Friday, June 20, 2014

67 years of research - anniversary celebrations?

Hi all,

June 24th this year will see the 67th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold's observation, of what first came to be called "flying saucers;" a term which later changed into 'Unidentified Flying Objects" and numerous variations. As readers of this blog will know, I personally prefer the term "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" (UAP.)

Where are we today?

Views as to exactly what causes sighting reports, vary today, as much as it did in the early days of study. Today, you can find individuals who believe UAP are crewed extraterrestrial spaceships; travellers from the future; living creatures; that they are all hoaxes; all misinterpretations of natural phenomena; are psychosocial constructs, and any combination of the any of these.

We have numerous Internet sites, Facebook pages, and blogs, run by individuals or groups who claim to be in contact with the intelligence behind it all. Just as in the early days we had "contactees." The message remains the same, that the "aliens" are here to help us; but the medium of its communication has changed.


Debate continues between opposing sides as to the cause of individual sighting reports. The Rendlesham Forest affair is an excellent example of such debate and confusion. To me, this is no different to those early days in the 1940's.

Civilian UAP research groups exist today, confident that they are working towards the final solution to the UAP enigma. The very same objective was the aim of early research groups, such as APRO.

A more jaded researcher, than myself, may well feel that little real progress has been made since 1947.


Other researchers will point out that many things have changed since 1947. They will list:

* That the US Government withdrew from officially and openly researching the topic

* That the UK Government withdrew from officially and openly researching

* That a number of countries have opened up some of their files

* That the era of large numbers of abduction claims has come and gone

* That scientific research of the phenomena has, by volume, largely given way to Internet style "research"

* That the numbers of close encounter reports has steadily declined over the last ten years.

But is change, progress?

If by progress, we mean are we closer to identifying the nature of the phenomenon we study, then I personally, do not think there has been real progress on this front.

US researcher John B Alexander has an interesting take on this. In his 2011 book "UFOs:Myths, Conspiracies and Realities," published by Thomas Dunne Books. New York. ISBN 978-0-312-64834, on page 273:

"Based on credible witnesses and backed by physical evidence, I conclude that the ufo observations are manifestations of issues that are anfractuous and beyond current comprehension."

(Anfractuous, meaning full of twists and turns.)

This neatly sums up my own current view.


  1. Let's cut the shit and get to the FACTS: THEY exist. It is REAL.

    And I've had more than 20 different occasions....photographed over the skies of Seattle.....NOT tiny blips of amorphous white lights, but CRAFTS.

    NOT A HOAX. ALL imagery is Genuine/Authentic.

  2. I STUDY UFOS SINCE 50 YEARS !émoire_des_ovni-3260050079303-1-1-0-1.html

  3. The question of what have we learnt is an interesting one. In many ways the interpretation of facts and even the question of what is accepted as a fact is paradigm dependent. In the current paradigm UFOs do do not exist so all that can be learnt is in terms of the history of the of the phenomena, sociology and psychology etc.
    Within the context of the paradigm of scientific ufology a certain amount of progress has been made and some possible lines of further enquirey may be available.
    I shall have to continue this later...

  4. Hi Anthony

    Thank you for your insightful response. I look forward to hearing more of your possible lines of future enquiry.

  5. Thank you Keith

    Just to continue the earlier comment ( apologies for any typos- this is from a phone).
    Progress has been made on a number of aspects directly or indirectly related to ufology since 1947.
    In terms of the wider context the scale of the Fermi paradox has become more profound since it was first articulated in 1950. The rapid development in our knowledge of exoplanets and astrobiology, the increased understanding of extreophile organisms and an improved understanding of the very early origin ( or appearance) of life on earth do not sit well with the idea that we could be alone.
    Interstellar flight remains beyond us for practical purposes but a range of studies ( e.g Deadalus, Orion, Icarus etc) a related research which really began in earnest in the 1950's with Robert Forward make the suggestion that 'they can't get here from there' increasingly strained, particularly as our awareness of the availability of potential habitats billions of years older than earth improves.
    In terms of developments within ufology itself...
    Our understanding of the range of misidentifications has improved, including rare natural phenomena such as tectonic strain lights and, recently, a possible link to meteor flux for some cases
    Excluding misidentifications leaves a small core of cases where sceptical explanations lack rigour. A real phenomena exists.
    A theoretical framework has been developed by Paul R Hill which indicates that, if reports used in the analysis are broadly accurate, UAP may be interpreted as technological devices in a framework consistent with the laws of physics.
    We have a good understanding of the statistical pattern of occurrence of reports and the characteristics of form and behaviour reported.
    Our understanding of the historical context within which the policy response to UFOs developed has improved immensely.

