Thought experiment time!
Suppose you find yourself the protagonist of an Isaac Asimov story where a sentient robot tells humanity a fundamental basis of their worldview is wrong.
Do you believe this Basis of Belief machine? Or do you hold onto the unexamined worldview?
I hear you yawning and thinking, “That’s a dull thought experiment.”
Until, holy-fucking-bing-bang-bucket-of-shit, this happens!
And in response, Neil deGrasse Tyson responds with this:
That’s right! The Basis of Belief machine, or B.o.B., fronts as a Georgian rapper. And Neil deGrasse Tyson responds in B.o.B.’s preferred programming language.
Shit just went Asimov, bitches!
Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Cole, B.o.B. is a crackpot conspiracy theorist not a sentient robot!”
“A crackpot, you say? How do you know?” I ask.
“Because… Um… The world is round, not flat?” you say.
“How do you know?” I reply.
“Because my third grade teacher told me so!”
“She also told you weed was evil and sex kills.”
“Shit! You have a point, Cole!”
I always do.
So put on your tinfoil hat — seriously, I don’t want you distracting me with your sexy thoughts — and let’s get this conspiracy show on the road!
I, like you, found myself wondering, “What if B.o.B. is right? What if Neil deGrasse Tyson, as minister of the Science Industrial Complex, is lying to us? And why was Washington Irving a shithead?”
These are a lot of difficult questions.
Since I know you’re busy with the kids, I went ahead and found the answers for you.
I put on my Dunce (Italian for ‘thinking cap’) and took to the internet to learn how the Earth became round.
“Gah, Cole, are you really going to give a history lecture like Mr. Saam did everyday of Sophomore year?”
Gah, you’re a difficult audience.
Fine, I’ll bump up the entertainment value and give you a little lesson I like to call, “Science History!”
So put on your Breakfast Club Soundtrack and follow along with the all new:
Abridged History of the Theory of the Round Earth: 80s Style High School Movie
Pythagoras – The Stoner
2,600 years ago Pythagoras and his surfing bros were hanging out on the beach, smoking weed, and watching a flock of swans fly overhead.
“Oh shit! Guys, the Earth is round,” Pythagoras said, jumping to his feet.
In reality, he stumbled and wobbled to his feet, but it felt much faster in his head.
“Dude? Really?” Eschlamidides said, swaying his head to-and-fro.
“I can feel it!” Homeopathy shouted, swaying his hips and trying to catch his balance.
“Cool tan, bro!” Davaros the Feathered Haired added.
And it was a cool tan, bro. So cool it enchanted all the cool kids into believing Pythagoras’s theory.
Then everyone went to the mall, bleached their hair, and talked about how cool it was to live on a round world unlike their parents’ stodgy flat world.
Then a Spartan land developer threatened to tear down the mall, Pythagoras entered a geometry competition, invented his famed theorem, and won enough money to save the Athenacrest Shopping Plaza and Temple.
Aristotle – the Lost Soul
Two centuries later, at a Northeastern boarding school, Aristotle was left grieving the loss of his father. His mother, having recently married Aristotle’s uncle, sent him off to boarding school to ‘get over it, your daddy’s dead,’ and possibly hide the fact his uncle killed his father by pouring poison in his ear.
It’s Greek. It’s dramatic. It’s awesome.
And mostly unrelated to the rounding of the Earth.
Sad, depressed, morose Aristotle, looking for a father figure, finds himself in “Things We All Know But Don’t Have Proof of Yet” taught by Mork-turned-serious-thespian, Plato.
And Plato is a pain in the administration’s side, as all good teachers are. So the administration is looking for a reason to get rid of his hippy, non-traditional ass.
“He plays the lute in every class,” the dean moans in every third scene.
Interesting sidenote: Dean is Greek for “Whines about fun.”
So during the course of the semester, Plato teaches his students about Pythagoras’s philosophy that the Earth is round.
Plato also encourages one of his students, Oedipus, to go after the hot girl he ran into at the Crossroads Bar.
