How easy is it to fool UFO believers? Easy, if you have a flare for it

By Phil Plait | April 2, 2009 7:30 am

[Update (April 3, 2009): The two men who perpetrated this hoax have been charged by a local prosecutor as "disorderly persons", evidently a minor offense. Not surprising, and I’m sure it won’t be a big deal. Still, don’t try this at home, folks. Thanks to Kevin Conod for the tip.]

This story almost speaks for itself: by tying some long-lasting flares to helium balloons and releasing them, two skeptics from New Jersey made fools out local and national media, including the thoroughly awful "UFO Hunters" show on the increasingly ill-named History Channel.

I love this story! It has all the features told breathlessly in UFO reports: distant lights, flying in formation, appearing to hover, then suddenly taking off. All of this from flares tied to a balloon! My favorite part was testimony from a pilot (who claimed on camera the lights shot off to the side), because UFO experts love to trot out pilots, saying they spend so much time looking at the sky there’s no way they could be mistaken.

Right.

Look: anyone can misidentify stuff in the sky, especially when what you’re seeing doesn’t fit into what you’re used to. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to lots of folks. Whenever some so-called "expert" says that there’s no way flares could behave this way… well, you’ll know better.

Not everything that glisters is gold, and not every light in the sky is an alien just dying to eat the back end of a cow or poke you in the privates. That’s the kind of thing you’d hope people would have figured out by now, but this story proves conclusively that we’ll have to keep saying it forever.

Hat tip to Newsweek blogger and TAM 6 speaker Sharon Begley. Image credit: the awesome Gerry Anderson Craft site.

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Comments (165)

  1. “Look: anyone can misidentify stuff ion the sky”

    meh. Fix, delete this coment

  2. rob

    i like how unidentified=alien. just because they don’t recognize the object in the sky, it has to be some other worldly being.

  3. delete this comment also. :)

  4. GarfunkeL

    Awesome, just awesome!

  5. Sir Eccles

    Ah but you see, the government paid these guys to spread this obvious fake to try and discredit the true believers. They knew it was fake and were just playing along to see if they would slip up and say who was REALLY behind the coverup! These sorts of childish antics only distract them from the real issue!

  6. Obviously just a disinformation piece by the Men In Black to trick people into realizing that aliens are visiting us and probing our orifices. The truth is out there! It is! (really!).

  7. Daniel J. Andrews

    The shooting of objects to the side is a common illusion when you lose your usual frame of reference. For example, while walking across the ice of a large lake on a foggy day I saw dark objects ahead of me. There was no horizon, no sky, just gray all around me except for these darker objects.

    I didn’t know how far away they were or how big they were. I watched them for a while and saw them running back and forth across the ice. I figured some group of animals playing and chasing each other, or even someone on a dog sled mushing across the ice. I kept walking towards them and eventually I discovered those objects were ice upthrusts about a meter high. They were very stationary.

    And I even knew about this movement illusion so I was trying to avoid being tricked like that. Best I could do though was be aware that it wasn’t moving because no matter how hard I tried they ‘moved’.

  8. Samsam

    Actually, the flares fooled the aliens, who came to investigate who might be moving in on their turf. In a fit of pique, they destroyed the balloons & flares, but their ships were observed.

  9. Hoonser

    It’s refreshing to read a nice UFO story for once. This is at least one of the less damaging areas of pseudoscience.

  10. José

    I addicted to woo related shows, but even I can’t handle UFO Hunters.

  11. IVAN3MAN

    @ TechSkeptic,

    Matthew 7:3-4 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
    Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? :-)

  12. Alan French

    Who knows how many sightings are just kids or folks simply out for a little “fun” with no intention of making their prank public knowledge?

    This was certainly a good illustration of how easily people can be fooled by very simple and mundane things. It also nicely showed how many of the self proclaimed UFO “experts” are actually very gullible people and not the careful researchers they pretend to be.

    Clear skies, Alan

  13. Rob

    I love UFO-Hunters. It’s incredible how they can make story of UFOs out of everything: mountains, fields, stones,…lol. It’s one of the most entertaining tv-show I currently watch (ok, after Colbert).

  14. Todd W.

    This story also nicely illustrates that us skeptics aren’t necessarily the ones making the UFO=aliens jump, but rather that it is a commonly held belief by the public and UFO “hunters” themselves.

  15. Jack Mitcham

    @Jose

    “I addicted to woo related shows”

    Did you also accidentally the whole thing?

  16. Pisces

    If you’ve never seen any aliens, then how do you know they aren’t there? (if an alien lands in the forest and no one sees him is he really there?)

  17. anon

    “Look: anyone can misidentify stuff ion the sky, especially when what you’re seeing doesn’t fit into what you’re used to. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to lots of folks.”

    – Would be interested in hearing specific examples. Thanks.

  18. Charles Boyer

    ^ I don’t see Santa Claus come down the chimney on 12/24 and I know he’s not there.

    Go figure.

  19. The Mutt

    My buddy and I did the same hoax a few years ago. Unfortunately, the balloon popped and the flare fell on the roof of a Children’s Hospital. The ensuing fire took the lives of 12 children and 3 firemen.

    No, that didn’t happen, but it easily could have.

    Those two “skeptics” should be arrested for reckless endangerment.

  20. Proof of aliens is the number of typos being made in this post & comments. Clearly, the alien mind beams are at work…

    ALEINS ARE HERE!

    (snork!)

  21. BTW, I saw another video that “proved” spaceships were here was finally claimed by a couple of students in Italy, who explained it was their project for a class in Maya, the CGI program. Yet another one drops…

  22. – Would be interested in hearing specific examples. Thanks.

    And so it starts.

    Anon, one fine evening when my parents and I were out looking for Perseid meteors, we saw a HUGE (hence the caps) glowing object zigzagging across the sky. At first we thought it was a meteor, but it didn’t have a tail and it wasn’t flying in a straight line. It was bright orange and really weird. Luckily, I was able to raise my binoculars just in time to see….an owl. A very big owl, whose wings and body were illuminated by the low-pressure sodium vapor lights in the housing development two streets over. For the few seconds before I made the ID, we were all convinced we were seeing something otherworldly. Even afterwards my dad was skeptical because, in his words, “Owls don’t glow.”

    Are all UFO sightings owls? Nope. But some might be. (I know one that was.

  23. IVAN3MAN

    kuhnigget:

    A very big owl, whose wings and body were illuminated by the low-pressure sodium vapor lights in the housing development two streets over.

    This is yet another example of inefficient street-lighting.

  24. Larry

    I too am hoping they planned this out so no lit flares might come down and cause a fire. Not so funny when someone’s house burns down.
    I need to measure my dosage of UFO Hunters. They get way too stupid for repeated viewings. My favorite part is the “experiments.” Oh, now I see, they’re using “scientific” experiments, so all my doubts will wash away leaving no other possible conclusion.
    To quote Bugs Bunny…what a bunch of Ma-roons!

  25. a lurker

    “I too am hoping they planned this out so no lit flares might come down and cause a fire. Not so funny when someone’s house burns down.”

    That is certainly the first thing that I thought of. Showing that UFO “experts” are incapable or unwilling to detect fraud can be done without engaging in conduct that put persons, property, or the natural environment at risk.

  26. I’ve seen alien spaceship shapes in the sky before. If a plane is coming towards you at just the right angle, the wings form the “saucer” of the UFO and the front forms the “alien cockpit” section. The tail gets hidden behind the rest of the plane. I’ve often wondered how many UFO stories were actually just airplanes plus faulty memory (plus, perhaps, a dash of intentional exaggeration).

  27. UmTutSut

    “…not every light in the sky is an alien….”

    Ah, Phil…so if not EVERY light is an alien, you’re admitting SOME are? ;-P

    Look, I agree most of the sighting reports I read (e.g, on MUFON) are misidentifications or outright delusions. But there have been many credible sightings by credible witnesses (no, I don’t have a handy LIST!)of what appear to be physical objects doing things beyond our current understanding of physics. To me, that suggests there is a legitimate phenomenon or phenomena deserving of serious scientific study rather than “skeptical” dismissal.

    For the record, I don’t know WHAT people are seeing. And I’ve never actually seen anything I thought was an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

  28. Kevin

    I watched all the videos and read the story the guys posted. I thought it was great! All of the eyewitnesses who are so willing to not believe a mundane explanation in favor of something extraterrestrial.

    I would have loved to know if – after the whole story was revealed – those “believers” changed their minds, or are they sticking to their opinions.

  29. @ Kevin:

    I would have loved to know if – after the whole story was revealed – those “believers” changed their minds, or are they sticking to their opinions.

    The human ego is a fragile thing. I imagine a good number of those people will follow up with, “But that’s not what I saw!”

    @ UmTutSut:

    In general, anything you read on MUFON’s website will fall into the “delusional” category. Groups like that have one objective: to promote the belief in alien spaceships visiting earth. Objectivity is not a hallmark.

  30. deatkin

    I spent much of my childhood convinced that aliens were watching me at night in my bedroom. Then I went to university and learned about sleep paralysis, and I also read Carl Sagan’s “A Demon-Haunted World” which talks at length on the subject. I no longer think aliens are visiting Earth, but I can understand why some people are convinced they are. I still cringe when I see a realistic depiction of an alien on television or in a movie, though, no matter how unreal I know it all is.

  31. Alan French

    I can see some concern about fires, but that obviously didn’t happen. I would think a 15 minute flare on a large helium balloon would have a good chance of burning out long before there was any chance of the balloon landing.

    Have there ever been any fires attributed to the runaway Chinese lanterns that seem rather common?

    In truth, there would be other ways to run such an experiment without any risk of a fire.

    Clear skies, Alan

  32. jggr

    “Whenever some so-called “expert” says that there’s no way flares could behave this way… well, you’ll know better.”

    You know, this sentence can be used both ways. Not saying that I disagree, just saying.

  33. Dunc

    As for “the increasingly ill-named History Channel”, I always refer to it as “the (Learn Nothing From) History Channel”.

  34. QUASAR
  35. Jonathan

    Not only is it very interesting how easily it is to fool a UFO believer, it’s simply amazing how easy it is to fool anyone, even a staunch skeptic. The difference is, if the skeptic is told how they were fooled, they may do further research in to the subject to be aware of further incidents in which this may happen, to arm themselves. The “believer” probably would come up with a conspiracy theory for the explanation and keep on believing in whatever they were fooled with, blissfully ignorant.

  36. UmTutSut

    @kuhnigget:
    In general, anything you read on MUFON’s website will fall into the “delusional” category. Groups like that have one objective: to promote the belief in alien spaceships visiting earth. Objectivity is not a hallmark.

    I think that’s too harsh. More accurate to say people who actively participate in MUFON are possibly inclined to view “evidence” less critcally than the skeptical community.

  37. Alan French

    The basic problem is that cable/satellite television has given them far too much bandwidth, and it is just impossible to fill it well with good programming. If we could buy stations a la carte perhaps we’d wind up with some better programming. OTOH, the public does seem to love shows like “Ghost Hunters.”

    Clear skies, Alan

  38. @ umtutsut:

    You say “less critical” I say “delusional,”
    You say “tomato,” I say “tomahto,”
    “Less critical,” “delusional,”
    “Tomato,” “tomahto,”
    Oh, let’s call the whole thing off.

    With apologies to Fred.

  39. Charles Boyer

    @The Mutt

    Good point. That sort of thing is somewhat dangerous.

    I guess when I do my smilar prank I will need some electronic blinking lights that are cool and would represent no danger. :-)

    Actually, the helium blimp from Edmonds could be modified, and….

    See you on UFO Hunters!

  40. @Charles Boyer

    “I don’t see Santa Claus come down the chimney on 12/24 and I know he’s not there.”

    well, i guess you should have been good last year, then! ;p

  41. Gary Ansorge

    a lurker,,,:

    “,,,or the natural environment at risk.”

    So, I guess it’s ok to to put the UNNATURAL environment at risk???

    GAry 7

  42. mike burkhart

    I think the history chanel has gone ufo crazy two years ago they showed a picture of a ring shaped object going by the space shuttle and of couse clamed it was a ufo but it looked like a piece of space junk to me (from a satlite or the shuttle itslef) I wrote them about this and never got a reply or did they even say in a rerun that this could be the case . By the way the ufos in the photo look like the ones in that show ufo I think you should have used ones from close encounters of the 3rd kind ,ID4 , Preditor or the recent Indana Jones movie those looke more neat and weird

  43. Farb

    I’ve been looking up for forty years, and have never seen a single UFO.

    I’ve identified them all–bright planets, weather balloons, aircraft through distorting weather layers, bolides, ISS, Hubble–my favorite is a group of three military helicopters flying in formation at night (it happens fairly regularly).

    I often see things when I’m out with student astronomy groups. I like to point them out by beginning, “Now if I wanted to mislead you, I could probably fool you into believing that’s some alien space ship. But here’s what it really is, and here’s how you can know.”

    Someone looking over my shoulder as I write just said it’s because I have no soul.

  44. @ Farb:

    The aliens stole your soul and transplanted it via anal probe into an unsuspecting bovine.

  45. These flare setters are messing with Karma from another universe… I wouldn’t be surprised if they happen to be up to their antics one night, alone, in a dark field or on a mountain top and see their own version of lights in the sky. Then they’ll wake up some time later with a dull throbbing pain in their nether region. I’m just saying, be careful when you pull stuff like this.

  46. mike burkhart

    O one more thing wile I think that it is possable that there is life eleswere in this very big universe of ours the only aliens Ive seen are in scifi movies and in viedo games you know I think the real aliens have never visited Earth because they have better things to do and probly don’t care about us humans P.s. that last part was aimed at the contactes who think aliens will come to save the human race and solve all our problems to them I say : DONT’HOLD YOUR BREATH

  47. Bob from Easton

    My friend and I caused a UFO sensation one night when we were 14 back in ’68. We took a rather large clear plastic bag, about 6 feet tall, stretched a thin plank of wood across the opening, and attached a can of Sterno onto the center of the plank. I held the bag straight up and my friend lit the Sterno. The heat from the small fire filled the bag with hot air and made it glow blue. We let the thing go and it rose up very quickly. It went up pretty high and from the ground you couldn’t see anything but the bluish color undulating in the sky. The next morning there were stories on the news about a UFO sighting in Jersey. All these people had called the police in a bunch of towns as it floated across the sky. The stories they told were all the usual stuff you hear from a UFO sighting. The newspapers were all over it and it was a very big story for a day. My friend was very proud of it, and blabbed all over the school that we did it. Two days later the cops were at my door and boy did all hell break loose. The papers got a hold of it, and my old man beat my ass raw. Considering what a fire hazard it was, I deserved the beating, but I still am rather proud of it.

  48. kkde#

    Oh, my!
    Fisrt of all, if Aliens exist, they would not waste their time and resources in a race that blames the global heating to CO2 instead of overpopulation, people that live in an artifical way and don0t care about the planet they inhabit.
    Why would they bother?
    They could surely have better things to do, or bigger problems to solve.
    With an entire universe to explore… Why earth? why humans?

  49. Mchl

    I always wanted to do a prank like this. Even when I was more of a believer than a skeptic.
    My plans actually involved candle lit hot air baloons…

  50. Gary Ansorge

    Bob from Easton,,,

    Hey, thanks for that great idea,,,Maybe I’ll add a big, black dragon painted on the side of the bag,,,

    Gary 7

  51. ND

    Bob from Easton,

    I think there are UFO sighting archives on the net, maybe you can find your prank still listed as a UFO sighting.

  52. IVAN3MAN

    Jonathan:

    Not only is it very interesting how easily it is to fool a UFO believer, it’s simply amazing how easy it is to fool anyone, even a staunch skeptic. The difference is, if the skeptic is told how they were fooled, they may do further research in to the subject to be aware of further incidents in which this may happen, to arm themselves. The “believer” probably would come up with a conspiracy theory for the explanation and keep on believing in whatever they were fooled with, blissfully ignorant.

    Hence the proverb: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

  53. Mike

    What a great way to start a Thursday, with a good laugh.

    Dahaha.. hahahahaha..haaaaahahaha.
    Bunch of fools shown to be fools on the fooliest day of the year.
    Fools! Let us point and laugh.
    Haaahahah 😀

  54. jest

    I’ve always wanted to do that – send something up into a city skyline (preferably with some kind of lights) just to see who freaks out. Maybe go to Radio Shack (or whatever they call it now) and pick up some LEDs and a 9v battery, and wire something up that’s light enough to send up.

    I guess that’s just how I roll.

  55. Todd W.

    @IVAN3MAN

    Hence the proverb: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    I thought it was: Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

  56. BJN

    @UmTutSut

    Speaking for myself, I’m sure some people have observed flying objects that aren’t flares, balloons, planets, owls, or other misidentified mundane objects. As a kid, I saw a very strange daylight UFO that in retrospect may have been a missile vapor trail and either an explosion or booster separation. I’m sure that military hardware accounts for some of the more baffling accounts that seem harder to explain. But to take the quantum leap from “I saw a flying object I couldn’t identify” (the very definition of UFO) to “I saw an extraterrestrial craft” is simply absurd. While there are plenty of UFOs there is zero credible evidence for the mythology of alien species and their vehicles visiting this planet.

  57. whb03

    A fine piece of debunking, I am glad these guys have the guts to do it. I wouldn’t, because I would not be surprised if:
    (a) Jeff Rense, producers of UFO Hunters, publishers of UFO Magazine, and/or the fine attorneys of MUFON successfully sues these guys for libel, slander or simply messing with their paychecks (and win). When you debunk someone else’s bunk, expect retaliation. They don’t really care much about the truth, only protection of their paychecks and theories.
    (b) The authorities (FAA, local police, whoever) decides to press charges on promoting a hoax, fire hazard, or whatever other charges they feel like drumming up. The authorities seem to hate anyone getting away with anything which causes publicity without their consent, and often times take pretty drastic measures against said offenders. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone went as far as claiming threat of terrorism. Such is the society we have created for ourselves.

    If I sound paranoid – well, I am. I do like living outside of prison and above the poverty line. OK, so I’m a wuss, I admit it…

    Hats off to these guys. Just be careful with those flares. But keep in mind that debunking can be dangerous stuff, as too many people have too much invested in nonreality.

  58. John Phillips, FCD

    Todd W. ROTFLMAO.

  59. Gary Ansorge

    jest:

    Just be certain to clean off any incriminating evidence, like fingerprints, dna, etc.

    Sounds cool, if you can make it:
    1) fire proof
    2) long flight times
    3) visible from a significant distance.

    Gary 7
    PS: you may want to retract your post here. Remember: leave no web trail,,,

  60. Josh

    I love watching the video of the media responses. Every single one says “Police think that these are just helium baloons with flares attachd”, which is the case… but they just completely ignore it!

    Hahaha.

  61. Joe Meils

    I’m foresquare for anything that shows how “UFO Hunters” (and especially that nutcase Bill) is a joke. I watched an episode last night which concerned the “Starchild skull” and just wanted to deck those people! They were obviously holding the skull of a deformed kid. They kept pointing out how the eye sockets were different, yet in no way could they have been from a “Gray”… those things would have skulls (if they have skulls at all, hypothetically) which would look more like birds, where the sockets would have taken up 30% or more of the structure. They went so far as to take it to a SPFX studio to have a “forensic reconstruction” done… SURPRISE! The clay model came out looking like a supposed Roswell critter.

    History Channel should be ashamed. Even Syfy wouldn’t run crap like this… oh, wait, yes they would… Is Bill a plumber, by any chance?

  62. IVAN3MAN

    @ Todd W.,

    Oh, you mean the George W. Bush version:

  63. IVAN3MAN

    Todd W., my response is “awaiting moderation”.

  64. Thanks for linking to the Gerry Anderson Craft site. I wasn’t aware of it but, bad science notwithstanding, “Space:1999” was my favorite show in childhood and many of the episodes (mostly from the first season) are still fun to watch today.

  65. Winter Solstice Man

    More than ever, people are looking for an Answer or Salvation from Above.

    God will do nicely for many, but superior aliens in a cool-looking spaceship come to take the Chosen Ones to their planet Nirvana will do just as well, thank you.

    Just ask the Heaven’s Gate members – oh wait, you can’t any more.

    Any big comets coming our way?

  66. If it’s on the Hysteria Channel it must have been true, I guess.

  67. jest

    T’was good thinking on your part, Gary7. Though the chances of me actually going ahead with that idea are unlikely. A lot of ideas are fun, in theory.

  68. Todd W.

    @IVAN3MAN

    That be it.

  69. Kyle

    Now I do have to do a little defense for the History Channel. It does torque me they show bad shows like UFO Hunters or whatever the name is but I do think they have a couple of good ones like How the Earth Was Made, great show on Loch Ness in which they do say there is NO WAY for there to be a Plesiosaur living in loch, and The Universe is really good too. Which does make me even madder when they do shows like the UFO Hunters.

  70. Ian

    UFO Hunters belongs on SciFi with the Ghost Hunters guys.

    I really enjoy good UFO stories. Particularly when it is obvious we;re talking about military stuff or when it is so obvious that it is not a UFO yet the rubes claim that it is. Better yet when it is both (see: phoenix lights.)

    The UFO Hunters dorks go in assuming it is real then fit the “evidence” to match. And that is just sad and has no place on a channel purportedly related to history.

  71. justcorbly

    In ancient times before cable, when I was in college, I managed to get local news coverage by tieing helium-filled party balloons into a few bundles, attaching some strips of aluminum foil to the strings below each balloon, and releasing them on a calm, clear day just before sunset. During twilight, with the sun just below the horizon and the balloons at a sufficient altitude, the foil was quite reflective and the balloons were invisible.

    There was, as they say, more at 11.

  72. I love a good harmless hoax, they’re fun. Especially where there is so much harmful fraud out there in the form of unscrupulous “psychics” like Sylvia Brown and all the medical quackery that costs lives and health. The fact this was done by a couple skeptical college students and fooled the “UFO experts” who somehow conned there way onto tv makes it even better.

  73. I have told the story before of a “UFO” sighting when I was at a star party. It was Venus, low in the sky twinkling through a lot of atmosphere. I pointed my telescope at it to show the person who thought it was a UFO. He insisted I had my telescope pointed at the wrong object and wanted me to point it at the bright moving light, not the Moon (yes, he thought it was the Moon due to the phase of Venus).

    Some people just won’t believe their own lying eyes.

  74. Justin

    I’m sort of torn here. On the one hand they’ve pulled off a brilliant social experiment from which many will hopefully benefit. On the other however, what they did was possibly dangerous. If one of those flares had fallen on a house, I doubt many of us would still be congratulating them.

    Still though, I think they should get off with a stern warning, and maybe some community service at worst.

  75. Roger

    If you see something flying in the sky and you don’t know what it is, then it is, by definition, an Unidentified Flying Object. So there really are, technically, UFO’s, even if there are no little gray men in flying saucers. So the headline should call them something other than “UFO believers”.

  76. eddie

    “How easy is it to fool UFO believers? Easy, if you have a flare for it”

    Best.

    Blog.

    Title.

    Ever.

  77. http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Pair-Charged-in-UFO-Hoax.html

    Two men have been charged with disorderly conduct for a UFO hoax in which they used illuminated the sky over New Jersey with reg lights.

    Joe Rudy and Chris Russo were charged Thursday. They had previously come forward to say they were behind the strange lights that sparked 911 calls. They even videotaped themselves doing it and posted the video on the eskeptic website.

  78. Gary Rosetree

    The news media is pursuing the guys like criminals and say that they are about to be charged with “disorderly conduct”. They seem angry that they were made to look like fools. Apparently, that’s not difficult.

  79. fred edison

    Funny stuff. Maybe they did a public service by demoing how easily people can be deceived by strange things in the sky. To that I give them credit as an educational tool. But is it funny if one of the burning flares lights brush on fire or burns down a building. The point of the hoax was to show that people can be bamboozled, and the answer is yes they can. My point is were the people fooled the only fools in this demonstration.

    And for the love of everything holy and unholy, do not toss your lit cigarette butts out of your car window while driving to demonstrate your ignorance. Smokey ‘da bear’ and I thank you.

  80. Dave in Texas

    Look, I see plenty of UFos… They’re UFOs because I can’t spot the airline logo or tail numbers.

    Actually saw on tonight… looked like an airliner’s landing light, but it was moving very fast, coming at me from the north-west. No beacon lights, tho, no noise, and it was moving very fast… Almost straight over head. Very bright.

    Then I figured it out – it was the International Space Station with it’s new panels – bright as the moon is passed.

  81. Zetetic

    As much as I love idiots and the peddlers of delusion being humiliated publicly, I too must voice my concern about the possible fire hazard of using burning flares on the balloons.

    As a blast from the past on how easy it is to fool UFO “experts”, here is an older article about how easy it is to get a photo declared as “authentic proof”, and you don’t even need to leave your home!

    http://ufohoax.tripod.com/

  82. DLC

    Nah, it was the Pegasans using hyperspace vortex fields to drop balloons with flares attached.

  83. MarkoL

    I agree that UFO Hunters is a complete waste of time, Bill jumps to “conclusions” probably faster than a speeding bullet and he is a total fanatic with no sense of reality, but I call this entertainment. It is just that. However, I do not agree that pointing the finger at the UFO issue and laughing at it is a scientific way to deal with this either. Although I also agree that most of the pictures and videos out there of UFO’s are not extraterrestrial crafts and people are fooled very easily, some might be very hard to explain. And so by just calling EVERY UFO believer a fool is not very constructive and actually makes you no better. I haven’t seen any lights in the sky nor am I a believer in extraterrestrial UFO’s per se, I am actually skeptical, but I don’t think we can totally rule that out either. Yes, yes, I know, we need tangible evidence. But after all, if we scientists believe (because we don’t know) that there there is life and even possibly advanced civilizations in this galaxy, is there absolutely NO possibility that they are visiting us? Actually I am somewhat disappointed with the “scientists” here.

  84. Nigel Depledge

    Pisces said:

    If you’ve never seen any aliens, then how do you know they aren’t there? (if an alien lands in the forest and no one sees him is he really there?)

    Well, duh, we don’t.

    But, given what a huge challenge interstellar travel is, the parsimonious explanation is that what people have seen and failed to identify is most likely to be (a) a mundane object; (b) an astronical object; or (c) an unusual atmospheric phenomenon.

    Certainly the information we have currently does not justify the conclusion that aliens are visiting our world.

  85. Nigel Depledge

    UnTutSut said:

    But there have been many credible sightings by credible witnesses (no, I don’t have a handy LIST!)of what appear to be physical objects doing things beyond our current understanding of physics.

    No, there are no “credible” sightings because there is no such thing as a credible eyewitness. Our spatial awareness is too easily fooled by a lack of reference points to determine whether or not an object in the sky is near or far (or even an actual object), so judging whether or not its behaviour defies known physics is impossible.

  86. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    I think that’s too harsh. More accurate to say people who actively participate in MUFON are possibly inclined to view “evidence” less critcally than the skeptical community

    No, don’t mince words. People who actively participate in MUFON are credulous.

  87. Nigel Depledge

    Farb said:

    Someone looking over my shoulder as I write just said it’s because I have no soul.

    OK . . . so, does that mean you need to have a soul to believe nonsense, or does that mean having a soul causes you to believe nonsense?

    Either way, you’re probably better off without.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    Bob from Easton said:

    Two days later the cops were at my door and boy did all hell break loose. The papers got a hold of it, and my old man beat my ass raw. Considering what a fire hazard it was, I deserved the beating, but I still am rather proud of it.

    Heh. And I’ll bet that all those people who called the cops were never chastised for wasting police time.

    Justice? There is no justice . . .

  89. UmTutSut

    Nigel Depledge wrote:
    No, there are no “credible” sightings because there is no such thing as a credible eyewitness.

    I don’t agree with this at all. No doubt, our senses can be fooled, but that does NOT mean they are fooled in every single case.

    When a commercial airline flight crew, for example, reports that an object flew in proximity to their aircraft, caused apparent electromagnetic effects, and then disappeared via maneuvers that appear to defy physical laws, I would believe them. I don’t know WHAT they saw, but I wouldn’t think their eyes simply played tricks on them.

    Check out Dr. Richard Haines 2000 report: http://pdharris.com/ufo/narcap.pdf

  90. Nigel Depledge

    MarkoL said:

    I agree that UFO Hunters is a complete waste of time, Bill jumps to “conclusions” probably faster than a speeding bullet and he is a total fanatic with no sense of reality, but I call this entertainment. It is just that.

    No, since it is presented as a “factual” programme, there are people out there who will believe it.

    However, I do not agree that pointing the finger at the UFO issue and laughing at it is a scientific way to deal with this either.

    No, the scientific way to deal with this is to investigate each and every sighting rigorously to determine what the most likely cuase of the sighting was. Are you prepared to fund such an effort?

    Although I also agree that most of the pictures and videos out there of UFO’s are not extraterrestrial crafts and people are fooled very easily, some might be very hard to explain. And so by just calling EVERY UFO believer a fool is not very constructive and actually makes you no better.

    Seriously, it is the height of foolishness to leap from “unidentified thing in the sky” to “alien spaceship”. Why should these people not be called fools?

    I haven’t seen any lights in the sky

    You are in dire need of going outside on a clear night and looking up. There are thousands of lights in the sky all the time (well, thousands if you have a dark sky). Not counting the moon, there are the planets, aeroplanes, helicopters, satellites (including the ISS) and any number of other things (clouds and flocks of birds that are lit up by bright lights on the ground can be seen over very long distances, for instance).

    nor am I a believer in extraterrestrial UFO’s per se, I am actually skeptical, but I don’t think we can totally rule that out either.

    Alien spaceships cannot be ruled out. However, visits from alien spaceships would be extraordinary indeed, perhaps the most significant thing ever to happen to mankind. And extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Without absolute rock-solid evidence, the conclusion that some UFOs are alien spaceships is unjustifiable.

    Yes, yes, I know, we need tangible evidence. But after all, if we scientists believe (because we don’t know) that there there is life and even possibly advanced civilizations in this galaxy, is there absolutely NO possibility that they are visiting us? Actually I am somewhat disappointed with the “scientists” here.

    How do you define an “advanced” civilisation? Interstellar travel represents a whole slew of huge challenges. Those challenges do not go away if you have more advanced technology, because the laws of thermodynamics and relativity will remain the same.

    It is unreasonable to suppose we are being visited by aliens without some concrete evidence from which to conclude it is happening. Even if the galaxy were riddled with advanced civilisations, there is no guarantee that interstellar travel would actually occur.

  91. Zetetic

    @MarkoL
    For what it’s worth Phil Plait has stated on this blog something to the effect that he believes that there is life elsewhere in the universe, but that there is no reason to believe that it has visited us. I personally share the attitude, and I bet that many of the others on this blog do too.

    The problem is that the claims of visitation don’t make a lot of sense. If aliens didn’t want us to know they were here, why are they doing such a poor job of hiding? It seems unlikely that any technology that advanced would be incapable of doing a better job of hiding. If they did want us to know they were here, why is the evidence so pitiful? If they wanted us to know, there would be zero doubt that they were here. If they didn’t care, why has nothing of substance been found at all? Why is it that the “evidence” for alien visitation can be explained by nature, human activity, the limitations of human perception, etc.?

    For decades the skeptical community has been trying to get the UFO community to tone down the hyperbole and to use a little critical thought in their pursuits. All the skeptical community got in response was hostility and name calling for not taking their declarations for granted, and for trying to find a more reasonable explanation for the “evidence”. The reason for scorn from the believers is that many of them have already decided what they want to believe and don’t really care about pursing the the truth of the matter (anything that is contrary to dogma is automatically rejected). Others in the UFO community have a vested financial and/or emotional interest in exploiting the first group. The “UFO Hunters” show is a good example of the exploiters, to many of the believers it is not just “entertainment”.

    If someone actively and deliberately refuses to use their brain when evaluating the claims of extraterrestrials, they have no one to blame but themselves if they jump to unreasonable conclusions and are made to look foolish. In spite of being shown to wrong time and time again, they would rather arrogantly assume that they are correct and that any failure to provide evidence is part of some unrealistic global conspiracy. They are deliberately promoting poor thinking & trying to undermine scientific thought in our cultures in order to sway people to their side, as is typical of so many other irrational beliefs. For example, if NASA or the European Space Agency don’t confirm their beliefs, its because they are hiding the truth, and nothing those organizations discover can be trusted. Some will claim “The moon landing was faked to hide proof of aliens”, as one example.

    There is no “scientific way to deal with this” (as you put it) since the other side refuses to truly consider the possibility that they might be wrong about their pet belief. The only thing that can be done, is to provide those that are “on the fence” with logical explanations, and to show just how fallible the “experts” (who are held up as authority figures) of the UFO community really are. Hence the efforts to show how easily they can be fooled into declaring UFO sightings as authentic, and how poor a judge they are of evidence.

    Skeptics on the other hand, are open to evidence of alien visitation, provided that it is reasonably credible. Therefore, stating the the skeptics are “no better” is not accurate.

    Lastly, you seem to be under the impression that many of the people on this site are scientists. This is not correct, some are scientists, some are not (I for one am not) but they are interested in science and logic. So it’s rather unrealistic of you to criticize others of not being “scientific” enough by your own standards of whatever that means to you. This is especially true when the other side is refusing to play by the rules of science.

  92. Zetetic

    @ Farb
    It’s not because you “have no soul” it’s because you have more intellectual integrity. The other guy/gal is the one with a problem…

  93. Joe Meils

    You know, if you are worried about the whole fire hazzard thing, you could always launch a weather balloon with some of those extra bright glow sticks attached. You could even place them inside the balloon’s envelope, so that they would show up as a glowing ball. These glow sticks come in orage green and blue. Fire danger = 0.

  94. Grammar Nazi

    rob said on April 2nd, 2009 at 7:35 am:

    “i [sic] like how unidentified=alien. just because they don’t recognize the object in the sky, it has to be some other worldly being.”

    The difference a space makes when comparing “other worldy” versus “otherworldly”!

    ‘Otherworldly being’ means a being from another world.

    ‘Some other worldly being’ means another being from our world in particular, one whose nature is “worldly” or “coarse” / “earthy.”

    Eg. “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, you’re a man of the world, gov’nor!” to quote the slang used by Monty Python! 😉

  95. Roy R Crawford

    Not sure what you mean by a “flare” for it; I would thought one would have to have a “flair” for it.

  96. @ Markol:

    Sorry. Going to hop on the puppy pile.

    However, I do not agree that pointing the finger at the UFO issue and laughing at it is a scientific way to deal with this either.

    It may not be a scientific way to deal with it, but, as others stated above, after 60+ years of this nonsense, with no credible evidence, nothing buy hyperbole and paranoia, obvious fraud and money-grubbing greed (that’s you, Mikey!) and frankly, for the most part a complete disregard for science, I think mockery is entirely justified.

    The UFOs=alien spaceships crowd are nuts. Whackjobs. Bizarro brains. Bereft of cranial matter. Several bricks short of a load (of crap). Numbskulls. Nincowpoops. Maroons. Eedjits. Knuckleheads. Knucklewalkers. Blockheads. Chumps. Lamebrains. Nitwits. Boneheads. Plonkers. Dolts. Dorks. Dimwits. Buffoons. Bozos. Or, easily misled suckers.

    And if proven otherwise, I will eat a hat. (First, I will have to obtain a hat, but then I will dine on it.)

  97. Roy R Crawford

    Oops, sorry, I missed the reference to flares. Please disregard previous message. Good play on words.

  98. UmTutSut

    Zetetic says:
    “Why is it that the “evidence” for alien visitation can be explained by nature, human activity, the limitations of human perception, etc.?”

    My .02 zlotys: Arguments along Zetetic’s lines (see full post) fail to recognize three critical (IMO) points.

    — Not ALL UFO encounters can be explained as misperceptions.

    — Any potential extraterrestrial entity may not think and act according to anthropomorhic principles. (Unless, of course, “they” bioengineered “us!”)

    — History demonstrates human knowledge of the universe and its physical principles is constantly evolving, so what today seems impossible may not, in fact, be so. We may just need better tools.

    I don’t ask skeptics to BELIEVE, only to keep an open mind — as I do.

  99. Julian

    “I don’t ask skeptics to BELIEVE, only to keep an open mind — as I do.”

    which is why you use you’re third point to dismiss any evidence against the existence of UFOs.

  100. MarkoL

    Well at least I got two good answers! I do agree with you guys and you have very good points, don’t think I wasn’t expecting most of your comments and I agree mostly. That is why there should be a discussion about the subject, but I guess this just isn’t the forum then.
    @Nigel Depledge,
    I called UFO Hunters entertainment, Nigel Depledge said: No, since it is presented as a “factual” programme, there are people out there who will believe it.

    Okay I’ll give you that, it is presented as “factual”, as one would expect from the History channel and many people believe the stories. Of course I would have liked the programme to be without Bill and his crazy ideas and antics. So far I have only seen the episodes as inconclusive or posing “open-ended questions. But that is my subjective opinion.

    MarkoL said: I haven’t seen any lights in the sky
    Nigel Depledge said: You are in dire need of going outside on a clear night and looking up.

    Okay, mea culpa for not specifying the obvious… that I haven’t seen strange aerial phenomena that I could not reasonably explain as satellites, stars, planets, clouds, comets, the ISS, etc.

    On the subject of interstellar travel, yes, at the moment we cannot understand how it would be possible. Again, my subjective opinion: I think humans are not done with inventing “stuff” and we definitely don’t understand all that is going on in the universe, so I say we will be able to invent interstellar travel one day. But of course I don’t think it will be conceivable during our lifetimes. Would we visit other planets and possibly observe other lifeforms? Why not? We are trying to do that right now and if we would have the tech, we would be exploring other stars and planetary systems much further away. Again, just my opinion, so no need to rip me a new one.

    @Zetetic, thanks for your comments. Zetetic said: If aliens didn’t want us to know they were here, why are they doing such a poor job of hiding?

    This made me laugh, that is true, why would they be doing such a bad job at hiding? To lighten up things a little, maybe they are clumsy and press the cloaking device off by mistake… often. Aren’t they portrayed as having only 3 fingers on each hand, would make sense. But seriously, I have no idea, that is why I am so skeptical myself about the whole issue myself.

    Lastly: @Zetetic. Sorry for assuming that people on this site are mostly scientists… I won’t make that mistake again. Thanks for pointing that out so clearly.

  101. @ Umtutsut:

    Something in Richard Haines paper you linked to caught my eye:

    A classic ufology technique is to define and redefine your terms such that you can find evidence of what you are looking for in whatever data might be presented.


    The term UAP is defined as follows:
    An unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) is the visual stimulus that
    provokes a sighting report of an object or light seen in the sky, the
    appearance and/or flight dynamics of which do not suggest a logical,
    conventional flying object and which remains unidentified after close
    scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically
    capable of making both a full technical identification as well as a
    common-sense identification, if one is possible. (Haines, Pp. 13-22,
    1980)
    This definition clearly excludes most of the prosaic explanations one hears about to explain UAP
    including rare atmospheric phenomena (e.g., sprites; sheet and ball lightning; mirages, sub-suns, etc.).

    Interesting to note that Haines then goes on to sort through previously studied reports, choosing for himself which “sightings” fit his new definition. Unless I missed it, he does not support these choices with actual data. In fact…


    It is interesting to note in the FAA’s Near Midair Collisions System Search database that:
    (1) Pilots never used the term “flying saucer,” “UFO,” “disk,” or other such description of the “other” aerial vehicle. Several possible reasons why this is the case are given in the discussion section.
    (2) Other possible synonyms for UAP were found in this database. They included:
    “Unidentified aircraft which passed closely off FLT 452’s left wing. Traffic had not been observed…” (e.g., Rept. No. NCERICT98003, GMT Date: 12-15-98). “Other aircraft” (e.g., Rept. No. NSWROKC97001, GMT Date: 9-12-97). “Unknown aircraft made a 180 degree turn and came back towards (the reporting aircraft), at which time (reporting aircraft) took evasive action.”
    (e.g., Rept. No. NWPRSCT97015, GMT Date: 9-5-97)

    Bold emphasis mine.

    See what he did there? First he presents his own definition of a “phenomena,” then he applies that new definition without supported justification to objects that might (in his interpretation) be synonymous with that definition. But why should an “unidentified aircraft” not be an unidentified aircraft? Why should an “unknown aircraft” be a “UAL”? Haines doesn’t tell us. He merely takes the descriptions of others and suggests, well, maybe what they were really describing was this…

    To his credit, I suppose, he does state in the introduction to his report that his newly defined UALs don’t pose a threat to aviation. Of course he then goes on to hint that further study (e.g. FAA money funding the study) is needed.

    I’m sure that last bit was purely altruistic.

  102. @ Bob from Easton

    HA! That is awesome!

  103. UmTutSut

    kuhnigget writes:
    “But why should an “unidentified aircraft” not be an unidentified aircraft? Why should an “unknown aircraft” be a “UAL”?”

    I’ll just say again I think commercial pilots are credible witnesses and generally know an unidentified AIRCRAFT when they see it. My view is echoed by the introduction to this NARCAP report: http://home.comcast.net/~ken1080/narcap80yearsofpilotsightingsreport.pdf

    “Training and experience make pilots and crews much more reliable witnesses than others. They are used to unusual meteorological phenomenons. They have the added advantage of being able to approach the phenomenon. Sometimes they can even overfly the object, observing it between themselves and the earth below. Military pilots are trained to estimate distances, shapes and speed of flying machines.”

    Can many or most of these 1300+ encounters be explained as misinterpretations of natural phenomena or sightings of classified military projects? Almost certainly. Pilots aren’t infallable observers. But there seem (IMO) to be many cases that don’t easily fall into those categories.

    I agree with Dr. Haines that further study is needed, but we (I’m an FAA employee) sure don’t have it!

  104. UmTutSut

    Julian writes:
    “which is why you use you’re [sic] third point to dismiss any evidence against the existence of UFOs.”

    Huh? Are you saying “better tools” would let us understand that there are no extraterrestrial visits? If so, I wholeheartedly agree. They may. They may also prove the opposite.

  105. But, Umtutsut, isn’t that a contradiction?

    I’ll just say again I think commercial pilots are credible witnesses and generally know an unidentified AIRCRAFT when they see it. My view is echoed by the introduction to this NARCAP report.

    As I quoted from Haines’ own report, he takes examples of pilots identifying something as an “unidentified aircraft” or “unknown aircraft” (emphasis mine) and then goes on to essentially state, “well, what they really meant was…”

    And that’s the only way he can find “evidence” to support his claim! By taking reports from supposedly credible witnesses–pilots–and redefining what they reported.

    Seems pretty shaky to me.

  106. Oops. Forgot to close the quote.

  107. Julian

    “Huh? Are you saying “better tools” would let us understand that there are no extraterrestrial visits?”

    I’m saying you’ve moved the goal post so often we’re no longer in the same state.

  108. American Voyager

    It really was a stupid thing to do. I heard today that these two people are under arrest and face charges. Sure it is one thing to poke fun at UFO believers. It is another to set off flares and send them flying where they could have come down and started fires. The charges are not much – Disorderly Conduct – but it could have been a lot worse. Hopefully they will learn their lesson from this.

  109. Chris Thompson

    Skeptic magazine actually had an issue on UFOs several months ago and made a very good point about airline pilots – they have an excellent reason to assume unknown objects are close to the aircraft. If an object is far and they assume it is close, it may result in embarrassment; if something is close and they assume it is far, it could result in the deaths of everyone on the aircraft.

    Airline pilots are not as credible as you may think.

  110. Zetetic

    UmTutSut

    – Not ALL UFO encounters can be explained as misperceptions.

    I never said that all UFO encounters can be explained that way. I listed a few other options in my post, as well as left it open to other possibilities (with out going through an entire list) by using “etc.”. To quote myself…”be explained by nature, human activity, the limitations of human perception, etc.” A few more examples are hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations,intoxication and deliberate lies. Those additions still just cover a few of the possible explanations without invoking aliens.

    Next..

    – Any potential extraterrestrial entity may not think and act according to anthropomorhic principles. (Unless, of course, “they” bioengineered “us!”)

    True, but irrelevant since I cover three very general possibilities that would apply to any type of alien, even those with no recognizable intelligence at all. Rather it’s the UFO community that is constantly trying to determine motive and reason for “extraterrestrial activity”. An effort which by you own point is likely futile even if they do actually exist.

    For point number 3…

    – History demonstrates human knowledge of the universe and its physical principles is constantly evolving, so what today seems impossible may not, in fact, be so. We may just need better tools.

    Ah yes! The old “there are still things that we don’t know” gambit. I have to admit that that argument always makes me laugh. 😉
    Here’s the problem with that line of reasoning UmTutSut…

    1) An absence of evidence is still an absence of evidence, therefore jumping to the conclusion that it’s aliens (and taking such claims seriously) is still unwarranted.

    2) The fact that we don’t know everything is precisely the reason to not jump to conclusions that something unexplained is due to aliens. There is still much to learn about the natural world and human psychology/perception, that can explain such observations. Ultimately, something that we don’t know about nature (or human perception/psychology) is a more parsimonious explanation than aliens visiting. A point that the UFO community seems to refuse to get.

    For your other post…

    I’ll just say again I think commercial pilots are credible witnesses and generally know an unidentified AIRCRAFT when they see it.

    Sorry, but that’s not good enough…even professional pilots can make mistakes in perception, just like the rest of us. The idea that some classes of professionals (such as police and pilots) make better witnesses, has been long discredited by psychological research. Military pilots are only used to accurately trying to determine speed and distance with thing that they were trained for. Specifically, man made aircraft where the size (important to determine distance an relative velocity) can already be known, or at least reasonably approximated. How are they supposed to accurately determine speed and velocity for something whose size is completely unknown? Are they seeing something small, slow and up close? Or is it big, fast, and far away?

    Human perception even for trained profesionals is unreliable in such situations. Without knowing the actual size of the observed atmospheric phenomena, any estimates by the eye are highly suspect.
    Your argument also fails to address reasons for being wrong that have nothing to do with human perception. In the end relying on reports from police and pilots is just another form of argument from authority, as well as just being anecdotal.

    I’m not trying to attack you UmTutSut, any decent skeptic has a mind that is open to credible evidence. The problem is that even after decades the UFO community has yet to offer either a logical case, or offer any credible evidence. If they are in fact real, where is the credible evidence? Why does the UFO community have to keep relying on increasingly bizarre conspiracies to explain the lack of credible evidence? Personally, I would love to see real credible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligences, but the evidence always falls flat (even after decades of trying).

    If you replaced the word “alien” or “spaceship” with the word “fairy”, in the evidence that you sight, would you consider any of it to be credible evidence for the existence of fairies? Or would it just seem silly to you then? If it seems silly, then maybe you should consider the possibility of some bias on your part effecting your evaluation of the evidence.

    @MarkoL
    I’m glad that you had a laugh about that… it is funny when you think about it. Maybe the aliens are actually the “Keystone Cops”, maybe the old movies are really documentaries of them? 😉

  111. Zetetic

    damn…meant “site” not “sight” in my last post

    (grumble..wish there was a preview option…grumble)

  112. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    You would think that yet another evidence against the proposed ‘explanation’ would diminish the faith in it.

    You would think that, alas, you would be wrong.

    the problem with that line of reasoning

    I would add that it isn’t a falsifiable idea, and so no explanation.

    Granted, more observations could turn up something that would permit Haines to propose a falsifiable hypothesis of UFOs or UAPs. But he doesn’t do that, instead he lists a long series of observations that are failures as regards identifying a hypothesis and specifically supporting his proposal. For good measure he throws in a variant of creationist Dembski’s unfalsifiable design filter to ‘identify’ “mysteries and challenges”. (Oh, and as Dembski, he writes several books about his failures of identification.)

    What jumps up to me is that Haines uses a vanity publication (“Who’s Who in America”) as reference. Who is Haines, what is NARCAP, and why would a retired scientist be a “chief scientist”?

    Googling I find that Dr. Richard Haines is a perceptual psychologist and is a co-founder of NARCAP, which is dedicated to “UAP”.

    I guess this unfamiliarity with explains why he is unable to form hypotheses: “Perceptual psychology is a subfield of cognitive psychology that is concerned specifically with the pre-conscious innate aspects of the human cognitive system: perception. A pioneer of this field was J. J. Gibson. A major study was that of cognitive biases mostly due to affordances, i.e. the perceived utility of objects in, or features of, one’s surroundings. According to Gibson, such features or objects were perceived as affordances and not as separate or distinct objects in themselves.

    This view, which some think an ideology, was central to several other fields notably: … [Wikipedia])

    From faith-driven “research” to faith-driven “research”. I think I see a pattern here…

  113. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oops. “this unfamiliarity with” natural sciences “explains why”. And my bold in the quote.

  114. umtutsut

    Very eloquent, Zetetic. What would meet your definition of “credible” evidence?

    I think that’s the crux of our differing viewpoints. To me, there IS credible evidence for some phenomenon or phenomena outside the current state of scientific knowledge. I don’t believe you can RULE OUT the extraterrestrial hypothesis because it doesn’t fit our current understanding of physics and cosmology. And I personally find some of the skeptical explanations for these encounters very convoluted and dependent on an unlikely daisy chain of natural occurrences. (I remember having that conversation with Phil Klass years ago; he wasn’t convinced by my reasoning, nor I with his.)

    I personally would love to see an extraterrestrial spacecraft land on the National Mall outside my office window — except it would make more work for me!

  115. Zetetic

    @UnTutSut:
    What would meet my definition of “credible”?
    That’s a fair question….
    Your own example of an alien spacecraft landing in a public area would be obvious, but there are other reasonable examples.

    How about an alien body part, one big enough to be analyzed by an objective and independent laboratory?

    The believers in alien experiments on humans are always talking about “implants”, but when tested they always turn out to easily explained as things like motile tissue growths and old slivers of metal (from old injuries), nothing that seems to be extraterrestrial in origin when it’s studied by reputable labs. Something that turned out to be actually from another star system would be nice.

    How about some wreckage that turned out to be of alien manufacture?

    How about an extraterrestrial spacecraft being observed coming from outside the solar system? Any type of interstellar travel (that isn’t very slow) will take LOTS of energy, and would probably (as far as we know) be very detectable. That would be great evidence!

    How about something even simpler? Like say a transmission from outer space? That would be pretty good too!

    Unfortunately, all we seem to get are blurry photos, anecdotal reports, and sighting of lights in the sky that could be anything, and of course the frauds/hoaxes. Nothing that would be considered “hard” evidence.

    BTW, regarding observations by pilots…why is there a marked lack of such sightings among professional astronomers, compared to pilots? It seems odd to me. Maybe it has to do with their different vantage point?

    I would say that it’s not so much a matter of ruling out extraterrestrials per se, as it is a matter of the evidence not rising to a sufficient level of credibility for adopting the position that aliens are visiting us.

    Perhaps we do have different levels of what we would consider compelling evidence, in fact that possibility is why I asked you my “fairy” question earlier.

    For what it’s worth…when skeptics are trying to come up with an explanation for an alleged sighting (especially when lacking sufficient evidence), some may come to conclusions that are unnecessarily complicated. Later another skeptic (sometimes when new information comes to light) may provide a simpler & more reasonable explanation.

    I’m obviously not privy to the the conversation between you and Klass, but the following is an example where one skeptic came up with a bad explanation (that made skeptics look bad), and another person came up with a simpler and more reasonable explanation. A village in Italy claimed to be having demons burning the wires for electrical appliances in 2004. The burning was happening all over town and didn’t match the burns that would be caused by a short or overload. Some in the media tried to sensationalize it. One skeptic (a geophysicist, IIRC) apparently made a convoluted explanation about “heat waves” focused in the ground and reflected to the surface causing the burns. Even other skeptics didn’t buy into that explanation. Then one skeptic decided to try a simple lighter on one of the pieces of wiring, the burn matched the damage done to the other wires!

    My point is that even if one skeptic can’t provide a reasonable explanation that doesn’t involve aliens, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. Sometimes people over-complicate their search for an answer. Sometimes it takes the right person to look at the case, or a missing detail in the evidence to make thing clear. Maybe it’s a natural phenomena that we don’t know about, like the recent confirmation of gigantic “sprites” (just search for “sprite +atmosphere”). Just because someone can’t offer a non-alien explanation now, that satisfies you, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. The fact that we don’t know everything is precisely why we can’t rule out natural phenomena (or human error) without a compelling reason.

    What it boils down to is what is the parsimonious explanation? That extraterrestrials are traveling interstellar distances to give proctological exams to rednecks, and barnstorm people? That they are so advanced that they can travel to another star system and apparently don’t want to leave any hard evidence behind, but they consistently can’t remember to turn off the outside running lights on the ships? Or that it’s a combination of psychology/perception, media influence, natural phenomena, etc.? OK, yes I’m being a little snarky there, but I think you get my point. No offense intended.

