Join 3,551 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

I am at a loss to explain what I, and many other people, saw.
September 15, 2008 2:15 AM   Subscribe

"I can clearly remember people shouting: 'What the hell is that?' I got to a console and people were loudly telling me to look to the east of Salisbury Plain. Twenty miles east of the eastern extremity was a series of returns, or radar blips, which were appearing in that position. There were five of them initially. Then six and then seven all following the same track." Wing Commander Alan Turner MBE was sworn to secrecy after he tracked a series of unidentified objects soaring over southern England at incredible speeds. This is Wing Commanders Turner's account of what he personally observed at RAF Sopley in the summer of l971.
posted by three blind mice (78 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know what caused the blips either, but my preferred straight-out-of-my ass explanation was that it was Jesus doing Frisbee stunts. Again, I don't have any evidence, but it might have been Jesus.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:36 AM on September 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


I want to believe.
posted by slater at 2:37 AM on September 15, 2008


If I'm remembering correctly, didn't the British government declassify some important reports on UFOs a few years ago? The gist of it was that they had observed things they couldn't explain. The UFO community was all upset because they didn't wheel out grays on gurneys but seemed to miss the fact that the government was admitting to not bein' able to tell what these things were.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:37 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Roman Graves: I remember that too, but the tone of the reports was not "By George, these phenomena are entirely inexplicable!". It was more "Doesn't matter much, could be anything."
posted by athenian at 2:44 AM on September 15, 2008


At about 40 miles from the point they appeared on radar, they disappeared, to be followed almost immediately by a replacement at the point of origin.
This really sounds like a software glitch.

These glitches are easy to cause. Remember your old DOS computer? The monitor was "mapped" to a memory location, so a bug that addressed the wrong memory location could cause a character to show up on the screen.

Some condition caused a pointer, a register or memory address that held another memory address, to point a screen address. Then that pointed-to memory address was given a value causing a blip to appear, then reset to the old value, erasing the blip, then the pointed-to value was incremented, and repeat: a blip moves across the screen After several iterations, the whole cycle repeats, causing the blip to reappear at the point of origin.

The multiple blips are probably just a single value being output, for example, as a bit-pattern: binary 1010101 is just the decimal value 85. There's your five blips, assuming the screen pixels are only on and off.

Other than the initial bad address, this is all part of a normal program, probably something as mundane as a counter value being output. The initial bad address is set up by some infrequent bug, an numeric overflow or a caller function not popping the stack after making a call because the called function is supposed to, or vice versa.

The whole questioning by unidentified civilians bit is just MOD not wanting the Soviets to know about a software bug in British radars.
posted by orthogonality at 2:49 AM on September 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


That's 1971, orthogonality -- were radars even digital by then? I rather suspect they'd still have been in the wild and woolly analog era.
posted by Malor at 2:58 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


So they got to you too, orthogonality?

I was wondering when they would. With you gone, there's only four of us now. Four people left to tell seven billion what they need to know. And we're all old. I don't like our odds.

I hold no contempt for your decision, I'm sure life will be easier from this point forward. Not better, but easier. Sometimes that's the right decision to make--Godspeed.

(I'm sure part of the deal was telling what you know, so I'd better hit the road. Least I don't have a family I have to abandon in the dark of night this time 'round. If you could do something for Jan and the boys, I'd be grateful. Been fifteen years now.)

You know in your heart what you saw, and I expect if there's anything after this life, we'll be able to clasp hands and talk about it in earnest. I look forward to
posted by maxwelton at 3:05 AM on September 15, 2008 [41 favorites]


I'm not even certain that 'Wing Commander Turner' is in the RAF... where's his mustache? I bet he doesn't even smoke a pipe.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:16 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know what caused the blips either, but my preferred straight-out-of-my ass explanation was that it was Jesus doing Frisbee stunts.

Bullshit.

Jesus is totally a footbag guy.
posted by felix betachat at 3:19 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


maxwelton: You know in your heart what you saw, and I expect if there's anything after this life, we'll be able to clasp hands and talk about it in earnest. I look forward to


Oh my god! They got him!!
posted by sour cream at 3:29 AM on September 15, 2008


orthogonality, from the second article, I spotted this:

In those days all radars were 'raw'. That is to say that, whatever was within the coverage of the radar envelope and capable of bouncing (returning) the radar pulse back to the receiver, would be seen on the radar tube. Today's radars are computerised thus such interference is processed out so as not to affect the picture.

It's a little thin as evidence, but that sounds like another way of saying 'analog radar'.
posted by Malor at 3:31 AM on September 15, 2008


This thread is useless without....
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:38 AM on September 15, 2008


If I'm remembering correctly, didn't the British government declassify some important reports on UFOs a few years ago? The gist of it was that they had observed things they couldn't explain.

There was a bit more to it. The immediately interesting bit was, as stated, that there were things in the sky that the UK military couldn't explain and that were "real" (i.e. not due to mistake, hallucination, or mis-identification of prosaic phenomena). The report revealed that these "UAPs" (unidentified aerial phenomena) were considered to be of defence significance, due to the hazard they may pose to military flights. The tentative conclusion of the report was that UAPs were some sort of meteorological or atmospheric behaviour, rare and as yet unexplained.

It's that last point that irritated (or disappointed) some ufologists. However, it is worth pointing out that more many years there's been a split in the UFO community between those wedded to the UFOs-as-alien spacecraft idea (also called "saucerheads", "nuts-and-bolts" and the ETH or "extra-terrestrial hypothesis") and those looking towards a psycho-social explanation. The first "outer space" school holds sway in the US, the second "inner space" group are more popular in Europe. The UK report doesn't really fall into either school, although it does find favour with those other ufologists who have been proposing earthlights or plasmas as an explanation.
posted by outlier at 3:52 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jesus is totally a footbag guy.

Ah, so *that's* what that Mary Magdalene stuff was all about then? She was simply giving him a quick footbath and footrub after he'd finished playing Hacky-Sack.

And then a little later on, there are rumours of a more private session that took place.

Haven't you ever wonder why God Hates Shrimp almost as much as he hates Fags? Well, now you know. Apparently, his Only Begotten Son appears to have have had an interest in both. But unfortunately, when the father heard that he'd spent all of his donations on shrimping with prostitutes, the square old dad just assumed he meant the kid was eating a lot of seafood.

If he'd known the truth, his head would surely asplode. Fortunately, as he's God, it would rapidly reassemble itself, but nevertheless, that's gotta hurt. Or at least be a little unfomfortable for a few years.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:01 AM on September 15, 2008


Forget our radar; the longer we remain under their radar, the better. We have no reason to think that visitors from space would treat us any better than we treat fish.
posted by pracowity at 4:13 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


...summer of l971.

Thanks for obscuring the date to keep us safe from MIND CONTROL ALIENS
posted by DU at 4:18 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


"To climb to such a height in only 40 miles was beyond the ability of almost any fighter aircraft at that time."

Around 1971, the Saab Draken was reconfigured as a fighter craft; with Mach 2 capability and a ceiling of 65,000ft., it wouldn't have been out of place for the craft to be tested from Machrihanish base.

