We have all seen the flat earth map. The infamous Azimuthal Equidistant Projection. Even if we don’t know it, you likely know it instead as the U.N. Flag, adopted in 1946. Its history stretches all the way back to the 19th century Flatist. Nearly every single person I’ve talked to will agree that it is not accurate enough - especially in the South, but it has been been a staunch mainstay in flat earth theory. Samuel Shenton and Charles K. Johnson ascribed to it, often mapping the route of NASA ‘sputniks’ to the surface of this infamous piece of cartography. It finds its place today as the most popular geographic view of the Flat Earth. And it started with Parallax, in his seminal work Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not A Globe.
It doesn’t hold up to modern scrutiny. Have no doubt there. The smallest of issues, and still a large one at that, concerned travel in the South. As you receded rimward past the equator, distances appeared distorted failing to explain Southern travel times. To this complaint Rowbotham simply replied “It is one of those utterances which indicate a desperate determination to support a cause at all hazards, and without regard to any evidence but such as agrees with a foregone conclusion.” He went on to point out that many can easily find instances where calculation has failed to agree with actual trips and that these locations are even found by calculation in the first place citing a few strong first hand accounts.
While we now recognize this as a legitimate issue, on the other hand, the map was a good first step in the right direction. Solving a host of issues, problems like circumnavigation and Northern travel, these were simply explained through the layout of the continents on Earth.
The geography could also be derived using one of the now most oft cited proofs of the sphere, which he spent some effort doing in his work. By placing sticks in various locations and noting the angle of the shadow, Rowbotham used this to calculate the distance to the sun and its location. A similar experiment was carried out at least twice in the past, once by early Taoist Chinese scientists and once by Eratosthenes.
In contrast to Eratosthenes of Alexandria’s assumptions, he did not take it out of faith that the rays of light from the sun would be parallel, the sun be far away and massive, and that the Earth was a Globe. Instead, he took the data gathered and tried to draw conclusion from that. After all, to determine the source of a light, why wouldn’t you measure the angle of its shadow - as you did with any other source of light in all of human existence!
Apparently, unbeknownst to him, the conclusions mirrored studies the Taoist scientists did much earlier than both Eratosthenes and the Parallaxian view. Independently discovering these and incorporating them into the modern view of the world, we ended up with most common path of the sun on the flat earth. Circling above, the sun followed a path roughly around the equator. Not only did this explain time-zones - as the area the Earth shone on was limited any time of day - but it also revealed to us the Universe was rather small. The stars but ‘motes’ close to the surface of the earth. The Sun then could be calculated in diameter to be 32 miles wide.
Rowbotham, like many modern flatists, held gravity to be a farce. This view was held both by Samuel Shenton and Charles K Johnson. Things simply fell down.
Another key feature of classic Parallaxian models is their unique interpretation of perspective. He uses two primary thought experiments to discuss perspective; we will start with one dealing with a rounded circle of wood with an inset hole.
This piece of wood is fastened to a pole or some similar mechanism to hold it in place. The interested experimenter then slowly walks away from the pole. As the viewer recedes away from the disk, the inset hole apparently shrinks and shrinks due to its distance until eventually the disk itself appears as a whole disk - with no hole. This might seem a bit irrelevant until you tie it in with his second experiment.
Showcasing the difference between our common misunderstanding of vanishing points, Rowbotham added the height of the viewer into inspection. We will turn our attention this time to a line of street lamps. Most people understand perspective to work much like you may have learned in a high school art class - the edges of various objects gradually approach a common vanishing point. Rowbotham refined this view and instead realized that one must also take into account the height of the viewer herself. He supplies diagrams to show us the result of this shift.
This helped to explain a great number of phenomena including the sinking ship phenomena. Just like the hole in the disk, the base appears to disappear. This was not the only explanation from Parallaxian thought concerning this though. One of particular interest is the relative wave size hypothesis. In this it is realized that the size of close-by waves are far larger visually than those waves close to a ship in the distance. Thus we see that even on a fairly calm day that the closer waves would begin to obstruct the base of the ship making it appear to sink! As was often said, of course it disappears hull first! We are attempting to look through 50 miles of waves!
As with modern flatists, the average Parallaxian Zeteticist knew the moon to be self luminous. Likely this came about in both cases not only due to the inability of sun the light the moon as it does on a globe if the Earth was flat, but also because it was coherent with Christian scripture. Additionally, it was semitransparent, globular body with mountains and craters of some type. Its make up was thought to be a cold, semi-transparent crystalline mass - somewhat like a giant ball of ice. Its light was a a soft phosphorescent one.
Much of this won’t cause the modern flatist to bat an eye. Of particular interest though is that this light was dangerous and could cause madness and diseases of various kinds. To support this claim he drew on evidences stretching back to ancient knowledge that hanging fish in the sun would cause it to spoil, the increase in lunacy during the full moon, laws prohibiting sailors from sleeping in the moon and much more. He described the light of the moon as damp, cold, and sceptic - substances exposed to it soon show symptoms of decay. Most modern believers would reject this, though it is of interest that the mainstream studies concerning this are far from conclusive.
The point here seems to show that the nature of light from the moon is in fact different from that of the sun - of which there can be no doubt. This is common sense, and as he notes is evident across many cultures. The Hindu as he points out call the sun the “Creator of Heat” and the moon “The Cold". Or Nidaghakara and Sitala Hima respectively.
On a more serious note, when we talk of the moon we naturally must then progress to questioning many of the phenomena related to the moon. The most obvious phenomena that comes to mind is the lunar eclipse. Again here in Zetetic thought we see the rebirth of a very old idea. First noted in the today’s studies by Eric Dubay, Vedic astronomy holds that these may be caused by Rahu, in his view a shadow moon. The parallaxians had a similar view maintaining eclipses were caused by the regular passing of a shadow object. Also semi-transparent, this moon would regularly pass between us and the proper moon luna.
Now this may seem like a quick patch to explain eclipses, but they put forth some rather notable citations towards this. Among his citations supporting, he cites a Mr. Walker who observed an eclipse on March 19th 1848 stating “The moon positively gave good light from its disc during the total eclipse,” and “The whole disc of the moon being as perfect with light as if there had been no eclipse whatever!” Additionally citations can be found from Philosophical Magazine and Normal Pogson, Director of the Hartwell Observatory.