Nathan Oakley's Flat Earth "Debates".

IanT

New Member
I have joined this forum after watching Mick West 'debate' Nathan Oakley. Just wanted to say that I am astonished that anyone could put up with the constant abuse and interruption and name calling and maintain the ability to make points.

Major kudos to you Mick. Thank you for doing that although I don't know why you did. I received an invitation to join one of his chats today but having watched that think that I will decline.
 
I have joined this forum after watching Mick West 'debate' Nathan Oakley. Just wanted to say that I am astonished that anyone could put up with the constant abuse and interruption and name calling and maintain the ability to make points.

Major kudos to you Mick. Thank you for doing that although I don't know why you did. I received an invitation to join one of his chats today but having watched that think that I will decline.
Indeed, I once mistook him for a Christian (saint?)..

Now I am not sure what the problem is!

This one?
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb55I03RtSw
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I received an invitation to join one of his chats today but having watched that think that I will decline.
I'd agree with that decision, unfortunately Nathan's tactics of constantly interrupting, name calling, and muting don't really lend themselves to a "debate". I don't think he's actually a true believer - but it's not important either way, as he's clearly not someone worth talking to again.

Thank you for doing that although I don't know why you did.
Mostly because I find them fascinating. There's usually also a side benefit of debating the hardcore, in that other people listening who are closer to the fence might be swayed by some of the arguments.

There's also a deeper reason that became clearer as the conversation progressed - the argument from "perspective" actually seems to be something that people believe. But it's not really been clear what they believe. Clearly they don't understand the geometry or the math, but they don't offer any alternative. But it hinges on things getting smaller as they get further away. As they get smaller the top gets lower (in the illustrations they choose). This top getting lower seems to be misinterpreted as the entire thing getting low, so it sinks below the horizon. "apparently".

I did actually have a nice chat with a couple of anonymous believers (in the Google Hangout) after the show ended. One was convinced that light made a sharp angle turn in air due to refraction, and was incredulous about the idea that airplanes used air pressure to measure altitude. One was hung up on the Pontchartrain causeway curve being "too much". It was interesting talking to them and seeing what got though. Neither could do the math, which is always a communication problem, but I was able to show them things that were new to them.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Patience of a saint. :eek:

I had some interactions with Nathan Oakley a couple of years back and -

There's absolutely nothing I can type right now that won't contravene the politeness policy.
 
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Z.W. Wolf

Senior Member.
I don't think he's actually a true believer...
This is such a tricky question. One that can't be answered yes or no. I think I'll soon have time to expand on something I've already written in another thread. We have to talk about intuitive thinking, self-deception, aggression, rationalization, gas-lighting...

I think we can all agree that you were talking with an aggressive person.
 

edby

Member
29:15 was a difficult moment for Mick. Source: https://youtu.be/Fb55I03RtSw?t=1754



Nathan had the misconception that the curve calculator was a way to calculate the radius of the earth, whereas in fact it is a way to predict what you would see on the assumption the earth that the earth actually did have that radius. Mick knows that, but not sure he nailed that misconception.


It’s interesting how much of debate is not science, but body language. Well in this case voice language, meaning tone of voice, apparent conviction, hesitation etc., rather than logic or content.

[edit] E.g. at 30:55 Mick correctly says it’s a way of checking the standard model, i.e. checking what the model predicts against actual observations. Nathan then says ‘is that a way of double checking an assumption?’ adding ‘so it’s essentially useless’. Note the addition of ‘double’. Then he calls Mick a ‘blithering idiot’, and starts shouting. ‘What are you on about?’. From that point, any time Mick tries to set it straight, he gets accused of stuttering.

[edit]

There's also a deeper reason that became clearer as the conversation progressed - the argument from "perspective" actually seems to be something that people believe. But it's not really been clear what they believe.
They actually state the belief around 35:00, namely that the curve calculator, which is supposed to represent ‘what you see’, does not take perspective into account, given that perspective is what you see. So you should have a statement next to the calculator saying that perspective has not been taken into account, to reduce the object’s actual height to its apparent height.

