Monday, July 17, 2006

"Pierre Salinger Syndrome"

Here is a link to a neat article on CNN about Pierre Salinger Syndrome and the conspiracy theories of TWA 800 (click here when you want to go).

Pierre Salinger was President Kennedy's press secretary, so when he came forth claiming conspiracy theory over the destruction of TWA 800 in 1996 it drew a lot of attention. His theories drew on both the odd situation and numerous discredited internet sources and wound up swaying a lot of people into believing a lot of crazy theories that were posted on the internet.

Salinger himself, unfortunately, was an old man by this time and suffered from dementia for years. He died of heart failure in 2004 but his syndrome, people believing in nonesense theories they read on the internet, lives on.

People just love to be able to attach some "sense" to an event by pointing at a cause. Something deep inside humans seems to want to blame a specific person or event for things that happen, even though much of life is regrettably random. I always think about this when I see a headline like "Dow weakens on overseas trade news" in which a reporter purports to explain a daily market movement so small it is clearly within the random noise inherent in trading markets. Reporters don't get paid to NOT write, though, and people love to hear "why" something happened.

For a fun exercise try to spot these in the paper (or on the web for those of you too modern to still read your news on dead trees). It gives you a nice little start to your skepticism and critical thinking to spot an article and say to yourself "aha, that's nonsense!"

It's fun, try it!
And as for TWA 800, I happen to have been (in something of a previous
career), very nearly a qualified airplane mechanic and very much
a certified pilot in command. The official explanation of TWA 800 makes
perfect sense. Sparks DO cause center tank explosions, in fact it's happened
twice on the ground since TWA 800 in situations that allowed for clear recovery
of all the evidence. An exploding center tank could quite easily blow the
forward section of the plane off, and a plane without a nose will ALWAYS go into
a steep climb due to the downward force of the tail and the change in balance.
The plane would climb until it's speed dropped enough to stall out (cruise speed
567 mph, stall speed 120 mph) and then it would drop. This explains the
vertically climbing fireball that witnesses report seeing before a plummeting
Click back to the main page!


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