Back when Copernicus first proposed that the sun was the center of the universe, not the earth, he was laughed at. His proofs were discarded.
Today, in physics class, our professor asked us to prove "with just your own eyes" that the earth was round, not flat. He had a friend pretend to be of the "flat earth" society of people.
The class came up with a variety of answers, desperately trying to prove the earth was round. Satellite photos! We claimed. "Oh, you could have made that up. If you can make up the special effects for 2012
, you can make up so-called photos." Time zones! I said. If there is one sun, how do you explain that it can be midnight in Asia and noon here? "The sun could be circling underneath the flat plane rapidly and then back over to the other side." Hmm, I said. I felt a pang of sympathy for the scientists who started off trying to prove something to a population that didn't believe in science. We tried again. What about if you drive a plane in a straight line? If you keep going, you'll end up back where you started. "My people don't believe in falling off the edge of the earth. Besides, how do you know you're going in a straight line after all those miles? You have to stop to refuel going all those miles." Argh, I mumbled to myself. Gravity! The person next to me claimed. If the earth were flat, gravity would pull at objects at different angles on different places on earth (because F= GMm/r squared, and the distance r if the earth were flat). "Oh, Newton. You didn't make that theory up. I don't believe in that equation." After a few desultory remarks, we gave up at that point (taking a physics class and hearing that the earth is flat is quite disheartening).
For the curious, this was the proof the professor finally gave,
after taking pity on us and the people who were just about ready to lynch his confederate. I think he's leading up to talking about the way light bends before we begin our unit on light waves, but this was a fun intro. (An alternate proof is the lunar eclipse -- when the sun lines up behind the earth, there is a round shadow cast onto the moon.)
Anyway, I think this gives me perspective -- things we take for granted really should be questioned, even if they are "fact."
Also, I am glad that school makes me think :)