19 May 2014
Toledo, Ohio Meteorologist Ross Ellet got a real shock while talking to students at Star Academy Charter School last week. He’d been asked to talk to the students about weather and science, but he got a question that left him totally stunned. One of the students asked him “what kind of job will you get when HAARP is controlling the weather, and you’re no longer needed?”. Now, Ross knew what the student was talking about, because every on-air meteorologist in the country gets emails and letters about HAARP (and chem-trails) on a weekly and even daily basis.
Ellet asked the student who had told him this, and was floored when the student (along with several other students) indicated that it was their science teacher!. Ross tells me that afterwards the red-faced teacher admitted it to him! I found out about this because Ross asked his fellow forecasters what he should do about it. Most of us suggested that he notify the newsroom of a potential news story, and also write the school board and superintendent. I’ve thought hard about whether I should even write this post, but Ross gave me permission to use his name, and the name of the school (Star Academy in Toledo).
For those that do not know, HAARP is the High Frequency Active Aurora Research Program in Alaska. The ‘tin foil hat’ crowd believe that HAARP and chem-trails are ‘secret GUVMENT projects to control the weather and influence the minds of ‘poor defenseless freedom lovin uhmerrakuns’. Many users of the photo sharing service FLICKR have learned about chem-trails, because they get comments from the tin-foil hat brigade whenever they share a photo that has a jet contrail in it. Chemtrail folks believe that those white lines behind airplanes are NOT condensation clouds of water vapor produced during the combustion of high-grade kerosene (otherwise known as Jet-A fuel), but instead are mind control gas! I know of one commercial pilot who jokingly adds the line “chem-trail gas on?, check!” to his preflight cockpit checklist!
Meteorologists are used to dealing with more mundane situations, like a fellow meteorologist in Detroit who shared this response when he posted a story about Jupiter’s shrinking red spot over the weekend:
We tend to just ignore this kind of thing, because nothing you can say will change the writer’s opinion, but if it’s on a public page, then I usually either delete it or answer it with proper science. A more difficult problem was faced by another meteorologist who was asked to talk about Antarctica to a home school class. He was told beforehand not to mention anything about fossils, or that Antarctica was once part of the super-continent of Pangea, because the students were not taught such things. I don’t know if he accepted the restrictions or not, but I would have told them that any well founded scientific understanding is fair game, and let them decide of they wanted to withdraw the invitation. I also have first-hand knowledge of a case where a parent removed his daughter from a classroom talk about weather and climate, because they felt that “climate change was a liberal conspiracy”. That talk went ahead, while the student in question spent the hour in the school library.
Is there any doubt that the internet is making it much easier these days for those with silly conspiracy theories to get positive reinforcement to their belief system? I think not, but it can have amusing consequences, like when well-known figures get caught spouting nonsense about the president’s birth certificate etc. It can have very detrimental consequences as well, and the rise of diseases for which we have working vaccines is a perfect example.
I witnessed one of the more amusing events while riding my bike down the Mall in DC on Sunday. 10 million people were supposed to descend on Washington and remove the President and Vice President from office, and to take back our constitution (which as far as I now is readily able to be seen in the National Archives building). They were a bit short however. By about 9,999,900 actually (and that’s if you count the folks in the rascal scooters who were moving along with them up the Mall Sunday).
Seriously though, it seems that conspiracy theories are now held by many more people than in the past. Would they realize how ridiculous they sound, If they had been taught some basic physics about the energy it takes to raise a cubic km of air by a tenth of a degree C?? What If they had enough basic math to figure out how many tons of lethal mind control gas it would take to dose 3000 million people from 10 kilometers up? Would they then realize how stunningly ridiculous these claims are (not to mention the fact that such chemicals do not really exist without side effects that would be immediate and consequential)?
I don’t know, but I do know of a professor who is teaching a college course for freshmen called Physics for Future Presidents. In it, he covers all of these things, We need to teach this course in 8th grade, and leave out the kind of absurd claims that you see in the supermarket scandal sheets. If you are a parent of a student at this school, you should certainly find out if your child has been taught any of these crazy ideas. Note: I did not reveal the name of the teacher on purpose. The person in question has a right to defend themselves of such a serious accusation.