In the vast universe of conspiracy theories, the flat Earth theory stands out for its retro charm. But what if I told you that, in a twist worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan film, flat-earthers might have had at least one historical clue in their favor? Before you rush to dust off your maps of the flat world, however, read what they studied Dr. Dimitris Stamatellos and his team from the University of Central Lancashire. Through cutting-edge simulations, researchers have discovered that, billions of years ago, the Earth actually flirted with the idea of being flat. Not exactly a victory for flat-Earthers, but certainly a fascinating clue to our planet's past.
Planetary formation revisited
The formation of planets is a topic that has always fascinated scientists and astronomy enthusiasts. Traditionally, planets are believed to form from “protoplanetary disks” (rings of dust and gas that orbit a nascent star). This process, however, still hides many mysteries. Dr. Stamatellos and his team used supercomputer simulations to explore a little-researched phase of planet formation: the shape that young planets take during this process. Surprisingly, the findings suggest that in the early stages of their existence, planets may adopt an oblong, disc-like shape (prosaic: an M&M's) before taking on the familiar spherical shape.
Temporarily flat earth on Rieducational Channel
These findings not only offer valuable insights into the early stages of planetary formation but also challenge some of our most deeply held hypotheses. According to Stamatellos' team, during the disk instability process, forming planets tend to gather material more easily at their poles rather than at the equator, temporarily leading them to an "oblate" shape. This discovery raises new questions about how and why planets change shape over time, leading to the need for even more sophisticated computational models to fully understand these processes.
Confirmation of these theories could come from observations of young planets, which have only become possible in recent years thanks to instruments such as ALMA and the VLT. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), with its unprecedented capabilities, could play a crucial role in the direct observation of these primordial planetary forms. Dr. Stamatellos' research opens new frontiers in our understanding of planetary formation, suggesting that, albeit for a short time, the “flat Earth” and other planets may have explored shapes other than sphericity.
In the vastness of the universe, surprises seem to be around every corner, ready to challenge our knowledge and push us towards new discoveries. And on this journey of discovery, curiosity and passion for science remain our best guides.