Thursday, February 28, 2013

UFOs In the Desert, Part 2

Thursday was the second day of the International UFO Congress in Fountain Hills, Arizona, the largest UFO conference in the world. My previous Blog posting covers the first day.

The first speaker of the day was Micah Hanks, author and researcher and another very glib speaker, talking about "The UFO Singularity." Futurists like to talk about the coming "singularity," meaning that as our machines' artificial intelligence continues to increase, for precisely one moment of time their intelligence will equal ours - and then forever afterward, theirs will be greater. Intelligent machines will then be the dominant force on this planet, and this may lead to a heaven on earth, or perhaps a hell (as in the movie The Matrix). This, of course, has nothing to do with UFOs.

Micah Hanks
Or does it? Hanks suggests that UFOs may represent a "post-singularity technology," probably originating here on earth, that somehow "transcends temporality." Sounds fancy. Micah says, "I'm known as the guy who says UFOs come from earth." This somehow ties in with Nazi saucers and other World War II developments, by way of a very circuitous path. He acknowledges, however, that UFOs might also represent a post-singularity extraterrestrial technology.

A Post-Singularity technology might know how to "reverse entropy," and then there is no telling what they might be able to do. They may have a technology that "evades temporality altogether," which might be easier than it sounds since time does not exist, it is an illusion.

Dr. Leo Sprinkle
The next speaker was the venerable Dr. Leo Sprinkle, psychologist and pioneering UFO abductionist,. His talk was titled "Memories of an ET Experiencer and Spiritual Pigtailer." Sprinkle has been hypnotically regressing supposed ET experiencers for over forty years, and still looks vigorous and spry at age 82. Only in recent years did Sprinkle reveal that he believes he is an ET experiencer himself.

Sprinkle had his first UFO sighting in 1949. He told about some childhood experiences that he now interprets in terms of ET abduction. He said you can analyze the "meaning" of any UFO sighting you might have by looking into your soul, by evaluating your feelings about it. The UFO is a "sign" for you. He talked a good bit about reincarnation. He believes he had a past life as a woman, who was not allowed to read books. His proof of reincarnation is in his feelings; he talked a lot about feelings. Perhaps, he suggested, these paranormal experiences herald the end of Partiarchy and of the male God.
One of Maussan's presentations in Mexico
Jason Martell had been scheduled to speak next about Ancient Astronauts. However, he was injured in some sort of accident (I don't have any more information about that), so the also-venerable Jaime Maussan was pressed into service. Maussan is the best-known UFO personality in Mexico, and is famous for his blockbuster videos and photos that are extremely remarkable, if true. 

Maussan said that worldwide UFO sightings have increased dramatically recently because of December 21, 2012, and aliens are now sending us messages by creating meteorological formations in the sky. He showed what were supposedly "vortexes" in meteorological charts, "messages" he says of "the new time."

He showed many blurry photos and videos. There was a huge black sphere sucking energy out of the sun - probably a Mothership, he suggested. NASA's Spirit rover photographed a human figure on Mars, and also a "little house." We saw objects (probably satellites in nlow earth orbit) crossing the face of the moon. Russia, he says, now has the greatest number of UFO sightings of any country, and he showed Russian videos of supposed "motherships." He also played videos having very low-pitch "unexplained" sounds or hums. Maussan's talk was loony, but the audience loved it.

Dolores Cannon
The next speaker was Dolores Cannon, another hypnotherapist, with over 50 years' experience. "She is also a published author of many books composed in part of transcripts from past life regression sessions." She knows a great deal about our spirit guides, "The Watchers." They help us arrange each of our lives. ETs created us by manipulating the genes of the ape. ETs are not trying to take over the earth - they already own it.

You probably know, she suggests, that Star Trek is not fiction - it is real. The ETs try not to interfere in a civilization unless it gets too violent, which is what happened to the Atlanteans. And it is always the men who mess things up by getting too violent. This forces the ETs to step in and wipe them out.

The final session of the day was a panel, "Investigating UFOs," with James Fox, Nick Pope, Marc Dantonio, hosted by Lee Speigel. If you have been reading Speigel's articles in The Huffington Post, you know that he has been receiving quite a few purported UFO photos and videos, and he has been sending them to Dantonio for analysis. Marc Dantonio is MUFON's chief photo/video analyst, and president of FX Models, a model making and special effects company. His company makes UFOs - for TV and movies. While Dantonio believes that some UFO cases are authentic, he is actually a very skeptical guy. We must remove all of the possible 'knowns,' he said, if it's a close correlation to something we already know, he concludes it is that. And he said something that amazed me: "Lee, you haven't yet given me anything 'unknown.'" He says, "I am harsh on the data," even though witnesses insist "I know what I saw!" But Dantonio tells them that my comments are directed toward the data - the photo or video - not toward what you saw.

Lee Speigel, James Fox, Nick Pope, Marc Dantonio
Pope said that people give more credence to sightings by pilots, and that is proper, but we should not dismiss sightings by ordinary folk. Fox said he had offered some commercial pilots who had UFO sightings $10,000 to come forward and tell their stories; they declined, saying they would lose their jobs. Speigel related how skeptic James Oberg had said to him that pilots actually make rather poor witnesses, which he felt was wrong; Pope pronounced Oberg to be "dead-pan wrong." I had a chance during the Q&A to point out that Oberg did not originate that idea: it was actually stated by J. Allen Hynek (which seemed to take the entire panel by surprise). On p. 271 of the 1977 book The Hynek UFO Report, the former Blue Book scientific consultant said, "Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses."

Fox claimed that NASA's photos of Mars are all pretty clear, except when the camera points toward the Cydona area (which supposedly contains a Face on Mars). In that case, the photos are all blurred.

In the evening, I attended the U.S. Premiere of a film called Solar Evolution. It suggested that the December solstice in 2012 (which had not yet happened) would usher in certain great changes, and somehow the sun would play a role in all this evolutionare New Age stuff. Beware of the coming Solar Maximum, it warned - even though the current solar cycle is the feeblest in about a century!


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  2. Hynek even went as far as to say that pilots actually fared worse than your average witness, if I recall correctly. Even the UFO studies in the USSR arrived at a similar conclusion (Sokolov et al).

    This shouldn't really come as a surprise though. Time and time again pilots make some pretty crazy errors and as one pilot (USAF veteran LeQuella) put it; "The environment we are suited to is having our eyes about 5 feet off the ground, and moving at a speed of about 2 miles per hour." He also said "our brains suck!", which is pretty much the same thing and it's very true at that.

    Failing to correctly identify radiosondes and celestial bodies for instance is hugely common but it doesn't really stop there either. Civilian aircraft have descended toward runways that turned out to be highrises (happened in Ireland a few years ago, luckily ATC were clear-headed enough to spot the peculiar course deviation and alert the pilot before disaster struck), military aircraft have opened fire on or attempted to lock onto Venus and that same body is responsible for countless course and FL change requests over the years (even including violent collision avoidance maneuvering!), clouds and all kinds of meteorological phenomena continue to confuse and disorient pilots.... Hell, even the half moon suddenly peeking over some clouds startled an aircrew for several minutes before they realized what they were looking at (generated some ATC UFO buzz in the meantime).

    So what, are all these pilots totally unfit for flying? No, it's just a bunch of examples of what can happen when you get yourself into a cockpit and start exploring an alien domain. Over at the Professional Pilots Rumour Network there are tons of these stories, it's a pretty interesting read if you're into the whole UFO eyewitness credibility thing. Similar things show up in many FAA investigations too, typically regarding near-disasters such as the aforementioned highrise incident. My pilot friends have all stated the same thing, determining distances, relative speeds and sizes up there can be incredibly hard and it is not unusual to be _dead wrong_ about it. I immediately recall the Burger King bag case that was relayed by Mr. Printy... The implications are truly vast here and we haven't even delved into things like military exercises and countermeasures of various kinds, rocket/missile launches and so on. If something as mundane as the things above can pose an identification issue, what about less mundane things? Indeed, speaking of Printy I seem to recall that two of the classic NIRCAP or Blue Book unknowns turned out to be rocket launches viewed from peculiar angles. The Russian/Soviet studies I referred to earlier also noted this, that many spectacular reports were launches or re-entries (concluded as such by the perfect match in time, altitude and azimuth). Though the witnesses had a tendency to exaggerate quite a bit, it was possible to infer what properties of the event that gave them those impressions. This also echoes that re-entry over Canada that was linked to a bunch of famous UFO-reports.

    I should start a blog or something, I write way too much.

  3. Well I'd pay good money to hear Maussan speak. Some of the speakers are getting older, is there a younger group "coming up" the ranks?

  4. "Pope said that people give more credence to sightings by pilots, and that is proper, but we should not dismiss sightings by ordinary folk."

    Ufologists always ascribe certain superior observational powers to pilots. An interesting claim. But never once have I seen this claim backed by actual research. Many UFOlogists seem to publish books about the "science of UFOs" but they don't actually do science, that is hypothesis testing. Here's a great hypothesis. Yet no UFOlogist has ever bothered to test it.

  5. I've started a list of "UFOlogists Subtypes".
    Feel free to add to it:

    1. Enablers: So-called serious UFO researchers who write books, but conveniently omit pertinent information that would explain an UFO event. The goal of the Enabler is to keep the UFO stories alive because it good for book sales. Leslie Kean and Richard Dolan come to mind.

    2. Evangelists: Their personal identities and careers are forever linked to the UFO beliefs and there is nothing that will change their minds. These types are threatened by skeptics. Classic example is Stanton Friedman.

    3. Hobbyist: The public that are buying the UFO books and watching related UFO TV shows, etc. Unfortunately, the Hobbyist is not getting entire story regarding UFO stories due to the Enabler omitting important data. The Hobbyist may prefer UFO sensationalism over boring facts that could disprove UFO sightings.

  6. Robert I would like to hear how all these conflicting stories are reconciled with the audience. I mean if one of these stories is true, how can it fit in with the other stories?

  7. Was there any discussion of crop circles? I realize that most of these are human stunts, but a few seem to be so elaborate that they must have been created by some highly technical process above the field. Thoughts?

    1. The perceived complexity is a crucial part of the illusion. My advise is to give reverse-engineering a go, it's great exercise. Think of what you can actually do with simple instructions involving mobile pivots, set distances (e.g. ropes marked in a number of intervals, measuring tape or click rollers for additional detail spacing), a set of predetermined angles and so on.

      Once you begin combining these basic techniques the possibilities are near endless, you are not limited to mere circles, even nice raster graphics become possible... It's a surprisingly quick process as well and it's by no means unique to circlemakers, other artists have used the same principles since time immemorial to achieve astonishing results on grand scales and continue to do so. For architects it's childsplay. Also, take a look at what artists such as Andres Amador and Simon Beck are able to create with far less aids (or none at all). And they're on their own, too.

      Of course it is worth nothing that while the classic British circlemakers tend to be rather secretive (that's part of the tradition that continues to flourish in the Wiltshire area), a great many there and elsewhere have "gone public" (or never bothered feeding the fun "mystery" in the first place) and continue making awe-inspiring works of art, usually as advertisement stunts et cetera.

      Really though, there is not much mystery to it anymore. This you quickly realise once you scrutinise the creations. Revelations like that are unwelcome in "cereology" circles though, so they're spending all their time conjuring up all kinds of strawmen about "anomalies" and what not. A crash course in basic botany shows how misinformed they are. If you point that out they'll jump onto the geiger clicks or some buzz about geomagnetic readings. Some geoscience for dummies later and, yeah, you guessed it. It's strawmen galore.

      Circlemakers tend to follow cereologists closely though, and when the "ferrites" thing became popular they immediately began spreading ferrous materials. Such things occur in nature, obviously, and may vary widely from area to area/field to field. At first, cereologists concluded that because it was present here but not there, it must have been associated with the circle they're walking around feeling "energies" in. Great science (like the rest).

