Conspiracy theory offers great opportunity to learn about science!

So, apparently, some people think the snow that fell on Atlanta wasn't actually snow, but some kind of synthetic material dumped on the town by the government in order to cause chaos. The proof: The Atlanta snow won't melt and it turns black when you hold a lighter to it.

Except, that, well, the same stuff will happen to snow when you hold a lighter to it anywhere. In this video, Phil Plait demonstrates the effect in Colorado and explains what's actually going on. The key is that the snow really is melting, you just can't see it. Snow absorbs liquid. Plait has a really good analogy here with snowcones. You pour the syrup on, and the shaved ice absorbs it. Same thing with the snow that's turning to water in the heated snowball. Up to a certain point, the rest of the snow will absorb that water. Heat the ball long enough, though, and you will, eventually, get a puddle. The conspiracy videos just stop well short of that point.

And the burn marks? That's just soot from imperfectly burned butane from the flame itself.

Video Link


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  1. Coal_Miki_Resta

    I find it the case with a lot of conspiracy theories (and especially ones that are science based, such as the NASA moon landing etc.) that if they actually just asked the questions rather than assuming the answers to be self-evident, they'd get to learn some really cool stuff. "Why are there no stars in any of the moon surface photos? They must be fake!" is the path of ignorance, whereas "I'm wondering why there are no stars visible. Why is this?" is much more fulfilling.

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