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Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous 251

barlevg writes "The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang breaks down two popular conspiracy theories: that HAARP is responsible for severe weather and that contrails from commercial airliners are actually 'chemtrails' sprayed for nefarious purposes. The article shows why each is preposterous to anyone with even an elementary knowledge of meteorology or an iota of common sense. The author readily acknowledges that his analysis will do nothing to convince the tinfoil-hat-wearing, vinegar-spraying members of the populace."
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Why Weather Control Conspiracy Theories Are Scientifically Ludicrous

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:08PM (#44587245)

    They may not be nefarious, but they do add particulates that had a demonstrative effect on atmospheric temps during the 9/11 airspace shutdown.

    And Jesse Walker has a new book on the United States of Paranoia that traces the bipartisan conspiracies since our founding and before.

    I'll check that out before some condescending post article

  • Recent events (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:18PM (#44587343) Homepage
    I think that in light of recent events, you have to give the tinfoil-hat crowd the benefit of the doubt, no matter how insane they seem.
  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:34PM (#44587581)

    This article reeks of poisoning the well. China has modified the weather publicly. Russia has modified the weather publicly. To claim that it's impossible is pretty damn idiotic! If you are not suspicious as to why the most allegedly advanced society in the world claims it can't do it you really should get off the medication.

    The fact that the plans for chemtrails and weather modification are not given does not make science study disappear. We know things are happening and we can measure them. Aluminum and Barium in the atmosphere has been shown to be true by numerous scientific studies. Those metals are measurable in plants and soil which has also been measured. The underlying "why" is not seen because it's all "top-secret" but that does not make the metals disappear.

    This idiot thinks that their "why" is better than someone else' "why". While everything is buried in "top-secret" files nobody knows. How about petitioning the Government to open up instead of claiming it's all for the greater good without any evidence? If we don't open things up, that speculation that it's all for the greater good has identical credibility to the guy who believes it's for nefarious purposes.

    Then we get to the outright lies in this article. "HAARP does not and cannot control the weather. " Wait a minute there non-scientist! If the stated goals of exciting and heating particles and atoms in the ionosphere, and we know that they can do that, how does that not give someone the ability to control weather? What happens to air that is heated and cooled? Water that's heated and cooled? Come now, someone has to have had junior high level physics and chemistry and can see how outrageous that claim is. If their argument is based on a lie, the rest of the summaries are worth nothing.

  • by Captain Sarcastic ( 109765 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @04:57PM (#44587923)

    ...Or at least 1990s nostalgia.

    The problem with 1990's nostalgia is that it spent time pining for the 1970's... which in turn was bemoaning the 50's. So it doesn't matter which nostalgia you pick - it isn't as good as it used to be.

  • by Sasayaki ( 1096761 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @05:09PM (#44588065)

    A key component of nearly all, or in fact all, conspiracy theories is a vast group of dedicated individuals with almost infinite resources who, in ways grand and mundane, affect reality to hide some truth or collection of truths. The problem with that theory is that any evidence to the contrary, no matter how convincing, is in fact seen as evidence *for* the theory.

    An example. There are two ninjas outside your window right now.

    Go on, take a look.

    See any ninjas?

    No, of course you didn't, because they're invisible. Ninjas are badarse pros who would never be seen by an amateur. They're there, though. I was reading on Black Helicopter-o-pedia about the ninja training program in 1967 that produced hundreds of thousands of these trained, stealthy killers and they watch "persons of interest" constantly. Go read a book, sheeple!

    More seriously, though, the root cause of conspiracy theories is usually ego. The kind of people who believe in them are typically those who have a very high opinion of themselves, often to the point of believing that they're amongst a small group of people (as small as 1 person) who are somehow smart enough, or cunning enough, or brave enough, or in some way "special" enough to avoid some great trick or ailment that affects the "mundanes". The idea, though, that they are infact deficient in some manner, such as being batshit insane, can't cross their minds because they've convinced themselves that they're better than everyone.

    That's not to say that mainstream ideas are always correct, or that the most popular opinion is the best one; but any theory that relies, in some part, on you being intrinsically better than everyone, including academics and those with decades of experience and know-how in certain areas who have no incentive to cover up vast scandals, or that relies on a global, infinitely resourced, powerful, invisible cabal to work is probably bullshit.

    Plus, you know, these things do have a tendency to come out. The NSA got busted doing a huge amount of domestic spying lately. They ARE an organisation that is essentially global, essentially infinitely resourced, powerful, invisible... and they managed to conceal this fact for what? Ten years, only?

  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @05:45PM (#44588461)

    Actually they did a study, something along these lines: they'd pick a divisive topic, and then show people arguments for and against either side of the topic. The people would also rate the effectiveness of the argument. They also marked down how strongly they believed in their position before and after reading the arguments.

    When people read arguments for the side they already agreed with, they would end up agreeing even more strongly - no surprise there. Yet it turned out that when people read arguments against the side they agreed with, they would *still* end up agreeing even more strongly with their own position. In fact, the more well-rated an argument was by people who agreed with that side, the more it would cause someone who already disagreed to disagree even further.

    Unfortunately that was a bit laboured and I have no links handy, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went. The net take-away is, you can't convince anybody via textual arguments if they already strongly agree with something. The internet's archives are ample proof of this.

    I remember that study but I don't think it shows what most people think it does.

    Basically they asked someone how they felt about a topic, showed them an argument that disagreed with them, then asked again and found they were even more convinced of their original position.

    But if you think about it in practical terms that's neither surprising nor particularly irrational.

    For instance I believe AGW is real. I admit there's some degree of uncertainty, and papers that are wrong, and even researchers or journals not being as unbiased as they should be. But on the balance of evidence I think the evidence for AGW is overwhelming.*

    But a true believer who thinks AGW is a mistake or a fraud is going to come to the table with very refined arguments. They'll quote studies, incidents, effects, mistakes, all sorts of things I'll have no answer for. For me to simply switch sides in the face of those arguments would frankly be irrational, since all I'd have to do was wait until I ran into a well educated advocate for the other side and I'd switch back!

    Instead I reinforce my opposition to their position and argue back. Push their arguments trying to look for holes or misrepresented facts. This is what I think the study detects, the defensive response when people enter an argument.

    What they don't look at is what happens later. When you keep thinking about the good arguments and doing research and the other side still holds up. Eventually if people keep seeing the good arguments they start to reevaluate their position, but it doesn't happen over the course of a single argument where people are trying to defend themselves.

    I actually had this happen with regards to nutrition, I'd heard some extended interviews with Gary Taubes explaining how nutrition science had gotten it wrong and carbs and insulin were the true cause of obesity and I was a believer for a time. But then a friend argued with me, presenting some good points, so I dug in and defended Taubes hypothesis. But later I went back, did my own research, and eventually came to the conclusion that Taubes was wrong.**

    If that episode was in that study I'd probably been just as sure as before of Taubes in the immediate aftermath of that conversation. But that conversation eventually led me to reverse my position entirely.

    * This is just an example, I'm not trying to cause an AGW debate.
    ** Or a Taubes debate, I've already got one going []

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers