As If It Needs Saying…

I don’t like MSN. Awful news source, even when they’re not advertising for horoscopes in their “news” articles.

First, I must give them kudos for having a sensible article on a new discovery of dinosaur tracks. Palaeontology for the win!

But, then I simply must pick a bone with an article titled “U.S. Pilot Ordered To Shoot Down UFO” which was also on the front page.

LONDON – An American fighter pilot flying from an English air base at the height of the Cold War was ordered to open fire on a massive UFO that lit up his radar, according to an account published by Britain’s National Archives on Monday.

The fighter pilot said he was ordered to fire a full salvo of rockets at the UFO moving erratically over the North Sea — but that at the last minute the object picked up enormous speed and disappeared. The account, first published in Britain’s Daily Star newspaper more than 17 years ago and to this day unverified by military authorities, was one of many carried in the 1,500 pages the archives made available online.

Right… I’m not even going to try to give a plausible alternative explanation for what the UFO could have been since I’m not an expert in that sort of thing and there really is no physical evidence (not even eye-witness evidence) to examine. But… even if it were verified that a pilot was asked to shoot down an unidentified object during the Cold War, I really would not be surprised. Not in the least.

See, during the Cold War people were afraid of nukes and shit. You see something flying through the air on radar and you don’t know what it is? You’re probably going to shoot it down.

But I’m going to admit that that’s not what I’m most annoyed with the article about. They put it in the Technology/Science category for one, and it’s in the Space section.

I don’t think this needs to be said… It’s an unidentified flying object meaning we have no idea what it is nor where it came from. I know that the cultural misconception is that “OMG! UFO=SPACE” but it really doesn’t.


There really is nothing in this article to suggest that it has anything whatsoever to do with space. It could be from space, but there’s no reason to jump to the conclusion that it is from space simply because you have no clue what it is.

This is not news. This is silly.



And now that I’m done with my neat little rant.

Oh, by the way. A reminder: This Thursday David Grinspoon, author of Lonely Planets and curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (when I grow up I want to take his job, he has a nice office), will be speaking in the North Classroom Building (the big lecture hall in it) at the Auraria campus from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm on “Alien Life: The Science and the Hype (Does Denver Need an Extra-Terrestrial Affairs Commission?)”

Assuming I don’t chicken out five minutes before, I will be doing the introduction for him so if you missed my last public-speaking thingamabob, you can see this although it will be shorter and not all too creative (not that my last speech was in any way creative).


9 responses to this post.

  1. Well…

    if it took off in a straight line really fast, it would end up in space eventually. Either that or it would get melted by the air friction…

    I think this is just one of those cases of things not having a category ready for them. I’m pretty sure there’s not an aircraft category, because space is more interesting to the average person.

  2. Posted by Santiago on October 21, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Actually, I think that precisely BECAUSE of it being during the Cold War this story is completely and utterly bogus. The North Sea is technically international waters, with many commercial airliner routes and, indeed, a place where you might have found Soviet strategic bombers buzzing around at the height of the Cold War. Now if some pilot had seen a blip on his radar screen, and then told to unload his missiles on it while the target was still “Unidentified”, it hardly needs mentioning what an absolutely stupid idea this would be.
    Obviously the correct approach would be to IDENTIFY the UFO, BEFORE you pump it full of Sidewinders, lest you down a wayward airliner (which happened many, many times during the Cold war) or, worse, a Tupolev bomber over international waters, sparking a potentially very very bad incident with the Soviet Union.

  3. It depends which part of the Black Sea. Not all of it is international waters…

  4. Black, North, what’s the difference? Evidently my just-woke-up-brain thinks there isn’t any.

  5. Posted by Santiago on October 22, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    The article says North, not Black, Sea (Black sea would be even worse, since it could potentially mean shooting down a Soviet airplane in the USSR’s backyard) and saying “over the North Sea” essentially means over International waters, since the article would definitely mention if the incident occurred over someone’s national airspace.

    But still, the important thing is you DON’T shoot at unidentified blips on the radar, not during peacetime anyway, and most emphatically not over international waters. The risk of hitting an airliner, or a friendly plane, is astronomical, not to mention that even if you DID hit a Soviet aircraft, without warning, over international waters, it would count as a legitimate casus belli.

  6. there’s nothing actually saying they were outside of UK airspace… and the article is already under fire for its accuracy. I wouldn’t depend on it to use the correct form of words to transmit something like that.

    Presumably if you’re going to be shooting at it, it’s not just a blip on the radar. You’re going to get a visual first. Long-range air-to-air is for when you’re absolutely sure of what you’re shooting at. Note the article says it lit up his radar, not that radar was his only contact.

  7. Posted by ibyea on October 23, 2008 at 5:29 am

    TODAY, WE DINE (ON PSEDUOSCIENCE) IN HELL!! Ok, this is stupid, but I can’t help it.

  8. Anyways, what kind of stupid news is that? Besides, how is it “news” when that happened like what, around two decades ago?

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