And if you don’t know how that turned out, you should probably stop relying on the American education system for your schooling.
The dean went to Plato’s class, grabbed the teacher by the arm, and escorted him from the room. Just as they reached the door, Aristotle climbed on his desk and recited the following poem:
“Oh Captain, My Captain!
As we move south,
The stars don’t grow in the sky
Because we stand on the orb
They rise northward and high.
Oh Captain, My Captain!
When the Earth’s lonely shadow
Creates an eclipse,
We see a round shape
On Artemis’s lips!”
The poem was shitty, but Aristotle’s sentiment was moving. Also, it offered the first logical proof the Earth was round.
Despite this sad moment, the movie ended happily for everyone except Oedipus.
The dean got rid of Plato.
Plato got a job at Harvard.
Aristotle got vengeance on his uncle and then went on to the illustrious position as tutor to Alexander the Great.
Also, there was a kegger in a cave.
Eratosthenes – the Productive Slacker
“Eratosthenes? … Eratosthenes? … Eratosthenes?” Ben Steinocles repeated ad nauseam.
Eratosthenes was not in school. He was playing hooky because his friend, Camocrates, needed to chill out and learn to become his own man.
Camocrates was pretty tightly wound on account of his father’s super high expectations.
So the boys stole Camocrates’s father’s mule cart and headed off to downtown Aswan for the day. There they caught Aristophanes’s Lysistrata and were transformed by its pro-sexual, anti-male empowerment message.
So Eratosthenes leaves the theater, jumps on a float, and sings Walk Like an Egyptian, because that’s what inspired people do when hanging out in downtown Aswan for the day.
While this is going on, there are two side stories about how his sister and the pedophile principle are trying to prove Eratosthenes is playing hooky. All this is terribly boring in comparison to Eratosthenes’s cool and insightful nature.
While dancing like an Egyptian on the float, Eratosthenes realizes his shadow has a different angle in Aswan than it does at home.
“How can he notice this while singing and dancing on a parade float?” most people wonder.
Because he’s cooler than any person who ever lived or ever will live, thank you very much.
Also, carpe fucking diem.
So Eratosthenes and Camocrates take some measurements in Aswan. Then they head home and take measurements there. Eratosthenes runs some calculations, Camocrates destroys the family mule cart, and the story is almost over.
Eratosthenes calculates the circumference of the planet, which he couldn’t do if it were flat like a pancake, and wins the science fair.
When his sister and principal finally catch up with him, Eratosthenes says, “I couldn’t have won the science fair if I was playing hooky, could I?”
The principle is foiled.
His sister learns a valuable lesson about life and science.
Camocrates stands up to his father.
And Eratosthenes hangs out by the pool with his girlfriend.
Revenge of The Protestants
Two centuries later, the Protestants have gotten pretty fed up with being bullied by the Catholics.
“St. Francis of Assisi gave me a swirly yesterday!” Dave complained, puffing on his inhaler.
“St. Augustine of Hippo invited me to the dance and then poured pig’s blood on me,” Jennifer whined, adjusting her glasses.
“Pope Gregory VII burned my girlfriend at the stake because she wouldn’t go out with him,” Chuck cried, popping a zit in the bathroom mirror.
“We’re Seniors! We can’t take this lying down. Do we want to be losers for the rest of our lives? It’s time we showed those Catholics they can’t get away with this!” Trevor said, adjusting his pocket protector, because no 80s nerd likes ink stains on their shirt.
So the Protestants put their heads together and develop a plan.
In an amazing montage, with background music sung by Huey Lewis and the News, the Protestants run around whispering to people in the hallways; having discussions in the bathroom overheard by people in the stalls; and getting new clothes at a trendy boutique.
The next day, or perhaps the next week, it’s always difficult to tell with a montage, the Catholics enter school, high off a big win against the Muslims in the big Crusades game.
“Winners! Winners!” the Catholics cheer.
“Losers! Losers!” the rest of the student body yells.
The Catholics stop, look around, and notice everyone is pointing and snickering at them.
“What gives?” Heather the Catholic asks.
