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Not so much a theory of the universe as a simple picture of the planet we call home the flat-earth model proposed that Earths surface was level Although everyday experience makes this seem a reasonable assumption direct observation of nature shows the real world isnt that simple For instance when a sailing ship heads into port the first part that becomes visible is the crows-nest followed by the sails and then the bow of the ship If the Earth were flat the entire ship would come into view at once as soon as it came close enough to shore The Greek philosopher Aristotle provided two more reasons why the Earth was round First he noted that Earths shadow always took a circular bite out of the moon during a lunar eclipse which would only be possible with a spherical Earth If the Earth were a disk its shadow would appear as an elongated ellipse at least during part of the eclipse Second Aristotle knew that people who journeyed north saw the North Star ascend higher in the sky while those heading south saw the North Star sink On a flat Earth the positions of the stars wouldnt vary with a persons location Despite these arguments which won over most of the worlds educated citizens belief in a flat Earth persisted among many others Not until explorers first circumnavigated the globe in the 16th century did those Ptolemy the last of the great Greek astronomers of antiquity developed an effective system for mapping the universe Basing much of his theory on the work of his predecessor Hipparchus Ptolemy designed a geocentric or Earth-centered model that held sway for 1400 years That Ptolemy could place Earth at the center of the universe and still predict the planets positions adequately was a testament to his ability as a mathematician That he could do so while maintaining the Greek belief that the heavens were perfectand thus that each planet
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