Sunday, January 20, 2019

We Learn More About AATIP - and it's Filled with Woo!

Australian Keith Basterfield has now given us a close look at a briefing document prepared by AATIP, the Pentagon's recent UFO investigation program set up by Senator Harry Reid, and apparently for the benefit of Robert Bigelow. These documents appear to have been leaked from "a certain US website maintained by a team member of the To The Stars Academy (TTSA)" (other sources name this person as Chris Mellon).

The most interesting slide is this one. It shows that AATIP was firmly planted in the zone of fantasy science, not the real world.

"Slide 9 From Outer Space." From the AATIP briefing document (from Keith Basterfield). 
So, AATIP says that "the science exists" for "Psychotronic weapons," that we need to defend ourselves against. One website describes "Psychotronic weapons" as 
any other unacknowledged or as yet undeveloped means inflicting death or injury on, or damaging or destroying, a person (or the biological life, bodily health, mental health, or physical and economic well-being of a person) through the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations or the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations.
The silver lining is that "psychotronic weapons" have not been shown to exist. Their use has been alleged (for example, against U.S. diplomats in Havana), but such allegations have never been proved. Conspiracy-oriented websites are filled with accounts of supposed government "mind control," and the best defense against "psychotronic weapons" is apparently a tinfoil hat. AATIP is convinced that such weapons do exist, or could be developed, and they want money to work on this.

My favorite is: "Anomalies in the space/time construct." Think about that one: supposedly some enemy might bend space and time, and kick us back into the Jurassic era, or perhaps into some distant galaxy via a cosmic wormhole. They actually believe this. Since Einstein it's been known how to 'bend' space-time: get a huge chunk of mass.  A few solar masses should suffice. Compress it into an unimaginably dense state. AATIP has never explained how they, or anyone else, might do this, let alone control it.

"Penetration of solid surfaces" is another knee-slapper. This brings to mind an actual such experiment undertaken in the Pentagon. We read in the first chapter of Jon Ronson's 2004 book, The Men Who Stare at Goats:
Gen. Stubblebine
This is a true story. It is the summer of 1983. Major General Albert Stubblebine III  [1930-2017] is sitting behind his desk... He is the United States Army's chief of intelligence, with sixteen thousand soldiers under his command...

Am I ready? he thinks. Yes, I am ready. He stands up, moves out from behind his desk, and begins to walk. I mean, he thinks, what is the atom mostly made up of anyway? Space! He quickens his pace. What am I mostly made up of? he thinks. Atoms! He is almost at a jog now. What is the wall mostly made up of? he thinks. All I have to do is merge the spaces. The wall is an illusion. What is destiny? Am I destined to stay in this room? Ha, no! Then General Stubblebine bangs his nose hard on the wall of his office. Damn, he thinks. General Stubblebine is confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall. (p. 1-3)
AATIP informs us, "DoD has been involved in similar experiments in the past." Indeed they have, although Gen. Stubblebine is not credited. What AATIP is apparently telling us is: General Stubblebine was right, it is possible to penetrate solid surfaces and walk through walls. (An interesting piece of UFO trivia: Albert Stubblebine was married to Rima Laibow, a psychiatrist well-known for her work with supposed UFO abductees.)

"Unique cognitive human interface experiences." These are weasel words, but probably they are talking about ESP, out-of-body experiences, etc. Who knows what they really mean?

"DoD controls several facilities where activities have been detected." Note the use of the passive voice - this is not something that DoD is doing, but someone or something else is in control. What "activities" have been detected? Aliens? Ghosts? Psychic spies?   Perhaps the esteemed Mr. Elizondo could answer some of these questions for us?
AATIP ends the slide, and presumably the presentation, with the quote, "What was considered "phenomena" is now quantum physics." As Deepak Chopra would say, "QUANTUM!"

In any case, we now know what kind of 'advanced science' AATIP and TTSA are referring to. And it's the usual wacky woo stuff we find on the fringes of science, where extraordinary claims are not challenged and proof is not required. We've seen all of this before - and properly rejected it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Project Blue Book" Flatters the Flatwoods Monster - Episode Two

Could the second episode of the monumentally misleading Project Blue Book on the "History" Channel possibly be as bad as the first? As has been said before, "Second Verse, Same as the First!"

Dr. Hynek and Mr. Malarkey find radiation while investigating the Flatwoods Monster.

Last week I presented a partial list of absurdities in the first episode. Here is this week's list:
  • Dr. Hynek did not travel to West Virginia to investigate this incident. In fact, Project Blue Book did not perform its own investigation of the Flatwoods case, but only collected a few press clippings.
  • Witnesses' eyes were not "burned," and there were no physical symptoms in anyone.
  • Debris from an alleged 'spacecraft' were not found in the woods. Nothing was found, and no object was "removed.".
  • The ground was not radioactive. 
  • The whole town did not show up and threaten to lynch the principal UFO witness, or to at least to tar-and-feather her.
  • There was no witness in a psychiatric hospital, and nobody killed themselves over this.
  • The woman whose role some have termed a 'lesbian angle' with Mimi Hynek turns out to be a Russian spy, spying on Blue Book.
  • When the boy is supposedly looking at Mars in a small telescope, they set up the telescope backwards. It is pointing at the ground, not the sky, but nobody seems to notice this.
Skeptic Russ Dobler also has some interesting commentary on the second episode in his Blog entry on Adventures in Poor Taste.
Joe Nickell's illustration of what the witnesses
reported (left), and what they  actually saw (right)

If you want a credible account of the "Flatwoods Monster" incident, it isn't hard to find. Joe Nickell, CSI(COP)'s sole full-time researcher for lo these many years, wrote up the results of his investigation in the Skeptical Inquirer, December, 2000. The reported UFO was obviously a meteor, noting that "the fireball had been seen on a relatively horizontal trajectory in various states." So, like the Kecksburg "UFO crash" in 1965, the Flatwoods "UFO" was not just a local sighting, but actually a distant object high above the earth, seen across a very wide area. As for the "monster," Nickell agrees that it was probably a large owl sitting on a tree branch, and he sketched an illustration suggesting what they actually saw.

UFO promoters Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal,  wrote the much-cited New York Times article on December 16, 2017 that first publicly revealed the recent defense department UFO investigations launched by then-Senator Harry Reid, "Glowing Auras and 'Black Money.' They have a new UFO article in that august publication. It is about this program, Project Blue Book. They write,
The History series predictably sensationalizes and overdramatizes case investigations and the historical figures involved, adding many story elements that simply never happened. It’s already hard enough for those trying to understand the truth about government involvement with U.F.O.s without mixing fact and fiction. Nonetheless, melodrama aside, the real story is there.
What is interesting is the commentary by Mark O'Connell, author of The Close Encounters Man, a biography of Hynek. He has suggested that Hynek must be spinning in his grave because of the distortions and inventions this series. O'Connell writes on his Blog High Strangeness UFOs that he got a "surprise email" from Leslie Kean just before her latest article appeared in the New York Times, asking if he could fact check a couple of questions concerning Project Blue Book for her. He shares them with us, and I was astonished to find the following among them:
Q: Did Hynek ever crash in a plane while recreating a UFO dogfight that had been reported by a pilot?
A: That's a big NO!
Q: Did Hynek ever see what looked like an alien body floating in a tank in a secret facility, and take photos of it?
A: That's an even bigger NO!

Seriously, I never expected Leslie Kean to be as credulous and foolish as this, and so ignorant of UFO history. She seriously thought that these things might be true? It looks like I have overestimated her. (My review of her popular UFO book is here.) O'Connell says, "[Kean] has as big a problem with this show as I do, and she's going to say so in the New York Times! Halleluja!!" (emphasis in original). Unfortunately, the mild statement I quoted above seems to be as far as Kean's "big problem"with the show extends. Indeed, Kean says that "‘Project Blue Book’ Is Based on a True U.F.O. Story.". Well, loosely-based. Very loosely. She seems happy to accept any crazy thing that will promote public belief in UFOs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The "History" Channel Mangles Project Blue Book - Episode 1

So on January 8 we finally saw the much-awaited first episode of Project Blue Book on the Channel that once showed History. It was expected to be sensationalized, and poorly-acted. Those things it was.  Where it exceeded expectations, however, was in the degree that it distorted the facts of what was, in fact, a historical incident, freely mixing sensational but fictional elements with a classic UFO incident. Public discussions of this case will now be hopelessly polluted by the made-up elements that people will now firmly believe to be part of the actual story.

The first episode is titled "The Fuller Dogfight," an obvious reference to the "classic" UFO case of the Gorman "dogfight" of 1948. (In fact, statements made at the end of the program confirm this.) This refers to a famous case in the Blue Book files occurring near Fargo, ND in which an experienced WWII pilot reported what seemed like a "dogfight" with a lighted object. Serious UFOlogists generally accept that the pilot George Gorman, while an experienced combat pilot, became disoriented while attempting to approach a lighted object at night, and reported it as performing impossible feats. The object was apparently a lighted weather balloon that had been recently launched in that area. Some will argue that it is not plausible for an experienced pilot to become so disoriented, and imagine a slowly-moving object making incredible maneuvres. They forget that J. Allen Hynek himself wrote,  "Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses" ( The Hynek UFO Report, 1977, p. 271).

