Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Their suggestion (these guys never actually come out an take a real stand) is that what crashed might have been a US Navy dirigible. Now, as you look at the non-rigid blimps pictured above, one can easily imagine that they may have been the cause of more than a few UFO sightings over the years, whether private or government launched versions - the Navy was using various dirigibles in a number of ways until 1962, for example. Some large radar airships could stay aloft almost indefinitely. One of the ships established the world record for flight endurance of eleven days. In March of 1957, the Snow Bird, commanded by Cmdr. J. R. Hunt, one of the Navy's ZPG-2 airships, flew from Weymouth, Massachusetts to Europe and on to Africa ending at Key West, Florida without refueling or landing. It's not quite Phineas Fogg, but was still quite an achievement at the time.
All very interesting, but what does it have to do with the Roswell incident?
Nothing - but the Iconoclast(s) are suggesting that one crashed near Roswell in July, 1947 (no doubt looking to stir the pot, which is their sole raison d'etre), and that this was what the Roswell incident was really all about. Of course, with them it's all "wink wink, nudge nudge, call us for our secret password to our super-secret bona fide researcher site", which is like playing Texas Hold 'Em with a guy who says he's won, reaches for the pot, but won't show his hand (guess how long he gets to sit at the table doing that).
Anyway, this is hardly an original idea, which should come as no surprise given the past offerings thrown out their by the Iconoclast(s) / RRR Group, who seem to view UFO research / commentary as some sort of Jackson Pollock painting, only without Pollock's sense of over-arching purpose. Speculation of the "dirigible" angle can be found here, for example (scroll down).
Further, as a commenter has pointed out at their blog, they mislead their readers with the picture they've put up, which is not of the kind of non-rigid airship that the US Navy was flying in 1947 (especially the M-class blimps the Iconoclast(s) specifically refer to), but rather of the USS Macon, a rigid dirgible that crashed in 1935. That's the rough equivalent of putting a picture of Ronald Reagan up when you're talking about George Bush.
Here is the interchange between "Hollis" and the "Iconoclast(s)":
If you're going to do blurbs on subjects such as this, at least do a little homework first and not be so misleading. The photo you used is one of the USS Macon, a ZRS-5 class DIRIGIBLE, circi 1931, which is not even remotely related to the M-series NON-rigid BLIMPS of the 1947 era. A blimp is merely a 'gas-bag', such as a hot air balloon, which encloses a volume of lighter-than-air gaseous material such as helium.Huh? They're trying to find a picture of an M-class blimp by going through the drigible photos they've accumulated?
And yes, the M series blimps operated out of Almagordo, NM, since a primary helium production plant was located there. (it was a classified secret facility at that time). A lot of testing, including actual flights, was done using various ratios of hydrogen and helium. So of course, any lightning strike to the gas bag could easily cause a catastrophic explosion.
We used the blimp picture here for illustrative purposes only.
The one, small picture we have of the Navy blimp you reference shows only the tip of the craft.
We're going through the dirigible photos we've accumulated for the Goodyear series tested by the Navy.
Notice how they're trying to pretend they have expertise and resources that perhaps others don't.
Look, guys, it's not that hard - all you had to do was Google "M-Class blimp". Here's what one looks like:
It wasn't hard at all. If the Iconoclast(s) had a clue about what they're talking about, they would have found this photo, or one like it, of the proper airship, in five minutes or so. I'd tell them where to find this photo, but I think it's time they actually did some looking on their own.
Some of the paranormal news services, like the Anomalist, reference the posts of the Iconoclast(s). I can only assume they do so in order to offer a humourous break from the serious stories, because that's all the stuff offered up by the Iconoclast(s) is good for.
Addendum: April 26 - The Iconoclast(s) have now changed the photo they had from the USS Macon to the picture shown above. I guess it's a good thing for them that I didn't squirrel the photo away at my super-secret, password protected site for bona fide UFO researchers. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that their Roswell "trial balloon" is anything other than a colossal waste of time. There are photos on the Internet of crashed blimps and dirigibles (look them up yourself, boys), which are immediately recognizable as such to anyone other than a 3 year-old kid, and which would certainly have been recognizable to Major Marcel et al. But all of this does get them attention, and that's what they're all about, which is fair enough, if somewhat sad - they're not the first, and won't be the last, to glom onto a subject like UFOs for that reason. Just don't let them fool you into thinking they're serious about the UFO phenomenon, in any way, shape or form.
In the meantime - look, more M-class blimp photos!
Again, it took me a couple of minutes to find these ones.
P.S. If you want to read an excellent history of the US airship program, which is fascinating stuff in and of itself, you should read "Kite Balloons to Airships: The Navy's Lighter Than Air Experience" edited by Roy A. Grossnick and published by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare) and the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, which you can access here - no password required. Who knows - you might even come across a photo of an M-class blimp.
No, not quite (although they have apparently discovered kryptonite). But it's fairly big news nonetheless.
Potentially Habitable Planet FoundHawking should know better than to state that we haven't been visited by any "little green men" - we have no idea what alien life would look like, and it's pure hubris to imagine that we would be at the top of the intelligence chain when it comes to life and how advanced it might be. So, while it's true that we can't get to the stars yet, there's absolutely no proof that it can't be done - meaning they might have made their way here (key word? "might").
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON - For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for "life in the universe."
The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a "red dwarf," is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.
There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is known about it. And it's worth noting that scientists' requirements for habitability count Mars in that category: a size relatively similar to Earth's with temperatures that would permit liquid water. However, this is the first outside our solar system that meets those standards.
"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the planet. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."
