“Cast a wrong shadow” (Soros conspiracy)


George Soros is a self-made billionaire hedge fund manager who makes substantial donations to progressive causes worldwide. While those on the alt-right might agree with that description, they also paint a much more sinister picture of him. This includes claims he was a Nazi soldier even though when World War II ended, Soros was a 14-year-old Jew.

His legions of opponents also consider progressive political protestors to be Soros stooges on his payroll. He first came to be widely reviled in conservative circles when he opposed the second Iraq war. During such times, many persons lob irrational accusations drenched in nationalistic fervor. In addition to some right wingers lambasting Soros, The New York Sun called for the imprisonment of anti-war protestors, the Dixie Chicks became pariahs for their mild criticism of the president, and Abu Ghraib whistleblowing hero Joe Darby was labeled a traitor.

While those other instances have faded from memory, the Soros conspiracy theory endures. Glenn Beck labeled him a marionette master who controls the world. Bill O’Reilly called him an “off-the-charts dangerous extremist who wants open borders, a one-world foreign policy, and the legalization of drugs and euthanasia.” Such descriptions enable the speaker to cram all of their and the world’s problems into a bite-sized capsule. It’s much easier than finding solutions to complex issues. It’s also more attractive to blame everything on an impossibly wealthy, influential, and diabolical Jew.

Theorists holding these views think Soros runs or helps control a shadow government that has unlimited power save the ability to shut down YouTube videos exposing it. And despite wielding this unchecked influence and possessing a ruthlessness in executing world dominion, his progressive puppets control neither the White House nor the Senate.

There is a counter belief by some left-wingers that the Koch brothers control a shadow government that benefits Republicans and, to a lesser extent, Libertarians. My objections to any such claims are nonpartisan and my concern is only with conspiracy malarkey. Anyone making these types of claims against the Koch brothers is equally wrong and just as batty.

There is no denying Soros’ ability to influence policy and move markets. Once in the 1990s he traded so many Malaysian ringgits that is caused the currency to substantially devalue. This led Malay Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad to declare, “We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews,” which is poorly-veiled code speak for, “We do want to say that this is a plot by the Jews.” Mohamad continued, “But it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge.”

Soros learned early and up close about the harrowing specter of anti-Semitism. He survived the German invasion of his native Hungary and his opponents have obscenely twisted this into a narrative where a Holocaust survivor was a Nazi or one of their collaborators. In actuality, that’s who Soros was hiding from. When Soros was 13, his father changed the family name to Schwartz and also purchased papers identifying the family as Christian. He also had his son portray himself as the godson of a Hungarian official. This official protected Jews in an occupied country, a la Oskar Schindler.

One of the official’s responsibilities was to catalog properties the Nazis seized and he once took the teenage Soros with him, though Soros did none of the inventory. He hung out with staff members at the looted estate and learned horsemanship. This equestrian excursion described in conspiracy theory circles as Nazi enablement and collaboration.

Following the Allied victory, Soros studied at the London School of Economics and later devised a monetary theory that helped make him a billionaire many times over. He once even experienced a 10-figure rise in his net worth in 24 hours.  As an extremely wealthy Jew who fills liberal coffers and who has shaped the course of markets and policies, Soros is obvious conspiracy theory fodder. As such, there are long-refuted lies still making the Internet rounds, including a photo of Auschwitz clerk Oskar Groening, which is wrongly claimed to be a picture of Soros in Nazi garb.

While painted as the moneybags of a far left deep state, Soros’ politics are more nuanced. True, he has made contributions to organizations fighting for migrant welfare and criminal justice reform. But he has also criticized the hijacking of the #MeToo movement by political opportunists and has said the reason he won’t donate to moderate Republicans is that the association with him would harm those politicians. In fact, before he became the focus of conspiracy theories, Soros made donations to the GOP. Further, one of the reasons he has pumped many millions into Eastern European countries is because of his first-hand experience with the horrors and shortcomings of communism. What’s more, his biggest donations have been outside the political realm; he has given nearly a billion dollars to those former Soviet bloc countries to help them privatize industries, a notion beloved by Republicans and Libertarians.

Conspiracy theorists often speak of powerful Jews trying to run the world. But they want to be the ones revealing this secret. Since it’s well-known that Soros is an extremely wealthy, politically influential Jew, the theorists dig for something deeper so they can maintain their status as members of the enlightened few. That’s why they accuse him of running of a deep state, but that is a self-defeating claim. Someone controlling a shadow government would be, as the name suggests, far removed from the limelight and would be someone we had never heard of.




“Caput-o” (Theresa Caputo)


My cousin came back enthused about the Theresa Caputo Experience and was joined in her gush fest by several Facebook Friends. I refrained from responding, as my spiel would have been a bit much for a social media reply and more appropriate for a blog post. So here we are.

Caputo uses a mix of hot and cold reading techniques. The latter refers to throwing out general guesses, vague enough that they will connect with multiple persons in an arena audience. It also requires a trained mind and ear, the ability to read body language and facial cues, and a talent at gauging reactions and adjusting fire. Caputo also employs a tragic-comic emergency chute if the reading flops. She will ask if someone near the subject can relate to what she is saying and if so, will insist that was the spirit she was picking up. It’s sort of like a radar-gun cop who clocks the wrong driver for speeding, except in Caputo’s case there are no crossed signals, just a fabricated one.

Illusionist and skeptic leader Mark Edward calls this technique piggy-backing, borrowing a phrase Caputo uses to gloss over misfires. When Caputo gets something wrong, Edward notes that she says the silent missive must have been meant for someone else, who will usually pop up after a few more generalities are tossed out. She gives herself even more leeway by using phrases such as “brotherly” or “father figure” to describe someone, meaning it won’t necessarily have to be a male relative to resonate.   

As to hot reads, there are the flaming ones favored by televangelist Peter Popoff, who had his wife funnel information about congregants to him via an earpiece. Caputo’s preferred hot reads are not quite that scorching, but they are above room temperature. Her team scours social media sites to learn specifics about selected audience members. Further, those with whom she spends most of her time are seated near the front and have received Captuo readings before. The cousin lavished praise on Caputo for knowing so much about a woman whose husband had died in a plane crash. But Caputo could offer accurate specifics of the tragedy and the deceased man’s life because she had gleaned this information from multiple in-depth sessions with the widow.  

Caputo’s capers were most vividly revealed by Edward on Inside Edition. In the exposé, Caputo was heard asking a subject, “Why am I picking up baby clothes?” The woman answered, “I just put up a bunch of pictures of baby clothes on my Facebook page.” Indeed she had, which is why Caputo mentioned the infant apparel. She has similar tidbits on select attendees and a corresponding seating chart during her performances. Plus, she is cued, directed, and clandestinely corrected by staff members — persons who should be superfluous for a woman with a direct line to the netherworld.

Audience members swoon over these supposed revelations, but Caputo is a grief ghoul who for a hefty charge will dole out words loved ones think they want to hear but which in the long run keeps them in a perpetual heartbroken state and prevents them from moving on. Making it seem like the deceased are in the same room communicating with them provides temporary comfort, but this blossoms into an extended mourning which can only be alleviated by another peace-for-a-price session.

Captuo feebly tries to counter the charge of cold reading by saying there are only so many ways to die. While that may be true, the number of ways one can meet the end is a separate issue from whether she is cold reading. And when she speaks of “a sister who was lost at night on the highway,” it will likely score a hit in an audience of 6,000. Caputo would have zero chance of success were she to say, “Bonnie Adamson from Elkhart, Ind., who died from a stroke on July 1, 2010, wants her sister from Plainfield, Ohio, who is seated in the eighth row to know that she is at peace.”

Of course, they are ALWAYS at peace or forgiving or where they want to be. In thousands of reads, Caputo has yet to find a spirit with a tinge a bitterness, regret, or who is plotting revenge from beyond the grave.

Jaime Franchi of the Long Island Press approached a Caputo live show with what was initially a gullible mindset. Frachi been impressed by an earlier psychic who described Frachi’s father as a veteran who liked to cook and who had a needling sense of humor.

But as she learned about cold reading, she came to see what was happening. At the Caputo show, the host told audience members anything they could relate to was a message from deceased loved ones. She continuously reminded those in attendance that she was speaking for the dead. For an audience that needed little prompting, this admonition from their anointed one was sufficient. Indeed, Caputo events are filled with subjective validation, a yearning to believe, and creative interpretations.

Audience members even help her fill in the tractor-trailer-sized blanks. Frachi wrote that Caupto addressed a woman who had lost her uncle, saying he had drowned. After the niece said he had died of pancreatic cancer, Caputo continued to hammer the death-by-water theme. When the niece stood firm, Caputo tried to piggy-back that notion onto someone else, again without success. She then insisted there was a mother present whose toddler had died in a small swimming pool, but again no one spoke up to rescue Caputo from this floundering. Eventually, the family member mentioned that during his final days, the uncle’s lungs filled with fluid, and Caputo declared victory for what any skeptic or impartial observer could clearly see was a resounding public defeat.

There are many such times, where Caputo’s creativity enables her to claim success no matter the outcome. Frachi wrote that she asked one audience member, “Why do I feel like you were holding your son when he died?” When this failed to register, Caputo clarified that she meant the mother was always there for her son. Of course, this flexibility is only displayed when Caputo is wrong. If the mother had said, ‘Yes, I was grasping him on his deathbed,” Caputo would never have replied, “Oh no, I just meant it figuratively, that you were always there for him.” 

Philly Mag journalist Victor Fiorillo also attended a Caputo event and came away equally unimpressed. He wrote, “She says generally vague things that she’s getting from the beyond — an older man who has passed, a young man who died violently, someone who committed suicide, the number seven, etc., and waits for someone to nod their head or raise their hand affirming the connection. She doesn’t walk up to a particular person and say, ‘“Your father died three weeks ago of cancer.’”

She homes in on members who connect with her and meanders from those who don’t. If initially failing to get an affirmative response, she plows on until someone relates. According to Fiorillo, she asked an attendee, “Did he write you a note shortly before he died saying I’m sorry?” When told ‘no,’ Caputo grabbed her own rebound and insisted, “The next time you’re in a card store and you see a card that says, ‘I’m sorry,’ know that this is from him to you.”

And next time you read that Theresa Captuo is a grief ghoul who uses cold reading to prey on victims who are at their most vulnerable, know that that came from me.

“Hippie Birthday” (Free birthing)


The most poignant aspect of science denial is when those too young to make choices on the matter suffer for it. This includes infants dead from measles because of anti-vaxxers, a painful death or lifetime paralysis because readily available medical care was eschewed by faith healers, or  when a routine illnesses lingers because over the counter medication is bypassed for jasmine rubs and Reiki sessions.

Another example has emerged lately in the form of free birthing. This refers to intentionally giving birth away from a hospital, sometimes at home, but often in the forest, on a mountaintop, or even amongst dolphins.

The Daily Beast told one such tale centering on an infant named Journey Moon. The moniker is comical, but the story is anything but funny. She was stillborn after her pseudonymous mother attempted a free birth in the desert.

It was just she and her husband. No doctors, doula, nurse, midwife, or even a Lamaze instructor. Indeed, free birthers prefer to go it alone, maybe with a partner and hoping for an audience of ravens and wolves, surrounded by cacti, flowing rivers, and a full moon. They romanticize about long-gone eras where humans allegedly lived in concert with nature and spent most of their day outdoors.

But this is a romanticized version that ignores that the average life span was about 38, that a straw hut was cutting-edge shelter, and that the infant and birthing mother mortality rates were 20 times what they are today. And while free birthers want no one else around, they often have thousands of Facebook followers in groups set up for this specific purpose.  The mother profiled in The Daily Beast article had supporters who were only too happy to tell her she was a “legend” and a “warrior woman” who should “trust the process.”

That trust led to her having a massive urinary tract infection which killed her daughter before she left the womb. Free birthers consider it an issue of a woman’s autonomy and they feel the rate of unnecessary cesarean sections and episiotomies too high. That is a legitimate health issue, but if the welfare of the mother and baby are paramount, hospital birthing is the way to go.

The Daily Beast quoted OB-GYN professor Bruce Young, who said there is a one in five chance a home or other free birth would involve life-threatening complications for the mother or child. By contrast, the chance of the mother or baby dying in the hospital during birth is less than one percent. Stillbirth is a steep price to pay for being able to bypass an unwanted caesarean. And as Katie Paulson wrote in Patheos, “Childbirth is the leading cause of death for women and infants in the world.” That makes having it done in a hospital is the best health decision a woman can make when giving birth.

