Stephen Hawking's "Genius" Helicopter Demonstration of Lake Curvature

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In Episode 6 of Stephen Hawking's "Genius", a demonstration of the curvature of the earth is demonstrated with a helicopter.

Original helicopter:

Wireframe for reference later:

Here's a.gif of the helicopter originally landing (the .gif ping-pongs back and forth)
Timestamp is 14:43

Here is a comparison of 4 different shots from this part of the video, brightened a little to see better

..notice the changes in the helicopters shape due to refraction.

Here is a wire-frame overlay:

Here's a .gif of this overlay:

So that was just the helicopter landing.

Here is where the helicopter is when they take height reading.

a .gif to show refraction changes, timestamp at 16:02:

Here's a still of that shot that shows the red light on the bottom of the helicopter (for easier comparison/overlay):
(I also brightened the shot a little)

Here is a wireframe overlay, with markings for what *seems* to be a mirage line and where the horizon *could* be after analyzing each frame:

Here is a .gif to show the overlay better:

After testing how he is kneeling in the video to look through the telescope, it seems the height is about 2.5 feet, not 3 feet.

Let's say their distance of 6 miles was dead on:

And here is if they are off by a half mile:

So given the amount of refraction going on and the hazyness of the "horizon", its very possible (just based on these photos and the few numbers we're given knowledge of) that they actually are ~24 feet above the water.

They have video from both sides of the experiment confirming their results, so the only thing left to attack (as you stated) is that it's faked, a set of edited shots put together, and that everyone in the video is lying to your face, even though anybody could recreate what they did to find out if they were lying.

It doesn't seem logical to jump to the conclusion that it was faked. Other possibilities should be considered first.

And again, obviously the experiment is sloppy, but that's because its crammed among other experiments for a tv show, and trying to make sure the most of your audience doesn't get lost means editing your content down. However that is also it's downfall, as it really should be more controlled, to better represent what doing an actual experiment requires.

So with that said, I think trying to find every error in this video specifically is a waste of time, as there are other variations of the experiment that have been in more controlled settings, and those would be more worthy of legitimate criticism, and would carry more weight as an argument.

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I also think the graphic they used to illustrate both the boat and helicopter in the same image with a laser pointed at a tangent is misleading. The helicopter is using a hidden drop from horizon (telescope), and the boat just measured change in laser height from a ~tangent laser.

The helicopter in the experiment, when they measure the 24 feet height, is mostly visable, not just the blades as they portray here. The line is the laser, and not the angle of the telescope. So I agree that this is very misleading.

I think they probably wanted to use the height of 24 feet to work it into their "drop" and relate it to the boat experiment, and the mirage and refraction just happen to make it look like the hidden height is 24, when really its less.. so whomever edited the video and made the graphic, possibly confused what was being shown/calculated and made a coincidental error.

Another problem some seem to have with the sloppyness of the experiment is that Hawking's name is on it. While I agree that it doesn't make him look good, we must still consider the chain of command in producing a TV show, and who's involved with what part.

A lot of the time, the person who's name is plastered on a TV show is pretty detached from most of the production of the show. Things get edited, shrunk down, and explained in more simpler ways to accommodate a broad audience. Evidence of this is pretty obvious when watching, for example, any cop show from the last 10-15 years who has written in to the script something to do with Facebook, texting, or the internet in general. It's always spoken about and displayed in the most elementary of ways because their target audience is broad, and they don't want to single out people and make them confused for a portion of the episode (whether that confusion is from not knowing what they are talking about, or the show possibly displaying too much information and clutter on the screen for the average viewer to pick up on quickly).

Now thats just 1 example, using fictional TV, but you can find that concept floating throughout all of TV history.

But to be fair, Hawking does the voice over (from a studio, probably in a different part of the world) and his name carries a strong wind, so I believe the video should have been more up to par with a controlled experiment, and demonstrating that instead of what people should expect to see. But since this is a short TV show with other experiments going on, it shouldn't be taken as a "professional experiment" that one can use to *disprove* a globe earth. Consider the series as a whole and what they were trying to achieve.

With all of this said, it seems counter-productive to use this as an argument for Flat Earth, because we don't have definitive results to argue over (horizon hazyness, certain variables left out, poor wording, wrong choice of graphics to explain).

Clearly we see so much drop over the curve that the helicopter is completely obscured by the lake curve bump, I would also expect to see some fall-away in our view of the helicopter at that distance. That is, instead of lining up horizontally on a plane with the origin, we would see the rotors form a small elipse and a bit of the underside of the helicopter with non aligned runners. to my viewing the helicopter evidences no such change and is still horizontally straight on with the origin view. Any idea why? Shouldn't it fall away somewhat with so much evidenced curve in effect? I noticed fall away is even excluded in the above drawing, which I suppose could be blamed on gravity fluctuations, or the drunk pilot (no).

Clearly we see so much drop over the curve that the helicopter is completely obscured by the lake curve bump, I would also expect to see some fall-away in our view of the helicopter at that distance. That is, instead of lining up horizontally on a plane with the origin, we would see the rotors form a small elipse and a bit of the underside of the helicopter with non aligned runners.

At a distance of six miles, out of the total circumference of the Earth of 24,901 miles, the angle between the "vertical" directions at the camera and at the helicopter would be only:

(6 / 24,901) x 360 = 0.087 degrees.

I very much doubt that tiny angle would be visible. Remember the diagram is not to scale and vastly exaggerates the curvature.

Clearly we see so much drop over the curve that the helicopter is completely obscured by the lake curve bump,
The helicopter is obscured when it lands, and when they take the height reading, it's ABOVE where any horizon would be, as I showed in my post.

I would also expect to see some fall-away in our view of the helicopter at that distance.
If you think this, show the math of the difference in angle, based off a sphere with R=3959 miles.

That is, instead of lining up horizontally on a plane with the origin, we would see the rotors form a small elipse and a bit of the underside of the helicopter with non aligned runners.

Given the amount of compression in the video and the hazyness of the horizon, its IMPOSSIBLE to see the rotors beyond small reflections from the tips every once in a while, but most of the time it's so small the compression is overtaking it. This is why I made the wire frame as a reference. Study the video and .gifs.

to my viewing the helicopter evidences no such change and is still horizontally straight on with the origin view. Any idea why? Shouldn't it fall away somewhat with so much evidenced curve in effect? I noticed fall away is even excluded in the above drawing, which I suppose could be blamed on gravity fluctuations, or the drunk pilot (no).

Assuming the pilot was drunk is ridiculous.. and how do "gravity fluctuations" affect what is going on here? Explain in detail.

Shouldn't it fall away somewhat with so much evidenced curve in effect?
The evidence is clearly the helicopter becoming obscured, with video from both ends of the experiment. Not sure if you understand that?

Thanks for the math Trailblazer , makes sense we don't see fall away with so little visible curve.....wait.

Bass, the drunk pilot and gravity fluctuations part was an attempt at levity.....I won't do it again

Could the helicopter be obscured behind anything besides a 24 ft lake bump (!) while being filmed from far far away, or could we possibly be looking at a split screen edit? Of course. Though, I'll concede, unlikely. Why would they fake it?

So I'm learning the curve is so strong it disappears the helicopter with more than 24ft+helicopter height of drop off in 6 miles, but at the same time the curve is so subtle, we don't see any fall away at that distance and the helicopter faces us, the origin viewer with pretty much the same orientation.

So again, one direction makes the curve obvious in 6 miles (distance on the plane, water level, salt flat or the x y axis, ..oh....lets call it distance over a very-imperceptible-to-the-naked-eye bump) , but in another direction, the hovering z axis of the heli's horizontal plane parallel to the waters surface, the effect of the curve over 6 miles is completely imperceptible.

Now there's some science.

So again, one direction makes the curve obvious in 6 miles (distance on the plane, water level, salt flat or the x y axis, ..oh....lets call it distance over a very-imperceptible-to-the-naked-eye bump) , but in another direction, the hovering z axis of the heli's horizontal plane parallel to the waters surface, the effect of the curve over 6 miles is completely imperceptible.

Pretty much. You have to remember just how huge the Earth is and how small an amount of it we are dealing with. Over six miles, the direction of "down" varies hardly at all - certainly not enough to be noticeable by eye. But that tiny variation, of 0.087 degrees, is still enough to hide something.

Perhaps this simplified example might help. Image two completely flat planes, each three miles long, fastened together in the middle to form a six-mile long flat plane. Now imagine that the fastening point is actually a hinge, and lift the middle very, very slightly, so that there is an angle of 0.087 degrees between them. Do you think you could detect this angle with the naked eye?

Probably not, but this tiny angle, multiplied over the three miles from one end to the join in the middle, still makes a "hill" that would obscure a person standing at the far end.

And on the Earth, of course, that tiny angle doesn't occur along one line, but gradually over the whole distance, making it even less likely that you could spot it than if it was one distinct "seam".

To me, the helicopter demonstration is about as clear as it gets when it comes to showing the effect of the earth's curvature. A helicopter hovers at an altitude of 24 feet, and to an observer six miles away it looks as though it's on the water/horizon. Then it descends towards land, and disappears from view.

Over six miles, the direction of "down" varies hardly at all - certainly not enough to be noticeable by eye.

This video has a nice exploration of that, simulating what flat earthers generally call "the tilt".

In a nutshell: it's completely undetectable.

(Set to start at 9:35, but the stuff before that - an exploration of what the "left-to-right horizon" should look like - is good too.)

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This video has a nice exploration of that, simulating what flat earthers generally call "the tilt".

Hmm, perhaps I should add that angle to the calculator. It's quite a simple relationship, angle = d/r radians, or (180/pi)*d/r degrees

Done!

https://www.metabunk.org/curve/?d=6&h=2.5&r=3959
External Quote:

Distance = 6 Miles (31680 Feet), View Height = 2.5 Feet (30 Inches) Radius = 3959 Miles (20903520 Feet)
Horizon = 1.94 Miles (10223.39 Feet)
Bulge = 6 Feet (72.02 Inches)
Drop = 24.01 Feet (288.07 Inches)
Hidden= 11.01 Feet (132.15 Inches)

With Standard Refracton 7/6*r, radius = 4618.83 Miles (24387440 Feet)
Refracted Horizon = 2.09 Miles (11042.52 Feet)
Refracted Drop= 20.58 Feet (246.92 Inches)
Refracted Hidden= 8.73 Feet (104.78 Inches)

Tilt Angle = 0.087°, (0.0015 Radians)

Edit: Changed to 3 or 4 decimal places for clarity

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The helicopter in the experiment, when they measure the 24 feet height, is mostly visable, not just the blades as they portray here. The line is the laser, and not the angle of the telescope. So I agree that this is very misleading.

I think they probably wanted to use the height of 24 feet to work it into their "drop" and relate it to the boat experiment, and the mirage and refraction just happen to make it look like the hidden height is 24, when really its less.. so whomever edited the video and made the graphic, possibly confused what was being shown/calculated and made a coincidental error.

You are not wrong, it's a very misleading demonstration of the actual numbers. However it's a GREAT demonstration of the curve of the surface of the lake obscuring the helicopter. However the editing makes it look like the amount of obscuration is far more than would actually happen at six miles.

Just saw this video claiming to show that the Hawking helicopter is faked using some repeating birds as 'proof':

First glance is very interesting: three birds in the same places flying the same pattern on two different shots:

First thought was that it had been doctored, but there's an original copy here and it shows the same thing.

Glitch in the matrix? Or one of those one in a million coincidences?

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@Rory it's not just the birds, the water patterns are the same on the debunk video frame-by-frame as well.
It seemed to me that the birds were flying slightly differently in the "original" footage, I'd want to to see a frame by frame comparison done on the official video (not a youtube bootleg from uncertain sources).

If it's the same, the production team should be contacted. Maybe the actual telescope footage was unusable for some reason, so they did a mockup. Possibly the film crew filmed it from a higher elevation by mistake.

i cant figure out a way to go frame by frame on Amazon. this is annoying. so i froze as close as i could

edit: finally got the same water look.. ill leave the original examples i had posted attached. so yes, the CT video is using authentic footage.

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this is probably the vid they got their snags from, which appears to be the whole vid..
[edit add: "the whole video" of that particular section. The Original video is 54 minutes]

and as you can see a motor boat is going through immediately after the last snag shot.

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For those looking for the birds in this copy, they first come across at 6:43, and then again at 7:41.

For those looking for the birds in this copy, they first come across at 6:43, and then again at 7:41.
All the timestamps are included in my screen grabs. As well as the titles of the different versions. I guess i should have pointed that out. sorry.

add: Also readers can click on images on Metabunk to see larger sizes.

So they are; I ended up scrolling through to find them when I could have just looked at your images. Oops.

I'd actually linked to that vid in my original post, but only on the word "here", which I guess is easily missed. I shall have to stop doing that. I'm sorry too.

So they are; I ended up scrolling through to find them when I could have just looked at your images. Oops.

I'd actually linked to that vid in my original post, but only on the word "here", which I guess is easily missed. I shall have to stop doing that. I'm sorry too.
It's a good wakeup call. I've been writing lately like people can read my mind and know my intentions. I edited post 16 a bit too.. i said "the whole vid" but i meant that section of the video is whole.. not edited. Anyway, thanks.

Ok, so now we know that the video was manipulated, it seems that @Bass In Your Face and @Mick West might have had their numbers correct: with a hidden height like that, the blades of the helicopter might still have been visible on a monitor, but not in the camera viewfinder that the witness was using.

The height reference from the helicopter might have been altitude (does it say in the video?), which would be relative to the airport where they took off and not necessarily the lake surface, and it can shift with the weather, since it's based off air pressure. (I don't expect that helicopter to have a radar altimeter.)

This TV show was a bit of entertainment in the manner of a reality show; a format I find annoying. There's no need to take it seriously. Honestly, Hawking was a bit of a media tart.

Are we saying that it is manipulated? Has that been shown yet?

If so, what's the explanation? Why would they do that?

This was a reality show. A bit of fluff. Entertainment. Not serious. Rather silly.

Are we saying that it is manipulated? Has that been shown yet?

If so, what's the explanation? Why would they do that?
Deirdre confirmed that the identical water wave patterns that I saw on the debunk video can also be found on the Amazon version. I was asking for this to prove the legitimacy of the debunk video, which proves via several frames that the patterns coincide (see below for the video reference and some screenshot). To me, the wave pattern on a lake is random enough that it can't randomly coincide with the same pattern a few seconds later, with the same birds. I am convinced that this sequence was duplicated in editing.

The frame-by-frame comparison starts at 1:20:

Source: https://youtu.be/ou7zg3HL8qY?t=1m20s

See the video for more, they all have identical water, not just these four.
Frame 7 is identical to the two frames that deirdre found:
View attachment 36409

The explanation?
Ok, so now we know that the video was manipulated, it seems that @Bass In Your Face and @Mick West might have had their numbers correct: with a hidden height like that, the blades of the helicopter might still have been visible on a monitor, but not in the camera viewfinder that the witness was using.

The height reference from the helicopter might have been altitude (does it say in the video?), which would be relative to the airport where they took off and not necessarily the lake surface, and it can shift with the weather, since it's based off air pressure. (I don't expect that helicopter to have a radar altimeter.)
The helicopter crew might have made an error, confusing the altimeter reading with altitude above the lake. This could have led the film team on the shore to assume that the helicopter would be completely hidden in the telescope footage.
But the directior might have found in the editing room that the blades and maybe the top of the cabin were still visible on a bigger screen. This would lead to an obvious contradiction of the audio reporting the height, and the video.
It was easiest to retouch the video, so that was done.

Naughty boys! I think I might write to them and find out what's what. The producers were Ben Bowie and Iain Riddick, and Riddick was also the director of this episode. They have a company called Bigger Bang.

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If so, what's the explanation? Why would they do that?
if only the blades were visible for the 24 feet, the audience wouldn't be able to see that easily. so they wouldn't want to use that footage.

why they chose the duck footage specifically.. i dont know. It's possible the duck footage was spliced in for the landing shot (which comes first in the segment) and i'm wondering if possibly because there was no other movement so artistically the shot looked boring. its a few seconds of footage the landing scene (with hypotheitcally no movement if we get rid of the ducks). add: the landing bit is a full 4 seconds through telescope with no cut aways.

When the helicopter takes off (second bit) there are other larger birds flying around. then we cut to telescope boy. then we see the ducks (im calling them ducks in the duplicate footage), then we cut to telescope boy. then we immediately see the motor boat going by. Basically there is movement in all the takeoff shots that look through the telescope.

----------------------------------------------------
Transcript:
Segment starts at 12:30
Hawking says: "If they are as twice as far away as before, how much lower will the far side of the shore appear to be?"

we see the ducks flying shot and the body of the helicopter 'disappears'.
Telescope guy in footage obviously taken after or another day says "as it lands it completely disappears from my line of sight"
Back to telescope footage "[Joey] are you still airborn?
girls says "yea. can you see us landing?"

cut in of telescope guy giving us the overview "the report from the helicopter, theyre still flying but i can't see it. (1 second footage of empty telescope shot, no movement but waves) "To wrap your head around it in that short of time was a little difficult for me. I was like, this is crazy."

13:42 girl says "we have landed in our position."

telescope guy says "ok, go ahead and lift off"
Hawking says "They plan to ascend until [..] can see them on the horizon, then they'll tell him their altitude"
....
14:00 minutes the [British] girl says "let us know when you can see us [on spot?] on the horizon."
the pretty guy at the telescope says "ok what's your elevation? right now?" scene motor boat going by.
girl says "all right [Brian, Brett, Brent] how many feet are we above the lake?"

shot of console

the pilot (or hawking, hard to tell) says "24 feet".
Pretty guy at telescope says "24 feet. awesome"

The [American] girl says "24 feet is alot higher then our other two points that we got. That was awesome, that was great".

Hawking says "At 6 miles, the lake has fallen 4 times lower than before"

end segment.

add: added green to text where telescope guy is at a later time giving reflective commentary. but its spliced into the segment.

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