Bad Astronomy

Hit or missile

So I got a bazillion emails and tweets about the so-called “missile launch” off of LA the other day. I was on travel and couldn’t really write about this, and by the time I could it was already being shown to be a plane contrail. And I wouldn’t even write about it now, but I have to link to this clip from The Daily Show where they pretty much nail it:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Missile: Impossible
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

The part about the helicopter pilot is magnifique! That’s a perfect example of skeptical thinking. And Occam’s Razor slices pretty well here; what’s more common in LA, an airplane or a missile launch? It shows the relevance once again of the old skeptical adage: If you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.

Unless you live in the African grassland. Or near a zoo. Whatever.

And I’ll add that a guy appears to have figured out not only that it was a plane, but what flight it was, which I note simply because I know the comments to this post will soon be filled with conspiracy theorists who will claim this is a coverup for a transdimensional porthole like the one over Norway or Australia that were certainly not rocket boosters even though all the evidence points that way because they just know it and use words that sound sciencey but are actually the blog-comment equivalent of an Ogden Nash poem.


Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to reddit for that last bit about the plane spotter.