UFO sightings by the US Navy
April 26, 2019 8:43 AM   Subscribe

How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings “It’s very mysterious, and they still seem to exceed our aircraft in speed,” [former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence and staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee] said, calling it a “truly radical technology.”

Previous reporting

Maybe it's just me but reality seems to have gotten a little less... real... in the past few years.
posted by last_fall (109 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Space Force to the rescue! Pew pew!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:49 AM on April 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Maybe it's just me but reality seems to have gotten a little less... real... in the past few years.

I'm not coming out one way or another on what these phenomena represent, but there are official government reports documenting them at least as far back as the late 1940s, and anecdotal evidence extending back much farther than that.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


As normalcy crumbles, high strangeness creeps in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go sit in a haunted building and type a screed on a 15 year old LED word processor about the motives of the Greys because that's my part time job now.

(not a joke)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:04 AM on April 26, 2019 [39 favorites]


Luis Elizondo, former director of the Pentagon's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program: "If I came to you and said, ‘There are these things that can fly over our country with impunity, defying the laws of physics, and within moments could deploy a nuclear device at will,’ that would be a matter of national security.”

No, that would be a matter for calling the guys in white coats and escorting you out of the Pentagon as quickly as possible.
posted by JackFlash at 9:04 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


* quietly sculpts Devils Tower in mashed potatoes *
posted by salt grass at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2019 [42 favorites]


That the sightings began in 2014 only furthers cements my theory that 2014 was the first year of the 21st century
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 AM on April 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


i am interested in your theory and would like to review your geocities site for more information
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:13 AM on April 26, 2019 [60 favorites]


I recommend Curtis Peebles' Watch the Skies! as an excellent overview of the UFO phenomenon from the 40's through the 90's. It's particularly interesting to look at the elaboration of the Roswell incident from its original nothingburger status to "alien autopsies."
posted by SPrintF at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


* quietly sculpts Devils Tower in mashed potatoes *

*silently sprinkles Tic Tacs on salt grass's mashed potatos*

posted by y2karl at 9:17 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one hitting WaPo's paywall in the first link?
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm wondering why aliens that can defy the laws of physics would deploy puny nuclear devices using 1940s physics.
posted by JackFlash at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


I hit it too, allkindsoftime, but it worked OK when I switched to a private browsing tab
posted by JDHarper at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


One thing I learned becoming a pilot is that pilots make all sorts of mistakes just like anyone else. They see things that aren't there, and report them full and honestly and with certainty. And that may be worth investigating! If a bunch of highly trained pilots are seeing things, that's worth knowing. Just saying there's a simpler explanation than "Aliens" or "Secret Foreign Aircraft".

Lots of folks have noted how the # of UFO sightings has gone way down just in sync with the # of people who are now carrying cameras in their pockets that could photograph those UFOs. But now the UFO sightings are always of things that go so fast there was no time to photograph them. I swear it was there!

(See also: drone sightings at airports. And reports of cell phones interfering with cockpit electronics. Often these are sincere reports from pilots who were mistaken.)
posted by Nelson at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2019 [19 favorites]


Does this have anything to do with Tom Delonge?
posted by gucci mane at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Annie Jacobsen's Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base is an interesting read.
The development and deployment of OXCART by CIA via Kelly Johnson's Skunk Works is, I think, a relevant comparison here for entirely earthly, highly secret, explanations for advanced technology being misidentified by civilian and military aviation alike.

As an aside, I would also recommend her book about Operation Paperclip.
oh my god, it's NAZIs all the way down....
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


Hello, boys! I'm baaaaaack!
posted by peeedro at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Sigh - as a child of the 70's/80's, I was all into the unexplained world... Life was full of possibilities.

But, as a cynical adult, I have come to believe that;
- no large group of people is going to successfully keep such a big secret for any length of time. (Sorry "Area 51" conspiracy fans)
- no advanced Alien technological civilization is going to expend the resources to travel across interstellar space to study us from the air for decades without being discovered - or contacting/invading/destroying us. (And... whatever natural resources we have, are actually far more obtainable from uninhabited moons/asteroids in space anyways). Unless they want us as food, or our export is our culture. (Or as slaves - but, if they are that advanced, they can probably create their own via genetics anyways) And if they are advanced enough to get here, they don't need to continue abducting and probing to learn more about us... it would only take a few - unless they have some sort of "kink"...

Occam's Razor applies.
posted by jkaczor at 10:01 AM on April 26, 2019 [23 favorites]


Occam's Razor applies.

Right. That is why I believe that these advanced craft are operated by Bigfoot crews, who have unearthed the secrets of Atlantean technology.
posted by thelonius at 10:05 AM on April 26, 2019 [27 favorites]


I'm just going to post this link before the thread goes all time cube. Does not discuss whether UFO's are real. Only looks at the government response. UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:06 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Many years ago I was on a ranch in New Mexico that belonged to my then-girlfriend's father. On at least two occasions I was in the hot tub, late at night, when I spotted a tiny light in the (extremely clear and star-filled) sky. It moved erratically. I looked away, then back, and it was still there, jumping around the sky in what appeared to be a manner that defied physics. I don't know what it was, but it was definitely there, and it sounds a lot like the things described in this article.

One of the great weaknesses we have as humans is the tendency to believe that we have things all figured out. We most definitely do not.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2019 [15 favorites]


One can have the view the something is going on that we (Humans) don't understand without believing all the area 51/ abduction stuff.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:14 AM on April 26, 2019 [14 favorites]


One can have the view the something is going on that we (Humans) don't understand without believing all the area 51/ abduction stuff.

Exactly! After all, UFO stands for UNIDENTIFIED Flying Object. In fact if a UFO was positively identified as an alien spaceship, it would no longer be a UFO.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2019 [21 favorites]


The development and deployment of OXCART by CIA via Kelly Johnson's Skunk Works is, I think, a relevant comparison here for entirely earthly, highly secret, explanations for advanced technology being misidentified by civilian and military aviation alike.

Yep. People often have no idea how far back OXCART and the A12-slash-SR71 program goes. They reportedly started development and testing as early as 1959. I've heard that first flights may have been as early as 1961.

That was so early the Mercury Project manned rocket programs were still in their infancy, and here the CIA was making what was practically a damn space plane in secret out at Groom Lake, with them designing and building it on the fly with pencils, paper, slide rules and hand-fit parts like it was a damn bicycle in a shed.

The X-15 also just started flying, and the X-1 and first recorded supersonic flights were just 15 years prior.

This entire historical era of aerospace engineering is just fucking bonkers. There was so much stuff going on, much of it in secret and funded by giant piles of surplus research money basically splashing around like a tsunami after the Manhattan Project accomplished its primary mission and the Cold War started ratcheting up.

And even with all of these explanations, I'm still pretty sure there's been weird shit in our skies that... isn't readily explained outside of either A) the black project aerospace tech curve is a lot farther along than is publicly acknowledged or B) something else is going on that raises a lot of different kinds of questions.

And, well, I'm still hoping for option C.

In any case, watch those skies! I see satellites and stuff moving around up there basically every clear night I go look at the stars.

Don't get me started on the Rainbow Bomb atmospheric nuclear tests, and how it lines up with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the SOSUS project, and how it relates to Tsar Bomba. We did nearly blow ourselves up during that tense year and change.
posted by loquacious at 10:19 AM on April 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


> Occam's Razor applies.

Yes, but the Anthropic Principle also applies. Surely aliens must be interested in Earthling humanity! We are so brilliant and powerful and... and dangerous! and sexy! And yet vulnerable!
posted by at by at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one hitting WaPo's paywall in the first link?

Same here. Pretty much all WaPo links are DOA for me anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:20 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Surely aliens must be interested in Earthling humanity!

I'm neither here or there regarding UFOs and ETs, but if there are any then my own version of Occam's Razor is that they would be time/dimensional/wormhole traveling humans rather than other species from impossible distances.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


If time/dimensional/wormhole travel is possible then there is no such thing as "impossible" distances and you can't rule out other species.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


FTFA
A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, “unexplained aerial phenomena” — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.

As first reported by POLITICO, these intrusions have been happening on a regular basis since 2014. Recently, unidentified aircraft have entered military-designated airspace as often as multiple times per month, Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for office of the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Citing safety and security concerns, Gradisher vowed to “investigate each and every report.”

He said, “We want to get to the bottom of this. We need to determine who’s doing it, where it’s coming from and what their intent is. We need to try to find ways to prevent it from happening again.”

Luis Elizondo, a former senior intelligence officer, told The Post that the new Navy guidelines formalized the reporting process, facilitating data-driven analysis while removing the stigma from talking about UFOs, calling it “the single greatest decision the Navy has made in decades.”
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:26 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Heh... So, I had a girlfriend once, whose mother loved the relate the story of the time they were "rejected by aliens"...

They were driving in the rural backwoods of Ontario, middle of the night - no homes/lights around, when - they had the classic encounter... Their car's electrical system went dead, they coasted to a stop... Then an intense light shone down from above, encircling their vehicle... Minutes passed... It turned off, they started their car and drove on...
posted by jkaczor at 10:26 AM on April 26, 2019 [23 favorites]


FTFA 2

Chris Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence and staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was less laudatory.

“I don’t believe in safety through ignorance,” he said, scolding the intelligence community for a lack of “curiosity and courage” and a “failure to react” to a strong pattern of sightings.

