SETI: The Search for Aliens comes up Short?

Will SETI ever find Aliens?

Will SETI ever find Aliens?
Description: Alien attacks the warship Thunderchild
Attribution: Illustration by Henrique Alvim Corrêa for The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1906 Edition)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

SETI’s latest search for aliens has come to a disappointing conclusion. Part of the problem is our own technology. We just aren’t that advanced. SETI is only capable of searching for Type II civilizations, who utilize and channel an energy source equivalent to the sun. So, yeah…there probably aren’t too many of those.

The other problem is even more challenging to overcome. Searching for aliens has always struck me as a long-shot. Sure, the galaxy is vast but so is time. And the odds of our civilization overlapping with a similar one (actually a much more advanced one) on a distant planet have got to be miniscule. Here’s more on the latest SETI search from Ian O’Neill at Discovery News:

In an effort to search for intelligent extraterrestrials, SETI astronomers have completed their first “directed” search. Unfortunately, it turned up no evidence of transmitting aliens. But that’s hardly surprising.

By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope, located in West Virginia, on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: “No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.”

(See the rest at Discovery News)

Crop Circles: Photographic Proof from 1945?

Greg Jefferys, future crop circles PhD candidate, claims to have found photographic evidence for crop circles in Google Earth’s 1945 overlay. Before you UFO fanatics get too excited, he attributes the circles to natural phenomena, namely ball lightening. Here’s more from The Huffington Post:

Did crop circles exist in 1945?

Did crop circles exist in 1945?
Description: Crop circle in Switzerland
Attribution: Jabberocky
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crop circles dating back to 1945 are proof the phenomenon is no modern hoax, a Tasmanian historian claims. The mystery of the increasingly intricate patterns was supposedly solved after several high-profile cases were revealed to be the work of artists and mischief-makers armed with barrels, planks of wood and plenty of spare time. Credit for the hoaxes has been laid largely at the feet of pranksters Dave Chorley and Doug Bower, who in 1991 announced they had been pulling the wool over people’s eyes since 1978.

But research by Greg Jefferys has revealed evidence of the strange circles in the English countryside at least 33 years before Chorley and Bower took credit for the phenomena – which until then had been attributed to UFOs and alien activity. Jefferys, who has a degree in archaeology, was prompted to research the matter after reading a report on crop circles in an 1880 edition of the science journal Nature.

The 59-year-old’s research focuses on images from Google Earth’s new 1945 overlay, which Jefferys studied for more than 300 hours. The overlay is a series of photos taken towards the end of World War II by the RAAF and comprises around 35% of the 1945 overlay of England presently available online…

(See the rest at The Huffington Post)

Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOS: Conducting Pseudoscience?

Cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are pseudosciences. But that doesn’t mean researchers in these fields can’t use the tools of science to improve their work. How does one practice pseudoscience…using real science?

A giant squid attacks a ship
Illustration in Hetzel version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Drawn by Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pseudoscience – A Background

For the last few months, we’ve been following numerous “pseudoscience expeditions” that have received little coverage in the press (you can find our coverage of the Baltic Anomaly expeditions, TIGHAR’s Amelia Earhart expedition, and the Newmac Expedition at the bottom of this page). At the same time, we’re also considering mounting our own expedition.

As such, we’ve been trying to figure out how to conduct true “scientific investigations” in fields of study usually considered to be pseudosciences. Is it even possible? If so, how would one go about planning such an investigation?

This is a big topic and it’s taken us several articles to fully cover it. Six days ago, we presented the problem and established the importance of the scientific method. Five days ago, we looked at how well fields such as cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology stack up against the scientific method (answer: not good). Yesterday, we examined the so-called “scientific paradigm” argument that pseudosciences just haven’t been accepted by mainstream science yet.

By now, we’ve established (at least in our minds) that fields like cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are pseudosciences. But that doesn’t mean pseudosciences can’t be practiced in a professional manner. How can pseudoscience researchers use the methods of science to improve their work?

