Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds

Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds
Oh please. There’s no wind on the moon. Credit: wikipedia

I'm sitting on a train when a group of football fans streams on. Fresh from the game – their team has clearly won – they occupy the empty seats around me. One picks up a discarded newspaper and chuckles derisively as she reads about the latest "alternative facts" peddled by Donald Trump.

The others soon chip in with their thoughts on the US president's fondness for conspiracy theories. The chatter quickly turns to other conspiracies and I enjoy eavesdropping while the group brutally mock flat Earthers, chemtrails memes and Gwyneth Paltrow's latest idea.

Then there's a lull in the conversation, and someone takes it as an opportunity to pipe in with: "That stuff might be nonsense, but don't try and tell me you can trust everything the mainstream feeds us! Take the , they were obviously faked and not even very well. I read this blog the other day that pointed out there aren't even stars in any of the pictures!"

To my amazement the group joins in with other "evidence" supporting the moon landing hoax: inconsistent shadows in photographs, a fluttering flag when there's no atmosphere on the moon, how Neil Armstrong was filmed walking on to the surface when no-one was there to hold the camera.

A minute ago they seemed like rational people capable of assessing evidence and coming to a logical conclusion. But now things are taking a turn down crackpot alley. So I take a deep breath and decide to chip in: "Actually all that can be explained quite easily … "

They turn to me aghast that a stranger would dare to butt into their conversation. I continue undeterred, hitting them with a barrage of facts and rational explanations.

"The flag didn't flutter in the wind, it just moved as Buzz Aldrin planted it! Photos were taken during lunar daytime – and obviously you can't see the stars during the day. The weird shadows are because of the very wide-angle lenses they used which distort the photos. And nobody took the footage of Neil descending the ladder. There was a camera mounted on the outside of the lunar module which filmed him making his giant leap. If that isn't enough then the final clinching proof comes from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's photos of the landing sites where you can clearly see the tracks that the astronauts made as they wandered around the surface.

"Nailed it!" I think to myself.

But it appears my listeners are far from convinced. They turn on me, producing more and more ridiculous claims. Stanley Kubrick filmed the lot, key personnel have died in mysterious ways, and so on …

The train pulls up in a station, it isn't my stop but I take the opportunity to make an exit anyway. As I sheepishly mind the gap I wonder why my facts failed so badly to change their minds.

The simple answer is that facts and rational arguments really aren't very good at altering people's beliefs. That's because our rational brains are fitted with not-so-evolved evolutionary hard wiring. One of the reasons why conspiracy theories spring up with such regularity is due to our desire to impose structure on the world and incredible ability to recognise patterns. Indeed, a recent study showed a correlation between an individual's need for structure and tendency to believe in a conspiracy theory.

Take this sequence for example:

0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 1

Can you see a pattern? Quite possibly – and you aren't alone. A quick twitter poll (replicating a much more rigourous study) suggested that 56% of people agree with you – even though the sequence was generated by me flipping a coin.

It seems our need for structure and our pattern recognition skill can be rather overactive, causing a tendency to spot patterns – like constellations, clouds that looks like dogs and vaccines causing autism – where in fact there are none.

The ability to see patterns was probably a useful survival trait for our ancestors – better to mistakenly spot signs of a predator than to overlook a real big hungry cat. But plonk the same tendency in our information rich world and we see nonexistent links between cause and effect – conspiracy theories – all over the place.

Peer pressure

Another reason we are so keen to believe in conspiracy theories is that we are social animals and our status in that society is much more important (from an evolutionary standpoint) than being right. Consequently we constantly compare our actions and beliefs to those of our peers, and then alter them to fit in. This means that if our believes something, we are more likely to follow the herd.

This effect of social influence on behaviour was nicely demonstrated back in 1961 by the street corner experiment, conducted by the US social psychologist Stanley Milgram (better known for his work on obedience to authority figures) and colleagues. The experiment was simple (and fun) enough for you to replicate. Just pick a busy street corner and stare at the sky for 60 seconds.

Most likely very few folks will stop and check what you are looking at – in this situation Milgram found that about 4% of the passersby joined in. Now get some friends to join you with your lofty observations. As the group grows, more and more strangers will stop and stare aloft. By the time the group has grown to 15 sky gazers, about 40% of the by-passers will have stopped and craned their necks along with you. You have almost certainly seen the same effect in action at markets where you find yourself drawn to the stand with the crowd around it.

The principle applies just as powerfully to ideas. If more people believe a piece of information, then we are more likely to accept it as true. And so if, via our social group, we are overly exposed to a particular idea then it becomes embedded in our world view. In short social proof is a much more effective persuasion technique than purely evidence-based proof, which is of course why this sort of proof is so popular in advertising ("80% of mums agree").

Social proof is just one of a host of logical fallacies that also cause us to overlook evidence. A related issue is the ever-present confirmation bias, that tendency for folks to seek out and believe the data that supports their views while discounting the stuff that doesn't. We all suffer from this. Just think back to the last time you heard a debate on the radio or television. How convincing did you find the argument that ran counter to your view compared to the one that agreed with it?

The chances are that, whatever the rationality of either side, you largely dismissed the opposition arguments while applauding those who agreed with you. Confirmation bias also manifests as a tendency to select information from sources that already agree with our views (which probably comes from the social group that we relate too). Hence your political beliefs probably dictate your preferred news outlets.

Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds
The difference.

Of course there is a belief system that recognises logical fallacies such as confirmation bias and tries to iron them out. Science, through repetition of observations, turns anecdote into data, reduces confirmation bias and accepts that theories can be updated in the face of evidence. That means that it is open to correcting its core texts. Nevertheless, confirmation bias plagues us all. Star physicist Richard Feynman famously described an example of it that cropped up in one of the most rigorous areas of sciences, particle physics.

"Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher."

"Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of – this history – because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard."

Myth-busting mishaps

You might be tempted to take a lead from popular media by tackling misconceptions and conspiracy theories via the myth-busting approach. Naming the myth alongside the reality seems like a good way to compare the fact and falsehoods side by side so that the truth will emerge. But once again this turns out to be a bad approach, it appears to elicit something that has come to be known as the backfire effect, whereby the myth ends up becoming more memorable than the fact.

One of the most striking examples of this was seen in a study evaluating a "Myths and Facts" flyer about flu vaccines. Immediately after reading the flyer, participants accurately remembered the facts as facts and the myths as myths. But just 30 minutes later this had been completely turned on its head, with the myths being much more likely to be remembered as "facts".

The thinking is that merely mentioning the myths actually helps to reinforce them. And then as time passes you forget the context in which you heard the myth – in this case during a debunking – and are left with just the memory of the myth itself.

To make matters worse, presenting corrective information to a group with firmly held beliefs can actually strengthen their view, despite the new information undermining it. New evidence creates inconsistencies in our beliefs and an associated emotional discomfort. But instead of modifying our belief we tend to invoke self-justification and even stronger dislike of opposing theories, which can make us more entrenched in our views. This has become known as the as the "boomerang effect" – and it is a huge problem when trying to nudge people towards better behaviours.

For example, studies have shown that public information messages aimed at reducing smoking, alcohol and drug consumption all had the reverse effect.

Make friends

So if you can't rely on the facts how do you get people to bin their conspiracy theories or other irrational ideas?

Scientific literacy will probably help in the long run. By this I don't mean a familiarity with scientific facts, figures and techniques. Instead what is needed is literacy in the scientific method, such as analytical thinking. And indeed studies show that dismissing conspiracy theories is associated with more analytic thinking.Most people will never do science, but we do come across it and use it on a daily basis and so citizens need the skills to critically assess scientific claims.

Of course, altering a nation's curriculum isn't going to help with my argument on the train. For a more immediate approach, it's important to realise that being part of a tribe helps enormously. Before starting to preach the message, find some common ground.

Meanwhile, to avoid the backfire effect, ignore the myths. Don't even mention or acknowledge them. Just make the key points: vaccines are safe and reduce the chances of getting flu by between 50% and 60%, full stop. Don't mention the misconceptions, as they tend to be better remembered.

Also, don't get the opponents gander up by challenging their worldview. Instead offer explanations that chime with their preexisting beliefs. For example, conservative climate-change deniers are much more likely to shift their views if they are also presented with the pro-environment business opportunities.

One more suggestion. Use stories to make your point. People engage with narratives much more strongly than with argumentative or descriptive dialogues. Stories link cause and effect making the conclusions that you want to present seem almost inevitable.

All of this is not to say that the facts and a scientific consensus aren't important. They are critically so. But an an awareness of the flaws in our thinking allows you to present your point in a far more convincing fashion.

It is vital that we challenge dogma, but instead of linking unconnected dots and coming up with a we need to demand the evidence from decision makers. Ask for the data that might support a belief and hunt for the information that tests it. Part of that process means recognising our own biased instincts, limitations and logical fallacies.

So how might my conversation on the train have gone if I'd heeded my own advice… Let's go back to that moment when I observed that things were taking a turn down crackpot alley. This time, I take a deep breath and chip in with.

"Hey, great result at the game. Pity I couldn't get a ticket."

Soon we're deep in conversation as we discuss the team's chances this season. After a few minutes' chatter I turn to the lunar landing conspiracy theorist "Hey, I was just thinking about that thing you said about the moon landings. Wasn't the sun visible in some of the photos?"

He nods.

"Which means it was daytime on the moon, so just like here on Earth would you expect to see any stars?"

"Huh, I guess so, hadn't thought of that. Maybe that blog didn't have it all right."


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Aug 18, 2017
Among other things, it could be easier for a number to believe the "official story" if it wasn't so9 often untrue. The fake planning for the none existent "invasion" of Calais during World War II. For that matter, the permitted bombing on Coventry to hide the fact the ULTRA machine had been cracked. Eisenhower lying about the U.S. not using U-2 spy planes over Russia. The claim of mass production of banned weapons systems in Iraq. The "polls", that were described as "scientifically" scrupulous, but failed to predict Trump winning! They like to tell the people that, for example, the USSR always lies to its populace, so the idea isn't alien to them! They just insist that no one think The West lies to its citizens. But it obviously does.

Aug 18, 2017
And, note, as part of the "testimony" to how reliable "science" is, Mark Lorch gives the example of the incorrect value for the charge of the electron. It tries to imply that "science" gets the right answer eventually, but it also says "science" is wrong for a significant period of time! And, face it, how did they get something as simple as the viscosity of the air wrong? Trying to "explain", the article actually says "scientists" ignore things that don't agree with "the official story" and accept only what does agree! What proof is there that "scientists" aren't making the same mistake, if it's not really a deliberate act, now? Note an "argument" that vaccines now must be safe. They simply insist that they used to be safe, so, "therefore", they must be safe now! They're made differently, these days, but, if they were safe back then, they must be safe now! Where is the proof that some are not doped with poison now?

Aug 18, 2017
With respect to the moon, among other things, a common swindle by the supporters of the lie machine called "science". Namely, trotting out some points that are obviously wrong some "conspiracy theorists" hold to, and, from that, try to suggest that all "conspiracy theories" are false! If you move something not absolutely solid in a vacuum, those parts not acted on directly will lag behind, so the pole turned and the portion of flag attached to the pole moved, but the end didn't. And stars don't often show up in the daytime sky on earth because of the suppose back scattering of light from air! But there is no air on the moon! And, face it, what proof is there that the strip claiming to be from a satellite over the moon, showing the lander, the tracks and all, wasn't a diorama? Where is the proof, really, that it wasn't all on a giant sound stage, in a vacuum?

Aug 18, 2017
And note such things as the "explanation" that we accept "conspiracy theories" only because "we are social animals", so we agree with what's near us. But all of society is near us! But Lorch insists that, the more people who believe one way, the more likely we are to believe it, too. If the majority of society believes one way, how do "conspiracy theories" exist? And the people accepting the "conspiracy theory" about the moon that Lorch were near him. So why didn't he accept their ideas? And where even is the proof Milgram performed the "experiments"? Basically, another example of deceit to try to make the dullards believe the other lies. Like the claim of Lorch having gotten the patterned sequence shown when he tossed a coin! Frankly, how likely is that? He would have to flip it on the order of 16,000 times at least to get a sequence like that somewhere in there! Did he really, or is that another lie?

Aug 18, 2017
Do people conspire? Yes? Do government conspire? Yes. If I am the president of the United States and half the population voted for "the other guy" and some large portion of congress and government officials are sided with or appointed by "the other guy's party", are they going to conspire against me? Some will, of course. Maybe some conspiracy theories are ridiculous, but people, agencies, governments and organizations conspire, always have, always will. Et tu Brute? Therefore, don't just discard something because its called a conspiracy theory. People conspire.

Aug 18, 2017
Mainstream is now comparing anyone who questions their 'facts' to flat Earthers. Empirical science must be used to get to the truth, such as with the visibility of the stars from outside of Earths atmosphere, but empirical science has been abandoned by NASA. The biggest conspiracy of all, one that could destroy all astronomy models and most of astrophysics, but the experiments will never be performed.

Aug 18, 2017
Mainstream is now comparing anyone who questions their 'facts' to flat Earthers. Empirical science must be used to get to the truth, such as with the visibility of the stars from outside of Earths atmosphere, but empirical science has been abandoned by NASA. The biggest conspiracy of all, one that could destroy all astronomy models and most of astrophysics, but the experiments will never be performed.


Lol. Still with this idiocy! See what we mean? Crackpots!

Aug 18, 2017
@woojamon, real conspiracies leave evidence. Look for that. If you don't find any, consider the possibility that you have spotted a false pattern strongly, and the more people it would take conspiring together not only to perform the conspiracy, but to cover it up, the more strongly you should consider rejecting the conspiracy theory.

Consider also a conspiracy to create a conspiracy theory.

Look at the sequence of coin flips from the article. I see four "001" sequences in it. Do you really think that there is a conspiracy to affect the coin flips?

Aug 18, 2017
" like constellations, clouds that looks like dogs"

Haha that's a new one. Trumps an idiot because clouds look like dogs. I'm sending that one to Hannity.

In related news, re the impending eclipse

""There is no scientific evidence, well-documented evidence about what is going to happen to pets," Dr. Carlo Siracusa of Penn Vet hospital said.

"Siracusa is among many veterinarians being bombarded with questions from concerned pet owners."

-Your media at work.

Aug 18, 2017
"Lol. Still with this idiocy! See what we mean? Crackpots!"

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance. -Hippocrates

Aug 18, 2017
"Lol. Still with this idiocy! See what we mean? Crackpots!"

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance. -Hippocrates


Which still doesn't alter the fact that you are at crackpot levels in your lunatic belief that stars, including the Sun, cannot be seen outside of an atmosphere! Evidence says you are wrong. Give it up.

Aug 18, 2017
"Give it up."

Let's do the science first.

Aug 18, 2017
"Give it up."

Let's do the science first.


It's already been done, as has been explained to you before. You are just too stupid to understand it. What wavelength do you think star trackers on spacecraft use? Visible, yes? Do they see stars? Yes they do. End of argument. It makes no frigging difference if the incoming light is hitting your retina, or a CCD. Visible light is named that for a reason. It is at visible wavelengths. That is, visible to the human eye. ~400-700nm. The only way you could fail to see that light is if there was something wrong with your eyes.

Aug 18, 2017
"What wavelength do you think star trackers on spacecraft use?"

You have no idea what a Star Tracker sees or how it works. Instrumentation is what I have done for 50 years, I have followed the development of Star Trackers since the Apollo missions and I can tell you what they DO NOT see, and your eyes would see none of what they DO 'see'. Give it up.

Aug 18, 2017
"What wavelength do you think star trackers on spacecraft use?"

You have no idea what a Star Tracker sees or how it works. Instrumentation is what I have done for 50 years, I have followed the development of Star Trackers since the Apollo missions and I can tell you what they DO NOT see, and your eyes would see none of what they DO 'see'. Give it up.


Utter crap. Only a 12 year old would believe that the VISIBLE light seen by star trackers would not be seen by an eye that has evolved to see the same VISIBLE light. It is VISIBLE light. Look up the word VISIBLE.
Frankly, only a fool would believe that the VISIBLE light given off by the Sun and stars could not be seen by organs that evolved to see VISIBLE light. It is, quite frankly, an idiotic belief, that deserves no scientific consideration. Which is why it gets none.

Aug 18, 2017
Contrary to wide belief in the story that Churchill "knew" of the Coventry Blitz, in fact decrypts of Enigma traffic that are available today show that the information was not available then.

The Pas-de-Calais invasion deception was a deliberate attempt to mislead the Germans as to where the eventual Normandy Invasion would occur. It was a legitimate ruse de guerre, not some sort of public deception. The public had no need to know where the Allied invasion of Europe would begin. In fact, it was never revealed to the general public. The technical means of deception were radio messages, dummy landing fields and equipment, false "leaks" through diplomatic channels, the use of double agents, and the presence of Allied commanders (among them Patton) in the locations where the faked equipment was placed.

[contd]

Aug 18, 2017
Let us take SOHO. It orbits roughly at the L1 point, ~ 1.5 km from Earth in the sunward direction. Can it see in visible light? Yes it can. Can it see the Sun in visible light? Yes it can: https://scied.uca...raviolet
I guess this image is all down to Earth's atmosphere, yes? Lol.

Aug 18, 2017
[contd]
Eisenhower was told that it was unlikely that the U2 shootdown had resulted in the production of any evidence, and therefore told a deliberate lie regarding the entire program. The target of the attempted deception was the USSR, not the general public. The deception didn't last long; the Soviets immediately produced Gary Powers along with wreckage containing photographic surveillance equipment from the aircraft.

As for the polls before the 2016 election, they were all stymied by the Comey interference, announcing a re-opening of the email investigation.

We're left with the Iraq WMD, for which both Bush and the British were roundly denounced, which is the only actual attempted public deception. I'd say you're prone to believe in conspiracy theories, @julian. That would apparently include chemtrails, amusingly.

Aug 18, 2017
Regarding the visibility of stars outside the atmosphere, this is simply a matter of integration time. The range of photographic film is very limited in its ability to show contrast. Thus, the presence of a brightly lit object in the field of view, especially if this is the object of interest, requires shutter and exposure settings that do not permit stars to be seen in the picture. A camera pointed out the window of a spacecraft with no bright objects in view will show stars if the exposure is long enough. The human eye works similarly, though it has a wider dynamic range; CCDs are generally between the human eye and film in their dynamic range.

The question is essentially meaningless without a discussion of dynamic range and the differences between film, CCDs, and human retina. There is no deception involved, and there is no conspiracy. Anybody with a basic knowledge of photography knows about this; apparently star trackers don't use photography. This is a risible claim.

Aug 18, 2017
Finally, getting back to the original conversation, it is a fact that advertising often relies upon known defects in human reasoning. Examples are given in the article. Propaganda is basically advertising; it is therefore unsurprising that use of the same reasoning defects feature prominently in it. Anyone who is not aware of these reasoning defects, or ignores them, is likely to be deceived, and it is this, rather than some supposedly mysterious feature of human psychology, that is responsible for mass deceptions by governments and companies.

It's not surprising that on occasion, self-deception arises from these same reasoning defects. And this is where conspiracy theories like chemtrails, or faked Moon landing claims, or Illuminati stories, come from. Not to mention claims of mass deception by the scientific establishment.

Aug 18, 2017
"Let us take SOHO"

The visible light image is from the HMI instrument. This is NOT a camera with a solar filter as we would use from Earths surface, but you obviously know nothing about the instruments used.
No regular solar filters have ever been taken into space, and only one to LEO, the ISS, but they viewed the Sun through Earths atmosphere. (Jump to about 5:30)
https://www.youtu...yvMu8vz0

Aug 18, 2017
@Solon I am an astrophotographer with experience both on film and CCD, and a wildlife photographer as well; I own a 600mm f/4, just to put things into perspective; for lurkerz, that's $10KUS. Not to mention an EE with experience in CCD systems and a software engineer with experience in image processing. To top it all off I have worked with photocells at an astronomy institute.

Perhaps you'd care to try to explain to me how star trackers are "NOT" (sic) cameras. Good luck with that.

It's amusing how often #sciencecranks run up against people who actually know what they're talking about and get pwnt. I expect we'll get a lot of handwaving and when that fails a lot of ad hominem.

Aug 18, 2017
@Solon was a technician who worked on the electric motors for the choppers. A real engineer told it what it was capable of understanding about star trackers about three or four decades ago and it has never learned a single thing since.

Quick lesson: if you're going to claim something obviously stupid try not to do so in front of people who know better. Especially when it's about electronic hardware, and software algorithms.

Aug 18, 2017
"Just pick a busy street corner and stare at the sky for 60 seconds."

And murmur, "Blue Flames..." ??

Aug 18, 2017
"Let us take SOHO"

The visible light image is from the HMI instrument. This is NOT a camera with a solar filter as we would use from Earths surface, but you obviously know nothing about the instruments used.
No regular solar filters have ever been taken into space, and only one to LEO, the ISS, but they viewed the Sun through Earths atmosphere. (Jump to about 5:30)
https://www.youtu...yvMu8vz0


It doesn't matter. What wavelength is the image taken in? Let's put it another way; do you, or do you not believe, that the Sun emits light in visible wavelengths? Yes or no? If no, then use Paint or Photoshop to show us what you believe the light spectrum is from the Sun. If yes, then how the hell are we not going to see it, or any other stars? If it emits light at ~ 400-700nm we'll bloody well see it. > 3 billion years of evolution has seen to that. What you are saying is that all stars fail to emit light at those wavelengths. Dumb argument.

Aug 18, 2017
@Solon I am an astrophotographer with experience both on film and CCD, and a wildlife photographer as well; I own a 600mm f/4, just to put things into perspective; for lurkerz, that's $10KUS. Not to mention an EE with experience in CCD systems and a software engineer with experience in image processing. To top it all off I have worked with photocells at an astronomy institute
"Argument from authority (Latin: argumentum ad verecundiam), also called the appeal to authority, is a common form of argument which leads to a logical fallacy."

-Who's to know? This is not the place - we can't see your diploma or your fancy camera from here and you know it. Even trying is suspicious.

Links to respectable refs is the only thing that works here.

Aug 18, 2017
"Just pick a busy street corner and stare at the sky for 60 seconds."

And murmur, "Blue Flames..." ??
Don't run. You can cause a panic. :D

Aug 18, 2017
Let's put it another way; do you, or do you not believe, that the Sun emits light in visible wavelengths? Yes or no?

No. The Sun emits only shorter wavelength E/M radiation, it is transformed to visible by interaction with matter (electrons included) in the atmosphere. You can not find a photograph, using film or CCD, of the Sun taken from cislunar space with the appropriate solar filter or filters. They did take a photo of the Sun, looking through the lunar dust and using the very high speed 2485 film and no filter from lunar orbit, and photos of the Sun from the lunar surface, but without filters again.

Apollo 15 image.
http://www.lpi.us...3399.jpg


Aug 19, 2017
So where is the picture of the solar spectrum? If the Sun, and other stars, only emit shortwave radiation, why do we detect IR and far IR and radio, etc, etc? Why was the astronaut on the Apollo 15 command module able to see gazillions of stars on the far side of the moon, when both the Sun and Earth were eclipsed? Was the plexiglass (or whatever the window was made of) converting the invisible visible light into visible visible light? Sorry, it's all to stupid to argue about. Which is why you appear to be the only person on the planet who believes such nonsense.
However, a fully worked example of how the atmosphere of the Earth or Moon (???) converts sw radiation into visible light would be useful (not to mention amusing). You know the kind of thing; equations, maths, etc. Or how a star tracker, that can only see between 500-850nm, can see stars at 70million km from Earth. Technical stuff from the specs, you know. Dear me.

Aug 19, 2017
@Solon, the Sun's surface temperature is about 5700K which emits electromagnetic radiation with a peak in the visible spectrum right about the middle in green. This is both observable by photographic exposure meters and calculable by Wien's Law.

I have no idea why you are making stuff up about how its radiation is some different value than photographic equipment, astrophysical measurement from not merely multiple but manifold sources, and physical principles is wrong. It look like you're a #physicscrank.

If you're going to make stuff up I suggest you go do it on some crank site, not a place where real photographers and real physicists hang out. Otherwise you'll get made to look stupid.

Here's one way you'll get made to look stupid: the lunar astronauts used Hasselblad cameras, some of the most advanced available at the time. The photographs look great. If you're not an idiot, how can that be?

Aug 19, 2017
"However, a fully worked example of how the atmosphere of the Earth or Moon (???) converts sw radiation into visible light would be useful (not to mention amusing)."
Yes, the Moon does have an atmosphere (look it up) but the main process of full spectrum visible light creation in the lunar atmosphere is from UV/EUV E/M radiation causing the nanometer sized dust particles to fluoresce. Look it up.

Earths atmosphere is much more complex of course, but electron orbital shifts are the process that leads to visible and IR radiation being produced. Fluorescence of some molecules can cause up to 5 minutes of IR emissions from a single ionising UV 'hit'. There is absorption and re-emission occurring throughout the depth of the atmosphere so any calculations/math would be very complex, best just perform experiments and log the intensity and wavelengths of light with increasing elevation, all the way out to geosynchronous orbit say, and better still to cislunar space. Never been done, AFAIK.

Aug 19, 2017
Are we seriously seeing someone claim the Sun doesn't emit visible light? I mean, really? Really? Talk about flat Earthers, this is like claiming chocolate isn't brown. What do you even say to someone who has a conspiracy theory about the big bright light in the sky in the daytime? Why is this individual even posting on a science site?

Aug 19, 2017
"calculable by Wien's Law."

