Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Shag Harbour UFO Incident - Sui generis?

As I was putting together the segment on Shag Harbour for the Best Evidence film (yes, there's another case that made the cut), this statement by Don Ledger really made me think:

What’s different about the Shag Harbour incident, the UFO incident, is that the witnesses, the laypeople, claimed they saw an airplane crashing into the harbour. They thought it was an airplane. And it was the military who classified it as a UFO. Usually it’s the other way around, the laypeople call it in and say they saw a UFO, and the military will say, “well, it’s just a misinterpretation of a prosaic object in the sky. It could be an airplane, or a planet, or a star, or something like that.” So this was different – it was completely switched around from the usual concept.

Unlike most, if not all, other so-called crashed UFO cases, Shag Harbour has a multitude of credible witnesses, and an investigation by two governments (Canadian and American) that is officially documented in the public record, and freely available.

And, as Don said, it wasn't the witnesses who said it was a UFO - it was the military, after investigation ruled out (as the CAF memo above shows) the more prosaic explanations on offer.

If Shag isn't quite sui generis in the annals of UFO cases, it's pretty darn close.

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The UFO Phenomenon - ETH, CTH, EDH, TDH, NH??

Whenever I do an interview on radio, or when I'm talking to someone about UFOs, the question always comes up - what do I think they are?

Extraterrestrial in origin?


Are they time travelers?

How about cryptoterrestrials (i.e. another race that inhabits Earth) as Mac Tonnies speculates?

Or, can they all be explained away in relatively mundane, terrestrial terms (hoaxes, atmospheric phenomena, misidentifications, etc. etc.) - the "null hypothesis"?

I asked that question over at "The Other Side of Truth" discussion area on Facebook, which can be found here. (you have to join Facebook to join the group).

One of the members of the group replied:

Perhaps we should ask ourselves what it is that we know about them. It maybe very little but it would be the place to start. What can we gather from the credible sightings and encounters that have taken place? What are the things these cases have in common?
A good question.

Here is my answer:

Here are a couple of commonalities I have noticed in what I would consider the best cases:

1. The witnesses are usually military, often pilots, and always highly credible (i.e. not likely to be making up a tall tale).

2. The military is made aware of the cases, and the witnesses are always debriefed, usually by people they do not recognize (i.e. not their regular debriefers).

1 & 2 indicates to me that:

a. The military is aware of something strange in the skies

b. They don't know what it is (otherwise they wouldn't be asking so many questions).

Now, as to the UFOs themselves, again, from the minority of excellent cases out there, we almost always see the following reported:

1. The UFO moves in ways that no conventional aircraft can move (at least none that the witnesses are aware of, and considering that in some cases the witnesses are top aerospace engineers and designers, and test pilots, that's good enough for me).

2. It is often observed as a bright light, or series of lights (the 1957 RB47 case, for example, or Rendlesham, or Malmstrom, or Shag Harbour... the list goes on).

3. The UFO often seems to be "playing" (for lack of a better word), i.e. "showing off" (as Mac Tonnies has said) for the witnesses. A display of some sort.

4. There is almost no form of recognizable communication, unless you consider the colours and movements a form of communication (the RB47 case is a notable exception - here some sort of signals were allegedly received from the UFO).

Those are the things that the "best" cases of which I am aware seem to have in common.

What conclusion do I draw from this?

Well, I certainly can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, but it seems that if 1 - 4 above are true, then there is some sign of intelligence present. That is as far as one can go, I think.

Which leaves us with the original question, although it makes the null hypothesis less likely for at least a few UFO cases, unless they are some sort of psychological experiment being run by someone down here to observe people's reactions to things like this, or to distract attention away from top secret programs, which I don't think we can completely rule out.
I still think that the vast majority of UFO cases have prosaic explanations (whether we have figured them out yet or not is another story). But there remain enough truly anomalous cases that the "null hypothesis" seems untenable as an explanation for the entire UFO phenomenon - which leads me to conclude that at least some cases have a paranormal, i.e. beyond our experience, explanation.

And that's as far as I'll go, because at the moment that's the only conclusion one can make based on the available evidence (and even this conclusion is one I make on the balance of probabilities, not beyond a reasonable doubt).

In the past, some have accused me, and others, of "cowardice" for only going this far.

To them I would say that the real courage lies not in accepting as a proven fact something in which you want to believe, but in having the intellectual honesty to admit that you don't know the answer, and the curiosity to keep looking.

Paul Kimball

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Roy Wimmer Passes Away

I just learned from Brad Sparks that Roy Wimmer, one of the key witnesses from the 1953 Santa Barbara Channel case, passed away last week (on the 12th, I believe).

I may be wrong, but I think he was the last surviving witness.

The info on the case can be found here.

In his report on the incident for Lockheed, Wimmer, a top test pilot, wrote:

I was watching it all the time so I was able to see it for several seconds after the rest of the crew had lost sight of it. Right up until the time it disappeared it maintained its sharp outline and definite shape so I know it was not a cloud that dissolved... I am convinced this was a large object some distance away.
Of course, the United States Air Force, in one of their most bone-headed explanations ever (and that's saying something), concluded that what Wimmer and other top Lockheed personnel (including Kelly Johnson) saw that day was a lenticular cloud.

Yeah, right.

My condolences to Mr. Wimmer's family.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How is it that we can "see" Extraterrestrials?

While one can argue endlessly in favor of a literal extraterrestrial interpretation, a holistic approach leads us to consider that the UFO intelligence not only wants to perpetuate itself via dramatic encounters with ostensible "occupants," but intends to discredit its own machinations: it stages exciting UFO events that infect both the research community and the popular imagination, knowing that the phenomenon's inherent absurdity will eventually undermine attempts to arrive at an indictment.

Interesting stuff as always from Mac Tonnies.

One question that doesn't get asked enough by ufology is this: if the UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin, with all of the advanced technology that this would involve (memo to the ETHers: it isn't as easy as you think it is to travel between the stars), why do they allow themselves to be seen, as surely they must, given their technological prowess?

Are we the equivalent of rats in a lab experiment, with our reactions being studied by alien scientists? If so, how long does this experiment last? Shouldn't they be done with it at some point or another?

The typical answer - Stan Friedman uses it all the time - is that "they're aliens, so we can't presume to know why they're here, or why they do the things they do."

Which is no different than a religious person who, when asked why God lets good people die in horrible ways, answers, "well, it's God, so we can't possibly understand His will. We must just accept it."

The more you look at the various aspects of the Extraterrestrial hypothesis, the less likely it seems - both technologically and, perhaps more important, sociologically and anthropologically. Like the traditional mainstream view of God (i.e. the one drilled into the heads of kids at "Jesus camps"), the ETHers view of extraterrestrial life is more a reflection of their view of themselves than the potential reality - and complexity - of an extraterrestrial visitation.

Of course, as Jason Gammon and others maintain, ET could really be a form of AI. In that case, all bets are off, because who knows how sentient machines would behave.

Unless you think that human beings are really just meat-based machines... which brings us back to Mac, and his idea that the explanation for the UFO phenomenon may lie closer to home (like many other, non-ETH explanations). Who knows - it may well lie inside of us.

Paul Kimball

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Best Evidence - The 1967 Malmstrom AFB Case

Clips from interviews I conducted about the Malmstrom AFB UFO case for the upcoming documentary "Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases", which ... all » premieres in Canada on Space on May 10, 2007.

Featured here are ufologists Stan Friedman and Richard Hall and Captain Robert Salas (ret'd), one of the USAF officers involved in the incident forty years ago, and co-author (with Jim Klotz) of Faded Giant.

Malmstrom is indeed on the top 10 list. Where? Well, you know how that works... :-)

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Best Evidence - The 1980 Rendlesham Forest Case

Some clips from interviews I conducted for the 1980 Rendlesham Forest case for "Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases", which premieres on Space in Canada on May 10, 2007.

Included are UFO Review publisher Stuart Miller, UFO researcher / author / lecturer Stan Friedman, former UK Ministry of Defence UFO investigator Nick Pope, and UFO researcher / author Richard Hall.

And yes, Rendlesham is somewhere in the Top 10.

"Where?" you ask.

You'll have to watch the film to find out!

Paul Kimball

Kaku: The Science of Sci-Fi

Great stuff!

Paul Kimball

Carl Sagan explains the Drake Equation

Part 1

Part 2

Fascinating stuff from a great communicator.

I'm not nearly as anti-SETI as most ufologists are - what's the harm in looking for radio signals? It's not like it costs that much money, and, as I said in a radio interview once, I think ufologists are just jealous that SETI has been more successful in engaging science and the public than ufology has.

But, whether you like Sagan or SETI or you don't, watching him do the calculations is interesting, especially if you accept the possibility that there may be millions of technological civilizations in the galaxy (a number that seems way too high to me; I would always go with a more conservative estimate, based on the principle that it's better to be pleasantly surprised than rudely awakened). It stands to reason, if that's the case, and if they manage to survive what Sagan calls their "adolescence", that they could - indeed, almost certainly would - develop the ability to travel between the stars, if not in person then at least in the form of advanced probes, probably using some form of artificial intelligence. From there it isn't a giant leap of logic to conclude that one or more of those probes, or perhaps even crews, made its way to Earth at some point, and took a look around. Perhaps they're still here. One can't prove that on the available evidence, but it's not an unreasonable hypothesis, even if there had never been a single UFO sighting.

Ironically, given that he was not a supporter of the ETH, Sagan's reasoning, using Drake's equation, should give comfort to those who are supporters of the ETH, and should give pause for thought to those who would dismiss the ETH out of hand.

Paul Kimball

To the Moon... and Beyond!

Pretty cool stuff. I hope I'm still around to see us get back out there!

Paul Kimball

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mac Tonnies: CTH or ETH... Which Makes More Sense?

Mac Tonnies explains why he thinks the CTH makes as much sense - or maybe even more sense - than the ETH

Here's the funny thing about the CTH brouhaha as it concerns the ardent ETHers - all of the criticisms they level against Mac's hypothesis are the same ones that can be levelled against the ETH, and have been for decades by mainstream science.

For example:

Average CTH critic - "The CTH is preposterous, because there's no evidence of this civilization, and there would surely be some because to become that technologically advanced they would have to leave signs, traces, and they would have travelled to the stars and established bases,etc., etc."

Average ETH critic - "The ETH is preposterous, because there's no evidence to support it, and the problems of interstellar space travel are insurmountable, or for all practical purposes insurmountable. Further, any civilization advanced enough to get here would have colonized the galazy by now, yet we see absolutely no sign of this, etc., etc."

Average CTH or ETH proponent's answer?

"Well, they're obviously more advanced than we are, so they can do things we can't understand, and that explains everything."

I'm not saying either hypothesis is right - indeed, the ETH still makes more sense to me than the CTH, at least what I've seen of it so far (I remain open-minded, however), and any discussion of just the two of them ignores all of the other possibilities. What I am pointing out is the inherent hypocrisy and irony of much of the knee-jerk criticism of the CTH by the ETHers, at least at this stage.

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Four Rules for Ufologists

Here are the four major rules for many ufologists (not all, thank goodness, but an ever increasing majority):

1. What the public doesn't know, we certainly won't tell them.

2. Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.

3. If one can't attack the data, attack the people. It's easier.

4. Do one's research by proclamation rather than investigation. It's much easier, and nobody will know the difference anyway.

Rules #2 and #3 are collectively referred to as "The Jerry Clark Stratagem".

In terms of #4, you can count the number of ufologists who do actual research - you know, the kind that grad students would be required to undertake (as just one example) - on two hands. And I'm being charitable.

And no, searching Wikipedia doesn't count.

Meanwhile, speaking of Sir Jerome Snark, in a post at UFO Updates today he referred derisively to certain "self-identified ufologists", which is hilarious - are there any other kind, or is there some sort of accrediting body, like lawyers and doctors have, that hands out official "Ufologist" certificates? I must have missed that, in the same way that poor old Jerry consistently misses the boat these days.

Sir Snark, in a comment clearly directed at moi, also states:

"I realized that some nadir had been reached when I was attacked recently for being too concerned about the requirements of science and scientific inquiry."

Just to set the record straight, Sir Snark, you were called out for being too overeager to be seen as respectable by the scientific establishment. That's different than saying you're too concerned about the requirements of science and scientific inquiry, which, need I remind you (ed. - yes, you must), should be about keeping an open mind, i.e. not shouting down a hypothesis (er... perhaps like cryptoterrestrials) without actually having read the author's book, which has yet to be even published (and, for the record, I doubt Mac will convince me, but I'm willing to at least listen to what he has to say before I offer a critique).

Mac Tonnies briefly outlines his CTH in the clip above; somewhere Sir Snark is shaking his head in complete and utter disbelief at the effrontery of this midwestern hick.

I often wonder why guys like Sir Snark give a fig about what the scientific community thinks about them, because they've already established their own elitist ivory tower, with appeals to authority and calls from on high the currency of the realm. It reminds me of some of the dialogue that I wrote for Marat:

"We look up from the street
at the towers of the other estates
watching them as they reach
to the boundaries of Heaven’s Gate
All the gods and the goddesses
look down from inside
they spit
and it rains
they shit
and we stain."

Alas, in the case of most Ufological "gods and goddesses", they're impostors, who have been writing intellectual cheques that their talent just can't cover. They have the egos of the Gods, but that's it. Again, there are exceptions that prove the rule - and, again, you can probably count them on those same ten fingers, give or take.

The people really worth your time are the ones who will admit that they're just marking time, and that what the study of the UFO phenomenon truly needs to move forward are some of those Nobel Prize calibre folks that Brad Sparks is always on about (properly so, in my opinion).

Brad Sparks dishes out some hard truths for ufologists

Because the amateurs - myself included - have taken things as far as they can. From hereon in, we're just hamsters running around a wheel, getting nowhere (although it may be fun to keep on running). One could argue that it's been that way for years, decades even.

The goal should be to convince people further up the intellectual food chain to take a real interest, but it isn't, at least not with ufology, which is the poster child for the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome.

So long as the likes of Jerry Clark rule the roost, that will never happen (ahh... the irony).

Which is why the future study of the UFO phenomenon will have nothing to do with "ufology".

Paul Kimball