The results of the discovery have not been published but have been submitted to the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Alan Boss, who works at the Carnegie Institution of Washington where a U.S. team of astronomers competed in the hunt for an Earth-like planet, called it "a major milestone in this business."
The planet was discovered by the European Southern Observatory's telescope in La Silla, Chile, which has a special instrument that splits light to find wobbles in different wave lengths. Those wobbles can reveal the existence of other worlds.
What they revealed is a planet circling the red dwarf star, Gliese 581. Red dwarfs are low-energy, tiny stars that give off dim red light and last longer than stars like our sun. Until a few years ago, astronomers didn't consider these stars as possible hosts of planets that might sustain life.
The discovery of the new planet, named 581 c, is sure to fuel studies of planets circling similar dim stars. About 80 percent of the stars near Earth are red dwarfs.
The new planet is about five times heavier than Earth. Its discoverers aren't certain if it is rocky like Earth or if its a frozen ice ball with liquid water on the surface. If it is rocky like Earth, which is what the prevailing theory proposes, it has a diameter about 1 1/2 times bigger than our planet. If it is an iceball, as Mayor suggests, it would be even bigger.
Based on theory, 581 c should have an atmosphere, but what's in that atmosphere is still a mystery and if it's too thick that could make the planet's surface temperature too hot, Mayor said.
However, the research team believes the average temperature to be somewhere between 32 and 104 degrees and that set off celebrations among astronomers.
Until now, all 220 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system have had the "Goldilocks problem." They've been too hot, too cold or just plain too big and gaseous, like uninhabitable Jupiter.
The new planet seems just right — or at least that's what scientists think.
"This could be very important," said NASA astrobiology expert Chris McKay, who was not part of the discovery team. "It doesn't mean there is life, but it means it's an Earth-like planet in terms of potential habitability."
Eventually astronomers will rack up discoveries of dozens, maybe even hundreds of planets considered habitable, the astronomers said. But this one — simply called "c" by its discoverers when they talk among themselves — will go down in cosmic history as No. 1.
Besides having the right temperature, the new planet is probably full of liquid water, hypothesizes Stephane Udry, the discovery team's lead author and another Geneva astronomer.
But that is based on theory about how planets form, not on any evidence, he said.
"Liquid water is critical to life as we know it," co-author Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University in France, said in a statement. "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."
Other astronomers cautioned it's too early to tell whether there is water.
"You need more work to say it's got water or it doesn't have water," said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, press officer for the American Astronomical Society. "You wouldn't send a crew there assuming that when you get there, they'll have enough water to get back."
The new planet's star system is a mere 20.5 light years away, making Gliese 581 one of the 100 closest stars to Earth. It's so dim, you can't see it without a telescope, but it's somewhere in the constellation Libra, which is low in the southeastern sky during the midevening in the Northern Hemisphere.
"I expect there will be planets like Earth, but whether they have life is another question," said renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in an interview with The Associated Press in Orlando. "We haven't been visited by little green men yet."
Before you book your extrastellar flight to 581 c, a few caveats about how alien that world probably is: Anyone sitting on the planet would get heavier quickly, and birthdays would add up fast since it orbits its star every 13 days.
Gravity is 1.6 times as strong as Earth's so a 150-pound person would feel like 240 pounds.
But oh, the view. The planet is 14 times closer to the star it orbits. Udry figures the red dwarf star would hang in the sky at a size 20 times larger than our moon. And it's likely, but still not known, that the planet doesn't rotate, so one side would always be sunlit and the other dark.
Distance is another problem. "We don't know how to get to those places in a human lifetime," Maran said.
Two teams of astronomers, one in Europe and one in the United States, have been racing to be the first to find a planet like 581 c outside the solar system.
The European team looked at 100 different stars using a tool called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher) to find this one planet, said Xavier Bonfils of the Lisbon Observatory, one of the co-discoverers.
Much of the effort to find Earth-like planets has focused on stars like our sun with the challenge being to find a planet the right distance from the star it orbits. About 90 percent of the time, the European telescope focused its search more on sun-like stars, Udry said.
A few weeks before the European discovery earlier this month, a scientific paper in the journal Astrobiology theorized a few days that red dwarf stars were good candidates.
"Now we have the possibility to find many more," Bonfils said.
This news will probably provide a little boost for the ETH in the short term, and, as more and more potentially inhabitable planets are discovered nearby (relatively speaking, of course), the possibility that some UFOs may be ET will look more realistic, or at the very least be met with fewer howls of derision.
Which is a long way from proof positive - rather, it's just a shifting of the odds a bit.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The accompanying blurb reads as follows:
Whether they believe or not, people all over the world are fascinated by the subject of UFOs. Best Evidence, a SPACE supported documentary, looks at the 10 best UFO cases to date. Many are unknown to the general public, who for years have been fed tales of crashed flying saucers and government cover-ups at the expense of real evidence that shows that there is something unexplained happening in the sky.
As some UFO researchers are busy these days bashing UFO documentaries and networks and producers at UFO Updates, I'd like to take a moment to thank the good folks at Space for giving me the opportunity to try something a bit different - a serious film about serious UFO cases. It's a risk for them, and they deserve all the credit in the world (and beyond) for taking it, especially Charlotte Engel, who heads up their independent production section, and greenlit the film over two years ago.
The next UFO-related film I make, assuming I ever make another, which is at best a 50 / 50 proposition, would probably focus on the tongue-in-cheek, weird and wacky world of ufology (where truth really is stranger than fiction). Something where I head out with my pals Nick Redfern, Mac Tonnies, Tim Binnall and Greg Bishop on a ufoological road trip across America maybe - definitely in an RV. Kris Lee Mcbride will be tagging along as well. At the end we meet the Court Jester of Ufoology, the one and only Jim Moseley. I've earned the right to look at the lighter side of it all.
But for the moment, I'm Mr. Serious, and if Best Evidence isn't quite Dick Hall's The UFO Evidence (and I never claimed it would be, knowing full well that no documentary can match a book for detail), Dick was still smart enough to see the merit in the project, and contribute, as were a lot of others.
And unlike Peter Jennings and his team, I was smart enough to recognize the contribution that Dick has and continues to make - he's in the film, along with Nick Pope, Stan Friedman, Bruce Maccabee, Mac Tonnies, Don Ledger, and our chief consultant and my good friend, Brad Sparks - as well as witnesses Colonel Charles Halt, Captain Robert Salas, and Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Bailey.
Is it the greatest film ever made? Hardly - that would be Lust for a Vampire.* But is it a film you're going to want to see?
I hope so.
You can keep an eye on developments at the Best Evidence blog site.
* Just kidding. The greatest film ever made is clearly Dying Fall.**
** Still kidding. Obviously, it's Do You Believe in Majic?***
*** Okay, okay... I'll be serious this time. The greatest film ever made was...
An example would be something like:
"Well, George Bush did X, which means that a president fifty years before must have or probably also did X." Or words / meaning to that effect.
Or this (one of ufology's favourites):
"Our intel and military services act like X today, which means that they must have acted like X in 1947."
And so forth.
History students are taught from day one to avoid this kind of "reasoning", but even there it rears its head more than you might think (I marked enough undergrad history papers to know whereof I speak - indeed, I've been guilty of it in the past myself).
Ahistorical analysis can be difficult to detect sometimes, particularly when the time periods are relatively close to each other, as is usually the case when the conversation is about UFOs (the difference between 1947 and today, which spans the modern UFO era, is a drop in the temporal bucket).
But try it this way:
"Our intel and military services act like X today, which means that they must have acted like X in the Revolutionary War."
That doesn't make much sense, does it?
This does not mean that there are not common threads that run through history. But these are patterns / conclusions that are drawn from common facts, not the other way around.
When examining historical events, we always have to remember to view them in their proper context, and not view them through the prism of our own time and experiences. In other words, we should stick to the facts as they were, not as we would like them to be, or think they were, and draw our conclusions from that. We can still be wrong (facts often support more than one reasonable interpretation), but at least we'll have gone about the process in the proper fashion, which always decreases the chances for error.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
This is how Major General Landry, who retired from the USAF in 1962, and died in 2000, described it in an addendum to a 1974 oral history interview (original here):
In this time period the UFO phenomenon was getting quite a bit of play in the press, radio, TV and from miscellaneous other sources. All manner of objects and things were being seen in the sky by people, including attempted UFO landings and UFO hoverings over isolated areas. There was even a report of seeing little men with big round heads getting in and out of a UFO. Well, the President, like any other citizen, is exposed to all these goings on, too.
In any case, I was called one afternoon to come to the Oval Office--the President wanted to see me. We talked about UFO reports and what might be the meaning for all these rather way-out reports of sightings, and the subject in general. The president said he hadn't give much serious thought to all these reports; but at the same time, he said, if there was any evidence of a strategic threat to the national security, the collection and evaluation of UFO data by Central Intelligence warranted more intense study and attention at the highest government level.
I was directed to report quarterly to the President after consulting with Central Intelligence people, as to whether or not any UFO incidents received by them could be considered as having any strategic threatening implications at all.
The report was to be made orally by me unless it was considered by intelligence to be so serious or alarming as to warrant a more detailed report in writing. During the four and one-half years in office there, all reports were made orally. Nothing of substance considered credible or threatening to the country was ever received from intelligence.
Note: the Air Force had been charged by the Department of Defense with the collection and evaluation of UFO data from all sources such as the other services, the National Weather Service, and any other reliable source.
So, what conclusions can be drawn from Landry's statement, the accuracy of which has never been disputed?
First, President Truman was clearly interested, at least to a degree, in UFO reports. This shouldn't come as a surprise - lots of people, in and out of government, were interested in UFO reports in the late 1940s, for the very reasons that Landry mentioned.
Second, there was no super-secret group, whether MJ-12 or otherwise, set up by Truman to deal with UFOs. If there had been, there was no conceivable reason for him to ask Landry (shown above in WWII, as commander of the 56th Fighter Group) for quarterly reports on the UFO phenomenon.
Finally - and this follows from the second conclusion, although it is less certain than the first two - there was probably no crash of an alien spacecraft at Roswell, or anywhere else prior to 1948. If there had been, the MJ-12 proponents are likely correct in their assertion that Truman would have established some sort of oversight group. If he had, however, he would not have asked Landry to give him regular reports, and check in with the CIA.
These are the logical conclusions that should have been drawn from Landry's statement a long time ago. And yet ufologists like Grant Cameron, and Stan Friedman ignored them.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
What they're obviously unaware of is that there was more than one RB47 case - although the 1957 one is the spectacular one, there were others. UFOs made a habit of playing tag with one of the most sophisticated electronic surveillance airplanes in the world.
One of the other incidents involved a plane in which Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Bailey was flying as an ECM officer. Bailey, pictured at the left with me in his home outside of Dallas, Texas, back in 2006, has served as the de facto historian for the RB47 since his retirement (his book We See All is a wonderful airman's memoir of what it was like to fly back then). He describes his crew's own incident in my just completed documentary, Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases. Bailey (third from right in the photo at left, back in his USAF days) also describes the aftermath, not only of his incident, but of others involving RB47 crews, including the classic 1957 case. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time he had talked about his case on camera.
Critics like Phil Klass have had a hard time solving just one RB47 case. It gets even harder to solve several, all of which had the same general characteristics, and all of which were reported by the best crews the United States Air Force had flying back then, with the best equipment - guys who more than once came up wing-to-wing with the Soviets, and never backed down.
In short, the kind of men you could rely on to not get rattled by simple lights in the sky.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
As it would be hard to find a photo of a meeting for a group that never existed, the answer is no.
However, this photo of a 1948 meeting of the National Security Council does show some alleged members of MJ-12 - Sidney Souers, Roscoe Hillenkoetter, and James Forrestal.
You can find the original at the ARC in the NARA - here.
It's a wonderful resource, with lots of old photos already digitally archived - like this one of Forrestal, looking grim as he walks down the street. Note the guy to his right in the background, filming him.
The ARC site makes history come alive, which is always a good thing. And who knows - maybe there are some UFO-related nuggets hidden in there somewhere, waiting for a diligent researcher?
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
Friedman has always been a lecturer, first and foremost. I highly suggest listening to the Xmas episode of BoA : Audio where we talk about his "early years". I agree that if you listen to a lot of Friedman, you'll hear a lot of stuff for the 2nd, 3rd, etc. time. But, considering he gives countless interviews a year, it's to be expected he'll have his set "routines". It's the job of the interviewer to (a) know those routines and avoid getting into them and (b) generate new, different and/or fresh material from him. (I can only hope I succeed w. the annual X-mas specials).Original here (go to the "ufology" section, and then the "Stanton Friedman" thread).
It's easy to look back now and consider him a great "researcher", because Roswell and MJ-12 got so huge. But he sort of lucked into Roswell and never knew it would become a cultural institution that it ended up being and the MJ-12 documents remain one of Ufology's more dubious stories, despite their fame.
I haven't heard him asked about alternative dimension hypothesis. As a matter of fact, I can't recall anyone really asking him his thoughts on all the various other theories. If you know of an interview, let me know, I'm sure it would be intersting to hear. I'll also keep that line of questioning in mind for next year's Xmas special.
I'll agree w. Paul Kimball in that Friedman will be (or at least should be) remembered by history as the great popularizer of the UFO phenomenon. By sheer longevity and dilligence, he's planted the UFO seed in the minds of countless people.
But is there a scientific basic for Psi?
If that's a question that interests you (and frankly how could it not), then you should pick up The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena by Dr. Dean Radin, Director of the Consciousness Research Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Radin has done cutting edge psi research for Princeton University's department of psychology, the U.S government, AT&T, the University of Edinburgh, and other groups, agencies, and businesses. You might not buy everything he has to say (I'm not sure I do), but it's certainly thought-provoking stuff.
Here is an excerpt from chapter 1:
This isn't dull grade 10 introductory physical science here. This is "gee-whiz" stuff that could have a very real application in our day-to-day world, and could alter the way we look at ourselves and our universe (or is that "mulitiverse"?). For example, Radin speculates about some of the applications Psi might have for politics:
In science, the acceptance of new ideas follows a predictable, four-stage sequence. In Stage 1, skeptics confidently proclaim that the idea is impossible because it violates the Laws of Science. This stage can last from years to centuries, depending on how much the idea challenges conventional wisdom. In Stage 2, skeptics reluctantly concede that the idea is possible, but it is not very interesting and the claimed effects are extremely weak. Stage 3 begins when the mainstream realizes that the idea is not only important, but its effects are much stronger and more pervasive than previously imagined. Stage 4 is achieved when the same critics who used to disavow any interest in the idea begin to proclaim that they thought of it first. Eventually, no one remembers that the idea was once considered a dangerous heresy.
The idea discussed in this book is in the midst of the most important and the most difficult of the four transitions – from Stage 1 into Stage 2. While the idea itself is ancient, it has taken more than a century to conclusively demonstrate it in accordance with rigorous, scientific standards. This demonstration has accelerated Stage 2 acceptance, and Stage 3 can already be glimpsed on the horizon. The idea is that those compelling, perplexing and sometimes profound human experiences known as "psychic phenomena" are real.
This will come as no surprise to most of the world’s population, because the majority already believes in psychic phenomena. But over the past few years, something new has propelled us beyond old debates over personal beliefs. The reality of psychic phenomena is now no longer based solely upon faith, or wishful thinking, or absorbing anecdotes. It is not even based upon the results of a few scientific experiments. Instead, we know that these phenomena exist because of new ways of evaluating massive amounts of scientific evidence collected over a century by scores of researchers.
Psychic, or "psi" phenomena fall into two general categories. The first is perception of objects or events beyond the range of the ordinary senses. The second is mentally causing action at a distance. In both categories, it seems that intention, the mind’s will, can do things that – according to prevailing scientific theories – it isn’t supposed to be able to do. We wish to know what is happening to loved ones, and somehow, sometimes, that information is available even over large distances. We wish to speed the recovery of a loved one’s illness, and somehow they get better quicker, even at a distance. Mind willing, many interesting things appear to be possible. Understanding such experiences requires an expanded view of human consciousness.
Is the mind merely a mechanistic, information-processing bundle of neurons? Is it a "computer made of meat" as some cognitive scientists and neuroscientists believe? Or is it something more? The evidence suggests that while many aspects of mental functioning are undoubtedly related to brain structure and electrochemical activity, there is also something else happening, something very interesting.
This is for real?
When discussing the reality of psi phenomena, especially from the scientific perspective, one question always hovers in the background: You mean this is for real? In the midst of all the nonsense and excessive silliness proclaimed in the name of psychic phenomena, the misinformed use of the term parapsychology by self-proclaimed "paranormal investigators," the perennial laughing stock of magicians and conjurers … this is for real?
