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A Perspective On The UFO

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2007 11:09:38 -0500
Archived: Wed, 05 Dec 2007 11:09:38 -0500
Subject: A Perspective On The UFO

Source: 'Copernicus's' The Brane Space Blog - Colorado, USA


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Perspective On The UFO

I've long since concluded that the "UFO" is not a subject that
astronomers can avoid. Over the years, at nearly every public
lecture I've given, at least one curious questioner has asked:
"Do you believe in UFOs?" or "Have you ever seen a UFO"?

Such questions deserve to be respected and not dismissed out of
hand. Knee-jerk rejection or debunking is contrary to what the
scientific temperament is all about. My own strategy has been to
first clarify the definition of UFO, while challenging the
assumption that it is a synonym for "spaceship from another
world". It means exactly what the acronym implies: Unidentified
Flying Object. As such, UFOs are an observed and recorded fact,
as much as the Sun rising every morning. The existence of UFOs
is a matter independent of "belief".

What remains open to question is the particular interpretation
of the UFO. Here is where the astronomer can provide useful
insight by introducing his or her audience to the notion of
scientific hypotheses. Several are applicable to UFOs, which I
will explore in detail later. They include: 1- a misidentified
known object (planet, airplane, or balloon); 2- an unknown
natural-meteorological phenomenon; 3- a psychological phenomenon
and 4- a genuine craft from another planetary civilization. Note
that depending on viewpoint, an astronomer may or may not regard
(1) as a valid hypotheses. I do, because further research can be
used to verify it.

From all the available UFO statistics, hypothesis (1) has most
often been demonstrated by sheer attrition of reported
sightings. These statistics show that about 95 per cent of
initially reported UFOs turn out to be "IFOs" or identified
flying objects. I used to have enormous difficulty coming to
grips with this statistic, but I don't any more. The fact is
that the majority of sporadic skywatchers really don't know what
is up there. Many cannot distinguish a star from a planet, or an
extremely bright planet or star from a man-made device. I cannot
begin to recount here all the times an excited caller has phoned
me to breathlessly report...... Venus! Incredibly, when I
correct them they retain an attitude of disbelief that any
"natural" object could be that bright! Surely it must be an
unnatural object! An alien craft!

As long as the night sky remains unknown to the vast majority of
people, misidentifications will be the rule for "UFOs". On the
other hand, I'm intrigued by the 5 per cent of reports which
persist as unidentified after close scrutiny: what I call the
"signal" (as distinct from the 95% "noise".) These reports
cannot be solved after years of comprehensive investigations.
They are what I call "the genuine UFO reports" (I use the term
"UFO reports" rather than UFOs, since the existence of the
reports is not in question, though their interpretation is
open). These reports, in all probability, will fall into one of
the other hypotheses: (2), (3) or (4). However, as we shall see,
it is also possible to arrive at other hypotheses which are not
so neat and tidy.

The difficulty in formulating UFO hypotheses, and interpreting
UFO reports, is a first-hand experience for me. Not only have I
investigated other people's reports and published the results[1]
but I have seen a "UFO"myself. The incident occurred in the
summer of 1962 while at the opening of a shopping center in
Carol City, Florida. While awaiting the start of festivities I
happened to look up at the night sky, being the amateur
astronomer that I was. Amazingly, I witnessed a brilliant orange
disc, at least the same diameter as a full Moon, moving rapidly
from north to south. It hovered for two to three seconds above
the crowd at the shopping center and I detected the odd "Oooh"
or "Aaah" from random spectators. Thus, I knew I was not having
a simple hallucination (at least not by myself!)

The most ironic and notable thing to me was the complete absence
of sound. No whirring, like one would expect from a helicopter's
propeller blades, or engine noise. The object - if "object" it
was - appeared to be a light source rather than just reflecting
light from elsewhere. After about three seconds it took off due
south at what I estimated to be an incredible speed. As a
seasoned sky observer, even at the age of 16, I was able to
quickly eliminate all known man-made or natural objects from
consideration. The exceptional luminous and dynamical behavior
allowed this. Nevertheless, to this day I am not prepared to
pinpoint a specific hypothesis in any dogmatic sense, though up
until recently I have gravitated toward (4).

Why? From my knowledge of physics, it is the only one I could
fit into a conceptual framework. The key is the fact that the
UFO, certainly for the brief time I observed it, exhibited a
remarkable degree of intelligent control. Weather phenomena,
like ball lightning, simply do not behave in this fashion. They
tend to be governed by stochastic or random forces. And, on a
probability scale of 0 to 1 (with 1 certainty) I would put the
existence of a hitherto "unknown" meteorological phenomenon at
about 1 in ten million, or 0.0000001.

There may be rare weather phenomena capable of precisely
imitating the dynamics of my UFO, but I wouldn't bet on it! Ball
lightning, which is a known phenomenon, comes closest - but what
I saw was not ball lightning by any stretch of imagination. (For
one thing there were absolutely no clouds visible at the time,
and ball lightning does not move at the speed this moved).

What about hypothesis (3), a psychological effect? This cannot
be ruled out absolutely, but it is rendered highly improbable by
there being a dozen or so other witnesses. If it was
psychological, then it was a shared hallucination, which
stretches credibility in yet another direction. That leaves
hypothesis (4), or does it? At face value it would seem to be
the most reasonable thing to accept that what I observed was an
intelligently controlled spacecraft from another world. Somehow,
however, it seems to me too facile an explanation.

Forget about my observation for the moment, and consider the
vast number of UFO sightings each year. That 5 per cent of
permanent unknowns translates, on average, into about ten
thousand sightings each year. Surely, there cannot be ten
thousand different craft visiting us each year.[2]

Even allowing for repeat sightings, the variety of shapes and
sizes would suggest a figure of at least one thousand. One
thousand craft from another world - or from a thousand different
worlds? No way! I simply can't accept that any race of
supposedly intelligent beings would regard the human species and
its humdrum little world as that important - and consume so much
energy in such an extended endeavor!

Energy, even for very intelligent aliens, must be extremely
resource-intensive. And though highly advanced, I can't see how
these hypothetical beings could bypass fundamental physical laws
such as entropy[3]. To imagine that any civilization can afford
to squander vast energy on thousands of yearly visitations to a
backwater world borders on the ridiculous.


[1] See: Transient Optical Phenomena of the Atmosphere - A Case
Study, in The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of
Canada, Vol. 74, No. 3, June 1980.

[2] Jacques Vallee, in his book: Revelations: Alien Contact and
Human Deception (Ballantine Books, 1991, Appendix) presents
worldwide data and statistics which extrapolate to 14 million
sightings over a thirty-year period. This figure,of course,
renders the extraterrestrial hypothesis even more improbable. Is
Earth really the "grand central station" of the Milky Way? I
somehow doubt it.

[3] The entropy law, or 2nd law of thermodynamics, states that
for every useful conversion of energy/fuel there will be a large
amount of waste energy (e.g. heat) accompanying it. A corollary
is that as the frequency of useful energy conversion grows,
energy efficiency must go down and the amount of waste energy
must increase.


About Me

Specialized in space physics and solar physics, developed first
astronomy curriculum for Caribbean secondary schools, have
written three books - currently working on 4th.


[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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