(As the Daleks possess Time Column technology as a means of transit, I obviously don't have a dog in this race. )
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:25 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing is, if new labour really wanted to investigate this they would task the NHS with the job and set targets for the amount of time spent by UFOs in waiting rooms and then hospital administrators would dutifully produce the required data by creating a series of holding rooms prior to the waiting room to hold the inevitable excess of UFOs until they could safely be shuffled through the waiting room in under the allotted target time. Then they would badger the UFOs with about 13 paper surveys and 4 phone surveys about their experience in order to access UFO satisfaction with NHS. At which time the aliens would flee the earth rendering Will Smith redundant.
posted by srboisvert at 4:29 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks for obscuring the date to keep us safe from MIND CONTROL ALIENS

That was an 0CR error -- he's working with original typed docunnents passed to him by a man in a homburg at Paddington station in 1973.
posted by pracowity at 4:43 AM on September 15, 2008


(The General): "This is General Curtis Goatheart. If you are viewing this film, then we are under extraterrestrial attack. Beware- your brain may no longer be the boss! If you are beginning to doubt what I am saying, you are probably hallucinating. Listen carefully!"
(One second burst of ringing alarm bell)
(NCOIC): "What to do if an alien appears! ONE!"
(The General): "Drop beneath the seat of your plane and look away."
(NCOIC): "TWO!"
(The General): "Avoid eye contact."
(NCOIC): "THREE!"
(The General): "If there are no eyes, avoid all contact."
(One second burst of ringing alarm bell)
(NCOIC): "How to identify alleged sightings! ONE!"
(The General): "Pie plates, or as reflections in the atmosphere."
(NCOIC): "TWO!"
(The General): "Dry cleaning bags filled with marsh gas, or..."
(NCOIC) "THREE!"
(The General): "Mass insanity."
posted by Kinbote at 4:45 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite memories from college:

Friend 1, excited: Dude, we just saw a UFO!
Friend 2, skeptical: Was it really unidentified?
posted by mattholomew at 5:02 AM on September 15, 2008


William training for search and Rescue? Yes! Training to rescue his crashed reptoid alien brothers!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:06 AM on September 15, 2008


For any of you who might have an actual interest in what Alan Turner saw that day, my podcast show has the first media interview Alan has granted, which aired yesterday.
posted by dbiedny at 5:59 AM on September 15, 2008


In many ways the hardcore UFO types very much resemble Creationists. They have their conclusion (its aliens), and therefore any phenomenon which is genuinely unexplained *must* be proof of aliens. Thus: RADAR picks up something strange; normal people think "hmmm, wonder what it might be", they think "ah ha! Its aliens!". Much as the Creationist hears about currently non-understood biological phenomena and thinks "ah ha! Its God!"

In both cases the rational person concludes that its a mystery that needs (ahem) probing, a challenge to be met, and investigated. The true believers see no need for actual investigation, or understanding, they've already got their conclusion and see no need to waste valuable believing time trying to actually study the facts.

I think that it seems highly likely that sentient life exists elsewhere in the universe. To suppose that such life comes here, buzzes airplanes, rapes rednecks, leaves crop circles, but doesn't bother saying "hi" to anyone non-crazy seems unlikely to the point of impossibility.

Something odd appeared on RADAR screens in 1971. I'll give long odds that it wasn't little green men looking to rectally probe rednecks. Most likely the explanation, when it is discovered by people who aren't UFO nuts, will be quite unexciting (ball lightening, plasma clouds, equipment malfunction, etc).
posted by sotonohito at 6:05 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Most likely the explanation, when it is discovered by people who aren't UFO nuts, will be quite unexciting (ball lightening...)

"Unexciting" is not the word I would use. Try staying out of the sun.
posted by spiderwire at 6:25 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


We seem to want to believe that there are unknown forces out there from some other place and at the same time many of us scoff at the notion of god, angels,religion. Is this a move toward a new belief? For me: just trust your govt. they would alwauys tell you what was going on.
posted by Postroad at 6:34 AM on September 15, 2008


sotonohito: In many ways the hardcore UFO types very much resemble Creationists. They have their conclusion (its aliens), and therefore any phenomenon which is genuinely unexplained *must* be proof of aliens. Thus: RADAR picks up something strange; normal people think "hmmm, wonder what it might be", they think "ah ha! Its aliens!". Much as the Creationist hears about currently non-understood biological phenomena and thinks "ah ha! Its God!"

That may be true for some, but for every one of those I'll wager there's at least one researcher who comes to the conclusion that UFOs are...UFOs. As in they're unidentified (the descriptions/depictions/evidence just don't fit any rational explanation), flying (of course) objects (of course). That's about it for a lot of researchers, and like Turner seems pretty typical to me--he says basically I don't know what it was, but I'm pretty sure I know what it wasn't, and I won't rule out extraterrestrial craft. Doesn't seem to wacky to me.

I think that it seems highly likely that sentient life exists elsewhere in the universe. To suppose that such life comes here, buzzes airplanes, rapes rednecks, leaves crop circles, but doesn't bother saying "hi" to anyone non-crazy seems unlikely to the point of impossibility.

The whole "drunk rednecks" being the primary witnesses/abductees of UFOs is about as distorted a stereotype as you can imagine. Thousands upon thousands of people have seen UFOs, including doctors, lawyers, professional types of all kinds. Notably pilots and astronauts, as well.

Why would the aliens come and not say hi? Who knows? Do we try to say hi to rats in the lab?
posted by zardoz at 7:03 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't believe in UFOs at all until my wife saw one. She hates sci fi, the last sci fi show she watched with any regularity was the original Lost in Space back in the 60s, as a girl. Hated Star Wars, not interested, never even saw it even when it first came out. Hated Trek, maybe saw a few minutes of it here and there. Never read a book about UFOs, and if pressed to describe what a UFO might look like, opined shiny metal saucers, pie plates, the classic 50s vision of the things. Didn't believe in aliens, scoffed at the very idea. Never spent much time thinking about it, classed it along with fairies and leprechauns. Never read any of the UFO literature, never watched a tv show about it. Largely ignorant of the UFO cultists. Remained unaffected by the UFO popularity in the '70s due to working in a field which kept her pretty culturally isolated - in fact, she was isolated from most of pop culture in that sense, to my constant frustration. So I would say an unpolluted witness.

Then one evening in the late 90s, she saw a huge, black, triangular craft hovering over her car. It was brightly lit with long white strips of light along the edges and a large central colored light. It was silent. I well remember her shock as she came thru the door. She drove me up to the hill, jabbering about what she had seen, determined to get a second witness. It was the middle of a suburban street in the early evening. Strangely quiet, no cars about. There was nothing in the sky. My frustration mirrored the intensity of her shock. There was no doubt of her veracity, to judge her state, but there was no sign of anything in the sky at all. I was rather pissed off. Why her? Why not me?

The object she described was largely identical to the spate of black triangle UFOs seen thru the 80s & 90s, yet she'd apparently never been exposed to that information. Much later, shown a photograph of a similar object taken in Belgium in the 80s, her shock at the recognition was palpable, yet she firmly outlined differences in appearance to her sighting. To this day, nearly 10 years later, her story hasn't changed in any detail.

She has no history of mental illness, does not drink or take drugs. To this day she struggles to classify the event as she wants to reject the ET explanation, but there is no other class of experience that she can relate it to.

