The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘9/11 truth’

Quick Update on Flight 1549

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 5, 2009

The entries on this blog which seem to have gotten the most attention are “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo and Flight 1549 Follow Up, from both skeptics & conspiracy theorists alike. Well, I just wanted to provide a quick update about the NTSB investigation into the crash landing.

The New York Times has reported just today that the investigation has now revealed organic material (strongly suspected to be goose remains) has been extracted from both engines from the plane. In addition, the NTSB has released information which seems to show that there was no connection between potential engine problems two days earlier and the crash landing itself.

Some excerpts from the NYTimes article…

Material from both engines has been sent to the bird lab at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History to determine its species; geese are suspected.

The board also released information that seems to show that two possible engine problems were unrelated to the accident. Two days earlier, the same plane took off on the same route, La Guardia to Charlotte, N.C., and suffered an engine surge; the crew consulted with maintenance people on the ground and decided to continue the flight. The safety board said that the surge was caused by a faulty temperature sensor, which was replaced, and that the engine did not appear to have been damaged.

It’ll be interesting to see how the conspiracy theorists attempt to spin this new information, but I’m sure whatever they come up with will be… creative. Stay tuned.

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Flight 1549 Follow Up

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 24, 2009

A few days ago I wrote a post about conspiracy theories related to last week’s story about U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crash-landing into the Hudson River (see “Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo).

In that post I argued that it was entirely possible that bird-strikes could have brought down the plane, and this hypothesis was consistent with reports from the pilot about hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff. Well, it seems there is yet more evidence supporting the bird-strike hypothesis. Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story about new evidence uncovered by the NTSB, and here are some key excerpts:

The National Safety Transportation Safety Board yesterday said an external examination of the plane’s right engine revealed evidence of “soft body impact” damage on fan blades. The agency said its review showed that internal engine parts were either significantly damaged or missing.

John Cox, a former US Airways pilot and former safety investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association, said results of the engine probe so far were consistent with a bird striking the engine fan, damaging metal pieces that then broke loose. The pieces were pulled deeper inside the engine, causing further damage, he said.

The NTSB said the organic material was found inside the engine, on the plane’s wings and on other parts of the plane. Additionally, investigators found a single feather attached to a part known as a flap track of one of the plane’s wings.

So the bird-strike hypothesis seems more and more likely to be the explanation for the engine failure which led to Flight 1549’s desperation landing in the Hudson River. Now, allow me to take a moment to compare and contrast the methodologies employed by those who actually use critical thinking and those who are spinning conspiracy theories.

Those who are rigorously investigating this disaster are very frugal in their approach, making sure to look for evidence in a very deliberate & systematic manner. All hypotheses are considered, but once they are found to be in contradiction to the facts available, they are discarded or revised – this is common in the scientific method of investigation.

For example, I was supporting the bird-strike hypothesis in my earlier post. To test this hypothesis for validity, we would expect – upon further analysis of the engines – to see physical evidence that is consistent with bird-strikes on airplanes. And, according to recent news reports, this is indeed what we see (including feathers in the engine!). This gives us greater confidence that bird-strikes had something to do with the downing of Flight 1549.

Now, let’s look at the “reasoning” of conspiracy theorists – like those at the David Icke Forum. Much of their argumentation rests upon being suspicious of “coincidences”, making arguments from ignorance (“The NWO could be responsible for this, we just don’t know”), selective thinking, confirmation bias, and basically outright ignoring or dismissing any evidence contrary to their claims. In short, the CTists use anything to justify their worldview that…

conspiracy

As such, CT-thinking is non-falsifiable. And ideas which are not falsifiable are clearly unscientific; yet, ironically, many CTists claim to be employing science in making their arguments. This is a classic mark of what skeptics call pseudoscience.

In closing I’ll refer you to a great blog entry and discussion on this topic over at the SkepticBlog.org – the entry is titled “The US Airways Hudson River Conspiracy” and Brian Dunning deals with other aspects of the CTist claims that I have not yet addressed. Check it out.

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Citizen Obama

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 20, 2009

On Tuesday, January 20th, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the first African-American to ever attain that high office. Whether you voted for Obama or not, I think one thing all can agree on is that will be a historic day, to say the least.

President Obama

However, true to form, there are woo-meisters out there who insist upon pushing all manner of silliness in regards to President Obama. Specifically, I am referring to various conspiracy theories claiming that Obama is not a United States citizen and therefore not eligible to hold high office. There is a further implication that his presidency is an attempt by a foreign nation to install a real-life Manchurian candidate into the White House in an attempt to gain control over our government.