The short answer is, Yes.
A more elaborate answer is, psi has been shown to exist in thousands of experiments. There are disagreements over to how to interpret the evidence, but the fact is that virtually all scientists who have studied the evidence, including the hard-nosed skeptics, now agree that there is something interesting going on that merits serious scientific attention.
A society that consciously uses precognitive information to guide the future is one that is realizing true freedom. That is, the acts of billions of people seeing into their own futures, and acting on those visions, may result in fracturing undesirable, "fated" destinies set in motion long ago. This would allow us to create the future as we wish, rather than blindly follow a predetermined course thorugh our ignornace.
On the other hand, Radin points out the potential problems, which sound like something straight from a science-fiction novel, but which may be more real than we currently imagine:
If too many people begin to accurately peek at their possible futures, and they change behaviors as a result, the causal loops established between the future and the past may agitate the future from a few likely outcomes into a completely undetermined probabilistic mush.
If all of this sounds a bit too much like Minority Report for some, it's worth remembering that often science fiction authors have been better at predicting future events than so-called experts. In this case, however, Radin goes much further than science fiction, and provides a scientific framework around which we can discuss intelligently the possibilities of things that have fascinated humans, in one way or another, for thousands of years.
One thing that Radin says above all others rings true with me. We are arrogant. We assume, in many respects, that we know all there is to know, and we have experienced all that there is to experience. In taking this attitude, we have allowed ourselves to stop progressing. The desire to challenge new frontiers has waned. We have become complacent.
Future generations will undoubtedly look back upon the twentieth century with a certain poignancy. Our progeny will shake their heads with disbelief over the arrogance we displayed in our meager understanding of nature. It took three hundred years of hard-won scientific advances merely to verify the existence of something that people had been experiencing for millenia.
At the turn of the twentieth century, imaginative scientists were slowly becoming aware of radical new theories on the horizon about space, time, matter, and energy. Some sensed, correctly, that developments such as relativity and quantum theory would radically alter our understanding of reality itself. Almost a century later, the impact of those discoveries is still reverberating throughout science, technology, and society.
As the twenty-first century dawns, astounding new visions of reality are stirring.
It's time to change that, and to rediscover the essense of the human spirit - the desire to explore, and the ability to embrace change. Our journey shouldn't be based on belief, or faith, but rather on science, and logic, and reason - none of which precludes an examination of that which might be called "the paranormal".
After all, if history has shown us, one generation's "paranormal" can become another generation's relatively mundane fact-of-life.
Remember that the next time you get on an airplane, or use a computer, or talk on the telephone.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
President George Bush the Younger has spent his entire term looking at the world in black and white, at least on the major issues of the day. This Manichean outlook on things (which is not unique to Bush - see Ted Kennedy) is one of the biggest single failings of the political leadership in the United States today (ditto in Canada, but to a slightly lesser extent), because it's just not an "us vs. them", "good vs. evil" world out there. Things are usually more complicated than that.
In many respects, ufology suffers from the same the same "you're either with us or agin' us" attitude. This is particularly true of die-hard ETH believers and disbelievers (the Bush and Kennedy, or vice versa, of what passes for ufological discourse).
As with modern politics, so too in ufology does the moderate centrist feel left out. There often seems to be no room for what Greg Bishop has called "The Excluded Middle".
What's this? You agree with Phil Klass on something?? Then you must be one of "them"!
Huh? You think that Stan Friedman made a good point? Then you must be one of "them"!
A pox on the Manichean outlook, I say. It's high time for "The Excluded Middle" in ufology to reassert itself, just as it is for "The Excluded Middle" in society as a whole to reassert itself.
People need to recognize that:
a. they're not always going to be right;
b. people make mistakes; and
c. reasonable people can disagree reasonably over just about any issue.
But it takes two to tango. So, if you run into someone who comes from an "us vs. them" perspective, my advice would be to ignore them (ed. note - in other words, do as Paul says, not as he always does). Find people who keep an open mind, and are willing to listen to what you have to say. Then, if they disagree with you, don't beat them over the head with a rhetorical bat (or any other kind) - counter their arguments, have a dialogue, and, if necessary at the end of it all, agree to disagree (preferably over a beer or several).
That's what Nick Redfern (Roswell theory - "boo, hiss"), Greg Bishop (remote viewing - "I don't buy it"), Mac Tonnies (Whitley Strieber - "Ugh") and I all manage to do on a regular basis. It's what Kevin Randle did recently with his balanced look at the controversy over Jesse Marcel's record, which isn't as cut-and-dried as either Marcel's detractors or his defenders would make out.
... it seems that which ever side you decide to come down on, you’re going to run into some trouble. Marcel apparently embellished his record, though it seems only a single time and that he was who he said he was in July 1947. [Sheridan] Cavitt, it seems, changed his story on a number of occasions and then never explained why he’d never told Marcel or Blanchard it was a balloon if he knew the truth. So, as in so much of the Roswell case, you can look at the spin of the researchers and skeptics, look at the records of the soldiers, and still not know, for certain, where the truth lies.None of this means that you can't have strongly held opinions, and express them just as strongly. Rather, it means that you should try not to label other people as "them" simply because they disagree with you, and you should always recognize that history may show that "they" were right and "you" were wrong... or, even more likely, you were both partly wrong and party right, and the truth was somewhere in the middle.
It's a valuable lesson I've learned from first-hand experience over the years, and try to always remember to put into practice.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The real constant in the paranormal is not the phenomenon itself - it is the human observer. Hydrogen is hydrogen, regardless of whether a person sees it. But what is a ghost if there isn't a person there to swear it's the shade of dear, departed Uncle Ned? What is a meandering light in the night sky if there is no person there to label it an interplanetary spaceship? Do paranormal events have any life beyond what is observed or interpreted by people?An interesting question, along the lines of the old "if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound" conundrum - to which I have always answered, "well, d'uh - of course it does", although I recognize that philosophy students need questions like this to justify the tuition that they've shelled out for their undergraduate degrees.
"Skeptical", who was inspired by a recent post at Kevin Randle's blog, concluded:
To quote Agent Mulder, I want to believe. But the vast majority of what I've seen lately actually leads me away from that conclusion. I've seen nothing but chicanery, muddled thinking and mysticism. It may be fun to think about, but at the end of the day, it appears that it is truly a tale told by an idiot - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.That seems to be an apt description of public ufology, but it isn't necessarily an apt description of the serious study of the UFO phenomenon, particularly the work which goes on sub rosa.
Still, I can understand and sympathize with Skeptical, with the caveat that I neither want to believe, nor disbelieve. I'm just curious.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
With one exception, that I've kept under my hat so far.
A couple of years ago, I was told a story by some folks I know on Prince Edward Island, one of them a very nice and thoroughly honest lady in her late 80s at the time, and the other her son, who is in his 40s. Let's call them Mrs. X and Mr. Y.
One of my favourite UFO cases is the Vins-sur-Caramy case from France in 1957. Why? Because in many respects it mirrors exactly the story that these two people, who I know to be very credible, told me.
Mrs. X and other members of her family, including her husband, a civil servant of impeccable reputation who is, alas, deceased, saw an object descend down into their field one afternoon in the mid-1960s, which Mrs. X and her son, who related what he had been told by people who were there, described pretty much exactly the way the Vins-sur-Caramy witnesses described the object they saw in April, 1957.
The object seen by Mrs. X and other members of her family hovered over their field, perhaps a hundred yards away from their house, and then moved away at a high rate of speed (this part is a bit different from the Vins-sur-Caramy account). It had made what can only be described as a small crop circle in the field - my term for what Mrs. X described (she did not use this term to me, nor did her son).
Mr. Y said that this incident had a profound impact on their family over the years, which Mrs. X confirmed, as have others. Mrs. X, a religious woman, called it a "forerunner" - a sign from God that something was going to happen (indeed, someone they knew was killed in a car accident a couple of days later). But it's clear that what they saw was a UFO.
I have kept the details vague as to exact date, place and persons involved because I'm still looking into it. But when people ask me why UFOs interest me, one of the reasons is because of this story, which was told to me by credible people who did not want to talk about it until I pressed them. I need to stress - I heard about it second-hand, and then went to these folks to talk about it. They did not come to me.
At any rate, as more information becomes available, I'll post it here.
If there are really aliens out there listening in, I hope they don't hear this. They'll think we're still stuck in pre-Enlightenment days.
Shostak et al manage the unholy trifecta of bad science - they distort facts, they ignore other facts, and they make mistakes about the facts. For example, at one point Shostak manages to conflate the MJ-12 documents with the legitimate CIA and NSA documents that Stan Friedman and others got through Freedom of Information Act requests. In the process, Shostak shows that he knows nothing about the subject he's chosen to bash.
Note also that Shostak et al tie the UFO phenomenon directly to the ETH, never once mentioning any other possibilities. The open mind that Dr. Michio Kaku urged people to keep with respect to the UFO phenomenon at the end of Seeing is Believing is nowhere to be found on Shostak's show.
In the meantime, SETI continues to search the skies for the ET equivalent of "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners", while pumping out, in the form of radio shows like this, the scientific equivalent of bad pro wrestling - phony, derivative (nary a new thought pops up in this episode), and just plain boring.
I've finally figured it out - Seth Shostak is the Vince McMahon of ufology.
Which means it's time for... a head-to-head showdown with...
The Easter Bunny!
Yet again, I find myself compelled to cast my vote for The Easter Bunny!
Look out Seth!
P.S. For some reason, this hilarious video reminds me of Easter during my fourth year at Acadia. Hmm...
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
As I, and many, many others have shown over the years, MJ-12 didn't exist, and the MJ-12 documents are bogus beyond any reasonable doubt (google MJ-12 in this blog's search engine to read past columns on this subject).
But that doesn't mean that Hillenkoetter and Menzel were unacquainted, or that Hillenkoetter wasn't playing games with members of the UFO community.
On 13 December, 1964, Major Donald Keyhoe, of NICAP, sent a letter to his old freind and former Annapolis classmate Hillenkoetter, who was a former member of NICAP's Board of Directors (1957 - 1962). In it, Keyhoe asked about information he had been given that Hillenkoetter, among other things, had discussed NICAP and UFOs with Menzel, and had commented favourably on one of Menzel's anti-UFO books.
Hillenkoetter replied on January 8, 1965, that Keyhoe had been misinformed. Hillenkoetter wrote:
This was a lie.
I saw Dr. Menzel at a dinner in December but other than saying 'Good Evening - Merry Christmas' there was no conversation and I have never carried on any conversation with Menzel about NICAP or UFO. He did send me a copy of his book for which I thanked him but took no posiiton on the statements he made. (emphasis added - PK)
On September 19, 1963, Hillenkoetter had written to Menzel:
Thank you very much for your book. To my mind, it was very well done and I enjoyed it and found it of great interest. I should say that you have effectively put to rest all surmises about flying saucers being from 'outer space'. You have done a thorough and praiseworthy job."
