Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Communications Revolution: The End of UFOlogy and Anomalies Studies?

People have mixed opinions on the impact of the Internet but most modern attitudes are that "just give it time, the Internet will make everything better". That if true would be a very great anomaly indeed --- nothing, save Love Itself, makes everything better. But could it make our study and understanding of UFOs better? Opinions are easily created; is there any reason to say one way or another?

Who knows? This post is one way of tossing something factual into that stewpot.

I was idly wondering whether it might be worth someday writing a small regional UFO casebook on Michigan UFOs. Michigan tends to burp up a good UFO case rather regularly, even when the rest of the country is relatively silent, so maybe such a study would be interesting. Without {yet} being at all serious about doing such a book, I decided to make a simple-minded surface survey of what was out there as far as reports were concerned.

I chose the extremely valuable site "UFO DNA- The UFO Code" to take a look at. It is not a "comprehensive" case listing [nothing is] but it has a large number of cases to say the least. The producer[s] of the site surveyed a tremendous amount of UFO literature to compile this. Not wanting to grow too old in my quest, picking Michigan lessened the extensiveness of my search, and the site helped out further by having regional listings of cases divided by Hynekian categories.

Now.... no one should take the results of my survey any more seriously than is appropriate. These cases counted are just "Michigan" and any region will have its own distinctive characteristics, different mixes of case types, different involvement in flaps, flaps of its own, etc. But even given all that, I think that the data below still "speak" to us. One thing however: UFO-DNA [good as it is] is a production of human nature. That means that there are flaws, irregularities, matters of convenience and/or interpretation which "color" its listings. I'm not bothered by this. The site seems unusually void of any added prejudices. The only thing to note is that the site has apparently had a non-smooth case entry history [i.e. there seem to be a few years where the amount of energy/completeness going into the listings was down, and the total count for those years thereby unusually low]. Knowing UFOlogy, I think that I can suss those out and not let them screw up the ultimate insights, if any.

So, all I've done is to go into Robot-Mode and count cases by years. I made separate counts for each Hynekian category. And I added together the counts for all Close Encounters-plus-Radar cases for each year. The total number of cases in a year is the top of the Blue/Red column, and the number of potentially high evidence cases [The CEs and the Radars] within those years are the Red Column. What showed up?

Early in the graph, Keyhoe-ian UFOlogy showed up. A nice 1947 component and a good lump of cases across the 1950s with VERY little Close Encounters. [Remember again folks that this is just a Michigan graph, so don't expect it to meet your "national" expectations necessarily.]

Then the big 60s wave showed up. Some would call this the Swamp Gas Wave, but I refer to it as the Condon Project Wave. My "inside joke" on this is: whatever's behind the UFO phenomenon decided that we are so utterly incompetent emotionally and culturally to actually study anything properly, that they were going to unleash a giant wave, including many CEs, just as our so-called "scientific study" was going to run, and prove positively that we had our collective heads buried in some unproductive seeing environment [there are more than one well-known such environments in popular slang --- fill in your own favorite]. The "Condon Wave" shows a good base of total cases with a healthy CE content. The 1970s continue these flare-ups.

Then comes something that many observant UFOlogists have noticed all over the world --- not only very few cases, but just about no CEs at all. This is the great dead period of the 1980s. After the 1980s, the Internet shows up in force and the Internet UFO reporting sites begin to get noticed by the public.

And here come the reports..... I actually had several famous UFOlogists [some of the most famous CE4 UFOlogists] argue vociferously against Mark Rodeghier's and my assertions that the manifestation of the phenomenon had changed and that certain things had basically gone away. Oh no! There are UFO reports all over the place! We are in a continuous Flap, not a drought!. Yep. We're flappin' alright --- IF you believe the Internet.

I wondered if any of those guys ever read many of the "case reports" they were referring to. Essentially useless... Zero... No research value. And, even if one decided to allow oneself "great faith" about what might be behind the shallow "reports" [totally uninterviewed or in any way field-tested], there STILL were no CEs, especially of the CE2 types. The Michigan numbers [with my inclusions of the latest three years mapped on the site] show exactly that.

I didn't try to map any of this stuff [WAY too much effort], but there are a few mappings out there for what they're worth. This is a Larry Hatch filtered case map, theoretically of better UFO incidents. I will bet money that Hatch could not include maybe even one report of the late 90s or 2000s on a quality-filtered map. Unlike the case reports from the Keyhoe-ian era, the Condon-Project Wave, or the mid-70s follow-on, almost all this later stuff is precisely worthless --- a Sea of Weeds.

This is probably intuitively obvious to anyone who reads this blog, but Allen Hynek made it specific long ago, while he was still at work for the Air Force. Hynek invented the concept of the Strangeness/ Credibility Graph. He knew then, just like ourselves and any other good UFOlogist in between, that there are NO good UFO cases unless they have two clear characteristics: significant "Strangeness" and solid credible witnesses.

Anybody can type out a highly strange story on the internet --- we've got strangeness galore on every conceivable subject. BUT Even There, there are few, sometimes no, really strange CE2 or CE3 incidents reported on the famous sites. But even if there were: without personal "field investigations" the quality of witness credibility is precisely zero. Every witness might be a Franciscan monk who used to be an astronomer for all we know, but that's the point isn't it? We DON'T know. Witness credibility Zero= Case Zero.

This is a map generated from bulk NUFORC [the internet's main UFO reporting center] data. Do you know what I think about this? The red color makes it pretty. That's all.

A colossally-useless effort.

Worse yet, in my exploration around the internet, I find that every anomaly is being forced into this same pattern: easy, no risk "reporting", no follow-up on anything, huge pile of Believe-it-or-not unfiltered words accumulating.

I hinted at the Doomsday Scenario for learning anything about any of the anomalies lurking in this situation in the title of this post. I have some serious concerns. There are ways to adjust to this of course, but they all require civilian researchers to step up their games significantly, and create very strong and investigatively efficient linkages to the sites which are brainlessly accumulating the unprocessed data. If that doesn't happen, UFO research [with one exception] is over. The one exception will be historical research --- old cases/ old FOIAs newly released etc. The same thing would be true for hauntings, poltergeists, bigfoot, faerie, Fortean Falls, black dogs, etc etc etc. In every one of these types of spectacular event anomalies, the mere typing into a collecting site which is a dead end will ultimately result in the complete reduction of the anomaly to shallow entertainment in everyone's mind, and the anomalies will sink to the status of imaginary computer games.

The UFO research community MUST STEP UP IT'S GAME!!!

I don't want to be the last guy trying to study these wonders, or in my case just a high-strangeness old dude trying desperately to at least preserve the ACTUAL data-rich documentation so that future Wonderers can have something other than what the reporting sites have to offer to study.

MUFON: Get it together! NUFORC: Get it together! MUFON/NUFORC: GET TOGETHER!! Seriously. Get a better research idea. Get a plan. You could be drowning in unexamined opportunities while rearranging your Titanic deck chairs as the Internet Iceberg sails mindlessly on.

Well, even I was exhausted by that last metaphor.... Peace friends.


  1. Hello Prof, I know you like to remain above sentiment and emotions in the face of UFOs and ufology. Not so for me. It saddens me to see the field diminishing in terms of quality sighting reports and the number of researchers.

    Perhaps the shortage of good reports has led directly to the shortage of new researchers and field investigators? Combine this with the nature of the internet and it's easy to lose track of the frequency of reports within the noise.

    Reading Chris Rutkowski's 2011 survey raised a lot of similar thoughts to yours. Whereas in the '90s he'd been able to work with several active groups and speak to witnesses, he's now mostly reliant on the online databases like NUFORC, MUFON and the The historical databases used by Hatch, Vallee and many others, including your good self, had a higher content of reports delivered personally to investigators who could (if inclined) filter out the garbage.

    Since Internet 2.0, it's much less the case. We can count the numbers and look for patterns without knowing if the witness was making it up - GIGO. That a lot of 'making it up' occurs is evident whenever Peter Davenport is interviewed. It's a constant theme that the NUFORC phone-line has been persistently hijacked by hoaxers and teenage funsters. As I see it, there's no good reason to doubt that the percentage of reports being uploaded will be (at least) equally false.

    Large organisations like MUFON have their field investigators on stand-by for good reports. However they sometimes represent the differing views in the field. I know this from listening to interviews during the Bigelow/BAAS take-over in 2010 and reading carefully. The old NICAP investigators were held to a certain standard by the ethos of the organisation and the socialisation of peers. This isn't the case with MUFON where they have some objective, analytical minds and others who are a little less thoughtful. For instance, there's an extensive report listing an object as an 'unknown' that fails to even acknowledge what looks like a string dangling from it.

    There are beacons of critical-thinking and sterling researchers whose persistence might be more appreciated in the future. I don't know. This also might just be a low-tide mark in the history of phenomena that are wont to change anyway. Again, I don't know. The preservation of existing records, as you often describe, is crucial and perhaps a resurgence of sightings will one day aid future researchers in applying some meaning that eludes (or confirms) past and present thinkers on the subject?

    Incidentally, I'm currently seeking to upload Wendy Connors' Faded Discs for free access. All that oral history she preserved is in danger of being 'lost' again. Hundreds of hours of history might become a Siren-call to those researchers in the future. I like to think so. In that sense, their importance has yet to be measured.

    1. Well, my unmet friend, I simply say: yes.

      I have a very good buddy, Robert Powell {a regular reader here and the unsung hero of our great book}, who is designated Director of MUFON Research [a very difficult task]. Robert is a warrior for honesty, truth, and effort. With any help at all he will save some good data. We need about a hundred clones of Robert Powell in that nearly paralyzed, and astoundingly disorganized, institution. But even without that there are good guys scattered about. The minimal task is to ensure the preservation and availability of their labors. The insularity of that organization has got to stop. [example: here I sit as at least a productive scholar in this business and whatever MUFON finds out never comes to me, as if I couldn't be trusted to treat the information responsibly and as if there is something that the organization needs to hoard for unimaginable reasons. Even Robert {as a loyal member} feels awkward about violating these stupidly restrictive policies --- and ONLY out of "honor" of his word, as he doesn't agree with them either as far as responsible researchers are concerned.]

      There are other ridiculous information-hoarding situations all over the {non}field. There is potentially valuable Roswell witness information which the Roswell researchers will not be given the privilege of seeing until it's too late. There are hoarded historical information piles which are not made available or in any way practically useful. Even an outstanding institution like the University of Arizona cannot "pull-the-trigger" on selling copies of the James McDonald witness interview tapes [even though the archive could use the cash].

      Good luck on the Faded Disk project. Wendy got a fair number of her audios from CUFOS' collection, but CUFOS has never had any money with which to make stuff like that buyable. .... another ridiculous situation we face.

  2. Dear Sir

    is this what Jacques Vallee mention regarding the state of modern UFO research that was filled with Lunatic Fringe (tm) continuously repeating the same mantra (Roswell , Conspiracy , Alien Base , MJ12) ? As it is nowadays there are too many people looking for quick fix without reading historical UFO cases, thus they gravitate toward the huckster/hoaxter speakers like Greer.

    I'm glad i found your site and share most of your view (except for roswell being a real nuts-n-bolt UFO craft crash). I also hope modern UFO researcher got together again , the current YouTube/Blurry photo UFO are ruining UFOLOGY research. Funny how most ufologist today do not see the relation on 'high strangness' in Close Encounters, or that there are patterns on UFO CE cases. I assume its lack of interest in reading historical documents and more to the 'fast food' generation's habit of looking for quick fix of UFO disclosure.. as if a single blurry digital photo can proof anything..


  3. Ufology has always been somewhat of a huckster's game. The Internet has just made it much easier for the hucksters to operate. George Adamski and Stephen Greer seem fundamentally no different, although Greer appears more greedy and calculating.

    The problem, which goes far beyond UFOs, is the total willingness to suspend all critical thinking when approaching something posted online (a State Farm commercial is currently poking fun at this universal foible). This is a dangerous proclivity that seems to afflict younger generations more so than the older ones (though nobody seems immune), and leads to accepting as true transparently misleading, incorrect, fabricated or sometimes just downright crazy stupid claims (e.g., if you carry the RH negative factor in your blood you're an alien hybrid) that get posted (and re-posted) online by people with no credibility whatsoever.

    In the world of anomalies, the paranormal, and UFOs, if you question a blatantly hoaxed or completely unsupported allegation, it generates a barrage of bad mannered responses deriding you as a skeptic, debunker, or my favorite, skeptibunker. You're the ass for pointing out the holes in the story.

    The Internet will most definitely kill Ufology, just as it has killed traditional newspapers, news magazine, some professional journals, etc. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the same editorial standards were applied to online content as were once applied to print content. Sadly, often they are not.

    Any fool with Internet connectivity can post any damn foolishness he or she wants with little or no consequence unless it's an overt plan to commit mass violence, an outright copyright violation, or libel.

    The Internet requires that we all become more intelligent, thoughtful, and discerning consumers of online information. That's the burden of free speech. The listener or reader has to take responsibility for dispassionately evaluating what is being communicated.

    The paradox is that more we rely on the Internet as a source of information on all manner of topics, the intellectually lazier and more open to being conned we become. We take no responsibility for unquestioningly believing what's being fed to us online.

  4. All that the internet has done for my field is to make it appear that the plentiful writings of amateurs, the incompetent, and inexperienced theorists are of equal or greater status than those of the experts.

  5. Sir, it's my conjecture that there may be no 'close-encounter' type cases because that phase is over-- whatever 'species' was involved in that completed the project and went on their way. There may still be UFO cases representing different species with different M.O.s, perhaps more cautious, with different objectives, and much less likely to show themselves/their methods of communication/collaborators etc as the preceding 'wave' was. Of course, this calls for multiple 'intelligences' or at the very least a division of alien life into multiple societies with different ways of acting, different appearances, and different goals (not unlike earth). This can account for 'CE' cases going down while vague, cursory glimpses of not-all-that-odd lights go up. Many internet-era reports seem to be that-- not esp. anomalous lights in a crowded sky. I'm kind of mashing up a theory and an observation here, though...

    1. That is one possibility. Another is that whoever was running the individually overt/// culturally covert display program achieved what it wanted vis-a-vis inserting "memes" [terrible word, but in this case maybe useful] and subconscious feelings into the human psyche, and needs only to keep that situation simmering to accomplish whatever they're doing. They'd still be around but throwing fewer boulders into the pond. Another is that [using my old concept of three types of highly advanced civilizations] that the more hands-off-oriented two decided that the more overt guys had pushed it too far and leaned on them to back off. Or, It could be that we're really not as interesting nor complex as we'd like to believe, and everybody's still keeping watch, but just not as actively. And.... we could keep going on with relatively dataless ideas. We're at a point where we know a great deal about some of the superficial aspects of this phenomenon, but are cleverly shielded from the deeper details. A great situation for science fiction, but not too hot for science fact.

  6. Of course, maybe they've just moved on to a far more interesting planet populated by a more intelligent life form, and all case reports coming in now are of misidentified terrestrial phenomena.

    However, my impression is that any CE cases now are coming from other parts of the world. We think we're the most powerful and important nation on earth. Maybe they think it's Tierra del Fuego.

    Besides, what hard evidence is there that their primary interest was ever humans? Maybe they were visiting the insect kingdom. We believe we're the crown of creation on Earth. But, could it be that's not true in their eyes? Hmmmmmmmm.

    1. Well.... "they're" interested in humans in some way. The UFO phenomenon is so manifestly a display of some kind [see the old post about "astroalignments" and specific privileged viewing positions], that SOME of what is happening is surely directed at us. But that is not to say that we're the ONLY interest. I've gone Out Proctor on this blog to speculate that our contact with the Magonian world could be an interest. THAT aspect of Earth-related reality might be more interesting than our mundane society and selves. Pure speculative baloney by me, but not a completely impossible thought.

  7. I spoke with mister Davenport about the possibility of doing or volunteering at least to do some investigations as needed. Mufon is apparently covering the (very very few) credible reports in Atlanta. where that data goes I have no idea.

    If I can be of assistance in any way in getting those audio files online , they sound like a very worthwhile resource. I

    Preserving the valuable data from hard working in the field researchers and of the past is something I appreciate and respect.
    Tim Brigham

    1. Some MUFON data goes to HQ and onto some kind of computer listing. This listing has only privileged access. I to a degree understand this [witness privacy], but there is a solution: redaction of witness names and other identifiers. There would be two listings: the "secret" privileged list with no redactions, and the public access list so that research could proceed on trust that MUFON knows the personal details. Other UFO case information only goes to HQ if the field researcher deigns to pass on info to the State HQ and the State deigns to send it on to national HQ. Breakdowns in this simple concept have been ASTOUNDINGLY common. Result? Permanently lost information. [in Michigan, the losses on the Holland MI RV case were horrifying].

      Re: audio files. I can't help here. Old man with limited firepower each day. I must reserve that rare juice for my case-reading/ filing/ analyzing/ writing. If I took on any serious "online resource scanning" project, that would be the end of, for instance, this blog and any other publications. Perhaps most would see that as a relief, but my life would be a lot less fun as I head into my mid-70s.

      I suspect that Mark Rodeghier at CUFOS might have some interest in a responsible volunteer for scanning materials, but that would probably required a trip to Chicago for a face-to-face, and some "getting-to-know-you" time.

  8. sorry about those typos. No edit feature

    1. .... never worry about that. As long as we're communicating clearly, we're doing well.

  9. I think there are close encounters still occuring, in North America, but they aren't being filtered through a traditional ufo organization nor by ufo abduction researchers.

    MUFON (and its "star teams" - good grief!) as well as independent ufo abduction researchers filter, edit, write about and sell what an individual might share with them. Why should an individual continue to play that game when they can go directly online and share what they want with the public, with no other agenda-driven party controlling their information.

    Two of the most thoughtful and well-written close encounter experiencers can be found here:

    Mike Clelland, from the first link, only recently had a profound close encounter worth taking a look at.

    ~ Susan

    1. Hi, Brownie. Nice to hear from you.

      I understand what you say. The difficulty with operating as individually stand-alone presentations is that MAYBE the witness is the world's finest individual in terms of honesty, knowledge, and observation, but perhaps they are not. Without independent investigations, even the finest sounding reports are not worth much beyond how they make us feel.

      I credit some single witness non-investigated reports, but only if there are a significant pile of investigated reports [solidly done] with which they cohere. Abductions research has been a really bad mess. It may comprise the greatest mound of detailed UFO information, and it may comprise the most dangerously flawed.

      We really need good investigations, and by persons who can walk the delicate line between being genuinely sympathetic to the alleged experiencers while still acting like a fairly hard-nosed detective. Such investigators are rare birds, and Walt Webb may have been the only one of any prominence.

    2. Hello Brownie
      Agreeing with the professor that while these blogs can be interesting, they are more or less useless without a filter (be that investigator, reporter, corroborator, "expert", etc). To my view, the bulk of these blogs are not all that different from "My Travels in a UFO"-type pamphlets of the 1950s or 60s: fantastic tales from one person with no (or very little, or questionable) independent corroboration. It's great for the 'experiencer' to be able to go online and bypass the filter to tell their tale, but without the filter, the message is called into question or at least open to question. The fact that many 'experiencers' seem to take a quasi-religious/spiritual approach to recounting their messages also muddies the waters a bit for me; an independent party would hopefully take a different approach to describing any events.

  10. I agree with your comments, and note that I've been cautioning ufologists about this for some time, too.

    I'm currently working on the 2012 Canadian UFO Survey data. Without letting the cat out of the bag (since I'm only up to July in entering the data), I can say there will be some differences between MUFON UFO counts and the Canadian results. It's true that I rely heavily upon web sources for UFO case data. The reality is that witnesses just fill out online forms and submit their case reports, with usually no follow-up or investigation. The reason is obvious: a webmaster at a set location cannot investigate cases 1000 miles away. So we get many, many UFO reports filed each year, but few thoroughly investigated. This isn't always a bad thing, since first-pass analyses show that most reports are misidentifications.

    Further, online ufowebs provide a valuable service to witnesses who need to validate their experiences. They want to know that they're not crazy by seeing something odd the other night, and reassured by reading others' reports. And, while the large number of reports posted online is due to the ease in reporting through ufowebs, as the percentage of people with access to the Internet has peaked or at least reached a saturation point, we can make useful comparisons using data over at least the past five years. Most ufowebs have existed at least this long, and search engines routinely place them at the top of most search results.

    I still believe that useful information can be mined from raw UFO case data. What's interesting is that we are 2 years away from doing the 25-year comprehensive analysis of UFO data - and that will certainly yield some interesting trends and demographics.

    1. Hi Chris. Always like your stuff.

      I'd "penned" a long reply, and internet demons just vaporized it --- another wonderful web gift.

      Well, "Hello and Thanks" will do.

    2. Many, many, many reports and the vast majority are nothing but "lights in the sky". Why do we even bother to document and include these reports in yearly stats? It is well known that most of these nocturnal reports can be explained by planets, stars, satellites, airplanes and fire lanterns. It is my contention that basically nothing is learned by compiling stats on very common sightings of lights in the sky that could really be anything.

      Michael makes the point that there has been a very pronounced drop-off in cases involving "close contact" and "high strangeness". This certainly seems to be the case in BC and also seems to be the case elsewhere from what I have seen posted online. I don't know if the casual UFO "researchers" who simply compile reports and publish them actually are contributing anything of value to the study of UFOs. I think the mystery does warrant scientific investigation but there seems to be no more interest in that now than there was sixty years ago.

      I think there has been a substantial increase in the number of "trivial sightings" submitted as UFO sightings. It is simply too easy to make a report and to publish a totally mundane report. That seems to be the main reason why the number of sightings seems to increase every year. There is no way to know if the numbers are meaningful representation of any "underlying unsolved mystery". If you want to get an indication of whether there is any underlying mystery phenomena still present, the first thing to do is put all the "lights in the sky" reports in one heap with a big sign saying "useless information" prominently posted.

    3. I generally agree with these points. In an attempt to add something, though, I'm writing to say that there are a number of non-Rockstar-type UFOlogists who are quite interested in pushing the research in GEPAN-like ways, AND we have just enough contacts [admittedly barely] to get the quality labwork done [if that's what it takes.] Lots of people are properly skeptical about Roswellian claims, but one undebatable side-effect of such investigation is that persons capable of doing GEPAN-like labwork are known. As a matter of fact, Hynek had created a bunch of such contacts way back in the 1970s. It has been one of my "Out Proctor" speculative goofy [?] ideas that, as soon as we were getting REALLY tooled up to do this type of investigation, "someone" said: Oh No, you can't fool me; I'm taking that kind of case away.

      Please ignore the latter B.S. by me, and return to your saner programming.

  11. Wow... unfortunately, and I mean very unfortunately, I agree... I have a post, still in the wings, in which I compare Ufology to Art, painting in particular, and the 'field' of Art forgery... I think this is a huge problem. As we make these observations the signal is indeed being drowned out by the noise. It has always been a problem... but it is one that is waxing and not waning.

    I remember Vallee remarking, and I have forgotten the context, but saying something along the lines that it wasn't clear to him that we really needed any new data. To some extent at least there is some truth in that assertion. We haven't even treated the data we do have with the value it has deserved. No wonder we can't draw many definite conclusions. One of the last- or was it the last?- Mufon director stepped down claiming the field was riddled with hoaxes etc... well that is true. I believe it is going to get harder to tell the difference and of course there will be an increase in 'armchair' investigators...

    But to all of us that know something is going on worth investigating- I would include Charles Fort- our net has to become finer. In more ways than one... or else what evidence we do have is going to be overwhelmed with meaningless data and become worthless data points that reflect nothing other than the peculiar proclivities of the human race.

  12. Hi...really enjoyed your Michigan stuff. I was born and raised in Detroit and remember well the March/April 1966 flap.

    Flying objects were seen by dozens of people including coeds at Hillsdale college, and several police officers. A farmer and his son near Dexter (just outside Ann Arbor) had a close-up encounter with an object a few feet above the ground in their actual backyard. They got a good look as the craft was somehow had a "quilted" service with a small dome that was elevated a few feet on but above the body.

    All of the witnesses were written off as "nuts"; it didn't help when Dr. Hynek showed up and called the lights...swampgas. I can still remember the laughter.

    These folks certainly saw I was a kid...I learned early about what happened to the reputations of people who reported strange things.

    Thanks again for the Michigan stuff.

  13. Well thought out and accurate, IMHO. The genre has been greatly impacted, in both a positive and negative way, by the connectivity of the Internet, and it has reduced the influence and reach of the historical research groups. But our modern technology has also increased the velocity of information, giving it little time for vetting and reflection. There is little chance for scientific review of incidents before they are spread around the globe as "fact". Sadly, I believe that the problem is beyond the scope of MUFON or NUFORC to resolve, and their many other groups with some financial backing that have formed to promote specific views or beliefs.

  14. Ciao Mike,

    if I can be allowed a comment from the edge of the Empire (i.e. Italy): we've been pondering on those same issues as yours in the last few years, and even devoted our 2009 national congress to (internal) discussion about how the new millenium media have changed our raw data in quality and (alas) in quantity.
    It would be much too long to resume here a lot of considerations we argued about, but some specific items may be useful, IMHO:
    1) we've always only got a very small fraction (only scratching the surface of the iceberg) of all sightings: as back as 1987, a national poll gave us a staggering 6.5% of adult Italians having witnessed what they thought to be a UFO, that is 3.5 millions witnesses, while we only had about 10,000 reports in our files at that time [we're now above 25,000]. The new media "helped" us to get more deeper in reaching a wide submerged part of sighters.
    2) In "The Invisible College" and later in "The Edge of Reality", Jacques Vallée suggested we might have been getting the "less extraordinary" reports, while the highest strangeness ones were more difficult to be reported up to us. If we are to judge from the widely increased collection we now get, the opposite is true: we're getting much more noise vs. the few significant reports (the signal). And we didn't know (we even complained about the unreported cases) but we were better then than we are now.
    3) If we leave percentages and unidentifieds vs. identifiable ratios aside, and we have a look at absolute figures, we found that we're getting more or less the same number of high strangeness reports as in the "low years" in past decades (I mean: about 10 per year in our own country, which sounded a lot as opposed to 150 low strangeness ones in -say- 1982, while they sound very few now as opposed to 1,500 in 2009). The real risk is to get "deluded by the deluge", losing time and attention following Thai lanterns every day, instead of concentrating on the few valuable reports.
    4) The real dramatic fact is that we've now got much wider an audience and a potential number of UFO buffs, but at the same time the (absolute) number of fields investigations has collapsed, since most of the new generation are "keyboard ufologists", more willing to live in virtual UFO (un)reality than in real life trailing UFO witnesses and compiling detailed reports after on place interviews [and I don't thing this is just an old-man's outdated reflection].
    There would be much more to say, but let's begin with these main issues

    1. Affectionate greetings to the Great Italian Navigator. I'm going to allow myself an "enthusiasm", which will possibly embarrass you [fortunately no one will be able to see through the computer screen]. Some fine day in the future, the anomalies world will honor Edoardo Russo as one of the great "producers" in UFOlogy. You and your buddies [how is Maurizio doing, by the way?] have set an example in organization, cataloguing, intelligence that should be a model. If any of this blog's readers have not visited the CISU site, do yourself a favor and go.

      As to your words above: I of course agree with them all. I don't criticize Jacques for his missed prediction. I believe that he has always followed intuitions and taken risks. Of course whatever's behind the UFO phenomenon laughs in our faces when we try to corral it, let alone predict specifics. You and Allen Hynek are of the same mind on the one most important thing: Allen ALWAYS wanted to ignore the "Thai Lanterns" et al, even back in the early richness of the 1970s. The whole thrust of CUFOS was to shed the vague and concentrate on a VERY few high data potential cases a year. CUFOS, in that ideal world, would have produced 3, 4, 5 thick monographs per year, and build the "bricks" upon which an undeniable phenomenology was based.

      Really glad to "hear your voice", Edoardo

  15. There is an effort underway at MUFON to make the 30,000+ reports from the last 30 years available to UFO researchers. Those reports vary greatly in their level of sophistication. Some reports are never completed, others just mimic the witness statements, while others go into very good detail that covers directional movement, angular size, long/lat locations, verification of time of event, etc. I hope that these reports will be made available to the public by next year. The most difficult issue is protecting the names and personal information of the witnesses.

    Myself along with the help of several other key people in MUFON created a Science Review Board in July of 2012. The board actually consists solely of people with strong scientific backgrounds including two physicists, a geologist, two engineers, a science technologist, and of course as the Professor would suspect, a chemist. (I'm prejudiced in believing that chemists are the most open-minded of the hard scientists. Probably has to do with a "mix it and see what happens" mentality.) One of the tasks of this group is to begin a statistical analysis of the cases that have been collected. That is much easier said than done, due to the need to filter the good cases from the chaff. But if it can be done, the SRB should be able to do it.

    I agree with the Professor on the map of the U.S. with all the pretty red shading. All that really represents is our population centers. As a general rule, the more people in an area, the more UFO reports.

  16. Thanks, Robert. I hoped that this discussion would give you the entree to describe what you and the more "bigger picture" people at MUFON are trying to do.

    MUFON still could use some tightening up of relationships/loyalties with the state systems in my opinion. I am not privy to exactly how the "STAR" system works, but it is my impression that it does not "honor" the in-state workers enough. I've always advocated a SINGLE ace investigator, with enough humility to lead a state-based investigative team without too much "authoritarian" demeanor, and a state director who would place the interests of the field/organization ahead of his/her ego to insist upon strongly following the experienced ace investigator's approach.

    Without full confidence in the national, the states are bound to be "less enthusiastic" about reporting in a timely manner or even doing their jobs at all. MUFON Symposia could be a venue for several presentations of state-centered fieldwork results instead of the next rendition of annually rehashed rock stars and weird unlikely ideas/claims.

    1. There could definitely be some improvements in loyalties between the state systems in MUFON and the national system---in both directions. As usual, these types of issues are a function of the personalities involved. I believe that MUFON is making improvements as the quality of reports and the rapidity at which they're completed has been improving.

  17. Until some minimum standards of objective data collection are developed and adopted by all UFO data collectors (and reports that don't meet this minimum standard are purged from the databases), Ufology will remain in a state of garbage in/garbage out. You'll always be working with unsupported, anecdotal reports.

    Ufology keeps claiming professional scientists are interested in and researching the subject behind the scenes. But, looking at the sorry way data is collected and analyzed, I feel that claim is largely self-serving poppycock.

    Your own frustration with the poor quality of data speaks volumes about whether or not professionals are involved in any of Ufology's data collection activities.

    1. These comments are quite a bit rougher and more comprehensive than I would make personally. Certainly professionals are involved in SOME of the past and current data-collecting. Secondly, some professionals have been involved in all whole variety of ways [some behind the scenes; some quite openly], so I would not go too far with my own rhetoric as to "self-serving poppycock". Thirdly, because some of the database HAS been done with responsible investigation and honest detail, I feel a bit more confident of many of my own scholar's-level reviews than "Garbage In, Garbage out". In fact, it's a bit off-putting to consider my own writings as Garbage Out... I apologize for my arrogant ego here, but it seems like the work has been a little better than that characterization.

      What UFOlogy's problems have been are not absolutely general all across the board, but rather problems of flawed organization which diminishes the ability to exploit good, rare opportunities. That disorganization diminishes them but has not eliminated ANY instances where things were well done.

    2. Hi purrlgurrl,

      A more accurate statement might be, "You'll always be working with SOME unsupported, anecdotal reports." This is true whether dealing with MUFON reports, Blue Book reports, or police reports for that matter. The goal is to improve the quality of reports, which is easier to do with investigators that are controlled such as the Air Force or the police. On the flip side, many of the reports in the MUFON database are far superior to those completed by Blue Book, which would often explain away reports with unsupportable explanations.

      Just to be clear, professional scientists are interested in and researching the subject of UFOs. I'm not sure why you have such angst on this issue. And so that you know---I don't have frustration with the poor quality of the data; I want to take actions to continue to improve the quality of the data and I've seen those improvements.

  18. The professor is right that MUFON, et al, could stand to have a principal investigator per state who is a more professional, skilled person with time to put to more detailed detective like work. I personally take the tactic of also investigating the witness. Unheard of! But that is what a real cop or FBI man would do, isn't it? You say you saw or met a flying saucer and the operators, aliens; lets have details about that, and then, about YOU. Uncomfortable? People don't often file false or vague reports to the authorities about a possible murder or other serious act due to being looked into themselves.

    Would it be useful for MUFON to redesign their annual conferences around investigators and analyst's reports and conclusions, a working symposium like those I have worked for in science, with only a very few guest speakers? In other words, spend the company cash on flying and housing their own personnel to the meeting and only paying out for a very few public guest speakers? So if you are an active, productive investigator you can count on the organization bringing you and your work to the annual meeting for you to make your presentation to colleagues, and much less money spent on entertaining personalities from the field in general?

    These are reasons I have not paid up dues and joined MUFON and have looked for a group who thinks more like this.

    The organization would loose some supporting membership due to becoming 'boring' in some ways, but it would also attract more respect and interest from those quarters they have longed to attract. I suggest a name change for the group, redefinition of goals and implementation of enforced methods of action with a serious, if not dull annual report written to accepted academic publishing standards (which my wife and I do routinely), for several years in a row. This behavior would help, at least, attract more personnel and make obtaining grants and sponsorship possible. I guess it would take creating a sub group out of MUFON, with only distant, perhaps VERY distant ties to the larger organization.

    What do you think? Too critical and ambitious?

    1. Randel, your suggestions have obvious merit, and they have been brought up a surprisingly large number of times over the history of the organization. It is my opinion that they don't get anywhere due to the inertia of decades of opposite sociology which have created certain unhelpful expectations as to what a symposium is, what it's really for, what being a state director means vis-a-vis how much one has to "obey" the national, and how much the national needs to give support and feedback to the states.

      Almost all of this was driven by the crude fact that this was all amateur volunteer work with basically no funding. Early in MUFONs history there was another pretty negative moment with long consequences: Coral Lorenzen, who in her later years was losing perspective on how "important" she was, had an ego-trip blast-off at Walt Andrus, which resulted in actual hatred and the permanent splitting off of MUFON from APRO. Walt had no loyalty whatever to Coral after that [hard to blame him] and went on a policy of gobbling up memberships countrywide, ultimately eclipsing APROs reach even at its peek.

      My semi-living through those years indicated to me that Walt understood very well a simple fact of human nature: if you aren't in the same location, you better "rule" with carrots not sticks.... thus a forever too loose organization. He also realized that you get more people by honey than vinegar, or in our case, exciting baloney rather than hard science investigation and analysis, and another "looseness" became characteristic of the symposia. Sometimes, as when Dick Hall played major roles in the Journal, the MJ was quite good. Most of the time it was exactly like the symposia: occasional quality mired in shallow wannabee concepts and [too-often] even hoaxes.

      Because of this institutional inertia, and despite brilliantly correct-minded people like Robert Powell, I hold little hope that MUFON can effectively break away from its past. What UFOlogy needs at a minimal beginning is an annual high quality meeting featuring scholars, vetted case investigations, FOIA and Archives work, etc. A working group of actual cooperating researchers would have to be the driving force behind this. Because of the word "cooperating", most of the UFO Rockstars would not be included. But there are exceptions [ex. Powell, Rodeghier, Clark, Greenwood, Schmitt, Bullard, Haines, Aldrich, Ridge, .... , all can exist civilly in the same room as I can attest. What that group would need would be two administrators [the central administrator and a website administrator], and someone to organize the annual meeting. Such a core group with all their valuable lesser known friends [I could add at least a dozen more excellent fellows to that list] could begin to establish an intellectual and scientific presence which would be something that the "outside" person could count on.

      But a lot of us are too old like myself to carry such a thing. So my guess is: it has a snowball's chance in Hell of happening. What WILL happen is that Robert will generate good things at his level of available energy and cooperation, and that Fran Ridge's website will get better and better and with luck may become the website part of the Academic-quality UFOlogists' meeting place dreamed about above.

      That's enough. I've offended practically everyone with that one.

    2. Hi Randel,

      I think Mike's explanation of some of your concerns as well as his sociological review of ufology, is "spot-on" as our neighbors across the pond are fond of saying. You bring up a good point about investigating the witness. MUFON could do better in this area. A determination of the witness's reliability is part of what a MUFON investigator examines. The witness's educational background is part of the investigation form as well as the investigator's impression of the witness. Since most cases are known objects, there is no need to go into detailed examination of a witness's background. But if a case has a lot of merit then the witness's background is checked but not as often as it should be. Personally, I prefer to have multiple witnesses rather than single witness, no matter the integrity of a single witness. One of these days we will meet up when I'm in the Houston area.

    3. Thanks Robert and good to hear from you. Agreed, an explainable report does not warrant a deeper investigation and multiple witnesses, to anything, is certainly wanted. There will be much to talk about one day when we meet up. All the best. I think you still have my contact information; cell 281-450-1932; 16430 Oxnard Lane, Friendswood, Tx 77546
      I sent you a note last week about your appearance in a doc on TV.

  19. Thank you for your excellent description of the situation and how MUFON evolved; I did not know all that about the history of the organization, not entirely anyway. I recognize most of the names in your list and they are good people. In fact Robert Powell is right here in Texas not too far away from me, though we have not gotten to meet yet. This is one BIG country and hard to get together in person without some expense, but, as we see right here, the internet does offer practical convenience unseen in human history.

    I hope to be able to meet and work with these folks one day and perhaps Robert will find me useful some time too!

    I enjoy your well written and well considered blog. Now being 57 years old, it seems a race between wisdom gained through those years and genuine old age deterring much action to good use!

    All the best, and a happy Easter tomorrow.

  20. In response to one of the Anonymous posters above, it is true that "mundane" UFO reports comprise the vast majority of UFO data. He also suggests that such cases not be included in yearly report stats. Although completely understandable, there are a few concerns with that approach, unfortunately.

    First, not every UFO investigator considers ordinary lights in the sky as IFOs. Some are certain that even rather boring LITS (Lights In The Sky) are "scout ships" or "probes." So some of these cases will make it into UFO databases. Also, some witnesses who interpret and inflate the importance of LITS will cause their cases to be considered more than ordinary IFOs.

    Then there's the problem that LITS are already in UFO report databases. IFOs are therefore a good fraction of UFO data. Historically, of course, many of the Blue Book reports and MoD reports (and other docs) are simply IFOs. A lot of the analyses that has been done on UFO data includes IFOs as part of the data.

    I would therefore recommend a steady course. Include all reported UFOs as data in analyses of UFO cases. The IFOs will easily be sorted out, and the "good" cases will rise to the surface as cream. Yes, it means a lot of hard work sorting out which are which. (I should know; my hands and arms are sore from typing in all the data for 2012... hundreds and hundreds of cases...). But it's the only way to make a direct comparison between, for example, Blue Book data and the Canadian data. Apples and apples, not apples and pimentos. And I will note that in another few years, we will have a database of consistently-evaluated UFO reports covering 25 years in a single country, likely about 15,000 cases by that time. That will be a very nice sample upon which to case some conclusions about the nature of UFO reports.

    1. As usual, good wisdom Chris.

      As to LITS [I call them that too; it's much better than NLs since not all of them are nocturnal], there are simple LITS cases and there are remarkable stunning LITS cases. MANY of the well-recorded incidents from things like Project Moonwatch were "only LITS" BUT the "display aspect" of some of those make them as valuable in pointing towards possible capabilities and even "agendas" within the phenomenon as about anything.

      Also, there is the issue of BOLs. When does a LITS become a BOL case? Are LITSs and BOLs the same thing, or are there two different realities mixed together there [possibly one advanced hardware, and one paranormal or cryptonatural]?

      We need to keep our data doors open.

  21. * Professor, I agree with your assessment of Walt Webb. His investigation culminating in his book 'Encounter at Buff Ledge' was excellent. He was careful to report exactly what the two principal witnesses experienced and didn't super-impose his p.o.v. about their accounts.

    I also see your point about not everyone being honest who puts up a blog about their experiences. It's up to the reader to personally decide if what they're reading is truthful or something else or a mixed-bag. This made me think of a certain famous author/abductee who ,imo, had some true experiences which he initially shared but as time went on - embellished and maybe even created stories because a publisher expects a book due and wants it more exciting than the last one, ect.

    ** Bruno, I'm afraid I disagree with some of what you've written to me. The blogs aren't "useless without a filter" because that filter - a researcher or UFO organization - usually has their own agenda. A couple of examples - we can see the agenda in the late John Mack's investigations and writings - a new aged point of view of aliens bringing personal enlightenment mixed with eastern philosophy. And with David Jacobs we see his agenda - aliens hybridizing with humans to breed our species out.

    As for comparing todays close encounter bloggers to the contactees of the 1950s/60s might fit if you're referring to newaged types today who claim positive experiences, but most bloggers share quite a different story from the benevolent space brothers~contactee mythos. I also think, aside from the presence of some government shills pretending to be 'contactees' back in the 1950s/60s, there were people who experienced something but interpreted it in a positive light. It wouldn't surprise me if those contactees were experiencing 'screen memories' and what they actually encountered was something quite darker than the love&light space brothers & sisters.

    I do see your point about the "quasi-religious/spiritual approach" to close encounter experiencers recounting their experiences. However when you've experienced something that is not suppose to exist/happen, it's natural to try to figure it out in a religious perspective (if one is so inclined regarding their belief systems). Also we have to consider that aliens know our beliefs (they appear to be telepathic afterall) and may take advantage of them in their interactions (manipulations?) with us.

    ~ Susan

  22. Good afternoon, Professor.

    I apologize for seemingly hijacking this stream of comments, but I really don’t have any other way to contact you, presently.

    I was wondering if you might have had any opportunity to compile any information regarding Professor Shirley Quimby, (Columbia University) and his relationship with the UFO Program. More directly, in one particular CIA document, dated 3 December 1952, Jerrold Zacharias referred to Quimby as being the best person to run the UFO Program (for the CIA), via Project LINCOLN, because “…the latter is probably the most expert man in the country on magic and general chicanery…”

    Other than Physics, my background searches have, so far, not provided for me any clear explanation for this, and I thought it was an odd way for Zacharias to describe him. I would greatly value any thoughts or insights you may have on it?

    All the Best,
    Bob Koford

    1. Hi Bob. I really don't know anything about Quimby. The document that you refer to was one of several wherein the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence director, H Marshall Chadwell was communicating with persons in the Cambridge Massachusetts area about the problem of sorting out unidentified violations of US airspace. Julius Stratton of MIT was leading this discussion with Chadwell, and a lot more seriously than Zacharias. Stratton wanted some substantial elements of the Lincoln Lab [the evolution from the old WWII Rad-Lab that pushed Radar forward] to take over a truly scientific research project with the CIA as partner to nail down this UFO problem that the USAF couldn't handle. More relevant scientists involved would probably be Al Hill and George Valley.

      Zacharias probably didn't take UFOs seriously and was being flippant. Quimby had been his major professor in grad school, so he respected the old man. Quimby was also apparently CIA. Since about the 1920s Quimby had become a famous stage magician, even editing a major magic journal. He being an early version of James Randi, and Zacharias thinking the UFO thing was full of fakers, Zacharias probably brought up his name to Chadwell. Nothing in Quimby's research suggests any particular relevancy to studying UFOs or even radar. That's all I've got.

  23. This is a field that sorely needs agreement on some basic definitions for the phenomenon as well as a standard reporting tool used by all entities collecting UFO data.

    Having read so many anonymous orange light in the sky reports, it's hard to fathom any being of value to a serious, objective researcher or proving anything. Especially when such reports come from major cities with streetlights that cast an orange glow. Anything shiny (even something as mundane as a runaway mylar balloon or plastic bag blowing in the wind) would reflect orange at night from the streetlights. Since Chinese hot-air lanterns are becoming increasingly popular for release at after-dark celebrations (they've quite common where I live), the chances that many orange lights seen after dark are these lanterns are high, especially during the summer months and on clear, temperate nights.

    I would strongly suggest screening out all orange orb at night reports, which did not also contain a report of some other unusual phenomena occurring with them, as NOT meeting the definition of a UFO.

    Anonymous reports are problematic. Without collecting basic witness contact information, how can any follow up research be done? Anonymous reports are close to useless, you must admit. One can't even begin to verify the report is not a hoax by gathering more witness information or searching for corroborating reports from the same area.

    Surely there must be some mechanisms that can be put in place to protect witness identify from all but a serious researcher. Identify is generally protected in academic research by using case numbers. Actual identifies are known to only those with an absolute need to know.

    Of course the impending proliferation of domestic commercial and municipal drones adds a new layer of complexity to UFO case reporting. There must be some questions in any reporting tool that could indicate whether possibly what was seen was, in fact, a civilian drone. Make no mistake, these will become a serious problem for UFO data collection and research if there are no case report screening questions developed that could indicate a possible mistaken drone sighting.

    The bottom line is that Ufology is either serious about conducting UFO research or it's just a big, fun "what if" game. Only the entities that have set themselves up to collect data about the phenomenon can decide what they want to be -- a source of valuable data for serious research or social outlets for those with a passing interest.

    1. Hi purrlgurrl,

      You bring up two items that create many UFO reports today. Within MUFON, most investigators will usually check to see if Chinese lanterns are the cause of orange lights in the sky. They usually are. They are fairly easy to identify by looking at wind direction, constant speed and direction, flickering, and they just "suddenly disappear." But if a witness indicates sudden rapid changes of direction and speed then that is a quality that allows an investigator to rule out Chinese lanterns. On the other hand, civilian and military drones are much more difficult to rule out. Even with a detailed questionnaire, these are very difficult to rule out, especially with night time sightings, which make up almost 90% of UFO sighting reports. It requires a very close up sighting at night so that physical features are seen or lights in the sky that perform in such a non-aerodynamic manner that drones can be ruled out. It's not easy.

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  25. Robert et al:

    Your last comment "It's not easy" may not have been caught by some readers. And it's the most important point.

    Why can't ufologists simply discard or filter out all BOLs and LITS cases so that lists of UFO reports are not filled up with sightings of Chinese lanterns and stars? Because it's a bit more complicated. Whenever I suggest to a witness that what he or she has seen may have been a Chinese lantern, the reaction 90% of the time is an exasperated "No way!" They usually say things like: "I've been watching the skies for XX years and I know what a Chinese lanterns looks like!" Or: "I could tell this was something from outer space. It was a real UFO!" So do you reject their view that it wasn't an IFO?

    Alternatively, I sometimes get reports of BOLs from areas where I know Chinese lanterns have been launched during that same week, but something in one of the UFO reports filed seems anomalous. Do we assume the witness was mistaken with regards to the "abrupt right angle turn" and the "zooming away?"

    And finally, there's the old problem of apples and oranges. BOLs and LITS have been included as UFO data for decades. Because Chinese lanterns are now popular, do we eliminate certain classes of NLs from the database? If we can screen out lanterns and stars through simple investigation techniques, we will still be left with the unknowns, regardless of the number of IFOs reported as well. The percentage of UFOs versus IFOs might change, but the UFOs will still stand out.

    My vote is to continue to accept all reports into the databases. I note that Blue Book and others included many IFOs in their lists of UFOs, and while it may may have made the files top-heavy for IFOs, the idea is still to understand what it is that people are seeing and reporting. And if they're reporting mostly IFOs, then so be it.

    1. Chris et al,

      I agree that all reports must be accepted into the database. Then it becomes the job of the analyst to screen the database and look for the golden nugget. If we do not accept a BOL or LIT case then we are making a prejudicial decision that prevents any future analyst from determining that a particular BOL or LIT case fits into an interesting bucket that is being investigated. A good database let's the analyst screen out whatever he chooses in order to do an analysis against a particular hypothesis, therefore all data must be kept.

  26. On an unrelated note:

    It's interesting that the Citizen's Hearing on Disclosure takes place at the end of April in Washington, DC. Dozens of UFO experts will testify before a kind-of Congress that release of suppressed information about UFOs is demanded by the public.

    But two things: first, as Michel Deschamps noted recently in his blog, he obtained many official UFO docs in the 1990s, long before they were "released" through apparent "disclosure" in the past few years (; secondly, here on this blog, we are discussing the difficulty in simply sorting through the sea of UFO data that constitutes the foundation upon which all ufology is set, including said "disclosure."

    In other words, UFO research and investigation is both far ahead AND far behind what is assumed to be the case (and fact) discussed at the upcoming hearings.

  27. Yes gentlemen sorting the wheat from the chaff is critical in data analysis, but we do need to record and examine all the reports as you are saying. Over the years I have formed my own opinion from this. Most of that is more based on common sense reasoning than anything else. I rarely see this line of thinking discussed on all the websites or in the books.

    Looked at this way the truly strange cases stand out immediately. There are too many cases for most of them to be spaceships. A few cases could be supernatural. A few could be aliens on exploratory missions. So what are the majority?

    It seems we are dealing with a large number of encounters with a natural phenomenon found in nature which man does not yet understand. All these quick, slow, static and zig-zagging points of light and energy. They can change shape, texture and look like they are 'intelligent'. But are they? I have seen them and been able to watch them for long periods of time out over the desert near Mexico. Time to watch, and think.

    A large part of this mystery may be solved when Industry needs to figure this out for practical reasons, like we did with nuclear physics. We needed to harness the power of fission, so we worked on it and figured it out, then put it to work.

    What do we really KNOW about most of these things? They illuminate, stop suspended in the atmosphere, move through the atmosphere more like electricity than actually 'flying', so no sonic boom. See what I mean? They can appear solid, light, dark, textured, exhibit points of light on their surface, produce light arrays that shine on the ground, stall engines and radio waves. They come close to people and machinery and zoom away, attracted and repulsed. So they appear at first observation to be intelligent. But are they? We could sure use that kind of thing and it might help us have lower light bills some day or move a load across the earth and more.

    Wouldn't aliens be able to explore the earth from a high orbit without sending countless thousands of glowing, erratic devices all over the place? My common sense is showing here. This sort of reasoning is what helps me narrow down the cases and makes me all the more anxious for science and industry to learn what most of these things are so we can understand it, harness or re-create it to our own needs. It is exciting to know that there is much yet to learn about the world around us.

    The truly strange cases and encounters are another thing, and so hard to measure and document, as we know.

    1. Randel, I am in agreement with all that you have noted, except for a slight twist on your next to last paragraph. Aliens might explore earth from a high orbit if they were using chemical rockets or similar technology that made it easier to work from an orbital position. But what if the aliens observe us because they are capable of manipulating energy just as we can manipulate matter. Imagine if we could simply send a plasmoid to a nearby star that could beam back information to us; that would put the rover Curiosity to shame! They might be laughing and watching us on their social media setups as we speak!

    2. True I dont think rockets would get rhem here lol, but I imagine "sensors" that are invisible; the behavior and locations of all these balls of light make me think of nature. Or occassionally the supernatural. That leaves many reports that really do sound like aliens, esp the trace cases.
      I'm on my iPhone and the spelling and tiny thumb work is maddening. More scotch, my lad.

  28. Randel:

    I agree with your points about sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's very, very easy to classify UFO reports. If you have enough data.

    The problem is that the UFO reports must be investigated, and we need to have enough information in a report to classify it. Since I'm in the midst of painstakingly going through the 2012 cases, I can give a typical example of what I'm talking about:

    This is the information available on a typical case:

    Date: September 15, 2012
    Time: Evening.
    We saw at least 9 - 4 in formation and 5 following individually. Bright fuzzy red lights, but no sound. They eventually disappeared. They traveled north to south.

    Is that an IFO or a UFO? 9 BOLs or not 9 BOLs? Do you discard this case?

    Oh, you have to get more information, you say? Certainly. How do you do that? This report was filed though an online web form. Most have no email addresses attached. Do we discard these on that basis alone? If so, the number of UFO cases each year drops by about 90%. And cases that are actually well-investigated constitute only a tiny fraction of all UFO reports.

    I can sympathize, then, with people who argue that UFO report statistics mean absolutely nothing.

    However, Blue Book did it, and ufologists such as Friedman and others routinely cite Blue Book statistics as evidence that the number of Unknowns was significant in the early studies.

    Can we have it both ways?

  29. Hi Chris good to hear from you, I have been a follower of your work for several years. You have taken on a major task but an important one. Sounds like some criteria or rules need to be in place to test the report so it can be classified.

    I would keep all reports, but very vague and general reports like this would have to go under BOLs like you list here; I would not discard anything, but in light of not being able to follow up on a report, what else can a classifier do?

    If aliens are coming here I would think that about 90% of the reports would likely be something else. Are reports able to be put into a searchable database that can sort by date, time, day of week, number of witnesses, lights only, solid object in appearance, and so on?
    THAT would be a major accomplishment, and perhaps some of you already have that capability?
    I'm learning here . . . and wondering how I can help.

    This is the sort of thing I would travel to attend and participate in a small conference to work on these sort of challenging things. Thoughts?

    1. Randel:

      Those are good ideas. But note that in order to have a searchable database, the database has to be populated. And that is what takes time. And it's labor intensive. And we have to accept all the cases, BOLs or not, so that we can sort them later.

      So, we're still back at square one. Collect and record all UFO reports, regardless of whether or not they seem to be Chinese lanterns. And then there's the problem of having to actually investigate or gather enough data for the analyses to be useful.

      We are working on a master database that can be searchable. But in the meantime, individual years can be accessed at the survey website:

    2. Yes I see what you mean and applaud all the work going into it. If there is a way to divide up the work let me and others know.



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