2. Aliens regularly visit our planet
The conspiracy: There are so many different alien conspiracy theories that it’s difficult to know where to begin. From crop circles (frequently revealed as hoaxes) to the Roswell incident (where an alien spacecraft crashed and was held at Area 51 or it was, you know, just a weather balloon) to alien abductions (a cruel trick the mind plays) to umpteen other conspiracies, there are plenty to choose from, so take your pick.
Don’t believe the hype: It’s certainly exciting to believe that aliens from another world might have visited our own. Heck, most scientists and astronomers (including Sir Patrick Moore) are now 99% certain that there is life elsewhere in the universe, whether it is merely extraterrestrial bacteria or intelligent civilisations in our galaxy or another. But could some alien race have paid us a visit? The answer, sadly, is no. We don’t like the argument that it’s impossible to travel thousands of light years in space as we don’t want to dampen our imagination; who knows what the future might hold? Instead, you only need to look at it logically. Would an alien race really make the trek all the way to our small and insignificant planet only to draw circles in crops, freak out a few people or somehow crash their spacecraft (despite being able to travel through interstellar space unhindered)? It’s not only extremely unlikely, it’s downright implausible. We’re afraid you’ll have to make do with works of science fiction to get your alien fix.
1. The Earth is flat
The conspiracy: This one is our favourite, just for its absolute absurdity. In 1956 Englishman Samuel Shenton started an organisation that claimed that the Earth was flat rather than a spherical planet. However, its beginnings reach much further back, to before the 4th Century BC, when the general consensus was that the Earth was flat (owing to a lack of exploration around the entire globe) until Ancient Greek philosophers suggested that, actually, the Earth might be round. Having overcome a variety of obstacles (namely, that the Earth is spherical), the Flat Earth Society incredibly still exists today, with its president being none other than Daniel Shenton, son of Samuel. At its peak in the 20th Century the organisation boasted around 2,000 members, but as of March 2012 there are only 420 (although that’s still uncomfortably high in our books).
Don’t believe the hype: We don’t know where to start here, really… I mean, we can forgive those humans from before the 4th Century BC as, you know, they didn’t have a space programme (that we know of… conspiracy #6?). But it takes a huge leap of faith to believe the Earth is flat today. We have pictures of the Earth from orbit (yes, things are encircling our supposedly flat planet), we can travel around the entire globe and, just, ah… brain hurts… Look, if you believe this conspiracy, you might as well believe the rest. It’s probably not surprising to hear that flat-Earthers traditionally also believe some of the other bizarre conspiracy theories in this list, including the faking of the Apollo Moon landings. If you really want to believe the Earth is flat, go ahead. We won’t stop you. In fact, we’ll go one better: maybe it’s a cube?
You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @Astro_Jonny