Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The 5% residue - what does it consist of?

Hi all,

Many UAP researchers agree that about 95% of all incoming reports can be explained in mundane terms. It is the residual 5%, which constitutes the "core" phenomenon, which really interests us.

There has been considerable debate however, between UAP researchers and sceptics, as to whether the characteristics of the 95%, and the characteristics of the 5% are different, or the same.

Sceptical views:

UK researcher Dr. David Clarke argues ( "How UFOs Conquered the world." 2015, Aurum Press, London) about this 5%:

"...but they are not significant because they have no characteristic features that distinguish them from the ninety-five percent that have been explained." (p.273.)

However, even some otherwise sceptical approaches, agree that there may be something in this 5%:

Paul Davies, an English Physicist (click here) in responding to a query from David Clarke (Clarke, 2015, p.258) replied:

 "I agree that some small fraction of reports might include novel physical phenomena (e.g.ball lightning) but not alien activity."

Professor Reginald Victor Jones was a British physicist and scientific military intelligence expert who at one stage looked into the subject of UAP.  (Click here. ) In appendix V to the "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects"; (edited by D S Gillmor, Bantam Books, New York, 1969,) on page 932, Jones wrote:

"If known natural phenomena are insufficient to explain everything that has been genuinely seen, the alternative to the intelligently controlled vehicles is an as yet recognised natural phenomenon. "

UAP researchers:

On the other hand, UAP researchers would argue that the residual 5% does contain cases which have no mundane explanation, with most going on to suggest that the answer lies with the extra-terrestrial hypothesis.

Looking on the Internet, and in books, I found a large number of lists of what some call their "ten best cases." One of the earliest such lists appeared on page 21 of Ronald D. Story's 1981 book "UFOs and the Limits of Science." (New English Library, London.)

1. Newport News, Virginia.1952.
2. Lakenheath, England. 1956.
3. Levelland, Texas. 1957.
4. Boianai, New Guinea. 1959.
5. Whitefield, New Hampshire, USA. 1961.
6. Exeter, New Hampshire, USA. 1965.
7. Ravenna, Ohio, USA. 1966.
8. Mansfield, Ohio, USA. 1973.
9. Tehran, Iran. 1976.
10. Kaikoura, New Zealand. 1978.

Skipping, thirty years from 1981, US researcher, John B Alexander, in his 2011book "UFOs: Myths, conspiracies and Realities" (Thomas Dunne Books, New York.) listed which cases he thought were strong evidence of something unusual. Chapter ten is titled "Real cases and hard data." Alexander wrote:

"There are so many strong UFO cases that selecting which ones to highlight is difficult." (p.155.)

So, what cases feature in this chapter? They include:

1. Bentwaters, UK. 1980.
2. Cash-Landrum. 1980.
3. Mansfield, Ohio, USA. 1973.
4. Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 1997.
5. Gulf Breeze, Florida, USA. 1980's.
6. Malstrom Air Force Base, USA. 1967.
7. Byelokorovicje, Russia. 1982.
8. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, USA. 1999.

Another, researcher who wrote "In the end I side with the believers. My conclusion is not based on personal preference but on familiarity with the evidence," was US based Eddie Bullard. In his book "The Myth and Mystery of UFOs" (2010, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas,) Bullard wrote:

"...candidates for the honour roll would surely include these noteworthy examples." (p.76.)

1. Tehran, Iran. 1976.
2. Cash-Landrum, USA. 1980.
3. Trans-en-Provence, France.1981.
4. JAL flight 1628, Alaska, USA. 1986.
5. Mundrabilla, Western Australia. 1988.

The best cases?

Reviewing a number of these lists, revealed a consistent suggestion that cases such as the following should be included in the 5% residue which appear to lack conventional explanations:

1. Socorro, New Mexico, USA. 1964.
2. Tehran, Iran. 1976.
3. Rendelsham Forest, UK. 1980.
4. Exeter, New Hampshire, USA. 1965.
5. JAL flight 1628, Alaska, USA. 1986.
6. Cash-Landrum, USA. 1980.
7. Trans-en- Provence, France. 1981.
8. O'Hare airport, Chicago, Illinois, USA. 2006.
9. Stephenville, Texas, USA. 2008.

In summary, then, UAP researchers feel that the 5% residue does indeed feature cases whose characteristics do not put them in the IFO category.


1. One immediately notices that most of the cases in these lists are pre 1990, and occurred in the USA. The latter is perhaps explainable by the fact that many of the lists were prepared by US based researchers. The former, is perhaps due to the fact that the numbers of close encounters, and hence interesting cases, has been on the decrease since around the late 1990's.

2. Are these lists of any real value? They do reflect the opinions of serious, as opposed to Internet based, researchers. They offer what is felt to be cases which cannot be explained in mundane terms.
The lists do allow for a focused debate, and re-investigation by interested parties.

One example of this, is the 2014 report (click here) on the classic 1950 photographs taken in McMinnville, in the USA which claims to have found evidence of a thread suspending a model. McMinnville was to be found on many of the "ten best cases" lists.

Another example is the Belgium wave, where sceptical discussion, centred around astronomical sources and helicopters (click here.) Again, this wave features on many "ten best cases" lists.

3. UAP researchers, in my opinion, should welcome these sort of sceptical debates about the cause of what they feel are "unknowns" in the 5% residue. My own thinking, is that even if the residue, "only" reveals Paul Davies' "...small fraction of reports might include novel physical phenomena..." or  Professor Jones'  "...an as yet recognised natural phenomenon.. " it is still worthy of our study.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for an excellent and thought provoking article.
    Right back I the 1950s the Battelle Study found unknowns were statistically significantly different on a range of characteristics to knowns, although they phrased their conclusion in an unusually cautious way (understandably).

    The challenge with this is how to arrive at a clear definition of 'the problem'. We would need a core data set of rather larger size...probably at least 50 and ideally rather more cases. Getting consensus on this is unlikely to be possible beyond a small group. Lakenheath, for example, is a very complex case that has moved on a lot over time whilst I am personally not at all convinced by the Rendlesham / Bentwaters case, just as examples (Others would no doubt disagree).

    In the end we will need to be able to test specific hypotheses against a core data set, but we need to define the data set first as otherwise we are just cherry picking cases to support particular ideas.

    We do see a number of interesting studies that point to poorly understood natural phenomena, such as Persinger and Derr's work, the Hessdalen project and recent work on atmospheric plasma generated by meteors. I suspect these lines of enquiry further reduce the 5%. I suspect there may be a core problem remaining of cases which have good data and are hard to account for as anything other than technology but the dataset is terribly contaminated and much of the discussion terribly superficial.

    Personally I doubt ufology has the capacity (globally) to organise such a project with enough rigour to be credible, I hope I am wrong