Free birth social media groups often remove any comments encouraging a woman to seek treatment. This creates an echo chamber where expectant mothers have their risky decisions validated. Such pages lean heavily on the Naturalist fallacy and are permeated with a vaguely spiritual appeal centering on concepts like primal urges and personal empowerment.

But there was no such power for the profiled free birther, who after three days of excruciating unobserved labor gave up and left the desert for a doctor. Even after the baby died, her mother maintained her meandering New Age mindset, asking the deceased newborn to “usher in the spirits of her future siblings when the time was right.”

Like an anti-vaxxer who thinks insulin causes diabetes or a Young Earth Creationist who thinks God created starlight in transit, free birthers live in an isolated reality where they are disconnected from facts and immune to change, reason, or evidence. Free birthers make the drastically mistaken claim that newborns have a better chance of surviving if they enter the world outside of a medical establishment.

Yet countries where women have regular access to medical care have much lower rates of maternal mortality and stillbirth than those that do not. Most developed countries have a stillbirth rate four per 1,000, whereas Third World nations have a rate 10 times that. The maternal mortality rate in those nations is even more pronounced, at 20 times those in developed countries.

Free birthers answer that data with anecdotes from expectant mothers who were given drugs without their permission or who were subjected to vaginal exams without their consent. These are serious issues if true, but such arguments overlook the crucial point of hospital safety and competence. By way of comparison, vaccines aren’t completely safe in every instance, but neither is polio. Free birthers defend it as a matter of choice. Maybe so, but it’s clear what the best choice would be.

“Pleading heart” (Cholesterol contrarians)


I consume cheese, milk, and butter, with halfhearted consideration about limiting my intake of such. But such concerns are unfounded according to some cholesterol contrarians who consider the lipid molecule benign or even beneficial. Stemming from this belief is an additional conviction that since cholesterol levels are irrelevant, no one needs statins to lower those numbers.

However, WHO and similar organizations consistently make it known that butter, cheese, milk, and red meat are fine in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. But they also stress that excess saturated fat may cause the liver to overproduce bad cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, the country’s leading killer.

The cholesterol contrarians are led by Uffe Ravnskov, who insists “the reason why so-called experts say that I am mistaken is that the vast majority are paid generously by the drug companies.”

But while the funding for the research materials and laboratories may come from pharmaceutical companies, individual scientists receive no money from them. And the reason pharmaceutical companies fund research is for the same reason the auto industry pays for crash test studies. Both enterprises want their products to be as safe as possible because they are potentially liable if they irresponsibly put a dangerous one on the market.

As to cholesterol-conquering statins, the Guardian’s Sarah Boseley wrote that the metadata of studies published in the Lancet concluded that over five years, a daily statin would prevent 1,000 heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery bypasses among 10,000 people who had already experienced one of these medical maladies. Further, statins could prevent heart attacks in those at increased risk because of high blood pressure or diabetes. Weight, age, blood pressure, and family history can help doctors estimate the chances of a patient having a heart attack, and statins are recommended for anyone with a 10 percent chance of one.

The SkepDoc, Harriet Hall, notes that prevention is much more than gulping statins and refraining from having a bacon double cheeseburger. A balanced approach would include healthy weight maintenance and exercise, a genetics also plays a key role. I have been a vegetarian for half my life and still have slightly elevated cholesterol levels. My love of cheese and milk contributes to that, but so does what I inherited.

Indeed, cholesterol is only one factor leading to heart attacks. Skeptic leader Robert Todd Carroll explained that, “There is not a strong body of peer-reviewed published research that shows that a person who eats a low-fat diet is guaranteed to have low cholesterol, which will prevent that person from getting atherosclerosis, which in turn will prevent that person from getting a heart attack. Nor is there strong evidence that a person who eats lots of animal fat will get high cholesterol and get atherosclerosis and die of a heart attack as a result. Other factors include past health history and the current state of your health, your family history with cholesterol levels and heart disease, your genetic predisposition to high cholesterol and/or heart disease, and do you smoke, are you grossly overweight, and do you exercise?”

While it is a near consensus among nutrition scientists that excess amounts of bad cholesterol is detrimental, those same persons hold that it is but one factor in a person’s heart attack susceptibility. But Ravnskov creates a strawman that those scientists feel diet alone causes high cholesterol, which in turn is the sole determinant for heart attacks.

He also misuses statistics to try and bolster his point. For example, he cited the Framingham Heart Study, which concluded that decreasing levels of cholesterol are associated with increased mortality among older participants. He interprets this to mean that either decreasing cholesterol is detrimental for all or that cutting cholesterol intake is a significant causal factor for mortality. He further notes that since 1970, fatal heart attacks in Japan have declined while animal fat consumption has increased. He considers this evidence that animal fat in the diet is not a major cause of heart disease and that “good cholesterol” is redundant.

But this is post hoc reasoning as wells as confusing correlation and causation. First, as an elderly person’s health declines, they tend toward malnourishment, which will invariably lower cholesterol. Second, persons are surviving heart attacks more often today because of better focus on proper nutrition and medical advances such as statins and a daily aspirin following such incidents. To prove his point, Ravnskov needs to show data that as persons increase animal fat intake, their chances of a fatal heart attack decrease.   

Ravnskov also considers it a myth that high fat foods cause heart disease since studies do not show that a diet high in saturated fat is a sufficient condition to bring on a heart attack or that a diet low in saturated fat is a sufficient condition to prevent a heart attack.

But he mixes up “cause” with “sufficient condition.” Carroll wrote, “Some causes are necessary but not sufficient conditions. For example, some viruses must be present and thus are necessary conditions for certain diseases to occur. But they are not sufficient conditions, as the virus may be present but not manifest itself in illness.” Similarly, a high fat diet by itself may be an insufficient condition to cause heart disease, but it can be a major contributing factor in some people, as can family medical history, smoking, obesity, and stress.

In another misunderstanding of statistics, Ravnskov noted that 20 percent of those who die from heart attacks have never had atherosclerosis so he therefore concludes that the condition doesn’t cause heart attacks. But only 10 percent of smokers get lung cancer, while just .1 percent of nonsmokers do. The reasonable conclusion here is not that tobacco is relatively harmless with regard to lung cancer since only 10 percent of smokers get it. Rather, the logical lesson it that smoking is hazardous because it increases one’s chances of getting lung cancer by 100 times.  

The cholesterol contrarian also plays the Galileo Gambit by saying he is persecuted for his beliefs. And perhaps he is. But that’s because he’s dispensing lethal medical advice, not because he’s being repressed by a powerful cabal of pharmaceutical executives, scientific stooges, and skeptic bloggers.

“Don’t do the time if you can’t do the crime” (False confessions)


Someone accused of a heinous crime they didn’t commit will likely be scared and confused, and after hours of intense questioning, will also be weary and sleep-deprived. Which means they may make poor decisions about whether to continue speaking or to have a lawyer present. Add to this mix the claim that evidence has been found again them and one can end up with the terrifying reality of a person admitting to something that they didn’t do and which will deprive them of their freedom and reputation. This is even more likely if they can be persuaded that they will be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge than what they are being accused of.

In an article for Debunking Denialism, Emil Karlsson wrote that authors of the police manual Criminal Interrogations and Confessions insist that if law enforcement officers ask certain questions of suspects and study their behavior and responses, they can make accurate determinations of guilt or innocence 85 percent of the time.

However, the study on which that assertion is based had no control group and no reliable way to determine the actual truth of the criminal cases where these techniques were used. Further, research shows that alleged signs of deception, such as nervousness and darting eyes, may not be that at all. Still, confirmation bias and subjective validation will make the percentage of successes seem greater.

The most common method of getting suspects to confess is through the Reid technique, which combines a hostile interrogation which assumes built and lying about evidence against the accused. In traditional good cop-bad cop fashion, there will eventually a more sympathetic ear offered to the accused as the interrogator tries to understand the reasoning behind the crime or to mitigate its circumstances. Then, contemplating the consequences of, say, being convicted of first-degree murder and pleading guilty to manslaughter, the accused may break down and make a false confession.

The introduction of manufactured evidence is crucial. Experiments have shown that false evidence used against the accused can double the number of persons who confess. In one such study, subjects filled out a computerized survey and were warned that if they hit the alt key, the machine would crash and the data be lost. If a subject were wrongly accused of doing this, half of them confessed to having done so. But when a purported eyewitness mendaciously claimed to have seen the alt key pressed, the confession rate rocketed to 94 percent.

And once a confession is made, the damage is usually irreversible. Karlsson wrote that studies utilizing mock jurors show that “confessions have an extraordinary high impact of decisions. Even when conclusively proven to be coerced, jurors are not able to discount their influence and thus cases where coerced confessions are presented and jurors are explicitly instructed to ignore it have a higher conviction rate than the same cases without a confession.” Even if the confession is false, proven to be coerced, and buoyed by no other evidence, the accused is much more likely to be convicted. If the defendant is painted by the prosecution or police as being unstable, that makes it even worse.

A lab study using an actual case demonstrated this. Researchers broke volunteers into four groups: A control group given the real story; a group given the real story but with a false confession thrown in; a group that got the real story but with an irrelevant testimony from police about the suspect’s emotional state; and a fourth group that heard both the false confession and irrelevant testimony.

The base rate conviction rate was 53 percent, a false confession increased that to 63 percent, while irrelevant testimony reduced it to 48 percent. But if hearing both the false confession and irrelevant testimony, mock jurors voted to convict nine times out of 10.





“Long-term project” (Holographic moon)


Most conspiracy theorists prefer their iconoclastic status and for those wishing to take it even further, there are alternatives to the alternatives. These include the idea of Earth being hollow instead of flat; a fondness for Lumeria instead of Atlantis; and whispers that Israelis were behind 9/11 instead of the U.S. government.

Then we have the conviction that the moon is a hologram, which while not precisely inconsistent with flat Earth beliefs would leave little room for common ground. One of the few astronomical observations flat Earthers get right is that our satellite is indeed in motion. They believe it exists and moves about, while hologram proponents reject such notions.

While the idea of a holographic moon is comical, I was surprised by the anger that believers have over what they feel is a repressed truth. Of course, we here are much more concerned with their evidence than their emotions, so let’s dive into the former.

At the risk of stating the obvious, this leads us to YouTube. The user Crrow777 claims that when gazing skyward at night power glitches in an artificial electrical system are revealed. They probably are if one looks long enough and is determined to reach such a conclusion. But his corroborating evidence is limited to referencing three unidentified individuals with secret information and unspecified Russian scientists also in the know.

He leaves several questions unanswered, or unasked for that matter. These include: What causes a solar or lunar eclipse? What causes gravitational pull on Earth and the resulting tides? How do radio signals bounce off a three-dimensional light projection? How would a hologram emit gamma rays, which are detected coming from the moon?

Further, what is the incentive for the thousands of persons would need to have been in on this for millenniums and who exist in every part of the world, including islands several hundred miles away from any other land mass? Such as Bouvet, an uninhabited hump of coral 1,100 miles from any human and which is visited only annually by Norwegian scientists, who still see a moon when they’re there.

Residents of Tristan de Cunha are 1,500 miles from any other terra firma, yet even on this extremely remote, airstrip-free locale, someone would need to be present to perpetrate the ruse from the ground or broadcast it from a manmade satellite (like I said, hologram enthusiasts and flat Earthers don’t get along too well). Sailors circumnavigating the globe have always been able to use our satellite as a guide and modern-day jet passengers on a long distance overnight flight would see the hologram disappear.  

Moreover, how did the hologram plotter’s predecessors manage this 100, 1,000, and 10,000 years ago? Ancient cultures referenced the moon and based rituals, festivals, and planting and harvesting seasons around it. This was done by societies all over the world, meaning the conspiracy would have to have been coordinated with persons up to 10,000 miles apart who had no way of communicating with each other. 

The website revisionism.nl touches on parts of this by stating that the projection “could have been different things at different times and different places, depending on the technology available to the conspirators and the culture and beliefs of the population being deceived. Perhaps it began as a collective hallucination or a religious myth, or perhaps an especially bright star that came to be exaggerated over time. However the moon story started, early proponents of the hoax were swift to recognize how it could be exploited for their benefit, and shrewdly devised a scheme to use it to their advantage.”

Who they were, how they perpetrated it, what they gained, and how they passed the secret down for 50,000 years are all left unanswered, and no evidence is offered for this haphazard hypothesis.

Ccrow777’s cohort Dave Johnson opens his videos with a notice that includes personal attacks, hostility to opposing views, and superfluous apostrophes and articles: “I care less than NOTHING for your opinion or recollection’s from a Science book Dummies.”

Johnson points to a purple fringe that appear when he zooms in on the moon with his camcorder, not explaining why that would be consistent with a hologram or why a hologram would be the only explanation for a purple fringe.