“Science is about trying to prove that you’re wrong and then sort of grudgingly accepting that you haven’t been able to prove yourself wrong.” ~ Gary Taubes, Q&A with Gary Taubes

The Problem of Falsifiability

Cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology have two major problems. First, they lack falsifiability. In other words, you can prove the existence of a cryptid, ghost, or UFO by finding one. But you can never prove nonexistence.The lack of falsifiability is a major problem. It’s the primary reason real scientists stay away from these fields. It also helps explain the extremely poor quality of research in pseudoscience fields. Real scientists create hypotheses to explain phenomena and then do everything possible to refute them. Pseudoscientists, unable to refute their hypotheses, are forced to do the opposite.

“Good science isn’t about proclaiming a hypothesis to be fact. Rather, it’s about doing everything you can to refute your own hypothesis. This requires creating unique and creative tests in order to rule out alternative theories. But even if these tests are done in a comprehensive fashion, an unassailed hypothesis still isn’t fact. It merely hasn’t been refuted yet. It might hold up under thousands of different tests. But all it takes is one test to send it to the dustbin of history.” ~ David Meyer, Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs: Protosciences…or Pseudosciences?

The Evidence Problem?

And this leads us to the second major problem. Pseudoscientists generally marshal evidence to support their theories. But most of the “evidence” for cryptids, ghosts, and UFOs is anecdotal and thus, extremely weak.

So, we’ve got two major problems. First, practitioners are forced to use flawed hypotheses. Second, the evidence gathered is weak and used in an incorrect fashion.

Improving Pseudoscience through…Science?

Let’s return to our example from two days ago. Assume you hear reports of a strange ape-like creature roaming the Pacific Northwest. The nature of this creature is a legitimate, scientific question. How do you proceed?

Most amateur cryptozoologists will race to the scene. They’ll camp out and roam around the woods for awhile. Eventually, they’ll give up and go home, leaving an unsolved mystery in their wake.

More experienced practitioners will attempt to utilize the scientific method. They’ll begin with a hypothesis such as: “The eyewitness reports were caused by sightings of a heretofore undiscovered animal.” Then they’ll head to the region and conduct an exhaustive investigation. They’ll interview witnesses and create a narrow search window. They’ll scour the area for footprints and hair follicles. They’ll set traps and deploy expensive cameras in the vicinity, hoping to catch an image of the creature. Eventually, they’ll use this evidence to support their original hypothesis.

The second method is preferable to the first one. Eyewitness testimony is used to narrow the search window and evidence is gathered in a systematic fashion. However, the initial hypothesis fails the falsifiability test. Regardless of the evidence, there’s no way to prove the creature doesn’t exist. Thus, the evidence only serves one purpose…to support the original hypothesis.So, how should our hypothetical cryptozoologist proceed? Simple…by doing real science.

A proper hypothesis should follow Occam’s razor, or the principle of parsimony. In other words, the researcher should consider numerous hypotheses and choose the simplest one (defined as the hypothesis that requires the fewest assumptions). Thus, the original hypothesis might be restated as: ”The eyewitness reports were caused by sightings of a bear.”

The investigation then proceeds as in the second example. Eyewitness testimony is used to narrow the search window and evidence is gathered in a systematic fashion. However, this time the evidence gathered is used to refute the hypothesis. If a bear is ruled out, the next most likely hypothesis is considered. And then the next and then the next and so on…

One Remaining Problem…

So, that’s how one would conduct a real scientific expedition in a pseudoscience field. Unfortunately, that leaves us with one problem. It’s impossible to rule out all alternative hypotheses. And even if a pseudoscience researcher believes he or she has done so, it still doesn’t prove the existence of the monster, ghost, or UFO. Unfortunately, this problem is unsolvable.

There’s only one way to prove the existence of the unknown. And that’s through physical evidence…i.e. an actual monster, ghost, or UFO. Thus, it’s understandable that few people choose to employ the scientific method and rule out alternatives. It’s far easier (and far more fun) to attempt to prove existence via the available evidence, weak though it may be.

This problem is exacerbated by the large population of “true believers.” UFO enthusiasts, for example, believe ardently in UFOs. Nothing can convince them otherwise. They’re not interested in skepticism. Instead, they’re only interested in evidence that supports their pre-determined beliefs. Hence, they provide a steady fan base for pseudoscience research.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Take

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution here. Real scientific research regarding monsters, ghosts, and UFOs is possible. However, the best it can do is eliminate alternative theories for a strange phenomena.

Not that this a bad thing. Eliminating alternative theories has value. In addition, the application of the scientific method may have other results, such as leading researchers to do more rigorous and skeptical analysis.

At the end of the day, we believe the best thing a pseudoscience researcher can do is to keep an open mind and to always employ Occam’s razor. It might not be as much fun…but it’s the only way to get closer to the truth.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOS: Sciences or Pseudosciences?

Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs: A Paradigm Shift?

Monsters, ghosts, and UFOS may or may not exist. But fields of study devoted to them have sprung up over the last few decades. These fields fail the scientific method test due to the lack of falsifiability. But is there a way we can still classify these fields as legitimate sciences? Or are they doomed to be pseudosciences?

Frequency of UFO Reports
June – September, 1952
Source: Appendix I to Project Blue Book Status Report Number 8, ARC Identifier 595542

Background

For the last few months, we’ve been following numerous “pseudoscience expeditions” that have received little coverage in the press (you can find our coverage of the Baltic Anomaly expeditions, TIGHAR’s Amelia Earhart expedition, and the Newmac Expedition at the bottom of this page). At the same time, we’re also considering mounting our own expedition.

As such, we’ve been trying to figure out how to conduct true “scientific investigations” in fields of study usually considered to be pseudosciences. Is it even possible? If so, how would one go about planning such an investigation?

This is a big topic so it will take us several articles to fully cover it. A few days ago, we presented the problem and established the importance of the scientific method. Then we looked at how well fields such as cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology stack up against the scientific method (answer: not good). Today, we’ll examine a counter argument…namely that the only reason pseudoscience fields aren’t looked at as being scientific is due to the current paradigm.

“Science is about trying to prove that you’re wrong and then sort of grudgingly accepting that you haven’t been able to prove yourself wrong.” ~ Gary Taubes, Q&A with Gary Taubes

The Scientific Paradigm

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote a book entitled, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In it, he divided science into two categories…”normal science” and “extraordinary science.” Normal science operates within an accepted “paradigm.” But sometimes, anomalies occur. If enough anomalies take place, normal science is recognized to be flawed and undergoes a “crisis period.”

In this “crisis period,” scientists begin to do extraordinary science. In other words, they operate outside the paradigm. Eventually, this may lead to new ideas and a resulting “paradigm shift” in which the new paradigm replaces the old one.

A Paradigm Shift toward Pseudoscience Fields?

Cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are devoted to the study of unknown animals (or cryptids), ghosts, and UFOs, respectively. Scholars in these fields often call upon Kuhn’s work to support their research. In other words, they think the current paradigm is flawed and controlled by scientists within the paradigm. Thus, the only reason cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are still considered pseudosciences is because they don’t fit into current theories.

However, Kuhn’s concept of a “paradigm shift” doesn’t happen easily. It requires constant anomalies that can be detected in repeatable experiments. And this is where pseudosciences fall short. It’s not that mainstream science refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence for monsters, ghosts, and UFOs. It’s that such evidence doesn’t exist.

But some Cryptids are Real…Aren’t They?

While no one has ever produced a real ghost or UFO, new animals are discovered every year. Thus, cryptozoology has a leg up in this regard.

That being said, we have to draw a distinction here. The types of animals remaining to be discovered are most likely small and unknown to cryptozoology. In contrast, most cryptozoologists focus their efforts on well-known, highly unlikely creatures (Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster for example). Even worse, they seek such creatures with absolute certainty of their existence. Still, the regular discovery of new animals would appear to hold some hope for serious cryptozoologists.

Most new animals are discovered by accident. However, unknown animals are sometimes known through folklore. Take the extremely rare saola for example. Its existence has been known by locals for many years. Yet, their skulls were only discovered in 1992. To this day, the saola has yet to be observed in the wild. Incidentally, the discovery of the saola wasn’t made by cryptozoologists. Still, it represents how a cryptozoological expedition might work.

