Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Earth is Not Flat

I don't have a lot of personal experience to support my belief that the earth is not flat. I've seen the photos taken from space. But they're - you know - just pictures. I've seen the earth from the window of an airplane. But I admit I've been too busy checking out the clouds or the details on earth to reflect on the apparent shape of the earth. People I trust have explained it to me and the logic seems sound. But it's good, every so often, to have first hand experience to confirm my beliefs.

There it is, the shadow of the earth. I took the first photo at 10:55 PM, just as the sunlight started to reach the moon after the total eclipse. And the second at 11:20 PM. Skeptic that I am, I admit it seems that the curvature of the shadow could be caused by the spherical shape of the moon. But (I tried this) if I hold up a flat card in front of a grapefruit, the shadow curves downward.

So, I guess I'm convinced. Well, maybe not utterly, absolutely, totally. But after trying the grapefruit thing, I have no alternative explanation. So, I'm pretty sure.

There's a grammatical thing about beliefs. And prepositions. You know, prepositions cause more trouble that you may realize. I can't seem to get my head around believing IN something. People don't ask me if I believe in the roundness of the earth. And if they did, I wouldn't know what to say. I have been asked if I believe in Santa Claus. Same problem. I believe that the cultural concept of Santa Claus is widespread. But I don't believe that Santa Claus brings the presents. Either way, "that" is not a preposition. In this usage, it's a conjunction introducing a subordinate clause. (Thank you, Miss McFadden and Sister Agnes. In the interest of full disclosure, I went back and deleted an erroneous "e" in Santa Claus before running spellcheck.) Okay. Maybe this is just a day for total nerdiness. But it won't overshadow the awe I feel at the mental image I now have of the earth's shadow on the moon.

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