As I told you at the last 'Ends of the Earth', I resigned from NICAP about 20 months ago feeling that it had degenerated from an organization honestly trying to find out something definite about possible unknowns, into a body bickering about personalities.He concluded:
At all events, you have done a fine job and I am very grateful you were so kind as to send me your book Again with thanks and the hope of seeing you at the next 'Ends of the Earth'.In this letter, Hillenkoetter does indeed discuss UFOs and NICAP with Menzel, and also offers high praise for his anti-UFO work.
One could say that there was a difference between "carrying on a conversation with Menzel", as Hillenkoetter stated in his letter to Keyhoe, and "writing him", but, all things considered, that is a distinction without a meaningful difference in this instance.
So, what can we glean from this?
First and perhaps foremost in the context of MJ-12, Hillenkoetter's letter to Menzel is not the kind of letter that one MJ-12 member would have written to another, as I noted here.
However, it does reveal a fair bit about Hillenkoetter's character, little of it good, and leads one to wonder just how sincere he was about his involvement with NICAP in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
After all, if he would lie to Keyhoe about matters as relatively trivial as this, what else might he have lied to him about?
It's a question worth asking, even without the bogus MJ-12 connection.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I’ve never seen a UFO or made contact with aliens — although I have an incredibly rich dream life, which perhaps amounts to the same thing.Ouch - that ought to get a few people's dander up!
P.S. Mac - you can have your cake and eat it too.
Friday, April 06, 2007
I recommend that anyone who has not read Confrontations find a copy somewhere and read it. In the meantime, I'll provide a few well-thought out excerpts which should resonate today more than ever.
First, Vallee on the usefulness of lie detectors tests:
As for lie detector tests, which are routinely used by ufologists and the media to "prove" that UFO abductees are "telling the truth," their effectiveness is practically nil, as a long list of scientific references would show... A recent Harvard Medical School study has shown that truthful people flunked polygraph tests more often than actual liars. A possible explanation is that innocent people react to the stress of the test, while the guilty do everything in their power to remain calm. (p. 158)Vallee went on to talk about the need to understand the overall context of the abduction phenomenon:
There is another very important aspect to the entire abduction problem that has never been considered seriously by American ufology, obsessed as it is with immediate facts and first-order explanations. By ignoring this other aspect, we reduce considerably our chances of understanding the entire question. What I am referring to is the simple fact that abduction stories are not specific to the UFO phenomenon and certainly did not begin with Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. I pointed out in Invisible College that the structure of abduction stories was identical to that of occult initiation rituals. Several years before, I had shown in Passport to Magonia that contact with ufonauts was only a modern extension of the age-old tradition of contact with nonhuman consciousness in the form of angels, demons, elves, and sylphs. Such contact includes abduction, ordeal (including surgical operations), and sexual intercourse with the aliens. It often leaves marks and scars on the body and the mind, as do UFO abductions. Reaction to the publication of these facts was curious. In the United States, many ufologists simply denied them or ignored them. As late as 1988 Budd Hopkins summarily rejected the Magonia data as "folklore of obviously uncertain authenticity." (pp. 159 - 160)It should be noted that not all American ufologists ignored these facts - Kevin Randle details them in his excellent study The Abduction Enigma, which he co-wrote with Russ Estes and Dr. William Cone. But Kevin is in the minority.
As noted above, Vallee discusses the problems with the use of hypnosis (something I've talked about here in the past - see The Alien Abduction Cult and The Abduction Phenomenon and Hypnosis), but does he dismiss it out of hand? No. Instead, what he does is point out that the real problem is with the use of hypnosis by untrained ufologists like Hopkins and Jacobs who have an agenda to pursue. Vallee's recommendation?
Can help be provided to the traumatized witness who has experienced a close encounter and possibly an abduction? Absolutely. He or she should be directed to a qualified, professional hypnotherapist who is open-minded on the question of the UFO reality and who has reached no personal conclusion regarding the nature and origin of the phenomenon. And the ufologist should only be in the room at the request of, and under the control of, the therapist. Any other procedure, in my opinion, is unethical and unprofessional. Besides, it runs the risk of polluting the delicate, complex abduction database with fantastic and spurious material. It can drive UFO research over a very dangerous cliff. (p. 159)Vallee wrote this is 1990. Alas, few in ufology listened, and ufology was driven over that dangerous cliff, with predictable consequences: further marginalization by the legitimate scientific community, a withering of public interest as the stories of abductions (and crashed flying saucers, abductionology's evil twin) became commonplace (see Robert Fulford on Abductions for a recent sample of media reaction), and more often outrageous, all of which has led to a loss, as Vallee said elsewhere, of the true "signal" amidst the "noise", while most ufologists in the United States either openly embraced the very things Vallee warned them against, or through their silence signalled tacit acceptance.
Which, unfortunately, for the most part remains the status quo today.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Regardless of what one thinks of Sagan's analysis of the Hill case (and that should be the subject of some interesting comments here over the next few days), there are things he says here that ring true in a more general sense, and with which I wholeheartedly agree.
For example, when talking about lights seen in the night sky, Sagan states:
"If we can't identify a light, that doesn't make it a spaceship."
Exactly so. Brad Sparks made the same sensible comment to me a while back.
Sagan was cautious, and skeptical, and that's a good thing. To believers, he was too cautious; to disbelievers, he was too willing to consider "weird" possibilities, even if he rejected them in the end. I look at Sagan as one of the good guys - yes, maybe he ducked some of the harder questions about the UFO phenomenon (to my knowledge, he never looked into the RB47 case, and certainly never explained it), but he also kept an open mind, and I always got the impression when I was younger that he left the door open to the possibility that there was "magic" in the world, or beyond it. He just hadn't seen the proof that he needed, but he went further in looking for it than most scientists have.
If that isn't enough for the ETH believers, and too much for the disbelievers, it rings true to me, even when I disagree with his conclusions.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Which leaves us with the question - if "waves" do exist, as they seem to, why do they exist?
Jacques and Janine Vallee addressed this question many years ago, in Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma:
The development of a wave in any given country generally occurs independent of the happenings recorded elsewhere, news of which reaches the public of the country in question only much later. The newspapers are filled with reports once the interest of public opinion has been triggered by the first important cases, but it does not appear that there is any psychological influence of one country over another in this aspect. Frequently, as a wave develops, it is accompanied by an unusual occurrence, something of a "phenomenon" itself, in the press; the subject appears later and last longer in the newspapers than in reality; at first the press is slow to admit it; then it seeks to prolong its existence. (p. 105)
Looking at this analysis, one can examine the current "wave" (if indeed we are in the midst of one), and point squarely at the O'Hare airport sighting in November of 2006 as the trigger event. As the Vallees noted, at first the press (even the Internet UFO community) was slow to latch on to the case, but then it exploded in the mainstream media in January, where it lingered for a week or two. The ripple effects are still being felt, and there will probably be some sort of renewed interest when the NARCAP report is released.
Add to this the fact that 2007 is the major anniversary year for two very famous cases, Roswell (1947) and The Phoenix Lights (1997), which have already triggered media attention (as has the re-appearance of former Governor Fife Symington III), and you can see that we might be headed not just for a "wave", but a UFO tsunami in 2007. The advent of the Internet has added an extra level of exposure to these events that was not present when the Vallees wrote Challenge to Science.
The Vallees continued their analysis:
Naturally, both on the local and the global scene, a big story disturbs the law of variation; it encourages the witnesses of recent sightings to make their reports public, and, of course, it creates an ideal market for hoaxes of all kinds. (p. 105)
This effect can be expected to more pronounced in the modern era than it was when the Vallees wrote Challenge to Science, simply because the Internet makes the distribution of both witness accounts and hoaxes and frauds much easier (see the Serpo hoax, which achieved meme status quickly, and which some people still think was either real, or some form of disinformation).
The key, as the Vallees were quick to point out, is to distinguish the "signal" from the "noise".
For example, while one might think at first blush that UFOs "waves" are important events, and point to them as a sign of an impending "revelation" (as Whitley Strieber has recently done), they are giving in to the "noise" when they do so.
To use a sports analogy, hockey became much more popular in Los Angeles when Wayne Gretzky was traded there back in the 1990s. Suddenly there was a true superstar in the city, and the media took notice. However, when Gretzky left, things went back to normal - a small fan base, and apathetic media, and a team that was going nowhere fast.
Gretzky was the NHL equivalent in Los Angeles of an O'Hare-type sighting - an event that triggers a paroxysm of interest that builds upon itself, but which cannot possibly sustain itself indefinitely. When memory of that incident fades, or has played out (or, as in Gretzky's case, moves on to another team), things go back to the status quo.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing, at least as far as the UFO phenomenon in concerned, because the sudden interest of the media can detract from the real research being done, usually behind the scenes by dedicated researchers and investigators most people of whom the vast majority of people are unaware, even within "ufology". They don't get distracted by the "noise" (which is - thanks to the Internet and radio shows like Coast 2 Coast more like tinnitus these days) because they understand that it is the "signal" itself which is really important - and the "signal" is there, year in and year out, regardless of whether a major case spawns a "wave" that captures the attention of the general public and the mainstream media for a short while.
After all, there's still NHL hockey in Los Angeles, years after Gretzky moved on. It might not be great hockey these days (the Kings had a lousy year in 2006-07), but its still there, with a small but loyal group of fans, and some good young players, working away at building a team that may one day make another run for the Stanley Cup.
And they still have the memories of the day when the plucky Kings, through hard work, grit and determination to not give up, came back from a 5 - 0 deficit after two periods in the Stanley Cup playoffs to beat... Wayne Gretzky and the mighty Edmonton Oilers!
So too the serious study of the UFO phenomenon.
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you,
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away."
In the context of the study of the UFO phenomenon, I would paraphrase that as follows:
"Where have you gone, Jacques Vallee?
Ufology turns its lonely eyes to you."
Why does Jacques Vallee, who hasn't been involved, at least publicly, in "ufology" for years now (notwithstanding one conference appearance a year ago), still inspire a great deal of respect and admiration amongst people who take the UFO phenomenon seriously, and engage their imagination?
Because he took it seriously, because he was thoughtful, because he was articulate, and because he always kept an open mind. He was - indeed, is - one of the "giants", along with Hynek, McDonald, Friedman and Keyhoe.
In Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma (the title says it all) he wrote:
The "UFO Phenomenon," with all its disturbing aspects, presents a most unwelcome challenge to the physical and philosophical conception of the universe painstakingly formed in the course of many centuries of civilization on this planet. But it is there; we cannot forever refuse to study it. And it could well be that, in the final analysis, our own existence will be dependent upon the sincerity with which we conduct this research.He's been described as a "heretic amongst heretics." I asked him to participate in Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases, because I have a tremendous amount of respect for his work and his insights, but, alas, he very politely declined, although he provided some keen insight to a couple of questions I had.
If Vallee would ever agree, I would love to do a documentary on his life and times, much like Stanton T. Friedman is Real. That's one UFO-related film that would still interest me.
Until that far-off, probably-never-going-to-happen day, I, like many others interested in the UFO phenomenon, wish that "Joltin' Jacques" would come back, and engage our imaginations once again.
Because the serious study of the UFO phenomenon needs more "heretics" like him, and is poorer for his public absence.