“You guys think the world is flat. You’re so stupid! This is the Age of Enlightenment, Gawd!” someone named Napoleon replied.
“No we don’t, butthead!” replied Biff.
“Well you did. You forced everyone to believe the Earth was flat for thousands of years. Remember the Dark Ages?” Pedro, who would soon be class president, replied.
As with any school, the Dark Ages referred to Sophomore year.
The thing was, the Catholics never said that. During Sophomore year, the Catholics pretty much beat the snot out of anyone who suggested the Earth was flat. Granted, they thought they were the center of the Universe, but they still promoted the belief the Earth is round.
But being terribly hated for burning so many preppies at the stake and handing out purple nerples like they were jelly bracelets, everyone accepted the Protestants’ rumor about the meathead Catholics.
A grand old comeuppance story if ever there was one.
Washington Irving – the Ugly Duckling
Washington Irving, a misunderstood loner, walked the halls of Bayside High. He was invisible to the jocks, brains, basket cases, princesses, and criminals. Even Principal Vernon ignored the dreamer in the trench coat.
This was in the days before trench coats were used to smuggle high assault rifles onto campus.
So Washington wandered around campus with a notebook writing poems and short stories, dreaming of a life where horsemen chopped off the cool kids’ heads and where he could fall asleep until the future made everything better.
Then one day during lunch, Washington is writing a fictional account of Christopher Columbus’s travels.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” the Spanish advisor yelled. “The world is not round! It is flat!”
“You don’t know me. You don’t understand me! You don’t know anything!” Columbus shouted back.
One of the jocks grabbed Washington’s notebook and tossed it to the captain of the football team.
“Hey!” Washington yelled.
“Hey, you,” the captain said. “This is really good!”
You see, the captain of the football team is a sensitive jock who writes poetry. He not only redeems Washington’s faith in humanity, but also our own.
“Thanks!” Washington said, blushing. He’s never gotten noticed by anyone in school, let alone the star quarterback.
“Everyone! You have to read Washington’s factual account of Columbus. You won’t believe the stupid shit the Spanish tried to pull!” the star quarterback said, flashing his beautiful green eyes at Washington.
“Uh… I… Yeah!” Washington said, afraid he would lose the star quarterback forever if he admitted the truth — the story was an allegory for his troubled relationship with his father.
Everyone loved the story. They called Washington a genius. The administration asked Washington to read his story at an assembly for Columbus Day.
On the day of the assembly, Washington walked to the center of the stage. He looked out at the crowd and made eye contact with the star quarterback. Then he looked to his father, who Washington had reconciled with when his dad took the day off work to attend the assembly.
“Everyone, I have something to say before I read this…” Washington said, clearing his throat.
“I”m really glad you all like my well-researched and factual explanation of Columbus’s life and voyages!”
As Washington begins to read, a voiceover explains sometimes in high school it’s difficult to do the right thing. Washington and the star quarterback went on to have a wonderful summer, then they went off to separate schools and never spoke again.
“I’ve always regretted not telling the truth that day, but I learned a lot from it,” Washington says warming our hearts.
Because if he learned something, we can all agree he’s not a shithead, right?
Back to the Present Day
Now we get back to the present day where our underdog B.o.B. is taking on the administr… err… establishment.
B.o.B. has offered several strong arguments, not the least of which is this:
And lest you should feel B.o.B. is alone in his viewpoint, earlier this month, intellectual heavyweight, Tila Tequila jumped into the foray:
Now the administration has a lot of weight on their side. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pythagoras, Aristotle, the Catholics, the Protestants… well, the list is pretty much endless.
Now all my research has me leaning one way, but I’m a sucker for an underdog. So here are a few points I’ve come up with to help B.o.B. out:
Reason to Believe the Earth is Flat
- Hitler believed the Earth is round.
- Stalin believed the Earth is round.
- (Favorite hated minority) believes the Earth is round.
- Math is difficult, so we can’t calculate whether the Earth is round.
- I have a new song dropping and this will get me some attention.
So who do you side with? Take the poll now!