Yes, if you consider the Sun a black body. It isn't.


Aug 19, 2017
Another thing about star trackers is that, as they don't have to cope with atmospheric scatter, they only need to be shaded from direct and reflected light. A neat sun-shield will do nicely. Big space-telescopes do it, too. See 'Hubble' etc.

PS: "... claiming chocolate isn't brown" ? White chocolate is delicious. Cocoa butter's 'active' ingredients are colourless, at least in the visible spectrum. The 'cocoa solids' are brown.

Aug 19, 2017
Speaking of conspiracies here's a media event that couldn't have happened by itself;

"Insane Clown Posse announced plans for the Juggalo March on Washington. The stated purpose: to protest the FBI's characterization of the group's fanbase as a "hybrid gang" and stand up for juggalos' rights as Americans. The march is scheduled for noon on Saturday, Sept. 16, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C….
As MetalSucks points out, a pro-Trump gathering called the Mother of All Rallies has scheduled itself at the opposite end of the National Mall on Sept. 16…"

Juggalos hate bigots and love knives and axes

"Hitler, Stalin, both are jerks
F***in' free speech, how does it work
And I don't wanna talk to no nationalist
Y'all f***ers sieg-heilin' and gettin' me pissed"

-and that timeless classic;

"My axe is my buddy, he always makes me laugh,
Me and my axe cut biggots spinal cords in half,"
https://youtu.be/KuRrVIpuB8Q

-Come on. Somebody made this happen.

Aug 19, 2017
The article author describes some interesting results on science communication, but - not being an expert - it looks like he makes an overreach when he applies a review on narratives on persuasion. The review takes the evidence from two papers, one a review containing the other. That is a psychological paper, from the era before psychology became aware of its evidence problems, and as such and single source I find it precarious.

Worse, even given that narratives work to persuade, the data on counter arguing seems not to be there but the support is "classic discussion" [ https://www.resea...sion.pdf , p 180].

[tbctd]

Aug 19, 2017
[ctd] Further, in general counter arguing has been seen to be effective in convincing *bystanders* against crackpot narrative, by far easier and more effective than persuading crackpots [see e.g. Dawkins' Convert's Corner]. As the article author earlier said himself, just state the facts.

@woojamon:
Therefore, don't just discard something because its called a conspiracy theory. People conspire.


The labeling, if it is well sourced, is to inform that it is junk. That in itself does not say that people do conspire, nor does the existence of conspiracies tell you that conspiracy theory is not conspiracy.

But it seems to me conspiracies are rare. I use economical corruption as a proxy, self assessed but transparent, disperse (some nations top at 1/4 corrupt transactions) but with a calm broad tail: on average nations feel that 1 % of transactions are corrupt. That is the extent of experienced falsehood when the rubber hits the hard road of self interest.

Aug 19, 2017
So ... wow. Actual conspiracy theorists and crackpot physicists showed up. I am taking the article hint and label appropriately - those are the facts. More well established facts:

- Humans visited the Moon on several occasions 1969-1973, it is in the history books [ https://en.wikipe..._landing ].

[tbctd]

Aug 19, 2017
[ctd]

- The Sun is, as other nearby stars, visible in the sky at appropriate times - why do I really have to say this? Good luck convincing people it is not visible!

- The hot Sun, surface temperature ~4,000 K, emits - like all stars and mostly thermal emitters, approximately as a black body (which is why blackbody spectra has been so studied in science). See the figure comparing irradiation above and below Earth atmosphere here to see how well it fits: https://en.wikipe...Sunlight .

Further it is a 100 - 200 year old observation and knowledge that absorption lines in that background spectra is due to the solar atmosphere [ https://en.wikipe...er_lines ].

Aug 19, 2017
Only thing I'd argue with, @torbjorn, is the surface temperature of the Sun. It's ~ 5700 K.

Aug 19, 2017
In my opinion, as much as any other view, common senselessness is a basic definition of human nature.

As for the 'moon landing was a fraud' crowd? I think they are subconsciously angry that they didn't get to go. And there's no realistic way for them to even qualify to get to go.

About the scientific method - Edison said it best when someone complimented him for inventing the light bulb. "I did not discover the light bulb. I discovered a thousand ways NOT to make a light bulb!"

Aug 19, 2017
''@woojamon, real conspiracies leave evidence..'' and it gets buried, fast , like dead haitians in miami hotel rooms

Aug 19, 2017
I don't think people understand the significance of wolfenstein.

"The game is noted for popularizing the first-person shooter genre, released in 1992, developed by id Software..."

-IOW the first 3D first person shooter and the precursor of just about every game on the market today. It was rebooted in 2001 for release in 2002.

We are aware of another strange harbinger, the Bush sr New World Order speech on Sept 11 1991, 10 years to the day before the wtc attack
https://youtu.be/byxeOG_pZ1o

-Few know of the incredibly strange Ryan Adams music vid made on Sept 7 2001, with the wtc in just about every frame
https://youtu.be/hmHgY_J63Ik

-so now we have the newest version of the Mutter of all video games reflecting what is again the most notable of current events, during the most inexplicable presidency in US history.

I think we are watching a Leadership obsessed with telling us exactly how it is manipulating us, and has been ever since it wrote it all down in the bible.

Aug 19, 2017
Ryan Adams, 'New York New York'
"Well, I shuffled through the city on the 4th of July
I had a firecracker waiting to blow
Breakin' like a rocket...
Had myself a lover who was finer than gold
But I've been broken up and busted up since...
The world won't wait, so I better shake
That thing right out there through the door...
Still amazed I didn't lose it on the roof of the place...
Farewell to the city and the love of my life
At least we left before we had to go..."

-The vid released 4 days before the planes hit the towers. The last line reads like a distinct warning.

The last frame shows Ryan turning to look directly at the towers and then walking off.

Nobody can explain what's going on in Washington and the media. It all looks like an extremely bizarre stage play. And that is the best explanation for what it is.

Aug 19, 2017
Slavery had become economically untenable due to the industrial revolution. And so an extreme form of urban renewal was performed which destroyed the obsolete infrastructure, killed about 1/3 of the industrial workforce north and south, and made room for the newly emancipated negro.

The danger was that this large subgroup would congregate in southern cities and change the demographic. So they were driven north and West by a very well- orchestrated, state-sponsored, extra-legal terror campaign.

And once they were adequately dispersed their growth was subsidized by the state (welfare) until predetermined demographic goals had been achieved.

And then a campaign to complete their integration was begun after the war, culminating in the 60s and Martin Luther king.

So who are we integrating at the moment and how is this being accomplished? How are they being convinced to give up their incipient cultures and believe that this great nation was made just for them?

Stay tuned.

Aug 19, 2017
The question is, why did it not occur to the people until quite recently that statues of confederates in town squares were symbols of bigotry and oppression? Why was there a big confederate flag on the hood of the 'dukes of hazard' car and why was it called general lee?

And why was the original movie 'birth of a nation', perhaps the most blatantly bigoted and racist american movie of all time, also considered the greatest movie of all time?? Honestly, it wasn't even that good.

And why are we now seeing movies like 'free state of Jones' which depict rebs as Nazi-like mauraders, plunderers, and rapists?

And we can understand Dr Huxtable the wise and respected black patriarch from the 80s, but who can explain the racist Amos and Andy tv show from the 50s?

How many examples can you think of, of blatant manipulation throughout recent history? And why would you want to take what the media is telling you now seriously, in light of this egregious performance?

Aug 19, 2017
"Talk about flat Earthers,"

Anything that contradicts mainstreams 'facts' nowadays gets the Flat Earthers label. All I'm looking for is empirical science for the visibility of sun and stars in space. Or does that also qualify as flat Earthers stuff?

And if anyone has info on what wavelength/s the Star Trackers, NavCams and Sun Sensors detect, I'd be interested to know.

Aug 20, 2017
Where is the film of the Moon landing showing 1/6 Earth gravity?
If you speed the film up of the Moon buggy it looks like it was filmed on Earth..

Aug 21, 2017
I should mention that for totally true color, as seen on Earth's surface by the human eye, the actual color temperature is a bit cooler (redder); this is because blue light is preferentially scattered by the atmosphere, which is why the sky is blue. The shortwave radiation is scattered more than the longwave. So if you want true color as your eye sees it on Earth's surface in bright daylight, you should subtract 50-100K from the true color of the solar surface temperature, yielding 5650K or 5600K. Photographers generally choose to use the higher value because it reddens the blue shadows.

It takes some careful examination, but if you look in shadows you will notice they are always blue. Now you know why; they are illuminated by the blue sky. I never noticed this until I had it pointed out to me, and now I can see it every time I look. My photographs are better for it. :D

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