The evidence is starting to add up. First, we have the absence of evidence, which is always tricky but sometimes relevant: Nobody picked up a rocket on radar, aircraft pilots did not see a vertical high speed accelerating object, etc. etc. Then we have the alternative explanations, including the shape and nature of the contrail, curves in the contrail unlikely from a ballistic missile, and so on.

I’m betting on routine aircraft contrail. This will be an interesting one to pick apart later when all the conjectures are in.

Comments

  1. #1 Zeno
    November 10, 2010

    You see, Greg, you’re just being too calm and rational about this. This mysterious event is

    (a) evidence of a top-secret rocket plane being tested by the Defense Department’s black ops people;
    (b) proof of an imminent alien invasion;
    (c) a demonstration of the government’s plan to douse us all with toxic chem trails;
    (d) a sign that Nibiru is about to collide with the earth;
    (e) an omen of Christ’s second coming.

    Pick any of these and you’ll also pick up lots of instant friends who know their own particular delusion is true. Who cares about a boring rational explanation?

  2. #2 whysonosy
    November 10, 2010

    well, wouldn’t a regular plane show up on radar too. And do regular planes generally take off from 30 miles out to sea?

  3. #3 Nomen Clature
    November 10, 2010

    No links?

    http://contrailscience.com/a-problem-of-perspective-in-the-oc-new-years-eve-contrail/

    US Airways flight 808 fits all the data. There’s even a beach webcam showing a contrail in the same spot on another day.

  4. #4 wfr
    November 10, 2010

    It was this airplane:
    http://flightaware.com/live/flight/AWE808/history/20101108/1955Z/PHNL/KPHX

    It came from over the horizon toward the observer, which makes it appear that it came out of the sea, going up.

  5. #5 Equisetum
    November 10, 2010

    “That rocket was probably a contrail of a regular air plane”

    That’s exactly what they want you to think.

  6. #6 Hank Fox
    November 10, 2010

    Looking at the videos, it does appear that the object is gaining altitude rapidly. Plus, jets don’t commonly produce contrails of that thickness.

    Something interesting I realized not long back, on the subject of “conspiracy theories”:

    First, we’re all human. There aren’t any vast cool intellects out there thinking in ways that none of us can understand. We saw the perfect example during the Bush administration: The President of the United States was for 8 years a slightly-below-average man who could barely string together full sentences.

    Second, if I can come up with a conspiracy concept, and if you can come up with a conspiracy concept, anybody can come up with a conspiracy concept. A conspiracy, after all, is just some little finagle of the law or common ethical behavior that two or more people agree to participate in.

    Third, people in positions of power – those ordinary, sometimes stupid yutzes just like you and me – are different in two main ways: One, they probably have ambition at levels you and I don’t normally see – what amounts to ruthlessness. Two, they have the power to make big things happen.

    And fourth, the proof is all around us that the bigger you get, the more chance you have to shed the morality that your ordinary man on the street has. I don’t watch my feet when I walk to keep from stepping on bugs, and neither do they; it’s just that their “bugs” are people like you and I. (And if you don’t think there are people out there – within a 10-minute drive of your house – who consider you no more important than an insect, I’m not sure what planet you come from, but it isn’t this one.)

    Put this all together, and it’s obvious that conspiracies DO happen. They happen on the small scale at which you and I live our lives, and they happen on the large scale at which “big people” operate. Today your friend the supermarket cashier winks and tosses a $12 steak in your bag without ringing it up. Tomorrow the leader of North Korea launches a missile so your company’s $50 billion defense contract gets approved by the U.S. Congress. The next day, the leader of a powerful country launches an attack that eventually kills, maims and leaves homeless hundreds of thousands of faceless strangers in a distant place, and not one person in any position of power loses sleep over it.

    Back to Bush again: There actually was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that played out in full public view – the conspiracy of the GOP, the Democrats, and the entire massed might of American media to keep quiet about how stupid George W. really was – and THEY GOT AWAY WITH IT. Not one public figure ever challenged Bush over anything.

    On a smaller, day-to-day scale, every one of us has seen video of cops shooting or beating people without cause. How many of those cops go to jail, or are even openly criticized? It’s pretty close to zero. We have an open conspiracy that police officers should never get convicted … and almost never even be fired. There are even a few possibly-good reasons why this should be so, but it’s definitely a conspiracy, and cops definitely do get off with light or no punishment, no matter what they do.

