“Flat-Earthers” are an actual organized group of real scientists who believe the Earth is in the shape of a disk. At their United Kingdom Convention this year, they introduced the “Pac-Man effect,” which is the theory that, because they believe the Earth is flat, that if one were to fall off the side, they wouldn’t fall into space — they would simply reappear on the opposite side of the world, like in Pac-Man.
Flat-Earthers originated in the 1800s during the height of the Scientific Revolution. In this time, there became a strong distrust in the scientific elite by other scientists. Out of this distrust spawned those who believed that the centuries of astrology maps and footage from astronauts were part of an elaborate cover-up done by the scientific elite and the leading governments of the world.
This distrust still resonates with members today, so they organize events, such as their national conference, which took place in Birmingham, U.K. this year. Here are five takeaways from the 2018 convention.
1. They Don’t Believe the Earth Is Just Flat
While all believers in the movement agree that the Earth is not round, the question of what shape it is or isn’t is still under debate. At the convention in the U.K., many models were speculated, such as a dome shape, diamond shape and even a Toblerone shape.
Flat-Earthers are also encouraged to look to ancient poetry and Old Testament Bible verses because some suggest that a heliocentric and round Earth are impossible. Geocentrists take from Genesis Bible verses that suggest that the Earth was created as “immovable and firm.”
2. In the Current Political Climate, the Conference Actually Makes Sense
The general consensus with Flat-Earthers is that for a number of generations, the government and the media have controlled the narrative that the Earth is round. Because of this general belief, the idea that the Earth is flat is as crazy of a conspiracy as Hilary Clinton’s Pizzagate.
Because the conspiracy is so outrageous, it actually makes sense why there is widespread support for it in this day and age. People are becoming more and more skeptical with the ideas that are guaranteed by science and pushed by powerful governments. More people are getting educations and higher education teaches you to be skeptical of all ideas and to formulate your own opinion.
With the election of a celebrity as the President of the United States, deviation from the norm in the 21st century is becoming the norm itself. So, the idea that the Earth is flat and the support behind it can simply be seen as a reaction to the deviation from the previous norm in politics — as well as a reaction to the increasingly easy access to information the internet provides.
3. What Happens When You Reach the End of the Earth?
One of the main long-held theories of the flat-Earth circle is that the Earth is flat with the North Pole in the middle and Antarctica around the rim. At the convention this year in the U.K., flat-Earther Darren Nesbitt suggested that, because east to west travel is continuous, instead of running into a wall or falling off the Earth at the end, you instead reappear at the opposite end of where you came from, or the “Pac-Man effect.”
In the classic ’80s video game, Pac-Man is able to continuously travel in the map because when he leaves one side, he reappears on the other side of the screen. Flat-Earthers suggest this is what happens to people when traveling “around the world.”
4. Flat-Earth Believers Are on the Rise
After the very first Flat-Earth Convention in 2017 in Carry, North Carolina, Google saw a spike in the number of searches on flat-Earthers. Since then, the trends have gone down, but they are significantly higher than the number of searches in the past five years.
There is a number of celebrities have come out in sharing their belief in a flat Earth. Shaquille O’Neal backed the conspiracy last year in a podcast saying, “The Earth is flat…Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind: what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got here, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America.”
He later claimed that he was “just joking,” but another basketball player, Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, shared his belief in the theory as well. “Anything that you have a particular question on, ‘Okay, is the Earth flat or round?’ I think you need to do research on it. It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.”
While Irving in this particular quote doesn’t seem to have a lot of scientific research to back up his own claims, he also claimed to just be “trolling the media to create an open conversation.”
One of the most notable and true celebrity flat-Earth believers is rapper B.O.B. In 2017, he started a GoFundMe campaign to fund flat-Earth research. He uses Twitter to express his beliefs, including this tweet, where he posted a photo and asked his followers “Where is the curve?”
5. But There Are Still Some Crazy Claims
While the flat-Earthers who organized the convention in the U.K. in April seem to have some reasonable evidence to back up their claims, there are still some crazy conspiracy theorists in the mix. One speaker at the conference suggested that the Earth is shaped like a diamond that is supported by massive pillars, while others suggested that there is a dome that covers the Earth.
There are a lot of insane conspiracies regarding whether the Earth is flat or round or shaped like a candy bar, and while most scientific evidence supports round-Earthers, it is important to listen to skeptics and formulate your own opinions on the matter.
It is also important to remember to respect the ideas and beliefs of those opposing your own. Even though learning that the Earth is round and learning how scientists came to that conclusion is something you learn early in school, being skeptical about what is taught to you in a matter-of-fact way is how scientific facts are overturned and a great way to take control of your education and beliefs.