Standing on a beach in Indiana and seeing the Chicago skyline is a unique sight. Does it demonstrate that the earth is flat or round?
“If the earth was really a globe, the Chicago skyline from Indiana would be hidden by 1,473 ft. of Earth Curve,” reads the text included in one such Nov. 6 Instagram post (direct link, archive link). The post, which garnered more than 2,000 likes in one week, includes an image of the Chicago skyline taken from across Lake Michigan at the Indiana Dunes State Park.
But the claim is false.
Scientists say the photo actually proves that the Earth is indeed curved. While the buildings in the Chicago skyline are visible in the photo, parts of the buildings are obscured by the curve in the Earth. A simple trigonometric equation confirms that the buildings of the Chicago skyline are indeed visible from the Indiana Dunes State Park, where the image was taken…
“The image actually demonstrates that the Earth is round,” Oran said. “(The bottom) parts of the buildings are actually obscured because the Earth is curved.”
Oran noted the lower halves of the buildings are not visible in the photo. According to Oran’s calculations, roughly 500 feet of the bottom of the Willis Tower, the tallest building in Chicago, would not be visible based on the distance the picture was taken from.
While the flat earther phenomenon is interesting in itself, I am more interested here in how this is based on a unique view of the Chicago skyline. I know that seeing it from a different perspective can be disorienting or reveal new angles. Growing up, I mostly saw the skyline from the west coming into the city. In graduate school, I often saw the skyline from the south and southeast arriving from a different direction. I rarely see it from the north because I have little reason to come from that direction. And the view can be very different from an airplane depending on the approach or takeoff of a particular trip and the flight patterns for the day.
Would any of those views push me to conclude the earth is flat? No, but I have definitely noticed different buildings, different ways the sun or dark frames places, and how the city seems to be a different place when approaching from different directions.