Tag Archives: The New York Times

Scientists Just Say No to ‘Chemtrails’ Conspiracy Theory

via The New York Times

 Contrails, or condensation trails, left by jet aircraft streak across the sky over Santa Fe, N.M. Credit Robert Alexander/Archive Photos, via Getty Images

Contrails, or condensation trails, left by jet aircraft streak across the sky over Santa Fe, N.M.
Credit Robert Alexander/Archive Photos, via Getty Images

Conspiracy theories can be stubborn, particularly in the echo chamber of the internet.

One persistent belief in some quarters is that the government — or business, perhaps — is deploying a fleet of jet aircraft to spray chemicals into the sky to control the population, food supply or other things.

As evidence, they point to what they call “chemtrails,” which are more commonly known as contrails, or condensation trails, produced at high altitudes as water vapor in jet engine exhaust condenses and freezes.

Adding fuel to the chemtrails theory is the fact that there are a few legitimate reasons for atmospheric spraying — “seeding” clouds to make rain, for example — and in recent years there has been some research on the idea of spraying chemicals as a potential way to fight global warming.

But now, scientists have become more organized in their efforts to shoot down the idea, conducting a peer-reviewed study in Environmental Research Letters that debunks chemtrails supporters’ claims.

contrails-2_0350pxThe goal, the researchers say, is not so much to change the minds of hard-core believers, but to provide a rebuttal — the kind that would show up in a Google search — to persuade other people to steer clear of this idea.

Steven J. Davis, a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine, said he had the idea for the study after a conversation with a salesman at a mattress store.

When the man found out what he did for a living, Dr. Davis said, “he had very serious questions about what we were going to do about the chemtrails problem.”

Dr. Davis said that when he got home, he searched the internet for peer-reviewed studies on the conspiracy theory, but found none.

The theory has been popularized on websites that display photographs of contrails but are described instead as chemtrails that persist in the atmosphere and contain harmful chemicals like strontium, barium and aluminum.

Continue Reading @ The New York Times . . .

chemtrail-pilot-cartoon-338_0450px

The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten

By MOISES VELASQUEZ-MANOFF via The New York Times

gluten-free-logo-21_250pxAS many as one in three Americans tries to avoid gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten-free menus, gluten-free labels and gluten-free guests at summer dinners have proliferated.Some of the anti-glutenists argue that we haven’t eaten wheat for long enough to adapt to it as a species. Agriculture began just 12,000 years ago, not enough time for our bodies, which evolved over millions of years, primarily in Africa, to adjust. According to this theory, we’re intrinsically hunter-gatherers, not bread-eaters. If exposed to gluten, some of us will develop celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or we’ll simply feel lousy.Most of these assertions, however, are contradicted by significant evidence, and distract us from our actual problem: an immune system that has become overly sensitive.

Wheat was first domesticated in southeastern Anatolia perhaps 11,000 years ago. (An archaeological site in Israel, called Ohalo II, indicates that people have eaten wild grains, like barley and wheat, for much longer — about 23,000 years.)

food-grain_200pxIs this enough time to adapt? To answer that question, consider how some populations have adapted to milk consumption. We can digest lactose, a sugar in milk, as infants, but many stop producing the enzyme that breaks it down — called lactase — in adulthood. For these “lactose intolerant” people, drinking milk can cause bloating and diarrhea. To cope, milk-drinking populations have evolved a trait called “lactase persistence”: the lactase gene stays active into adulthood, allowing them to digest milk.

Milk-producing animals were first domesticated about the same time as wheat in the Middle East. As the custom of dairying spread, so did lactase persistence. What surprises scientists today, though, is just how recently, and how completely, that trait has spread in some populations. Few Scandinavian hunter-gatherers living 5,400 years ago had lactase persistence genes, for example. Today, most Scandinavians do.

Here’s the lesson: Adaptation to a new food stuff can occur quickly — in a few millenniums in this case. So if it happened with milk, why not with wheat?

Continue Reading – – –

%d bloggers like this: