Moon loon tune

MOONLAND

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing will be in 2019, but don’t expect a golden year from those who insist it was a hoax. After 49+ years, this bunch still resorts to long-disproven scenarios, while summarily dismissing any discomfiting evidence.

As to why NASA would pretend to go to the moon, deniers have speculated it could have been seen as a Cold War victory, that it distracted from the Vietnam War, or that it would ensure the space administration would continue being funded. While those all might have been consequences of a successful moonshot, that’s separate from it being proof the whole thing was staged. Using this line of thinking is to commit the Affirming the Consequent fallacy.

Since a sizable majority think we went to the moon and most who feel otherwise are incapable of being persuaded, why blog about it? Primarily because there may be a 12-year-old who is hearing denier points and refutations to them for the first time. Scientific knowledge is always one generation from extinction. Plus, addressing these points is a rejoinder to those who claim skeptics and scientists are the truly closed-minded and are mindless sheep who instinctively swallow what we are fed.

After the Apollo and Gemini launches, early flat-Earthers Samuel Shenton and Charles Johnson responded with launches of their own, in the form of charging they were fabrications. This included an evidence-free assertion that Arthur C. Clarke directed, wrote, and produced the moon-landing script. This was updated to become Stanley Kubrick in another narrative. The latter assertion was initially a parody of the Clarke claim, but has come to be interpreted as serious by some deniers. This is similar to how some flat Earth folks are coming to believe there is no Finland or Australia, ideas that were written as satirical criticisms of flat Earthers. However, fashioning a Poe against these types is nearly impossible because it will come to be taken as true by those without the mental acumen to realize they are being mocked.

The question deniers have most difficulty answering is why NASA would fake five  subsequent landings. The moving pieces that would have to be seamlessly assembled for one successful hoax would be astronomical, and each further attempt would run further risk of getting caught. The return trips were interpreted by deniers as attempts to continue the momentum, while the fact that we haven’t been back since 1972 or set up  moon colonies are said to be proof it was staged. So return trips and a lack thereof are both considered evidence of a hoax by the conspiracy theorist.

According to Sketoid’s Brian Dunning, 400,000 persons worked on the moon mission. Yet, all were able to overcome the desire for wealth that an exposé might bring. None were overcome with guilt, none let something slip in an unguarded moment, none got drunk enough to say something, none made a deathbed confession. Dunning further noted that 3,500 journalists investigated, researched, reported, and observed every second of Apollo 11 and were unable to uncover anything suggesting it was a charade. To a conspiracy theorist, that means another 3,500 persons were in on it. To everyone else, it’s more solid evidence of the moon launch and landing being authentic.

Now let’s plow through some of the denier points. One of the more frequently-parroted is that persons attempting to leave Earth’s orbit would be fried by the Van Allen belts. This is an example of what Dr. Steven Novella means when he says pseudoscientists and alternative medics use science like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination.

The radiation belts have been discovered, understood, and explained by science. Moon landing deniers, a subset of pseudoscientists, use this discovery to try and score a point for their side, whereas they generally have a jaded view of science. Religious flat Earther Philip Stallings insists the Van Allen belts are another name for the firmament God set in place in Genesis. However, never has a scientific explanation been replaced by a religious one. Scientists did not discover, define, and explain the Van Allen Belts, only to be supplanted by those penning Genesis. Those religious writers did not discover errors in the original Van Allen belt research, leading to our understanding of the firmament. Rather, Genesis authors came up with what their eyes and their very limited knowledge of the natural world permitted. A few millennium later, science learned the truth. Still, Stallings claims that we cannot penetrate the firmament, which he thinks is the Van Allen belt, or that if we could, it would not be survivable.

They key here is that astronauts traveled thorough the belts in a rocket, not in an extended stay hotel. They made it through this high-radiation zone in an hour, only one percent of the the time necessary to start experiencing radiation sickness.

Another argument deniers try to make is that a loud rocket motor would make it impossible to hear astronaut voices. However, viewers could hear the communication with NASA because where the astronauts were, there was no air and therefore no sound. Secondly, the microphones were inside insulating helmets.

A third point deniers raise is that photos of the Lunar Module on the surface are missing a blast crater that presumably should have resulted from its landing. Of this, Dunning wrote, “When the Lunar Module came in to land, it came in with horizontal velocity as the pilot searched for a place to land. Once he found one, he descended, throttled back, and a probe extending over a meter below the landing pads touched the ground and shut off the rocket motor. It was only a very brief moment that the rocket nozzle was actually directed at the landing site, and only at reduced power.”

A similar point is that the Lunar Module’s landing rocket would have blasted all the dust away from the area, so any footprints would have been obliterated. However, there is no air on the moon and no resulting shockwaves. The powerful flames and swirling smoke associated with rocket launches happen because exhaust is being pushed into the air. With no wind or air in the equation, there is no consequent explosion.

The one claim so hackneyed that almost everyone has heard is that the U.S. flag is flapping in a supposedly-nonexistent breeze. This was caused by two factors. First, the flag was folded for the moon trip and the seeming rustling is actually just the creasing that resulted. Second, the apparent movement only happens when an astronaut is adjusting the pole.

Still another denier objection centers on photos of an astronaut that feature another moonwalker’s reflection in his helmet visor. This is supposedly crucial because neither astronaut has a camera to his face. However, this is because astronaut cameras were affixed to their spacesuit. Keeping with camera points, deniers say film would have melted in the 250-degree weather. However, Apollo astronauts used cameras and film specifically made for and insulated against such temperature extremes.

There were other still objections raised by deniers that I handled during this blog’s nascent days if one wishes to read more.

For years, deniers challenged NASA to provide photos of landing sites with vehicles left behind. In 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter provided just such proof. Two years later, the same craft produced clearer images. Like those who considered President Obama’s release of his long-term birth certificate to be MORE proof that he was Kenyan-born because of layers or the timing of the release or whatever, those who thought Armstrong and Aldrin never left orbit were even more convinced of this after the 2009 and 2011 images were made public. They were computer-generated or otherwise fabricated. They were not released in 1975 or 1985 because of technology limitations – not with satellites, but with PhotoShop. To a hardcore conspiracy theorist, any disproving evidence is part of the cover-up.

Besides these photos, a second key piece of evidence that the moon landing happened is the extensive monitoring of Apollo flights. Astronomers, academics, journalists, and excited amateurs all employed telescopes, radios, and radar to track the mission. This included enemies such as the Soviets. Observatories and hobbyists worldwide reported sightings of the Apollo spacecraft. Had the Apollo spacecraft remained in Earthly orbit, it would have been easy to spot even without a telescope.

Then there are the rocks brought back by astronauts. These rocks have been radiometrically dated as being nearly four and a half billion years old, more ancient than any naturally-occurring Earth rock. Dunning further noted, “The moon rocks have impact craters only a millimeter across, created by impacts from micrometeors traveling about 50,000 miles per hour. This is impossible on Earth because the atmosphere blocks them, and it can’t be faked because we don’t have anything that can accelerate small projectiles to that speed.”

What say you to all this, Philip Stallings? From his blog: “1969. That was the year you were told we went to the moon. Do you see anything suspicious about that number? Three 6’s.” I’m only seeing one six myself. Maybe the two nines got turned upside down when they hit the firmament.

 

 

 

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“Plate histrionics” (Glyphosate fears)

SKULL

There is a claim out there (way out there) that the weed killer glyphosate is present in food at unsafe levels. This claim appears in a work promoted by the likes of Food Democracy Now and Food Babe, not in peer reviewed journals. Still, in this forum, we place a premium on what is said, not who said it, so let’s examine the assertions. 

The publication endorsed by the aforementioned pair alleges that that studies have uncovered dangerous amounts of the herbicide glyphosate in our cabbage and Oreos, among many other edibles. The cover of this work shows a foreboding figure in a hazmat suit saturating future food with what is implied to be toxic levels of chemicals. Accompanying that image is a munching baby next to a spray bottle of Roundup, a Monsanto product which contains glyphosate.

If shouts of alarm ever accompany a scientific study, they should come from those hearing the results, not those giving them. When the latter happens, it is almost always a sign that the “research” was meant only to confirm a desired outcome and that the Scientific Method was skirted. Still, let’s look at what the report said, not its cover or who produced it, in order to make a critical analysis of it.

Michelle Miller of Ag Daily notes that the methods used in the studies make it impossible to distinguish glyphosate from similar chemical structures and may not even be able to differentiate it from water. She wrote, “To detect glyphosate…costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and is a very difficult, scientifically complex task.” The methods cited in these studies fail to meet those standards, though not as spectacularly as Zen Honeycutt’s $125 device meant to detect glyphosate levels.   

Another crucial point is how little glyphosate is spread over large farming aread. It’s just 22 ounces per acre, which would be equal to about two sodas sprinkled on a baseball diamond. Moreover, Miller reports that she sprays just two days a year and that’s done early in the growing season, before the edible part of the plant has emerged. Pointing out that the dose makes the poison, Miller adds that glyphosate is less toxic than baking soda.

Besides, the weed killer impacts enzymes found in plants and does not affect mammals, including humans. The only harm done to animals is when lab rats, mice, and fish are force fed outrageous amounts of it.

I’m all for studies as long as they follow established protocols, employ the Scientific Method, are replicable, and are peer reviewed. Along those lines, the Government Accountability Office once called on the FDA to monitor food for glyphosate residue. But the effort was halted due to a lack of agreement on testing protocols, equipment shortcomings, and the varying analysis methods at the different FDA laboratories.

Sensing a connection between the shuttered testing program and the experiments on overdosed rodents, Food Babe pounced: “Could it be that Monsanto didn’t like the results they started getting, especially since the FDA found glyphosate in foods that should be especially safe like BABY FOOD?”

Shouting something doesn’t make it more relevant and all caps won’t make it more accurate. Instead of providing evidence for the conspiracy she suggested, Food Babe let her followers assume it was true. She provided no examples of test results that Monsanto wouldn’t like, offered no audio recordings about keeping the findings hush-hush, and presented no independent lab experiments that revealed dangerous amounts of herbicide on our plates.

Another vacuous Food Babe claim is that multiple studies show that while probable harm to humans from glyphosate begins at one part per 10 billion, foods in the studies were found to have 1,000 times that. In truth, only one of the studies she listed provided support for that claim, and that one involved testing on mice. And even among vermin, the danger was considered potential instead of probable. Glyphosate, if it’s detectable on any food at all, is in nowhere close to a dangerous amount.

There are legitimate dietary concerns out there, by glyphosate residue is not among them. Alarmist, untrue charges, on the other hand, are much harder to stomach.

“No plane, no gain” (Pentagon attack)

WILE

Except for passing references when writing about conspiracy theories in general, I have never written about Sept. 11 truthers. For starters, it is one of the more hackneyed skeptic topics and so much has been written about it already.

Second, I’ve never understood what point the theorists were supposed to be making. Let’s allow that explosives brought down the twin towers. Where’s one piece of evidence that the devices were planted by Bush minions (or Israelis or Russians or Saddam henchmen, if favoring those alternatives to the alterative)? Perhaps bin Laden had his agents infiltrate the towers and hide explosives there as a backup in case the hijackings failed.

Third, I lack the technical knowledge to add anything to claims and counterclaims regarding building strengths, cut beams, how fires spread, and so on.

But after one of my passing references to truthers, I was challenged by a couple of them on what happened at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. Of course, it’s up to them to prove their claim; it’s not on me to disprove it. But in the spirit of generosity, I’ll examine some of what they say.

Islamic terrorists overpowered those aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and flew the hijacked plane into the Pentagon, killing 59 crew members and passengers, 125 military personnel, and the five perpetrators. Evidence for this includes communication between the airliner and air traffic control, phone calls from victims to those on the ground, and eyewitness accounts.

However, theorists dismiss what they call the “official story,” a term that carries no meaning and which is intended to disparage and cast doubt. There is no official story, merely a mainstream one. When the term is used, it is meant to suggest cover-up, tainted authorities, and a lie that enterprising conspiracy theorists must courageously break through and expose.

But such investigations are almost invariably threadbare in terms of actual, provable evidence. When theorists allegedly examine whether a particular mass shooting was fabricated, they fail to take even the rudimentary step of checking with the county clerk’s office where the tragedy took place to see if victims’ death certificates are on file. Another major problem with how they operates is that if such documentation is presented, it is considered to be part of the conspiracy. That also goes for any grieving family member, hospital worker, or reporter who corroborates the “official story.”  

Standards of evidence are so loose that one conspiracy website found it unusual that there would be a dozen reporters at the World Trade Center and Pentagon within minutes, even though that could be said of persons in most professions in cities that size. Additionally, most major news agencies have police scanners running 24-7 and reporters go to work each day ready to speed to the scene of breaking news.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Pentagon was hit by a hijacked airliner, but in event that momentous, there are going to be a few anomalies and conspiracy theorists seize on this half dozen or so while ignoring the hundreds of pieces of proof that deviates from their narrative.   

This is not an attempt to wade through the muck of the multiple five-hour YouTube videos on the topic, but rather we will be hitting some of the lowlights.

Perhaps the most frequently-raised point is that security video showed a missile (or at least something that is not a 757) slamming into the Pentagon. There is only one frame showing a slender white streak approaching the building and then an explosion. Theorists assert the object is too small to be an airplane. Again, I’m unsure what this is meant to prove. Be it an airplane, missile, rocket, or unknown secret weapon, that still says nothing about who sent it barreling into the Pentagon.

But beyond that, there are reasons to reject the missile claim. Its apparent size was due not to object itself but what was capturing it. The security camera has an ultra-wide angle lens, which allows it to capture a wider area but which also distorts objects. It makes the Pentagon looked curved and this distortion is why the airplane appeared sleeker and narrower that what it was.

Onto the second point. The modus operandi of most theorists is to take two disparate facts and tie them together without seeing if there is a connection. One of the few times that I engaged a 9/11 truther, I raised my usual objection that even if explosives were smuggled into the World Trade Center, there was no evidence that the government did it. The totality of her response was that Marvin Bush was in charge of security for the Center on Sept. 11. This is where conspiracy theorists make their biggest error. They presume that any fact that might be consistent with their narrative constitutes evidence for it. Yes, if George W. Bush wanted to fly airplanes into the twin towers, having his brother in charge of security could conceivably aid in this, but that’s a long ways from meaning that this happened. She was content to throw out a fact, tie it to a wholly unsupported notion, then declare victory. She presented no conspirators coming forward, no video tape of the planning meeting, no unclassified documents, no purloined FBI or CIA letters, no forensic evidence of Bush DNA on explosives residue, and no criminal convictions from the deadliest crime in U.S. history.

Similarly, theorists make a big deal about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office being at the opposite end of the building from where the Pentagon was struck. Yes, if Rumsfeld plotted the attack, he may have taken steps to ensure his security. But by this logic, any military bigwig that wasn’t in the Pentagon that day could be tagged as a perpetrator. Or one could blame any Congressman or Senator since the Capitol was spared that day. Hell, just pin this one on Monsanto as well; after all, the company was completely unaffected.

Another frequent objection of theorists is that a 757 has a 125-foot wingspan, yet the hole it put in the Pentagon was barely half that size. Popular Mechanics tackled this issue and reported, “A crashing jet doesn’t punch a cartoon-like outline of itself into a reinforced concrete building. In this case, one wing hit the ground and the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon’s load-bearing columns.” This is consistent with what was seen by eyewitnesses, including USA Today eyewitness Mike Walter. There are dozens of such witnesses, compared to zero who report having seen a missile.

The three points we’ve examined so far were at least based, very tenuously, on things that were true: The image looked too narrow to be a plane, the hole it left was 75 feet wide, and it plowed into the part of the building that was away from where Rumsfeld worked. But now we look at claims that are 100 percent false, beginning with the insistence that there were no airplane parts on the ground.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning examined this claim and he found that even a rudimentary search showed this to be wholly in error. He wrote, “Debris from the plane was everywhere, including easily identified mechanical parts from the landing gear and engines and lots of twisted aluminum painted in Boeing BAC452 Green Epoxy Primer.” Further, wreckage was reported by Pentagon employees, rescue personnel, and reporters, and was even seen on live reports of the event.

Beyond this, there are transcripts of conversations between air traffic controllers and those onboard, in addition to graphs from the flight data recorder which show the plane’s descending altitude. Another falsehood is the claim that this descent would be impossible for a full-sized passenger plane. But this requires ignoring the graph data, calls from passengers to family members, eyewitnesses, and fight transcripts. Refuting all this, at least in the theorists’ bug-eyes, is one seeming anomaly, that of a Dulles air traffic controller saying, “You don’t fly a 757 in that manner.” Conspiracy theorists often cite this comment as evidence that the controllers knew it was not a 757.

But this misrepresents what the controller, Danielle O’Brien, said in totality. The full quote was, “All of us experienced air traffic controllers thought that it was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” She wasn’t asserting that a 757 was incapable of flying in the manner she was observing. Rather, she was saying it would be dangerous to do so. And obviously, flying the aircraft in a dangerous manner is what the hijackers intended.

Another fabrication is that Pentagon missiles would have shot down any approaching kamikaze aircraft. But this missile defense system exists only in the mind of author Thierry Meyssan, who referenced it in his book 9/11: The Big Lie. Dunning wrote, “If such a defense system existed but was not used and not a single Pentagon employee complained about it. Even the friends of the 125 employees killed raised no objection. None of the hundreds of thousands of photographs and videos of the Pentagon show a missile defense system, nor do the blueprints nor construction photographs. No one has ever worked there has reported knowledge of such a thing.”

There are also logistical considerations. The Pentagon is situated very close to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Planes landing at the airport fly over the Pentagon at low altitude and two of its runways are barely half a mile from the Pentagon. Any missile defense system would have no time to react if a rouge airliner came its way. And again, even if there was a missile defense system, theorists have given us no evidence as to who it should have been aimed at.

“H2No” (Water-fueled vehicles)

WCAR2

A water-fueled car is a hypothetical but unworkable device that runs on dihydrogen monoxide. About a dozen persons or organizations have claimed to invent this. Some were genuine believers who thought they had found a breakthrough and others were fraudsters who were scamming investors. In either case, pseudoscientific ideas were the focal point.

The best-known claimant was Stanley Meyer, who also tinkered with an attempted perpetual motion machine. He died in 1998 of an aneurysm, which conspiracy theorists translate as “murdered.”

Like many pseudosciences, the water-fueled car features genuine terms being bandied about but being misapplied. One example would be “electrolysis.” Through this means, it is possible to split the hydrogen and oxygen within a water molecule and this is presented as a potential working mechanism for a water car. But doing so uses as much energy as is released when hydrogen is oxidized to form water.

The laws of thermodynamics are in play here. Releasing chemical energy from water in equal or greater amounts than the energy required to manage such a production negates the fantasy of a water-fueled car. There’s no free lunch and no free energy, either.

Meyer’s cell involved modifying existing internal combustion engines so that they could receive fuel directly. The supposed mechanism involved using hydrogen-oxygen reactions to power the engine and consume electricity in the fuel cell to split water into these components. Now, it’s true that hydrogen gas will react with oxygen to produce energy and that the only product of this reaction is water. Indeed, that is a rudimentary description of what goes on inside a fuel cell. But while energy results, it is first necessary to input energy.

If interested in hearing the other side, kindly visit YouTube or the website of Henry Makow, who insists that, ““Humanity is being held hostage by the Illuminati bankers who control the oil cartel.”