/shrug

Your guess is as good as mine, but I found out that not 15 km away, five years earlier, an identical craft had been seen by several other witnesses. I tend to doubt that top secret high performance military craft are tested over densely populated Western Australian cities.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:12 AM on September 15, 2008 [10 favorites]


"Why would the aliens come and not say hi?"

Just a guess, but they've seen what we're like. Would you want to contact a race of barbarians of our magnitude of savagery?

We are the Klingons.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 7:14 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, OK.... Hello, earthlings....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:41 AM on September 15, 2008


ALL TURNER'S BASE ARE BELONG TO US
posted by jonp72 at 7:55 AM on September 15, 2008


At the risk of being flamed...

There's no debating the fact that many people have turned to the paranormal as a new belief system. UFOs are automatically "aliens", and people with legitimate sightings of UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) are loons, drunk, crazy, etc. Meanwhile, there are those of us who have seen things - in many cases, with many other witnesses - that absolutely elude a conventional explanation. Mr. Mabuse's wife is a great example of a highly compelling witness - someone who is not making claims in order to attract attention, or be part of some perceived paranormal elite. She saw something that rocked her perception of reality, and taught her that there are things in this reality that she has no reference for.

I'm not saying that I know the sourcing of the things I've seen - I'm the first to admit that I do NOT KNOW where these things originate from, what they are or what they are doing here. On the other hand, when I see something A MILE LONG in the sky, I know all too well that we have no aircraft (or see vessels, for that matter) that are that large.

I talked with Alan Turner at length, and I'm convinced that he's telling the truth. For every Turner, there are 100 other delusional lunatics who should be ignored. I've spoken to some number of them on my show, and have called them out.

But that doesn't mean that this is all baloney. There's something genuinely unexplained going on, and the fact that so many people seem completely uninterested in understanding or discussing this in a rational way, tells me loads about how we've all become so smug, willing to snark anything which doesn't fit our extremely limited understanding of this glorious Universe and the underlying mechanisms that keep it going.

I walk a very fine line on the edges of the paranormal field. I'm an extreme "experiencer" who brings critical thinking and healthy skepticism to the task of understanding the unknown. I've made lots of enemies on both sides - the doe-eyed space brother believers on one side, the close-minded fundamentalist debunkers on the other. Like many other aspects of our society, the world of paranormal study is highly polarized. The real wisdom is to be found somewhere in the center, hidden under a metaphor.
posted by dbiedny at 8:24 AM on September 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


sea vessels.
posted by dbiedny at 8:25 AM on September 15, 2008


Zardoz: I don't have any rats in my lab, but I know some who do. Yes is the answer to your question. (I sometimes talk to my antibodies if by talk you mean screaming at microtiter plates, "Why do you little fuckers hate me!?!?!"

Dalek: Thanks for bringing up the Draken. I've always had an odd affinity for Swedish military technology and their out of the box design. The Viggen. The S-Tank. And most recently the Visby destroyer.

Orthogonality: By translating into a digital framework you're making the bug more complex than it needs to be. Think about it in terms of an oscilloscope. Bump the knob just a little and that wave form that was sitting perfectly still on your screen is now zooming along. Now take it out of the highschool electronics lab, add a radar tower, amplifiers and God knows what else so it's military grade and national defense worthy. Now have it scanning a country that is just humming with 50 cycle power. That, despite all that, they ever find planes with it amazes me.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2008


If any of these things are real flying machines (and not instrumentation errors, optical illusions, or delusions), they are most likely built and flown by people. I'll remain technically agnostic, because almost anything's possible -- we're talking about other beings evolving to something like our level somewhere else -- but the odds of these sightings being spacecraft from other planets (etc.) are pretty damned slim.

Why would the aliens come and not say hi? Who knows? Do we try to say hi to rats in the lab?

But we would say hi to the rats and frequently do (people have many rats as pets, for example). It's just that rats are too dumb to respond. We aren't. Aliens smarter than we are would figure out how to get us to talk back, even if what we said was somehow very primitive to them. And then maybe they would pull our wings off or stick firecrackers in our asses or swing us by the tails or set us on fire. But first they'd make the funny monkeys dance and chatter.
posted by pracowity at 8:58 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


dbiedny I'm not at all uninterested in exploring things that actually happen.

However, what actually exists tends to be a) false returns on analog RADAR, b) really terrible and blurry photos at extremely low resolution, c) eyewitness reports and d) obvious hoaxes.

RADAR can sometimes do weird things. Atmospheric anomalies can cause all sorts of interesting returns, and its been established that there are occasionally naturally occurring plasmas in the air which will look very strange on RADAR. We have to consider what's likely, and unexplained atmospheric weirdness is simply vastly more likely than sentient aliens who are playing hide and seek with us.

Most of the really low quality photos can be tossed into the hoax category as well.

Eyewitnesses are sometimes hoaxers, sometimes true believers who simply convince themselves that they've see something they haven't. Sometimes they aren't.

The human brain is a remarkable piece of reality simulation hardware. Sometimes people quite honestly, with no intent of deceit, "see" things that simply don't exist. Memory is infinitely plastic. And, sometimes our senses are fooled by odd conditions.

The "superior mirage" will show things, sometimes taking place miles away, quite clearly in the air. It takes some very particular conditions to produce such mirages, but they do happen.

The problem with the aliens hypothesis is that it not only requires us to presuppose sentient aliens, it requires us to presuppose sentient aliens with technology that allows star travel *AND* that these aliens don't want to talk to us *AND* that they keep nosing around despite not wanting to talk to us *AND* that for all their superior technology and desire not to talk with us they aren't quite good enough to avoid being seen sometimes etc, etc, etc.

I have no doubt that Henry C. Mabuse's wife thinks she saw something. I don't think that means she necessarily did see something, she could have had a brain fart, or seen a mirage, etc. Or, she could have seen something perfectly ordinary, with some atmospheric glitches, or mental glitches, or both, and thought that the ordinary object was extraordinary.

Additionally, I doubt she had been completely unexposed to the talk of triangular UFO's floating around at that time. Its quite easy to overhear a conversation at work, or someone talking about it on the radio, or what have you, and consciously forget that you heard it. Which, naturally, would help her brain simulate seeing what she'd heard about. It is well documented that as UFO sightings are reported in the news there are followup people who think they saw the same thing. I don't think they're lying, I think they've simply been tricked by their brains.

Again, its not that I doubt either her sanity, or your own, but simply that perfectly sane people sometimes have glitches in their brains, it happens to all of us. Usually the glitch happens quickly ("wow, for a second there the hairbrush looked like a rat!"), sometimes it lasts a bit longer and is less fleeting.
posted by sotonohito at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Urg. Superior Mirage was supposed to link here.
posted by sotonohito at 9:36 AM on September 15, 2008


I strongly recommend Watch the Skies, an excellent history / debunking of the UFO phenomenon. People had been seeing "foo lights" since the dawn of time, but did you know that the concept of "aliens from another world visiting us in flying saucers" was largely invented by a single science fiction writer? Did you know that, although people had claimed to see aliens for decades, it wasn't until after Close Encounters of the Third Kind that virtually all of these sightings were claimed to be of "greys?" Prior to the movie, people claimed to meet all sorts of different aliens. After the movie, these other kinds of aliens apparently stopped dropping by. Hmmm....

