can do.

Senior Member.
I couldn't find him anywhere saying WHY the further mountains should be lower than the closer mountain. It makes no sense. Isn't he supposed to be relating how much "drop" there is relevant to something? And I don't see any sort of reference point (like a clear horizon). All he does is measure 770 feet below that tip, and claim thats where the tip should be, but its completely baseless..can someone point me to where I'm wrong, if I am?

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
At 53:56 he claims that Graybeard SHOULD be lower than it is, because he is measuring everything in the photo with one linear scale, even though everything in the photo is at different distances and therefore different scales.

Forgive me for not wanting to wade through the entire vid, but I thought he was presuming that sighting a straight line from his location, through a certain peak's top, should be way above another more distant peak's top, of Earth is a sphere. That would make distances irrelevant, wouldn't it?

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Isn't he supposed to be relating how much "drop" there is relevant to something?

I thought he was figuring relative to "0" elevation, as in three points which are equal elevation should not be in a straight line on a GE. Maybe I'm not understanding his argument.

Mick West

Staff member
I think people tend to be a little confused about what "level" is, especially "eye level", which in the context of the horizon seems defined as "the high point that's in front of me". This goes along with the horizon "rising to eye level".

I was in a plane yesterday, and it struck me how easy it was to convince yourself that any arbitrary point near the horizon was at "eye level". Like here, "level" is (according to my Theodolite app) just above the clouds. But it was perfectly easy to convince myself that the bright clouds below were actually at "eye level" simply by looking at them.

So perhaps something similar here, kind of double thinking. If the hills are the same height, then he should have to look "down" a bit due to curvature, but to him it seems like the top of the hill is at "eye level", because he's looking straight at it. He can't tell he's looking down a few degrees as there is no point of absolute reference.

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Is he really counting on "eye level" in his analysis? If so, your point is well taken. I thought he was lining up three points he thought should be in a certain relationship to each other, elevation wise. I guess I might have to watch the whole vid. Groan....

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
Is he really counting on "eye level" in his analysis? If so, your point is well taken. I thought he was lining up three points he thought should be in a certain relationship to each other, elevation wise. I guess I might have to watch the whole vid. Groan....
Yes, surely his point is that, given a curved Earth, a straight line from a point 5382' above sea level, through a hill 5380' above sea level, should pass well above a hill 5375' above sea level that is a great distance away?

Mick West

Staff member
I must admit I have not watched the video Sorry.

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Yes, surely his point is that, given a curved Earth, a straight line from a point 5382' above sea level, through a hill 5380' above sea level, should pass well above a hill 5375' above sea level that is a great distance away?

That's how I took it. So... is anyone showing THAT idea to be wrong? I don't see how perspective could enter in to that type of observation.

Rory

Senior Member.
Yes, surely his point is that, given a curved Earth, a straight line from a point 5382' above sea level, through a hill 5380' above sea level, should pass well above a hill 5375' above sea level that is a great distance away?
Exactly. That's his point.

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
So unless he's looking at the wrong peaks or has his own observation elevation wrong, how is he wrong?

Rory

Senior Member.
I must admit I have not watched the video Sorry.
Skimming the last fifteen minutes is enough to get the idea.

So unless he's looking at the wrong peaks or has his own observation elevation wrong, how is he wrong?
I thought maybe looking at things from a sideways view might be useful. So I did some basic sketches.

The first one shows the various points that we're looking at: camera; the red line above Fryingpan; and the peak of Greybeard.

Elevations are all from same source, so if they're incorrect, at least they're consistently incorrect.

The second one is breaking that down into more workable shapes and measurements:

Note: The points r (red line above Fryingpan) and g (Greybeard), at 5338 and 4345 respectively, are the summit elevations minus the drop height.

After subtracting the "heights above level" from the camera elevation I then make some triangles:

Triangle 1 should give us the viewing angle from the camera (c) to the red line above Fryingpan (r). I've put 29000 for the hypotenuse as an estimate, because I don't know off the top of my head how to calculate it from the arc, and don't believe it will make much difference.

The angle cr is 0.15°, which is very close to the curve calculator prediction, and also to what peakfinder shows.

Triangle 2 should give us the viewing angle from the camera to Greybeard (g).

The angle is 0.29°.

Triangle 3 - which should say 206000, not 20600 - shows where the summit of Greybeard would be (g') if the camera was pointing down at -0.15°.

The result is 548 feet below the horizontal.

From this I would say that the camera is higher than he says it is. Or that the earth is flat.

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Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Triangle 3 shows where the summit of Greybeard would be if the camera was pointing down at -0.15°.

Of what consequence is the camera angle if he's just comparing a straight line relative to 3 peaks? I'll look back at the OP. Maybe I have overlooked something.

PS: I see a lot of questions asked in the OP, but lacking conclusions. Can a new summary be posted?

PPS: Sorry if I'm being dense, here.

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Mick West

Staff member
I'm thinking the best approach here is to get a matching GE view. I'll have a bash later, but right now I'm dealing with some plumbing problems.

One trick is to use the Elevation Profile for a path, which gives you a good sense of the relative heights along a sight line.

skephu

Senior Member.
Elevations are all from same source, so if they're incorrect, at least they're consistently incorrect.

Shouldn't the heights be perpendicular to the surface?

Rory

Senior Member.
Shouldn't the heights be perpendicular to the surface?
Oh yeah. I wonder why I forgot that? I did it in my preliminary sketch...

I guess I can use the curve calculator to work out the tilt angles. At 5.5 miles it's 0.08 degrees, and at 39.1 miles it's 0.556.

The difference it makes to the distance to the horizontal is negligible - mere inches - and it barely adds anything to the vertical distance either (7 and 52 feet respectively).

I'm thinking the best approach here is to get a matching GE view.
I'm thinking that's the best way too. I'm not convinced that his stated camera position is right. I've been trying to find a matching view in peakfinder, but not having much luck. I guess with GE you can pinpoint the precise camera location and take it from there.

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Rory

Senior Member.
UPDATE: I was playing with peakfinder and came to realise that when GPS coordinates are entered it moves to the nearest available viewpoint.

In a nutshell: no good, and Hypothesis #1 can be discounted.

Senior Member.
To elaborate further on my Google Earth endeavor, this is a really quick graphic i made trying to show how small errors in his numbers can create drastically different changes in observation.

(My perspective comment from before, I believe, was a misinterpretation of what he was trying to show, sorry for the confusion)

skephu

Senior Member.
I'm not convinced that his stated camera position is right.
If he identified the peaks correctly then his camera must have been more to the south, possibly somewhere here:

Otherwise, Graybeard would have been behind Fryingpan and not visible.

Mick West

Staff member
The key image is probably this one, from 51:30 of the video:

This shows an image of 4 summits taken from his vantage point at elevation 5,382 feet (GPS coordinates 35.345686, -82.851524).

That GPS coordinate cannot be correct, as from there Fryingpan (Blue) appears between Pinnacle (Yellow) and Greybeard (Red)

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
To elaborate further on my Google Earth endeavor, this is a really quick graphic i made trying to show how small errors in his numbers can create drastically different changes in observation.

(My perspective comment from before, I believe, was a misinterpretation of what he was trying to show, sorry for the confusion)
Now, THIS seems to address what he is saying on the vid.

Mick West

Staff member
If he actually identified the viewpoint precisely with GPS, this would be trivial to explain.

Senior Member.
To elaborate more on my last post, here is a STRAIGHT line from his location to the further mountains, the line is a tangent to the middle of the distance (not tangent to the observer) and it's elevation is really close to where he was.

Green = Bald Knob, Red = Pinnacle, Blue = Graybeard

And a .gif:

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