Go back to sleep, sheeple part 2: Chemtrails

I’ve always had a fascination with conspiracy theories. I don’t believe in every conspiracy I hear, but it’s often exciting to think of the possibility that life isn’t as boring as we think it is. This is the second part of a three-part series about some of the most absurd conspiracy theories of today.

Videos keep surfacing regarding new evidence that shows that the government is putting chemicals into the air we breathe for undisclosed sinister reasons. Some think it’s to keep us dumb enough to control, others think it’s to make us die around the age of 80. It’s a conspiracy theory commonly referred to as chemtrails, and it revolves around the smoke clouds (contrails) that jets leave behind when they fly by.

A good article on HowStuffWorks explained that contrails occur because the air temperature at the altitude of the plane is very low, often reaching below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s similar to seeing your breath on a cold winter day, only a lot colder. On a humid day, the contrails could stay in the air for a significant amount of time, making it look like a gas put in the air. In reality, it’s jet fuel exhaust mixed with ice crystals, which is much less exciting than a government conspiracy.

“Videos keep surfacing regarding new evidence that shows that the government is putting chemicals into the air we breathe for undisclosed sinister reasons.” Photo from: trentlist.org

This past winter, several videos gained a lot of steam (get it?) on Facebook about people who held lighters to snow and were shocked to see that it didn’t melt, but rather turned black. To them, this was proof that the snow was fake and the government is spraying us with poisonous chemtrails. Unfortunately for these conspiracy nuts, scientific evidence gets in the way yet again. The snow is going through a completely natural state of sublimation. Snow doesn’t melt when you hold a lighter to it, it goes directly to the gaseous state from its solid form. A more common example of sublimation is dry ice, which has visible vapor emanating from it. The fact that the snow turned black is most likely a result of foreign debris such as dirt or pollution in the air.

Both of the biggest contentions of this conspiracy theory can be easily debunked with a little background knowledge in science. It’s concerning because people like this kind of thing. Conspiracy theories are exciting because they appear to have a good explanation for something we don’t understand. The theory is always going to be more exciting than the truth because we always want to imagine that there’s an enemy out there that wants to hurt us.

It’s easy to antagonize the government and people will always find a new medium with which to do it. The problem is that these people can’t be swayed by the science. Any explanation would just be refuted by the go-to phrase, “you’re just a government troll.” How does one argue with a mentality like that? It isn’t even about exposing the conspiracy at that point. It’s an obsession with having some deeper knowledge that the general public doesn’t have; that obsession leaves people in a state of paranoia that does a disservice to everyone else.

I’d like to believe that the government covered up Area 51 and that we’ve made contact with aliens already, but I’m aware that there’s no evidence to support that. If you’re going to make a claim, make sure science can back it up. Otherwise, it’s a blatant attempt to dramatize your mundane lifestyle with the plot of a cheesy 90’s movie.

At least chemtrails aren’t a particularly dangerous conspiracy theory like the anti-vaccination crowd. That’s what we’ll tackle in the conclusion of the series. In the meantime, go back to sleep, sheeple.