What happened to the History Channel?

I used to love watching the History Channel but every time I turn it on lately it seems to be showing some garbage about Revelations, Nostradamus, UFOs, el Cupacabra or the Bermuda Triangle. I watched one today called ‘Ancient Aliens’ about Erich von Däniken‘s theories regarding evidence of extra-terrestrial visitors to Earth. I find some of this stuff, like Piri Reis‘s map, inexplicable and fascinating. I don’t mind the History Channel covering these topics. I think they’re well within the purview of History and are worthy of investigation.

What I object to is the History Channel’s irresponsible treatment of the material. They are not making any effort at all to distinguish between facts and speculation and sometimes they just report the speculations of unqualified commentators as fact. For example, in this episode of ‘Ancient Aliens’ the commentator says “Joseph Seiss demonstrated that the pyramids of Giza lie at the intersection of the longest line of latitude and the longest line of longitude.” This is the picture they’re showing at the time.

Location of Giza Pyramids

The important part here is that the commentator reports this as fact, as though it is not in question at all. They use a flimsy appeal to authority to support it. “Who is this Joseph Seiss character?,” was my first question. Turns out he was an American Lutheran Dispensationalist minister and amateur archaeologist who wrote a book named “A Miracle in Stone: The Great Pyramids of Egypt” in 1887 espousing this view. Hmmmm, some expert, huh?

Right off the top of my head I’d say Seiss was wrong because Giza doesn’t lie on the Equator, which is technically the longest line of latitude. The Great Pyramid actually lies at 29°58’44″N and 31°8’3″E, according to Google Earth. Now obviously the East measure is entirely arbitrary since 0° is defined as the longitude line that runs through Greenwich, England. But the North value means something relative to the rotation of the Earth. What it means is that Giza is not on the Equator, the longest line of latitude!

As for the claim regarding the longest line of longitude I couldn’t actually say. Theoretically they are all the same length but the Earth is an oblate spheroid, not a sphere, and of course there is surface topography. I’d hazard a guess that the longest line of longitude would have to run through the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, or through a North-South running mountain chain such as the Rockies or Andes, so I think we can safely conclude this is bunk too. In any case the technology didn’t exist in 1887 to be able to say accurately what longitude line would be longest if measured on the Earth’s surface. I think at that time they were still debating whether or not the Earth was a perfect sphere.

Conclusion? The whole Seiss thing is easily demonstrable complete and utter bullshit that the History Channel reported as fact. I know plenty of otherwise intelligent, educated professionals that don’t know the odds between horizontal v. vertical, let alone latitude v. longitude. How many people, without the necessary knowledge to be critical of such claims, swallow them whole? Most of the population probably.

I consider it irresponsible in the extreme for an ostensibly educational TV channel to so blur the lines between fact and fiction. The History Channel is trusted by many people to be purveyors of historical facts and they are betraying that trust. Don’t even get me started on their Nostradamus shows! History Channel, consider yourself scolded! You have become a laughingstock, but it’s not too late to turn it around. Start now by eschewing the mystical in favor of the historical. There are an infinite number of dramatic and compelling stories in History that you haven’t ever covered. Why don’t you get back to addressing those instead of this sensationalist garbage? Until you do, I for one will be boycotting you.

16 thoughts on “What happened to the History Channel?

  1. I agree! And more:
    I wish they continue covering these issues but actually coming up with critical research on those allegations – why do WE have to go figure that the longitude / latitude thing is bullshit…?!?
    I actually came across this blog googling to find out in what way it could be the longest longitude not being on the equator (not to speak of the latitude thing…)

  2. When they say the longest lines of latitude and longitude, they mean the lines of latitude and longitude that cover the most land. i.e. if you ran over these lines, you would get the least wet than any other pair of lines.

      • Looking into this further, it seems Ben may be correct in his explanation of the program’s claim. If so, it was certainly unclear and obviously was inartfully worded. But here is another writer’s summary of Seiss’ finding:

        “Dr. Seiss and others have shown that the Pyramid lies in the center of gravity of the continents, dividing earth’s land mass into approximately equal quarters. The north-south axis (31 degrees East of Greenwich) is the longest land meridian, and the east-west axis (30 degrees North) is the longest land parallel on the globe. The only place where these lines of the terrestrial earth can intersect, is at the Great Pyramid.”

        (Quote taken from http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/great.htm as it appeared on 01/22/2011.)

      • Granted, this fact is not stated accurately in the Ancient Alien Series. I believe what they mean to say is that the Great Pyramid is located at the exact center of the Earth’s land mass. That is, its East-West axis corresponds to the longest land parallel across the Earth, passing through Africa, Asia, and America. Similarly, the longest land meridian on Earth, through Asia, Africa, Europa, and Antarctica, also passes right through the Pyramid. Since the Earth has enough land area to provide 3 billion possible building sites for the Pyramid, the odds of it’s having been built where it is are 1 in 3 billion. Coincidence? I think not.

      • They actually say this on the show that you guys are referring to. Please listen a little better and use your comprehension skills before you make a rebuttal.

  3. Well said.

    I just happened to turn this show on today since von Daniken is one of the most amusing incredulists I’ve watched. It’s so frustrating to watch people being presented as authorities who can only support their assertions with “it’s the only thing that makes sense”. They act as though, prior to the pyramids, nobody had ever built anything and that the knowledge to build just appeared to them.

  4. “How many people, without the necessary knowledge to be critical of such claims, swallow them whole? Most of the population probably.”

    and thats exactly the problem we are having in this country.
    i find it bizarre that a show basically about “conspiracy theories” is actually contributing to one… the whole notion that the govt controlled media is purposefully spreading disinformation to make us all stupid and sheep-like.

    thank god some of us on this planet actually WANT to learn the truth… i was watching this dumb show in amusement until the very moment you were speaking of… sadly it didnt even first occur to me that freaking egypt isnt on the equator… but i did come to a dead stop with… “longest line of longitude”… and the way the narrator(not the crazy “experts”) said it as if it were just a simple fact… i thought i must have missed something in geography class. so i hopped on google to figure it out.. and here i am.

    thanks for the back-story on Seiss and getting me to remember where Egypt was.. haha.

  5. My TiVo was on History Channel when I turned on the TV a few minutes ago. I just happened to hear “…the Great Pyramid resides at the intersection of the longest line of latitude and the longest line of longitude.” I couldn’t believe my ears, so I paused the show and hit Google to try and sort this out.

    Turns out there’s no real mystery to this after all. The fact that all lines of longitude are the same length is literally third grade material. I know this, because I helped my nine year-old daughter study latitude and longitude a month ago.

    Shame on History Channel for such shoddiness and devolving into all this paranormal crap.

  6. I sometimes watch the Ancient Alien shows because they are interesting and some stuff they talk about makes me wonder. But when I heard the claim, Giza located at the longest line of latitude and the longest line of longitude, I knew they were wrong! I went to my computer to confirm it and saw immediately Giza isn’t on the equator and I knew already the lines of longitude are all the same. Actually, they are constantly changing due to the moon’s gravitational pull. I was relieved to find your blog post because I know I’m not the only one out there who realizes they were wrong. I think the show is wrong about a lot of things now. I have seen that episode numerous times now and I disagree with most of what they say, though it does get one thinking. A lot of it is just simple logic. They make claims like, a gold statue looks like a spaceship. Well, it doesn’t look that much like a spaceship, and think of how many statues don’t look like spaceships! It’s a case where they see one thing deviate from the rest and they claim it’s ancient aliens. Nope. I no longer believe.

  7. The pyramid is located at 29 degrees, 58 minutes, 51.06 seconds north latitude, and 31 degrees, 9 minutes, and 0.0 seconds east longitude. The north-south axis is the longest land meridian, passing through Asia, Africa, Europe, and Antarctica, and the east-west axis is the longest land parallel running through the African, Asian, and north American continents. These two lines of latitude and longitude on which it lies pass through more land and less water than any others. In layman’s language the pyramid lies at the very center of the earth’s entire land mass. T he only other point of intersection of these two lines is over the ocean.

  8. “The only thing that makes sense”…is that I don’t know the truth. There is very little in life that I think is impossible.
    The reason, I found this article, is I was watching the show…just struck me as odd. The explanation (above) that this meant the driest lines is kind of funny, but they did finish the explanation (on the show) with “the exact center of all the land mass in the world”.
    The fact remains…none of us know, but, the truth is out there.

  9. The entire History Channel is a bunch of bunk.
    Cable TV is garbage.
    Most material is reruns.
    Do yourself a favor and send a message to your TV provider: cancel your subscription.

  10. Please! And you think that the History Channel had always been factual prior? If anything, they’re just blatantly showing the farthest extent of how unhistoric the history channel has always been. They know their loyal naive viewer audience will credit any information they broadcast as authentic solely based off of their merit as The History Channel. “The medium is the message.”

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