This ought to bring into mind another "classic" UFO case, this one tragic - the death of the young pilot Frederick Valentich in Australia in 1978. His attention fixed on some unidentified object - very likely Venus, that he believed to be orbiting his position - Valentich apparently became disoriented, fell into a 'graveyard spiral,' and crashed into the ocean. This chilling video from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 178 Seconds to Live, warns about the dangers of pilots becoming disoriented when flying at night or in times of poor visibility. It is relevant to investigations of both the Gorman and the Valentich cases (and probably to the crash killing JFK Jr. as well).

Here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of falsehoods shown or implied in "The Fuller Dogfight":
  • Gorman shot at the object. False.
  • Gorman was sent to the infirmary for an extended period of time with psychological problems. False.
  • Gorman collided with the object, which damaged his plane. False.
  • The UFO took control of Gorman's plane. False.
  • Gorman somehow anomalously hears a radio station during the incident, and became obsessed with the song. False.
  • Hynek traveled to Fargo to investigate this case on-site. False. Indeed, Mark O'Connel, author of the first biography of J. Allen Hynek, noted on Facebook that in the episode "Hynek drove from Fargo, ND to Columbus, OH seemingly in a matter of minutes. It's a 15 hour drive today, but back then there were no interstates."
  • Hynek and his Air Force "handler," a pilot, went up in a plane to try to duplicate the encounter. The plane crashed, but both survived. This is beyond ridiculous.
  • A "Man in Black" was watching the investigation, uselessly, from a distance. The stories about the Men In Black originated with  Albert K. Bender in 1953.
And even as we read this, more absurdities and anachronisms in the program are being spotted, and posted on the Internet. In a few days the list will no doubt be much longer. Even "Disclosure" champion Stephen Bassett is concerned about this, gently but firmly noting that
it is important to publicly point out the simple fact there is quite a gap between the theatrical presentation of Hynek's life and the real life. It would be helpful if a fact vs. fiction page of quality was developed and updated as the series moves forward. Researchers and others might prepare for how they will respond to questions from the more confused viewers who watch and then Google.
And if a UFO program is bad enough to worry Stephen Bassett, it has got to be really bad! If the story were entirely fiction, there would be no problem. The problem occurs, however, because "Project Blue Book" references real people, real organizations, real incidents, but in a grossly distorted and misleading way. 

The UFO panel at the 1984 CSICOP Conference, Stanford, CA. From left: J. Allen Hynek, yours truly,
astronomer Andrew Fraknoi, Philip J. Klass, physicist Roger Culver. Photo by Gary Posner.
Let me also say, as someone who has spent a lot of time listening to Hynek speak in person, that Aidan Gillen is not convincing as J. Allen Hynek. He does not look like Hynek, he does not sound like Hynek, he does not act like Hynek. And he doesn't even have Hynek's trademark goatee. I think Gillen ought to listen to some of the many YouTube videos showing Hynek's TV appearances, to practice and make his act more convincing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Look, Ma! I'm on Ancient Aliens!

Look, I am part of Ancient Aliens history! My sharp-eyed, semi-anonymous friend Mrherr Zaar spotted this on-screen. It's a piece I wrote for NICAP's UFO Investigator (October, 1974) that is on-screen long enough to catch the word "charlatanism" to prove that contemporary researchers weren't taking Von Daniken seriously. It is part of the series celebrating the anniversary of Chariots of the Gods that has been airing in the past few days (S13 E14).

This was briefly seen on Ancient Aliens, Series 13 Episode 14.

"In the late sixties and early seventies, it was a time when everyone just listened to the experts", laments David Childress early on in the episode (hat tip to another semi-anonymous friend, Claude Falkstrom). I'm flattered to be called an "expert" on Ancient Aliens, but I just wish that NICAP had spelled my name correctly!! I didn't watch this episode, or any other in recent years - ye gods, thirteen seasons!!! Looking at the current program offerings on the "History" Channel, their prime-time lineup is pretty much all UFOs and Ancient Aliens, all the time. It's really the Pseudo-History Channel now.

During the 1950s and 60s, NICAP was the most important UFO group in the U.S. By the early 70s, after the Condon Report and after the closure of Project Blue Book, NICAP had faded into insignificance, all of its key personnel having gone elsewhere. It disbanded soon afterward. That made APRO the major UFO group in the 1970s. With the death of APRO's founders in the 1980s, Coral and Jim Lorenzen, APRO disbanded, making MUFON the major UFO group, as it is today.

 I have scanned the article, and put it on-line.  This was my very first published article. 

Speaking of Project Blue Book, a new series of that name premieres on the "History" channel tonight! And J. Allen Hynek is the main character. The show is obviously a mixture of factual material with fiction, probably serving to conflate the two forever in the mind of the public.

David Childress of Ancient Aliens at his literature table at the 2016 UFO Congress, 
taking the name of Science in vain. Animated and energetic, he wows the assembled crowd.