Archive for the ‘UFOs’ Category

Crop Circle: Sign of an Enlightened Era

A 250 meter long jelly fish has appeared on a farm in England, so reports the BBC. But note the following sentence from the article…

She said she was not concerned about tracking down the culprits and the incident has not been reported to the police.

What’s missing from this sentence?

They’re not jumping to the conclusions that it was created by an intelligent extraterrestrial agent! I’m going to go ahead and say that the public, at least the media, has reached a more educated level. Go ahead, read the whole article. At least these farmers have come to appreciate crop circles for what they are: practical jokes which can be beautiful but also costly.

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Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission Aims for White House

Remember those folks who tried to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver and didn’t? They’re going for an even bolder step.

For release on 3 December 2008

*White House Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission Expected*

Denver, CO — The possibility of a new White House Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission has put the Denver ballot initiative to create a similar commission on hold — for now. Jeff Peckman, author of the Denver initiative, has already applied for the position of project coordinator of the anticipated new White House commission and is urging others to apply for positions.

*sigh*

Somebody please explain to me how these people get these ideas? Surely it would be easier to start on a city level, then turn the state of Colorado into a laughing stock, and then go for the White House.

Only 21% of Americans voted to elect Barack Obama as President. Three to four times that many Americans believe that the U.S. government has covered up secret files concealing evidence of extraterrestrial beings frequently visiting our planet. Testimony from hundreds of credible whistleblowers would support the claim that these secret ‘UFO” files contain trillions of dollars worth of critical solutions for clean energy, economic growth, job-creation, national security, and reducing government waste.

Wait, what? 63% to 84% of Americans believe that extraterrestrial beings have been visiting us?

This is one of those times when I really wished these people would cite their sources. Who did this survey? How was it conducted? Where did they do it? Did they hand out a survey at one of their lectures and decided that that pool of questionees accurately represented the mindset of most Americans?

Did they ask “do you believe in UFOs”? I would have answered “yes” to that one. Of course there are unidentified objects. A better question is “do you believe that UFOs are alien visitors?” In which case I’d have to remain agnostic on the answer to that one until they showed me some physical evidence other than appeals to authority (which these people have yet to show me).

Even if there were a source for these statistics I can easily find statistics showing that 50% of Americans believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. No matter how many people you get to believe that radiometric dating doesn’t work there’s no way you’re going to contradict the laws of physics.

And, no, just because you can edit together a four-hour-long-or-something video full of talking heads doesn’t mean that those people weren’t mistaken about what they saw. Said people couldn’t have also snuck us a piece of metal from a space ship? Organic tissue that uses a completely different biochemistry than our own?

So, because loads of people, according to you, believe this we should just stop funding real scientists who could come up with a source of renewable energy? I see. Since loads of people also believe that the Earth is the direct product of a supernatural being let’s also halt all other scientific endeavours and say “God did it”.

The press release then goes on to quote various people who wield government power making them seem like they believe that there is a government cover-up of UFOs. I haven’t had the time to poke around for the original sources of these quotes, though, so we have no way of knowing if they were just taken out of context… but even so… Appeals to authority do not constitute evidence in favour of your half-baked plans.

It’s the same-old story. They point to people who they claim say they believe in “UFOs” without clarifying whether or not those people really believe UFOs are the same thing that they think it is, say that loads of people agree with them, then claim that they can solve all of the world’s problems if only the government gives them the false appearance of having anything to say that isn’t complete codswallops.

Let’s hope that President-Elect Barack Obama is a reasonable man after all.

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.

UFO=UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT

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.

Silly?

THIS IS SPARTA!!!

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).

Why I’m Proud to be Coloradoan

Ah… Colorado. The upcoming DNC, Focus on the Family, and Stan Romanek. A list of reasons why I am so fucking proud to be Coloradoan right now:

1. CBN is claiming that the Bible could be censored in Colorado due to Section 8 of Senate Bill 08-200.

Mmm… Legalese, I know. But it basically just says that you don’t get to publish things that would discriminate on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, or ancestry if you work for a place that offers some form of public accomodation. The big question is if this means employees can’t do this in their private time or if they’re only restricted to not doing it through the business. If they’re only restricted to not doing it through the business then the worst that could happen would be the Bibles they leave in motel rooms would have to be removed but only if you could prove that it does discriminate against sexual orientation. It doesn’t mean you couldn’t keep a Bible on your shelf at home.

Via Skepchick

2. Oh, and you know how everybody’s hyped up about the DNC? The inter-faith panel won’t include the second largest religious group in America, those without faith. The Secular Coalition for America protested this and an opinion article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette on the subject:

Yet an amazing number of atheists have taken to confronting and insulting believers of other religions. They pretend that atheist beliefs are proven true, while others are proven false.

It’s not so much that I am (or any atheist I know is) aiming to insult religious people as I am aiming to criticise their beliefs. I respect good people. Not stupid beliefs. If they don’t like me not respecting zombie Jesus then they don’t have to respect my belief in dancing pink unicorns on Neptune. At the end of the day, if they want to come with me to get some gelato or lunch and just hang out I’m fine with that… even if they believe in a 6,000 year old Earth.

I don’t believe that my beliefs are proven or that religious beliefs are disproven so much as I believe that religious beliefs aren’t proven and are highly improbable. I’m open to evidence like the Ten Commandments suddenly appearing on the moon in letters so big you can see them with binnoculars or something appearing magically.

Hitler imagined a world without Jews. The Freedom From Religion Foundation rented a billboard near the Colorado Convention Center that says: “Imagine No Religion.”

Ok, ok. John Lennon was Hitler and mass-murdered religious believers for saying those words.

Atheists might bring pseudointellectual proselytizers, who are intolerant, self-aggrandizing and rude. Atheists should fund universities and hospitals. They should feed and clothe starving kids. They should act more like Christians and Jews. If they do some of that – if they contribute to a diverse humanity – they might get better party invites.

That’s right. Atheists never volunteer for non-profit organizations, never send money to the Red Cross, and are involved in an evil eugenicist plot to murder starving black kids in Africa.

What a polite article!

Seen, ironically, at Friendly Atheist.

3. Oh, and yesterday I had the opportunity to see evangelicals waving a Christian flag with a sign saying “Support Amendment 48” which would define a fetus as being a person at the moment of conception. This would also mean that a woman who had a miscarriage could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

4. And to top it all off, Denver might be the first city to have its very own Extra-Terrestrial Affairs Commission. I can’t think of a better way of spending tax dollars and time…

The good news is there will be a lecture at Auraria campus in Denver, CO on October 23 from 3-5 pm in the North Classroom building of University of Colorado Denver by science author and curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, David Grinspoon on why astrobiology says we don’t need an extra-terrestrial affairs commission. I’ll post again on this later.

Why does Colorado feel more and more like the Bible Belt all of a sudden?

Not Loony, Just Human

Is it just me or is there some kind of cultural connection amongst humans between the moon and insanity? I first noticed it when I learned the phrase “esta en la luna” (in the moon) in Spanish which is a way of saying absent-minded. I then made the connection between “Luna” and “lunatic” and “loonies” and began to wonder. It’s not really something I’ve researched but maybe some sociologist or anthropologist out there knows what I’m talking about… or it could be pure coincidence.

Even so, I would find such a social connotation of the moon ironic when you take into account Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. On “Paranormal Schmaranormal” Stefano left this comment:

There are not only crazy Guys that are talking about the existence of UFOs.

And posted these two videos.

I get it. Edgar Mitchell believes in UFOs. That’s nice.

Now, I have great respect for all astronauts. It takes brains, it takes physical prowess, it takes hours of training, and it takes guts to strap yourself to a giant can of rocket fuel and blast yourself 384,000 km away from the Earth with faith in Newton to get you there safely.

I respect that.

But, just because you did all that doesn’t mean that you can say “there are pink dancing unicorns on Neptune” and have them pop into existence. If you (the astronaut) or you (the person believing the astronaut can do that) believe that authority makes it so then I don’t respect that.

And, on the other hand just because an authority says something which we think of as outrageous does not mean it is untrue. If the authority can point me to observations published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal which shows dancing pink unicorns and I can replicate the experiment on my own if I get access to a big enough telescope and swing it around to Neptune and see dancing pink unicorns then I’m convinced.

Where is Edgar Mitchell’s evidence? He says he believes. Again, that doesn’t make it true. He says he has eye-witness testimony, but eye-witnesses can be wrong.

I once saw three UFOs drifting above the buildings of my hometown on a warm, sunny morning. Visibility conditions were good. I wasn’t under the influence of drugs, caffeine, alcohol, catnip, or sleep deprivation. I suddenly noticed with excitement how they looked like saucers straight out of films like The Day the Earth Stood Still… that is until the saucers drifted into a better angle and I realized I had been viewing three jets flying in formation edge on.

I’m not crazy. I just live on the verge of madness because it’s more interesting. But, I was mistaken. If I hadn’t kept watching perhaps I would have remained mistaken.

Does Edgar Mitchell have anything else to offer other than Stefano’s assertion that he’s not senile?

No.

You don’t have to be a lunatic to be mistaken. You just have to be human. Just because you went to the moon doesn’t make you any less human, any less subject to believing something that is crazy. It just makes you kinda cooler than other humans in one regard.

“Strange” Rock

Look everybody! It’s a strange rock!

Well, folks. I suppose we were wrong about aliens. Roswell has been contacted by extraterrestrials again. The Roswell Daily Record is reporting that they’ve found a “strange rock” that is raising questions.

A strange rock with unusual magnetic properties – deeply scored, with what appears to be moon phases, a solar eclipse and the depiction of a supernova — has been unearthed on the outskirts of Roswell. Its discovery has startled researchers, scientists and all who have examined it.

If proven to be of extraterrestrial origin, it will mark the second time in less than a century that the Roswell area has received communications from outer space.

Roswell Mayor Sam D. LaGrone, who actually saw and touched the rock over the weekend, said, “It is a very strange looking rock…. I touched it, I felt it, and I just don’t see how it could have been produced.”

Well let’s see… Maybe somebody… carved it in there? Hell, a Google search for “carved rocks” yields a company that will carve rocks for you. That’s just a guess off the top of my head. Even if I hadn’t made a possible guess, “I just don’t see how it could have been produced” isn’t a very good argument. If I could say “I just don’t see how to solve this problem” on my Math homework I’m sure it’d get done a lot faster but I wouldn’t actually gain anything.

“It retains its magnetic polarity by which it will spin a compass needle and register its magnetic field on meters,” he said. The oval rock will also spin, depending on the position of a magnet over the image surface, he added.

You know… considering the fact that this rock is apparently made of iron makes that really unsurprising.

Priscilla Wolf, of Tijeras, a native American woman known to have “powers,” visited the site were the rock was found last weekend, and said she felt a vibration in her hands when she held the rock, and that “light came down from the skies” when the rock was deposited at the site.

First, I’m going to take issue with the wording of the first sentence. It says that she is “known” to have powers. There is a difference between saying “known” to have powers and “believed” to have powers. Knowledge is something that you can prove. Belief is something that you pretty much have faith in. Where is the proof that she has powers? If she had proof, wouldn’t she have won James Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge and shaken the foundations of physics?

Secondly, why should we take her word for it? She could just be saying stuff so that we don’t question her “powers.” Even if she is sincere in “feeling a vibration” that could be nothing more than a subjective experience. Human senses can be easily fooled. Phil linked to a bunch of optical illusions earlier today.

Who knows? It could just be the power of suggestion.

Once in the 8th grade we were learning how to identify different rocks. My friend picked up one which we were having quite a lot of trouble identifying and held it in her hand for a while. She reported that she felt a strange electric feeling after holding it for a while and based on that thought it was whatever they use to make batteries.

Turns out it was just galena. It may be considered insensitive to say “it’s all just in your head” but it’s something that happens to all of us. We shouldn’t feel bad about ourselves just for being human and inevitably feeling things that aren’t there. After all, that’s what skepticism is for. It’s there to help us see through the mists of illusion.

Thank you, Roswell, for the continuance of putting forth solid evidence for extraterrestrial visitation.

Ignunt Fool of the Week

This is a toast which I wrote for Teen Skepchick on questioning people and investigating things for yourself. I also decided that it would make a good Ignunt Fool of the Week.

I have definitive proof that unicorns exist. I’ve heard testimonies from various reputable people who have seen unicorns with their very eyes. There are documents with code names and code numbers of secret government projects involving the investigation of unicorns. I have papers from a bunch of zoologists about resonance biological quantum fields which allow unicorns to have inter-dimensional phase matrices.

If I just said unicorns exist, it would be a good starting point to say “prove it,” but now that I’ve said that I have proof are you just going to be content with that? Or are you going to question me further?

Two nights ago, I went to see a man named Dr. Greer (an actual medical doctor) give a talk on the Metropolitan State College of Denver campus. He wasn’t talking about his specific field, medicine. Instead he was talking about how he had definitive proof that extraterrestrials have been visiting us and that they’ve given us the capability to have sustainable energy.

He wants to get a ballot initiative passed in Denver that will create an “Extraterrestrial Affairs Comission” and get the government to disclose all this information they’ve been keeping secret.

The talk began with a man saying “there are a lot of people out there who want to keep this information secret, so if you read anything out there that is completely negative of what Dr. Greer is saying, obviously they’re part of it.” Since this post isn’t going to be particularly fond of what he’s trying to do, I guess most of the people who heard that are just going to start going on about how I am working for the government without caring for my reasons why I don’t think he has much substance behind what he’s saying.

Most of what he talked about on that stage with a few hundred people packed in the lecture hall was the conversations he had had with people in government who had seen UFOs or who had told him that Eisenhower was hiding information locked away in a little black box which could bring about sustainable energy and world peace.

Besides people diverting their resources which could be spent doing actual science to find sustainable energy, he wouldn’t ordinarily cause harm… except… he wants us to spend tax payer money on his quest to find sustainable energy and our government to support him.

Okay, so the government does stupid things without good reasons, but we ought to do things for good reasons. Since whether or not he’s correct affects the way taxes get spent should we take these words at face value? Or should we ask him for evidence?

We could just absorb all that he’s saying, or we could wonder if there really is any possibility behind his affirmation that we already know how to do things like extract zero point energy and the government just isn’t telling us. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Perhaps we could look on his website to see if he has papers from peer-reviewed scientific journals.

And look! Under “research” there are links to some papers, but do they have any substance in them? Should these links cause us to throw all our support behind him?

Most of the papers are just put up on the website without any reference to having been published in the journal Nature or another reputable journal, but let’s take a look at them anyway.

One of them is by a man named Stanley A. Meyer. The paper doesn’t get off to too great a start with him saying (emphasis added, grammar unedited):

The Law of Change

A law of Physics establishes a proven function based on “Preset” conditions…

Change anyone of the conditions and the law no longer applies…

A “new” law emerges in the consciousness of Physics

Why? … Atoms possess intelligence

Pseudoscience has a talent for abusing scientific terms that people are unfamiliar with to appear as if they know what they’re talking about. If it appears nonsensical, then there’s a reasonable chance that it’s because it is nonsense. I’ve had quite a bit of physics in school and I’ve read quite a bit about it and it appears to me that’s he’s just throwing out jargon so that he sounds scientific even though he hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.

Now, I won’t pretend to be an expert in physics but, in another paper

Another theoretical breakthrough by Puthoff is the derivation of Newton’s Law (F=ma) from ZPE electrodynamics. It appears to be related to the known distortion of the zero point spectrum in an accelerated reference frame. We therefore have an understanding as to why force and acceleration should be related, or even for that matter, what is mass. Puthoff explains that the resistance to acceleration defines the inertia of matter and it appears to be an electromagnetic resistance. To summarize: the inertia effect is a distortion at high frequencies whereas, the gravity effect has been shown to be low frequency effect, according to the Puthoff theory.

Three things:

  1. How the hell did he get from Newton’s second law of motion to talking about inertia?
  2. The parts of Puthoff’s Wikipedia entry which contain citations (we should be skeptical of the parts which don’t have citations since anybody can add or change Wikipedia) says that he was involved with the church of Scientology in the 70’s and was convinced that Uri Geller had psychic powers (here’s a 9 minute video with James Randi on why he almost certainly is not psychic). Already he doesn’t seem to have much credibility.
  3. I showed this to two engineers I found in an office at the Metropolitan State College of Denver who spent several minutes rereading it before telling me that it didn’t make any sense to them as respectable scientists.

Two more things:

  1. This time I asked people smarter than me to verify that this was indeed gobledy-gook. However, just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t actually  have any idea what they’re talking about.
  2. The argument from authority can be a logical fallacy. Just because somebody is a fancy-pants scientist doesn’t mean that they’re not wrong. Ultimately it’s the evidence they use to back up what they’re saying that has weight on what is true. But it seems that he’s not saying anything.

Most of the papers are like this. Non peer-reviewed gobledy-gook which, if it were true, would be revolutionary enough that they could probably get published easily and win nobel prizes.

The lesson here, don’t take the words of people for granted. Investigate for yourself. Ask other people where your knowledge ends. Use logic. Most importantly…

Demand evidence.