The problem with claims of repressed water-fueled cars, perpetual motion machines, or hidden cancer cures is that researchers, from amateur dreamers to post-doctoral fellows, are all working with the same laws of physics and chemistry. And most are following the same Scientific Method. Brilliant minds and forward thinkers have tried to accomplish all of these and they likely would have if the notions were possible. And it would have happened more than once, so trying to repress it would necessitate being aware of each time it occurred and silencing the inventor, through intimidation or bribery, before he or she announced it.

I had a great uncle who was naturally gifted in mechanics and who spent years trying to perfect a replacement for the internal combustion engine. If it were possible to devise a water-fueled automobile, he or someone like him would find it. So if Meyer was killed for his creation, only the man would have been destroyed, not the idea.

Another flaw in the repressed invention theory is that oil company executives would never decline the chance to embrace a lucrative innovation. Doing so would cost them billions and they would run the risk of their competitors discovering the invention.

One variant of the water-fueled car centers on supposed generators that turn water into HHO gas. From this gas, it is alleged that resulting electrons can be used to power automobiles. This is the claim made by the Japanese company Genepax, who tellingly made this claim to a press conference of mainstream reporters instead of submitting it for peer review to mechanics experts.

The holes in this idea are similar to what were present in Meyers’  device. Dr. Steven Novella of the New England Skeptical Society wrote, “It takes energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. When you then burn the hydrogen by recombining it with oxygen, you generate some of that energy back. But the laws of thermodynamics stipulate that the energy you get back must be less than the energy you put in.”

In what passes for its explanation, Genepax throws around the word “catalyst,” a typical pseudoscientific tactic where a science word is used in an attempt to impress, not educate. But Novella noted that a catalyst in merely a means to enable a reaction to run more quickly or efficiently. It would not be the avenue for a reaction to go from a low energy state such as water to a higher energy state such as hydrogen and oxygen.

Alas, the only major water-related automotive invention has been the cup holder.

“Spin the Knight” (Knights Templar)

JESUSWIFE

The Knights Templar were a Christian religious and military order active during the 12th and 13th Centuries. They have assumed mythical forms in fiction advertised as such and an even more fantastic veneer in fiction presented as fact. The former has manifested itself in The Da Vinci Code, Ivanhoe, Indiana Jones works, Assassins Creed video games, The Game of Thrones, and the writings of Maurice Druon and George R.R. Martin.

Meanwhile, a movement seeks to give the pseudohistory surrounding the Knights Templar a cloak of respectability by piggybacking on the aforementioned entertainments. On the History Channel and likeminded websites, order members are said to be responsible for Solomon’s buried treasure, the Holy Grail, the Shroud of Turin, Shakespeare’s lost works, the advent of Freemasons, and scribblings on Jesus’ tomb. They are also alleged to have made a sojourn in present-day Minnesota during the 11th Century. Along the way, they buried treasures off the Nova Scotian coast, which is the focal point of the television program, “The Curse of Oak Island.”

Turning off the History Channel and opening a history book, here’s what really happened. The Knights Templar were one of several Catholic military orders that lasted for about 200 years during the Middle Ages. In 1054, a chasm developed within Christianity, with those in the west forming what became the Roman Catholic Church and those in the east organizing the Eastern Orthodox Church. In time, the eastern Christians joined forces with Sunni Muslims in Turkey. Feeling threatened by this alliance, Pope Urban II convinced Byzantine Emperor Alexios to help him launch the first crusade in 1096, aiming to reunite Christianity under the papacy.

The effort, at first, was successful. The land that today comprises Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan was divided into four states controlled by the Catholic Church. However, securing these new nations proved problematic, expensive, and logistically challenging. In order to combat these issues, the pope chartered the Knights Templar as a monastic order. Like other orders, the Knights Templar was a charitable organization through which wealthy Catholics could donate money and lands, enabling the order to become self-sustaining and largely autonomous.  

Eventually, Crusade battles gave way to commerce, and the Knights, buoyed by the steady stream of lucrative donations, became merchants, entrepreneurs, bankers, and government officials. Their medieval origins, secrecy, rituals, symbols, and mystical dress, combined with their accumulation of wealth and power and relatively sudden demise made the Knights Templar ideal fodder for conspiracy theorists. There are two primary camps: One holds that the organization became the New World Order, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, the Bohemian Club, the Reptilians, or some such gaggle. The kinder, gentler version has these heroic, virtuous men and their furtive heirs protecting some of the Church’s most cherished relics, embarrassing secrets, and massive wealth.     

Whichever of these narratives one favors, it is held than on Friday the 13th in October of 1307, Knights Templar members in Europe were executed at dawn to eliminate the debt owed to them by France’s King Phillip IV. A fortunate few escaped and kept with them the Templars’ valuable assets and hidden knowledge. Further, this knowledge has been passed down in a tightly-guarded secret that almost everyone knows about.

While King Philip IV was in deep debt to the Templars, his main motivation for the purge was to curtail the papacy’s powers. In 1302, Pope Clement had decreed that his was the only true religion and the sole path to Heaven. This was considered an insult and threat by non-Catholics, which included many French citizens, including the monarch. Also, several French officials were Knights Templar that were subject to Pope Clement’s influence. Philip therefore wanted to exorcise them and insert persons sympathetic to his crown.

However, the solution was not the kill ‘em all approach of Templar mythology. First, Philip’s power stopped at France’s borders, so only those in his country were effected. Those in the rest of Europe or the Middle East were safe, for now. Second, Templar members in France were arrested, not executed, though some of them were tortured into saying they were heretics.

About a month after the roundup of undesirables, Clement felt pressured by King Philip’s collection of coerced confessions, so he issued a dictate that Christian monarchs in Europe were to arrest all the Knights Templar. To avoid this fate, the great majority of Templar members joined the Hospitallers or otherwise left the order. In the end, about three dozen recalcitrant Knights were killed, but this was three years later, not on a Friday the 13th bloodbath. Two years after that, Clement formally dissolved the Knights Templar by papal bull and transferred their ownings to the Hospitallers. The majority of the arrested Templars confessed heresy since this allowed them to be released, retain their property, and join other orders.   

In conspiracy circles, the Templar members hoarded silk, bullion, spices, royal jewels, and other valuables. They also harbored secrets about Jesus having married Mary Magdalene and about descendants of this union. Another oft-repeated rumor is that the Knights Templar are hiding evidence of Jesus having never resurrected. A further tale has them finding the Holy Grail, which obviously wouldn’t be holy if he never rose from the dead. Other myths are that they became the Freemasons or that the modern hoax order called the Priory of Sion is actually millenniums older and its members were compatriots of the Knights Templar.

The final resting place for their riches is often said to be Oak Island, Canada. In an isolated accuracy, Templar treasure hunter Rick Lagina asks and answers this question: “Has there been a find on Oak Island that we can say is a definitive tie-in to the Templars? No.”

That has not stopped him and his brother from squeezing five seasons out of the premise of finding this nonexistent fortune. There is likewise nothing substantial to corroborate the other alleged aspects of the order.  As an example of how loose the evidence standards can be, consider the assertion that modern Templars run the world from Switzerland. The “proof” for this is that the Templar flag was similar to the current Swiss one, that the country was long associated with clandestine banking, and that Switzerland always manages to avoid wars that leave other countries and regions ravaged.

However, these disparate items can be explained without invoking a lost mystical sect. The two relevant flags are somewhat similar. The Swiss one is square with a white cross on a red background, while the Templars banner was a rectangle with five red crosses on a white background. But there are 31 other countries or autonomous regions whose flag incorporates a cross and most of these also feature  red and/or white. Similarly, many other orders and societies include the cross image and red and white colors on their flag. Yet only the Templar/Swiss connection is alleged; no one is accusing the Red Cross of clandestine malevolence in Tonga.

While Switzerland did become synonymous with anonymous banking, persons took advantage of this for tax reasons and to keep safe the proceedings from shady dealings. It would not follow that the Knights Templar, who per the legend already had this stuff safely ensconced, would stash their cinnamon and myrrh in Zurich safe deposit boxes.

Finally, neutrality was an outgrowth of continual European wars which the Swiss had been involved in and which necessitated forming an exhausting series of continually changing alliances. For example, in the French Revolutionary War, the Swiss served as bodyguards for French royals. Just six years later, the Napoleonic Wars saw France invade Switzerland and splinter the Old Swiss Confederacy, which had been a loose compact of small independent states.

Several centuries of this had left the Swiss weary and presumably confused. So during the Congress of Vienna in 1814, they floated the idea of having an official policy of neutrality and the other parties agreed. This neutrality began about 600 years after the Templars’ dissolution, so the idea that the Swiss no-war distinction has benefited the Knights requires embracing highly selective history and ignoring the total lack of evidence for the claim. But those challenges are easily overcome by those who want to believe the mythic tales. As National Geographic’s Becky Little put it, “The Knights Templar are more interesting as protectors of an ancient secret rather than single men who gave out loans.”

 

  

“Empty premises” (Hollow Earth)

DIG

While Flat Earthers have welcomed the explosion in articles and videos espousing their cause in recent years, it undercuts their claim that a dangerous truth is being repressed. Logically, a repressed idea is one that is not being heard, which brings us to the idea of a hollow Earth.

There are websites and essays that tout this notion, but these receive a tiny fraction of the notice that those produced by Flat Earthers receive. The proposal has been around in various forms for millennium. Early hollow Earth enthusiasts idealized inhabitants as deeply evolved, supremely healthy beings who were peaceful, prosperous, and rippling with muscles. A few religious movements sprouted from this idea. These days, Earth’s insides are mostly thought to house some combination of superior 12-foot humanoids, wayward Greenlandic Vikings, immortal peace-lovers, the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, and Third Reich leadership. Those peace-lovers have their work cut out for them if those last two groups are both present.

Those favoring a more rational approach engaged in genuine scientific pursuit to find out if Earth was hollow and at least two excursions were made in the spirit of exploration to try and find the entry point. Edmond Halley wondered if auroras were caused by a combination of ferrous matter and a supple magnetic pole. He pondered that an aurora could be caused by luminous gases spewing from a polar door. To explain anomalous compass readings, Halley also suspected Earth might have a hollow shell about 500 miles thick, followed by two inner concentric shells, then an innermost core.  

Such speculation was admirable, as was his method of using observation and testing using proper protocols. By employing these channels, he and later scientists learned such notions were incorrect, yet some hollow Earthers continue to cite Halley as a supposed proponent. This is what Steven Novella meant when he said that such groups use science like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination. About a half century later, mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler talked what would happen if one drilled a hole all the way through Earth and dropped a stone into the opening. He never said Earth was hollow; in fact, drilling all the way through would be unnecessary if it was. Yet he too is sometimes touted by hollow Earth proponents as a believer.

The idea of subterranean realms made appearances in various mythological and religious texts, with it sometimes being the destination of departed souls. Greeks, Celts, Hindus, Nordics, Tibetans, Jews, Mesopotamians, Native Americans, and Christians have all embraced this notion in some form. While the port of entry is usually near one or both poles, prospective entrances have been surmised in locales as diverse as the Amazon, the Himalayas, and downtown Paris. Through an unexplained mechanism, these portals open to enable travel between the inner and outer portions of our planet.

The most common hollow Earth hypothesis in the 19th Century was that we were the ones on the inside. Championed by Cyrus Teed, this idea held that all observed celestial bodies were inside Earth with us. He founded a religious movement based around the idea and sprinkled it with pseudoscientific guesses about light, gravity, and other natural phenomena.

Later, Nazis got in on the act, with Luftwaffe pilot Peter Bender devising another mystical movement whose tenets included a vacuous planet. There exist tiny pockets of both fascists and non-fascists who think Third Reich leaders escaped to these locales, usually aboard flying saucers.

The idea of us being on the outside is more attractive because getting to the other side would be much easier that way. So the concave planet has few adherents anymore and John Symmes was an early promoter of the reverse notion. He wanted to make a North Pole expedition to get inside but was unable to obtain funding. Jeremiah Reynolds did go on such a jaunt in the opposite direction, but if he found an Antarctic opening, he kept the location to himself.

While previous motivations were religion or idealism, those have largely been replaced with a 21st Century conspiratorial flavor. Now, an anonymous, malevolent “they” hides the hollow Earth truth from the populace, with a few brave rebels tirelessly trying to convince the sheeple.

There are a few exceptions. Dianne Robbins, whom I’ve previously profiled, sees inner Earth as a paradise populated by immortal, absolutely peaceful beings with whom she communicates telepathically. And on ourhollowearth.com, the site maintainer likewise considers our planet’s innards to be a terrestrial wonderland, in this case the place where the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel hang out. Tribe members are responsible for flying saucer sightings, as they leave their subterranean sanctuary to ward off dangers to Outer Earthlings.  

Among those who think these truths are being hidden rather than just not widely known, Raymond Bernard claims many early polar explorers were engaged in a secret mission to find these openings and reach the inhabitants. Fellow author Jan Lamprecht writes that evidence for a hollow Earth includes animal migration and early maps having been changed, which he thinks suggests subterfuge.

However, reasons to reject these hollow Earth hypotheses are found in evidence from seismic activity, gravity, and density. 

With regard to the first of those, the time it takes seismic waves to travel through and around Earth is inconsistent with an empty sphere. Such evidence shows Earth is filled first with solid rock, then liquid nickel-iron alloy, and finally solid nickel-iron.

As to the proof provided by gravity, massive objects tend to clump together and create solid objects like stars, satellites, and planets. Such a configuration is a way to reduce the gravitational potential energy of the object being formed. Additionally, ordinary matter is too weak to support a hollow planet against gravity’s ample force.

Finally, we consider density and that’s not a reference to hollow Earthers’ mental acumen. Based on the size of Earth and the force of gravity on its surface, the average density of the planet is 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter. However, densities of surface rocks are only half that. This is crucial because if any sizable chunk of Earth were hollow, its average density would be much less than what the density of its surface rocks is.

While doing background work and compiling my information for this post, I could find no proponents or websites extolling the concept of a flat, hollow Earth. Sounds like repression to me.

  

“A suspicion of clouds” (Chemtrails, climate change denial)

CHEMGRAM

The rejection of science fact and the embrace of science fiction is perhaps best encapsulated by those persons who think manmade climate change is a hoax while believing that chemtrails are real.

First, let’s deal with anthropogenic global warming. I have seen Sean Hannity and others challenge climate change believers on exactly what percentage of global warming it is that humans are responsible for. While not responding directly to that challenge, Brian Dunning penned an excellent piece for Skeptoid which showed how simple observation reveal that average annual global temperature is rising and that human activity is the overwhelming reason why. He noted this can be done without use of “climate models, politics, predictions, economics, or how many scientists agree.”

The key point is that CO2 levels are rising as the result of human activity. From here, it gets a little more technical, but stay with me. Carbon dating is done by comparing the amounts of carbon-12 and carbon-14 in a sample. When organisms die, carbon-14 decays and no new carbon-14 comes in. This means eventually only carbon-12 remains. Fossil fuels come from plants that died millions of years ago so they have no carbon-14. Hence, the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels contains only carbon-12.

The one natural source of carbon-12 is volcanoes and volcanologists measure their output and know that each year, worldwide volcanic activity contributes about 200 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. This accounts for .006 percent of the 29 billion tons of carbon-12 that enters our atmosphere each year. The only source for the other 99.994 percent is fossil fuel burned by humans. So when observers carbon date the CO2 in the atmosphere, it reveals precisely how much of it comes from people burning fossil fuels. Oceans and plants can only absorb about half of that 29 billion tons, with the rest ending up on our atmosphere, where it remains.

Now we will address how we know that those 14.5 billion tons of carbon-12 is causing an increase in average global temperature. There are five gases that are primarily responsible for the greenhouse effect: CO2, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Through a method called spectroscopy, observers can measure how much of these are present. Earth’s surface is warmed by the sun and our planet emits that same heat back as infrared radiation. When aiming a spectrometer skyward, observers see peaks and valleys in the infrared spectrum and can determine which greenhouse gases are trapping Earth’s radioactive heat. This method provides clear evidence that excess heat energy is being trapped in our atmosphere because of increased CO2, which we earlier is the result of humans burning fossil fuels.

Those who dismiss AGW are denying what scientists are able to see through their analysis of carbon dating and spectroscopy. Meanwhile, some of those same persons say that what is really dangerous for the planet and its inhabitants are strings of fluffy white smoke.

They are convinced that harmless water vapor left in the wake of flying aircraft is a weaponized agent that will do something nefarious, though it’s not agreed on precisely what that is. Speculation includes poisoning, sterilization, mind control, and unleashing tornadoes. Believers will often point to geoengineering, cloud seeding, or attempts to control the weather, all of which have happened, but are unrelated to airplane exhaust. All this was explained in a pair of Washington Post essays by Matthew Cappucci and Dennis Mersereau.

Like the current warming trend, contrails are man-made. They are clouds that form under ordinary environmental conditions and follow the physical processes that occur with any other cloud. In the specific case of contrails, they form when hot, moist aircraft exhaust condenses after coming into contract with extremely cold temperatures in the upper atmosphere. A long, narrow cloud results.    

There is usually little water vapor present because air’s ability to hold moisture wanes as the temperature drops, and temperatures at this altitude are around minus -40 Fahrenheit (which is also -40 C, I’ve always liked that). Cappucci wrote that despite those frigid numbers, water vapor remains a gas or liquid and does not become ice because water must have something to latch onto in order to become an ice crystal. He further explained, “When the airplanes emit aerosols, sulfates, soot, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, water vapor, and so on, the particles in its wake can serve as the nuclei for cooled water droplets and vapor to condense and freeze on,” and a contrail is born.

There is variety in the contrail family and some paranoids say these differences distinguish contrails from chemtrails. Believers concede that some airplane exhaust is harmless but insist that at other times airplane emissions represent the deliberate sabotaging of our lungs and minds. As this has zero evidence in reality, there are differing assertions as to which is the key factor that gives away chemtrails. Some say duration determines it, some say thickness, and others go with color. But science explains why all these ideas are mistaken.

Altitude and the air’s wetness determine how long contrails are. If an airplane is flying through wet air, it leaves a contrail; if it is flying in dry air, it does not. Airplanes that appear to be at the same height from ground level may actually be 5,000 feet or more apart in terms of altitude. Chemtrail detectives love to show an airplane leaving little or no contrail, while another plane in the same frame is bellowing out a lengthy cloud, but this is the result of altitude and air conditions, not because government agents are dispatching death from above.

With regard to duration, how long contrails last depends on the humidity level and how favorable the atmosphere is for sustaining them. These are the same factors that help determine whether a day is cloudy or sunny.  

As for their color, the key elements are the contrails’ height and the planet’s curvature (convincing Flat Earth chemtrailers is an especially challenging undertaking). Contrails are dispatched at nearly 40,000 feet and when natural clouds closer to the ground look dark in the waning daylight, contrails will still glow for a few minutes after sundown. Also, when an airplane flies directly away from a setting or rising sun, a contrail may block out much of the sun this gives the contrail a blackened appearance.

Another reason to discount the chemtrails conspiracy theory relates to an airplane’s travel weight. Mersereau noted that a fully-loaded 747 flying from London to Hong Kong would require almost 60,000 gallons of fuel. That would weigh nearly 200 tons and along with passengers, cargo, and luggage, would leave precious little room for weapons in a mind control program.

As to all this, one Post fumed, “What a joke. Our government has been involved in weather modification since the 1940s. Do a little research.”

The U.S. government may have made previous attempts at weather modification but there is no connection between that and airplane exhaust. And by research, the reader does not mean retreating to one’s laboratory, employing the Scientific Method, and submitting results for peer review. He is talking about clicking on the YouTube link he provided.