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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 29

Contributors Comment On 'Sturrock' Review

From: Stig_Agermose@online.pol.dk (Stig Agermose)
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 04:21:00 +0200
Fwd Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 23:23:08 -0400
Subject: Contributors Comment On 'Sturrock' Review





Published Monday, June 29, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News 

Science panel says it's worth evaulating UFO reports

Mercury News Staff Writer

For more than 50 years, UFO investigators have scoured the skies
for signs of alien life -- completely snubbed by the scientific
community as cranks.

But today, in the first independent scientific review of UFO
evidence in nearly 30 years, scientists gave a faint nod in
their direction by concluding that it might be worthwhile to
evaluate UFO reports, marking a major and important shift in the
eyes of some UFO investigators.

"What we need are more scientists looking at this area if we are
going to get answers," said Peter Sturrock, the Stanford
University physicist who convened the international panel of
"skeptical" scientists. Sturrock assembled the group after being
approached by New York philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller,
the grandson of John D. Rockefeller and someone who reportedly
has a longstanding interest in UFOs and psychic phenomena.

Sturrock, whose Society for Scientific Exploration promotes the
examination of ideas outside the scientific mainstream, hopes
the panel's review of UFO reports, to be published today in the
alternative Journal of Scientific Exploration, spurs more solid
research in the arena.

To be sure, after a rare meeting between scientists and UFO
investigators, the scientific panel remained skeptical.
Nevertheless, they said the scientific community's refusal to
even entertain the analysis of such information has been

"The history of Earth science includes several examples of the
final acceptance of phenomena originally dismissed as folk
tales," such as meteorites and sprites, the report says. "It may
therefore be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports to
extract information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to

One UFO investigator was pleased with the findings.

Openness, evidence

Mark Rodeghier, of the Center for UFO Study in Chicago,
interprets the panel's greater openness as an important step to
bring the world of science -- which demands empirical evidence
-- closer to that of UFO observers, some of whom believe they
now know what aliens do during human abductions.

Taking a break from the national Mutual UFO Network conference,
Rodeghier said, "It would be extremely important for us to know
if aliens are visiting the Earth surreptitiously. I didn't
expect in five days that they would change their mind
completely. I think it's sufficient that they say the subject
deserves study."

For its review, the panel examined evidence such as a 1981
photograph of "a silvery oval-shaped object set against the blue
sky," taken in British Columbia -- the photographer swears it
was not a trick photo of a frisbee -- and a 1965 report by two
French submarine crews in Martinique of "a large luminous object
(that) arrived slowly and silently from the west, flew to the
south .=BF.=BF. and vanished like a rapidly extinguished light

The last time scientists took a serious look at UFOs was in
1968, when Dr. Edward U. Condon, director of the Colorado
Project, undertook a two-year study sponsored by the Central
Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Air Force. His dismissive
conclusion: "Nothing has come of the study of UFOs in the past
21 years .=BF.=BF. and "further extensive study of UFOs probably
cannot be justified .=BF.=BF."

Already some of this panel's scientists are steeling themselves
for ridicule from peers.

"I haven't gone around and advertised I've done this. I thought
I'd wait until our report came out and then let them take their
jabs then," said Thomas Holzer, senior scientist at the National
Center for Atmospheric Research.

Still, he adds, he shares the panel's view that more openness is

Natural phenomena

Some UFO reports, the scientists concluded, could be explained
by rare natural events such as sprites, or what appear to be
huge sheets of light moving upward from cloud decks caused by
electrical activity high above thunderclouds.

Unusual radar patterns that UFO investigators interpret as
flight patterns of alien craft are likely radar echoes caused by
refraction in the atmosphere, said panel member and Stanford
professor Von Eshleman, who studies the structure of the
atmosphere through experiments on U.S. space missions.

And, the scientists said, some in their community may be more
interested in UFOs than they are willing to admit.

Sturrock said his own surveys of astronomers show that many
privately admit to interest in UFOs. Asked for his own views,
Sturrock was coy.

"I don't believe in UFOs, but they may exist whether I believe
in them or not," he said. "That's saying I don't have an opinion
I wish to share."

When pressed, panel member Eshleman said he thinks it would be
surprising if there weren't life forms on other planets. Asked
about the likelihood of complex alien societies, he said, "It's
less probable, but there's no reason to limit it anywhere."

Gregory Benford, a solar physicist at the University of
California-Irvine who has reviewed the UFO report, said that
when Condon, now deceased, wrote his initial 1968 findings on
UFO evidence, he wrote the conclusion first. Even though a
scientific panel urged more open-mindedness two years later, it
didn't carry much weight.

"He had an automatic aversion to the cranks who had surrounded
the UFO phenomenon", Benford said. In '68, he just wanted to
squash this like a bug. So he said you won't learn anything if
you study this any further.

Looking in new places

"I think that's unwarranted. If you don't look in new places,
you won't see new things."

Still, he added, while many astronomers believe that life exists
elsewhere in the galaxy, that's a far cry from believing that
UFOs are passing over your neighborhood.

"Even if some intelligent being was visiting us from a distant
star, why would they fly around and never make any contact?" he
said. "If they are hostile, why not do the obvious and wipe us
out? It would be dead easy to get in touch with us.

"Just because you are open-minded doesn't mean your brains have
fallen out."

=A91997 - 1998 Mercury Center.

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