The shapes of things to come
When will mainstream science journals warm to UFO data?
Yeah sure, kid, you can audition for the house band — so long as you stick with the “Louie Louie” playlist and don’t get cute.
The official demolition of a congressional bid to end the black-world death grip on UFO secrets two weeks ago put a dead stop to any illusions about who controls our legislative branch. Still, with human curiosity now forced to take the long way up the mountain, one organization has just delivered what might well be the most data-driven evaluation of UFO/UAP shapes ever compiled in a public forum. Divided into 16 major categories, the listed items read like a clearance sale on Carrot Top’s sight gags:
Discs (domed and undomed), triangles, ovals, spheres, cylinders, deltas, cigars, light/plasmas, lozenges/Tic Tacs, cones, rectangle/diamonds, boomerangs, eggs, Saturn-like phantoms, shoe heels, and circular oddities. Then there’s a miscellaneous, alphabetized bin of sub-categories, which I’ll just cut ‘n paste, verbatim:
“Acorn, antique bathtub, barbell, bullet, changing shape, cube, flattened sphere, football, meteor-like light, oblong, round, tear shape, unknown, white light, z-shape propeller.”
Eggs, cigars, cones, barbells, antique bathtubs – the butt (so to speak) of these visual jokes are the authorities who can do nothing to stop them from popping up and don’t want you or me or anyone else without an unobtainable security clearance to know the true extent of it. And those responsible for shutting us out – military intelligence, defense contractors, a handful of powerful Republican committee chairs exercising taxation without representation – don’t give a rat’s ass about advancing the public interest.
Having been reduced to fearful denialism by these eggs, cigars, cones, barbells and antique bathtubs, America’s public servants have ceded independent inquiry to organized groups of citizen scientists determined to accomplish what government institutions will not. To wit, the nonprofit Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies collaborated with University of Toronto students to produce, earlier this month, the type of paper the Pentagon could have, should have, and probably has created, years ago. GOP House hacks Mike Turner and Mike Rogers just don’t want the DoD to show us.
Titled “The Reported Shape, Size, Kinematics, Electromagnetic Effects, and Presence of Sound of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena from Select Reports, 1947-2016,” the 25-page SCU assessment, reviewed over a two-year span, five separate sets of databases – four civilian, one vintage military – filled with more than 100,000 collective UFO sighting reports. Compressing that massive field into the 301 cases SCU ultimately used to extract shapes info was “the most laborious” part of the project, says co-author and SCU executive board member Robert Powell. You can read about the screening methodologies and sources employed in the study, but here’s what’s in the sky:
Why so many designs?
Discs — the original “flying saucers” — were the most prevalent hot rods in the records, accounting for 36.5 percent of the entries. Discs come in two basic models. The ones with domes span anywhere from 20 to 40 feet in diameter, but the undomed discs are observed in two layouts. They can appear elongated with diameters of anywhere from 100 to 150 feet, or there are the slightly-larger-than-domed discs, at maybe 30-60 feet in diameter. Height-width schematics are trickier to gauge, but domed discs are generally reported to have 2.5:1 or 3:1 aspect ratios. Domeless and more elasticized craft can slide into the 125 foot range, slivered at 7:1 ratios.
“The second most common shape described in our analysis is the triangle shape,” states the report, noting how triangles began emerging in big numbers in the 1970s. “The two most common triangle configurations are isosceles and equilateral. The UAP with the equilateral shape is almost always configured with large circular lights at each apex of the triangle’s underside and a smaller light in the bottom center of the triangle.”
While rare, “The rectangle/diamond and boomerang were the largest shapes reported” at roughly 300 feet long. Spheres are the smallest of the lot, averaging 38 feet, or a 20 foot median. Across the spectrum, only the plasma/light-shapes lacked apparent hovering capabilities. Electromagnetic interference spraying into nearby electrical systems was associated with 44 reports, or 14 percent of the caseload. No EMG activity was reported with triangle sightings. Noiseless stealth was a common acoustic theme, but buzzing, humming and other mostly sublime tonalities were noted.
Interesting data, perhaps useful for extrapolating functionality someday. The paper was refereed by SCU members, but Powell says the long-range goal is to put its work into legacy journals. Which leads us to:
Consider for a moment the merits of another far less ambitious UAP study. This one was published on Dec. 14 in Scientific Reports.
Scientific Reports is a subsidiary of Nature, one of academia’s de facto science Bibles. Peer reviewed, the nine-page article, titled “An environmental analysis of public UAP sightings and sky view potential,” rated a minor splash last week for posting maps showing the geographical distribution of 98,000 UFO sightings reported across the U.S. from 2001-2020. Which has been done before.
Oh, him again . . .
The novel twist to this “environmental analysis”? It factored light pollution, cloud cover, tree canopy and proximity to airports and military installations into UFO sightings, and the results were as predictable as green on grass. The closer the observer to airports or military bases, the more “UFO” reports. Cloudy skies = fewer reports. More tree cover = fewer reports. More ambient light = fewer reports. Riveting. The piece then asked us to ponder other potential causalities, perhaps as subjects for future studies: “Are there spikes of reports after Hollywood attention is given to movies or TV shows on aliens?” Doggonit — why didn’t I think of that! “Are some cultures more likely to see UAPs,” it went on, “because of their belief systems?”
The only reason anyone might bother to read this yawner is its inclusion of Sean Kirkpatrick’s input. The controversial outgoing chief of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office contributed one of the study’s three bylines, and his aversion to addressing some of the most challenging UFO cases on record during his tenure at AARO offers more misdirection in the Scientific Reports conclusions: “There is no question that geography and ‘place’ influence people’s belief systems and behavior.”
“Belief systems” again. Zzzz . . .
The silver lining, says Powell, is the tentative receptiveness of mainstream science to legitimize UFOs for study, at least up to a point. Here’s an example of “up to a point” from late last year. Problem: How do you become a member of this exclusive club? Obviously, it’s not the quality of the data.
SCU drew on five sets of archives – CUFOs, NICAP, MUFON, the French GEIPAN, and Project Blue Book – to conduct its shapes study. Most of the 301 cases in SCU’s survey involved multiple witnesses or military/police witnesses who filed reports. All were close enough to log specific details, and some reports were accompanied by sensor info.
Trust us, we’re the professionals
By contrast, Kirkpatrick’s piece didn’t have enough reports in the AARO files to make a case for much of anything. Instead, it built its “environmental analysis” on an indiscriminate data dump of files from the National UFO Reporting Center. Collecting raw reports posted directly from and by witnesses, NUFORC has been a valuable resource for public awareness since 1974. But unlike SCU’s source material, NUFORC’s one-man operation lacks the luxury of field investigators or a pre-publication vetting for quality or reliability.
Earlier this year, separate and apart from the Scientific Reports article, AARO released a pie chart reflecting the shapes, or “morphologies,” of the 801 UFOs in its sequestered two-year old database. Yet, AARO shared zero (0) examples of individual cases for independent scrutiny.
“Their data is meaningless because we can’t compare their stuff to ours,” says Powell. “If you look at our links in our study” – nearly 50 hyperlinks total – “you can click on every one of them and they’ll take you to each of the 301 cases we used. They’re available to everybody. AARO’s shapes reports are classified, so there’s nothing you can do with it.”
Anyhow, open-source science creeps forward.
Early returns from yet another independent investigation, “Initial Results From the First Field Expedition of UAPx to Study Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena,” dropped on Dec. 4. Its preliminary findings are posted at the ArXriv.org website, where the 43-page paper is awaiting peer review. Highly anticipated, this project was the main event in a popular 2022 documentary, “A Tear in the Sky.”
Slow and steady
Led by faculty with the University of Albany/SUNY physics department, researchers focused on the 2004 Tic Tac incident, the famed Navy encounters leveraged by the NY Times six years ago to bust open the Pentagon’s secret UFO program. Gary Voorhis and Kevin Day, two Navy veterans who witnessed the confusion at sea during maneuvers off southern California, subsequently founded the nonprofit UAPx in hopes of rallying public support for deeper investigation.
Using a multi-spectrum array of sensors called the UFO Acquisition Project (UFODAP) in 2021, the team set up at Laguna Beach and spent a week scanning the skies around Catalina Island, where Navy radar had pinpointed a flurry of UFO activity from the 2004 encounters. The project found no smoking gun, and the initial excitement over having recorded a possible wormhole materializing in the night sky is on hold, at least for now. “With one possible exception,” it concluded, “ambiguous observations ended up being identifiable.” Still, the UFODAP’s steep learning curve is establishing baselines, and characterized by resilience:
“The history of science teaches us the value of such results, and of robust eliminative deduction. New excursions, to Catalina for reproducibility, and elsewhere, will include improvements to both equipment/methods, recognizing others’ past work.”
The defense apparatus’ UFO-detection technology, and its presumed trove of astonishing data, is likely light years ahead of civilian initiatives; having survived a challenge from lawmakers, it continues to breeze along in secret, without accountability or oversight. Barring additional congressional hearings, we’re unlikely to learn much more anytime soon about how they’re spending our money. The campaign for hearts and minds is thus left to play out in the clubby field of science journals. Hopefully, someday, those insular citadels will lower the bridges for investigators who openly challenge the trustworthiness of government science. Otherwise, even those institutions will look complicit.
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