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This Guy’s ‘Scientific’ Articles on Chemtrails Keep Getting Retracted

But how did they get published in the first place?
Image: Flickr/Rool Paap

J. Marvin Herndon believes that the white plumes that jets leave in their wake are made up of toxic compounds that are intentionally being released into the environment by the government.

Herndon isn't alone in his belief. The idea that the government is secretly poisoning everyone with so-called "chemtrails" is a favourite among the types of people who also believe things like the Earth is really flat. The difference for Herndon, an independent geophysicist, is that he published his theories in a "scientific" article that was retracted by the open access journal Frontiers in Public Health on Monday, according to Retraction Watch. This was Herndon's second retraction for an article he wrote about chemtrails.


Before his chemtrail obsession, Herndon was a leading public supporter of a fringe theory that says the earth's core is actually an active nuclear reactor. You can read more about it on his website,, which looks like a Geocities page.

The reason for the most recent retraction, according to Frontiers, is that the article did not meet the journal's "standards of editorial and scientific soundness," although it apparently passed the peer review process that is a prerequisite to publication. According to Herndon, the retraction was the result of "a concerted effort to hide evidence of a serious, global threat to public health and environmental health."

The spectre of shadowy reptilian conspiracies masquerading as base-level scientific rigour aside, how the hell did this article get published in the first place?

Frontiers in Public Health didn't immediately answer my request for comment, but it's worth noting that its business model—open access publishing—has come under fire for publishing shoddy, and sometimes fake, articles.

To get an article in Frontiers, researchers must pay a fee that can range from $450 USD to $1,900. Ostensibly, this fee covers the administrative and publishing costs that come with producing a publication. Such "pay-to-play" articles have been singled out by observers as contributing to an overall decline in the quality of scientific articles. After all, more published papers means more publication fees.

The upside is supposed to be that the open access model means science papers are freely available to all, since they're published under a Creative Commons license. But again, and again, and again, and again, these types of journals let bogus research papers through. It's a trend that has shaken public faith in the sciences at a time when it's needed most, since legitimate crises in even reputable fields keep popping up.

At least this time it was about chemtrails, instead of, you know, something any reasonable person might believe.