Great, great book.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:16 AM on September 15, 2008


On the other hand, when I see something A MILE LONG in the sky, I know all too well that we have no aircraft (or see vessels, for that matter) that are that large.

See, this is where the idea of a "smart believer" falls flat on its face. How do you know it's a mile long? Hold your finger in front of your face. Looks big, doesn't it? Now hold your finger far away. Looks smaller than before, right?

So, now you're telling me that you can spy something in the sky, sometimes at night, far away, without any reliable contextual clues to help you judge size (or perhaps a misjudgment of contextual clues are helping create the illusion in the first place), and yet you instantly can determine that something is a mile long.

Tell me ... what do you think is happening in this picture? Is that a giant sitting there? Should I be concerned about giants coming down out of the mountains to destroy our farmland and steal our cows?

Or might there be a mundane explanation?

Such as, it's only former NBA player Gheorge Muresan viewed from an unusual perspective. He's 7-foot-7, he's sitting angled toward the camera, and who knows how short the woman really is.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:28 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stealth expert.

Salisbury Plain, where Alan Turner saw the UFOs, is where Stonehenge is.

wow, Henry C. Mabuse, your wife had a close encounter. Like her I was a total skeptic, among the stars I just saw an inexplicably fast light zig zagging in the night sky for a few seconds, just long enough to be a shock and make me wonder.
posted by nickyskye at 10:42 AM on September 15, 2008


Sigh...

As someone known for my work in visual effects and imaging, I think I have a decent sense of scale.

The specific encounter I reference in that statement - well, it was daylight, the specifics are somewhat overwhelming and intense, and what I saw was also seen by my brother, mother, father and a few thousand other folks, as far as I know. I'm NOT claiming to know what it was, and I'll not get into the specifics here (anyone interested can listen to episode 5 of my podcast), but I can tell you that it was an object more than a few thousand feet long. My estimate of the size is between four and five thousand feet in length. I could certainly be a little off, but it was definitely larger than a few cruise ships strung together (and as a bit of a fanatic of ships at an early age, I've always had a good eye for visual scale of maritime craft seen at a distance)

Believe in whatever you like, as I tell my audience, I'm not interested in belief - I'm on a quest for answers, understanding, knowledge and wisdom. I'm not claiming to have answers, and I'm one of a handful of people openly questioning the ETH (extra-terrestrial hypothesis). I think that what's going on here - with the 2% of genuinely unexplained UFO sightings - it not as simple of ET beings. I suspect something far more complex is actually happening.

But honestly, I don't expect to have a rational, productive conversation about this topic with the general MeFi community, one I truly appreciate. The media has done it's work clouding the issue, and creating a total curtain of laughter around the topic. It's kinda like talking about Palin with a group of evangelical Christians.

Carry on.
posted by dbiedny at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


it's not as simple as...
posted by dbiedny at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2008


There are two problems with the extra-terrestrial intelligence visit theory:

1) Speed of Light: The earth was pretty much undetectable until high-powered radio transmisions started - say around 1930 or so. You have to assume a sphere with a radius of 90 light years at most would have any idea that we exist today. If you assume that these folks have a 99.9%C drive, then the effective radius for detecting us, making up your mind, and sending a ship to meet us TODAY is 45 light years. That's plenty big, but not drake-equation sized big. In 1971, the effective radius would have been more like 20 light years- and that's assuming they had a ship ready to go, and had a ship that travels REALLY fast.

2) Energy expenditure: It would take an enormous amount of energy to move a ship one mile long even a trivial distance. Remember, we have to be getting this ship up to .9C or so in order to have a large number of sample worlds. On top of that, we need some way to slow our mile-long ship down when it gets here- and the mechanism for doing this must be completely invisible to astronomers, radar, radio telescopes, and all the rest. Also, the relativistic effects of going that fast mean you will be gaining in mass (from our perspective), so you would likely perturb the orbits of a bunch of junk in the asteroid belt.

The energy problem goes away if you assume that these extraterrestrials are only a few light years away- at least you don't need to create new laws of physics- but then the Drake equation works against you- if intelligent life is so common that it can arise more than once in the same neighborhood, then the galaxy is probably stuffed with ET's, and SETI should certainly have picked up a thing or two by now.

Maybe we got lucky and inadvertently hailed a travelling space freighter on it's way from Erisia to Tralfamadore- but then, wouldn't they want to trade us gromblebetties for our stocks of whale fur?

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives on Mars.
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:57 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be fair Cool Papa Bell, although what you're saying makes perfect sense, you're applying a specific circumstance that isn't always the case. A lot of people on the night of the Phoenix lights reported seeing a craft that was a mile or more long, because it (supposedly) passed right over their heads.

It's that kind of thing that gives me pause, by the way. The mass sightings. It's much easier to understand how someone's mind can play tricks on them than how it can happen to unrelated groups of people in Mexico City, Stratford, or even the Battle of Los Angeles sighting during WWII.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:58 AM on September 15, 2008


The linked article talks about something that was seen only on radar. The two people sent to observe it visually could see nothing, though it also showed up on their radar. That sounds like a radar malfunction, or normal radar being fooled by something that.

dbiedny: About that thing a mile long that everyone and her mother saw -- can you link to something substantial about it? Did you or any of the thousands of other observers happen to have a camera?

Roman Graves: It's that kind of thing that gives me pause, by the way. The mass sightings.

What do you make of the Miracle of the Sun? A hundred thousand people thought they saw the sun dance in the sky. Do you think it did? Or do you think there is some more likely explanation?
posted by pracowity at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2008


Roman Graves The mass sightings are a bit more difficult to account for. However, I can't help but notice that out of the "thousands" of people who think they saw something not one thought to take a photograph. In this era of ubiquitous camera phones (in the first world anyway) we would be seeing not merely one or two people with pictures, but hundreds, if not thousands, of people with pictures.

Instead we get a lot of people saying they saw amazing things, but somehow didn't bother taking a picture. Occam's razor suggests that the answer is that they didn't really see what they claimed to have seen.

And, yes, I know I just complained about blurry low resolution pictures. But hundreds of different people taking blurry low resolution pictures from hundreds of angles would be pretty convincing.

dbiedny wrote it not as simple of ET beings. I suspect something far more complex is actually happening. and later But honestly, I don't expect to have a rational, productive conversation about this topic with the general MeFi community

Addressing the second point first: it isn't as if you've actually tried to have a rational, productive, conversation. You've made a few assertions , and then declared that we're all close minded dogmatists. Not exactly a way to rationally discuss things, no? So, let's have a rational discussion, and let's start with the first bit I quoted.

Something "far more complex" than sentient non-humans with star travel playing peek-a-boo with us? Would you mind elaborating?

And, back to your sighting, do you have pictures? Pictures from more than one source? If not, why should we assume that you saw something extraordinary rather than assuming that you witnessed an optical illusion, or simply had a glitch in your brain's reality simulator?
posted by sotonohito at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2008


A lot of people on the night of the Phoenix lights reported seeing a craft that was a mile or more long, because it (supposedly) passed right over their heads.

And what I'm saying, it's well-documented is that people are remarkably poor at judging size, scale and speed of things in the air. I bet, given the right conditions, I could fly the Goodyear blimp over people's heads, and some of them would tell me, "holy cow, it was a mile long!" I mean, people have mistaken the planet Venus for a fast-moving UFO.

