How the hollow earth hypothesis illuminates falsifiable science


EXCERPT: . . . The epitome of pseudoscience fantasy, Hohlwelttheorie shrinks billions of light years of mostly empty space – strewn with 100 billion galaxies and 1 million billion billion stars – down to a tiny point at the centre of the hollow-Earth Universe. While Hohlwelttheorie might sound utterly indefensible, a second quixotic mathematician from Alexandria – Mostafa A Abdelkader – has risen to the challenge. In the 1980s, Abdelkader described the mathematical gymnastics needed to conceive an inside-out cosmos. Among other assumptions, this geometric inversion trades the centre of the Earth with infinity. Imagine, if you will, cutting a seam in a basketball. As you turn the rubber inside-out, everything outside the ball – you, the room you’re in, the entire Universe – is sucked inside. The air that was previously inside the ball now forms an atmosphere outside the ball extending towards infinity. Et voilà! A once-humble basketball now contains the Universe. While this verbal analogy is imprecise, the abstract mathematics of Abdelkader’s paper accomplishes this transformation accurately. To embrace it, convince yourself that ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ are as arbitrary as left and right, or up and down.

As a consequence of Abdelkader’s physics, most of the Universe is mapped to a tiny point at the hollow Earth’s centre or origin. Describing this unthinkable transformation in 2012, Griffin writes:

Pluto shrinks to the size of a single bacterium floating seven metres from the origin, while Alpha Centauri, the star closest to our own Sun, becomes an infinitesimally small speck situated a mere millimetre from the origin. Every other star and object in the cosmos, therefore, is contained in a sphere less than two millimetres across that hovers 6,371 kilometres above our heads.

The late American science writer Martin Gardner brilliantly interprets Abdelkader’s mathematics in his skeptical tour of fringe science On the Wild Side (1992). In the strange new physics of Abdelkader’s world, light rays travel not in straight lines but rather in curved arcs. Like a pinwheel grazing the inside of a hollow globe, arcs of sunlight illuminate the near inner surface of the Earth, but curve around and miss the far nighttime surface. For this reason, the Sun appears to set, even though the Earth’s curvature is concave.

But if other planets are closer to us than Spain is to New Zealand, why does it take so much longer to reach them? Fair question. In the mathematics of this cosmology, the speeds and sizes of moving objects approach zero as one nears the centre of the Universe – located at the centre of the Earth. According to Gardner, Abdelkader’s mental acrobatics create ‘a consistent physics that cannot be falsified by any conceivable observation or experiment!’

How can something so stupid not be falsifiable? Such a question treats unfalsifiability as an alibi rather than a liability. It assumes, naively, that models are innocent until proven guilty.

Yet many arbitrary claims are unfalsifiable...


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