I can’t think of a title stupid enough to do this justice

By Phil Plait | March 1, 2007 9:31 pm

A former Canadian Defense Minister wants to find out if secret alien technology being withheld from citizens by their governments can solve global warming.

People ask me all the time, what’s the harm in bad thinking? Who cares if someone wants to believe in astrology, or UFOs?

OK, go back up and read that first line of this post again. Slowly. Move your lips if you have to.

That’s the harm. That guy was the Minister of Defense of an entire nation. And he wants to use UFOs to solve our problems.

Sigh. Sigh100.

This is so ridiculous, and a waste of time. Why look for alien technology to solve global warming? How stupid! We should be using it to find out who killed Kennedy, what really brought down the World Trade Center, and if Wernher von Braun was actually a Nazi or not.


Comments (66)

  1. DennyMo

    Well, gee, if he starts by telling us everything HE knows about what the Candians collected during HIS stint in MoD, maybe we’ll take him a bit more seriously. Of course, everyone knows that the 1947 Roswell incident was just a trio of Ferengi who got caught in a time-space continuum accident. They went home after they fixed their ship…

  2. Jeff Fite

    How about a cure for the flu? I work in an ER, and if there was some alien technology that I could use in my preposterously overcrowded department (and bill for) I’d be knighted (and rich)!

    BTW, is that your own art, BA? 25 cents to the next person who recognizes the source.


  3. Scott

    I think this link….left as a comment on the article you linked to with the great note “for all you closed minded retards” might be even more frightening than the article itself…check it out…these people really believe this stuff:

  4. Quaoar

    I didn’t think that Torchwood had been broadcast in Canada yet.

  5. ABR

    I love the ships from UFO. I still think they look like spinning chicken feeders. We should use the secret alien technology to bring shows like UFO, Space 1999, Quark and Wizards and Warriors out on DVD — Apophis will take care of global warming in 2036 — so we should use the technology for truly worthy ventures.

  6. ioresult

    Oh give him a break. He’s 83 years old! When I’ll be that old, I think I also will be saying all sorts of stuff to get some attention!

  7. ZappBrannigan

    I don’t understand. How will advanced anal probing technology help with global warming?

  8. Laguna2

    Zapp, because it might help to reduce the methane output.

  9. I now have “Sigh^100” saved for all of my “how are people so stupid” moments :)

  10. Tim G
  11. Nathan Hinman

    Yes Phil unfortunately he’s one of ours. If you would like I would gladly ship him south of the 49th to “research” in Roswell just to get him out of the country.

  12. RPink

    As a Canadian, I feel that I should say this…

    He does NOT represent us! Oh swirling Cosmos, I hope that he’s senile…

  13. Suzanne

    Oh no.

    When I first read your post I thought,

    “Maybe it’s a semantic misunderstanding. Maybe he meant ‘alien’ in the way people refer to citizens of other countries, ‘illegal aliens’ for example. That would be within the realm of an acceptable, intelligent thing for a former defense minister to say – It could be possible that other governments possess technological insights that aren’t being utilized due to conceivable constraints of politics and diplomacy. That certainly would be a worthwhile thing to explore.”

    …but no.

    That wasn’t it.

    I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was hard for me to believe that someone would actually believe that, let alone the former Canadian defense minister – but then I read the article you linked to your post, and he goes on to talk about Roswell, New Mexico and UFOs. It became undeniably clear that he meant “alien” to mean the little green men of science fiction movies. I was disappointed to discover that the quote was not a semantic misunderstanding. I wish that it had been.

    The word “former” in the title “Former Defense Minister” is comforting in light of this.

  14. Ruth

    The poor guy is old and the human brain can start doing some funky things towards the end. Maybe he tuned into an episode of SG1 and got confused ;o)

  15. Anders

    Apparently, both Clinton and Jimmy Carter enquired into whether UFO’s were real or not, and they were Presidents over the most powerful nation on Earth, so I don’t see why you’re fretting over a 83 year old retired canadian, whose enquiry (if not the eccentricity of his statements) are understandable imo. In recent years credible people have given witness to the genuiness of the fenomenon, and they believe what they’re telling, at least. Of course, it’s possible that they’re hallucinating or have been duped somehow. I’m a sceptic. I _define_ myself as a sceptic. However, I do no longer _entirely_ discount the possibility.

