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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Oct > Oct 23

Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 22:17:48 EDT
Archived: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 08:23:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

>From: Michael Tarbell <mtarbell.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 10:41:00 -0600
>Subject: Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

>>From: Richard Hall <dh12.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2007 18:37:28 -0400
>>Subject: Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

>>>From: Michael Tarbell <mtarbell.nul>
>>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>>Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2007 11:38:20 -0600
>>>Subject: Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects



>From your response of 21 Oct to Brad Sparks' proposal:

>"Far too much time is wasted on NFOs and far too much confusion
>is created by not focusing more on true UFOs (well-investigated
>former NFOs)."

>This certainly seems to entail an assumption about NFOs in the
>absence (by definition) of investigation. How does one reconcile
>this with the last sentence of your reply to me?

You lost me here. Dick was not assuming anything about the NFO
reports. His last sentence of his reply to you said "The whole
point is the need to investigate before assuming anything." I
don't see how he or I could be any clearer than that.

You seem to not want to just leave the uncertain in the "gray
basket." But you are also unwilling to personally conduct the
massive amount of investigation of each such NFO case to try to
resolve them into either IFO or UFO categories. Instead you seem
to want to find a way to pin an IFO/UFO label on the NFO reports
regardless of the fact you have insufficient data. You need to
face the fact that many thousands of sightings simply cannot be
used for any valid scientific purpose without an actual
investigation or a Hynek screening. And in some of these cases,
even after investigation it may still not be possible to resolve
them into IFO or UFO, due to insufficient data, poor witness
observation, poor memory of long past events, etc.

I would propose the NFO label to be flexible enough to include
Non-investigated Flying Objects, Non-sufficient data Flying
Objects, No-info Flying Objects, etc. V-J has already seen that
this is implied.

>In any case, I think we are in agreement that Brad's overall
>point is well-taken.

At least we have achieved some "overall" agreement! :)

>The essential point of my reply to him is
>that, by adjusting the 'filter' on what constitutes a case worth
>investigating, one can obtain just about any desired number for
>the fraction of genuine unknowns in the investigated set.
>However, a debunker can similarly expand the overall 'report'
>database such that the fraction of unknowns tends to zero.

Now you are implying that the creation of an NFO category is
some kind of "filtering" trick. But you ignore my historical
review showing that the vast expansion of the IFO category to
include what we would now call NFO's was the actual and quite
dishonest statistical trick devised by Project Blue Book in
1952-3. We are simply trying to undo this trickery. That doesn't
make it a "filtering" trick itself, it's the negation of the
statistical trick. Is stopping a crime now a crime itself??

We aren't talking about definitions of a case "worth
investigating" or not worth investigating. We are talking about
cases that are uninvestigated, something that is an objective
fact that is readily determinable -- was the case investigated
or not? That is an objective question.

Cases that are not investigated should be NFO's and not
_assumed_ to be IFO's or UFO's for whatever reasons of prejudice
and bias. I have seen the preconceptions go both ways where
debunkers claim 95% to 98% of all "UFO's" (as misdefined) are
solved, and extreme advocates claim just the reverse, that 89%
to 93% are Unidentifieds.

No, the debunker cannot _legitimately_ adjust the filtering to
make the proportion of UFO Unknowns approach zero percent. It is
a misrepresentation of the witnesses who in some 95% of sighting
reports never use the term "UFO" or the like. This is not a
figure taken out of the air but comes from my analysis of
several years of NUFORC sighting reports and from many BB file

Falsifying the definitions is what Blue Book did for most of two
decades and it was dishonest and deceitful. Unknowns were not
allowed to have degrees of certainty, Probable Unknowns and
Possible Unknowns. Thus, UFO Unknowns were treated completely
differently from the IFO's, with a one-sided double- standard
which gave preferential treatment to the IFO's despite not an
iota of any new data to justify it. .

As I have been pointing out on this List for years, the original
IFO category, which only included identifications that were
_certain_, were expanded by Blue Book to encompass these
Probable and Possible UFO Unknowns which were falsely relabeled
Possible and Probable _IFO's_.