The skeptic YouTuber ColdHardLogic replied that different colors of light refract while passing through a lens. Part of the lens function, in fact, is to bring light to a desired focal plane. And since different wavelengths of light are refracted by different amounts, they are focused at different points, and can result in visual phenomena since as purple fringes.

Gawker’s Dayna Evans unearthed a Facebook group asking questions such as how a supposed barren wasteland like the moon could glow. Since I’m assuming the persons asking this have no fourth-grade science books handy, I’ll let them know it’s caused by the sun’s light reflecting off it.

Meanwhile, revisionism.nl’s About section highlights continual changes to the moon’s brightness, shape, size, and color, though those changes would seem INCONSISTENT with a holographic projection. The site maintainers don’t entertain competing notions, but do allow some internal dialogue as to how conspirators display the image: “It could be a hologram, projected from various government installations throughout the world. It could be a large, crudely painted balloon held in place by helium and propelled by tiny sails and rudders, which is why it moves across the sky so slowly.”

A third option that’s floated, so to speak, is that chemtrails leave behind a screen on which the hologram is shone. This would push the notion of chemtrails back several thousand years, which would get conspiracy theorists excited, but it leaves unanswered the question of why this screen fails to respond to sunlight during times the hologram is seen during the day.

A fourth option to explain the cratered white rock in the night sky is that a round satellite formed 4  billion years ago when Earth collided with another planet, and gravity has kept this heavenly body orbiting our planet ever since. During this time, humans visited this astronomical neighbor and brought back souvenir rocks. Gotta tell you, I’m definitely getting good use out of this fourth-grade science book today.

“Double-busted suit” (LaCroix ingredients)


A lawsuit alleges that canned LaCroix contains an ingredient found in cockroach insecticide. While the accusation is likely true, it does not follow that the bubbly liquid doubles as a bug killer or that it is in any way dangerous.

Of much greater concern is the scientific ignorance that would lead to such a suit being filed. Food and beverage production is a form of chemistry and, like many folks, those handling this attempted money-grab have a poor understanding of how that branch of science works.

The lawsuit contends that LaCroix includes linalool, which is used in pesticides. But what matters is the amount of an ingredient and what it’s combined with. Christie Aschwanden of 538 points out that the drink is mostly dihydrogen monoxide, which “is a major component of acid rain, corrodes and oxidize metals and can be fatal when inhaled.” And we are intentionally putting it in ourselves!

Aschwanden added that while linalool is used in some products that combat cockroaches, “calling it an insecticide is like saying that citric acid is a paint remover simply because some such products contain it.” She also quoted  flavor chemist Gary Reineccius, who said linalool is found in many fruits and it gives blueberries their flavor.

With regard to the other disputed LaCroix ingredients, limonene and linalool propionate are common plant chemicals that are no cause for concern, according to Reineccius. He called limonene is a naturally occurring plant compound and noted linalool propionate is found in lavender and sage oils that some of the nature-loving litigants may be lathering themselves with.

A separate aspect of the suit alleges fraud by the company since the self-described all-natural LaCroix contains ingredients the FDA labels synthetic. While the three ingredients do appear on such an FDA list, that’s because they can be synthesized in a laboratory, but they also appear in nature.

In a press release, LaCroix officials said the ingredients it uses are derived naturally, so they should defend themselves from this charge. But from a science perspective, the more relevant point is that there’s no chemical difference between linalool that excretes from a plant and linalool that is assembled in a petri dish.  

Aschwanden wrote that if one saw a coconut drink can promising “natural favor,” many persons envision the hard brown tropical fruit being cracked open and emptied. Yet in some cases, this natural flavor is actually a castor oil derivative that tastes like coconut. And all is well. Reineccius explained, “It makes a beautiful coconut flavor and it’s perfectly safe and wholesome. You can label it ‘all-natural,’ but it’s not from coconut.”

To food chemists like Reineccius, it’s science at work. To those who make and fall for appeals to nature, it makes for a mortifying truth.  

But even when desirable, natural will only get you so far. Aschawnden noted one could make a drink at home with water, fruit, and sugar. But to be sold commercially, it would need to be uniform, have shelf life, conform to safety regulations, and follow often-byzantine rules.

To accomplish that, food chemists work to create durable, lasting, tasty products that sometimes end up at the center of a misguided lawsuit.