    A mate sent me this link a couple of days ago. It contains a couple of inaccurate statements and feature a couple of UFO video’s that have been debunked but it’s fairly interesting, I thought.

  16. Hehe.. He seems to have it all thought through :) Aliens had to travel a great distance to earth – so they must have had superior propulsion systems and / or fuels. Therefore we can use this technology to prevent global warming, however that will work.
    I like the last sentence in the interview – “He shocked Canadians in September 2005 by announcing he once saw a UFO.”

  17. Alex Whiteside

    I recall a Canadian minister calling for the US government to disclose its top secret alien technology a couple of years ago. The same guy?

  18. Laguna2

    Yep, same guy

  19. It is worth noting that Hellyer oversaw the “integration” of the Canadian forces in the late 1960’s. That integration – they combined the Army, Navy, and Air Force into a unified service with one command – effectively destroyed much of the distinctive culture of those three services and crushed morale in the military. Adding to that blow, the government of the time began what would be 40 years of cuts, both shallow and deep to the military, making it the shambles that it is today.

    We have great soldiers, but we treat them terribly, IMO. I’ve seen how Canadians treat their military first hand… I served from 1983-1992. In 1984 the government of the time at least gave the three services their separate uniforms again and split the command a bit. That’s about the only bone the military has been tossed since the Hellyer years.

    In terms of woowooery, he’s been a UFO enthusiast for a long time IIRC.

  20. If anyone wants to listen to someone else raging about this kind of thing here’s a link http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5902082792968454387
    This guy is angry…or is he just mad? I certainly don’t know.
    You know over the years I have read an awful lot of books about UfO’s . After all the time I have spent looking into this the one thing that really puzzles me is why it causes such extreme emotional reactions in people, not just the woo woo crowd but rational intelligent people, reason just seems to go out of the window and polarised thinking and dogmatism just take over, I ‘ll stop myself before I fly of into a rant about the universal ignorance, confusion, lies and quackery that follow this possibly, I’ll say again possibly, important subject around that stops capable people from taking a serious sober look into this. Its a shame, if the truth is really out there it’s more than a little confused right now.Oh well, Love the sight Phil, keep up the good work, remember if people badger you about UFO’s remember to tell them you’re just an astronomer, it’s nothing to do with you they need to talk to an atmospheric physicist.

  21. snap2grid

    “Of course, everyone knows that the 1947 Roswell incident was just a trio of Ferengi who got caught in a time-space continuum accident. ”

    Ferengi indeed! Everyone knows that the Roswell Incident was caused by the Planet Express ship crashing through time!

  22. Axenos

    I read a story like this and I wonder how the human race is still alive sometimes.

    Being ever the optimist, I like to think it’s because normal and intelligent people outnumber boneheads like this guy.

    Of course, reading the news these days I’m beginning to wonder…

  23. pianomanzero

    Hasn’t he yet learned from us what can happen when national leaders start believing in this kind of fiction?
    Don’t show him The Day the Earth Stood Still or we’ll all be in big trouble.
    Maybe we could spare the remake for him, though… ;-P

  24. Mark Martin

    Yes, he’s a high-ranking official representing an entire country who also hasn’t a clue. There’s nothing unusual in that. Just look at the U.S. Presidency any time in the last three decades (or more).

  25. TheBlackCat

    Anders, there is a difference between wondering whether there is anything to the stories of a government coverup and making an assertion that there definitely was a coverup, exactly what was covered up, and what we can use it for is another matter entirely. If I was the president, even though I don’t believe we are being visited by aliens from another planet, I would still ask. There are two reasons. One, it is not impossible (although extremely implausible). Second, if it were true it would be a serious national security issue. So I would ask. There is no harm in that.

    This guy, however, is not asking. He is telling. He insists that the government coverup exists but has no evidence to back it up. He is no different than any of the countless other “UFOlogists” except that for a brief time he was someone important in a government.

    And it is common for UFOlogists to paint it as though the only possibilities are that the people are either lying or crazy (or hallucinating). Those are not the only possibilities. They probably come into play some of the time, but not all of it. There are a great many natural phenomenon that can look really unusual if you are not familiar with them (or even if you are). People joke about skeptics saying it was Venus or light reflecting off a weather balloon, but Venus can look really unusual and they used to track missing weather balloons (carrying military equipment) by following UFO sightings! People can be entirely credible, entirely sincere, and entirely wrong when they say what they saw was something unusual. It is most likely something completely ordinary seen in an unusual way.

    That is not to say we are not being visited by aliens. Such a thing cannot be disproven. But the evidence is far from convincing.

  26. Mark Martin

    I find it interesting when UFOlogists insist that official denial constitutes evidence of a coverup, and say [to the government] “All we want is for you to admit it. That’s all.” But what if there’s nothing to which to admit?

  27. Michelle

    I’m trying to remember the name of the politician we have that said on a TV show that he seen a UFO as a teen. He was a teenager at the moment of the TV show too, but yea, UFO politicians are not rare in Canada.

  28. gopher65

    Weird politicians in general are not unusual in Canada;). FFS the current prime minister refuses to hug his children (he shakes their hands), and when asked by a reporter if he loved Canada (which, even if he hates the country it is necessary for him to say “of course”) he responded “I rather *like* Canada”.

    And he is by far and away not the weirdest one of the bunch, even among those currently elected:P.

  29. KB

    As a Canadian, I was a bit surprised to read this, until I clicked the link and learned that it was Paul Hellyer they were talking about.

    He was a cabinet minister a long time ago (Liberal govt in the 60s). Since then, he has became a bit of a public kook. He advocates a lot of extreme policies, like monetizing the national debt, and has associated with both the left and the right wing fringes in Canadian politics.

    So this nonsense is not surprising, and need not be taken as seriously as BA suggests. It makes me wonder though, as whenever I see someone prominent and respectable degenerate like this over time, whether Hellyer has ever has a full mental health assessment.

  30. MaxwellsDemon

    Love the references to DS9 and Futurama in this thread!

    I can’t remember the exact quote, but Isaac Asimov was once asked if he “believed” in UFOs. His reply was something like ‘Yes, I believe people see a lot of flying things that they can’t identify.’

    True story: while in the US military, I was serving in a temporary capacity in one of our embassies in Europe. At an embassy party, a man (I can’t recall if he was British or Canadian) cornered me and attempted to convince me that my own government was “covering up” some sort of flying saucer crash. I think he was serious. Sigh^100!

  31. MaxwellsDemon

    Follow-on thought: When Pathfinder/Sojourner landed on Mars in 1997, MSNBC was covering it and also covering the so-called 50th anniversary of the “Roswell incident.” The anchor (rightly) called it sad that so many people were out to celebrate a fictional planetary landing and so few were paying attention to the REAL planetary landing.

    They also had an expert on urban legends that explained why the Roswell story resonates with so many people: it’s based on two important parts of the American collective consciousness, a desire to know/explore and a deep-seated distrust of government. Those two items jointly support the Roswell craze; remove either one and it collapses under its own weight.

  32. kam

    “what really brought down the World Trade Center”
    To think that anything other than those planes brought down the twin towers is as dumb as wondering about aliens. I suppose you believe Bush was responsible?

  33. Chris

    I have to agree with the observations of my fellow Canadians, already posted above. Paul Hellyer was/is, well, nutty as a fruit cake (with apologies to fruit cakes). He has switched political allegiences so many times, I think he can’t remember what government he supported when.

    Gosh, I miss the Rhinocerous Party.

    What is sad is that his former prominence is what causes media today to give credence to his maunderings. Thanks, Phil. I’m glad you called him, and them, on it.

    *sigh^100* indeed.

  34. Amy

    kam: BA was joking…

  35. RZ

    What’s really sad is that the story credits him as a “former Canadian defense minister” rather than a “current crackpot”.

    He was defense minister almost 40 years ago, and only for about 6 years – not very long by our political standards…

  36. Gary Ansorge

    MaxwellDemon: Yes,,,,,distrust of government. With our current government, I’m just SO inclined to trust them,,,

    One thing to note: Very rarely do people with extreme talent end up doing government service. It’s just too dang frustrating, trying to deal with kooks who think they’re smart,,,

    Government is a dicey concept. How do you control a population of 300 million, self serving, occasionally greedy, self deluded people? Hell, I’m fraking amazed the system works at all,,,

    The most important part of the term UFO is the Unidentified aspect.
    In a long life, I have seen some things in the night sky which were momentarily unidentified. The best such was while working at Malmstrom Air Force base in Great Falls, Montana, in 1975. Around 10 pm, I observed a bright light that remained (apparently) stationary, while steadily growing brighter(over several minutes). As I continued watching, there was no sound,,,,until the black, swept wing aircraft landed on the base airstrip. It possesed a single headlight, visible over (many) miles and was remarkably quiet, for a jet.I BELIEVE it was an early version of the stealth bomber. Had I continued on my way, before seeing it land, I might have gone on thinking it was a real(alien) UFO. Shows how easy it is for a supposedly intelligent individual to be flamboozled.

    Even my great grand mother thought she saw a flying saucer, way back in the late 1940s. I have no idea what it was, but there were pleanty of unusual aircraft being experimented with then, including the flying wing. Easy to see how people could be confused.

    Aliens, wow, what a concept but what I’ve learned of physics in the intervening years leads me to discount visitation from distant solar systems. The energy requirements are just SOOOO enourmous, getting from there to here, why do that when a single solar system has such gargatuan material/energy resources available. I expect when humanity finally settles our local high frontier, it will take 30 million years to fill up THIS solar system with people and our assorted critters.

    Something to look forward to,,,

    Gary 7

  37. Ken

    Glad MaxwellsDemon posted the Asimov quote. I didn’t want to be the only one who thinks there are UFOs. After all, a UFO is an unidentified flying object. Now whether you think it’s piloted by ET is another question. I’ve also never understood why people think someone knows about some secret technology that could earn them billions of dollars and yet they decide they’d rather not let anyone know about it.

  38. Gary Ansorge

    Billions? A true, reactionless space drive would likely be worth Trillions of dollars.
    Every country would be hot to use such and the weapons potential alone,,,

    Oh, never mind,,

    Gary 7

  39. Eric Briggs

    Anybody who’s never seen a UFO is very unobservant.

    Compare Hellyer to Barry Goldwater please. I know Goldwater had an interest in UFOs, and he was arguably a more successful politician than Hellyer was, and he did have the decency to attend the Apollo 11 launch. I’m not completely up to date on him.

  40. Mark Martin

    Speaking of so-called reactionless propulsion, it would surely be of great scientific interest, but it’s not clear to me how it would be any better at propulsion than Newtonian propulsion. Every such device ever run up the flagpole has still been an energy-consuming technology. A spaceship using such a device would still be required to supply itself with usable energy, in other words, some variant of propellant. The ship could only aquire velocity corresponding to the kinetic energy made possible by its source of energy.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    The highest theoretical thrust one could get from a matter/energy propulsion device would require one to expell only light. With the intensity required to propel a massive object into space, such a pure light engine would likely vaporize the ground beneath it for several miles around the launch point. Not a really good idea, from a PR standpoint,,,

    ,,,and yes, TANSTAFFL is still the rule in this universe.

    Look at all the PR problems we got just from the research on nuclear rockets in the sixties(Phoenix, Orion, etc).
    Nuclear power is still the best option for going to Mars, but how much flak will we likely receive just getting a nuc. power plant into orbit, where it can safely be used?
    I still think keeping the energy source for the launcher on the ground, as in magnetic launchers, is the most efficient way to get to space, barring the development of a space elevator.

    Gary 7

  42. Drbuzz0

    I would say this: generally speaking, having a lot of people within a society, especially those in high positions of authority believe in things which are false or unproven tends to impede the progress of the human race to move forward.

    One of the common arguments is that “we need to keep an open mind” or even that “science cannot disprove something.” Well, be a purist if you want to, but there are many things which have been studied thoroughly and which fall apart when one considers the evidence and the claims. In this case, it can be said that it is effectively disproven.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t UFO’s. In the sense of “Unidentified Flying Objects.” I have no doubt that many of the sitings of UFO’s are indeed flying objects which the observer cannot identify. They may be meteors, satellites, distant aircraft, military projects or drones, atmospheric phenomina.

  43. Quiet_Desperation

    Great Scot! Sigh^100?

    That’s a sighgol, I guess.

    Would Sigh^(Sigh^100) be a sighgolplex?

    Nice shot from the UFO series, BTW. Best. Flying. Saucers. Ever.

    >>> How do you control a population of 300 million, self serving,
    >>> occasionally greedy, self deluded people?

    With a system designed just for them: the free market.

    >>> Hell, I’m fraking amazed the system works at all,,,


  44. MaxwellsDemon

    I used to plane-spot quite a bit (the house I grew up in is under one of the approach/holding flight patterns for an airport) and I remember one time there was this peculiar silver object that caught my eye. It was something of an ovoid shape, like someone had partly squashed a BB, and was tumbling end-over-end. My guess is that it was a weather balloon that have become separated from its gondola and was being tossed around by winds aloft, but I guess I can understand why someone else might have been confused by the sight. But it’s quite a leap from saying, “Huh, that’s a weird looking thing up there” to expecting Marvin the Martian to hop out of it…

  45. Tom

    Could it be that people described in this thread:


    are the ones now into UFOs…?

  46. Okay, in short order:

    1. I think we should use alien technology to build machines that can prove once and for all that aliens exist.

    2. I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that UFOs exist. I have photo of an unidentified flying object. I look at the picture and I can’t identify it. It could be a blurred photo of a baseball, but I can’t be sure and I don’t accept things on faith.

  47. Again, sorry for old Paul. Every once in a while he jumps out of the bushes and yells boo. It’s rare when he makes the mainstream media.

  48. Tom

    And speaking of photos…. Now that there are millions of digital cameras built into mobile phones, why don’t we see a lot more pictures of alien craft?

  49. ABR: Space 1999 is already out on DVD!

  50. Robert Carnegie

    I may need in an argument I’m having online to work through a list of climate-change-doubting scientists, determining why each has no credibility… one category I’m considering is retirement age. This guy is getting up to Linus Pauling old-and-crazy. Actually, my father lived to his late 80s, but he didn’t have the same incisive intellect as before.

  51. Robert Carnegie

    Oh – for another argument – or possibly the same one, I forget – any tips on “science fiction” ways to interrupt climate change? Someone’s proposed a giant sunshade -or- a carefully placed cloud of space dust, or doing something with volcanoes. I recall a serious BBC radio discussion of some such exotic plans but I don’t see it online – it may not be. It won’t be unique. John Byrne’s graphic novel [2112] for instance had two gigantic pyramid-shaped machines built in about 100 years from now, one on Antarctica to make enough ozone for the planet, on in South America I think to suck up carbon dioxide – I guess to make up for the rainforest. Extraordinarily fanciful.

  52. TheBlackCat

    What we would need is a few really big fusion reactors that could power some giant electrolysis machines to convert the CO2 into graphite and oxygen. I think that is pretty much what they did in Aliens.

  53. Jeremy

    Well, assuming they’re hiding the Heart of Gold somewhere in a US Air Force Hangar, he’s quite correct. We can solve Global Warming by turning everyone into spandex clothing.

    Highly improbable.

  54. Robert Carnegie: “I may need in an argument I’m having online to work through a list of climate-change-doubting scientists, determining why each has no credibility…”

    No no no no…… never go for the man, go for the ball.

  55. Mark Martin

    “No no no no…… never go for the man, go for the ball.”

