UFOs

From time to time, people throw paperback books into Mr. Trashcan.  It happens quite a lot, and, having almost unlimited free time, since he doesn’t go anywhere, Mr. trashcan reads these books.  Except stuff like those Tom Clancy books where people are in control and technology really works – too far fetched.
Anyway, among MT’s favorite books are the ones that are UFO-related; you know the ones I mean… there’s the classics like Eric Von Daniken and the old Zecharia Sitchen book The 12th Planet.  There’s the pretty straightforward stuff that’s desperately trying to be scientific, like the Jacques Vallee books.  And then there’s the real nutball stuff… MT remembers a rare hardback written by a real Silly Old English Colonel called Space, Gravity and the Flying Saucer that purported to describe the interior of a flying saucer, using pure deductive reasoning.

The reason MT likes these books so much is that, in almost every one of them, no matter how nutty, you will find something interesting, that you hadn’t thought of or didn’t know (some of it even true) .  For example, even the silly old English Colonel, as batty as he was, makes the interesting point that if you want to subject a spaceship full of meat-based life forms to infinite accelerations without mushing them all, you would have to use a force like gravitation, which has the capability to accelerate them all equally!   Maybe you have though of that, but Mr. Trashcan hadn’t.
The 12th Planet has a fun premise: that there is an additional planet (never mind how he comes up with 12)  on a very long elliptical orbit, that whizzes through the solar system every few millennia, carrying an advanced race.   It’s an interesting story, even if only from a literary angle.
The world-wide UFO phenomenon, today, is just like these cheap paperbacks;  buried in those stacks of smudged reports and grainy photos and shaky videos, there is some genuinely interesting stuff.  Even though it’s become almost impossible, now, to separate the genuine from the bogus in this full-fledged cultural phenomenon, it is still interesting stuff.   It’s interesting that so many people will make up and tell complicated bald-faced lies.  It’s interesting that you can’t tell they are lying by watching them on video.  They seem like good, ordinary people with no axe to grind who have seen something genuinely strange.  Often when you hook them up to a polygraph they send it off the lying end of the scale, but sometimes not.  Some of them have seen things like small lights at great distances, so they don’t really have to lie; it’s easy for them to believe they have seen a UFO.  Others claim to have seen big things close up, in great detail, with other witnesses and radar confirmation, so when they check out OK on the polygraph, you have to wonder what they saw.
This phenomenon is trying to tell us something, but there has been very little serious, funded study of it.  If you want to know why, just try to get funding for even the most prosaic kind of mainstream science; even that isn’t easy, and when you start adding hints of the paranormal it quickly becomes impossible.  And then there’s the fact that, aside from the witnesses themselves, there is almost nothing physical to study.   Mr. Trashcan thinks there may never be anything physical; we may never have a piece of a saucer to examine.  This is not to say they aren’t real;  Mr. Trashcan thinks there must at least be something electromagnetic/optical going on, that these things exist here in this world in a very new and unfamiliar sense of the word “exist”.   This is what the phenomenon may be trying to tell us.
The government just surely wishes the whole thing would go away.  They don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t seem to be a threat, so it’s outside the mandate of the military.  More of an embarrassment than anything else.  Their efforts to explain it away have contributed to the sense of embarrassment.  Occasionally, black programs result in sightings, which they really do try to suppress.  So, here’s a tip: when the black helicopters show up, that means it is NOT a UFO but rather your taxes at work.
One of the great services performed by Jacques Vallee, before he got out of the UFO investigation biz, was that he tried to compile a complete list of all the known reports, winnowed down by rejecting anything that had a handy explanation  or was from a less than credible witness.  He wanted to  look at the statistical qualities of the data, and, sure enough there was one rather astounding inference that could be made.   Around the world, the timing of  UFO sightings clustered densely around the times that people might normally be out of doors and looking at the sky, such as after dinner and before bedtime.   In other words, people saw UFOs only when they were in a position to see them.  When he took the number of sightings during these peak times and extrapolated it to fill the rest of the day. the result was an incredible number of events, or potential sightings; far too many to be explained by visiting aliens.  The UFOs weren’t from somewhere else; they were from right here.  
Mr. Trashcan doesn’t have any theories about exactly where these people dock their ships, to hit the bars or whatever.  But he does think that there are UFOs that are real, in the sense of “external to peoples brains”, and that they are part of our world.  Mr. Trashcan hasn’t seen anything, but he does know some extremely sober people who have.
Which brings us to this:  What discussion of UFOs would be complete without a critique of the History Channel program UFO Hunters.    And let me say up front that I really like these guys.  Mr. Trashcan would love nothing more than to hang out with them and have a couple of beers; maybe a whole six-pack.   They seem like a great bunch of guys.  Bill’s dark glasses are a little weird, but I notice that he has a  nervous tic without them, also a little weird so take your pick.
The frustrating thing about this program is that, on almost every episode they come across something that is genuinely interesting; something that, even to a skeptic, bears further study.  The material is interesting on its own.  It doesn’t need to be filled out by unwarranted speculation, pseudo-scientific experiments and unsupported conclusions, and yet this is what we get almost every time.  Bill seems especially credulous;  if a witness can’t remember what they had for lunch a month ago, he is likely to assume they were taken to an underground base for genetic experiments.   But from time to time nearly all of them fall into this.  And the token skeptic, Kevin, seems muzzled from time to time, like he can’t believe what he’s hearing, but keeps quiet because he realizes they all have to get a paycheck from the gig and if he’s constantly killing the suspense, nobody will watch.    It’s a shame because, like I say, they’re all nice guys and there’s plenty of good material to work with.  They need to take a big dose of skepticism and let the material speak for itself; at the very least, it’s sociologically riveting to see a whole neighborhood go on about the giant black triangle that interrupted their backyard grilling.
So, if Mr. T can summarize, here:  most of it is just fakery, stupidity, wishful thinking, rogue hypnotherapists and the software that intermediates between the optical images and the memory stick in people’s cheap cameras.  But, even the Air Force, even the government’s whitewash scientists, admit that there is a core of stuff here that is really, really interesting.

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