Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Skeptic at MUFON's 50th Anniversary Symposium, Part 2

(Continued from the previous posting.)  The Saturday evening speaker was Paul Hynek, son of the famous Air Force scientific consultant on UFOs Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and consultant to the series "Project Blue Book" on the 'History' channel. His talk was titled "Growing up with UFOs," because "to me," he said, "UFOs are the family business." He is now an Adjunct Professor of Finance and Accounting at Pepperdine University, and works with high-tech startup companies on finance. He also was involved in the production of movies and video games such as Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, Tintin, Real Steel, Warcraft, and The Hobbit. He related numerous incidents of how his father's UFO investigations and his growing fame affected their family life, and showed some family photos from the time he was growing up.

Paul Hynek

A photo I took of J. Allen Hynek at
Northwestern (about 1970).
The thing that surprised me the most was when Paul said that he and his brother Joel are working on replicating Claude Poher's experiments on anti-gravity. Claude Poher (born 1936) is a French astronomer who, like Hynek, became deeply involved in UFO investigations. Poher headed up UFO investigations for GEPAN, a group operating under CNES, the French equivalent of NASA. Allen Hynek and Poher were close allies and colleagues in UFO matters. In fact, Poher has been so prominent in global UFOlogy that, according to Allen Hynek, the character of the French UFOlogist in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind was based not on Jacques Vallee (as Vallee claims), but on Poher (O'Connell, The Close Encounters Man, p. 320). 

Poher's anti-gravity scheme involves something called "universons," which mainstream physicists have not yet discovered. This somehow makes interstellar travel possible. The device involves superconductors and semiconductors and I forget what else. There is a video of Poher's antigravity device on YouTube, which shows some pretty neat little explosions, but I confess I have no idea what it is supposed to be doing. It does not rise up into the air.  If Paul and Joel's father were still alive, I'm quite certain he would tell them "this is a crazy idea," or words to that effect. (Poher did not start dabbling in anti-gravity until long after Allen Hynek's death).

Later the next day, I had a chance to talk with Paul Hynek. I introduced myself as a longtime UFO skeptic, and also as a former student at Northwestern, who had taken several astronomy classes from his father. I showed him one of the photos I took of his father at the observatory. He recognized the telescope, and we chatted a bit about Northwestern and what has transpired there. He seems like a nice fellow. In his talk he had said that 99% of what is on the series Project Blue Book is not accurate, that it is a work of fiction. I told him my opinion (that I am sure he has heard from others many times before) that if you have a work if fiction, you can put anything in it that you want. But since Project Blue Book refers to real people, real organizations, and real historical UFO events, its hyper-sensationalized approach is spreading rampant misinformation and confusion into the UFO debate.

What the well-dressed alien family wears.
The first speaker  on Sunday morning was Dr. Irena Scott on "Massachusetts UFO Experience includes Poltergeists, Strange Lights, Ancestors, and More." She got her PhD in physiology, and worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Aerospace Center in satellite photography. She said that when she was growing up, she had sightings in her bedroom for 4 to 6 years, a light that flew around. She reported this to CUFOS, and they wrote it up. As an adult, she had more sightings in Massachusetts, also reported to CUFOS. One UFO, she said, began to  circle the airport, and she tediously began to describe all of her sightings. Budd Hopkins once asked her if she had experienced missing time, which led her to conclude that she had. She showed photos of her UFO sightings, squiggly blurs. Later, when she lived in Washington, DC she was tormented by a poltergeist. I found Dr. Scott to be a very uninspiring, rambling speaker.

Next was Dr. Joseph Burkes, M.D. He is a colleague of Dr. Steven Greer of CSETI, and spoke on "Human Initiated Contact Experiences and the Consciousness Connection." He explained that "prime contactees," like Steven Greer, act as a "UFO magnet." Those like Dr. Greer can "request UFO sightings and UFOs actually show up."

Looking at the sky on one of their contact weekends, Burkes and others observed "a new constellation" whose stars started moving around. Of course, these were UFOs.They saw repeated meteors, in one case meteors appeared three times in a row, on request. (Was there a meteor shower?). But some sightings, he explained, are "virtual," that is, false memories planted by aliens.

The next speaker was Adam Curry, who describes himself as "an inventor and tech entrepreneur from San Francisco who grew up in the consciousness research community." He founded the Collective Consciousness App Project which explores the horizons of “consciousness technology.” He spoke on "A Glimpse of Consciousness Technology." He talked about the philosophical concepts of  Materialism, Dualism, of Materialism vs. Consciousness, etc. Materialism, he asserted, is nearing its end, because it fails to explain consciousness. He previously worked at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research lab, which did experiments to try to prove that consciousness could affect a random number generator, and other experiments in mind-matter interaction. Consciousness, says Curry, can affect even Quantum phenomena. He also mentioned time travel from the future which could affect events in the past.

The final speaker on the main stage was Paul Davids, a filmwriter and producer who was the executive producer and co-writer of the 1994 Showtime dramatic film, “Roswell.”   He spoke on "Flying Saucers and the Culture Wars: The First Invasion from 1951 to 1977." He proceeded to show many interesting clips from movies, songs, science fiction stories, and other items of popular culture involving flying saucers or spacemen from [mostly] that period. He brought back from oblivion a number of crazy saucer-related movies and songs that I recall from my childhood. He seemed to be promoting the idea that certain movies back in the 1950s were part of an Air Force plan to prepare the public for UFO revelations. If so, they've had more than enough time for that revelation - where is it? He also had some rather unkind things to say about "debunkers" and the like.

The Vendors' room was, as usual, filled with tables for selling crystals and jewelry, quack medicine, UFO books, subscriptions, night vision equipment, etc. Probably the most interesting display in it was that of UFODAP, the UFO Data Acquisition Project. They have spent years designing, building, and programming automated cameras that are supposed to track and zoom in on moving objects. As explained on their website,
"The UFO Data Acquisition Project is here to expand the capability of UAP/AAO/UFO research through the deployment of next generation data acquisition technology.... The technical focus of the UFODAP is to provide methods to recognize, track and videotape anomalous objects while simultaneously collecting data from multiple sensors. It is our goal to expand a growing network of these triangulated sensor systems to other hot spots around North America and then the world.... UFODAP is providing cost effective methods to recognize, track and videotape anomalous objects while simultaneously collecting data from multiple sensors. ... Optical Tracking Data Acquisition Unit (OTDAU) software recognizes and tracks moving objects in combination with various optional cameras including units with fixed optics and Pan-Tilt-Zoom capabilities."
Christopher O'Brien (left) and Ronald Olch of the UFO Data Acquisition Project.
The software of the system is designed to learn to recognize ordinary objects, such as birds and aircraft, and ignore them, while following and zooming in on any object it doesn't recognize, and sending notification of the event. Two such cameras have already been installed in Colorado's San Luis Valley, famous as a reputed hotspot for UFO sightings. One of them is at the well-known "UFO Watchtower" in the Valley, and having two cameras will allow an object to be triangulated. O'Brien says that he formerly lived in the San Luis Valley, and experienced several dramatic, close-range UFO sightings. If there is such a thing as a "real UFO," and if it should ever (again?) visit the San Luis Valley, then I would expect this camera system to capture it. (But I wouldn't hold my breath.) UFODAP also offers their equipment for sale, at "low cost", in case you should want to snare some UFOs on your own. ("By 'low-cost' we assume a unit cost of perhaps $2500 or less.") Happy UFO hunting!