Saturday, December 3, 2022

"The UFO Bubble Goes Pop."

Those who care about such things have been noting that the report required to be sent to Congress on UFOs (or "UAPs") by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on October 31 is late. By now, more than a month late! Just before the deadline The New York Times reported (October 28) that "Many Military U.F.O. Reports Are Just Foreign Spying or Airborne Trash." That would seem to be a big embarrassment to those claiming that UFOs represent something mysterious and unknown.

Now the Wall Street Journal has popped the Government UFO bubble, so to speak. In an article published December 2, columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes, "The UFO Bubble Goes Pop. Watch the skies? No, watch our intelligence agencies and their penchant for disinformation."

A month has passed since its leaked contents were detailed in the New York Times, and still the document has not appeared and it’s not hard to guess why. Its findings will be surprising only to those who imbibed previous official disinformation on so-called UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena. The most credible and widely trumpeted sightings by Navy pilots now are explained as illusions. Though Chinese surveillance drones do operate in areas where U.S. training flights occur, these are conventional drones, with no unusual capabilities. They aren’t the uncannily speedy, supernaturally maneuverable objects mentioned in previous accounts...
the document has not appeared and it’s not hard to guess why. Its findings will be surprising only to those who imbibed previous official disinformation on so-called UAP, or unidentified aerial phenomena. The most credible and widely trumpeted sightings by Navy pilots now are explained as illusions. Last year’s first mandatory intelligence report in what now seems a misdirection claimed several sightings “appear to demonstrate advanced technology.”
Reason Magazine, December 2022

Jenkins cites Mick West's just-published article in Reason Magazine, "The Military-UFO Complex - How a motley crew of saucer hunters got a place at the public trough." West relates the story of "paranormal pork," whereby Robert Bigelow, James Lacatski, and Senator Harry Reid deceptively schemed to get Pentagon funding for their far-out program to investigate the spookernatural:

After this otherworldly vision, Lacatski became convinced that there was a phenomenon worth investigating. He knew that his Pentagon bosses were unlikely to authorize such a thing. Nor could they publicly request funding to investigate a haunted ranch. So he and some allies invented a new program, the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program (AAWSAP)...

AAWSAP was to be a front. Nominally it was set up to study potential novel developments in aerospace weaponry. The public solicitation makes no mention of UFOs or ghosts. It simply discusses aerospace technology and lists a variety of fields that needed investigating, such as "propulsion," "lift," "power generation," and the only real oddity, the ambiguously phrased "human effects."
They're all in here: Luis Elizondo, Tom DeLonge, Christopher Mellon, etc., all those who had a finger in this. He writes that Elizondo "at one point had been head of AAWSAP," which is not correct. Elizondo claims to have been the head of AATIP, the "Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program", a supposed successor program to AAWSAP. However, AATIP was not actually a program, as it had no budget - AAWSAP, by comparison, received over $22 million in government funds, paid to Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Systems (BAASS). To the extent that AATIP was anything, it appears to have been a private, off-book UFO study group. It had no publications, and left little if any trace of its existence.

If you think West is tough on the UFO grifters, wait until you see this podcast by Steven Greenstreet of the New York Post, which lays bare the deceptions underlying the Pentagon UFO saga. Greenstreet pays careful attention to inconsistencies and contradictions of the AATIP narrative, which few have noted. One very important point made by Greenstreet is where he quotes Leslie Kean, prime mover behind the highly influential Fake News stories about AATIP in the New York Times, explaining that she did not mention that ghosts, werewolves, etc. were being studied because "the angle I was taking in my reporting was to try to get credibility for the subject." So she admits that she was writing not as a journalist, but as an advocate. The New York Times has yet to correct or retract any of the articles she wrote, which deliberately misrepresent the Pentagon's UFO investigation program.

NEW! UFOs, Werewolves & Ghosts | Shocking truth of Pentagon AAWSAP program

While "misdirection" may indeed sometimes be involved in intelligence matters, I don't think that is what happened here. Never attribute to "misdirection" that which can be explained as simple incompetence. Indeed, such incompetence has been glaringly obvious for some time. The "chief scientist" of the Pentagon's UAP Task Force,  Dr. Travis Taylor, is a well-known star of paranormal entertainment shows such as Ancient Aliens and The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch.  

Keith Kloor wrote in Science (June 29, 2022) , "Pentagon UFO study led by researcher who believes in the supernatural Critics dumbfounded by reality TV star Travis Taylor's position as “chief scientist.”

The revelation shocked UFO skeptics in the science community. They note that Taylor has made extraordinary claims during TV appearances, including to have "seen more UFOs than I can count," and that he’s been tracked by supernatural entities that caused his car and appliances to malfunction. "I find it very difficult to believe" federal authorities gave Taylor a prominent role in preparing the UFO report, says Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute who is familiar with Taylor's involvement with Ancient Aliens, a cable TV show that promotes far-fetched UFO narratives.

Dr. Travis Taylor (left), Chief Scientist of the Pentagon's UAP Task Force, checks out a supposed Ancient Alien aircraft design, with Giorgio Tsoukalos.

 I wrote back in April that the Navy's top photo analysts mistook stars and planets and the effects of "bokeh" (out-of-focus image rendering) for a whole swarm of "UAPs" surrounding a Navy ship. It was also widely noted that several of the Navy's photos of supposedly unknown flying objects look suspiciciously like party balloons. Such incompetence makes it abundantly clear that whoever was performing analysis of the military's supposed photo and video unknowns had no clue what they were doing.

Three Navy UAP Photos: The "“METAL BLIMP W/ PAYLOAD”, the “SPHERE”, and the "ACORN." Apparently a 'shark balloon' (left), some out-of-focus balloon, and a Batman party balloon.

I think this provides a much better explanation for what has happened. When the adults in the room finally began paying attention to what has been happening in DOD UAP-land, they were appalled to see such foolishness. They realize that they had stepped deeply into something very messy, and are still wondering how to get it off their shoe.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Quintillions and Quintillions of Alien Probes - Or None at All?

The question of SETI and Extraterrestrial Intelligence has now been debated at length for more than fifty years. Are there other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, and elsewhere? If so, is it possible to communicate with them? Can they possibly even send spacecraft here? The controversy rages on.

