Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Gravity 101: Mad Mike Edition

The world was shaken by the death of daredevil Mad Mike Hughes the other day, or at least the portion of it that his rocket smacked into.

Mr. Hughes was attempting to shoot himself 5000 feet into the air in a homemade rocket in order to see for himself if the earth was flat, or more on the rotund side. He was not the sort to take other people's word for anything, although he might have done well to take a tip or two from rocket scientists.

A former limousine driver, he had not previously succeeded in killing himself despite many attempts to do so, including a world-record 103-foot jump in a stretch Lincoln Town Car.

The generally accepted model of our planet, according to the Flat Earth Society, is a disk rimmed in a wall of ice the rest of us call Antarctica. This closely resembles the design of the United Nations logo, only with ice in place of olive branches, and in fact the UN logo is taken by some to be further proof, for some reason, of the validity of this model. The designer of the logo had to fiddle with it to make it fit on the head of a lapel pin and not leave any countries out.

Flat Earth theory, in contrast, merely has to fit in a pinhead.

People believe the earth is flat because they don't want to be the ones hanging upside down from China. Their entire notion of "gravity" comes down to things being either "up" or "down," and as long as you're on the"up" side of the disk, you're in good shape. There's no suspicion that people might just float off (or "up"). If nothing else, Mad Mike contributed a stunning demonstration of gravity, here defined as the degree to which the disk sucks.

I am among those skeptical that Mr. Hughes was, himself, a Flat Earther. I think he liked to do scary things and didn't have enough dough to make them happen. I am assuming he was let go from the limousine company after he launched the Lincoln. He had tried to raise enough money to make a crappy rocket in 2016 but netted only $310. Not until he signed on with the Flat Earthers did he reach his financial goal.

In other words, Mr. Hughes claimed to be a Flat Earther in the same way others of prominence claim to be Christians in order to be elected to a position of power and wealth. If Mad Mike had contacted a random Koch brother or Vladimir Putin he could have had the hell funded out of him. They'd be all over that flat earth business. Flat Earth people believe NASA's space program is a hoax, and anything that leads people to distrust experts, scientists, and government agencies is red meat for a libertarian or autocrat.

The fact is, you can get people to believe any fool thing. Already you have people believing billionaires earned their money, and their shitty kids did too. You could have a president say "I don't know, maybe the earth is flat, who knows? People are saying that, you hear people saying that. We'll see." And whammo, just like that politicians will win office by promising to shim up the world just enough that the icky greasy people slide out of America.

Poor Mr. Hughes. I'm told I shouldn't make fun of the dead, but nobody says I can't right up to the moment of impact. In any case I believe it would honor him to have him buried at the very edge of the disk, with the planet rolled up over him like a burrito. This is not currently possible because of the fifty-foot rim wall of ice otherwise known as Antarctica. But the ice is on the way out, happily, thanks to the efforts of more gullible people and billionaires, and he should be easy to maintain in fresh condition at the ice wall until it disappears altogether.

23 comments:

  1. I read a quote by Charles DeGaulle that I found to amusingly apt today: "Since a politician never believes what he says, he is always astounded when people take him at his word."

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    1. President company excepted. As soon as he discovers he's said it, he believes it, because it came out of him.

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    2. Is it indelicate of me to point out that, so does a lot of *expletive deleted*.
      Cop Car

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  2. He could have gotten several times higher up than 5,000 feet just by buying an ordinary airline ticket.

    There seems to be no point in reasoning with flat-Earthers. If they believe that every country with a space program is running some huge hoax to conceal the truth, they can reject any imaginable evidence they might be presented with.

    promising to shim up the world just enough that the icky greasy people slide out of America

    If they're so greasy, won't they actually slide less well than everyone else because they're sticky?

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  3. I used to fly little Cessnas higher than that and landed just fine without endangering too many people or even myself. I am also happy about the Theory of Relativity. Totally glad that he is not a relative of mine.

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    1. On the other hand, he may have self-buried, so that saved his relatives the trouble.

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    2. Jono--As a retired Cessna structures engineer, it is heartwarming to read of your trust. Having checked out in each of the models Cessna manufactured in those days (1974-1981), I found that I was the greatest threat to my safety.
      Cop Car

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    3. Oops! I omitted a couple of words. I should have written "...each of the single engine prop models...."

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  4. I suspect that dare devils would rather go out in a flash and a bang than fade away in a nursing home.

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    1. Which makes total sense, and yet I think I'd rather fade away. Unless I never saw the flash and bang coming.

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  5. I think Elephant's Child is right.

    The thing a lot of dare devils don't realize is that it takes just as much courage - maybe more - to deal with living in a nursing home.

    I say that dare devils deserve everything they get, which includes premature death by foolhardiness and also the glory when they don't die. But maybe I'm just in a bad mood today.

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    1. Fact is, it's hard for me to imagine the thrill of being a daredevil because I'm a real weenie.

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  6. I'm still gobsmacked that any ordinary crazy fool can build, and launch, an actual rocket. I guess it has a cockpit, toilet and everything? Or "had," as it were. Ahem. Condolences to his family and friends.

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  7. I heard about Mr Hughes and my first thought was I hope he at least got high enough to tell one way or the other if the earth is flat or round. I'm guessing he didn't, I don't remember the exact crash site area. Was there enough of him left to bury?

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  8. I was also reminded of the movie Astronaut Farmer, starring Billy Bob Thornton, although his character wasn't a flat-earther, just someone forced to leave NASA so lost his dream of becoming an astronaut.

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    1. I've never heard of that one. I'm curious about the title.

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    2. I'll take a photo of the dvd cover and put it on my blog Sunday, my time, so Saturday for you.

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  9. I just plain love your writing sometimes....

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