Mick replies ‘in what units do you measure apparent size?’. The rest of it was extraordinary.
 
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edby

Member
This on Oakley. In summary, Oakley made a broadcast about a flight from 'Bali to Los Angeles', which would have supported the FE position had the flight actually been from Bali to Los Angeles. However it later turned out the news story was incorrect, and the flight was actually from Tapei to Los Angeles, which supported the RE position. When this was pointed out (many times) to Oakley, he simply refused to accept it.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Du09Qu8YjI
 

edby

Member
This is such a tricky question. One that can't be answered yes or no. I think I'll soon have time to expand on something I've already written in another thread. We have to talk about intuitive thinking, self-deception, aggression, rationalization, gas-lighting...

[…]
Right. What is a verifiable test for self-deception, as against lying or simple false belief? The liar has to be conscious it is a lie. But what about self-deception or lying to oneself? The person you are lying to is you. So you must be conscious of the falsehood in order to be lying, yet in order for the deception to be successful you must fail to be conscious of it.


There was a very great book by Sartre about the problem, although I am not sure he solved it.
 

edby

Member
Nathan at 42:35 ‘Models aren’t the earth. When we take a picture, Mick, not once do we take a picture of a model, we take a picture of the real world’.

Very true, but at that moment the screen shows a picture of parallel railway lines, with the lines converging on the picture. So the picture indeed is of the real world, but the lines converge on the picture, not in the world. In the world, they remain parallel (we hope, given that they are railway lines).
 
Right. What is a verifiable test for self-deception, as against lying or simple false belief? The liar has to be conscious it is a lie. But what about self-deception or lying to oneself? The person you are lying to is you. So you must be conscious of the falsehood in order to be lying, yet in order for the deception to be successful you must fail to be conscious of it.


There was a very great book by Sartre about the problem, although I am not sure he solved it.
Best to trust you instincts when it comes to crooks, and not intellectualize too much.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I was thinking the best way for them to understand that they don't need to account for perspective in a curvature calculator - i.e., that they can use the actual size of an object, not the apparent size - would be to encourage them to make a scale model.

They can measure angles and distances, do the calculations, and check that it matches.

Doubtful that it would satisfy Oakley, though, given the quote above.

Shame the whole thing got so hung up on the link to the standard atmosphere model - and that they wouldn't click on "here".

Mick's giggling was awesome though.
 

edby

Member
I suppose there are ‘units of apparent size’. E.g. I can move a 12" ruler so that its image is against the image of a book.

However both the image of the book and the image of the ruler will have an 'apparent size'. If the apparent size of one changes, so does the other, in the same measure. So we aren't really measuring apparent size at all, but real size.

Wittgenstein had loads of stuff about this, though don't know who reads Wittgenstein these days.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Nathan had the misconception that the curve calculator was a way to calculate the radius of the earth, whereas in fact it is a way to predict what you would see on the assumption the earth that the earth actually did have that radius.
Yes, which relates to me talking about science being a model, one that you can test. The curve calculator makes predictions that you can test. I tried to explain distant mountains are the best observation targets, as they they go above the worst refraction.

One thing I keep forgetting is that as well as a curve calculator I wrote a radius calculator. You put in the viewer height, the object distance, and the amount hidden (which will generally be a rough estimate). It then tells you the radius of the earth that your observations match.
https://www.metabunk.org/radius/
Metabunk 2018-06-05 07-36-22.jpg

This then is "proof of R" (by which they mean evidence for the value of the radius of the earth).

It's a bit of a moot point, as they are arguing the Earth is flat, so ANY value of R would indicate a sphere.

Math at: https://www.metabunk.org/posts/186828/
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I was thinking the best way for them to understand that they don't need to account for perspective in a curvature calculator - i.e., that they can use the actual size of an object, not the apparent size
Another way would be to use the apparent size in a mathematical model. Which relates to another couple of points that were shouted down. The units used, and a pinhole camera.

