A "so-called" comet spent 12 years orbiting Jupiter before it was flung back into the cosmos, which is the same thing Pioneer 10 did in order to gain speed for its journey out of the solar system. Pass it on.

I don't want to wait for this conspiracy theory to surface on the web; I want to prompt it, and see how widespread its currency might become.

It's a loss less crazy than theories that the moon landings were filmed on a movie soundstage, or that aliens visited the ancient Egyptians and built the pyramids. I wonder if that’s good or bad; my gut tells me that there's a direct correlation with how unbelievable an idea might be, and how many people choose to believe it. The more insane the better.

You really don't have to twist the facts on this one. Mainstream astronomers observed that a comet called 147P/Kushida-Muramatsu spun around Jupiter twice between 1949 and 1961. Though an event seen only four times before, the science is simple: the Universe is filled is loose crud that gets captured and released by the various gravity wells through which it passes. No extraordinary explanation required.

But we also know that taking a spin around a planet is a great way to increase speed, and that the rarer the occurrences in any experience, whether scientific or social, the more likely a second look is deserved. We've never had concrete proof that aliens exist, but lots of reasonable people have a gut feeling that they just might. By those facts alone, this comet flyby seems like the perfect candidate for some crazy speculation.

So how should I craft the conspiracy? Do I post comments on UFO enthusiast sites as a question, or as a declaration of fact? It seems that nonsense ideas carry more weight when they're supported with confidence and fervor; perhaps the idea is not only a fact, but I should claim that the Men in Black want to quash it?

Nutty ideas also need to connect to context, primarily to make the crazy parts seem somehow inevitably true, if not mainstream. Maybe there were other things going on at the time...Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 Mercury mission was that year, and President Kennedy was sworn in. If only I could find an earthquake or volcanic eruption.

I probably need a special interest with an agenda that my conspiracy theory will support. Who has a vested interest in making people believe that aliens are slingshooting around Jupiter? UFO believers are the natural starting point, but they don't have such great access to general chat communities (they usually reinforce one another’s views). If I could allude to a political cover-up, maybe I could get a liberal or conservative-leaning cable chatter to embrace it?

I know! I need a corporate sponsor. Maybe a missile defense contractor? A telescope manufacturer? Why couldn't just about any brand choose to publish nutty content?  

The Bulb Asks:

  • Even if we can chart the mechanisms of online viral transmission, we can't control them, can we?
  • Do we craft messages (or "memes") that can survive this incessant exchange, especially considering its not just transmission but additive/subtractive?
  • If any appreciable number of consumers could actually believe the conspiracy theory I'm proposing, should we reconsider how we imagine they reach conclusions about things like toothpaste or insurance?

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/09/psstaliens-visited-jupiter.html

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