Architects and special effects experts have known this for decades and decades. Filmmakers do this as an everyday matter -- that shot is not CGI. Which is more likely? A mile-long skyship? Or an interesting human quirk?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:43 AM on September 15, 2008


Pracowity: What I make of that is mostly mass hallucination and group hysteria. That was thousands of people standing in a field waiting for a miracle to happen, and most of them walked away having seen different things. Something did fly over LA in 1942, and I'm unaware of any military aircraft at the time that could have taken the shelling we gave it and still flown away. I'm not saying I believe these things were alien crafts, I'm saying these are the only kind of sightings that make me wonder because they're often a lot harder to explain away.

dbiendy: True, though the Mexico City, Phoenix, and LA sightings were before we all had them in our pockets (but there was ample news footage from Mexico City). With something like Stratford, which was last year, it's only unique because so many people saw it. There was no discernible shape to the lights they saw. Would most camera phones even pick that up? If they did, how many people want to bother posting a blurry dot on Flickr when it's already been on the news?
posted by Roman Graves at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2008


I mean, people have mistaken the planet Venus for a fast-moving UFO.

All I have to say to that is...sigh, yeah you're right.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:49 AM on September 15, 2008


It is obvious - tourists from the future
posted by A189Nut at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2008


"it wasn't until after Close Encounters of the Third Kind that virtually all of these sightings were claimed to be of "greys?"

This is incorrect.

Not only did Spielberg specifically design his aliens based on pre-existing descriptions in the literature in order to fit with the data, the 'grey aliens', although rare in the reported encounters prior to the 80s, did in fact get reported. The earliest known example of the grey alien type is probably that reported by Betty and Barney Hill in 1961, but small, hairless humanoid aliens are common long before that, although overshadowed by the 'Nordic' human contact type popular in the 50s.

If this is an example of the research in 'Watch the Skies' then I would immediately be suspect of the rest of the conclusions it draws.

Yes, after Close Encounters & particularly Whitley Strieber's Communion, the Grey Alien archetype stuck fast in public consciousness. This is cultural pollution. To dismiss all such reports based on this is not a very logical line of thought, however. I would in fact be looking at reports that do not fit this archetype rather more seriously, given this factor.

In fact, even to this day, encounter reports of UFO occupants that *do not* fit the Grey archetype are fairly common, arguably as common as they ever were. The difference is that the Grey Alien stories are more popular, and are selected-for by "UFO researchers" in the same way that such researchers tend to ignore or screen out other 'high strangeness' elements of their witnesses reports, such as OBE's, psychic phenomena, haunting-type experiences, which sometimes presage or follow the actual UFO experience itself - because they don't fit their preconceived beliefs of what the phenomena really is. It is for all of these reasons that I lean towards Jacques Vallee's views of the phenomenon. Something very strange is going on, but we do not know what it is.

It is the very, very strange reports, such as the Kelly-Hopkinsville and the Pascagoula encounters are actually more compelling to me, because they fly in the face of common popular imagery. The latter is particularly interesting in that the witnesses were taped in a police interview room, while thinking they were alone and unobserved, talking with each other about what they experienced in clearly traumatised fashion. This, to me, is compelling, even while the substance of the report looks absolutely ridiculous.

I would personally tend to dismiss all alien encounter stories as just too improbable, but then I thought UFOs were altogether too improbable too, until I saw direct evidence that they're not only seen by crazy farmers out in Bumblefuck Ohio.


"I don't think that means she necessarily did see something, she could have had a brain fart, or seen a mirage, etc. Or, she could have seen something perfectly ordinary, with some atmospheric glitches, or mental glitches, or both, and thought that the ordinary object was extraordinary."

This sounds like parsing the report to fit with preconceived notions of what is possible, which is again not a very scientific approach to analysing data. If we are going to apply such critical standards to primary visual witnesses of phenomena, then we should apply it accross-the-board to *all* witnesses, whether it be to robberies or more unusual events, because what this argument is really saying is that the human perceptions are not very reliable. I suggest that this is a) not true, and that human perceptions are indeed pretty darn reliable in general, and b) that it would open up a can of worms in just about every court case you care to mention.

Can of worms is right -- if you can't trust the perceptions of a primary witness who clearly observed a lit, aerial object for a prolongued period of time, then how can you trust the perceptions of, say, a guy in a car on the freeway who saw for only a second, an American Airlines liveried Boeing fly between tall buildings at 400mph in D.C. on 9/11? The latter you use to bolster up your pet theory, but the guy who sees the UFO, oh, of course, he's having a brain fart.

Consistency, please.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:30 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I also meant to add that, if indeed the witness has had a brain event, misperceived atmospheric phenomena, or misidentified an aircraft, you would not expect that report to agree in detail with other reports, let alone thousands of other reports. The degree of confluence in descriptions of the black-triangle type UFOs in recent years from all around the globe is very interesting, given that popular imagery of UFOs prior to this did not include that image, as far as I am aware.

For a primary witness who is probably not polluted by exposure to this cultural noise to report an object which agrees in such significant detail with such a large body of evidence reported elsewhere, puts it out of the realm of 'random misperception'. It would be statistically unlikely for a random brain event, hallucination or 'mirage' to be so similar to other corroborated reports.

Plus, it's the old skeptic approach of replacing one unbelievable explanation with an even more unbelievable explanation, as you have to come up with all these previously unheard of 'mirages' and brain events in order to explain that a person didn't see what they thought they saw.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 12:37 PM on September 15, 2008


"it wasn't until after Close Encounters of the Third Kind that virtually all of these sightings were claimed to be of "greys?"

This is incorrect.

Not only did Spielberg specifically design his aliens based on pre-existing descriptions in the literature in order to fit with the data, the 'grey aliens', although rare in the reported encounters prior to the 80s, did in fact get reported.


We are differing on the meaning of the word "virtually," then.

The book lays out that, of all the reports of aliens before 1977, the "grey" alien was merely one of many types, and not reported at a frequency that was statistically different than any other.

After 1977, the "grey alien" became, by a huge margin, the leading report. Reports of Nordics, reptiles, MIBs, etc., all fell off the table, numbers-wise. That's not to say they stopped. Just that "greys" went from also-rans to 90+ percent of the market overnight.

Why? The book proposes was that movie's enormous popularity and feeling of documentary realism provided people with a common image of what an alien should look like, which they readily adopted.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2008


The blurb for Watch The Skies suggests an agenda - especially when you subtitle your book "A Chronicle Of The Flying Saucer Myth".

Curtis Peebles conclusions (if the Amazon details are correct) state "all UFO reports are misinterpretations of conventional objects, atmospheric phenomena, drama, delusional experiences, or else hoaxes.".

I can only wish I was that certain about any subject. We have scientists and physicists still debating the structure of reality - and Mr Peebles has already completely cleared up the UFO issue. This guy's in the wrong job - get him over to Geneva and he'll clear that Higgs boson nonsense up in no time.
posted by panboi at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2008


Henry C. Mabuse Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I don't think this is a particularly difficult or incorrect concept.

If someone claimed to have seen, say, a live dodo, or passenger pigeon, I'd be calling for extraordinary proof as well.

