It’s not the sort of place where you would expect to be accosted by a man with a camera. A NASA scientist was in line to get a cup of joe at an ordinary coffee shop and shared a few words with a man called Nathan Thompson. The interaction appeared to be reasonably civil to begin with. However, then Thompson decided that it was time to film the exchange, and it wasn’t just the coffee that got heated.
Before the camera came out, the unnamed NASA scientist had chatted with Thompson about spaceflight and even gave him some stickers emblazoned with the NASA logo. He thought that was going to be the end of it. But there was something he hadn’t counted on. Nathan Thompson is a prominent member of the flat-earth movement.
At the end of the discussion, it appears that Thompson decided this was too good a chance to pass up. So while the NASA scientist waited in line, the flat-earther took out his phone and started filming. What happened next was a bizarre confrontation between science and pseudoscience played out in the line for caffeine.
Nathan Thompson lives in California, and according to his Facebook profile, he studied at the well-attended University of Life and the similarly popular School of Hard Knocks. He is also the founder of the Official Flat Earth and Globe Discussion Group on the social network. But what does it mean to be a flat-earther? Well – it’s pretty out there.
According to the description of the Official Flat Earth and Globe Discussion Group, it is a “serious scientific page about the shape of the Earth and other misinformations being pushed on the masses by the globalist elite, looking to govern men and secure world domination.” The description also notes that scholars are not allowed to curse or defame their fellow intrepid inquirers when posting in the group.
Flat-earthers believe – as you may be able to tell from the name – that the Earth isn’t a globe at all. It is a theory that has existed throughout human history, to some degree, although perhaps not with the prevalence that some believe. But what’s the basis for thinking the idea is true? Well, there are quite a lot of points of departure, but they all have a single central premise.
Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, flat-earthers think that the world we’re standing on is actually a disc. So if that’s a belief that you cling to, then there is every chance that you’re going to be at cross-purposes with NASA. After all, the organization has sent plenty of people and spacecraft into orbit around the globe.
But back to the line in the coffee shop, and Thompson had now whipped out his phone and was filming the NASA scientist. In the video, he is basically shouting a barrage of questions in the man’s general direction. The flat-earth champion’s main concern is apparently about an incident in 2013 when an astronaut almost drowned in space.
The incident that Thompson is referring to involved an astronaut at the International Space Station on July 16, 2013. Italian Luca Parmitano was about an hour into a planned six-and-a-half-hour space walk when he felt water on the nape of his neck. Needless to say, the presence of water like this is really not a good sign when you’re wearing a helmet in zero gravity.
Parmitano reported the water to ground control, and they brought the space walk to a premature end. However, by the time the astronaut made it back to the safety of the space station’s airlock, three pints of water had seeped into his helmet. It filled his ears, nose and eyes, and he even had some in his mouth – so he was understandably having difficulty breathing. NASA described the incident as a “high-visibility close call.”
Indeed, it was only thanks to Parmitano’s cool head under pressure that a tragedy was averted. A report into what happened by NASA stated that “[Luca’s] calm demeanor in the face of his helmet filling with water possibly saved his life.” But what prompted the build-up of water in the astronaut’s helmet?
Apparently, the cause is unclear. NASA engineers know that the root of the problem was a clogged water filter. What they don’t know, however, is what caused the filter to be compromised in the first place. And, shockingly, this wasn’t the first time that this spacesuit had been struck by the problem.
Just one week earlier, Parmitano had felt a build-up of water during another spacewalk. That time, on July 9, the amount of water had been far less, and the astronaut and his colleagues had put it down to a leaking drinks bag. However, while that was not the case, they did not report the incident to NASA officials.
If Parmitano had reported the leak, then there is a very good chance that NASA would have halted spacewalks until it had got to the bottom of the problem. Instead, the Italian came very close to drowning in space. And for some reason that gave fuel to Thompson’s argument in the coffee shop.
The video that Thompson filmed of his altercation with the NASA scientist shows him berating the man for the Parmitano incident. Thompson suggests that before he started filming, the scientist had mentioned something about saliva being responsible for the event. And, oddly enough – with an unsolicited camera stuck in his face – the NASA man wasn’t particularly forthcoming.
In the footage, the scientist calmly tells Thompson that he’s not going to answer his questions anymore. He even goes as far as to wish the flat-earther “a nice day”. That’s not good enough for Thompson, though; he wants his answers, and he wants them now. And what he says next would be enough to push many people to react badly.
As the NASA scientist tries to maintain his composure, Thompson hits him with one more barrage of questions, this time abandoning any semblance of civility. “Come on, you won’t chat with me?” Thompson shouts at the scientist, before dropping the bombshell, “You hate Americans? Is that it?”
Remarkably, though, the NASA employee remains calm even in the face of Thompson’s insults. “How the hell did you get that? Don’t ever accuse me of that again. I don’t have to chat with you.” He finishes off by telling Thompson to “step over there, okay?” adding, “I’m done talking to you.” But even after that, Thompson is far from finished.
However, at this point an employee of the coffee chain decides that enough is enough. He asks Thompson to leave. The flat-earther wants the last word, though. “You’re not the boss of me, bro,” he says to the scientist, before telling the barista, “Okay, I’ll leave because you asked me to. That’s fine, but NASA’s a fraud, bro. They lie about everything.”
Depressingly, Thompson’s video of the incident has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube, although not all commenters are positive. One of them sums up the incident in perhaps the simplest way with the words “Nathan, he won’t talk to you because you’re acting like a creepy person.” The same poster goes on to say, “The Earth is not flat, by the way. Everyone who watches your videos is left a little dumber.” And even if you do believe the Earth isn’t spherical, shouting at someone when they’re getting their latte probably isn’t the best way to try and prove it.