Cryptozoology is feasible, but is it real science? No. It still fails the scientific method test, specifically in terms of falisfiability. One might hypothesize the existence of a saola-like creature via folklore. One might even find the creature. But it’s impossible to prove it doesn’t exist.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Take

The inherent problem with cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology is that either a monster/ghost/UFO exists or it doesn’t. There’s no way to be sure unless something is discovered. Thus, these fields are rightly classified as pseudosciences.

“The only way to prove an unknown “monster” exists is to either capture one or find the carcass of a dead one. That doesn’t require the scientific method. It requires camping out in the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of some unknown creature.” ~ David Meyer, Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs vs. The Scientific Method?

That being said, when practiced in a scientific manner, pseudoscience fields can produce results. At it’s best, cryptozoology is a study of unknown animals, a mixture of zoology and folklore. Sitting in the woods waiting for an unknown animal to pop up is a poor way to do research. But hunting down old folklore and trying to ascertain its origin could result in a discovery.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how a monster/ghost/UFO expedition might work. We’ll attempt to employ the scientific method and see how one can do good work even in pseudoscience fields.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOS: Sciences or Pseudosciences?

 

Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs vs. Science: Part II?

Monsters, ghosts, and UFOS may or may not exist. But fields of study devoted to these topics have sprung up over the last few decades. How do pseudosciences like cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology stack up against the scientific method?

“Your Grave will be Under the Stars”
Illustration by W.T. Benda for “The Ghost at Point of Rocks” by Frank H. Spearman (August 1907)
Source: Scribner’s magazine, Volume 42, August 1907 (Digitized by Google on March 12, 2007)

Background

For the last few months, we’ve been following numerous “pseudoscience expeditions” that have received little coverage in the press (you can find our coverage of the Baltic Anomaly expeditions, TIGHAR’s Amelia Earhart expedition, and the Newmac Expedition at the bottom of this page). At the same time, we’re also considering mounting our own expedition.

As such, we’ve been trying to figure out how to conduct true “scientific investigations” in fields of study usually considered to be pseudosciences. Is it even possible? If so, how would one go about planning such an investigation?

This is a big topic so it will probably take us several articles to fully cover it. Yesterday, we presented the problem and established the importance of the scientific method in scientific research. Today, we’ll see how well fields such as cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology stack up against the scientific method.

“Science is about trying to prove that you’re wrong and then sort of grudgingly accepting that you haven’t been able to prove yourself wrong.” ~ Gary Taubes, Q&A with Gary Taubes

Cryptozoology, Ghost Hunting, & Ufology

Cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are devoted to the study of unknown animals (or cryptids), ghosts, and UFOs, respectively. Yesterday, we stated our opinion that few of the researchers in these fields utilize the scientific method. Instead, the vast majority focus their efforts on trying to support their theories, rather than attempting to refute them. However, a few (okay, many) bad apples doesn’t necessarily discredit these fields of study. Can cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology be practiced as protosciences as opposed to pseudosciences?

The scientific method requires one to observe phenomena, ask a question about it, and then form a hypothesis that answers the question. For example, one might hear reports of a strange ape-like creature roaming the Pacific Northwest. A researcher might legitimately inquire as to the nature of this creature. But what hypothesis should he or she form?

One potential hypothesis is: “The eyewitness reports were caused by sightings of a heretofore undiscovered animal.” But this is problematic because there’s no way to prove it false. Indeed, forming falsifiable, testable hypotheses is exceedingly difficult in these fields since we can’t be certain whether or not the monster/ghost/UFO actually exists.

Another potential hypothesis is: “The eyewitness reports were caused by sightings of a bear.” This is a falsifiable, somewhat testable hypothesis. This route might allow a researcher to cancel out alternative theories. However, it does nothing to strengthen the case for an unknown animal.

And therein lies the rub. The only way to prove an unknown “monster” exists is to either capture one or find the carcass of a dead one. On the other hand, there’s no way to disprove its existence. Therefore, even the most diligent cryptozoologist won’t be able to make full use of the scientific method. And without the scientific method, a field of study can never reach the level of protoscience, let alone mainstream science.

The Evidence Problem

There’s one more thing to consider. The scientific method requires one to gather evidence that can be tested and verified by other researchers. It would appear cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are sorely lacking in this regard.

As we see it, there are three types of scientific evidence. Physical evidence is something you can see or touch. Second-hand physical evidence includes things like photographs and footprint plasters. Anecdotal evidence is basically eyewitness accounts. Physical evidence for monsters, ghosts, and UFOs is practically nonexistent. Cryptozoologists have gathered some DNA samples for possible “cryptids.” However, since there’s no possible comparison, the best conclusion one can draw from such evidence is that it doesn’t match certain other creatures. There’s just no way to be certain whether or not it matches a cryptid. Again, the problem of falsification rears its ugly head.

Second-hand physical evidence for monsters, ghosts, and UFOS is fairly common. However, this evidence is difficult to test or trust. You might be able to eliminate certain possibilities. However, you can never eliminate the possibility of a hoax.

By far, anecdotal evidence is the most common form of evidence gathered by crytozoologists, ghost hunters, and ufologists. Unfortunately, eyewitness testimony has little value, regardless of the purveyor’s social standing. It cannot be tested nor is it falsifiable. Also, most people are untrained observers and thus, make for poor eyewitnesses. They forget details. Sometimes they add extra ones. They can easily mistake one creature for another. As a result, anecdotal evidence is notoriously poor in quality.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Take

Cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology appear to suffer from two major flaws. First, there’s no way to form falsifiable hypotheses that will shed light on the existence of monsters, ghosts, or UFOs. And second, the available evidence for these things is weak at best. Indeed, from a certain perspective, it would appear the aspiring researcher is better off avoiding the scientific method altogether and instead, doing everything possible to get his or her hands on actual physical evidence. Hence, the sorry state of research in these fields today.

Is there a way out of this mess? Perhaps. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the “paradigm shift” theory of Thomas Kuhn. Maybe the problems seemingly inherent to cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology aren’t their fault but rather, the fault of science itself.Or maybe not.

Stay tuned!

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOS: Sciences or Pseudosciences?

 

Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs: Protosciences…or Pseudosciences?

Monsters, ghosts, and UFOS may or may not exist. But fields of study devoted to these phenomena have sprung up over the last few decades. How should we classify cryptozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology? Are they protosciences (emerging areas of study)? Or are they pseudosciences?

“Hoding stood erect and whirled his axe up against the descending muzzle”
Illustration by E.L. Blumenschein for “Thyra: A Romance of the Polar Pit” by Robert Ames Bennet (1901)
Source: Project Gutenberg Australia

Background

For the last few months, we’ve been following numerous pseudoscientific expeditions that have received little coverage in the press (you can find our coverage of the Baltic Anomaly expeditions, TIGHAR’s Amelia Earhart expedition, and the Newmac Expedition at the bottom of this page). At the same time, we’re also considering mounting our own expedition.

As such, we’ve been trying to figure out how to conduct true “scientific investigations” in fields of study usually considered to be pseudosciences. Is it even possible? If so, how would one go about planning such an investigation?

This is a big topic so it will probably take us several articles to fully cover it. We’ll use this first article to present the problem and establish the importance of the scientific method in scientific research.

Superstitions to Science

There are five general ways people attempt to answer scientific questions. They range from superstitions to mainstream science.

  • Superstitions: Superstition is the linking of cause and effect using supernatural forces rather than natural science.
  • Pseudoscience: Pseudoscience refers to scientific-like ideas that fall short of actual science. Usually, research in these areas lacks evidence or the ability to duplicate experiments. As such, the scientific method is not properly employed.
  • Fringe Science: Fringe science employs the scientific method. However, it is highly speculative and its results are widely rejected within the general scientific community.
  • Protoscience: Protoscience also employs the scientific method. It refers to new areas of scientific investigation that have yet to be firmly established. Sometimes these areas fail to pan out and become pseudosciences or fringe sciences. Other times, such as with plate tectonics, they become widely accepted as mainstream sciences. Cryonics could be termed a current protoscience.
  • Mainstream Science: An established and respected field of scientific study.

The issue of what separates science from pseudoscience is known as the demarcation problem. This is actually a difficult problem and remains a point of contention among many researchers. Most scholars believe the scientific method must be utilized in true science. Karl Popper suggested that scientific statements must be falsifiable, or capable of being refuted by a physical experiment.

Arguably, falsification is required when making proper use of the scientific method. Thus, for our purposes, we’ll postulate that true science requires the ability to test hypotheses using the scientific method.

The Importance of the Scientific Method

The scientific method is a self-correcting body of techniques used to gain knowledge. While there isn’t an established procedure, there are several steps which are generally utilized by the scientific community. Here’s one possible iteration of these steps.

  1. Observe phenomena.
  2. Define a question about the phenomena.
  3. Form a testable hypothesis answering the question.
  4. Rigorously test the hypothesis in ways that can be repeated.
  5. Analyze the data.
  6. Either reject or don’t reject the hypothesis (note: not rejecting the hypothesis doesn’t mean accepting it). If hypothesis is rejected, form a new hypothesis and repeat steps 3-6.
  7. Publish results so others can peer-review the work.

Good science isn’t about proclaiming a hypothesis to be fact. Rather, it’s about doing everything you can to refute your own hypothesis. This requires creating unique and creative tests in order to rule out alternative theories. But even if these tests are done in a comprehensive fashion, an unassailed hypothesis still isn’t fact. It merely hasn’t been refuted yet. It might hold up under thousands of different tests. But all it takes is one test to send it to the dustbin of history.

“Science is about trying to prove that you’re wrong and then sort of grudgingly accepting that you haven’t been able to prove yourself wrong.” ~ Gary Taubes, Q&A with Gary Taubes

Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs

Crytozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology are devoted to the study of unknown animals (or cryptids), ghosts, and UFOs, respectively. Practitioners tend to think of themselves as scientists. They’ve even adopted many scientific practices. They use scientific jargon and employ technical equipment in the field. Many researchers join organizations and publish research papers. To the casual observer, it all looks very scientific. Unfortunately, it’s often not even close.

Many researchers in these fields are hopelessly biased. A proper scientific investigation attempts to explain phenomena with hypotheses based on the most logical explanations. Then scientists attempt to refute those hypotheses. However, pseudoscientists often do the exact opposite. They establish pseudoscientific hypotheses and then marshal evidence to support their own hypotheses. Incidentally, we accused TIGHAR of doing this exact same thing recently while searching for Amelia Earhart’s lost Lockheed Electra.

The presence of poor researchers is unfortunate. However, it doesn’t necessarily discredit these fields of study. Can crytozoology, ghost hunting, and ufology be practiced as real protosciences as opposed to pseudosciences?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Take

Well, that’s it for today. In summary, we believe true science (protoscience and mainstream science) requires its practitioners to make rigorous use of the scientific method. Most cryptozoologists, ghost hunters, and ufologists appear to fail that test. But is that just due to the individuals themselves? Or are these fields of study doomed by their very nature? We’ll take a closer look at that issue tomorrow.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOS: Sciences or Pseudosciences?

 

Did Aliens Land at Roswell?

On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Daily Record carried the headline, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” This information was later retracted. However, a well-known CIA Agent recently made news when he declared a UFO really did crash at Roswell. So, what really happened with the Roswell UFO?

Roswell UFO Memo (July 8, 1947)
Source: FBI Records: The Vault

Background on the Roswell UFO

In mid-1947, a foreman named William Ware Brazel discovered some strange debris while working at the J.B. Foster ranch. On July 4, he returned to gather up some of the materials with his family.

“Brazel related that on June 14 he and an 8-year old son, Vernon, were about 7 or 8 miles from the ranch house of the J. B. Foster ranch, which he operates, when they came upon a large area of bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks.” ~ Harassed Rancher Who Located ‘Saucer’ Sorry He Told About It, Roswell Daily Record, July 9, 1947 (Afternoon)

Supposedly, Brazel first heard stories about “flying discs” the next day. Wondering if his wreckage belonged to such an aircraft, he proceeded to tell Sheriff Wilcox about it on July 6 or 7. Wilcox contacted Roswell Army Air Field and Major Jesse Marcel and a second man met with Brazel to examine the debris. On July 8, the Roswell Army Air field issued a rather remarkable press release. To this day, no copies of it exist and no one’s quite sure who wrote it. In fact, many scholars think it was never actually written down and was only provided as a vocal statement.

“The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chaves County. The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Maj. Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office. Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.” ~ Roswell Army Air Field Press Release, July 8, 1947

However, after further examination, Warrant Officer Irving Newton stated the Roswell UFO was nothing more than the wreckage of a weather balloon coupled with a radar reflector. The story was subsequently forgotten until 1978 when Major Marcel discussed the incident in an interview with Stanton T. Friedman. Interest in the case surged and suspicion of a government cover-up began to grow.

What’s New?

On June 23, Chase Brandon, a 35-year veteran of the CIA’s elite Clandestine Service unit, gave an interview on Coast to Coast AM. His remarks have added to the suspicions UFO enthusiasts hold toward the U.S. government. Here’s a taste:

“I absolutely know… that there was a craft from beyond this world that crashed at Roswell, that the military picked up remains of not just the wreckage but cadavers and all of that was made public for a short while…” ~ Chase Brandon, Coast to Coast (June 23, 2012)

“One hundred per cent guarantee, in my heart and soul I say – Roswell happened. There was a craft… absolutely cadavers.” ~ Chase Brandon, Coast to Coast (June 23, 2012)

Brandon went further, claiming he once visited the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection and located several boxes of information related to the Roswell UFO.

“I went into the side room and looked at all those boxes… I only had a chance to look at one – I pulled the one down that said ‘Roswell’ and I looked inside… there were materials, there were papers, there were other items…” ~ Chase Brandon, Coast to Coast (June 23, 2012)

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Chase Brandon was a real CIA agent and now works as a technical consultant for films and TV shows. His skills were utilized for The Bourne Identity and Mission Impossible. So, his background checks out. Still, we find his story about the Roswell UFO a bit fishy.

For the last few decades, hundreds of individuals have come forward, claiming to have seen evidence of a UFO or aliens at Roswell. However, none of them have produced a shred of physical evidence to that effect. So, the idea that a box of UFO-related information was stored at what essentially amounts to the CIA museum strikes us as a bit unlikely. And the idea that Brandon was able to access it so easily seems even more unlikely. And of course, this box has seemingly vanished over the years which only adds to our suspicions.

Also, Chase Brandon has financial stakes here. He is currently marketing his first novel. It’s a story about…you guessed it…the Roswell UFO. It’s called The Cryptos Conundrum and Brandon appears to be selling it as being based on real events. The first quote in his novel, one from Francis Bacon, alludes to this fact.

“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.” ~ Francis Bacon

All in all, this looks more like a marketing ploy than anything else. The Roswell UFO may or may not have have been a flying disc. But in our opinion, Brandon’s interview does little to sway the debate.

Tweeting…to Aliens?

On August 25, 1977, Dr. Jerry Ehman detected an odd radio signal that appeared to be of alien origin. He circled the signal and wrote “Wow!” next to it. Now, almost 35 years later, mankind is finally preparing a definitive response to the Wow Signal.

The Wow Signal

A copy of the Wow Signal
Attribution: The Ohio State University Radio Observatory and the North American AstroPhysical Observatory (NAAPO)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Replying to the Wow Signal?

National Geographic has a new TV series coming out called Chasing UFOs. The series will feature investigators reexamining old, unexplained alien encounters. As part of the publicity, National Geographic plans to collect all tweets from 8pm EDT on June 29 to 3am EDT on June 30 that are marked with the hashtag #ChasingUFOS. The messages will be rolled into one message and beamed back at the constellation Sagittarius.

We first wrote about the Wow Signal back in February. Simply put, Dr. Ehman recorded the signal while working on a SETI project. It was extremely intense, some 30 times more powerful than ambient radiation. It also appeared to originate from outside the Solar System, specifically from the constellation Sagittarius, close to the Chi Sagittarii star group. However, it was a one-time thing and even Dr. Ehman eventually began to question its suggested origin.

Incidentally, this isn’t mankind’s first attempt to reply to the Wow Signal. But it’s definitely the most complex.

“We are working with Arecibo Observatory to develop the best way to encrypt the transmission. Earlier transmissions have focused on simplicity, whereas this one will rely more on creating a complex but noticeable pattern, hopefully standing out from other random, natural noise.” ~ Kristin Montalbano, Spokeswoman for the National Geographic Channel, Possible Alien Message to Get Reply from Humanity

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, will an alien race receive the transmission? And maybe even respond? It’s impossible to be sure. But just in case, you might want to head over to Twitter on June 29 or June 30 and add your two cents. We’ll see you there!

Killing an Ancient…Vampire?

Vampires might be mythological beings. But for centuries, people from across the world have feared them. So, how did ancient people deal with suspected vampires?

How did ancient people deal with suspected vampires?

How did ancient people deal with suspected vampires?
Description: Le Vampire Engraving
Attribution: R. de Moraine (1864)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

How did Ancient People deal with Suspected Vampires?

Generally speaking, vampires are mythological creatures who feed on the blood (the essence of life) of living individuals. They’ve been scaring people for centuries, perhaps all the way back to the prehistoric era. Recently, archaeologists excavated numerous skeletons dating back to the Middle Ages. They were found near Sozopol, Bulgaria. Curiously enough, the skeletons’ chests had been pinned down with iron rods.

“These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice common up until the first decade of the 20th century.” ~ Bozhidar Dimitrov, Head of the National History Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria

Apparently, more than 100 similar corpses have been discovered in Bulgaria. While belief in vampires was common across many ancient cultures, individual groups of people developed their own ways of dealing with them.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Staking was fairly common, although the choice of stake and its placement varied. In this case, iron rods were hammered into the chest bones (the heart was probably the most common placement elsewhere, with the mouth and stomach being other popular targets). Most likely, the chest was chosen so the rod would deflate the corpse as it started to bloat into a vampire.

Nowadays, vampires have become a significant part of the horror genre. But many centuries ago they were regarded as much more than mere fiction…they were a horrifying reality…a reality that could only be stopped by the most extreme measures.

Civil War Soldiers…that Glowed in the Dark?

In 1862, the Union and Confederacy locked horns at the Battle of Shiloh. More than 3,000 people died and another 16,000 received wounds. As the fighting came to an end, something strange started to happen. Wounds started to glow. And this glowing seemed to have a miraculous effect, leading to saved lives and faster-healing wounds. The soldiers called it “Angel’s Glow.” But what caused it?

The Battle of Shiloh

The Battle of Shiloh
Attribution: Thure de Thulstrup (1888)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Shiloh – What was the Mysterious Angel’s Glow?

In 2001, nearly 140 years after the Battle of Shiloh, two high school students named Bill Martin and Jonathan Curtis discovered the truth behind Angel’s Glow. It was caused by a strange luminescent bacterium known as Photorhabdus luminescens. Photorhabdus luminescens is lethal to insects and pathogens. It also, you guessed it, glows in the dark. Here’s more on the Battle of Shiloh and Angel’s Glow from Mental Floss:

Looking at historical records of the battle, Bill and Jon figured out that the weather and soil conditions were right for both P. luminescens and their nematode partners. Their lab experiments with the bacteria, however, showed that they couldn’t live at human body temperature, making the soldiers’ wounds an inhospitable environment. Then they realized what some country music fans already knew: Tennessee in the spring is green and cool. Nighttime temperatures in early April would have been low enough for the soldiers who were out there in the rain for two days to get hypothermia, lowering their body temperature and giving P. luminescens a good home.

Based on the evidence for P. luminescens’s presence at Shiloh and the reports of the strange glow, the boys concluded that the bacteria, along with the nematodes, got into the soldiers’ wounds from the soil. This not only turned their wounds into night lights, but may have saved their lives. The chemical cocktail that P. luminescens uses to clear out its competition probably helped kill off other pathogens that might have infected the soldiers’ wounds. Since neither P. luminescens nor its associated nematode species are very infectious to humans, they would have soon been cleaned out by the immune system themselves (which is not to say you should be self-medicating with bacteria; P. luminescens infections can occur, and can result in some nasty ulcers). The soldiers shouldn’t have been thanking the angels so much as the microorganisms…

(See Mental Floss for more on the Battle of Shiloh and Angel’s Glow)