Jonathan H. Jiang

A team of scientists working under a NASA contract at Jet Propulsion Laboratory has written a paper that is very pessimistic for SETI. A group of five researchers led by Jonathan H. Jiang of NASA's JPL have written a paper (which is not yet peeer-reviewed), "Avoiding the “Great Filter”: Extraterrestrial Life and Humanity’s Future in the Universe." From the paper's abstract, 

Coupled with logical assumption and calculations such as those made by Dr. Frank Drake starting in the early 1960s, evidence of life should exist in abundance in our galaxy alone, and yet in practice we’ve produced no clear affirmation of anything beyond our own planet. So, where is everybody? The silence of the universe beyond Earth reveals a pattern of both human limitation and steadfast curiosity. Even as ambitious programs such as SETI aim to solve the technological challenges, the results have thus far turned up empty for any signs of life in the galaxy. We postulate that an existential disaster may lay in wait as our society advances exponentially towards space exploration, acting as the Great Filter: a phenomenon that wipes out civilizations before they can encounter each other, which may explain the cosmic silence. In this article, we propose several possible scenarios, including anthropogenic and natural hazards, both of which can be prevented with reforms in individual, institutional and intrinsic behaviors. We also take into account multiple calamity candidates: nuclear warfare, pathogens and pandemics, artificial intelligence, meteorite impacts, and climate change.

What is the "Great Filter"?  In brief, it is the supposed tendency of intelligent civilizations to die off, either because of their own actions, or unavoidable disasters like pandemics or asteroid impacts. They conclude that the best way to try to escape the Great Filter "begins with collaboration," whatever that actually means.

The first person to propose the Great Filter in the late 1990s was Robin Hanson, an economics professor at George Mason University. And he doesn't agree with the recommendations in this paper. 

The global cooperation Jiang and company advocated as the means of our survival could be the very thing that ends up destroying us, Hanson told The Daily Beast. “Clearly they recommend more centralized control and governance of our civilization,” Hanson said. “But I actually see excess governance centralization as the most likely contribution to our future Great Filter.”

In Hanson’s conception, the more we decentralize, the more likely some of us to survive and thrive.
And I tend to agree with that. The more power held by a centralized government, the more likely it is to march us over a cliff. Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer with the California-based SETI Institute, isn't buying it, either. He told The Daily Beast, “The Great Filter theory depends on the assumed observational result that nobody is out there. But that conclusion is far too premature. We’ve just begun to search.”

But if you thought those guys were too pessimistic about SETI, wait until you hear this next one!  Dr. Edwin L. Turner is an Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. He recently spoke at a colloquium of the UCLA Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Here is the abstract:

From Turner's Princeton page

November 16, Ed Turner (Princeton University)

The Hubble Volume May Well Be Entirely Devoid of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence or Technological Civilizations 
Abstract: The two most common and apparently compelling arguments for the existence of extraterrestrial life, intelligence and technological civilizations are the (probable) extremely large number of exoplanetary environments similar to the Earth's and the application of the Copernican Principle to abiogenesis, evolution and sociology. On closer examination both of these lines of reasoning are shown to have fundamental flaws. Thus, it remains entirely plausible that the Earth is unique in the observable universe as a home to any or all of these three astrobiological phenomena. The discussion will also illuminate a major unresolved question in our understanding of nature which deserves serious attention independent of the specific topic considered in this presentation.

At first I thought that "the Hubble volume" meant the entire volume of space that is visible to the Hubble Space Telescope. But researcher Nablator points out that actually references the much larger region of the universe as determined what is essentially an event horizon, where the expansion of the universe (from our viewpoint) would reach c, the speed of light. It is an enormous expanse billions of light years across, and filled with gazillions of galaxies, each one containing billions of stars. "Nobody there, except us," he says. I was not able to listen to Dr. Turner's talk on Zoom, and the recording is not yet posted on-line. However, I understand that he placed very heavy emphasis on biophysics, explaining the near-impossible odds against amino acids and  other molecules forming in exactly the right way for complex life to evolve. 

A 2011 paper by Turner, co-authored with David S. Spiegel, is titled "Bayesian analysis of the astrobiological implications of life's early emergence on Earth." Its somewhat confusing abstract states,

Life arose on Earth sometime in the first few hundred million years after the young planet had cooled to the point that it could support water-based organisms on its surface. The early emergence of life on Earth has been taken as evidence that the probability of abiogenesis is high, if starting from young Earth-like conditions. We revisit this argument quantitatively in a bayesian statistical framework. By constructing a simple model of the probability of abiogenesis, we calculate a bayesian estimate of its posterior probability, given the data that life emerged fairly early in Earth's history and that, billions of years later, curious creatures noted this fact and considered its implications. We find that, given only this very limited empirical information, the choice of bayesian prior for the abiogenesis probability parameter has a dominant influence on the computed posterior probability. Although terrestrial life's early emergence provides evidence that life might be abundant in the universe if early-Earth-like conditions are common, the evidence is inconclusive and indeed is consistent with an arbitrarily low intrinsic probability of abiogenesis for plausible uninformative priors. Finding a single case of life arising independently of our lineage (on Earth, elsewhere in the solar system, or on an extrasolar planet) would provide much stronger evidence that abiogenesis is not extremely rare in the universe.

Voicing a very different opinion on the matter is Harvard's Dr. Avi Loeb, head of the Galileo project, which plans to search for evidence of alien space probes in our own solar system. Dr. Loeb seems to think that the strange object called Oumuamua, which drifted into our solar system five years ago before drifting out again, was likely an alien probe from an interstellar civilization. He plans to set up cameras to detect such objects, as if nobody had ever before set up cameras to survey objects in the sky.

In a recent paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed, Dr. Loeb and his Harvard colleague Carson Ezell calculate that, based on our ability to detect such objects,

our estimate for the total quantity of ‘Oumuamua-like objects bound by the thin disk if they are not targeted is 1.91 × 10^^26 objects, which aligns with previous estimates for the abundance of similar objects. This estimate applies both in the case of ‘Oumuamua being of natural origin, and ‘Oumuamua being artificial space debris that is not targeted towards a particular location in space.

