A wicked illusion

By Phil Plait | May 3, 2010 12:00 pm

This is a very cool short video showing a nifty little illusion. I had it figured out about 1/3 of the way through because, after all, I am a supergenius (or, more likely, I spent my youth and a goodly part of my adult life playing with illusions). Take a look:

2D/3D illusions like this are really fun, but also something to keep in mind with a lot in visual sciences; our brains are so easy to fool with such things, making us think objects are closer or farther, smaller or bigger, than they really are. If only most UFO enthusiasts could appreciate this…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: optical illusion, UFOs

Comments (52)

  1. timebinder

    If you don’t want to believe that UFO’s are flying Spaghetti-O minions of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, fine, but you MUST not disrespect my beliefs on your blog like this.

  2. Blaise Pascal

    The cool thing about this video is that it also helps disabuse the idea that if you know how it works you can be immune to the illusion. In this case, the video starts out with no illusion, clearly showing how things are laid out, then moves the camera into position to provide the illusory effect. The significance of the effect is enhanced by the fact that you *know* what you really seeing, yet you see the illusion anyway.

  3. Doug Little

    There is an artist who does this type of thing with chalk on sidewalks. Check out

    http://users.skynet.be/J.Beever/pave.htm

  4. bouch

    Very cool! I really like how the “several candles thick” line at the “bottom” at the beginning converts to the “top” at the end.

    I would have been very impressed if he wound up sitting “in” the box, but clearly there’s not enough floor space for that…

  5. Cain

    OH YEAH‽‽‽ I figured it out when the video was 2/3 done. Take that so called “Super Genius”!!!…Wait…how does math work again?…CRAP!!!!!!

  6. MoonShark

    I was underwhelmed. I saw it the other day, but the “preview” image before playing the video gave away the illusory shape. Maybe that ruined it? Or maybe those years learning drafting and orthographic projection have me jaded? I’m pretty sure I would have caught on by the 1/3 mark if it wasn’t spoiled.

    Blaise has a good point though. I can appreciate that at least.

  7. sophia8

    Blaise Pascal @2: I agree. I could see how it was laid out. As the camera moved, I kept thinking “Hey, that’s a cool illusion, must have spent days working on it”. Then at the end, The Box appeared and “Whaaaaa….!!!???”

  8. It’s funny you should mention UFOs alongside illusions like this. I’ve seen a couple of “flying saucers” in my time. Of course, I put it in quotes, because they weren’t aliens from another planet, but airplanes.

    If an airplane is heading towards you at just the right angle, it looks like a flying saucer. The tail is hidden, the cockpit becomes the “dome” section and the wings become the “saucer” section. Add in a UFO enthusiast willing to believe anything in the sky is alien-related and running to get his camera (instead of waiting 5 more seconds for the illusion to pass) and I wonder how many UFOs are really just airplanes. I do wish I could get a photo of one of these illusions one day, though.

  9. Revyloution

    Every time I see an illusion, I think of Neil Degrise Tyson in the video about UFO’s.

    They call them optical illusions. What they should call them is brain failures.

  10. I’m not sure if it would have been more interesting if they’d started with the illusion visible or not.

  11. Matt T

    @Revyloution:
    How about UFO = Think Fail ?

  12. Twilightened

    My brain just failed.

  13. Jess Tauber

    According to Buckminster Fuller, a tetrahedron bisected fools the eye because we aren’t used to seeing parts of things from this perspective. Because the two halves are at right angles to each other one appears bigger than the other from any particular point of viewing except one special one where the more distant you are the easier it is to see, unlike most objects.

  14. Old Rockin' Dave

    One of the most alarming things I ever saw was a Goodyear blimp seen from the rear, not quite end-on. It had a distinct parachute shape and seemed to hover low above the ground. A very minimal shift in angle made it clear what it actually was, but for a hot second I really didn’t know what I was looking at.

  15. An effective illusion, subtly enhanced by the grid provided by the tile floor, I think.

    Old Rockin’ Dave, I know what that hot second feels like. I once saw a C5 Galaxy transport plane that startled the petunias out of me. They’re enormous aircraft and this one was far away, which made it look like it was a regular-sized vehicle moving very slowly, almost hovering. It was also banking so that its wings were pointed directly at me, invisible. My mind flashed unbidden to old stories of cigar-shaped UFOs, and gave me just a little bit of sympathy for people who swear they saw something alien in the sky.

    I think they’re still mopping up the puddle I left in my university observatory the night I was viewing the Moon at high power and a passenger jet flew directly through my field of vision. But that’s a different perceptual difficulty.

  16. Mary

    #3 Doug
    I checked out that website. There is some REALLY cool stuff there. They are really quite remarkable.
    I still can’t figure out how the candles ion the video came to be lookong like a box.

  17. Leander

    Mildly entertaining. Using a cute exercise like this to take a stab at people (mind you, many people who’ve never had an interest in UFOs [as the term “enthusiast” implies] or alien visitors, and who make up most of the recorded UFO witnesses) having seen something they can’t explain. Here’s a challenge…post a scientifically credible explanation for this UFO sighting…and do your research first, for once.

    No speculations, no ridicule…a scientifically sound explanation for what might have happened there, and all those straw-men you’ve attacked over your career will be forgiven…otherwise, all that remains is your rants and ridicule, which make you look like a closed-minded fool calling himself a scientist, instead of of an open-mindend person happening to be a scientist.

  18. Timothy Hines

    My wife and I saw a triangle ufo fifty feet over our head on July 11th, 2009. It changed both our lives. I now see the world as divided into two classes of people. Those who have seen a ufo first hand, close up, like we did. And those who haven’t. Of those who haven’t, I was once a skeptic. I no longer care about the debate as to whether or not people think they are real having experienced one right over our heads. No, not blimp, glider or balloon. The only debate I’m interested in now is what are they, why are so many appearing lately and where do they come from.

    For the others, you can only guess and wonder if everyone else who has seen what we have seen is crazy, lying, delusional or has motives. For those who have not experienced what we did, you are on the outside looking in.

  19. Thomas G.

    @Leander

    First of all, it is a known fact that children testimony can’t be trusted. They have a tendency to blur reality and fiction, and can not remember the source of an information.
    Second, the questions asked by the ‘celebrated Harvard professor’ (in what?) are clearly oriented : “Did you see any lights ?”, “What did those creatures looks like ?”, etc.
    Third, beside drawing shapes with big eyes, the drawing does not match each other.
    Fourth, do you know what was on the TV the night before ? (Close Encounters of the Third Kind ?)
    And finally, the nail in the coffin, how comes that ONLY children saw something ? Explain to me how you manage to put 62 children in the same place without any adult supervision ? 62 children is quite a large group and would not go unnoticed, even if they were going to see the ‘meteor’ at night.

    Clearly, something smelly is going on there. An adult must had spoke about the meteor, and the vivid imagination of children filled up the missing pieces. I guess you can call this a meme, a piece of information (or a way of thinking) spreading like wild fire troughs a population.

  20. Thomas G.

    @Timothy

    Just a quick question about your experience. Was your UFO moving and did you had any kind of reference for the ‘fifty feet over our head’ ? You can not measure distance without a valid point of reference, and if you were looking directly up, it is possible that your brain was tricking you and made you feel that the object was closer and smaller than it really was.

  21. Thomas G.

    @Leander

    Just watched another version of the same event (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-ez_NsN2so). The name and references of the woman who appear in the first documentary were unreadable. Her name is Cinthya Hind, and she is a ‘reknown african UFO expert’. The actual investigation by the havard professor (in psychiatry, as mentioned in the second documentary) was done only later. The psychiatrist is also mentioned as having studied more than 100 of other cases in the USA.

    Clearly, the whole event can not be trusted, as an ‘UFO expert’ interrogated the children first (possibly influencing them), gave second hand report to another person researching in UFO and finally, this person want on site to examine the case, a few weeks/months after the actual events. By that time, the whole group of children had time to come to a common ground about the event, and their story matched (intentionally or not).

  22. MadScientist

    That’s brilliant – Jerry Andrus would have been proud. :)

    Speaking of UFO’s, I have a UFO photo and it’s not all out of focus and badly pixellated. The only problem is that if I showed it some of those flying machine enthusiasts would probably identify it.

  23. Sauss

    Re. Zimbabwe UFO Sighting:

    Super Advanced Alien Being 1: We must travel millions of light-years to Planet Earth to warn them of the coming disaster.
    Super Advanced Alien Being 2: Yes! But who shall we address? A world leader? The entire populace via the media?
    Super Avanced Alien Being 1: No! Let us tell 62 children!

  24. Peter B

    Interesting effect.

    It reminds me of the way advertising banners are painted on cricket grounds. For those of you poor souls who don’t get to watch cricket, the usual camera angle is from behind and above the bowler’s (~ pitcher’s) head, facing the batsman (~ batter). The shot is wide enough that you can see about 30 metres of the ground behind the bowler, back towards the camera. It’s in this dead space the banners are painted.

    The trick with the banners is they’re painted in such a way as to give the illusion they’re standing up – by painting the letters tall and expanding from base to top. The result is that they look greatly distorted from other angles.

  25. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great illusion – have to confess I’m still struggling to work out exactly how he did it. :-)

  26. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 17. Leander Says:

    post a scientifically credible explanation for this UFO sighting…and do your research first, for once.

    I think Thomas G (#21 & #19) has explained it quite well and plausibly. Sorry I don’t buy it. Not at all.

    As well as agreeing with Thomas G. (& Sauss #23) I’ll add my own observations too :

    My main objection is that there’s NO actual footage of aliens or anything convincingly extraterrestrial just children talking and drawing pictures.