Look at the options:

1) Mysterious, giant, flying triangles are appearing randomly to a select few, who all coincidentally never happen to have the opportunity to take a high quality picture of them (and even low quality pictures are quite scarce).

2) There's some weird optical illusions happening.

3) Something else.

I'm going to go with either 2 or 3 unless and until extraordinary proof of 1 is presented.

If there were Elvis sightings, or passenger pigeon sightings with the same level of proof being presented for the UFO sightings you'd likely be skeptical too I'll wager. So, the real question is: why do you want to be less skeptical about UFO sightings than you are about Elvis sightings?
posted by sotonohito at 1:08 PM on September 15, 2008


So, the real question is: why do you want to be less skeptical about UFO sightings than you are about Elvis sightings?

No, it's not the real question because that's fucking stupid and you know it. Seeing a person who looks like another person and seeing something that defies logical explanation are two very different things.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2008


I meant, Elvis sightings in the sense of "ZOMG Elvis is really alive and in hiding!" sense, not in the Elvis impersonator sense. Claiming to see Elvis, the actual Elvis Aaron Presley who died in 1977, alive today defies logical explanation quite handily, I think.

And did I piss in your Post toasties or something? What's got you so grumpy all of a sudden?
posted by sotonohito at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2008


I have to say that this is a very disappointing thread. While I certainly don't believe in aliens visiting earth in spaceships and buzzing around, there's clearly some sort of unexplained phenomenon going on, based on tons of evidence like this. We could be discussing it, but instead we have a bunch of people who have clearly no information whatsoever attempting - and failing - to be funny.

Despite the yobbos around here, in fact many UFO researchers also don't believe the ETH (extra-terrestrial hypothesis) any more than I do. There's been a ton of good statistical work done here, and what researchers and particularly Jacques Vallee have shown is that there's a high geographic correlation between UFO sightings, earthquake zones and geomagnetic phenomena.

Vallee also did some excellent textual work, comparing the modern stories of UFO people with folk stories of "The Little People" and biblical stories of angels and finding them extremely similar. This doesn't mean "Chariots of the Gods?", this means that this is phenomenon that's being going on in much the same way throughout history, and only the words people use to describe it change depending on whether they live in a folk-story/just-so society, a Christian one or a technological one.

There's also a lot of evidence that UFO experiences are similar to temporal lobe phenomena like epilepsy - except that none of the famous sightings (like this one) involved people who ever exhibited any other signs of it.

I'm probably wasting my breath here, and I'll let you get back to your little green men jokes, but if you're interested, the current best hypothesis in this unfortunately tiny field is that the UFO phenomenon is a geomagnetic phenomenon, caused by piezoelectrical effects that are already well-known to seismology, and that these magnetic fields somehow (waves hands here) cause reasonably coherent temporal lobe phenomena (in order to account for the "multiple unconnected witnesses" phenomena) and/or "ball lightning" or some other sort of electrostatic phenomenon (to account for the photos and videos).

(Oh, and I personally believe many of the contactees are schizophrenic, or at least schizotypal disorder...)

If you're still convinced it's all bunk, let me give you a recent case from near here for you to debunk. On July 15, 2001, thousands of people saw lights moving over Carteret, New Jersey, including the local chief of police and the mayor; and these lights were photographed and videoed (it was so impressive that people pulled off the highway to watch it).

NIDS used an FOAI request to get the air traffic control records for Newark, and there were multiple airborne blips tracked that night without transponders, as compared to "control" data from the same airport on a different night, which had no blips without transponders.

The report is here. You can see videos on YouTube.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


sonohito writes:

And did I piss in your Post toasties or something? What's got you so grumpy all of a sudden?

I dunno, perhaps he just doesn't like being mocked?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2008


I spent days out in the AZ desert trying to get abducted. Didn't work. :( F'ing aliens don't know what they missed.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:46 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


why do you want to be less skeptical about UFO sightings than you are about Elvis sightings?

Because Elvis is dead, and UFOs are, you know, unidentified. Reading through some of your comments, it looks to me that you're operating with the idea that UFO == alien. It's a simple concept, but hard for a lot of people to keep the two separate. I know I have to stop and remind myself what exactly the 'U' stands for whenever I talk about UFOs.*shrug*

On preview, what Roman Graves said.
posted by niles at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2008


But you can't claim that, because all you're claiming is to see someone with a similar appearance. Unless you sat down and talked to "Elvis", and it doesn't defy logical explanation that someone could really think or just want you to think that they were The King.

You pissed in my Post toasties by making a really ridiculous connection between what we're trying to have an intelligent conversation about and Elvis sightings, and wording it as if there's an equal amount of evidence for both (despite your use of the word "if"). I'm sure you didn't mean any offense, it just came off that way.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:53 PM on September 15, 2008


lupus_yonderboy What you write sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, and (as a nice bonus) its got some degree of testability. But it doesn't seem to have much to do with the true believers in UFO's.

As far as schizophrenia goes, there's historic evidence on the side of your assumption that most of the contactee types are at least borderline schizophrenic. Beginning with the faact that one of the most common symptoms is a belief that some agency (human or otherwise) is in contact with the schizophrenic [1]. Prior to the first modern popularization of UFO's and aliens, such people would write letters to the editor, call the police, etc, complaining that a neighbor was using some device (frequently a ray gun) to affect their brain. Following the modern popularization of the idea of UFO's and aliens in the 1930's there was an almost overnight shift to a significant majority of such reports citing aliens as the agency responsible for their woes.

I'd be quite interested to see an actual study of UFO reports; one that does not begin with the assumption that the evil government conspiracy is keeping the evidence hidden, for example. Due to the large number of loonies involved in UFO stuff I'll freely admit that I've been studiously ignoring all the UFO related stuff I've come across for several years now.

The study you cite sounds quite interesting, has he published anywhere peer reviewed? The idea that there might be funky lights in the sky as the result of some natural phenomenon seems quite likely, and the idea that certain external stimuli (magnetism, whatever) can tweak our brains in such a way that we "see" little green men (or fairies, or angles, or what have you) also seems quite plausible. I have no scorn, contempt, or any other negative feeling for people investigating who are open to that sort of explanation. I reserve all scorn for those who have already drawn their conclusion (aliens), and like the Creationists are working hard to defend it. [2]

Roman Graves I meant that most of the UFO believers I've ever spoken to simply
are vastly less skeptical about their chosen interest than they are about anything else. I've spoken with one UFO aficionado in particular who was quite scornful of people who believed in bigfoot, she (quite rightly) thought it was an extraordinary claim and that it therefore required extraordinary proof; and never once considered applying the same standard to her beloved UFO's [3].

As is the case with religion, in my personal experience most UFO believers simply have a *much* lower threshold for belief in their particular area than they do in all other areas. They, to quote the X-Files, "want to believe", and therefore they don't apply the same skepticism to what they want to believe in that they do to everything else.

For the record, I think that the idea that Elvis Aaron Presley is alive today is more likely (by several orders of magnitude) than the idea that sentient non-humans with technology capable of interstellar travel and no apparent desire to make their presence publicly known
are so strangely incompetent that they get seen by the credulous all the time.


[1] My nephew is schizophrenic, and its one of his symptoms.

[2] I should add that, naturally, starting from the assumption that it can't possibly be aliens would be equally bad. While I consider that explanation to be unlikely to the point of being nearly impossible, it isn't right to begin with the investigation of anything by ruling that a possible (however unlikely) explanation is automatically false.

[3] A casual acquaintance from college. She'd never actually sighted a UFO herself, but was quite eager to do so.
posted by sotonohito at 2:39 PM on September 15, 2008


Alan Turner had courage to come out and talk about this 37 years after the fact, knowing he'd be ridiculed and, no doubt, dragged through the mud publicly.

A Larry King CNN show video with a bunch of military clips of UFOs.

There are many, many video clips of UFOs, whatever they are, and tens of thousands of reports of them around the planet. Testimonies of astronauts, scientists, aviation professionals, military personal in various countries, mass sighting, all kinds of sightings. Now the descriptions are not of flying saucers because people rarely use saucers for their coffee any more, they say things like it looked like a frisbee.

Dr. Ed Mitchell Apollo 14 on Kerrang Radio - UFOs Are Real, scientist, sixth man to walk on the moon.

Astronaut Gordon Cooper Talks About UFOs


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Recounts Apollo 11 UFO Encounter

Ufo in Belgium chased by air force F16's

A retired Air Force colonel who photographed lights hovering over western Arkansas

So all these astronauts and military personnel are hallucinating, nuts or completely misconstruing digital or visual data, after decades of training in analyzing and being familiar with flight data? Or they are deliberately spreading misinformation? None of this makes sense.

John Podesta, President Clinton’s former Chief of Staff - UFOs

Unless there is transparency on the part of the various governments, in particular the US, in talking about the UFO topic sanely, adultly, scientifically it will remain a bizarre, unproductive non-conversation of people yelling "FAKE!" and "Conspiracy of silence!" at each other.

posted by nickyskye at 3:31 PM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


So all these astronauts and military personnel are hallucinating, nuts or completely misconstruing digital or visual data...

Yes.

They are all, in every way, flat fucking wrong.

Look, you UFO believers ... I'm sorry, but you are not Galileo. You do not have the secret answer to anything, and there is not cabal of oppressors keeping you from spreading your truth. There is no wool to pull from anyone's eyes.

I'm very sorry to have dashed your hopes and dreams of secret sky gods.

Moving on...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:56 PM on September 15, 2008


secret sky gods

lol, so unidentified flying objects have to be flying sky gods or not exist. Those are the options?

What about seeing unidentified flying objects and not knowing what they are but examining what they could be, scientifically, with curiosity, rationally, with an attitude of wanting to know?
posted by nickyskye at 4:31 PM on September 15, 2008


I'm very sorry to have dashed your hopes and dreams of secret sky gods.

Glad to see you took your Smug Fucking Asshole pills this morning.

What's comical to me is that when people observe these things the standard answer is "people see what they want". Apparently no one spreads that blanket statement over the die-hard skeptics. Simply put, anyone who refuses to believe any of this (and I lean more towards geomagnetics than aliens) is no longer looking for the most reasonable answer.
posted by Roman Graves at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


sotonohito: Its quite easy to overhear a conversation at work, or someone talking about it on the radio, or what have you, and consciously forget that you heard it. Which, naturally, would help her brain simulate seeing what she'd heard about. It is well documented that as UFO sightings are reported in the news there are followup people who think they saw the same thing. I don't think they're lying, I think they've simply been tricked by their brains.

If we're all to use Occam's Razor to mass UFO sightings, let's see how it works with how you put it. To you it's perfectly normal for a few people to perhaps hoax a sighting, then the description gets into the media, and subsequently dozens or hundreds or thousands of others have full-blown hallucinations of the same object because that image is sitting in their subconscious. (Really. Only in the mind of a hardcore UFO skeptic are mass hallucinations a part normal human consciousness. And seemingly only in the forms of UFOs do hallucinations take place. If true, this would be an astounding bit of scientific research in and of itself.)

Or, hundreds or thousands of people saw something they can't explain. Most don't know what it was, and often what you hear from witnesses over and over again is what it wasn't. It wasn't Venus and it wasn't swamp gas and it wasn't ball lightning and it wasn't an airplane. That leaves the possibilities to what it was wide open, and many people claim it to be this or that. Which is no good from a scientific perspective, because anomalous lights in the sky should be able to be explained, right? We just built the freakin' LHC, so lights in the sky should be able to be explained, right?
posted by zardoz at 5:02 PM on September 15, 2008


So all these astronauts and military personnel are hallucinating, nuts or completely misconstruing digital or visual data...

CoolPapaBell: Yes.

They are all, in every way, flat fucking wrong.


Wow, CoolPapa. That's some class-A arrogance right there. But indulge me, which of the three is the most likely? They're hallucinating, fucking nuts or misconstruing digital or visual data? Which of the three? Remember, these are professional types who do/did this kind of thing for a living. I guess their superiors really fucked up in hiring those "UFO believers", huh?

Look, you UFO believers ... I'm sorry, but you are not Galileo.


Well, I'm a believer in the sense that I believe UFOs are unidentified and flying and objects. I speculate past that but have yet to draw any solid conclusions. But to your point--damn straight, I'm no Galileo. The science in my life is limited to balancing my bank account. But the fact that you seem to be completely and utterly unable to consider new, scientific evidence possibilities rather than change your own view...definitely puts you out the Galileo of the Year Award yourself.
posted by zardoz at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the absence of hard evidence, jumping to conclusions is dangerous.

Because we lack evidence about the origins of the universe, people invented god. Because we've seen some weird shit in the sky, people invented aliens.

I don't know what the Hell was flying around, but it sure wasn't visitors from light years away.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:55 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can we agree that no one here is saying they believe that aliens are behind UFO phenomena, and that there are plenty off researchers (and that they tend to be the better ones,) that think the ET hypothesis is absurd? I mean, it seems some of the skeptics are still bringing up the problems of the ETH as a means to debunk the whole study, from the "merely" talking at cross purposes to the insipd dribblings of idicoy.

The dearth of hard data really limits the scientific method in creating a testable hypothesis, partially because I believe that we are only begining look for data in non-intuitive areas (leading to ideas like earth lights, for example,) so it really limits UFOology to guess within the scant evidence. It does leave people who have hard-ons for the ETH looking a bit foolish, though, in the case of both believers and skeptics. I mean, I suppose it's that UFO=Alien is not impossiblr in the same way that it's possible the LHC will destroy the world, but it seems absurd. There are many fascinating explanations as to the UFO phemonena, and I don't think that all reports and sightings fall into known and easily explicable solutions.

Part of the problem is that many "skeptics" (in the sense of debunkers, rather than genuine withholders of judgment) enjoy debunking so much they'll come up with any half-way plausible sounding solution, including unknown neurological events as explanation, and then drop the subject. I mean if some or all sightings are based upon some little or unknown aspect of the brain, that would be amazaingly interesting! Something to study! Is it based on external or internal stimuli, is it reproducable, there are tons of interesting questions. So to leave that as the answer and drop the subject otherwise dosen't really show an interest in the subject of the unknown, but a desire to ignore it and perhaps mock those who do have an interest.
posted by Snyder at 7:19 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we can all agree upon that Snyder, at least this far down the thread. Even if someone does think aliens are behind it, I'm not going to outright mock them for it. I'm not that much of a shithead, nor do I mock folks who go to church. The whole problem with the topic is exactly what you said, a lack of interest in the unknown (on both sides).
posted by Roman Graves at 8:16 PM on September 15, 2008


@Smart Dalek
"To climb to such a height in only 40 miles was beyond the ability of almost any fighter aircraft at that time."

Around 1971, the Saab Draken was reconfigured as a fighter craft; with Mach 2 capability and a ceiling of 65,000ft., it wouldn't have been out of place for the craft to be tested from Machrihanish base.


No need to bring the Swedes into this. Ever heard of the EE/BAC Lightning?

This thing was lightweight, simple airframe attached to a pair of rather large engines. Service altitude in excess of 60000ft (holds a record at nearly 90000ft) with a climb rate of 50000ft/min. This thing had a thrust:weight ratio greater than 1, it could accelerate while climbing vertically, and it could supercruise - sustain supersonic speeds without using it's afterburners.

And all this from a company better known up to that point for making washing machines.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:31 PM on September 15, 2008


Roman Graves: What I make of [the Miracle of the Sun] is mostly mass hallucination and group hysteria. That was thousands of people standing in a field waiting for a miracle to happen, and most of them walked away having seen different things.

That's what I figure.

Roman Graves: Something did fly over LA in 1942, and I'm unaware of any military aircraft at the time that could have taken the shelling we gave it and still flown away. I'm not saying I believe these things were alien crafts, I'm saying these are the only kind of sightings that make me wonder because they're often a lot harder to explain away.

Definitely harder to explain. One guy being loony is easily dismissed as unreliable; ten thousand people being temporarily loony is more difficult because most of those people usually are reliable and they refuse to believe that they could have been mistaken or fooled or hysterical.

There are great similarities between the Battle of LA and the Miracle of the Sun. An agitated populace primed to see something did believe it had seen something, but had seen different things, depending on who you asked. And in both cases, people believe something highly weird, but they refuse to believe anything highly weird except their own highly weird thing. Did the people of Fatima see evidence of the devil's rule over the universe? Did they see the work of magicians? Could it have been mischievous dragons? No, they insisted, they saw God at work. And did the people of LA see evidence of [God, devil, dragons, etc.]? No, the frightened 1942 populace saw formations of Japanese planes, even though the planes made no noise and did nothing. And modern UFOists of course see evidence of spaceships.

In LA at the time, opinion converged on "airplanes!" because everyone was afraid of an enemy air attack and because the antiaircraft guns were blasting in their ears. But no physical evidence was left behind except their own antiaircraft damage, nobody heard anything except their own guns, and all the amateur photographers and news people taking who knows how many pictures in LA that night managed to get just one picture of just one thing that could be construed as something in the air that night. Plus, there was at least one Japanese sub in the area, and the Japanese were of course known to release balloons. If they wanted to test US defenses and generally stir things up, the Japanese navy might have released several balloons that night.

In the LA picture people like to talk about, I see searchlights converged on smoke and clouds, everyone pointing his searchlight to where everyone else is pointing his searchlight, and all gunners shooting where the lights are pointing, and all searchlights pointing to where the guns are shooting, so that there is a great focus of light and explosions in one place, and everyone staring into this until there is a spot temporarily burned into everyone's retinas, and the focus of the searchlights and explosions slowly moving across the smoke in the sky like the planchette moves across a Ouija board pushed by everyone's hands.

People believed they saw things over LA that night, and, theoretically, those things could have been anything in the universe, including angels or flying monsters from another dimension, but most likely it was the result of some combination of balloons, Japanese or US aircraft, searchlights, explosions, smoke, clouds, tall tales, and shared hysteria.
posted by pracowity at 12:13 AM on September 16, 2008


Googling mass hallucination just brings up a bunch of stuff about Jesus, and I admittedly don't know much about the phenomenon or how possible it is. My first thought, though, is that there usually has to be something there to misinterpret. Most people, even in groups, are not prone to schizophrenic behavior. Misinterpreting some kind of arial event and losing your grip on reality are two very different things.

The particular thing about LA is that like you said, no debris was ever found. So that rules out aircraft. I guess a balloon is possible, but I think it's highly unlikely. Over 1400 rounds were fired. No balloon survived that. Like zardoz mentioned above, mass hallucinations are not a usual product of high stress situations and people only seem to apply them in cases like this. Our boys in Bagdad don't ever spend an hour shooting at airplanes that aren't there just because they're on edge.
posted by Roman Graves at 11:08 AM on September 16, 2008


If a balloon was involved, I suspect it burned up (they were made of paper or silk) or blew up (they were bomb-carrying hydrogen balloons) and anything left fell to the round somewhere unnoticed or unrecognized.

But I don't think there had to be anything up there at all. Searchlights converging could give people on the ground the idea that there's something up there at that point, encouraging more people to train their lights on that point and to aim their guns there. There would be nervous hands on the guns, and once one person fired, many might fire. People would fire at anything and nothing, just hoping to hit the bastards who are coming to get them.

Think of situations such as the Amadou Diallo killing. Four jumpy policemen fired 41 times at an unarmed man. And I believe situations such as that are not uncommon on battlefields. Soldiers get confused and frightened, a noise sets them off, and suddenly they're firing at one another.

Now, instead of pistols or rifles, arm everyone with antiaircraft guns, tell them the Japanese are coming, make it the middle of the night, and maybe throw in some things we don't know about -- stray airplanes, odd clouds, complete inexperience with spotting and firing at enemy airplanes, maybe a little drunkenness, one or more balloons -- and people start firing like crazy. After that, confusion, as I described earlier, with mistake compounding mistake.

That all may seem a bit unlikely to you, but, unless you really really really want to believe in spacemen coming to visit us, it's got to seem a hell of a lot more likely than alien spacecraft casually cruising over the city through antiaircraft fire.
posted by pracowity at 12:26 PM on September 16, 2008


I guess you skipped past the entire conversation since yesterday, 'cause no, I'm not insinuating spacemen.

Sigh. Let's just close this one up fellas.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:28 PM on September 16, 2008


The irony of this thread is that the skeptics (in the true sense of the word) are keeping an open mind, and the debunkers want to force people into the narrow avenue of the "It must be aliens!" frame of thought - and at the same time stating that this is impossible (because they're clearly in full charge of the facts). Again, I wish I was that certain about anything.

What's clear about the debunkers is the ever-decreasing line of defence. "There's never any clear photos". Here's a clear pic of seriously huge triangular object in the sky. "Photoshop". Here's testimonies from pilots, astronauts and other reliable witnesses. "What they saw was 'swamp gas from a weather balloon, trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus'".

I'm sure that at some point there were debunkers over the existence of sprites, blue jets and elves. But then they were photographed and demonstrated to be real. There were no aliens involved, but some funky aspects of our weather system previously unimagined.

There is some seriously weird shit out there. Some of this is -or will be- explainable by the scientific process. Please do not tell me that you know what the answers are when you clearly haven't got a clue simply because it doesn't agree with your prejudices.
posted by panboi at 2:17 PM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


« Older The Autonomous NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) "...is ...  |  Stack Overflow... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments