Monday, October 22, 2012

Hollow Earth Theory

Author: Fedora C. Nwachukwu

 What comes to your mind when you hear (or see) the words, ‘Hollow Earth Theory?’ Most likely you think of some kind of space in the middle of the Earth. Well, the hollow Earth theory is a 17th century scientific theory that the Earth has cavities or spaces in it, and life could possibly exist in those spaces. From my research, I found this theory to be quite controversial and considered a pseudoscience. There are two major variations to the hollow Earth theory. According to David Standish in his book, “Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth Surface,” some people believe, the Earth is hollow and at certain points, we can go inside the Earth and find an advanced civilization, while others believe, we are all living inside the hollow Earth, the Earth’s surface is concave and instead of looking out to the heavens, we are looking towards the center of the Earth. That is, the planetary bodies all fit into the Earth. However, you might be wondering, ‘how did the idea of a hollow Earth originate and who first thought of it?’
The idea of a hollow Earth first started with Sir Edmond Halley. A natural philosopher, and royal astronomer in Britain, who lived from 1656 to 1742. He is mostly remembered for the comet named after him, Halley's Comet. He was the one who discovered that comets have long elliptical orbits. In 1691 he proposed to the British society, an idea that the Earth might be hollow with three concentric smaller spheres each turning within the other. He also suggested, there might be life inside the Earth. But, how did Halley come to this conclusion?
Halley's Hollow Earth

Halley studied a lot of different scientific things, and the Earth’s magnetic field was one of them. After he studied some anomalies or magnetic variations at the Earth’s poles, he attributed it to the spheres inside the Earth, saying that each sphere had its own magnetic field independent of the other. Also when the Aurora Borealis occurred in 1716, Halley attributed it to luminous gases escaping from the hollow Earth. Was Halley the only one to think that our Earth was hollow?
No, Halley wasn’t the only one to come up with the idea of a hollow Earth. John Cleves Symmes, an ex-soldier that took on reading and studying science was another person who thought the Earth was hollow. Symmes suggested, the Earth was not only hollow but there are vast openings at each pole through which we could pass through to get to this hollow Earth. He was convinced that inside the Earth was an unspoiled paradise. As at that time, nobody had been to the poles, but Symmes’ idea sparked enough interest for Americans to spend public money on sending an expedition. Off course, these expeditions failed to find any holes at the poles; there was no scenic paradise or long lost advanced civilization. Would the lack of proof make the idea of a hollow Earth go away?
The Hollow Earth theory didn’t die out. Cyrus Reed Teed was another scientist who believed in the hollow Earth theory. He most likely is the oddest, and in my opinion the most foolish of them all. He was a scientist and a doctor, he had attended a not-so-recognized medical school, and one night while he was working in his lab with electricity, he claims he was visited by God. David Standish wrote in his book, ‘Hollow Earth…’ that Cyrus claims God came to him in the form of a very beautiful woman and told him, we as humans live inside a concave earth, and what we see is an optical illusion. 

Cyrus Teed’s Model of the Hollow Earth
 Believing that he was the second Messiah, he changed his name to Koresh, the Hebrew translation for Cyrus, and soon he founded his own religion called Koreshanity. The Koreshans lived in a secluded community and tried to prove the earth was concave instead of convex with some experiments. Needless to say, they lacked sufficient proof. Some people think that Cyrus might just have been electrocuted while he was working in his lab and instead of dying he saw a mind generated vision of God. What about today does the idea of a hollow Earth still exist?
Even today, many people still believe that there is a secret world right under our feet. Some believe that Hitler was a hollow earth believer and instead of dying in that bunker in 1945, he escaped with a few believers to the hollow Earth and he is still there now basking under an anti-aging machine, plotting his revenge. Although the idea of a hollow earth is not physically possible it’s still a cool idea.  Hollow Earth theories sure have made some good stories even if they are not good science. It doesn’t matter if some of the story is made up and not really based on science. If it gets people thinking about the universe in which we live, and seeking more information, then it has done something more than just entertain us.

Works Cited:
Fitting, Peter. Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2004. Print.
Foot, Richard. “Trip Proposed to Centre of Earth via Arctic Hole; HOLLOW PLANET THEORY; U.S. Scientist, Believers to Sail on Icebreaker.” National Post [Canada] National Edition, NEWS; Pg. A2. 30 May 2007. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.
Journey to the Center of the Earth. Dir. Eric Brevig. Prod. Charlotte H. Beau Flynn. Perf. Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson and Anita Briem. Warner Home Video, 2008. DVD.
Simanek, Donald. “Halley's Hollow Earth From his 1681 paper.” Photograph. N.p. 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
Standish, David. Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines below the Earth's Surface. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2007. Print.
Warren, Michael. "Koreshan State Historic Site: 'The Ghosts of Florida's New Jerusalem'" Florida Traveler. N.p., 20 Jan. 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
Warren, Michael. “Hollow Earth Globe at the Koreshan Unity.” Photograph. N.p. 20 Jan. 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2012
Wigston, Nancy. "A World Apart; Restored Complex of Koreshan Unity Cult Tells the Tale of a Universe Turned Inside-out." Reed Elsevier Inc, 11 Dec. 2008. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

Links for further research:

Florida Traveler                                                                                                                                                           
 Some information about the ‘Koreshan State Historic Site’ in Florida. It gives some background information on the hollow Earth theory.

Lock Haven University                                                                                                        
Article with detailed information and pictures about the hollow Earth theory. Provides lots of information about various scientist that believed and supported this theory

The Hollow World of Edmond Halley                                                
Focuses on the life of Sir Edmond Halley, including his contribution to the Hollow Earth Theory.