    Which, as already pointed out, isn’t exactly convincing evidence for anything because if nothing else we know eye-witness testimony, esp. children, is unreliable. People can be and often are easily fooled. Memories and minds play tricks. (Hence the illusion example the BA noted in the OP.)

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” as Carl Sagan famously said – & this wasn’t it.

    Lesser objections of mine include noting that:

    – This is yet another poor quality videoclip with it being hard to decipher names and other writing.

    – “No TV in Africa?” WTF?! Uh, yes there is & the children interviewed looked well-dressed and educated enough (English speakers too) that you’d expect them to have it & have seen / heard of the pop culture flying saucer refs. Those aliens drawn seemed like the steroetypical alien image commonly presented by the media. I would be more impressed if they didn’t.

    – The kids were frightened by them by seeming “horrible” (well okay “horrible eyes”) and yet there was no apparent harm done or intended done and they also said the aliens seemed “astonished to see us.” Hmm … advanced super-aliens “astonished by existence of human kids? Does that figure?

    – The feeling they’re warning us that the end of the world is coming soon is one kid’s explanation for the alien’s motive – yet as usual the alien “message” is all vague, non-specific and non-helpful. It doesn’t make logical sense. Especially when put together with the “astonished to see us” line – they came here to warn us and yet were surprised we’re here .. What!?

    If you want to warn somebody of something you need to warn them a bit better than just “the end is nigh” because the end is nigh WHY??

    If they telepathically told the kids that, say, Eta Carinae is about to go supernova or WR 104 is sending a gamma ray burst our way or better yet sent *adults* a clear unambigous warning to look out for such an event – even if that means just letters burnt into the white house lawn in unusual substances or via laser or suchlike along with solutions proposed together with some rational way of verifying their legitimacy* – THEN it would be worth taking seriously as a legitimate helpful warning. This “warning” not-so-much.

    As it stands, I’m puzzled as to why you think this supposed Zimbabwean Kiddies UFO incident is so convincing & puts, in *your* view, a strong case because – to *me* anyhow, – it simply does not.

    ——————————————-

    * For example a message with the warning stating :

    – look for this as-yet undiscovered exoplanet with these specific properties that your astronomers haven’t yet spotted around such-&-such star

    – Or this mathematical paradox that has never been solved by humans has *this* solution

    – Or the LHC is about to discover this or that specific particle once it gets to this energy level, etc…

    Is proof we’re legitimate helpful aliens.

    Something we don’t already know but could discover using our present knowledge if we look where they tell us. Or if the vistors know the future the correct lotto numbers & /or horse race results or suchlike.

  27. reidh

    what makes anybody (you included) think, that they cannot be decieved by even Mathematic “truth”? There is no Law that makes Numbers not lie. You may be decieved by the very mathematics of the Universe and will NEVER KNOW IT. I defy you to promulgate a statement proving me wrong. REMEMBER HEISENBERG!

  28. Aleksandar

    Why did this go into a UFO talk. :(

    Incredible trick. It reminds me on how I keep spending minutes to force myself to see Moon/Mars craters as holes and not hills in pictures. Our primate brain really gets easily confused and deceived.

  29. Doug Little

    @Leander

    It’s up to you to conclusively prove it you are the one making the claim, and as everybody knows extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Furthermore eye witness accounts are about as unreliable evidence as one can muster.

    @reidh

    What the hell are you smoking?

    @Mary

    It’s all about perspective!

  30. Quote from Leander, which illustrates where he/she’s coming from:

    “I’m still waiting for you to explain how the concept of ghosts, as it is commonly understood, if true, would violate the laws of nature, and which ones specifically.”

  31. Raptor

    I live in the Mojave desert. As a result, there are very strong winds here that blow pretty constantly at certain times of the day. On and off through my time here I have seen ‘UFOs’. Now, being near a military base, there are aircraft about and the do like to make low passes over cars. Nevertheless, occasionally I would see these white floating spheres in the air. Took me forever to figure out what they were, but I never doubted there was a reasonable explanation for them. So, I kept my eyes out and I finally saw one going up. Plastic bags, from walmart. The wind was picking up these bags people dropped and taking them up, where they would float around like white spheres and once high enough, the whole perspective thing took effect. They looked bigger and further away than they really were. And could either be motionless or moving about randomly, depending on the wind that day. Frankly, I have to wonder how many other people have seen this and thought, UFO!!. And never actually bothered to analyze the world around them. I saw enough of them to know that eventually, I would figure out what it was and that it wasn’t anything to do with the military. So, I kept my attention on the ground, not the air, and whala, found the source. Makes me wonder about other things the wind has picked up and taken into the air too. Balloons, ribbon, sheets of paper, road flares tied to balloons… and who knows what else. And I bet this is a big source of UFO’s in certain areas. Especially ones with high and constant winds that can get things off the ground and keep them there.

  32. @ Raptor:

    Frankly, I have to wonder how many other people have seen this and thought, UFO!!. And never actually bothered to analyze the world around them

    Therein lies the crux of pretty much any woo-woo phenomenon.

    I suspect it has something to do with a certain type of person missing the world of “magic.” They desperately want some sort of mysterious otherness, beyond the ken of mankind, to be a part of their world and they will cling desperately to that idea regardless of how contrary to simple reality it may be.

  33. Timothy Hines

    To Thomas G in response to my earlier post. I am an artist with a technical drafting degree. I am fully trained in perspective. The distance of the triangle at fifty feet above our heads, I sighted, using the trees and the building that it flew over. I could be wrong by up to ten feet or so, but not more than that. This happened in a very populated area on a highway with a Fred Meyer one block away. I left out that our neighbor who has five children and her friend also saw the same object a block away two months later. We found out about this common shared experience by accident while discussing the movies. As I stated before, I have no interest in the debate as top whether or not these things exist. I was once on the other side. A strong skeptic that people were seeing UFOs. Now I see two kinds of people. Those who have had a first hand close up experience and those who have not. There is NO debate here about whether or not for me and my wife and my neighbor and her friend. This was not something that humans could make. It did not respond to the wind gusts and the lights at the corners, the type of illumination was not a type I had seen before in my life. The center was red and morphing. The triangle, at an intersection, actually chose one of the streets and followed that until it suddenly took off at a rate that, if it were affected by physics, would have ripped this thing apart. I am only interested in what they are, why there are so many, where do they come from and what do they want.

  34. Benjamin Bundy

    That was really fascinating. I don’t know if Phil Plait actually reads these or not, but if he does I would like to thank him for his article on PXP’s. I was never a believer in the hysteria regarding the events to take place in 2012. In my sophomore Honors English class we were to do a research paper on a debatable subject in which we would pick a side and argue for it. I was lucky enough to find this astronomer I’d never heard of before who put the subject across as easily as a knife cutting through butter. Low and behold in the next couple of months I would look him up and read even more of his stuff, and even see him on the Discovery series, “How the Universe Works”. He was on for his wide knowledge in black holes, he does a brilliant on hour and roughly nine minute long lecture or talk over them in a video on Youtube. I’m probably getting too wordy here but if Dr.Plait does read these comments I am thanking him very much. He has also inspired me to study the universe, and all of its beauties.

    Thank you very much Dr.Plait

  35. @kuhnigget Says:

    I suspect it has something to do with a certain type of person missing the world of “magic.” They desperately want some sort of mysterious otherness, beyond the ken of mankind, to be a part of their world and they will cling desperately to that idea regardless of how contrary to simple reality it may be.

    The sad thing is people think of science as “dry” and “boring” and without magic. Yet, take a look at some of Hubble’s photos (e.g. the photo of the Carina Nebula). When I look at them I see something magical. Yes, we can explain the phenomenon there, but that doesn’t take away the magic of seeing something thousands of light-years from Earth as if it were right next door to us.

    If anything, I’d say science increases the magic in the world, instead of decreasing it. It’s just too bad more people don’t see it this way.

  36. @ Timothy Hines:

    The triangle…suddenly took off at a rate that, if it were affected by physics, would have ripped this thing apart.

    And that, Timothy Hines, is why you might as well refer to what you saw as an angelic chariot, or a wheel of god, or a fairy boat, or any other figment of the imagination.

    If your unidentified object was an alien spaceship, and it is not affected by or beholden to the laws of physics, then you might as well say it’s magic, and magical objects cannot be studied by science, because science presumes the laws of physics are in fact, just that, laws.

  37. katwagner

    Squeeeeeee! Ohh sh*t oh dear, this is the best! I am such a sap I had no idea what was coming. No one else home to hear me holler.

  38. mike burkhart

    There have been a number of illusions that have fooled astronomers :The canals on Mars is the bigest ,many iinvolve the moon :Claims of changes in craters,a wall (I can’t recall were this seen) a bridge over the mare cisium all caused by sunlight the man in the moon is an illusion.I’ve said before that I think some ufos may be expamental or top secert air craft .I think Phill should encorge people to read the Condon report ,a report done after a study of ufos done by the Univerty of Colorado

  39. Peter B

    Mary @ #16 said: “I still can’t figure out how the candles ion the video came to be lookong like a box.”

    It’s a matter of projecting a shape onto a plane at an angle. Think about it in terms of the way an object close to your eye blocks your view of things behind that object.

    Take a small object like a coin and hold it horizontal a little way above the ground. Look at the coin from above with one eye closed. You’ll see the shape it obscures on the ground is also a circle. You could, if you wanted, use a pencil to trace around the area the coin obscures, and see the circle for yourself.

    Now tilt the coin so it’s close to vertical (nearly edge on to the ground). Look at the coin straight on, so that you see it as a circle. Now look at the shape it obscures on the ground. If you trace it out, it will be close to an ellipse.

    Now let’s apply this technique to the video. Make a simple cube, perhaps using straws and sticky tape. Hold it up in front of you and slightly below the level of your eyes. Now close one eye and get someone to place candles on the ground such that they’re directly lined up with all the edges of the cube *as you see them*. Remove the cube, and the candles on the ground will look like the shape of the cube.

    Note, the illusion only works on camera, or in real life if you close one eye.

  40. Timothy Hines

    to kuhnigget,

    You are under the assumption that I am trying in any way to convince you of anything. I am interested in talking with people who HAVE had such an experience as my wife and I. Or any information on what these things are and why are they here.

    As for my description of the sudden acceleration, I can only say what we both saw. As for it seeming to defy physics, I say only that once flight itself seemed impossible and yet it was simple once we knew the way how. Lightening was once considered the selective finger of God and thanks to Ben Franklin we no longer fear it as divine wrath, but understand it as a natural event.

    The fact that the triangle did not interact with the gusts of wind and took off at a speed that would have torn apart a craft of design that we know of, is, in part why we knew it wasn’t a glider or a plane of some kind.

    The closest I could come to describing how this thing felt,and this is a feeling, I could say it was ALMOST like a projection, but far too solid.

    I was once you, thinking it was all fairy dust and magic dragons. We experienced what we did. We watched it long enough to have conversation about it. It flew right over us, silent as silence is. We saw what we saw and we only want to know the truth about these things.

  41. Or any information on what these things are and why are they here.

    Fine by me. But if you’re going to excuse it from the laws of physics, then don’t excuse it from the possible world of magic fairies.

    I say only that once flight itself seemed impossible and yet it was simple once we knew the way how.

    It became simple once we studied the physical laws that impact aerodynamics.

    Therein lies the key. Nothing we observed before or since the development of human flight contradicts those laws. And a hundred years later, nothing continues to contradict them. Likewise, hundreds of years into the serious, scientific study of the universe and the physical laws that apparently govern it leads us to conclude there is any way around them. No phenomenon has ever been observed, measured, tested, that gets a pass.

    That’s why I always find it funny the UFOs = alien technology crowd are so quick to rule out magic. Why? If you just want to get to the bottom of things, why rule that out? If you’re going to allow aliens the ability to circumvent the rules of the game — contrary to every other observation of the universe — why rule out someone, somewhere, figuring out how to do real magic? Fair is fair. You just want to know the truth, right? What if the truth IS a fairy boat?

    Or, why not open it up to the possibility that you and your wife saw no “alien object” at all? Nothing that couldn’t be explained by a human device or a natural phenomenon — including those affecting events inside your own head — but an object or a phenomenon that you currently just don’t know anything about or recognize?

    Why do you immediately jump on the alien craft technology? Isn’t that flying in the face of a true open mind?

    I was once you, thinking it was all fairy dust and magic dragons.

    But I don’t think “it” is those things at all. I think it’s perfectly natural phenomena, including misinterpretations and associations made by the human mind itself. Nothing magic going on. Nothing alien. Just ordinary stuff that seems extraordinary because you’ve never encountered “it” before or you are misinterpreting what “it” is.

  42. Timothy Hines

    To kuhnigget,

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. My statement, to be precise, should have been, seemed to defy physics as I have witnessed objects in the real world and understand physics as a science. Nothing could be ruled out except Occam’s razor tends to rule out magic pixies.

    I am one hundred percent in agreement that it is natural and part of this universe and subject to the laws and rules of the physical universe. And I assume you agree that science is not at the apex of all discovery and we probably only have a rudimentary understanding of what the actual laws of physics that govern the universe are. We, by no means, have discovered all there is to discover regarding physics. From what I can see, physics is making weekly/daily discoveries that alter our thinking of five seconds ago.

    We once believed it was impossible to break the sound barrier. We once believed the world was flat. Something technological flew over us in a way I and my wife had not experienced in either of our lives. The same goes for our upstairs neighbor and her friend who saw the same thing two month apart on the same spot.

    If it is technology we possess, somebody is REALLY not telling us something.

    Best regards.

  43. @ Timothy:

    Best regards.

    Ditto! :D

    But add to your list of possible explanations: Maybe we saw something that looked “technological”, but was in fact our own interpretation of something that wasn’t technological (and oddly in tune with current pop-culture trends regarding what “ufos” should look like).

    Just to be open-minded.

  44. Timothy Hines

    kuhnigget,

    I will accept ANY explanation that proves out to be true and provable. Whatever can explain the observations of four people — myself, my wife, my upstairs neighbor and her friend. We all saw:

    1) A black triangle with white lights at the peaks and a red light in its center that flew about fifty feet off the ground and followed the highway and at a major intersection four blocks away, took a left turn and followed above the road.

