VSauce blows my mind. I love it. 🙂
By Taylor Kubota via Live Science
A faked moon landing or a hidden cure for cancer are just a couple of large-scale conspiracies that, if true, would have come to light within five years following their alleged cover-ups, according to a mathematical formula put together by one physicist.
David Robert Grimes, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oxford who studies cancer, is familiar with conspiracy theorists. His mainstream writing for the likes of The Guardian and BBC News has included controversial topics that lend themselves to conspiracies, including homosexuality, climate change and water fluoridation.
“The charge that there is a scientific conspiracy afoot is a common one,” said Grimes, in an email interview with Live Science, “and almost inevitably those making these charges will descend into accusing one of shilling or being an agent of some malignant entity.” In response to his work, conspiracy theorists have threatened him, even tried to get him removed from his academic position. These interactions made Grimes curious about why conspiracies have such a strong hold on so many people, and the chances that they might be true. [Top 10 Conspiracy Theories Explained]
For this new study, Grimes considered four common conspiracy beliefs: that NASA faked the 1969 moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission, that human-caused climate change isn’t real, that vaccines are unsafe, and that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. He created an equation to figure out how long these four cover-ups would likely last (if indeed they were cover-ups), given how many people are involved, the likelihood of leaks from the inside (whether on purpose or by accident), and how much upkeep would be required to keep everything under wraps.
To estimate the chances that any one person would reveal secret activities, Grimes looked at three actual leaked conspiracies:
By Ali Gray via yahoo
Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest and most fastidious directors to ever live – but because he died in 1999, he wasn’t around to debunk the ridiculous conspiracy theories that his finest works would end up attracting. Thus, the Kubrick canon is a breeding ground for insane alternative viewpoints, including but not limited to alien sex cults to fake Moon landings. Now, as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ enjoys a re-release, we present the strangest Stanley Kubrick theories out there – and they certainly are out there…
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ proves the existence of aliens
This one requires you to make the small suspension of disbelief that Stanley Kubrick faked the Moon landings for the US government – no biggie. The reason he’d agree to such a thing, however, was because apparently, aliens beat us to it: there really was a Moon landing, but the version the public saw was shot by Kubrick to cover up the fact that the Apollo 11 mission was to cover up to the retrieval of alien technology. Gnostic scholar Jay Weidner suggests that ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – released one year before the Moon landing – was actually a “research and development project” that gave Kubrick the tools he needed to create the fake Apollo footage. And… exhale.
‘Dr Strangelove’ was a warning about flouride
If you’ve seen Kubrick’s cold war comedy – which actually started life as a deadly serious drama, before the actual Cold War ended up being stranger than fiction – you’ll be familiar with insane American general Jack D. Ripper (played by Sterling Hayden, above), who waxes lyrical on the Russians being behind fluoridisation: “the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face”. Some viewers think this is as straightforward as Kubrick warning about the dangers of fluoride (in high concentration it can be poisonous) but other theorists go even deeper down the rabbit hole, suggesting that the director intentionally made the character of Ripper insane to discredit those who believed fluoride was a serious threat. We’re not sure why he’d bother with all that, but there you go.
Supporters of conspiracy peddler Alex Jones are FURIOUS that I dared to note his dismissal of the Apollo 11 mission. Talk about a lunatic fringe.
The worst thing about being a moon landing denier is, apparently, the part where reporters call you out for labeling Apollo 11 as some kind of false flag operation.When I wrote a story about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s relationship with his father—and the impact it might have on his chances of getting the Republican presidential nomination—I expected some pushback. But not like this.
My characterization of radio host Alex Jones (a frequent promoter of the Pauls) sparked outrage among his devotees. Specifically, they got all rage-y because I referred to Jones as a “moon landing denier.” A weird thing to quibble about, considering he is a moon landing denier.
Alex Jones, I wrote, is “a noted conspiracy theorist who spreads his message on his syndicated radio show and on his website, Infowars.com. Jones is a moon landing denier who believes the government acted as a guiding hand for the September 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, buys into the New World Order—the theory that a group of so-called elites are conspiring to form a singular, totalitarian global government has accused American pop stars of being purveyors of Illuminati mind control.”
.@Olivianuzzi, in your hit piece, you label Alex Jones a “moon landing denier,” when he has repeatedly said the opposite….1/2
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 29, 2014
.@Olivianuzzi what makes you believe you can get away with such brazen dishonesty?
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 29, 2014
.@Olivianuzzi your job is to make up shit to smear people, I hope the Daily Beast pays you well to make up for the cost to your conscience.
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) July 29, 2014
@PrisonPlanet—aka Paul Joseph Watson—is editor-at-large of Infowars.com, Jones’ site. There is rich irony in having the editor of Infowars.com charge that your job is to “make up shit.” Infowars.com, for the uninitiated, is a very special place where ideas like the Super Bowl halftime show is an illuminati ritual, and that President Obama has called for a New World Order, are welcome. The website even sells iodine drops, called “Survival Shield,” at their official store.