However, the inferred abundance of probes is distinctly different in case of ‘Oumuamua-like objects being targeted towards particular regions of the galaxy, specifically habitable zones containing planets. ‘Oumuamua was detected at a distance of 0.2 AU from Earth, and it passed through the habitable zone of our solar system. The estimated total number of ‘Oumuamua-like objects would then fall to 1.91 × 10^^10.

By "the thin disk," they mean the relatively thin disk of our Milky Way galaxy, i.e. stars near the galactic plane. What this says is: If  ‘Oumuamua-like objects are wandering randomly in the thin disk of our Milky Way, then we calculate that there are 191,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of them; but if they are targeted toward habitable solar systems such as our own, then that number falls to just 19,100,000,000. Doing the same calculations based on "Interstellar Meteor 1," a much smaller object, 

We then estimate 7.59 × 10^^34 IM1-like objects bound by the thin disk of the Milky Way. However, if objects with the properties of IM1 were targeted towards habitable zones containing planets, we estimate 7.59 × 10^^18 such objects.

The Daily Beast misreported the conclusions of this paper, saying that Ezell and Loeb calculated that "in and around the solar system" there could be "as many as 4,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 4 quintillion) of them." Actually, that was the calculated number of interstellar meteors (or spacecraft!) of one meter size or larger in our Milky Way galaxy, not just our solar system.

Given the aforementioned properties of chemically-propelled rockets and a hypothetical detection rate of  c = 0.1 yr-1 for interstellar meteors of meter size that collide with Earth, equation (21) estimates a total of 3.65 × 10^^34 such objects bound by the Milky-Way thin disk if they are not targeted, or 3.65×10^^18 objects if they are targeted.
But an article just published by Sky and Telescope pours cold water on the idea that ‘Oumuamua is artificial. Recent analysis of light curves of the object suggest that its shape is more like that of a pancake, rather than a cigar. The best available evidence suggests that ‘Oumuamua is a fragment of a Pluto-like object, composed primarily of nitrogen ice:
 if `Oumuamua were made of nitrogen ice, it would have the right albedo and the right mass to produce the exact amount of non-gravitational acceleration observed by astronomers as it retreated from the Sun. And if it were nearly pure nitrogen ice, it would exhibit this cometary behavior without any of the hallmarks of comets, neither reflecting sunlight from dust nor lighting up with emission from water or other gases.

Hypothesizing pure nitrogen ice for Oumuamua’s composition solves some other puzzles, too. The body passed within 0.2 astronomical units (a.u.) of the Sun (20% of the distance from the Sun to Earth), and yet it survived to exit the solar system. But only barely, according to Desch and Jackson’s model. A nitrogen-ice `Oumuamua would have lost 95% of its mass by the time it exited the inner solar system; evaporative cooling would have insulated the remaining morsel through the harrowing passage.

That much mass loss also explains the extreme shape. If you add 20 times the present mass in concentric layers around the present pancake, reversing its evaporation by the Sun, the original body would have had a much more normal 2:1 aspect ratio.

The pancake-like ‘Oumuamua, as depicted by William K. Hartmann

So, what is the number of space probes wandering the disk of our galaxy (not counting our own probes)? Is it in the quadrillions in each galaxy? Or is it zero in the entire Hubble Volume? Or likely something in-between?

A trivia question for UFO buffs: Who is William K. Hartmann, what is he known for in UFOlogy? No fair to look him up. Who can provide the first correct answer in the comments, from their own memory? 😏

And here is something that amazed me when I saw it: Edwin Turner is a member of the Galileo Project's "research team" (along with Jacques Vallee, Garry Nolan, and many, many others). I can just imagine what the Zoom call of the Galileo Project's researchers and consultants must be like:

Avi Loeb: We need to set up cameras, lots and lots of cameras, to capture the quadrillions of alien probes floating around.

Edwin Turner: No, you're wasting your time. There are no aliens out there, not in the entire Hubble volume.

Jacques Vallee: I heard that an alien craft crashed at Trinity in 1945. We should try to find the wreckage of that one!

Luis Elizondo: I can't confirm this officially, but I remote viewed an alien craft at an undisclosed location, some inspecific time ago.

Seth Shostak:You guys are all jumping to conclusions!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Enigma of the Calvine-Like UFO Photos

The Calvine UFO photo was said by Nick Pope to be "the most spectacular photo ever sent to the Ministry of defence. It's also missing." But since David Clarke found a print of one of the photos, it has been subject of a lot of attention, which I wrote about in the last post.

After the Calvine photo was revealed it didn't take long for Scott Brando on "UFO Of Interest"  to note its similarity to a hoax photo taken in Puerto Rico in 1988 by Amaury Rivera Toro.

Hoax photo taken in Puerto Rico by Amaury Rivera Toro, 1988.

Rivera was a young man from New York City working a part-time job in a restaurant in Puerto Rico, when he claims to have been abducted by a UFO, and to have gotten this (and several other) photos as the aliens departed. 

Compare Rivera's photo with the Calvine photo, below.

Calvine photo, 1990

On August 23, this turned up: "Photos depicting a UFO being chased by a fighter were released from Wendell Stevens’ locker."  UFOlogist Dustin Shutta shared photos on Anomalien showing a UFO and a fighter jet.

I own these photographs of a fighter jet/B-1 chasing or being followed by a ufo taken in 1994, location unknown. If anyone has any more info about these series of photographs let me know. Also, these photographs came from Colonel Wendelle Stevens storage locker.

UFOlogist Wendelle Stevens (1923-2010) had earned, by the end of his life, a thoroughly dismal reputation. He was a major promoter of the preposterous photo hoaxes of the Swiss contactee Billy Meier.  Stevens was also convicted of having sex with an underage girl, serving time in prison. He boasted of having a huge collection of UFO photos, sacrificing (one suspects) quality for quantity. We know that Stevens interviewed Rivera in person, so it is reasonable that Stevens might possess more works from Rivera's oeuvre. But that is just conjecture, albeit a plausible one.

1994 photo found in Wendelle Stevens' files. Photographer is  unknown, but is suspected to be Rivera.

Yet another Calvine-like photo has turned up (now that I am looking for them). It is taken from an anonymous YouTube video that looks very, very fake, and has been published in various places. 

This photo, taken from an anonymous video, shows two jets chasing a "UFO."

What do all these photos have in common? There seems to be a certain formula or 'archetype' among UFO photos, that might be described as follows:

1. Near the center of the photo is a dark UFO, either disc-shaped or diamond-shaped.

2. At least one military jet is flying around, but not necessarily toward the UFO.

3. There are tall tree branches near the top of the frame.

4. Something is in the foreground, to help establish the scale of the photo.

WHY this should be is anybody's guess. My guess is: some artist has a vision! 

Do we conclude that Rivera is responsible for all these photos? That can't be established. Perhaps he has a "fan club" among UFOlogists, who pay homage to his work? 

If any reader knows of some other "Calvine-like" UFO photos, please let us know!


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Whither Calvine??

In the last post, we looked at the legendary, long-lost Calvine UFO photo, one print of which has just recently been found! As you might imagine, there have been a lot of people spending a lot of time poring over that photo. Higher-resolution, non-lossy scans are now available. However, they still do not show much detail. What are the latest findings based on expert analysis? There is no generally-accepted explanation as of yet. There appear to be three categories of explanation for that "UFO" at the present time.

From a higher-resolution, non-losssy scan of the print, I greatly enhanced the contrast and sharpness. Still not much detail is seen.

1. Unknown or Experimental Aircraft. Dr. David Clarke, whose research led to the discovery of the lost Calvine photo, is presently in that camp. Supposedly, it is a top-secret American supersonic experimental aircraft named "Aurora," which has been widely speculated about, but never shown to actually exist. And frankly, if some advanced aircraft was supposedly developed over thirty years ago, and has not been seen openly before or since, that is excellent reason to doubt its existence. One reason people accept this is simply that it was reported to be the conclusion of the UK MOD Intelligence officers who examined the photos. Perhaps some people see this as convincing, but if the UK MoD "experts" are anything like the Pentagon's UAP "experts," remember that the "chief scientist" for the US DOD UAP task force is a guy from Ancient Aliens. So don't be too awed by "experts."

The photographers told investigators that the object hovered motionless for about ten minutes, then rapidly shot straight up. If that statement is true, it rules out any advanced aircraft of human construction. Supersonic aircraft do not simply hover in place for minutes at a time. And if that statement is false, the case must immediately be considered a hoax - Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. If a witness lies about one aspect of the case, everything else he says about it is dubious.

2. Reflection in Water Hypothesis. This explanation seems all-too-clever, is counter-intuitive, yet it is attracting lot of attention. At first it seems impossible, but when properly understood it is indeed possible. Whether it is likely, however, is another matter.  

The 'reflection hypothesis,' as illustrated by Mick West on Metabunk.

Mick West's illustration shows how such a reflection might be possible. If the photographers happened to come across a pond reflecting the scenery as above, and if there happened to be a big rock sticking out of the water, then the rock, and its reflection, would appear to be an object in the sky, at least if we looked only at the reflection. They need just wait for the military jet to be in the right position, then "click." But it seems rather unlikely that random hikers would run across such a scenario (The site where the photo was taken is not known with certainty. David Clarke published a photo by Giles Stevens, purporting to show the actual location of the Calvine photo. No pond is there.)  Also, the surface of the water would have to be exceptionally still, to avoid seeing any ripples whatsoever in the water. Not impossible, to be sure, but very unlikely. I'd say, this hypothesis is too clever by half.

Another fact arguing against the reflection hypothesis is the matter of camera focus. The UFO is in better focus than anything else in the photo. This almost certainly means that the UFO is closer than everything else, and the camera was focused upon it. Now we do not know what kind of camera was used to take this photo, and what kind of lens, or what f/stop was used. So it is not possible to make definite depth-of-field calculations. According to the photo analysis by Dr. Clarke's colleague Andrew Robinson, the camera used was most likely a 35 mm SLR, with a lens focal length between 35mm and 105mm. (That is a pretty large range!) Listing the possibilities, a camera like the one below is his first choice: a 35mm SLR, using a 50mm lens (which was standard on such cameras).

The Calvine photos were most likely taken with a camera and lens like this, an 80s vintage SLR with 50mm lens.

This lens helpfully has a depth-of-field indicator (center dial). If we choose f/8 for our f-stop (inner ring), we then rotate the outer focusing ring to where the "infinity" symbol is at f/8. On the other side of the center dial, we find that f/8 gives us good focus on objects as close as about 4 1/2 meters. This ensures that every object from about 4 1/2 meters to infinity will be in sharp focus. So if the camera at f/8 is focused on a nearby object, rendering distant objects out-of-focus, that means that the camera must be focused on an object about 4 meters or less distant. If f/11 is used, the depth of field extends from to 3 meters to infinity.

Using this 50mm lens at f/8, objects from 5 meters to infinity can be in sharp focus.

In the reflection hypothesis, the rock would need to be at least 10 meters or so from the camera. In such a situation, the focus for the rock would not be different from that of distant objects. This seems to rule out the 'water reflection' hypothesis.

3. Small object near the camera. This is, in my view, the most likely explanation. There are a number of different ways that it could be done. The Belgian investigator Wim van Utrecht thought that the object looked like a Christmas star set on its side. 

He decided to test that hypothesis. Photographing that star from the side, this was the result. I'd say that this is an excellent match-up for the object seen in the Calvine photo.
A Christmas star, photographed from the side (Wim van Utrecht).



Researcher James A. Conrad suggested that  the object might be produced using the "glass shot" technique, where an object is painted, or affixed, to a glass screen. He writes that this technique "has been used by filmmakers and photographers – and possibly some hoaxers – for over 115 years."

Over on Metabunk, user NorCal Dave has been attempting replications of the Calvine photo using various techniques. The photo below uses a paper model. It definitely looks like he is on the right track.

NorCal Dave's replication of the Calvine photo, using a paper model. Note how the "UFO" is in better focus than anything else.


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Calvine 1990 Photo: Missing Rumored 'Most Spectacular' UFO Photo Found!

It was only a week or so ago that I posted on a UFO group, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, "the Calvine UFO photo is the best 'classic' UFO photo that nobody has ever seen, except Nick Pope." That was then; this is now.

UFO celebrity Nick Pope claims to have investigated UFOs for the British government, a claim he repeats often. Too bad it isn't true. The reality is that Pope was little more than a file clerk for the UK Ministry of Defense, who had no responsibilities for investigating UFO sightings, or anything else. But a credulous media almost invariably accepts his claims, and hangs on his every statement, no matter how absurd. Just one example: in 2006, Pope, described as a "former MoD chief," warned in the Daily Mail that "the country could be attacked by extraterrestrials at any time." Like Luis Elizondo in the US, Nick Pope claims to have led a UFO investigation program for his country's defense establishment. Both claims are equally bogus; neither of them was responsible for investigating anything.

Nick Pope wrote, "The Calvine UFO photo is the most spectacular UFO photo ever sent to the Ministry of Defence. It's also missing." In brief, the story is: When Pope was working for the MoD, his boss had a poster-sized copy of one of the Calvine UFO photos hanging on the wall by his desk. Later it was taken down, and it (along with the photos themselves) had apparently disappeared. Here is what Pope wrote about it in 2020.

The analysis was nothing short of sensational. The photos hadn’t been faked.

They showed a structured craft of unknown origin, unlike any conventional aircraft. There was no fuselage, no wings, no tail, no engines and no markings of any sort.

Color image re-creation of Calvine UFO photo, by the Cynon Valley Leader. Not the real thing!

Well, it appears that one of the Calvine photos has been found! Dr. David Clarke is a folklorist and skeptical researcher who teaches journalism at the Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. He is the author of the delightful 2015 book, How UFOs Conquered the World - The History of a Modern Myth. I reviewed that book for The Skeptical Inquirer.

At long last, one of the actual Calvine UFO photos!

After a long and difficult investigation, Clarke finally located a print of the Calvine UFO photo, in the possession of the retired RAF officer Craig Lindsay. Here is a video of David Clarke and other researchers going into the background of the photo in more detail. After Clarke released the photo, Pope released the following gobbledygook statement in order to try to remain relevant:

Calvine UFO Photo: It's my policy not to comment on leaked information, especially if it might be classified, so until I receive Ministry of Defence advice, I can neither confirm nor deny if this is the picture that was displayed on my office wall when I ran the MoD's 'UFO desk'.

It's not my intention to delve into an analysis of the photo yet. That will require more time, and better scans. The only scans of the photo available so far are.JPEGs, which is a lossy compression scheme and does not preserve fine details. 

So far, most serious UFO investigators seem to be "underwhelmed" by it. After so much hype, just another fakey-looking UFO photo. Some of my initial comments are:

  • The "UFO" seems to be the only object in the photo that is actually in focus. That suggests that it is small and close to the camera, which was focused for it.
  • Nick Pope wrote that the Calvine photos consisted of "colour photographs," but the print we have seen is black-and-white. What explains the discrepancy?
  • David Clarke is suggesting that the object is an authentic photo of a supposed US secret supersonic aircraft called "Aurora." I can't accept that for a number of reasons. This supposed aircraft was built over 30 years ago. Where has it been since? Why hasn't it been revealed? (Think of how many people must know about it, yet we have no leaks.) It flies only over northern Scotland, and nowhere else? And nobody sees it, except these two guys? New secret aircraft are tested over the deserts of Nevada and California, not half a world away. Also, I don't see how that thing can fly, it's not going to generate lift. While alien UFOs can reportedly use anti-gravity propulsion and Element 115, terrestrial craft must be built using the technology available at the time, more than 30 years ago. So what powers it, and how does it fly? Also, the photographers claimed that the object was "hovering" for about ten minutes. How does an aircraft do that?

When more details are available about "the most spectacular UFO photo ever sent to the Ministry of Defence," you will read about it here.



Monday, July 18, 2022

UFOs Blitz Mexico!

This is  story of my 1996 Tour of 'UFO Hotspots' in Mexico. It is adapted from Chapter 21 of my 1998 book UFO Sightings - The Evidence (Prometheus Books) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Probably the area of the greatest UFO activity and excitement in the world today (1996) is in and around Mexico City. UFO proponents often cite the UFO "evidence" from Mexico as the strongest anywhere. When the head of the American UFO group CSETI, Dr. Steven Greer, appeared on the "UFO Coverup"  TV special on Larry King Live,  October 1, 1994, which was broadcast outdoors near the so-called "Area 51" in the Nevada desert, Greer chided them that it is not necessary go to inaccessible places to see UFOs: "In the last three years there have been hundreds of video tapes of these objects maneuvering over twenty-two million people in Mexico City." A National Enquirer story of July 23, 1996, titled "UFOs Blitz Mexico," made equally remarkable claims.

 The National Enquirer, July 23, 1996

The modern phase of UFO activity in Mexico began with the total eclipse of July 11, 1991. With a duration of totality lasting about seven minutes, nearly the maximum possible, and crossing Mexico's most populated regions, it was one of the great eclipses of the century. 
The greatly-overexposed image of the eclipsed sun in Mexico, and its much fainter reflected image at left.

The Birthplace of Quetzalcoatl
Many of the photos showed artifacts like the one seen above. Several were presented to us by a woman in Amatlan de Quetzalcoatl, in complete sincerity, as a genuine UFO. (That place is supposed to be the birthplace of  Quetzalcoatl, making it a sort of Aztec Bethlehem.) The greatly overexposed object, obviously an image of the eclipse, was supposed to be a giant UFO, and the dimmer ring-like object, was supposed to be the eclipsed sun. However, that analysis is backwards. The overexposed object is no anomalous object, but rather the sun, which though only a tiny sliver or "diamond ring" remains uneclipsed, is nonetheless quite bright enough to overexpose the film when photographed directly. The fainter image is in fact just an internal reflection of the eclipsed sun itself, caused by light reflecting off the surfaces of the individual lens elements, and onto the film plane. Many thousands of people, photographing the eclipse with simple cameras, obtained results similar to this. People concluded that they must have photographed OVNIs (the Spanish acronym for UFOs), and enterprising promoters perceived an opportunity to make some quick pesos. The great Mexican UFO flap was on.
In April, 1996 I had the opportunity to check this out for myself when I went on a UFO-related Mexican tour organized by Beyond Boundaries, a 'paranormal travel' agency. This group has also organized trips to the U.K. to investigate Crop Circles, and to Puerto Rico to check out an area reputed to contain chupacabras and an Interdimensional Portal. A chupacabra, literally "goat sucker," is a fabled creature said to attack farm animals and drain them of blood. Actually, this story is just the familiar "cattle mutilation" legend, told with a Latin twist. If a rancher speaks English, his dead farm animals will have been molested by space aliens; if he speaks Spanish, it will have been done by a chupacabra.

One of the tour organizers was Rubin Uriarte, of MUFON Northern California. Two of our tour members worked for the Bigelow-funded National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) in Las Vegas. One of them was Air Force Lt. Col. Peter McDuff, the other was nuclear engineer Ted Rockwell (1923-2013), who I was familiar with because of his earlier critiques of skeptics. Most of the other people were ‘true believers;’ in fact, the two NIDS guys and I earned the reputation of the ‘group's skeptics,’ as we were unwilling to believe remarkable claims without seeing proof. At the time, claims were widely being made that UFOs were being seen widely at certain places in Mexico, including the airport in Mexico City. You only needed to go there if you wanted to see them, it was said; of course, that wasn’t true. We flew in and out of that airport, and didn't see anything unusual. Our itinerary took us to some of the most UFOlogically-active regions in the entire world, and we met with many of the leading UFOlogists in Mexico. Was Mexico really experiencing a "UFO blitz"? Here is what I found:

Jaime Maussan met with us.
We met with Jaime Maussan, a TV investigative reporter in Mexico City now turned UFO promoter, who has made more money off the UFO mania than anyone else in Mexico, and perhaps the entire world. His lecture fee at the time of our visit was 60,000 pesos (approximately US $8,000), a staggering sum for a single evening's work, most especially in Mexico. In 2015, Maussan was one of the main promoters of the preposterous Roswell Slides hoax. He runs an organization that exploits belief in UFOs and other dubious claims. We also met, at greater length, with his assistant Eduardo Viadas, who was filling in for his boss while Maussan was in Tijuana, lecturing and investigating chupacabras. Eduardo introduced us to Emilio Grenados, one of los vigilantes, an organization set up by Maussan to gather UFO evidence. Grenados explained how members of this group are trained in the use of cameras, then sent out as part of an on-call network of photographers to travel to wherever UFOs are reported. Jaime Maussan's company produces a 12-tape set of videos of UFOs, several of them prominently featuring Swiss UFO contactee Billy Meier's widely-discredited 'UFOs From the Pleiades.'

Maussan also produces videos about Kennedy assassination conspiracies, and "miracles" of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As might be expected, his studio contains a great deal of state-of-the-art, computer-ontrolled video enhancement equipment. The problem is, however, that unless one is able to examine an original UFO negative or video in its un-edited, original state, it is worthless as "proof" of anything. Maussan displayed what was either a distressing naivete, or else disingenuousness, when he told us straight-out that "Mexicans do not make hoax UFO photos." He quickly added, however, that Americans do. Incidentally, Maussan told us that he does not believe the 'UFO abduction' stories that are the rage in the U.S.; they are simply too bizarre for him to accept.
Maussan's studio in 1996, where his employees produced video tapes promoting loopy stuff.

Maussan claimed to have access to huge amounts of radar UFO evidence from the airport at Mexico City, and he seemed to be able to contact the airport radar operator at any time on his cellular phone, which he did while speaking to us. One of the NIDS people took a keen interest in getting tapes and other data from the supposedly frequent appearances of UFOs on the radar, for analysis in the U.S. However, when Maussan was asked to provide hard data from the radar, suddenly for reasons that were unclear to us that data became very difficult to obtain, when just a moment before it was present in massive detail, albeit in anecdotal form. Maussan talked about UFO evidence and hard data a great deal, but none was seen. He promised to send us reams of UFO evidence that his group had amassed, and took down the names and addresses of interested researchers. However, nothing was ever received.

Maussan claimed that his organization uses a scientific process of computer enhancement which distinguishes genuine UFO photos from hoaxes, based on the presence of 'energy fields' which surround only genuine objects. He claimed that this enhancement process, which was illustrated in an article in each issue of the magazine Contacto OVNI ("UFO Contact", a sensationalist UFO publication of which Maussan is a consulting editor), would reveal the presence of magnetic fields, energy fields, spectral luminescence, etc. surrounding a real UFO. I strenuously objected that no such analysis was possible from an ordinary video or photo, and Maussan seemed unprepared to confront a knowledgeable critic. He fell back to the position that he was only a journalist, repeating what his scientific consultant, a physicist, had told him. To save face with the group, he arranged to have his physicist meet with us the following day.

We did meet with Mario Torres, Maussan's scientific consultant. It turns out, however, that Torres is no physicist, but actually one of the editors of Contacto OVNI. Torres claims that the software and algorithms utilized to analyze the photos are his own. While he has some education in science, and claims to have produced some patent-able inventions, Torres was quite unable to describe to us any valid scientific principles on which his analyses were made. While he claimed to be able to measure "thermal energy", "electromagnetic energy," and "levels of energy" from photos or videos, after a little questioning it became clear that he was unable to defend his statements. Torres said he based his analyses upon a conversation he once had with the late physicist Richard Feynman, who told him that light is an electromagnetic phenomenon. All the rest of the supposedly "scientific analysis" is based upon his own conjectures as to what that implies about what a photograph will and will not contain. Torres told us, as did Viadas and Maussan, that he did not believe the 'UFO abduction' stories coming from the U.S.; they were simply so bizarre as to defy belief.

The Great Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico.

Near Mexico City are the great pyramids at Teotihuacan, built in pre-Aztec times approximately 1800 years ago. The noted crop circle guru Colin Andrews, prudently branching out into other fields of paranormalism, had been on one of the earlier Beyond Boundaries' Mexico trips. He claimed to have detected 'energy lines' while standing on top the great Pyramid of the Sun, so we were told to be alert for this. When we reached the summit of that magnificent ancient monument, most of us said that we didn't feel anything, other than the exhilaration of having climbed up to a magnificent place, at the high elevation of Mexico City. However, one member of our group stood looking up at the sky, his arms outstretched, as if 'drawing down energy'. This gesture attracted considerable attention, and soon others were following his example. As we were departing, some people were still 'drawing down energy'. I wonder if perhaps our group started a new occult practice?

"Drawing down Energy" atop the Pyramid of the Sun.

From Mexico City we went to Tepoztlan, in the state of Morelos, not far from Cuernavaca. This is the New Age center of Mexico, often compared to Sedona or Taos. It contains many shops selling crystals, New Age literature, etc. The Hotel Tepoztlan is a 'holistic health resort', with its own naturopathic physicians and herbal pharmacy on the premises. Its restaurant is entirely vegetarian. It offers its guests very reasonable rates on alternative health services, and was then offering a special discount on a colonic irrigation, which I nonetheless declined.

The mountains surrounding the town are said to 'glow' at night with mystical energy, and in truth they sometimes seem to. The town is surrounded by high, steep cliffs much like Yosemite valley, at night the light-colored rocks reflect the lights of the town. Brush fires were more or less continually burning somewhere nearby, and isolated flames on the mountains were called out by some as suspected UFOs, until calmer voices and a peek through binoculars persuaded them that they were just seeing fires. In California, we spend millions of dollars per year fighting thousands of brush fires in the wilderness. In Mexico, however, lacking the resources to fund such massive efforts, fires in sparsely-inhabited areas are usually allowed to burn themselves out. We spent two evenings holding a "skywatch" on the rooftop of the hotel, which offers an unobstructed view of the UFO-infested town of Tepoztlan. No anomalous objects of any kind were seen, in spite of the ready availability of some very fine beer and Tequila.

Carlos Diaz (facing camera), pointing out the mystical highlights of Tepoztlan from the roof of the hotel.

Our main contact in Tepoztlan was perhaps that town's most famous citizen, UFO celebrity Carlos Diaz. Carlos is a professional photographer, who takes photos of what he says are "plasma ships" piloted by extraterrestrials. When Shirley Maclaine was in Mexico she stopped by to visit him; Carlos showed us a photo of the two of them together, beaming. Carlos possesses a very charming, boyish personality, and immediately becomes overly-friendly with those he meets. No doubt many find this reassuring, but with me it has the opposite effect of setting me on guard, as it calls to mind the slick manner of a used-car salesman. Up on the rooftop of the hotel, Carlos pointed out to us the UFO highlights of the town. He indicated a rock feature that he said resembles the male organ. When seen from the other side of the mountain, it resembles female organs, he said. For this reason, he said, the Aztecs knew it as "the Mountain of Life," although I wouldn't care to bet any money on that statement. Near the base of that mountain is where the alien spacecraft most frequently land.

The way Carlos tells his story, it has three levels. At each level, you are kept unaware that he has even more bizarre stuff that will later follow, things that logically he should have mentioned earlier. Apparently this is so that he can lecture to different groups, of different levels of gullibility. Our group got it from all three barrels. Some members of our group possessed credulity of truly cosmic proportions, and the rest of us kept our mouths shut.

One of Carlos Diaz' "plasma ships," shooting down a light beam.

The first level is the story of Carlos the UFO spotter, a professional photographer who often sees and photographs alien Plasma Ships on the outskirts of Tepoztlan. After about an hour of this, we take a short break, then he begins the second level: the story of Levitated Carlos, who has actually been taken on board the plasma ships, a fact he somehow neglected to mention during the previous segment. Unfortunately, when he was taken aboard he wasn't able to see much. Apparently, the "Plasma" that comprises the alien craft is something like a combination of fog and chewing gum. Walking in any direction was difficult, and no matter where he would go all he could see was more plasma.

Following another short break, we heard the story of Carlos the Adamski-style contactee. His outer space friend often lands, and they go for long nocturnal walks in the desert, where the alien dispenses cosmic wisdom. The evening concluded with an apocalyptic warning of impending ecological doom unless mankind repents of its sinful selfish ways and stops harming the planet. This obviously-heartfelt message is especially significant coming as it does not merely from Carlos, who might be safely ignored, but instead from the extraterrestrials themselves!

Carlos Diaz sells autographed offset prints - not photos - of his supposed "Plasma Ships" for US $20 each, a price which would strike me as quite high even in New York City, let alone in Mexico. We were discreetly warned not to trust Diaz by paying in advance, as others had not received prints they had paid for. His UFOs look mostly like featureless blotches, and even Jaime Maussan privately admitted that he has a difficult time accepting them as authentic. Interestingly, Carlos told us that he does not believe the "UFO abduction" reports coming from the U.S.; they're just too bizarre for him to swallow.

Warning! Evacuation of the Earth in Tepoztlan!

There was a huge banner strung across the main street of Tepoztlan, proclaiming a coming "evacuation of the earth" via flying saucer, under the supervision of the Ashtar command. I asked Carlos what this was about. He shrugged and replied that he knows nothing about it, as it was put up by a different UFO group.
Tepoztlan was also the site of another little-known but nonetheless momentous UFO encounter: it is the site where the controversial conspiracy-oriented Black Muslim minister, the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, was swept up from the ground to a huge mother-ship hovering overhead. Farrakhan claims that on Sept. 17, 1985, he was beamed up from the Aztec pyramid on the mountain at Tepoztlan to a UFO, where he was warned by the voice of the late Elijah Muhammed of Ronald Reagan's forthcoming "genocide plot" against Qadaffi's Libya (the air raids in retaliation for Libya's support of anti-American terrorists).

Looking for "energy lines" on the spot where Diaz meets the Plasma Ships.