    2) The lights at the corners of the device were not super bright and fuzzy, but were clearly inset an fashioned. I and the others all agree that this object was constructed.

    3) At a certain point its speed suddenly increased and it accelerated off into the horizon.

    4) From the point we saw it and discussed it as it moved over us and into the horizon, it covered several miles over houses, trees, stores, cars, people. As it turned at an intersection, we witnessed a perspective shift and saw the thing from a more oblique view.

    5) It was ten in the evening and dusk. Clouds could still clearly be seen in the Summer night sky.

    I have recently looked at the MUFON sight and was both surprised and not surprised that there have been around ten sightings of the same shaped object with similar descriptions of the lights and the disconnectedness to the environment in the same area.

    One of the other sightings was by a banker and one was by a professor.

    If I were to offer a conjecture other than outright “aliens” as the creator/pilot of this device, I would say it might have been some kind of black op thing created for military reasons. Based on the size, which was about a mini-van, we all questioned if there was even a pilot in it or if it was some kind of drone device.

    So if you can point me to any natural event that mimics all the above description I would gladly consider any reasonable explanation. But I have never seen anything that nature produced that flies fifty feet in the air, has running lights and turns at intersections. The only things I have seen that have the attributes and behave as this device did has been man made.

    So, again, I am open to any reasonable explanation, but this was not swamp gas, a balloon, a blimp, a child’s toy, a Chinese lantern, an aircraft of design and capabilities that I or the others who saw it, know of, a kite with a light attached to it, a satellite, nor an hallucination, as four people experienced the same thing over two separate events.

    You could argue that it was not from another planet or dimension, but you could not argue that it was not manufactured, and clearly guided. Period.

    As you were not there during either observation, your ability to ague what was seen by the four of us is limited. Your only option, other than to discuss what we’ve seen, is to dismiss these posts as fantasy, which is fine, for as I said earlier, since this experience, I cannot help but see the world divided into two camps: Those who have had a close up first hand experience with an unidentified flying object and those who have not.

    Before this experience, I believed that some who claimed to have seen a UFO might be seeing something, some might be lying or delusional or have motive, some might have experienced an optical illusion or had a brain hemorrhage.

    “Whether or not” is no longer my issue or concern and I only have limited patience to explore this aspect for the benefit of those who have not had such an experience.

    As far as claims about triangles such as the one we saw being seen by others at what seems from the media to be an increasing rate, one must consider the possibility that what we saw IS actually being seen at an increasing rate.

    In some ways, I would like to return to innocence and have not experienced this moment in time. I have much to focus on in life and I don’t want to be Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I do not believe we were chosen. We just happened to be in the at the right place in time to view this device.

    I am open. I mean you no disrespect. From what I can see from your writings, you are simply trying to figure out the truth of the physical universe like many of us on this planet. But I have decided to limit the amount of time I spend attempting to converse as to whether or not. I am looking for the what and why.

    Perhaps one day, I will be given the gift of additional information and some illumination shall be shed on this experience. Or, it is possible, that what we saw is that and will just one day become a faded memory. That and my wife’s notes that she wrote down right after the experience.

    Thank you for the lively and challenging debate. I found it to be illuminating in and of itself. I wish you the best of luck on you journey of discovery and perhaps we shall be treated to additional information in the future.

    Again,

    my best to you.

  45. @ Timothy Hines:

    A couple of questions I would ask: Where exactly was this observation made? What city? What state? Are you near any airports, military bases, etc? Since you brought up Occam’s razor, that would be my first line of inquiry.

    You mentioned it was 10 at night, “dusk,” and you could see clouds. You mentioned the white lights on the tips were “inset” – inset into what? Could you actually see a body of some kind? A frame? Or did you just see lights that defined a shape? 10 at night, unless you live above the 40th parallel or so, is pretty late to be seeing details.

    You also said you followed the object visibly for several miles before you lost sight of it. This was presumably after watching it move around more closely for a while. During that time I’m assuming it was getting darker. Did you actually see it zoom away, or did you just lose sight of it in the darkness? Something the size of a mini-van would be pretty hard to pick out in the dark. Those clouds you mentioned, could it have disappeared behind one of them? Just trying to remain open minded to possibilities… Bright lights in the sky can fool your eyes. Refer to any one of a dozen of BA articles on Venus.

    You could argue that it was not from another planet or dimension, but you could not argue that it was not manufactured, and clearly guided. Period.

    That period sounds like a closed mind, Timothy. Actually, all you can argue is that to you it appeared to be those things. Since you have no physical evidence of it, declaring otherwise is absurd.

    Your only option, other than to discuss what we’ve seen, is to dismiss these posts as fantasy

    I’ve never done that, and will not do so in the future. To the contrary, I believe the UFO phenomenon is very real…it’s just not the “reality” that true believers want to think it is.

    Most genuine UFO sightings have been shown to be common or uncommon phenomenon, manmade or natural, which the observer simply misidentified. There has never been any piece of tangible, testable, physical evidence that suggests any sighting that remains unidentified is anything else but the same. I’m not saying I can prove they are, but…Occam’s razor again.

    As far as claims about triangles such as the one we saw being seen by others at what seems from the media to be an increasing rate, one must consider the possibility that what we saw IS actually being seen at an increasing rate.

    Yes, one should consider that. But unfortunately the historical evidence tends to suggest it is in fact the other way around. It’s been that way for decades. The details of “UFO” sightings tend to follow new developments in both real technology (that is unfamiliar or only becoming familiar) and popular media, including books, comics, movies, and — more recently — video games (as those “Halo” UFO hoaxes of a couple years ago point out).

    The pattern is the same: pop culture presents an image of what a space ship (or trans-dimensional craft, or what have you) should look like, then the descriptions you find in subsequent UFO sightings start to match. It happened with airships and balloons (triggering sightings of “cigars” and various tubular and spherical objects); it happened with 1930s rocket ships, it happened with so-called flying saucers (which were an invention of an over zealous newspaper headline writer…yet after the phrase appeared in print suddenly they were seen all over); it happened with “little green men” – popular in pulp SF of the 40s and 50s; it happened with “greys” – entering the public consciousness after Steven Spielberg and Whitley Strieber made their contributions to pop culture; and it continues to happen with so-called “triangles” and such.

    But I have decided to limit the amount of time I spend attempting to converse as to whether or not. I am looking for the what and why.

    That’s cool! I encourage that! But may I make a suggestion? If you’re really serious, skip the MUFON website and all the other UFO industry websites that make money off this stuff and start following old Occam and his razor again.

    There are lots of organizations out there that follow developments of super secret military aircraft. Find them. Check them out. I’m willing to bet you’ll see stuff that makes you reconsider your “unknown technology” line. It might be unknown to you, but not to others.

    Personally, I’d put my money on one of two things: A) you didn’t really see what you think you saw, and while what you saw might have been unusual, it probably wasn’t that unusual. And let me be clear about this one: I mean no disrespect. But as has been proven time and time again, human beings are pretty damn poor when it comes to being unbiased observers. It’s just the way we’re wired. Our brains do a lot of interpretation when we see stuff we can’t figure out. Gaps are often filled in by the imagination. That’s not an insult, just an acceptance of reality. B) unmanned military drone. There are dozens and dozens of different kinds of these things now, most of them designed and built by private industry. Look into them. They’re pretty darn neat.

    BTW, here’s my own “triangle” story, repeated (yet again) from several earlier UFO discussions. When I was a kid, me and my best friend saw a flying black triangle, outlined by bright points of light, while outside in my back yard during a late night sleepover. The object moved smoothly and absolutely silently overhead, crossing from NW to SE, until disappearing behind our house. We had no idea what it was, it freaked the bejeezus out of us, and for years I couldn’t figure it out. Flash forward about two decades, when I was doing some research on spy planes and gliders. Uh-whoops! There it was. During the late 1960s the army (or air force, I forget which one now) was night flying gliders up at what was then known as the Yakima Firing Range. It turns out the aircraft would frequently land at the airport, where a truck would be waiting to disassemble them and cart them back up to the Range. They had three lights switched on when they approached the airport: one at the nose, and one on each wingtip. My house was about 1.5 miles from the airport, in a direct line between it and the Range. The UFO was U no more.

    Again,

    best to you, too.

  46. Timothy Hines

    to kuhnigget:

    All you said about drones and gliders sounds plausible. We do, indeed live not far from an aerospace design and manufacturing facility that is widely known to hold many military and government contracts.

    Thank you for the time and thoughtful effort you applied to my presentation. Perhaps time will reveal more.

    Best regards.

  47. Timothy Hines

    to kuhnigget:

    Thinking of our conversation, I had a couple of more questions before leaving this discussion.

    You excerpted this from my post:

    “You could argue that it was not from another planet or dimension, but you could not argue that it was not manufactured, and clearly guided. Period.”

    And you wrote back:

    “That period sounds like a closed mind, Timothy. Actually, all you can argue is that to you it appeared to be those things. Since you have no physical evidence of it, declaring otherwise is absurd.”

    Not that I’m on either side on the UFO discussion, but I assume that means you are also open to the possibility that UFOs are coming here and remaining stealth and performing activities for reasons we cannot at this time understand. What we saw could be explained away as some super sophisticated black ops drone, which is just as possible as any other explanation without physical evidence as you have pointed out.

    But some UFO cases cannot be explained away so easily.

    The two I bring up to hear your opinion of are the light that hung over Capri last week that at some point moved off and flew away. It was seen by many including members of the fire department on duty.

    The other one is the lights that appeared over Phoenix and hung in a stationary fashion for some time. Thousands saw the lights and videotaped them. The mayor of Phoenix recently came forward and apologized to everyone for making fun of those who saw the lights and said he saw them too and only made jokes about them to keep people calm.

    As you said, it would be absurd to rule out actual visitors with an unknown agenda WITHOUT physical proof to the contrary. So, for all your intuitively sensing that the UFO experience is other than UFOs, you must, by your own logic have them ruled in as a possibility.

    Lack of physical evidence does not make PROOF in either direction.

    Lastly, you say you are open to ALL possibilities. So you must be open to such a possibility that we are being visited and the visitors don’t want to directly interact with us. And you must consider the possibility that ALL of our deepest thinking may not be advanced yet to understand them by OUR logic at all.

    I picture some ants trying to convince other ants that all things that happen on Earth are natural or are caused by them and that there are no race of giants with hidden motives. What could ants understand of our motives? What would ants think about Twitter or Stock Options.

    I grew up seeing pictures in my science book of men in space suits struggling to walk on the surface of Jupiter because of the intense gravity. Now today we know pretty much that Jupiter has no surface. Science, by design, tears up what it believes when more information comes along every fifteen seconds.

    My point is that, unless you have another agenda, which I am not assuming you do, the LACK of evidence is not EVIDENCE and therefor you MUST be open to the POSSIBILITY of some UFOs actually being devices sent here by other life, by means and for reasons beyond us.

    It is far more plausible than pixies or magic dust according to Steven Hawking, Carl Sagan and many others in science.

    Also, besides the recent Capri incident and the Phoenix incident, what do you think of Astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s claims?

    Best regards.

  48. Oh, dear. The Phoenix lights? Really?

    Those have been quite conclusively identified as magnesium flares dropped by the Air National Guard, which was indeed engaged in training exercises the night of the “sightings.”

    Here’s a nice summary: freelibertarian (dot) blogspot (dot) com/2010/03/phoenix-lights-were-flares (dot) html

    The Capri incident I haven’t heard of. (quick google search…) Hm. Given that the “object” was observed at night, during stormy weather, over the ocean, gradually sinking toward the horizon, it would tend to suggest an explanation a little more prosaic than alien spaceships. It’s also not clear that the quoted observers were seeing the same thing.

    Lastly, you say you are open to ALL possibilities. So you must be open to such a possibility that we are being visited and the visitors don’t want to directly interact with us. And you must consider the possibility that ALL of our deepest thinking may not be advanced yet to understand them by OUR logic at all.

    Yes, I am open to all possibilities. But I happen to cherish the scientific method, including the tried and true razor blade wielded by our friend Occam. So while it’s possible alien spaceships are here, it’s is extremely unlikely, and far less likely than much simpler explanations that easily fit the facts.

    The old “they are too advanced for us to understand” is a cop-out. You might as well say you’re free to make up anything…which, given the lack of evidence, UFO fans pretty much do.

    Science, by design, tears up what it believes when more information comes along every fifteen seconds.

    Yup, and proudly so! The trouble with the UFO crowd is, they’ve had decades to come up with new evidence, yet they keep trotting out the same old tired non-evidence. Oh, it gets new labels attached to it – “triangles” instead of “saucers”, for example – but it’s all the same, year after boring year.

    And speaking of agendas, surely you recognize that UFO fans have their own? Money, instant “expert” status, connection with a community…pick one. When MUFON removes the little green men from its “unbiased” sightings chart, and maybe stops hawking videos and books, I might cut them a little slack, otherwise, welcome to the fold.

    As for Edgar Mitchell, I suggest you do a search of the good doctor BA’s blog for commentary on that particular personality.

    Cheerios.

  49. Timothy Hines

    kuhnigget,

    Thank you again for your detailed reply. You have given me much to consider.

    My best to you.

  50. Messier Tidy Upper

    @47. Timothy Hines :

    what do you think of Astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s claims?

    As Kuhnigget (#48) noted, the BA has already discussed that in detail on a few threads such as this one :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/07/26/ed-mitchell-going-to-the-moon-doesnt-mean-youre-right/

    & this one :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/04/22/edgar-mitchell-is-at-it-again-yawn/

    In a nutshell :

    Mitchell is an Apollo hero, but that doesn’t give him any authority at all when it comes to flying saucers. And, of course, he still has no real evidence at all for his claims. It’s a rehash of the same tired old stories, and there aren’t even blurry photos for this one. .. [SNIP] .. [Edgar Mitchell has] been talking fringe science [& a lot of weird New Age-y stuff too – ed.] for decades. So I want to be very clear here: I have enormous, deep, and profound respect for all the men who walked on the Moon, and all the men and women who put them there. But that does not give them a pass to ignore evidence and to draw drastically unrealistic conclusions without evidence to support them.

    I agree with the BA on this.

    Edgar Mitchell is .. well, very much not at his best these days unfortunately.

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