Yesterday, July 20th, was the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the surface of the moon, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first and second humans to walk on the surface of another world. This is, to be sure, one of the greatest achievements of the human species.
There are those, however, who claim that we never sent astronauts to the moon, that the entire thing was an elaborate hoax by the US, meant to intimidate our rivals with our spacefaring prowess. As is typical of most grand conspiracy theories, they have no actual evidence to support their claim. None of the many people who would have to have been involved have come forward to confess their involvement. No government documents have come to light, no secret studios have been revealed. There is no footage accidentally revealing stage equipment.
What the moon hoax theorists have is anomaly hunting. This is the process of looking for something – anything – that does not seem to fit or that defies easy explanation, and then declaring it evidence that the standard story if false. Conspiracy theorists then slip in their preferred conspiracy narrative to take its place. Sometimes they are more coy, claiming to be “just asking questions” (also known as jaqing off), but their agenda is clear.
Genuine anomalies are of significant interest to science and any investigation, no question. For an apparent anomaly to be useful, however, mundane explanations need to be vigorously ruled out (conspiracy theorists tend to skip that part). Only when genuine attempts to explain apparent anomalies have failed to provide any plausible explanation should it be considered a true anomaly deserving of attention.
At that point the answer to the anomaly is, “we currently don’t know,” not “it’s a conspiracy.”
The reason that anomalies, in and of themselves, are not very predictive that something unusual is going on, is that they represent one method of mining vast amounts of data looking for desired patterns. Conspiracy theorists, in essence, make the argument (or simply implication) that where there is smoke there is fire, and then offer apparent anomalies as the smoke. This is a false premise, however. If apparent anomalies count as smoke, then there is smoke everywhere, even without fires.
In other words, any historical event is going to have countless moving parts, curious details, apparent coincidences, and complex chains of contingency. Further, people themselves often have complex motivations contingent upon the quirky details of their lives. All of this is raw material for apparent anomalies. It would be remarkable if you couldn’t find apparent anomalies when combing through the details of an historical event.
Here are some of the alleged anomalies that moon hoax conspiracy theorists have pointed out over the years.
In legal parlance, a conspiracy is when two or more people form a plan together to engage in criminal behavior, but in modern days, a “conspiracy theory” has come to mean an alternative explanation for the accepted consensus of a controversial or unusual event or belief. Most proponents of these often easily debunked plots are eccentric and harmless, but a few go beyond the boundaries of free speech. The behavior of these dangerously obsessed few ranges from the merely criminal to the outright deadly.
10 • Jim Garrison Conducted A Witch Hunt Against Clay Shaw Over JFK
Whatever truly went down at 12:30 PM CST on Friday, November 22, 1963, the movie JFK made a hash of it. One thing it didn’t get wrong, though, was its portrayal of Jim Garrison as an obsessive, increasingly paranoid demagogue who bullied witnesses, harassed “suspects,” and conducted a full-on witch hunt in the city of New Orleans.
Garrison’s list of transgressions is too long to fully detail, but the worst of his behavior was the way he almost destroyed the life of Clay Shaw, a respected New Orleans businessman. Garrison publicly outed him as gay (which could have had serious consequences in the 60’s), accused him of CIA connections, and of course, accused him of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, all on the flimsiest of evidence.
Many accounts of the trial have downplayed the homosexual element, but there is plenty of evidence that Garrison actually believed in some kind of rainbow-colored plot, attributing the assassination to a gay club thrill kill. He named a total of six people whom he believed were “in on it” as homosexuals, including Jack Ruby and even Lee Harvey Oswald himself. In an interview with James Phelan, Garrison called Oswald a “switch-hitter who couldn’t satisfy his wife.”
It took almost two years for Garrison’s case against Shaw to go to trial and another three weeks of testimony and arguments before a jury acquitted Clay Shaw of all charges after less than an hour of deliberation. Shaw himself ably deconstructed the JFK “conspiracy” in a 1967 interview.
9 • Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, Enacted AIDS Denial As Policy
Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, is almost certainly the AIDS denier who has done the most direct harm in the world. In a 2008 study, a team of Harvard researchers estimated that as many as 330,000 people died needlessly because of Mbeki’s policies.
Mbeki didn’t start out as a denier. His views hardened after a complex series of political and economic negotiations. They were further solidified by the bogus claims of an African university about having discovered a cure, prompting hope for an African solution to the problem, and the discovery that the apartheid government had conducted germ warfare tests that included searching for killer bugs that targeted specific ethnic populations and the state-sponsored spread of AIDS via black prostitutes. Negotiations to bring AIDS medications into South Africa at prices the poor could afford were marred by suspicions of conspiracy between Western governments and drug manufacturers.
By the mid-1990s, Mbeki had fallen under the influence of prominent AIDS denier Peter Duesberg. He even invited Duesberg to be part of a conference on the AIDS problem held in 2000, much to the outrage of the rest of the conference. Later that year, he publicly denied the scientific consensus that AIDS was caused by a virus. Instead, he claimed the disease was the result of a combination of general bad health, lack of nourishment, and poverty. Thanks to international pressure and the work of AIDS activists and NGOs, the situation did improve, but Mbeki’s delays caused many unnecessary deaths and condemned many children to live shortened lives.
8 • Bart Sibrel Confronted And Harassed Buzz Aldrin
In 2002, Bart Sibrel lured former astronaut and American hero Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, to a Beverly Hills hotel for an “interview.” When Aldrin arrived on the scene with his stepdaughter, Sibrel revealed his true colors. He was a proponent of a long-standing conspiracy theory that claims the Apollo 11 Moon landings were faked. Proponents of the theory claim that the landings were produced in a Hollywood studio to fool the Russians into believing that the US had won the space race. This is one of the most laughable and easily debunked conspiracy theories out there, but Sibrel was working on a documentary that he believed would prove his case and wanted to include a confrontation with Aldrin in the film.
What happened next is as infuriating as its conclusion is satisfying, and it was all caught on film. When Aldrin realized the real reason he was brought to the interview, he got up to walk out on Sibrel, who then became aggressive, taunting the national hero who took time out of his busy schedule to see him. He followed Aldrin, calling him a “thief, liar, and coward,” thrusting a Bible into Aldrin’s face with demands that he swear upon it.
Finally, after every one of Aldrin’s attempts to leave peacefully had failed, Sibrel started poking him and his stepdaughter aggressively with his Bible. That’s when Aldrin lost his patience and punched Sibriel right in the jaw. Aldrin never faced any criminal charges, and if he had, no jury in the world would have convicted him.
By some counts a surprising number of people believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax. These dis-believers point to, among other things, purported inconsistencies in some of the moon landing photos. I’ll describe the application of a new forensic technique that refutes some of these claims.
Shown below is the iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin in which the physical plausibility of the lighting and shadows has been called into question.
I have previously described how cast shadows in an image can be analyzed to determine if they are consistent with a single light source. In order to determine if shadows are authentic, we connect points on a shadow to their corresponding points on the object. These lines should all intersect at a single point (or in the special case, be parallel) — this point is the location of the light source projected into the image. The application of this forensic technique (as shown here) requires a clearly defined shadow to object pairing (e.g., the tip of a cone). Such shadows in the above photo are in short supply thus limiting the application of this forensic technique.
In collaboration with Dr. Eric Kee (Columbia University) and Prof. James O’Brien (UC Berkeley) we recently developed a new forensic technique that can be applied to ambiguously defined shadows . In this analysis, we start at any point on a shadow and draw a wedge-shaped constraint that encompasses all parts of an object to which the shadow may correspond. Shown below is one such constraint. The constraint encompasses the entire sphere because there is no systematic way of reasoning about which part of the sphere is associated with a particular spot on the shadow.
In the above figure, the shaded red region constrains the projected location of the light source. While obviously not as specific as a single line constraint, this approach allows us to analyze all cast shadows in an image.
Because we can now handle ambiguous shadow-object pairings, we can also exploit attached shadows to determine the location of the light source. An attached shadow occurs when an object occludes the light from itself (e.g., a non-full Moon). Shown below, for example, is an attached shadow on the sphere’s surface. The line that is tangent to an attached shadow constrains the projected location of the light source to be on the illuminated side of the object.
Multiple cast and attached shadow constraints can be specified in an image. If the shadows are physically correct, then all of the constraints will share a common intersection (this consistency check is automatically determined using standard linear programming). Any violations of these constraints is evidence of photo tampering.
Shown below is the result of this new shadow analysis applied to the moon landing image. The cast shadow constraints are shown with solid red lines and the attached shadow constraints are shown with dashed lines. All of the constraints are consistent (the triangular region outlined in black denotes a common intersection). Despite some claims to the contrary, the lighting in this spectacular photo is physically consistent.
 Eric Kee, James O’Brien and Hany Farid. Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent Shadows. ACM Transactions on Graphics, 32(4):28:1-12, 2013.
 Eric Kee’s presentation at SIGGRAPH, 2013.
- PHOTOS: Friday Evening’s Lunar Eclipse (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)
- Extra light source lit up Apollo 11 film footage? (planet.infowars.com)
- Buzz Aldrin Reviews ‘Gravity,’ Is ‘Extravagantly Impressed’ (news.moviefone.com)
- 6 Conspiracy Theories that have no reason to exist (illuminutti.com)