We all have questions we struggle with. For rapper B.o.B., it's why he should believe the Earth is round. He's spoken publicly about believing in a flat Earth for almost two years now, including wading into a rap battle with famed astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson. Last week, B.o.B. decided to take it a step farther when he saw someone suggest a way he could prove to himself that the Earth is round.
B.o.B. responded with interest.
And the next day, he set up a GoFundMe campaign for the project. "I'm starting this GoFundMe because I would like to send one if not multiple satellites as far into space as I can, or into orbit as I can, to find the curve," B.o.B. says in an 18-second video on the page. "I'm looking for the curve." So far, 32 people have donated $676, so it doesn't look like the rapper is spacebound any time soon.
And let's be very clear: If B.o.B. wants to send a satellite into space, that's great! Science is cool, rocket launches are cool, and there are an infinite number of questions we have left to answer about the universe and our own planet.
But launches are also, famously, eye-wateringly expensive. B.o.B. is trying to raise $200,000 for his one or more satellites. That is not nearly enough (although B.o.B. presumably has an income stream beyond GoFundMe). Of course, the stats here are tricky, but a relatively cheap launch on the existing SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is being quoted at $62 million (but "modest discounts are available, for contractually committed, multi-launch purchases"). And that doesn't include the price of the satellite itself and whatever unspecified instruments B.o.B. would trust to gather data on his behalf.
Pricetag aside, B.o.B.'s plan neglects a key fact about Earth's roundness: We can tell we live on a globe without ever leaving it. Despite all the misconceptions about Christopher Columbus, people have known for more than 2,000 years—long before satellites or even airplanes were invented—that the Earth is round.
The earliest recorded realization that the Earth is round dates back to famous Greek philosopher Aristotle, who noticed that moving north or south changed what stars he could see. Slightly later, a Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes estimated Earth's circumference based on differences in how high the sun rises in the sky at different latitudes—which is in itself a consequence of the Earth being round.
If those don't satisfy, B.o.B. could take another look at these time zones. Sure, they were created—but in response to a real physical phenomenon. Eastern Time and Pacific Time are human inventions, but no human can stop the sun from rising approximately three hours later in California than it does in New York.
Or perhaps B.o.B. could spend his $676 renting a boat and hiring a captain. Stand on shore and watch a boat sail toward you and you'll notice that the very tops of the masts appear first, rather than the whole ship coming into view at once. The curve B.o.B. wants to see so badly? That's what blocks the bottom of the ship.
This, of course, is all assuming he's unwilling to take the word of the pilots, astronauts, and NASA scientists who all confirm that the Earth is round.
Here's a place to admire Earth in all its round glory from the comfort of your armchair: Photos beamed home by NASA's Earth Polychromatic Camera. A new image every few hours shows the daylight side of our rotund, spinning planet, with not a flat edge in sight.