If an Unknown had any doubt and had been called (or would have
been called) a "Probable" Unknown, Project Blue Book decided
that it could _possibly_ be an IFO. Then they relabeled it a
Possible IFO and in the overall stats it was treated as a
flatout IFO, period, with no qualifiers of "possible" or

This trick was first caught by Keyhoe and NICAP in the 1950's
but has been forgotten about in the many years since. However,
literature endures and is required in any intellectual endeavor
to be searched prior to any study, so the passage of time here
is no excuse for UFO researchers who seem unaware of what
Keyhoe/NICAP discovered.

Others since the 1950's have also commented on this statistical
trick including an Air Command and Staff College review of BB in
1974 (see CUFON website), Herbert Strentz in his 1968 doctoral
dissertation at Northwestern Univ, and Hynek in his UFO
Experience book in 1972 where he states the following, quoting
from his detailed critique of BB sent to FTD Commander Col.
Raymond S. Sleeper on Oct. 7, 1968 (Ballantyne paperback ed. pp.

"In the evaluation of cases it has been the [Blue Book] custom
to employ the terms 'possible' or 'probable' as modifiers to a
given evaluation; thus 'possible aircraft' or 'probable meteor'
are often used. However, in the year-end compilation of cases
these modifiers are quietly and conveniently dropped. Thus
'possible aircraft' becomes simply 'aircraft' ... and the public
will be led to believe that there was no possible question....

"For what else does 'possible' or 'probable' [aircraft] mean
other than one is not _sure_ they were aircraft? But so
ingrained is the hypothesis of the 'deluded observer' in Blue
Book thinking that any other possibility is _not_
_examined_for_. That is hardly the scientific method....

"[On] the general cases bearing the mark, 'Insufficient data':
it is most interesting to note that such cases are carried in
the statistics as having been solved, as though giving a case
the Insufficient Data label constituted solving it! Here again
the public is misled....

"I quote now directly from the [Strentz] doctoral dissertation
...: 'The problem [with Blue Book's statistics] was underscored
in an October 6, 1958, Department of Defense press release on
Blue Book activity from July 1, 1957, through July 31, 1958. The
release said, "More than 84% of the reported UFO sightings were
_definitely_established_ (emphasis added) as natural phenomena
... or man- made objects."

" 'Not only had the _probably_ and _possibly_ labels been
deleted from the statistics, but sightings previously considered
only _possibly_ explained were now "definitely established" -
 not because of further investigation, but because of book-
keeping procedures.

" 'Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla ... acknowledged that the
"definitely established" phrase was "misleading" [in his
conversation with Strentz reported here in Hynek's concluding
quote from Strentz's dissertation]....'

"No scientist would consider an 'Insufficient Evidence' case as
'solved.' These simply should not be included in the data."

Hynek's answer is that Insufficient Data cases, which I would
include within the NFO category, should be excluded from the
scientific data to be studied. They are noise not signal of any
sort. IFO's can be scientifically investigated as a control
study to calibrate witness reliabity in the UFO Unknown cases. I
have done that with the Condon Report's IFO's. NFO reports
cannot be studied that way because one does not know if they are
really IFO's or UFO's, so the data samples are therefore

The Blue Book trick was one-sided and totally dishonest. If it
was in any way honest it would have been explained at least in
some fine-print footnoting to AF publicity statements, but was
not. It is only discoverable by historical research into the BB
files and analyzing the shift in IFO/UFO category labeling in
1952-3. This confirms the impressions of Keyhoe/NICAP looking at
it from the outside with scant pieces of the puzzle, and is a
tribute to their astuteness in having figured it out with so
little back then to go on.

Another objection I have to the continued misuse of NFO's to
contaminate "UFO" data, and debates about the data, is that it
helps perpetuate the obsession with anecdotal reports. The vast
majority of NFO's are brief newspaper stories in various files,
and are simply worthless or next-to-worthless anecdotes.

All we need to do to stop fixating on anecdotes and whining
about how supposedly that's all we have for "UFO evidence" is to
make a conscious choice, a policy decision, a new strategy. Make
a choice, the right choice, to stop talking about UFO anecdotes
and start concentrating on instrument UFO data and technical
observations such as triangulations and UFO reports made by
special UFO tracking networks that the government has operated.
I have cataloged many of these cases in my Comprehensive Catalog
of Blue Book Unknowns on various web sites for the last several
years, as well as summarizing some on UFO UpDates mnay times.

Brad Sparks

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



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