The primary examples of this stupidity are the claims pushed by Philip J. Berg (who also happens to be a “9/11 Truther”) and Robert L. Schulz, the founder of the We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education (a rabidly anti-tax organization).

Berg filed a lawsuit last August in federal court alleging that Obama was born actually in Mombasa, Kenya and that the “Certification of Live Birth” on Obama’s website is a forgery – the case was dismissed as being “frivolous and not worthy of discussion.” In December, he even petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction to prevent the seating of the Electoral College – his request was denied without comment.

For some more loony examples of similar litigation filed in U.S. courts challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s citizenship, click here.

Now let’s talk about Schulz and his claims – many of which are listed on his website. Here are some examples:

Despite the overbroad and erroneous claims of many news sources, Hawaii officials have NOT confirmed that Obama was born in Hawaii. Read the 10/31/08 official Hawaii Dept. of Health press release. Again, at NO time do state officials confirm that Obama was actually born in Hawaii.

Compounding the question surrounding Obama’s citizenship status is a subsequent statement of Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo (see Chicago Tribune, 10-31-08). Citing Hawaii state privacy laws, and guidance from the state attorney general, she said she, “was not permitted to confirm the authenticity of the certificate released by the Obama campaign.”

Among Berg’s arguments is that if Obama was born in Kenya, U.S. Immigration law in effect in 1961 barred Obama from U.S. citizenship at birth because his father was a Kenyan citizen and his mother, although a U.S. citizen, was not a resident of the U.S. for at least FIVE years following her 14th birthday. Obama’s mother was only 18 at the time of Obama’s birth, and thereby barred – by U.S. Immigration law – from passing U.S. citizenship to her child Obama — even though she was a U.S. citizen. See page 6 of the legal brief.

Read the Donofrio Supreme Court appeal: Mr. Donofrio’s arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court. (right-click to download). Donofrio’s primary legal argument is that Obama could never be a constitutional “natural born” citizen simply because his father was a legal citizen of another nation, i.e. a foreign national of Kenya, regardless of place of birth. See page 16 of the brief.

Schulz decided to bypass the courts and take his case directly to the American people. In early December, he took out ads in the Chicago Tribune – called “An Open Letter to Barack Obama” – directly challenging Obama’s citizenship and the legitimacy of his upcoming presidency. Ironically, on Dec. 3rd (the day the second round of the ad was run) the Chicago Tribune ran a story systematically demolishing every single claim made in the ad.

So, apparently, these CTists are claiming that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen because he wasn’t born in Hawaii (he was – see here for evidence of that fact) and even if he was born on U.S. soil he still isn’t a citizen due to their convoluted interpretation of the law. Thus, they are attempting to set up an argument where they win, no matter what – thus preserving their conspiracy-driven worldview.

These CTists have been rebuffed in their lunacy by independent non-partisan groups such as FactCheck.org, the press, the U.S. government, and the courts. Yet still they press on partly due to an extremist political faction and convinced with almost religious zeal that Obama’s ascendancy to the White House is part of a vast conspiracy – no matter what, to them everything is evidence of this conspiracy. As such, CTs such as this are not falsifiable, at least in the minds of the true believers.

Okay, so what? Why should we care about some goofwads running around making these claims? Well, I can give you a damned good reason why we should care – because there are some people out there who really do believe that President Obama is a Manchurian candidate, out to undermine the nation and should therefore be stopped. In fact, just this past weekend, a man was charged with threatening Obama’s life on a website. The man seems to have been a regular on a conspiracy website – Alien-Earth.org – and in his postings there stated that he would kill Obama “for the country’s own good.”

Hmmm… so, what do you think? Should we take these conspiracy theorists and their drivel seriously? Does the promotion of healthy skepticism & critical thinking in our society matter?

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“Miracle on the Hudson” Conspiracy Woo

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2009

No doubt that by now you’ve heard all about the “Miracle on the Hudson” – namely the crash-landing of a United Airways Airbus A320 into the Hudson River next to Manhattan island this past Thursday. The kicker is that, while there were some injuries and some suffered from exposure to the extreme temperatures, nobody among the 155 aboard Flight 1549 died. Through a combination of luck and the skills of the pilot, it seems this would-be tragedy gave everyone a bit of good news at the end of the week.

Miracle on the Hudson

The exact cause of the crash is still unknown, though early reports have been suggesting that the Airbus flew through a flock of geese and both engines were disabled by bird-strikes. There are reports that the pilot radioed air-traffic-control shortly after takeoff notifying them of the bird-strikes. However, until the NTSB releases its report we cannot be certain of what brought down the plane.

