I just learned, to my great honor, that I am the main subject of a full two-page enraged diatribe by Stanton T. Friedman in the December issue of The MUFON Journal. Throughout this piece, he refers to me as "Bobby." It's not entirely about me. Friedman, who calls himself "the Flying Saucer Physicist," directs some of his invective against Joe Nickell, with little arrows fired at Carl Sagan, Donald Menzel, and Seth Shostak. That puts me in pretty fine company, I'd say.
|Stanton Friedman speaks to MUFON|
|Must have The Precious!|
Stanton T. Friedman, who calls himself the “Flying Saucer physicist,” because he actually did work in physics about fifty years ago (although not since).He says, "I received my MS degree in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1956. Fifty years earlier than the 2009 date would have been 1959." He explains that he worked full-time as a physicist until 1969. OK Stan, I was wrong about that: It hadn't been 50 years since your primary career as a physicist ended, only 40 years. And you even did some physics consulting work on the side during the time you were the world's most prominent full-time UFOlogist. My apologies.
Bobby is unhappy about my criticism of Joe Nickell, noting that "he is a former magician and of course the stock in trade of magicians is intentional deception with another sterling example being The Amazing Randi."About which statement I wrote, "So by Friedman logic anyone who has practiced prestidigitation can never be trusted in anything," to which Friedman replies, "Of course I said no such thing." True enough, Stanton, but you certainly are implying it by suggesting we should expect "intentional deception" from current or former magicians.
Friedman says, "my primary criticism of Nickell was that his three degrees were in English, so there seemed little background in science." Stanton, if that is your primary criticism of anybody, you are a fool. English majors can learn science like anyone else, and Nickell consults with specialists and experts when appropriate. Friedman continues, "Bobby likes Joe's [Roswell] explanation of a Mogul balloon train. That account (July 9) was published after Brazel had been taken into custody and given a second story to recite." Got that? Mac Brazel, who first found the Roswell debris that looked like "tinfoil and sticks," was taken into custody by the military and forced to learn and recite a false 'cover story' to cover up the truth. This was just two weeks after the first "flying saucer" sighting of Kenneth Arnold - that Saucer Coverup program must have been put together in record time! This 'taken into custody by the military' story was a late addition to the Roswell yarn, long after Brazel was dead, and is of course entirely without proof.
Stanton also proclaims "Bobby doesn't like my mentioning the Aztec case of 1948 and Frank Scully's book... obviously he would like to ignore the incredibly detailed investigation of that case as reported by Scott and Suzanne Ramsey in The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon." Stan doesn't explain how my 2009 article could have discussed a book not published until 2011. But don't worry, Stan: if you look in the November/December 2012 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer, you'll seen my very detailed debunking of the Ramseys' new book. In fact, I'm not alone in that. UFO proponents Kevin Randle and Jerome Clark have each written their own reviews of that book, and while the three of us might agree on little else, all three reviews agree that The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon is not credible or convincing. What's amazing is that there is virtually no overlap in the approaches taken in the three reviews. Three entirely separate lines of investigation lead three very different UFO theorists to the same conclusion. Practically the only well-known UFOlogist who believes The Aztec Incident is Stanton Friedman.
Friedman also objects to my dismissal of the significance of the 1955 report Blue Book Special Report 14, which to him seems ironclad proof that "unidentified" UFO reports are different from "identified" ones. I will only repeat here the quote I used from Alan Hendry, an investigator formerly with the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies: “If the Battelle group [Special Report 14] had had a real appreciation for how loose the data were, they never would have bothered with a statistical comparison to begin with” (UFO Handbook, Doubleday, 1979, p. 266). [For more on Blue Book Special Report 14, see my discussion of Jacques Vallee, J. Allen Hynek, and the "Pentacle Memorandum."]
The supposed match of the Fish pattern with Betty Hill's sketch was never very good to begin with. Compare the "Hill Map" at top right with the "computer generated map" below it. Do they look like a "match" to you? (The "computer generated map" shows the Fish pattern plotted correctly, using the old Gliese catalog data.). As noted in 1976 by Steven Soter and Carl Sagan, the only reason that the patterns seem to match is because of the way that the lines are drawn.
The inclusion of these lines (said to represent trade or navigation routes) to establish a resemblance between the maps is what a lawyer would call "leading the witness".Eliminate the lines, and the patterns of dots look as different as could be. And that is the Good News for Stanton Friedman. Now the situation gets even worse.
Betty Hill's "UFO Star Map" contains twenty-six stars, while the Fish "identification" of it contains only fifteen stars. What happened to the remaining eleven stars? They were insignificant 'background' stars, not connected by lines, and hence ignored. Except for three "important" background stars in a triangle. As noted in my book UFO Sightings (p. 70-73) there are several ad hoc practices used in constructing the Fish Map. And that's the Good News for Friedman. It gets worse.
|Special Zeta Reticuli Incident issue of Astronomy magazine, 1976: Without the lines drawn, there is no resemblance between the two at all. (And this is using the old star data!)|
Nearby stars in the volume of space represented by the Fish pattern are included, or excluded, by certain criteria. A star must be a single star, not multiple (except for Zeta1 and Zeta2 Reticuli, which are widely-separated). They must be main sequence stars similar to the Sun, and they must not be variable. "Every one of the stars on the map are the right kind of stars, and all of the right kind of stars in the neighborhood are part of the map," according to Friedman (ignoring a few ad hoc problems).
As explained in my earlier Blog posting, the newer and much more accurate astronomical data shows that at least six of the fifteen stars must now be tossed out, under the same rules that once included them. Two are close binaries, two more appear to be variable, and two more are not even in the volume of space in question, their distances having been erroneously measured in the older data. So from fifteen stars supposedly matching the twenty-six Betty drew, subtract six more. Goodbye, Zeta Reticuli. "Bobby doesn't bother to stress the fascinating results especially the identification of the base stars Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli.... the closest to each other pair of sun-like stars in the neighborhood." Sorry Stanton, forget it - game over. The only reason to think that Betty's sketch has anything to do with the two Zetas is that dubious match, using the forty-year old astronomical data, where the patterns sort of maybe look similar if you squint and close one eye, but really don't. Now re-draw the map according to the same criteria, using the most accurate present-day star catalog data, and six of the fifteen stars disappear, leaving you with nine stars to try to match Betty's twenty-six. Goodbye, Zeta Reticuli.
But Friedman has invested so much time and effort into convincing the world that his precious Fish Map is proof of extraterrestrial visitations that he is simply incapable of admitting the obvious: that it has no validity whatsoever. There is no way he can go to MUFON or any other UFO group and say, "I'm sorry folks, I've been wrong for these past forty years. The Fish Map does not prove anything."
While we are talking about Zeta Reticuli, one interesting question is: What did Betty Hill intend to represent at the bottom of her "Star Map" where we see two large globes, connected by several parallel lines? The best suggestion I have heard comes from star map researcher Charles Atterberg (more about him is in my book UFO Sightings). He suggested that the two globes represent an old planetarium projector, similar to the one you see here. It makes perfect sense. When Dr. Simon asked Betty to draw, as best she could, the "star map" she claims to have seen, her mind wandered back to a planetarium show she presumably saw years earlier. She drew the stars she saw, and also the projector below them!