In some cases, pilots — many of whom are engineers and academy graduates — claimed to observe small spherical objects flying in formation. Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles. Aside from drones, all engines rely on burning fuel to generate power, but these vehicles all had no air intake, no wind and no exhaust.

“It’s very mysterious, and they still seem to exceed our aircraft in speed,” he said, calling it a “truly radical technology.”

According to Mellon, awestruck and baffled pilots, concerned that reporting unidentified flying aircraft would adversely affect their careers, tended not to speak up. And when they did, he said, there was little interest in investigating their claims.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:27 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I would imagine a pilot's perspective on known naturally occurring astral phenomena (meteors, et. al.) would be quite different from your average observation point on the ground, with all the light pollution, greater distance from the object, etc..
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2019


I looked away, then back, and it was still there, jumping around the sky in what appeared to be a manner that defied physics. I don't know what it was, but it was definitely there, and it sounds a lot like the things described in this article.

There are a ton of possible explanations for what you saw. Atmospheric distortion comes to mind immediately.

As for the pilots here, what's the simplest explanation? My guess is seabirds or flying fish.

One of my favorite debunkings is the the explanation for the 1986 JAL Flight 1628 incident, where a seasoned pilot reported being chased by a UFO as big as a football field. Totally debunked, but for years it was "unexplained".

I say this as someone who was totally and absolutely invested in the various UFO and Budd Hopkins "missing time" conspiracies back around 1990.

A little skepticism goes a long, long way.
posted by JamesBay at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


If time/dimensional/wormhole travel is possible then there is no such thing as "impossible" distances and you can't rule out other species

Maybe? None of us knows how that might work and perhaps it is bound up in longer orbital patterns of the solar system (think spiraling concentric rings of planets around the light worm of the sun in motion over time) rather than some arcane tesseract or whatever, so distances still are limited.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2019


I would also imagine that if the occurances really are as frequent as the Navy pilots claim they are, enough of these guys should be wearing go-pros on their helmets that footage should start surfacing soon.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:35 AM on April 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


If time/dimensional/wormhole travel is possible then there is no such thing as "impossible" distances and you can't rule out other species.

Or besides that, automated explorers travelling around at leisurely speeds at a trifling cost in resources. Getting here and awaiting further instructions seems the more likely scenario.

Why, you can't afford to not buy into theories about aliens!
posted by XMLicious at 10:35 AM on April 26, 2019


The Hynek UFO Report. One should read up on Allen J Hynek before quoting him to debunk UFO's. That's not a debunking, that's a hand waving explanation. Like swamp gas.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:38 AM on April 26, 2019


 In fact if a UFO was positively identified as an alien spaceship, it would no longer be a UFO.

Get it together Lieutenant! Was it Shi'ar Empire or Tal Shiar? Sigh, file it as a UFO.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I think everyone has seen a thing or two that they don't have a rational explanation for. The world is a strange place, and some of the corner cases in optics and perception are even stranger.

But have that kind of experience in the sky in a multi-million dollar jet, and everyone loses their minds.

None of us are born in the sky. None of us live there. We're like people who have never seen a cave, wandering around a cave, when we're up there. And the mind is always going to be wierd with that. The part of our brains that tries to detect when things are strange is always going to be running around like a frightened puppy barking at everything.
posted by quillbreaker at 10:44 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


FWIW various models of aircraft in the U.S. Air Force and Navy have problems with faulty oxygen supply. I wonder if there is any correlation between the UFOs and this problem.
posted by JamesBay at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go sit in a haunted building and type a screed on a 15 year old LED word processor about the motives of the Greys because that's my part time job now.
(not a joke)
posted by robocop is bleeding 


From most people I'd say that was a goof, but you I believe.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:46 AM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


running around like a frightened puppy barking at everything

You mean pilots having concerns is like puppies running around barking at things?

Did you RTFA.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


> Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go sit in a haunted building and type a screed on a 15 year old LED word processor about the motives of the Greys because that's my part time job now.

(not a joke)


... uhhh whoever's paying you to do this are they hiring?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2019 [17 favorites]


Maybe some of the lights and atmospheric phenomena are caused by a proton beam (warning: linked site is a rabbit hole and will consume a good chunk of your Friday while you read about searching for a crashed A-12)
posted by a halcyon day at 10:47 AM on April 26, 2019


Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles.

I’m not saying it’s Apple, but it’s Apple.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:50 AM on April 26, 2019 [13 favorites]


Many years ago I was on a ranch in New Mexico that belonged to my then-girlfriend's father. On at least two occasions I was in the hot tub, late at night, when I spotted a tiny light in the (extremely clear and star-filled) sky. It moved erratically. I looked away, then back, and it was still there, jumping around the sky in what appeared to be a manner that defied physics. I don't know what it was, but it was definitely there, and it sounds a lot like the things described in this article.