But, believe it or not, there are those who have spun the “Miracle” as some kind of conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists all over the Internet are making a variety of loony claims for the real reason Flight 1549 came down on Thursday. A perfect example is the budding “Water Landing Truth Movement” over at the David Icke Forums. Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve seen in the past two days while wading my way through the stupid over there…

All’s good to distract the sheeple’s attention from the carnage of Gaza.

Interesting, all the news outlets seem to be “waiting” to hear from the “HERO” pilot, BBC mentioned it, as did Sky News… I wonder what fictional account of what happened is being programmed into him?

Could be strange coincidences but it turns out the pilot allegedly ‘turned down’ two offers of emergency landings at airports in vicinity. The following is fact but a strange coincidence, it also turns out that the pilot, (who is keeping a low profile) also happens to own his own business advising airlines on airline safety and events such as how to keep the airline staff under control when a jet ditches in the sea.

In fact it has a NWO link, run some statistics on plane crashes and you’ll know why.

A plane just happens to crash land in the hudson river on the day israeli troops bomb another U.N. shelter without any justification whatsoever. Fucking bullshit! I wonder how difficult it would be for an experienced pilot to bring a plane down safely on water like that? Probably a lot less difficult than they would have us believe.

… landing a plane on water is easy. All the pilots of the world are part of the NWO order too. Fact.

I cant help but think this is a confirmation ad for the planecrash in wtcs. it sounds cartoonish taht a plane can actually land in the water like that , without a scratch or budge. it didnt even sink before evryone was evacuated (on camera). incredibly weird story but seeing more and more people question the wtc plane crash it may as well be just another psy op, just like any other news story these days.

Bush, Cheney & Co must be cacking themselves…a missed opportunity, surely…they must be thinking…!? The fact everyone survived, would be seen as a bad omen, by those in the “inside job” business…

Don’t forget Colin Powell’s “warning” for the 21st – 22nd of January “that we don’t know about yet…” lol I don’t think geese could take the engines off or that the plane could fly with no engines, sufficiently to glide onto a river perfectly. The level of coverage over something where not one person was even injured, shows it’s a distraction story. Gaza is being flattened as we speak and the Israeli’s are stepping it up yet further. Financial collapse on the 10th feb and Powell/Biden/Albright saying it’s about to go off on 21st – 22nd January. Hope you’re ready for some shit.

It’s clear that the plane crash was planned as a distraction story. like people in the thread are saying “the miracle plane crash”. and the fact the government chose someone that is an expert in water based landing and 20+ years experience in the raf backs it up even more

It gets nuttier from there. Conspiracy theorists are, to say the least, an interesting bunch – in many cases, they exhibit a kind of pseudo-magical thinking wherein they twist history and (in more extreme cases) the very laws of physics to fit with their conspiracy-driven worldview. Often these conspiracies (whether it is those espousing Holocaust denial, “9/11 Truth”, or “Big Pharma” conspiracies) invoke some kind of secretive, ultra-powerful entity such as the Illuminati & New World Order (NWO) which somehow has the capability to pull off such a deep & widespread deception.

In the case of the developing conspiracy of the “Miracle”, some of the CTists argue that it’s not possible that bird-strikes could cripple a jet engine. Either these folks have a profound ignorance of physics, or they are engaging in magical thinking – it is very easy for a bird-strike to damage a jet engine. Think about it… the turbine blades of a jet engine rotate really fast; because of this, even if there were no relative translational motion between the bird and engine, there would be a considerable amount of damage done in collision due to a massive transfer of kinetic energy. This is because the relative rotational motion between the turbine blade and bird is enormous (birds tend not to spin in the air at many hundreds or thousands of rpm). Plus, any pieces of turbine blade that might break off run into other parts of the engine, causing further damage.

And then there’s video footage of bird-strikes on jet engines…

So, it is pretty clear that bird-strikes can cripple jet engines. This fact alone should be enough to defeat the conspiracy theory that the “Miracle” was part of a larger NWO plan or “inside-job”. But the really sad thing about dealing with CTists and their arguments is that no matter what evidence you present against them, such as that given above, the hard core types (such as arch-CTist David Icke) will always dismiss it. They rationalize this in a variety of ways, from employing unhealthy doses of selective thinking or arguing from ignorance to claiming their critics are part of the wider conspiracy!

I have dealt with some people like this before, and they can be a frightening bunch. Many of the most devout CTists have an almost fundamentalist religious belief in their conspiracy-driven worldview, and it can be a journey into a very dark & scary place to go there.

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