    On a related note, I have another question for you…
    What would you consider a compelling reason to not believe in alien visitation?

  116. umtutsut

    Zetetic writes:
    “…but they consistently can’t remember to turn off the outside running lights on the ships”

    True. I always get a chuckle when someone shoots a video of a craft with flashing red strobe lights. Mighty nice of the ETs to use the same technology we do.

  117. umtutsut

    Zetetic writes:
    “What would you consider a compelling reason to not believe in alien visitation?”

    I don’t think there IS one. Too many stars, galaxies to conclusively rule that out.

    For individual encounters, it depends entirely on the evidence presented. And as you acknowledged, we likely have different standards of proof. Again, I don’t KNOW what people are seeing when the encounter can’t be explained by misperceptions, misidentifications or self-induced beliefs. I plan to try like hell to find out when I retire from the Friendly Airplane Asylum.

  118. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that EST’s (Extra Solar Entities) exist or not belief does not create them in the real world only in the metaphysical world. EST’s would exist based on the fact that the Universe is infinite and too say that Humans are the only intelligent, well at least partially intelligent species in the Universe is the same as saying that the Earth is flat and that if you sail to the edge of the world you will fall off into space.

    EST’s, like humans, would have evolved based on the environment in which they resided in
    during their microbial evolutionary phase that shaped and molded their skeletal and internal organ stucture based on their ability or inability to create new systems within their origins after consuming organic and inorganic material’s for their growth.

    So it’s not about believing that EST’s exist, it’s about putting faith in them that they see us evolving past the flat earth model and would readily except their help in taking us out of the medival mindset of this planet so we can reach a higher form of evolved thinking which
    ttranslates into progess and our continued existance as an intelligent species instead of microbial viruc tendacies.

  119. @ umtutsut:

    I plan to try like hell to find out when I retire

    A noble cause, I suppose, but please don’t rely on people such as Richard Haines or the dedicated (at advancing their cause) folks at MUFON.

  120. @ drysonbennington:

    Wow, talk about projecting your hopes into the skies.

    You can imagine happy saviour aliens all you want, but your desires don’t translate to reality. If life exists beyond this earth, which seems an incredibly likely scenario, we can say absolutely nothing about what it might look like, how it might act, or, if it is intelligent, how it might perceive us, for the simple reason that we have no data.

    Speculatation is fine and dandy. But “faith,” as you so aptly described your position, is nothing but wishful thinking.

  121. Zetetic

    @UmTutSut:

    I don’t think that we disagree on many points. We both seem to believe in the high likely hood of extraterrestrial life. The only point of disagreement is whether or not we have in fact been visited for the last few decades, or not. The possibility of being visited seems to be much lower than the possibility of life being out there. The physical problems to overcome, expense, and so on. Then there is always the question of motive.

    IMO there is no solid reason to believe in such visits at this time. The core problem seems to be that people see something that they don’t understand, and from there jumping to the conclusion that it’s an alien vessel. It the “jumping to” part that’s the problem….

    When you stated…
    “I don’t think there IS one. Too many stars, galaxies to conclusively rule that out.”

    I think that’s where the conceptual problem lies. It’s not a matter of seeing something unknown and saying “well there are so many stars out there, it must be aliens”. Rather it’s a matter of saying “I don’t know, it would be cool if it was aliens, but there is no proof that it is aliens at this time.”

    The skeptics say either “I don’t know” or “it was probably this”. The believers tend to say “aliens” rather than “I don’t know”.

    Many of the believers in alien visits have an unfortunate tendency to turn their belief in aliens into a form of religion (others are just trying to cash-in on the desire), I’m sure you’ve seen that yourself at this point. This causes much of the claims to be highly suspect. Just look at the way that the “Roswell Incident” has been twisted and added to over time. That is why some form of credible hard evidence is needed for the skeptics.

    Skeptics are used to dealing with human mis-perception/mis-remebering all of the time in all sorts of beliefs (sea monsters, ghosts, bigfoot, etc.), that is why it’s always a possibility. Humans are not machines, our eyes misjudge thing all of the time, and our memories are quite mailable and easily influenced (especially over time).

    That is why hard evidence is so important to being able to make a conclusion, otherwise all we have to go by is what is more likely. It’s also one of the reasons why repeatability is an important factor in scientific research.

    The problem is that without some type of good evidence, you can never truly rule out human mis-perception/mis-remembering, as you seem to do.

    So… Is it really a matter of skeptics ruling out aliens? Or, is it a matter of you ruling out human error and the fallibility of memory? I think that’s the core of the difference on the subject.

  122. umtutsut

    Zetetic wrote:
    “So… Is it really a matter of skeptics ruling out aliens? Or, is it a matter of you ruling out human error and the fallibility of memory?”

    I certainly don’t rule out anything. Perhaps I simply misunderstand the “skeptical” approach.

    On the subject of UFOs (in the pure meaning of the term), it seems to me skeptics start from the premise that it’s highly unlikely, for numerous reasons, that extraterrestrial visits have occurred or even WOULD occur. Therefore, you use the “extraordinary claims/extraordinary proof” standard to (sometimes) try to stuff what appears as contrary evidence to those less “skeptical” into a human error/misperception/fallible memory box/whatever-else-fits-except-ET box.

    All I’ve said — and CONTINUE to say — is that not ALL encournters can be so classified. There appear to be some — no, I don’t have a list in my head — for which the most likely explanation would be seem to be extraterrestrial visitation.

    Perhaps I need to subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer or somesuch to better understand the skeptical approach. I’m signing off this thread and yielding the balance of my bandwidth to the Gentlemen and Gentlewomen from the great state of North Skepticism. :-}

  123. Nigel Depledge

    Kuhnigget said:

    The UFOs=alien spaceships crowd are nuts. Whackjobs. Bizarro brains. Bereft of cranial matter. Several bricks short of a load (of crap). Numbskulls. Nincowpoops. Maroons. Eedjits. Knuckleheads. Knucklewalkers. Blockheads. Chumps. Lamebrains. Nitwits. Boneheads. Plonkers. Dolts. Dorks. Dimwits. Buffoons. Bozos. Or, easily misled suckers.

    No, it’s OK, you don’t need to sugar-coat it. You can say what you really think. 😉

  124. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    – Not ALL UFO encounters can be explained as misperceptions.

    Go on, then, name one. Provide references and details.

    I’m prepared to listen if you’re prepared to come up with the goods.

    – Any potential extraterrestrial entity may not think and act according to anthropomorhic principles. (Unless, of course, “they” bioengineered “us!”)

    True, but largely irrelevant. Irrespective of the way they think, they face the same challenges to interstellar travel as us.

    Additionally, if they are trying to remain secret, the UFO community would have us believe that they’ve done a rotten job of it. Conversely, if they wish to be seen, they’ve also done a rotten job of it. There is no conceivable logic whereby a civilisation would go to the most extraordinary trouble to visit another world and not plan for what they would do when they get there.

    – History demonstrates human knowledge of the universe and its physical principles is constantly evolving, so what today seems impossible may not, in fact, be so. We may just need better tools.

    Ah, the old “we just haven’t discovered the tech yet” argument. Sadly, this falls down because we actually do know several things with a high degree of confidence. First, supralight travel is not possible. Second, the distances between stars are vast. Third, crossing that distance demands a vast supply of energy no mattter how you do it. And reaction mass, unless you use wormhole travel. But to stabilise a wormhole long enough to travel through it would require as much energy as the sun emits in a million years.

    I don’t ask skeptics to BELIEVE, only to keep an open mind — as I do.

    But your mind is not open. You are ignoring several aspects of the situation. First, the fallability of humans at identifying unfamiliar objects (the planet Venus is commonly reported as a UFO, and it’s the third brightest natural object in our skies!). Second, the fact that nothing that the UFO community has come up with is enough to convince any scientist that we are being visited by aliens. Third, the fact that the UFO community shows no inclination to investigate rationally or rigorously. Fourth, the fact that our theories about space and time are pretty damn good – so good, in fact, that we can state with confidence that even if they are wrong or incomplete, they are at least a good approximation of how the universe works.

    We really have no idea whether or not alien life exists. But we can confidently state that there is no evidence they are visiting us at present.

  125. Nigel Depledge

    MarkoL said:

    On the subject of interstellar travel, yes, at the moment we cannot understand how it would be possible. Again, my subjective opinion: I think humans are not done with inventing “stuff” and we definitely don’t understand all that is going on in the universe, so I say we will be able to invent interstellar travel one day. But of course I don’t think it will be conceivable during our lifetimes. Would we visit other planets and possibly observe other lifeforms? Why not? We are trying to do that right now and if we would have the tech, we would be exploring other stars and planetary systems much further away. Again, just my opinion, so no need to rip me a new one.

    But our present understanding of space and time is sufficiently good that we can understand the challenges that must be oversome to achieve interstellar travel, and they really are huge. Not only are we incapable of designing something that could travel to the nearest stellar neighbour in less than a few centuries, we are not able to conceive of any hypothetical technology that would permit it to occur in a timescale that we would consider adequate (say, less than a decade, so averaging about 0.4 c).

    Extra dimensions / hyperspace? Nope, can’t enter or use them.

    Wormholes? Energy demand is too high.

    Neutralisation of inertia? Say what? Where would you even begin?

    Machines to generate shaped gravity fields? A gravitational field is a warping of spacetime and the amount of energy required to warp spacetime enough to allow rapid travel is more than can be generated within a space vessel (i.e. it exceeds the present generating capacity of the entire planet).

    Thus, to assume that alien races (and, perhaps, one day, is too) have facile interstellar travel is, to put it mildly, wildly optimistic.

    Couple this to the paucity of actual evidence and you have no case.

  126. Zetetic

    @UmTutSut:

    Actually I would like to apologize for perhaps talking past each other. My last post wasn’t as clear as it should be. (note to self: don’t post on blogs while getting ready for work)

    You did state that you weren’t certain about what some of the sightings are. The point that I was trying to make is just that the skeptical viewpoint about alien visits is that …”When in doubtdon’t assume alien without some very good evidence.” As you had essentially stated in your last post.

    It also occurred to mean that when I asked you about what it would take for you to not believe in alien visits, that I wasn’t sufficiently clear. I didn’t mean that what would it take for you to categorically rule them out, but rather what would it take for you to consider them to be unlikely without compelling evidence of their visits. My applogies for not being more succinct.

    As Nigel Depledge previously noted there are many factors that (as far as we know) does make the possibility of alien visitation more improbable than any reasonable skeptical explanation. The problem with assuming that we just don’t know the right technological trick is that it’s making an unfounded assumption on top of a series of other unfounded assumptions.

    This is basically the main reason why skeptics, don’t accept “alien visit” as a reasonable assumption, and insist on evidence before making such an assumption. We just don’t know how many systems are likely to have life. Even if we did have some basis for deciding that, we still don’t know how likely intelligent life is in the universe.

    Then there is the possibility of life that is intelligent, but can’t develop technology due to it’s environment or physical limitations. For example… how likely is a human(or greater) intelligence to develop an advanced star faring civilization for something like a dolphin? No hands (or other type of manipulator besides a mouth) and stuck in the water… good luck developing fire! Or for that matter…metallurgy, glass, or electricity.

    Those are just a few of the assumptions that need to be made to conclude that alien visits are more likely than other explanations, there are actually many more assumptions that need to be make your conclusion. In the end, to declare alien visits as being more likely than any other explanation, requires stacking one assumption on top of another. Skeptics don’t like stacking up assumptions, so they go by what is known, but remain open to credible evidence to the contrary.

    Certainly it’s possible (maybe even probable) that there is life elsewhere in the universe, but it more likely to be “bugs” rather than Borg. 😉

    If hypothetically a single alien visit had been credibly demonstrated, then it would be much more reasonable to assume aliens (since it would have been established as possible). Unfortunately, since there is still no credible evidence that conclusively demonstrates such a visit (as we had already discussed) it remains as unlikely to be a correct assumption.

    I hope that this helps to clarify the skeptical position better. :)

  127. @ umtutsut:

    All I’ve said — and CONTINUE to say — is that not ALL encournters can be so classified. There appear to be some — no, I don’t have a list in my head — for which the most likely explanation would be seem to be extraterrestrial visitation. … I’m signing off this thread and yielding the balance of my bandwidth to the Gentlemen and Gentlewomen from the great state of North Skepticism

    Once again, and in a nutshell to boot, demonstrating the UFOlogist technique of proclaiming opinion as Truth, failing to back up their statement with a single fact (or, in umtut’s case, trying to back it up with a seriously flawed “scientific” document), and then going away leaving the bad ol’ skeptics to themselves.

  128. IVAN3MAN

    If the aliens would only keep all the folks they abduct, our world would be a little saner. — quoted by Carl Sagan.

  129. Sarah

    Apparently, these fellows are being charged with misdemeanors. I’m confused as to what offenses they committed to be charged, and why the newsman exhibits such clear contempt.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=7248094

  130. Sarah, I suppose the “news”man doesn’t like the fact that the two exposed the “news” organizations that ran with the sensational yoo-eff-oh! angle rather than the anything, oh, I dunno, rational, for the moronic tittlemongers they are.

    J-school graduate here, who cannot abide what has happened to the once-proud news organizations in this country. When I live in the Los Angeles area is exceptionally odious.

  131. As are the proofreaders. Sighhh…

  132. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    I’ll just say again I think commercial pilots are credible witnesses and generally know an unidentified AIRCRAFT when they see it.

    This is an assumption that you need to justify.

    Not only do military aviation development programmes keep everything closely under wraps, they have also been known to investigate weird and outlandish designs in the hope of achieving an edge over the enemy. There are plenty of pilots, both civil and military, who would not be able to recognise an experimental aircraft design. Consider how the stealth fighter would have appeared to a fighter pilot just 20 years ago, before it was widely known:- no radar signature, weird un-airplane-like shape, and it flies in defiance of “known” aerodynamics.

    Additionally, most UFO sightings occur as lights in a dark sky, in the which case the information needed to recognise a familiar object may simply be absent.

    Eyewitness accounts are unreliable. Period.

    Pilot = human.
    Human = fallible.
    Therefore, pilot = fallible.

  133. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    Military pilots are trained to estimate distances, shapes and speed of flying machines

    But they ain’t infallible (e.g. I can’t remember where, but I did read about an A-10 pilot who opened up on and destroyed an allied tank in the Gulf War).

    Can many or most of these 1300+ encounters be explained as misinterpretations of natural phenomena or sightings of classified military projects? Almost certainly. Pilots aren’t infallable observers. But there seem (IMO) to be many cases that don’t easily fall into those categories.

    I disagree. Until there is some hard evidence of alien visitation, the conclusion is too far a stretch. However, we must recognise that there are some UFO reports where we do not know what was seen, and we may never know. Even so, it is reasonable to assume that what was seen in these cases was mundane, whether man-made but unrecognised, or meteorological phenomenon, or planet or wildlife.

    So, we need to have a category for “we don’t know”. That’s fine. But the UFO enthusiasts make the unjustifiable leap from “we don’t know” to “alien spaceships”. And that ain’t fine.

    Moreover, the credulous media are quite happy to make fools of themselves by speculating about alien spaceships, until someone shows everybody how foolish the media have been. In a situation like the one Phil reports, I think the media should be charged with whatever misdemeanour is being touted, not the guys who sent up the flares.

  134. Nigel Depledge

    Zetetic said:

    damn…meant “site” not “sight” in my last post

    (grumble..wish there was a preview option…grumble)

    Actually, I think you meant “cite”.

  135. Nigel Depledge

    Umtutsut said:

    I think that’s the crux of our differing viewpoints. To me, there IS credible evidence for some phenomenon or phenomena outside the current state of scientific knowledge.

    What is this evidence? That some people have seen things in the sky for which no-one can provide an adequate explanation?

    This is not evidence that there is some phenomenon of which science is unaware (although that cannot be ruled out). It is simply evidence that we don’t know what was seen in those cases where no adequate explanation is available.

    Evidence of our ignorance does not constitute evidence for something outlandish.

    I don’t believe you can RULE OUT the extraterrestrial hypothesis because it doesn’t fit our current understanding of physics and cosmology.

    Of course we cannot rule it out. But it requires the assumption of some bizarrely extraordinary circumstances. It is an unreasonable assumption to make.

    And I personally find some of the skeptical explanations for these encounters very convoluted and dependent on an unlikely daisy chain of natural occurrences.

    But nevertheless more probable than visits from aliens.

    However, the point in most “skeptical explanations” is not to show what the sighting actually was, but to show that it could be something mundane, whereas the UFO enthusiasts are all too keen to leap to the unwarranted conclusion of alien spaceships.

  136. Nigel Depledge

    Umtutsut said:

    I certainly don’t rule out anything. Perhaps I simply misunderstand the “skeptical” approach.

    Yeah. You need to go and look up the principle of parsimony.

    Briefly, you should always assume that the simplest explanation for an observed phenomenon is the most likely unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Since the alien visitation idea requires not only the existence of an alien civilisation nearby, and for that civilisation to be so much more advanced in technology than ours, and for them to have facile interstellar travel, and for them to be visiting us frequently enough that these sightings persist, and for them to be trying to remain hidden but failing on a regular basis . . . etc.

    Or, it could be something mundane but not recognised by the observers.

    Or it could be something mundane about which we do not yet know.

    I will always go with the simpler option.

    . . .
    All I’ve said — and CONTINUE to say — is that not ALL encournters can be so classified. There appear to be some — no, I don’t have a list in my head — for which the most likely explanation would be seem to be extraterrestrial visitation.

    Not so. The most likely explanation is “we don’t know what was seen”. And, seriously, that is all we can say with confidence.

  137. UmTutSut

    kuhnigget writes:
    “Once again, and in a nutshell to boot, demonstrating the UFOlogist technique of proclaiming opinion as Truth, failing to back up their statement with a single fact (or, in umtut’s case, trying to back it up with a seriously flawed “scientific” document), and then going away leaving the bad ol’ skeptics to themselves.”

    I yield back to myself two minutes of my previously yielded time….

    Nope. Just realized the frustration of trying to get some of you to CONSIDER that extraterrestrial spacecraft MIGHT represent the most likely explanation — not “proof” — in a handful of sightings.

    And for Nigel Depledge, the encounters I believe have the best evidence for that possibility are Rendlesham/RAF Bentwaters, Malmstrom AFB and JAL 1628. I’m aware alternative explanations have been proffered for all three.

  138. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    Nope. Just realized the frustration of trying to get some of you to CONSIDER that extraterrestrial spacecraft MIGHT represent the most likely explanation — not “proof” — in a handful of sightings.

    That’s the thing.

    Alien visitation is never the most likely explanation for any sighting.

    If anything, it is probably the least plausible explanation.

    An unknown – but terrestrial – phenomenon is far more likely as an explanation for those sightings that cannot be explained as something mundane. However, I’m not convinced that there are any sightings that cannot have a mundane explanation.

    And for Nigel Depledge, the encounters I believe have the best evidence for that possibility are Rendlesham/RAF Bentwaters, Malmstrom AFB and JAL 1628. I’m aware alternative explanations have been proffered for all three.

    I’ll try looking these up…

    OK, Wikipedia has a good account of the Rendlesham Forest incident (which was closer to RAF Woodbridge than to RAF Bentwaters). It seems to me that the lack of consistency among the eyewitness reports is typical. I’m not going to claim that the sceptical dismissal is correct, but I have to confess that, if this is one of the three best examples of a UFO encounter, there is absolutely no case for alien visitation.

    We don’t know what those people saw, other than lights in the sky that they could not identify. The fact that, on one of the recordings, the voice of one witness talking about the flashing light coincides with the timing of the lighthouse strongly indicates that, at that point, what he saw was the light from the lighthouse. I would expect that the lighthouse itself would not be visible from the east gate of RAF Woodbridge, but it could easily illuminate some low cloud.

    The “landing marks”, “burn marks” on the trees, and account of seeing something “mechanical” are all too weak to withstand critical scrutiny. It could be that they were caused by an alien spaceship, but that is fantastical without additional, and much more solid, corroboration. It is far more likely that what those men saw was not an alien spaceship. Whether it was something known but not recognised, or some unknown phenomenon, remains open.

    We don’t know.

    Why do you have a problem with this.

  139. UmTutSut

    Nigel Depledge writes:
    “Alien visitation is never the most likely explanation for any sighting.”

    Well, if you start from that premise, it’s pretty darn likely you’ll find that it’s something othen than ET, right?

    The USAF deputy base commander’s report states in part: “The Object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two and three meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank(s) of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it manoeuvred though the trees and disappeared.”

    Sounds mechanical to me. It COULD have been some black project, but how likely is it that such a device would be tested in a forest in the UK near an RAF base?

    You wrote: “Whether it was something known but not recognised, or some unknown phenomenon, remains open.” As long as it’s ANYTHING but an extraterrestrial spacecraft…right? Because your premise essentially rules out that explanation.

    I’m far from an expert on UFOs (in the true meaning of the term), so I don’t know WHAT those guys saw. I simply 1.)don’t shut the door on ANY explanation and 2.)believe that an extraterrestrial spacecraft is at LEAST as likely as any other explanation.

    I agree with much, but not all, of the opinions expressed by Stanton Friedman (GASP!) in this 1997 piece: http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/sfchlng.html

  140. UmTutSut

    Ugh. “Many” of Stan Friedman’s opinions. Kant tipe to gud.