Unit's could be two things: degrees (an angle), or length in an image.

Degrees would be used to measure the visual angle at the eye (or camera) of a triangle, the angle a below (they note only half the angle, a/2
Metabunk 2018-06-05 08-01-03.jpg


The length in an image could be pixels, or screen inches, or an actual length of the image on the back of a pinhole camera. That's the value d.

So given any of these measurements of apparent size, I'd encourage people to work out the math for the amount of an object hidden by the horizon, purely in terms of actual size.

These calculations can be verified with scale models (be careful though as zooming and focussing can change things for small models - unless you actually use a pinhole camera. You can then verify they don't change for larger models. You can then go on to prove the approximate radius of the Earth.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
29:15 was a difficult moment for Mick.
LOL
(38:23) "the only time the lamppost is at it's actual height is when your nose is touching it".

Where did you even find these guys @Mick West to bother trying to have a conversation with them?!

There's usually also a side benefit of debating the hardcore, in that other people listening who are closer to the fence might be swayed by some of the arguments.
I'm sorry, but between the excessive extreme name calling and the utter lack of understanding that a lamppost doesn't magically change it's size (regarding scientific calculations) because of YOUR perspective.. no one who actually listens to this guy is "closer to the fence". This is me, the most scientifically illiterate person you know, telling you that his listeners aren't reachable by you trying to explain how science works.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I'm sorry, but between the excessive extreme name calling and the utter lack of understanding that a lamppost doesn't magically change it's size (regarding scientific calculations) because of YOUR perspective.. no one who actually listens to this guy is "closer to the fence". This is me, the most scientifically illiterate person you know, telling you that his listeners aren't reachable by you trying to explain how science works.
I'm an incurable optimist. But I don't see "his listeners" as some homogenous bloc. It's a tiny corner of flat-earhterdom (itself a rather rare belief). Other people will watch the video besides his fans.

But I concur, this particular video is unlikely to do much. It did however help clarify more how they misunderstand perspective. A big part of of the problem of talking to real flat-earthers is that their idea of reality is so strange that it's difficult to understand. Maybe using "apparent size" instead of "actual size" (and getting the same apparent result) might be helpful to someone.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
I was thinking the best way for them to understand that they don't need to account for perspective in a curvature calculator - i.e., that they can use the actual size of an object, not the apparent size - would be to encourage them to make a scale model.
you don't account for perspective in ANY math equation. Unless the question specifically relates to the observer, like "how much smaller does an object look to me if I am 4 miles away?" Straight math has no observer.

ex:
elementary school math problem:

The closest fencepost is 5' high.

If you lay the 17 matching fence posts, in this picture, end to end, what is the total length?

78468478_XS.jpg


Oakley's answer is 49'. Due to apparent size.

But 17 matching fence posts (all 5'tall) laid end to end is 85'. I don't care what your perspective is, if your warehouse is 50' you can NOT lay the 17 fence posts end to end in your warehouse. Period.
 

benthamitemetric

Senior Member
I'm typically not very interested in the FE debates, but I thought you did an admirable job here Mick and that your patience and politeness served you very well. I think it's great that you take the time to participate in such discussions. From what I saw, it seems to me that the most difficult part (especially when talking to someone as belligerent as the person on the other end of this debate) is anticipating how their melange of misunderstandings will coalesce in any given argument and what points are worth clarifying when there are so many faulty assumptions behind any given assertion they may make (see, e.g., the assertion in this discussion that "science," and not the scientific method, is a method). In this case, the hosts were clearly not interested in a dialectic as they simply ignored your attempts to get back to the rotten foundations of their mistaken arguments and instead tried, quite deliberately it seems, to keep the discussion mired in talking points and semantics. Their whole line of argument about there being no value to testing assumptions while at the same time touting the virtues of "science" was something else.
 

DasKleineTeilchen

Active Member
but I thought you did an admirable job here Mick and that your patience and politeness served you very well
thats the understatement of the century. the amount of insulting, name-calling and disinterest from nathan was just insane. and then he seriously had the nerves to throw out gems like this:

(45:30)
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
29:15 was a difficult moment for Mick.
Yes, and it seems like tens of people have leapt upon this as some kind of admission that I think the Earth is flat. My fault for trying a more nuanced explanation.

What I was trying to get across was that the calculator is a mathematical model of the earth, it assumes the earth is a sphere of radius 3959 miles. You can then verify that the results of the calculator matches reality, which is strong evidence that the Earth is actually approximately that shape and size. That's the whole point of having the calculator.

Unfortunately they took my quiet "yeah" while I was thinking of how to explain this (given the problems of communication already evident) as me admitting something. It's an interesting challenge - how do you explain 3D mathematical models to people who have a very limited grasp of 3D geometry.

I'm thinking a good approach is to explain how you can have a Globe Earth hidden amount calculator, and a Flat Earth hidden amount calculator. Whichever calculator gives the most consistently correct results is probably the one that is the best model of the shape of the Earth. Ground truth for competing calculators.

I should have waited until they came up with their calculator, which of course is something they can't do.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
The other one that sticks out was when he was going on about "the earth magically changing its size and shape" (because of variation in radius at different latitudes).

It must be bloody awful trying to explain things while someone's screeching at you and being unbelievably unreasonable.
 

edby

Member
I'm thinking a good approach is to explain how you can have a Globe Earth hidden amount calculator, and a Flat Earth hidden amount calculator. Whichever calculator gives the most consistently correct results is probably the one that is the best model of the shape of the Earth. Ground truth for competing calculators.

I should have waited until they came up with their calculator, which of course is something they can't do.
Surely the FE calculator would be the same as yours, but with a very large number as the radius?
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Why would there be a hidden amount on the flat earth? How would you calculate the distance to the horizon?

You could do a joke one, I suppose: just use RE math and have it give you answers to questions like "distance to horizon-obscuring haze", etc.

Question to all: if you had to enter into an online debate with Nathan Oakley (on something flat earth related) what would you choose?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Surely the FE calculator would be the same as yours, but with a very large number as the radius?
You don't really need a calculator though as by the geometry the horizon is infinitely far away, so nothing is hidden. But you can get an approximation to that with a 10,000,000,000,000 mile radius planet (any bigger and the computer can't handle the numbers, I have an integer conversion in there somewhere.
Metabunk 2018-06-06 10-34-00.jpg

However it's possible to contrive a temperature gradient on a flat that make it look like things are behind the horizon from a certain viewpoint.
Metabunk 2018-06-06 10-41-53.jpg

https://www.metabunk.org/mirage/

Here's that same setup with refraction turned off, on a flat earh
Metabunk 2018-06-06 10-44-15.jpg


And on a sphere earth, no refraction
Metabunk 2018-06-06 10-45-15.jpg

That explanation does not really work, as it fails when you change altitude, but it's the type of thing I might expect someone to try to use as a basis for a FE mathematical model.

The problem of course is that it's not amenable to a simple equation. I use ray tracing (or more like wavefront tracing) in the above. You can view source to get an idea of how complicated it is.
 

benthamitemetric

Senior Member
Mick--I've been thinking about this and listening to and reading Flat Earther arguments for the past day or so and I think you could potentially bridge the gap with the persuadable by offering a second option for the calculator: let someone enter in their own observational data and solve for r. You'd just have to make sure the answer came with a boilerplate statement about the error caused by refraction and unknown measurement issues. Letting people calculate a value for r would counter Nathan's seemingly deliberate attempts to mischaracterize the calculator's significance, I think
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Mick--I've been thinking about this and listening to and reading Flat Earther arguments for the past day or so and I think you could potentially bridge the gap with the persuadable by offering a second option for the calculator: let someone enter in their own observational data and solve for r. You'd just have to make sure the answer came with a boilerplate statement about the error caused by refraction and unknown measurement issues. Letting people calculate a value for r would counter Nathan's seemingly deliberate attempts to mischaracterize the calculator's significance, I think
See post #13 above:

One thing I keep forgetting is that as well as a curve calculator I wrote a radius calculator. You put in the viewer height, the object distance, and the amount hidden (which will generally be a rough estimate). It then tells you the radius of the earth that your observations match.
https://www.metabunk.org/radius/
View attachment 33136

This then is "proof of R" (by which they mean evidence for the value of the radius of the earth).

It's a bit of a moot point, as they are arguing the Earth is flat, so ANY value of R would indicate a sphere.

Math at: https://www.metabunk.org/posts/186828/
 

benthamitemetric

Senior Member
See post #13 above:
Ahhh--missed that. No surprise you are already out ahead on that point.

What's the easiest way to find these calculators on metabunk? I can get to them via google searches, but actually haven't been able to find them directly via the homepage. Granted I'm not the savviest of folks but, if I'm having trouble finding them, others may be as well. You may want to consider creating a separate link on the home page that brings you just to great resources like these calculators (if it's not already there somewhere that I haven't found).
 

DavidB66

Active Member
Ahhh--missed that. No surprise you are already out ahead on that point.

What's the easiest way to find these calculators on metabunk? I can get to them via google searches, but actually haven't been able to find them directly via the homepage. Granted I'm not the savviest of folks but, if I'm having trouble finding them, others may be as well. You may want to consider creating a separate link on the home page that brings you just to great resources like these calculators (if it's not already there somewhere that I haven't found).
I'll second that. The one I can never find is the calculator for 'side-to-side' curvature. I have to search through my old bookmarks for that one. It still exists, but I don't know any way to find it from the Home page.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
That would be a great first question for flat earth folk to answer, and then test.
According to a post at tfes.org:

Which was confirmed by their main spokesperson as being "the correct answer".
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Anthony Riley emailed me, again claiming:
This is fascinating if it's actually a belief someone has. Assuming he was genuine in his misunderstanding I replied with the following:


Imagine you've got a very long rigid rod, one that can be expanded in length.

Put one end of this rod at your eye (or camera), lower the rod so it just skims the the horizon a few miles away. Extend the rod until it hits the distant mountain. Consider the point where the rod hits the mountain.

Where the rod hits that mountain is where the line of sight from your eye to the horizon hits the mountain. There's a straight line from your eye to the horizon then to the mountain.

Anything above that POINT on the mountain is visible. Anything below that point is hidden.

The calculator calculates the height of that point above the water level. The actual hidden height. The calculator tells you how much of the mountain is hidden.

Applying perspective is calculating what this height would be in an image (like a photo). It's not hard to apply perspective. To apply perspective you just multiply actual sizes by f/d where d is the distance to the mountain, and f is the focal length of the camera. That gives you the height on the film or sensor of the camera (or the back of your eye).

In 3D graphics you apply this f/d scale separately to X and Y, with d = Z, but the end result is the same. It's not that complicated. It might look complicated, but it's not.
unnamed.jpg
Look, it's just multiplying by f and then dividing by Z (which is the distance to the object)

The focal length f is really just a scaling factor. If you just want relative apparent sizes you can given it an arbitrary value, like 1, giving you 1/d

It's really that simple. To get apply perspective you divided by the distance.
 

edby

Member
A rather long reply. The crux of it is "Applying perspective is calculating what this height would be in an image.

I.e. perspective rules apply to images, not to the things they are an image of. As if it weren't obvious.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
A rather long reply. The crux of it is "Applying perspective is calculating what this height would be in an image.

I.e. perspective rules apply to images, not to the things they are an image of. As if it weren't obvious.
It isn't obvious to Anthony. The point of the longer explanation is to try to get them to think about what is going on, and what perspective actually is.

The faulty logic seems to be:
1) We see things in perspective when we look at things (like mountains beyond the horizon)
2) The curve calculator does not apply perspective
3) Therefore the calculator's results don't apply to what we see

It's "not even wrong" logic. A bunch of vague descriptions of things not understood.
 
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