About 10 years ago, a friend and her partner found themselves up around 3am on a summer Sunday night and went up to the roof of their DC apartment building to see what stars were visible. After they had been there for a bit, they saw what was clearly an SR-71-like military aircraft appear quite suddenly above them from behind some cloud cover and then hover, motionless and silent, a few hundred feet above their block for 30 seconds or so before moving off very quickly, also seemingly without a sound.

I'm not dismissing the possibility of the extraterrestrial out of hand, but the military likely has a lot of strange and experimental aircraft, drones, etc. that most of us have never seen, and don't know the capabilities of.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:55 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


Then an intense light shone down from above, encircling their vehicle... Minutes passed... It turned off, they started their car and drove on...

You're supposed to get out of the car when they shine the light on you.
posted by nickmark at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


Yes, but the Anthropic Principle also applies. Surely aliens must be interested in Earthling humanity! We are so brilliant and powerful and... and dangerous! and sexy! And yet vulnerable!

Well, if we found a living microbe on another planet, it would be a huge, huge deal, so I don't have a hard time believing that any actual aliens would love to know more about us. It would be weird if they had no curiosity about other life.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Why read the article when you can imagine one more worthy of snark and mockery in a fraction of the time?
posted by thoroughburro at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


ThreeCatsBob,

All I'm trying to say is that the challenges involved in understanding what one sees up there are immense. We like to think our perceptive systems are general purpose but they are pretty specialized in finding things to eat (or that might eat you) on the surface of a planet.

That's not going to go over well with a culture where anything unexpected is bad.
posted by quillbreaker at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm not dismissing the possibility of the extraterrestrial out of hand, but the military likely has a lot of strange and experimental aircraft, drones, etc. that most of us have never seen, and don't know the capabilities of.

My favourite example of this is the Aurora sonic booms across SoCal in the early 90s.

I think Timothy Good's 1989 book Above Top Secret mentioned it, but for years there were rumours that the Aurora was the product of alien technology at Area 51 or something. There were these conspiracies about the Aurora and then, literally, BOOM, the actual Aurora is all over the news.
posted by JamesBay at 11:10 AM on April 26, 2019


What's clearly called for here are harsher penalties for defying the laws of physics. Conservation of matter, energy, and momentum are not just a good idea ...
posted by Flexagon at 11:29 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


It would be weird if they had no curiosity about other life.

They'd at least want to know what we taste like!
posted by XMLicious at 11:33 AM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


They'd at least want to know what we taste like!

Anal probing is not a productive way of determining that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2019 [8 favorites]


Out of a number of low-probability possibilities, I suppose I'll pick "Somebody, possibly Chinese, has figured out some new physics". Though that pre-supposes an Einstein or Newton that they could keep shtum rather than the more modern style (at least since Quantum Mechanics) of the big breakthroughs coming from big, open, groups of internationally distributed scientists.
posted by Quindar Beep at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


You know how people use a laser pointer to play with their cats?
posted by BeeDo at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2019 [24 favorites]


I would not at all be surprised if there are people flying drones in restricted areas for intelligence gathering purposes. And this would not be the first time the military shouted "aliens!" when they felt the need to conceal something they or an adversary was doing.

Humans have terrible vision to begin with and the brain literally tries to fool you constantly. It takes subtle clues of shading, perspective, and depth and assembles a mental model. That model is what you actually see, not the arrangement of photons that hit your retina. When the cues are missing, or worse misleading, human brains just invent shit without conscious awareness.

Is it any wonder that every UFO sighting involves a lack of depth cues, poor lighting, or other issues that make misperception nearly inevitable? Combined with our innate attraction to religion and mysticism I find it hard to believe that there is any phenomenon here other than human gullibility.
posted by wierdo at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


I'm not dismissing the possibility of the extraterrestrial out of hand, but the military likely has a lot of strange and experimental aircraft, drones, etc. that most of us have never seen, and don't know the capabilities of

I'm kinda surprised there haven't been a huge uptick in ufo sightings and hoaxes in recent years considering the proliferation of consumer grade drones that can be had exhibiting capabilities indistinguishable from behavior often attributed to ufos in the past.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


FWIW various models of aircraft in the U.S. Air Force and Navy have problems with faulty oxygen supply. I wonder if there is any correlation between the UFOs and this problem.

Not to mention that military pilots are frequently overworked, underslept, and take stimulants to cope with the first two things. My money's on hallucination.

