Video of the Apparent Missile Launch Seen over Los Angeles Yesterday

As of right now, the Pentagon is denying responsibility for Monday’s apparent missile launch near Los Angeles, claiming not to have any idea what might have caused the appearance of so large a contrail (“condensation trail”).

Might it be from a submarine? Here’s a news report on the incident:

ContrailScience, a website devoted to skeptically deconstructing and demystifying contrails and chemtrails, attributes the November 8th, 2010 Los Angeles contrail to a commercial airliner, not a missile. The site’s posts seem to be written by an expert, and they probably are, but the site’s “About” page gives no information about the writer. He (or she) writes under a pseudonym.

So if we decided not to trust this site, and we wanted to discover for ourselves the truth about this particular contrail, what might we do?

Well, we could brainstorm hypotheses that might account for the event—a commercial airliner, aliens from another star system, a missile launch from a submarine, etc. Then we could produce some criteria for evaluating each hypothesis in turn, asking such questions as these:

  • Is there anything logically or physically impossible associated with this hypothesis?
  • Does this hypothesis contradict any of our current background knowledge (things that we think we know about the world and how it works)?
  • Is this hypothesis simple—or is it burdened with a list of implausible or unverifiable assumptions?
  • What would clearly confirm or disconfirm this hypothesis?
  • Does this hypothesis have any predictive value? If so, what does it predict?
  • Does this hypothesis have broad explanatory power—or does it just account for this particular incident?
  • Does this hypothesis account for both the physical phenomenon under consideration and the human behavior accompanying it?

With criteria in place, we could then say, “May the best hypothesis win,” and compare the strengths and weaknesses of each hypothesis. Of course, after we decided which hypothesis was most plausible, we would also want to keep our eyes open to any future information that might disconfirm our favored hypothesis.

But all this requires work.

Plugging the contrail incident into the narrative of an already existing conspiracy theory is easier, isn’t it?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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