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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Oct > Oct 24

Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

From: Michael Tarbell <mtarbell.nul>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2007 16:14:42 -0600
Archived: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 07:33:10 -0400
Subject: Re: Non-Investigated Flying Objects

>From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 22:17:48 EDT
>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 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.

Yes, it is crystal-clear that Dick's reply to me contradicts his
previous comment to you (with which I agree). How can you
characterize the uninvestigated cases as a waste of time, and in
the same breath say the whole point is to investigate before
assuming anything? It makes my head hurt.


>>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??

I agree that a statistical 'swindle' occurred in the
categorization of the Blue Book reports that had the effect of
suppressing the apparent fraction of unknowns. That knob can be
turned in both directions. Why not simply ignore this
parameter? The debunker talking-point that "98(or whatever)% of
all reports are found to have prosaic causes" is vacuous
precisely because of subjective definitions for terms like
"identified", or even what constitutes a genuine 'UFO report'.

>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.

An equally objective question is whether the investigated cases
represent a random sample of all reports. I think it's clear they
do not. With finite time and resources, there is unquestionably a
selection bias in favor of the more 'anomalous' cases. Consider
two separate cases involving a visually indistinct object, one
traveling at airline speed on a linear trajectory, the other at
Mach 9 with a right-angle turn. Even though they could very well
be the same object, if resources are limited, which case gets
investigated? Is the first case not a 'real' UFO report?

I do not dispute the need or the wisdom for such filtering. I
merely observe that it serves to enrich the population of
unknowns among the investigated cases relative to the entire data


>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.

I must agree, but see your statement above: "We aren't talking
about definitions of a case worth investigating or not worth
investigating". You are (accurately, I believe) characterizing
the dominant component of the UFO report database as _inherently_
worthless, much less worth investigating. Should we thus remove
this component from the database entirely, at least for the
purposes of 'statistics'? Perhaps. The numbers will be 'sexier',
but the evidence no stronger.

>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.

Well, I'm happy to report that we're squarely in agreement on
_this_ point, and confess that I've been playing devil's
advocate with the fraction-of-unknowns statistics issue.  Given
the limited investigative resources, there is no question that
the vast majority of UFO 'evidence', as broadly defined, should
be filtered out and ignored, as a matter of both practicality
and principle. Deliver the smoking gun, and everyone will forget
about the statistics.


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