  141. Zetetic

    Nigel Depledge

    Actually, I think you meant “cite”.

    Double damn!
    Seriously, good catch there Nigel. You are of course correct, that’s why I’m not posting before running off to work from now on, it cuts down on “teh stoopid”. 😉

    UmTutSut

    Well, if you start from that premise, it’s pretty darn likely you’ll find that it’s something othen than ET, right?

    Funny…that is just what believers say when trying to defend belief in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, ghosts, El Chupacabra, Young Earth Creationism, the Flat Earth, the Hollow Earth, and on and on….
    See the problem here?

    No offense UmTutSut, but the problem is that visitation by aliens is the least likely answer, based upon what we know so far. If you can provide some statistics that indicate that alien visitation is more likely than say … secret military tests, human error, lies, etc., then please by all means share this information.

    I’ve also noticed that you didn’t answer my question about why pilots seem to be so much more likely to report UFO’s than professional astronomers. Care to speculate on that?

    The biggest problem in coming up with non-alien explanations for alleged sighting is the lack of hard evidence. Much of it can only be looked at based on mostly anecdotal reports. Fortunately the Rendlesham Forest story has better documentation than many of the other incidents. A minute of searching online pulls up enough info about the Rendlesham Forest incident to tear it to pieces.
    Rather than go through all of the details I’ll just post a link to a site that does a nice job of pointing out the problems with that story.

    http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4135#

    Which is more likely, intelligent aliens evolved close enough to find/visit us, they then developed an advanced civilization, didn’t kill themselves in the process, developed a way to travel interstellar distances (without using detectable levels of energy), found us, came here for some unknown reason, and forgot to turn of the lights when near a military base?

    Or a meteor shower, and some young men unfamiliar with the area mistaking a light house through some trees for a flying saucer, misusing a Geiger counter (that wasn’t being used according to it’s intended design), and maybe some of them exaggerated?

    As to the others incidents, a quick search only pulls up sites that are some what lacking in any sort of critical investigation of the claims, typical of most “UFOs=aliens” type sites. Maybe I’ll search more into it later, but it’s clear that they don’t offer any hard evidence either.

  142. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    Well, if you start from that premise, it’s pretty darn likely you’ll find that it’s something othen than ET, right?

    No, unless you consider “We don’t know” to be something “other” than ET.

    The point is that it is fundamentally impossible to rule out mundane but unknown phenomena. Therefore, there is absolutely no justification to conclude “alien spaceships” without some additional, and harder, corroboratory evidence.

    If we are forced to opine about the most probable cause of a sighting, then alien spaceships should be way, way down the list.

    The USAF deputy base commander’s report states in part: “The Object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two and three meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank(s) of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it manoeuvred though the trees and disappeared.”

    Yes, indeed. “The object was described as . . .”. He was reporting other people’s descriptions, and eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable.

    Sounds mechanical to me.

    Well of course it does, but what was reported was not necessarily what was seen. It could have been the impression left within the minds of those witnesses, and human minds are well known for seeing shapes and patterns in random formations.

    It COULD have been some black project, but how likely is it that such a device would be tested in a forest in the UK near an RAF base?

    Well, if you allow that argument, you undermine the case for alien spaceships too. How likely is it that they would test a black project near an air base? Not likely at all. How likely is it that an alien civilisation has facile interstellar travel and visits Earth frequently while making a rather poor job of staying out of sight? Significantly less likely.

    But both are still, in principle, possible. However, because we just don’t know what was seen, the only firm conclusion we can draw is just that: we don’t know what was seen.

    You wrote: “Whether it was something known but not recognised, or some unknown phenomenon, remains open.” As long as it’s ANYTHING but an extraterrestrial spacecraft…right? Because your premise essentially rules out that explanation.

    Not so. My premise assigns a very small a priori likelihood that “alien spaceships” is the correct explanation, because it is irrational to assume otherwise without additional evidence.

    I’m far from an expert on UFOs (in the true meaning of the term), so I don’t know WHAT those guys saw. I simply 1.)don’t shut the door on ANY explanation and 2.)believe that an extraterrestrial spacecraft is at LEAST as likely as any other explanation.

    I agree with (1), but I disagree with (2). As a starting point, we can, from our extensive current knowledge about the nature of the universe, determine that some potential explanations are more likely (and therefore more credible) than others. When we cannot assign an explanation with certainty, we enter the realm of speculation. Certain aspects of the sightings in question are entirely consistent with some unusual weather pattern doing odd things to the light from the lighthouse. Others are less so. However, we know that the lighthouse was there. We know that lighthouses can illuminate clouds or fog banks from a considerable distance. Since the alleged physical “evidence” has been found to have mundane sources, why not other aspects of the sighting?

    In cases such as this one, our ignorance does not increase the likelihood that we are being visited by aliens.

    We genuinely do not know what was seen. It could have been alien spaceships, and it could have been any one of several perfectly mundane phenomena. But to rule out the mundane possibilities and to conclude it was aliens is irrational and unjustifiable*. At the end of the day, interstellear travel is such a hugely difficult thing to do that I will only accept “alien spaceships” when there is some hard corroborative evidence.

    * It also suffers from being a negative argument. To conclude “alien spaceships” without hard evidence of such demands that you absolutely rule out not only every conceivable alternative hypothesis, but also every hypothesis that is in any way possible but has not been conceived of, which is an impossibility.

  143. UmTutSut

    Nigel and Zetetic, you can have the last 5,673 words. Me, I’m off to visit the mother ship…!

  144. TheBlackCat

    Sounds mechanical to me. It COULD have been some black project, but how likely is it that such a device would be tested in a forest in the UK near an RAF base?

    I suspect Tut is gone, but I had to chime in here. If it was a secret military test, I would think it is likely they would need to do the test somewhere they have fuel, pilots, parts, maintenance personnel, communications and tracking equipment, officers, housing, and a runway, and it has to be somewhere that the air force has complete control over. An air force base seems to fit the bill quite nicely. Where would you expect them to test an airplane? A commercial airport? A shipyard? A grain refinery?

  145. Nigel Depledge

    @ The Black Cat –
    Actually, those air bases were US military bases at the time of the sighting. Although it is reasonable to test a new aircraft at an air base, I rather suspect the USAF would rather do this in the USA than the UK.

  146. Todd W.

    @TheBlackCat

    Where would you expect them to test an airplane? A commercial airport? A shipyard? A grain refinery?

    In wheat fields and back country roads, of course. Sheesh!

  147. Nigel Depledge

    Hey, I missed this one before:

    UmTutSut said:

    Nigel Depledge wrote:
    No, there are no “credible” sightings because there is no such thing as a credible eyewitness.

    I don’t agree with this at all. No doubt, our senses can be fooled, but that does NOT mean they are fooled in every single case.

    You miss the point. Because our sense are easily fooled, we have no means by which to judge which eyewitness reports are accurate and which are not. Therefore, eyewitness reports are not reliable.

    When a commercial airline flight crew, for example, reports that an object flew in proximity to their aircraft, caused apparent electromagnetic effects, and then disappeared via maneuvers that appear to defy physical laws, I would believe them. I don’t know WHAT they saw, but I wouldn’t think their eyes simply played tricks on them.

    Without further details it is impossible to make any comment on this report. Was the object small and nearby, or distant and large? Without some external reference it is incredibly hard to judge distances accurately. Commercial pilots rely on being able to recognise other aircraft to judge their distance (and radar, of course).

    Also, given how overworked many commercial airline cockpit crews are, why do you consider their reports to be reliable?

    Understand that I’m not saying anything about what these guys saw. For all I know, they could have seen an alien spaceship. However, there is certainly no justification for concluding that that is what they saw without some kind of additional evidence.

    Overall, given the huge number of “sightings” and the absolute dearth of any corroborating evidence, the only rational conclusions we can reach are:
    (1) People often see things in the sky that they cannot identify;
    (2) Recorded UFO sightings are most probably mis-identifications of mundane objects or phenomena;
    (3) Some UFO sightings may be caused by unknown meteorological phenomena.

  148. Edward Carney

    These men were sentenced on 7 April. They received $250 fines and 50 hours of community service. The judge “ordered the pair to serve their community service for the Hanover Recreation Commission, working specifically with youth. ” Story here.

  149. CHiCa SeXI

    Y3a W3lL i S3riOUsly ThiNk tHAt THis CHUpacaBRa thiNG Is Tru3 B3cAuse I tHouGHt I sAw ONe…. AHHHH Fr3AkY RiGHT!!!!!!!

  150. Michael Carter

    “You miss the point. Because our sense are easily fooled, we have no means by which to judge which eyewitness reports are accurate and which are not. Therefore, eyewitness reports are not reliable.”

    If that were true, then our judicial system would collapse and criminals would never be prosecuted. In spite of forensic evidence, the court system still relies upon witness testimony to convict people. That might not satify your criteria for evidence, but to completely dismiss eye-witness accounts in such a cavalier fashion smacks of hubris.

    Some, and I emphasise the word “some”, UFO pilot sightings involve multiple witnesses from multiple aircraft, ground and air radar detection, measurable and quantifiable electromagnetic disturbances, etc. Yes of course, we have to take into account the potential unreliability of any one witness, or the limits to human perception, but to rule it out is to demonstrate both closed-mindedness and poor scientific enquiry.

  151. Hi there, I spotted your blog site using Yahoo and google while looking for Weather Balloons and your post caught my attention .

  152. Suzanne

    Beach UFO fun tricks. Back in the mid. 90’s on the ocean front in NJ the wind and moon light conditions were perfect to excite sky viewers with the possibability that they were seeing ufo’s.

    The wind was blowing strong from the west towards & over the atlantic. It was very dark. The moon was late to rise but rising. Ocean waves were huge & ruff, with white foam reflectiing light from the rising moon.

    Conditions Perfect!

    We had 2 very large box kites, that needed strong winds to fly. and also very large triangle dive kite. A ton of snap & glow glow sticks & a desire to have & share some fun.

    The kites in themselves could not be see in the darkness. Only the light from the glow sticks

    So we sent these kites up to fly with the glow sticks & also learned how to send more glow sticks up the kite string. Ran the kites so they formed a group, drop, fall & rise & regroup etc. It was so much fun! The kites appeared to be much higher & farther away they they actually were.

    As we left the beach that night we hid our kites from the teens who hang out on the beach benches that end every beach block. Loved their excitement when they asked us if we saw the UFO’s.

  153. Suzanne

    Ten years ago today.

    09-11-2001
    09-11-2010

    From my front porch I can see the lights pointing up to the sky from the pit of the once Twin Towers.

    The sky is over cast , dark grey heavy with clouds, but the light shines above, remenbering all who suffered from this day 10 years ago.

    God Bless to all & their families.

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