By Joshua A. Krisch via Popular Mechanics
Poisonous Government Snow
Georgia isn’t good at snow. Two inches fell in Atlanta last month and, amidst car crashes and television parodies, snow skepticism was born. Georgians bravely took to YouTube, determined to demonstrate that neither matches nor lighters nor blowtorches (a disproportionate number of Georgians seem to own blowtorches) could melt that strange, white stuff that the government insisted was just frozen water. On film, the snow blackens, twists like plastic, and stubbornly refuses to melt.Although entire Web pages are dedicated to debunking the chemical snow theory, the simplest way to deal with snow skeptics is to put the stuff in a microwave or on the stove. Spoiler: It melts. The blackened snow was caused by soot from the lighter, because butane burns inefficiently, and as snow turns into slush under a blowtorch, it only appears not to melt. Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait explains how the snow is, in fact, slowly melting.
The entire episode, however, brings up a good question: Who was the first Georgian to decide to burn the snow, just to see what would happen?
Invasion of the Lizard People
Look around you. If you’re in a room with 25 other people, odds are at least one of them believes the world is run by lizard people, according to a recent poll. Conspiracy junkies are well aware of the theory that cleverly disguised reptilian aliens traveled to Earth thousands of years ago to infiltrate our highest echelons of government. Proof exists in the form of terrifying YouTube videos revealing news anchors with reptilian eyes, and lack of any better explanation for Rob Ford.You can dispatch the reptilian eye claim with relative ease, but only if you’re willing to suffer through 3 minutes of this awful techno music. The quick version: If a video file is compressed, sped up, and zoomed in, a clever video editor can transform any human eye into a menacing reptilian slit. But if you insist on clinging to the lizard government theory, at least be prepared.
What is July 27, 2014? Check your calendar, and you’ll notice that it’s a Sunday. But ask Siri, and you might discover that the 27th is the appointed time for the Opening of the Gates of Hades. Several shocked iPhone users reported last month that Siri had officially scheduled the apocalypse for this summer, in an odd move that the usual suspects took quite seriously.This particular trick didn’t work when when we tried it, but we can’t promise it never happened. Apple developers are strange birds, and iPhone users are still discovering odd pearls of wisdom and other Easter eggs coded into Siri. Various sources attribute the arbitrary doomsday date in this conspiracy theory to a Chinese ghost month or the end of Ramadan, when Muslims believe that the gates of hell reopen. But a few weird programmers do not an apocalypse make, and we are fairly confident that Siri has no idea when the world will end.
Adam and Eve? Superintelligent Beings From Outer Space
Now that even Bill Nye has weighed in on the debate about creationism and evolution, some of us would welcome any sort of common ground between science and religion. The ancient alien theory may offer a solution: Adam and Eve were extraterrestrials who traveled to Earth aboard a space ark piloted by—you guessed it—Noah. Predictably, the conspiracy theorists say, proof of this story abounds—but the government insists on keeping it all under lock and key. Several “scholars” now claim that, through the Freedom of Information Act, they were finally able to access piles of declassified documents. Official reports, they say, prove that a flying saucer once crashed into Mt. Ararat in Turkey, where it is traditionally believed that Noah’s ark came to rest after the great Flood.
Anyway, it just doesn’t seem likely that Noah’s intergalactic starship, after tumbling through space and dodging meteor showers, finally ran aground in Turkey. But forgetting this silly story for a second, there is the real scientific idea of panspermia, which raises the possibility that our planet’s first single-celled organisms have extraterrestrial origins.
Like an out of control flood of death and destruction, silly rumors and scares about the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster continue to emanate from a toxic slagheap and pour into the world, causing fear and panic buying of worthless detox junk. Scientists and skeptics, armed with virtual mallets, slam these demonic hedgehogs of lies back into their dark holes; only for more to pop out of the ground, clutching new rumors and scares in their foaming maws.
But major media outlets and scientists haven’t been silent. There are solid, scientifically-sound pieces all over the internet from the likes of Time, the LA Times, the New York Times, Forbes, Daily Kos, Popular Mechanics, Slate and others. There is also excellent debunking by experts of all stripes, from physicists to marine biologists to nuclear engineers, at places like Deep Sea News and Southern Fried Science. Finally, there are my humble attempts to bring some sanity to the madness.
So in the spirit of good science and healthy snark, here’s Volume 4 of my Fukushima series.
The previous volumes answered the pressing questions:
- Is Pacific Ocean fish safe? Yes.
- Is the West Coast Being Absolutely Fried by Fukushima Radiation? No.
- Did a bunch of other apocalyptic nonsense happen? No.
And now, meet the new crap. Same as the old crap.
CLAIM: OMG! A giant squid beached itself in Santa Monica! Fukushima!
This one is actually a decent litmus test for whether a person is serious about the impact of Fukushima. If they take this obvious hoax to be reality, they probably aren’t that bright and shouldn’t be listened to. For the record, Snopes demolished this the same day it hit the web, finding the two pictures Photoshopped together to create the hoax, and driving down to Santa Monica to ensure that, no, Squidzilla had not washed up on Muscle Beach. We’re dealing with moderately humorous satire, and that’s it.
CLAIM: Two underground nuclear explosions rocked the Fukushima site on New Year’s Eve, forcing Russia’s Ministry of Defense to go on high alert – and causing TEPCO to quietly admit that Reactor 3 was melting down. GAME OVER!!!
None of this happened, other than Reactor 3 melting down, which took place right after the tsunami. The original “report” about the “explosions” came from whatdoesitmean.com, one of the least reliable “news” websites on the internet, with a reputation for making up wild conspiracies and insane stories, then tossing them out there for other conspiracy sites to disseminate. Which is exactly what happened here. There were no underground explosions and no high alert.
Not only were there no nuclear explosions, there couldn’t have been. A nuclear bomb and a nuclear reactor are not at all the same thing. They’re designed differently to do very different things. Without some kind of detonator and weapons grade nuclear material, which Fukushima doesn’t have, a nuclear explosion literally could not have happened. This is basic nuclear physics, and if you don’t know this, you shouldn’t be sharing anything about Fukushima.
CLAIM: Radioactive steam was seen pouring off Reactor 3, meaning it’s in the middle of a meltdown.
Alternative media sites went crazy right before New Year’s with claims that the west coast was about to be hit by an onslaught of radiation from Reactor 3 in the form of nuclear steam. Putting aside the ludicrousness of “radioactive steam” in Japan killing people on the west coast, the steam, which is real, has a simple explanation, rooted in kindergarten physics.
- The reactor is physically hot, because of the decay of nuclear fuel. Of course, this is dangerous, but that’s beside the point.
- It’s winter in Japan.
- When cold water from rain or snow hits something hot (like a reactor), it turns into steam. Just like your breath.
The steam has been coming off Reactor 3 for almost three years. Panicking about it now makes no sense.
CLAIM: A dude with a Geiger counter went to a California beach and found radiation levels off the charts! Evacuate the west coast at once!
This one has been pretty well covered here at Skeptoid and at other places, so I won’t go into the whole explanation again, except to say that there are any number of reasons why the Geiger counter in the video reads the way it does. Background radiation is everywhere, and in everything (so much for the “no safe dose” meme.) This is especially true of the ocean, which is rich in uranium. That particular area, Pacifica State Beach, is especially radioactive, owing to natural substances in the granite and sand there.
The video is not a source of anything other than a guy with a Geiger counter. California officials dismissed it as scaremongering, and they were right. Your granite countertops will absolutely fry you long before a day at the beach does.
It took seven years for authorities to produce the most detailed aviation accident investigation in history. So how many people would it take to manufacture a fake report to cover up a plot?
By Joe Pappalardo via Popular Mechanics
The official investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, which killed 230, concluded that a fuel tank had ignited from within, but never determined what sparked the explosion. (Dozens of airplanes have suffered similar events, and the safety regulations governing fuel tanks changed in 2008.) But now, all these years later, a new documentary, TWA Flight 800, claims that a missile or bomb took down the plane—and the U.S. government has been covering it up.
“It was either a terrorist attack that they wanted to ignore, or an accident as a result of a military operation that went wrong,” Hank Hughes, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator and driving force behind the film, told ABC News.
What would you have to believe to accept the idea of a 17-year-old sprawling government cover-up? We look back at the original NTSB report to see what it says, and who would have had to lie about forensic tests or doctored evidence. Here’s a refresher on what the report says, why the original, simpler explanation is still the most likely.
Investigators reconstructed and analyzed virtually the entire structure of the stricken airliner. The work revealed 196 blast holes in the airplane’s structure. So how did the investigators figure that an internal gas tank explosion caused this damage, instead of a missile or bomb?
The NTSB’s metallurgists requested that Boeing conduct the tests (and Boeing had no motive to reach the conclusion that a defect in its own equipment, rather than an act of violence, caused the blast). Its engineers created test plates and fired fragments at them at high and low velocities. An antiaircraft missile warhead detonates close to its target, spraying shrapnel at high speeds into the aircraft to destroy it. A bomb made with high-energy explosives would also hurl metal, this time from the inside out, at higher velocities than an inadvertent gas tank detonation.
These tests indicated that high-speed fragments leave particular signs behind, like deformations on the edges and melted parts of the walls of the hole. High-speed impacts leave little surface deformation. In the TWA 800 tests, all but two of the 196 holes exhibited signs of . . .
- Former investigators ‘break silence’ about NTSB cover-up of TWA Flight 800 crash (nydailynews.com)
- TWA Flight 800 investigators break silence in new documentary, claim original conclusion about cause of crash is wrong (foxnews.com)
- Video Vault: TWA Flight 800 Missile Theory (wnep.com)
- TWA Flight 800 investigators break silence (wnd.com)
- TWA Flight 800 Evidence Points to Missile: Petition (newser.com)
- TWA Flight 800 Crash Not as Reported: Documentary (newser.com)