    Anyway, I’m going with “missile launched from submarine.” Likely for some reason related to international politics (some sort of accident seems much less likely than a deliberate firing), but also likely something the public will never get any explanation for.

    As to the thing not showing up on radar, it’s not like just any of us has radar at home. It IS likely that anyone with radar would keep a lid on anything related to national security, especially if a couple of Homeland Security types showed up and made the point to the head office. This is not even a conspiracy; it’s just the way things are.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    November 10, 2010

    No links?

    Nom, there’s a reason your comments automatically go to moderation, though to be honest I don’t remember the original cause.

  8. #8 rob
    November 10, 2010

    dynamics of cats has good explanation, which makes it probably a militarty test:

    http://scienceblogs.com/catdynamics/2010/11/missile_firing_off_la.php#more

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    November 10, 2010

    Yeah, I had noted DOC’s comments before, and that is one of the main reasons I held out for rocket over plane … it was an explanation that had data, facts, and supported the rocket idea, and the plane idea still looked like uncritical skepticism (still does, though it is also starting to look more likely)

    This is actually an interesting comment there:

    http://scienceblogs.com/catdynamics/2010/11/missile_firing_off_la.php#comment-2916853

    Which provides excellent evidence that it is not a rocket, and somehow uses this evidence as proof that it is a rocket, and bolster’s this argument with equally implausible links between “military tests” and 911.

  10. #10 wfr
    November 11, 2010

    I take it all back. Now I’m convinced it was this:

    I should have known that things aren’t always as they appear.

  11. #11 g724
    November 11, 2010

    I’m more inclined toward “missile” than “jet + optical effects,” as the former seems more parsimonious than the latter.

    And I don’t see why anyone would think that “missile” somehow = alarming, spooky, whatever. This isn’t the Bush era any more; sane grownups are in charge now. There are very few ways to test a missile, much less engage in an exercise such as the one described with Japan, without being highly visible about it. So it follows that if we’re going to do tests and engage in exercises with our friends & allies, then occasionally someone is going to see and possibly take video of, missiles going off.

    Wonderful! We get to see a piece of our strategic deterrent working as it should, all being done safely. Seems to me that should be something to be happy about, like fire drills in the public schools.

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2010

    G724, you need to see this to understand what this missile really means:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2010/11/religion_teabagging_irresponsi.php

  13. #13 g724
    November 12, 2010

    Holy Cow!, it’s Earth vs. the Pleiadians! (I had to look up that spelling)

    Quick, get to a Scientology Center and get your nasty Thetans cleared, so you can be ready to do battle!

    RT is Russia Today, and we can receive it in Oakland CA on one of the digital TV channels (I don’t watch enough TV to remember which). So the Russians are pouring kook-stuff onto the airwaves to turn our brains into mush. That must be the real conspiracy. We’ll know it’s true if they put Ariana Huffington in charge of their health column.

    Seriously, I’m not committed either way on the plane/missile axis. But any time people get curious about something in nature, for example something puzzling in the sky, it’s a good opportunity to teach them a little about how scientific reasoning can be used to help figure out an answer. Recurrent meteor showers are another wonderful example. Major weather events, even better, because those have direct impacts on our lives.

  14. #14 CyberLizard
    November 12, 2010

    Wait, so now they’re using rockets to spread chemtrails? OMG, this is so much worse than you people realise! It’s teh CHEMTRAILS!

  15. #15 NJ
    November 12, 2010

    Hank Fox @ 6:

    Looking at the videos, it does appear that the object is gaining altitude rapidly.

    A subsequent interview with the videographer noted that he tracked the object for several minutes. I don’t recall the link, but I found it via Google news.

    This is strongly suggestive that the snippet seen on the Web was run in fast-forward, making the routine aircraft hypothesis that much stronger.

  16. #16 itzac
    November 16, 2010

    I’m more inclined toward “missile” than “jet + optical effects,” as the former seems more parsimonious than the latter.

    G724, An idea is not more parsimonious because it takes fewer words to describe it. Parsimony is a measure of the speculation required in making an explanation. You can speculate about missile tests, or you can follow the link Nomen Clature posted and discover that there are not one, but two flights on public record that could have generated the contrail.

    Regarding optical effects, they are in play regardless what type of vehicle you posit created the contrail. The geometry at play here would require, if this had been a missile launch, a number of atmospheric effects that are simply not visible in any of the images or video. There’s an excellent comment at Nomen Clature’s link that goes into this as well.

    Go read what Nomen Clature posted.