    Good one. I heartily agree.

  56. just becouse there are retards who see an alien spacefraft ufo in evry light in the sky, there are the better kind

    couse there is no greater blindness
    then that to see the truth and not wanna see it couse ur small brain refuses to comphrehend it
    and to accept that u where rong:)

    debunk this all smart asses around here wiill yah pls/?

    HIS video is a recording of a NATIONAL PRES CLUB EVENT, TOOK PLACE IN WASHINGTON DC, with most major media present.
    Warning this video is not a fake, or a hoax, all witnesses talking on tape can be verified as the event itself.!!!!!!

    Over 400 government, military, and intelligence community witnesses testifying
    to their direct, personal, first hand experience with UFOs, ETs, ET technology, and the cover-up that keeps this information secret.!!

    ONce again this is a must see.
    If u didn`t watch this video u seen nothing yet.!!!


    Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

  57. Buzz Parsec

    Well, ya got me there. It must be real if it happened in front of the Media!!!!!

    I’m sure it’s not fake. I’m sure it really is a guy standing up there in front of an audience at the National Press Club in Washington DC making all those claims. Of course, it could be someone standing in front of a blue screen in some movie studio in Hollywood, and they filled in background footage of the National Press Club, but only a conspiracy nut would beleive something like that….

  58. ABR

    Thomas Siefert: thanks for the heads up on the Space 1999 DVDs. It looks like some of the UFO series is also available on DVD through A&E Home Video.

  59. skeptigirl

    ioresult Says:
    Oh give him a break. He’s 83 years old! When I’ll be that old, I think I also will be saying all sorts of stuff to get some attention!

    My first thought too, but 5 minutes of web search and you find the guy’s been going on about this stuff for several decades.

    RZ Says:
    What’s really sad is that the story credits him as a “former Canadian defense minister” rather than a “current crackpot”.

    He was defense minister almost 40 years ago, and only for about 6 years – not very long by our political standards…

    That’s one of the important issues as I see it, though this guy did have a few more political stints here and there after the minister position. The real story should have been about all the ‘government is hiding the UFO’ believers in this particular group of oddballs.

    That cutepiggy.com video was quite distressing. (I only watched the first 5 minutes.) Can you imagine if your physician husband quit his emergency department head position to become a full time campaigner for governments to reveal their UFO technology files? You wouldn’t know whether to call a psychiatrist or just leave the guy.

    Our politicians like most other groups seem to represent the gamut. We have a few anti-vaxers in the US House of Reps, So Africa has the HIV-AIDS denier president. Then of course, we not only have a president who believes in Creation and not evolution, but according to polls, his beliefs reflect the majority belief in the country.

    Sigh to the 100th power plus a few more.

  60. Bad Astronomer! Bad! You should have posted his name straight away in your post. I had to skim through reams of replies to find out who it was…

    I say “bad” because the Bad Astronomer looks down on crackpot reports about “this leading scientist reported” without disclosing an actual name. Otherwise it sounds like heresay.

    So he was a Liberal eh? I guessed that before it was revealed.. d’oh!

  61. Eric Briggs

    I think this new speech from Mr Hellyer is just promoting some new initiative from the Exopolitics people…


    Watch out, Exopolitics may be to UFOs what Intelligent Design is to Creationism.

  62. Maybe we could use this retired politician as a free source to fill hot air balloons.

  63. mike burkhart

    I would like to know why people think that ufos and aliens will solve all of our problems? If the goerment for sake of argument has a crashed ufo the millitary would want one thing from it wepons technolgly . And I dont think aliens care one way or another about the inhabits of earth maybe thats why they have not come here .we need to stop looking to aliens to be the savior of mankind and solve our own problems.p.s. concernig my last coment on the moon hoax I am not in the Army nor a hasmat specalist and I have never been to area 51 nor do i beleve the moon landing was a fake I refered to a video game entiled area51 I palyed on my playstation 2 in witch the character you played is the above mentioned I hope people who read that dont think I am a wako I am just a video game addict.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar