Friday, July 20, 2012

More Time Wasted with National Geographic's "Chasing UFOs"

While at the two recent conferences in Reno and Las Vegas (see the previous Blog entry), I had occasion to explain to several people that the latest turd-TV offering from the National Geographic Channel, Chasing UFOs, had succeeded in doing something that never has been done before: UFO proponents and UFO skeptics all agree that the show is absurd, a travesty of "UFO investigation" that makes everyone look bad. Indeed, some UFO proponents think that because the show is so bad, it must be a government plot  to embarass UFO researchers!  Hard-core UFO proponent Robert Hastings quite appropriately says the show is "investigation as farce."  He says that its "entertainment-based formula may best be described as Blair Witch Project meets Inspector Clouseau. If the show’s producers are not secretly in cahoots with some intelligence agency to make legitimate UFO research look bad, by association, they have certainly achieved that outcome inadvertently."

was the UFO a spider web reflection?
Episode 3, "Alien Cowboys," is set in Colorado, where they begin by investigating the Tim Edwards UFO video of 1995.  The Chasers are suitably impressed by this video. So far as I know there has been no skeptical investigation of this video. Bruce Maccabee analyzed it, but came to no conclusions about what it is. "Abovetopsecret" user ALLisONE posted a photo comparing the "UFO" in Edwards' video to the sun's reflection on a spider-thread, and so far that's the best explanation I have seen. The changing shape and size of the object certainly suggests a reflection. The smaller white objects (baby UFOs?) are suggested by some to be insects, but to me they look like little dandelion "puffs", small seed packets being scattered in the wind.

They meet with Chuck Zukowski, who investigates alleged "cattle mutilations." I heard Zukowski speak at the International UFO Congress in February, and posted the following in a Blog entry of February 22:
The sessions began Wednesday morning with Chuck Zukowski talking about the joy of slicing up dead cattle that the aliens have already sliced and diced - that way, he can study their handiwork. He showed some gruesome photos, adding that he always brings his three kids when he investigates a mutilation, so that they can help out. He claims to sometimes detect substantial EMF fields emanating from mutilated cows, and speculates that it is a residual field from some alien device. I am wondering why the field does not dissipate away at the speed of light.

Zukowski explained that his website is www.ufonut.com, because this is what people call him. He said that mutilations seem to follow the cattle of certain ranchers, even if the rancher moves. I would think that what follows a rancher is the propensity to attribute slightly unusual predation patterns to extraterrestrials. He has discovered that mutilations and paranormal events are most common at 37 degrees north latitude, creating a belt of weird stuff running clear across the country. In the Q&A session, the question came up as to whether the aliens might be abducting cattle to create a race of "hybrid fetuses." Chuck thought that might be true. Can this be the explanation for the aliens' bizarre obsession with the nether parts of cattle - the creation of an alien/cattle hybrid? Now that truly bends the mind!
Somehow to me the image of Zukowski's three children romping about while he pores over a mutilated cow seemed delightfully surreal, but Chuck assures us in a comment below that his children are young adults, so their presence is surely more understandable. Soon it's time for the three Chasers, plus Zukowski, to put on the "prosthetic devices" and stumble around in the dark looking for mutilated cows, since it's obviously easier to find dead cows at night than when the sun is out. But just as they discover a herd of live cows from its infrared signature (guys, a dead cow won't radiate heat!), another near-encounter with a wild animal, this time a mountain lion, sends them scrambling back with no alien evidence.

They next visit UFO raconteur Stan Romanek, one of the least-credible persons in all UFOlogy. At this year's International UFO Congress I heard Romank deliver one of the most ridiculous talks on UFOs I'd ever heard. I posted:
Stan is the guy who became famous when he posted to YouTube a video of an alien peeping in his window. Soon others were posting alien Peeping Tom videos of their own, many of them better than Romanek's. He told about how he started to have sightings of UFOs a few years back, and soon they were following him around. Before long, big-headed aliens are playing peek-a-boo in the windows of his home. Then the ETs were replaced by as many as nine alien hybrid little girls, who intrude upon his telephone calls, and also play now-you-see-me-now-you-don't. One of them is Lisa's daughter from a previous UFO abduction. Stan gets a few not-quite-clear photos of strange-looking little girls, whose images probably have been Photoshopped to give them ET features.

Stan injured himself falling off a ladder, and was going to get corrective surgery. However, before the operation he was abducted by ETs, and his injury was miraculously healed, to the astonishment of his doctor. Before finishing his talk, he mentioned in passing that someone had anonymously mailed him actual photos of the true Roswell crash debris, and he flashed them tantalizingly on the screen. Stan Romanek is a one-man paranormal factory, and I suspect these wild claims will just keep piling up for many years.

Afterward while Romanek was at his table in the vendors' room (he and his wife now have three books of wild UFO claims), I introduced myself to him, and gave him my "Bad UFOs" card. I asked him why the aliens were following him around. We chatted very briefly when somebody (probably his wife) must have whispered, "don't talk to that guy." Suddenly it was, "I can't talk to you. You just bad-mouth people. Go away." I attempted to get a photo of him and his wife (others were doing so), but he turned his face away from me (how I regret not getting that image of Romanek avoiding the camera!). He said he'd have his lawyer sue me if I took a photo; I replied that was ridiculous, since he was a public figure in a public forum. So much for "UFO research!"
You guessed it: Romanek joins the UFO Chasers in their special Dark-Exploration Suits, and they stumble around not some desolate place, but in the suburban neighborhood where Romanek lives, looking for Extraterrestrials. I'm surprised they didn't have an Encounter with an ice cream truck. They don't find any ETs, but Ben spooks James by replicating the "peeping Tom alien" video, lying on the ground and holding up an alien mask.

The Roswell extraterrestrial tin can
In Episode 4, "UFO Landing Zone?", the UFO Chasers jump into "a race to investigate these [crash] claims." Well, it's only been 65 years since whatever it was happened at Roswell, so you'd better jump in before the trail grows cold. They stumble around in the dark, as usual, and get all excited over finding a piece of scrap metal, which only at the end is revealed to be "tin." Saucer debris, or the remains of some ranch hand's long-ago lunch? They also breathlessly find a military button, later identified as belonging to the U.S. Air Force. Too bad that the Air Force did not exist as a service until Sept. 18, 1947, more than two months after Roswell, and thus the button could not possibly have anything to do with any operation carried out in July of 1947. Roswell proponent Kevin Randle adds this about the button:

It seemed to be too good. The button I used for the photograph had not been buried, but only exposed to the open air for a couple of decades. It is tarnished to a bronze color. The button they found seemed to be nearly pristine. I would expect that if it had been buried for any length of time it would have degraded more than my button that had not.

The nearly-pristine post-Roswell Air Force Button
What this tells me is that the National Geographic has gone the same way as the Arts and Entertainment Channel, Bravo, History Channel and a couple of others....The point is that National Geographic is now more about ratings than research. It is about audience share and entertainment and not about finding the truth, whatever that truth might be. It is about superficial research that avoids asking the difficult questions or asking those who might actually have an answer.
 Exactly right. Randle also checked with the White Sands Missile Range about the supposed UFO crash video presented by Ted Loman that we see repeated over and over, research that The UFO Chasers could not bother to do. He was told that it was part of “an infrared shot of a Navy missile test." Case Closed, but by Randle, not by The UFO Chasers


And yet at this very moment another TV production company is seeking to cast "a new docuseries following Alien and UFO Researchers and Investigators. The show would be similar in concept to Ghost Hunters -- except with UFO and Alien findings." They explain, "We are looking to follow an existing team of Investigators," not even realizing that there is no such thing. Are they doing this because they believe Chasing UFOs to be a great show, or will they do a decent job of investigating UFO claims? I'd like to be optimistic about the show, but as a realist I'd have to say that the odds are against it.

27 comments:

  1. The skeptic (Ben McGee) covered some of these points in his NGC blog:
    http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/16/the-science-of-chasing-ufos-ufo-landing-zone-2/

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  2. Randle seems to suspect the button was planted. It is interesting that Ryder happened to wander off from the main group and find it. Was she just lucky or did the producers "guide" her to this location?

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  3. > Randle seems to suspect the button was planted.

    No qualifiers, Mr. Printy. Randle says: "It is quite clear that the button was planted out there by someone who didn’t understand military history, military operations, or the proper wear of the uniform."

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    1. Peter Merlin had issues with producers having him "plant" items (although his debris was authentic debris he recovered from a crash site) so they could find them for a show. I would not be shocked if the producers of the program arranged this as well. IMO, Fox and McGee probably would not stand for being part of something like this. However, Ryder seems to be the wild card and her behavior implies she is there for her "acting" abilities rather than substance. So she would be the best person to select for this sort of thing. It is no surprise that she "found" the button. If it went down this way, I am wondering if Fox/McGee did not suspect it or were they just ignorant of what transpired?

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  4. The show has featured fabulists Jeff "Two Vans" Gonzalez and Stan Romanek already! How low can you go? Sheldon Nidle? Kay Wilson? Maybe the guy who shot two grays in an underground base?

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    1. We need a "like" button on these Blogs!

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    2. Well, they just added Jeff Willes. He has some questionable videos out there as well. It seems they are out there finding all sorts of people who have had questionable encounters and videos over the years and given them air time. That encourages others to create hoaxes so they can appear on "chasing UFOs"! Instead of encouraging UFO research, the program is now encouraging people to create elaborate hoaxes in the hope of appearing on National Geographic!

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    3. They could do Billy Meier. Revisit George Adamski (Why did chicken incubator manufacturers build in lamps with such a remarkable resemblance to spaceships from Venus, anyway?). How about getting John Edward to contact Heaven's Gate?

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    4. Actually, UFO researcher Joel Carpenter has written a recent paper suggesting that Adamski's famous photo shows not a chicken brooder, but a propane camping lantern. The resemblance is pretty darn good.
      Google "Joel Carpenter" adamski

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  5. Just an (fyi), both my sons were deployed to Iraqi, one again to Afghanistan, and my daughter just turned 23. How’s that for being delightfully surreal.Chuck Zukowski

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    1. You're not "Anonymous," you're Chuck!

      Well, I assumed your children were young, maybe junior high school, and filled with kid-energy. But your children are adults (like mine), not young kids. Your lecture left me with a different impression. I have changed the text above, to reflect that fact.

      So tell me why, in your opinion, do you think that the aliens are (allegedly) abducting cattle, and slicing them up? Are they extremely interested in bovine anatomy and physiology, and if so, why? Or is there some genetic program to produce an alien/bovine hybrid? None of this seems to make sense!

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    2. I'm curious too, Chuck. My question for all high-profile advocates of the "UFO" myth and delusion: Do you really hold these bizarre, demonstrably false beliefs about the world (utterly destroyed by the Null and Psychosocial hypotheses, and the failure of the ETH, etc) or is it just an antiscientific contrarian act for attention and bit of cash?

      ufoolery is history

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    3. Yes, the idea of a clandestine effort to create alien-bovine hybrids is curious. I have a few questions as well. Why carve up cows when the complete genomic sequence (one rather similar to humans) was published and made available to the public a few years ago? Don't these technologically superior, space-faring entities have an internet connection? For years we have heard accounts of hybrids, but who has one in hand for definitive genetic testing? Tall tales around the campfire are fun and maybe profitable, but without some hard evidence you will never get a conviction.

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  6. For what it's worth, we were aware of and discussed the Navy's statement on the bounce-and-crash rocket video on camera at the very onset, prior to meeting Ted Lohman. The conversation, however, simply never made the final cut.

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    1. (The above comment is by Ben McGee.)

      Interesting, Ben. So the directors and editors apparently didn't want the public to hear about proposed solutions - only about mysteries!

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    2. Why didn't it make the final cut? Surely it wasn't irrelevant. Oh, I know, it was too much of a "buzzkill." The truth often is.

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    3. Robert,

      That is evidently the case. (On a side note, it was a pleasant surprise to find myself quoted alongside you in the recent LiveScience article by Natalie Walchover on the Laredo infrared "triangle UFO.") In any event, as I mentioned earlier, the ratio of footage shot-to-used was greater than 120-to-1. I have to be judicious even about what I decide to include in my behind-the-scenes science blog because there is so much material to potentially resurrect. In light of this reality, I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to review the show critically. Perhaps with time (and weighing critical feedback) it will be decided that future programming can afford the inclusion of additional scientifically-oriented content.

      Ross - you may have hit the nail on the head.

      (And yes, this is Ben. Apologies for failing to identify on this thread! For the curious, my blog science on the science behind the show can be found here: http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/author/benmcgee/ )

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  7. "We are looking to follow an existing team of Investigators," not even realizing that there is no such thing." They could follow around the "Chasing UFOs" team and show us the stuff that doesn't make the cut.

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    1. Great! Once again, we badly need a "like" button for these comments!

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  8. Posted elsewhere, but presented here since it references one of my favorites.

    Quantum Ufoolery: If there's one foolproof indicator of new-age nonsense it's the appeal to quantum mystery to explain a mundane "mystery" of human wishfulness and folly. All quantum quackery depends on that false analogy of imagination and the imprecision of language. Explaining the non-mystery of people making "UFO" reports--which is all we have--or belief in the "UFO" delusion doesn't require QM.

    In the 1970s, after the predictable failure of the "UFO" hypothesis ("UFOs" exist), high-profile advocates of the "UFO" myth (Hynek, Vallee, Keel, Clark and others) proposed that the "saucers" had disappeared into an "alternate reality." To which Sheaffer said, [This] "'alternate reality' talk is not a promising new hypothesis. It is total intellectual abdication." The "quantum UFO" hypothesis is more of the same.

    An hypothesis in search of a non-phenomenon. "There never were any saucers."

    http://www.debunker.com/historical/SmithsonianUFOtalk.html

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    1. Interestingly, John Keel referred to himself as a "demonologist," and he objected vehemently to being called a "ufologist."

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    2. After flirting with "occult" conceptions of the UFO phenomenon, Jerome Clark has returned to supporting the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).

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    3. || Interestingly, John Keel referred to himself as a "demonologist," and he objected vehemently to being called a "ufologist."||

      Probably because he knew the very idea of "UFOs" was utter nonsense; he wrote "The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers" after all. Keel was a writer, period. In one recounting of how he, Barker and Moseley cooked up the "mothman" nonsense, he began with a sentence to the effect, "Well, I had a contract to write a flying-saucer book...." That tells us quite a lot about Keel's attitude on the "UFO" non-issue and reveals--if it wasn't obvious--what has propelled "UFOs" since the first airship hoax in 1896. It's not element 115.

      The point was that the "quantum UFO" hypothesis is just as worthless as the "interdimensional UFO" hypothesis of the 1970s because it's not falsifiable, one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience. It explains nothing. Keel's "ultraterrestrials" (and every other excuse) are no better than invoking magic fairies or Easter Bunny as a meta-rationale for the lack of evidence of real "UFOs" of any kind.

      The "elusive companion" hypothesis is more of the same and just as worthless.

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    4. Zoam, good point: "Keel was a writer, period." Actually, right on the money. As I wrote in my book Psychic Vibrations (p. 201), "I had a nice long chat with John Keel (1930-2009) at the bar during the 1980 National UFO Conference in New York City. He freely admitted to me that he knew that approximately 99% of what he's writing is absolute codswallop. Randi came by to chat, too. He was an old friend of Keel."

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    5. Zoam,

      I got your point the first time. I wasn't arguing that, I was just offering an interesting tidbit about Keel.

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  9. The Salinda,Colorado video, being labeled as a spider web,that's a comparison that just doesn't work for me.I would love to see a few experts weigh in on the video.I'm sorry,the whole story around the sighting,along with his father's statements just doesn't come off as anything other then a strange object they happen to see and photograph,not to say this is a alien spacecraft,but we should be able to come up with a better explanation then a spider web..I tried to replicate what they photographed with spider webs,it doesn't look like anything,with the movements,reflections that seem to have a pattern,noway is this a spider web

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  10. had the skeptics looked a little closer,a similar sighting,was seen and video taped in Krasnodar,Russia around 1990.If we could see what if anyone in the Russian press,government had to say about what was filmed ,maybe we can figure out what this really was.I thought it was a fuel dump the first time I saw it,it is not,at the very end of the full length video,for a split second can see part of what the real object looked like.I thought to myself,could it be a balloon with the payload below it,from a distance it could have the effect of a small object circling a larger object,in reality it is just swinging violently back and forth.I am a skeptic and believe most UFO sighting's are fakes, misidentified aircraft,etc but I want to know what the object was,I'm not content with it looks like this,so that's it.

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