Tag: UFOs

Vote of no confidence

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2010 11:00 am

denver_ufoColorado has some weird stuff in the elections tomorrow.

For one thing, Denver resident Jeff Peckman — the same guy who thought a really badly done video of a Peeping Tom alien was real — went around to other Denverites and got enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot to create an alien affairs bureau.

I wish I were kidding. I wrote about this last year, hoping it wouldn’t come to pass, but he got enough signatures (though many were apparently faked) to get it on the Denver ballot.

Yay. Or, I guess, "yay?" Over at the JREF’s Swift blog, Karen Stollznow has the takedown of this ridiculous situation. It’s tempting to laugh it off, except that 1) it’s already cost real money to even get this on the ballot, and b) this election cycle is so crazy that something like this might have a real chance. We’ll see.

It’s too bad I’m not eligible to vote on that. But there are lots of other issues in this election I’m watching, some of which are very serious (like Colorado Proposition 62, which would give a fertilized human egg the status of a person under the law. Yes, seriously. What’s next: giving zygotes the vote? Sponsoring the Blastula Non-Discrimination Act, and Take Your Morula To Work Day?).

I voted early because I’ll be out of town on November 2. But I looked over the list of initiatives very carefully, and I’ll be checking my news feeds come Tuesday. I know people of all stripes, beliefs, and ideas read this blog. I urge people to think carefully and logically about the issues in this election, and then to go out and vote. There’s a whole lot of nonsense out there this election cycle, far more even than usual. It is quite literally up to us to make sure that reality sees the light of day.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Politics
MORE ABOUT: aliens, Denver, JREF, UFOs, zygotes

That alien look

By Phil Plait | September 2, 2010 12:07 pm

I know, this blog could be all Mitchell and Webb, all the time. But man, they’re just so spot on with this stuff!

I would’ve changed one single line: "Fortunately the aliens landed somewhere very remote which is also a well-known top secret Army base," adding "… where we also happen to be doing high-altitude atomic bomb detection research using weather balloons that, when crashed, look very much like flying saucers."

But then, I’m a humorless skeptic striving all the time to bury the truth.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to Anders Øverby.

Related posts:

What else is there not?
That NASA look
That Mitchell look
UK comedians and pseudoscience

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Humor

Why astronomers don't report UFOs

By Phil Plait | September 1, 2010 7:06 am

ufos_zappingI have, from time to time, made a point that astronomers rarely if ever report UFOs. If UFOs really were buzzing us as much as the media and UFO proponents would have us believe, then astronomers would overwhelmingly report the majority of them: we spend far more time outside looking up than pretty much any other group of people.

So why don’t we see all these alien spacecraft? I think this is because we almost always understand what we’re seeing in the sky, so we know not to mistake Venus, the Moon, a satellite, or other mundane things for flying saucers.

While UFO believers love to make hay of this — showing me the extremely rare time when an astronomer has reported a UFO, thus proving my point, or falsely saying astronomers spend too much time at the eyepiece to note the broader sky (which is ridiculous) — the fact is, astronomers are familiar with the sky, so we know what’s going on.

Well, almost always know. John Woolley of the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society has an amusing story of the time he and some other astronomers saw something they couldn’t immediately explain… and make sure you read Part 2.

And y’know, his story sounds pretty familiar

So remember, despite the claims of the UFO crowd and the media that love to play this stuff up, seeing isn’t believing. Understanding is!


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…

MORE ABOUT: optical illusion, UFOs

Area 51 used to – GASP – test secret planes, not flying saucers

By Phil Plait | April 8, 2010 10:22 am

ufos_zappingWhen the topic of flying saucers comes up, someone inevitably talks about the government’s secret installation in the Nevada desert called Area 51. The base has been public knowledge for a long time, though I suspect a lot of folks heard about it through the movie "Independence Day". The idea is that the alien spaceships that crashed at Roswell New Mexico and other sites were carted off to Area 51, and the technology there examined and reverse engineered to create a lot of modern tech today.

You can just guess what I think of this theory.

But I’ll spell it out: it’s nonsense. Yes, Area 51 exists, but the idea that we keep alien tech there is pretty silly. First, all our technology has a clear line of antecedents; the transistor, velcro, smart metals, and so on didn’t just pop up ex nihilo as some UFO enthusiasts claim.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Skepticism

Aliens can be prickly

By Phil Plait | March 26, 2010 12:00 pm

There are aliens among us!

Don’t believe me? Then gaze upon this picture, O Foolish Human:

BABloggee Jeremy Theriot sent this picture to me. It looks innocent, doesn’t it? Ah, certainly, until you see it from a different angle…

J’accuse! Obviously, they walk among us! Or, more accurately, they are rooted among us. If prickly pear cacti have roots. I think they do. Yeah, let’s assume they do.

So maybe they’re not a major threat, but have you ever seen one up close? I’m positive I don’t want one probing me, I assure you. There’s a reason they’re prickly…

P.S. This one provides even more evidence that they photosynthesize among us.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: aliens, prickly pears, UFOs

Rocket launch blows away the sky

By Phil Plait | February 17, 2010 3:00 pm

Perched on top of an Atlas V rocket, on February 11 the Solar Dynamics Observatory launched into space. About a minute after leaving the Earth, the rocket did two things: it passed the speed of sound, and screamed past a sundog, a rainbow-colored optical effect in the sky caused by ice crystals.

And when it did, well, it was incredible. What’s below is just about the coolest video I have ever seen. And I mean that seriously. Click the "720" button and pay close attention at the 1:50 mark. You won’t miss it, the crowd in the audio will alert you…

Wow! I’m quite sure the footage shown here is legit and not a hoax. Several people I know said they saw the same thing, and there are photos of it as well. Those ripples were caused by the shockwave of the rocket going through the cloud, which quickly dispersed. Since the cloud had ice crystals in it, the sundog got literally blown away.

I love the digital revolution. There are so many video cameras out there that stuff no one would’ve believed before are becoming more and more common. Bright meteor fireballs, rocket launches like this, clear footage of flying saucers… oh, wait.

Anyway, awesome. If you ever get a chance to watch a rocket launch, take it. You never know what you might see!

Tip o’ the nosecone to jhumbug on Twitter.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Skepticism

Call to astronomers to report Unidentified Aerial Phenomona

By Phil Plait | December 24, 2009 8:00 am

denver_ufoI have been saying for years that a) most UFOs are simply misidentified mundane phenomena (satellites, meteors, balloons, Venus, weird clouds, even the Moon) and that 2) if they were real, astronomers — who spend a lot more time looking at the sky than your average person — should be reporting most of them.

My musings on this have been twisted and distorted by UFO folks — shocker! — even though I’ve been pretty clear about what I would count as evidence. But now we may have a way to cut through the garbage. A new website has been started for professional and amateur astronomers to report Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. I rather like this new UAP acronym, since it avoids the UFO/flying saucer baggage. Anyway, it was set up as part of IYA 2009 to help astronomers report things in the sky they may not immediately understand. Better yet, it has links to handy guides that will help people who might otherwise misidentify normal things like sundogs and other weather phenomena.

The website is the brainchild of Philippe Ailleris:

Despite the controversy surrounding the topic, he believes that it is possible to approach the UAP field from a professional, rational, and scientific angle without any a priori. He considers that UAP studies my increase the scientific understanding of today poorly understood natural phenomenon, and ultimately he even sees the potential for Science to discover new unknown phenomena, therefore making such study invaluable. His research therefore focuses on attempting to raise the interest of the scientific community and to bridge various fields to devise what he believes is the necessary multidisciplinary approach to studying the phenomena.

I agree. As Carl Sagan said, whether UFOs are real and we’re being visited, or they’re a mass social phenomenon due to the way our brains work, either aspect is fascinating and worthy of actual study.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Astronomy, Cool stuff, IYA

Denver voters get a chance to waste money on UFOs

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2009 7:30 am

denver_ufoHey, remember the reality-impaired guy in Colorado who claims to have a really amazingly cool video of an alien peeping Tom but won’t show it to anybody and also claims that Aliens Are Among Us and that we need To Take All This Very Seriously?

No? Well, maybe this will remind you, or this.

So yeah, Jeff Peckman is in the news again: he’s collected enough signatures in Denver to get a ballot initiative up for vote, enabling the creation of a Denver Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. Yes, an actual commission to investigate UFOs.

Now, I’m not going to say this would be a complete and utter waste of money… oh wait! Yes I am.

Sadly, since he did get enough signatures, this will go to the citizens of Denver to vote on. He claims he can fund this 7 member commission using private grants and it won’t cost the government anything, but that’s ridiculous: just having them testify to the government, heck, just setting up the vote, will cost money ($100,000 according to the article linked above). Not to mention the colossal waste of time.

Oh wait! I mentioned that too!

Anyway, my mocking here is complete (unless Denver actually votes this thing up), so I will relegate you to the tender mercies of one Karen Stollznow, an ex-pat Australian Skepchick who is far less polite than I am about all this, if you can imagine.

But, I wonder: if this commission does get set up, will they take people from Boulder? Hmmmm.


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