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Science Panel Urges Study Of UFO Reports

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>
Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 09:42:44 -0400
Fwd Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 09:42:44 -0400
Subject: Science Panel Urges Study Of UFO Reports

From: The Washington Post site at:


Panel Urges Study Of UFO Reports Unexplained Phenomena Need
Scrutiny, Science Group Says

By Kathy Sawyer Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, June 29,
1998; Page A01

Some supposed UFO sightings have been accompanied by unexplained
physical evidence that deserves serious scientific study, an
international panel of scientists has concluded.

In the first independent scientific review of the controversial
topic in almost 30 years, directed by physicist Peter Sturrock
of Stanford University, the panel emphasized that it had found
no convincing evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence or any
violation of natural laws.

But the panel cited cases that included intriguing and
inexplicable details, such as burns to witnesses, radar
detections of mysterious objects, strange lights appearing
repeatedly in the skies over certain locales, aberrations in the
workings of automobiles, and radiation and other damage found in

The 50-page review, being released today, asserts that the
scientific community might learn something worthwhile if it can
overcome the fear of ridicule associated with the topic and get
some funding for targeted research to try to explain these

"It may be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports to extract
information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to
science," the report stated, adding that such research could
also improve understanding of, and in some cases debunk,
supposed UFO events.

For example, Earth science researchers have eventually accepted
several phenomena "originally dismissed as folk tales,"
including meteorites and certain types of lightning, the panel

The findings are from a four-day workshop held in Tarrytown,
N.Y., followed by a second three-day meeting in San Francisco,
both last fall. The results are published in the current issue
of the Society for Scientific Exploration, which was established
by Sturrock.

The inquiry involved scientists from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, Cornell and Princeton universities, the
universities of Arizona and Virginia, and institutions in France
and Germany, among others. A panel of nine physical scientists
analyzed presentations by eight UFO investigators, who were
encouraged to present their strongest evidence. The project was
funded by Laurance S. Rockefeller through his LSR Fund because
of a belief, the report said, that "the problem is in a very
unsatisfactory state of ignorance and confusion."

The panel suggests the scientific community has suffered a
failure of curiosity regarding UFOs. Despite an abundance of
reports over the last 50 years, "and despite great public
interest, the scientific community has shown remarkably little
interest in this topic."

Asked about the conclusions, a sampling of scientists and
officials outside the panel expressed surprise that a topic with
such a high "giggle factor" might be reincarnated for serious
study, possibly further blurring the lines between legitimate
research and the "lunatic fringe." Some said they would never
comment on the touchy topic, and some said they would reserve
judgment until they had read the report.

In a telephone interview, Sturrock said that he hopes at least
some scientists "will read the report and become curious. . . .
The challenge is to do good science on this issue. It's

Some reported UFO incidents could have been caused by rare
natural phenomena, such as electrical activity high above
thunderstorms, or other known physical effects, the panel found.
But there were some phenomena they could not easily explain.

The existing evidence from past cases is unlikely to produce
either a solid debunking or other satisfactory explanation of
the reports, the panel found. But "new data, scientifically
acquired and analyzed (especially of well-documented, recurrent
events) could yield useful information," it said.

To be credible to the scientific community, future UFO
"evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a
willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses" that so far has been
lacking, the report said.

sparse, suggests microwave, infrared, visible and ultraviolet
radiation, although "a few cases seem to point toward high doses
of ionizing radiation, such as X-rays or gamma rays."

Radar detections of UFOs. Scientific study would require the
cooperation of military authorities. An example occurred in
January 1994, in the skies above Paris, when an airborne crew
saw "a gigantic disk" more than 3,000 feet in diameter. The disk
was detected on military radar for 50 seconds, slowed abruptly
from 110 knots to zero, then disappeared.

Semi-regular sightings of strange lights (such as those in
Hessdalen, Norway, and Marfa, Tex.), in some cases associated
with measured magnetic disturbances.

Apparent gravitational and/or inertial effects, as in a case
that occurred in Ohio in 1973. A number of witnesses, both on
the ground and in an Army Reserve helicopter, saw lights,
including a powerful green glow, and a "cigar-shaped gray
metallic object," during which time the helicopter ascended
although its controls were set for descent. Scientists
apparently failed to investigate the one item of physical
evidence -- a magnetic compass that had begun to spin during the
event and was subsequently removed because it was unserviceable.

Injuries to vegetation and other ground traces. In a 1981 case
in Trans-en-Provence, France, a witness reported an ovoid object
emiting a low whistle as it flew in for a landing. Police and
special UFO researchers found two concentric circles and other
traces that, when subjected to laboratory analysis, showed the
soil had been heavily compacted, though without major heating,
and there were symptoms of aging in the plants there. A
toxicologist concluded that some, though not all, of the effects
could have been caused by powerful microwave radiation.

The Sturrock group said that because of advances in knowledge
and technical capability, chances of significant learning are
greater now than 30 years ago when the Air Force and the CIA
supported a two-year investigation by the Colorado Project,
directed by Edward U. Condon. That 1968 report concluded that
"further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in
the expectation that science will be advanced."

The Air Force last year made public its latest report on the
infamous 1947 incident near the town of Roswell, N.M., which
gave rise to a whole flying-saucer culture of paranoia, up to
and including the fictional television program "The X-Files."
Titled "The Roswell Report: Case Closed," that report, like the
Sturrock panel, reiterated earlier conclusions that there is
no evidence of aliens or their spaceships.

         =A9 Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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