Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Chemtrail Conspiracy

There's a nifty show on the Discovery channel during the day called Best Evidence that takes conspiracy theories and debunks them. It does a pretty good job at it, from what I've seen, although I think it gives the theories too much credit at the start.

Right now the episode is about chemtrails, which is the absolutely loony theory that government agencies are putting additives in jet fuel to do all sorts of different things, from changing climate to making people sick. My favorite part so far was the beautiful confirmation bias William Thomas, a journalist who investigates this, showed when he was talking about increasing reports of sickness in areas with contrails. How stupid does someone have to be to realize that any outbreak of sickness can be linked with contrails? They're everywhere!

And there's a woman named Rosalind Peterson (and "environmental activist") who claims that the diversity of contrail patterns is evidence of manipulation. My favorite of her claims was when she thought that rainbow patterns in the contrail are abnormal, has she never seen a rainbow? It's the same damn phenomenon. In fact, everything that she showed was easily explained by differences in atmospheric conditions, making her look like nothing but a crazy crank.

I think my favorite part of the whole show was the claims about climate change. Because the Bush administration is actively trying to combat climate change. I could believe that they have enough of a reckless disregard for the environment to try large-scale climate manipulation, but of all the things they'd try to do combating climate change is the least probable.

Then they tested the jet fuel in a lab, and of course they've found nothing unexpected. Another good test was using a spectrum analyzer pointed at some contrails that showed nothing unusual at all (the nitric acid struck me as weird, but apparently that's a byproduct of jet fuel).

Something else that strikes me as odd with this thing is that everyone says contrails are would increase warming. I thought that, if anything, increased cloud cover decreased warming, since clouds reflect sunlight back (increase the earth's albedo). While cloud cover could trap heat, contrails don't seem substantial enough to do that, and every little bit helps albedo. But I'm no expert and could easily be wrong about that.

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  • You mentioned thinking the nitric acid was weird--I think it's not coming from the jet fuel itself, but from the N2 and O2 in the air that the jet engine is using to burn the fuel, plus the high temperature in the engine.

    By Anonymous Cat Faber, at 5:06 PM, September 08, 2007  

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