    This short list could possibly be extended. An issue with the field has been that it has largely been conclusion driven ( they don't exist or they're ET, or paranormal phenomena or time travellers etc). The competing paradigms are a source of conflict but are typical of a field in the pre paradigm stage as described by Kuhn (1962) 'The Structure of Scientific Revolution'. What is needed are some concrete tests if the specific paradigms within ufology. We may be at the point were this will become possible in the near future.
    I will alas have to continue this later again...

  6. To continue...
    In an idealised world science should proceed by falsification ( following Popper's critical rationalism). Whilst in practice Kuhn's concept of normative science and the Lakatos' observations of the way a paradigm defends itself from attack by creating progressively more ad hoc responses to problems ( epicycles upon epicycles) will be important in how the debate unfolds over time we should base our approach on critical rationalism and falsification.
    We therefore need tests, not to prove the ETH ( as the specific paradigm I'm using as the example here) as that is in principle impossible, but rather to both attempt to falsify it and to attempt to falsify alternative theories.
    Tests can be at different levels. Some may be simply a matter of consistency without clearly falsifying a particular theory, but ideally we need discriminatory power to rule out specific hypotheses.
    In terms of the ETH the paradigm as it currently stands generates a number of predictions that are either now or will shortly be testable.
    a) the ETH predicts that life should be common in the universe. Within the next 20 years or so we are likely to be in a position to detect bio signatures on exoplanets. If we fail to detect them this will indicate our assumptions on the prevalence of life are wrong.
    b) The ETH predicts a hominid like form in the extraterrestrials. This appears unthinkable in conventional evolutionary theory but two theories, convergent evolution and panspermia, both still controversial but with increasing support, would also lead to such a scenario as being possible. If both these theories themselves fail that would weaken the ETH.
    c) the ETH predicts the existence if psi phenomena. If psi phenomena should itself come to be accepted that will not prove the ETH of course, but it would be a successful prediction ( in fairness this feels more like a post-diction given the data on psi effects, but).

    But all the above are just consistency checks. What we need is something decisive. A smoking gun document is unlikely to emerge accept from one extremely controversial source that is already in the public domain.
    I nay be near a word limit TBC momentarily

  7. To conclude...
    The Ramey memo is a document held by Brigadier ( later Lt Gen) Ramey at his press conference claiming the Roswell debris was a weather balloon. A photo was taken and attempts have been made to decipher the text.
    These attempts ( e.g by Rudiak) have been criticised due to the extremely poor image quality. Experiments with volunteers have shown that people come up with many different guesses of the document based on short time periods of attempting to read it ( there is a paper by Kevin Randle if memory serves on confounds in the Rsney memo, for example).
    The memo however is induspuitably authentic and contemporaneous with Roswell. The alternative hypotheses for Roswell have gradually fallen of their own merit and the current mainstream hypothesis, that it was a mogul balloon assemblage falls apart totally on closer examination. If ( and it remains an if) Roswell was a genuine crash of a ET craft the memo may well refer to it.

    As the image is essentially noisy data it can potentially be analysed quantitatively. For example detailed measurements of the apparent letter shapes may, in some slightly clearer portions, allow determination of the letter had, for example, a central stem such as an I or a T, a left vertical such as an E, F, H etc etc, or perhaps a central bifurcation such as Y or V.
    On line tools can the assist is identifying words with all possible letter combinations and so on.

    Developments in technology of reading poor quality images of text may potentially allow both automation and removal of subjectivity from the process, together with comparison with reads of similar images where thevtext is known to assess reliability.

    I haven't taken this line if thought far enough to present a formal result. So far my analysis of the single word usually taken as saying 'victims' suggests that this is likely to be the correct analysis for that specific word, with results that are very close to those of Rudiak on that specific word. I will gradually attempt to both refine my methodology and extend it's application but thought it might be relevant to mention it here as there may well be others more expert than I who could either comment or take this forward more efficiently that I could...

    Best wishes