That said, it seems like a no-brainer for the military to investigate these incidents anyway, even if the conclusion ends up being "holy shit, poor maintenance and bad work hours are killing our pilots".
posted by tobascodagama at 11:47 AM on April 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


What I'm really saying is that a human's interpretation of lights in the sky at night are inherently suspect. I can even prove it from my front porch on a clear night by watching aircraft approaching the airport near my house. The path the brain wants to extrapolate from the lights bears little resemblance to the actual path taken. Said lights often appear to be hanging motionless in the sky for minutes at a time thanks to the angles involved and the lack of visual cues to measure against despite the fact that they are actually moving toward me at a few hundred miles an hour and descending at a thousand feet a minute or more.
posted by wierdo at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


so, that F/A-18 ATFLIR pod footage (at OP previous reporting link) is a hallucination caused by stimulant abuse, magical thinking and flying fish?
posted by 20 year lurk at 11:55 AM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


Any intelligent extra-terrestrial race, having observed humanity for, let's say, a minimum of fifty years, would be insane to reveal themselves to such savages. Better to monitor and have the sterilizers ready to deploy if we discover faster-than-light travel.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


Somebody already mentioned us being like cats being played with by via laser dots. I can imagine adolescent aliens messing with us with 3d projections of n-dimensional toys.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 12:01 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think the pod one (at the "previous" link) could be a flying fish or squid, yes.
posted by JamesBay at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda surprised there haven't been a huge uptick in ufo sightings and hoaxes in recent years considering the proliferation of consumer grade drones that can be had exhibiting capabilities indistinguishable from behavior often attributed to ufos in the past.

As Gatwick demonstrates, sometimes drones don't even need to be real in order for people to see them.

And I suppose, technically speaking, the Gatwick (imaginary?) drones were true UFOs.
posted by JamesBay at 12:06 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


exhibiting capabilities indistinguishable from behavior often attributed to ufos in the past

I wonder if any UFO that's exhibited physics defying behavior is actually physics defying, or just impractical to engineer at the time. Or maybe it means something more like, "It defies my personal understanding of physics." A heavier than air vehicle of any sort was physics defying for a lot of people prior to the invention of airplanes.

I watched that video from the previously link, and it looks like a drone to me. What could be physics defying is its speed and maneuverability relative to its size. Maybe the pilots understood that it'd have to have a huge power plant for what it was doing, and no visible exhaust makes that seem physically impossible. Something like the MartinUAV V-Bat is creeping a little into the "I get how this might work, but it looks fake" realm for me personally.
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:06 PM on April 26, 2019 [6 favorites]


You guys are making this too easy...

Metafilter: stimulant abuse, magical thinking and flying fish
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2019 [20 favorites]


I agree that the vast majority of sightings are either a top secret project or natural phenomena. True believers are one of the biggest problems into any sort inquiry into the subject. Also governments have a long history of using the subject to hide classified programs. The Soviet Union encouraged belief in UFOs for a time to hide their ballistic missile tests.

That being said, at one time, discussed in the book I linked above, the US government was very seriously trying to study the phenomenon. Then for reasons (discussed) in the book, they decided to quit and instead responded to any mention of the subject with derision and disinformation. It seems that they thought there was a real phenomena but had no idea what was going on. Rather than admit they didn't know, they created a program where any mention on the phenomena was met with derision and marginalization.

Allen J Hynek of the Hynek report fame was one of the chief architects of this program. I think he was the one who came up with the swamp gas explanation. After the report he came to deeply regret his involvement it this project and attempted to seriously research the subject.

They book is about one third references and copies of declassified documents. It is considered one of the few truly academic inquiries on the subject.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


so, that F/A-18 ATFLIR pod footage (at OP previous reporting link) is a hallucination caused by stimulant abuse, magical thinking and flying fish?

What I find surprising is people thinking that "UFO" is a better explanation than those. These may not be the correct explanation, but thinking that a phenomenon which has never had any meaningful proof that it even exists is a better explanation than actual things we know a lot about? Just, no.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:12 PM on April 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


wait wait i have some dank ultraterrestial memes around here somewhere for the nuts-and-boltsers
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:20 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


All UFO is supposed to mean is that you don't have an explanation to what it is. The same with Unexplained Arial Phenomena (UAP). It was never intended that UFO = extraterrestrial.

For the record, I think the "why haven't they visited us" is probably more like why should the even care about us. As mentioned above they can get everything they supposedly want from us other places. (They're just not into us).

If they were to visit here, they would probably view us they way hikers view grizzly bears.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 12:23 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also governments have a long history of using the subject to hide classified programs. The Soviet Union encouraged belief in UFOs for a time to hide their ballistic missile tests.

The US did this, too. In the 1980s and early 90s the US government actively fostered the idea that alien technologies were being tested in Area 51 in order to discredit extremely motivated UFO researchers who were uncovering classified black projects that were obscured from Congressional oversight. There's a great SPIN magazine story from 1994 that talks about this.
posted by JamesBay at 12:23 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


so, that F/A-18 ATFLIR pod footage (at OP previous reporting link) is a hallucination caused by stimulant abuse, magical thinking and flying fish?

What I find surprising is people thinking that "UFO" is a better explanation than those. These may not be the correct explanation, but thinking that a phenomenon which has never had any meaningful proof that it even exists is a better explanation than actual things we know a lot about? Just, no.


I mean, hallucinations and magical thinking don't show up on video. So that leaves flying fish. Do you think that was a fish?
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


For the record, I think the "why haven't they visited us" is probably more like why should the even care about us.

What if there was some planet out there that was home to a sentient, continent-size mangrove swamp? What about elephants? Or octopuses?

For whatever reason, since the Industrial Age at least, humans tend to equate "intelligence" and "sentience" with the ability to modify (or dominate) one's environment. With nuclear weapons and anthropogenic climate change, we're discovering that perhaps such intelligence only goes so far.
posted by JamesBay at 12:26 PM on April 26, 2019


Do you think that was a fish?

I literally wrote "These may not be the correct explanation".
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:30 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


What if there was some planet out there that was home to a sentient, continent-size mangrove swamp? What about elephants? Or octopuses?

Or birds, birds in the parrot family are believed by many to be as intelligent as any non-human primate.

There it is, the tick-tac was a bird, not a fish or a plane.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


> As Gatwick demonstrates, sometimes drones don't even need to be real in order for people to see them. And I suppose, technically speaking, the Gatwick (imaginary?) drones were true UFOs.

Wow, this story had fallen off my radar, and after all that chaos, I'm stunned to see that the police can't rule out the possibility that there weren't even any real drones. I thought they'd shown up in air control radar and stuff - otherwise, the entire airport got shut down, on multiple days, based on hearsay evidence?
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


I want to believe.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:48 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


> There it is, the tick-tac was a bird, not a fish or a plane.

CITIZENS OF METROPOLIS SWEAR IT WAS A UFO -- headline on the Daily Planet the next day
posted by Quindar Beep at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Soviet Union encouraged belief in UFOs for a time to hide their ballistic missile tests.

Source ?
posted by y2karl at 12:49 PM on April 26, 2019


Source ?

Google it.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 12:50 PM on April 26, 2019


With nuclear weapons and anthropogenic climate change, we're discovering that perhaps such intelligence only goes so far.

Not to mention Coast to Coast with George Noory.
posted by y2karl at 12:53 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


So I wrote a thing for Slate recently about the Gatwick Purported Drone and how drones appear to be supplanting UFOs in the popular imagination. That’s my pet theory for why UFO sightings seem to be down among the non-pilot public, anyway.

Also, with regards to Gatwick: small drones generally aren’t reliably visible to flight radar. Making drones more visible is a central concern of the various proposed UTM (unmanned traffic management) systems being kicked around today.

Great thread here - I’ve picked up some new book suggestions. I’ve also heard good things about “How UFOs Conquered the World,” which explores the history of the UFO mythos.
posted by faineg at 1:09 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


They'd at least want to know what we taste like!

Anal probing is not a productive way of determining that.


Those aren't probes. They're thermometers. They're seeing if we're done cooking ourselves with global warming
posted by UltraMorgnus at 1:13 PM on April 26, 2019 [15 favorites]


I don't believe UFOs are aliens, and I'm trying to keep myself from concluding that the arrival of actual aliens might be our only hope right about now, but I do remember thinking when the Voronezh Park UFO incident became a world-wide sensation in 1989, that the Soviet Union was in very serious trouble, though it didn't officially "fall" until 1991.
posted by jamjam at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2019


Those aren't probes. They're thermometers. They're seeing if we're done cooking ourselves with global warming

Oh, so that's what was in the cookbook.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:50 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Humans taste like ass no matter how you slice 'em.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:54 PM on April 26, 2019


The same with Unexplained Arial Phenomena (UAP)

Do you mean Comic Sans?
posted by vers at 2:10 PM on April 26, 2019 [12 favorites]


You're right, I have no rational explanation for the existence of Comic Sans.
posted by ThreeCatsBob at 2:18 PM on April 26, 2019 [1 favorite]


Lots of folks have noted how the # of UFO sightings has gone way down just in sync with the # of people who are now carrying cameras in their pockets that could photograph those UFOs. But now the UFO sightings are always of things that go so fast there was no time to photograph them. I swear it was there!

I don't think this is true, and in fact contradicts what's right in the article. A typical phone has a fixed wide-angle lens, and if a UFO is anything like, say, an airplane in the sky, then you'd expect to get a shot of said UFO about as well as an airplane. So the next time an airplane--or let's say a bird--is clearly flying in the sky, take a photo or video of it with your phone. The resulting photo or video will maybe show a pixelated blob that could be a plane or a bird, but would be inconclusive. And, like the article said, these craft seem to move much faster than any known aircraft, which would make it harder. Plus hand-held makes it hard, plus night shots make it really hard.

I'm not a believer in UFOs, but this kneejerk debunking theory just strikes me as kind of silly.
posted by zardoz at 2:22 PM on April 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


this kneejerk debunking theory just strikes me as kind of silly.

I tend to debunk just as a matter of course because I'm pretty embarrassed by believing in various UFO conspiracies until my late teens and early 20s at the start of the 90s.

However, kneejerk debunking reminds me of a funny and alarming story about Joe Nickell, the famous Fortean paranormal investigator who specializes in debunking ghosts, UFOs and other lore:

A few years ago, he told me, he went to a skeptics’ conference in La Coruña, Spain. He was walking down some stairs one afternoon, not long after investigating the statue of a local saint, which was said to protect those who embrace it, when his left leg suddenly crumpled beneath him. “It wasn’t like I fell and broke my leg,” he said. “It was more like I broke my leg and fell.” The other skeptics gathered around as he writhed in agony. When he told them, between gasps, that he thought he had broken his leg, they were dubious. “You know, that might just be a sprain,” one of them suggested. Another told him to try wiggling his toes. It wasn’t until Nickell lifted his leg, revealing that it was bent at a grotesque angle to his foot, that they believed him.
posted by JamesBay at 2:27 PM on April 26, 2019 [9 favorites]




I know a guy who perpetually hallucinates an extra "s" into the name of the font Comic Sans and thus calls it Cosmic Sans. I'm not sure precisely how this relates to the current discussion but it feels right, damn it.
posted by glonous keming at 5:01 PM on April 26, 2019 [16 favorites]


Denver International Airport heard you like conspiracy theories so it’s made a probably unexciting pact with Roswell’s airport

I didn’t know Roswell also had a demon horse statue! It needs a better publicist.
posted by rewil at 7:23 PM on April 26, 2019 [3 favorites]


I know a guy who perpetually hallucinates an extra "s" into the name of the font Comic Sans and thus calls it Cosmic Sans...

If we think of sans meaning 'without, lacking, not there,' then, with Cosmic Sans, we get Infinite Without -- a black hole so enormous that no event horizon can encircle it -- the biggest fattest Nothing imaginable.

...I'm not sure precisely how this relates to the current discussion but it feels right, damn it.

Indeed. The universe is a rabbit hole into which we and everyone and everything else are all endlessly falling.
posted by y2karl at 8:04 PM on April 26, 2019 [2 favorites]


Cosmic Sans...

with Cosmic Sans, we get Infinite Without ....


Take it a step further: Cosmic Sands would be Infinite Desert - which is what the Earth is about to become in a few decades. At least then those aliens will probably stop buzzing the planet and go on about their other business. Relevant, no?

No.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:08 PM on April 26, 2019


The greatest UFO mystery is why they never seem to visit obvious centres of civilization, which would be clearly identifiable from space. A UFO above London, New York, Tokyo or Beijing, seen by millions of people, captured by TV, cell phones, cameras ... now, that would be something.
posted by Termite at 10:06 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


Nowhere to park in the big cities.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:54 PM on April 26, 2019 [9 favorites]


If we think of sans meaning 'without, lacking, not there,' then, with Cosmic Sans, we get Infinite Without -- a black hole so enormous that no event horizon can encircle it -- the biggest fattest Nothing imaginable.

You are a regular font of knowledge!
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:01 PM on April 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


What I want to know is why UFOs only visit Americans.
posted by deadwax at 3:51 AM on April 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


What I want to know is why UFOs only visit Americans

They don't!
posted by biscotti at 4:48 AM on April 27, 2019


I have always been in the 'it's possible, but still unproven' camp.

But gotta say those navy videos released in 2017 sure ain't swamp gas, weather balloons, or cranked pilots.

That shit needs explaining.
posted by Pouteria at 5:45 AM on April 27, 2019


It isn't aliens. It's historians from the future studying a critical juncture in humanity's development. Apparently future zoologists are accompanying them and that explains their focus on the cattle population in the rural USA for some reason.
posted by talos at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2019


allkindsoftime, Thorzdad re: WaPo> I had the same problem, but apparently I just had to click the "Browse Now" Button on the leftmost window labeled "Free", check some disclaimer about being in the EU, and visit the page. Don't know if it works generally though
posted by talos at 7:27 AM on April 27, 2019


It seems likely that a large percentage of "sightings" are attributable to atmospheric or meteorological phenomena, or more prosaic (if slightly alarming) explanations like hypoxia. Both the F/A-18 and F-22 have had oxygen supply problems at various times, so that's certainly possible.

