Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Parachuting UFOs

On October 15, TV viewers in the area around El Paso, Texas were titillated with the following video: Mysterious Lights over East El Paso, News Channel 9

TV news reporters described seeing a bright light that suddenly broke into three pieces, then four, and then seemingly hovered in the air. Comparing the El Paso lights (at night) with the balloon UFOs seen (midday) over Manhattan shortly before (see previous Blog entry), their 'triangular patterns' were described as "eerily similar." (Hint to UFOlogists: any three points define a triangle, unless they are all on a straight line.)

Commenters on the website of KTSM-TV, Channel 9 in El Paso, made comments like "I saw then thinking it was an airsho[w] drill, but planes cannot stay still that long and then a fourth one appear. This is the stuff government won't tell us," or "Planes of any kind, we would have been able to see then. Definitely UFO's!!" ( ). Somebody made the obligatory (and utterly irrational) comment "This universe is far and beyond! What makes us think that us humans are the only ones here?" (The universe is indeed vast, but just because ET intelligence probably exists somewhere does not mean that they must be here right now!) Then the same fallacy surfaces a second time: "Amazing footage! But to say their [sic] airplanes....c'mon! I don't believe anyone is going to buy into that. It's selfish to believe that we're the only one's in existence. Fact of the matter is, it's a UFO."

Sorry folks, but we know exactly what this "UFO" was. The Golden Knights is the Parachute Team of the U.S. Army, that does performances at air shows all around the country.Team member Rachel Medley wrote "Black Team performed a night jump last night into the Amigo Air Show evening social event, then did two mass formations with the beautiful desert and mountains as a backdrop." ( ) She added, "I was actually on that jump as the team videographer and have performed many night jumps as a member of the Golden Knights. We are commonly mistaken as UFOs or meteors," because they jump out of airplanes with pyrotechnics strapped to their ankles. Many people refused to believe that they could have been seeing pyrotechnic parachutists, but Ms. Medley simply replied by inviting them to witness forthcoming shows by the Golden Knights elsewhere in Texas.  

So the moral of our story is: when you're looking skyward, all that glitters is not UFOs.


  1. A very amusing story. I would comment briefly on the aside that "any three points define a triangle". Yes of course they do, but for a triangle to be described as "similar" (even "eerily similar") to another requires more than any old set of three points.

    "…similar triangles are triangles that have the same shape and are up to scale of one another. For a triangle, the shape is determined by its angles, so the statement that two triangles have the same shape simply means that there is a correspondence between angles that preserve their measures." (Wikipedia)

    I would suggest that even casual use of the term "similar' with respect to triangles infers that there is some degree of congruence between them: they are the same shape. A long, thin triangle would not be described, even by the non-mathematical observer, as "similar" to a short fat one.

    It is one thing to point out to people that what they reported as a UFO was actually something entirely mundane. It's another to throw gratuitous put-downs into the mix: I would suggest that such behaviour calls skepticism into disrepute, even in relatively innocuous cases like this. It's a temptation I would urge skeptical writers to avoid.

  2. I would even question whether ET intelligence probably exists somewhere. Yes, the universe is vast, but maybe the probability of intelligent life (or life at all) is a one in a googol event. How would we know? The only place we know life exists is Earth.

  3. Robert S: you got it right, and considering the attacks on scepticism by the true believers, I do not think a "put down" is gratuitous...The believers often use gratuitous insults, thus revealing their lack of rational arguments...

    BTW: When I saw on the tube, the first thing I thought was Golden Knights...

    Keep this up!

    Dale Martin

  4. Like this, going to add it to my feeds.

  5. Excellent job. I think you are going to save me a lot of effort. I have a friend at work who loves bring up the latest UFO. Now rather than search all over the web I can just direct them here. Thanks

  6. The tongue in cheek comment, "three points make a triangle" is completely understandable and makes a valid point. To split hairs about a perceived injustice to ufologists is irresponsible and somewhat hypocritical. The harshest accusations have always been leveled by the "true believer" and ETH crowd. Providing a rational and provable explanation, (i.e. Golden Knights) often invites irrational criticism and biased skepticism of the truth which is driven by ones "need to believe" reflex. The "true believers" should be reclassified as "skeptics of the facts" or "debunkers of the truth".

  7. Interesting that the same thing happened with the Red bull demonstration team in early december (on 12/1 and 12/8). Parachutists with flares attached to their legs were mistaken for "the silver surfer"!

  8. "This is the stuff government won't tell us." I love that line. It explains everything that happens if we let it.


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