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 URL: http://www.mercurycenter.com/premium/nation/docs/ufo29.htm Stig ******* Published Monday, June 29, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News Science panel says it's worth evaulating UFO reports BY MICHELLE LEVANDER 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 counterproductive. "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 science." 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 bulb." 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 needed. 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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