But buried somewhere in the noise is the possibility of a signal, and it makes sense that the military is at least collecting the data and reviewing it to see if anything's there.

Just looking at the acknowledged aircraft that you can find in the unclassified literature, there are some pretty wild designs out there. E.g. the Chinese AVIC 601-S, BAE Taranis, Russian Sukhoi Okhotnik, are mostly 'cranked kite' flying wings, but as far back as the 1990s you had flying examples of weirder stuff, like the Boeing Bird of Prey and NG's TACIT BLUE (which was flown from Groom Lake / "Area 51" among other places).

TACIT BLUE has a flush-mounted air inlet, interestingly enough, which corresponds to some reports of "tic tac" shaped airframes without visible air inlets. And as far as any unclass literature states, the program wasn't formally cancelled; it was a technology demonstrator that accomplished its objectives. The radar technology involved was transitioned to the E-8 program, but what about the rest of the aircraft...? Your (unclassifed) guess is as good as anyone else's.

And then there's the LM "DarkStar" UAV, which pretty much looks like it was explicitly designed to cause UFO sightings. Imagine seeing that thing from an acute angle to the wings—they'd all but disappear, leaving you nothing but a weird lozenge-shaped fuselage.

Those are all just open-source examples, and many of them are designs that are decades old now. But draw a straight line forward in time and you can imagine what might be around today.

Also, when pilots say that an aircraft was violating the 'laws of physics', it's worth keeping in mind that they are probably thinking in terms of the laws of physics as they apply to a manned aircraft of normal type and configuration. An unmanned aircraft with a novel aerodynamic shape could probably do all sorts of stuff that would appear, on the surface, to violate any number of physical laws. Particularly if it's a lightweight airframe with ridiculous thrust-weight ratios (no worries about turning a human pilot into red goo), or if it contains something like attitude-control flywheels, "bow thrusters", or other weird stuff. (Look at the small 'acro' heli-drones to see what you can do if you put enough power behind a small airframe and throw it around; no laws of physics are being violated, but they also don't look or fly much like traditional aircraft either.)

That the US military didn't take such sightings seriously throughout much of the late 20th century may have been an indication that the US was confident it had the technical advantage over any adversaries—if there were any weird things flying around in the Nevada sky, they were ours, not someone else's. And if they were ours, we probably didn't want people outside the need-to-know of those programs digging into them. That there is now a more concerted effort to catalog and presumably investigate sightings would make perfect sense in an environment where the US' adversaries have narrowed—perhaps surpassed—the US in technical capabilities. It's not like the Chinese and the Russians have exactly been sitting still while we were fucking around playing whack-a-mole with the entire Middle East's supply of disaffected young men in Afghanistan for a decade. They may well have come up with something, and are doing to the US what the US did to the USSR with the U-2 and SR-71 for decades.

But you're never going to notice something like that unless you at least look at the reports of possible sightings. So, here we are.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:11 PM on April 27, 2019 [14 favorites]




Anyone who is wondering what the objects in the video are needs to read Reverend John's link above. I am sticking with flying fish.
posted by JamesBay at 12:15 AM on April 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


I spent my teenage years in a very dark skies area of central/South Alabama, and have had some very intense light phenomena experiences where three or four of us would think we were being pulled over by the cops, would stop, and there would be no source, just the strobing lights around us in the car. No chopper sounds, no blimp, just lights swirling around us at about chest level. There are no swamps, so probably not swamp gas.

Our friends would laugh at us, until a month or two later it would happen to them and they would come in all pale and round-eyed from the same experience in a totally different location.

Fast forward to the nineties, and people started reporting the same experience in heavily wooded areas of North Alabama with roughly the same frequency.

The aururae never dip that low in the US, and St Elmo's fire requires different conditions, and I don't think ball lightning lasts for minutes at a time, and we never got any kind of satisfactory explanation for any of it.

Especially the "why Alabama?" part.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:34 AM on April 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


TLDR for the Wired article: these aren't actually declassified videos, they aren't proven to be linked to any pilot testimony, and one of them evidently first appeared on the website of a video production compny. Add that together and the whole thing starts smelling really dodgy.

I mean come on. We know the Pentagon has used UFO flaps before to cover black projects. So the task question we should be asking at this point is "What disinformation project is going on now?"

But then people believe in things ranging from "pizza parlor pedophile conspiracy" to "Bitcoin will be a legitimate currency", so the rave ugh gullibility of humanity can't be understated.
posted by happyroach at 11:45 AM on April 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


Heh... Speaking of conspiracies and the Denver airport, I am just going to link to this here... (And I am sure some will say it's a false flag operation, designed to make you think the conspiracy theories are just a joke...)
posted by jkaczor at 1:03 PM on April 29, 2019


« Older Scoot The Future   |   I didn't want to be the only straight person on... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments