UFO as wildlife


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Three Decisive Admissions

Recent UFO Legislation

Recent Government Research

Unscientific Language & UFO Stigma

My UFO terminology

Public UFO Evidence

Military/DHS UFO Videos

Labels for UFO Attributes


Witness Effects

"Defies the Laws of Physics"

Citizen UFO Videos


UFO Behavior Acts

Six UFO Behavior Patterns


Variety of UFO Shapes

"Bright/Dark" UFO Form

Observational & Perceptual Issues


Definition of "UFO"

Definition of "UAP"

UFO Population

UFO as Symbionts

UFO Social Behavior

UFO Lack of Purpose

UFO Low Intelligence

Citizen UFO Research

UFO not a Military Project

Outlook, Narrative & Storytelling

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis


Alien Abduction

The Drake Equation


US Government Denial & Neglect

The "Human Technology" Hypothesis

Exemplar Videos


Three Decisive Admissions

The June 25, 2021 ↆ Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) marked a major change in the official US government position on UFO, now flying under the moniker UAP or "unidentified anomalous phenomena." The plural is embedded in the euphemism, and the report refers to 144 such "phenomena" observed by US military and surveillance systems since 2004 — "with the majority coming in the last two years."

Most commentators with both feet in what is popularly called ufology disparage the report as inconclusive, disappointing or a whitewash. I take the sanguine position that the report makes three new and decisive admissions:

(1) UAP are real. Eighty were observed "across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation".

(2) UAP display "advanced technology" that includes "signature management" and "unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics"; and

(3) UAP pose "a real hazard" of collision to aircraft and "a potential threat to national security".

The jargon "signature management" is a synonym for "stealth technology" and usually refers to the capability of a potential adversary to minimize or thwart detection by surveillance systems across a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum — radio, radar or microwave, infrared and visual radiation. In this context the meaning is unclear, but we will learn from public testimony that it includes "jamming radar", which some commentators interpret as an "act of war."

However, neither the ODNI lack of disclosure nor its place in the seven decade history of governmental evasion and disinformation (AKA Project GRUDGE, Project BLUE BOOK, the Roberston Panel and the Condon Committee) are my primary interest. The continuing government evasion on the topic of UFO seems to me the typical reaction of a human power center to the existential predicament we all face as individuals evaluating UFO evidence: a confrontation with the uncanny and unexplained.

As a corrective to the contentious fixation on "aliens" as the only available explanation for UFO, I argue that we should step back from advocacy and approach UFO as wildlife both scientifically and ethically. This does not mean we assume that UFO are a new species of bird or bat: it means we restrain the common assumption that UFO are an "alien technology". Scientifically, it means we accept that UFO are "known" or factual rather than imaginary; that demonstrated environmental awareness and control capabilities justify interpreting their behavior with life science concepts and analytical tools; that we develop an unbiased and factually justified scientific vocabulary to describe what we see; and that we provide data and interpretations to the public as a necessary basis for scientific discussion in an open society. Ethically, it means that we adopt a detached approach to the phenomena that does not aspire to "capture or exploit" UFO for the purposes of economic benefit or weapons development.

This wildlife approach replaces the various "super intelligent extraterrestrial" scenarios with the far better documented facts that UFO — when they are interpreted from the perspective of the life sciences — are aware of their environment, show adaptive dispositional responses to the environment, communicate with the human species, display simple forms of social behavior and, as with nearly all life on our planet, show an indifference to human presence unless challenged or molested in some way. In particular, it allows us to recognize that UFO activity resembles the behavioral repertory of insects or small mammals. Popular conjecture about "extraterrestrial beings" is acknowledged but skeptically judged as unknown and undecided until publicly available corroborating evidence suggests otherwise.

I present what I gleaned over more than a year of inquiry as an interested citizen — intrigued by a 2017 New York Times article (cited below) and frustrated by the lack of substance in the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment". I approach the topic of UFO from the perspective of scientific inquiry — not with any expectation of conclusive answers but to reframe what has become over the past seven decades a stifling and stagnant conversation.

I summarize or quote relevant public source materials and link to interviews and videos for readers unfamiliar with UFO phenomena or the extent of compelling evidence about them. I transcribe all quoted statements verbatim and cue cited videos to any quoted passage, but I encourage readers to watch the video files end to end for the full context. And I decline UAP and UFO as singular or plural, just as we say "one aircraft" and "many aircraft" or "one sheep" and "many sheep."

Recent UFO Legislation

The ufologist's complaint is a good place to start. David MacDonald, director of the civilian Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), correctly stated that the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" does not fulfill the congressional requirements of its preparation and does not even reaffirm facts that nonmilitary researchers have "known for decades about the phenomenon." I come to those facts later, but begin with the reason we have an ODNI report to disparage.

Legislation in 2020. The admission that UAP "interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity," or that UAP reports describe almost a dozen near air collisions with military aircraft, are disclosures that an $800 billion per year military establishment would be loath to make public. The fact that the report appears at all is due to an extensive clause inserted by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) in the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, mandating the production of a report on the current understanding of UAP within 180 days after the Act went into effect.

Congress was very specific as to what this UAP report should deliver. After a brief introduction and declaration of the report deadline, the 2021 IAA continues:

The Committee further directs the report to include:
   1. A detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence reporting collected or held by the Office of Naval Intelligence, including data and intelligence reporting held by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force;
   2. A detailed analysis of unidentified phenomena data collected by:
      a. geospatial intelligence;
      b. signals intelligence;
      c. human intelligence; and
      d. measurement and signals intelligence;
   3. A detailed analysis of data of the FBI, which was derived from investigations of intrusions of unidentified aerial phenomena data over restricted United States airspace; ...
   6. Identification of potential aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries;
   7. Identification of any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk;
   8. Recommendations regarding increased collection of data, enhanced research and development, and additional funding and other resources.
The report shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.
(p. 12)

The resulting ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" includes this text as an Appendix (p. 9), but misquotes it by substituting "requests" for "directs" and by impudently deleting the last line, which is at least the ODNI admission that they haven't given us an unclassified "detailed analysis." The listed items in 2 are not discussed at all (as we will see, any disclosure of geospatial intelligence in particular is scrupulously avoided); items 3 (review of FBI data), 4 and 5 (description of an interagency process for data collection) are also omitted entirely. These are petty misrepresentations, perhaps, but they are examples of the tension between the defense/intelligence establishment and civilian congressional oversight that characterizes the UFO issue.

Legislation in 2021. For Congress, too, this report was not a sufficient response to the 2020 NDAA. The next year, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) proposed amendments to the fiscal year 2021-2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as House resolution HR 4350 and Senate amendment SA 4281 respectively, to create an "Office for UAP Research" or an "Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office." Most points in the Gillibrand and Gallego amendments were reconciled as Section 1683 of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1605) that was passed by the House on December 7, 2021, by the Senate on December 15, and signed into law by President Joe Biden on December 27.

This new office of UAP or anomaly research is tasked to develop "procedures to synchronize and standardize the collection, reporting, and analysis of incidents regarding unidentified aerial phenomena." This syncretic archival gathering of incident reports is authorized to "coordinate" with (and possibly extend Department of Defense secrecy restrictions over) other executive agencies holding useful data. From 2022 to 2026 this office is tasked to provide semiannual briefings and annual classified reports to the congressional armed services, appropriations, foreign affairs and intelligence committees, and an annual "unclassified" public report to the public. However, the standing DoD disclosure policy is to "not comment on ongoing investigations," so citizen oversight of UAP investigations will likely remain with the members of the congressional committees, who must conform in their public commentary to the military stipulations of secrecy.

As if to ensure secrecy is maintained, the Act allows the DoD to provide, instead of disclosure, an "enumeration of any instances in which data relating to unidentified aerial phenomena was not provided to the Office because of classification restrictions on that data or for any other reason" which means that not only Congress but even the DoD's own UAP research office may not have security clearances adequate to the task — although it (and possibly also the congressional committees) will at least know where those firewalls are located. And while there is a requirement that each report to Congress "shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex," it seems likely that the public will learn as little from future reports as it did from the "Preliminary Assessment".

National Security Justification. The pretext for all this collecting and archiving is said to be our national security need to understand what the hell these reported UAP are and why they are in our national airspace. As Gallego crowed in his press release:

"Whether emerging tech from strategic competitors and adversaries or aerial phenomena from unknown origins, our military must have a full intelligence picture and the tools to respond quickly to these potential threats. My amendment creates a permanent office at DoD to comprehensively evaluate these UAPs."

I point out that this claim of "potential threats" is an explicit reversal of the DoD posture toward UFO. From the early 1950's down to the recent past, the USA military/intelligence establishment has publicly asserted just the opposite — for example, in a carefully staged statement by Director of Air Force Intelligence Maj. Gen. John Samford on July 29, 1952:

"However there have been a certain percentage of this volume of [between 1000 to 2000] reports that have been made by credible observers of relatively incredible things. It is this group of observations that we now are attempting to resolve. A basic difficulty in dealing with these is that there is no measurement of them, ah, that makes it possible for us to put them in any pattern that would be profitable for a deliberate, uh, custom sort of analysis to take the next step. We have as of date come to only one firm conclusion with respect to this remaining percentage, and that is that it does not contain any pattern of purpose or of consistency that can relate with any — to any conceivable threat to the United States."

This policy was reiterated as the conclusion reached by two academic, "official" investigations: the Robertson Panel in 1953 ("The Panel concluded unanimously that there was no evidence of a direct threat to national security in the objects sighted") and the Condon Committee in 1968 ("We know of no reason to question the finding of the Air Force that the whole class of UFO reports so far considered does not pose a defense problem.") The policy rested on the "foo hypothesis" that UFO were as harmless to human interests as the foo fighters of the 1940's.

In addition, the 2022 NDAA incorporates all of the concerns raised in the Gillibrand amendment about UAP events "associated with military nuclear assets, including strategic nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered ships and submarines, ... facilities or assets associated with the production, transportation, or storage of nuclear weapons or components thereof, ... nuclear power generating stations, nuclear fuel storage sites, or other sites or facilities regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." This potential threat to nuclear assets is possibly a genuine national security focus of concern, but it is also spun up with no public discussion of declassified evidence to justify it, which for a civilian in a democratic society must be the most concerning aspect of the issue.

Military Justification. However, a second reason for the study of UAP appears in the substance of a "Science Plan" that originates in the Gillibrand amendment. It outlines a research mission that aligns closely with the military development of new offensive weapons and defensive countermeasures:

(f) Science Plan.--The head of the Office established under subsection (a), on behalf of the Secretary and the Director, shall supervise the development and execution of a science plan to develop and test, as practicable, scientific theories to--(1) account for characteristics and performance of unidentified aerial phenomena that exceed the known state of the art in science or technology, including in the areas of propulsion, aerodynamic control, signatures, structures, materials, sensors, countermeasures, weapons, electronics, and power generation; and (2) provide the foundation for potential future investments to replicate any such advanced characteristics and performance.

This "science plan" certainly confirms the congressional and military conviction that UFO are real, otherwise no benefit to weapons/countermeasures development would come from attempts to study them.

The 2022 NDAA also incorporates three directives found in both the Gillibrand and Gallego amendments and in the exact same wording, which gives the directives a unique emphasis. These require reporting of:

• "any efforts underway on the ability to capture or exploit discovered unidentified aerial phenomena"
• "any health-related effects for individuals that have encountered unidentified aerial phenomena"
• whether UFO arise from "adversarial foreign governments, other foreign governments, or nonstate actors" [emphases mine].

All three of these topics are carried forward in legislation the following year, with an increased emphasis on medical or physiological effects of UAP events or exposure.

Legislation in 2022. Unfortunately, the congressional, DoD and ODNI partnership to understand UFO appears to have launched into bureaucratic difficulties or internal resistance. As Senator Warner expressed it in the notes to the 2023 Intelligence Authorization Act (S.4503): "At a time when cross-domain transmedium threats to United States national security are expanding exponentially, the [Senate Intelligence] Committee is disappointed with the slow pace of DoD-led efforts to establish the office [of UAP studies] to address those threats and to replace the former Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force as required in Section 1683 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022." Two signs of this "slow pace": the AARO Twitter page has posted nothing after a July 20, 2022 tweet declaring its launch. And as I write (January 1, 2023), the ODNI UAP report, mandated by the 2022 NDAA to appear by October 31, 2022, is still nowhere to be seen.

As a result, the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (HR.7776), passed on December 15, 2022 and signed by President Biden on December 23, incorporates most of the provisions of the 2023 IAA but with revisions that indicate congressional concerns about (1) thorough and uniform data collection, (2) adequate operational staffing and highly expert analysis resources, (3) prompt, fulsome information sharing within DoD and with the senior leadership and defense/intelligence committees of Congress, and (4) adequate administrative authority and citizen oversight to do its job as the law specifies, via direct access to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence.

The law requires a change of nomenclature from "unidentified aerial phenomena" to "unidentified anomalous phenomena". This change might appear merely cosmetic, as the acronym and definition of a UAP remains the same. But it reflects view that UFO might arrive from space but also can inhabit our oceans and can pass from one domain to the other — that is, they are "all-domain" phenomena. It also widens the AARO investigative scope explicitly to comprise information held by the US Navy, US Coast Guard and US Air Force.

Douglas Dean Johnson provides a detailed analysis of the law. The Office mandated by the 2022 NDAA, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) headed by Brennan McKernan from the Office of Naval Intelligence, is officially shut down. A new All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO, pronounced "arrow"), which was already established by DoD in July, 2022, takes up all UAPTF activities. The DNI must assign an appropriate level of priority for the UAP issue within the National Intelligence Priorities Framework. The Director reports to the Deputy Secretary of Defense [currently Kathleen Hicks] and to the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence [currently Dr. Stacey Dixon] regarding all operational and security matters, and to the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence & Security) [currently Ronald Moultrie] on administrative issues. These provisions clarify and substantially raise the level of the Office within DoD.

The AARO director must develop and implement "an intelligence collection and analysis plan to gain as much knowledge as possible" about UAP, including the technical capabilities necessary to detect, identify and scientifically characterize them. This incorporates the "science plan" from the 2022 NDAA and the focus on the adversary origins and medical effects of UAP. The director may propose the use of any DoD "resource, capability, asset or process" necessary for the tasks of field research, and the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence must appoint "an official" to ensure that the AARO has "the appropriate expertise, authorities, accesses, data, systems, platforms, and capabilities" necessary for prompt field investigations and analyses of UAP reports. AARO will "designate one or more line organizations that will be primarily responsible for scientific, technical and operational analysis of data gathered by field investigations ... with respect to the testing of materials, medical studies, and development of theoretical models". (Line organization in this context includes the national science laboratories such as Ames, Brookhaven, Lawrence Livermore or Los Alamos.) And AARO is authorized to coordinate with civilian science agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NASA and NOAA. These organizations in turn will have authority to draw on civilian special expertise as needed. These provisions emphasize comprehensive data collection and adequate investigative and analysis resources.

To guarantee adequate information sharing and collaboration among the various defense/intelligence agencies, representatives from at least eleven other defense/intelligence agencies may be "detailed" to (physically work at the location of) the AARO to facilitate collaboration and information sharing. The named agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Department of Energy, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence elements of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

The most striking section of the 2023 NDAA, Section 6802, requires the Office to prepare a written "Historical Record Report" of all government activity related in any way to the topic of UFO or UAP from 1945 to the present. The law authorizes the AARO to draw on intelligence records and documents, oral history interviews, open source analysis, and classified and unclassified materials in the National Archives; including a "compilation and itemization of the key historical record" to include any programs not reported to Congress, prior efforts to identify and track UAP, and "any intelligence community efforts to obfuscate, manipulate public opinion, hide, or otherwise provide unclassified or classified misinformation" about UAP. Section 6803 directs the Comptroller General, head of the General Accounting Office (GAO), to "identify appropriately cleared personnel" within GAO to audit the procedures used to prepare the historical report, to report quarterly to the AARO director the findings of those audits, and to report semiannually to Congress on the progress of the report. The report must be completed and presented to Congress by June, 2024.

Finally, Section 1673 of the 2023 NDAA adopts language that appears in both the 2023 IAA and the House version of the 2023 NDAA (HR.7900) that requires creation of a "secure mechanism for authorized reporting of any event relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena; and any activity or program by a department or agency of the Federal Government or contractor of such a department or agency relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena". (Note that an "authorized" report is any report about the relevant events or activities made through the secure system, not a report approved by a supervisor or commanding officer.) The law exempts whistleblowers from any nondisclosure agreement or secrecy statute that would prevent them from making a UAP or SAP report and provides standard whistleblower protections against reprisals for doing so. It requires the AARO to issue clear public information about the system and how to use it to file a report, to ensure that the reports remain classified, and to transmit the information to other defense and intelligence branches and to the leadership and relevant committees in Congress. Notably, the Office must inform Congress "within 72 hours" of any report that identifies a special access program (SAP) or compartmentalized access program (CAP) that has not previously been "explicitly and clearly" reported to Congress. The system must be up and running by summer of 2023.

Interpretation. The current director of AARO, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, is a physicist with a prestigious resumé as the Deputy Director of Intelligence for the US Space Command (USSPACECOM) and its representative within the ODNI. His prior career included appointments to the US Naval Research Laboratory, the National Reconnaisance Office, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and as Deputy Director of Intelligence within the US Strategic Command. He has administered "scientific and technical intelligence (S&TI) policy, research and development, acquisitions, and operations, specializing in space/counterspace mission areas". He seems to me particularly well qualified to understand and navigate the operational cultures, institutional priorities and ongoing strategic defense and intelligence concerns across all the defense/intelligence agencies, and he sees research primarily through the lens of a highly technical physical science expertise (which I hope does not imply neglect of the unique perspective provided by the life sciences).

Most commentators on Section 1673 debate whether the secure reporting system will be able to reveal SAP or CAP programs. But the law extends protections first to the report of "any event relating to unidentified anomalous phenomena", and then to reports related to secret programs. This seems to me to reflect concerns with the inhibiting effect of UFO stigma and the longstanding prejudice within the officer ranks against authorizing such reports and especially the career anxieties among commercial pilots about making them. Remarkably, the provisions seem to concede that the military is still not receiving UAP sighting reports from the ranks and may not be fully aware of secret programs within its own administration. Former Navy pilot Lt. Ryan Graves, himself a UFO witness during his tour of duty, calls UFO stigma "a major barrier" to understanding UAP. As Dr. Kirkpatrick put it in his December 16, 2022 presser with Under Secretary Moultrie, "We take UAP reports seriously. ... [T]he stigma associated with UAP reporting has been significantly reduced. While that's good news, more work needs to be done."

Johnson argues that the paranormal vibe around ↆ "skinwalkers" and poltergeist effects associated with UFO in popular media are excluded by the fact that UAP are defined in Section 1673 as "objects" or "devices". I suspect there may be a back door to these and other issues through the study of the "medical ... and physiological effects" of UAP encounters. A 1991 review paper by ↆ Jacques Vallée found that only 3% of UFO events in the Hatch UFO Database involved physiological effects; nevertheless the total number of cases, 454 out of 15,181, may be significant from a military perspective.

The historical account required by Section 6803 seems to me directed specifically to provide a public accounting for the origin of UFO stigma in the government policy of misinformation since the 1950's. The division of responsibility in preparing the report seems to me optimal to ensure its comprehensiveness, credibility and timely completion. AARO should understand the history of the UFO issue as a basic matter of operational context, and there is no better way to assure knowledge than to commission a historical report. The separate audit by professional staff under the Comptroller General should provide an impartial evaluation and progress updates to both the Office and to Congress.

Precedents leave ample room for pessimism. The uninformed questions and vaguely reassuring replies at the May 17, 2022 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) public hearing on UAP, the first congressional hearing on the subject of the military investigation of UFO since 1970, did not rise to the occasion. Undersecretary Moultrie in effect admitted that, a year after the mandates in the previous 2021 NDAA, the Department of Defense still had not established systematic data collection from all relevant sources such as NASA and the FAA. The ODNI 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, delivered ten weeks late, is even less informative than the "Preliminary Assessment" and like its predecessor is bloated with jargon, quibbling caveats and useless assurances.

The report did disclose that sighting reports held in the AARO archive then totalled 510 — 144 inherited from the UAPTF archives, 247 new reports since then, and 119 reports collected across an undisclosed time interval. (The May 2023 public hearing hosted by the NASA UAP Study Team suggested the total number of AARO reports is now "over 800".) An unknown number of those are "historical" cases going back to 1996 (i.e., including the 2004 USS NIMITZ encounter), so we cannot judge whether the new total means anything about the current incidence of UFO events or the willingness of military personnel to report them in the face of longstanding UFO stigma. But we do learn that 171 out of the batch of 366 new reports (47%) remain "uncharacterized and unattributed" (jargon for "unexplained"), and that none of the new reports involve an air collision or adverse human health effects — two of the issues that plausibly motivate concerns relevant to national security.

But there may be a new sense of seriousness about the topic. In August 2023 Kathleen Hicks gave an interview to DefenseScoop, "the premier community-driven news source dedicated to the U.S. military's acquisition, development and use of technology as a force for modern defense", where she announced her prioritization of AARO efforts. The day after publication, the new AARO web site went live; she also promises prompt completion of that secure, anonymous reporting system. The month before, on July 26, 2023, the House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs held a public hearing at which three witnesses testified to the reality of UFO and former USAF intelligence officer David Grusch gave testimony to suggest the US government holds both UFO crash remains and alien "biologics". Finally, Senator Charles Schumer has introduced language to the 2023-24 NDAA (S.2226, Sections 9001-9013) that will require the government, through a special commission, to declassify its information about UFO. Many of the pundit ufologists predicted that we might finally be approaching what they call "disclosure".

"Plus ça change ...". Well, Schumer's legislation was gutted in conference; nothing of merit has happened regarding the Grusch claims; Kirkpatrick has left AARO and a successor director is four months later still not appointed. I break off the narrative here with the release of the ↆ AARO Historical Record Report: Part I. This report puts a distracting emphasis on refuting claims of "extraterrestrial" evidence, which it attributes (p.36) to rumors circulated by "the same group of individuals who have ties to the cancelled AAWSAP/AATIP program and a private sector organization's paranormal research efforts." [see next section].

We should take these accusations with a grain of salt: they are all referenced to anonymous "AARO Session Files", and because they serve to distract us from other issues. Surprisingly, given its claims to historical objectivity there is not a single mention in the report of "stigma" or any mention of the history of the USAF and CIA in promoting a permissive attitude toward UFO stigma, including the tactic of calling UFO witnesses "psychopathological persons" or "a threat to national security". And the discussion explicitly makes the a priori claims (p.7) that most UAP are recognizable trash or secret drones and the rest can't be recognized for lack of data — which ignores a public disclosure of evidence about those "UAP" where enough data exists to make them recognizably inexplicable. All one can say, looking back on the past seven years is that pundits are not reliable sources of reliable rumors and, if government changes, it changes very slowly.

Yet across this tortuous legislative progress, three main admissions stand out clearly. Something real is observed; it displays verified and remarkable aeronautical capabilities; it is real and remarkable enough to unsettle the national security outlook of the defense/intelligence establishment. These are admissions never before made public by the US government or its armed forces.

Recent Government Research

Since we have just seen what the defense/intelligence establishment is directed by Congress to investigate about UAP, this is a convenient point to review the recent backstory of "undisclosed and unacknowledged" government UFO research. These efforts were under the direction of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Intelligence) (OUSD[I]) as two intertwined bureaucratic creatures. The history is documented in the Professional History of AATIP by Luis Elizondo and in a Popular Mechanics article by Tim McMillan.

The Black Vault's AAWSAP/AATIP Timeline usefully organizes the available public evidence to suggest the outlines of a history that has been muddied by contradictory DoD statements and a florid culture of speculative conspiracy theories. But the corroborated accounts show that the Department of Defense was investigating UFO long before that fact was made known to the public. (I outline the 20th century origin story of UFO studies, dominated in this country by the US Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency, in a later section.)

This governmental interest in UFO studies came to light in a letter from ↆ Senator Harry Reid to Secretary of Defense William Lynn dated June 24, 2009 that was made public by the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2019. This letter refers to an ongoing special program within the Defense Intelligence Agency that is broadly connected to weapons development, and requests a subgroup within that program be established as a restricted special access program (SAP) whose identity would be secret both within and outside the DoD and would be known only to a "restricted bigoted list" of eleven names, including Reid, Lynn, and DIA special intelligence agent Luis "Lue" Elizondo. The ongoing special program in 2009 was the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP, pronounced "aw-sap"), and the subgroup SAP created within it at Reid's directive was the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP, pronounced "A-tip").

AAWSAP was a research program authorized in July, 2007 by a congressional Supplemental Appropriations Act jointly authored by Senators Reid, Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens; the program was "black money" funded up to $22 million. A research request for proposal was posted by the DIA in July 2008 and Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), as the only bidder, won the contract. Robert Bigelow, founder of and principal investor in BAASS had a strong personal interest in UFO and was instrumental in involving Senator Reid with the issue through Bigelow's creation of the National Institude for Discovery Science (NIDS) chartered to investigated paranormal phenomena.

As its name declares, AAWSAP put "weapon system" issues front and center on the research agenda. The original solicitation for bid declared that the "primary focus is on breakthrough technologies and applications that create discontinuities in currently evolving technology trends." But according to the Pentagon project administrator Dr. James Lacatski, BAASS project manager Dr. Colm Kelleher and veteran investigative reporter George Knapp, as recounted in their tabloid tale of Skinwalkers at the Pentagon, the term "breakthrough technology" is a code phrase for various forms of paranormal research. As Lacatski and Kelleher tell it, between 2008 to 2012 when AAWSAP was shut down, the program compiled the "largest UFO dataset in the world" from a variety of public domain and historical UFO datasets. But the main focus of the program was to amass a "stack of reports six feet high" on a variety of fringe physical science ideas and to investigate rumored "werewolf-like shapeshifters" and paranormal poltergeist phenomena at Skinwalker Ranch, about 180 km [110 miles] east southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah. According to the book, the investigations produced several personal encounters with infectious, stalking "dark spirits" and the ↆ health effects of exposure to close UFO or paranormal encounters, which resemble the effects of near ionizing electromagnetic radiation (NIEMR). Polymath engineer Travis Taylor provides a first person corroboration of the various paranormal weirdnesses encountered at the Ranch, some of which are documented by a multiseason reality series on the History Channel. As one example of the "health effects" under study, Taylor himself suffered a serious case of radiation poisoning from a transient, unknown and undetectable source.

According to McMillan, AAWSAP was run as a "commercial contract in confidence," which is a standard DoD method to game the requirements of the 1996 Economic Espionage Act to keep a project both unclassified and a closely held secret and, importantly, an unclassified secret that is shielded from FOIA requests for information. And the interest in "paranormal" topics is not itself unusual: the government has a long tradition of probing the paranormal — or what their research reports call the "psychoenergetic" — aspects of mind. Recall that in the 1980's the Defense Intelligence Agency was evaluating the spy potential of remote viewing — the purported psychic ability to visualize (for example) real time activity inside the Kremlin from a windowless room in Alaska.

The AATIP created by Reid's letter in 2009 was directed until its dissolution in 2017 by Luis Elizondo. (AAWSAP director Lakatski hired Elizondo into AAWSAP in 2008 and asked him to be director of AATIP in 2010, months before Lakatski retired.) It was a follow on program started as AAWSAP was winding down its research due to hostility toward the program within the DIA.

Elizondo shuttered the "skinwalker" investigations as the main source of this "religious aversion" and stigma toward the program, and connections to BAASS were ended. Investigations focused on the military problem of "continued incursions into controlled U.S. airspace"; as Elizondo describes it, AATIP focused specifically on military reports of UFO encounters. Better research connections were fostered between AATIP and scientists under contract with the UAPTF; and Elizondo initiated with Christopher Mellon the release of the FLIR1, GIMBAL and 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (2) videos (described below). In 2015, however, relations between AATIP investigations and the U.S. Air Force become an issue for Elizondo, program support and senior leadership dried up, and in October, 2017 he resigned in frustration that the increasing threat from the "continued incursions" was being ignored by senior military officials. Note that both AATIP and UAPTF were configured to be outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requested disclosures.

We have much to hear from Elizondo and a bit to say about him below. I believe the contested fact of his leadership of AATIP is fully verified by the 2009 letter from Reid, by a 2021 reaffirmation, by public testimony from former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon, by information gathered and reported by McMillan and Knapp, by a thorough background check by the New York Times, and by Elizondo's Professional History of AATIP submitted as part of a sworn whistleblower complaint about a DoD "coordinated effort to obfuscate the truth from the American people while impugning my reputation as a former intelligence officer at the Pentagon." I judge his public conduct to be consistent with a truthful and competent witness — a skeptical criterion of testimony I defend later.

The UAPTF was supposedly replaced by the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group or AOIMSG (pronounced "AIM-sog") in November 2021, whose purview was again limited to special use areas (SUA) under military, civilian nuclear or weapons laboratory restrictions, although congressional legislation up to 2022 continued to reference the UAPTF as a continuing effort. A name and acronym change for this group was promised in May, 2022 congressional testimony, and it became the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office or AARO in July 2022. As this history of bureaucratic reshuffling illustrates, the public likely still does not have a clear understanding of prior DoD involvement in UFO research and certainly does not know what it has learned in its investigations.

In any case, back to that windowless room in Alaska ... the lasting interest of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Skinwalker investigations even after both AAWSAP and AATIP were terminated is suggested by the fact that, after both programs had been shut down, Taylor was hired by the UAPTF as "chief scientist" in its UFO investigations, partly on the strength of his "textbook" Alien Invasion. Travis was at the time conducting a research program at Skinwalker Ranch while also employed by the US Space and Missile Defense Command.

In the weeks before the 2021 ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" appeared, Elizondo cautioned against unrealistic hopes about what the report would disclose. In a Zoom conversation with reporters, he set expectations by saying that "in some cases it takes longer to remodel a kitchen than it does to provide a 180 day report to Congress." Just getting security clearances for raw data necessary to begin an analysis might take eight months; a comprehensive assessment might take another year. Normally I would concur with this assessment. My experience as a business consultant to large corporations here and abroad is that novel tasks are difficult for them to do. Centralizing available data and making a judicious analysis of its significance, regardless of the topic, is a laborious, time consuming and resource draining task for any bureaucratic system defined by its procedures, pay grades and annual budgets.

But this is not a novel task. As just noted, much of the relevant information is already in legacy AAWSAP/AATIP files, according to an unattributed claim from this 20 December 2017 report by the Las Vegas Channel 8 I-Team:

Persons familiar with the five year study told the I-Team the effort resulted in three dozen thick reports, some of them several hundred pages in length, as well as another three dozen or so technical reports which projected how this kind of exotic technology might usher in a new era of aviation, and what that might mean [emphasis mine].

Unfortunately the DoD has only released 13 of the 38 technical reports and they turn out to be blue sky, fringe science speculations of no informational value to our inquiry. (It is suggestive to compare, on the issue of quality, the titles that have been released with the titles still held as classified.)

What scientists most urgently require at this point is not speculative science but observational data about UFO, starting with that world class UFO dataset compiled from public sources by AAWSAP and including the recent UFO events investigated by UAPTF. The press release by the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU) in reaction to the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" made this point clearly:

[W]e are pleased to have confirmation of multi-sensor data, such as "radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapons seekers, and visual observation" [quoting p. 3 of the ODNI report] on reported unusual UAP flight characteristics. According to the assessment, the federal government is in possession of such data from 80 of the 144 referenced UAP reports. These data can help corroborate similar UAP descriptions by US military witnesses, such as speed, angle of bank, and acceleration, that are stated in our forensic studies on the 2004 USS Nimitz and 2013 AGUADILLA PRI UAP events [described at the linked passages below]. The SCU is disappointed by the omission of an unclassified, summarized description of these data related to at least some of the 80 referenced cases, and we reiterate our call for the release of these data in a manner that does not compromise national security so that the scientific community can better understand these phenomena.

Observational and sensor data are far and away the most valuable knowledge — possibly the only reliable knowledge — that we have about UFO. If properly redacted or represented, the data present no risk of divulging national secrets regarding sources and methods to citizen scientists or foreign powers. Until that release of information and data happens, citizen scientists are put in an extraordinarily weakened position and the deliberations of the public become dangerously uninformed. That in itself is a double national security issue that needs justification before it should be tolerated.

Unscientific Language & UFO Stigma

The bureaucratic obstruction, informational obfuscation and weaponization of science I've just described are unmanageable issues for citizen scientists because they are partly shielded by justifiable issues of national security and the secret deliberations of the defense establishment and intelligence community. As civilian scientists we have to start with the things immediately under our control — and there the priority is our language.

Words anchor concepts, and concepts shape thinking, and up to now our thinking about UFO has been disfigured and misdirected by a word culture that is muddled, prejudicial and unscientific. Remarkably, after seven decades of experience with UFO, we still lack a standard language to identify them, classify them or describe their attributes.

Unpacking "UAP". Let's start with the identifying label. In 1980 Dr. Richard Haines, a NASA Ames research scientist and cofounder of the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP), defined the term unidentified aerial phenomenon or UAP as follows:

An Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, UAP, is the visual stimulus that provokes a sighting report of an object or light seen in the sky, the appearance and/or flight dynamics of which do not suggest a logical, conventional flying object and which remains unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically capable of making both a technical identification as well as a common sense identification, if one is possible.

However, Haines did not originate this definition. He merely copied with heavy editing the definition of unidentified flying objects offered by astronomer J. Allen Hynek in his 1972 classic, The UFO Experience:

We can define the UFO simply as the reported perception of an object or light seen in the sky or upon the land the appearance, trajectory, and general dynamic and luminescent behavior of which do not suggest a logical, conventional explanation and which is not only mystifying to the original participants but remains unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically capable of making a common sense identification, if one is possible. (For example, there are many thousands of people to whom the planet Venus is unknown, but UFO reports generated by this brilliant object in the evening or dawn sky will not fool an astronomer.) (p.10)

These bizarrely fussy definitions illustrate the difficulty we have talking about something when we don't know what we are talking about. Both definitions grapple that difficulty in four ways: the UFO is cast as a subjective "perception" or "stimulus," not as an external physical fact; the identification requires a social framework for reporting the observation; the report must be verified by a group of two or more "technically capable" persons; and the evaluation requires them to affirm a categorical double negative — the sighting cannot be explained either as "a logical, conventional flying object" nor as "a technical ... as well as common sense" identification.

What analysis categories do we use for a "technical" or "commonsense" identification? Historical practice indicates that a conventional flying object can include communications satellites, aircraft, trash bags, solar balloons and chinese lanterns — in other words, any artifact of human origin that ends up in the atmosphere or near space. And following Hynek's use of Venus as an example, the "technical" identification can include atmospheric or astronomical "natural phenomena" such as sun dogs, ball lightning, planets or meteors. Presumably many people could make these identifications. But if the report describes a secret weapon then only persons with technical knowledge of that weapon would be qualified to identify it; some very rare natural phenomena, such as earthquake lights, might require a geologist who has seen such lights before. Thus our ability to correctly "identify" a UAP depends on technical expertise in things that are not UFO.

The social framework requires that a UAP be "strange" enough to provoke a sighting report by the witness, which assumes that the witness's conception of strangeness is culturally prepared; MUFON researcher Cynthia Hind suggested cultural factors to explain the lower incidence of UFO reports in Africa. The definition requires the witness to actually make a report, which assumes that there is an established reporting procedure and the witness is not intimidated or inconvenienced by using it. Finally there must be an authoritative institution or jurisdiction that will convene their expertise in an official capacity and approve their interpretation.

These social obstacles — reporting systems, "expert" panels and cultural attitudes — have impeded UFO research since the mid 20th century. Reports that exceed cultural credibility have been declared "unbelievable" or have been suppressed by nonexistent or onerous reporting procedures or by the negative personal or reputational consequences of making a report. "Expert" institutional judges have attributed the "reported perception" or "visual stimulus" to human error, denigrated the competence and truthfulness of witnesses, or declared that "close scrutiny" can resolve every UAP with a commonplace explanation (Hynek's Venus). Hynek and Haines require all these social hurdles to be cleared before the light or object qualifies as a UFO/UAP by their definition. I explain below why these scientists made such glaring blunders, but psychological and social factors do not belong in either a lay language or scientific definition of anything we assume is fundamentally "real" — independent of human perception and cultural practices.

If we strip out these nuisance subjective, cultural and institutional prerequisites, the definition becomes:

An Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, UAP, is an object or light observed in the sky, the appearance and/or flight dynamics of which are inconsistent with every conventional flying object and cannot be attributed to any human error, sensor malfunction or natural physical process.

Rewording is necessary to clarify our analysis categories and to exclude those censorious judges. However this definition is still ambiguous because it conflates two distinct reasons a "stimulus" would fail to meet those criteria: because we can't adequately resolve it (the light or object is not clearly observed, recorded or reported), or because we cannot confidently recognize it (the light or object does not fit into any of the accepted analysis categories). This distinction between resolving something clearly and recognizing something confidently is the crux of much of the ambiguity in our current UFO language.

Here, again, Hynek & Haines open the door to established social procedures to resist taking UFO sightings seriously. The routine method to deflect acknowledging UFO as a distinct category of phenomena, from Project BLUE BOOK down to today, has been to declare that sightings of "unknown" UFO could be explained away if we only had "better data." The problem isn't recognition, it's resolution — and, most recently, it's also data management. As Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (no relation to Richard) recently reprised it: the category of UAP includes things we don't understand, not because we don't recognize what they are but because "we don't have a consistent way of reporting the information, we need to integrate, frankly, a lot of data that we get, we need to get better at collecting information that's useful to us from different sensors that are available to us ..." and so on. Dr. Kirkpatrick, at the May 31, 2023 NASA Study Team meeting, observed that "while a large number of cases in AARO's holdings remain technically 'unresolved', this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with those cases."

Of course, concerns with the quality of information are entirely valid, and complaints that we lack sufficient data entirely factual. "Data" may just be a metonym for "sensor" and refer to the fact that we currently do not have an inventory of sensors optimally configured to study UFO and that UFO are elusive to observation and unavailable for structural dissection and materials analysis. But these difficulties do not account for the lack of any explanation for the large number of cases where highly reliable data identifies a "breakthrough technology" with sufficient clarity. A full account of those sightings is as yet not publicly available.

The Department of Defense seems to recognize these conceptual deficiencies, because the DoD briefing cards define a UAP in elegantly simple terms:

"A UAP is any aerial phenomena that cannot immediately be identified" [emphasis original].

This eliminates the social framework of cultural factors, reporting procedures, expert juries, authoritative institutions, noncomparable sensor systems and the horrors of data management; it excludes the double negative attempt at identification by exclusion and replaces the requirement that we attempt an explanation with a straightforward failure of visual recognition or transponder interrogation.

The 2022 and 2023 NDAAs adopt this basic UAP definition (and, with two emendations, so do I), but expand the definition to include transmedium objects or devices. These include sonar contacts with objects that display UFO like characteristics of agility or speed under water, and radar or optical targets detected descending into or moving out of the Earth's atmosphere. Transmedium objects are very poorly documented in public information and it is unclear how they might be related to the observed aerial phenomena, so the fact that they are explicitly included in the NDAA language — and as the "All-domain" in AARO — is noteworthy.

And yet, in the AARO designed "template requirements of reporting" UAP events, distributed in the May 23, 2023 Joint Chiefs Policy Announcement (p.5), UAP are defined as:

"UNIDENTIFIED ANOMALOUS PHENOMENA (UAP) are sources of anomalous detections in one or more domain [sic] ... that are not yet attributable to known actors and that demonstrate behaviors not readily understood by sensors or observers. 'Anomalous detections' include but are not limited to phenomena that demonstrate apparent capabilities or material that exceed known performance envelopes. A UAP may consist of one or more unidentified anomalous objects and may persist over an extended period of time."

As so we are back to using UAP to mean specifically those things we recognize as inexplicable, which is completely contrary to the definition of UAP as things you don't recognize at all. The treadmill has completed another turn and seems to resurrect Hynek's twin concept of UFO as visibly not human technology and behaviorally astonishing or uncanny.

UFO stigma. As a result of these various issues with the term UAP, after 1980 neologistic alternatives to the term UFO actually proliferate. The problem with these terms is that they are nearly all prejudicial — they assert an interpretation or explanation of UFO that currently has no evidence to back it up.

Most of these euphemisms claim to know the origin of UFO as a technology, for example in the AAWSAP/AATIP jargon anomalous aerial vehicles (AAV). In the scholarly and technical literature on UFO the "technology" coinages I have seen include unidentified anomalous vehicles (UAV) or unidentified anomalous aircraft (UAA) or unmanned aerial system (UAS) or unidentified aerial object (UAO) or unidentified aerospace phenomena (UAP) or anomalous aerospace phenomena (AAP) where "vehicle," "aircraft," and "aerospace" are all engineering rather than scientific concepts. A minority of the acronyms handwave with vague physical science terms such as unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP) or anomalous atmospheric phenomena (AAP) or anomalous light phenomena (ALP). This weird interest in euphemism coinage has become so promiscuous that now even the US government no longer speaks with a single euphemism.

Though prejudicial and fatuous, these acronyms have a common purpose: to find words to denote UFO that might avoid UFO stigma — the kneejerk dismissal, personal harassment and professional ridicule associated with the stereotypes of alienist beliefs and "little green men in flying saucers." As explained in the 24 September, 2019 Popular Mechanics:

While a "UAP" may be an unfamiliar term, that's sort of the point. UAPs are essentially the new UFO—but with a lot less historical baggage. A Navy spokesman told The Washington Post that the acronym "UFO" carries so much stigma that it discourages someone from reporting a sighting. "That term is so loaded at this point, that you are never going to change people's understanding of what it means," journalist Leslie Kean, who co-wrote the 2017 New York Times investigation into the Pentagon's UFO (or UAP) program, tells Popular Mechanics. "All you can do is adopt a new one."

The DoD briefing cards confirm that "We use the generic term UAP in communications so as not to pre-judge the results of any investigation (and so aviators are not hesitant to report unidentified intrusions)." Even the reticence of the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" is pierced by the issue of witness stigma (p. 4):

Narratives from aviators in the operational community and analysts from the military and IC [intelligence community] describe disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues. Although the effects of these stigmas have lessened as senior members of the scientific, policy, military, and intelligence communities engage on the topic seriously in public, reputational risk may keep many observers silent, complicating scientific pursuit of the topic.

This a not a trivial or passé issue. The NASA UAP Study Group reported that many of its members have been subjected to harassment sufficient to involve security. Ryan Graves has repeatedly spoken out about the disincentive in the service ranks to report UFO or discuss them publicly. Even so, official policy here is not monolithic: historically there has been internal resistance or noncompliance down the chain of command both to ignore UFO and, more recently, to resist the orders to report them. According to Elizondo's professional chronology for October 2009 (p.3), the obstructionist forces within the military arise from "a religious aversion to the subject matter" because "although the topic was real, it had supernatural origins not consistent with certain religious views of specific senior leadership."

In any case, there are two reasons why this rebranding has failed. First, the sheer variety of those acronyms indicates that nobody takes them seriously. All of them are couched in the connotation that "you'll know what I'm talking about when I start talking about it" because they are all quickly disrobed as "UAP, or what many people call UFO." This practice completely defeats the euphemistic purpose and makes the person affecting the acronym appear a bit precious. Civilian and military officials in their public comments routinely use and understand UAP as synonymous with UFO. Of course they do. Nobody is interested in the category of real or illusory things that can't be immediately identified; no one believes that defense or intelligence will be enhanced by the study of "unidentified" air trash or Chinese lanterns. We are interested only in the real things that seem to display breakthrough technology or may pose a foreseeable threat to national security or air safety.

The second reason for failure is what Harvard University psychology professor Stephen Pinker has called the euphemism treadmill or "the game of the name":

People invent new 'polite' words to refer to emotionally laden or distasteful things, but the euphemism becomes tainted by association and the new one that must be found acquires its own negative connotations. "Water closet" becomes "toilet" (originally a term for any body care, as in "toilet kit"), which becomes "bathroom," which becomes "rest room," which becomes "lavatory." "Garbage collection" turns into "sanitation," which turns into "environmental services." The euphemism treadmill shows that concepts, not words, are in charge: give a concept a new name, and the name becomes colored by the concept; the concept does not become freshened by the name.

As a historical fact, the US military (specifically the US Air Force, in collusion with the CIA) has created and nurtured UFO stigma for many decades by insinuating that truthful and competent UFO witnesses are either confused, incompetent, "individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetuate a hoax or to seek publicity" or "psychopathological persons." The intent of this policy initially was to suppress enthusiasm or interest in the UFO topic and to stanch the frequent reporting of UFO events as threats to national security. But whatever explicit and unambiguous terms and acronyms we eventually settle on in the scientific study of UFO, the stigma around the topic can only be cured if the government that created the stigma publicly disowns it, and the people who were previously given permission to deploy ridicule in service of the stigma are ordered to stand down.

As the previously linked testimony illustrates explicitly, UFO stigma and the ridicule it stimulates strongly inhibit the willingness of witnesses to come forward with reports, especially — as many commercial airline pilots believe — it can jeopardize career prospects. The science community bears a colluding responsibility for perpetrating this policy through ludicrous pseudo explanations in public media. UFO witnesses need to be assured that they will be taken seriously again as truthful and competent observers. This will be necessary before the military and science institutions that created the stigma can "engage on the topic seriously in public".

Current Language. The ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" only made things worse. It ignores both the Robert Haines and DoD definitions of UAP and innovates its own definition of "unidentified aerial phenomena" to mean "the broadest category of airborne objects reviewed for analysis" ("Definition of Key Terms," p.8). That is, the ODNI definition simply means "all the reports we selected for further study" but without telling us what criteria were used for the selection.

The ODNI does tell us that they chose 144 events for analysis. Of those, 143 remain unexplained; 80 were measured with multiple sensors, 18 showed "unusual UAP patterns" and 11 involved near air collisions. It tells us nothing about where, when or how the UAP were sighted or how they were reported or why the reports deserved analysis. Instead, the ODNI lists (pp. 5-6) five categories of things that their undisclosed selection criteria might possibly turn out to be:

• Airborne Clutter: birds, balloons, recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV or drones), or airborne debris like plastic bags or Chinese lanterns
• Natural Atmospheric Phenomena: ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations (presumably also planets and bolides)
• USG or Industry Developmental Programs (military UAV or secret aircraft in development)
• Foreign Adversary Systems and
• Other (which the report describes elsewhere as "a catchall 'other' bin").

This ODNI new and improved categorization shifts the emphasis away from any stigmatizing assessment of the truthfulness or competence of witnesses and onto the "commonplace objects," manufactured or natural, that might be misperceived by observers or unresolved in the data. But again, the ODNI does not tell us how many of those 144 events fall into each of those five categories, except to say that one of them was "airborne clutter" (a deflating balloon). This implies that the credible witnesses of inexplicable UFO events are among the 143 unexplained reports tossed into what the assessment calls a "catchall 'other' bin" and denigrates by association with a trash can.

There is also the confusion between resolve and recognize that is not clarified by the term "unidentified." The term comes out of the national defense imperative to identify friend or foe, where the presumption is that anything unrecognized is probably foe. Military personnel, especially pilots, are trained to recognize visually a wide range of air vehicles domestic and foreign, and both commercial and military aircraft use automated radio and radar systems such as TCAS to assist in that task.

It is very often hard to hear the distinction between resolve and recognize in public commentary. Former UAPTF chief scientist Travis Taylor observed that "We had a lot of sensor data on some of them, that, that we couldn't determine what they are." Yet we can already make a positive and confident UFO identification by means of several characteristics of "appearance and/or flight dynamics". Nearly all public facing politicians and defense and intelligence sources do not claim that UAP are "unidentified," they repeatedly insist that unambiguously identified UFO are unexplained aerial phenomena. "Unexplained" is, in the context of current language, the most accurate way to distinguish UFO from things that are literally unidentified or unresolved.

Meanwhile, nearly all public discussions of UFO use words that, like the many acronyms, make unsubstantiated assertions without any justification in public facts. These mostly arise as collocates from two separate language domains: the unverified storytelling of ufology and the jargon of academics and the defense/intelligence professionals.

The storytelling of ufologists relies on pilot, operator, occupant, intent, purpose, extraterrestrial, interstellar, alien and intelligent, especially superior intelligence. The military jargon includes aircraft, airframe, capability, guidance, evasion, jamming, act of war, arsenal, threat, target package, advanced, next generation and breakthrough capability. Technology and vehicle are easy reach in both lexical domains. Here is a macaronic example from an NBC News segment by Gadi Schwartz, quoting filmmaker and ufologist Jeremy Corbell:

"It is an extraordinary piece of technology. Whoever is operating these technologies are far more advanced than anything we have in the US arsenal. An and that should be a warning sign. We need to find out the intent of the operators of these vehicles."

We do not so far have a factual demonstration of the so called extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) that we are witnessing alien pilots in their star voyaging vehicles. We cannot factually disprove the ETH with publicly available evidence, but until a trophy extraterrestrial spacecraft or an alien dead or alive is presented for public evaluation, science has nothing to say except: Is it aliens? Not yet. Until it really is alien technology, it seems in the best interest of accuracy and objectivity to avoid terms that run ahead of the publicly available evidence.

My UFO Terminology

Science definitions build on factual denotations: an equivalence between a specific term, symbol or constant and a specific physical fact, observation or reliable method of measurement. A scientific definition requires us to say what UFO are, not what they are not.

I believe I have shown we lack an objective, consensus language to discuss UFO at present, which compels me to create a limited terminology of my own. This terminology must acknowledge the two current, scientifically defensible facts about UFO: (1) we do not know their physical nature and (2) we cannot conceptualize their control origin.

The prevailing theory in ufology is that (1) is an interstellar spacecraft technology, and (2) are aliens. That is fine; it is also indefensible scientifically as a factual description of UFO, and therefore we need words that can talk around such interpretations without speaking either for or against them — by assertion or by assumption.

The starting point is that I do not prejudge UFO as an "object" or "vehicle" or "technology" and instead use the neutral term observable to mean either a UAP or UFO as the real, external cause of the UAP or UFO sighting. Senior officials who are privy to classified information and in public discussion of the UFO issue notably seem to prefer "thing" or "these things" to describe UFO, which asserts a physical reality but avoids any assertion about its origin or manufactured nature. Observable also emphasizes the remarkable fact that almost all our knowledge about UFO comes from remote sensor evidence (generically, the things we can "see") rather than material evidence (the things we can touch).

In the physical sciences, an observable is any physical attribute that we can measure: speed, mass, size, temperature, radiance, and so on. The term does not reveal what kind of thing or process is being measured. I put the focus where it belongs, on the UFO or UAP as the thing we want to "measure" or understand, and i use the common term attribute to mean anything about the observable that we use to define or describe it (such as speed, mass, size and so on).

I use the term UAP in this way:

A UAP is any sighting or sensor report of an observable that cannot be confidently resolved due to a lack of adequate physical evidence or sensor data, or cannot be identified due to a lack of conceptual category (cf. Figure 26).

That is, I adopt the sense of the NDAA/DoD definition of UAP with two changes. I replace "immediately identify" with confidently resolve so that a UAP remains a UAP for however long one lacks the necessary evidence or expert analysis to recognize it, and I add "sensor report" to include the many forms of relevant evidence (radar, sonar, electromagnetic emittance, etc.) that are not optical or visual. This definition explicitly harmonizes with the definition adopted by the ODNI and its emphasis on the lack of clear resolution.

Despite its many acknowledged shortcomings, I retain the legacy term UFO as it was coined in 1951 by the then head of the Air Force Project BLUE BOOK investigations, USAF Captain Edward J. Ruppelt as the acronym for unidentified flying object. It is the earliest "extraterrestrial neutral" substitute for the popular but inaccurate term "flying saucer": it asserts that these aerial (flying) phenomena are real (objects) and cannot be explained (identified). Use of the term broadcasts the military acknowledgment that unexplained flying objects are real, and by resurrecting the military pronunciation "yufo" rather than letter spell the acronym we recognize how long the policy of misinformation has been in place.

I can't agree with the UAP rebranding policy that asserts UAP means the perfectly redundant label of "unidentified anomalous phenomena" — where "unidentified" means you don't know what it is and "anomalous" means you don't know what it is. Good for you: you don't know what it is. This completely omits from useable language a positive definition for the situations where we have enough data to resolve the target satisfactorily and recognize it is inexplicable.

Later I suggest a positive definition for UFO, but for now I use the term UFO to mean:

A UFO is any observable that displays "strange" electromagnetic emittance or inexplicable performance capabilities without visible means of lift, control surfaces or heat from propulsion.

"Strange" emittance means far removed from recognizable natural or technological sources, including (in any bandwidth of radar/microwave, infrared, visual or high energy) high emittance, surface emittance, blinking, flashing, emitting a beam, "flux" emittance, "jamming", and "dissolving" or "disintegrating". I use this idiosyncratic terminology with apology for my presumption but also in defiance of the ridiculous muddle that persists as common practice.

Scientists need to remedy the assumptions and ambiguities that are still embedded in the language we use to talk about UFO, and it is their responsibility to form a consensus speech practice around the issue. This will allow different disciplines to address the evidence without struggling against the distorting preconceptions in our words or the absurdity of using a term like UAP to mean something we do resolve and can identify. Once that is done, the talk about what I provisionally call UFO can flow in potentially different and insightful directions, free of the prejudices we inherit from seven decades of conjecture and speculation.


Public UFO Evidence

How do we recognize the things we can't explain when we see them? In a May, 2021 interview with CBS 60 Minutes, Luis Elizondo laid out the "five distinct observables that set this technology aside from everything we have in our inventory":

"Imagine a technology that can do six to seven hundred g forces, that can fly at 13,000 miles per hour, that, uh, can evade radar, and that can fly through air, and water and possibly space, and oh by the way has no obvious signs of propulsions, no wings, no control surfaces and yet can still defy the natural effects of Earth's gravity. That's precisely what we're seeing."

In the metric units scientists prefer, Elizondo describes a velocity of at least 5800 m/s (meters per second) and a linear acceleration from a standing start to 6900 m/s² (meters per second per second). In fact, UFO velocities up to 8500 m/s and linear or radial accelerations in excess of 5000 m/s² have been documented since the 1950s and recent research has suggested values more than three times greater than those cited by Elizondo.

Note that a positive ↆ g force can describe the stress on both pilots and their aircraft created either by abruptly increasing velocity along a linear direction of motion or by quickly changing direction within a limiting radius of turn. The velocity, thrust and agility at the huge numerical values that Elizondo and others describe are really more of an order of magnitude than a metric: in qualitative terms, UFO are capable of "near instantaneous" or "explosive" acceleration to velocities that can easily outrun an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" lays particular emphasis on "breakthrough aerospace capabilities" and "unusual flight characteristics." This is consistent with Elizondo's talk of "technology," but it is revealing to compare Elizondo's brief but riveting performance profile with what the ODNI considers a "detailed analysis":

Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.

UAP sightings also tended to cluster around U.S. training and testing grounds, but we assess that this may result from a collection bias as a result of focused attention, greater numbers of latest-generation sensors operating in those areas, unit expectations, and guidance to report anomalies.

Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.

The UAP documented in this limited dataset demonstrate an array of aerial behaviors, reinforcing the possibility there are multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations.

This fastidious imprecision deflects attention onto the regrettable quality of the collected data, even though the ODNI clearly believes that the evidence is sufficient to identify a potential "breakthrough technology" or "threat to national security." As I explain above, this is a standard method used by military officials to evade disclosure. UAPTF chief scientist Travis Taylor makes a more candid assessment with this elegantly simple observation: No, I don't think I understand the physics of it but what I do understand is they're flying in a way that we don't."

Historical Public Knowledge. You get a sense for what is not being openly disclosed in the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" if we contrast it to any previous public analysis — that is, established facts about UFO capabilities or behavior that have been in the public domain for decades.

The earliest public summary of citizen UFO reports that I can find is at the conclusion of an April 7 1950 CBS radio report "The Case of the Flying Saucer" based on "extensive research collected with the aid of CBS affiliated stations and CBS newsmen across the country" and narrated by Edward R. Murrow:

"Here is what we found. Nearly all these observers are in agreement on the color of the objects: it's a metallic color they say, something like aluminum or silver. Almost everybody agrees the objects are generally disk shaped, but with wide variation; sometimes balloonlike or resembling a giant rubber ball. Still others describe them as elongated, cigar shaped thing. Speed of the saucers has been estimated at from zero to twelve hundred miles an hour [540 m/s]. And when we get into the question of maneuverability, the observers seem not to be able to find the precise or adequate words. They say that the saucers hover, accelerate and decelerate rapidly. They say that some of the objects flutter, oscillate, drift, whirl or float. There seems to be no fixed pattern of flight in cases where more than one or two disks have been reported. But several persons have said that in group flights, one of the disks seems to be of a distinct color, indicating (possibly) that this off colored disk was the monitor or the control disk for the others. A small percentage of the observers said the disks bore light, and in five cases, at points as far apart as Alabama and California, the viewer said the disk suddenly disappeared in flight. But when we get around to estimating altitudes at which the objects were sighted, we find that some observers say they saw them at two hundred and fifty feet; others guessed the disks were at forty thousand feet [12 kilometers] in the sky. While one observer estimated the number of disks seen at one hundred, nearly all thought the number was less than ten, and about half those who claim to have seen the objects said they saw only single saucers. Well, these are the things men and women in various parts of the United States say they have seen in the sky. Men of science and high government officials cast a skeptical eye at these reported sightings of celestial phenomena." (t=25:10-27:15)

Remarkably, this very early CBS report describes UFO attributes that have been consistently reported down to the present day.

Again in the public domain, here are the "unofficial official" conclusions reported in the April 7, 1952 LIFE magazine article by H.B. Darrach Jr. and Robert Ginna, based on "more than a year of sifting and weighing all reports of unexplained aerial phenomena" by the journalists "with Air Force officials of all facts known in the case." The article describes seven events in US Air Force files opened "for the first time" to independent study, and three events discovered in LIFE's own reporting:

Out of this exhaustive inquiry these propositions seem firmly shaped by the evidence:
(1) Disks, cylinders and similar objects of geometrical form, luminous quality and solid nature for several years have been, and may be now, actually present in the atmosphere of the earth;
(2) Globes of green fire also, of a brightness more intense than the full moon's, have frequently passed through the skies;
(3) These objects cannot be explained by present science as natural phenomena — but solely as artificial devices, created and operated by a high intelligence;
(4) Finally, no power plant known or projected on earth could account for the performance of these devices.
(p. 80)

They are not psychological phenomena ... They are not products of US research ... They are not a Russian development ... They are not distortions of the atmosphere resulting from atomic activity ... They are not all Skyhook balloons. (p. 94)

The ten UFO event reports included in the LIFE article, all from multiple or expert witnesses, offer speed estimates for the Lubbock lights made by multiple university professors and size estimates of a UFO seen by expert witness Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto. The double attribution of "artificial devices" and "created and operated by a high intelligence" is the "interplanetary" or extraterrestrial hypothesis, a fragile series of inferences, many of them not supported by available public evidence. It is nevertheless one of the earliest and most persistent explanations of UFO sightings both by visual witnesses and analysts looking at photographic or radar data.

Historical Military Secret. Both the CBS documentary and the LIFE magazine article set the context for a second contrast, this time between public knowledge in 1952 and a military assessment from the same era: the top secret 28 October, 1947 "Draft of Collection Memorandum" from US Air Force Brigadier General George F. Schulgen to the Secretary of the Air Force, known today as the ↆ Schulgen memo:

1. An alleged "Flying Saucer" type aircraft or object in flight, approximating the shape of a disc, has been reported by many observers from widely scattered places, such as the United States, Alaska, Canada, Hungary, the Island of Guam, and Japan. This object has been reported by many competent observers, including USAF rated officers. Sightings have been made from the ground as well as from the air.

2. Commonly reported features that are very significant and which may aid in the investigation are as follows:
   a. Relatively flat bottom with extreme light-reflecting ability.
   b. Absence of sound except for an occasional roar when operating under super performance conditions.
   c. Extreme maneuverability and apparent ability to almost hover.
   d. A plan form approximating that of an oval or disc with a dome shape on the top surface.
   e. The absence of an exhaust trail except in a few instances when it was reported to have a bluish color, like a Diesel exhaust, which persisted for approximately one hour. Other reports indicated a brownish smoke trail that could be the results of a special catalyst or chemical agent for extra power.
   f. The ability to quickly disappear by high speed or by complete disintegration.
   g. The ability to suddenly appear without warning as if from an extremely high altitude.
   h. The size most reported approximated that of a C-54 or Constellation type aircraft
[93 to 115 feet or about 28 to 35 meters].
   i. The ability to group together very quickly in a tight formation when more than one aircraft are together.
   j. Evasive action ability indicates possibility of being manually operated, or possibly by electronic or remote control devices.
   k. Under certain power conditions, the craft seems to have the ability to cut a clear path through clouds — width of path estimated to be approximately one-half mile. Only one incident indicated this phenomenon.

Schulgen based his memo in part on a 23 September 1947 letter from US Air Force Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining in his "AMC [Air Materiel Command] Opinion Concerning 'Flying Discs'," known as the ↆ Twining Letter (the signature page and distribution list are omitted in the facsimile). This marks the day that the United States military officially concluded that "flying saucers" were real "objects":

2. It is the opinion that:
   a. The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.
   b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
   c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors.
   d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive
[emphasis original] when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically or remotely.
   e. The apparent common description of the objects is as follows:
     (1) Metallic or light reflecting surface.
     (2) Absence of a trail
[exhaust], except in a few instances when the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions.
     (3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top.
     (4) Several reports of normally well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects
     (5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted.
     (6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots
[150 m/s or 345 mph] are estimated.

And almost three months after the reputed Roswell crash, Twining (section 2.h.(2)) also remarked on "the lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these subjects."

I personally don't see much daylight between the contemporaneous public knowledge and secret military information. What was being reported by news organizations to the public about UFO approximately corresponded to the important points of the top secret military communications about "the phenomenon". What the military knew the public also knew, within reasonable limits. This might be typical of the first public encounter with the unknown, when institutions of authority are candid about the lack of reliable information and explanations. But it didn't last.

Recent Military Knowledge. How do things stand today? Here we can examine a third contrast between the public facing admissions of the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" quoted above and the current military understanding that is not disclosed in the report. We have a recent example of this understanding in the 2010 ↆ AATIP USS Nimitz report by "Jonathan Axelrod" (pseudonym of former UAPTF director Jay Stratton) of the 2004 encounter by the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier task force with one or possibly two "Tic Tac" UFO (described below):

Key Assessments
• The Anomalous Aerial Vehicle (AAV) was no known aircraft or air vehicle currently in the inventory of the United States or any foreign nation.
• The AAV exhibited advanced low observable characteristics at multiple radar bands rendering US radar based engagement capabilities ineffective.
[NATO radar bands extend across frequencies from below 300 megahertz up to around 100 gigahertz; infrared is approximately from 1 to 100 terahertz.]
• The AAV exhibited advanced aerodynamic performance with no visible control surfaces and no visible means to generate lift.
• The AAV exhibited advanced propulsion capability by demonstrating the ability to remain stationary with little to no variation in altitude transitioning to horizontal and/or vertical velocities far greater than any known aerial vehicle with little to no visible signature.
["No visible signature" means it was not observed to recede into the distance.]
• The AAV possibly demonstrated the ability to "cloak" or become invisible to the human eye or human observation.
[Because the "Tic Tac" simply "vanished."]
• The AAV possibly demonstrated a highly advanced capability to operate undersea completely undetectable by our most advanced sensors.

Note that this report firmly concludes that the "Tic Tac" UFO is not a human technology ("not in the inventory of the United States or any foreign nation") while the ODNI pads its UAP categories to include both domestic and foreign human technology. But the most important fact is that the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" is intentionally and misleadingly vague when compared to the AATIP executive summary. This is a significant change from the early years.

And finally a fourth contrast is possible when we compare this military summary of UFO capabilities in 2010 with both the military and public understanding of the early 1950s — the Schulgen memo and the CBS report taken together. This brings an unexpected fact into focus: the almost complete lack of progress in our empirical understanding of UFO between 1950 and 2010, apart from the novel suggestion of a "transmedium" capability. This lack of any significant scientific progress in understanding UFO is one of the most remarkable features of the topic.

In the almost eight decades since UFO became a public and military concern and Kenneth Arnold created the imperishable flying saucer trope, we have learned essentially nothing new in official pronouncements or publicly available information about the nature, operation, behavior or activities of UFO beyond what was summarized around 1950 in top secret military documents that were based on only about one hundred UFO reports. Whatever else we might conclude from this, it clearly signals that impediments to our understanding exist. What those impediments are — secretive government, bad data, poor sensors, physical mystery or alien evasion — is the inquiry that comes after we acknowledge the problem. We must remedy our own ignorance about the subject before we can expect to make any scientific progress.

Other UFO Attributes. The five attributes already introduced by Elizondo are by no means all that have been observed. We glean a few more insights from other highly placed US sources, especially those (like Elizondo) speaking in public but not in an official capacity.

In a Fox News interview with an agog Maria Bartiromo, former ODNI director John Ratcliffe disclosed that:

"Frankly there are a lot more sightings than have been made public; some of those have been declassified, and when we talk about sightings we're talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots or have been picked up by satellite imagery that, um, uh frankly, um, engage in actions that are difficult to explain; that, um, movements that uh, that are hard to replicate, that we don't have the technology for, traveling at speeds that, you know, exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom. In short, um, things we are observing that are difficult to explain. ... There have been sightings all over the world, and, and when we talk about sightings the other thing I will tell you is, um, it's not just a pilot or just uh, a satellite or some, um, uh, intelligence collection, usually we have multiple sensors that are picking up these things."

Note the allusion to satellite imagery (a topic called out in the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act that is completely omitted from the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment"), the global range of sightings, the absence of sonic boom (both attributes of UFO documented since the 1950's), and the affirmation against doubters that multiple sensors corroborate the events. Note too that "unidentified" is never mentioned but "unexplained" is emphasized twice.

In an interview for the Washington Post, congressional correspondent Jacqueline Alemany asked whether UFO seem to be attracted to nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors on military ships. After expressing a peculiarly effusive gratitude for the question, Elizondo essentially corroborates the 1967 Malmstrom MT 16 March event or something very like it:

"Yes, that is, that is one of the concerns we have from a national security perspective, that there does seem to be some sort of congruency or some sort of intersection between these UAP or UFO sightings and our nuclear technology, whether it's nuclear propulsion, nuclear power and generation, or nuclear weapons systems. Furthermore the same observations have been seen overseas in other countries. They too have had the same incidents. So that tells us this is a global issue. Now in this country we've had incidents where these UAPs have interfered and actually brought offline our nuclear capabilities. And I think to some they would probably say well that's a sign that that whatever this is, is is something that is peaceful. But in the same context we also have data suggesting that in other countries these things have interfered with their nuclear technology and actually turned them on, put them online. So that is equally, for me, just as concerning. Um, I think that there is certainly at this point enough data to, to, to demonstrate there is an interest in our nuclear technology, a potential to even interfere with that nuclear technology ... " [emphasis in tone].

This issue is thoroughly aired in Robert Hastings's UFO & Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites (2017), which cites historical incidents from the 1950 to 1970 period that bear little on the current situation — and does no credit to his credibility by quoting (Chapter 1, pp. 35-36) the claim of "interplanetary craft" found in the hoax Schulgen memo. However, a 2015 study by Laurent & colleagues indicates a "surprisingly high" number of "unexplained" UFO sightings within 20 kilometers of nuclear facilities in France; and we have already seen the emphasis on nuclear issues in the 2022 NDAA. There, ironically, it useful to recall the caution stated in the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" that sensitive areas would produce "a collection bias as a result of focused attention, greater numbers of latest-generation sensors operating in those areas, unit expectations, and guidance to report anomalies."

Although this may be the most important concern relevant to national security, I tend to be skeptical of it primarily due to the human tendency to see purpose or motivation where there is none. It is useful to compare the evolving US government claims of "potential threat" with the May, 2006 UK Ministry of Defence report, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in the UK Air Defence Region that comes to exactly the opposite conclusion (ↆ Volume 1, Chapter 3, pp. 13-14):

Contrary to certain media suggestions that there is some sinister UAP agenda that there are repeated UAP visits to locations of national importance, no evidence has been found that RAF strategic sites are some sort of target at which UAP appear more often than over certain other areas (e.g. over highly populated areas or along air corridors). There is no evidence that regular or irregular repeat visits occur at any RAF site, strategic in nature or otherwise. ... There is, therefore, no firm evidence which points to the repeated presence of UAP at, for example, US or RAF strategic or tactical Bases (airfields), Army assets or RAF or Naval HQ or special assets (in particular, at nuclear assets, such as Faslane, Aldermaston, Capenhurst, etc.). [emphasis original]

The major hazard cited in the UK report is that near approach of a UFO might cause a pilot to make an unrecoverable evasive maneuver, especially during landing or takeoff.

There are other reliably reported attributes of UFO, in particular regarding electromagnetic emittance, that I discuss below. These are related to the potential "health effects" of UFO events that are called out in the Gillibrand/Gallego and studied as NIEMR effects by AAWSAP and that Elizondo has recently referred to as "the sixth observable." A NICAP summary covering fifteen years of reports (1948-62) indicates consistent physiological effects such as loss of consciousness, brief or prolonged paralysis, temporary blindness or irritated eyes, sensations of intense heat, superficial reddening or blistering burns, prickling skin sensations, and galvanizing "electric shock." In an interview with Curt Jaimungal, Elizondo seems to step back from the reputed "hitchhiker effect" or paranormal "contagion" that has attached itself to the UFO topic and points instead toward people who have been psychologically affected or "deeply and emotionally impacted" by a UFO event in a way that altered their outlook. The specific example he describes is actually the stress and humiliation of dealing with the blowback and stigma that is directed at a public UFO witness.

Military/DHS UFO Videos

These descriptive reports from authoritative sources have been supported by the limited release, with later verification of authenticity, of unclassified video and photographic imagery from the Department of Defense. In 2007 two unknown persons released a video of the 2004 USS NIMITZ event to the Above Top Secret web site. In 2017 former deputy assistant secretary of defense Christopher Mellon facilitated the release to the New York Times of two UFO videos recorded through the targeting systems on US Navy aircraft. The first, known as FLIR1 (acronym for advanced targeting Forward Looking InfraRed), was made on November 14, 2004 and first leaked on ATS ("Above Top Secret") by an unknown Nimitz crewmember in 2007; it contains no audio. The two U.S. Navy videos contain voiceover comments between the pilot and the weapons system officer (WSO, pronounced "wizzo") who operate the aircraft as a team. The ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" asserts that the radar and weapons systems involved — on which our national defense depends, I should add — "generally operate correctly and capture enough real data to allow initial assessments" (p.2).

These videos supplement a 16 December 2017 article in the New York Times about the investigations of UFO by AAWSAP/AATIP, a story brought to the Times by Elizondo and investigative journalist Leslie Kean (pronounced "Kane"). New Yorker staff writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus recounts this story in How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously that provides helpful background about the individuals and groups involved. Various media corporations have edited the three videos to improve the audio quality, delete profanity or insert subtitles, for example here. All three have also been converted into heatmap imagery, which shows some details more clearly.

2004 USS Nimitz 14 November event. The context of the FLIR1 video is described by retired US Navy pilot Cdr. David Fravor in an interview with vlogger Joe Rogan. He gives a first person account of the 2004 USS Nimitz 14 November or "Tic Tac" event, by far the most famous and inexplicable modern UFO encounter, and interprets all three Navy videos. One gets a sense for his quals both as a pilot and a squadron commander in this PBS carrier landing documentary.

His telling makes an interesting contrast to the clinically circumstantial tone of the "unofficial official" AATIP USS NIMITZ report made public through the efforts of investigative journalist George Knapp. The SCU has prepared an extensive SCU USS Nimitz report that contains additional witness testimony not found in the AATIP report.

The context is that the USS Nimitz carrier fleet was assembling about 195 km [120 miles] south southwest of San Diego for training prior to a war deployment to the Persian Gulf. During this training the advanced, 5 million watt AN/SPY-1 radar aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton repeatedly detected groups of about a dozen UAP that appeared at an altitude above 24 kilometers [80,000 feet] and descended in less than a second to between 8500 to 15 meters [28,000 to 50 feet] above the ocean surface and spaced widely over about a 260 square kilometer [100 mile] area, where the targets would remain stationary for a brief time before randomly dispersing at extremely high speeds. (The same behavior pattern — extremely rapid descent from an altitude above the radar threshold to very close to the Earth's surface, a prolonged hover in place, then a rapid ascent after 15 or 20 minutes, is also described as "a not infrequent occurrence" in NORAD radar observations from 1970.) On this morning a single observable was located about 110 km [70 miles] southwest of the carrier group. Concluding that the UAP were a recurring but unknown hazard to scheduled air training flights, the Princeton's radar Senior Chief Kevin Day requested an intercept to determine its nature.

Lt. Col. Douglas Kurth, commanding officer of a Marine F/A-18 Hornet squadron with the fleet who was returning from a training exercise, was the first plane tasked to investigate. From an altitude of about 3 km [10,000 feet] and a distance of 9 km [5 nautical miles] he saw a "white water" disturbance about 50 to 100 meters [150 to 300 feet] in diameter (about 4 to 7 times the estimated length of the "Tic Tac") but did not see the UAP itself; he returned to the carrier before flying over the site. He did not see the UAP, leading the AATIP report to conjecture that the observable may have cloaked itself, although a plausible possibility is that an erratically moving white object over ocean white water would be difficult to see at a distance.

When they were tasked second to the location, Fravor and his WSO were en route to a training exercise with junior officer Lt. Alex Dietrich and her WSO LCdr. Jim Slaight, second in command of Fravor's "Black Aces" squadron. Fravor and Dietrich were both piloting very agile F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets.

In the event, the observable was visually detected from an altitude above 6100 meters [20,000 feet] while it was performing rapid, back and forth movements over a cross shaped "white water" agitation on the surface of a calm sea, which Fravor compared with waves breaking over submerged rocks. (Although the origin of the "white water" is unknown, note that Fravor described the observable as very close to the surface, the surface resembled "boiling" water, and water can be brought to a boil by a rapidly alternating magnetic field.) Once the UFO was visually acquired, the senior pilot descended toward the target while Dietrich circled as overwatch. As Fravor spiraled downward the UFO seemed to notice his approach because it suddenly oriented lengthwise toward his plane and began to ascend, mirroring his trajectory like a matador circling a bull at a separation of about 1.5 kilometers [one mile]. At around a 3600 meters [12,000 feet] altitude, Fravor made an aggressive maneuver to "come close aboard" the ascending observable, but at a closing distance of about 800 meters [one half mile] the UFO suddenly "vanished" in the south direction. Lt. Slaight, observing from above in Dietrich's plane, testified in the SCU report that it "rifled off, out of sight in a split second. It was as if the object was shot out of a rifle." Both Fravor and Slaight describe the observable, nicknamed a "Tic Tac" for its resemblance to the color and shape of the breath mint, as "elongated or egg shaped, solid white, smooth, with no edges ... uniformly colored with no nacelles, pylons, or wings," and estimated in the SCU USS NIMITZ report about 14 meters [47 feet] long with 4:1 proportions length to width. (The AATIP USS NIMITZ report gives dimensions of 120 feet; in the Rogan interview Fravor states "about 40 feet." Other similar discrepancies occur throughout different narratives of the event.) When first seen at a distance of about 6000 meters, such an object would span an angular extent of about 7 arcminutes or 1/4 the width of a full moon, but at the distance where contact was broken off, it would span about 1 degree or twice the width of a full Moon in length and one half the width of the full Moon in diameter — approximately the visual dimensions of a 12 meter transit bus viewed from 700 meters [~⅓ mile].

"In seconds" a new radar return (either from the same observable or a second one just like it) appeared about 100 km [60 miles] to the east and was unsuccessfully searched for by the returning fighters. After Fravor and Dietrich had landed and reported the sighting, the still hovering target was approached at 110 m/s [250 mph] by a fourth F/A-18, whose WSO Cdr. Chad Underwood made the 76 second long FLIR1 recording in two different FLIR sensor modes before the target abruptly sped away (this is the 2004 USS NIMITZ video). In the Rogan interview, Fravor refutes the claim that this video was originally much longer, although he observes the resolution is lower, apparently due to "copying." (There is also a "secret" narrative attached to the aftermath of this event.)

The Navy Videos. On April 27, 2020 the U.S. Navy officially released two videos of "unidentified aerial phenomena" that were originally released unofficially (through the offices of Mellon and Elizondo) and made public by the To The Stars Academy in 2017. These have been nicknamed GIMBAL (because the observable appears to rotate in flight) and GOFAST (because apparently it does!). Both were filmed on the same day, possibly by the same flight crew, and I deisgnate them 2015 USS Roosevelt 16 January (1) and (2).

Both the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) and 2004 USS NIMITZ videos toggle between two different modes in infrared, and FLIR1 also toggles between medium and high magnification, which requires understanding of the imagery. WIRED magazine prepared a short video with former Air Force colonel Andrea Themely that helpfully glosses some technical points. Her analysis is that 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (2) was traveling at around 225 m/s [500 mph]; other more rigorous trigonometric analyses support an estimated velocity around 200 m/s or Mach 0.6, consistent with the reactions of the pilot ("Look at it go!"). An analysis presented by the NASA UAP Study Team concluded that the ground speed was closer to 18 m/s [40 mph] at an altitude of about 4 km [13,000 feet]! Note that the UFO in the BLK HOT image of 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (2) is much colder (white) than ocean water and therefore certainly not a bird and very unlikely to be a balloon.

The 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) video has been especially well and controversally studied. Two detailed analyses by Yannick Peings and Marik von Rennenkampff (here and ↆ here) in my view adequately address the alternate interpretation, in particular the analysis of low quality vs. high quality IR imagery. The full 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) flight path is presented in a stitched panorama here. And note that the UFO in 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) and in FLIR1 both display a distinctive "spiky" aura that in 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) appears colder than the observable itself. Travis Taylor explains the quality of the ATFLIR equipment used to record the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) event and the improbability it shows us a jet exhaust, especially as the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) observable was traveling at a leisurely 60 m/s [140 mph]. (See also the discussion here.)

NBC reporter Gadi Schwartz asked Elizondo whether the trio videos are "the only videos that you know of that the United States government has that shows unidentified aerial phenomena?" Elizondo replied (with a scoffing smirk): "No, absolutely not. These are probably some of the least compelling videos. In some cases, you know, we've seen these things fifty feet away from the cockpit." Seeing is of course not the same as capturing with a camera, so Schwartz's question isn't really answered.

A fourth video, PYRAMID, is attributed to an anonymous sailor standing on the deck of the USS Russell and filming with a handheld night vision camera; it shows an apparently triangular and flashing observable that was among a "swarm" of UFO flying at altitudes reported to be around 6500 m [21,000 ft] above the ship and impervious to the ship's antidrone capabilities. The triangular shape has been interpreted by many as a "bokeh" effect or geometric blur (the projected image of the aperture stop in a defocused image) in the image of a drone with flashing aviation lights. That interpretation has been strongly contested by witnesses at the scene (see below) and by Travis Taylor, who asserts that his analysis (as a PhD optical scientist) showed that the apparent shape is indeed an optical artifact (he merely disputes the term "bokeh" without stating what the "autofocus error" actually is) and that the frequency of the drone flashing is four times higher than the maximum allowed under FAA regulations. Regulations may or not be relevant to foreign national drones; my first question is why a "spy drone" from any military would signal its presence on mission with brightly flashing lights. I don't take a position either way because the video by itself does not indicate any unique or important attributes to distinguish a UFO from a UAP; but the dispute does illustrate the murk of technical analysis and absence of public witness testimony that are chronic difficulties across many other pieces of evidence about many other UFO events.

Three more videos, obtained by Jeremy Corbell in 2021, document different aspects of a single swarm event in July, 2019 around the USS Omaha and other ships off the California coast southwest of San Diego. The first 2019 USS Omaha 15 July (1) event shows several snippets of a video recording of as many as 9 simultaneous radar returns from as many as 14 UFO that swarmed the ship for about two hours; two of the radar returns simply vanish (t=12s), implying they had either ascended above the radar range, descended into the ocean, or initiated some form of cloaking. The 2019 USS Omaha 15 July (2) event shows what appear to be either two bilobed observables or four closely paired observables hovering at an indeterminate distance and joined later by a third, more luminous and more distinctly red light, all flashing in different patterns. (See also Figure 20e below and interpretation of the video here.) Note that the video appears to show either two different camera views of the same time sequence or a single view of repeated and similar behavior. During the morning of the following day, a third video 2019 USS Omaha 16 July shows a single, approximately 2 meter diameter oblate observable in night infrared optics (apparently in WHT HOT mode) that reportedly appeared as a self luminous form hovering near the ship for several hours before it "splashed down" into the ocean. (I interpret it to extinguish at the surface like a guttering candle, or simply to "vanish" in the air.) The authenticity of all three videos is confirmed by the US Navy.

Similar swarm events are documented between July 14 and July 30 around the USS Russell, the USS Paul Hamilton and the USS Kidd (both, like the Russell, Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers), and these events prompted the deployment of SNOOPIE photographic documentary teams, electronic countermeasures and "kill force" weaponry; the USS Kidd adopted EMCON or "emissions control" measures that reduced the electromagnetic emittance profile of the ship. These measures were apparently ineffectual against swarms of numerous observables. Although these actions are generally described as defensive countermeasures, they also served to test the response or reaction to the electronic behavior of the AN/SPY-1 radar, to anti drone electronic and kinetic weapons and to the turbulence produced by near misses with large caliber shells in a way that would provide important physical and behavioral information about the observables. These have been described (but not conclusively identified) as "drones," an interpretation that has been vigorously challenged (as with the "drone" interpretation of the PYRAMID video) in anonymous crewmember interviews reported by Jeremy Corbell.

Other Government Video. These seven US Navy videos add to five others recorded by government or military surveillance.

In 2019 the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the 2013 Aguadilla PRI 26 April event recorded by a skilled operator with a FLIR device aboard a DHS surveillance aircraft (DHC8 turboprop). The video shows an approximately 1 meter wide observable, appearing visually as a "reddish/pink colored light," that was tracked flying at an average speed of 32 m/s [70 mph] against the prevailing wind over Rafael Hernandez Airport (Puerto Rico) before slipping several times under water and either spawning or encountering an identical UFO moving in the same direction (t = 2:33; see Figure 15). In my view this is one of the most important and illuminating UFO records in the public domain and I comment on it further below (cf. Figure 3). An infrared cameo of the observable near the end of the event (image left) suggests it is not a clearly defined solid object, and the SCU AGUADILLA report provides a detailed forensic analysis of this event and explains why it cannot be a balloon. Former UAPTF chief scientist Travis Taylor explains the thermodynamic incongruity of this apparently transmedium UFO.

In 2021 a DHS recording of the 2019 Baboquivari Peak AZ 23 November or "Rubber Duck" event was leaked to Andy Marcial (along with 2021 DOUGLAS AZ); this shows a bilobed, asymmetrical and slowly oscillating form, at least as cold as background snow drifts in BLK HOT, traveling at about 95 m/s [210 mph] against prevailing winds in a circular path centered at 31.51° N, 111.43° W near the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness Area. The group discussion led by Chris Lehto, David Falch and others contributes a useful discussion of the IR display, the IR appearance of different targets and the conclusion that the rubber ducky is really a slowly waltzing Ice Swan. Michael Sailer, an experienced FLIR operator and instructor, argues from many contextual details in the video for a "cold soaked metallic payload hanging from an out of frame latex balloon" interpretation, possibly a drug smuggling attempt. Both Mick West and Peter Reali of SCU have contributed analyses that seem to agree that this observable is certainly "unexplained".

This event is another example of the expert analysis necessary to interpret UFO evidence; but it is also (like all UFO evidence) an insight into the reasons human scrutiny succeeds or fails to resolve the phenomena beyond the point of informed conjecture. In this case, the lack of witness confirmation of the video contents or context leaves important questions unanswered. The camera operator did not scrutinize the target with alternative IR or magnification settings, as would be routine procedure in the case where the target was a genuine unknown. And while the appearance and behavior of the object itself is certainly bizarre, it is also anomalous when compared to videos more confidently identified as UFO, which makes it an outlier in terms of interpretation or classification as a UFO event. This demotes it in my view to a UAP — uninterpretable due to an insufficiency in the data.

Journalist Tim McMillan published a third video, 2018 Picacho Peak AZ 6 November or "Longbow 281," a video recording of the helmet "heads up display" or HUD from a US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter weapons systems officer, shows three observables traveling at parasonic speeds with braking and acceleration that would produce, according to one estimate, over 70 g of inertial force. As they are difficult to discern, Harry Bridges has tracked them with colored dots to show their movements more clearly. David Falch provides a brief overview of the systems involved in this sighting and by comparison with bugs, birds, balloons or aircraft shows that these observables are probably none of those. (We should not ignore their immediate identification by the flight WSO as "three really fast flying jets up there," and the attentional arousal evident in his visual fixation on them up to the obstruction limits of his side window.) The three observables appear as a flight turning from east to south, performing various erratic maneuvers too rapid for conventional aircraft. By the hyperagility and anaerodynamic criteria, at velocities that exceed any drone, I interpret these as UFO. The fact that the pilot declares himself detached from the event ("I'm not looking up there"), makes the WSO the sole witness to the event (absent public radar corroboration), another instance of the surprisingly common UFO "sole witness" syndrome (e.g., 2007 TARBACA, 2019 BELLEVUE).

The 1994 Nevada Test & Training Range NV n.d. event displays hyperagility (hovering), anaerodynamic form and indifference over restricted military air space. It was recorded by contractor operators of base surveillance cameras and a copy was leaked to news media which vouch for its authenticity. The full 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE video, without image stabilization, is here; the extreme background flare is due to a direction of view toward the Sun. Michael J. Powell has authored a detailed, three page forensic examination of the video, replete with a plan and profile interpretation of the bizarrely shaped observable form. The linked video includes analysis and comparison to the 1991 Mexico City MEX 11 July event (cf. Figure 19d), also a hovering solo object, that was videotaped by at least six solar eclipse observers at widely spaced locations. (Compare the video linked to the event name with this one to see how the same UFO footage can be spun in different ways.)

A fifth video apparently of military origin, 2021 DOUGLAS AZ, shows an A-10 "Warthog" fighter making a close pass with a meter sized UFO. This video is discussed later as evidence for UFO oscillating movement.

Universal UFO Witness Declaration. A rather consistent UFO attribute is passed over in almost all discussions of the phenomena, except the notice by Bill Whitaker in the 60 Minutes segment linked above. It has nothing to do with the UFO itself but with the human observers. The event nearly always creates a state of witness arousal — disbelief, wonderment, excitement or confusion — particularly at first encounter and the initial interval of observation. In analogy to the photosensitive sensors on a digital camera, this is a form of glare or saturation: the cognitive and emotional limits of human comprehension are overwhelmed before they have time to adequately adjust to the situation. J. Allen Hynek in The UFO Experience alludes to this as the "high strangeness" of the most compelling UFO encounters — the events that cannot be explained by common sense or scientific knowledge.

US Navy pilots are not known for their excitable and unreliable temperament, but the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (2) and 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) videos are peppered with astonished laughter and exclamations: "Whoo hoo!," "My gosh!" "Look at that thing dude!" "Oh my gosh, dude!" "What the fuck is that?" "Look at it fly! Ha ha!" "Wow!" The exclamations, profanity and colloquial "dude" reflect a shift out of routine work dialog as air sentries and into the informal or intimate register characteristic of human play and the childlike excitement in witness of magic.

The essays in UFO: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record by Leslie Kean include comments from senior military officers, military and civilian pilots, radar operators, investigators and civilian eyewitnesses that all come down to the same universal UFO witness declaration. As Hynek observed (p.12): "In my experience interrogating witnesses one phrase has been repeated over and over again: 'I never saw anything like this in my life.'" The two police officers who chased the ↆ 1966 Ravenna, OH 17 April UFO by car for 60 miles agreed: "I never seen any thing like it before" and "I've never seen any thing like this in my life." The AATIP USS NIMITZ report authored by Elizondo's group concludes (p.13) with "They had never seen anything like this before and never again."

Labels for UFO Attributes

It would be handy at this point to have labels rather than descriptions for UFO aeronautical capabilities or performance — in particular the capabilities known in the ufologist community as Elizondo's five observables. I refer to these distinctive characteristics as "attributes."

Labels are more than a handy convenience: they necessarily focus our methods of measurement, our domains of factual knowledge, and our causal theories. The first task is to identify clearly an attribute that is consistent across historical observations and then specify exactly what is unique or informative about that attribute by the act of labeling it. This exercise strongly suggests that we must coin new words to describe UFO capabilities. And this whole exercise demonstrates again the influence of our words and concepts on how we think about the phenomena. Science terms in particular are tools to communicate concisely and unambiguously a specific definition or physical fact or abstract concept.

UFO capabilities are not quantitatively framed in the ODNI report or in its definition of key terms, and public discussion by Elizondo, Corbell, Ratcliffe, Rogan, Woolsey and the rest add to or remix the attributes, and meanwhile do not name the attributes but instead describe them (e.g., "has no obvious signs of propulsions, no wings, no control surfaces". At the same time the descriptions themselves change: compare Elizondo's statement of the five observables to 60 Minutes (linked above) with his presentation here. These are additional reasons to adopt a clearly defined and consistent terminology.

So what are we talking about, when we talk about UFO? I list as headers below the attributes that have been declared in public evidence since the 1950's.

"Speeds up to 13,000 mph," "700 g forces," and "Hover in winds aloft" [Location hover]

Two criterion attributes that have been recognized and quantitatively described since the 1950's are observations of high velocity and very high acceleration, both as a linear increase in velocity and as the radial force induced by a sharp turn. These are characterized in the recent literature as velocities up to 8500 m/s [19,000 mph] and g forces up to 7000 m/s² [700 g].

In addition to these attributes of great speed and high g force, there are reports that UFO can hold a stationary hover for two hours or more and "can move in any orientation relative to the wind or the Earth's gravity."

Finally, reports of near air encounters compiled by NARCAP indicate that UFO can also transit in any orientation relative to their direction of motion. And the 2006 UK MoD UAP report indicates "spinning" as the most frequently observed dynamic behavior, which I suggest below may sometimes be an illusion produced by flashing lights.

These attributes suggest concepts familiar to us, although we need terms to indicate that UFO capabilities are far outside the familiar range:

• hypervelocity for the enormous peak speeds that UFO exhibit;

• hyperacceleration to include (1) the demonstrated capability for "explosive" acceleration from a standing start (positive linear g force); (2) the capability to come to a dead stop from rapid flight (negative linear g force)

• hyperagility seems to include:
(1) a "low inertia" state or capability, as Elizondo describes it in the quote above, to "turn at a right angle" even at very high speed, which seems to indicate a lack of radial g force;
(2) the capabiiity for a sustained and precise hover that implies very large fuel or power requirements;
(3) the capability to orient independent of gravity or direction of motion during either hover or transit, which implies a form of propulsion that can project thrust independent of the observable shape or direction of motion;
(4) the capability of UFO to revolve or oscillate at any rate of turn in roll, pitch or yaw while in flight (cf. Figure 5);
(5) forms that are unaerodynamic and/or that fly in any orientation indicate a lack of aerodynamic drag created by the observable shape.

In these five conceptions of hyperagility I suggest all but (1) can be excluded or considered under a different attribute:

Attributes (2) and (3) appear more likely to represent some aspect of UFO impulsion.
I set aside (4) "spinning" as a perceptually complex attribute and the infrequently but clearly observed gyration and oscillation as a dynamic attribute because both spin and instability are (so far as I know) uninterpretable in terms of a causal theory about UFO "lift" or "propulsion".
Attribute (5) is observationally indistinguishable from the general concept of UFO envelopment. For example, 2013 AGUADILLA PRI appears to document a spatially stable "pointed" appearance around water (Figure 3) with an aerial tumbling orientation that appears to involve some kind of distorting refractive layer (Figure 18).

Hyper (1) means "exceedingly, to excess" in terms of our prior expectations of tolerable or achievable speed and acceleration within our current understanding of aeronautics. But what are our expectations of excess, exactly?

Velocity is measured in meters per second; 1 m/s equals about 2 mph. Current aircraft speeds peak at almost 1000 m/s (around mach 3) or 3500 km/h [2100 mph], and intercontinental missiles achieve peak speeds of around 8000 m/s (mach 24) or almost 29,000 km/h [17,000 mph]. I suggest doubling the lower end as a safe lower bound and consider anything between 2000 m/s to beyond 8000 m/s as indicating the scale of thrust between aircraft and missile necessary to produce it.

Acceleration is measured in meters per second per second (m/s²); and thrust is the force required to produce acceleration. Thrust is measured in newtons, the force required to accelerate one kilogram to a velocity of 1 m/s in one second. One newton applied to one kilogram produces about 1/10th g force, so 1000 newtons of thrust will produce an acceleration in one kilogram of 100 g's. Hyperacceleration is linear (not radial) g force. It defines basic outcomes from the mass/acceleration relationship, which means we assume a "vehicle" construction that is invulnerable to material failure. Thus a 9 mm bullet achieves a linear acceleration of 440,000 g's or 4.4 million newtons of thrust. The 1993 Gulf Breeze FL n.d. event illustrates the "explosive" linear acceleration UFO can exhibit.

Hyperagility includes primarily radial g force induced by rapid maneuvering. Human pilots will fall unconscious under prolonged acceleration much above 10 g's (although brief acceleration of 46 g's won't kill them); conventional materials science puts the Sukhoi load factor or structural stress on the aircraft at around 10 g's, so double that figure as a margin of error yields 20 g's as a useful lower limit for hyperacceleration, as no human would remain conscious inside it and no known aircraft could structurally withstand it. This amounts to 200 newtons of thrust per kilogram of mass. Of course load factor depends on aircraft construction but hyperacceleration of 20 g's or more is a plausible suggestion for a criterion upper limit for human biology or technology.

Hyperagility as a stable and persistent hover is documented in the 2021 ENCINITAS, 2021 SPRINGFIELD (Figure 24a) and 2022 Islamabad 25 January (Figure 18) events. 2018 PICACHO PEAK AZ illustrates hyperagility as rapid, erratic changes in direction and speed that imply up to 80 g's of acceleration. Finally, 2021 DOUGLAS AZ (Figure 5) illustrates the oscillation that observables often manifest as they fly. All these attributes appear to converge as evidence that there are no dynamic constraints on UFO behavior.

The alternative "hyperkinetic" suggests itself, as the Nimitz eyewitness reports describe the observable as abruptly reversing direction like a ping pong ball rattled in a glass. However, agility is an aeronautics metric based on the directional change in a flight path measured against the time or the flight distance required to achieve it at a given air speed; or the change in air speed within a given time or distance. Note that aeronautical agility suffers the same measurement problems as acceleration: beyond a certain point it becomes qualitative because of imprecision in the measurement of time and the spatial resolution of the flight path.

"Low observability", "cloaking", "jamming radar", "shining brightly", "blinking", "pulsating"

The third Elizondo "observable" or attribute is the capability for apparent cloaking or "signal management" in both the visual and radar bandwidths, as well as a visual or optical appearance that appears unclear or unstable. This is all evidence from radiometry and optics, two domains that uncork a surprisingly complex bundle of UFO attributes, including those NIEMR health effects mentioned above.

Known frequencies. The electromagnetic spectrum is conventionally divided into six frequency regimes, approximately defined as follows:

Frequency bounds (hertz)RegimeName
100105kilohertzlow frequency radio waves
105108megahertzhigh frequency radio waves
10111013terahertzinfrared rays
480☓1013750☓1013petahertzlight rays (visual)
10141017exahertzhigh energy rays (UV, X rays and γ rays)

UFO are known to emit across the entire EM spectrum. Erling Strand provides a few details about the electromagnetic spectrum of the Hessdalen lights, an electromagnetic discharge that has occurred over the past several decades in Hessdalen Valley, Norway, about 70 km [45 miles] south of Trondheim. These forms of UAP flux appear as powerful electromagnetic sources from the visual down to the 30 to 30,000 or kilohertz range that can produce mild sensations of vertigo. Both the visual spectrum and the lower frequencies can have either a broadband, "smooth" emittance profile (Figure 1) or a peaky, "LED like" profile of high emittance within a very limited frequency band. In the radio frequency range these peaks have been measured at about 80 megahertz intervals, vaguely like the chromatic keys on a piano. All this suggests that UFO are highly "colorful" across the entire EM spectrum.

Figure 1. Diffraction spectra of a visually bright, broadband and erratically moving Hessdalen light.

At the same time, Travis Taylor describes the measurement of an electromagnetic spectrum that emitted a "perfectly flat" (equal energy) spectrum from 5 hertz to 4 gigahertz, which is not physically feasible with blackbody radiation or radiation produced by quantum physics.

The electromagnetic spectrum is a form of radiant energy. As such, there are three difficulties with the topic of characteristic UFO emittance:

1. We understand UFO primarily through recording or imaging the EM radiation. – Absent publicly available crash remains, we observe UFO through an electromagnetic medium that we concede is measured only in discrete frequency bands, or unresolved wide bands, and that observation demonstrates UFO emittance is not consistent across all UFO or even within the same UFO (see Figure 18). This means our primary information about UFO is subject to potential biases or distortions or misperceptions that arise for reasons that are not known to us.

2. Our understanding of UFO electromagnetism is incomplete. – It is measured through military sensors designed to perform specific functions within specific energy bands of the spectrum; and it is sometimes registered only as radio interference or malfunctioning electronic systems or deviations in compasses, which is a poor indicator of the interfering frequency.

3. Electromagnetic waves can be produced by a large number of very different physical sources. – This means the fact that UFO are high energy EM sources does not tell us anything about the energy source itself. There is strong physical theory to equate electromagnetic emittance with power utilization but that does not constrain how that energy might be produced or stored. It is also unclear what part of the radiant flux is a necessary consequence of power consumption and what part is produced in order to communicate, evade detection, "jam" radar".

Radar "jamming". As a preliminary matter of language, Elizondo's claim that UFO "evade radar" and the legal implication that this is an "act of war" often attach to this attribute. I emphasize that these insert preconceptions that the military brings to UFO studies. The concept that UFO evade radar through some form of "signal management" is based entirely on an observed distortion in the reflection of radar returns. This distortion does not in itself indicate a conscious agent who makes the decision to deploy countermeasures against detection. That interpretation requires the concept of UFO as an occupant controlled adversarial technology: either the UFO "pilot" has jammed the radar as a defense against possible attack, or the UFO is using stealth to gain an offensive advantage.

But that is by no means the only possible construction on the evidence. The observed distortion might be caused by the physical properties of the UFO itself, refracted or wave shifted in some way that cannot be represented by the radar imaging software. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report explores this possibility explicitly as the effects of a reflecting plasmoid body, in the "Aircraft as a Charged Body" section of Vol.3 of the report. Even if we choose to infer an intent, the "jamming" may be peculiar form of refraction, much as convection turbulence creates heat shimmer and mirages. Or it may be an inability of the radar system to interpret the return from a bright/dark and "fuzzy" body that combines emitting, refracting and absorbing properties in paradoxical ways. We have clear analogs for that effect in the several visual records (e.g., see Figure 3 and Figure 19e) where "jamming" seems to be an inappropriate overinterpretation. The better term sometimes used instead is "low observability," which makes no claim about occupants nor their intentions to deploy an extraterrestrial military capability.

Military threat. The fact that UFO may or may not appear as radar returns has been known since the 1950s. It is difficult to know how much this depends on the radar equipment, the observing conditions or the UFO. BLUE BOOK contains a handful of cases where adjustments to the radar equipment changed the resolution of the targets, and UFO routinely disappear at the limits of the radar equipment, including strategic military equipment, so the radar technique and emitted power are a fundamental limitation on our ability to monitor UFO movement from and into space. This limitation was demonstrated in the three "unknowns" shot down on February 10, 2023 when NORAD radar filters were removed from radar data streams.

Over the eastern US seaboard recently UAP were undetectable or only appeared to be atmospheric or technical anomalies in the APC-73 radar on US fighter jets, but when equipment was upgraded to the APC-79 radar they were more clearly and consistently detectable. However, visually located UFO have been documented to be either detectable or not on radar since the much more primitive radar systems used in the late 1940s, for example in the Ted Stevens "foo fighter" encounter described below. This similarity in detection or lack of it that is somewhat independent of the type of radar technology suggests low observability is an inconsistent or variable attribute of UFO that can affect different radar interrogations in the same way and affect the same type of radar differently in different circumstances.

Duplicating secure comms with Sparks ID numbers 464, 476, 1257, and in ID case numbers 1203, 1205, 1547-49 and 1552 the response was to an encrypted transponder.

1203. July 16, 1957. Las Vegas, Nevada/N. Arizona. 1:56&%150;1:58 p.m. (MST). USAF ADC radar station 865th ACWRON, Las Vegas AFS, Angel Peak (36°19.1'N, 115°34.4'W), Nevada, Senior Director 1st Lt. Clifford E. Pocock, scope operator A/2c Walter Lyons, and control technician A/1c Armand Therrien, using the FPS-3A L-band search radar tracked an inbound target at average speed of about 6,200 mph for 48 seconds when it "stopped abruptly" and "remained stationary" for 12 secs to the ENE at 75° azimuth 85 miles range, N of Grand Canyon, then target headed outbound at about 7,000 mph on 85° heading over the last 72 seconds before disappearing at the radar's maximum range at 81° azimuth 224 miles range (near Marble Canyon, Ariz.). Target responded to encrypted military IFF transponder signals and transmitted encrypted responses. Similar occurrence two days earlier noted by night crew but none others in 2 years.

Another "jamming like" EM attribute is the frequently reported UFO capability to disable the electronic systems of nuclear missile sites and aircraft electronic controls, as well as affect the electrical operation of radios and internal combustion engines. An electromagnetic discharge or continuous EM field of microwave or radio frequencies seems implicated, and this attribute is not related to the behavior of UFO as it occurs both in flight and hovering near the surface (e.g., in FLIR1). NARCAP reports that all 57 reported encounters of commercial aircraft with the "fireball" form of UFO resulted in some kind of electrical or electronic malfunction in the operation of the aircraft. Similarly, the 1957 Levalland TX 2 November series of incidents were produced by one or more large, "egg shaped," very bright and heat emitting UFO. The Australian "General Intelligence" report on UFO (linked below, jump to p. 24) cites a large number of radio and vehicle electrical malfunctions, and NICAP compiled a similar list of electromagnetic effects from 1945 to 1963. Data from CUFOS (reprinted by Michael Swords and Robert Powell in their extensively documented UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry, p. 252) indicates anomalous spikes in these electromagnetic incidents in the fourth quarter of 1957 and the years 1967 and 1973. These indicate that "fireball" and ground hovering "spheres of light" are episodic phenomena and not a consistent attribute of the UFO population.

A final peculiarity is that UFO seem associated with US Navy guided missile ships — the USS Princeton, the USS Omaha and the USS Russell — that emit copious and rather specifically tuned, beamed and sweeping radio and microwave energy from the Aegis Combat System and AN/SPY-1 radar, or possibly with the frequencies generated by novel systems of electrical power. I propose a "bizarre connection" or "attraction" in UFO to certain electromagnetic sources or signals, which indicates that the EM spectrum should be both measured and probed at all practicable frequencies to understand the limits and temporal patterns of UFO emittance and sensitivity to environmental energy.

Emittance modulation. This spectral modulation can apparently produce either high emittance or nearly zero emittance within limited bandwidths across almost any frequency. In the visual, a narrow bandwidth produces highly saturated or monochromatic hues (cf. Figure 22). Note that a high flux that is limited to microwave and infrared can appear visually dark or black in daylight. The fact that "bright" and "dark" do not characterize two different types of observable is demonstrated by the change from bright to dark in a pair of observables early in the 2021 NEW YORK event (t=0:47). But even a daylight dark observable might appear gently luminous at night, when UFO are more often described as shining with an extremely bright white light, comparable to a gibbous Venus or the full Moon (visual magnitudes between –5 to –13). Assuming a 1 meter radius spherical surface viewed from one kilometer, an illuminance equal to Venus at its brightest (2.5e–6 lux) implies a luminance of at least 40,000 nits. Observables can also suddenly appear out of thin air or fade into invisibility, and the transition can occur abruptly: as both Cdr. Fravor and LCDr. Slaight observed, UFO can simply "vanish."

Across the visual, UFO emittance can appear as a steady light; as a regular pulsing or blinking; or as a nonperiodic fluctuation. The most commonly reported color at night is white, although UFO also display a wide variety of sometimes strongly saturated hues, in particular red or orange. Figure 2 (below) shows the range of hues in 2021 GLENDALE that in its chromatic pitch and temporal changes resembles a signaling function. Note that it omits entirely the "red" running light of aviation and produces a continuous scale of values toward the high energy end of the spectrum and along the saturation limits of the sensor. This spectral complexity argues against fixed elemental (ionized) emission lines as the source. A signaling interpretation is possibly consistent with Erling Strand's anecdote that an observable stopped blinking each time it was illuminated by a handheld laser. In any case, light can characterize the entire observable form or appear as discrete sources on a visually dark form (cf. Figure 22). Considering that the stimulus for "hue" is effectively a form of emittance profile; UFO may present recognizable "hues" as different profiles of not only visual but infrared and microwave emittance.

Figure 2. Range of spectral hues recorded in the 2019 GLENDALE observable plotted in the CIE 1976 uniform chromaticity diagram; color samples and approximate dominant wavelength at right. The left vertical alignment of points is an artifact of the digital camera trichromatic gamut.

All this is evidence that UFO are capable of emitting behaviorally distinctive EM signatures across a very large span of the electromagnetic spectrum. I suggest this very complicated picture can be summarized first by removing the unproven attribute of a "jamming" motive from consideration, then dividing the rest into two attributes: (1) full spectrum EM emittance to suggest an emittance profile across the entire 10¹³ to 10¹ Hertz spectral range; and (2) EM modulation to include the variable power emitted as total flux; the variable flux within any frequency band; the "peaking" of radiation within narrow frequency limits (as described by Strand); and the time course of power brightening or dimming, blinking or flashing, and eventual vanishing.

"Fly through air, water and possibly space", "No control surfaces," "No nacelles," "Move in any orientation," "Spinning" and "Flutter or oscillate"

This gathers together the various observations that amount to the conclusion that "this thing shouldn't be flying." It is a form of structural bafflement, an admission that the exterior form of the thing gives us no hint as to how it stays in the air or maneuvers in flight.

Anaerodynamic Form. The various forms of UFO are not "designed for flight" or aerodynamic: instead they have been described as a sphere, a disk, a triangle, a cylinder, a cone or isocahedron, a cube, a cube within a sphere, a wedding cake, a wheel with spokes, an ice cream cone or a dumb bell (see Figure 17b). They are most often lumped into five taxonomic shape groups — fireball (or ball of light), sphere, disk, triangle and cylinder (or "cigar") — a classification scheme originated by Project SIGN in 1948 and still used by NARCAP today. Only the "disk" potentially qualifies as aerodynamic.

These forms are not modified in ways that produce lift or control surfaces, and most are shaped and often oriented during flight in ways that are aerodynamically drag creating. UFO have been observed to roll, pitch or "tumble," yaw or rotate and flutter or oscillate as they fly, sometimes even at high speed. The 2013 AGUADILLA PRI observable seems to change orientation almost randomly in flight (Figure 18). Even the aerodynamically plausible disks have been observed flying with a flat surface forward, which seems to invalidate any aerodynamic purpose for the form. Control surfaces are flaps to direct airflow or vanes to control exhaust; nacelles are anything streamlined in consideration of airflow: there's a "nose versus exhaust" in terms of where it is likely going. With a fighter aircraft, this is easy to see; in a UFO, it is not. UFO can move as if in free fall, where any tumble or spin doesn't affect the center of gravity trajectory. This is why you cannot tell which direction a UFO is flying from a single UFO photograph.

But any large fluttering movements or oscillations in the flight path constitute a costly and highly undesirable flight performance. It is one of the UFO behaviors that has the greatest disconfirming implications for UFO as a machine or cultural technology. Physics is anchored in concepts such as energy minimum, shortest path, least time, and aerodynamic principles incorporate the principle of minimum drag. But even if we argue that envelopment insulates the UFO from the effects of atmospheric drag, gross flutter or flight oscillation is undesirable both for the energy requirements necessary cyclically to cancel a yaw motion with a yaw reversal and for the structural stresses created by those momentum shifts.

The point is that the term anaerodynamic or "not aerodynamic" also covers for now the performance attributes of oscillation or flutter that would be undesirable even the vacuum of space. Since we can't really explain why drag does not appear to be a consideration, we also have no way to explain why oscillation or flutter is not a superfluous cost unbecoming a "breakthrough technology."

Transmedium Travel. The fourth attribute, usually described as transmedium travel, refers to evidence that (1) UFO observed traveling in the atmosphere have also been observed to enter and/or emerge from ocean waters (as in the 2013 AGUADILLA PRI and 2019 USS OMAHA JULY 16 videos), sometimes at high velocities, and (2) UFO have been detected entering the Earth's atmosphere from altitudes publicly reported at 24,000 meters [80,000 feet]. Elizondo observes:

"And so, you know I I think the, there's there's two, there's two congruencies that we see. We see a, we see an interest in our nuclear capabilities and then we have this really bizarre, ah, what — eh, tsk! — I don't know if you'd call it an interest but there seems to be a connection with water, and these things have a av ah, have a tendency to be seen in and around water."

Unfortunately there is no public evidence to clarify or back up that claim, for example that UFO spend more time over water than over land. However we do have acknowledgement of the possibility in the congressional definition of a "USO" or unidentified submersible object" and in informed hearsay. In an interview with Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, Washington Examiner national security writer Tom Rogan injected a substantive commentary gleaned from the usual anonymous but well placed sources:

"There isn't anything that we have, top secret information, uh, about what Russia or China have, or what we have at Area 51, ah, that can do what these things do in terms of the variable performance. And I think specifically relevant to this video, uh, in the coming months and years an area that we will learn more about, ah, is the interaction of US Navy submarines, nuclear, uh — ballistic missile submarines and attack submarines — um, picking up sonar contact of things moving, um, at hundreds of knots under the water. Um, and so there is a undersea dimension to this, ah, that the Navy has sort of pushed off to the side as the pilots, ah, talk more about their experiences. So, there is a lot more to come out is is I think the best way to put it."

One hundred knots is about 50 meters per second, about twice the speed of a standard modern torpedo.

Because UFO also appear on or disappear from radar at high altitude, the inference is that they can and do travel in space, although we lack any public data other than reports that they "appear suddenly" in descent from altitudes of around 24 km [80,000 feet]. As context, the International Space Station orbits the Earth at an average altitude of about 420 km [260 miles], the Earth's stratosphere extends to an altitude of 50 km [31 miles], and the highest altitude sustained by military air breathing aircraft is around 27 km [90,000 feet]. Thus we only have public evidence that UFO display "stratospheric" or high atmosphere rather than "outer space" behavior.

If UFO operate at any higher altitudes then that fact might be revealed by military surveillance, mapping or weather satellites, and data from these platforms has notably been withheld by the Department of Defense despite congressional requirements that "geo-spatial" evidence be at least referenced in unclassified reports. A few astronauts, such as Soviet Colonel General Vladimir Kovalyonok, describe UAP encounters while in space, but all these appear to lack corroborating witnesses or sensor evidence. Otherwise, according to the 2006 UK MoD UAP report, UFO seem to prefer to operate at altitudes below 6 km [20,000 feet], although this estimate obviously may be biased by the observational limits of terrestrial visual observers.

UFO that travel for extended distances under water are termed transmedium objects or devices by the 2022 NDAA or unidentified submerged objects or USO in the ufology literature. Unfortunately the US Navy does not seem to have an established procedure to collect anomalous sonar data, and whatever data in the hands of Navy intelligence has not been publicly revealed, so it is unclear how far aerial UFO explain the under water observations and how far USO seem to be separate things. Submarine sonars are also limited in temporal resolution due to the much slower speed of sound under water (around 1500 m/s or 500 ft/s), which means that USO if they exist are probably poorly resolved. There is very little public information about USO beyond the hints from Tom Rogan (quoted above).

2013 AGUADILLA PRI is the best documented "transmedium" event in public view, and fortunately it was filmed by a skillful and alert camera operator using military grade equipment. The observable has a distinctive bilobed structure that seems to gradually fade away until the observable appears as an elliptical glow under the water. During this first, 5 second immersion this glow moves under water at the same speed as in the air and at one point appears suddenly to accelerate (Figure 3, dotted line), then it appears to drop back to the targeting marks as the camera operator reacquires it and it briefly reappears. Two more apparent immersions follow but the operator seems to lose the target in the longer, 11 second interval because he drops to lower magnification until the observable resurfaces just prior to spawning.

I think the first immersion shows sufficient evidence of movement under the water as a continuuous glow to confirm the transmedium capability, especially because the observable appears to surface three times along the same trajectory. A gradual fading occurs at the first disappearance (Figure 3, top), apparently due to partial immersion, yet there are no signs of either a bow shock or wake in the water. We also see (red frame) two cores of heat connected by an arc of heat that appears in both observables after the spawn event (Figure 15). The two subsequent episodes only show the observable disappearing from view, however this is insufficient evidence of transmedium movement, as the observable seems to disappear several times while over land (e.g., at t=86 to 94s) where there are no apparent ground obstacles to account for it.

Figure 3. Transmedium (aerial-undersea) capability in 2013 AGUADILLA PRI (BLK/HOT). Time reads right to left, the direction of observed motion. Box numbers indicate length of time the observable is apparently submerged; in the first episode the observable appears briefly to accelerate under water (dotted line), then is recentered by the camera operator. Green border indicates a low magnification image.

There are incomprehensible but well documented accounts of UFO impacting the Earth with a moderately energetic explosion and leaving a crater but no sizeable wreckage or crash debris (the 1946 Kölmjärv Spökraket). In fact there are no UFO crash remains or wreckage in public evidence, and investigated crash sites have only turned up bits of metallic slag. That might weigh in favor of a transmedium capability, or a UFO immateriality.

Optical Distortion. Across the entire terrestrial flight the observable appears to present "lensing" or funhouse mirror changes in shape, internal radiance and contour (cf. Figure 18)

The shimmering effect is reported in widely different cases, including the 1994 RUWA ZWE or "Ariel School" event where one witness student described the observable as appearing "like the Sun reflected in water poured over a large rock." In an interview with Navy Cpt. Tim Thompson, quoted in the SCU USS NIMITZ report (p. 11), LCDr. Slaight described the "Tic Tac" UFO appearance as blurred by a "thermal" border: the observable had "defined edges" but there appeared to be a "fuzzy or wavy looking border around the entire surfaces of the object. ... It looked like what the heat waves would look like coming off a hot paved road or what the carrier deck looked like if you looked across it when in the Gulf in the Mid-East." A witness to the 1975 Loring AFB ME 27 October event (quoted by Swords and Powell, p. 338) chose the same analogy: "The object looked like all the colors were blending together, as if you were looking at a desert scene. You see waves of heat rising off the desert floor. This is what I saw."

I advocate there is important information about UFO that is already in the public record but has not yet been clarified, and the "wavy looking border" is one of these. We don't know the distance separation between the Tic Tac and Slaight's plane, but assuming the smallest distance was when the Tic Tac approached Fravor's altitude of 3700 meters [12,000 feet] while Slaight was at 6100 meters [20,000 feet], then the angular separation or wavelength between the heat "waves" would have to be within the human limit of angular resolution, which is about 2 arcminutes. This implies a cyclic linear separation at 2440 meters of about 1.5 meters (or less, if Slaight first observed the "shimmer" as the observable was rising from the ocean). And this scale of magnitude seems to describe the same "heat wave" phenomena that is visible around the 2013 AGUADILLA PRI observable (Figure 13), which is estimated to be around 1 meter in diameter. 1.5 meters is a large scale physical change in the refractive properties of air, and this may give insight into the UFO method of propulsion.

The anonymous image analyst comparing the 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE and 1991 MEXICO CITY videos (linked below) found both of them to have a quality distinct from the shimmering: an unresolved "ball of cotton" indistinctness:

"When we looked at these images, ah we can't get the definition of the geometry that we would expect for objects as close as this one was to a very good camera. Uh ... the objects by nature are fuzzy, or undefined or unclear. This one was shot by a very expensive, uh, tracking camera, uh, on a very stable mount; uh, this one was shot by a hand held, uh, consumer video camera, and there's no difference in, in, uh resolution, and we find that puzzling, that uh, no matter how many of these images you get from whatever source, they all have that 'ball of cotton' syndrome or that fuzziness to 'em."

See Figure 18 for clear examples of this effect in 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK. The same "convection refraction" is visible as interior variations in the erratic movements of a tiny black dot in the 2020 VICTORIA MEX observable (below) at the maximum magnification, and as the scintillation of the high magnification observable in 2021 CALIPATRIA. There is a momentary "fuzzing" of the completely black observable in 1993 GULF BREEZE, only visible in the slow motion version, just before its explosive departure. These examples suggest that the shimmering effects may only be visible if the observer is not far away, perhaps a kilometer or two; if farther away, the predominant visual effect may be "fuzziness."

Related to these observations are the occasional reports of UFO displaying local magnetic effects identified by redirected compass needles or variometer readings (as in 1965 Laurie Island ATA 3 July), by magnetizing iron objects or soils in ways that can be measured later (ↆ 1992 Gulf Breeze FL 11 September), or by producing dark rings around the image of the observable viewed through a polarizing filter (1953 Yuma AZ 5 May). Magnetism is the complement of electricity in the electromagnetic spectrum. A rapidly oscillating magnetic field is known to increase water temperature to a boil, as was possibly observed as "white water" in the 2004 USS NIMITZ encounter. Magnetic fields are also associated with the polarization of light and the generation of plasmas.

This shielding is usually interpreted as a layer between the environment and the "vehicle." The 1948 Project SIGN Initial Report first raised the possibility that UFO might utilize some form of "intelligent application of boundary layer control," or the possibility that UFO might be "enveloped" in a boundary layer that reduces friction with the surrounding medium. Travis Taylor has remarked on a "bubble of cold temperature around each of these craft in the infrared video that we see". This is visually most apparent in the remarkable shape instability of 2013 AGUADILLA PRI (cf. Figure 18). These observations imply a relatively thick envelopment and, as a purely visual analogy for the microwave domain, suggest the kind of form that military radars are tasked to interpret. This might align with other capabilities that suggest a similar shielding from the environment:

• In the medium of air, UFO display hypervelocity without causing a sonic boom.
• in the medium of water they may be able to travel at "hundreds of knots" without cavitation.
• Witnesses describe UFO as moving without audible sound or with a low frequency hum.
• Witnesses describe UFO as appearing iridescent or shimmering
• Hypervelocity is observed without any signs of turbulence, incandescence from atmospheric ablation or the thermal plume from a propulsive exhaust.
• There is at least one credible account by a senior Peruvian military pilot (as published in Kean's book) of a military aircraft firing its machine guns at UFO without discernible effect.
• The SCU AGUADILLA study comments on the "lack of turbulence surrounding and trailing the object ... slipping through the air with minimal friction." Travis Taylor calculates that the power of "two Lear jet engines" would be required to move a "basketball size" object through salt water, yet no evidence of any exhaust or power expenditure is visible. (The more common estimate for the Aguadilla size, about 1 meter in diameter, would require about 16 times more power.)

So I suggest we have two distinct attributes confusingly described as one: a fundamental kinetic, chemical and thermodynamic detachment from the environment as an immaterial electromagnetic source, and a habitat that includes water:

• The better documented attribute is envelopment, which means no kinetic effects (bullets are harmless, there is no sonic boom, no bubbles of cavitation, we see them move weightlessly), no chemical condensation (mostly) and no apparent respect for thermodynamic laws (no ablation or propulsive exhaust, always) ... we get nothing except, in some cases, radar "jamming" or the appearance of glare. This all seems to be evidence of a kind of barrier or caul between the UFO and its environment that both prevents the disruption produced by travel through a dense medium and shields the UFO from damage from random collision or crash.

• The second attribute, periaquatic, means that UFO have a behavioral association with water and tend to be observed near bodies of water. Unidentified submerged objects or USO may be UFO traveling underwater.

Again, 2004 USS NIMITZ, 2013 AGUADILLA PRI, 2019 USS OMAHA JULY 16 and a hearsay anecdote from Cdr. Fravor are public record that some part of UFO activity is cloaked under water. But Tom Rogan seems to have misspoken, because the submariners still haven't been allowed to tell their story.

"Defy ... Earth's gravity," "No lift surfaces," "No visible exhaust" and "Hover for hours" [Duration hover]

The last of Elizondo's criteria is stated as "no obvious signs of propulsion, no wings, ... and yet can still defy the natural effects of Earth's gravity." Yet we learn from the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" that UFO can hover against prevailing winds for hours on end, implicating a continuous power output and potentially large energy reserve.

Again, these are descriptions rather than defined attributes, and several attributes seemed bundled together. I suggest the attribute comprises as many as four separate concepts:

1. an energy source (combustible fuel, batteries, fissionable material) sufficient to sustain hovering in place for several hours
2. a power generation process that transforms the energy source into the work of acceleration and lift
3. a pointing and modulation of the thrust and lift to produce a controlled trajectory in spacetime
4. a lack of aerodynamic surfaces for lift or control
5. a lack of visible exhaust or propulsion signature (other than high radiance).

In aeronautical terms, "defy Earth's gravity" is defined as lift, produced in conventional aircraft by lift surfaces (wings) or vertical propulsion (propellers on a helicopter). Forward motion is produced by thrust or propulsion. Lift can be simulated as buoyancy and thrust by drag or wind resistance, for example in the sideways motion of a balloon or sailboat, but these are ruled out by the observed UFO hyperacceleration and hyperagility. Some commentators invoke the concept of an "anti-gravity propulsion" but this assumes an understanding of UFO motive power that is both publicly unproven and (in our current knowledge) scientifically implausible.

Massimo Teodorani studied the Hessdalen lights for many years and has proposed a sentient plasma theory to account for their appearance and controlled behavior. In an abstract to the 2023 Limina conference he provides a useful summary of UAP "propulsion" that describe many details of the power requirements necessary for UAP emittance:

1. EM emittance in the optical does not conform to a standard incandescent or blackbody profile but can be both line and (often multi-peaked) continuous spectra.
2. Luminosity is sometimes very high and regularly or irregularly variable, as well as the color.
3. The UAP apparition is often correlated with pulsating magnetic disturbances and oscillating radio signals.
4. The UAP shape is often variable as well and it can change from simple light ball to geometric shapes.
5. VLF and UHF radio emission can show some anomalies which are not explained by manmade or ionospheric causes.
6. Radar signals are often intermittent and sometimes present with nothing in sight.
7. Night vision systems show often something that is not in sight or has disappeared from sight. ...

The most crucial question is if there is a correlation between: a) luminosities of up to 30,000 MW [megajoules], velocity of up to 12,000 Km/h or more and accelerations of up to 5000 g and: b) a magnetic field strength of 10 T £ B £ 1,000 T, assuming that in this specific case a Zeeman effect can be detected spectroscopically using a trackable slitless echelle grating with a resolution of at least R = 1,000. Considering that the predicted magnetic field intensity of ball lightning is at least a factor 1,000 less than these values, the main question is: what kind of flying machine is able to produce such a high magnetic field strength?

I prefer to ask where UFO get the power to produce such a high magnetic field strength and the power modulation capable of producing a thrust that delivers 5000 g's. For this unknown energy source (attribute 1) in the form of apparent power (attribute 2) I suggest the term impulsion. Impulsion means the observable is inherently "impelled" rather than "propelled," primarily because we cannot tell whether the movement is produced by a pushing or pulling force, or some combination of both modalities. Impulsion presents dynamically to an observer as highly nimble, hummingbird flight that presents as a weightless (gravity free) lift and an "explosive" (mass free) acceleration. But the point of the term is that we do not understand either the source of the energy or the process of power generation.

UFO often exhibit erratic, spontaneous and "impulsive" changes in speed, direction or altitude; abrupt, 90° or "zig zag" turns horizontally or vertically, and abrupt, "stop on a dime" deceleration. These indicate that the thrust vector must be shifted extremely quickly in any direction at any power. The extent of the capability is illustrated in 2004 USS NIMITZ, where the confined and rapid switching of the Tic Tac trajectory from north/south to east/west was "like a ping pong ball rattling in a glass." This maneuver capability seems to me conceptually separate from the impulsion attribute.

A second reason for a new term is that the impulsion appears to be inherent to the UFO presence, like a metabolic product, rather than generated like a combustion or particle jet. Impulsion also means "the movement of a horse when it is going forward with controlled power." I enjoy the possibility that aliens might be riding stallions of power and even more that UFO might be the animal itself. But the factual point is that rather small UFO have been observed to hover for hours yet do not seem to require physically capacious reserves of energy or fuel, or massive thrust generating equipment. The process of impulsion appears practicable in observables as small as 1 to 2 meters (2013 AGUADILLA PRI, 2021 DOUGLAS AZ, 2019 USS OMAHA JULY 16 and possibly 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK), which greatly limits the physical dimensions of the energy reserves and the power/thrust generating process. We may be able to disassemble, reverse engineer and duplicate some mechanism of propulsion, but impulsion might expire with the capture.

The third motive for the term is that UFO are characteristically profligate with their energy: they often radiate at a very high power in the visual and infrared. Neither do we see UFO stalled in the meadows or floating out of gas in a low Earth orbit. Whatever is the energy source of impulsion it appears to be copious and freely consumed. UFO often perform energetic flutters or oscillations in flight, scamper and jump (2018 PICACHO) in ways that would seem to result in enormous g forces and superfluous power expenditures — yet another observation that does not suggest an efficiently operating "vehicle technology".

Point Source, Beam & Plasma Emittance

One of the strongest points of evidence against the possibility that UFO are a natural phenomenon is the frequency with which they display discrete, colorful lights or beams of energy. At the same time, a strong indicator of UFO as a natural phenomenon is that many present an overall surface glow resembling a high energy plasma.

Many UFO either appear only as point source, blinking or flashing lights, or display what appears to witnesses to be a fixed array of point lights on its surface. Some visual reports describe illuminated "windows" or "portholes" along the side, famously in the 1948 Montgomery AL 24 July or "Chiles-Whitted" event. But fluctuations in light also apply to the entire observable or the form of the observable can appear to pulsate. The 1978 KAIKOURA film includes a smaller UFO brightening or fading from view (1:28), and toward the end there appears a single, more luminous observable (2:30) that either flashes or changes aspect at different rates.

Point Source Emittance. The significance of UFO emittance is unclear. In a few reports the lights appear to have a signaling character, as in the 2021 CARSON CITY video and the display recorded in this 2021 Glendale AZ 1 August event. The observable appears to flash through very high pitched (picohertz) hues in the green yellow to violet span of the visible spectrum which are clearly not within the standard chromatic limits of aircraft running lights. In 2019 USS OMAHA the reddish color of the pair UFO changes when a larger, more chromatic, blinking red UAP appears.

The attribute of fading and brightening, changing color, or fading out of view and reappearing at a different location nearby seems to be a repeated feature of pair interactions. This implies EM modulation as a signaling function. In many UFO reports, lights seem to outline a curving edge or mark key spots in a triangular or echelon structure (e.g., 1951 LUBBOCK, Figure 11). A Connecticut state trooper photograph from 1987 shows an arc of colored lights that may be the outline of a single observable or multiple UFO in formation (Figure 22).

Figure 22. Photograph of a UFO taken by a Connecticut state trooper near Waterbury, CN. Note the arrangement of four pairs of blue green lights separated by four triplets of red orange lights.

A strong chromatic content characterizes the light from some UFO, as for example in this 2021 Carson City CA 29 August event. The green and red colors resemble standard aviation running lights, but the irregularity in the lights (flashing vs. steady) and the rapid descent of the observable are quite unusual for a helicopter (the witness narration indicates that it was first noticed to descend from a high altitude). In some cases, videos of UFO only show the chromatic content in defocused images, as images limited to few pixels can be saturated into whiteness. In general, the colors of UFO are diverse. The most often reported color is white or yellowish white, red or red orange seem to be associated with some types of observable and green or blue with others; very rarely violet or magenta (an extraspectral color) are seen (but cf. Figure 2). Interpreted as blackbody correlated color temperatures, the series implies that the native range of UFO is disproportionately toward lower rather than higher frequencies, and hues from red through yellow and white can be explained by broadband blackbody radiation. However, human vision does not perceive saturated green, blue or violet hues in blackbody radiation: these require the emittance to be limited to the middle or high energy third of the visual spectrum, evidence of EM modulation.

Beam Emittance. A characteristic feature of some UFO reports (probably less than 10%) is the description of beam energy emanating from the UFO and directed either toward other UFO, toward the ground, or toward the observer (either in an aircraft or on the ground). In general these beams are described as brief or intermittent, filling a very small solid angle, and being intense but not so powerful as to cause burns or ignite fires. The evidence available suggests they serve different functions:

• in communication, as beams flashed between UFO, or as multicolor light displays
• as "jamming" or cloaking, for example Lt. Ryan Graves stating that the UFO appeared in his weapons systems as if they were directing a beam of high energy toward his aircraft
• as exploratory or investigative lights, as when 2020 VICTORIA MEX briefly illuminating the aircraft with a beam of light, or when the 1991 Liège BGM 12 March observable loitered over a nuclear power plant and directed a beam down one of the exhaust chimneys
• as the pathway or guide field for a smaller observable, often of a red color, that spawns from the larger one and descends along the beam toward the ground, as in the 1990 BELGIAN UFO WAVE as summarized by Kean (pp. 34-35)

The 1960 RED BLUFF observable (described here) had a very peculiar characteristic, as reported in Swords & Powell (pp. 295-97):

[The observable's] most spectacular features were two lights, one at either end, which could project a powerful six-foot diameter sweeping beam. The beams were red and had a peculiar character that was so odd everyone seemed hesitant to mention it . ... The light beam projected by the object seemed like what would be described today as a big, fat laser beam. That is, it did not spread out or diffuse "properly." But worse than that, the beam seemed to have an "end" to it. Even Carson, who was much the more verbal of the two officers, did not talk about this in the earlier reports. However, in a 1966 interview with [atmospheric physicist James] McDonald, he had become comfortable enough that he said: "Its beam seemed to extend out a distance in the air, and then to end in some curious manner that [I] did not understand then or now."

I believe we need to visualize these two "beams" as behaving like fixed appendages of an unvarying length that appeared to wave about in a downward direction like insect antennae. The authors comment that "Today there are dozens of other sightings mentioning this peculiar sawed off light," and in an endnote they tally 44 similar descriptions of "so-called 'solid lights'" in reports received from around the world. Once again the variation in UFO morphology extends even to a specific feature of the observable: as described across all reports, UFO beams seem to have sometimes a signaling function, sometimes an interrogating or sensor function, and sometimes serve a guidance or support function for the movement of spawned observables.

Beam energy. Many UFO have been observed to emit directed beams of high intensity energy, sometimes toward the ground and sometimes at the observer either on the ground or in aircraft.

The NARCAP report on the 2020 VICTORIA MEX encounter says that when the observable first appeared the pilots observed a signaling or scrutinizing light beam directed at their aircraft. Lt. Ryan Graves describes emittance from 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) as "almost as if someone was shining a flashlight, uh, down my sensor ... almost like something was shining at me, high energy beam reflected at me."

The occurence of beams is consistent with the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) infrared images that show an apparently brilliantly hot (black) target surrounded by an envelope of colder air (cf. Figure 12). If we interpret UFO as physical objects then a consistent explanation would be a very cold body emitting a very high energy beam only in the direction of the approaching sensor. The material temperature of the body itself could be deduced from the amount of the temperature drop in the air caused by a body moving through it at jet speeds, but I suggest it would only be possible in a body emitting almost no thermal energy at all and absorbing quite a bit of it out to a radius of several meters. This sounds like a blackbody cooled to microwave or radar temperatures with some structural capability for beam formation.

Plasma Emittance. A theory in current discussion is that the observables appear to be surrounded by a "plasma sheath" resulting from a high energy field. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report (ↆ Vol. 3 Chap. 1, p. 2) asserts that it's not a sheath but the whole form, that "the majority, if not all, of the hitherto unexplained reports may well be due to atmospheric gaseous electrically charged buoyant plasmas." These are said to originate in the local energy created by a charged dust from meteors that "neither burn up entirely nor hit the Earth." Distinct hues have been attributed by some to a "plasma" around the observable captured within a magnetic field, which would also account for some features of its envelopment and spectral profile.

This interpretation seems to have gained traction especially in the United Kingdom, as explained in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (ↆ Executive Summary):

12. Considerable evidence exists to support the thesis that the events are almost certainly attributable to physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere, mesosphere and ionosphere. They appear to originate due to more than one set of weather and electrically-charged conditions and are observed so infrequently as to make them unique to the majority of observers. There seems to be a strong possibility that at least some of the events may be triggered by meteor re-entry, the meteors neither burning up completely nor impacting as meteorites, but forming buoyant plasmas. The conditions and method of formation of the electrically-charged plasmas and the scientific rationale for sustaining them for significant periods is incomplete or not fully understood. (p. 7)

Unfortunately there is neither a coherent physical argument — maybe UFO are due to "more than one set of weather" conditions, maybe they're due to "meteor re-entry" — nor a sufficient explanation of observed UFO behavior in this hypothesis. How do plasmas formed of meteor dust evade pursuit by military aircraft (Figure 38), fly in formation (Figure 11), hover "as if looking for something," spawn new observables, swarm in balletic or coordinated patterns, or swarm around guided missile ships? We do not even have a physical theory for the formation of ball lightning, a relatively less controversial phenomenon than UFO but one that some scientists believe is a hallucination (or "luminous perception") created by the magnetic discharge of a lightning strike acting on the visual cortex of the brain. The same hypothesis is used elsewhere in the UK report as a possible explanation for some UFO sightings (Vol.2 Part Q), but the report also found that UFO reports did not correlate with reports of thunderstorms, and therefore "many ... UAP must be caused by something else" (Vol.1, p. 21). That "something else" must consist of two things: an energy resource that can be transformed into propulsion (impulsion), and a structural complexity that can support both geospatial hover and pursuit evasion (control).

In any case, the envelopment around many UFO is on the whole cold: it appears such in the BLK HOT images of 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) or 2013 AGUADILLA PRI, and Strand describes a light that was observed to make an impression in snow without melting it. Temperature is one fact against the plasmoid theory, unless the reach is for "cold plasmas" produced by esoteric technologies such as magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) propulsion. The difficulty here is the implied direct link between a propulsion discharge and an emittance, which means changes in UFO color should transparently indicate changes in propulsion output and therefore correlate with visible changes in behavior. Instead, it is common to see changes in UFO color that do not correspond to changes in motion (2019 USS OMAHA (2), 2020 BOSSIER CITY, 2019 GLENDALE) and changes in motion in UFO of a constant color. And if the plasma is not a discharge directly related to the system of propulsion, then why is it there? The plasma theory seems actually to require three theories: a physical theory to account for the existence of the plasma, another to account for the source of an accelerating and braking propulsion, a third to account for flight dynamics that display evidence of control.

Another claim made for the plasma theory is that the plasma creates the UFO color. But how? Atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen produce a characteristic bluish air glow seen around lightning or nuclear radiation, so ionized "noble" gases would be the alternate source of UFO color — but these gases are extremely rare in our atmosphere. Do UFO move around within a bubble of neon plasma?

These objections do not rule out the possibility that a plasma envelops some observables; but it is a difficulty for the hypothesis that plasma envelopment is a necessary or common UFO attribute or can be the source of the sometimes strongly saturated UFO luminance.

Other capabilities

The tremendous speeds and anaerodynamic orientation that UFO can display raises the question of how flight is controlled to avoid orographic obstacles and to execute complex maneuvers such as shadowing aircraft, dodging near air collisions, outmaneuvering pursuing military planes, or hovering stationary against displacing winds. We don't know the physical origin of impulsion, but we observe that it can be directed and modulated in ways that indicate it is under a reactive (sensor assisted and tactically coherent) control.

At velocities of 8500 m/s [19,000 mph] or an equivalent acceleration, controlled maneuvers would seem to require a very large, high resolution sensor space and continuous information about location and dynamic trajectory in order to avoid collisions with landscape, buildings, birds, drones or aircraft. Yet UFO consistently do not appear to have sensing structures such as antennae, receivers, windows or sensor ports. And the fact that UFO can tumble, rotate or "helicopter" during flight would require the sensory field to extend very far in all directions and adjust for changing orientation as well. We lack here a basic picture of the UFO Umwelt or "experience world."

Control generally requires an intelligence or guidance programming that has an objective, but we don't know what objective the intelligence or programming of UFO is trying to achieve. In fact, I argue the possibility that UFO are not very intelligent and may not have a collective purpose. We see control in a robotic vacuum cleaner; intelligence is something closer to problem solving. But the problems we see UFO solving are not very complex. When they are encountered by military aircraft they seem to choose the simplest and most effective solution: evasion and retreat. At the same time, we can't think of a logical reason why UFO would create hazards by violating restricted airspace, why they would shadow planes or weather balloons or hover over nuclear missile silos. What to make of the repeated pilot statements that UFO were "toying" with them (for example, by appearing immediately at secret coordinates)? This concern is directly raised by many commentators, such as Jeremy Corbell's "intent of the operators" quoted above. I discuss the issue of UFO "intelligence" below, and I describe there the basic human tendency to see mind and intent even in inanimate motion. We have to be aware of our own attributional biases when we interpret UFO behavior.

In addition, UFO show a primitive form of social behavior in the observed ways that UFO interact, for example to form stable formations or pairings known as flights, to gather or swarm in a single place for an extended period, or to splt or join in spawn events. Otherwise UFO do not seem to gather or "roost" together in any terrestrial location, although they are observed to descend in groups from high altitude, a behavior pattern clearly documented in 2004 USS NIMITZ but also observed in early reports such as the Schulgen memo (2g) and 1952 WASHINGTON DC. This implies that UFO form up at high altitude before descending on a common signal to the same location. Solitary UFO are most often observed as they hover, transit, or "explore" through a complex sequence of behavior acts, which typically concludes with a high velocity escape — up, up and away. So our ability to characterize the social relationships among UFO is unclear. We can say with high confidence that UFO lack the mutualism of nurture or collective defense, but they do display a dispositional behavior or pattern of doing characteristic things in characteristic ways.

A recently popular theme in ufology is that UFO are "interdimensional" in some metaphorical sense — inhabiting a different plane of reality, bending spacetime, zipping through wormholes — the exact physical mechanism being proposed is not clearly defined in my view. It has been very difficult to find video evidence to substantiate this claim, but a single record that seems to correspond is this 2023 Newport Beach CA 28 August event (view fullscreen), a detail from a downloaded Surfline camera used by surfers. This shows a one second, distant flash of light (t=0:02), then the appearance of a small cloud (0:04), which spawns a spherical, metallic "orb" that disappears immediately into a second cloud and then, a moment later, reverses direction — appearing out of the second cloud and disappearing into a third cloud that appears in the same location as the first. Some comments suggest these are common video artifacts caused by a rapidly flying bird. Certainly some image distortion is recognizable in the stuttering motion and flattened shape of the observable (in the enlarged view at around 0:25), but i don't see the bird elsewhere before or after, and I find it implausible that a transient motion artifact creates persisting clouds in a video stream, or creates a cloud ahead of the observable that it then flies into.

A widely observed but poorly understood aspect of the UFO phenomenon has already been described as witness arousal and the universal UFO witness declaration. That topic gets the next chapter. Apparently health effects are known that resemble radiation poisoning, near infrared microwave burns, cardiovascular arousal, cognitive disorientation, and emotional states such as fear or wonderment. These can characterize a UFO sighting as reliably as any signature hyperagility.

Despite a very small number of military reports involving intercept and pursuit, there are effectively no reports that describe UFO as provocative or aggressive toward aircraft. UFO have demonstrated a limited fixation on human flying objects or structures on the ground. They have approached and shadowed high altitude balloons and long haul aircraft from WW II to the present day (2020 VICTORIA MEX). There is anecdotal evidence that certain military installations and US Navy ships have also attracted UFO — nuclear facilities especially in the period 1950-1975, and US ships in the last two decades.

Setting aside the truly murky topic of "alien abduction" as a separate issue (discussed below) and focusing only on the aerial phenomena, the totality of UFO reports paints a fairly clear picture of observables behaving in ways similar to those in the 2004 USS NIMITZ encounter. They seem not to seek out human contact or solicit human attention; they evade or escape human attention when it is initiated as an aircraft intercept or radar interrogation; but otherwise they hover and migrate as they choose, very often dropping from high altitude for a few hours of sojourn near the surface. They seem to move without regard for the possibility of public notice or the clutter of urban airspace, and the are capable of controlled speeds that minimize visual detection at altitudes that avoid conflict with commercial aircraft.

The 2013 AGUADILLA PRI observable appeared over the ocean north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and flew directly south at about 45 m/s [100 mph] over the beach. The video begins as the observable passes over a residential area north of the airport, then traverses the Rafael Hernandez Airport runways at low altitude (t = 0:16) to an undeveloped area south of the airport (0:27) while making a slow turn to the east. Then it turns sharply north, flies back over the airport runways (1:04), the residential area (1:24) and beach (1:54) and returns to the sea, where it skims in and out of the waves, splits into a mirror pair, and disappears.

What does behavior like that suggest about the UFO/human relationship? It seems to me most likely that UFO violate restricted airspace or ignore national boundaries or conflict with commercial air travel because they lack awareness that such behavior is not allowed in human custom or law. Concern would also be absent if the concept of a human restriction was known but disparaged, or known but misunderstood, but these overinterpret the simple fact that such restrictions are not observed by UFO. Instead, human and UFO seem to interact along the same behavioral lines as bathers and shorebirds at the beach. Each is perfectly content to go about its business without the other and each accommodates the other through avoidance, including taking wing if necessary. I think the best characterization of how UFO utilize the control attribute toward the human species is indifference.

Twelve UFO Attributes

By relabeling two of the "five observables," analyzing the other three into two or three attributes, and adding the two attributes that everyone mentions but nobody uses as a criterion (indifference to restricted airspace or national boundaries, arousal in human witnesses), we end up with a UFO criterion profile of twelve attributes:

• Hypervelocity: Recorded speeds from 0 to at least 8,500 m/s (25 times the speed of sound)
• Hyperacceleration: Linear g force up to at least 700 g (7000 m/s²)
• Hyperagility: Extreme radial g force; hovering; orientation independent of motion or gravity
• Full spectrum EM emittance: Electromagnetic signals detected from extremely low frequency (decahertz), through microwave (gigahertz), infrared (terahertz) and the visual (petahertz), with some evidence of gamma ray emittance (exahertz).
• EM modulation: Time course of emittance within limited frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum
• Envelopment: No sound, no sonic boom, no ablation, "fuzzy" or refractive enclosure, self luminous surface, submersible with no cavitation
• Anaerodynamic: Form lacks lift or control surfaces; can be high drag (spherical); spinning or fluttering in flight
• Impulsion: Unknown source of both radiant power and a kinetic (lifting, impelling and braking) power; operates without thermodynamic intake or exhaust
• Control: Situationally reactive and autonomously "dispositional" changes in orientation and/or motion
• Periaquatic: Tendency to be seen in and around water
• Indifference: Overall interaction pattern in relation to human presence or behavior
• Witness effects: Strong cognitive, emotional and physiological effects on witness, depending on distance and duration of event and social consequences of stigma.

This is a bit much, as attributes go, but it still doesn't capture the full behavioral spectrum of UFO events, the things we see UFO doing, separate from the individual capabilities of a UFO. These include imputed sensory capabilities observed as "exploratory" behavior and collision or crash avoidance, and the lack of cultural behavior defined as any consistency or purpose of activity.

At minimum, the exercise of translating descriptions into labels illustrates the difficulties we encounter when we conceptualize through labels the attributes of inexplicable phenomena, and UFO are most certainly unexplained. The labels I adopt in this review are only intended to remove assumptions and point explicitly: for that purpose they do not need to be definitive. UFO are often described as almost instantaneously "vanishing" from view: is this an extreme instance of hyperacceleration, or a form of electromagnetic modulation (cloaking in the visual)? Is hovering in exactly the same location regardless of wind an example of hyperagility or of control, or both? How do we interpret envelopment — as a shielding from our spacetime environment or as an immateriality that can pass through any matter?

It also makes us think carefully about our words as they apply to novel phenomena. These and other UFO attributes are still outside our understanding and athwart the historical distinctions of our scientific, military and technical cultures. All we can do at present is describe observed appearances and effects. We very likely will innovate new concepts and new metrics to describe what we witness. At the same time, the attempt to define a more specific criterion list has brought what I believe are the confirmed, persistent and distinctive UFO attributes into sharper focus.

Witness Effects

As with other aspects of UFO research, there is no customary language to talk about the effects of UFO interactions with human. Recently, however, the US Congress has twice written law mandating the study of the "health-related effects for individuals" that may be caused by UFO/human interactions.

The appearance of a UFO typically causes disbelief, wonderment, excitement or confusion, particularly at first encounter and during the initial moments of observation. These effects have been described since the 1960's and as documented in Hynek's The UFO Experience and the NICAP report ↆ The UFO Evidence.

Biologists define communication as behavior in one organism that causes a change in the behavior of another organism, and in the wildlife approach UFO/human communication is already empirically well established. We see it when hovering UFO evade military intercepts by subtle evasion or instantaneous retreat: the human behavior causes a change in the UFO behavior. But there has been a general failure to examine the UFO behavior that changes human behavior, except by the military — which determined that the influence of UFO behavior on human behavior was a threat to national security.

Four Stages of UFO Recognition. I think it is useful to examine the physiology of UFO observation as it involves four progressive stages of witness psychological involvement.

The principal feature of the first stage of the witness encounter is the attention fixation produced by a sudden flash or flicker in the corner of the eye, the peripheral notice of a meteorlike streak, or an unusually bright star, or a peculiar cloud or moving shadow. An infrequent but well documented testimony is that a UFO witness feels strangely compelled "to look up" (in this video: "Something told me to stop and look up" t=1:15). Attention fixation interrupts and pauses the person's ongoing activity and provokes a visual scrutiny to answer the arousal question, what is that? A precise description of this initial stimulus is very poorly probed or recorded in the UFO literature, and is usually abbreviated as, for example, "I looked up and saw..." or "We noticed ...."

This initial attention often produces a misrecognition such as "at first I thought it was" or "it looked like" something familiar or easily put into words. This is because first impressions cause a kneejerk identification, and an interval of recognition scrutiny follows where attention is consciously focused on the observable in order to find appearance clues that allow for a better or conclusive identification. This conclusive identification is a concept of the nature of the thing that explains the various ways that it can affect or interact with other things.

This recognition scrutiny culminates in the confirmation that the appearance is unexplainable, inexplicable, described by J. Allen Hynek as the perception of strangeness, the surprise if not shock of "I never saw anything like that before in my life." This produces a witness arousal that manifests in different ways, but many witnesses report cardiopulmonary arousal and distortions of time. This arousal becomes more or less acute as the event unfolds and depending on the spatial proximity and strangeness of the encounter, discussed below.

Corresponding to the continued scrutiny of the observable is the emergence of a recognition analogy, the categorization of the observable that has the greatest resemblance to common experience. This is possible even when the event falls in the category of things "I never saw before in my life". The recognition analogy is an "insightful" or involuntary description of the UFO as a certain kind of something. This "something" in turn implies a variety marvelous, alien, threatening, hazardous, suspicious, trespassing, invasive qualities.

At this point the recognition analogy usually resolves either as the decision to keep observing the UFO, for example to move to a better viewing position or pursue a moving observable in a car or plane; or the decision to ignore, retreat or shelter from the object.

At some point we reach the event conclusion. This occurs as a result of the behavior of the UFO (a rapid ascent, disappearance behind structures or clouds), external events independent of the observer's intentions (the observer is riding in a vehicle that turns away from the observable), observer circumstances such as fatigue, disinterest or distraction, or sensor limitations such as loss of focus or battery power.

Physiological & Behavioral Arousal. For witnesses who are in a moving car, a key decision is made when the driver pulls over and stops. This generally indicates a significant witness arousal. Here is the witness statement from the 1960 Red Bluff CA 13 August event. Two Highway Patrol officers observed a completely silent, football shaped UFO for two hours in the careful manner of ethologists stalking a wild animal. Their contemporaneous report is worth quoting at length (inserting later comments in a letter from Carson to a NICAP investigator), as it illustrates the full progression of witness arousal:

Officer [Stanley] Scott and I [A] [Officer Charles A. Carson] were E/B [east bound] on Hoag Road, east of Corning [a town in California about 20 miles south of Red Bluff and 100 miles north of Sacramento], looking for a speeding motorcycle when we saw what at first appeared to be a huge airliner dropping from the sky. The object was very low and directly in front of us. We stopped and leaped from the patrol vehicle in order to get a position on what we were sure was going to be an airplane crash. From our position outside the car, the first thing we noticed was an absolute silence. (There were no clouds or aircraft visible.) Still assuming it to be an aircraft with power off, we continued to watch until the object was probably within 100 feet to 200 feet [30 to 60 meters] off the ground, when it suddenly reversed completely, at high speed, and gained approximately 500 feet [150 meters] altitude. There the object stopped. [B] At this time it was clearly visible to both of us. It was surrounded by a glow making the round or oblong object visible. (The object was shaped somewhat like a football, the edges or I should say outside of the object were clear to us ... [the] glow was emitted by the object, was not a reflection of other lights. The object was solid, definitely not transparent. At no time did we hear any type of sound except radio interference.) At each end, or each side of the object, there were definite red lights. At times about five white lights were visible between the red lights. As we watched the object moved again and performed aerial feats that were actually unbelievable. (The object was capable of moving in any direction. Up and down, back and forth. At times the movement was very slow. At times it was completely motionless. It moved at high (extremely) speeds and several times we watched it change directions or reverse itself while moving at unbelievable speeds.) [C] At this time we radioed Tehama County Sheriff's Office requesting they contact local radar base. The radar base confirmed the UFO – completely unidentified.

[D] Officer Scott and myself, after our verification, continued to watch the object. On two occasions the object came directly towards the patrol vehicle; each time it approached, the object turned, swept the area with a huge red light. Officer Scott turned the red light on the patrol vehicle towards the object, and it immediately went away from us. We observed the object use the red beam approximately 6 or 7 times, sweeping the sky and ground areas. The object began moving slowly in an easterly direction and we followed. (We made several attempts to follow it, or I should say get closer to it, but the object seemed aware of us and we were more successful remaining motionless and allow it to approach us, which it did on several occasions.) We proceeded to the Vina Plains Fire Station where it was approached by a similar object from the south. It moved near the first object and both stopped, remaining in that position for some time, occasionally emitting the red beam. Finally, both objects disappeared below the eastern horizon. [E] We returned to the Tehama County Sheriff's Office and met Deputy Fry and Deputy Montgomery, who had gone to Los Molinos after contacting the radar base. Both had seen the UFO clearly, and described to us what we saw. The night jailer also was able to see the object for a short time; each described the object and its maneuvers exactly as we saw them. We first saw the object at 2350 hours and observed it for approximately two hours and 15 minutes. Each time the object neared us we experienced radio interference. We submit this report in confidence for your information. We were calm after our initial shock, and decided to observe and record all we could of the object.

The entire event can be broken into stages, documenting [A] "initial shock" and misrecognition, recognition scrutiny and perceived strangeness of the observable; [B] description of the appearance of the observable; [C] confirmation of the reality of the observable; [D] passive observation of the observable and its behavior up to its disappearance; [E] post incident corroboration and location of witnesses. The radar confirmation was officially repudiated the next day and the civilian officers were denied their request to interview the radar operator.

This report is famous for the strangeness described, but it is also evidence for the human response to a UFO event. "We saw what at first appeared to be a huge airliner" marks the attention fixation and first interpretation; both "leaped from the patrol vehicle" and prepared for an impact, suggesting a high level of arousal during the recognition scrutiny. The cognitive shock that occurred when they observed the "airplane" immediately reverse course and shoot upward is not noted, but it surely induced amazement and fascination described as "our initial shock". After they verified that the observable was not an airplane, the two officers make a classification response to follow the observable for as long as practicable, primarily focusing on the UFO attributes rather than their activities. The event ends when the observables disappear "below the eastern horizon."

As we find in nearly all similar "high strangeness" cases analyzed by Project BLUE BOOK after the Robertson Panel in 1953, the official explanation was twice botched. The first official explanation was that the officers witnessed a temperature inversion that caused "refraction of the planet Mars and the bright stars, Aldebaran and Betelgeuse," both red. When it was discovered that all three celestial objects were below the horizon at the place and time of the event, the refraction light was attributed to the star Capella, a middling bright white star. Responding to this evident disparagement, Carson told NICAP:

(I served 4 years with the Air Force, I believe I am familiar with the Northern lights, also weather balloons. Officer Scott served as a paratrooper during the Korean War. Both of us are aware of the tricks light can play on the eyes during darkness. We were aware of this at the time. Our observations and estimations of speed, size, etc. came from aligning the object with fixed objects on the horizon. I agree we find it difficult to believe what we were watching, but no one will ever convince us that we were witnessing a refraction of light.)

Contrast that "trustworthy witness" and "multiple witnesses" and "multiple sensor" (radar, radio and visual) official report with this anonymous testimony from a Selma, Alabama resident, included in the Murrow CBS broadcast (t = 12:53). This is a witness who did not stop the car and get out to observe, and therefore displays a fundamentally lower state of attention fixation and recognition scrutiny and possibly only an esthetic classification response that seems vaguely linked to religious feeling:

"We were riding along the open country, and had been odser— observing a very beautiful sunset. And uh, as the sun dipped over the western horizon ... I looked to my right. And there in the sky were three, small lights which to me appeared to be, three very small clouds. I looked steadily, and I said 'No, they are not clouds, they are airplanes.' Then I called my husband's attention to it, and he said 'No, those are not airplanes, they are lights.' And we observed them very closely. But being in motion ourselves, to us they were motionless, because we didn't stop. But, as we rolled along, for something over a mile they hung there in the sky, and they were, to us, had the appearance of tubes of fluorescent light, a beautiful, silvery, pink tinged, moonlight. And I said to my husband, 'That gives me a feeling, that God is trying to say something to us.' And uh ... we have had that feeling within us, since."

One reads this account with a feeling that it is very likely not included in a Project BLUE BOOK case summary and never received an official explanation. The scrutiny is less focused and the perceptions less precise (they are changed twice, from clouds to planes to lights) and the evidence seems more amenable to a prosaic explanation. The inflection of this account, and the ones from Arnold and an anonymous antiaircraft sentry that precede it in the CBS broadcast, suggest the large individual variation in affect and behavior that appears in UFO reports. But all the reports describe the impact of the UFO event on human behavior, and sometimes describe post event trauma as well.

Human Impact. The relative strangeness of the UFO event and the cognitive and visceral reactions to it depend in large part on the perceived distance of the observable. At a very far distance recognition as a UFO may not be probable, in the near distance comes the declaration that I never saw anything like that before in my life. At a very close distance of tens of meters or less the visceral arousal due to fear may be extreme and the witness may suffer wounds consistent with near ionizing electromagnetic radiation (NIEMR).

This general theme that the impact of a UFO event increases with decreasing distance is reflected in J. Allen Hynek's sixfold typology of close encounters:

Nocturnal Lights: Observables witnessed at night, often very bright and blinking or moving quickly
Daylight Discs: Observables witnessed in daylight, often hovering with "metallic" appearance
Radar/Visual: Confirmed physical reality, defined as convergent sensor reports across two or more sensor modalities
First Kind: Less than 500 feet distant or showing large angular area
Second Kind: Physical evidence as effects on the surroundings, equipment, animals and the witness
Third Kind: Alien presence as life form or figure, often said to exert telepathy.

A variety of NIEMR related health effects have been noted in close encounter witnesses, although these are not generally serious and none are known to have resulted in death. The most serious case in public record is the passage of a grapefruit sized UAP through the torso of a man and the car he was driving, reported by Lacatski & Kelleher. Nevertheless there are reports of UFO emitting heat or radio interference that could have serious health consequences.

A far more complex issue of human impact is raised by the biological definition of communication: any behavior in one organism that causes a change in the behavior of another organism. By that standard, UFO to human communication has been ongoing and produced a rather astonishingly large reverberation in popular consciousness, given the actual frequency and material importance of the UFO events that do occur, which are rare and nugatory.

The general view is that books and movies and interviews about UFO are part of the human enterprise demonstrating its unquenchable thirst for knowledge about the intent of these alien invaders. But from the biological perspective we can see the human response as a confirmation that UFO have communicated to the human species. The response can be interpreted to represent the effect of UFO on all levels of human behavior, but the most significant response on any level is that UFO provoke the human instinct for talk. It's really the gross disproportion between what we know about UFO and the amount of talk about UFO that becomes a very significant fact, and seems to justify the defense/intelligence assessment in 1952 that this sort of UFO communication was a national security risk.

"Defies the Laws of Physics"

Before continuing, it is necessary to address the interpretation of UFO appearance as a material object, and the frequent assertion that UFO "defy the known laws of physics."

Mass, acceleration and exhaust

Why are UFO sometimes said to "defy the laws of physics"? Certainly a 700 g force acceleration would instantly mash a human body into icky porridge, but that is a biological limit on plausible UFO cargo and not a law of physics.

In 1967 Science magazine, the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a prestigious reference for any scientist, invited physicist William Markowitz to interpret the extraterrestrial hypothesis under the editorial subtitle Reported UFO's cannot be under extraterrestrial control if the laws of physics are valid. Markowitz concedes that "I do not take issue with reports of sightings and will not try to explain them away. I agree that unidentified objects exist." But he attacks the extraterrestrial hypothesis by using common principles of thrust, weight and mass to show that chemical combustion is insufficient to account for assumed UFO interstellar capabilities, and that principles of atomic physics suggest that propulsion based on energetic particles would demand more power than the entire world electrical generation capacity (at that time) and would vaporize any mechanism used to direct the thrust.

The lawbreaking emerges from the assumption that UFO are a transmedium "vehicle" or "airframe" or "object" with the mechanism necessary for a "propulsion system". Make that out of whatever exotic alloys or isotopes you choose, the thing is going to be hefty. The core problem with heft is the power (force) required to achieve that 700 g acceleration. Acceleration is defined in Newton's second law of motion, which passed into scientific law in 1686 from an earlier draft by Galileo Galilei:

       force = mass ☓ acceleration

Given that the observed linear acceleration can reach 7000 m/s², a UFO weighing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) would require a thrust of 700,000 newtons; a one ton, 1000 kilogram mass would require 7 million newtons; and a 10 ton mass would require 70 million newtons. In comparison, the twin General Electric afterburning engines on the F/A-18 Super Hornet deliver a combined thrust of 200,000 newtons. The Super Hornet weighs around 14,000 kilograms, so it would need 98 million newtons to match the "Tic Tac" performance (without a porridgeable pilot, of course).

The critical assumption is not the kind of propulsion that could produce the observed acceleration but the total mass that is being accelerated. As Erling Strand points out, the UFO mass may not be as hefty as our intuitive analogies to fighter aircraft or automobiles would require. Yet the fact that UFO appear to hover against prevailing winds for hours on end is a demonstration of positive lift and hyperagility that would seem to require large reserves of fuel or energy for a helicopter or similar sized aerial vehicle to emulate.

Kevin Knuth and colleagues (2019) identify the second, thermodynamic way in which UFO seem lawless — the lack of exhaust or heat emitted by the power generation or utilization:

For example, the Tic-Tac UAV dropping from 28,000 feet [8500 meters] to sea level in 0.78 seconds involved at least 430 billion joules of energy (assuming a mass of 1000 kg), which is equivalent to about 100 tons of TNT or the yield of 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles released in 3/4 of a second. One would have expected a catastrophic effect on the environment.

In the physical world as we understand it, any object of considerable mass moving at extremely high speed could only be stopped instantaneously by what we normally would call a massive explosion. Yet in UFO hyperacceleration we do not see anything near the radiant flux that such enormous amounts of power would necessarily produce. (Note that Elizondo's "five observables" reference this problem as "no obvious signs of propulsions" [sic].)

There are other "lawbreaking" aspects to UFO behavior — the fact that they do not produce a sonic boom when transiting at supersonic speeds, the "transmedium" capability to move in air, water or space, the fact that they can seem to "dissolve" or "disintegrate" during a hover, and so on — that I consider below. But the problems of necessary power and exhaust heat are are significant because they touch on what to me are the most fundamental issues in UFO behavior: how are UFO able to carry sufficient energy reserves (their "fuel"), and how do they generate the necessary power from that energy (their "engine")?

How do they do it?

There are highly speculative attempts to explain the observed attributes of UFO using currently understood physical theories to explain how a massy object can produce huge accelerations, for example by moving along "geodesics of spacetime." These theories are worthy of scrutiny and scientific testing, but with the current level of observational information about UFO such theories make a number of as yet unproven conjectures, the most fundamental being that UFO are the manifestation of some form of technology, which requires the corollary assumption that, as a technology unknown to human, it must be a technology of extraterrestrial origin.

Notice that we are implicitly caught between two practical assumptions: that UFO have a substantial, "metallic" mass, and that the motive power is generated using a process analogous to a rocket or jet aircraft. The mass required for power storing batteries, power releasing fuel or power generating engines that can achieve millions of newtons is enormous. Yet this power source must be able to fit within UFO "vehicles" that have been observed to be as small as a suitcase or, in the Gorman encounter, the size of a soccer ball. And the assumption that UFO must generate such huge amounts of energy without any thermal output seems thermodynamically impossible. It's more accurate to say that UFO do not defy the laws of physics so much as point to a problem either with our observations or our assumptions. This is precisely the nub that leads the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap 3, p. 4) to suggest:

[O]ther evidence from the reports leads to the supposition that the objects might have little or no mass. One might further surmise that if the object had little or negligible mass, it could be buoyant or semi-buoyant and, importantly, that if it had electrical charge or magnetic properties it might be propelled by interaction with other charges present on the surface or in the atmosphere.

In this way both the hyperdynamic power requirements and the impulsion source are attributed to the elemental electromagnetic force of nature, which is free to produce astonishing behavioral attributes thanks to the assumption of "negligible mass." Of course one assumption does not invalidate another, different assumption: it merely illustrates that free assumptions rather than constraining facts shape our provisional understanding of what we observe.

A final, important point is that a physical law is not a physical process. A process is a specific application or combination of physical laws to produce a specific effect. There is no direct way, for example, to account for the transformation of crude petroleum oil into aspirin, acrylics or aniline dyes in terms of basic physical laws; in themselves, comparing a flask of crude oil to a pile of synthetic organic pigment, these transformations appear miraculous. There is no obvious way to deduce from chemical principles the processes of the Krebs cycle or photosynthesis that have evolved in carbon life forms. These processes are only comprehensible as a specific combination of chemicals, temperatures, pressures, reagents or catalysts and a specific sequence in which these ingredients are combined. In the same way, we cannot account for UFO using basic physical principles because we do not understand the processes involved.

Physical evidence

There are however many cases in which UFO have approached or rested on the ground and produced indirect physical traces. These are usually described as scrapes, burns or broken twigs on nearby trees or bushes; flattened, crushed or dessicated grass; depressions in the ground; and "oily" or "brownish, sticky" deposits or grayish stains in the earth. The SCU has published a study of the 1971 Delphos KS 2 November event where a 3 meter [10 foot] wide stationary UFO impregnated the dirt to a depth of 35 cm [14 inches] with a brightly glowing luminescent substance that on chemical analysis turned out to be an organic compound resembling a surfactant. Unfortunately, these traces provide little insight into the observable mass or structure, but they do clearly indicate the physical nature of UFO independent of radar or visual observation.

There is no publicly acknowledged UFO crash debris as identifiably machined or manufactured parts (although these are rumored among alienists to be held in secret by the government). The better substantiated point is that all publicly identified UFO "crash sites" have yielded scanty metallic "samples" vastly less than what we would expect to find in the crash of an aeronautical object. The Kölmjärv Spökraket made a splash, uprooted plants, threw mud and dredged an identifiable crater in the lake bottom, but despite intensive searching not a shred of metal could be found. (As a point of comparison, the contemporaneous crash of a V2 rocket reportedly resulted in about one metric ton of metallic debris.) The amount of publicly reported metallic materials recovered from UFO crash sites is miniscule compared to the mass necessary for any plausible "vehicle."

Ufologist Jacques Vallée provided Stanford immunologist Garry Nolan with gravel sized samples of metallic slag from the reputed Ubatuba crash site. These and other samples reputedly have isotope ratios that are ↆ unlike the ratios found in terrestrial minerals. Keith Basterfield summarizes the analyses of other reputed crash remains samples. However, Nolan could not replicate those findings in debris ejected during the 1977 Council Bluffs IA 17 December event, as reported in this peer reviewed ↆ aeronautical journal.

Less reputable are the samples sent anonymously to radio personality Art Bell in 1996, known among alienists as "Art's Parts," and purchased decades later by the To The Stars Academy. These coin sized fragments, said to come from "the bottom of a wedge-shaped UFO in late 1940s near White Sands Proving Ground, NM" (e.g., the Roswell crash), have been variously debunked as the louvred sheet metal commonly used in car radiators, bits of industrial slag (either from a smelting vat or a sputtering chamber) and, most embarrassingly, a photo of a touted "groundbreaking metamaterial" that is only the grayscale version of a Shutterstock photo of the common mineral malachite. (In fact, passing off industrial slag as UFO metals is a hoax that is literally as old as flying saucers themselves.)

Overall, I suggest that the absence of publicly verified substantial crash remains or recovered "vehicles," mixed with unreplicated analyses and a helping of obvious hoaxes, leaves unsubstantiated the claim that UFO are aeronautical objects. The physical traces left by falling or resting UFO indicate that something substantial is involved, but these ambiguous clues so far do not advance an understanding of the mass, materials or mechanism of the origin "vehicle."

Other technological requirements

There are other "technological" difficulties, such as the system sensor and flight control capabilities required to point the impulsive power in the direction of desired travel within a continuously running calculation and reaction time of milliseconds. This simply adds more mass, more engineering, to a "vehicle" that is already of substantial weight. Nevertheless, we observe these measurably cold "vehicles" move as if weightless, and we infer they must be capable of enormous acceleration without damaging the technical payload or "pilots" within.

In alienist storytelling the thermodynamic impossibility is "solved" by ascribing the impulsion to either some kind of manipulation of gravitation or electromagnetism (magnetohydrodynamics) — the only two fundamental forces of nature with infinite spatial range. The implications of near lightspeed acceleration on the "payload" or occupant are handled by the imputation that this force also shields the "vehicle" from space and time by bending spacetime. A recent popular solution to this problem was the Alcubierre warp drive, a hypothesized spacetime bubble that shields occupants from the relativistic consequences of lightspeed travel. The problems with the warp drive, as explained by physicist Matt O'Dowd, are that it requires negative energy or antimatter (both referred to as "exotic matter") as an energy source, requires energy reserves so large they would create a black hole, and perhaps most inconvenient, would travel at the speed given the bubble when it is constructed, without any means either to accelerate the bubble or slow it to a stop. The Anderson Institute describes additional "difficulties" with the concept, for example that we would apparently need to build an Alcubierre warp drive before we could build an Alcubierre warp drive. There is nothing here that suggests a plausible, much less possible, route to a solution.

The many supposed technological or engineering challenges to reproduce UFO capabilities fascinate a peculiarly geeky side of the alienist outlook that is almost entirely in the hands of male commentators. Actual scientists have had less to say, because there is no public evidence of a UFO utilizing an antigravity reactor or spacetime warping force field, nor is there a coherent physical theory to explain how that might work, despite widely discussed conceptual patents for nuclear fusion power plants granted to US Navy aerospace engineer Salvatore Pais or unsubstantiated rumors that a technology for spacetime modification might presently be "operable".

Citizen UFO Videos

When we turn to sighting reports, photography and video documentation from citizen witnesses we discover aspects of UFO behavior that have not attracted military attention as violations of restricted airspace or hazards to commercial aircraft, including near air collisions. Instead, we discover in these reports behavior different from Elizondo's five observables but equally fascinating.

There are video recordings of one or more of the hyperdynamic (GULF BREEZE, 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (2), BEAVER, PICACHO PEAK, ISLAMABAD), anaerodynamic (TESTING RANGE, GULF BREEZE, MEXICO CITY, TARBACA) and hyperluminous (2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1), GRAZ, KROMĚŘÍŽE, FLIR1) attributes among the twelve attributes. I think these and many other videos represent exceptionally useful information about UFO and allow us to make generalizations that can be illustrated with visual evidence. The 2013 AGUADILLA PRI video is the most compelling public evidence of envelopment; the sideways acceleration of the UFO in the FLIR1 video has been calculated at 80 g or an acceleration of 780 m/s², illustrating hyperacceleration and a point estimate of the potential impulsion power output (depending on mass). 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) and 2013 AGUADILLA PRI show orientation independent of impulsion, a signature of hyperagility.

But there are also videos of a less understood dimension, a social dimension of parallel or interactive behavior, complex swarms and geometrical formations, and inexplicable episodes of spawning (MEXICO CITY, WILMINGTON, AGUADILLA). So citizen videos not only give us a wider sample of behaviors that have been established through visual appearance across many different witnesses and types of sensors; in many important categories of behavior they provide the only source of evidence we have in the public domain. This is the face valid argument that citizen videos constitute a significant and unique source of information about UFO.

Citizen video evidence

Before we get to that, we have to evaluate three issues that characterize images produced by citizen witnesses: hoaxes, insufficient background information, and poor quality.

1. Hoaxes. Hoaxes are the obvious first complaint. UFO photographs have always been susceptible to fakery or misinterpretation, but now the tools of computer animation make it easy to modify any B roll or tourist video into a mind blowing UFO visitation. Some of the hoaxes, such as those posted by YouTube user xxxdonutzxxx (Nico and Marco Kaschuba), are clever imitations of citizen recordings.

Forgery and deception are a chronic hazard at the limits of knowledge. Many prestigious science journals must now routinely check for fake photos in laboratory or observational data. Editors have become more vigilant, but a signs of fakery have been detected in the photographic data submitted to science publications. Viral UFO videos could fare no better.

I don't believe that convincing behavioral or "real world" UFO hoaxes are numerous. The French vlogger clown Rémi Gaillard recently attempted a hoax (with the knowing collusion of a local weather station to promote the falsehood) using an LED equipped drone (cf. Figure 27e), but the hoax was almost immediately sussed out by careful debunking and Gaillard amusingly had to reveal the ruse before the air went out of it completely. Otherwise, hoaxes require a bit of legwork to pull off and sometimes come with criminal consequences.

But the psychological incentive to use modern software tools to create digital fake videos or manipulate existing videos is harder to judge, which puts greater weight on the quality of the evidence, the provenance, the witness testimony to its authenticity, and the public judgment of its veracity. When this is combined with the human tendency to mistake common objects for uncommon things, and video recordings are made of these things, then the potential contribution of useless videos to the stream of authentic ones grows potentially large.

In some instances, fake UFO videos are fairly obvious and therefore entertaining: "too good to be true" animations that are mostly tongue in cheek. But there are also astonishing CGI capabilities to perfectly simulate the appearance of physical objects, and clever fakes that understand both what to show and what not to show and also how not to show it, which leads to the search for technical or essentially esthetic clues that even sophisticated fakers might have overlooked or would lack the skill or the patience to simulate. Thus the 2020 Desert Hot Springs CA 13 October event shows a "Tic Tac" UFO passing behind several trees and also changing apparent size as it moves across background objects and disappears behind a hill. The witness is known and publicly testifies to its veracity, which annoyingly is what both a truthful and hoaxing witness would say. This illustrates that absent factual rebuttal or illustration of CGI fakery, evidence often must (and can) stand alone on expert scrutiny of the authenticity of the evidence itself and the chain of custody that brought it to public view.

2. Insufficient Information. The second problem is the lack of background information. Presumably in deference to fears of ridicule or MIB investigation, sites that accept UFO documents do not require sufficient contextual information. There isn't a standard report template for civilian witnesses, and where a minimal standard template exists (for example, in the decade of UAP reports to the UK Ministry of Defense), there is usually incomplete information given. I suggest the minimal observer information necessary for a valid report should include:

1. geographical location and altitude; if in aircraft, include vector, velocity and wind direction and speed
2. date and GMT time (as Julian day)
3. direction of view and approximate elevation (zenith angle) of target from the observer or sensor location
4. witness name and discreet contact information (e.g., email)
5. witness detailed narrative of the observed behavior and appearance, including changes in appearance (from first notice to last sight)
6. type of camera or sensor system used, with basic exposure and magnification (zoom) information
7. a provenance or chain of custody of the recording from the observer to the archive, and
8. A cursory technical or forensic examination by the archive of the evidence including the metadata.

Even when a camera is used, the narrative (5) is particularly important because some aspects of the observable, such as color or visual blinking, path and speed before recording begins, and any visual interpretation of form, are not often clearly visible in consumer optics, especially in events at night. IR recordings generally do not have an audio, which can be important to assess witness state of mind, observer competence and a contextual narrative. The 2020 BABOQUIVARI PEAK event is an excellent example, as much of the analysis centers on what the camera operator knew about the observable before capturing it and his persistence in using a single magnification and IR band after it was located. A follow up interview could obtain this kind of information if it is lacking, but often it is not forthcoming for fear of identification or stigma.

The 2021 Trenton NJ 28 August event suggests the problems we usually encounter. This 80 second video shows four UAP appearing and moving slowly at night. There is no further information, other than what may be learned or obtained by specific inquiry to LUFOS, the archiving body.

Figure 4. Projection analysis of four UAP in the 2021 Trenton video.

A perspective projection analysis of the video (Figure 4) shows that all four UAP appear to rise in the sky over a period of 80 seconds. But how should we interpret this evidence? If we knew that this was a south/southeast direction of view, we might reasonably attribute these lights to night aerial training over McGuire Air Base in the deployment of military flares. Given that McGuire is about 16 miles from Trenton, and assuming that the UAP are blown toward the witness and neither rise nor fall in altitude, we can calculate that the largest upward motion from the estimated horizon would require winds of 32 m/s [70 mph], approximately force 11 or "violent storm" on the Beaufort scale. If we assume the transit is perpendicular to our direction of view then the dispersion in the motions from near stationary to rapid is odd. We do not have the time that the video was recorded, so we cannot correlate it with local wind readings. We don't know the optical details, so we cannot estimate angular displacement. The twinkling of urban lights indicates strong thermal currents, possibly accounting for the blinking or flickering of the UAP. All the lights rise in the sky, but perhaps these are flares lifted by upwelling air. We might contact the Air Force to ask if flares were deployed on that date, but we note that two of the UAP appear very slowly, more characteristic of UFO than of military ordnance, so this might be another instance of UFO violating military airspace. We would like to contact the witness for more information but again that is an inquiry that would have to be made through LUFOS.

The point is that the video embroils us in corroboration, conjecture or estimation, when what we need is evidence that minimizes the requirement for additional explanation or context. This is the current predicament with nearly all public UFO reports and records: we need to know more to understand them. This typically demotes them to the status of UAP.

3. Technical Quality. The third difficulty is the regrettable lack of photographic skill in most citizen photographers. With any photographic or video evidence regardless of source, we inevitably only see the last part of an event, after the witness has noticed the ongoing display, retrieved a camera, adjusted the exposure and focus, and started recording. But most amateur recordings last less than a minute and clearly truncate the record before the event has ended. Many are made on smartphones that lack zoom or high resolution, or are spoiled by an uncontrolled autofocus. Often the amateur camerawork is so unfocused and unsteady that we can only glimpse parts of the episode. Often, the UAP is too small, faint or fast moving to be seen clearly.

Only the slower moving UFO would be visible long enough to catch the notice of downward looking humans, or allow them time enough to begin filming. In contrast, the recordings generated by surveillance, astronomical, news or weather recording cameras, such as this 2021 Buffalo NY 25 August event of one or possibly two observables "searching for something," may occasionally capture UAP and might provide a basis for both behavioral analysis and population estimates. Several probable UFO images have been captured in the background of news broadcasts or random tourist videos, such as video by passenger Thomas Roth photobombed by a 2012 Canberra AUS 4 April "Tic Tac." Another common source seems to be border security and civilian law enforcement aircraft that deploy infrared camera equipment. This 2016 St Anthan GBR 17 September recording from a police helicopter shows a classic bright/dark triangular UFO that resembles 2020 VICTORIA MEX, 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK or 2021 DOUGLAS AZ in low magnification; at high magnification (for example, at the beginning of the recording) the circular form is apparently due to camera defocus. This observable was sighted traveling at about 50 m/s, was visible only in the infrared images (in BLK HOT mode) and disappeared over the ocean.

Identifiers, Sources and Selection Criteria

As yet another indication of the seven decades disorder within the house of ufology, there is no established standard method to identify UFO events. The current informal practice might repurpose the name of a city ("the Lubbock Lights"), a geographic area ("the Papua New Guinea sighting"), a human being ("the Zamorra incident"), the observable shape ("the 'Tic Tac' encounter"), the observable nickname ("the Rubber Duck") or the observing platform ("Longbow 281"). From a scientific perspective this state of affairs is completely unworkable.

Brad Sparks, in his superb Comprehensive Catalog of 1,700 Project Blue Book UFO Unknowns, complains about the way that an arbitrary classification system scattered and buried the case files on 1952 TREMONTON, although he fails to list it as a BLUE BOOK case. His catalog aspires to a designation template that is:


but he does not follow this template consistently, inserting geographical paraphrase, airbase districts or national territories in place of a uniform standard of locations and omitting date or time or coordinates when unknown. This suggests that there are too many fields because the fields are sometimes vague or empty. And that shortcoming means we cannot use the designation template itself as a filter on the minimum information necessary to accept a case into the inventory.

Until a standard method is widely and uniformly adopted, I identify all UFO or UAP incidents, events, or observables using this standard format:


My list of exemplar videos illustrates this system. Cities are preferred for a location but in unpopulated areas I find the nearest landmark or geological feature. For clarity I abbreviate US state names with two letters and foreign countries with three letters. In text here, the full identifier is only used once, at the point where the event is introduced or linked to documentation about it. Elsewhere I refer to it by year and location only: 1952 TREMONTON, 2018 PICACHO PEAK AZ.

In making the collection of videos and linked information, the following web sites were particularly useful:

• YouTube
• dailymotion
• National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP)
• reddit/UFO
• National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC)
• UFO Hunters
• UFO Casebook, and
• Latest UFO Sightings (LUFOS).

I select videos and photographs that are not officially authenticated but that seem to me more plausibly authentic than fake or easily explicable as drones, birds, planes, flares, balloons, dry cleaner bags, dioptric artifacts or hoaxing. I make no representation beyond replying to likely alternative interpretations. Most of these videos may be difficult to use as scientific evidence, but they illustrate important aspects of UFO behavior fully documented in witness reports and radar tracking since the 1950s. The also suggest the range of UFO behavior not documented in military evidence.

I consider my selection criteria to be esthetic rather than empirical. There is an emphasis in the discussion around UFO regarding definitive proof or certain evidence that I cannot endorse. As I argue below, evidence in and of itself can never be conclusive. Evidence rests on witness integrity, testimony and provenance. And these, ultimately, are not factual but esthetic judgments: I take the position that human judgments flow not from the facts but from our individual about what constitute appropriate conclusions or reservations. Ultimately, I offer the kind of evidence that seems to me to be the kind of evidence that UFO should produce. I cannot claim with certainty to offer only actual UFO evidence. The difference between the two is my outlook, and my outlook may differ from yours. The issue is always whether you and I can look at the same evidence and come to the same conclusion through different but convergent outlooks. That is what transforms the esthetics of outlook into what humans call facts.

UFO Behavioral Repertory

To continue our inquiry: Elizondo's five UFO observables or my twelve UFO attributes describe the aerial capabilities of single UFO as individual targets. This supports comparisons between UFO and US military flight assets such as drones, aircraft and missiles, which in turn assists the Department of Defense to assess the "head to head" threat implications of those capabilities.

But this autonomous, "tool use" conception of individual UFO does not tell us how an event is shaped across time by the UFO behavior — how the capabilities are used by the UFO in combination or in sequence across time. We also know primarily from citizen reports that UFO sometimes transit in formations, sometimes interact in complex balletic sequences, and even spawn or "birth" new UFO. These observations indicate mutual influence between two or more UFO that the life sciences analyze as social interaction within a single species and as forms of communication within and between species. To expand our understanding of UFO we must identify, define and describe the frequently observed behavior patterns that emerge from UFO capabilities.

UFO Behavior Acts

We do not yet have a standard vocabulary of behavior acts (including different states of UFO as an electromagnetic source) that appear again and again across UFO events. A behavior act analysis is simply a description of what UFO do and does not require us to impute a motive (such as "watching humans") to explain why UFO do it. When we adopt this approach we see that UFO actually display a remarkably limited number of behavioral acts. In particular UFO do not seem to have the capability to interact with the material environment to produce complex transformations of matter: UFO have not been observed to build something, exploit some natural resource or lift discrete objects into the air.

The table below presents a conservative list of twelve UFO behavior acts that have been observed across a large number of UFO events. Although the list is small, I think it can adequately describe the observed sequence of UFO movements in the Earth's atmosphere.

Twelve UFO Behavior Acts
behavior actdefinition
transitchange spatial location as a continuous sensor or visual signature at any speed and in any direction either in azimuth or altitude
jumprapidly change spatial location as a discontinuous visual or sensor signature
acceleratetransit at increasing or decreasing speed as a continuous visual or sensor signature
hoverremain approximately stationary above the ground at a fixed location and altitude, especially for an extended period
gyratepitch, yaw or roll around the body centroid as either a continuous motion (spin, tumble, rotate) or as a rapid instabilities of motion (flutter, wobble, vibrate)
oscillatetransit along a periodic, low amplitude, approximately sine wave trajectory
veermake a sharp turn or reversal in direction while in transit, often described as a "90° turn" or "zig zag" flight path
shineemit continuous and omnidirectional electromagnetic radiation, either at constant or variable power
blinkemit a periodic or random sequence of discrete pulses of electromagnetic radiation, either from the entire surface or from discrete parts of the surface
beam [at]shine a beam of energy at other UFO, aircraft, or human beings in aircraft or on the ground, including directed radiation interpreted as "jamming radar"
cloakshield from detection in the visual or radar (radio and microwave) bands, variously described as dissolve, disappear or fade away
orientdisplay a behavior dependent on the awareness of or reaction to another another UFO or human vehicle: depending on context this act might be described as approach, hover near, shadow, follow, circle, evade or escape

This list does not include less frequently observed acts such as pulsate or discharge contrail or rest on the ground. For example, a temporary discharge or "exhaust trail" is an aspect of UFO behavior that has been occasionally observed since the 1950's: the ↆ Schulgen memo (2e), the April, 1948 ↆ Project SIGN "Initial Report" (item 5.f), and a June 27, 2013 pilot intercept report). The 1947 "Ghost Rockets" reports include cigar shaped observables "belching smoke and sparks". And there is what I accept as an authentic photograph taken by customs inspector Domingo Troncoso of the 1952 Puerto Maldonado PER 19 July event which shows a smoke trail that is too irregular to suggest a propulsion contrail (image, right). Project SIGN indicated "exhaust trails" were observed in 23 out of the earliest 115 sightings, and a USAF F-84 fighter out of Luke AFB (Phoenix, AZ) took gun camera footage of the contrail left by a 300-500 ft wide ... manta-ray shape, very flat ... very thin "aircraft" (1953 Blythe CA 3 March). But in later sightings such plumes appear to be very infrequent, excluding the "Chilean so the claim that UFO show "exhaust trails or evidence of combustion" does not appear accurate overall.

And I have limited the behavioral acts to various forms of energetic emittance or motion that can be quantified using conventional aeronautical or physical concepts; for example, the energy requirements of a hover (in addition to lift) might be estimated from the variance in the UFO position over time weighted by the strength of prevailing winds, the UFO shape and the area of its cross section. I expressly exclude the documented psychological or parapsychological effects on human observers (which involve either arousal, paralysis or unconsciousness) because they are phenomena distinct from "bodies moving in the atmosphere or water", are dependent on close contact with a UFO, and involve factors of human perception, emotion and cognition that are not well understood.

UFO Oscillation and Gyration. I want to highlight here an intriguing UFO behavioral act that we can clearly observe in the 2021 DOUGLAS AZ 14 April or "A-10 Warthog" event, documented in an unsourced infrared video in both BLK HOT and WHT HOT of an encounter between a military jet and a rather small UFO. The video was originally posted by the Instagram account @ny_uap_discussion and apparently originates from the Department of Homeland Security. The event occurred about 35 km [20 miles] northeast of Douglas, AZ and the same distance south of Chiricahua Peak.

UFO pseudoskeptic Mick West took on the painstaking task of aligning individual frames of the original video to the steadily moving profile of the fighter, and the location of the observable in each frame created a dotted line relative flight path (Figure 5).

Figure 5. (Top): Flight path of observable relative to a steadily moving A-10 Warthog reconstructed by Mick West (labels and insert images added). There is a deflection in the path around 0:11 (red dot) that likely is around the nearest approach to the plane. The flight path is visually stretched out from its actual spatial proportions by the left to right movement of the jet. (Inset 1): frame of near approach to suggest relative sizes. (Inset 2): Closeup of observable showing its triangular, compact aspect. (Compare with the image labeled "photograph" in Figure 10.) (Inset 3): Flight path compressed (assuming the A-10 is traveling twice as fast) to suggest actual flight profile. (Bottom): Similar oscillating or "side to side" flight paths observed (right) in 1952 National City CA 13 May and (left) with gyration in 1954 Pohano KOR n.d. (Source: NICAP).

Bunkists claim this shows the typical flight path of a "bird," but the poor bird lacks a head, neck or tail for its triangular wings and the flight path is approximately a sine wave and completely uncharacteristic of the smoothly curving, momentum conserving natural trajectories of bird flight or the gusty randomness of air trash. (Larger birds, such as crows, can create an oscillating pattern with their beating wings [e.g, at t=0:29], but the amplitude is no larger than the wingspan and the body center of gravity still traces a smoothly curving trajectory.) Later in the video (t=0:27) the observable seems to accelerate sufficiently to catch up with and briefly orient to the jet at a speed too fast for any bird. A closeup of the observable suggests it is of the same form as 2020 VICTORIA MEX (Figure 10, inset labeled "photograph") or 2013 AGUADILLA PRI (Figure 3). The deflection in the flight path (orange dot, Figure 5, inset) strongly suggests that the aircraft and UFO had a near air collision and are approximately the same distance from the sensor. Using the aircraft for scale, this would make the UFO about 1 meter wide.

From the earliest observations described in the CBS report (above) down to the present day, UFO have repeatedly been observed to oscillate, flutter or wobble in flight — "like you take a saucer and throw it across the water" in Kenneth Arnold's simile. West has reconstructed the path as a white silhouette of the observable at each step, and this reveals a tendency for the shape of the observable to be slightly smaller (the white icons in the path appear lighter or thinner) at the top of each wave, and larger (brighter or thicker) at the bottom, especially at the left end, suggesting gyration within the the oscillating flight path. Figure 5 (bottom) is the NICAP illustration of a 1954 observation of both oscillation and gyration in a receding UFO that strongly resembles what we see in the 2021 DOUGLAS AZ video. In any case, the dynamical differences among the various types of flutter, wobble, swinging, swaying undulation and oscillation are difficult to interpret as functional clues about the impulsion involved.

An important inference from these observations is that oscillation and wobble appear to violate the ↆ principle of least action. In physics this principle is fundamental — it is the basis of the Newtonian equation F = ma (force equals mass times acceleration). In aeronautical engineering all dynamical instabilities around the direction of motion are energy draining and can be structurally catastrophic; rapidly swerving your car between freeway lanes while driving at high speed will illustrate this point. Oscillation is another specific instance where UFO dynamical capabilities or EM emittance are difficult to explain in terms of known physical principles.

Six UFO Behavior Patterns

I identify and describe here six patterns of UFO behavior documented in the publicly available record. The categories I define depend on (1) the number of observables involved in the event (one, two, three or more), (2) the motion of the observable(s) relative to geographic location, (3) the positions and motions of multiple observables relative to each other, and (4) whether the observable appears to be a rigid or amorphous form. The table below summarizes the definition of these six behavior patterns.

Six UFO Behavior Patterns
[Section link]
Frequency in
Blue Book
UFO waveA time limited increase in the number of UFO observed by different observers at different geographic locations (also "flap" or "incident")
Solo UFO80.3%A single UFO displaying autonomous behavior as an apparent "object" or "light"
UFO Pair6.3%Two UFO in interaction or that maintain a relatively stable relative position during transit or hover
UFO Flight10.2%Three or more UFO in transit that maintain the same relative positions with a common speed and direction
UFO Swarm0.8%Three or more UFO as a geographically stationary and cohesive group that displays an evolving relative spacing or complex interactions
UFO Spawn1.3%One or more UFO appearing out of or merging into a second UFO
UAP FluxRadiant energy emitted from one or more evolving, amorphous or complex forms

The observed frequency of each type of pattern is calculated over the cases in the Comprehensive Catalog of 1,700 Project Blue Book UFO Unknowns by Brad Sparks. The percentage for UFO FLUX is omitted because this is not clearly defined in BLUE BOOK reports and is very likely more often reported as "fireball" (~6%) or one or more "lights" (~20%). The US Air Force BLUE BOOK is a historically extremely valuable if imperfect resource; in addition, UFO behavior apears to be variable over time so the percentages may not describe current UFO behavior.

I describe these UFO behavioral patterns in more detail below based on UFO reports since the mid 20th century. This means I relied on many different sources and types of observers or sensors. In the documenting videos I have attempted to identify the most astonishing examples. As standard references I have relied on the history UFO and Government by Swords & Powell, which summarizes many of the most significant cases; I draw others from J. Allen Hynek's classic The Hynek UFO Report and from the legacy reports posted at the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). In particular, readers should know NICAP's 1964 ↆ The UFO Evidence for an overview of the historical and largely empirical understanding of UFO at the time of the notorious Condon Committee.

(0) UFO WAVE also goes by "flap" or "incident" or "case", which suggests media notoriety or widespread observations over a large area are perhaps the defining ingredient. Many of these events, such as 1952 WASHINGTON DC flap, have been front page news. Apart from the human attention, these events may comprise multiple UFO appearances or the repeated appearance of the same "phenomenon" across a period of time, which may be a week (1952 WASHINGTON DC), a month (1949 GREEN FIREBALLS) or many months (1896-97 MYSTERY AIRSHIPS).

As it is typically used, a UFO "wave" represents the most basic form of interaction between different species that are members of the same biological community: they encounter each other because they inhabit the same physical space, and the density of one of the species abruptly increases or becomes more visible, as for example in a locust swarm. The number of witnesses is usually a function of the number of individual observables and the population density of human observers underneath.

A "wave" or "flap" can involve multiple observables reported by a large number of witnesses (1950 Farmington Armada). A single dramatic UFO event that involves one or more UFO witnessed at a single time is often described as a "case" or "incident". A wave might depend on a media feedback effect as well, an increase in the number of reports that is caused by media descriptions of the increasing number of reports. Yet there is, in fact, little evidence for a media ignited, self reinforcing or "mass hysteria" effect. The chart (right) tracks the number of UFO sightings reported to BLUE BOOK in the months before and after 1952 WASHINGTON DC; magazine articles that appear before or after have no effect on the background of sightings, and newspaper articles are contemporaneous only with the period of the sightings. There is certainly a background effect due to cultural trends in attention or mention in the media, such as the UFO craze of the 1950's which also stimulates the incidence of hoaxes. But in general the media mentions of UFO come during and after, not before, the UFO events themselves.

Concentrated UFO events described as "waves" or "flaps" have been observed as far back as the 1561 Nuremberg DEU 14 April event, if not back to the celestial battle witnessed and reported by the Jewish historian Josephus in 65 CE as "armed battalions hurtling through the clouds and encompassing the cities" of Judea. In the modern era, some waves or "flaps" are famous and others are notorious. Among the more noteworthy, well documented or intensively analyzed (some of them widely observed single "incidents" rather than "waves") are:

A Partial List of Notable UFO "Waves" or "Incidents"

• 1896/97 MYSTERY AIRSHIPS of large dirigible like craft with wings and propellers that began with the Great California Airship and sightings from November 1896 to April 1897 across California, Texas and the midwest.
• 1944/45 FOO FIGHTERS observed from Allied and Axis aircraft at the end of WW II in both Europe and Japan.
• 1946 SPÖKRAKETER or "Ghost Rockets" wave primarily in Sweden and Norway (discussed next).
• ↆ 1947 GREAT WAVE USA including the Kenneth Arnold event that raised serious military concerns about UFO as a possible foreign (Soviet) techology.
• 1949/50 GREEN FIREBALLS NM observed over New Mexico, USA mostly in December 1949.
• 1950 Farmington NM 16 March "armada" of "hundreds" of silvery UFO led by a bright red saucer seen by hundreds and reported by more than 50.
• 1950 Oak Ridge Nat'l Laboratory TN October-December across multiple days each month, observed visually and on radar.
• 1951 Lubbock TX 9 September event, the first photographically documented UFO wave (discussed below), with another on 25 August.
• 1952 Washington DC 19-27 July flap, when jets scrambled to chase UFO seen by pilots and tracked by Dulles Airport radar; part of an increase in sightings across the United States and foreign countries known as the "1952 UFO wave".
• 1966 UFO WAVE One of the more notable spates in UFO sightings, dubbed "the Mother of All UFO Waves".
• 1966 Clayton AUS 6 April Westhall High School incident of a single observable seen by over 200 school children
• 1977 Colares BRA May-December UFO incident of hundreds of sightings by thousands of witnesses, some involving superficial lesions or burn injuries from "radiation beams"; documentation is available in this ↆ MUFON Archive summary of evidence.
• 1978 Kaikoura Coast NZE 30 December "Kaikoura Lights" that were tracked by radar, witnessed from land and filmed from aircraft.
• 1982/83 Hudson River Valley NY UFO wave unusually well attested and photographed with events videotaped by more than one resident
• 1984-present Hessdalen Lights, studied with one of the longest running scientific UAP programs
• 1986 São Paulo BRA 19 May sightings and military pursuit of 21 UFO in the "Official Night of UFOs"
• 1987/91 Gulf Breeze FL sightings made notorious by various hoax reports and disputed photos by Ed Waters and others.
• 1989/92 BELGIUM UFO wave presented as an early chapter in Kean's book, which includes a significant number of sightings of triangular forms.
• ↆ 1991 FRANCE November UFO wave of various objects reported by "thousands of witnesses".
• 1994 Zimbabwe 14 September "Zimbabwe meteors" incident of different observables, seen by hundreds on the ground and by two airplane crews who experienced "radio interference", that was coincident with the 1994 Ruwa ZBE 16 September "Ariel School" incident.
• 1994 Gosford AUS 25 December of a bright light hovering over water, seen by dozens on the ground.
• 1997 Phoenix AZ 13 March "Phoenix Lights" with the appearance of a huge chevron or "V" shaped craft seen across Arizona by over 700 witnesses (including then governor Fife Symington) and adjacent states, and videotaped in part by Richard Snider (who may only have captured a night dump of military flares).
• 2007/09 Kumburgaz TUR "Kumburgaz case" extensively videotaped by resort worker Murat Yalcin Yaman.

Many other "incidents" or "flaps" could be cited, but this selection is illustrative both of the variety of phenomena reported and the very uneven quality of the reports that result. Some "waves" (e.g., 1989/92 BELGIUM) appear on later analysis to include a large number of hoax or spurious reports, which are then use to discredit the highly credible reports that stimulated them. Reports that rely on military observations (1950 OAK RIDGE) or mass observations (1950 FARMINGTON) are more difficult to dismiss.

First among these in the modern era is the spate of 1944/45 FOO FIGHTER incidents, but these remained a military secret until after the war. These "foo fighters" were reportedly observed by both Allied and Axis pilots during the last year of World War II and are documented in pilot flight records. Many more foo encounters live on as personal anecdotes, such as the encounter that Senator Ted Stevens had when he was a fighter pilot in WW II:

"'I was flying and there was an object next to me. I couldn't get rid of it, I slowed up, it was there. I sped up, it was there. I would dive, it would be there. I called. Nothing on radar,' Reid said. The story told to Harry Reid came from Republican Senator Ted Stevens, whose experience as a World War II bomber pilot was shared during a closed door meeting at the US capitol."

In military reports the foo fighters are described as "balls of light" that shadowed or sported around bomber and fighter aircraft. (The same type of UFO, described as bright and about 20 cm in diameter, was pursued in the 1948 Gorman dogfight.) The first reports appeared late in 1944 and were concerning enough at the time to be treated by the Allies as classified information and considered on both sides of the conflict as potential new weapons deployed by the adversary. And during the Spökraketer sightings in the years after WW II, the US government pursued the hypothesis that the Soviet Union might have captured secret German technology and was testing it over Sweden as a provocation.

Instead, I suggest the 1946 GHOST ROCKETS June-August (Swedish Spökraketer) wave is really the modern era UFO "origin event" — it was the first wave to be widely witnessed by citizens, was widely reported by newspapers, includes a carefully located crash site, and alarmed military authorities in Europe and America as possibly Soviet weapons.

It began with the 1946 Landskrona SWE 24 May event when two night watchmen saw a "wingless, cigar-shaped body of dimensions of a small airplane, flying at an altitude of around 100 meters, which at regular intervals spurted bunches of sparks from its tail." Over the following summer citizen and military observers generated nearly 1000 documented sighting reports of around 100 fireball, cigar shaped or rocketlike phantoms.

The Ghost Rockets were conclusively identified as artificial objects because they traveled in relatively slow, horizontal flight and produced erratic, nonballistic radar tracks. At least seven were observed to impact the Earth but none of them hit the ground: one descended into the sea and six crashed into lakes (map, left) — a pair falling together in Norway and three on the same day, July 19, in Sweden. The most impressive of the three fell into Lake Kölmjärv, made an enormous explosion, dredged up water plants and mud, left a crater in the recently surveyed lake bottom, but remarkably not a shred of wreckage or debris could be found. The binomial probability of six lake area hits on six random trials within the Norway/Sweden territorial area (where lakes comprise about 9% of the land) is around 0.07 or 1 in 13, which is unusual but not clinching. However if we factor in the probability that three bolides would impact in a single day or that six would impact within a month in such a limited area of the planet, the probability that these were astronomical objects becomes astronomically small.

Figure 6. The Erik Reuterswärd photograph of a July 9, 1946 fireball.

During this UFO wave, Erik Reuterswärd stopped to rest during a summer hike in the countryside north of Lindesberg, Sweden and was enjoying the view from a lookout tower when he photographed a "greenish white" fireball (Figure 6). The photo was widely disseminated in European news media at the time of the Ghost Rocket reports. Many will demur that this UAP photo actually captures a bolide that was witnessed by hundreds, but authenticity is not my whole pretext. I accept this eerily tranquil landscape on esthetic grounds as an image of the historical moment when UFO fireballs first fell into modern human awareness and front page news. At the same time, the rocketlike appearance of the intruders raised concerns within Swedish and US military intelligence that the Spökraketer were a new Soviet weapon, possibly based on a captured Nazi secret project — an interpretation of the UFO that was eventually discounted.

Similar green fireballs were observed over a small area in New Mexico US, and there too the horizontal path and the geographic and time concentration of the sightings (ten in December 1949 alone) statistically exclude meteors as an explanation. The technical proficiency of the witnesses, including a large number of research scientists and astronomers at the Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories, excludes probable error in judgment.

A similar spate of green fireballs occurred recently: 2015 Bangkok THA 3 November, 2019 Gainesville FL 30 March, 2020 Singapore SGP 12 February, 2020 Pilbara AUS 15 June, 2020 Larvik NOR 7 November, and 2021 Izimir TUR 14 August. I offer these spectacular examples because bolides are said to resemble the "fireball" form of UFO — as described by expert observers of Green Fireballs in the past — and because they exemplify how brief a UFO observation can be. (The advice on how to observe fireballs is good advice for potential UFO witnesses too.) The differences in the video equipment used, the magnification and the length of the bolide display also resembles the variety in video evidence about UFO. A few of the fireball videos record real time outbursts of witness arousal and suggest the kind of visual stimulus necessary to elicit the universal UFO witness declaration: I never saw anything like that before in my life.

Figure 7. A green fireball apparently falling into the Mount Merapi volcano in Indonesia on May 27, 2021. Serendipitous photo by Gunarto Song. See this USA Today fact check.

On the topic of green fireballs, Figure 7 reproduces a striking photo by Gunarto Song to illustrate the basic difficulty with UFO evidence: we have so little of it. The reason we have so little of it is the improbability of its capture in video. Song's image captures a very improbable observation of a spectacular green bolide in a magnificent wilderness setting by an incredibly lucky witness with the equipment and skill at the ready to make the capture. The impression of the uncanny and inexplicable depends quite a lot on the high improbability that all the elements of the scene would combine in just this way and the even greater improbability that they would all be captured in the moment as a perfectly posed photograph. The reason we have so few good UFO videos is the same reason we have so few photos of a meteor falling into a volcano. The coincidence of brief event and camera ready observer happens very rarely, and in many of the most stupefying events the stunned observer forgets to utilize a camera within reach.

Figure 8. (top) Geographic distribution of UFO reports (Source data: NUFORC). (bottom) UFO reports from 1940 to 2021. Blue line: NUFORC, 1940-2020; green bars: UK UAP reports, 1956-1996; orange asterisks: UFO waves in the United States, 1947-1973.

Figure 8 (top) is a map of reported UFO and UAP events within the US, which clearly corresponds to the density of human population. Akin to the technique of gravestone rubbing, the sightings simply reveal the underlying distribution of human population: more human eyeballs, more reports. This map by itself is a fundamental piece of evidence about the mixed bag of UFO and UAP sightings: over the long run, they are likely randomly distributed across the entire extent of a major part of the North American continent. This is what we would expect if most or nearly all the sightings reported to NUFORC or the UK MoD were UAP of various kinds, and these "false positive" sightings mask any pattern in actual UFO.

If UFO were intrigued by human activity and clustered in areas where more human activity was visible, then the per capita frequency of sightings should increase with the density of humans. If UFO preferred to avoid human activity, then sightings per capita should increase in sparsely populated areas. Instead, the data do not indicate a trend either way. This strongly suggests that (1) UAP/UFO events are, over the seven decades summarized in the figure, geographically approximately uniform and random; and (2) because we observe that the events are random and uniform, UAP/UFO events are fundamentally unrelated to or unconcerned with specific geographic areas of human activity.

This brings us to a more serious issue: the lack of standard methods of measuring or reporting. Figure 8 (bottom) summarizes the number of reports filed in the United States with NUFORC since 1940 and with the UK Ministry of Defense from 1956 to 1996. There is clearly no correspondence between the UK and USA profiles, as we might expect given a "random and uniform" distribution, despite their geographical separation. The NUFORC data show that the number of reports is approximately constant from year to year — around 300 reports per year before 1994 and around 4700 reports per year after. This is perhaps the only evidence to suggest that the UFO population appears to be neither growing nor shrinking, at least not at a rapid rate. But these reports do not seem to spike during the UFO waves described by both Swords and Powell and J. Allen Hynek (in The Hynek UFO Report, Chapter 11). Those sources identify the years 1952, 1957, 1966 and 1973 as years with an especially high report volume, based apparently on Project BLUE BOOK (US Air Force) received reports; 1947 is considered a "wave" year as well.

After 1994 the reports surge due to the rapidly increasing availability and use of the internet for information search and communication of reports (indicated by the founding of the internet indexing site Yahoo!). This illustrates the extremely large effect that cultural factors (recalling the problems with the Haines UAP definition) will have on UFO reporting. The sharp sawtooth form of the reporting across all periods is due to the universal effect of UFO reports to increase during summer months when more people are outdoors during the day and evening. There is also a suggestion that the concept of a UFO "wave" may actually represent the peak year in a decade long interval of increasing and decreasing reports — from 1962 to 1971 and 1971 to 1981 in the US, between 1965 to 1975 and 1975 to 1985 in the UK data, and from 2010 and 2020 in the NUFORC data. This led the 2006 UK DoD UAP report to consider and reject a correlation between UFO sightings and sunspot activity. (They found instead a modest correlation with meteor showers, which I attribute to the greater number of observers outdoors to see the showers and the greater number of meteors to be mistaken for UFO.) For all these reasons the concept of a "wave" does not provide much insight into the underlying phenomena.

(1) SOLO UFO. The solitary or solo UFO by far the largest proportion of behavior patterns in witness reports, accounting for about 82% of sightings in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report and 80.3% of the 1,700 BLUE BOOK "Unknowns". This justifies the solo UFO as the most important behavior pattern for scientific analysis, meaning it should be (and has been) the primary focus of investigation. It also implies that UFO "social" connections are brief and tenuous. My definition of this behavior pattern:

SOLO UFO: A single discrete observable that descends, hovers, transits or ascends without interaction with another UFO during the entire course of observation.

Solitary UFO seem to be noticed initially because they are either very bright, moving rapidly or erratically, or just hovering; and they hold attention with those attributes especially if they are stationary in wind. In daylight they have a bizarre or unrecognizable shape, and in many cases the hovering UFO "disappears" in a rapid upward acceleration. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report (ↆ Vol. 1 Chap. 3, p. 44) tabulated the reported motions of UFO, and if we casually take the eight reported movement adjectives as rank ordered pairs, we have four categories of common solo UFO behaviors: (1) spinning stationary, followed by (2) climbing fast, (3) slow hovering and (4) pulsating bobbing.

Despite their frequency in UFO sightings, solo observables are almost certainly underreported. A single UFO is likely to be ignored as a plane moving at constant speed, or through lack of movement either unnoticed or assumed to be a star or planet, or moving at such a high speed (as in 2016 BEAVER or 2018 PICACHO PEAK AZ) that it cannot even be glimpsed. In general, static, single images of UFO must be supported by strong evidence of authenticity — multiple sensor records and/or multiple witnesses at minimum. I come back to solo UFO in the discussion of UFO morphology.

One of the earliest solo images and a still classic "flying saucer" image comes from the 1950 McMinnville OR 11 May event (Figure 9). Note also the classic image of a citizen observer and his personal camera — forebear of today's newsworthy citizen cellphone recordings — in this LIFE magazine photo of frugal farmer and honest witness Paul Trent.

Figure 9. (a,b) The two Trent photographs of the 1950 McMINNVILLE observable in original contrast. (inset top) Magnified views with enhanced gray contrast. (c) The Calvine UFO photo, reportedly one of six photographs taken in August, 1990 that are currently held secret by the UK MoD but recovered as a black & white copy published in 2022. (inset bottom) Magnified view with enhanced contrast showing surface whitness, end protrusion and "black dot".

As with many other UFO images, the McMinnville UFO has been declared a hoax on the thesis that the photos show us an object such as a garbage can lid or truck mirror hanging by a thread from the overhead wires — even though these obviously slack and flimsy structures show no downward angle over the dangling hardware, and the angle of the dangle does not change when the position of the observable changes. It also does not account for the vague contrast in the second image, nor the dark bottom in the first, both very difficult to produce with local objects. As the LIFE article notes, the two photos were sandwiched on both sides in the emulsion film roll by occasional domestic photos, which means the alleged hoax would have been staged only once, without trial and error shots, in a roll used over several months.

The last photograph (Figure 9c) documents the 1990 Calvine GBR 4 August event and has an equally rich and instructive history. According to Nick Pope, an analyst formerly posted to the "UFO desk" within the UK Ministry of Defense, two teenage hikers roaming north of Perth, Scotland came across the observable on a Saturday morn and snapped as many as six pictures of it. Pope claimed that the original photographs are so compelling — "it left me shell shocked" — that one of them was framed and hung on his MoD office wall. But in 2022 a cropped (possibly enlarged) copy of one of the photographs was recovered by Dr. David Clarke from Craig Lindsay, the former archivist of Scotland's Daily Record, which had originally received the photos from the hikers but did not publish their story before the MoD prohibited them from doing so.

The Calvine photo(s) are undermined by an obscure provenance due to the lack of attesting witnesses; doubters claim it might be the inverted photo of an object largely sunk in reflecting water. (An index of links to extensive and quite interesting background materials is posted partway down this page that suggests it is a kite.) And LIFE magazine provided a charitable but entirely reasonable gloss on the McMinnville photographs: "No more can be said for them than that the man who took them is an honest individual and that the negatives show no signs of having been tampered with." In the end, farmer Trent and his wife (who claims to have called him to witness the thing) were the only people who knew for sure the authenticity of the images. They honestly and competently affirmed both photos are of a real event. And there you are. Your only recourse is to accuse the Trents and the hikers of creating a hoax.

What counts as "evidence"? Although I consider the Calvine copy and the McMinnville photographs to be authentic — the photos are not altered in any way and they show what witnesses claim to have observed — the perennial dispute about the authenticity of UFO photographic evidence (that is, whether it actually shows us a genuine UFO) is in nearly all cases an argument about whether "flying saucers" actually exist — See? Here's a picture of one. For me this is no longer a dispute worth having. I ask what may be the skeptic's necessary first question: "Why should I care? If the evidence is authentic, what does it help me to understand about the nature or behavior of UFO?" For the rest, I'm unwilling to wade into a dispute about evidence until I have a sense for what might be gained by the effort.

Neither the Calvine nor Trent photos tell us anything specific about UFO attributes other than a possible form factor and an apparent surface reflectance that might be described as "metallic" in relation to natural but apparently overcast illumination. But what is left? None of the pictures provides new insights about the nature or capabilities of UFO, which is the main reason they can be challenged as ordinary objects photographed in unusual or contrived circumstances. The McMinnville event itself was described simply as a transit over a homestead, but we cannot judge velocity from the change in angular diameter in the photos because we don't know the lapse in time between them. The Calvine photos as a time series may provide useful information about hover (duration, oscillation or drift), but as a single publicly available (and partially cropped) duplicate image, without witness commentary, the photo seems to me to provide no other insights.

Photographs might be useful if they replicate shapes and estimated dimensions captured in other places and times: we'd then know we were seeing a stable instance of a particular species of "thing". Currently one such "target package" as AARO defines them concerns the meter diameter spheres documented in military surveillance (Figure 20a). The McMinnville form might generalize as the "hat shaped" type of saucer (cf. Figure 17, but a second, 1957 Rouen photo is likely a hoax manipulation of the second Trent image. Over seven decades of observation, diamond shaped observables are rarely seen (see Tabulation of UFO Shapes below) and none in my knowledge matches Calvine closely. Worse, the Calvine object can be interpreted as an SAP project — a pillow shaped balloon platform to loft radar surveillance equipment, with flyby jets to serve as test targets. For all those reasons, I choose to leave Mr. & Mrs. Trent unimpugned and the anonymous hikers at peace and simply pass over the photographs as useful UFO documentation.

Let's instead examine much more interesting evidence that we have with much better contextual and provenance information, such as the 2020 Victoria MEX 19 March event. This is documented in numerous photographs, a remarkable five minute video, and an extended interview of flight captain Erik Delgado by Chris Lehto. The event was witnessed by the flight crew on a commercial FexEx flight 82 out of Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico to Memphis TN. The observable was first detected near the town of Victoria, Mexico, and it followed the aircraft for 25 minutes until it approached the international entry point near Matamoros/Brownsville TX. The linked video records real time witness statements and the cockpit ACAS radar display that showed no returns from the observable. The entire encounter displays high luminance (the pilot describes it causing retinal afterimages), hyperagility (rapid descent, stop in a continuous fixation or "shadowing" the aircraft in the 8 o'clock location), control (pacing the aircraft, painting the aircraft with a beam that illuminated the cockpit), anaerodynamic form (the kernel appears to be polygonal), EM modulation (pulsating, "turning colors"), envelopment ("hairy" or blurred edges, lack of sound despite proximity), indifference (lack of aircraft identifying signal) and witness arousal (the boyish giggling, the exuberance of "This is hot shit!" "That is nuts!" "I gotta call my brother in law" and "Platillos! Platillos!"). The pilot interview also describes the serious career impact and UFO stigma concerns from the copilot about filing a report of the incident; he remains anonymous to this day.

This video is the highest resolution, most detailed and fascinating UFO record known to me (Figure 10), and the event is documented and analyzed in a NARCAP report and recounted in detail in the pilot interview. The video, recorded with a Samsung Galaxy 9S smartphone camera, is an excellent example of what a reasonably skilled, adequately equipped and responsive citizen witness can produce as scientifically useful UFO documentation. But its greatest importance in my evaluation is that it suggests at least some UFO are not an opaque and rigid, metallic "technology" but have an almost organic appearance in form and behavior.

Figure 10. Changing video appearance of the 2020 VICTORIA MEX observable at one second intervals from 2:32 to 3:01, reading left to right and top to bottom. White lines indicate the black spots within the form that indicate precise focus. Arrows show the 1-2-3 sequence of aspects that form a single pulsation. The approximately 1 second period means the pulse is imaged at the same point in its cycle for several seconds, resulting in a sequence of similar images.

The bunkist claim that this is the planet Venus is countered by the Stellarium 0.21.2 finding that Venus was at a zenith angle of about 72° at the location, date and time of the event (Julian day 2458927.62500, with some uncertainty in location and time), and ignores the flight officer's declarations (at t=0:00 and t=3:30) that the observable "dropped out of the sky [like a meteor] ... and then stopped and hovered" [paced the aircraft] at an altitude somewhat above the aircraft, which Delgado estimates at a zenith angle less than 60°. It's also refuted by the structure of the image itself: Venus at that time was approximately half phase, with the lighted side facing the Sun below the horizon (that is, with a flat top edge and a semicircular bottom) which bears no resemblance to the most compact image in the video, assuming a consumer video camera could resolve a disk only 22 arcseconds in angular diameter.

The claim that the periodic changes in size are an autofocus artifact is countered by three facts: a geometric blur would have a uniformly defocused or "flat" luminance, not the "core and shell" structure shown in the video; it would have the approximately circular shape of the aperture (compare with an actual defocus at t=3:55); and the crisply defined, animated black dots that appear within the observable (e.g., after 2:30, indicated in Figure 10 by short lines and best viewed "full screen") indicates that the focus is precise. Notice too that on each pulse the shell first contracts to a bright, gemlike form, expands abruptly to a diffuse maximum diameter, then immediately snaps back to a smaller diameter that appears to be the base (longest lasting) state in three visibly distinct steps, over and over in about 1 second intervals. That is not the recognizably woozy, in and out uncertainty of an autofocus but a periodic pulsation. Similar near miss or shadowing incidents (what the NARCAP report calls "an aviation safety-related encounter with a UFO") are a legitimate concern as an air safety hazard (and initially greatly alarmed the pilot), although the shimmering 2020 VICTORIA MEX images put to question whether UFO are substantial enough to be struck.

It is possible though not publicly documented that such encounters have caused air collisions. The major risk in these encounters seems to be the reflexive avoidance response by the pilot that can put the plane into an unrecoverable descent, especially near landing or takeoff. More often, however, the UFO seem to follow planes the way porpoises follow ships and with a consistently similar lack of apparent intent to menace or do harm. Either way, the hazard needs to be better understood. In the link, Ted Roe of NARCAP calls out the failure of NTSB and the FAA to document or investigate such incidents, which might give a more accurate picture of the problem.

The video drone capture of a 2016 Beaver UT 9 January flyby, with an explicit provenance and public witness confirmation, might illustrate UFO hypervelocity and hyperagility coming through a sharp turn and flying close to the terrain at a leisurely 5600 m/s [12,500 mph], provided it is not something else. The two witnesses, professional video producers within 150 meters of the drone, saw nothing and heard no sonic boom; the drone video registers no air shock after the UFO passes by, all possible signs of envelopment. This video has been carefully examined and found to be either authentic or a superhero gyrfalcon far south of its geographical range. Other suggestions are that it is a flying insect; entomologist Adrian Smith at the University of North Carolina suggests it is a grasshopper (personal communication). The critical feature for me is that the path of the target, whatever it is, closely follows the topography of a hilly and sloping terrain in a way that the flight of an insect or bird would be extraordinarily unlikely to duplicate at random, and close analysis strongly suggests the flight path is obscured at the beginning by distant trees. There is also no public evidence of witness deception or image manipulation. Based on witness, provenance, signature and the insufficiency of competing explanations, I accept it as authentic documentation of the high speeds UFO can achieve without sound, sonic boom or ablation.

(2) PAIR UFO describes two UFO that perform similar or parallel movements in proximity to each other. At night, pairs can produce the appearance of a single rigid object with two lights attached to its surface. Pairs are a relatively frequently reported type of event — 6.3% of all reports among the BLUE BOOK "unknowns" — and possibly the basic pattern of UFO social behavior.

PAIR UFO: Two discrete observables, usually of similar appearance that maintain close proximity and approximately parallel dynamic motion during part or all of the observed event; the result of a spawn event.

Pairs are described in foo fighter reports filed by Allied pilots in Europe, and a pair appears in one of the earliest film records we have, the 1950 Great Falls MT 15 August "Mariana UFO" event filmed by Nick Mariana and witnessed also by his secretary.

The behavioral significance of pair UFO is that their maneuvers indicate mutual influence that would require a controlling communication between them — either as master/slave or as some form of consensus/compromise algorithm. The observational significance is that the mutual movements are nothing like airplanes, helicopters, balloons or birds: they are more easily recognized as "odd." Some of the recorded interactions are intricate and resemble the dominance or mating displays between solitary conspecifics or playful scampering (1952 WASHINGTON DC, 2018 PICACHO PEAK AZ). The radar tracks in Figure 14 show a spawned pair UFO travel a considerable distance while maintaining the same spacing, despite a peculiar "zig zag" waver in the shared path and mutual acceleration to a velocity of 800 m/s [1800 mph].

The time scale of both pair and solo events is usually minutes, and a fading or "dying out" of luminance or a brisk disappearance vertically or into the distance are common endings in both recorded and reported events. This 2015 Reading GBR 14 September event (best viewed full screen, as the UFO images are faint) shows two UFO circling each other before one and then the other fades from view. This 2021 Calipatria CA 17 December event shows two scintillating and (according to the witness) pulsating observables in a hovering flight before one fades and disappears; the high magnification image at the end shows a rapidly changing irregular form. Evidence of hyperagility (hovering), EM modulation (pulsating and fading), envelopment ("thermal" texture and changing outline), anaerodynamic form and witness arousal make this a high probability UFO record. The still photograph shows two gemlike white kernels surrounded by a pinkish shell that strongly resembles the 2020 VICTORIA MEX observable (Figure 10). Another example of a useful citizen video that only needed a steady camera and a continuous recording to be invaluable. The intriguing verbal report concludes: "We both saw what appeared to be a beam of light come out of the sky with the ufo's out of sight it was so fast and thin that we both didn't know what we were looking [at]." Witness follow up would yield a clearer description of the time course, movement, light beam and departure.

Pairing is also implied in the bilobular form of some UFO and in the appearance of UFO in many of the linked videos as a pair of lights (2019 USS OMAHA (2) and Figure 20e). In this 2015 Graz AUT 2 October interaction (which lacks sound and file provenance), two observables align and appear to become two bilobed observables, before merging into a single light that changes color and seems to dissolve away. And when the three observables in 2021 KROMĚŘÍŽE finally resolve they are each a pair of closely spaced lights.

(3) UFO FLIGHT is by far the most common UFO group behavior pattern, observed in 10.2% of BLUE BOOK "unknown" reports — more frequently than pairs. About 64% of flights or 6.5% of all BLUE BOOK reports are observed as a UFO FORMATION where all observables in the flight maintain highly consistent speed, interdistance spacing and angular relations with each other.

UFO FLIGHT: Two or more discrete observables that descend, move in transit or ascend in approximate or highly consistent parallel dynamic motion (shared direction of movement and small variances in speed) during any part of the observed event.

Probably because of the striking appearance, flights are among the earliest reported UFO events, such as the 1904 USS SUPPLY event described later. In the "modern" era the 1947 Mt. Rainier WA 24 June "Flying Saucer" sighting by Kenneth Arnold was a flight of nine lenticular, mirror bright forms arranged as a staggered column and clocked flying at 540 m/s [1200 mph]. A similar flight of eight observables appeared over 1947 Tulsa OK 12 July, and twelve flying in a diamond formation in 1947 Rapid City AFB SD 15 August.

The Mariana video is a flight of two, as the distance and azimuth orientation between the two UFO apparently remains constant. A frequently seen configuration is the UFO TRIANGLE, where three identical lights form a triangle, for example as in this 2022 Denver CO 12 December event, photographed also from a second position; or this near contemporaneous 2022 Washington DC 19 December event. A possibly significant formation is a group of three observables as an equilateral triangle, as in the 2015 Beirut LBN 22 July event. The 2013 Hazlet NJ 25 December event suggests how the formation of three equally bright, red lights can produce the illusion of a single large triangular object. The 2010 NEW YORK observables maintain a possibly equilateral triangular formation (inferred from the slight rotation observed in foreshortening) of evolving span across several minutes of interaction. These stable triangular formations imply the "social" communications necessary for either mutual or hierarchical control of movement and relative distance to create and maintain the formation while in motion across space.

Flights on the whole are brief events. The reported flights in the BLUE BOOK reports have an observed average median duration of only 3.0 minutes, although the median of about 9.1 minutes suggests there are often flights that remain in view substantially longer. This 2022 St. Louis MO 12 June event begins with perhaps 9 bright/dark forms passing in and out of view, oscillating and forming a triangular flight (t = 1:15) and later (t = 4:45) a possible spawn event (center screen). The event is visible for about 4 minutes of the video. These appear to me to be bright/dark forms that give the appearance of rotation or oscillation at some points, and when their luminance matches the sky they appear to disappear entirely.

Jeremy Corbell has released a remarkable pair of short videos of a 2022 Fort Collins CO 19 October event recorded by a "professional pilot" who remains anonymous out of fear of career repurcussions and describes the geographic location as "the Colorado area." The first video shows the formation of a triangular flight as two blinking lights approach a single bright light from behind, adopt a fixed position behind the light and apparently exchange repeated flashes of energy, until one substantially increases in radiance. The second video is an extended observation of the triangle at higher magnification, showing that the bright light is actually a pair of iridescent yellow orbs, possibly the most beautiful and clear images of "orb" UFO in public evidence. More background is required about this event, but the UFO is described as appearing like a "falling star, which didn't go across the sky but came vertically straight down ... at an unbelievably high speed." Note that in 2020 VICTORIA MEX, another airline pilot sighting, the UFO also was first mistaken for a meteor.

The 1951 Lubbock TX 25-30 August "Lubbock Lights" event consisted of numerous flights that passed rapidly overhead on multiple nights. Competent witnesses (four college professors in science and engineering) judged their progress to be about 30° in one second; a fifth professor calculated the speed at over 300 m/s [670 mph], nearly Mach 1. (Visually, a speed of Mach 1 is not exceptionally fast when viewed from the ground, and appears slower for targets at higher altitude.)

As photographed by Karl Hart, Jr. (Figure 11), the flights were accompanied by a single "monitor" observable leading or flanking each formation (arrows in the image below). The same configuration of a larger or differently colored observable accompanying a formation of smaller observables was observed in the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) event as well, where a flight of five observables flying with the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) ("Look at those things!") broke away as a formation in a different direction. Similar echelon flights were observed during the Hudson River Valley wave; Kean (p. 184) reprints witness drawings of 8 of them.

Figure 11. The "Lubbock Lights" photographed by Karl Hart, Jr. around 10 pm on 30 August 1951. The arrow indicates a larger "monitor" observable that accompanied each of the echelon flights of 17 to 19 lights.

Here again we confront the question of authenticity. Mr. Hart's photos of the "Lubbock Lights" have an exemplary provenance. They were printed in the local paper by a publisher who promised to "ruin" Hart if they were a hoax; Hart stood for investigative interviews, surrendered the negatives to the Air Force for evaluation, and then went on with his life. (He died, still a resident of Lubbock, in September 2020.) Civilian Edward Ruppelt, in the 1956 first edition of his classic The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, testifies to Hart's competence as a witness (an aspiring sports photographer familiar with tracking moving athletes to minimize motion blur), and we have no reason to presume and no evidence whatsoever to suspect that Hart lied when he affirmed that the lights were in the sky and the photo accurately represents what he saw.

Yet writing of the Hart photos, Ruppelt came back with the odd pronouncement that "The photos were never proven to be a hoax, but neither were they proven to be genuine" (p. 107). The question for Ruppelt would be: if the camera functioned correctly, the emulsions were sound, the film properly developed, the negatives show no evidence of tampering, the photographs show different flights, the lights correspond to the observations by other witnesses, the witness reenacted the event for investigators in his backyard, his description of the speed of the flight matches the description given by four university science and engineering professors, the witness confirms the photos are of the lights, and the witness appears both truthful and competent ... what other evidence is required to accept the photographs as "genuine"? How would such a proof be made? This highlights the fundamental probative anchor of all UFO reports: the truthfulness and competence of the observer or sensor system that provides the evidence.

Flights are rare in the video documentation, possibly because they are factually rare or because their motion carries them out of view before recording can begin. The 2015 Chicago IL 12 August UAP event occurred near and during an air show, providing a skeptical alternative and, as with most public documents at present, both the witness and provenance information are lacking. I include the video because it illustrates the difficulty of photographing a flight in high speed transit. These lights have an irregular and complex variation in luminance that does not resemble aircraft running lights and does not seem bright enough to be dramatic for an audience on the ground.

A slower night flight appears in this 2020 Bossier City LA 5 January UAP event, filmed by a patient, intelligent and carefully narrating witness near the Bossier AFB; we see self luminous form and strange EM emittance: intensely bright, steady light and then asynchronously flashing lights with witness report of "those things are changin' colors ... they flashin' like pink, purple, blue, green ... yellow" after t = 4:30 (compare with Figure 2), and later "it's like every time they flash they turn a different color," making this a possible UFO record. Visual proportions judged against the local streetlights suggest the flight was 9 times farther away on first observation than at the end of the 12 minute recording; if we assume they were a mile distant at the end, they were traveling at around 18 m/s [40 mph], speeds consistent with drones.

The 2021 Beach Park IL 28 November event shows groups of 3, 5 and 2 UAP in slow transit within a few miles of Lake Michigan, described by the witness as "red glowing lights in formation flying toward Lake Michigan and vanished in mid air." The closest airport is the civilian Waukegan National Airport, but these lights are not stacked as departing aircraft. This 2016 Mudgee AUS 1 July flight of seven loosely grouped UAP observables shows self luminous forms but neither strange EM emittance nor hyperdynamic movement. A bright cloud at the end reduces the sensor gain sufficiently to make the observables disappear, suggesting these UAP are not extremely bright.

The 2021 New York NY 20 April event records a flyby of 15 UFO in groups of two, three or four recorded over ten minutes. Note the close pass between pairs of observables at 1:01 and 3:09 and the change from luminance to dark silhouette in the two observables at 0:47. The witnesses both remark that an observable "just vanished" at 7:30, and it does so with a "guttering" or blinking out that strongly resembles the UFO disappearance in 2019 USS OMAHA 16 July. The solo observables at 3:17, 4:53 and 7:55 appear approximately round with a flashing red hue, but these details are poorly captured by the saturated pixels of the camera. This is an excellent record by a skilled and steady photographer over an extended period of time, with date and location information that would allow the event to be corroborated by other sightings or checked against air traffic information. Note the bizarre "altercation" between the two observables that both change from bright to dark after 0:47: they appear to collide and fall together out of the flight. These are not aircraft or drones.

The Hart UFO photos can be interpreted as a formation of 17 to 19 lights in shape of a "V" or as running lights on a single wing or echelon shaped form. This is an ambiguity that cannot be resolved at night, and human perception tends to "fill in" incomplete or outlined forms, commonly illustrated with the Kanizsa triangle. During the Phoenix UFO wave "hundreds" of witnesses saw a slowly moving formation of five widely spaced lights, while "hundreds" of other witnesses, including the governor Fife Symington, saw a single winged craft that they judged to be about a mile wide. Neither interpretation was an obstacle to calculating altitude from the reported azimuth and zenith angle of different observers, which Bruce Maccabee used to compute altitudes of 2.5 to 5 kilometers [8,000 to 15,000 feet].

(4) UFO SWARM is the appearance of a hovering group of UFO whose relative positions are often continually changing. Swarms are very rare, only 0.8% of BLUE BOOK reports, but we seem to have better video records of them, probably because they can be quite dramatic and persist in place for several minutes.

UFO SWARM: Three or more observables that remain in the same geographic location and altitude for an extended period while either holding a static arrangement or evolving through changes in the relative distances and positions among the separate members.

Despite their extremely infrequent occurrence (which may be even less today than in the BLUE BOOK era), swarms are found in some of the best attested videos, likely because the swarm is a dramatic and unmistakable display that unfolds over a long enough period to be observed carefully and recorded. The 14 swarm events reported in the BLUE BOOK "unknowns" persisted for a median of 50 minutes and an average of nearly two hours. This approximates the intervals at which multiple radar returns were observed to descend together and linger over the ocean prior to 2004 USS NIMITZ intercepts. A similarly prolonged display was observed in the earliest swarm account I know of, a 1936 or 1937 event reported years later to J. Allen Hynek and quoted by him in The Hynek UFO Report (p. 113):

I say between 10 or 12 UFO because of their constant motion and eccentric darting movements which made it virtually impossible to make an accurate count. Some were hovering absolutely still while a few would be darting haphazardly to and fro, coming to stops that were unbelievable. Their darting motions were of one constant speed with no visible evidence of acceleration or deceleration; comparable to sliding a checker piece on a checkerboard with one's index finger in a quick, jerky movements. All this activity took place directly beneath the clouds within an area roughly 500 feet in diameter. They were all identical in size, shape and color. ... We watched these objects cavorting and doing their acrobatics for approximately ten minutes, when suddenly they converged, as if on signal, to one point under the clouds; stacking one above the other and climbing vertically up into the cloud bank and disappearing from sight.

One of the most striking UFO swarm records is also one of the earliest, the 1952 Tremonton UT 2 July event filmed by Navy Officer (with the title of Chief Photographer) Delbert C. Newhouse and witnessed also by his wife and two children. The quality of the film is unfortunately jumpy and unevenly exposed (possibly, in an experienced photographer, a sign of arousal), but the movements are much clearer in this stabilized version of the last frames. What we can see of the 1952 TREMONTON event (Figure 12a) has a strikingly ceremonious, balletic quality.

The original was subjected to over 1000 hours of analysis by the Photo-Reconnaissance Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the US Navy Photo Interpretation Center in Washington D.C. The conclusions of those studies were that the "objects" appear to be round emitting sources of bluish white light, were moving at more than 150 m/s [340 mph], and were not birds, balloons, conventional aircraft or atmospheric phenomena. The sequence after 5:38 is especially striking as it shows pairs of UFO moving in tandem in relation to other observables while changing distance or orientation in relation to each other. (See also the comparative still images of individual observables in Figure 19.)

Figure 12. (a) Screen shot from the 1952 TREMONTON UFO swarm. In the video, the three pairs in the lower left move together in relation to the other observables while changing position or distance in relation to each other. (b) Screen shot of the swarm in 2004 GUADALAJARA.

A more recent and equally remarkable example that seems quite similar is the 2014 Astana KAZ 20 June event of an uncountably large number of self luminous UAP swarming in the night sky in what appears on careful and repeated scrutiny of single lights to be back and forth or pairwise circling movements. The evident altitude and extremely large and random changes in luminance make this unlikely to be, for example, birds illuminated by a ground source. A second event of similar scale is this 2004 Guadalajara MEX 10 June swarm of perhaps 100 separate UAP observables (Figure 12b), which in magnified shots appear to show the same elongated, bright/dark aspect as the Great Falls and Tremonton films discussed below (Figure 19), and at the end captures a particularly bright observable that resembles 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE. Unfortunately it also shows aliasing defects caused by serial copying; location of the original video and witness identity are unknown to me. (A swarm of similar size is described in the CBS radio report. Compare with this dated but unsourced swarm video here.) There is also this longer

A fifth recording of these mutual interactions is the extended 2010 New York NY 15 October of three interacting orbs, with two solo observables of similar size and luminance hovering nearby. This eight minute film has excellent provenance from the New York, NY CBS station (WCBS-TV) and briefly captures architectural objects for visual scale and a crowd of observers witnessing the event among many passersby who ignore it.

The obvious skeptical interpretation will be "balloons," but three details make that interpretation unsatisfactory. (1) The observables appear self luminous and, at the beginning, one or more of them appears briefly to brighten (e.g., at t = 0:13, 3:00), dim or briefly disappear (t = 0:22). (2) In the early part of the record, the observables oscillate simultaneously toward or away from the group centroid and otherwise move with a weighty path inertia; balloons tethered together will appear to linger or drift, and one balloon will yank the others if caught in a slightly faster or slower gust. (3) At the end, the spacing between the three observables widens considerably, minimizing the possibility that they were tethered, yet they remain in a consistent, almost rigid relationship. The two solitary observables also approach the trio at the end, while air currents would be more likely to separate objects than cluster them together. Most interesting to me is that the trio seems eventually to form a stable equilateral triangle in foreshortened view that retains its orientation despite doubling in size (Figure 13).

Figure 13. Stability in the triangular formation of the three observables in the 2010 NEW YORK video. Sixty stutter stepped images from t = 4:50 to 5:50.

The three 2019 USS OMAHA videos introduced above show different aspects of a swarm of about 14 UFO around a US Navy littoral combat ship during the night and following morning of July 15/16. The 2017 Paris FRA 24 June event shows as many as eight observables, three of them (one white, two red) apparently holding an approximately fixed positions against two solitary white observables followed by a very brightly flashing observable and one or two companions approaching and stimulating the first white observable to flash in reply. This presents interesting evidence for UFO communication through light and communication implies a form of species interaction.

Two additional videos illustrate the difficulties with much of the UFO evidence. This stupefying video appears to show a swarm assembled in a highly complex inverted square pyramid. It is useless as evidence because there is no witness testimony, the tape is sourced to a YouTube account that has been deleted, and the UAP were filmed while the witness was doing "a quick EVP [electronic voice phenomena] session." Although all the criteria for a UFO swarm are present, there is obviously a very high probability that this is a CGI hoax UAP.

Finally, there is this intriguing 2020 Kroměříže, CZE 10 April UAP event that shows an unresolved line of lights in the distance as filmed by the passenger in a moving car. Eventually the driver finds a place to stop just as the lights resolve into six paired or three bilobular observables apparently moving as a flight. There is an airport about 16 miles [26 km] south of Kroměříže, and another about 32 miles [52 km] west at Brno, probably too far out to make these aircraft landing lights. Both are single runway airports, making it implausible that three approaching planes would attempt to land at the same time. At least two witnesses claim to have identified the observables as airplanes, but a photo taken by another witness does not resolve the issue. Without witness testimony as to the location and direction of view the attribution to aircraft cannot be dismissed. The video shows anaerodynamic and self luminous forms but no strange EM emittance or hyperdynamic movement.

There are a number of UFO swarm videos on the web that were recorded at locations near US military bases and posted without noting the location, time and direction of view. As with the 2017 TRENTON video, I could not determine whether they represented UFO over open country, UFO indifference to military airspace, or routine training with aerial flares. MUFON is building a fine library of UFO videos but their report template should require time, location and direction of view, as well as a minimum description of the event. Providing that information is also a minimum demonstration of observer truthfulness and competence.

(5) UFO SPAWN is another rare event, only 1.3% of the 1700 BLUE BOOK "unknowns", although 23 are recorded and they lasted for an average and median period of a quarter hour (14.3 and 15.0 minutes) which implies they may indicate some basic social or energetic function of recognizable duration. Both spawn and flux describe a transformation in the observable, but spawn seems to involve observables of a stable, "object" appearance, while flux is amorphous and continually changing. Both transformations seem strongly inconsistent with the concept of UFO as a "technology".

UFO SPAWN: The appearance of one observable out of another by ejection or division; or the merger of two or more observables into a single body or contiguous cluster.

Hermann Oberth described spawning behavior in 1954: "It sometimes happens that these disks placed one upon the other, the largest in the center, the smaller toward the ends, to form an object the shape of a cigar, which then flies away with high speed. Sometimes one already saw a cigar (UFO) stopping and untie into separate disks." The 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 3, p. 29) states that "The merging of UAP together is frequently reported. ... Those that diverge or merge appear as a group within the same location over a limited volume of airspace, usually a few hundred metres in diameter."

Events described with this level of detail should (by mere chance) also appear in the public record, and while 2009 Lemoore CA 11 September event seems incredible it also corresponds to the gist of various eyewitness reports and appears with the tremor and optical artifacts to be a video very difficult to fake.

The earliest spawn event known to me is a one line description of a 1947 Hacked JPN 1 July event where an observable traveling at more than 220 m/s [500 mph] "split into two targets, each estimated to be larger than a P-51." A more detailed occurrence was recorded as radar returns in the 1952 USS Philippine Sea 2 February event, where a single large return split into two identical returns traveling in parallel about 8 to 20 kilometers [5 to 12 miles] apart and at speeds up to 800 m/s [1800 mph]. The original radar plot (Figure 14) illustrates the kind of schematic data that the Department of Defense could share with the scientific community without compromising national security. The 2013 AGUADILLA PRI event also documents a single observable that appears to split into a matching pair traveling on the same path (see Figure 15).

Figure 14. Radar plot of a single large observable veering away from the USS Philippine Sea (at center of the plot) and spawning into two tracks. (Compare this large scale undulating path to the higher frequency path in Figure 5.)

Perhaps the most famous spawn sighting is the 1976 Tehran IRN 19 September or "Tehran UFO" incident. The declassified primary documents are posted at the Black Vault. This is an astonishing event that combines corroborating observations by citizens on the ground, air traffic controllers, air traffic radar, commercial pilots, senior military pilots, aircraft radar, repeated aircraft weapons and communications malfunctions, and an air force general. A glowing red orange object resembling a ceiling fan was observed by two independent witnesses to split into two parts; and an observable consisting of four lights (red, yellow, green and blue) flashing strobelike and forming square corners around a red orange center light was observed to discharge two smaller lights. One light flew rapidly to Earth, illuminating the desert for 2 to 3 kilometers and temporarily blinding the observing pilot's night vision; the other chased a military fighter jet then returned to its origin. Brian Dunning makes a solid attempt at debunking some specifics of this incident but the variety and number of witnesses, including high credibility witnesses, the precise visual description and detailed strangeness of the UFO behaviors, the electrical, electronic and visual effects of the UFO and the long term consistency of witness testimony seem to me to constitute an irreproachable narrative — as DIA Colonel Evans concluded, "of high reliability and value" — that assumed radar failures and visual misattributions of celestial objects do not plausibly explain.

Spawn events can be prolonged or complex and at times verge on flux events in their evolving appearance. A UFO spawn event illustrating this complexity is 1950 Hecla SD 30 June. In the Swords and Powell account (p. 57):

[A] husband and wife saw an odd object, like a lighted mass, from their automobile. They stopped to look. Others did, too. After a while, the lighted mass seemed to get larger and then "throw off" three small pieces. These satellites assumed a very regular isosceles triangle around the larger mass. All objects now appeared silvery [metallic], like polished aluminum. The central object then broke apart into an aggregate of many small objects, which seemed to fade away. The satellite triangle moved away, becoming further separated and also dimmer as if going to a great altitude, always maintaining the perfect triangle. The project officers who interviewed the witnesses were impressed with their sincerity and meticulous detail. The husband, who was a chemical engineer and an amateur astronomer, said "I am familiar with the new large plastic balloons for weather or cosmic ray observation. It could not have been one."

The appearance change described as "fade away" appears in its simplest form in this 2019 Manosque FRA 24 March event. A second light emerges from the first, which immediately extinguishes, just as the second light also fades away. But similar fading appears in 2013 AGUADILLA PRI, 2019 GRAZ and 2021 NEW YORK, and is frequently remarked on in the historical record. The Schulgen memo (quoted above) refers to it as a "complete disintegration."

Spawn events in the public record usually involve observables moving only slowly or hovering, and the spawning during acceleration observed in 1952 PHILIPPINE SEA may be unusual. This 2013 Mexico City MEX 3 June event shows a linear or chain UFO spawning two fainter single UFO (at 0:57 and 4:44) with fluctuations in the color of a pink or pale red "tail." The zoom forward and back indicates that the observable was above the cumulus clouds, which usually form at altitudes above 2 kilometers [6500 feet].

Figure 15 (bottom) shows the 2013 AGUADILLA PRI spawn event (after t=1:50). The observable emerges from the water after a prolonged immersion and appears to brighten then split into pair observables. At this point the camera operator switches to high magnification and we can see in detail the mirror resemblance as one and then the other either fades or dips into the water before both shortly disappear. This is one of the clearest and most explicit spawn videos and again suggests the implausibility of interpreting something that can divide itself as a "vehicle technology."

With background stars as a helpful reference, this remarkable 2012 São Paulo BRA n.d. event shows two large observables spawn several smaller ones, and at the end (7:55) the lower light decomposes into a tiny, tight triad of lights. This video, silent because filmed in infrared, is interesting for the witness arousal (camera unsteadiness) that occurs during a double spawning episode near the middle. This 2021 São Paulo BRA 8 August event captures two smaller lights spawning out of a single bright and more rapidly moving observable.

Instances of spawning have also been observed in the study of the Hessdalen lights (Figure 15): "You are talking about flashes, just short flashes, can be hard to see; and you have this ball of light, sometimes with different colors onto it. Sometimes, um, smaller ball of light is coming out of this ball of light, and sometimes, some other light, small light, just go into the ball of light."

(6) UAP FLUX Probably the most intriguing and inexplicable of all aerial "unidentified anomalous phenomena", flux events most closely correspond to the preferred UK theory that many UFO are actually buoyant atmospheric plasmas.

UAP FLUX: A hovering or slowly transiting observable or multiple observables that displays an aperiodic variation in shape or size, and changes in luminance or color, sometimes involving fragmentation or spawning (merging, splitting).

I use the term UAP ("I don't know what that is") for this behavior pattern because I strongly doubt that "flux" should be put in the category of UFO, which generally presents a compact, discrete and unchanging "object" form. Flux does not present a compact, persistent and recognizable shape. It may account for some of the Lights and Fireballs that comprise between 10% to 22% of shape reports and account for about 17% of BLUE BOOK "unknowns", but flux generally does not show any acceleration or large changes in location. The videos linked here suggest a correlation between flux and spawn events, as flux sometimes appears as a fragmenting luminous body or as a swarm of smaller luminous bodies that sporadically appear and disappear.

Flux events appear to emit large amounts of energy in the visual, but possibly also occur in other frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Flux events seem to be observed at night (when most people are asleep) and usually elevated far above the ground. For those reasonsvideo recordings of flux displays are sparse in the public domain, despite the fact that the events tend to be prolonged and even repeat over successive nights (as indicated in the witness comments during 2013 AITKIN COUNTY, linked below).

The fact that flux sources form a variety of undefinable shapes and patterns, flow from one source center into another or appear and disappear makes it unlikely that flux is a manifestation of a physically stable observable within. The sudden appearance or "vanishing" of UFO could be reasonably attributed to UFO hyperdynamism, but flux seems so complex that "objects" do not describe it adequately. Flux is the single strongest piece of evidence that UAP are or can be without a "structured" manifestation as an "object" or "vehicle," which strongly implies that UFO consist of at least two or more completely distinct phenomena.

The earliest witness account of flux that I can find is 1948 Bakersfield CA 5 March display, repeated over four consecutive days, in which (quoting Swords & Powell p. 53, quoting Project BLUE BOOK microfilm roll 2) the display "seemed to disintegrate or disappear. Air Force investigators said that it was similar to 'star shell' bursts, but no such activities were known to have gone on." (Star shells were lingering, brilliant magnesium flares that dropped sparks as they burned.)

One of the longest flux videos known to me is this midnight 2021 Wilmington CA 17 June event (Figure 15, top). The witness is a knowledgeable observer ("No, [asteroids] come by way faster than that.") and family member distracted by a missing binocular while filming for a herculean 7:26 minutes with decent focus, a fairly steady hand, and a clear sky. This is sufficient to capture an extraordinary evolution from one luminance center into two or more others, after which the observables coalesce again into a single light. The witness conversation reveals that the filmed portion is only part of a much longer display.

A similarly fascinating video that I would classify as UAP Flux (it appears to vaporous in closeup to interpret as a solid form) is the 1995 Salida CA 27 August event when an elongated luminous observable of about 1:10 proportions was first observed high in a clear sky by a child and then observed and recorded for over an hour by two adult witness with a binocular and a camera. The observer and computer scientist estimate (without presenting evidence) that it was about one mile [1.6 km] long, which would make it about 160 meters [500 feet] thick and (at the guestimated altitude of 70,000 feet [about 13 miles or 21.5 km]) visually about 4.3° long; or the width of nine full moons. The episode of zoom focus (t = 4:20ff) and shots next to the rain gutter suggest to me something much smaller, probably 1/2°, which at the uncorroborated height would make it around 190 meters [610 feet] long and even smaller at lower altitude. Either way, it must initially have been quite bright and visually distinctive for a child to notice it near the Sun and the zenith as described by the witness at the viewing site.

Another interesting feature of this event is that it documents the difference between visual and photographic evidence. The witnesses describe the observable either as "a long, pencil like uh, aluminum foil triangle object in the sky" or as something changing: "alot of times it turned into a ... uh, like we're looking into a fog bank or something like that, and it appeared, it was ... it could be a wheel with an inner ball inside with the wheel with the lights rotating around it, a 360° wheel" (the child repeats off camera, "something going around it"). But the appearance is more like a segment of vapor or ice refractance, compact and dimensionally stable, with changes from bright luminance to near disappearance and lateral movement of lights that resemble pulses of energy, which the witness calls "windows". This lateral movement of lights creates an illusion of rotation that distinctly does not appear in the "foglike" irregularities in density of the luminous band itself. At one point (t = 6:30ff.) these traversing lights peculiarly resemble the paired, diagonally aligned energy sources that appear in the 2013 AGUADILLA PRI observable (cf. Figure 15). And a rainbow hued cloud formation would not "move erratically" or present the diversity of luminance variations or remain compact in a clear warm afternoon sky for more than an hour. Also, contrast the Salida observable with the elongate form recorded as 2013 MEXICO CITY MEX (Figure 20c). Both would be classified as "cigars" in the received nomenclature yet they show significant differences in appearance and behavior.

Numerous instances of UAP flux have been documented in the nearly four decade study of the Hessdalen lights, aerial phenomena reported since the 1930s that seem to have peaked in the 1980s when as many as 15 to 20 events would be observed in a single week. The study, cofounded and managed by Norwegian engineering professor Erling Strand, has produced a large body of evidence, some of it summarized and interpreted by Massimo Teodorani. A particularly spectacular display was captured in this 2016 Hessdalen video, with curving streamers indicating lines of force emanating from the brightest sources (Figure 15, middle).

Figure 15. (top) Two spawning flux transitions from 2021 WILMINGTON. (middle) UAP FLUX display from 2016 HESSDALEN with spawned red observables from "white" radiance centers. (bottom) Spawn event at the end of 2013 AGUADILLA PRI (read right to left, the direction of motion). Note the appearance of paired heat centers or "eyes" in the observables, similarly spaced to the pair lights observed in 2019 USS OMAHA (2) and 2009 KOMBURGAZ (cf. Figure 20e).

The unnerving 2013 Aitkin County MN 12 September flux appears (in the short intervals of focus achieved by an impaired witness) as spherical eruptions of light across an apparently coruscating and three dimensional surface. It is very difficult to find a prosaic explanation for this display. A very similar event is documented, again with difficulties in focus but with a welcome use of zoom to include terrestrial objects to suggest the angular scale and elevation, in this 2015 Houston TX 30 March video, which includes many different types of emittance and suggestions of red and green color, possibly a sensor artifact. Although it lacks date, provenance and witness statement, this video of a randomly emitting, amorphous aerial form and this creepy 2018 Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl MEX 26 December event (with witness statements and views from two cameras) may indicate what these displays look like when illuminated. The popular name for these forms is "jellyfish UFO", which bunkists consistenly disparage as bunches of metallic balloons reflecting sunlight (which they inconsistently prove to be).

A brief but extremely beautiful 2021 Yucay PER 13 May event, which we first see in mid progress (again with difficulties of focus elided by edits) as a dancing swarm of lights similar to 1952 TREMONTON that evolves into several spawn incidents and large variations in the UAP flux and ends with what appears to be the gathering of observables into a ring flight that ejects a faint tail (t=1:50) before the display fades away. The audible vocalization near the end suggests the witness coping with arousal or straining against fatigue. All three events suggest random and highly unstable luminance effects within a well bounded area and possibly "surface" geometry; 2013 AITKIN COUNTY in particular gives the impression of eruptions of light spreading over a dark (undetectable in the visual) volume in space.

The Kumburgaz TUR events. The 2007-09 Kumburgaz TUR case over the Sea of Marmara is in a class by itself. It is so often cited by alienists as a significant observation that it deserves attention.

The available record is spread across videos recorded on 22 dates between June 22, 2007 and May 17, 2009; I recommend the image stabilized version or this collection of still images to clarify what is being recorded. The many videos from this location document isolated lights, a pair of lights that suddenly switch off, an arc of four ruddy lights (May 15, 2009) and a symmetrical hovering swarm of six lights of variable brightness (June 16 and July 2, 2008), all hovering over the Sea of Marmara west of Istanbul. Occasionally the planet Jupiter appears in wide angle shots, along with the local beach, boaters and a romping dog. Background sounds include plashing waves, barking dogs, running water and exclamations from the observer. Corroborating documentation around the videos includes a witness interview, a later witness interview (the witness apparently has lifelong "alien" visions), description of the recording cameras and analysis of the video.

Figure 16. Various forms of the circular segment UAP. Repeated patterns are indicated with colored stripes. (left) June-August 2007; note the incorrect "AM/PM" setting of the 12 hour camera clock in July-August. (center) May-July 2008. (right) Rapid "bright/dark" luminance changes observed on 12 June 2008. (bottom) Briefly appearing small light (arrow) among subtle texture changes in 2008 Kumburgaz 31 August. All images from videos by Murat Yaçin Yalman.

The primary observable in the Kumburgaz videos is a radiant arc forming a circular segment between 45° to 90° and roughly straight across the bottom (Figure 16). Over three consecutive summers there were repeated appearances of at least five distinct variations of this observable, identified in Figure 16 by colored stripes, along with momentary changes in appearance that indicate this is not a static model or optical illusion. Differences between the forms are apparent for example in the two bulbous features that only appear in the red stripe videos and are claimed by alienists to be the heads of two extraterrestrial pilots. A brief interval of the May 17, 2009 video that includes shots of a half Moon suggests the segment is about 15 arcminutes wide along its base and, according to a map provided in the documentation, the location of the observable is estimated to be about 10 to 20 kilometers [6 to 12.5 miles] offshore. This would make the segment about 45 to 85 meters [145 to 280 feet] wide and the ~½ arcminute "alien heads" 1.5 to 2.9 meters wide.

The body of the segment sometimes contains faint concentric striations and nearly always what appears to be a raised edge of smallest radius at the bottom of the segment. This bottom edge is approximately level but is not perfectly straight, as it would be if formed by a uniform barrier such as the ocean horizon or an optical stop, but is consistently angled slightly upward on one side — mostly on the right, as the red and gold stripe images show clearly, but also on the left (June 6, 2008). The upper edge is marked by various bulbous, wedge shaped protrusions or a central notched indentation that look nothing like a human technology.

Despite the semblance of a metallic, reflecting surface, the observable is apparently self luminous. The actual luminance is hard to judge without knowing the camera light sensitivity, but Stellarium suggests that across the 20 video dates that the "segment" observable was recorded, the Moon was full on only 2 nights (white circles in Figure 16), but on 5 dates, including 3 nights in Figure 16, the Moon was too near the Sun to be visible (open circles); and it was less than half full on 12 nights (and therefore below the horizon for most of the night). These drastic contrasts in environmental lighting do not change the appearance of the observable or correspond to the surface orientation of highest "reflection".

On several nights there are clearly visible changes in appearance, sometimes over a matter of minutes or seconds (cf. August 7 and 24, 2007 in Figure 16), that prove this is not a static object such as a cruise liner bridge. In the 12 June 2008 event (Figure 16, right) there are rapid changes in subtle coloring and animated patterns of brightening and darkening in the observable that provoke excited exclamations from the photographer and are not due to passing clouds. This suggests "strange" electromagnetic emittance from four or five similar (or a single morphing) aerial and anaerodynamic forms.

What counts as "evidence"? The popular bunkist interpretations — that we are actually looking at an elaborately staged hoax or the curved bridge of a luxury cruise ship, with the usual slurs against the integrity of witness Yalman — should actually reproduce the optical hoax or produce a matching photo of a cruise ship bridge (at night) ... which they haven't done.

Until then, what makes those interpretations unlikely, in addition to the overview "debunker debunk" by UAP Files Podcast, is the demonstration that the observable was as much as 8° above the surface of the water, which at the minimum estimated distance of 10 km would be an altitude of about 1400 meters. Marine tracking data (AIS) for the dates of the recordings verify there were no ships in the Sea of Marmara on the nights and times that the recordings were made. The form is nothing like a human structure but has a weirdly organic rather than machinelike appearance. The observable might be a staged reflection or optical defect, but the fact that the segments appear in at least four different forms across time (color chevrons in Figure 16), appear in indisputably outdoor shots of the night sky or the beach, do not visibly change aspect when zoomed or displaced by hand tremor, and do not match when equally magnified and superimposed, makes those explanations implausible.

But I ask the same question of the Kumburgaz videos that I do with still photographic evidence: Why should I care? What can the Kumburgaz videos tell me about UFO or UAP flux as a real phenomenon? This sets aside the entire "alienist/bunkist" debate that this must be either a genuine UFO or a cruise ship/hoax. Prosaic explanations must be obvious, reproducible or demonstrably plausible; but even if they aren't demonstrably plausible (as I believe applies in this case), I don't consider that negative judgment grounds to accept the videos as useful evidence of something uncanny.

With Kumburgaz I come away with nothing except "strangeness". The video evidence is unique in location and time, unlike "orbs" or "disks" which are observed across the historical record and in widely different locations and therefore assure us that they are a valid category of observables. The observable in this case is difficult to explain as a technology or machine, or as a single strategy of hoax of reflection or maquette or optics, or as a known or theoretical natural phenomenon; there is substantial circumstantial evidence and a forensic report to assure us of authenticity, but the observables Yalman filmed show no dynamic attributes or emittance patterns that might help the identification of this UAP flux as a UFO. We only guess at distance and size; the visible changes in form are inexplicable. It is unlike anything filmed anywhere else in the world at any time. Neither "authentic" nor "hoax" does it justice: it is authentic, unique and uninterpretable.

UFO Morphology

The third and last category of UFO attributes, after performance capabilities and the behavior expressed through those capabilites, is the morphology or exterior appearance of what I have been calling the observable. Morphology is the "platform" or structural basis for the assumed flight capabilities and possible task specialization of UFO, so we would expect morphology to be one of the most informative aspects of the phenomena.

But examination of this area suggests it is inherently the least informative dimension of UFO phenomena compared to patterns of behavior and observed behavioral capabilities. It is also the specific attribute most likely to implicate perceptual illusions or perpetuate biases about "what UFO look like". And past conceptions of morphology have missed important variations of appearance — including a "bright/dark" appearance that I document in photos from the earliest years of UFO sightings.

How do we interpret appearance?

Let's start by asking: what do we hope to gain with an appearance taxonomy?

Differences in appearance can be evidence that UFO are not all the same thing and might indicate important differences in the UFO themselves — perhaps how the propulsion and energy systems work, or how different UFO are adapted to specific tasks or environments, for example as an aquatic probe that only appears over water or an interstellar transport that only appears descending from high altitude.

The cumulative observational evidence strongly suggests that we are not merely observing different shapes of the same thing but fundamentally different phenomena occupying the same performance arena as "unrecognizable things in the sky". Some observers (and video evidence) suggests rigid, solid, nonluminous "white", "metallic" or dark objects — including the "flying saucers" of popular conception, "space ships" or "aerial vehicles" that appear to be clearly defined and implicitly massive. Others appear to be enclosed by some kind of refractive envelope or an emitting plasma layer; still others appear as self luminous "objects" with variable, erratic sources of light on or around them, or that flow or fragment in amorphous shapes. Nevertheless, the standard approach to understanding these possibly different phenomena is to categorize the apparent forms and tabulate them across sightings in order to identify patterns in the data. We then apply the expectations just described to find empirical characterizations of each category of UFO, for example that "small UFO are observed in extended hover, while large UFO are only observed in transit."

Unfortunately, I don't know of any successes with this strategy. Take propulsion, for example. All available (and so far pseudoscientific) suggestions for UFO propulsion focus more on explaining generic appearance attributes, in particular that the observable appears cloaked in plasma or seems to move outside the bounds of physical spacetime. The problem is that none of these theories seems to require a specific exterior shape or size of the actual vehicle being moved by these types of propulsion technologies. Nor does shape appear to have any aerodynamic function: as Ted Roe observes, UFO of every shape that is not spherical seem capable of flight independent of orientation. In addition, UFO have been observed to oscillate or tumble in flight, which is behavior difficult to explain in terms of any kind of controlled propulsion — a power pushing you in the direction you want to go. At present we have no scientific or aeronautical framework to help us interpret the variety of UFO shapes.

Variety of appearance

Despite the popular conception that UFO are a "flying saucer" or "saucer shaped disk," we actually find an enormous variety in reported UFO shapes, even if we limit the sample to events observed by multiple competent or single expert witnesses.

This raises a fundamental methodological dilemma between the two ways to classify things, known as lumping versus splitting. "Lumpers" prefer a few very broad appearance or functional categories that ignore possibly important differences among similar shapes, for example putting Vespas and tractors in the category of "wheeled vehicles". "Splitters" prefer a large number of categories that capture even trivial differences among shapes, for example between a Vespa and a Kymco.

In the majority of UFO reports, such as those recorded at NICAP and in the BLUE BOOK files, we find a lumping agreement to use geometrical forms — such as the NARCAP categories Fireball, Disk, Sphere, Cylinder and Triangle — as generic appearance categories. The "Commonly Reported UFO Types" from NICAP's The UFO Evidence (Figure 17, left) is a classic attempt in this direction. The chart is clearly an artifact of its era with the heavy emphasis on the circular or round, "saucer" or "disk" forms. However, it documents the relevance of each shape with the date and location of up to four previous sightings that report it, and among the shape categories it uses are those that appear often in spontaneous witness descriptions:

1. flat disk (which can be a thin or coin disk; a lenticular disk shaped like a biconvex lens; or some form of a plate disk or two plates stuck together rim to rim — note that saucers can have either a circular or oval footprint)
2. domed disk (a flat disk with a "dome" or bulge on top; this includes headwear similes to describe the done, such as a helmet disk with a dome bordered by a thin rim or a hat disk that depends on the shape of the hat: straw hat, bowler hat and coolie hat appear in the reports)
4. hemispherical (a spherical segment, rounded on the top and flat on the bottom: half moon, parachute, mushroom or bell shape, two or three dimensional)
6. spherical (ball, balloon, globe, three dimensional)
7. elliptical (oval in two dimensions and egg shaped or football in three dimensions)
8. triangular (often with rounded back corners that can appear as a teardrop shape)
9. cylindrical (cigar, torpedo, rocket, barrel, three dimensional)
10. point source (an optically unresolved source often described as like a star, planet or meteor in size or brightness).

The NICAP claim that these general types characterize "virtually all UFOs which have been reliably described in any detail" requires a reality check. Categories 3 and 5, the saturn disk and flattened sphere (oblate sphere), are not common forms and are rarely documented even in the BLUE BOOK files; and several important categories, including rectangle, chevron, cube and fireball, are excluded.

Figure 17. (left) UFO shapes included in NICAP's "The UFO Evidence" (p.144); note the obvious bias to report a "disk" or "round" shape. (right) Chart © by Christophe Verdier depicting UFO sightings from 1946 to 1997, based on eyewitness verbal descriptions, drawings or photographs. (Click on image for larger view.)

At the other extreme, the whimsical chart of "All the OVNIs" (the French acronym for Objets volants non identifiés) by Christophe Verdier (Figure 17, right) is the splitter's approach that documents the bizarre diversity. It presents a sampling of shapes reported since 1946 by including details in the witness description. The chart includes two known hoaxes, adding to the sense of play; but most of the examples are famous UFO events where the target was observed at close range or by several people. I suggest you try to classify each shape using the NICAP classifications at the left to understand the tradeoffs between the lumping and splitting approaches. Several events (such as Août 1980, Janvier 1988 and Février 1996) do not fit into any of the predefined categories and would be classified as "other".

The variety appears even more dramatically in the shape descriptions themselves: the catalog of BLUE BOOK "Unknowns" documents UFO that (to the witnesses) looked like a mayonnaise jar, a blob, a skeet target, a propeller, an amoeba, a wingtip fuel tank, a comet with a tail, a hamburger, a wafer, an elongated banana, a signal flare, a huge stack of tinfoil, a spindle, a frying pan, a bowtie, contrails, a cauldron, soap bubbles, a gunnery target, a manta ray, a pecan, a stovepipe with wings, a jack-o-lantern, a coke bottle without the neck, a cloud, a pickle with a flat bottom, an ear of corn, a tadpole, a vaporlike sphere, a pancake with a rounded top, a WWI (doughboy) helmet, or an oyster. Observations such as these present a serious challenge to the idea that we observe a singular or unified phenomenon, or that the phenomenon can be reduced to simple forms. Indeed, Verdier's chart excludes the most incomprehensible cases — UFO that appeared to be as small as a soccer ball (1948 Fargo ND 1 October) or that formed a several meters wide rectangle only ten centimeters thick (1950 Hachinohe JPN 27 April).

This is the premise for every attempt to summarize UFO shapes systematically: a huge variety of shapes that present a serious obstacle to simplification, balanced against the possibility that most shapes correspond to a geometrical solid or outline in the NICAP style.

Variety of UFO Shapes. Purely on the grounds of parsimony in explanation we should first attempt a "lumping" shape categorization to see if it can be useful. Unfortunately this is where we run up against the obstacles created by the different research methods — different lists of shape categories, different methods of data collection or witness interview, different choices in data reduction used to present the data — which forces us to start with a large number of categories in "splitter" style, presented in the summary table Variety of UFO Shapes (below).

Variety of UFO Shapes
All figures are percentage of total reported shapes within each sample
Data Sourcea
Reported Shapeb1.
  Light Source28.7[24.7]d21.8[24.5]d25.
  Geometrical Form
  (forms of revolution)
Disk with dome...5.2/[2.8]
Tic Tac...2.9/[1.6]0.1...1.0
  Geometrical Form
  (vertex forms)
(1) The NUFORC shape data for the United States 1948-present. — (2) The ↆ Project SIGN shape data from the 1949 Technical Report, p.13. — (3) The NICAP shape data for the USA in the report The UFO Evidence, Section XII.A PHYSICAL APPEARANCE, table "Statistics Based on Cases in Section XI (1942-1963)", p.147. — (4) The SCU study of BLUE BOOK observations filtered to include only reports by an expert witness or by two or more common witnesses of an observable with an angular size greater than 0.15°. — (5) The tabulation of NUFORC/MUFON shape data for the period 2001-2020 by Cheryl Costa in UFO Sightings Desk Reference, 2nd edition (2021), pp.36-68. — (6) The shape data in the ↆ UK MoD UAP Report (Vol.I, p.42 Figure 3-8) which includes the unexplained category "ST" (6.5%) that I attribute to "Other". — (7) My tabulation of shapes reported in the ↆ 1700 BLUE BOOK "unknown" reports compiled by Brad Sparks. — (8) The Center for UFO Studies shape data summarized in the UFOCAT 2002 User's Guide, p.43. — (9) The April, 2023 AARO "Reporting Trends 1996-2023" downloaded from the AARO web site.
(a) A period "." denotes a shape category not available in the dataset tally.
(b) NARCAP shape categories Fireball, Disk, Sphere, Cylinder and Triangle are highlighted with boldface type.
(c) I suggest that the CUFOS sample (8) appears in may ways not comparable to the other samples and should not be included in aggregate statistics.
(d) Numbers in brackets "[ ]" indicate alternative percentages for Project SIGN and SCU when the omitted "Unknown" and "Light Source" categories are imputed at around 16% and 25% (the average values in other shape tallies), and "Other" is imputed at 5.3% for SCU; the bracketed "Unknown" percentage for UK MoD is what remains after all other percentages are added up. These adjustments make the percentages more comparable to sources (1), (3), (5), (6), (7) and (9).

My evaluation of this table is not optimistic; indeed, it seems questionable that detailed shape categories provide any analytical leverage.

The most obvious problem is that many of the shape categories are missing from one study to the next, as indicated by the periods. This is partly due to the use of synonymous shape categories and the failure to clarify between a two dimensional or three dimensional perception. Do "sphere" and "ball", or "sphere" and "circle", or "circle" and "round" mean the same thing? NICAP demonstrates that interpreting "round" as either a sphere or as a disk can change the percentage of "disk" reports from 26% to 56% of the NICAP total sample, so this issue is significant.

The nine tallies gather reports from witnesses with different backgrounds or occupations: they vary in observing skills and access to optics or sensors. US military personnel, including a large number of military pilots and radar observers, provided nearly all the sightings for Project SIGN. The Project BLUE BOOK "unknown" reports combine some military testimony with mostly citizen observations, including at least one hoax, and the methods of report collection changed over the years. NICAP summarizes its independently researched sample of 575 civilian UFO sightings, CUFOS summarizes its sample of almost 9000 that drastically oversamples "disk" reports. Costa combines NICAP and CUFOS but only for the two decades since 2001.

A common data reduction error is that the published shape tallies do not summarize all the reported sightings. The percentages in two studies (Project SIGN and SCU) are inflated because the analysts incorrectly excluded the Light shape category and because SCU does not count the unresolved or changing shapes. When these deficits are corrected by inserting the average values for "Light" or "Unknown" across the six other studies, excluding CUFOS (figures in red), the proportion of the shape category Geometrical Form (solid of rotation) is significantly reduced: from 94% to 58% in SIGN, and from 76% to 41% in SCU; the category Disk shrinks from 45% to 25% in SCU and from 24% to 15% in SIGN. This reduces the disagreement in the shape proportions across different datasets, and illustrates the importance of accounting for the shape observations you don't have or that don't fit into your classification scheme.

Brad Sparks, in his "Comprehensive Catalog of 1700 Project BLUE BOOK UFO Unknowns", describes at length the complicated history of that dataset and in particular the complications caused by different interpretations of the "unknown" label. The necessary distinctions to deal with these issues are neither complicated nor controversial:

• Missing indicates that data of any kind except date and location are lacking: we have a reported sighting of a UFO but nothing about what was observed. In his BLUE BOOK catalog Sparks calls these "placeholder" reports that he includes because data for that case might someday be retrieved.
• Unresolved indicates that witnesses or sensors have seen or detected something (usually due to unusual brightness or hyperdynamic movement, including hover) but cannot describe its shape; AARO calls this category "Ambiguous Sensor Contact". There is always a resolution threshold in any sensor, visual or electronic, where the object is clearly detected but its shape cannot be identified (e.g., 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1), or "starlike" observations).
• Other means a shape characterization was supplied by the witness but it does not fit into the established categories for reporting. This is often because the witness has seen something that resists easy description (e.g., 2019 BELLEVUE).

Specific standard terms are necessary here, because terms such as "unrecognized" or "undetermined" are either ambiguous or too inclusive.

The problem of sampling bias arises because our sample of reports is limited by the type of sensors or sensor platform used (for example, visual vs. radar, or ground camera vs. satellite), by the daypart, time interval or geographical area within which observations are made, or the competence of the observers making the reports. Thus the global surveillance capabilities of the US military, as shown in the AARO "Reporting Trends", identify specific geographic concentrations of UAP sightings or "UAP Hot Spots" around the US western states and Atlantic coast, the Middle East and the East China Sea, which is where many surveillance assets are positioned. Historical data strongly suggest a secular, long term population change in UFO characteristics. For example fireball reports were common in the early years and triangle reports were very rare, now the reverse is true; a "flight" of three or more UFO flying in formation describes around 10% of the BLUE BOOK "Unknown" sightings but large formations or swarms of UFO are very rarely reported today. The varying incidence of UFO sightings at any specific location also indicates the population is not constant across time or geographic location.

All these issues contribute to the very large variations in the proportions assigned to the different shape categories, even in traditionally robust categories such as the five NARCAP shapes — 2% to 25% for Disk, 3% to 47% for Sphere/Ball. However, if we aggregate the various shape categories into five higher level categories of UFO appearance that are conceptually and perceptually very distinct and also very easy to define (green rows in the Tabulation), then this "lumper" categorization achieves better consistency across studies:

The largest proportion (about 55% ±5% of all reported sightings) involve UFO described as anaerodynamic, opaque objects, usually one of two different types of geometric form:
1. forms of revolution (about 80% of the geometrical reports and 45% of all sightings) are symmetrical in two dimensions or forms of revolution in three dimensions. Note that all of these can be turned to view so that they present an "oval" or "round" silhouette in two dimensions
2. vertex forms (about 20% of the geometrical reports and 10% of all sightings) are shapes that show at least one corner or vertex between two or more straight sides in a shape that cannot be produced by rotation. These are the triangle, square, diamond, lozenge, box and cube (the teardrop and football may belong in this category or may be a transition to ellipsoidal forms)
3. light sources (about 25% of all sightings) include UFO described as a luminous source without reference to a visible shape, as solitary or starlike lights, or as streaking fireballs; this is not a "shape" category but a luminance category, but when a shape can be discerned it is often described as an "orb" or a cylinder.
4. unknown (about 15% of all sightings) are categorized as "unknown" because data are missing, the response category doesn't exist, or the perceptual difficulties were too great to allow the recognition of a specific shape category — the observables were too far away, or seen briefly or at night (e.g., 2018 PICACHO PEAK AZ, 2016 BEAVER)
5. other (about 5% of all sightings) a small remainder produce an idiosyncratic or "other" shape description that does not fit into the standard geometric categories, including amorphous or translucent forms (cf. Figure 23 right).

Finally, graphical attempts to characterize UFO shapes present different problems, primarily that the average person's drawing skills are remarkably inaccurate, and that multiple UAP reports of a single observable can yield a large divergence of shape descriptions, for example as illustrated in this Soviet era samizdat report of the ↆ 1963 Kyiv UKR 30 October Kosmos 20 booster rocket reentry. As the report documents, untrained observer sightings of confirmed satellite reentries or bolides can produce UFO drawings with structural features such as portholes, ramps, stairs, antennae, etc. Apparently the risk of elaboration if not fabrication is significant in graphical testimony.

To conclude this dispiriting review, I suggest the reader browse the inventory of over 200 UAP/UFO photos at the defunct UFO Evidence website (choose the "Thumbnail" option and use the "Next" button to browse) and attempt a shape classification of your own. This may impress on you the difficulty of the attempt, and also the circularity of the identification and classification problem: we would like to have a "pure" sample of actual UFO images in order to identify a limited and valid categorization of shape variations, but we need to know which sightings are authentic in order to weed out the false positives.

UFO Size Estimates. In the publicly available reports, the most commonly reported sizes of UFO are between 1 meter up to around 50 meters along the largest dimension (width, length or diameter). The SCU "Shape and Approximate Size" analysis found a median size across all shapes of 20 meters; cigars and triangles were largest while spheres, "Tic Tacs" and disks were smallest. Nevertheless, the range of estimated sizes is enormous. At the small end we have a U.S. Navy pilot hazard report [#4] that describes the observable as "small in size, approximately the size of a suitcase, and silver in color" down to as small as 20 cm, the estimated size of the Gorman observable. Or they can appear as large as a commercial airliner or a football field (the estimate of multiple witnesses in the Belgian UFO wave). The largest size manifestations known to me are Captain Ray Bowyer's estimate that the 2007 ALDERNEY observable (Figure 19i) was "as large as a small town", and the report from Lieutenant Colonel H.C. Peterson, cited by Kean as responsible for Danish UFO investigations, who disclosed that "a space ship was observed from Almind and Sønder Bjert, bearings showing that it must have been at Fyns Hoved and that it was at least three kilometers [1.8 miles] in length." While these observations strain even generous credulity, they are from a professional pilot and an active duty military officer, which minimizes the possibility of hoax or misperception. The point is that the range of UFO sizes is at least 1:50 if not 1:1000, and whatever "propulsion technology" and energy source we aver is lifting all these "objects," the technology must be capable of extreme miniaturization yet also capable of scale necessary to lift a structure far larger than any "vehicle" humans have ever built.

Event Duration. I know of no study that examines event duration or compares duration to specific kinds of UFO behavior or flight patterns, but a summary graphic from the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 3, p. 51) suggests that most events either end within 10 seconds or last for no more than 5 to 20 minutes. Ten seconds seems to be the perceptual minimal time for the UFO to be detected, which implies a rapid transit if the observable is moving. The longest events are quite long. The 1980 RED BLUFF event was observed for over two hours, the 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK event was clearly taped over two hours or more, judging by the witness narration, the changes in the clouds and in the color temperature of the daylight. Short events would logically implicate rapid movement and longer events imply hovering. And hovering would mean that UFO are initially misperceived as a star, or planet, or aircraft, or streetlight — a misperception that is corrected by some additionally recognized kinetic or emittance signs in the observable that are enumerated in the UFO definition.

My general sense is that events are rarely recorded for more than two or three minutes (often due to observer fatigue or disinterest in a static or unresolvable form), that UFO are more often recorded in flight rather than hovering, and that even extended hovering monitored by radar is described in terms of hours rather than days. Dynamic contingencies that one behavior will lead to another, such as the probability that a hover will be followed by either a fast or a slow departure, have also not been analyzed, although many witnesses report the sighting ends with a rapid vertical climb. Overall the reported events tend to be brief and their location and duration are unpredictable.

The last unanswered question is: How long do UFO persist? Does an observable possess a physical continuity longer than the event itself? Does the frequently observed UFO capability to "dissolve" or "disintegrate" indicate a limited life span for an individual observable? The "plasma" theory requires that UFO are uniquely generated at each event, like ball lightning out of a thunderstorm cloud or "buoyant plasmas" out of a meteor shower. This conjecture seems unlikely given the observed morphological variety of UFO and the dispositional responses such as evasion or exploration that imply awareness and cognition, but it does suggest that UFO are ephemeral.

Appearance Universals. Are there any statements about UFO appearance that we can make that apply to nearly all UFO? Four consistencies describe the observed shape of a UFO:

(1) the "light" or light emitting forms are generally observed at night, although the distinction between a visually emitting form viewed during the day and at night is not broken out in current data. Oberth describes UFO at night as having a red color, but those observed at day as "metallic".

(2) Excepting UAP flux events, UFO observed to have a particular size at the beginning of an event do not significantly increase or decrease in size during the same event, except in the many cases where the UFO appears to "dissolve" or "disintegrate" in place. This suggests attempting to retrieve a useful size estimate (e.g., from the strength of radar returns or optical size correlated with a radar or triangulated distance measurement) may be as important taxonomically as shape is believed to be and potentially can be more reliable if accurate distance data is available.

(3) With rare exceptions, a UFO with a clearly observed geometrical form does not change to a different clearly observed geometrical form during an event: a disk does not morph into a cylinder or triangle. (Although a distinctly changing UFO shape does appear in some reports, it is less than 3% of all reports in NUFORC data and as low as 0.4% in other data.) More commonly, shape transformations can appear due to changing angle of view (for example when a "flat disk" turns on its edge and appears as "round or spherical") and in UAP flux and UFO spawn events. Since the duration of most events is quite brief — a median of 3 minutes in BLUE BOOK "unknowns" — it is possible that UFO are not observed long enough to detect a shape change if it occurs. Another issue is that an observed change of shape is not probed as a specific UFO attribute in the field questionnaires used to collect UFO data.

(4) As discussed above (and next), a substantial number of UFO are observed through some form of optical or thermal disturbance, described as "scintillating colors" or "heat waves" or "cotton ball fuzziness" which could easily disguise the actual shape within (see Figure 18, bottom).

I interpret the heterogeneity of UFO shapes and the large range of sizes as confirmed findings, and therefore it is the variability more than the shapes that needs explanation. As I discuss below, a variety of visual illusions can be produced by a variably luminous and moving source, especially when briefly observed. And there is obvious visual difficulty in judging size when the distance of the UFO cannot be accurately determined — especially when observed above landscape obstructions in a clear sky or at night. But the variations in UFO shape and size cannot be entirely due to observer limitations, perceptual illusions or verbal imprecision. UFO exhibit a remarkable diversity in appearance and form, and this enormous diversity in UFO apparent size and shape strongly suggests that we are not dealing with "the same thing" in the sense of a species or a limited number of "form factors" if we consider UFO as a kind of technology or "machine".

Changes in apparent form

Although rare in reported sightings and subject to perceptual illusions and brief observation, UFO shape changes may disclose important aspects of UFO operation. This is especially the case where the shape changes are clearly documented in photographic evidence.

Figure 18. Instability of UFO form. (top) Transformation of the 2003 NEW WESTMINSTER observable from a bright/dark sphere into a dark sphere, a disk, an elongated cigar and finally "complete disintegration", or as a disk viewed from the bottom that tilts to the side; change in size at the third image may be due to camera zoom. (middle) Variable appearance of the 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK "dark" observable recorded by Arslan Warraich. The appearance of the observable changes from apparently triangular into a variety of irregular forms, with spates of "cotton ball" fuzziness (see also Figure 19). Red inset: Single image from 2013 AGUADILLA PRI, showing similarity of a briefly visible "wedge" shape. (bottom) Variations in form with refractive characteristics from early part of 2013 AGUADILLA PRI. Red inset: appearance after the spawn behavior at the end of the video.

A change in form has been observed to occur in three ways: (1) as the observed disappearance through "dissolution", (2) as a change in the appearance of the physical shape of the observable, for example 1956 England AR 23 July, when several observers, one using a binocular, "reported an object that seemed to change shape (initially oval, then flat, then to a diamond configuration)", or (3) as a change in what appears to be the surface of the observable due to an interposed refractive layer. All three forms of shape change are illustrated in Figure 18 (above):

• Screenshot enlargements from 2003 NEW WESTMINSTER video (Figure 18, top) may show a gradual change in the observable appearance from an apparently reflective, spherical body, into a dark sphere, then a dark egg shape or ellipse, then an elongated "cigar" or coin shape, and finally a turbulent edge that precedes disappearance. This can also be a disk with a dark central spot and edge illumination, tilting downward to shadow the surface and reflection as it recedes. Either way, this video resembles the observation in the 1947 Schulgen memo that some UFO disappear through "complete disintegration." Changing shape and almost complete disappearance at times is also visible in the 2021 SPRINGFIELD and 2019 BELLEVUE videos (Figure 24).

• The 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK series of screenshots (Figure 18, middle) shows the second form of change in the appearance of the surface of the observable that resembles optical defocus in a "dark" UFO with an approximately triangular or arrowhead form. The sustained hover (over two hours long) allowed the recording of apparent shape changes from triangular into an irregular, boxy or roughly ellipsoid form, with intermittent displays of the "cotton ball fuzziness" that is often noticed in UFO images and by UFO eye witnesses. The Islamabad images in particular recall the testimony from Elizondo, who clearly refers to evidence in government possession but possibly not in public view, that "You're looking at an object that you should be able to detect very clearly and yet when you look at it with the naked eye it's opaque, kind of blurry, not well defined. I'm not really sure what I'm looking at."

• The 2013 AGUADILLA PRI series (Figure 18 bottom) displays large, continuous changes in apparent form that suggest the unstable distortions of an enclosing refractive layer around the observable. The event also illustrates the change of form as the spawning of a lower radiance morphological twin consisting of two heat centers, like large eyes tilted to one side, that appear also before the first transmedium episode (Figure 3, red frame). The areas of white are cooler areas at the bottom of the sensor's infrared bandwidth.

We might call the claim that UFO represent a single "technology" or even a single physical process the unity hypothesis. The variety of UFO appearancea — and disappearancea — argues rather strongly against this hypothesis, regardless of what that "thing" is conceived to be. This is one of the major unresolved issues in ufology. The rebuttal is that UFO phenomena comprise different manifestations, but that all are controlled by a single overarching alien strategy. The difficulty there, aside from the very strong extraterrestrial assumptions that the claim rests on, is that the behavior of UFO has been repeatedly described by analysts from Project SIGN down to the present as lacking any organized or purposeful behavior.

The 2020 VICTORIA MEX video and witness testimony document what appears to be a physically pulsating observable, and this joins with the many spawn and swarm events to illustrate the very "unmachinelike" capabilities and behavior of UFO. It seems a procrustean conclusion to assert that the Aitkin County UAP flux, the Kumburgaz circular segment, the disk documented in the Costa Rican survey photo and the photographs made by US Navy pilots are all different aspects of the same entity or process. But, in combination with the variety of reported shapes and the large range of sizes in which those shapes appear, I suggest we have strong empirical justification to relax our conception of UFO phenomena as a "machine technology" of human or alien origin, and to assume the category of UFO, as used in current ufology, lumps together very different phenomena.

"Bright/Dark" UFO Form

If we also suspend for a moment our expectation that UFO appear as specific shapes or represent specific kinds of solid objects, other ways to describe UFO become easier to see.

A frequent UFO characteristic in both verbal reports and photographic or video images is a distinctive "bright/dark" (light emitting/light absorbing) manifestation, consisting of discrete sources of brilliant white or chromatic light associated with a larger, completely light absorbing or "dark" body. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report attributes this dark appearance to a "'total absorption' optical phenomena" caused by a "total internal reflection" within the field between buoyant plasmas:

Occasionally and perhaps exceptionally, it seems that a field with, as yet, undetermined characteristics, can exist between certain charged buoyant objects [UFO] in loose formation, such that, depending on the viewing aspect, the intervening space between them forms an area (viewed as a shape, often triangular), from which the reflection of light does not occur. This is a key finding in the attribution of what have frequently been reported as black 'craft', often triangular and even up to hundreds of feet in length.

But this bright/dark appearance is hardly exceptional. It is a consistently recurring visual and photographically documented feature of UFO across seven decades of observations. And it seems to me useful to extend this characteristic bright/dark appearance to all UFO as a spectrum of appearances. At the complete brightness side are the entirely luminous UFO (often appearing as spheres or fireballs), and at the complete darkness end are the entirely dark or "shadow" UFO (as in Figure 18, middle). A large amount of photographic evidence exists to support the claim that UFO often appear between the spectrum extremes as a configuration of brightness and darkness that is perceived as a single form (Figure 19).

Figure 19. The repeatedly documented "bright/dark" UFO morphology. (a) A magnified image of pair UFO from the 1950 GREAT FALLS event (16mm film camera); (b) A bright observable from the 1952 TREMONTON event (16mm film camera); (c) 1993 GULF BREEZE observable (video camera), showing (above) the hover appearance and (below) the briefly blurrier change of aspect just before acceleration; (d) 1991 MEXICO CITY observable (telephoto video camera); (e) 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE observable (IR surveillance image), with inset to show a different aspect that more closely resembles (a) to (d); (f) Two views of the 2021 ENCINITAS observable; (g) Three screenshots from 2007 TARBACA; (h) Screenshot of a bright/dark UAP introduced as testimony during the May 17, 2022 HPSCI hearing on UAP; (i) The largest bright/dark form on record: the 2007 ALDERNEY observable (passenger photograph). See also Figure 16 (right) and Figure 24 for other "bright/dark" observables.

(a) An enlarged frame of the Mariana pair, from the 1950 GREAT FALLS video (t=2:32) of an original 16mm movie camera. This shows the fundamental dark/light character of a silhouette "without wings, without tail, without visible means of propulsion." The film states: "The surface wind was 25 to 28 mph [55 to 60 m/s]; ... The objects moved almost directly counter to the wind direction. They are not balloons. ... They are definitely not free-falling. They are not meteors, birds, nor any kind of known aircraft."

(b) One of the brightest observables from the 1952 TREMONTON film. The form appears to have the same proportions as in (a) and the same structure, half bright and half dark. This was also filmed with a 16mm movie camera.

Note also that the four forms at bottom left in Figure 12a differ in brightness but not in form; the observable on the far left is brightest but has the same bright/dark proportions as the three forms to the right. This suggests that the visibility of a UFO is not entirely due to the brightness of the bright part but involves the entire figure.

(c) The 1993 GULF BREEZE UFO that also demonstrated hyperagility ("explosive" acceleration). Two images show (top) the observable in hover and then (bottom) just before its "explosive acceleration" when the envelopment seems briefly to become more refractive. Intriguingly, in this observable the motion is away from the bright area, but in the previous two examples the motion was toward the bright area.

(d) The 1991 MEXICO CITY UFO photographed with a high quality video camera and telephoto lens. In this instance the bright area appears diffuse or spiky while the dark area has a relatively crisp and regular boundary. Seen under lower magnification, it would have the same apparent proportions as (a) or (b).

(e) The 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE observable, imaged with what is described in the linked video as an optically high quality, fixed mount and remotely controlled IR camera in good focus. Despite that, the fuzzy appearance remains. The bright area now appears as four or possibly five luminous lobes around the sides of an extremely dark, apparently oblate form. The exceptionally dark or "superblack" absorptance and the "cotton ball" fuzzy image quality in both the 1991 MEXICO CITY and 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE videos are compared and evaluated in this news report. The inset shows a different aspect of the same form that resembles the observables in Figure 19a-d.

(f) The 2021 Encinitas CA 28 February observable filmed with a handheld smartphone camera and described by the witness as: "White orb travelled across sky. Stopped. Then changed direction and came towards us before ascending and vanishing from sight. ... It was much larger than a balloon and smaller than an aircraft by my estimation. It was white, spherical, very reflective, and had no visible characteristics of a plane, common drone, or hot air balloon." I suggest the witness may have mistaken the "dark" form for a self shadowed surface (although it appears too dark to match that interpretation) and the "bright" emittance as a white reflectance (although it moves around too much to be the solar reflection from an "orb" or sphere).

(g) Screengrabs from the 2007 Tarbaca CRI 22 November video taken by carpenter Marvin Badilla in circumstances avowed and documented in this news report, establishing provenance. The video shows a bright "hat disk" shape with a large, pendulous dark area underneath that displays the diagnostic UFO "fuzziness" clearly. The crispness of the bright area eliminates camera resolution or defocus as an explanation of this diffuseness. The subtle differences in the bright profile of the center image are asymmetrical, showing that it is not actually a solid of revolution, and when it tips on edge before departure (a not uncommon behavior in disks), the self shadowing reveals the subtle oval shape of the disk and off center placement of the raised area, now facing toward the camera. This classic "domed disk" appearance (often described in early reports as an "inverted dinnerplate" or "a disk flat on the bottom and curved on top") suggests observers might easily not notice the dark area and report only the more sharply defined bright area (circular when viewed from the top or bottom as it disappears, far right). Note the similarity of the bright form with the profile of 1950 MCMINNVILLE (Figure 9, inset), absent the "roof mast"; and notice the feature in the center of the disk, which has the same relative size to the total disk as the dark spot in the center of the disk in Figure 18 (top).

(h) Screengrab of a video released during the 2022 HPSCI hearing on UAP, the most recently confirmed UAP image of a bright/dark form, which is not only fuzzy in itself but introduced several minutes of dead air in the public testimony as the witness attempted to isolate the relevant frame.

(i) The very large, possibly enormous "Guernsey UFO" described by commercial pilot Ray Bowyer as "the size of a small town" and photographed by a passenger on his plane. This 2007 Alderney GBR 23 April event merits a witness chapter in Kean's book. Note the dark band and coloration around the middle of the form, the two dark areas on the bottom of the form that bracket what appears to be a diffuse emanation underneath, and the appearance of complex structure at both ends. Compare this structural complexity with the schematic figure based on verbal notes and drawings made by the witness; this is another example of the difference between a photographed and visually reconstructed UFO form.

Early reports that describe the bottom of "flying saucers" either comment on its unusual brightness (the Schulgen memo) or its "blackness" (e.g., McMinnville). The witness description of a pair of Spökraketer that both fell into the Norwegian Lake Mjøsa was reported on the front page of the July 20, 1946 Oslo Aftenposten: They were cigar-shaped, about 2½ meters long, with about 1 meter long wings. The wings were set about 1 meter from the nose, and the fore and after parts had a metallic gleam, but the midsection with the wings was black. The carefully evaluated ↆ 1965 El Toro CA 3 August or "Rex Heflin" photos show a black band around a "straw hat" shaped observable; this was the suggested origin of a ring discharge of black vapor left as the observable disappeared in vertical flight. The film serendipitously captured by US Coast Guard photographer Leland Hanson in the 1966 Catalina CA 15 April event shows what appears to be an early image of a "Tic Tac" aspect that clearly consists of a bright/dark figure. Many copies of this short film are available online and some are reversed, cropped or enhanced; I've linked to a stabilized version (visible in the dancing frame edges).

The witness report of the 2021 Norwalk CA 6 March event describes the observable as "Round organic looking glowing orb with flashing white light randomly, also seemed to be spinning. I was looking up at a clear blue sky in the afternoon when I noticed this white glowing object moving with random flashing white lights moving quite fast in the sky. It seemed to be spinning around and when the lights were off it looked like a black mass." (Compare with 2021 ENCINITAS, Figure 19f, and 2021 SPRINGFIELD, Figure 24a.) The 2011 Yokosuka JPN n.d. event, filmed from a stopped car by the driver and his passenger, shows the characteristic "cotton ball" fuzziness (cf. Figure 18) and bright/dark appearance with momentary "strange" electromagnetic flashes; the extended view upward shows the observable was hovering, an attribute of hyperagility. Proponents of a "balloon" hypothesis need to explain the origin and purpose of the form, which appears to me to be a dark, generally nonreflective body, roughly spherical in profile but with a tunnel aperture through its center and various "pocket" apertures symmetrically placed around its circumference, and with small "mirror" patches that can produce an intense reflection of the Sun. The film has been rectified, enlarged, tinted, and contrast enhanced here. Compare with this 2021 Essexville MI 11 December observable, when viewed in stop motion on full screen, briefly shows both the same "donut" appearance and a bilobed light appearance (at around t = 7s).

The 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE observable is especially interesting as it traveled athwart the line of sight between the video camera and the afternoon Sun, producing a backlight that "X-rayed" the translucent (transmitting) parts of the form. The commentators in the linked video claim that the "object" changes shape, but I suggest this is more likely the effect of strong light passing through an optically complex area around the figure that transmits the light differently depending on the incidence angle and the angle of view (as one observes in a lens or thermal cell), and are not opaque features of structure.

The same bright/dark contrast appears in other observables of a very different configuration, for example the cigar shaped "Guernsey UFO," the remarkable change from bright to dark in two observables in the 2021 NEW YORK video (t=0:35), and the repeated bright/dark transformations in the 2008 KUMBURGAZ 12 June event illustrated in Figure 16 (top right). We cannot tell if changes in these bright lobes are due to changes in the viewing geometry or in the impulsion, and we lack public evidence to conclude that the luminance is an atmospheric side effect of impulsion (the way contrails are a side effect of thermal exhaust) or is inherent to the power output (the luminance would also appear in the vacuum of space).

The dark area of these observables sometimes appears to be a black painted surface because of luminance variations that resemble shadows or apparent object irregularities, as in 2022 ISLAMABAD PAK (Figure 18) bottom, middle row). But often it presents the uniform, deep black suggestive of a blackbody — a theoretical material in quantum physics that absorbs all electromagnetic radiation incident on it but emits radiation only at the frequencies determined by its own temperature in Kelvins. The completely featureless, deep dark or superblack appearance of 1991 MEXICO CITY and 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE is characteristic. A blackbody absorbing incident energy and radiating primarily in the infrared and microwave would appear completely black in the visual, even when quite hot (up to a temperature of around 550°C or 820 K) or "bright" in infrared. This is the kitchen lesson that you can't tell the temperature of an iron skillet just by looking at it.

Opaque, Translucent and Luminous Forms

Figure 19 might imply that most UFO have a bright/dark appearance. But other UFO images, both in the visual and infrared, document a variety of apparently opaque and metallic appearances. Figure 20 includes eight different video or photographic records that I accept as authentic; all but the 2015 GRAZ image include witness disclosure and provenance record. They are remarkably dissimilar:

Figure 20. (a) Two separate instances of apparently metallic, spherical objects imaged by US military airborne surveillance systems; (b) 1971 LAKE COTE aerial survey photo and enlargement; (c) Image of spawning observable and child (arrow) from 2013 MEXICO CITY event; (d) Apparent doubling of a self luminous pair from 2015 GRAZ; (e) Comparison of UFO images from 2009 KUMBURGAZ (left) and 2019 USS OMAHA (2) (right, showing the chromatic and achromatic appearance); both were observed over ocean water.

(a) The approximately spherical, metallic appearing "orbs" that represent almost half of the roughly 800 UAP reports discussed at the May 31, 2023 NASA public hearing on UFO; (a) is a 2016 Mosul IRQ 16 April and both were serendipitously captured by a military surveillance drone and released by the Department of Defense. Several other nearly identical "orb" recordings are available, including this very clear 2017 Gębice POL 30 June event. The dimensions of background features, relative defocus and depth of field suggest to me that these observables are each one meter or less in diameter. The bright/dark features of these "orbs" are clearly consistent with the solar illumination and the similarity between these apparently "solid" bodies and the indistinct "bright/dark" forms shown in Figure 19 suggest the perceptual difficulty of making confident attributions about UFO material composition, specifically when we describe UFO as "metallic".

(b) The ↆ intensively studied and ↆ restudied September 4, 1971 Costa Rican aerial survey photo with the serendipitous capture of a UFO over Lake Cote; the original negative is in the Costa Rican National Archives. The original negative has recently been rescanned at a much higher resolution. A perplexing issue is the position of the bright bands across the UFO in relation to the direction of solar illumination, indicated by the shadows of large trees and across terrain in the upper left part of the image and also by the cloud shadows in the original image format, which locates the UFO near the edge of the field.

As many have noticed, there is no convex physical surface that can produce this symmetrical banding of what appears to be reflected solar light that is consistent with the prevailing solar illumination. Debunkers might claim the discrepancy implies the photo was faked, but that possibility is minimized by the authenticity documentation provided to Leslie Kean by the Costa Rican government. It could be a small lens flaw, but that would show up in other images as well and would show a variety of random imperfections unlike this apparently smooth form. This in turn implies that the banding is intrinsic to the observable and may be an external luminance artifact of the impulsion. Examine the two dark spots on the UFO in the context of the dark spots that appear briefly in the face of the 2020 VICTORIA MEX observable, especially in this minute.

(c) A remarkable spawning image from 2013 MEXICO CITY. Note the nodular, possibly composite form of the "cigar" and the peculiar pink tail that brightens and fades as two faint child UFO are spawned (at about 0:57 and 4:44). The association of a larger, white form with a smaller, pink or red form is a recurring attribute in visual reports. (See also the Hessdalen flux images, Figure 15.)

(d) Convergence of either two bilobular UFO or four spherical UFO before they merge and fade away, from 2015 GRAZ. This occurs after what seems to be two singular UFO approach each other slowly then hover together.

(e) Two UFO photographed more than a decade and half the globe apart, from the 2008 KUMBURGAZ (left) and 2019 USS OMAHA (2) (right) events. The resemblance in color and morphology is striking. Both were hovering close to the surface of ocean water at night. The initial appearance (especially in 2019 USS OMAHA (2)) is of a closely hovering pair of UFO, but closer inspection identifies a light between them that may indicate they are a single, bilobular or bright/dark form. This color disappears at the approach of a larger, brightly flashing red observable, producing the achromatic appearance of two small white UFO. (A similar bridging luminance appears briefly between the far left pair of observables at 1:19 of the 2021 NEW YORK video linked above.)

The FLIR1 video provides an interesting contrast for morphology, as the two different IR modes seem to capture distinct aspects of the form (Figure 21). Fravor identifies and describes the interpretation of the display metrics and the fact that the infrared BLK HOT mode (hot objects appear black) has an angular magnification greater than the WHT HOT or TV mode. (How much greater is unclear.) Both the dark infrared shape and the spiky TV nimbus change significantly during the F/A-18 approach. The BLK HOT shape becomes possibly bilobular at 0:42, and the 1:10 view in TV is more clearly defined, more brightly emitting at the right end and tapering toward the left; then it retreats to the left without any significant change in form or brightness. The SCU AGUADILLA report describes the approximately 1.3 meter object as containing "a warm section shaped vaguely like a dumbbell"; the inset in Figure 21 suggests the 2013 AGUADILLA PRI and the much larger 2004 FLIR1 object may have a similar bilobular design. Compare also the asymmetric placement of the white area around the Aguadilla form with the similar asymmetric appearance of 1993 GULF BREEZE (Figure 19c). These comparisons suggest that UFO might build on a common basic form, as we see for example in the morphology of birds and aircraft. A similar point may apply to the bilobular or "twin light" appearance documented in Figure 20d and 19e.

A key question raised by Figure 21 and the NICAP and Verdier charts of UFO shapes (Figure 17) is: what are all these forms for? What are their distinguishing performance characteristics or functional purposes? At present we do not have either a clear taxonomy of form beyond the simple geometrical labels or distinct behavioral attributes we can associate with the different forms or use to discriminate among them. This suggests that the variety of UFO shapes may have no significant purpose — a counterintuitive inference to make about a supposed "breakthrough technology."

Figure 21. (top row) Sequence of 2004 FLIR1 images: earliest 2x zoom in 0:17 IR WHT and 0:19 TV modes; 2x zoom in 0:41 TV and 0:42 IR modes immediately after radar "jamming;" 2013 AGUADILLA PRI DETAIL showing bilobular form; 2x zoom 1:10 IR image just before UFO departs. (bottom row): three 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) images showing change in observable shape and in spiky detail of cooler "aura" (dots); 2013 AGUADILLA PRI detail showing similar "cold" emittance at front.

A second series of images from the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) video switches once from WHT to BLK but does not switch back again, a regrettable lapse since the observable seems to change shape from an asymmetrical cylinder to a nearly perfect ellipse, with an "aura" of cooler air around the much warmer target observable as it rotates counterclockwise in the recording. The stability of the aura complexity is much more striking in the video than in a single image.


The evidence clearly shows that UFO appear in an enormous variety of sizes, shapes and electromagnetic characteristics. Apart from the frequently seen "orb" or "sphere of light" UFO (which is different from the equally anonymous "fireball" form), it is rare that two different events involve identical observables. The "bright/dark" form appears as a description of UFO form with wide generality and relevance to human perceptual limitations. However, some of these aerial phenomena may not involve the same physical process. UAP flux and spawn events cannot reasonably be associated with any metallic or otherwise rigid "technology," "object" or "airframe," yet "Acorn" and "Metallic Blimp" appear to be physical volumes entirely reflecting light. This "metallic" appearance strongly biases toward the interpretation of UFO as a "breakthrough" aerospace technology. However, there is no public physical evidence to support the conjecture of metallic construction or of a persistent physical nature, which makes a physical interpretation of the recorded multisensor data more difficult because it is effectively different forms of electromagnetic imaging data.

My experience developing interview guides or questionnaires for marketing and social surveys in the USA and Japan suggests we cannot retrieve useful appearance data without a significant modification and standardization of questioning on the shape issue — assuming that the shape gives us useful information about UFO, an assumption that I argue is at present faced with obvious and serious complications.

In fact, the manner of obtaining UFO witness reports has been a chronic issue in the field, although not always focused on the right issues. On the one hand any new system should have a "backward compatibility" with the structure of previous datasets, assuming the data are worth salvaging; on the other hand there has been a tendency to reinvent the wheel by each new UFO orgainization or research enterprise. In general I am not favorable to the questionnaire approach proposed by Vincente-Juan Ballester-Olmos & Miguel Guasp, or the "reliability of report" or "SVP" indices proposed by Jacques Vallée and incorporated in the ↆ NIDS UFO Database Codes because these are basically systems for coding witness reports at a high and superficial level, and because these ignore the more basic issues in the questionnaire or interview process — the specific wording of questions, the specific topics queried, the sequence in which questions are asked, and the terms, concepts or alternative choices presented to the reporting witness. For the rest, the "quality" or "reliability" of a report should be easily coded in the data collected by the report itself. The 2007 ↆ UFO Study: A Handbook for Enthusiasts by Jenny Randles & Roger Moore as much more useful information, such two flowcharts for the attribution of UAP cases to commonplace observations. But their approach is to focus on the circumstances, witness credibility and "strangeness" of the event, but to record the witness testimony holistically, like a crime scene report, rather than through a standard framework of useful analysis categories and a standard form of inquiry to cover all the bases across every type of event.

Observational and Perceptual Issues

The diversity just described does not give much cause for trust in witness visual acuity or verbal description. In fact, many limitations affect a human observer or optical record, as pointed out in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 2, pp. 7-9). The average witness has a limited and imprecise vocabulary for geometric forms; "circular" can be used to describe a spherical appearance or "triangle" to describe a tetrahedron. In addition, a wholly unfamiliar form viewed from a single location or angle of view can be grossly misinterpreted, especially if the form is briefly observed. However, the chart by Verdier suggests that many of the forms cannot be accurately described as geometrical solids. Separate from the ability to recognize and name geometrical shapes is the problem that geometrical shapes may be an inadequate form of description.

Drawing Ability. Drawing ability; age dependent, occupationally dependent. The alternatives to often unclear optical imagery are either a graphical interpretation of the imagery or a drawing of the observable by the witness. The pervasive shortcoming of drawings is that witnesses generally lack the necessary draftsmanship, much as their verbal descriptions draw on a limited vocabulary of geometrical shapes. Leslie Kean reproduces an exceptionally precise drawing made by a French cellular biologist, "M.H.," who observed an emerald green, tub sized 1982 Laxou FRA 12 October "Amaranth" UFO slowly descend to hover above his tiny front yard garden. His drawing (Figure 23a), the most precise witness drawing known to me, shows proportions (0.8 by 1.5 meters) and details (the small shelf bordering the upper dome, the flattened bottom) with the exactitude of a microscopist or engineer. It is also based on an extended viewing period: the observable hovered motionless for 20 minutes (the witness consulted his watch to be sure) and then shot straight upward "as if pulled by a strong suction," which made the grasses underneath briefly stand upright.

Figure 23. (a) Drawing by "M.H." of the 1982 LAXOU FRA observable witnessed by him for a continuous 20 minutes. (b) Sketch by Soviet Col. Gen. Vladimir Kovalyonok of "beautiful golden spheres" that spawned explosively and disappeared. (c) Sketches by two artists of the witness verbal descriptions of the October 30, 1963 reentry disintegration of a Kosmos-20 booster rocket over Ukraine (after ↆ Oberg 1963).

The second drawing (Figure 23c) is by a Soviet cosmonaut of a very complex and arresting event on 1981 Salyut 6 5 May event:

"It was a round object which resembled a melon, round and a little bit elongated. In front of this object was somethat that resembled a gyrating depressed cone, I can draw it, it's difficult to describe. ... The object resembled a barbell. I saw it becoming transparent and like with a 'body' inside. At the other end I saw something like gas discharging, like a reactive object. Then something happened that is very difficult for me to describe from the point of view of physics ... I have to recognize that it did not have an artificial origin. It was not artificial because an artificial object couldn't attain this form. I don't know of anything that can make this movement — contracting, then expanding, pulsating. ... Then a kind of explosion happened, very beautiful to watch, of golden light. This was the first part. Then, one or two seconds later, a second explosion followed somewhere else and two spheres appeared, golden and very beautiful."

The third example (Figure 17c) shows renderings by artists G.S. Pisarenko and I.S. Kuznetsova of the witness descriptions of the 1963 reentry of a Soviet rocket booster. Neither the witnesses nor the Soviet researchers knew the actual cause of the event, which means only perception and common concepts could affect the representations. Nevertheless, as Oberg observes, "About half the witness reports essentially accurately described the grouping of meteorlike individual objects [booster fragments]; the other half of the reports describe a large flying vehicle with lights and jets arranged on its body." This single instance suggests that the odds are only around 50:50 that the depiction or witness description of a UFO is approximately accurate.

The observable M.H. drew was hovering in place; Kovalyonok's observable was undergoing rapid changes of form that also struck him deeply with an esthetic effect — "golden ... beautiful ... difficult to describe." In addition to the obvious differences in drawing skills between the two men, the drawings illustrate that UFO events can be so complex and beautiful as to be difficult to describe or draw.

These drawings confirm the implicit consistency of the Verdier chart: a UFO generally does not display external features of propulsion or control, there aren't access hatches or doors, no windows or apertures for sensors to see outside, no registration markings or national icons. If it does, it's likely a hoax image. This implies either an evolved embodiment where doors would be illogical or a technological construction using methods of material printing where access would be impractical — alternatives that illustrate the contrasting processes of growth or assembly that characterize the human distinction between life and machine.

Distance & Size. There are also ambiguities due to perspective and point of view. Circular disks observed at an angle can appear elliptical or egg shaped, and viewed edge on can appear as cylinders or "cigars." Running lights on a single form observed at night can appear to be separate lights flying in formation, and lights in formation can appear to be a single large object. Unless observables pass in front of or behind landscape objects, their distance is often hard to determine, even in daylight but especially at night, and therefore distance estimates (and object dimensions based on perceived distance) can be wildly unreliable. Angular motion is not useful as an indicator of velocity unless the distance to the observable and the direction of travel are known, for example by combining an optical recording with radar information.

I do not put great weight in visual or optical estimates of UFO size except in rare cases where there is an unambiguous cue of distance: the observable moves behind clouds, casts a shadow on the ground, dips behind distant ridges and so on. There are several recognizable perceptual difficulties with visual size estimates:

• UFO are commonly described as not emitting any sound, which would bias the estimated distance to be farther than it actually is
• A rapidly moving object will be perceived to be closer than it actually is
• The envelopment masks any kind of surface irregularities or texture or structural details that could signal distance
• UFO are often self luminous or bright/dark and these stimuli are essentially dimensionless along the line of sight (completely so at night)
• UFO are entirely unfamiliar, so recognition cannot rely on prior experience to infer distance from apparent size.

Nevertheless, the strength of radar returns from UFO often indicates a reflecting area that largely corresponds to the range of sizes reported from visual observation — between 5 to 50 meters.

UFO are predominantly observed at night, and often the form is too bright to reveal details of structure or shape. In daylight, observables are often described as having a changing, somewhat obscured or blurred appearance. There seems to be an inherent fuzziness in most images even with high resolution optics, as if the UFO are enclosed in a distorting envelope, not a surface reflection but more like a scattering or bending of light from a refracting and thermally distorted layer. Both the 1994 NEVADA TEST RANGE and 2013 AGUADILLA PRI videos show clear examples of this enveloping distortion.

Luminance contrast. The "white," "metallic" or "silver " (lustrous gray) appearance that is often attributed to UFO can be the artifact of a completely black form whose luminance is around one third the ambient illumination or about five times the average reflected environmental luminance. These approximate ratios in luminance cause human vision to perceive the luminance area as a reflecting "white" or "metallic gray" surface rather than as self luminous light. For example, under office illumination these ratios of screen to ambient luminance are used by a video screen such as an office computer to simulate the white surface of document paper; the same level of luminance, at night, becomes a cellphone flashlight. For an object in clear sky noon sunlight, and assuming a "black" reflectance characterizes the external surface itself, this is a surface luminance of around 9500 nits (candelas per square meter), which at night will appear quite bright. To my knowledge only Hermann Oberth in his 1954 lecture notes clearly pointed to this visual effect: "In sunlight, which is brighter than their own gleaming, they appear glittering like metal. They are dark orange and cherry red at night."

Of course metallic objects also produce a more or less diffuse specular reflectance or lustre, which causes a local brightening that distinguishes it from a matte surface. I describe above the "bright/dark" appearance that characterizes many UFO and I speculate that it may be an artifact of the impulsion. This would explain the apparent bright reflection from a "metallic" surface, especially if the "reflection" is described as a "very bright" on the bottom or solar unilluminated side. This interprets "reflection" as the perception of emittance, and "metallic" as a luminance contrast effect — not as the veridical perception of a reflecting material.

The strong possibility remains that in many or most cases the "metallic" appearance is a luminance contrast effect or a perceptual illusion. The common daylight visual interpretation of UFO as convex, opaque, shiny or metallic forms with a symmetrical or geometrical shape, strongly biases interpretation toward an object recognition rather than an inherently energetic process. There is a possibility that the UFO "bright/dark" form may be misperceived due to our unfamiliarity of the appearance of light sources during daytime, especially if it occurs with illusions of motion.

Illusions of Motion. I am intrigued by a number of cases with a photographic record, such as 1950 GREAT FALLS or 1952 TREMONTON, where the witness recounts seeing "disks" but the recorded image shows only an oblate or elongated "bright/dark" form. Nick Mariana reported that he saw two disks but his secretary said she saw two spheres; perhaps an observer separation as small as ten or twenty meters can produce a significant change in aspect.

I make here the case that these and better documented cases indicate basic limitations in human observers that are not due to observing conditions, perspective effects or lack of distance cues, but to attributes of UFO form that may induce perceptual distortions separate from drawing ability or expected "space ship" appearance. The comparison here is specifically between visual descriptions and photographic evidence.

The 2021 Springfield MO 26 October video (Figure 24a) seems to me a holotype for the first characteristic movement of stationary spinning: the witness says "that is a cube, spinning on an axis ... it's flickering, got lights around it," and the cube appears approximately stationary despite the hand tremor that makes it seem to move back and forth between utility lines. Yet screengrabs from the full screen video show a dark, apparently oblate form that does not appear to be spinning but displays brief flashes of light around various parts of its circumference that seemingly could mimic the visual appearance of a rotating cube. Note in Figure 24a that the observable at times almost disappears, evidently when its luminance matches the background sky, and the overall range of appearances cannot be attributed to a helicopter, drone, balloon or bird.

The astonishing 2019 Bellevue WA 20 February or "Blueberry Farm" event (Figure 24b) displays an anaerodynamic form and "strange" EM emittance (changing bright/dark aspect), with audio demonstrating verbal and physiological ("This heart is racing right now") witness arousal. (An image stabilized version is available here.) There is a remarkable range of aspects including episodes of near "cloaking" in the visual, a completely dark form of amorphous and changing shape and angular dimension, a completely bright form, a bilobular form, the more commonly observed "dark oval with bright edges," and the bizarre imitation of an annular solar eclipse — with a smaller point source of light drifting over the black figure like an internal refraction. The witness does not provide a verbal description, but this video suggests the difficulty an observer would have describing a briefly observed, visually complex and unrecognizable form. The same observable at night would appear as a flux event because the dark form would be invisible.

A remarkably similar observable appears in this 2021 Irving TX 28 April event, filmed with a smartphone at a much smaller optical scale (view full screen) and also including evidence of witness arousal. (This enlarged, contrast enhanced and stabilized version is easier to evaluate.) The observable appears to be a rather active example of the bright/dark form, yet the witness commentary describes it as "moving really weird, it's like spinning and it's got another disc inside of it that's spinning." The article quotes the elaboration: "A large metallic ring that floated around a separate metallic sphere within the ring, like a flying armillary sphere." It is possible that the observer's vision can capture motion that is too rapid for the camera sensor to resolve, but the erratic sequence of bright and dark appearances does not display any periodic or rotational cues.

Figure 24. (a) Different aspects of the 2021 SPRINGFIELD observable showing the great variety described by eyewitness Justin Johnson as a "rotating cube." Compare the "bright/dark" form in the middle row with Figure 19 (a to d); compare the pair lights in the bottom row to Figure 20e. (b) Different aspects of the 2019 BELLEVUE observable showing what appear to be strong "lensing" effects, including nearly complete visual cloaking. The outlined and contrast enhanced images show brief vertical diffusion resembling convection effects; horizontal line indicates a faint rising fragment.

The 2003 New Westminster CAN 11 August event is a fourth example that began as a bright flash, became "a round object hovering over the trees [that] flipped over and turned bright blood red," and resolved in the video into a circular form displaying bright/dark luminance contrasts (strongly resembling 2019 BELLEVUE), then transformation into an elongated, possibly foreshortened dark disk that becomes optically unstable and appears to dissolve. The dancing dark speckles that briefly appear within the spherical form resemble the tiny dark spots inside 2020 VICTORIA MEX.

The last example is the 1995 SALIDA CA case (described above) where the witness visual descriptions vary dramatically from each other and from the recorded luminance effects. Yet both the the Salida witness description of "a wheel with a ball inside, the wheel has lights on it rotating around the ball" and the 2021 IRVING TX description of "a large metallic ring that floated around a separate metallic sphere within the ring" converge in a way that the separate videos do not suggest is justifiable. Possibly illusions of motion produce more complex geometric forms such as rings with spheres in the center.

These five examples, which demonstrate "strange" or bright/dark EM emittance in an anaerodynamic form, illustrate the large discrepancies between eyewitness descriptions and video documentation of form, especially in forms that are inherently difficult to describe — "like a fog bank" in the words of the Salida witness. They suggest that witness perception and event description may easily misinterpret or misrepresent rotating, flashing, distant or complex shapes, especially those in motion and while the witness is experiencing the first stages of arousal. There is a surprisingly large number of perceptual illusions, and some of the most dramatic are caused by the overlay of a shimmering or periodically refracting envelopment over a stable form, for example in these shape and motion illusions. There is a plausible and large domain of visual illusions caused by flickering light within or around a dark form that plausibly complicates our heavy reliance on visual description to understand UFO form.

We also have several cases in which a reliably confirmed and clearly defined visual stimuli produce a large variety in observer reports. James Oberg compiled two very interesting studies of the 1963 daylight reentry of a ↆ Kosmos-20 booster over Kiev, Ukraine (cf. Figure 17c) and the 2008 reentry of a ↆ Chinese CZ-3B booster over Hawaii. These show both a vast range in the accuracy of witness testimony and a truly alarming tendency toward misperception and unsubstantiated interpretations — sometimes asserted with startling vehemence. Ted Molczan has compiled similar reports of other rocket reentry sightings. More recently, there is good evidence and strong argument to suggest that many of the "racetrack UFO" seen in October 2022 by commercial pilots were actually Skylink satellites seen at night at a visually paradoxical high altitude and glaring with near terminator illumination. And there is an utterly tragic history of witness misperception and false conviction in the courts of law in every country. There is plenty of evidence that human observers will read into a stimulus or report out about a stimulus far more and different than is actually there, especially when the event is briefly observed, unfamiliar, and arousing in some way (spectacular, unexpected, threatening, etc.) that can distort recall.

For example, UFO are often described as "spinning". The majority of reported UFO shapes — sphere, disk, cone, cylinder, cigar — are solids of revolution or shapes made by rotating a contour around a fixed axis. So spinning is consistent with the shape even without any specific visual cues of rotation. And spinning could produce other visual effects, such as the shimmering envelopment or flashing emittance that resembles a metallic surface; or the metallic appearance could result from the rapid spinning of a bright/dark form to produce a "flashing", "white" or "silvery" visual mixture. However the transition from a two dimensional to three dimensional form (from circle to disk or sphere in forms of rotation; from triangle to cylinder or cone in vertex forms). The change in the aspect of the 1956 ENGLAND observable from oval to flat to diamond could not be produced by a single figure rotated around one or two differently aligned axes; this is the distinction between a change in shape and a change in form.

Even schematically, the causal "chain of human perception" is complex: originating in a three dimensional form in motion that is presented as a two dimensional retinal projection that is foreshortened through perspectival distortion; a form that either emanates, refracts or absorbs light in complex ways or internally generates emittance as beamlike directional variations in luminance; the combination of shape and rapid, erratic brilliance creating various kinds of perceptual misinterpretations that the witness must describe with a personal and nearly always limited geometrical vocabulary. Other than a superficial analysis by Michael Wertheimer in the Condon Report, the only sources known to me that takes these issues into account are various UFO debunkers such as Philip Klass and, in a layperson's clumsy perceptual terminology, the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 1, p. 3):

– A visual picture is often 'seen', which may not necessarily equate with that 'seen' by another observer of the same phenomenon located nearby. This suggests that the 'picture' formed may have been mentally adjusted, possibly due to some other factor present at the time.

– A physical form may be reported as a result of a combination of what is actually seen with a pre-conceived or sub-conscious mental distortion (in the witness's own-cognition of the event).

In all, the disparity between visual descriptions and photographed shapes suggests we should not rely too heavily on UFO shape and surface material descriptions based on eyewitness visual memory of distant and apparently spinning, flashing or pulsating forms.

UFO as Wildlife

I've described seven decades of UFO and UAP reports from civilian and military sources as a representative picture of what we currently know about the appearance and behavior of UFO. Any compilation of this kind has to deal with hoax, storytelling, bunk, UAP misidentifications and what can only be called the human predicament. I have tried to be accurate and responsible, but can't hope to be entirely successful. Please let me know by email if you disagree.

What strikes me almost as forcibly as the credibly documented attributes of UFO themselves is the extraordinary human difficulty in understanding them. UFO come into human awareness with no explanation or analogous priors. This creates a form of cognitive and emotional challenge that strains the sensemaking ability of our storytelling nature. As a partial release from this tension, I suggest we approach UFO as wildlife.

This wildlife approach rests on two assumptions: (1) we study UFO in the same ways we study wild animals, and (2) the boundaries of our relationship to UFO are the same as the boundaries of relationship with any other wild animal: they are fundamentally ecological, not cultural. The concepts and methods of biology frame the scientific inquiry rather than those of physics, national defense or alien invasion.

I do not imply that UFO are a carbon based life form or a new branch of cephalopod (although there are strange things that live in the sea). They can easily consist of novel materials with strange electromagnetic and kinetic properties. The crucial observations are that UFO appear to be environmentally aware, intrinsically motivated, autonomous entities with some capacity for social interaction, and on those grounds we can conceptualize and study UFO by adapting some of the tools and concepts of ↆ wildlife biology rather than defaulting immediately and reflexively to the presumptions of technology, physics and military outlook. The wildlife approach is also consistent with the assumption that UFO, whatever they are, may have a biological level of structural complexity.

The objection that UFO create power and display capabilities unlike any known life form is factual, but also irrelevant. Both the wildlife and "breakthrough technology" interpretations of UFO assert that they are real and display environmental awareness and dispositional behavior. The advantage is that the wildlife approach does not require an alien homunculus and alien civilization to make and operate the UFO "technology", but it can easily accommodate an alien if it ever steps out of the vehicle.

After I adopted this perspective, I discovered that the metaphor of UFO as a life form rather than a "machine" has been suggested more than once, and form very early in modern UFO observations — for example in this conclusion from the February, 1949 Project SIGN final report (pp. 24-25):

2. The objects may be some kind of animal.

Even in the celebrated case of incident 172
[the "Gorman dogfight"] where the light was chased by a P51 for half an hour and which was reported by the pilot to be intelligently directed, we can make this remark. For considering that an intelligence capable of making so remarkable device would not be likely to play around in so idle a manner as described by the pilot.

In this connection, it would be well to examine if some of the lights observed at night were not fire-flies.

2. Animals: Although the objects as described act more like animals than anything else, there are few reliable reports on extra-terrestrial animals.

and the phrase "act more like animals than anything else" is very useful as the null hypothesis when interpreting UFO behavior. The "wildlife" metaphor also colors public statements about what possible understanding UFO might entail — for example, in the public musings of Luis Elizondo in 2021:

"This is something we have been dealing with for, for a long time, and, and like a lot of things — Imagine the first person who decided to get on a boat and sail over the horizon, right? And there's discussion of sea monsters and Krakens that will devour you and destroy your boat. And yet, we did it anyways. We did sail, and and and we we explored the world, and it turns out, you know ... heh, 500 years later yeah, there really are sea monsters! Except, except what we call them the great squid of the Pacific, and we call 'em great white sharks and whales. Uh, now they're just part of nature, they have a scientific name. But, you know, those sea monsters still exist. They're there, um, we just learned to understand them. And maybe this is just the same thing, maybe this is just yet another uh ah, another expedition over the horizon in which we're going to realize what we thought were were monsters are really just ... neighbors."

Elizondo specifically does not use analogies with natural phenomena like eclipses or earthquakes that once had supernatural interpretations, and he does not use examples of explorer encounters with native peoples. He draws his analogies from wildlife.

In a similar spirit Massimo Teodorani has proposed the intelligent plasma hypothesis to explain both the appearance and controlled behavior of many UFO:

Let's now go back to the hypothesis that all plasma particles (or many of them) constituting such light balls are entangled together inside a quantum coherent structure similar to a human brain. ... If plasmas too are able to become in certain conditions real Life forms, then a part of them might evolve towards forms of intelligence that is more or less sophisticated. The consequences of such an hypothesis would be really disruptive, because then for any life form (even intelligent) based on plasma a planetary atmosphere would be an almost irrelevant prerequisite to make them live, as there should be no need of a "habitability zone" for as we have conceived it until now in the ambit of canonical projects such as, in particular, the SETI Project. According to this scenario Life forms based on plasma might truly live everywhere in the Universe.

Finally, here is former CIA Director James Brennan:

COWEN: At the end of all that sifting and interpreting, what do you think is the most likely hypothesis [to explain UFO]?

BRENNAN: [laughs] I don't know. When people talk about it, is there other life besides what's in the States, in the world, the globe? Life is defined in many different ways. I think it's a bit presumptuous and arrogant for us to believe that there's no other form of life anywhere in the entire universe. What that might be is subject to a lot of different views. But I think some of the phenomena we're going to be seeing continues to be unexplained and might, in fact, be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that we don't yet understand and that could involve some type of activity that some might say constitutes a different form of life.

Qualifiers such as "something that we don't yet understand" and "some might say constitutes a different form of life" do not strike me as alluding to an erect, bipedal, highly intelligent and huggable humanoid such as Skinny Bob but something altogether more mysterious and uncanny. In a 2018 ↆ SETI theoretical paper, Jacques Vallée and Garry Nolan suggest that we keep an open mind to novel forms of physical process:

Because it is hard to imagine all possible life forms, and given the relatively short time that life and consciousness have been scientifically studied, it would be prudent not to rule out possibilities that may appear unfashionable. Life may thrive underground and in space, near and far from planets and stars, and under conditions we may now consider prohibitive. With the newly essential understandings of quantum physics and quantum information, are "biological brains" the only place consciousness could have evolved?

Here the perspectives of the life sciences and physical sciences explicitly unite, using the unexplained and still scientifically undefined concept of "consciousness" as the criterion attribute of "life". Whatever we may think of this equivalence between life and "brains", this inherent flexibility or adaptability of the life sciences perspective is perhaps its greatest strength when confronting the unknown.

There are many UFO observations at a distance — UFO spawn and UAP flux behavior specifically; pulsation or semitransparency, and flight behaviors that seem to defy the laws of physics or the principle of least action — that also seem inappropriate characteristics of a technology. The 2020 VICTORIA MEX video documents a physical appearance that seems to have an active interior resembling a cytoplasm. Even more bizarre observations occur at closer range, for example as organic excretions left by a resting UFO, or this hair raising report by "Walter B." of an extraordinary 2009 "hair and bone" observable viewed from a distance of approximately 15 meters and moving at about 1 m/s:

"It was a ball shaped object in the air with a roughly two meter diameter (left to right, top to bottom). It was covered in patches with a hair like substance, strands of dark to brown hair which was protruding out from a smaller ball shape within, which looked like bone or wood. In others words the smaller (inner circle) was roughly a meter diameter and had hair protruding from it in patches. Each clump of hair was upright and wavy and I'd say about a meter long. The best way to put it was to say it looked like bird bones clumped in a circle with hair like protrusions around the circular shape emanating from it. These hair like structures were coming off all sides of the inner (bone) structure. The hair was not down but rather upright and wavy no matter from which side of the inner bony structure it protruded from. Almost like static hair defying gravity. Not firm and upright but wavy and upright. Whether facing up or down. Hence the total object remained circular."

Walter's 13 year old daughter was outside flying a kite, also saw the phenomenon, and described the appearance as "clumps of a horse's mane or ostrich feathers; the shape of a palm tree's leaves; and branches/bones. It looked like these objects had been clumped together and the main color of it was dark brown/black." It is difficult to find "technological" similes that encompass these visual perceptions.

The wildlife approach provides a resource of less prejudicial "constructs," concepts and systemic principles — in particular evolution and social behavior — that can be used to guide the collection and interpretation of UFO data. If we frame the known facts with this perspective, a variety of new insights become possible. Here I suggest some of the more important.

The wildlife approach provides a novel perspective on UFO as an object of study

The wildlife approach shifts our perspective on UFO in several fundamental ways that will help to remove a variety of biases and premature assumptions.

From the standpoint of what we can explain about UFO as a real world process, we are very much in the same situation as 17th century explorers encountering new habitats and 18th century physiologists trying to understand the nature of body heat and metabolism. If we view the study of UFO as standing at the beginning of our knowledge then the "scientific" problems of construction and propulsion, which we at present have essentially no information to guide or decide, recede into the background as similarly premature.

As with early naturalists, we start with the observable behavior, what we can observe of morphology, capabilities and life cycle, the contexts in which the behavior occurs. We are unable at present to explain the impulsion that powers UFO capabilities; we only observe the things that UFO can do with those capabilities, and the places and times where they do them.

The principal claims of the wildlife approach concern the attributions we make to UFO as phenomena, attributions that define the viewpoint we use to approach the domain of study. The viewpoint is anchored in five substantive claims:

1. UFO are a real and novel form of animate process, different from the animate material process we know as terrestrially evolved carbon based life but with analogous capabilities of intrinsic energy, autonomous motion, environmental awareness and dispositional (reflexive or intentional) behavior.
2. UFO "intelligence" is inherent to the UFO structure itself; there is no alien/saucer separation as a homunculus "maker/pilot" providing the intelligent control of an artificial or cultural "breakthrough technology"
3. The "intelligence" of UFO is only detectable or demonstrable in the observed behavior of the UFO; we cannot infer the level of intelligence from the capabilities of the assumed "technological" (culturally designed and manufactured) nature of the UFO.
4. UFO "aerodynamic capabilities" simplify into characteristic behavior acts that can be combined in order to describe patterns of UFO behavior.
5. The relationship between human and UFO is possibly symbiotic.

Currently, the public and military evidence regarding UFO is observational. At best we hope for observations from multiple "sensors." This immaterial evidence for UFO makes the intrinsic nature of UFO inscrutable. Evidence for their physical nature as a power generating machine is publicly nonexistent and their observed behavior is so far inexplicable to physics. The most serious problem is not the process that is described but the thermodynamic consequences of the enormous resources of energy and instantaneously directed power required to produce the observed hyperdynamic motion. We simply don't observe these consequences, which makes UFO the theoretical cousin of energy creating perpetual motion machines.

The wildlife approach places human and UFO in a creature relationship in the same way that we have a creature relationship with whales or insects. We can take the stance that we hope to "capture or exploit" them, as military beasts of transport or war; we can hunt them, like big game; we can tell stories about them, like unicorns; or we can marvel at them and attempt to study them without dissecting them using the observational and mathematical methods of wildlife science. In this creature relationship the manner in which we approach UFO reveals fundamental facts about human nature and human integrity as well.

The biological approach is consistent with any other scientific interpretation or military perspective

The most important principle to begin with (since it determines the utility of everything that follows) is that the concepts and methods of biology are not prejudicial to any other scientific or social perspective.

The first, historically most useful strength of wildlife biology is that it rests on the foundation of observation and description in the natural environment rather than manipulation and experimentation in a laboratory. Encountering a new species in the wild, the biologist seeks to establish basic facts of identification and description, morphology, diurnal or nocturnal behavior, strategies of foraging or predation, habitat, range, the various forms of communication, territorial defense and social organization in patterns of dominance, kinship and specialization. The biologist seeks to understand how the species is morphologically adapted to respond to ecological conditions and reproduce by means of a vocabulary of possible actions within the physical environment and in possible interaction with other life forms around it.

From that point of view wildlife biology can provide an intellectual audit of what we know and do not know about UFO and identify shortcomings or unexplored avenues of study. For example, one of the first tasks of wildlife biology is an accurate description of the animal to be studied that depends on its unique and distinguishing characteristics; but when we turn to the current public knowledge about UFO, we find that definitions are based on unproven assumptions.

The second strength is the generality of behavioral observations. Provided they are simply factual, these observations will always be true in any future narrative of cause and effect. Nearly all the processes and temporal transformations documented in biology have ultimately been explained in terms of the enduring and universal laws of how stuff works. Bodily warmth becomes the metabolism of organic chemistry, breathing the prerequisite of oxidation. Gaileo was the first to explain the more robust skeleton of large animals with engineering principles. Taxonomy and phylogenics have migrated from fossils and morphology to genomes and gene splicing, predator prey relations follow systems theory. We study genetics as a natural form of nanotechnology, and there is expectation that we can anchor the origin of carbon chemistry in purely chemical, aqueous and geothermal principles of astrogeology.

Figure 25. D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's interpretation of species variation as projective transformations of the same body plan. (Source: Wallace Arthur 2006.)

This ability of biology to adapt to different interpretations of the physical world is symbolized by the early 20th century proposal from D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson that species bauplans are transformations of form produced by principles of projective geometry (Figure 25), or are described by mathematical proportions such as the logarithmic spiral in a Nautilus shell. These deep transformations of morphology are now studied as the evolutionary modification of genes that produce speciation and control development, especially early in life. Observations originally interpreted as aspects of life create no impediment to study in other terms, even the abstract terms of mathematics.

The third benefit of the biological approach is that it releases us from the entrenched biases in our thinking. We are no longer limited to aeronautical technology or operator intent as explanatory concepts; we can set aside the terms "object" or "vehicle," "pilot" or "intention" as metaphors that in many contexts seem inappropriate to describe how UFO are physically constituted or how they actually behave.

Biology has handled an extraordinary range of highly complex, behaviorally autonomous, self organizing, self reproducing, environmentally aware and mobile energy systems for many centuries. We are used to thinking of them as animals or plants. The fact that we find intelligence evolving from material processes, or find intelligence in systems made entirely of electronic parts and software instructions, suggests that intelligence can inhabit many different material exemplifications — indeed, that they are two different things entirely.

Biology requires a unique combination of attributes in the definition of a taxon

Biology puts life forms into conceptual boxes, a necessary task to discover connections within in the incredible diversity of living things. This conceptualizing is taxonomy, the grouping together all recognizably equivalent instances as members of a taxon.

A species is the taxonomic category of biologically indistinguishable individuals that share an enormous number of structural and behavioral attributes. We describe all members of a species as if they are a single individual, documented as the holotype specimen. There are always differences between the individual members of a taxon, and this variety and the significance of the differences that are included within the taxon increases as the taxon becomes a more fundamental unit in the "tree of life." Because the species taxon generally contains only negligible diversity, species form the "leaves" of taxonomic tree where diversity is considered inconsequential. Animals with backbones can be as different as whales, giraffes, gibbons and snakes, and this enormous diversity means the defining attribute of vertebrates appeared much earlier and therefore is much more fundamental in the taxonomic tree of life.

The biological tree of life is called a phylogenic tree because it represents the paths by which newer species evolved out of common ascestors within three domains — all organisms of nucleated cells and two forms of unnucleated bacteria. Of course, by the standards of taxonomy UFO are not a new branch on the tree of life: they appear as a separate tree, like the viruses. This new "tree of life" is completely separate from the biological tree and will therefore be distinct from us in more ways than we can anticipate.

However, all taxons are defined by a set of specific attributes that apply equally to all members of the taxon. In the most basic UFO taxon we require traits that are common to all UFO. These traits must involve either morphology, capability or behavior and, given our current understanding, the traits will necessarily only be attributes we observe rather than discover though a physical or anatomical analysis. Nevertheless, the wildlife approach requires us to identify what those traits are.

Definition of UFO. According to Ted Roe of NARCAP there are many behavioral commonalities across UAP reports in the NARCAP database, and they are all in my terms indicators of hyperacceleration and hyperagility. It is also relevant that the root concept here, flying saucer, refers both to an anomalous kinetic signature ("flying") and a clearly anaerodynamic appearance ("saucer"). These twin attributes afford the basis for an affirmative definition of all members of the taxon UFO. We can minimize the undesirable historical associations of the acronym by pronouncing it military style, as Ruppelt originally did — "Yoo-foe":

A UFO is the continuous aerial or transmedium appearance of (1) controlled hyperdynamic movement or "strange" electromagnetic emittance observed as (2) a self luminous or anaerodynamic form.

• continuous means that the display is recognized as emanating from a single source across an uninterrupted span of time
• controlled means the source hovers or moves in ways that appear exploratory, avoids obstacles, performs evasive or shadowing maneuvers
• hyperdynamic movement includes any combination of hypervelocity, hyperacceleration ("right angle" turn, high g force acceleration or deceleration, including reversal of motion or sudden stop), or hyperagility (extended hover, travel independent of orientation, spinning)
• strange EM emittance is any unfamiliar attribute of flux modulation or relative spectral profile
• self luminous means the form is not a reflective surface but a luminance patch that is either bright (strongly emitting) compared to the solar illumination, or bright/dark, or dark (strongly absorbing visually but strongly emitting in infrared)
• anaerodynamic means the form lacks lift surfaces, control surfaces or evidence of conventional propulsion (exhaust plume, heat, prop motion, etc.).

This definition effectively describes UFO as a display of energy in a visual or optical "object form" that we characterize in terms of aeronautical engineering or dynamics. UFO are only conceived as an electromagnetic source with paradoxical form or powers of motion. It inserts no prejudgment about the physical or material nature of UFO, their structure or operation, or the locus or nature of the behavior control; and it acknowledges the fundamental anchor of knowledge in appearances. However science definitions invoke either abstractions or appearances, and appearances are suitable attributes provided they uniquely combine in the thing we want to define.

In the UFO definition, I require a combination of the appearance of energy emitted and an appearance of form or movement. Energy is inferred either from the radiance of the form or its hyperdynamic motion (which require assumptions about mass to be dynamically interpreted); the visible form either affirms that the observable lacks lift or control surfaces (is anaerodynamic) or is a volume object that emits EM radiation from its surface. The emittance appears in one of three forms: (1) as a clearly defined, "bright" or "white" optical extent ("self luminous form"), (2) as an opaque, reflecting metallic or "bright/dark" anaerodynamic form, or (3) as a light absorbing or dark form. As explained above, these various visual or photographic impressions do not depend on the absolute luminance of the form but on the relative contrast between the emitting form and the luminance of its surround or background.

"Strange" emittance may seem imprecise, but it encompasses anything that absent motion would convince us we were not looking at the planet Venus, which includes (1) beams, (2) extreme brightness, (3) fluctuations in brightness as flashing, rotating or pulsating; (4) saturated or changing chromaticity, and (5) unusual features of the infrared profile, which varies from very hot to very cold. The contour or surface appearance of many UFO are described as "shimmering," and in many observables the "cotton ball" lack of clarity of the visual form is a positive diagnostic feature (see Figure 18).

These four attributes — self luminous form, anaerodynamic form, controlled hyperdynamic movement and "strange" emittance — allow UFO to be identified as six different pairwise combinations of two attributes, and these vary in diagnostic force. The category of a self luminous, anaerodynamic form includes the Chinese lantern, a perennial UAP stimulus (Figure 27) and is the weakest evidence for a UFO and the strongest evidence for Venus. Controlled hyperdynamic movement in combination with any of the other three attributes is the strongest evidence. An identification based on anaerodynamic form (an optical recording of an apparent "object" in visual or infrared (2022 ISLAMABAD PAK) is stronger evidence than the basically photometric evidence of a self luminous form such as 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1), because "bright" objects hide the UFO shape and structure. And because the number of light sources in the sky is quite large (planets, planes, flares, etc.), sightings of self luminous forms, typically at night, require the "strange" EM emittance or a controlled hyperdynamic flight path to confirm a UFO event.

A definition based on appearances does not require material calculations of g force and thrust, because these rely on uncertainties about mass and the mechanisms of propulsion. The criterion of "intelligence" is omitted, but the definition makes clear that this attribution can only be supported by the energy displayed as movement, as the signaling function of several discrete lights, or as the grouping of lights into flights or swarms. It is not demonstrated by the anaerodynamic form alone but in some combination of form and hyperagility or form and "strange" EM emittance. It does not require that UFO have mass, nor carry a homunculus pilot. It treats UFO more as a kind of image than a material object, even when UFO appear to be and are described by the witnesses as a "metallic object."

Definition of UAP. In very many cases, the evidence itself is ambiguous, or lacks sufficient context for the event report — witness testimony of authenticity and sighting circumstances, information about location and date, public records of commercial air flights or ship movements may be lacking. In those and similar cases we lack sufficient information to come to a conclusion, and that state of affairs defines a UAP:

A UAP is an aerial or transmedium sighting or sensor report that cannot be recognized due to an insufficiency in the primary evidence or the validating contextual evidence.

The two categories of observables combine to make a logical labeling scheme, something currently lacking in UFO research. We adopt both the military version of the Haines definition of UAP ("unidentified," unrecognized) and the BLUE BOOK definition of a UFO (a generalization of "flying saucer") while dismissing the third usage, "UAP means UFO," along with all the acronyms that supposedly mean UFO, as duplicitous. The result is illustrated in Figure 26 below.

Figure 26. Venn diagram of a coherent scheme for categorizing all observations of aerial phenomena. The smaller UAP circle illustrates the situation where official disapproval and bunkism deny that UFO exist.

In this scheme we clearly distinguish between those things we can explain as either a UFO or an IAP (identified aerial phenomena), and the things we lack evidence to decide, the UAP. The category of UAP will eventually produce assignment to the many categories of conventional causes or to the taxon of UFO, but there will always remain a number of cases that cannot be decided either way due to an insufficiency in the evidence. These remain UAP indefinitely.

The positive definition of UFO clarifies the specific ways that circumstances might cause witnesses to misperceive aerial phenomena. Reports might describe an anaerodynamic form that lacks hyperagility (a trash bag in the wind), or lights that do not display hyperagility or EM modulation (aircraft lights or drones), or hyperagility lacking envelopment (engine noise, sonic boom or thermal plume). This categorization can clarify the UFO characteristics that most reliably distinguish them from other aerial objects and phenomena.

Figure 27. Some examples of different UAP, recognizable or eventually explained as aircraft, optical or atmospheric misattributions and either suspected or proven hoaxes.

Figure 27 provides some examples of common UAP and the application of the UFO definition to exclude them from further consideration:

(a) Lens flare repeatedly discovered in Google Maps "street view" images. When seen against the sky this flare is unexpected and convincing to some alienists, but it wasn't until this photo showed the flare against the ground that interest was put to rest; most of these photos have been replaced by newer "street view" photographs. Optical artifacts turn up frequently in UFO photography, which either signifies a witness population unfamiliar with optics or a hoaxer population happy to exploit a convenient method to generate evidence. The photos themselves show no evidence of hyperdynamic movement or strange emittance.

(b) A 1991 Mexican Air Force video in infrared that probably shows methane flaring from distant offshore oil platforms. The release of this video was followed by witness testimony from the flight crew. The appearance of motion through the clouds is due to the plane, not the lights; otherwise the video shows only self luminous forms unaccompanied by either hyperdynamic movement or strange EM emittance.

(c) A Chilean coastal patrol helicopter infrared image of a commercial airliner that (near the end) emits a water condensation contrail. A ↆ meticulous debunk of the event found the pilot of the helicopter was unable to hail the aircraft because he was calling on the wrong radio channel, and ground radar could not "find" an unidentified object because all commercial aircraft returned standard radar identification codes. The anaerodynamic form is a blur image of the jet engine exhaust.

(d) A "Tic Tac" with echelon of three. This video shows (to me) no signs of digital fakery and it reproduces the "hen and chicks" formation similar to the context described in 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1). But these are UAP because the web page source of the video provides no date, no location, no witness testimony, no provenance, and by including the video with slow motion has obviously run it through post processing software. I can find no official Chilean release statement, and the web page also deceptively confuses statements of authenticity attributed to the second, Chilean video (c). Likely CGI hoax.

(e) A 2021 hoax video of a LED illuminated drone, which was supported by false testimony from a purported witness farmer. Perpetrated by Rémi Gaillard at several locations in south France with the collusion of a local weather service. In this case, not only was the event itself a hoax but an "official" information source collaborated in the falsehood. This is a rare case of multiple witness collusion with the support of an official misattribution of provenance.

(f) Video of a "rhombohedral" object in the 2021 Medellin CO 20 January event that lacks witness testimony or specific location ("somewhere" in Medellin). I classify it as a UAP because it does not show any hyperdynamic movement or strange EM emittance despite the anaerodynamic form, and it seems to descend into a populated area in pretty much the same manner as a balloon. The fact that it travels behind an apartment building with visible doors and balconies suggests it is either a real object of dimensions greater than 3 meters (which would inspire local media reports) or a CGI video hoax.

(g) An apparently deflating balloon, given uncanny brightness because it is still at an altitude where it can be illuminated by the Sun during twilight. No strange emittance, no hyperdynamic movement, no UFO.

(h) A floating cube followed with some interest by the witness; his narration suggests it may be a drone, plastic bag or a balloon, all examples of "air trash". It is a UAP because although an anaerodynamic form, it does not show strange emittance or hyperdynamic motion and seems to be carried by a light breeze.

(i) Chinese lanterns at night are a source of UAP reports and photographs; another convenient goof is to tie a road flare to a balloon. Astronomical objects (planets, meteors) and human activity (rocket launches, satellite reentry) are also common stimuli for UAP reports. The average citizen has a very poor understanding of what appears in the sky.

(j) The 2022 "Las Vegas UFO" produced by an overcast of ice crystals that reflect downward the bright lights on the roof of casino hotels and office buildings. This is related to the phenomenon of "light pillars" usually produced by a ground fog of ice crystals; in this case the fog does not extend to the ground but reflects the lights as a coherent layer above the ground, detaching the reflections from their source.

(k) The "Temple Mount" 2011 Jerusalem IL 28 January event that illustrates hyperdynamic motion, strange (exceptionally bright and flashing) EM emittance and self luminous form. This remarkable video, attributed to one among a group of art students, has been reviewed and copied many times; most of the copies online are quite poor. I cannot find the "original" version online posted by the witness student as a personal statement of authenticity. Shortly after the student version was made public a poor quality fake using a still photograph of the Temple Mount with spliced in crowd sounds quickly appeared, and apparently the UFO barker Jaime Maussan cobbled the student video together with a second probable fake and a third demonstrable fake copied from the second, for a presentation to the International UFO Congress in 2012. (The IUFOC declined my request for a public copy of Maussan's presentation, which apparently included a weather station remote video of the UFO event.) I was very disappointed to uncover this murky background to an event that viewed in slo mo (and contrast enhanced to show the flashing red lights in the sky at the end) or analyzed subjectively appears to be authentic. But the lack of identity or witness testimony about the event from the students, unavailability of the original raw video file for forensic study, lack of corroborating video from the security cameras or human observers on site, and the mucking of the student video with confirmed fakes by a media personality known for producing bogus evidence completely removes any possible science value for this UAP record. At the same time, if it is a CGI fake it is very sophisticated, provocative, and quite beautiful.

These better defined attributes should also support the definition of UFO subcategories or subtaxons resembling families, phyla or species. We find that new forms such as "acorn" or "cube in a sphere" or the Kumburgaz "circular segment" continually turn up. I have suggested there is good evidence that the morphological variations in UFO are large and also probably include a large component of perceptual error, and we are currently nowhere near an understanding of this diversity. The principles of selection, whether as evolution or technological development, strongly imply that shape variation should have functional or behavioral implications, yet it is still unclear whether a triangular UFO is different from a disk UFO in any task or function. We also lack documentation of UFO emittance and absorptance profiles across the electromagnetic spectrum but in particular in the infrared, which may be necessary to connect the day and night appearance. According to NARCAP, electromagnetic disruption of commercial airline instrumentation and communications already seem important to distinguish the "fireball" type.

The wildlife approach requires a definition of what we want to observe. Neither the Haines UAP, the various acronyms spun out of it nor the ODNI corruption of the term will serve. If, after seven decades of observations and reports from highly trained and experienced observers, scientists interested in this issue still cannot positively define what it is that they are talking about — then what are they talking about? I believe the main features of UFO have remained constant enough over the past seven decades to support a positive definition that identifies most UFO exclusively.

UFO impinge on the human ecosystem as a potential symbiont

Species that coexist in the same ecosystem (or the same physical space) form a community. All the life forms on Earth form a single terrestrial community, with regional variations we call ecologies.

If we approach UFO as a life form and a member of the community of life on Earth, UFO behavior can be interpreted as an adaptation to the terrestrial ecosystem that includes humans and human activity, and humans will reciprocate with an adaptation to the presence of UFO. Each species defines a role in this mutual adaptation, and the pairing of roles between the species creates a symbiotic relationship in which each species is a symbiont in relation to the other.

In a biological analysis there are nine possible categories of symbiotic role relationships (Figure 28). The role of the instigating or more controlling species is listed first as the rows of the table, and the consequent role of the less controlling species as the columns. As either species can instigate in different ways, two tables are necessary to chart this reciprocity. This is a very general way to think about species relationships; the tables can describe species behavior in the aggregate, for example as "what the human species does as normal behavior" or as specific acts, such as "humans attempt to exploit or capture UFO." The charts help to organize thinking and lead us to examine situations that we may not have considered.

Figure 28. A simple transactional analysis of possible human/UFO symbiotic relationships.

The symbiotic relationships widely observed in our terrestrial, carbon chemistry organisms are:

• mutualism (winner/winner, green) where both species benefit from the interaction, for example the way zebras accompany herds of wildebeest, acting as better eyes to warn the herd and exploiting the massed animals as a predator shield

• commensalism (winner/unaffected or unaffected/winner, orange) where one species either actively or passively benefits in the relationship without either cost or benefit to the other species

• predation (winner/loser, red) where the instigating species benefits by killing and consuming the other species

• parasitism (loser/winner, red) where the routine behavior of the instigating species brings it in contact with an exploiting species

• antibiosis (unaffected/loser or loser/unaffected, violet) the behaviorally unstable relationship where either species can mount a cost free defense against the other, much as "dog bites man" is losing to the human no matter which species started the dispute.

There are also the null situations of range overlap (unaffected/unaffected), for example between insectivorous and granivorous birds, or coral and fish, that live in mutual indifference within the same habitat, and mutual harm (loser/loser) where for example a plague microbe drives its host extinct and perishes as a result.

To explore the possibility of a symbiosis we first summarize the pattern of human/UFO interactions as it appears in the public record (Figure 28, left). It does not appear in the public record that any human initiated contact is a benefit to UFO, so the "winning" column of the table is empty. At points where humans initiate contact, especially when approached by military aircraft, UFO rather consistently seem to successfully evade (retreat, flee or "vanish") and may initiate radar jamming or "beam cloaking" (glare) directed at optical equipment. This might imply that in a potential human/UFO relationship, the UFO perceive human approach as either predatory or annoying, which means that UFO interpret humans as a life form analogous to a wolf or a wasp. However UFO do not, as humans often do against wolves or wasps, deploy harming or fatal countermeasures, although the jamming radar or the "levitating" aircraft anecdote described to John Greenewald by former CIA director James Woolsey suggest mild analogs of antibiosis where human seems to come off the loser without much harm to the UFO (loser/unaffected). There does appear to be an opportunity for human initiated behavior to benefit from UFO either through observational scientific study without affecting the UFO, or through the more aggressive capture or exploit stratagems necessary for weapons development programs that may impede, damage or destroy UFO. In the wildlife approach, this implies that the government judges UFO not to be the artifacts of a superior civilization, since the government seems to plan on capturing one of them.

Next we summarize the reciprocal pattern of UFO/human interaction (Figure 28, right). Despite the religious or enthusiast claims that UFO are here to help humanity solve its problems, or rise to a higher spiritual plane, or transport survivor humans from a ravaged Earth to a new home planet, or harvest human genetic material to benefit a future human race, there is no public evidence that UFO initiated contact directly benefits humans in any way, so the "winner" column is empty in this table as well. This excludes mutualism or mutual benefit from consideration. At the same time, both sides of the symbiosis seem autonomous and competent enough to avoid initiating actions that result in harm or loss to the initiating agent, so the "loser" row is empty in both tables — except in the limited case where the military goes out of its way to make trouble.

There are many reports of UFO seeking and following commercial airplanes, creating an air hazard by indifferently lingering in commercial or restricted military airspace, rudely "buzzing" aircraft or causing an air collision hazard, and swarming battle fleets in a manner suggestive of curiosity or vigilance. During the very infrequent incidents of "close encounter," UFO sometimes cause NIEMR like physical harm and witness paralysis or cognitive impairment, and can disrupt electronic or electrical systems that pose a potential defense hazard. The abduction phenomenon is outside my limited area of interest, which is the factual nature of UFO as observable phenomena; but assuming that abduction events have an existential reality then human plausibly loses as a host to a form of parasite. The only opportunities for mutual toleration are either mutual avoidance, which in practice appears to be a responsibility that falls largely on UFO; or that UFO are here to exploit some natural resource, such as using our bountiful oceans as a place to spawn. Otherwise all UFO initiated interactions have the potential to cause harm.

Comparing the two tables indicates first an asymmetric bias in the potential symbiotic relationship that implies one species will have superior behavioral capabilities in relation to the other. The asymmetry extends to the specific way in which each side can "win." Humans seem to foresee more possibility that they can be "winners" in relation to UFO primarily through scientific research that leads to new insights, or weapons/countermeasures development that can mimic UFO capabilities for military purposes. In contrast, the analysis suggests that UFO can profit from interaction with human through abduction, hybridization or some form of covert control of human activities. Admittedly, both these human and UFO scenarios are highly conjectural, and we lack the information necessary to choose among them because, at present, we have no control over UFO behavior.

Otherwise it is apparent from the comparison of capabilities that human/UFO interactions will tend to have undesirable or "loser" results for humans, either through the wasted effort of chasing UFO, the negative consequences of possible UFO countermeasures, or the health and electronic systems effects resulting from air hazards or close contact. And UFO presence could affect human indirectly, for example if UFO plumes change the Earth's atmosphere or their undersea existence alters the ecology of the oceans. UFO could also affect human health or psychology in a physiological way, for example through the collateral injuries from microwave radiation; or psychologically through a stress reaction to the event or the UFO stigma that typically follows the report. Or UFO could affect human only rarely, randomly and accidentally, for example by causing near air collisions or crashes.

We find, in rudimentary biological analysis, that both sides in the human/UFO symbiosis most likely perceive and respond to the other as an annoyance, a threat, or some form of prey. We would expect to find, separate from encounters produced randomly by the overlap of relative population numbers and local densities, that there should be a gradient toward reduced interactions. The large increase in reports over the past two decades seems evidence against that, unless we attribute the uptick to the proliferation of better cellphone videos into a larger number of citizen hands with the internet access for easy reporting. And perhaps, in the social dynamic of the wave, a larger number of eyes willing to look up and wonder.

Population numbers and inhabited or seasonal range are basic wildlife attributes

The wildlife approach considers information about a species habitat and range as key information about behavior and adaptation. Wildlife guides routinely show a range map that identifies the geographic area inhabited by a species, with the seasonal variation in range or appearance (pelt in animals, flowers and leaves in plants) where these are significant. This information is completely lacking in UFO documentation.

We do have a variety of "heat maps" or density diagrams of UFO reports, such as the plot of NUFORC sightings (Figure 8), which follows very closely the underlying population density of potential observers. This caveat also applies to the recent AARO release of UAP Reporting Trends that shows reports clustered only around a few areas of high military surveillance. The third piece of evidence we have for a population (cultural) bias in the data is that global UFO reports are heavily concentrated in the USA but are very sparse (per capita) in the rest of the world.

Producing a useful estimate of the UFO population and global range is extraordinarily fraught. As decribed under UFO wave, observers and surveillance cameras are concentrated in urban areas and populous countries, and we have very sparse human distribution over the oceans. When sightings are reported per capita (controlled for population density), there appears a contrasting rural effect probably due to long agricultural work hours, dark skies and very small population denominators, which makes the per capita ratio prone to factitious extreme values.

Figure 29. Schematic of the sampling issues in estimating the UFO event population from confirmed UFO reports

Figure 29 shows a simplified version of the sampling issues involved to estimate the UFO population based on confirmed (validated) UFO reports. The proportions indicated in the figure are illustrative only because we lack reliable quantitative information at almost every step:

event population – The population we are interested to measure is limited to UFO that enter the Earth's atmosphere. It may be true that UFO also travel under water or in space, but our ability to detect UFO in those environments appears to be limited.

detection intersection – This is the subset of the population of interest that can possibly be detected either by human visual detection or by sensor systems such as security cameras, military and civilian radar, and weather, geomapping or military satellites. The figure shows the event population reduced to 29%, the total habitable land area, to represent human visual detection; large parts of habitable land will be uninhabited (forests, agricultural) and this gross overestimate can be assumed to account for observations made from ships or planes. Visual detection is augmented by the detection space of all surveillance, radar and orbiting sensor systems, which increases the detection intersection by an unknown amount that depends on the number of sensors, their detection volume, and their spatiotemporal resolution limits and luminance thresholds. There will also be significant overlap, for example observables that are sighted visually and on radar. I grossly simplify the sensor coverage as equivalent to the terrestrial visual coverage.

At this point there is a discontinuity in the vertical scale of the chart. We can confidently assume that the number of UFO within the detection intersection is smaller than the total number of UFO incursions (because some incursions occur outside of geographic locations where they can be detected); we know factually that the number of confirmed reports is smaller than the number of reports, and we have good evidence that the number of reports is smaller than the number of sightings. But we have no evidence, and no plausible conjecture, to indicate the number of incursion events that result in sightings, nor the proportion of UFO sightings to the number of IAP sightings. So the two sides of the chart represent different numerical proportions, as indicated by the double slashes through the connecting lines.

sighted – This represents the total number of sightings. For visual the proportion is shown as one third of the visual detection intersection, which is the time that humans are not sleeping or indoors at school or work. This is surely a gross overestimate as it implausibly assumes that every UFO that enters the visual detection intersection will be sighted (every day has perfect weather conditions, people spend their entire time not working or sleeping scanning the sky, etc. (see Figure 31). The reduction in sensor detections is unknown but is probably extremely large, as sensors are generally oriented to other tasks than UFO detection; many radar systems include software that "scrubs" anomalous returns as spurious, terrestrial mapping images may be scrubbed to eliminate random "clutter" such as clouds, and weather satellites probably have resolution too coarse to identify small forms.

The significant issue at this point is that some very large proportion of IAP — aircraft, balloons, trash, secret military projects, planets, meteors, drones, chinese lanterns — enter the detection intersection and are also sighted, at unknown proportions that depend on the type of object and the location of observers.

reported – UFO reports comprise the description by witnesses of a sighting that is recorded and tallied by an archive institution such as NICAP, NUFORC or NARCAP. They do not include "reports" to family, friends or the local police. At this point all IAP are misinterpreted and become UAP. J. Allen Hynek, Cheryl Costa, Robert Powell all describe surveying their lecture audiences by a show of hands, asking how many have sighted a UFO; when then asked how many have reported their sighting, about 90% of the hands go down. I suspect that this proportion is significantly greater for IAP than for UFO sightings because UFO on the whole should show more "strangeness" in their behavior or appearance. (Planes are probably rarely misidentified, especially in radar, while drones and balloons many have a much higher rate of misidentification in all modalities.) The number of radar and sonar sightings that are never reported is certainly very large because in most cases there is no specific detection software program or practicable reporting procedure.

confirmed – Out of all reports made, a validating procedure must be applied to winnow out the misattributed IAP (UAP) reports or, as in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 3, pp. 5-11), use time and trajectory to conflate multiple reports as a single event. This final step is a necessary but also incredibly labor and information intensive task. The reduction from reports to confirmed reports, which ideally excludes all UAP and duplicate reports of the same event, is an unknown figure variously quoted from 1% to as high as 20% (in the ↆ Laurent study). A median value of 10% seems justified to me. These proportions depend on the reliability of witnesses or sensors and will be exceptionally higher in armed services reports derived from trained visual and military sensor systems deployed around sensitive defense assets.

The 1971 Australian UFO Report (linked below) points out that when ratings of observer reliability and the report reliability were multiplied to create a "sighting reliability" score for Project BLUE BOOK reports, the number of "unknown" reports actually increased between the "poor" to "excellent" reports, from 16% to 33%. "Throughout the years of the UFO phenomenon, there has been a persistent form of official pronouncements which state that the percentage of unknowns would be reduced if more data were available. [These figures] contradict that statement." I am less affirmative on the basic point: vague, unreliable sightings could more easily be dismissed as witness error or common object. The real point is that, as General Samford said, the highly reliable sightings from credible observers describe relatively incredible things.

The schematic argument illustrates the daunting uncertainties that complicate statistical estimates of the UFO event population. But it illustrates the almost certain inference that both reports and confirmed reports are a miniscule fraction of the total event population and are strongly skewed toward visual as opposed to sensor detections. "Sightings" still depend primarily on human sight at habitable sites and factually, by a roughly 2 to 1 proportion, are not in daylight but at night.

Similar problems confront the identification of UFO "habitat" or preferred routes of transit. The only transit analysis known to me, from the 1948 Preliminary Project SIGN report, indicates about an equal number of north/south paths, almost no east/west paths, and the largest number of paths headed northwest, but this is uninterpretable because it is averaged over about 200 sighting locations. And while there are anecdotal reports of intermittent concentrations of UFO events around geographical "hot spots," or undisclosed methods to "attract" UFO through specific kinds of EM emittance, these are not confirmed in public disclosures.

The most useful source of evidence at this point is the defense radar and satellite sensor information, especially in circumstances where terrestrial radar and satellite sensors observe the same column of space. Satellite data is explicitly mentioned by director Ratcliffe and explicitly called out in the 2021 and 2022 NDAAs, but omitted from any mention in the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" or subsequent DoD disclosures. This surveillance has reputedly shown "objects" traveling to and from Earth, and the questions that possibility raises are how many objects, seen how often, traveling to what parts of Earth from what celestial coordinates of approach? Transits that occur periodically from a fixed geographic direction (such as a geosynchronous orbit), or a consistent astronomical origin (such as the location of the Moon or the direction of a specific star), or toward consistent destinations (such as bodies of water or known UFO "hot spots" such as Iino, JPN), would strongly constrain hypotheses about UFO origins. The exact spatial coverage and orientation of these satellite sensors is known, and this would yield an "exoplanet" census of UFO that can be compared to the "near surface" census based solely on terrestrial observation to produce a contrast portrait of deep space and near Earth transit and hover.

The upshot of these questions, framed in the approach of wildlife biology, is that we understand very little if anything at all about the overall population, geographical clustering or possible patterns of migration or transit among UFO.

UFO operate within a limited sensor space or Umwelt

All organisms have limits to their sensory capabilities. In most situations a human cannot physically detect Xrays or radio waves; the ambient surface radiation in those bandwidths is invisible and unfelt. Inside those limits, the world of things that can be perceived or felt is the Umwelt of the animal. From within, as the phenomenal experience of an organism, the Umwelt can be quite florid. But from the outside to an observer it only appears when the organism reacts to some environmental fact.

I can find no specific assessment of UFO sensor or communication capabilities, but I suggest the 2004 USS NIMITZ encounter and east coast 2015 USS ROOSEVELT encounters (2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) and GO FAST) generate a possible profile in four dimensions:

1. UFO have a challenge threshold between 5 to 10 kilometers. (a) The first "Tic Tac" did not appear to notice or respond to the approach of Cdr. Fravor's aircraft until he descended from 6100 meters to about 5500 meters, whereupon it suddenly turned its long axis to point in the direction of his plane and kept that orientation as it ascended while mirroring the radius of turn in his descent. This maneuver was so distinct it was noticed by Dietrich and Slaight as well. (b) When the second radar return was approached by Lt. Underwood's plane, it began an evasive maneuver and then abruptly disappeared while the intercepting fighter was (according to Underwood's estimate) about five miles [8 km] away. (c) On the east coast, the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) observable stopped and reversed direction when the approaching plane was about 8 miles [13 km] away. (d) At least one flyby can been made close enough to capture images with cockpit cellphones (Figure 18) without dislodging the observable from its hover location.

2. UFO have communication distance of at least 100 km. At the same moment as the aggressive challenge to the first Tic Tac, the other 14 targets on the Princeton's radar dropped quickly from altitude to near the ocean surface and began energetic and uncoordinated maneuvers. Quoting radar Petty Officer Gary Voorhis: "At a certain point there ended up being multiple objects that we were tracking. That was toward the end of the encounter and they all generally zoomed around at ridiculous speeds, and angles, and trajectories and then eventually they all bugged out faster than our radars [could track]. We were getting what we call 'spot radar sightings' where it would just catch a glimpse of it as it was moving so it was moving faster than our radar could register. And then they were gone."

3. UFO have an unknown observational or detection radius.The evading "Tic Tac" (or a second observable) almost immediately appeared at Fravor's designated fleet combat air patrol station or CAP station, a location that is normally an operational secret. Voorhis commented: "How the hell did [the "Tic Tac"] know where the CAP stations was? I mean it was right on it. Not close by, but on it. On that point in space" [emphases original]. A similar CAP knowledge occurred on the east coast when an observable appeared at the CAP station just as two jets arrived, splitting the distance between them (illustration, below). In 2020 VICTORIA MEX the observable dropped "like a meteor" from an unknown high altitude, apparently to shadow a specific commercial plane flying below 40,000 ft. [12 km] altitude.

4. UFO interactions occur at close range, within ~1 km. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report suggests the distance is much smaller, at less than 100 meters.

This narrative implies a sensor profile of the UAP active at that time: some kind of alerting communication from the intercepted "Tic Tac" to the others at distance, an apparent lack of coordinating communication among those widely dispersed observables, the capability to identify a specific location in space by means of covert observation, and the ability to detect approaching aircraft at a distance less than, yet remain unaware of an approach that is greater than, a distance of perhaps 5 to 10 kilometers [3 to 6 miles]. The 2020 VICTORIA MEX video suggests that the observable detected the airliner from a much higher altitude and descended "like a meteor" expressly to shadow it, which also suggests the airliner was detected from a large distance. Navy pilots also report that their attempts to intercept and visually evaluate a UAP radar return result in the observable descending on their approach. The approach distance at which these maneuvers happen is not stated but one of the first encounters was a near air collision between a dark gray "cube in sphere" between 5 to 9 meters [≤ 30 feet] in diameter that "split the section" or 30 meter [100 foot] separation between a pair of F/A-18 Hornets entering their CAP station (shown to relative scale in the figure, above); this is apparently the origin of the Elizondo anecdote that "we've seen these things from a distance of 50 feet." These conflicting features — long range signaling, near range threshold for alert, lack of apparent coordination, implied military operational surveillance, indifference to near air passes but evasion of intercept approach — present an intriguing picture of the UFO sensory space.

UFO display basic forms of social behavior

UFO social behavior is evident in a very limited range of mutual behavioral control: as pair interactions (parallel flight, mutual hover), as flight or swarm formations, and in spawn behavior of merging or separating. These all imply if not require some kind of mutual recognition as entities in spacetime, as conspecifics in a conspecific state (friendly or not, "part of this echelon formation," etc.) These seem to require an exchange of information — specific ways to recognize and communicate with your own species.

Social species evolve specific forms of intraspecies communication, but the medium and manner in which UFO mutually communicate is unknown. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 1, p. 11) comments that:

The lack of evidence of signalling in the form of electronics communications signals is also an enigma if extra-terrestrial entities are involved. Despite considerable attempts in serious scientific monitoring programmes over many years, no evidence has been found which can correlate with vehicular activity on Earth. Either there is none or the 'entities' are communicating using a medium which we do not have or even understand, which seems unlikely, based on all the evidence and the emerging evidence reported in this study.

But the evidence of communication is possibly in plain sight as EM modulation outside radio frequencies, including the blinking or flashing light associated with some observables, which can be rapid, complex, synchronized and chromatically variable (e.g., 2019 USS OMAHA (2), 2020 VICTORIA MEX, 2021 GLENDALE CA and 2021 CARSON CITY NV). Visual signaling is very common in the animal domain, especially in predator/prey interactions and courtship or dominance displays between conspecifics. Communication can also occur through microvariations in mutual trajectory and spacing, for example when a pet dog solicits play by bounding back and forth in view of a nearby companion.

One aspect of social behavior is the emergence of a hierarchy of control, and this has been observed in UFO as a group or flight of observables accompanied or shepherded by a single "larger" or brighter observable. Among the events cited here, this was observed in the 1950 FARMINGTON NM armada, the 1951 LUBBOCK TX lights, in 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) (with the echelon of five "cube in sphere" observables off screen), and in 2019 USS OMAHA (2). The fact that the hierarchy seems to correspond with a morphological difference — the escort is usually reported as a "larger," brighter, redder light — is highly significant for its analogy to guiding sheep or fledglings. Some form of communication among the observables seems required to produce these arrangements, and communication is the fundamental element of social behavior.

However shared or common behavior is a low level of cooperation compared to forms of mutualism where the behavior produces a species and often an individual benefit. UFO do not seem to groom one another, stand guard or assist in defense, transfer cargo or energy reserves, or in any other way show behavior that implies a species unity of adaptive purpose or a cultural unity of strategic objectives.

Finally, as with consumer handheld remote controllers, the channel utilized may be in the infrared, which would perhaps explain the real function of the "beam glare" reported in some UFO infrared imagery or the "beam interrogations" directed at fighter and commercial aircraft. And, obviously, the wildlife approach does not require the ETH to explain any communicative behavior that may be discovered.

Although UFO appear responsive to and emitting across a broad spectrum of EM frequencies, we apparently only have a poor understanding of the UFO attribute of EM modulation. This is in large part due to the distance at which UFO are observed but also to the channels of radio, radar, infrared and visual that are being recorded and the time intervals of the sampling. It seems potentially important to pursue full spectrum EM measurement across extended and continuous time spans in order to locate channels and codes of communication in use or to exclude EM definitively as the medium being used.

UFO do not appear to collaborate for constructive purpose

It is difficult to interpret a mutual interaction without the context in which it appears. But I do not believe there are any reports of constructive or goal directed behavior among UFO. These could be behaviorally simple, such as several UFO defending a UFO pursued by an intercepting fighter by mobbing the pursuer, in the way that some bird species will defend other birds pursued by a hawk; or UFO moving objects or prohibiting access to certain aerial zones through a show of menace; or in any way manipulating the environment to create a lasting structure or to extract a natural resource. Nearly all events consist of UFO either hanging around, or flying by in formation, or hanging around and then accelerating vertically at incredible speeds, or shining brilliantly and then accelerating away, or fleeing from pursuit by military planes, or pacing commercial aircraft. Across all events the speed and direction of travel seem largely random.

As General Samford (quoted above) put it, there is "no pattern of purpose or of consistency" that we can associate with any form of constructive or collaborative purpose. UFO do not seem to be doing anything. They just hang out, alone or in groups; and buzz from here to there, in groups or alone.

That interpretation is limited by the significant discontinuities in the evidence. Citizen reports are inherently truncated, because the event isn't noticed until after it has already started. Videos rarely last more than a few minutes, and unfortunately seem to fatigue the photographer or exhaust the battery before the signature "vanishing." Reports indicate that overflights sometimes happen within a minute or two, barely time to unpocket and turn on a smartphone camera. Lights appear at distances too great to permit visual identification. Events witnessed by civilians may differ significantly from events involving military operations, installations, and surveillance sensors. Reports from pilots and citizens go to different agencies. Radar anomalies are ignored or expunged by error filtering software, and when a UFO leaves the span of any single radar the report is not referred to other radar stations to continue tracking. Jets intercepting UFO find they retreat out of visual or sensor range.

UFO events sometimes involve a consistent, transiting geometrical figure such as a triangle (2013 HAZLET, 2015 BEIRUT, 1950 HECLA), echelon (Figure 11), arc (Figure 22) or circumference. Except for 1561 NUREMBERG, there are no reports of different groups of UFO doing battle or competing. We normally do not observe where UFO formations assemble or disperse before travel, for example as in the appearance in 2021 KROMĚŘÍŽE. In many reports, starting with 1952 WASHINGTON D.C., UFO were seen to "suddenly appear" on radar, as if descending from an altitude beyond the radar range, but once arrived they seem to keep the arrangement in which they first appeared or to move about randomly or erratically. But most UFO events involve solitary observables which appear to be loitering or searching for something (in 2021 BUFFALO), or energetically churning a random patch of ocean surface (2004 USS NIMITZ).

To the extent that UFO create a range overlap with human habitation without otherwise affecting human activity, it would appear they are here for some other reason than the blessings of our conversation, for example to exploit or utilize some natural resource on Earth. If this is so then the major resource of interest appears to be water generally and the oceans primarily, either as a habitable medium or as a material resource for some unknown purpose, process, or benefit (for example, as cloaking).

UFO do not display a high level of intelligence

Witnesses frequently and spontaneously attribute UFO behavior to an "intelligence." That may actually be true, but it is also factually unknown. The question of whether we attribute intelligence to UFO phenomena, either intrinsically or contingently, seems to depend on the coincidence of three distinct UFO behavioral attributes:

1. Reactive or environmentally controlled behavior: principally, evasion of pursuit.
2. Proactive or dispositional behavior: orographic exploration, directed flight, flight vs. hover
3. Communicative social behavior: pairs, flights, swarms, spawning.

However, judged against the standards we apply to wildlife, the overall range of UFO behavior is not tactically subtle, strategically consistent or very alert. We've seen that military observers and weapons trained thinkers describe UFO behavior as an "ineffectual penetration" that shows "no pattern of purpose or of consistency." In other words, UFO appear remarkably clueless.

Here we have to assess the human ability to objectively perceive agency, intent or intelligence. Many phenomena we now can explain purely in terms of natural laws and processes were attributed at earlier stages of human history to supernatural forces or spiritual beings with magical powers. There is no peculiarity in this, it's just the storytelling temperament of a social animal attempting to explain the inexplicable.

In the deservedly famous "experimental study of apparent behavior" by gestalt psychologists Fritz Heider & Marianne Simmel, subjects were asked to watch a contrived geometrical animation and then describe or explain to another person what happened in the film. The typical social narratives that come back recount the film in terms of characters, action and motive (and, amusingly, even with attributions of gender) where there are only erratically moving geometrical figures. The larger triangle, for example, was described by the study participants as "aggressive, warlike, belligerent, pugnacious, quarrelsome, troublesome, mean, angry, bad-tempered, temperamental, irritable, quick to take offense, bully, villain, taking advantage of his size, picking on smaller people, dominating, power-loving, possessive."

This study illustrates that humans naturally perceive animated or episodic phenomena, regardless of its physical nature, as having a character and purpose motivating the action. This translation of motion into disposition becomes explicit even in a few words, for example in Lt. Graves's description of the "rotation or uncertainty" of UFO. And the Heider-Simmel experiment, a study frequently replicated, is also replicated in the belief of some AI engineers that chat bot computers have become sentient.

The Heider-Simmel experiment demonstrates that we perceive animate characteristics in properties of motion that are not periodic, invariant or kinetic but to properties that are erratic, reactive and unpredictable. UFO display this kind of motion, both when erratically "looking for something" and when provoked to reactive evasion by military pursuit. In terms of our perception of them, these motion attributes qualify as characteristic of life. Not as a life form in the normal sense, but as something animated by an autonomous energy autonomously managed, apparently aware of and responding to the same physical world that we inhabit. And from that root, the branches of alien storytelling grow.

The testimony that UFO operate with intelligence is in fact very narrowly premised. NICAP records four types of behavior that are taken to be signs of "intelligent control": (1) environmental inquisitiveness or "looking for something," (2) reaction to the environment (evasion of pursuit, reaction to being illuminated with a laser beam), (3) powered flight, and (4) coordinated formations in flight. And, in an ironic parallel with the Heider-Simmel stimulus film, the forms of UFO are typically described as round or triangular in shape. This strong resemblance between erratically moving geometrically shaped UFO and the Heider-Simmel film of erratically moving geometric figures must direct our critical scrutiny at the tendency of human observers to overestimate or misattribute "intelligence."

Reactions to the environment consist in particular of evading military aircraft in aggressive pursuit or pilots that attempt, as Cdr. Fravor did, to "come close aboard" for a visual examination. After his famous and fruitless pursuit of a soccer ball sized foo fighter, Lt. Gorman concluded:

"There was thought behind every move the light made. It wasn't any radar-responder gadget making it veer away from my ship. ... It reacted differently at different times. If it had been a mechanical control, it would have turned or climbed the same way each time I got near it. Instead, it was as if some intelligent mind was directing every turn like a game of chess, and always one move ahead of me."

A very different view appears in the many cases where UFO are observed through civilian eyes and the UFO actually initiate approach or operate unmolested. In instances of airliner contact, UFO sometimes behave in ways that resemble courtship displays, such as the 1956 Charlotte MS n.d. retrospective report where a solitary UFO dropped to a position directly in front of a commercial jet airliner and paced it at that distance while performing a variety of gratuitous maneuvers such as zig zag right angle turns, 360 degree loops, and a final signature departure in extreme vertical acceleration. In 2020 VICTORIA MEX the observable seems to be pulsing alongside the aircraft as if seeking acknowledgment or a pairing of some kind. Other witnesses report childlike or inexplicably playful behavior. The 2010 NEW YORK and 1952 TREMONTON events have the elegance of a juvenile dance performance. Dulles Airport senior air traffic controller Harry Barnes offered the newspapers a description of the 1952 WASHINGTON event:

"The only recognizable behavior pattern which occurred to me from watching the objects was that they acted like a bunch of small kids out playing. It was helter skelter, as if directed by some innate curiosity. At times they moved as a group or cluster, at other times as individuals over widely scattered areas. ... If no planes where in the air, the things would fly all over the most likely points of interest. ... One or two circled our radio beacons. But as soon as an airliner took off, several would dart across and start to follow, as if to look it over."

The 2004 USS NIMITZ encounter is another case where multiple UFO behaved in an agitated or disorderly manner. This implies the social coordination among UFO is actually weak and easily disrupted, and it puts an interesting light on the fact that echelon flights, such as 1952 LUBBOCK or 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1), are typically accompanied by a visually more significant "guide" or "monitor" observable, and the fact that many brightly colored observables are also geometrically associated with a circular or linear arrangement. The Nimitz episode also suggests that UFO may have a relatively small radius of threshold for alerting perception, especially when the UFO is preoccupied with some form of task. Near air collisions also suggest that UFO do not avoid aircraft that are not in pursuit and seem completely unaware of the consequences of a startling approach.

Indeed, UFO not infrequently appear rather moronic or a bit confused — skittering about on what appear to be empty errands, following no discernable routes or schedule; wandering the sky "as if looking for something" (2021 CALIPATRIA, 2021 SPRINGFIELD); loitering like a stray cat in an urban garden (1982 LAZOU) or in the middle of a road (1957 LEVALLAND); churning up a cruciform spume hundreds of kilometers from land (2004 USS NIMITZ); ineptly intruding into restricted air space (2013 AGUADILLA PRI); pacing a ship rather like a porpoise or a seagull (2019 USS OMAHA) or shadowing an airplane like imprinted geese (2020 VICTORIA MEX). We do not observe a manipulative or predatory intelligence that operates through stratagems, snares and coordinated attack or defense through packs or mobbing.

Even complex and prolonged interactions with UFO do not uncover evidence of cleverness. The Morocco 1953 Nouasseur AB MAR 23 March event described by Hynek (pp. 76-80) and in part summarized in Figure 30 involved two UFO making multiple near collision passes at an aerial tanker aircraft and concluded with one of the observables spiraling downward and slowing to an eventual landing within the restricted air base perimeter, where it "vanished" before a ground security detail could reach it. What definition of "intelligent" applies in this case? It seems more like the death spiral of a UFO that is about to "disintegrate."

Figure 30. Summary graphic showing final descent of one observable in the 1953 NOUASSEUR AB event, after Hynek (1977).

The UFO attribute of control requires that a sensor equipped system of robotic maneuvering or a conscious life form or "pilot" is involved, either proximally or remotely. From appearances, UFO can respond quickly to near collisions, aircraft challenges, possibly even weaponry such as air to air missiles or gunfire; they also closely avoid orographic obstacles at very high speeds, for example in the Kenneth Arnold account of nine UFO "snaking between the mountain tops," at a velocity he calculated as around 800 m/s. These feats of fast, close maneuvering or evasion make remote control implausible, given the latency that distance would impose on sensor interpretation, trajectory calculations and control instructions.

Again, we need to take what we learn from the Heider-Simmel demonstration as a caution not to overinterpret the undeniable evidence that UFO are possessed of awareness and control. The wildlife approach suggests that we interpret the observed awareness and control as an intrinsic attribute of the UFO itself rather than to some passenger or remotely controlling "pilot," and that science should focus on the behavioral level of intelligence necessary to account for the range of UFO environmental interactions we actually observe, and not the technological level of intelligence we conjecture, almost always without any evidence, must be necessary to "build the vehicle."

The history of biological science suggests a mix of citizen participation and new surveillance or observational tools will be valuable

Early research in biology was haphazard. Specimens were collected as part of exploratory voyages or survey expeditions. The most novel and valuable were collected by the wealthy and stored in a cabinet of curiosities that evolved by aggregation into natural history, archaeological and medical museums such as the Hunterian Museum in London, UK. Throughout the 20th century up to today important fossils have been unearthed by road construction or eroded geologic strata, and new species turn up in fishing nets or light traps.

In addition to these lucky discoveries that appear as a result of human economic activity, much of what we are learning about new species in remote or difficult to access regions of Earth, and about the geographic range, population density and full range of behavior in familiar species, depends on the deployment of remote sensors on robotic probes and remote cameras specifically designed for the purpose. Citizen home surveillance cameras even provide insights into the behavior of domestic animals.

Thus the history and current research in biology illustrates many of the basic issues of wildlife research that can clarify efforts to understand UAP. It suggests that directed efforts by the military must be complemented with lucky captures by citizens, and that new sensor systems will be required to provide both detailed information about individual UFO and information about the geographic range and population density of UFO globally. Finally, the most useful observations do not involve any obvious molestation by or interaction with human activity. This suggests the greatest observational results can come from passive and remote sensors, and once again implies a special significance to measures with geospatial intelligence, especially surveillance in infrared, a band that appears to capture UFO of all types.

Citizen Participation. The 2006 UK MoD UAP report bemoans that "Unfortunately, to this day, there remains a persistent lack of scenarios where solid scientific measurement can be made either at or directly after an event." However I suggest that the situation may have changed since this report due to significantly improved radar systems, the anecdotally claimed capability to "lure" or attract UFO through some form of electromagnetic stimulus, and the increasing ODNI/DoD focus on the UAP issue that very likely will lead to the development of special purpose surveillance and measurement capabilities.

The very low sampling rate of confirmed UFO reports compared to the rate of UFO/dectection intersection implies that fixed array surveillance systems would have a very low probability of a useful video capture. But those rates depend heavily on the capture rate of random visual detection. In fact, most humans at most times are either sleeping, indoors (at work, school or shopping) or outdoors staring at a digital display or the pavement under their feet (Figure 31).

Figure 31. Human urban pedestrians displaying distracted disregard of everything that is overhead.

All sky surveillance systems with unobstructed views of the sky would have the fabled 24/7 attention span for everything that passes within a many kilometer radius hemispherical space, and software can be used to review the recorded data for kinetic signatures or spectral profiles of interest. Mounted in areas of observed high UAP activity, they would have a potentially much higher capture rate than distractible, shoegazing human observers.

The hovering UFO frequently detected in the latest generation ship and aircraft radars obviously suggests the use of probe drones, commercial or military drones modified to increase operating range and flight time that serve as close approach sensor platforms. These would be carried by jet aircraft to a relatively near distance from hovering or slow moving UFO and released to continue a less threatening approach to distances where prolonged EM and high resolution optical study may be possible. These would probably need to be relatively small, possibly no larger than one meter, and designed to maximize flight time and signal management in order to reduce the possibility that the UFO would react to their presence. Trial and error would be necessary to determine the minimum distances of approach that would not disturb the hover of the target, but once the operational protocol was worked out these probes could potentially gather very large amounts of high quality data in a relatively short time period of perhaps a few years.

Efforts are already under way to encourage greater citizen participation.

New Sensor Systems. Sky Hub was a Patreon funded volunteer network intended to produce such UAP evidence, as appears to be the case in this event. (Stellarium shows that this configuration of Moon and planet does not fit the ascribed location and date of 2020 Houston TX 27 May.) Sky Hub disbanded in August 2021 and has been superseded by Sky360, a European effort chartered in Austria. UFO-DAP manufactures data collection cameras developed by Ron Olch that have captured some interesting video data, including a UFODAP camera tracking an aircraft but glimpsing a form that makes two quick 90° turns. The Olch equipment is among the tools being used or considered for use by UAP Expeditions Organization (UAPx), cofounded by "Tic Tac" veterans Kevin Day and Gary Voorhis and with a mission I strongly endorse to educate and enroll citizen witnesses. Instructional materials on building simple equipment and analyzing the data are already available — for example as this 2019 citizen UFO guide to spectroscopy with a smartphone camera and constructing a fisheye surveillance camera by physicist Jean-Pierre Petit. It may not be vain to imagine the growth of citizen UFO observation to surpass the growth of amateur astronomy and amateur telescope making in the 1950s.

Substantial progress with citizen reports is possible with the support of governing institutions. At present, reports from commercial and private aircraft crews are not encouraged and preserved by non military agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which seems like a basic oversight responsibility now that UFO are a recognized issue in the Department of Defense. Separate from that, a pilot outreach program from NARCAP that encourages crewmembers to bring their personal video recording equipment with them on all flights could increase the number of high quality, sustained video records such as 2020 VICTORIA MEX or the foo fighter recorded by a Pakistan International Airline flight crew. This mimics the routine practice of wildlife amateur observers and field biologists of carrying photographic equipment that can be used to document the sighting of specific species.

As with any wildlife research, the research task is appropriately a civilian rather than military activity

Finally, the wildlife approach strongly implies that scientists, not the military should lead the study of UFO; and that UFO should not be approached a priori as "artificial" (technological) artifacts.

Before making this justification, it is important to emphasize again that there is nothing in military dogma or technical praxis that is unfamiliar to wildlife biology, "red in tooth and claw." Predators and prey, armies and slaves, camouflage and hiding in ambush, traps and chemical warfare, armor and offensive weapons, attack by air, land or water, even the neural or behavioral "hacking" performed by zombie parasites — biology has seen and done it all. In no real sense does the biological perspective or the methods of the life sciences disparage or diminish the concerns of the defense/intelligence establishment. The issue, again, has to do with the assumptions and methods of inquiry.

I infer that "exploit" UFO in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act means that UFO might be manipulated into proxy weapons, the way porpoises might be trained to carry nuclear weapons into enemy harbors. The concept of "capture" (in the general sense of acquisition of capability) may include, in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report analysis of Russian research objectives, the development of "very high power energy generation, RF [radio frequency] Weapons, Impulse Radars, air vehicle drag and radar signature reduction or control, and possibly for radar reflecting decoys" (Executive Summary, p. 10). The "Science Plan" described in the 2022 NDAA (quoted above) implies a much wider range of research interests, all of them with clear significance for weapons/countermeasures development.

Certainly the advanced radars, geospatial platforms, continual vigilance and global distribution of military assets indicates that the national militaries of most nations are well positioned to make important observations and collect highly insightful data about UFO. But the fundamental premise, in the perspective of wildlife science, is that we are asking commercial whalers and big game hunters to provide scientists with their wildlife data. There is certainly much useful information that can be gathered from these sources, but there are three obstacles to a scientific endorsement of that approach:

1. As part of a weapons development program, all the data would be considered secret and shielded from any form of FOIA disclosure or unclassified "detailed analysis"

2. I have attempted to show by a reliance on citizen videos publicly posted, that non military documentation reveals a different and more complex picture of UFO behavior than the consistently evasive reaction to military intercepts, and

3. The military methods of detection and approach strongly bias encounters toward adversarial, "winner/loser" or "unaffected/loser" relationships (cf. Figure 28) that may induce a counterproductive change in UFO behavior — for example, more dramatic or consistent evasive behavior that makes UFO even more difficult to locate and study.

Without necessarily approving the research goals or proposed methodology of the Galileo Project, I generally endorse its conception of scientific inquiry (in the peculiar Harvard University tradition of spelling imprecision):

1. The Galileo Project is only interested in openly available scientific data and a transparent analysis of it. Thus, classified (government-owned) information, which can not [sic] be shared with all scientists, can not be used. Such information would compromise the scope of our scientific research program, which is designed to acquire valid scientific data and provide transparent (open to peer review) analysis of this data. Indeed, the Galileo Project will work only with new data, collected from its own telescope systems, which are under the full and exclusive control of Galileo research team members.

2. The analysis of the data will be based solely on known physics and will not entertain fringe ideas about extensions to the standard model of physics. The data will be freely published and available for peer review as well as to the public. ...

I have repeatedly suggested that, viewed as wildlife, UFO pose no documented "threat" to human activity that requires a military response. There are very limited reports of lives or materiel lost due to UFO, bracketed by the widely reported 1948 Ft. Knox KY 7 January crash of Cpt. Thomas Mantell in pursuit of a UFO "of tremendous size"; the 1953 Kincheloe AFB MI 23 November "Kinross Incident" that resulted in the complete disappearance of a jet piloted by Lt. Felix Moncla and Lt. R.R. Wilson, his radar observer; and a similar disappearance of a plane in flight, the 1978 King Island AUS 21 October or "Bass Strait" incident, narrated on radio to airspace control by the Australian solo pilot Frederich Valentich. (A transcript of the radio communication is in the public domain, and can be used to parse what may be the actual radio transmission played during a lecture by Richard Haines.)

The 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 1 Chap. 3, p. 30) alludes to an uncited Russian report of four pilots and several aircraft lost in pursuit of UFO, which may either refer to the events just listed or testify to the unusually annoying conduct of Russian military pilots. Because there has not been an increase in such hazardous encounters to match the enormous increase in air traffic over the past half century, one might infer that UFO have learned successfully to evade aircraft. At worst, UFO comprise recognizable and potentially serious military hazards, but hazards on par with a seagull choking an aircraft jet engine or a squirrel short circuiting a nuclear missile power grid. As wildlife hazards they are assumed to have no intent or even awareness of harm, certainly none in the public record, and this puts the onus of avoiding harm on the military.

At the same time, the importance of replicated observation necessary to identify behavioral patterns requires the participation of civilian observation. Science can rightly claim to be shortchanged by military nondisclosure, but it is also guilty of largely ignoring citizen testimony and outreach to citizens for observational reports and treating the cumulative video evidence from civilians as a form of technological gossip. High school students especially inclined to science and engineering and familiar with the basics of video recording would form a truly remarkable cadre of diligent citizen witnesses in the manner of Karl Hart Jr.

It's entirely possible that UFO are not a tool but just a different kind of seabird, having nothing to do with us, harmless except when they unintentionally interfere with the continual expansion of human technological activity. Other than that, behaviorally indistinguishable from a rare and random seabird on the wing in our unilateral ownership of the sky.

Outlook, Narrative & Storytelling

One of the most disquieting observations I have made in exploring the topic of UFO is not what they are or where they come from, but the ways in which humans attempt to answer those questions. This has always been before my eyes but the UFO literature has brought it strongly to my attention.

Narrative & Storytelling. I can illustrate what happens with a passage from Johannes Kepler, the 17th century naturalist who calculated the orbit of Mars. Kepler ruminated about a large crater on the Moon observed by Galileo Galilei and depicted in lunar drawings (below) published in his Sidereus Nuncius or the Sidereal Messenger:

I cannot help wondering about the meaning of that large circular cavity in what I usually call the left corner of the mouth [of the "face" in the Moon; possibly the crater Ptolemaeus]. Is it a work of nature, or of a trained hand? Suppose there are living beings on the moon ... It surely stands to reason that the inhabitants express the character of their dwelling place, which has much bigger mountains and valleys than our earth has. Consequently, being endowed with very massive bodies, they also construct gigantic projects. Their day is as long as 15 of our days, and they feel insufferable heat. Perhaps they lack stone for erecting shelters against the sun. On the other hand, maybe they have a soil as sticky as clay. Their usual building plan, accordingly, is as follows. Digging up huge fields, they carry out the earth and heap it in a circle, perhaps for the purpose of drawing out the moisture down below. In this way they may hide in the deep shade behind their excavated mounds and, in keeping with the sun's motion, shift about inside, clinging to the shadow. They have, as it were, a sort of underground city. ... (p.95)

To see the connection between 17th century astronomy and ufology, consider the sequence necessary for Kepler to tell his story:

1. Galileo makes a visual observation of a real object through the imperfect telescopic optics of his making; he attends to a visual appearance that is difficult to
2. This appearance reveals something he has never seen before: enormous craters and mountains on the Moon. He has seen mountains before, on Earth, but enormous circular craters? He has never seen anything like that before.
3. Galileo attempts to transcribe the imperfect and unfamiliar visual appearance into a factual report, using the medium of a drawing.
4. In comparison with more reliable evidence available to us today, the drawing exaggerates both the size of the crater and its visual prominence in comparison with the sketchily indicated craters around it.
5. The drawing is skillfully executed (and engraved for printing), corresponds overall to the features visible to the naked eye, and shows many specific details, which give it the semblance of accuracy.
6. Kepler interprets the prominence of the drawn feature not as an inaccurate report but as an accurate reproduction of a prominent feature on the Moon itself.
7. The physical feature is so distinctive and disproportionate, in the context of everything else represented about the Moon in the drawing, that it suggests to Kepler something unexplained about the Moon.
8. This unexplained feature compells Kepler to seek an explanation: I cannot help wondering ...
9. His wondering introduces a premature alternative: "Is this a work of nature, or of a trained hand?"
10. Adopting the premise of a "trained hand" (intelligent fabricator) leads Kepler into a story about the factual circumstances and intentions of this trained hand.

I've chosen this example because it represents many of the difficulties we encounter in UFO reports. In particular, Kepler misinterprets Galileo's report as an accurate picture of the Moon although in fact Galileo has misrepresented appearances; then to account for this misinterpreted misrepresentation, Kepler makes an assumption that is not based on facts in public evidence — that there are inhabitants on the Moon. He has not seen those inhabitants nor any public evidence that they exist, but it is a conjecture that is consistent with the misinterpreted misrepresentation, so he writes about them anyway.

The termination of the story in an ellipsis illustrates another feature of storytelling: once a story is launched it can be elaborated indefinitely, so long as it is not limited by contradictory facts or ossified as legend. Kepler has no evidence for those massive lunar laborers or their underground city, any more than we have evidence of spindly extraterrestrial bodies, a cosmic connection to higher consciousness, an origin in zeta Reticuli or anti-gravity propulsion. Nevertheless his storytelling, like much of UFO storytelling, soldiers forth with the invincibility of not having to connect with publicly available facts. We observe the same zombie irreality in our contemporary stolen election claims, flat earth physics, COVID nostrums and QAnon obscenities.

Changing the Facts. The storytelling freedom from facts very often involves a misinterpretation or misrepresentation of facts that are in plain view. Take, for example, a widely repeated ufologist claim for a historical UFO event. Both filmmaker Jeremy Corbell and the content producers at the History Channel endorse a passage from The Journal of Christopher Columbus (Thursday, 11th of October, 1492) as worthy our attention:

"Christopher Columbus had a number of UFO experiences at sea during his journey to the American continent. Columbus took the incident as a sign that he would soon find land. The sighting was documented on the ship's diary. The incident took place on October 11th 1492, 10pm. At the time of the incident it is said that Santa Maria (the ship) was sailing through what is now known as the Bermuda Triangle. The crew first noticed a disc shaped object emerging from the sea. The description given in the ship's log is that of a wax candle light moving up and down in the night sky. Prior to this incident the ship's logs in the month of September (17th and 20th) provide accounts of what are described as stars making noticeable movements in the night sky."

History Channel is referring to a specific piece of text: a translation (from Spanish into English) by Clements Markham, of a single manuscript copy discovered and printed by Don Martin Fernandez Navarrete, of a paraphrasing "abstract" by a Jesuit historian named Bartholemé de Las Casas, of a manuscript copy of the actual Journal del Ammiraglio that was made by a scribe who (according to Las Casas and verified from textual cues) inserted many errors. The Journal itself, now lost, was written by Columbus in Castilian, which was not his native tongue but the language of his patron Spanish royals. (He was born Italian and moved to Portugal in 1477.) Here is the translated text:

The land was first seen by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana. But the Admiral [Columbus] at ten in the previous night, being on the castle of the poop, saw a light, though it was so uncertain that he could not affirm it was land. He called Pero Gutierrez, a gentleman of the King's bed-chamber, and said that there seemed to be a light, and that he should look at it. He did so, and saw it. The Admiral said the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the fleet as inspector, but he could see nothing, because he was not in a place whence anything could be seen. After the Admiral had spoken he saw the light once or twice, and it was like a wax candle rising and falling. It seemed to few to be an indication of land; but the Admiral made certain that land was close. (pp. 35-36)

As you can confirm, there is no mention of a "disc shaped object emerging from the sea" in the translated passage (nor, if you trouble to look, anywhere else in the Journal), although there is some shade thrown on the wits of the royal inspector. A faint light so close to the horizon that one had to stand on the highest part of the ship's deck to glimpse it is not "moving up and down in the night sky." But the text itself, as a translation based on a paraphrase of a bad copy of a lost manuscript, is unusable as literal eyewitness testimony, whatever may be its importance as a historical document. In fact, the scribe's version of the original text is a literary form of hearsay, a literary paraphrase is a second form of hearsay, and translation is yet a third. We are three removes from what Columbus actually said he saw.

Prepositions and verbal phrases such as "rising and falling" are notoriously difficult to interpret or translate (and for non native writers to use correctly), so we can better understand the meaning by consulting a different translation from historian Samuel Eliot Morison:

After the Admiral had spoken, he saw [the light] once or twice, and it was like a little wax candle lifting and rising, which to few seemed to be a sign of land, but the Admiral was certain that he was near land.

"Lifting and rising" is not the same as "rising and falling" and may be a periphrasis for flickering. But the crux is that those are not the words of eyewitness Columbus but of Morison via Las Casas via the scribe.

As for those moving stars, elsewhere in the Journal (17 September), we learn that a peculiar deviation of the ship's magnetic compass from the North Star (Polaris) was observed by the night watch and this event greatly disquieted the crew. The Admiral calmed the anxious grumbling with the explanation that the deviation was caused by the diurnal movement of the Pole Star around the true celestial north: "The cause was that the star makes the movement, and not the needles" [of the compass]. The pleasant irony is that this "official" explanation was designed to calm a disturbed crowd, which has been the purpose of official UFO pronouncements almost from the beginning.

It's perplexing to me that the deflection of the compass needles, as potential evidence of an unidentified submerged magnetic body, is passed over by ufologists. Ignored too is the event of 15 September when, according to the Las Casas paraphrase, "early this night they saw fall from the sky a marvelous branch of fire into the sea 4 or 5 leagues away from them." I would interpret that as most likely a bolide spashdown 10 kilometers or so from the ship — but it might have been a transmedium UFO. Both these reports are more intriguing and dramatic than that distantly faint and flickering "candle."

These are trivial yet plain examples of a fundamental problem in the UFO literature. Storytelling alienists tend to ignore contradictory evidence, assert evidence where there is none, or adopt testimony that is unreliable (single witness) or hearsay. The temperamental issue here is enthusiasm, which in its early English usage was associated with excessive religious fervor. One finds in the alienist literature various enthusiastically intricate theories about the nature of UFO that rest on hearsay or single witness reports and a number of misinterpreted or misrepresented facts.

Changes in the Witness. The evidence itself can change color within a single witness. We find this peculiarity in the Kenneth Arnold testimony. His early FBI report of the sighting and contemporaneous press quotations within days of the event all use the word "saucer" or "pie pan" explicitly, yet Arnold later claimed he was misquoted from his description that "they flew like you take a saucer and throw it across the water." His drawing of the observables in the FBi report shows a form very like the classic Rhodes photos, but later in life he seems to have preferred a Buck Rogersish crescent shaped craft instead.

The Arnold example suggests the importance of multiple witnesses, or witness and sensor evidence, as more reliable than single witness testimony, even from experts. This is illustrated in the frequently recorded capability of UFO to "jam" radar or "turn off" human electronic systems, for example at the Malmstrom nuclear missile site. As Fravor explains, jamming appears in the FLIR1 video as the range reading 99.9 RNG 99.

This is the specific basis for two interpretations of the incident. One is put forward both by Cdr. Fravor and by Jeremy Corbell:

"And I think that's super important, Dave, the way he explained it to me, 'active jamming' compared to 'passive jamming' — this is a technology that is actively jamming this system."

The other is a more literal description of the radar evidence by Lt. Chad Underwood, the WSO who made the FLIR1 recording, in the AATIP USS NIMITZ report (p. 9):

Lt. [redacted] was controlling the radar and FLIR and attempted multiple times to transition the radar to Single Target Track (STT) mode on the object. The radar could not take a lock, the b-sweep would raster around the hit, build an initial aspect vector (which never stabilized) and then would drop and continue normal RWS b-sweep. When asked, Lt. [redacted] stated that there were no jamming cues (strobe, champagne bubbles, "any normal EA indications"). It "just appeared as if the radar couldn't hack it." The radar couldn't receive enough information to create a single target track file. (p. 11)

The fact that Underwood, since retired from service, now endorses the interpretation that his radar was jammed might illustrate the way observations change into interpretations over time, as in Arnold's testimony. But I challenge the narrative assumption of actively jamming as an unverified interpretation of intent, which infers a factually undocumented conscious agent, either as a "pilot" or as author of defensive software. (This video by Chris Leto reviews the Underwood interview from a military understanding of the event and its technical context.) The "jamming" would not be an intentional "act" if it was a characteristic but involuntary UFO response or a modality of action to focused beams of electromagnetic energy. Perhaps the Doppler pulses were scattered or refracted by the envelopment of the observable, which witnesses often report and some videos show clearly as a "fuzziness" in the appearance of UFO.

Skepticism in Uncertainty. I did not witness the event and it is certainly possible that Jeremy Corbell's, Fravor's and Underwood's interpretations today are more accurate than the WSO's testimony to an AATIP investigator a decade ago. The point is that my interpretation takes conscious motivation out of the picture and is therefore, per Occam's razor, preferable; it also assigns the observation to one of the recognizable twelve attributes, EM modulation, and is therefore, per scientific method, stronger. I say I do not know how to interpret the facts, rather than endorse the story of a homunculus alien intelligence that intentionally gives our patriotic military pilots the electronic finger.

The crux is that the radar screen was not recorded, or if recorded is classified, and we do not have the identity and notes of the investigator who quoted the WSO's observations in an interview that Lt. Underwood says never occurred. So we have no public facts we can use to resolve the issue. We cannot examine the facts for ourselves to affirm or reject the interpretations; instead we have a hearsay interpretation of what the evidence disclosed. This degrades the radar evidence into a mute fact, a fact that cannot be connected into a causal narrative. We have the fact that there was a failed radar interrogation in the FLIR1 video itself, but we cannot make a conclusive interpretation because we do not have the fact itself, the radar recording, to decide the issue.

The inherent ambiguity of mute facts allows them to support divergent stories. We can interpret the acts of UFO as those of an elusive and shy species, as a natural effect of some unexplained natural phenomenon, or as a sneaky adversary "prepping the battlefield." Around it all is the fact that there is no publicly reported pattern of UFO doing aerial combat or harming civilian populations, except in the Hollywood storytelling we enjoy as entertainment.

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

The fundamental tenet of the alienist faction, which evidently comprises the majority of ufologists, is that UFO arrive at Earth from a far distant planet and technologically advanced civilization. This is the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. The ETH is an extraordinarily tenacious aspect of the UFO literature that has been with us since the days when it was called the "interplanetary hypothesis" and flying saucers came to us from Mars. Even at the highest levels of technical expertise and analytical rigor, the extraterrestrial hypothesis has been what might be called the "inescapable conclusion." It was and still is spontaneously asserted by credible UFO witnesses, whether military pilots or ordinary citizens, as their interpretation of what they have observed.

Looking at the erratic radar tracks, leisurely horizontal flight and rocketlike appearance of Swedish Ghost Rockets and the uncanny lack of material remains at clearly identified Ghost Rocket crash sites led European experts seriously to consider the ETH back in 1946. Citizen Kenneth Arnold, referring to his 1947 sighting in the CBS report (above), said "I'm inclined to believe that it is of an extraterrestrial origin." Project SIGN, the earliest official UFO study group within the US Department of Defense, very early in its investigations leaned toward the ETH despite resistance from senior officers. German scientist Hermann Oberth, mentor of rocket innovator Wernher von Braun, reviewed UFO performance characteristics in 1954 and concluded: "From what I know today I would say in respect to the questionable 1/10 of unexplained (UFO) reports that the theory of Uranides (that they are operated by extraterrestrial beings) seems to be the most reasonable." And even if it is not confidently affirmed, the ETH cannot be confidently rejected. The article "Hunt for the Flying Saucer" in the July 1, 1952 LOOK Magazine noted that:

Flying saucers could be interplanetary spaceships or missiles. Air Force intelligence men say they are continually astounded by the number of trained scientists who believe they are interplanetary in origin. Lieutenant Ruppelt says he has talked with hundreds of scientists and heard many such theories. He adds, "We can deal with these things if they are from Russia. If they are from Mars, I don't know what we will do. We have no proof that they could not come from outer space and must include this among our possibilities."

Nevertheless, a social psychologist like myself finds this unanimity of judgment remarkable, given that the great majority of UFO witnesses have only seen a light or strangely shaped object at a considerable distance, usually for only a few minutes, and moving in "strange" ways before it disappears. The extraordinary conclusion seems to run far ahead of the perceptual evidence — and the complete lack of public physical evidence. Indeed, conjectures put forward in the 2006 UK MoD UAP report (Vol. 2), attribute UFO appearances to witness arousal or the effects of electromagnetic radiation on cognition and memory. But these conjectures seem implausible because the same inescapable conclusion is argued from an objective analysis of technical data from visual, infrared, radio and radar sensors.

Logic of the ETH. The gap between evidence and conclusion in the extraterrestrial hypothesis is spanned by a remarkably complex and fragile series of factual assumptions or inferences, and it is clarifying to unpack the individual steps in this reasoning. The original factual observations, whether from human witnesses or sensors, can be characterized by the universal UFO witness declaration (refer to Figure 32):

Evidence: "I never saw anything like that before in my life."
Attribution 1: The UFO appears to be a solid (metallic or self luminous) physical form.
Attribution 2: The form displays aeronautical capability (powered flight).
Attribution 3: The flight exhibits evasive guidance (intelligent control).
Conclusion A: UFO are an autonomously powered and intelligently guided vehicle technology.
Assumption 4: UFO flight does not utilize conventional structures for propulsion or control.
Assumption 5: UFO speed and acceleration "defy the laws of physics".
Conclusion B: UFO utilize a far advanced propulsion technology.
Assumption 6: UFO capabilities are beyond any secret foreign adversary or US military program.
Assumption 7: UFO design/control require an alien "maker/pilot".
Assumption 8: UFO manufacture requires a planetary civilization.
Conclusion C: UFO are vehicles of extraterrestrial (alien) origin.
Assumption 9: The vast number of stars means there is high probability of extraterrestrial civilizations.
Assumption 10: Fringe science asserts interstellar travel is possible.
Assumption 11: The Earth is interesting enough to justify the economic and social costs of alien visitation.
Conclusion D: UFO are a vehicle technology from a far advanced extraterrestrial (alien) civilization.

Figure 32. Sketch of the logical structure of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH).

Of course more is observed about UFO than the three observations, and more inferences are required if we drill into details. But this deconstruction suggests the extraterrestrial hypothesis depends on no less than twelve assumptions or observational attributions (1 to 12 in Figure 32) and four conclusions (A to D). There can be other ways to describe a logical argument as complex as the ETH, but the schematic suggests the overall complexity of the reasoning. It also highlights four conclusions — UFO are a "vehicle" rather than something else, UFO are a "far advanced" rather than human technology, and UFO are extraterrestrial origin — where much of the debate within ufology diverges into subgroups of different interpretation.

The important exercise is to weigh each step against the evidence for or against it and the logical connection of the assumption to other assertions. For example, the claim that UFO capabilities defy the laws of physics depends on our assumptions about the mass of UFO and our confidence that we understand what phenomena will arise when physical laws interact or how physical processes can be combined by either natural confluence or a technological object to produce novel effects. I think few physicists would express complete confidence that they know with certainty the limits of either claim. And this assumption connects to other assumptions about the apparent lack of conventional propulsion and the improbability that UFO are the product of a terrestrial secret weapon program to support the conclusion that "UFO utilize a far advanced technology".

Significant judgments occur when we reject the alternative interpretations that UFO appearance is illusory, that perceiving intelligence in behavior is a human bias, that UFO are not a technology, that capabilities are judged with false assumptions about mass or method of impulsion, that UFO are a natural (not manufactured) phenomenon, control is intrinsic rather than provided by an occupant "maker/pilot", that UFO behavior is almost entirely solitary or evasive rather than "intelligently" collaborative or constructive; that the origin of UFO is in a secret government project (US or foreign), that technical alien civilizations are scarce and widely dispersed, and that interstellar travel at relativistic speeds is unproven or arguably implausible (dotted inferences in Figure 32). We must reject most but not necessarily all of these opposing assumptions in order to endorse the ETH.

The "Vehicle Technology" Attribution. The root of the extraterrestrial hypothesis is Conclusion A, which is not that aliens exist, or are already here among us, but that we are observing some kind of vehicle technology. This precedes the claim of extraterrestrial aliens. We do not first perceive the physical presence of aliens, then inquire how they arrived here; we conclude that we observe an unusual form of aerial vehicle technology, then ask who made it and why it is here.

The vehicle hypothesis is originally a military concept. It first appears in the assumption by WW II Allied forces that "foo fighters" were a German weapon; it reappears in the suspicion that Spökraketer were some form of Russian missile, and it is adopted again in the Schulgen memo of 30 October 1947 (p. 2):

This strange object, or phenomenon, may be considered, in view of certain observations, as long-range aircraft capable of a high rate of climb, high cruising speed (possibly sub-sonic at all times) and highly maneuverable and capable of being flown in very tight formation. For the purpose of analysis and evaluation of the so-called "flying saucer" phenomenon, the object sighted is being assumed to be a manned aircraft, of Russian origin, and based on the perspective thinking and actual accomplishments of the Germans.

"For the purpose of analysis and evaluation" means the hypothesis is adopted to guide further inquiry, and this is the point where observations are augmented with assumptions about Russians and Germans. The assumption that UFO are some kind of aircraft is also made by civilian witnesses of the same era, and is quickly adopted by the public media. However, this is the common practice of defining by way of analogy: aircraft are the familiar object that seems to most resemble the completely novel characteristics of UFO. Prior to the invention of aircraft, UFO were analogized with whatever artifact was suitably at hand — as "ships in the air", as "armies in the air", and as shields or other forms of armament of the era.

Conclusion A appears to rely on three separate perceptual functions:

(1) ↆ object perception: the UFO is equated with the appearance of an opaque, solid, reflective or self luminous body. Significantly, many reports are explicitly cautious about making the inference of a metallic object, describing the observable instead as "like silver" or "extremely reflective" or "apparently metallic" or having a "metallic gleam", which all imply the metallic attribution is invoked to characterize the appearance of exceptional brightness (cf. Figure 19) rather than the substance of metal. The self luminous form induces an object perception from the fact that it is an extended (not pointlike) light source (cf. Figure 15).

(2) recognition memory: the hover, leisurely transit, extraordinary maneuverability and rapid evasion of UFO are judged against natural phenomena and human technology in the prior visual experience of the witness; although clearly unfamiliar, the aerial motion most resembles the types of movement that are observed (at much lower speeds and with much less agility) in thrust propelled aircraft. A much closer analogy for UFO acceleration and rapid turning is the flight of hummingbirds or insects, but radiance and anaerodynamic form make literal biological attributions unconvincing.

(3) dispositional attribution: the UFO appears to be artificially or "intelligently" controlled (the observable behavior cannot be attributed to external forces such as wind or the inertial trajectory of falling or projected objects). I explained above that humans are prone to make a dispositional attribution to erratic, nonrandom or environmentally reactive movement, even when these movements are modeled by geometrical symbols.

In the context of Hynek's concept of "strangeness", these dimensions clarify a concept that Hynek defined as the inability to explain phenomena with scientific principles. But we find that this corresponds to a perception that is very high in object perception, very high in dispositional attribution (particularly through hyperdynamic shadowing or evasion), but low in recognition memory. The closest analogy domain is things that fly.

Ufologists may object that this excludes Hynek's third type encounter and the fact that witnesses have claimed to observe aliens inside and around UFO. However, this is not relevant to the ETH because the extraterrestrial or "not of this world" claim has been asserted by witnesses who never see an alien figure. The object and dispositional attributions encompass nearly all the BLUE BOOK and MUFON reports and I believe they represent the UFO presentation to human awareness.

The attributions differ in one key point. Object recognition is easily affected by basic alterations in two dimensional luminance contrasts and angle of view, and dispositional (animate) attributions depend on evasive and shadowing behavior whether in hyperagile lights or in spinning geometrical figures. Both processes are subject to numerous, well known perceptual illusions, and we characterize these misattributions as "mistakes" we learn to avoid.

In contrast, recognition memory is a more complex function because it not only accommodates error (as in "looks like" or "seems to be") but supports free analogy as an aid to comprehension or communication in the absence of appropriate words or concepts. We "recognize" a face on Mars in a weathered hill, an interstellar probe in a galactic asteroid; Hamlet can see a camel or weasel in the shape of a cloud. Thus, UFO witnesses often describe a UFO as an aerial vehicle or "craft" at the same time that they exclaim "I never saw anything like that before in my life." In simple terms, I suggest the attribution of "vehicle technology" has a high probabiliy of arising from the conflation of illusion with analogy — it is an illusory analogy. Some ufologists acknowledge this possibility when they describe UFO not as "vehicles" but as spiritual beings, an alien "mind control technology", a government misinformation operation, or time travelers from the future.

The point is that the first and fundamental conclusion about UFO — that they are an autonomously powered and intelligently guided vehicle technology — depends on perceptual functions well known to be susceptible to illusion and error and on the commonly understood analogical freedom allowed to recognition in identification, description and communication of a novel stimulus.

The "Far Advanced" Attribution. The possibility that our conception of UFO is actually an illusory analogy is underscored by Conclusion B, the next step in the extraterrestrial hypothesis: "UFO utilize a far advanced propulsion technology". This conclusion is the focus of much scientific and pseudoscientific conjectures about the aerodynamic problems of UFO drag or the design of UFO propulsion and control systems. But the crux here is much simpler. After concluding that UFO are a vehicle technology, we find our concept of vehicle technology fails to the describe the observed UFO behavior. That is, we have to explain why our attribution of a vehicle technology is apparently wrong.

These difficulties largely arise from two features of the UFO:

• form is anaerodynamic: the first (and most commonly mentioned) issue is that we cannot explain the flight characteristics of UFO from the external appearance. There are no propellers or jet engines to provide thrust, no wings to provide lift, no ailerons, fins or tail surfaces to provide control. Although the "disk" UFO morphology can be considered aerodynamic, many other shapes (the spheres and cylinders or "cigars" in particular) would produce substantial drag, and all have been observed to travel while oriented in ways that would increase drag.

• hyperdynamism is unlawful: the final problem, discussed above, is that UFO capabilities seem inexplicable using our current understanding of very basic physical laws and material limits. The high g forces of UFO hyperacceleration and hyperagility would crush biological contents and tear apart material objects. Making very conservative estimates of UFO mass, the hyperacceleration should produce vast amounts of heat from any physical propulsion system and require enormous reserves of energy realized as power within the time interval of an explosion. There are also frequently observed UFO characteristics, such as soundless flight and the lack of ablation with the atmosphere at high speed, that seem unphysical.

These difficulties are minimized by the conclusion that UFO capabilities are "far advanced". But this claim is logically incoherent because we do not know in what direction or along what design principles the advance has been made. We don't see an "advance", we see a glaring discontinuity. If I only know how to design and build a slingshot or wood and tissue glider, I would recognize that semiautomatic firearms and jet aircraft are "far advanced" versions of those things, even if the specific design elements are unclear to me. In the case of UFO, we have absolutely no idea how these things are made or actually operate. To say UFO are "far advanced" is a handwave at the admission that we really cannot say anything substantive at all.

The "object" perception, whether it is a visual impression or a conceptually necessary attribute of a "vehicle", requires that mass be quantified. We also do not know the actual mass or material construction of UFO, so difficulties with material limits or physical laws are shrouded in uncertainty. In the words of Travis Taylor: all we know is that "these things fly in a way that we don't".

I repeat here my view that the concept of UFO as a "machine" faces several serious difficulties. Foremost is the thermodynamically inconceivable form of power generation necessary to produce the observed UFO flight capabilities for any plausible mass of a material, much less metallic body. The other problem with asserting that UFO are physical machines is that UFO show many unmachinelike characteristics, such as spawning, "dissolving" in place, shape shifting or pulsating (cf. Figure 18). And the evidence for UFO "intelligence" must answer to the observations that UFO do not seem to be organized collectively for any constructive purpose or individually to perform any obviously productive activity, and the overall behavioral repertory observed in UFO is surprisingly similar to the behavior of insects or small animals.

The "Extraterrestrial" Attribution. The technology attribution leads to a more coherent logical argument in Conclusion C: UFO are vehicles of extraterrestrial origin. But the conclusion is more specific than that. Because we conceive of UFO as a vehicle technology, an artifact of technical skill and manufacturing methods, we are forced to frame the origin story from a specific point of view: the watch requires a watchmaker. We ask, who built the UFO?

The attribution to an extraterrestrial source seems to hinge on three assumptions:

• human origin is improbable: as discussed below, UFO flight capabilities exceed by at least an order of magnitude the capabilities of current, publicly known aircraft, and no conceivable human weapons or technology development program seems capable of matching them either. Indeed, in the early years of UFO awareness the claim was made that human technology might match UFO within a decade or so — that the capabilities were "just beyond the frontiers of our present knowledge" — but as our understanding has improved these frontiers been pushed out by those who dare to speculate to "many decades" or even centuries in the future.

• the "maker/pilot" is an alien species: since UFO is a far advanced vehicle technology, and every technology must be designed and manufactured, and these tasks are not performed by humans in a human project, the designer, builder and operator of the UFO must be a nonhuman or alien. Usually no distinction is made between the two essential roles of fabrication and operation, the functions of a "maker" and a "pilot". Instead, the maker/pilot is conceived as an alien species.

• manufacture requires a planetary civilization: a human project can be relatively small and secret because human civilization already exists to provide the many prerequisites: the education and training of an "elite" or highly developed technical culture, and a larger and less advanced civilization of individuals to provide administration, security, funding, manufacturing infrastructure, manufacturing inputs and material resources. Because the UFO is of alien origin we must assume an entire planet exists to support the civilization that constructs and deploys it.

Although the "watch => watchmaker" inference is very strong, it is wound up with the possibly illusory analogy that UFO are some kind of "watch" or mechanical technology. What if UFO do not require an external agent to assemble them, wind them up and make them tick, but are inherently unitary in form and function? In many religions, the human body requires a separable "soul" or "spirit" to animate the body and give it guidance, which leads to various religious ideas about the fate or future existence of ths "spirit" after death, much as we might imagine the alien maker/pilot disembarking the vehicle technology for a life after interstellar exploration.

The alternative scenario, that the UFO is the "pilot", and the "making" of the UFO is a natural process of some kind — just as your consciousness is the "pilot" of your body, but your unitary mind/body is an evolved system that is not something you or other humans constructed. This leads conjecture and assumptions in a completely different direction. If UFO are themselves the aliens, without any internal pilot and without any fabrication history, how might UFO be created and evolve from simple forms to more complex? Where and how would such a process occur? Here we touch on certain theories within ufology that UFO are a manifestation of "cosmic consciousness" or minds of higher freedom and power than our own.

We also get a clearer view of the claim that UFO aliens are "super intelligent". This is actually not an observation based on the superintelligent purposes displayed in pilot UFO behavior, but an estimate of the intelligence of the maker of the vehicle technology. A far less grandiose impression of UFO intelligence is implied if we do not reason from our assumptions about the"far advanced" scientific knowledge and manufacturing skills necessary to make the inferred technology but at how that technology is actually deployed on Earth.

The Interstellar Scenario. The final step in the extraterrestrial hypothesis does not explain anything about the origin or nature of UFO and is therefore incidental to the phenomenon of UFO itself. Instead, it seeks to justify their presence and purpose on Earth given the extraterrestrial claim that aliens require a planetary platform for their construction. This is where issues of astrobiology, planetary formation, the evolution of complex societies and other topics in ufology are focused. These are discussed below in relation to the Drake equation, but a few comments are relevant here.

The frequently repeated affirmation that "there are so many planets orbiting so many stars in so many observable galaxies that we cannot be alone in the universe" is itself a dubious inference and is also logically irrelevant to the practical problems of interstellar relativistic travel. It's also no explanation for why travel to Earth would be advantageous even across enormous distances. Ufologist theories span a wide range of justifications, from scientific curiosity in our species, to the panglossian belief in benevolent guidance of human affairs, to the morbid belief that aliens are here to use us as food or for hybridization experiments.These theories are conceptually empty because there is no public empirical basis to decide confidently among them ... any of them might be true.

Fringe science theories of UFO propulsion or spacetime translocation are used to justify the remarkable UFO capabilities but also to moot any pessimistic claims about interstellar travel. No matter how rare or far removed alien civilizations may be, the alien technology is obviously sufficiently "breakthrough" or "far advanced" to bring the aliens to Earth across whatever obstacles to travel may exist. On that conclusion is anchored the premise for talk about a wide variety of propulsion systems and methods of transport with supra lightspeed, spacetime bending, anti-gravity generating, wormhole traversing, quantum warp bubble technologies. What these theories usually do not do is delve the specifics or provide a laboratory proof of concept, and the attempts (or omission) to do so so far suggest the theories themselves are "too far advanced".

A common problem with all of those alternatives is how the "vehicle" obtains sufficient energy to produce the observed power output — both as the mass of a fuel source or energy storage, in the temperatures generated by any mechanism to transform that energy into the instantaneous output of impulsion, and in the theromodynamic requirement that some part of this energy must "exhaust" or emit energy into the environment. But in the domain of fringe science, there is really no reason why you cannot violate one law of physics instead of any other. It would be simpler just to say that UFO can violate the conservation of energy and create energy out of nothing. This solves almost all the dynamic paradoxes of UFO, and it reminds us that the major breakthrough technology to come out of fringe science so far is the perpetual motion machine.


As a belief system, alienism asserts the extraterrestrial hypothesis as the claim of an alien intelligence. What specific physical or energetic form this intelligence takes, and what its intentions may be toward humans, are questions with many answers within the alienist community. My definition of this point of view:

Alienism is the affirmation that UFO repreasent the active presence on Earth of an alien (nonterrestrial) intelligent species.

Alienism is expressed through several different specific interpretations: some make the claim that UFO signify a technologically "far advanced" extraterrestrial species visiting the Earth in interstellar vehicles; others that UFO are an "interdimensional" intrusion of consciousness from beyond our human conception of spacetime. The pressing questions for all forms of alienism are: "Where do they come from and why are they here?

Some alienists assert that one or more humans have actually witnessed or interacted physically with an extraterrestrial species. (Otherwise, how would we know what aliens look like?) These claims arise almost exclusively from the testimony of "experiencers" or alien abductees (discussed below), with very infrequent testimony about close encounters of the third kind. These interactions are the "origin visions" of alienism, akin to the interactions between messenger angels and humans in the foundation myths of the monotheisms.

Personal, eyewitness claims about UFO occupants or pilots are probably the most disreputable and vociferously stigmatized aspects of ufology. They are sometimes met with ridicule that does not consitute refutation or an anger or indignation that strikes me as unhinged. Certainly, I find the claims very difficult to believe, especially when they involve trading a jug of water for alien pancakes. But the basic issue is the lack of public evidence for an alien pilot. Nearly all of the alien accounts consist of single eyewitness testimony without publicly available physical or corroborating evidence, although many are attested by sober, lucid and consistent testimony, even from children. As historical fact, evidence for aliens routinely turns out to be hoax, which over time has dampened enthusiasm to see more.

The logical crux is that aliens must account both for the technological origin of UFO phenomena, as collective or civilizational "makers" of the technology, and they must serve as individual "pilots" that control the observed UFO behavior either as passengers or through remote control. So, sooner or later, we should see aliens step forth from the machines. It doesn't work the other way around: we don't need UFOs in order to explain the observation of alien creatures. Technology is both the anchoring and reifying concept in alienism.

The motives assigned to aliens are also diversely attributed but generally assume either malevolence, indifference or benevolence. Sometimes aliens are described as nurturing and sometimes as predatory; sometimes they are said to be indifferent to humans for reasons of scientific study or as irrelevant to purposes of terrestrial exploration or resource exploitation; sometimes aliens are said to collaborate with human military agencies. Jacques Vallée has proposed that the UFO "technology" is actually an occult mind control system of unknown operation and the "aliens" are a transcendental consciousness beyond human perception or comprehension of spacetime. In his account, similarities between aliens and the angels of religion and the fairies and dwarves of folklore are simply appropriate representations of alien creatures at different times in history.

Evidence for alienism

What evidence is there in support of alienism? The table Evidence for Alienism (below) outlines a simplistic breakdown of the discussion within ufology. I suggest there are nine substantive themes or ingredients of alienism that, as a socially justified structure of knowledge, is divided between "secret" and public knowledge:

Evidence for Alienism

• physical evidence of UFO "technology" (as intact or fragmentary UFO crash remains)
• physical evidence of alien "maker/pilots" (as living captives or alien cadavers)
• existence of secret military/corporate UFO research programs
• government "cover up" to shield SAP/CAP research programs from oversight

1. corroborated or documented UFO events
2. corroborated, factual evidence of government disinformation and stigmatization policies
3. uncorroborated hearsay or single witness testimony about "secret" programs or alien evidence
4. fringe science explanations for observed UFO capabilities and interstellar travel
5. hoax or unsourced documents, artifacts, photographs or CGI animations

The publicly available evidence substantiates the claims of government disinformation, secrecy and decades of apparent public neglect of the issue. The evidence shows that the reasons for this policy were not to hide the reality of UFO evidence per se but to address national security concerns about public mass hysteria or cloaked sneak attacks from a foreign enemy through a policy of "strategic influence". There is also ample evidence to show that public stigmatization of UFO reports was the intimidating aspect of policy to suppress interest in the topic.

All public testimony about secret programs or alien evidence comes from single witness accounts. Specifically, I don't believe there exist any two witnesses who claim in public to have seen the same things in the same place at the same time. Indeed, the few publicly touted UFO crash remains, alien autopsies, alien captives and secret government documents regarding aliens have (so far) turned out to be hoax materials, discussed below. And fringe science is required to explain the technological capabilities necessary both to emulate UFO performance and to overcome the many practical obstacles to interstellar transport.

A few prominent sources of purported UFO evidence deserve specific attention. Perhaps the most widely known advocate for the maker/pilot hypothesis is Bob Lazar, who was brought to public attention by Las Vegas investigative journalist George Knapp. Lazar answers the critical "origin question" of alienism: How do we know UFO are an extraterrestrial technology manufactured and piloted by an alien race? The answer is that the US government secretly possesses perhaps nine fully or largely intact alien space ships either retrieved from alien crashes or (in one instance) found in an archaeological excavation. Lazar claims to have personally viewed and examined UFO crash remains as a scientific contractor for a secret government research effort to reverse engineer the alien technical capabilities, where he was assigned to investigate the structure and function of a UFO power source that he describes as a hemispherical anti-gravity reactor. He describes the ergonomics of one saucer interior as suitable for "child sized" inhabitants, and describes briefing materials that attribute the craft to an alien civilization on the planet "ZR-3" in the zeta Reticuli star system (see Figure 35 and discussion there). The energy to generate the power comes from the "stable isotope" of something he calls element 115, which may or may not be the atomic element moscovium. Lazar's localizing claim is that these UFO vehicles are held near Area 51, a highly secure Air Force testing range and weaponry skunkworks 80 miles north of Las Vegas, NV, specifically in an area known as "S-4." The back and forth at this link illustrates the flimsy body of corroborating evidence for these assertions.

This general backstory is part of the sweeping recent claims by US Air Force veteran and former US intelligence officer David Grusch, as sympathetically reported by Kean and Blumenthal, that the US government possesses both multiple partial or complete alien spacecraft and the corpses of several alien "pilots" — information that he reportedly obtained while liaison to the UAPTF for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). However Grusch answers a complementary but equally important question in alienism: If alien crash remains and corpses exist, why haven't we seen them? The answer is that there is a massive, decades long and substantially illegal disinformation campaign and cover up of all alien evidence in order to shield government efforts to replicate the UFO capabilities for military purposes. Grusch claims to have provided documents, names and detailed technical descriptions to both Congress and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community about these secret research programs and the efforts to keep them secret — information which he and others describe as classified. Oddly, the Department of Defense cleared all of Grusch's reported claims for public release, which seems to require either that Grusch's claims do not touch on anything especially secret or that the enormous and still unauditable DoD bureaucracy is unaware that the secret programs exist.

My esthetic (fact free) judgment of Mr. Lazar is that he is someone who had enough government research lab experience to appear casually knowledgeable about the bureaucratic and workplace procedures in those places. He may have known someone who worked in covert projects (call him Barry), extracted happy hour snippets of fact or hearsay from his informant, and spun up his story to protest government secrecy. He may also, as some claim, be an unwitting operative spreading disinformation in the service of a secret military or corporate extraterrestrial research project. He may also simply be telling the truth from firsthand knowledge about an actual research facility and everything he observed while working there, which he does with a sober, patient and sincere demeanor. My impression of Grusch is of sensible, well informed and credible government professional, and his claims deserve investigation. Other sources relating their accounts include Navy Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, former sergeant of a "crash retrieval team" Clifford Stone, former Army intelligence officer Gregory Corso or Stanford neuroscientist Garry Nolan. I do not imply by grouping their mention that these sources are equally credible.

There are numerous documented problems with Lazar's story — Wikipedia reports that "universities from which he claims to hold degrees show no record of him, and supposed former workplaces have disavowed him." Most significant for me is the fact that no former campus friends or professors, who would have been interviewed as part of the background security check necessary to work at a highly classified military site, have come forward to vouch for Lazar in public. But the deciding issue for me is the lack of any corroborating witness (call him Barry), documents or physical evidence to validate Lazar's story; Lazar himself admits he has no corroborating evidence of any kind. You needn't bother disparaging someone's character if you simply set aside uncorroborated testimony.

There is no physical, documentary or multiple witness testimony for alien bodies or alien vehicles available to public view. Alienists simply cite that as proof of how effective the government conspiracy and cover up has been. However there are reputed cases of alien crashed vehicles that might account for these retrievals. The "unconventional flying vehicle" that was reported to have either crashed or landed near Magenta, Italy on 11 April 1933 is more plausible; documents suggest it was retrieved, stored in a hangar at the aircraft manufacturer SIAI Marchetti in Vergiate and, according to John Greenewald, "a 'protocol' was sent to the Prefect, intended for the Italian secret services and the newspapers, in order to cover up this news." The fate of this object is unknown. And there is a strange teletype from the US Air Attaché in Afghanistan dated 24 January 1955 reporting the "landing of flying saucer" in northeastern Afghanistan described as having a "15 meter circumference [15 foot diameter]; metal construction; small, thick glass windows around leading edge of saucer shaped moving object. Afghans attempting to transport to Kabul for Minister of Def." No further information about this report has been uncovered.

The Wilson/Davis memo

Among the most frequently cited public evidence for a government coverup is the 2002 "Wilson/Davis Memo," a cornerstone document of ufology that purports to summarize the disclosure by a senior military officer of a secret research program into extraterrestrial technology, delegated by the DoD to a contractor aerospace corporation. The authenticity of the memo is both affirmed and denied by the people involved, and its origin is masterfully narrated by Richard Dolan. It was apparently found among the personal effects of astronaut Edgar Mitchell after his death, and came into the hands of James Rigney who distributed it to influential ufologists including Keith Basterfield, who then made it public.

In contrast, UFO researcher John Greenewald, Jr. spins an amusing but also insightful alternative story from his perspective as a former film producer of UFO programs for The History Channel. Greenewald interprets the memo as a script written during the Scully & Mulder era by a wannabe film producer. That is basically a stylistic, therefore esthetic judgment, which one grants to Greenewald's professional judgment. I also believe the memo is implausible as a memorializing document, generally in its length but specifically in the stychomythic dialog at the end — again, only an esthetic judgment that rests on my experience as an international business consultant. Advocates reply that this was because Dr. Davis recorded the interview and more closely transcribed the critical disclosures.

Greenewald raises the conversation with the relevant information that both the person who supposedly wrote the memo and a person close to the leak of the notes both declared a security clearance preserving "no comment," the principal character in the notes (retired Vice Admiral Wilson) flatly repudiates the memo and denies the meeting ever took place, the conduct ascribed to him is implausible given how the Department of Defense actually works, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon could find no record that the complaint process the memo describes ever occurred. Yet former astronaut Edgar Mitchell personally corroborates the predicament of Vice Admiral Wilson described in the Wilson/Davis memo, and people as clever as Dolan accept it as factual.

For me these aren't reasons to declare the memo as a certain hoax or to accept it as genuine, nor to impugn Davis, Wilson, Mellon, Mitchell or Dolan to make one or the other judgment more plausible. Instead, it illustrates how a fact becomes a mute fact. The sign of a mute fact is that everyone can argue about its interpretation but there is no public corroboration to support one interpretation over another; the fact can't speak for itself. The memo is enmeshed in conflicting hearsay testimony and undocumented circumstances, which is more than adequate justification to disregard it as evidence of anything more than the mute fact that someone wrote the memo and people dispute its authenticity and interpretation. Again, the distinction is between mocking or flatly denying any story or witness and simply setting aside the claims as lacking sufficient public corroboration.

But the UFO evidence that draws the most dispute does not concern a government coverup of SAP programs but the recovery of actual UFO crash remains or "close encounter" terrestrial visitations. To understand the many difficulties we counter in the evidence for alienism it is useful to delve two notoriously disputed UFO events in detail.

Roswell 1947

The foundational crash retrieval story — the "world proof" that alien crashes are a real thing — is by popular acclaim the 1947 Roswell NM 8 July incident, which is notable because news of the crash apparently originated in a rancher's whispered suspicion that became an official military confirmation that was expunged by an official military correction using what was apparently a cover story for a secret military project completely unrelated to flying saucers. Out of that stew, Roswell evolved through "the talk in the community" into an indigenous legend among the Roswell rural families.

On June 14, 1947 ranch foreman W.W. "Mac" Brazel was herding sheep on land owned by J.B. Foster about 30 miles southeast of Corona, NM when he discovered a field of "bright wreckage made up of rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks," some of it held together with "considerable Scotch tape and some tape with flowers printed on it," scattered over an area about the size of five football fields. He returned on July 4 with his wife and two of his children, Vernon and Bessie, to clean up much of the litter, which was bound up and partially buried on site; according to Brazel, "there was no sign of any metal in the area that might have been used for an engine, and no sign of any propellers of any kind." The next evening Brazel went to Corona, where he first heard the excited talk about Kenneth Arnold's flying saucer sighting. By Brazel's own account this aroused him to question the nature of the collected debris, so when he made the two hour trip into Roswell on Monday, July 7 to sell wool, he stopped by sheriff George Wilcox's office and "whispered kinda confidential like" that "he might have found a flying disk." This is the seed episode of the "actual" Roswell crash.

The sheriff phoned this report to the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF), which dispatched intelligence officer Major Jesse Marcel and Captain Sheridan Cavitt to assist Brazel in a further, thorough inspection and debris collection. Marcel took the debris home that night, spread some of it on his kitchen floor to show to his family, then brought it all to the air base early the next day, July 8. Around 9:30 am, the base commander Colonel William Blanchard (apparently relying on the sheriff's report) directed Walter Haut, the press officer at the Roswell Army Air Field, to announce the recovery of a "flying disc" to the local Roswell radio stations and newspapers. At the same time, Marcel was sent on a plane to convey the bundles of debris to the Fort Worth Army Air Base for evaluation. The Roswell Daily Record published the announcement that afternoon — RAAF CAPTURES FLYING SAUCER ON RANCH IN ROSWELL REGION — which immediately spread over the wire services and brought a deluge of inquiries to the paper and the sheriff's office. The London Daily Telegraph reported corroboration from Army Air Force headquarters in Washington DC that the "saucer" was of "flimsy construction, almost like a box kite ... apparently some sort of tin foil." The afternoon of July 8, Army Air Force General Roger M. Ramey, weather officer Irving Newton and others in Fort Worth examined the debris and concluded that it was a balloon radar target, and Marcel and Ramsey were "staged" with debris of paper, foil and wood by Army photographer J. Bond Johnson (Figure 33, left). Ramey announced that the debris came from a disintegrated "weather balloon" and the Roswell Morning Dispatch published the correction on July 9 — the same day that Brazel bemoaned his notoriety by declaring "I am sure what I found was not any weather observation balloon. But if I find anything else besides a bomb they are going to have a hard time getting me to say anything about it." Within a week the news story was dead.

At least, it appeared to be dead. This remarkable video collecting Recollections of the 1947 Roswell UFO incident from living witnesses or their surviving relatives presents much of the original testimony in the words of those who might retell the story across decades of time at dinner tables around the region. It's rather clear evidence in itself how much of the evidence relies on people recounting what they say other people have told them. This is the single greatest obstacle to taking such UFO evidence seriously, unless we raise the hypothesis that UFO phenomena are, in themselves and intrinsically, incomprehensible.

There was a brief accelerant for public interest in crashes and crash retrievals, including alien corpses, and that was Frank Scully's newspaper columns and overheated but bestselling Behind the Flying Saucers in 1950. This book in turn was based on a version of the "Aztec crash" story by two long con grifters, Silas Newton and Leo GeBauer. In their story, a 30 meter [100 foot] UFO was accidentally downed on March 25, 1948 by a powerful air defense radar near Aztec, New Mexico, and was recovered by the US military under a cloak of secrecy much improved by lessons learned from the botched Roswell incident. The swindlers advanced this story to buttress their claim that a prospecting doodlebug of their design had exceptional performance because it incorporated "breakthrough technology" retrieved from the Aztec crash remains. These claims, reported in Scully's book, fell apart in 1952 when Newton's story was ↆ proved a hoax by journalist J.P. Cahn and both Newton and GeBauer were convicted of fraud. However, retired businessman Frank Ramsey claims that he has, by archival research and witness interviews, unhoaxed this hoax, and this video provides a fascinating example of how alleged UFO crash stories rest on very little circumstantial or physical evidence and much hearsay or single witness testimony. But the fact that the concept of alien bodies and crash retrievals became publicly associated with fraud likely also contributed to the long dormancy of the Roswell story.

Figure 33. The two Roswell crash remains. (left) Major Marcel posing with either the "actual" 1947 Rosewell crash remains (the Brazel ranch debris) or, according to the elderly Marcel, bogus debris that was not what he found at the Brazel site. (right) One of many hoax photos of the "real" 1980 Roswell crash remains, supposedly retrieved by the military. (Lurid versions of this photo insert an alien corpse in the lower left.)

Roswell 1980

Then, like a malarial meme, around 1978 the story flared up again when retired Lieutenant Colonel Marcel publicly recanted his role in the press release and described the debris as unearthly materials. There followed Charles Berlitz and William Moore's The Roswell Incident in 1980 and Stanton Friedman and Don Berliner's Crash at Corona in 1992, which presented increasingly exaggerated, hearsay claims about the Roswell crash debris and recovered alien corpses (and a single alien crash survivor). Perhaps the apex of this resurgence is the 1987 claim by John Lear of a government cover up of alien crash remains and alien cadavers from five different alien civilizations.

Meanwhile the US Air Force admitted in 1994 that there was indeed a cover up and it was necessary to disguise a top secret surveillance balloon known as Project MOGUL. This puts a secular gloss on the claim by many witnesses that "what I saw was not a weather balloon" ... they're right! it was instead a uniquely constructed and top secret spy balloon. (Weather balloons of the era, which were familiar to both Brazel and Marcel, were made of extremely thin, translucent plastic — not sticks, tape and metal foil.)

The books expound intertwining stories about Roswell, which have merged over time into an intricate retrospective timeline centered on a purported "real" Roswell crash site (Figure 33, right) about 40 miles north of Roswell and west of Hwy 285. This site is unrelated to the Foster ranch and is not the area that Marcel inspected. This "real" crash site has become ornamented with a variety of colorful characters and dramatic encounters — nude campers, stray archaeologists, a roadside military picket, a fire brigade, several local police, random volunteers, a military cleanup detail, FBI intercepted teletype messages, a recovered alien craft with multiple alien corpses, childsized coffins, an alien medical examination, armed witness escorts, prolonged witness interviews and military threats to keep everything secret. The witnesses who testify to these events (all now deceased) included a staff sergeant who said he discovered the alien crash site, a packrat pilot who claimed he transported the disk to Wright Field, other local witnesses interviewed by the National Archives, and a posthumously released affidavit from Haut that he did not write but only signed.

This is a thick mulch of single witness or hearsay testimony, some of it as "deathbed" confessions decades after the event or as tales told by family members of the deceased. These stories all seem to converge on a US government cover up of alien crash remains, but the witnesses recount different episodes at different places and different times, so no two witnesses support each other and none are supported by public corroborating evidence. The most important witnesses, including Frank Kaufmann, Gerald Anderson and Glenn Dennis, have been disavowed by former supporters. (Many of these latter day witnesses are interviewed in this BBC Roswell documentary.) A major "authority" on Roswell, Stanton Friedman, has been discredited for relying uncritically on their testimony. Originally enthusiastic Roswell researchers such as Kent Jeffrey have become disillusioned by the evidence that they have and have not been able to uncover.

In alienist ufology, the pendant to this "real" Roswell crash is that the ineptly leaked 1947 Roswell "crash retrieval" reputedly led to the formation by president Dwight Eisenhower of a Majestic 12 group, sometimes known as "MAJIC-12" or "MJ-12", that was cloaked by "a security level 2 points above that of Top Secret" and documented with its own trove of top secret memos, mysteriously delivered to "Britain's leading UFO researcher", Timothy Good, in 1987. There is even a modern digital text transcription of a microfilm mailed anonymously to UFO researcher Don Berliner of a printed ↆ SOM1-01 Special Operations Manual to guide the retrieval of UFO crash remains. These memos and manual are viewed by the National Archives and by Berliner himself to be hoax documents. But in ufology nothing ever seems definitively settled, and the authenticity controversy is, for some, still without a conclusive answer.

Rendlesham Wood 1980

Just as the Roswell story was being resurrected by Marcel, Berlitz, Moore, Berliner and Friedman and their latter day witnesses, a third and truly remarkable case occurred: the 1980 Rendlesham Wood GBR 26, 28 December events. This is a complex visitation or "close encounter" story that involves two separate UFO events on two separate nights, witnessed by two separate groups of military personnel on duty, including the claim that one of the witnesses actually touched an alien craft and received information from it telepathically. So even by the standards of UFO visitation reports it is a doozy; Kean (pp. 179-88) devotes an entire chapter to its exposition.

We have a concise summary of the event in the official eyewitness testimony titled "Unexplained Lights" that was submitted to the Royal Air Force about two weeks after the event by the deputy base commander at RAF Bentwaters, US Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Halt:

1. Early in the morning of 27 Dec 80 (approximately 0300L), two USAF security police patrolmen saw unusual lights outside the back gate [east gate] at RAF Woodbridge. Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been forced down, they called for permission to go outside the gate to investigate. The on-duty flight chief responded and allowed three patrolmen to proceed on foot. The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank(s) of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the trees and disappeared. At this time the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy. The object was briefly sighted approximately an hour later near the back gate.

2. The next day, three depressions 1 1/2" deep and 7" in diameter were found where the object had been sighted on the ground. The following night (29 Dec 80) the area was checked for radiation. Beta/Gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgens were recorded with peak reading in the three depressions and near the center of the triangle formed by the depressions. A nearby tree had moderate (.05-.07) readings on the side of the tree toward the depressions.

3. Later in the night a red sun-like light was seen through the tree. It moved about and pulsed. At one point it appeared to throw off glowing particles and then broke into five separate white objects and then disappeared. Immediately thereafter, three star-like objects were noticed in the sky. Two objects to the north and one to the south, all of which were about 10 degrees above the horizon. The objects moved rapidly in sharp angular movements and displayed red, green and blue lights. The objects to the north appeared to be elliptical through an 8-12 power lens. They then turned to full circles. The objects to the north remained in the sky for an hour or more. The object to the south was visible for two or three hours and beamed down a stream of light from time to time. Numerous individuals, including the undersigned, witnessed the activities in paragraphs 2 and 3.

Halt adds some retrospective details in this 2017 interview. Astronomer Ian Ridpath has thoroughly critiqued Hart's 2010 affidavit recalling the events 30 years later, and without endorsing Ridpath's aspersions I accept his suggestion to disregard the latter day testimony and focus on the evidence closest to the event.

An odd detail of Hart's letter is that the deputy base commander has his dates wrong. The lights were first sighted on the morning of Friday the 26, because the first patrol members — two enlisted men led by Sgt. Jim Penniston — called local police to the scene that day, as verified by the extant police report. The police examined the impressions in the ground and adopted the interpretation of a young forester, Vince Thurkettle, that they were rabbit dustbathing pits. Then an entire day passed before lights were reported to have returned on the evening of Saturday, December 27. Halt was summoned away from a Christmas party to assemble men to investigate. This inspection squad consisted of Hart and four other men: Englund, Ball, Nevilles and Bustzina. (To my knowledge there is no public testimony about the event from any of these four witnesses.) They arrived at the site identified by the first patrol after midnight. Both patrols saw lights after midnight, so the second patrol saw the lights on Sunday morning the 28th.

Remarkably, Halt audio recorded his investigation and pursuit of the lights on December 28 in real time, as recreated in this television report. This 18 minute long Hart audiotape is the least controversial evidence in the case, and one of the most unique forms of evidence from any UFO event. (The 1994 Holland MI 8 March event includes an extended recording between a 911 dispatcher and an experienced weather service radar operator tracking UFO in real time, and there is the famous Frederick Valentich transmission which has been transcribed in an official report but never released as an audiofile.) Although of poor quality, the recording has been transcribed at least twice, by Ian Ridpath and by journalist Georgina Bruni; Bruni claims to have worked with the "original copy" reputedly "sent by Colonel Sam Morgan, via General Gordon Williams." It is instructive to compare the audiotape with Ridpath's text, as emended with Bruni's glosses and alternative wording:

[t = 15:15] HALT: OK, we're looking at the thing, we're probably about two to three hundred yards away. It looks like an eye winking at you. Still moving from side to side. And when you put the Starscope on it, it sort of has a hollow centre right, a dark centre, it's...
ENGLUND: Like a pupil...
HALT: Yeah, like a pupil of an eye looking at you, winking. And the flash is so bright to the Starscope that err ... it almost burns your eye.

[Here there is a gap in the tape. Ridpath has "GARBLED SECURITY COMMUNICATION" and Bruni has "There is now a huge gap and no indication of what happened next." Halt apparently turned off the recorder to deal with an interruption.]

[t = 15:35] HALT: We've passed the farmer's house and are crossing the next field and now we have multiple sightings of up to five lights with a similar shape and all but they seem to be steady now rather than a pulsating or a glow with a red flash.
HALT: We've just crossed a creek...
VOICE: ENGLUND:Here we go...
HALT: ...and we're getting what kind of readings now?
VOICE: ...clicks...
HALT: We're getting three good clicks on the meter and we're seeing strange lights in the sky.

[Bruni reports another break in the tape.]

[t = 16:00] HALT: 2:44. We're at the far side of the farmer's...the second farmer's field and made sighting again about 110 degrees. This looks like it's clear off out to the coast. It's right on the horizon. Moves about a bit and flashes from time to time. Still steady or and red in colour. Also after negative readings in the centre of the field we're picking up slight readings, four or five clicks now, on the meter.
HALT: 3:05. We see strange err strobe-like flashes to the err ... rather almost sporadic, but there's definitely something there. Some kind of phenomenon.
HALT: 3:05. At about err ... ten degrees horizon err, directly north, we've got two strange objects, err, half moon shape, dancing about, with coloured lights on 'em. At, err, guess to be about five to ten miles out, maybe less. The half moons have now turned into full circles as though there was an eclipse or something there for a minute or two.

[Bruni reports another break in the tape.]

[t = 16:58] HALT: 03:15. Now we've got an object about 10 degrees directly south, 10 degrees off the horizon.
NEVILLES: There's one to the left.
HALT: And the ones to the north are moving. One's moving away from us.
BACKGROUND VOICE: NEVILLES: It's moving out fast
HALT: They're moving out fast.
BALL: This There's one on the right's heading away, too.
HALT: Yeah, they're both heading north. Hey, here he comes from the south, he's coming toward us now.
BALL: Shit.
HALT: Now we're observing what appears to be a beam coming down to the ground.
SHOUT IN BACKGROUND: BALL: Look at the colours! Shit.
HALT: This is unreal. [Laughs]

[Bruni reports another break in the tape.]

[t = 17:25] HALT: 03:30 and the objects are still in the sky, although the one to the south looks like it's losing a little bit of altitude. We're turning around and heading back toward the base.
HALT: The object to the sou ... the object to the south is still beaming down lights to the ground.
HALT: 04:00 hours. One object still hovering over the Woodbridge base at about five to ten degrees off the horizon, still moving erratic and similar lights and beaming down as earlier.

I quote this encounter at length because, when compared to the audiofile, it illustrates the unsteady nature of the verbal evidence itself: the effect that a deleted or altered word can have on the meaning and the ambiguity of "steady," which in the context can mean either not flashing or not moving. Ridpath's elision of filler words that denote thought or emotion is unhelpful, as these are evidence of the witness state of mind that includes Hart's vocal emphasis at "Weird!" and "Strange!" and the rising excitement in his voice ("Hey, here he comes from the south"). I hear Hart call the rivulet a "crick" and I hear trembling in Hart's voice but no laughter. The same audio stimulus can strike different people in different ways — which is true also of purported UFO photographs and videos.

Ridpath convincingly debunks the original light as the Orford Ness Lighthouse eight miles to the southwest, which is at the azimuth direction and estimated distance of the first observable, flashes in the same five second period inferred from the Hart recording (t = 12:55), and (examine the linked video closely) even reproduces the peculiar appearance of a "black pupil" in the center. But the problem with Ridpath's debunk is that the five men obviously did not just misperceive a lighthouse: they heard a tumult of forest animals ("We're hearing very strange sounds out of the farmer's barnyard animals ... They're very, very active, making an awful lot of noise."), then saw a "strange, sun-like, flashing red light" (or yellow, but not white) that pulsed and moved about. They saw the light approach, then saw it dripping something onto the ground, then saw it fragment silently into as many as five steady lights (not flashing), which then flashed "strange strobelike flashes" before disappearing; then Hart reports two separate "half moon shapes, dancing about, with colored lights on 'em" that changed form as "an eclipse or something" for at least a minute. as they retreated into the sky, a third light approached from the south that shined "a beam toward the ground," followed by a display of colored lights that provokes an outcry from the men. His memo also describes "objects moving rapidly in sharp angular movements". Here Ridpath's appeal to a lighthouse, chromatic scintillation, unfocused binoculars, bright stars and thin, moving clouds does not match the detailed sequence of narration and concrete characterization of the lights, or explain the amazement of the men audible in several places.

As always with UFO evidence, it's useful to step back and ask what is at issue with the question of authenticity. My answer is that we have a rather unique form of UFO witness testimony that includes both the contemporaneous witness reactions (the audiotape) and testimony in an offical capacity (the RAF report). The event has a strong circumstantial debunk in the form of the lighthouse, but this assumes that the five men on patrol, all truthful in the recorded moment, were also unaware of, inexperienced with and not competent to identify a lighthouse at night. Other aspects of Ridpath's interpretation require that they could not recognize stars behind moving clouds, or recognize when optics are out of focus. I view the events witnessed by Col. Halt as another "highly strange" incident that is not adequately debunked because too many details are left unexplained. But, even accepted as an authentic UFO report rather than a case of mixed claims, we do not learn from it anything unique or scientifically useful about UFO.

The whole second patrol episode has been muddled by the claims from Sgt. Jim Penniston, leader of the first patrol, that he actually touched a squat, wedge shaped UFO while his companions remained behind and out of view. Kean gives his testimony a sympathetic forum, and he seems like a cheerful soul, but nothing contemporaneous with the event, including the testimony of his two companions and his own testimony to superiors, corroborates his story. Assuredly, there are reasonable motives that might induce Penniston to withhold telling senior officers in an official inquiry that he had actually touched a flying saucer. But without that contemporaneous admission, there is no reason to accept his later claims that he spent 40 minutes studying the UFO, examining strange glyphs on its exterior and receiving a "telepathic download" of binary codes when he touched its onyx black surface. The next morning (in his account) he compulsively transcribed the codes into sixteen pages of a journal and (who would have guessed it!) the message has been "decoded" to indicate either various geographical locations, or maybe an I Ching prophecy.

The story from Airman Penniston — possibly an intimidated testimony, possibly a hoaxing or delusional story, possibly incredible but true testimony, or possibly an alien false memory implant, take your pick — is uncorroborated everywhere outside his journal and a decoded message that points to the mythical island of Hy–Brasil. And of course there are British hoaxers who claim to have pranked the Yanks, a tale of men wandering the forest in hazmat suits and, to complete the tableau, missing government files and official disclaimers.

The Rendlesham Wood encounter is sometimes called "the British Roswell," and it replicates, as if in a social science experiment, the same Roswell and Aztec proportions of factual testimony, contextual debunk, uncorroborated single witness testimony, hearsay storytelling and claims of a "close encounter" that can only be revelation, delusion or hoax. The parallels extend to a Rendlesham visitation on two different nights and a Roswell crash at two different locations; or a Haut who is just a typo away from Halt. This quicksand evidence is typical of many famous UFO cases that claim to prove the physical reality of interstellar vehicles or the terrestrial presence of aliens but, on closer examination, leave us no wiser than before.

Alien Bodies and Alien Purpose

Despite the small number of witnesses who claim to have seen or communicated with aliens themselves, either in the presence of their UFO spacecraft or as living captives or as morgue specimens held secretly by the US military and possibly other governments, has polarized discussion between the alienist claim that the US government has aliens or alien specimens in its possession and the repeated US government denial that it has evidence of anything extraterrestrial. I don't take a position in that dispute because there is no publicly visible alien captive or alien corpse to prove the alienists correct, proving the negative (there is nothing to see) is impractical if not logically pointless, an internal government investigation would very likely turn up nothing: the US military has failed its last six audits, and an audit is one of the most basic forms of investigation).

Alienists were buoyed in hopes of wider public support for "disclosure" by the 26 July 2023 congressional hearing on UAP where former US Air Force intelligence officer David Grusch claimed that the US military has crashed space vehicles and "non human biologics" in its possession. But the hearing went almost entirely unreported and unremarked by the media, and I thought the panel focused more on issues of oversight and possible illegality of the programs than on national security or air safety, much less aliens. "Non-human biologics" strikes me as one of those military euphemisms that means other than it seems, and Grusch has not himself seen this evidence.

The report "A Windmill Demolishes It" by S.E. Haydon describes the 17 April 1897 crash at Aurora, TX of "a native of the planet Mars" into Judge Proctor's windmill and water tank and the disfigured body of the alien pilot buried the next day, but neither the "papers found on his person" nor any of the souvenirs of the wreck collected by the gawking crowd have come into public view, nor any photographs of the several tons of metallic debris that "destroyed the judge's flower garden" and scattered over several acres. The report is generally considered a journalist's hoax, and is given a comedy twist in Firesign Theater's Everything You Know Is Wrong. But the report appears the month that H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds was serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine and the same year as the wave of "mystery airship" sightings across the USA. It already combines the basic UFO themes of space ship, crash remains, alien pilot, cadaver retrieval, "unknown metals" and visit to earth half a century before Roswell and the modern UFO era. This clearly indicates a foundation of cultural materials that predates the modern UFO era but provides alienism with several of its core themes.

Verbal descriptions and drawings of aliens come primarily from the single witness testimony of alien abductees. The abductee prototype for this "abductee alien" is the "short being with huge black eyes and smooth gray skin" described by Betty & Barney Hill, which over time becomes a creature small in stature and physically frail, with a livid complexion, long fingers, an enlarged cranium, a face lacking chin or lips but with peculiarly large, creepy black eyes — illustrated (left) as the safe for work version Skinny Bob. Some alienists label these telepathic, unfeeling creatures zeta Reticuli greys based on Betty Hill's drawing from memory of an alien star map. Although the idea that aliens are diminutive and spidery goes through many popular variations, including ET the Extra-Terrestrial, the "greys" are only one of many announced alien "species" that range from reptilian to priestly to indistinguishable from human. One of the earliest physical descriptions, the 1955 Hopkinsville KY 21 August event, one of the most colorful and diverting stories in ufology, describes levitating "silvery, slightly glowing" creatures that through newspaper misquotation became "little green men." Some alienists in exophenotypology discriminate three to eight subtypes in each of nine or ten separate categories of almost sixty different alien "species" which in my view renders the alien backstory incoherent. Why have sixty different interstellar species all converged on Earth with essentially the same "far advanced" technology?

Biologists might ask how extraterrestrial Skinny Bob evolved the primate furrowed brow of puzzlement. My first reaction is to ask why the quality is so poor in what claims to be documentary evidence of an extraordinary discovery. I doubt the authenticity due to the ludicrous film projector soundtrack and the theatrical, Grand Guignol quality of the lighting and costume, rising from the shadows like a nightmare, but also because I have no idea who made this film or how it has come into public view.

The citizen Roswell witnesses — Glenn Dennis, Jim Ragsdale, Gerald Anderson (age 5½ at the event) and many others — are typical of the daylight, walkabout alien sightings: a few have been factually impugned as hoaxes and none of the apparently sincere other witnesses provide any corroboration for their testimony. The photographic or video evidence for aliens comprises hoax alien cadavers and hoax alien dissections. Some of the hoaxes have been confessed and others, like Skinny Bob, are either amusingly clumsy, obviously forged or come without a trustworthy provenance. But some become quite intricate. As one example, Kit Green describes photos of an alien autopsy accepted as authentic that proved to be a hoax alien autopsy simulated with a progeroid autopsy, although the hoax alien autopsy was apparently itself created as a kind of cover up of something else.

Autopsies of a kind also apply to the Nasca Tridactyl Mummies unearthed at an unknown location in Peru in 2015. These dozen or so diminutive, bony figures, whole or as detached parts, in a fragile and brittle condition, have not been "autopsied" in the normal way but in the archaeological manner of scans and sampling, C-14 dating, metallurgy and so on. Archaeological analysis suggests a pre-Columbian origin; carbon dating suggests (on average) around 1000 CE. Samples of skin suggest a "reptilian" keratinization in some, but the DNA is too degraded to be useful; what little there is suggests human or primate origin. Personally I find the question of origin undecided, but I do not see anything in the scans of the different bodies that suggests these were once living, intact organisms rather than ritual objects of some kind.

In any case, the possibility of aliens motivates the next question: why are they here? The hoax aliens we have to attribute to human nature, but the possibly actual aliens need a backstory. To my knowledge there are basically four schools of thought on this issue:

1. Hostile. Aliens are here to harvest terrestrial or aquatic life; evidence for this view includes the cattle mutilations reported since 1970 in the USA and the suggestion that aliens harvest human genetic material, either for an alien hybridization program or as part of a joint alien/military program to breed a better class of combat soldier.

2. Indifferent or Unknowable. Aliens are completely indifferent to humans and human activity; or aliens are attracted to earth for its resources, for example its oceans; or their purposes are so far beyond our way of thinking that they are unknowable.

3. Scientific. A variation of (2) is that aliens remain detached from human activity as far as practicable because they are studying us as a scientific investigation and do not wish to inferfere in any way that might disturb our "natural" behavior.

4. Benevolent. Aliens are here to guide or raise up or caution humans in order to advance the human species or steer the course of history away from nuclear or environmental catastrophe and toward a brighter future.

These categories disguise a huge variety in the alienist theories of each type. For example, the recent Identified Flying Objects: A Multidisciplinary Scientific Approach to the UFO Phenomenon by biological anthropologist Michael Masters is the kind of humor book that can only amuse a science literate reader. Woven around a reasonable bit of valid information about evolution and human biology, the humor lies in the claim that future humans, with a gene pool depleted of diversity and brimming with inherited defects, resort to the unproven capability of time travel in order to harvest healthy genes from present day specimens.

Present day human already has the capability to manufacture genes and medically modify human genome attributes through genome editing, so a basic question is why that already proven capability was lost in the future and why time travel was necessary as a remedy. But at least Masters solves the problem of how aliens found our planet and figured out a way to get here. It also, perhaps more importantly, provides a biologically defensible justification for the reports of "medical and hybridization experiments," including offspring of alien/human outcross, that are repeated across many latter day abductee reports.

The Outer Limits

Storytelling is stimulated to grow by the need to answer questions raised by the story itself; these answers raise more questions, and more questions demand more storytelling. All this is guided by the outlook that aliens are here because of us, another vestige of the vanity of anthropocentrism, and this "me so special" outlook eventually produces wholly unsubstantiated conjectures, incredible proclamations, and vatic witnesses — in other words, UFO religions. Wholly in the human character to worship things that human does not understand, these religions are fascinating in their ability to link extraterrestrial technology with tropes from Christianity or nonsectarian goals such as an end to poverty and war or advancement to a higher spiritual plane of peace and love. Others sell the downmarket goods of race superiority (the Tempelhofgesellschaft Aryans from Aldebaran), diluted Theosophy (the Venusan aliens of Share International), the Ashtar version of an interplanetary Noah's Ark (Universe People), creationist genetic engineering (Raëlism's Elohim who created all life on Earth), and even as a death cult (Heaven's Gate). These all flourish in western civilizations which combine an infatuation with new technology and a liberal democratic tolerance of fringe beliefs. They don't do as well in Muslim countries.

A more frequent religionist meme among alienists is Eduard Albert "Billy" Meier. The self styled human point of contact for communications from the extraterrestrial Plejaren of Pleiades and the self anointed prophet of yet another UFO religion, Meier may be a fortune telling and photo faking kind of charlatan hoaxer, as many claim. I am indifferent to that issue. I can offer the esthetic judgment that Meier's photographs (Figure 34) are a form of kitsch mythmaking. His photographs invoke the mythical by juxtaposing pastoral landscape with the uncanny; and the kitsch is that the photographs are slick enough to hide any obvious signs of fakery yet are too obviously phony to be worth the effort to debunk them.

Figure 34. A Billy Meier UFO photograph "8 März 1976 Bachtelhörnli (detail)," from crystalinks.com

I take more notice of the claim from Meier pitchman Michael Horn that the Meier photographs of purported UFO can be confidently declared to be not provably fake. However, "even world experts cannot prove these images are fakes!" is not the same validity claim as "this information is truthful and accurate." That is one of the essential claims in any in scientific inquiry and in his public declarations Horn easily evades any request to make it. And the Meier corpus again illustrates my general reluctance to rely on any still photography without an unimpeachable provenance as documentation: too easily faked, too difficult to interpret.

The skeptical view of all this alienist narrative, woven so thickly out of circumstantial or coincidental facts and relying almost entirely on single witness testimony and an enthusiastic acceptance of UFO savants and falsified documents, is not that it is "phony baloney" or "too incredible for belief," but that it is "acknowledged but undecided." One of Montaigne's favorite skeptical mottos from Sextus Empiricus was: ΕΠΕΧΩ or "I suspend judgment" and this is the core skeptical impulse. We cannot impugn testimony when we have no material evidence to contradict it; we cannot decide competence on issues outside our experience; we cannot definitively challenge claims without evidence for a plausible alternative. We temper our assent by asking alienists what they can offer by way of validation. Until they offer better evidence, there are no grounds either to deny or to believe what they tell us.

Alien Abduction

The major drawback in the UFO inquiry is the lack of publicly available physical specimens of the UFO themselves. Instead we must refer to UFO testimony about places, times, events and episodes that single witnesses experience individually but that lack any physical or recorded corroboration. Even so, if we had many single witness reports from people who had no way to share knowledge or factual content, then commonalities in their reporting would be significant.

This is a critical evidentiary standard that might apply to alien abduction. These single witness abduction testimonies vary from weepy story to creepy story to revelatory, but many have a common architecture that has become common UFO lore. The witness is somehow alone or, if with others, is innocently separated from them; a strange occurrence such as a light or an impulse to "take a drive at night" may draw the witness into solitary contact. There is a lapse of "lost time" that is usually no more than a few hours (although the longest professed abduction of Travis Walton lasted five days). Finally the witness is found by the others (who have seen nor heard nothing) or the witness volunteers the tale to family and authorities. An investigation follows; no conclusions can be reached and the goings on seem a mystery. But later, through slow recall, often by dreams or regression hypnosis, the witness remembers alien figures, an alien encounter about an alien "space ship", and release from the encounter with mental alterations such as amnesia, confusion or fear. C.D.B. Bryan's 1995 Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (now out of print) describes a conference held on the topic at MIT and discusses the various theories as to why alien abductions occur.

The Betty & Barney Hill Abduction 1961

By priority and universal acclaim, the archetypal abduction narrative is the 1961 Indian Head, NH 19 September or "zeta Reticuli incident" involving Barney and Betty Hill: two people who experienced the same alien abduction at the same place and the same time. An interracial couple returning late at night from a vacation trip to Niagra Falls, the Hills took wrong turn in rural New England, experienced a peculiar episode of about three hours of lost time and subsequent inexplicable events, strange compulsions, bad dreams and inexplicable anxieties. (The racial angle is relevant because Barney reported a preexisting anxiety about living in a mixed marriage during the era of miscegenation prejudice.) Their many perplexing complaints compelled them to seek help from Dr. Benjamin Simon, a Boston psychotherapist, who launched them on parallel psychotherapy and regression hypnosis sessions that produced terrifying but liberating recovered memories of excruciating alien examinations of their genitals and allusive telepathic communications about the aliens themselves.

Eager to report their experiences to the US Air Force and NICAP, their story was soon popularized in the 1966 bestseller Interrupted Journey and Barney appeared in a guest appearance on the TV gameshow To Tell the Truth. The Barney and Betty regression sessions are available online and are memorialized in the 1975 "made for TV" movie The UFO Incident, which provided a young James Earl Jones the opportunity for some virtuosic monolog acting as the afflicted Barney Hill. The film describes a therapeutic arc from encounter to malaise to healing recall to loving acceptance that is appropriately psychodynamic for the era of Freudianism's last hurrah.

Some alienists put credence in Betty's memory of being shown a three dimensional star map of alien "trade routes," which she reproduced from memory during her hypnotic recall (Figure 35a). Years later, Ohio schoolteacher and Mensa member Marjorie Fish claimed to have deciphered the map using a catalog of all stars within the galactic vicinity of Earth and a three dimensional model of these stellar positions using hanging beads. She identified zeta Reticuli as the aliens' home star system (Figure 35b). This is a G type binary star about 12 parsecs [39 light years] from Earth. Astronomer Carl Sagan pointed out the arbitrariness of choosing a "connect the dots" star pattern among the roughly 10,500 known stars within 59 parsecs of the Sun — the distance from Earth of the farthest star included in the Fish map. But there is a more obvious problem: Hill's star map shows the Sun about half again farther from zeta2 than the zeta pair are from each other, but the actual distance is more than 270 times farther.

This is supposedly because the stars are viewed in 3D or linear perspective and the viewpoint is close to the zeta pair. These are parameters sufficient to reconstruct a hemispherical projection (perspective view) of the Fish stars in the updated Hipparcos/Gliese data at SIMBAD. The viewpoint can be established using three specific details from the Fish star map: (1) the star zeta Tucanae is "hidden behind" zeta2 Reticuli (both stars are on the line of sight from the viewpoint); (2) Sol is about 1.5 times farther from zeta1 than zeta2 in the hemispherical projection, which locates the viewpoint about 0.11 parsecs from zeta2; and (3) Sol is located above zeta2 (Figure 35c). These provide the critical geometric parameters of the line of sight, viewpoint, and orientation. (The Excel spreadsheet used to make this reconstruction is ↆ here.)

Figure 35. (a) The Betty Hill star map of alien trade routes as drawn by her hand during psychotherapy. (b) The deciphering of the map by Marjorie Fish, who claimed a matching selection of actual stars from the Gliese catalog. (c) The perspective view of Fish stars, on a line between zeta2 Reticuli and zeta Tucanae, with Sol above the pair and placed about half again as far from zeta2 as zeta1, using the galactic (three dimensional) coordinates from the Hipparcos/Gliese star catalog. Black circles indicate stars behind the viewer's back. Fish later replaced 881 and 55 with two new stars, 88 and 59, shown as gray diamonds (and both also behind the viewer's back). Orange circles are Hill's original star placements, scaled to exactly match the Sol to zeta1 distance.

From this viewpoint, Fomalhaut is directly on the line to Gliese 86, not above it; Gliese 111 and 55 are far to the viewer's left limits of vision and Gliese 231 far to the right; and both Gliese 97 and 86.1 are behind the viewer's back at distances of 5 and 27 parsecs respectively, which might indicate a calculation or labeling error by Fish. Thus, the relative distances among the stars in the Fish solution do not correspond to the actual distances among the stars in either absolute or perspective space. Changing the viewpoint or adding stars that are behind the viewer's back does not improve things. (See also the discussion by the Armagh Observatory.)

I recite this analysis because it illustrates the multilayered nature of our assent to UFO and specifically abduction witnesses. The first hurdle is outlook matching where our criterion of belief is: "How well does this evidence fit within my personal understanding of reality?" If we have experienced alien abduction ourselves then we will likely answer quite differently from someone who has not. The criterion is not anything evidentiary but relies heavily on how well the testimony fits within our own life experience and the publicly attested experience of people we know. The second hurdle is empirical corroboration. Here our criterion of belief is: "How uniquely, improbably or nonrandomly does the witness testimony match available evidence?" Most UFO reports are difficult to reconcile with circumstances and lack material or recorded evidence of any kind. And the last hurdle is the issue of witness credibility: "How competent and truthful is this witness to accurately describe the phenomena?" This usually means the witness must demonstrate to us any competency or ability that their testimony seems to depend on.

Figure 35a raises the outlook matching problem: do the diagram and Betty Hill's testimony seem believable enough to you for further investigation? I think most people will express doubts. Sagan raised the second, empirical corroboration problem as a probability: given the large number of stars one can pick and choose from the Gliese sample, how unique is any specific configuration of stars compared to all the possible combinations of stars? Fish proposed a solution (Figure 35b) that does not seem to match the empirical evidence (Figure 35c). The issue of witness credibility is not easy to resolve; the claim was made that Betty had "a photographic memory" but I know of no independent test to demonstrate that remarkable ability; in any case, what would be needed in addition to perfect recall is a well developed skill in drawing relative proportions in order to render all the relative distances accurately as dots and lines on paper. As an occasional portrait painter, I can attest that those drawing skills are very difficult to acquire, and the poor alignment between the projected actual star positions and Hill's drawn location of them, judged against the Fish solution (orange circles vs. black dots, Figure 35c) indicates that Hill's drawing is at best inept.

A fourth, additional problem is that we generally receive and digest UFO accounts second hand, through someone else's narrative evaluation. Very few people have access to, much less bother to examine, the primary evidence or the competency of the evaluation for themselves. With Marjorie Fish we at least have hearsay evidence of her integrity in a 2013 obituary:

As one of her hobbies, Marjorie made an investigation into the Betty Hill map by constructing a 3-D star map in the late 1960's using several databases. She found a pattern that matched Mrs. Hill's drawing well, which generated international interest. Later, after newer data was compiled, she determined that the binary stars within the pattern were too close together to support life; so as a true skeptic, she issued a statement that she now felt that the correlation was unlikely.

Separate from its usefulness to illustrate problems of evidence and belief, the Hill's story was widely known as book, TV show and motion picture, and this notoriety provided the script for many later abduction cases that describe some form of alien medical examination or telepathic communication. Fiction writer Whitley Strieber, professed abductee and author of Communion: A True Story, added other details that reappear in later reports, including the iconic "gray alien" depicted on the cover.

Indeed, the influence of culture and media on abduction reports is implied by the fact that they collectively evolve over time. The accounts show a progression from reports of strange corpses before 1950, to reports of live alien sightings after 1950, to reports of repressed abductions and painful medical exams around 1970, to fully remembered encounters after 1980 accompanied by a resurgence of journalistic exploitation of titillating abduction reports. This evolution implies that UFO abductees had previously heard of UFO, or read newspaper accounts of abductions, or seen Invaders from Mars or This Island Earth — which scared the bejeezus out of my preschool sister when our family saw it in 1955 — or in some other way were influenced by the mini mania of abduction reports from 1965 to 1975 that became a fashion in abduction reports in the 1980s.

The Ariel School Incident 1994

Yet, astonishingly, clinical workers have routinely encountered childhood alien abductions remembered by adults, and even encounters with strange playmates reported by children. I myself recall awaking at night when I was perhaps 4 years old to find a solitary small, old male figure standing next to my bed who coaxed me into an adjacent hallway where he caused me to levitate between floor and ceiling. Perturbed by this, I somehow returned to bed and pulled the covers over my head; the figure scratched at the sheets for a while and then was gone.

Events that might might be a dream are one thing, but events during broad daylight are quite another. The classic case of a "close encounter" reported by children that might have been an attempted abduction is the remarkable 1994 Ruwa ZWE 16 September "Ariel School Incident" witnessed by about 60 out of 250 primary level rural Zimbabwe school children at play outdoors during a Friday mid morning recess.

According to the evidence presented in the 2022 documentary Ariel Phenomenon by filmmaker Randall Nickerson, in recent documentary videos and in the recall testimony from adult witnesses such as Salma Siddick and Francis Chirimuuta, the event was powerfully affecting. A few students at play saw a bright streak or flashes in the sky moments before one or two dozen other students at the eastern end of the playing field saw an oblong or oval, "huge light" or "silver thing" suddenly appear perhaps 100 meters from their playground, hovering over or landed near an outcropping of rocks in a field of tall grass and trees. Some of the children saw glittering flashes and chromatic lights; a few saw small spheres of lights that orbited around the large form before suddenly disappearing; others saw one or two strangely moving figures about the stature of a 10 year old clad in glossy black suits with long black hair or enormous black eyes.

The manifestation persisted for a brief but unknown interval (two kids estimated it was between 2 to 5 minutes) until some of the younger students screamed in fear and all retreated en masse toward the school buildings. Meanwhile the observable "just went all of a sudden," up and away, and was gone. Nothing suspicious was found by parents who came at noon to collect their children and went out to search the roughly ¼ acre grassy field, nor during several searches that came after.

The following Monday the students made drawings of what they had seen; these depicted the observable either without physical props, with grass, between trees or behind trees, and either omit a figure or include one or two (with or without long black hair and/or huge staring eyes). These details suggest what the students saw but also their observing location when they saw it and the part of the event that they observed. The most stereotyped "flying saucer" drawings are mostly without visible figures and depict the object obscured behind trees; the fact that their view was so poor may explain why these are also the drawings that show a stereotypical "flying saucer" form, as if recall of cultural images assisted in the reproduction.

Students who saw the observable without obscuring trees recorded a luminous or metallic appearance, a form that was either oval or a spherical cap with the flat side facing downward. (This "domed disk" shape appears in many BLUE BOOK reports.) Many of these students saw one or two strange figures; one was "sitting on" the observable and the other was making bizarre, disjointed and repetitive "running" movements in front of it. Yet even here reports vary: some children said only that he "was just like a shadow, we just saw a shadow going". There was a transfixing quality to the experience of the staring black man that made it difficult for students to look away; a few triggered students described receiving a "telepathic" communication that seemed to come from his dark eyes. Many of the youngest children reacted with fear when the strangely moving "black man" seemed to approach them.

This is the testimony from the students and the teachers that was preserved on video. An actual survey of all witnesses — what each witness saw as disclosed within a standardized interview, all the drawings produced, what teachers observed, the study results of the site, pictures and measurements, and in particular what the child revealed to parents over the following weekend and how the parents reacted — all that would be available in any decent investigative report. But to my knowledge no such report exists, despite the diligent efforts by Charlie Wiser to transcribe and assemble the handmedown scraps of video news interviews, documentary films, drawings and investigator narratives.

First to interview the children after the teachers and parents was BBC news correspondent Tim Leach, who filmed brief testimony from three students on Monday. Next to arrive, on Tuesday, was the "local African UFO researcher" and MUFON field investigator Cynthia Hind in a flaming red print dress, accompanied by assistant Gunter Hofer, along with Leach who filmed the visit. Hind apparently perused the drawings, walked the field and interviewed 15 children but only summarized her investigation as two chatty articles in the 1995 UFO Afrinews (Nos. 11 & 12) and in her 1997 UFOs Over Africa. She boiled down the student testimony to single sentences, which characterizes the depth and rigor of her inquiry. Harvard psychiatrist and abductee researcher John Mack arrived two months later to film his interviews with a dozen of the children; he was convinced by their parallel testimonies and similar drawings. Unfortunately he drafted no report before his death a decade later in an auto accident; the John E. Mack Institute, under various flimsy pretexts, refuses access to any documents related to the Ariel School event.

These lapses in scientific oversight have left us without the context of reliable circumstantial evidence to support any specific interpretation. We are thrown back onto what we can reconstruct from the words and drawings of perhaps two dozen children. The most important observation to appear in interviews with the children is their remarkable assurance and willingness to report what they saw in filmed testimony to authoritative, scrutinizing adults. None of the adults who interacted with the children then or since has doubted their candor and sincerity. Some of the children were kept home on Monday to recover from the experience and some of them suffered post traumatic effects even into adult life. (One witness reported as an adult that she still had not told her husband about it.) Some of this enduring trauma may have been due to the parental disbelief and scoffing reported by some of the children or later fears of social stigma. But at the time most of the children were unafraid to speak and be filmed speaking, whether as group or in separate interrogations.

Like all the interviewers who actually met with the children, our confidence in the Ariel School event rests on our confidence that the children saw something extraordinary, unsettling and visionary. That is the best confirmed and also most important fact about the Ariel School incident.

Figure 36. The Ariel School incident. (left) Satellite image of the Ariel School, highlighting the playground and the estimated location of the observable, due north. Structures around the event area had not been built in 1994 but the pool and large trees were there. (right) Stellarium all sky recreation of the solar position, with zenith indicated, at 10:15 am local time (+2 UT; Zimbabwe has never adopted daylight savings time).

Yes, but what got the youngsters so agitated? The bunkist suggestion that the observable was a "passing VW bus filled with hippies" is a misinterpretation too gross even for children to make or a factual discussion to source with a link. Obviously an odd vehicle reflecting sunlight does not match what the children described or account for their response to what they saw at the time and much later in life.

Nevertheless, let's do the evaluation. At the stated distance of about 100 meters, a 4.5 meter long VW bus viewed from the side subtends 2.5° (the width of five full Moons) and a human head about 8 arcminutes. One clever student compared the observable's visible width to his thumb (presumably at arm's length) which implies an angular width of about 2° or a physical width of about 4 meters, just large enough for two diminutive figures. At that scale, recognition of human figures and vehicles would be easy in noon illumination for acute young eyes. The mowed track of grass under utility poles and the fields of tall grass nearby, clearly visible in the documentary video of the site, revealed no recent vehicle tracks, although a teacher and a student both describe an area of dead insects. Finally, the position of the Sun about 48° above the horizon and east northeast of the zenith, the slightly convex and nearly vertical windows of a VW bus, and the fact that the Sun was actually slightly behind the event location viewed from the playground (Figure 36) make brilliant window reflections implausible. Turn the bus sideways to the school, and sunlight reflected from the windows would be reflected into the ground on the opposite side of the bus from the Ariel School: the side visible from the school would be in shadow.

Whatever we may attribute to windshield glare or the pranks of costumed adolescents, we don't think these would produce such a strong experience in so many students that they would first panic en masse and then show a commitment to testify repeatedly about it. The disparities among the separate student accounts are consistent with honest witnesses trying to explain something extraordinary, unsettling and briefly observed. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest a hoax at the vehicle side of the event, or a contagious common misinterpretation, mass suggestion, or collective fabrication on the side of the students. The Ariel School event is unexplained, like any other genuine UFO event.

I cannot derive from the event description any kind of psychological or physical explanation. Several students reported feeling that the alien figures signaled with menace or invitation that they wanted the children to come with them. This suggests the phenomenon of alien abduction, which is itself unexplained and is therefore not an explanation. Described literally, the Ariel School event seems to me to be fundamentally a visionary or imagistic experience rather than a material event: a spectacle of flashing brightness, colored lights, entrancing movements and animate, bizarre figures that left no evidence behind.

A case worth comparison to the Ariel School event is the 1959 Boianai PNG 26/27 June event reported primarily by the Anglican missionary Father William Gill but witnessed by at least three other adult teachers and more than two dozen schoolchildren. There are official reports about this incident including written testimony by chatty Father Gill shortly after the sighting. I do not have space to explore this interesting event but point out that Gill's testimony appears competent and trustworthy and the bunkist explanation (by astronomer Donald Menzel) that Gill mistook the planet Venus because he wasn't wearing eyeglasses cannot begin to account for it. J. Allen Hynek investigated the sighting and discusses it as a "close encounter of the third kind" in his The UFO Experience (pp. 146-150). There are several parallels between the two cases, including the UFO appearance as a "dome on a disk with portholes and supports underneath", visible humanlike figures appearing at the top of the "space ship" who seemed happy to be observed (when waved to, they waved back), scintillating or colorful lights, accompanying smaller UFO, the very rapid apparent retreat of the UFO, and the fact that both events occurred in a location where a large number of children were gathered outdoors.

In fact, there are almost one dozen other reported schoolyard sightings, including another very similar episode — a large resting UFO and a humanoid figure in a "silverish suit" emerging from the craft — known as the 1977 Broad Haven GBR 4 February event, with fourteen child witnesses. But Ariel School was the last.

The Seal and the Signet

The inevitable "reality" questions that come up in these cases — "Did that really happen? Did the schoolchildren really see extraterrestrial beings?" — seems to me a misguided approach. I think of the problem this way: When you look at the bright red seal on a ceremonial document you can see the shadow of the signet face that was pressed into the hot wax, but not what metal or stone or bone or gem or glass or plastic the signet was made of. "Did that really happen?" is a question about the signet; all we have for examination is the seal of abductee testimony.

These alien near encounters have been impressed into the memory of the experiencers, and that fact merits our empathic hearing and clinical inquiry. But I do not know what form of material, energetic or psychological signet actually impressed those memories, and therefore I have no ground to judge as true or false any of the alien abduction reports.

A common psychological basis for alien abduction is implied by the fact that episodes of "lost time" are nothing new to humanity; many of us septuagenarians have even had a Lost Weekend. The abduction investigator Budd Hopkins, is quoted in Bryan's Close Encounters, linked above:

"The acquisition [abduction] most commonly takes place at night when people are sleeping," Hopkins reports. "The person is first paralyzed — although there seems to be different degrees of paralysis, people can generally move their eyes." The vast majority of abductees Hopkins has dealt with are then either llfted up a beam of light or floated up accompanied by "entities" into the awaiting spacecraft — a journey that for the most part, it seems to me, goes astonishingly unnoticed by the people outside whom one might otherwise expect to witness it. Hopkins tells of an Englishman he interviewed who spoke of having been floated through closed doors. A woman reported having been floated past eleven people at a Cape Cod cocktail party; the guests were are "frozen" as if in a state of suspended animation. [p.15]

A superficially similar and possibly causally related and medically documented mental states are the dissociative disorders or dissociative fugue:

The word [fugue] comes from the Latin word for "flight." People with dissociative fugue temporarily lose their sense of personal identity and impulsively wander or travel away from their homes or places of work. They often become confused about who they are and might even create new identities. Outwardly, people with this disorder show no signs of illness, such as a strange appearance or odd behavior. Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, conscious awareness, identity, and/or perception. When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can result. ... Most dissociative fugues are brief, lasting from less than a day to several months.

I'd rather not disparage a transient mental state as an illness or describe someone as ill who "shows no sign of illness". Perhaps a better framing concept would be hypnagogic or hypnopompic states that often involve a fearful paralysis and disturbing visions associated with sleep. Many if not most abduction reports revolve in some way around falling asleep or waking from sleep, bedrooms and beds, especially the abductions remembered from childhood or reported as teenagers. This makes the daylight Ariel School incident even more remarkable. Alien abduction is a far more involving experience than a dream, obviously, but the dissociative state well describes how abduction events appear from the outside — to the friends and family around the person who is recounting the experience.

For factual corroboration we might look for common features that could only come from a single signet, but again we tend to find only a general outline that produces contradictory details. It's within the hypothetical fugue, as the experience of the person in the presumed dissociative state, that the stories blossom with astonishing originality, from alien sexual intercourse to an alien bureaucracy to an alien hybridization project. Abductees describe different spacecraft and many different types of aliens; there are frequent reports involving sexual examinations or surgeries but with different medical or experimental tools; there are different alien interactions in different settings, different telepathic "messages" from the aliens. The abductees or experiencers can't even agree on the reason for their abduction: some say it is to harvest human genetic material in order to produce hybrid alien/human offspring, or to intervene in human affairs to drive us into internecine wars, or to participate with the military in secret MILAB research, or to lead us toward world peace.

Folklorist Thomas Bullard claims that abduction episodes nearly always include a harrowing medical examination and sometimes an intellectual or "message giving" conference, a tour of the space ship, or a theophany. This is basically a ritualistic interpretation: it resembles the narrative conventions that a cultural anthropologist might use to describe an adolescent rite of tribal passage. But these broad brush categories gather together very different details. Claims that the aliens implanted objects into the abductee's head or body have (in a very limited number of cases) reportedly produced bizarre metallic shrapnel without a matching insertion scar in the skin. Some show superficial wounds or medical complaints; a large proportion show symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

The abductees often describe a derangement of volition and/or memory and a dreamlike incomprehension as common elements; some describe levitation or out of body experiences. The predominant if not universal tonality is powerlessness and a component of paralysis, fear and physical pain. Many of these features resemble the reported elements of hypnagogic or hypnopompic episodes. Clinically, all that might describe a dissociative episode experienced from the inside. But it also constitutes, if we assume real agents acting in terms of human values, the commission of multiple criminal acts — occasional assault, torture and rape facilitated by the crime of kidnapping.

Eventually public interest in abductions and close encounters petered out, I think for three reasons. Most important was that a consensus finally formed that alien abductions don't really seem to harm the experiencers once the event is over, and abductions don't seem to happen to many people. (How many people is not a public fact, but it cannot be very large or the therapeutic services would multiply apace.) Also important is the stigma around the UFO topic in general. Less important is that the stories told by abductees such as Christa Tilton or Debbie Jordan-Krable, or alien corpse dissectors like Ray Santilli or AKA Jonathan Reed exceed even the most empathic credulity. This is never a fixed boundary of credibility as our current travails with vaccine microchips, stolen elections and the QAnon hope for the resurrection of JFK make plain. But it is a transgression and eventually provokes a consensus of disbelief, disinterest or coercive ridicule in the public at large.

A recent addition to the abduction theme of alien/human contact is the AAWSAP research into "dark spirits" or skinwalkers at Skinwalker Ranch, including research using the parapsychological method of "remote viewing." This topic is addressed in the book by Lacatski, Kelleher and Knapp (cited above), which curiously includes the topic of "skinwalkers" in its title but not in its index, usually a warning sign in a nonfiction book. The authors claim that visiting Skinwalker Ranch or encountering a UFO may cause you to "catch" a case of skinwalker — variously described as a menacing "huge wolf-like creature," a "large, black humanoid shape" or a "dark oval eight feet high" that produces a strong fear response. They examine these spirit infections with contagion models from epidemiology and attribute to occult forces the ability to reset videocameras or drain their batteries in order to avoid detection. But the bulk of the evidence linking skinwalkers to UFO or to adverse health effects is indirect and again often rests on single witness testimony. Skinwalkers may be an emerging area of UFO research, and possibly connected to the NDAA stipulation to study UFO health effects, but at present no skinwalkers have been observed to emerge from UFO related phenomena.

John Mack and Alien Authorship

Academic psychiatrist John Mack reported his interviews with over six dozen experiencers in Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens and he paints a diagnostic profile of apparently trustworthy and competent witnesses bewildered by inexplicable experiences:

I was quickly impressed with the fact that they were discriminating individuals, largely of sound mind, who were as inclined to doubt their experiences as was I. Furthermore, their experiences, which they related with intense and appropriate emotion, were consistent with those of other "abductees" or "experiencers" whom they did not know, including details not presented in the media. They were reluctant to talk about what seemed to have happened to them, and, with rare exceptions, had nothing to gain and a good deal to lose. Clinically speaking, these individuals were talking about something that had really taken place. The only problem was that what they were telling me about was not, from the standpoint of my view of reality, possible.

Remarkably, Mack discovered that many of the earliest remembered abductions occurred in childhood, when the experiences are not painful but playful; and he found that abductions sometimes run in families and tend to occur in unusually attuned or "sensitive" persons. The fact that abduction/contact experiences can appear early in childhood seems to rule out a cultural or "copy cat" explanation for those reports. It implies a susceptibility to abduction that is inherited or shaped by early development and parenting.

This leads to another typology of abduction devised by Dr. Leo Sprinkle. After 24 years of working as a regression hypnotist and psychotherapist with abductees, he proposed a PACTS model of five progressive stages in the abductee/contactee experience: (1) preparation (family and cultural experiences of ESP and/or spiritual contacts, including childhood visitations by what Sprinkle called "spiritual beings"), (2) abduction (UFO sightings and/or involuntary abduction experiences initiated by spiritual beings), (3) contact (consensual visitations as an adult, initiated by spiritual beings), (4) training (communication of specific messages, or instruction for a mission or task), and (5) service (cooperation with a program originating in the spiritual beings, such as channeling verbal or written information or providing instruction or assistance to others).

Garry Nolan has suggested that UFO experiencers have an enlarged basal ganglia, and this could be an inherited characteristic. In any case, alien abductions have been interpreted as an anomalous experience (a clinical euphemism for a wide range of paranormal experiences) that tend to appear after traumatic life experiences, or as an anomalous trauma that can produce PTSD type symptoms or the budding of a spiritual outlook — a greater abductee involvement with spirituality, environmental responsibility, and concerns for the future of humanity. As with the variety of observable morphology, we seem to be dealing with a poorly defined cluster of psychological causes and effects.

Professor Mack took the abductee accounts seriously and concluded that abductees believe in the events sincerely. This psychological impact without material evidence is the bare fact, and is very striking. Mack does not emphasize the inherent absurdity of a story that we must assume "had really taken place;" he claims to lack a conceptual box, a "view of reality" or outlook to contain the story. I also take abductee accounts seriously on grounds of compassion and care, but my difficulties are not with the reality of the reports but with the logic of the alien process and the "authorship" of the experience.

Let's assume the aliens exist, take at face value the capabilities ascribed to them, and examine the coherence of the experiencer narratives. Since aliens reportedly can produce unconsciousness — some abductees describe nearby friends or family members as falling "deeply asleep" during the abduction — why is it necessary for aliens to appear at all, or inflict excruciating surgical pain on experiencers, or present abductees with the supposed offspring of their hybridization? Why ignorantly announce that the abductee will remember nothing, when that is factually untrue — unless it is alien irony to say that what abductees "remember" is not what actually happened?

An "alien" capable of controlling or erasing human consciousness displaces the analogy of the wax seal with the analogy of authorship. At least the seal can convey the exact size of signet and fine detail of its surface, but for someone hearing about the alien abduction, the author is a complete mystery. Once you concede that aliens can control your body and your mind — can paralyze, levitate, influence you telepathically to stop resisting, stage bizarre but visionary events, inflict pain and humiliation, and erase or distort memory — then the entire alien abduction experience is effectively fictionalized. If aliens can control your will and put images into your mind, then anything and everything about the episode can be reasonably described as a form of implant, suggestion, delusion or neural malfunction. The "author" of the story is not the "experiencer" who narrates it. In that case, it's the processes and ultimate purposes of the playwright aliens that become the uncertainty, which the truthfulness and competence of the abductees cannot help us to unravel.

The Drake Equation

Whatever may be our attitude toward ufology here on Earth, we have to confront the possibility that technologically advanced alien beings may exist on a planetary system near or far away. There are different ways to come at that issue but the method most frequently used is the Drake equation.

In 1961 (the same year as the Hill abduction) the radio astronomer Dr. Francis Drake convened a meeting of ten professional and occasional scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank (WV) to discuss the possibility of detecting radio transmissions from extraterrestrial civilizations. At this meeting Drake presented his equation as "all the things you needed to know to predict how hard it's going to be to detect extraterrestrial life."

The Drake equation is not a scientific statement in any standard sense and it was originally a heuristic, a "recipe for thinking" to guesstimate the probability we could detect radio signals from alien civilizations. However, it is now more commonly used as "a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy."

The seven parameters of the heuristic, as described at the SETI Institute, are:

Na: the number of detectable alien civilizations =
1. R*: the galactic rate of "Sunlike" star formation per year
2. fp: the fraction of those stars with planets
3. ne: the fraction of planets, per planetary system, that could develop life
4. fl: the fraction of those planets that actually develop life
5. fi: the fraction of life bearing planets that develop intelligent life (civilizations)
6. fc: the fraction of civilizations that emit or send detectable signals into space
7. L: the average length of time (in years) that they send detectable signals.

These parameters are stated as frequencies that result in an estimated number of civilizations that might be detected by a radio telescope on Earth. The conjectures derived at the 1961 meeting were between 1000 to 100 million such detections; Drake himself suggested 10,000. That's an uncertainty of six orders of magnitude, which by itself means that you don't have a reliable estimate — or, as the SETI Institute itself admits: "the Drake Equation cannot be 'solved' or even accurately calculated."

One problem is that the civilizations that might be detected by radio transmissions would be less than all the civilizations that exist, because they lack electromagnetic methods of transmission, do not think communication a worthwhile endeavor, cloak their transmissions to remain hidden from other civilizations, or are simply too distant for signals to be detected. These contingencies illustrate the difficulty in making a useful estimate because they involve not merely the existence of other species but insight into their historical circumstances, their interest in extraterrestrial communication, our detection capabilities, and so on.

(This is incidentally a topic of fierce debate among scientists about the SETI proposal to beam messages into space to signal our presence. I am firmly in the camp of those who think it is a terrifically stupid idea, not just as a feckless waste of science funding. The claim by Douglas Vakoch that "there may be civilizations out there that refuse to reveal their existence unless we make it clear that we want to make contact" is possibly true, but as a biological and military behavioral strategy cloaking implies an ambush predator at least as much as a defensive burrower. And it begs the question: if all those advanced civilizations we think are out there have unanimously refused to reveal their existence, what is it they realize that we don't?)

By tweaking premises or adding new parameters, the Drake heuristic can be applied to estimate the number of technologically advanced civilizations that exist in the Galaxy independent of our ability to detect them. These estimates range from "billions" of advanced alien civilizations to the dour estimate by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord that "When the [Drake] model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it." This study is especially interesting as it provides an analysis based on schematic probability distributions for each parameter and a Monte Carlo meta analysis of previously published point estimates for those distributions. When combined with the bayesian prior that no other intelligent civilization has yet been detected, the analysis converges on a probability between 53% to 99.6% that we are alone in the Galaxy (it's more likely that we are alone than not alone), and between 39% to 85% that we are alone in the universe.

Despite its inherent incapacity to produce a useful conclusion, noodling the Drake heuristic is a simple amusement I've done myself. While I don't document my assumptions here, I concluded that there are less than a dozen advanced civilizations in the entire Galaxy in comoving time — where "advanced" means at level of Newton's Principia mathematica or early modern science and technology. My conjecture is therefore more sympathetic to the view of evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, in his classic debate with Carl Sagan: getting the biological project of evolution as far as it has gotten on Earth is actually, quoting Mayr, "an improbability of astronomical dimensions." Part of Mayr's argument is that continuous extinction is an evolutionary given, yet civilizations advanced enough for interstellar capabilities would seemingly require many millennia, if not a million years, to develop interstellar travel. Another part is that, as a species attribute, "high intelligence is not at all favored by natural selection." As Mayr points out, of an estimated 50 billion species that have appeared on Earth, only one (us) is known to have evolved an instrumental civilization. But Mayr's most important point is that those who assign a high probability of contact with an alien civilization "are almost exclusively astronomers, physicists and engineers" who are unaware that the prospect of such contact is "essentially a matter of biological and sociological factors".

Using our own planet as example — the only example we have — it took evolution roughly 2.4 billion years to evolve humans, if we start with the cyanobacteria that transformed the carbon dioxide of the Earth's primordial atmosphere into the 21% oxygen content that is integral to the chemistry of most minerals and essential to the metabolism of carbon based life; or it took only 540 million years to evolve humans, if we start with the Pre-Cambrian emergence of complex life forms.

Clearly, the evolution of complex life is time consuming. Geologic time scales rule out advanced civilizations from planets orbiting the few percent of stars that have a mass of 3 suns or more. Stars live longer when they are smaller because they burn through their smaller supply of fuel at a much slower rate due to the weaker gravitational pressure and lower temperature at their core. Massive stars die as novae within a few hundred million years before life can take first breath. These are simple examples of the interdependency between life and astrophysics: bacteria can create a planet's atmospheric oxygen and civilizations can advance far enough to raise the planet's surface temperature, but they both require the longevity of a small, solar type star to do it.

Astronomers Erik Petigura, Andrew Howard and Geoffrey Marcy estimate from the Kepler observatory exoplanet discoveries that about one in five "Sun-like" or main sequence stars shepherd planets with a mass between 1 to 8 times that of the Earth that orbit within the temperate "habitable zone" where the surface water is neither ice nor steam. Given that there are around 100 billion stars in the Galaxy, about one in five of these stars are likely solar type stars, and about one in five of these stars entrain earthlike planets, then there are probably 4 billion potential destinations for our future intragalactic exploration.

But, again taking our Earth as an example, across that 540 million years of evolution at least five mass extinction events have occurred on Earth and each of them radically transformed the global ecology of life and one or two came very close to exterminating vertebrate life entirely. And this is one example of the many contingencies that evolutionary biologist Peter Ward and astrobiologist Donald Brownlee use to explain Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe. The gist is that many complex and lucky factors are necessary to support the evolution of cellular life, even moreso the evolution of a technological species. A "rocky planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a sunlike star," as some astronomers put it, is hardly enough. Ward and Brownlee argue for a large number of conditions that can affect whether life appears and has time to evolve in the universe, including:

• Mass of star – F, G or K (called "solar type") star
• Orbital distance from star – in the "goldilocks zone," in an approximately circular orbit and not tidally locked to orbital period
• Planetary mass – able to hold atmosphere, produce volcanic activity and a strong, stable magnetosphere, but not a "giant" planet (possibly ½ to 8 Earth masses)
• Atmospheric content – sufficient carbon to produce life, but not enough to produce runaway greenhouse
• Ocean – not too little, not too much
• Evolution of life – the ecological conditions necessary to create life are not known but must be present
• Sufficient oxygen – evolution of cyanobacteria to release oxygen from water
• Plate tectonics – create land masses, expose rock to balance CO₂ and O₂ through silicate and carbonate weathering
• Tilt of planet axis – sufficient to produce mild seasons
• Large moon – of the right mass and orbital distance to stabilize the Earth's tilt, absorb impacting bodies, produce mild tides
• Jupiter mass neighbor – to deflect impacting comets, asteroids
• Type of galaxy – large and old enough to have produced a sufficient proportion of higher elements, and at a low stellar density
• Position in a galaxy – not in radiation intense core or metal poor outer zones

And we often ignore the inherent difficulties that result from the highly complex social structures necessary for technological advancement. Anthropologist Joseph Tainter has suggested that the repeated collapse of complex societies occurs because innovating more complex ways to do things, the hallmark of advanced civilizations, eventually becomes too complex for our benefit. Eventually innovations increase the complexity costs more than they provide the benefit of a complexity solution, and the societies "collapse" or radically simplify through fragmentation, decentralization and a throwback loss of cultural capital. And other threats have been identified that make technology itself toxic: extinction due to biotechnology, artificial general intelligence (AGI), or that classic duck n' cover, nuclear winter. There are many obstacles on the path not just to continuous social and technological advances but to a truly long term, sustainable level of technical and cultural achievement.

UFO commentators often dismiss all these issues with the absurdly breezy claim that "billions of planets orbiting billions of stars in billions of galaxies means that there must be life elsewhere in the universe". Well, maybe. Setting aside that humans are ridiculously bad at estimating empirical probabilities, as a statistical statement this is empty handwaving. Real statisticians will ask us to clearly specify what fraction of those billions of planets will be hospitable to organic chemistry, to specify what constitutes "life" (an aquatic unicellular organism? a highly evolved terrestrial species?), to specify what distance from Earth is necessary to make contact plausible, and so on. The same statement is asserted by both extremes in the UFO debate: by alienists, to argue their claims of alien visitation are credible; by bunkists, to establish their rational bona fides to concede that life might exist elsewhere but that doesn't prove it has visited us here. Any pseudoprobabilistic argument that serves both partisan extremes while serving up uncertainties of 6 orders of magnitude has nothing credible to contribute to an impartial inquiry.

This brings the extraterrestrial hypothesis to its last three difficulties. Alienists take for granted the existence of advanced civilizations and turn to the transport puzzle instead. "How did the aliens get here? — Supra lightspeed travel? Wormhole tunnels through spacetime? Interdimensional passage of a higher consciousness? The "'spooky action at a distance' of quantum physics?" The basic lack of factual support for these proposals aside, the pragmatic starting problem isn't how the UFO propulsion actually works but how the UFO generates enough power for the observed UFO flight capabilities. And once you've solved that problem, how aliens were able to find us from a great distance and then determine that it would be worthwhile to make the journey.

The second stumble comprises all the known obstacles to near lightspeed velocities, including the physical collision energies with particles of the interstellar medium and the cultural burdens of relativistic time. Given the observed acceleration UFO can attain, near lightspeed velocities might be practical — assuming the issues of collision avoidance and ablation by interstellar gas and dust could be resolved. But relativistic voyagers from a distant star system would travel decades or even centuries into the future of the home planet and many generations would have lived and died before their return. This raises considerably the social costs of planning and investing resources for such a journey, and the personal sacrifices by the crew to make it, which increases further the practical difficulties of the venture that, as Mayr wisely observed, have more to do with sociology than with physics.

The last problem, whatever your preference for the potential number of home planets and assuming all advanced civilizations will naively beam their greetings ... is that we don't detect anything. This is termed the "Fermi paradox" after the nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi who chatted the topic of extraterrestrials with colleagues during a lunch at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM) in 1950, arrived at the usual, optimistically huge estimate of the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Galaxy, then blurted out, "But where is everybody?" According to Herbert York, one of those present:

[Fermi] "followed up with a series of calculations on the probability of earthlike planets, the probability of life given an earth, the probability of humans given life, the likely rise and duration of high technology, and so on. He concluded on the basis of such calculations that we ought to have been visited long ago and many times over."

— an anecdote that seems to give priority to Fermi for the heuristic equation. Yet despite six decades of searching with different types of astronomical sensors, not a single sign or signal of life has been detected anywhere in the Galaxy. Zilch. I add that there is no trace of any fossil life or residue of biotic chemistry on any of the planets and satellites explored so far within our system, nor trace in the spectroscopic signatures from any exoplanets either. The universe as we currently observe and understand it is not only almost entirely empty of observable (atomic) matter but is inhospitably barren as well.

But who knows, maybe we won the lottery. There is ufologist buzz about the recently discovered planet Proxima Centauri b (the lowercase indicates an orbiting component), with a mass of about 1.6 earths and orbiting the star nearest to our solar system — Hipparcos number 70890, a magnitude 11, measly dim and stormy type M or "red dwarf" flare star in the southern constellation of Centaurus. The orbital period is 11 days at an orbital distance of around 7 million kilometers. At that distance the star, which is only half again larger than Jupiter, would appear about 1.6° or more than three times the apparent size of our Sun. This may seem scorching, but M stars shine with a primarily infrared glow, like a good campfire, that requires a closer orbital distance to melt surface water. And these stars, the most numerous of all types in the Galaxy, are calculated to shine frugally for more than 500 billion years, far longer than more massive and profligate stars like our Sun, and this sip of eternity would give advanced civilizations time to evolve, fall back, learn the painful lessons of cooperation and advance farther. Perhaps a possible radio signal from the system is only human radio interference. Or perhaps Fermi had it right after all.

What impresses me at the end of this evaluation is not that extraterrestrial aliens are likely or unlikely to be here, or that probabilities lead to probability distributions: it's that our conclusions summarize our preconceptions. The Drake equation is, as a heuristic for thinking, provocative but hardly conclusive; but cited as a source of knowledge it is merely pseudoscience. Yes, we have good estimates for astronomical parameters like the stellar birth rate (between 1 to 2 stars per year) or the proportion of stars that are M type: trustworthy methods of analysis were applied to relevant and reliable observations. But the rest we have to "guesstimate" as facts that we do not actually know and have not observed but that we justify with our subjective and conjectural claims about plausibility and probability.

Dress it however you like, the Drake equation is storytelling that can be deployed in support of an enthusiastic or pessimistic outlook. It requires us to fabricate "facts" about a host of scientific issues and pretend we are dealing with knowledge. But we don't. To estimate "the fraction of planets with life that develop intelligent life (civilizations)," we simply look at the ceiling, scrunch our brow like Skinny Bob and ask ourselves, "Hmm ... how often does a planet of eukaryotes evolve creatures that can worship a king?"


The bunkist faction in the UFO discussion is the antithesis of the alienist faction. Bunkism originates in a reluctant and conservative response to the unexplained, temperamentally opposed to the conjectural enthusiasm of alienists. Bunkists have no theory to explain UFO phenomena because they assert that UFO phenomena do not actually exist. All the evidence advanced in favor of UFO is actually evidence of human misperception, misattribution, or the naughty impulse to deceive. These things certainly happen, but bunkism dogmatically advances these interpretations under the banner of intellectual "skepticism."

Before diving in I need to bracket my possibly pugnacious labeling and interpretation of bunkism with this admission: this is a difficult topic for me to address personally. It's a discussion I have come back to repeatedly with doubts whether I have been fair or even factual in my assessment. I must plead nolo contendere if the charge is personal failure, if the judge will reflect on my conception of where bias must lead us all: a credible and competent witness. So now I make my case.

The practice and high reputation of skepticism has a long and noble pedigree across the entire span of western philosophy. However, skepticism is not an explicit philosophical position about good versus evil or the true nature of things. At its core, skepticism adopts a minimalist confidence in the human capability to know the true nature of things. But skepticism was originally an ancient medical praxis, developed by doctors of Byzantium, as a healing therapy of mind that is essentially what we know as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. The 2nd century CE Greek doctor and skeptic philosopher Sextus Empiricus claimed this inconclusive and agnostic outlook causes us to "cease to dogmatize" and thereby find a healthier, "untroubled and tranquil condition of soul." Or as modern CBT therapists put it, patients learn to "recognize their negative thoughts and inaccurate perceptions for what they are" which enables them to "think more realistically and feel better emotionally."

"Dogmatize" means in this context that you feel certain about the truth of what you say or believe, "negative" means that the thoughts bring you pain or dysfunction, and "inaccurate perception" means that you really don't know what you're talking about and what you believe is false, but you are unaware of your predicament. Apparently the good doctors saw this syndrome frequently enough in the human condition to search for methods to heal it.

Skepticism does not rely on Aristotelian rules of logic that allow you to reach conclusions; instead it relies on a toolkit of "what if" modes or tropes that illustrate how appearances are relative and judgments contingent, which permits us to refrain from conclusions. It is sometimes described as devaluing any opinion or judgment lacking an actual connection to personal experience or sense perception ("appearance"), but since several of the modes impugn the reliability of the senses, for example when "the same appearance can be produced by two different things", this interpretation misses the point. The actual goal is to talk us down from dogmatic certitude, emotional projection, unsubstantiated assumptions, overreliance on inconclusive evidence and, most importantly, from beliefs that are, after all, just beliefs.

The skeptical outlook was one of the crucial Enlightenment tools that disarmed religious authority and the explanations for the physical world based on monotheistic dogma. But in our era the concept of a "skeptic" has atrophied into a synonym for dogmatic disbelief. Instead, I suggest that the UFO topic has attracted three different kinds of self described "UFO skeptic," which I shorthand as debunker, pseudoskeptic and bunkist. What distinguishes them in my approach is how they engage with evidence. Debunkers critically but fairly evaluate the evidence as such, pseudoskeptics disregard the evidence because they already know what is true or false, and bunkists uncritically deflect, distort or attack the evidence in order to censor it from fair scrutiny.

Debunker. The first form, UFO debunkers, can be recognized because they carefully evaluate the evidence as such and arrive at reasonably expressed interpretations using all available evidence.

A debunker interprets the evidence for any claim using the tools of critical or commonsense inquiry, all available relevant evidence, technical expertise or information where necessary, and possible implications of the way the evidence was obtained.

Debunkers attempt to uncover hoaxes or correct misinterpretations of evidence, and they do the work necessary to document their conclusions. Among the tools commonly used by UFO debunkers are aviation records, shipping logs, comparative photos, forensic photoanalysis or computer imaging analysis, perspective or trajectory analyses, maps, graphs, physical evidence, public documents, technical reports and other sources of information in order to identify the commonplace source of a reported event or sensor record. Debunkers operate through many different channels including books, lectures, blogs and videos, but many of them debate the evidence touching controversial issues at the Metabunk web site, founded by Mick West, a former videogame developer and one of the site's most prolific contributors.

Thanks to the debunkers, we have very plausible alternative explanations for what were until recently promoted by ufologists as inexplicable or dispositive phenomena but that now appear more likely to be misidentifications of more common things (cf. Figure 27):

• A UAP video made by the Mexican Air Force appears to show a fleet of UFO moving through distant clouds, but this has been convincingly challenged by Ben McGee as methane flares at distant oil platforms.
• Another widely reproduced video from a Chilean coastal patrol helicopter appears to show an apparently twin lobed UFO releasing a plume of "hot" material, but careful analysis from several sources, including the French GEIPAN and SIGMA-2, indicate it was actually a ↆ distant jet aircraft, most likely Iberian Airline flight 6830.
• A goof Twitter post claiming to be a James Webb telescope photo of Proxima Centauri was quickly debunked by many as more likely a slice of chorizo.
• A recently recorded civilian video (celebrated for the witness exclamation "Ima analyze this when I get home") is plausibly debunked as a drone instead.
• The photograph of a UFO taken by a Costa Rican mother "who ran outside when her kids started to yell" turns out to be a photograph of a UFO simulation from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics closing ceremony.

In these and many other cases, a superficially plausible attribution has been challenged by placing it in a larger context and a wider grasp of information. These UFO debunkers provide an indispensible service in UFO research to weed out some of the false information that can distort our view of the phenomena. But they also illustrate how necessary it is to place evidence in a wider context that supports its interpretation.

Aren't UFO debunkers actual skeptics? Well, they are a mixed tribe. Some admit the existence of the category of things "I don't know what that is or how to interpret it," and are comfortable to use that judgment as necessary. Others betray an unskeptical prejudice against UFO evidence when they conclude about what the evidence shows. They limit their interpretations to commonplace objects or known natural phenomena, a form of dogmatism that causes them seek answers only within a "known" domain of alternatives (the problem of blind men and the elephant). The last is that they do not debunk with equal energy the obviously false explanations for UFO evidence and are reluctant to declare that a certain piece of evidence remains genuinely unexplained. But these are quibbles next to the invaluable help of the majority of debunkers in shielding UFO research from many kinds of misinformation.

Pseudoskeptic. The second kind of UFO skeptic can be identified by a single trait: dogmatism.

A pseudoskeptic interprets the evidence for a claim not by evaluating the evidence itself but by asserting a priori knowledge of truth, infallible judgment, or disbelief of the witness.

These are very often the "skeptics" of contemporary discourse, and my exemplar for the pseudoskeptic outlook is the "skeptic" Michael Shermer. Although many pseudoskeptics profess with the slogan popularized by Carl Sagan that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (a retort that philosopher David Hume first leveled against a Jesuit priest), when it comes to making extraordinary claims without any evidence at all Shermer shows he can swing that way too, in his Why People Believe Weird Things:

We think magically because we have to think causally. We make Type 1 and 2 Errors because we need to make Type 1 and 2 Hits. We have magical thinking and superstitions because we need critical thinking and pattern-finding. The two cannot be separated. Magical thinking is a necessary by product of the evolved mechanism of causal thinking. ... Believers in UFOs, alien abductions, ESP, and psychic phenomena have committed a Type 1 Error in thinking: they are believing a falsehood. Creationists and Holocaust deniers have made a Type 2 Error in thinking: they are rejecting a truth. It is not that these folks are ignorant or uninformed; they are intelligent but misinformed. Their thinking has gone wrong. (p. xxv)

Disregarding his muddled claims about magical and critical thinking as a useful way to analyze human cognition, it is dogmatic and therefore not skeptical to claim with certainty to know truth from falsehood, as Shermer does by sorting false positives from false negatives; or claim that human judgment can infallibly choose the right and true, as Shermer seems to believe of himself (and of those who agree with him); or that believers suffer from defective thinking, as Shermer explicitly asserts: "their thinking has gone wrong." Those are the three common features of the pseudoskeptic position: declare certain knowledge, assert infallible judgment, and stigmatize dissenters.

The objectionable aspect of the pseudoskeptical outlook isn't primarily in the claims to valid knowledge or infallible judgment: we all operate within beliefs or knowledge that we accept without challenge. The problem arises when we use that outlook to disparage other people or dissenting points of view. A Metabunk post by Mick West illustrates this issue:

As a skeptic, I often have an experience that many people will find familiar. I'm talking to someone. They tell me something I know to be wrong. I explain why they are wrong. They refuse to believe me. I continue to try, sometimes over days or weeks. They still won't get it, and sometimes their false belief becomes even stronger. What is wrong with them?

I can imagine many aphorisms engraved on the ceiling beams of Michel de Montaigne's library, but What is wrong with them? isn't one of them. What amuses me here is the very unskeptical persistence in behavior that is clearly counterproductive and makes "false belief even stronger." The dogmatism appears in the unwavering confidence to know the truth and in the willingness to judge rather than listen and, most amusingly, in the claim to skepticism itself. This is not skepticism, because skepticism seeks to "cease to dogmatize."

An amusing pseudoskeptic "tell" is that they will freely concede that — of course — life must exist elsewhere in the universe: "given the billions of planets orbiting billions of stars in the billions of galaxies in the universe, surely life has appeared in many other places besides Earth." But this is usually a feint. Although they claim to be open to the inconsequential conjecture that life exists in other star systems, and even appear openminded with regard to the "possibility of UFO," this openmindedness does not prevent them from announcing that you are obviously wrongheaded if you think you observe a UFO near Earth. What is wrong with you?

A second pseudoskeptic distraction is to treat claims about UFO as claims about extraterrestrial aliens and space vehicles, when very often claims about UFO are really just ... claims about UFO. The middle ground of objective facts — UFO can be characterized and documented but still lack a scientific explanation — gets conveniently lost when either alienists or bunkists drag aliens into the discussion. Yes, to judge from posts in the Reddit UFO forum, many people do assume that UFO are an "alien technology", but making this assumption at the outset (on either side of the issue) derails an impartial inquiry with an alien red herring. Even if aliens actually are flying UFO, aliens are not what we are trying to explain.

Bunkist. This second form of disfigured "skepticism" is the more destructive to impartial inquiry because it is motivated by a preconceived intention to disregard, distort or discredit the evidence. It appears in full flower in "skeptic" social groups that have given up interest in a fair examination of the evidence — flat Earthers, election deniers, QAnon followers, vaccine deniers, many UFO alienists and "UFO skeptics." The tactics used to defend their dogmatic beliefs are similar across them all.

A bunkist rejects the evidence for a claim by deflecting attention away from the evidence, misinterpreting or misrepresenting the evidence, ignoring relevant contextual corroboration, or impugning the credibility or integrity of witnesses.

The term "bunk" is a 20th century euphemism for bullshit, and philosopher Henry Frankfort defines bullshit as a claim made without concern for whether it is actually true. Bunkists do not take the bullshit out of claims from evidence, as debunkers do; bunkists put bullshit claims of their own onto the evidence. Let's look at different ways this is done.

A common bunkist tactic is to deflect attention from the evidence by saying it is insignificant. A time tested way to do this is the "expertise rinse" or appeal to authority. The appeal to authority means we don't look at the evidence for ourselves, much less judge for ourselves, because someone more intelligent, skilled or experienced has done that for us.

A Pakistan International Airline pilot recently videoed a UAP and reported it as appropriate, and the "official" explanation was soon delivered from "Punjab University space scientist Javed Sami" that it was a lenticular cloud. If you accept the authority of universities and you are not familiar with the appearance of lenticular clouds then that story might induce you to ignore the report without examining the video evidence for yourself. But if you actually look at the pilot video you find it provides a very clear view of the observable — visually small, self luminous, in focus, at high altitude, apparently hovering or orienting to the airliner in a clear blue sky — and you hear its evident strangeness in the repeated exclamations from the flight crew to "keep making the video".

Debunkers who sincerely wish to fight against misinformation should be quick to point out that the observable is certainly not anything resembling an actual lenticular cloud. So clearly the "lenticular cloud" statement was made without concern for whether it is true. But there are also the peculiar facts that Javed Sami does not have a doctorate and is an untenured lecturer; the field of "space science" seems quite vague, especially as this was declared to be an atmospheric event; and just because you work at a university does not mean you an expert in the question asked (Sami teaches on air and noise pollution). So the Pakistani lenticular cloud illustrates that bullshit is effective only because we also have no concern for whether a statement is true. We demonstrate this disregard when we don't ask if the expertise is credible and we don't bother to look at the evidence for ourselves.

But if required to actually look at the evidence, the least effort bunkist response is to deflect attention from any contextual or corroborating support, interpreting the evidence "at face value". The difficulty here is that any evidence in isolation is vulnerable to subjective counterargument. A very popular tactic is interpretation by simple visual analogy, the notorious "seagulls" interpretation of the February, 1953 Robertson Panel. The esteemed members of the panel disregarded several hours of technical analysis from military image specialists who plotted the bizarre flight and calculated the high speed of observables in the 1952 TREMONTON film (Figure 12). The panelists viewed the film once before lunch and declared: "Well, it certainly looks like seagulls to me" (Swords & Powell, p. 192). Here is an instructive "seagulls" bunking of the 2019 USS OMAHA (2) video from Mick West in his "bunkist" posture:

"And it shows what looks like uh two sets of lights here and they k– both, kind of like a pair of lights and they're flashing. Camera appears to be really zoomed in ... And the things move around they kind of look red sometimes but then sometimes they look white so I think the redness is mostly just uh, kind of an artifact of the, the camera, uh, automatically setting the white balance or something like that, you see them whitish here ... Here you see, uh, two white lights, this is probably the most in focus that they get, and then they go out of focus again ... Zooming around like that you the whites, two white lights, and we also see flashing lights as well which seems to me to be consistent with, uh, navigation lights of, of a plane. So what this looks like to me initially, just from, just looking at this video not knowing anything else, it looks like they're landing lights of, uh of planes that are far away. Uh, it could also of course be drones of some sort that have these types of lights, but it kind of reminds me of, of a plane, just the way the lights are flashing."

The claim to exclude context is explicit when West disregards "knowing anything else" that would distract from "just looking at this video." Yet even without context, the video (linked above) shows that the two "aircraft" turn on their "landing lights" at exactly the same time (at t = 0:13 and 0:26), and in the second instance this corresponds to the moment that the "third aircraft" passing above them loses its red color and begins blinking in white only. How to account for this temporal coincidence, which is not exactly synchronized (as it would be in a camera chromaticity adjustment) but seems to imply a command and response coordination among the three observables? Because these details are inconvenient to explain, West ignores them and possibly influences us to ignore them too.

To validate this interpretation, West uses public data (t = 4:20) to locate the USS OMAHA south of San Nicholas Island, about 130 kilometers [80 miles] from any airport, and highlights aircraft flight data that shows airplanes in that area approaching from the west along a single transpacific air route. But this is only more bunk, because West fails to engage with this evidence. Looking west toward two approaching aircraft would place them even farther from the nearest airport, perhaps 150 km [90 miles]. They are clearly approaching at an altitude much lower than the cruising minimum of 10 kilometers [33,000 feet] — and assuming the typical 3° descent angle and a 150 km distance to an airport, actual planes would be descending to around 6.5 kilometers [21,000 ft.]. West also requires that they already have landing lights turned on (although regulations require this only within 16 kilometers [10 miles] of the landing strip) and a malfunctioning camera to explain why "white" landing lights might be a highly saturated red. And, finally, we have a citizen video from a cruise liner captain, which lacks an event date and location, that shows a bilobed target, flashing red and then white, observed over the ocean in broad daylight: it is not an airliner.

Across several carefully compiled and edited videos West "debunks" the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) video by suggesting the rotation of the observable is in the optical system, not in the source, and we only see the blurry glare of jet exhaust in a plane flying away from us. This he demonstrates by showing a sufficiently strong glare will appear to rotate in rotating dirty optics, which assumes the unavailable fact that the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) optics were dirty or poorly maintained. A substantial refutation of this bunkist "jet exhaust" interpretation is available in this video, with images from a more advanced type of ATFLIR pod comparable to the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) system. This produces much higher quality images than the systems examined by West and makes the "engine flare" conjecture seem much less credible. And 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) begins with the object in WHT HOT where it has a softly bordered, compact and irregular form that does not appear at all like the streaky glare of a jet plane engine (cf. Figure 21).

However, radiation that is faint in one band of the EM spectrum can glare in another, and some kind of infrared glare does seem involved. Former UAPTF chief scientist Travis Taylor explains that the image is saturated by the high temperature of the observable, estimated around 660°C. at 10 km. And the glare analysis is supported by Lt. Graves's description of a "beam glare" directed at his ATFLIR system during his own UFO encounter. So "glare" actually suggests this is a valid UFO video. And when the range of the observable is assumed to match the pilot testimony that the observable was around 10 km [6 miles] distant, the trajectory of the observable describes a hyperagile reversal of motion. This extensive analysis by Yannick Peings and Marik von Rennenkampff presented to the 2023 AIAA Aviation Forum provides a highly detailed and fully documented trajectory analysis.

And I still haven't addressed the bunkist refusal to examine the context. The 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) video is by consensus reporting part of an intercept that included both the 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) observable and an echelon flight of five "cube in sphere" UFO (which prompts the exchange in 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1), at 0:05, "There's a whole fleet of them, look on the SA." —"My gosh!"); nor that such unidentifiable things were observed daily by pilots over the eastern seaboard; nor that pilots had filed air hazard reports because of them. It omits that every military and civilian aircraft flying in a territorial or restricted "whiskey" airspace would have a transponder that would identify the aircraft to any radar interrogation, which this target reportedly did not. It is contradicted by the aircrew observations that the observables do show a change of aspect "indicative of rotation or uncertainty" that allowed the pilots to distinguish the UFO from the FLIR image of human aircraft. West disparages all that by suggesting, without seeming "perhaps" to actually suggest it, that 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) is really a training video to illustrate a common defect of imagery in gimbal sensor mounts that was released by the Navy under a false identification for some nefarious purpose, or that the New York Times withheld an imperceptibly higher resolution 2015 USS ROOSEVELT (1) video in order to discourage people from analyzing the images — extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence to back them up. (This summary of evidence suggests all the points where the bunkist account must ignore the evidence or rely on cumulatively implausible assumptions.)

When all else fails the bunkist can attack the witness or the source of the evidence. After 1953, the US Air Force Project BLUE BOOK went to great lengths to bunk on UFO sightings, and the "explained" cases provide a large number of examples where civilian and expert witnesses alike were discredited, disparaged or impugned.

One of the earliest and most famous pilot testimonies of UFO behavior comes from businessman and veteran fighter pilot Lt. George F. Gorman, described as a "sincere and serious individual" by Project SIGN investigators, who chased a UFO for nearly a half hour in the famous 1948 Fargo ND 1 October "Gorman dogfight." This extended presentation of the all the evidence and testimony in the case explains what happened and provides a complete view of the context. Most interesting for me is the detailed drawing of the encounter by Gorman (Figure 37), which shows him circling above the observable in the attempt to intercept it, a near air collision, a very sharp, almost "right angle" turn by the UFO, and finally a rapid, steep ascent that nearly stalled Gorman's supercharged 12 cylinder engine.

Figure 37. Lt. Gorman's two drawings of his "dogfight" pursuit (the path of Gorman's plane is drawn as a solid line, the UFO as a dotted line). The drawing on the left shows a plan view of the initial intercept; the drawing on the right shows an elevation or side view of the steep climb where the contact was broken off. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

The US Air Force ↆ investigated the matter and eventually concluded that Gorman had chased a "lighted weather balloon" that had been released nearby. The astronomer Donald Menzel, an ardent UFO critic and quixotic evangelist for "mirage" and "optical illusion" bunkings of UFO sightings, was not satisfied with the Air Force story because Gorman testified that the blinking weather balloon had become a steady light once it was pursued and because Gorman broke off the pursuit at 4.4 km [14,500 feet] after chasing the UFO in a nearly vertical climb. So Menzel added the conclusion that Gorman became disoriented by his own maneuvers and ended up chasing "a mirage of the planet Jupiter" located at or near the zenith.

Gorman's meticulous drawing does not seem very disoriented to me, and neither does his eyewitness testimony:

"I am convinced that there was definite thought behind its maneuvers. I am further convinced that the object was governed by the laws of inertia because its acceleration was rapid but not immediate and although it was able to turn fairly tight at considerable speed, it still followed a natural curve. When I attempted to turn with the object I blacked out temporarily due to excessive speed. I am in fairly good physical condition and I do not believe that there are many if any pilots who could withstand the turn and speed effected by the object and remain conscious. The object was not only able to out turn and out speed my aircraft ... but was able to attain a far steeper climb and was able to maintain a constant rate of climb far in excess of my aircraft."

With blinky "weather balloons" like that, who needs fighter aircraft like Gorman's splendid P-51 Mustang? Physicist James E. McDonald declared "Although the pilot-balloon light became the official explanation there are a number of explicit statements in the Blue Book file that thoroughly discount that hypothesis." I add that the Stellarium planetary software rendition of the Fargo, ND skies when the UFO was first sighted — on Julian day 2432826.62500, 9:00 pm local daylight saving time or –7 UT (North Dakota adopted daylight saving time in 1918) and an altitude of 4.4 kilometers — indicates that Jupiter was actually just below the southwestern horizon. Meanwhile, a weather observer named George Sanderson had tracked the suspect weather balloon with a theodolite, and he charted it heading far away from the location of the dogfight. None of that suggests we should doubt the veracity or competence of Gorman's account.

The Air Force declared the case closed and Gorman, to his credit, only laughed when he heard about it. As a sensible and confident adult, he recognized that the people proclaiming to debunk him hadn't taken the bunk out of his story at all — they'd put bunk of their own into it. They inserted storytelling where they had no facts, and they made up facts without concern for whether they were true.

Occasionally, bullshit veers into lying, which cannot be connected to skepticism in any way. This shortcoming strangely occurs everywhere, even in people reputed to be competent and trustworthy analysts exercising an impartial judgment. Edward Ruppelt has a mildly favorable reputation among ufologists, but here is how he "solves" the 13 March 1951 report of the Lubbock Lights observed by four university professors:

Personally I thought that the professors' lights might have been some kind of birds reflecting the light from mercury vapor street lights, but I was wrong. They weren't birds, they weren't refracted light, but they weren't spaceships. The lights that the professors saw — the backbone of the Lubbock Light series — have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon.

It is very unfortunate that I can't divulge exactly the way the answer was found because it is an interesting story of how a scientist set up complete instrumentation to track down the lights and how he spent several months testing theory after theory until he finally hit upon the answer. Telling the story would lead to his identity and, in exchange for his story, I promised the man complete anonymity. But he fully convinced me that he had the answer, and after having heard hundreds of explanations of UFO's, I don't convince easily.

With the most important phase of the Lubbock Lights "solved" — the sightings by the professors — the other phases become only good UFO reports.

Even a casual reader immediately grasps that this is bullshit. Nothing has been explained or "solved" here, especially not by hearsay. Ruppelt makes no public display of the proof that "they weren't spaceships" or birds; he is pointlessly coy about the allegedly commonplace actual cause, which he justifies with a strangely intricate story. Puzzling over it, you might realize that the only way the identity of a scientist would be revealed by his particular explanation of the sightings by a group of four professors is if the explanation relies on facts known only to the professors who made the sighting. Any straightforward explanation of a "very commonplace ... natural phenomenon" could come from any commonplace scientist relying on universally accepted principles of natural science, and such an explanation would reveal nothing personal about the source. In this way Ruppelt leaves the stink of the bullshit on the witnesses.

In fact, Ruppelt's account isn't bullshit, it's a knowing fabrication. It seems that the four professors were irritated by the publicity their testimony had produced and worried that ridicule might affect their academic prospects — ridicule and reputational damage are common fears among UFO witnesses. So one of the professors, Dr. W.L. Drucker, chair of the department of petroleum engineering at Texas Technological College, sent Ruppelt a telegram dated March 17, 1955 (reproduced in Swords and Powell, p. 132, with original typos) with excuses that amount to a no comment retraction:

     OB391 DA561


Ruppelt certainly understood from the flimsy pretext and admonition to secrecy, in the context of his previous communications with the professor group and corroborating sightings (and photos) from other witnesses, that this assertion was an evasion. But rather than simply concede that a convincing explanation had never been communicated to him — which would satisfy both the truth and the professor's request — Ruppelt spins his bizarre sarcasm.

The Truthful and Competent Witness. The fundamental interpretive problem we confront is that isolated pieces of evidence, in and of themselves, can never be definitive proof of anything other than the mute fact that something called evidence is available. Ultimately the validity of any evidence depends on its place in a network of context. Evidence can be fabricated, planted, corrupted, contested, disputed, explained away, misconstrued or differently interpreted if parts of this network are broken. To create what might be called this network of trust, we must assemble and connect all the available evidence as a single plausible narrative or construction of the events.

Essential to this network is the principle of a trustworthy and competent witness. We eventually must resort to the narrative of other people who stand in the place of our reliance on personal experience: they must testify as to what actually happened, what the evidence is, where it came from, and whether our interpretation of the evidence is justified. To rely on them in this way, we require them to tell us honestly about the matter and to be competent in their judgment. We make a similar inference about the observing instruments and computer software we use to measure the world. What we consider reliable knowledge is woven largely from personal experience, but it rests crucially on our trust in the experience and testimony of other people and information resources.

There are two difficulties with the principle of skepticism. The first is that skepticism is too arduous to be applied in all things. The arch skeptic David Hume (one of my favorite philosophers) answered the objection that skepticism would require doubt in everything that is either a judgment or a claim requiring proof by saying that such thoroughgoing skepticism would be too tedious and impractical to pursue: "The great subverter of PYRRHONISM or the excessive principles of skepticism, is action, and employment, and the occupations of common life." Skepticism is typically frivolous in many situations of doubt or ignorance, because we routinely solicit information that we judge too incidental to challenge or too difficult to verify: accepting what we are told helps us get on with the occupations of common life. All this is what Sextus Empiricus called "accepting the customs of our country and its laws and institutions."

The other difficulty is that a rigorous skepticism would be merely dogmatic, no matter how perceptive. Greeting every claim as an intellectual challenge is a defensive posture unlike the wonderful openness of curiosity, when the exploration is itself the justification and we do not analyze so much as marvel at our experience. Every skeptic comes home to belief, and as far as possible fills every day with trustworthy and competent human beings. As Montaigne said, we are variable creatures. Mick West gets a lot of shade from ufology, and I've used him as an example of both pseudoskepticism and bunkism. But West has also done some careful and convincing debunks. We all are debunkers here and bunkists there, we sometimes cringe to see a favorite piece of evidence unmasked and, for many practical reasons, we stop far short of a sufficient investigation of everything it is necessary to believe in order to get on with life.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that each of us has a conception of these trustworthy and competent witnesses that is consistent with our outlook, and our grounds of belief go back to the beliefs that are most difficult for us to change. This seems to put certainty on the footing of a circular argument, or begs the question of why we trust the people we do. That in itself seems good reason to practice skepticism the old fashioned way, and cease to dogmatize.

US Government Denial & Neglect

I've placed alienists in comparison with bunkists to show the parallels of storytelling that emerge from apparently opposing responses to the unknown or unexplained. But placing the focus on people who spend time on the topic of UFO (either to promote or refute it) risks the false impression that UFO constitute an issue of significant cultural interest or human importance.

A recent Gallup survey suggests that half of Americans think UFO are of human origin or are natural phenomena, and a contemporaneous Rasmussen Report finds that two thirds of respondents have never seen a UFO and don't know anyone who has, and the majority say that UFO are not a national security threat. Although the questions in these two surveys were amateurishly phrased, they suggest that the majority of US citizens have adopted my last example of the human response to the unexplained: whatever it is, just ignore it.

The supreme statement of this denialist approach was developed by a member of the Condon Committee, Michael Wertheimer, a minor light in 20th century Gestalt psychology and a UFO denier who seemed to enjoy needling the "believers" on the panel. The Wertheimer Hypothesis undermined the significance of doing research into the "UFO problem" with two negations: (1) human perceptual error can never be excluded, so eyewitness UFO reports are inherently untrustworthy; and (2) it is impossible logically to prove either the nonexistence of UFO or the existence of aliens (below some exorbitantly high standard of proof). This made the entire UFO "problem" a witness problem, and indeed Wertheimer was a psychologist interested in why people "thought they saw UFOs," based on an assumption that Wertheimer himself said was unprovable — the assumption that UFO do not really exist.

Weapons & Science

Perhaps the honest conclusion that UFO were beyond scientific analysis and not a national security threat justified the government policy to claim (falsely) that UFO were almost certainly sightings of commonplace, explicable events. But many in ufology assume that claim is only a pretense intended to cloak secret weapons development. While I don't find public evidence that weapons development was the motive for disinformation, there is substantial evidence to confirm that the US government has pursued policies of both inquiry and denial at the same time.

I recommend the analysis of that issue by historians Michael Swords and Robert Powell in their extensively documented UFOs and Government (linked above). A 1971 Australian dossier compiled by O.H. Turner and titled Scientific Intelligence – General – Unidentified Flying Objects (jump to page 7) provides an informed synopsis of the evolving US military/intelligence policy from the perspective of an impartial intelligence analyst in a foreign country:


      The early analyses of UFO reports by USAF intelligence indicated that real phenomena were being reported which had flight characteristics so far in advance of US aircraft that only an extra-terrestrial origin could be envisaged. A government agency, which later events indicated to be the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), studied the UFO reports with the intention of determining the UFO propulsion methods. At that time, OSI was responsible for intelligence on foreign research and development in nuclear and missile matters.

2.   The CIA became alarmed at the overloading of military communications during the mass sightings of 1952 and considered the possibility that the USSR may take advantage of such a situation. As a result, OSI acting through the Robertson-panel meeting of mid-January 1953, persuaded the USAF to use Project BLUE BOOK as a means of publicly "debunking" UFO's, and at a later stage to allocate funds for the Avro advanced "saucer" aircraft and the launching of a crash programme into anti-gravity power. To initiate such programmes decades ahead of normal scientific development would indicate that the US Government acknowledges the existence of advanced "aircraft" which presumably used a gravity-control method of propulsion. An additional motivation could have been the fear that the USSR would achieve this goal before the US.

3.   By erecting a facade of ridicule, the US hoped to allay public alarm, reduce the possibility of the Soviet taking advantage of UFO mass sightings for either psychological or actual warfare purposes, and act as a cover for the real US programme of developing vehicles that emulate UFO performances. The RAAF together with many other countries of the world give credence only to the USAF public facade and appear to have uncritically accepted the associated information. This information has been widely discredited by retiring US service personnel formerly engaged in UFO investigations, as well as by scientists and private citizens.

4.   The conclusions of the Condon report conflict with its own contents and has been discredited by many reputable scientists including the UFO scientific consultant to the USAF
[Hynek]. In accordance with the recommendations of the Condon report, Project BLUE BOOK was terminated, but presumably this would have little effect on the main programme. (pp. 7-8)

What is most striking in this historical overview is the explicit connection between UFO sightings, official debunking, secret military research programs, and the national security "alarm" that motivated a disinformation "facade of ridicule." A more detailed narrative of "U.S. Official Attitude to U.F.O's" follows on pp. 9-15 of the Australian UFO report and a "Chronology of U.S. Investigation into U.F.O. Phenomena" on pp. 18-22. These provide a concise timeline of the topic and put events in context.

The conjectural "main programme" of propulsion research and its reputed location at Area 51 of the Nevada Test and Training Range is a longstanding accusation leveled by alienists at the government, especially in the USA. Yet there is no public evidence that a research program utilizing UFO crash remains has ever existed. The US military repeatedly did not pursue opportunities to launch a scientific study of UFO when rigorous scientific study, almost regardless of the cost, would seem invaluable to any intensive program of "propulsion research."

Instead, the military embarked on an extended but poorly documented program to investigate anti-gravity propulsion with the participation of six universities and seven aeronautical engineering companies. The Australian UFO report remarks (in 1971) that 485 theoretical papers had been written on the subject by 1955. This does not suggest the kind of topical or analytical focus that would follow from sizeable and largely intact UFO crash remains.

A more astounding decision on the part of the U.S. Government was to allocate considerable funds to investigate gravity and a means of controlling gravity. Despite the fact that science had not attained a level of competence to deal with either gravity or anti-gravity problems, ... the U.S. chose to support six universities and government agencies in an all-out drive to conquor the problem. It is significant that at this time the current theories on UFO propulsion were a mixture of gravity control and electro-magnetic propulsion. ... Such an intensive onslaught on the gravity enigma was entirely irrational from the standpoint of conventional science, and can only be rationalized within the context of a firm belief that UFO's were real and that the intelligences behind them knew how to control gravity. The drive to harness this power before the USSR could do so would be a strong incentive for the U.S. Government to fully support an anti-gravity programme. By 1966, 46 separate projects of this nature were being financially supported, 33 of which were under the supervision of the U.S. Air Force. Although details of most of those projects have been kept classified it would appear that generally they have not been successful. (p.13-14)

This illustrates a critical fact: weapons research is not UFO research, even when the weapons are designed to mimic perceived or actual UFO capabilities. The cloak of secrecy must inevitably surround weapons development, and this puts a cautionary frame around the hope expressed by many alienists that the authorization to investigate UFO included in the 2022 NDAA — with a "science plan" checklist of weapons related topics — will somehow produce public disclosures or advance scientific insight into the actual nature of UFO.

In the past seven decades the US government has apparently put large sums into the development of anti gravity propulsion and in the process we have learned nothing about the nature of UFO phenomena — in the same way that investing in aeronautical research will not tell us anything about the nature of birds. As physicist James McDonald put it in his famous takedown of Air Force incompetence in his 1969 address to the AAAS, ↆ Science in Default: Twenty-Two Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations:

No scientifically adequate investigation of the UFO problem has been carried out during the entire 22 years that have now passed since the first extensive wave of sightings of unidentified aerial objects in the summer of 1947. Despite continued public interest, and despite frequent expressions of public concern, only quite superficial examinations of the steadily growing body of unexplained UFO reports from credible witnesses have been conducted in this country or abroad. ... The most grievous fault of 22 years of Air Force handling of the UFO problem has consisted of their repeated public assertions that they had substantial scientific competence on the job.

Yet conventional scientific analysis seems only to document that the phenomena cannot be explained by existing scientific understanding. As the citizen scientists consulted by the USAF in 1952 and quoted by Swords and Powell (p. 176) tactfully put it, the solution to the UFO mystery would be found "just beyond the frontiers of our present knowledge." In the stingy estimate of the Condon Report: "further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby."

This problem definition flies against the systemic bureaucratic principle that all problems must be clearly defined, actionable and resolvable. In my view Gen. Samford was wholly candid, if woolly worded, when he admitted that: "Our basic difficulty in dealing with these [unexplained UFO observations] is that there is no measurement of them that makes it possible for us to put them in any pattern that would be profitable for a deliberate, custom sort of analysis to take the next step." Without sufficient evidence that UFO constituted a clear threat to national security, why bother?

Five Strategies of Military Involvement

The arc of US government involvement (specifically the defense/intelligence involvement) in the UFO phenomenon can be loosely summarized as five strategies:

1. The UFO Craze – 1946-1952. High public interest, numerous and remarkable sightings, major science fiction movies, genuine security concerns regarding Soviet weaponry. Indecision between disclosure and deception.

2. The CIA solution – 1953-1969. Security concerns shift to population control through methods of disinformation presented as scientific explanations; the obvious implausibility of these germinates popular public UFO research.

3. Stigmatization – 1949 - . In a more aggressive attempt to suppress public interest, officials impugn the competence or question mental stability of witnesses, usually through "unofficial" reporting in the media.

4. Official Neglect – 1969-2014. Withholding UFO information while producing disinformation and stigmatization produces apathy in government and media neglect, despite the fact that spectacular "waves" and sightings continue to occur.

5. The Potential Threat – 2014-present. UFO redefined as potential security threat, DoD receives mandates from Congress, limited public release of information.

Although each of these strategies has a historical epoch in which it predominates, these might fairly be considered as five constituencies or perspectives within the defense/intelligence establishment, because the actual history shows two or three might be competing to influence government policy at the same time.

The UFO Craze. The initial pubic response to the UFO meme was acute and enthusiastic. Early sightings, such as the Ghost Rockets, Roswell, Kenneth Arnold or Chiles-Whitted events, produced headline news and global media attention. In January 1950, pulp fiction writer and retired Marine Major Donald E. Keyhoe published "The Flying Saucers Are Real" in True Magazine, followed the same year by a best selling book of the same name. Keyhoe was the first author to join the public claim that UFO were real and of extraterrestrial origin with the conspiratorial theory that the Air Force knew that UFO were extraterrestrial and hid that fact from the public. Two indications of the strong interest in UFO at that time are Edward Ruppelt's comment that "It is rumored among magazine publishers that Don Keyhoe's article in True was one of the most widely read and widely discussed magazine articles in history," and the 500,000 copies of the book sold, equivalent to a run of more than one million copies today.

In entertainment, two groundbreaking alien visitation films, both from 1951, were Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still and Howard Hawks's The Thing from Another World. These illustrate the classic science fiction tropes of aliens come to lead humans to better world and aliens come to capture or attack us. More than 50 subsequent films plotted around extraterrestrial aliens appeared in the next decade, notably including Byron Haskin's The War of the Worlds and William Cameron Menzies's Invaders from Mars in 1953. The 1956 film Unidentified Flying Objects is the story of US Air Force press officer Albert Chop, an original UFO skeptic who is "converted" by the 1952 WASHINGTON DC events; it ends with the Mariana and Newhouse films linked and discussed above as a "see for yourself" testimonial.

During the same period the US Air Force, tasked with confronting UFO phenomena, focused initially on the possibility, as described in the Schulgen memo (above) that UFO were a Russian invention, following disk aircraft innovated by the Nazis. The 31 January 1949 FBI memo on the subject of the "Protection of Vital Installations" begins:

At recent Weekly Intelligence Conferences of G-2, OHI, OSI, and F.B.I., in the Fourth Army Area, Officers of G-2, Fourth Army have discussed the matter of "Unidentified Aircraft" or "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" otherwise known as "Flying Discs," "Flying Saucers," and "Balls of Fire." This matter is considered top secret by Intelligence Officers of both the Army and the Air Forces. ...

During the past two months various sightings of unexplained phenomena have been reported in the vicinity of the A.E.C. Installation at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where these phenomena now appear to be concentrated. During December 1948 on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 20th and 28th sightings of unexplained phenomena were made near Los Alamos by Special Agents of the Office of Special Investigation; Airline Pilots; Military Pilots, Los Alamos Security Inspectors, and private citizens. On January 6, 1949, another similar object was sighted in the same area. [emphasis original.]

To this list must be added the remarkable series of sightings around the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1949. As Robert Hastings points out, this seems sufficient to take UFO as a threat to national security, but at the time the most probable threat was as a Russian invention. It is true, as the Taylor summary asserts, that the extraterrestrial hypothesis was given serious consideration. As soon as the Spökraketer flew into human awareness, the extraterrestrial hypothesis was advanced by a significant number of citizen witnesses, technical analysts and physical scientists as the least implausible explanation for the observations and evidence. A top secret 4 November 1948 USAF memo recounts the answer given by the Swedish Air Intelligence Service when asked for their interpretation of the GHOST ROCKETS:

Their answer was that some reliable and fully technically qualified people have reached the conclusion that "these phenomena are obviously the result of a high technical skill which cannot be credited to any presently known culture on Earth." They are therefore assuming that these objects originate from some previously unknown or unidentified technology, possibly outside the Earth.

However, Swords & Powell document significant resistance to the ETH within the Air Force almost from the beginning, and Project SIGN's flirtation with the ETH received a strong pushback from superior officers before it was retooled as the stigma generating Project GRUDGE. Resistance within the Air Force crystallized in a conviction that the ETH was a dead end, either because the agents tasked with snooping out Russian projects had not yet succeeded or, if UFO really were extraterrestrial, there was nothing to be done until the UFO actually performed a hostile act.

During this period the US Air Force public response policy vacillated between military willingness to report and discuss UFO sightings candidly and an evolving intention to minimize DoD involvement and suppress public interest in them. The favorable epochs were roughly from June 1947 to February 1949, when Project SIGN delivered its final report; and from March 1952 to September 1953, the nineteen months when Project BLUE BOOK was adequately funded and staffed to make serious inquiries. (The April 7, 1952 LIFE magazine story signaled this shift in policy when it announced that "The Air Force is now ready to concede that many saucer and fireball sightings still defy explanation." Note again the evergreen emphasis on unexplained.) The suppressive periods extended from February 1949 until September 1951, when Project GRUDGE was entirely restaffed by General Cabell; and after September 1953 when the policy determined by the CIA and rubber stamped by the Robertson Panel (January 1953) was largely implemented.

The CIA solution. This period approximately concludes with the 1952 Sighting Wave, "one of the largest of all time, and arguably the most significant of all time in terms of the credible reports and hardcore scientific data obtained." Many UFO were seen around the US capitol by multiple witnesses on the ground, in the air and using radar, and a single military pursuit plane was encircled at speed for almost a minute, a maneuver reported both by the pilot and viewed by radar on the ground. The twin events on July 19-20 and July 26-27 received national media coverage and were recreated from a press agent's point of view in the 1956 film Unidentified Flying Objects.

Due to its proximity to the seat of administrative power, President Harry Truman immediately ↆ tasked the CIA to examine the issue and the manner in which the Air Force was handling it. The 7 September 1952 ↆ Flying Saucers memo from the Office of Central Intelligence within the CIA identified two areas with national security implications:

(1) the "mass psychological considerations" that "there is a fair proportion of our population which is mentally conditioned to the acceptance of the incredible" that made them susceptible to "mass hysteria"; and
(2) the potential "vulnerability to air attack" caused by an inability to distinguish UFO from enemy aircraft that would run the "risk of false alerts and the even greater danger of falsely identifying the real as phantom."

The CIA feared that the Soviets might use false reports of alien attack to panic the population and flood communications channels or stampede urban populations, or might learn to control or mimic UFO events to mask a sneak attack.

During this period the FBI and the military received increasing numbers of UFO reports — and an increasing number of reports of UFO hoaxes. Cosmopolitan magazine was induced in 1951 to publish a notorious article, shaped by access to USAF senior officers, that implied UFO reports were a threat to national security because they diverted the Pentagon's attention from our Soviet adversaries. Within the Pentagon the debate was whether funds spent on flying saucers might be better spent on intercontinental ballistic missiles. And you need to take into account the kind of reports that FBI agents were tasked to investigate and get typed up perfectly on manual typewriters, for example this July 11, 1947 "office memorandum":

Sgt. Bannister of the Butte Office called at noon today and stated that a [name redacted] Twin Falls, Idaho, at 2:45 a.m. Mountain Time today heard a noise in the back of her home. She thought a collision had occurred and investigated and found in the back yard of the home next door an object described as follows:

A disc 30" in diameter, circular in shape, it is dished like a saucer and actually there is a saucer within a saucer in the manner of cymbals. On one surface there is attached a plastic dome described as about 14" in diamter
[sic] and affixed by 8 bolts in a rather rough manner. The bolts can best be described as similar to stove bolts. On the other surface is another dome of metal which is gold in color on one side and on the inside is silver in color, which looks like tin. Through the plastic dome can be observed three tubes similar to radio tubes and there is some wiring. The disc generally is 10" thick and at the point where the domes are located about 14" in thickness. There is an object on it similar to electric coil which has some type of an arm on it and bears the words "Inspected 75." Some of the wiring has been burned off and it looks as though something might be missing.

[Name redacted] stated that if this were the work of some prankster he went to quite a bit of trouble. He stated the press is aware of this incident. He stated that the disc had been picked up and was now at the Police Department, Twin Falls, Idaho. He was instructed to notify the local Army authorities of the existence of this disc.

The 1952 WASHINGTON DC "Washington Flap" events of July, 1952 demonstrated that mass communications were vulnerable to the heavy usage stimulated by the UFO sightings and this shifted the national security concern onto the U.S. population itself.

The CIA evolved a solution for these issues as a three prong policy: (1) reducing "mistaken" sightings with a program of public education through mass media about UAP objects such as Venus, (2) officially "debunking" UFO sighting reports with the alternatives devised by Project GRUDGE (quoted below), and (3) forming a "scientific panel" (the Robertson panel) to reinforce the perception that official judgments were being guided by science. Meanwhile, the DoD continued sub rosa to investigate serious reports from expert or reliable witnesses. Publicly disclosing military UFO reports became a crime, Project BLUE BOOK's security clearance was revoked, important UFO reports were rerouted away from the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) at Wright AFB to the Pentagon, and the Project BLUE BOOK staff was reduced until it was shut down in 1969.

All those events occurred at the same time that the estimates within defense/intelligence establishment were that UFO, in themselves, constituted no significant potential security threat, and therefore no risk to ignore. Swords and Powell describe the January, 1953 Robertson Panel approach to that issue as a foregone conclusion (p. 193):

The panel briefly dismissed the possibility that the phenomenon itself was a security issue. Their reasons seemed to revolve around a view that UFOs were like the WWII foo fighters. Both Robertson and Alvarez had some occasion to be aware of the foo fighter phenomenon during the war, and they believed that, whatever they were, they caused no damage, nor even any hindrance to the war effort, and, thereby, were no threat. UFOs, to them, seemed at least in this way to be like foo fighters: no physical threat.

I call this the foo scenario because the three interlocking declarations — UFO are real, UFO are unexplained, UFO are harmless — are used to support the public assertion that we shouldn't spend military resources to study UFO. This was essentially the posture described by General Samford in 1952.

Stigmatization. But the military perceived the public interest itself as a security threat, and the CIA policy of essentially reasoning with the public did not, to some, appear adequate. So an unofficial policy hardened into the practice of rebutting UFO claims with blanket ridicule, for example that UFO were "purely idiotic and wholly nonexistent." This blanket stigmatization of all UFO witnesses as judgmentally impaired forms an important part of military policy since the 1950's.

This public policy crystallized within the U.S. Air Force as early as the December 27, 1949 press release that declared "reports of unidentified flying objects are the result of (1) misinterpretation of various conventional objects; (2) a mild form of mass hysteria, or (3) hoaxes." — a posture mocked in a cockpit scene from The Thing. But the actual posture, as defined in the "Conclusions" of the August, 1949 Project GRUDGE Technical Report (p. vi), combined the foo scenario with witness stigmatization but made the stigma much harsher:

1. Evaluation of reports of unidentified flying objects demonstrate that these flying objects constitute no direct threat to the national security of the United States.

2. Reports of unidentified flying objects are the result of:
   a. Misinterpretation of various conventional objects.
   b. A mild form of mass-hysteria and "war nerves."
   c. Individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetuate a hoax or to seek publicity.
   d. Psychopathological persons.

This official policy to disparage UFO reports and stigmatize witnesses as "nuts" or "fanatics" was not thoroughgoing but emerged like a recurring fever between episodes of judicious disclosure. This underscores the fact that the Pentagon was not then and is not now unified in policy about UFO; it divides into two constituencies that lean toward disclosure or suppression. In this environment Donald Keyhoe, always critical of blatant misinformation coming from official sources and concerned by what he perceived as a continuing military cover up, cofounded the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) in 1956 and unsuccessfully attempted several times to get congressional hearings on the matter. The famous 1973 Mansfield OH 18 October event, where a UFO approached and briefly lifted a helicopter to a higher altitude, led the ranking witness, Army Reserve Capt. Lawrence Coyne, to appeal to the United Nations for attention to the UFO issue. This is a complex history, but the point is that these changes in official pronouncements and policy were transparent to the press and visible to any in the public who examined the public evidence. Indeed, it is arguable that many years of dismissive explanations actually stimulated public interest in the possibility of a government conspiracy and coverup.

Swords and Powell diagnose the toxic results of this Cold War policy on public confidence in the government:

This policy of public debunking worked well as a tool for keeping the general public in line, but it did not work well with the UFO observers. When the Air Force characterized all UFO sightings as misinterpretations of common things (planes, stars, balloons et al.), or hysterical emotionalism, or deliberate lying, it was the same as characterizing the witnesses as liars, hysterics, or, at the best, incompetents. Worse, it projected an attitude of utter disregard to observers inside the services, whose reports the intelligence officers still wanted to see. Added to the problems cause by the policy was the fact that it was essentially a lie, and responsible people saw through the lie and questioned the Air Force approach and message in its entirety. Moderate analysis of most historical complexities would caution any scholar from labeling such matters so strongly as "the Air Force lied." But there is no room to allow a more polite evaluation. (p.100)

Although formulated as recommended policy in 1949, stigmatization is still an ongoing issue in the military and between government, scientists and society at large. Journalist Ross Coulthart describes his realization that the stigmatization policy had no substantive purpose because it resisted recognition of a large body of well documented facts. But stigmatization does not usually arise to discredit facts but to support dogma or control belief. Facts are nearly always beside the point, because people are encouraged or instructed not to look at facts. Facts are relevant, however, in the recent government efforts to reverse course, reduce stigma and establish an office of "anomaly resolution." Reporting anomalous sightings is now not only officially free of stigma but mandated as a duty of military service. If that is not change then I don't know what is, unless it is a full public accounting of the stigmatization program created by the U.S. Air Force as preface to a public apology.

Official Neglect. The ODNI allusion to "disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues" is the legacy of this two decade campaign by the US government to shade or deny a real phenomenon of unknown significance. By the late 1960's and early 1970's, the general stigmatization of the issue extended to major new outlets. Walter Cronkite and CBS News produced the tendentious UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy? in 1966 and The New York Times among others promoted information dismissive of the UFO phenomenon. The really extraordinary result was that the stigmatization was internalized by the armed services who created the policy of deception: they drank their own Kool Aid and were duped by their own ruse.

As a result, by the turn of the 21st century, there were apparently no "anomalous aircraft" reporting procedures in place anywhere within the defense establishment. In the Joe Rogan interview, Cdr. Fravor gives astonishing testimony on that point. He alludes to his rank as among the "top 20" officers in the entire Nimitz battle group in order to make a point about the apparent lack of interest in the event and the lack of any investigation that followed his sighting of the "Tic Tac" UFO. The gist of his interview with Rogan is summarized in this NY Times profile. The lack of response was described in the AATIP USS NIMITZ report as a perceived lack of response options:

On 14 November following the intercept of the AAV, CDR Fravor reported to CVIC to debrief with Intelligence. He discussed the entire mission and AAV contact with LCDR [redacted], the Carrier Wing Air Intelligence Officer. According to LCDR [redacted], he "wasn't sure what to do." He also stated that they "didn't take it seriously" at first; however, they had absolutely no reason to question the report from a very experienced and well-respected F/A-18 squadron commanding officer. LCDR [redacted] added that they likely would have not given as much attention if it came from a lesser-experienced aviator. He reported it to the Commander of the Air Wing, CAPT [redacted], also a highly experienced aviator but he did not take it very serious. ... Finally, LCDR [redacted] admitted and detailed the high level of ridicule that the aircrew experienced over the next few weeks. ... When [the CSG-11 Senior Intelligence Officer was] asked what he thought the AAV was he replied, based on the area of operations, that he believed it was part of a counterdrug operation.

During this four decade interval of official neglect there may have been constituting what Elizondo has called "an intelligence failure, ah, that would eclipse just about anything that this country has ever faced." This is a perfectly reasonable assessment from a former counterintelligence officer, but it also seems to me a bit extreme. There has been an implicit pattern of nonaggression from UFO toward humans during this period. Even bizarre intrusions such as 1969 MALMSTROM nuclear missile interference cannot reasonably be interpreted as an intentional threat to national security.

The National Security Threat. The historical record allows us to sort through various justifications for the security threat interpretation:

• No Hostile Intent. The "foo fighter" hypothesis that UFO do no actual harm
• Waste of Resources. Cold War emphasis on building new nuclear weapons systems, not investigating phantoms
• Population Disorder. Hoax UFO event might cause population panic or hysterical acceptance of rumor
• Cloak for Sneak Attack. UFO might be used against early warning radar to thwart attack detection
• Defense Insufficiency. No military aircraft or weapon appears to be a deterrent to UFO
• Weapons Development. An explict theme of the 2021-22 NDAA
• Breakthrough Gap. One nation possibly acquiring UFO "technology"
• Nuclear Weapons. UFO interest in nuclear weapons facilities and ships.
• Physiological Effects. Frequently reported burns apparently from a NIEMR source
• Air Hazard. Collision risk to military, commercial and private aircraft.

However, a 2019 Popular Mechanics article by Tim McMillan, The Witnesses, presents an alternative account of the events following the "Tic Tac" interception. Five crewmembers of the USS Princeton claim that the FLIR1 tape is not the only video evidence of the "Tic Tac" available, and they testify that within 20 minutes of the event, crews were told to secure data and within hours were told to turn it all over to unfamiliar persons in civilian suits who asked them to erase everything left behind, even blank tapes. Both Cdr. Fravor and Underwood deny any knowledge of these events, but they were pilots on the Nimitz, not radar operators on the Princeton. The Princeton crew story is also consistent with the view of a defense/intelligence establishment divided and cloaked against itself. Whatever may be the validity of the alternative story, it does not contradict the fact of the widespread and customary ridicule that the pilots received, which is further evidence of report suppression.

The Department of Defense also appears to be actively engaged in a carefully calibrated effort to disparage or discredit Elizondo but in a niggling way that does not rise to flat out contradiction but works through evasive wordplay that is characteristic of both the ODNI "Preliminary Assessment" and the ↆ "strategic influence" praxis of Department of Defense spokesperson Susan Gough. The alteration of the claim that Elizondo had "no responsibilities" at AATIP to her statement that he had "no assigned responsibilities" is the difference between having no responsibilities at all and having responsibilities at one's discretion. In addition, the DoD recently confirmed that emails written by Elizondo during his association with AATIP have been destroyed. As usual, Greenewald provides excellent documentation of the controversy and the overall picture of our government is unfavorable.


In summary, the government response to UFO appears to have been an objective interest in the phenomena only sufficient to determine that it represented a minimal military and security issue, at which point the threat concern turned to managing a growing public and cultural interest that nurtured rumor and fantastical speculation, specifically in the context of Cold War tensions with a Soviet Union that suspiciously censored nearly all mention of UFO in its news media.

The pivot is that the military establishment of a democracy became adept at cloaking factual information, misleading public media and influencing the attitudes of the populace to an extent that became grievously costly during the Vietnam War era. In my judgment the most plausible narrative that suffices to explain all facets of official US policy, including any and all possible disinformation campaigns arising from policy, can be anchored in three assumptions:

(1) The US government has concluded that UFO are a technology that demonstrates inexplicable "breakthrough capabilities,"

(2) the UFO capabilities are of tremendous potential value for military development of weapons and countermeasures, and

(3) factions that oppose or support public disclosure compete for control within the defense/intelligence establishment.

A fair question remains: in a democracy, does military secrecy justify the refusal to provide public justification for significant changes in military policy? When PBS broadcast anchor Hari Sreenivasan asked science correspondent Miles O'Brien, "Why doesn't the government declassify it all?" O'Brien replied:

"What is the issue? Why hold back at this point? If it is in fact classified programs that the US is involved in I guess we understand that but then maybe they could nod to that effect or that fact to us in some fashion; i don't know. But um, I don't see a lot if – if truly, uh we take the report at face value and their indications there that they say — I forget the exact wording but this is not anything that the US is developing in a super secret way, if if that is the case, why hold back? Why not share it all, why not lay all the cards on the table? You know, and some of this is just kneejerk classification, as you well know from trying to do our job as reporter, just trying to get um, stuff that is way out there in the open market already, but is technically classified, is very difficult; and it's very difficult to get the government to release stuff that is considered top secret or classified, it's just, some of this is a bias toward keeping it secret I think, but I do believe the more transparency the better and uh, you know, we need, we need to know the full story and I just hope this continues on in a concerted way in a more open way in the future." (t = 6:32)

As O'Brien implies, the story involves the legacy policies and routine inertia of a massive and sclerotic bureaucracy, following policies adopted in the earliest era of the UFO phenomenon — that is, of the Cold War and the Red Scare. It apparently also involves a struggle between competing factions within the Pentagon that are for and against disclosure, with resistance said to thrive within the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But, in the Curt Jaimungal interview, Luis Elizondo suggests "hypothetically" that a second reason for the lack of disclosure is that some investigative or research operations may have "gone rogue" because (for a variety of reasons) they no longer report to superiors in the chain of command or do not brief Congress as required by law, or favor one defense contractor over another with access or evidence that provides them with unfair competitive advantage, and therefore makes those involved potentially liable to military or criminal prosecution.

There is no doubt that evasive and deceitful communications are a long established practice between our government and we the people: the Pentagon Papers proved that. The problem for the rest of us is finding an issue that surfaces the practice most clearly. My suggested question for this purpose: why the change in seven decades of official policy? What new evidence supports a reversal in the policy quoted in the 1952 LIFE magazine article that "there is no reason as yet to believe that any of the aerial phenomena commonly described as flying saucers are caused by a foreign power or constitute a clear and present danger to the US or its citizens"? This effectively airs the issue of deception, because it requires the military to address its past claims that UFO witnesses were either mistaken, neurotic, frauds or wackos. Why are UFO reports now encouraged and UFO witnesses believed?

That question hinges on the fundamental assumption that threats to national security deserve an informed and public discussion in a free press. The issue is not what is being covered up but why disinformation, misinformation, shaming and stigma was necessary to cover it up. We should have a government that is open with the public and has publicly argued reasons for what it holds secret. The only way to mend the Cold War wound of disinformation is with an apology for official deceit and a reconciliation of trust with the American people. Both history and current conduct by DoD and the ODNI creates the real "potential threat to national security": a government that is not only secretive but also refuses to explain why.

The "Human Technology" Hypothesis

The possibility that UFO might be "USG or industry developmental programs" or "foreign adversary systems" is a justifiable military concern and is responsibly included in the ODNI list of possible explanations. What the ODNI omits from its "Preliminary Assessment" is that the possibility of foreign, industry or US "developmental programs" — the possibility that human beings, somewhere and somehow, have contrived to build and operate this technology — has been examined many times over the past seven decades and each time has been found to be incredible. In the recent words of former CIA Director of Clandestine Operations James Semivan:

"There's absolutely no way on God's green Earth that these things, are are terrestrial or belong to a government. They are other-world, or other dimension, or other something, but they are definitely not ours, and they are not Chinese, and they are not Russian. And everybody in the government knows that, I might add."

The five arguments against the "manmade" hypothesis can be called (1) the "ancient invention," (2) the "old invention," (3) the "valuable invention," (4) the "ineffectual invention" and (5) "immortal fame." The first four are based on the observed behavior of UFO themselves; the last is a feature of human nature.

(1) The ancient invention argument is straightforward: if you can verify UFO sightings from a historical period when the human construction of UFO would have been entirely impossible, then UFO cannot be attributed to human technology. As the earliest manned flight (by balloon) occurred in 1793, the ancient invention argument applies to all plausible UFO sightings from before the modern era.

There are numerous intriguing accounts reaching back to antiquity, and these all require the skeptic to accept that ancient sightings expressed in ancient terms and concepts qualify as the UFO of modern experience. In a 2007 article for the Classical Journal, NASA astronomer Richard Stothers collects and analyzes 21 reports from 218 BCE to 334 CE after filtering out "the most obvious cases of conventional phenomena." Stothers ranks these events against J. Allen Eynek's "close encounters" typology and suggests at least one event was an encounter of the third kind. "Flying shields" is a frequently used description, and in passing Stothers offers this insight:

Most reports of flying armaments come from [1st century CE Roman historian] Livy's prodigy lists. ... In view of the time-consuming and costly procedures required by the Roman authorities to investigate witnesses, verify claims and physical evidence, and expiate the more unusual portents, most modern scholars who have troubled to analyze the prodigy lists have come to regard them as trustworthy and accurate. ... [R]egrettably, the reports are always very terse. The military terminology reflects the most advanced technology known at the time, a tendency found in modern UFO reports, in which a witness gropes for a familiar technical vocabulary — and perhaps a rationalization — to describe an unaccountable phenomenon. (p. 82)

Across two millennia, the collection of UFO reports has been a labor intensive task and subject to a variety of social influences, including a failure to acknowledge them in any way; that is certainly true. But the vernacular similes used to describe UFO often have also drawn on terms from kitchenware and science fiction, so it is the visual comparison with metallic or solid objects that is significant.

For its pictorial quality, my pick of the litter is the account in Plutarch's (circa CE 100) Lucullus 8.6-7 (Perrin translation in Oxford commas):

But presently, as [the armies of L. Licinius Lucullus and King Mithridates VI of Pontus] were on the point of joining battle, with no apparent change of weather, but all on a sudden, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. In shape, it was most like a wine-jar, and in colour, like molten silver. Both sides were astonished at the sight, and separated. This marvel, as they say, occurred in Phrygia, at a place called Otryae.

"As they say" alerts us to the hearsay character of this account, and hearsay affords a rich vein of doubt and dispute that runs through the entire UFO literature. But we have various intriguing and more recent evidence. Foremost among these is the 1561 Nuremberg DEU 14 April event, which was sufficiently spectacular and prolonged for the "letter-painter" Hanns Glaser to prepare a commemorative woodcut of the event (below), with explanatory text:

In the morning of April 14, 1561, at daybreak, between 4 and 5 a.m., a dreadful apparition occurred on the sun, and then this was seen in Nuremberg in the city, before the gates and in the country — by many men and women. At first there appeared in the middle of the sun two blood-red semi-circular arcs, just like the moon in its last quarter. And in the sun, above and below and on both sides, the color was blood, there stood a round ball of partly dull, partly black ferrous color. Likewise there stood on both sides and as a torus about the sun such blood-red ones and other balls in large number, about three in a line and four in a square, also some alone. In between these globes there were visible a few blood-red crosses, between which there were blood-red strips, becoming thicker to the rear and in the front malleable like the rods of reed-grass, which were intermingled, among them two big rods, one on the right, the other to the left, and within the small and big rods there were three, also four and more globes. These all started to fight among themselves, so that the globes, which were first in the sun, flew out to the ones standing on both sides, thereafter, the globes standing outside the sun, in the small and large rods, flew into the sun. Besides the globes flew back and forth among themselves and fought vehemently with each other for over an hour. And when the conflict in and again out of the sun was most intense, they became fatigued to such an extent that they all, as said above, fell from the sun down upon the earth "as if they all burned" and they then wasted away on the earth with immense smoke. After all this there was something like a black spear, very long and thick, sighted; the shaft pointed to the east, the point pointed west. Whatever such signs mean, God alone knows.

The detail here must be taken with a grain of salt, as this broadside was obviously created for profitable sale, but the overall impact of the event suggests there would have been a sufficient market for the tribute (at least in Glaser's opinion), but the complexity, duration and novelty of the event is difficult to explain as "natural phenomena".

And we have the testimony in 1679 from 16 Tipperary witnesses of "prodigious apparitions seen in the air" that seemed "something like a ship," or this highly suggestive book cover depiction of a periaquatic disk dating from 1716, or the 1790 Schoharie County event of a spark headed, snakelike meteor, that accumulate over time.

In the modern era the ↆ Magonia Catalog of UFO Landings compiled by Jacques Vallee and published in his Passport to Magonia (1969) contains many 19th century events. In the USA these culminate in a spate of highly colorful and quixotic accounts of the ↆ MYSTERY AIRSHIPS wave that includes the patently leg pulling story from a man who claimed he was dragged because his trousers were snagged by an anchor dangling from one of these "airships".

More reliable and easily interpreted UFO observations begin to appear in the 20th century and specifically in the era before UFO became a lively topic of postWar news and discussion. The NICAP 1900-1938 UFO Sighting Chronology (which duplicates many entries in the Magonia Catalog) describes the era when air flight was in its infancy and balloons were still used for aerial surveillance. And if you only want the most stringent test and consider the modern era of aerial technology, there is also the NICAP catalog of ↆ Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: Eighty Years of Pilot Sightings with the first entry in 1916. Authentic or fake, these stories all contain the same criterion features we find in the most recent UFO events: brilliant emittance, astonishing speed and agility of movement, strange shapes, rigid formations, disappearances by "fading", even strange accompanying figures for vehicles sighted on land.

Bruce Maccabee reproduces the 1904 USS Supply 28 February or "Remarkable Meteor" report by Lt. Frank H. Schofield (who went on to become a US Navy rear admiral) and based on the observations of three sailors interviewed immediately after the event. Three "meteors," the largest being egg shaped with an angular length of 3° and followed by two smaller spherical observables about the size of the Sun (½°), were first observed flying horizontally under the clouds before shooting nearly straight up and out of sight. This last, signature departure cannot be produced in the receding contrail of a bolide.

I do not put much confidence in the ancient invention argument because interpretation of the ancient accounts is fraught with witness imprecision, linguistic ambiguity, distortion through retelling and the limited contemporary selection of technological analogies. Testimony about sightings in 19th century to the present, many collected in the Magonia Catalog, are more easily interpreted as the witness reports all can rely on the machine and astronomical vocabulary of a developed scientific and industrial culture. But the historical evidence adduced for the ancient invention argument only suggests that UFO are not originally a human technological development: it does not exclude the possibility that a modern government has recently learned to "capture or exploit" this ancient UFO "technology" or mimic its performance through independent discovery.

(2) The old invention argument applies sound engineering experience to more recent and better validated UFO observations. The engineering principle for the old invention argument is simple: novel inventions fail, but UFO apparently do not. In 1954 the German physicist Hermann Oberth dismissed the possibility that they might be Russian technology based on information gleaned from postwar surveillance within Russia and on the old invention argument: "To date there is no report of any emergency landing or crash of an UFO. This would be the first time in history for a newly built vehicle to have no failure. ... The security in the operation of UFOs indicates that it is an old invention." The merit of this argument is that was applied in the era when Wernher von Braun and the most skilled technologists of one of the most scientifically advanced nations in the world were still struggling to get the V2 rocket off the ground — because it was a new invention. Of course, Oberth is only referring to the public record of UFO crashes, which describes crash sites that do not yield substantial physical remains.

Even at this early stage, the cumulative observations of about 240 UFO analyzed by Project SIGN, many from the 1947 "Great Wave" of sightings, convinced analysts that they were not of US origin. The 3 November 1948 Flying Object Incidents in the United States by Colonel Howard McCoy, then chief of air intelligence at Wright AFB, and the 10 December, 1948 Joint ODI and US Navy ↆ Analysis of Flying Object Incidents in the U.S. raised the possibility that the Soviet Union may have taken a "shortcut" in arms development — led by the captured German scientist, Dr. Günther Bock — and concluded that (p. 4):

It therefore seems that some type of flying object has been observed. ... It is evident from the performance characteristics attributed to the unidentified objects at this time that if they are foreign, they involve efficiencies of performance which have not been realized in any operational airborne device in this country.

For several years after World War II analysts examined the possibility that the Soviet Union had captured secret German technology, and was deploying its new UFO technology for photo reconnaissance, to test US defenses, or to "negate U.S. confidence in Atom Bomb as the most advanced and decisive weapon". This meant that UFO would be a new invention. It would also mean that they represented a valuable invention.

(3) The valuable invention argument relies on the technological value of the capabilities summarized as Elizondo's "five observables." In his Joe Rogan interview, Cdr. Fravor reached for this argument first: whatever this "breakthrough technology" consists of, it would be too valuable to keep secret and not utilize in a variety of applications. Not only would it radically imbalance the military equation between nations, it would revolutionize human transport and possibly power generation as well. How likely is it that a foreign power would keep this valuable development program a military secret, much less refrain from exploiting its economic benefits? What do we plausibly conjecture that a nation state in possession of an advanced propulsion and cloaking technology would do with it?

There would be extraordinary propaganda and diplomatic value in the display of even a partially successful prototype — a hovering toaster, for example. If Vladimir Putin, capo di tutti capi of the Russian criminal oligarchy, can boast of a supersonic cruise missile that can transit the globe by means of nuclear power, how would he utilize the publicity generated by a Russian made UFO? How would that capability affect their bargaining power in various international agreements? The commercial value of the invention could be even more alluring. It is possible that UFO are a US technology, but we haven't seen any military demonstration of that prowess after seven decades of research. One can ask whether the widely reputed advanced propulsion project was ever adequately funded, because it has publicly produced nothing of practical application or demonstrable benefit.

For several years after World War II analysts examined the possibility that the Soviet Union had captured secret German technology, and was deploying its new UFO technology to "negate U.S. confidence in Atom Bomb as the most advanced and decisive weapon," for photo reconnaissance, or to test US defenses. But even these vague mission statements were discredited by the aimless and unproductive behavior of the UFO themselves.

(4) The ineffectual invention argument asks: if the intent (by either aliens or humans) is to deploy a "breakthrough" UFO technology but at the same time keep it secret, what would be the most productive way to utilize it, what would such an innovation likely be observed to do? If we examine the seven decades of UFO observation we do not find any evidence that UFO are doing anything constructive or purposeful or especially clever.

A theme that appears early in the military assessments of UFO is a disparagement of their activities, regardless of how spectacularly they do them. Referring to the rather aimless and random behavior typical of UFO events, a 1949 US Air Force briefing document states that: "It is believed unlikely that this and similar unexplained incidents represent a foreign craft. It seems improbable that a foreign power would expose any superior aerial weapon by a prolonged ineffectual penetration of the United States." The 1949 Project SIGN final report (p. 24) snarked that "an intelligence capable of making so remarkable [a] device would not be likely to play around in so idle a manner." The idle and ineffectual activities already observed by 1950 include hovering over random locations, wandering over landscape "as if looking for something", transiting from one location to another only to "disintegrate" from view, and shadowing commercial aircraft.

More recently, UFO have been regularly observed "hanging out" east of the Virginia coast. Why would any nation use such incredibly invaluable technology to loiter in territorial airspace to perform the task of "threat observation" when the act of being in that airspace constitutes the entire threat in the situation? And what specifically would these breakthrough technologies learn, as they loiter and flit at a 6 kilometer [10 mile] altitude far out over the Atlantic coast, that could not be derived from signals intelligence or orbiting platforms? How would gathering that intelligence justify the risk of one of the vessels falling into enemy hands? Assuming you were a government that had such a technology, probably after spending vast sums and human intellectual and engineering labor to develop it, why would you deploy it for seemingly random, "idle" and "ineffectual" purposes?

Many other questionable behaviors can be added under the attribute of indifference. These all in some way create a human distraction, a commercial or military hazard, or trigger some kind of threat response. Why would a valuable technology be deployed in ways that create potential hazards or malfunctions, and increase the probability of collisions or being shot down? There is no conceivable benefit in the observed behavior of UFO that would justify the use of an extraordinarily valuable technology to achieve it.

(5) The Immortal Fame argument was raised by the debunking physicist William Markowitz as his argument against human construction of UFO. This asserts that anyone who knows of such an invention, and could document that knowledge in some public way allowing for independent corroboration, would become immediately famous and historically immortal — until the end of human memory immortal. People have murdered presidents and emperors, massacred crowds or set themselves ablaze for a shadow of that kind of glory or infamy; imagine adding to that incentive the wealth and investment opportunities that a media frenzy of fame would bring.

Of course practical circumstances, such as the fear of mortal reprisal, would deter many, but not all. Most fame is posthumous, carved in marble and recounted in books; if the verifying documentation could be disclosed only after death, the fame could be had with none of the consequences albeit with none of the personal rewards. But the long awaited "disclosure" hasn't happened. Nowhere has immortal fame been sufficient to pry the secret loose from the grip of those who hold it.

The informed minds of national intelligence are best situated to judge these five arguments in depth. But as Director Semivan stated at the top, the consensus answer given in declassified government documents and in public interviews with informed authorities is that the UFO "technology" is not of human origin, and this assessment is typically made with a very high degree of confidence. Whatever UFO are, they're not ours — and they're not theirs, either.

Exemplar Videos

With apologies for my almost certain inadvertent inclusion of one or more UAP or hoaxes, I present a selection of evidence that I accept as authentic and that illustrates various UFO capabilities. I link them here as exemplar videos of the twelve attributes and the six behavior patterns of UFO events:

Citizen recording: 2022 Islamabad PAK 25 January (UFO detail, observational length, optical and technical quality, witness testimony of context and first appearance, real time narration)

Hypervelocity: 2016 Beaver UT n.d.
Hyperacceleration: 1993 Gulf Breeze n.d.
Hyperagility: 2018 Picacho Peak AZ 6 November
Full spectrum EM: —
EM modulation: 2021 Glendale AZ 1 August
Envelopment: 2013 Aguadilla PRI 26 April
Anaerodynamic form: 2020 Victoria MEX 19 March
Impulsion: 2004 USS NIMITZ 14 November ("FLIR1")
Control: 2010 New York NY 15 October
Indifference: 2013 Aguadilla PRI 26 April
Periaquatic: 2019 USS Omaha 16 July
Witness arousal: 2020 Victoria MEX 19 March

Solo UFO: 1994 Nevada Test &Training Range NV n.d.
Pair UFO: 1950 Great Falls MT 15 August
UFO Flight: 2021 New York NY 20 April
UFO Swarm: 1952 Tremonton UT 2 July
UFO Spawn: 2012 São Paulo BRA n.d.
UAP Flux: 2021 Wilmington CA 17 June

If you know of better video examples, or have corrections to suggest, please let me know by email.


Despite the prolonged immersion that was necessary to write this screed, I do not come away with alienist intoxication, bunkist scoffing or conspiracy paranoia. Instead I learned about how I and others respond differently to the inexplicable.

There is a pervasive and persistent element of "maybe so, who knows?" in ufology that is like an out of focus perception of "I don't know," the scientific confession about the inexplicable. In the sphere of social debate that thrives outside science, ufology is vexed with a florid tradition of conspiracy and alienist claims butting heads with a pugnacious bunkism in the context of a mass indifference to the UFO topic. The entire tradition is a remarkably diverse and continuous literary and microsociological culture with more colorful personalities than renaissance Italy and more lurid tales than Brothers Grimm. This forced on my mind the astonishing power of storytelling in human affairs. Storytelling helped me better recognize the contrasting status of fact, narrative and outlook — in particular, the very great power of outlook to shape my acceptance of facts (which seems to make certainty a circular argument!), and the very limited leverage of facts to alter outlook (which shows that outlook dominates what we identify as factual knowledge).

The main problem within ufology seems to me to be that few people are willing to say we don't know what we are talking about. Nobody stands up to say, like Goethe's Faust, that we've gone round and round, up and down, and are no wiser than we were before. That in itself is a serious intellectual problem, but also a disturbing failure of scientific attention, which is always to address the unknown with the question: "What measurable attribute can we use to describe and observe it?"

So there is quite a lot of talk about what UFO actually are, or might be, despite the fact that UFO embody an almost perfect stimulus to baffle human understanding. There is literally no context in which UFO appear comprehensible. Appearing as physical objects yet violating the laws of physics, frequent enough to be intriguing but rare enough apparently to be routinely inconsequential, intrusive where unwanted yet evasive when pursued, captivating to the eye and the imagination yet beyond any tangible testing or experimental manipulation, an apparently advanced technology that performs "ineffectual penetrations" of national security, a possibly far voyaging alien species whose activities show "no pattern of consistency or purpose", our insights seem thwarted from every angle. Alien abduction, the subjective component of the mystery, follows a similar pattern of imperfectly convergent witness reports that have all the peculiarities and narrative variations of folk tales. Across all these perspectives the universal UFO witness declaration applies: "I never saw anything like that before in my life."

The public record clearly indicates that UFO disrupt nothing in human affairs other than very rarely to affright pilots, disable weapons systems, annoy Navy guided missile ships and trouble defense/intelligence strategists. The public needs to understand that this is exactly the area where public information will be most distorted by government and corporate censorship. I conjecture that most of the "multiple sensor" military encounters with UFO, the recordings kept secret "for reasons of national security" involve the performance of UFO when challenged by military aircraft, and display the performance differential between the two. Outside those professional concerns, I believe that if the wide public chooses to ignore the topic of UFO completely they will almost certainly never feel any negative personal consequence for that decision — except perhaps to miss the intellectual curiosity that arises from an encounter with the inexplicable.

At the same time, Congress needs to establish what Congress does or does not know about how the military operates, in particular how repeated and gross failures of the Department of Defense to pass an audit might be connected to the operation of "dark" programs, whether they involve UFO crash retrieval and reverse engineering or not. UFO might reform failures of civilian oversight of military practice even if we never find out what UFO actually are are.

As for UFO themselves, whatever they are, several conclusions seem to me well established by the seven decades of publicly available witness testimony and documentary record:

• Evidence for the existence (reality) of UFO is far more substantial and convincing than any public evidence for their material nature, origin, function or behavioral objectives.
• UFO are characterized almost entirely by observational or "visual" evidence: unusual form, inexplicable electromagnetic emittance, and astonishing apparent capabilities of speed, acceleration, and cloaking or "disintegration".
• There is at present no plausible or coherent scientific explanation for UFO either as a natural phenomenon or as a technological artifact.
• In many respects, UFO more closely resemble an autonomous life form rather than a technological or military "vehicle" of material fabrication.
• As a "life form", UFO display several behaviors that in biological terms qualify as perceptive, dispositional, communicative and social.
• Overall, UFO do not seem specifically attentive to or interested in human activity, excepting many instances of UFO shadowing aircraft and possible interest in nuclear energy.
• By scientific standards, the current language and inquiry into UFO is crippled by stigma, euphemism, conjecture, bunkism, ignorance, pseudoscience and, most of all, by a gross insufficiency of appropriate measurement methodologies, research funding and peer reviewed scientific data.
• The public discussion of UFO is grossly polluted by undocumented conspiracy theories that actually attempt to explain our ignorance: either the government is hiding evidence, or aliens are eluding discovery, or the populace is unwilling to believe.
• There is a lack of public evidence to confirm any sort of "extraterrestrial" or "alien" hypothesis, and the conflict between government declarations and whistleblower claims moots the fact that evidence in secret is not evidence we can see. In this situation the entire topic remains, for the public, "acknowledged but undecided".

I still occasionally trawl sources of UFO videos in order to improve my selection of citizen evidence, replace dead links or correct errors of fact or grammar. I am not a partisan for any of the current explanations or theories about UFO — which have largely devolved into a fact free and hearsay polluted conversation that, as I said at the outset, strikes me as historically stagnant and intellectually stifling.

Finally, a personal anecdote: I saw UFO once in my teenage years. I was preparing my 25 cm aperture Cave Astrola telescope for evening observations in my home back yard in Long Beach, California. This is a routine and pleasant task for all astronomers — opening up the optics to cool down in the evening air, confirming the alignment of the equatorial mount to celestial north, preparing observing accessories so they can be found in complete darkness, and savoring the changes of twilight. The time was shortly after sunset and the sky was still bright and perfectly clear.

As I visually scanned the sky to evaluate observing conditions, I noticed what appeared as a distant light in the southern sky, slowly moving west at approximately a 45° zenith angle. My initial assumption from its angular velocity and brightness was that it was a satellite illuminated by the Sun which, though below the horizon, would still reflect from an object at high altitude. Mostly as a test of my finder scope collimation and my ability to "catch" a moving target, I attempted to anticipate its path with the finder scope crosshairs and then look for it with a low power eyepiece. When it came into view, I was surprised to observe that the unitary light was actually three equally bright lights, white or tinted with an orange yellow or golden hue, in a close equilateral triangular formation and moving in the apex direction. The lights did not flash, fluctuate or change color.

Intrigued, I attempted to catch the lights with a high powered eyepiece and after a couple of failed attempts succeeded. I was even more surprised to find that the three lights were actually nine, arranged in three equilateral groups moving closely as an equilateral formation, like this:

I was able to follow this appearance in sharp focus and long enough to memorize the relative spacing within the formation and between the formation and the field stop of the eyepiece. Unfortunately, at high magnification the darkening sky was greatly reduced in brightness and I could not detect any silhouetted forms.

The next day — using plausible estimates of the spacing between the lights based on the dimensions of conventional aircraft and flight formations of the era, and knowing the relative span of the formation within the true field of view at high magnification — I calculated that, were those conventional aircraft, they would have had to be flying at an altitude greater than 60,000 feet at supersonic speed. I reasonably concluded (given performance limits of the era) that they could not be conventional aircraft. A more compact formation could of course be at lower altitudes, but then the wingspans would be too small to be conventional aircraft.

Setting aside the onus of disparagement and ridicule that still falls on anyone professing "belief" in UFO, we are encumbered by a failure of curiosity and objectivity within the institutions of science; by a patchwork of observing tools and reporting channels; by a florid culture of fabulous storytelling, botched language and conspiracist suspicions; and by the government perpetuated falsehood that there is "nothing to see here." All that has been and remains an impediment to scientific knowledge.

What we do know beyond reasonable doubt is meager but astonishing. Whatever they are, UFO are real and display capabilities that appear to be beyond human craft and comprehension. But we still don't know what we are seeing because we still don't know how to look.

Last revised IV.24.24 • ©2024 Bruce MacEvoy