      That approach also led to the interesting stance among some cereologists that since the observed "anomalies" appeared to be independent from the complexity of the circles (as expected, see above), they thought they were on to something here that could disqualify an often cited sign of it being human in origin and rather competitive at that - the evolving complexities over the years. However that approach sort of clashed with the commonly repeated idea that the complexity in many cases were beyond what humans could produce. And on it goes. Nobody quite agrees about what would be a sure sign of something paranormal or extraterrestrial, though they all agree that they are. Hmm... And let's not even go to the associated UFO reports, same sort of messed up causality there.

      No, it really reeks of something borderline religious to me. Just get a pencil and a spirograph and conclude the obvious already.

    2. Never underestimate what five bored, slightly drunk engineering students can pull off under cover of darkness.

    3. Thanks for the lengthy reply, JHA. Some of the complex crop circles must take considerable planning. Look at this one:

  8. This is SO revealing. Why would you possibly attend this event? I'll tell you why- Debunkers are every bit as addicted to the absolutely lowest quadrants of UFOlogy as the most credulous Space Brother-loving crystal kisser. Debunkers swim in the muck of bottom-drawer paranormalia but distinguish themselves by poo-pooing it all. It's not only a cheap ego boost but also classic approach-avoidance conflict syndrome, like the homophobic preacher who spends all his time in gay bars- for research, you understand. It also reminds me of the guy in the nuthouse who showers and shaves and dresses in his suit as if he's going to the office and not the commons room. If you think UFOs are bunk, spend your time talking about the latest in corporate- controlled science. Oh wait- that's duller than dishwater. Never mind.

    1. But the only way a skeptic is going to learn what is going on in the UFO world is to attend UFO conferences, read books and articles by ufologists, watch UFO-oriented TV shows or scan the internet. Robert probably does all of these. He was not doing it as an undercover agent, he was doing it as a publicly known skeptic who, presumably, wanted to learn the latest titbits of what is going on in ufocons. Hence his attendance.

      Similarly, a paranormal believer is perfectly entitled to attend a skeptics conference or conventional science conference and report his opinions afterwards. Occasionally this happens.

      Both sides can, and do, pick up useful ideas. Don't forget that people have various degrees of belief and various degrees of skepticism in any unconventional subject.

    2. CLK, you suggest there is something wrong with a skeptic having a "swim in the muck" of ufology. Two question:

      1) Is this your first day on the internet? Ninety-five percent of ufology is muck! The other five percent don't get invited to conferences because the fandom will only tolerate muck! (Kevin Randle complained about this on his blog.)

      2) Do you realise you are blaming skeptics for the wretchedness of the speakers at UFO conferences? Does that make any sense?

      > like the homophobic preacher who spends all his time in gay bars

      You say that of the skeptics -- so in your analogy, what is the role of the UFO believers? Could you elucidate that for us?

      I do have one more question:

      CLK, do you ever think through your ideas before you hit the "publish" button?

      Give it a try!

    3. This makes absolutely no sense at all, it just pretends to be one of those debunker-type devastating rejoinders. I have two questions for you- are you *ever* going to bother to update your blog and are you ever going to work up the courage to use your real name?

      My experience shows me that people who use phony names have something to hide.

    4. Have you ever considered the possibility that "debunkers" are simply interested in learning and disseminating the truth?

    5. @CLK

      That's your response? To not respond to the substance of my comment?

      Have you got anything in your quiver but irrelevant diversion and sleazy ad hominem?


  9. Why would a debunker care? I have no interest in going to any of these conventions, I can't imagine why a goalpost mover would possibly be interested. Unless, of course, they're desperately searching out something that will make them a believer.

    1. > I can't imagine why a goalpost mover would possibly be interested.

      Once again, copy and pasting talking points and glib insults from believer blogs without assessing if they are in the least relevant.

      Do you ever think?

    2. Copying and pasting talking points from where, exactly? You have no idea what you're talking about. Typical debunker.

    3. >This is SO revealing. Why would you possibly attend this event? I'll tell you why

      "I can only think of one reason, so it must be this!" Surely, from the get go, you'll admit skeptics have many reason to attend UFO conventions, not just the strawman version you're proffering.

      >Debunkers swim in the muck of bottom-drawer paranormalia but distinguish themselves by poo-pooing it all.

      What separates bottom-drawer UFOlogy from top-drawer UFOlogy?

      >like the homophobic preacher who spends all his time in gay bars- for research, you understand.

      You will admit even the bottom-drawer UFO proponents take their message directly to the public. The major media is largely credulous. The role of skepticism is to offer the public another understanding, one based in science, logic, and reason. Your analogy, therefore, is faulty.

    4. I don't have admit to any of your nonsensical suppositions, particularly when you misuse the perpetually-misused term "strawman." The idea that the major media is credulous is absurd, since they make media figures out of the total obscurities and marginal personalities who act as debunkers.

      Now sign your real name.

    5. >Now sign your real name.


      >misuse the perpetually-misused term "strawman."

      I'll leave it to the readers of this blog as to the accuracy.

      >The idea that the major media is credulous is absurd, since they make media figures out of the total obscurities and marginal personalities who act as debunkers.

      So, you admit it's absurd to claim major media is credulous. Therefore, they must exercise reasonable diligence in accepting the claims and authority of "debunkers"? Whew.

  10. Assessing pilots as UFO witnesses is made harder by several separate standards. One standard is how OFTEN a person from a particular category misperceives a visual stimulus -- and here, there is no available evidence, but it would not be impossible that pilots would be as good or better than non-pilots due to their past experience. But the more important measure is different: it is what kind of misperceptions occur more frequently in one group than in the general population. That is, WHEN a pilot misperceives a visual stimulus [and there certainly are many examples of this happening], HOW do they misinterpret it? Here, it seems clear that pilots interpret in terms of their previous experience, as everyone else does. But for pilots, they see things as craft, and particulary craft on hazardous flight paths, because that is the guess that is least likely to be harmful if wrong. False positives are merely embarassing; false negatives can be fatal. As to calibrating such cases, we are fortunate to have documented missile/space events over the past fifty years that, when compared to consequent UFO reports by pilots, can be 'demonstration proofs' that a pilot can to a remarkably high degree report all sorts of 'classic' UFO features, from maneuvering to shadowing to signaling to inducing EMI effects in the pilot's vehicle -- all from a distant manmade technological event. Such calibration efforts appear taboo among even the most self-styled serious of the pro-UFO researchers, and understandably so -- they tear the guts out of the argument that the undiscoverability of any explanation is proof of the absence of any prosaic explanation.

    1. The 'reputable observer' status afforded to pilots, law enforcement, and the military is one of those vast assumptions that no one I've questioned has ever been able to justify. There's a certain level of irony in the whole affair when you realize that, among the UFO proponents who constantly urge greater investigations, few of them seem capable of actually asking a police officer or member of the armed forces what kind of training they've received in observation. Additionally, it's not like studies on the limits of perception, and suggestibility, are difficult to find online.

      About the only type of pilot I might consider more skilled than the general public at observation would be a WWII veteran. They had to constantly locate other aircraft and identify it, often vectoring to an interception, without the benefit of radar, ground control, or even flight corridors, and the differences between friendly and hostile aircraft were often subtle. Yet even then, location, habits, and knowledge of operations were enough to distinguish for their purposes - "we" don't have a bombing mission active in this area, so those smaller specks above the larger specks are escort fighters for the bombers, and only when closing to less than a thousand yards or so were they determined to be Bf109s or P51s.

      Today's pilots are constantly reminded of traffic in their area, maintain flight corridors, and have close passes only on approach. They don't share the same operational altitudes with aircraft of different types, and maintain turbulence separation. Nor do they ever have to identify another aircraft beyond "smaller/slower" and "bigger/faster." There's little opportunity to obtain experience in observation, even if that was the argument.

      And regarding your [JimO's] last line, you can have a certain amount of fun every time someone uses the "lack of firm scientific explanation" argument by just repeating the "absence of evidence" trope in return ;-)


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