We went to the soccer field near the supposed "Mountain of Life" (male side), where Carlos supposedly encounters the Plasma Ships. On a previous trip, Colin Andrews had detected "energy lines" on this spot, too, and he traced them out in a rectangular grid using his dowsing rod. Several people tried dowsing the "energy lines" without much success, until finally the rod was picked up by a woman who claims a pattern of repeated UFO abduction. She quickly dowsed a pattern of "energy lines" on the soccer field, and people were directed to stand to mark the positions where the "energy lines" crossed. What this exercise accomplished, if anything, was unclear, as was the definition of the supposed "energy" she claimed to dowse. No serious attempt was made by the group to determine whether or not these "energy lines" represent anything real. This was an exercise in group psychology, not in physics.

Leaving Tepoztlan for Metepec, in the state of Puebla, the volcano Popocatepetl came into view, one of the largest in the world. In fact, the area was on volcanic alert, and some minor eruptions had occurred in recent months, showering the area with volcanic ash. This volcano figures prominently in UFO lore of the region.

Mario Arminas with one of his UFO drawings.

UFO witness and investigator Mario Arminas of Metepec claims to have made numerous sightings of UFOs in the vicinity of the volcano, and showed us at least a dozen of his drawings. One of them depicts an entire fleet of UFOs going down into the volcano's crater. Another depicts a giant and very ornate UFO, reportedly 300 meters in diameter, with many windows. Mario offers to sell individually hand-painted drawings of his UFOs, US$ 20 for the smaller ones, $30 for the larger. These beautiful handcrafted watercolors offer better value than Carlos Diaz' printed sheets.

Mario has a conspiracy theory involving UFOs and the volcano. The last eruption was provoked, he says, by the earth's superpowers, to obtain a supply of sulfur. (Apparently our country's sulfur shortage has been kept well hidden from the public.) He and others claim to have seen fleets of military helicopters flying up to the volcano, and back again. The former administration of Carlos Salinas is rumored to have actually sold Popocatepetl to foreign interests, who covet its UFO secrets, as well as its sulfur. Mario was worried that our group might have come down to Metepec on behalf of the U.S. Government to obtain UFO secrets from the volcano, and he was unwilling to talk with us unless we swore we were not working on behalf of the U.S. government, or any related agency. All of us gave him our solemn word.

The volcano Popocatepetl

In Metepec, our primary contact was Norberto Gil, leader of the group IFO-IEGA. The group gathers regularly for UFO skywatches at Punta Marconi, a small farm on a hill just outside Metepec, offering an unobstructed view of the sky, and a spectacular vista of Popocatapetl. Even after dark, a volcanic plume could be seen rising skyward from the crater. On this site the IFO-IEGA group has constructed a shack or clubhouse for greater comfort during their UFO vigils. This is one of the sites that was used by the American group CSETI on Mexican trips. We held a skywatch there on two consecutive nights. The site is almost directly under a main air traffic corridor between Mexico and South America, and some members of the group seem to have difficulty distinguishing UFOs from airplanes. Often the UFOs are said to keep to regular nocturnal timetables, which further compounds the confusion between UFOs and scheduled international flights.

People brought tapes of supposed "UFO noises" and "crop circle noises," and practiced group meditation, all in an attempt to communicate with, and hopefully summon, the UFO beings. These are the techniques of CSETI, which IFO-IEGA learned well from their American colleagues. Norberto led the group in meditation and creative visualization. He told us to visualize ourselves slowly rising up from our places in the field, to a series of points successively higher above the ground, then finally out into space beyond the moon, where we would encounter a giant UFO. We would implore it to come and reveal itself to us tonight, much as one might implore any other celestial being. The effect of his talk was much like that of a minister leading his congregation in prayer, imploring an unseen celestial being to grant us our fervent wish.

The UFO Clubhouse in Metepec.

When no UFOs were seen after we had been watching for about an hour and a half, the group retired into the clubhouse to have snacks and get comfortable. Norberto picked up his accordion and led the group in song. He later switched to his guitar. They sang their songs, we sang our songs, the sense of camaraderie and good spirits was unmistakable and infectious; all we lacked were UFOs to make the night complete. The following morning, just before our departure from Metepec, Norberto told us that a UFO had been seen just ten minutes after we had left the previous night. Darn it! But UFOs are like that, always cleverly concealing themselves whenever the danger of their public exposure is the greatest. Like the other Mexican UFOlogists we met, Norberto told us that he and the others in his group do not believe the American UFO abduction reports; they're just too bizarre to accept.

Looking for a gravitational anomaly.

One morning in Metepec we stopped at the site of a supposed "gravitational anomaly" near Punta Marconi. The tourbus was supposed to roll uphill on what was said to be a downhill slope. A complex pattern of local slopes confuses the eye as to where "level" really is. Unfortunately, the bus refused to cooperate. Norberto tried to illustrate the mystery and get the bus rolling, giving it a heroic shove. He is a very strong fellow, but the tourbus refused to keep rolling in any direction, up or down.

In nearby Atlixco, we visited the home of Sr. Lino, an attorney, in whose yard UFOs are said to have landed several times. A ring in the grass was reportedly left as evidence of each landing, although none were visible at the time of our visit. His 16-year-old daughter Adrianna claims to have seen a UFO land in the yard outside her window. She has since begun receiving apocalyptic visions of the earth colliding with a giant asteroid, bigger even than Jupiter. The most dramatic physical evidence presented to us on the entire trip was when Sr. Lino displayed a small stick that he said had been broken when the UFO landed.

Landing evidence - a stick broken by a landed UFO.

We returned to the U.S. in good spirits, yet disappointed that the primary objective of the trip was not met: to witness some of the fabled Mexican UFO encounters with our own eyes. Despite holding four evenings of Skywatches in two of the principal UFO hotspots in Mexico, no anomalous objects of any kind were seen. We met with the leading UFO proponents in Mexico, yet were shown no unusual physical evidence of any kind, and saw no clear or convincing photos or videos. We did see several photos and videos that appear to be sincere misinterpretations of prosaic phenomena. It seems that despite the stories we hear in the U.S. about the supposedly frantic pace of UFO activity south of the border, if you actually go to the hottest UFO hot-spots in Mexico and get the leading UFOlogists to show you their best evidence, you will find nothing more remarkable than the same blurry photos and hazy stories we are accustomed to finding here.