Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Galileos Galore - Now including Jacques Vallee!

A belated Happy New Year to all our readers. Not much new has been happening, just a lot of arguing about the politics of government UFO investigation, which we'll get to some other time.  In November I wrote (once again) about how the "Galileo Project" of Harvard's Dr. Avi Loeb had added Luis Elizondo and Christopher Mellon, former Top Men of  Tom DeLonge's To The Stars Academy, as a "research affiliates" to his Galileo Project. Soon afterward, Loeb announced that  Nick Pope, Michael Shermer, Ohad Raveh and Nathan Goldstein were also becoming "research affiliates" to his Project. The latter two persons are not UFOlogists and I'm not familiar with them. Michael Shermer is, of course, a well-known skeptic and the publisher of Skeptic magazine. (Shermer told me that the "affiliate" position is not a paid one). The selection of Pope is problematic, like that of Mellon and Elizondo earlier. Nick Pope is well-known in UFOlogy, having long claimed to have run the UFO project in the UK Ministry of Defense. He has also made a slew of claims to the media that are simply bizarre, including warning about alien invasions. Unfortunately for Nick, the truth has slowly leaked out that there was no such MOD UFO project, and his position was that of a desk clerk. (Isn't it amazing how closely this parallels the story of Nick's fellow "affiliate" Elizondo?)

In 1977, Newsweek proclaimed Dr. Hynek "The Galileo of UFOlogy"

But let us pause to consider the very name of the "Galileo Project." The study of unidentified, and possibly alien, objects has already had its 'Galileo,' specifically astronomer and former Project Blue Book consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Hynek was proclaimed to be the "Galileo of UFOlogy" by Newsweek magazine in 1977. He seemed to relish the title, envisioning himself as the one who will lead Science on to new and previously-undreamed discoveries through the study of UFOs. So perhaps it would be best for Dr. Loeb to re-name his project, to alleviate confusion over which Galileo is which. The following names are still available for such a project:

  • Newton Project
  • Einstein Project
  • Wilhelm Reich Project
  • L. Ron Hubbard Project

And so on.

Well, Dr. Loeb has really done it now: "We are delighted to announce that Dr. Jacques Vallée has joined #galileoproject! We will greatly benefit from his wisdom and insights!" Indeed, Jacques Vallee is one of the best-known figures in UFOlogy, having been the author of many influential UFO books since 1965. He has also been quite mystical, which a lot of his fans don't realize, dabbling in Rosicrucianism, 'alternate realities,' and such. It's hard to see how Vallee's promotion of mystical ideas can be reconciled with the Galileo Project's professed "Ground Rules," especially "The analysis of the data will be based solely on known physics and will not entertain fringe ideas about extensions to the standard model of physics." It seems to me that Vallee is the very embodiment of those promoting "fringe ideas":
In recent discussions with Hynek, I pointed out that the saucer question may well be part of a complex series of scientific realities, but it also plunges deep into mystical and psychic theories. I found him very receptive to this idea. (Vallee, Forbidden Science, Vol. I, p. 88)

Jacques Vallee and Paola Harris
The timing of Vallee's selection is especially perplexing because Vallee's most recent book, Trinity (co-authored with Paola Harris), about a supposed 1945 UFO crash in New Mexico, is being widely panned, even by many of those who once admired him greatly. Jason Colavito explains,
The San Antonio crash story is rather unbelievable, even by UFO standards. According to the most common version of the story, Jose Padilla and Reme Baca, then aged 9 and 7, witnessed a nearly thirty-foot-long spacecraft crash into the desert. They ran to the crash site and saw two little men emerge and begin running about in a panic. One of the boys took a piece of debris from the crash site. Then, the U.S. Army arrived, built a road out to the crash site, and retrieved the spaceship. The boys never knew what became of the little men from inside the ship.
The story rests on the memories, six decades after the fact, of small children repeating a tale straight out of a Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers comic strip.
Bryan Sentes writes on the Skunkworks Blog,
On finishing Vallée’s and Harris’ Trinity, the reader would be forgiven if they wondered if the “Jacques Vallée” who co-authored this book were the same “Jacques Vallée” credited with writing Revelations or the recently re-issued Passport to Magonia. Where the last volume is, at least in certain circles, highly-prized for being inventive and groundbreaking and Revelations is a focussed, critical examination of the stories about alien abduction, crashed flying saucers and dead aliens, secret alien bases and cattle mutilation, Trinity is an unfocussed, raggedly-composed, eye-rollingly credulous mess of a book.

It would be a tedious exercise to catalogue its manifold failings. While Vallée speaks of himself as a scientist and even imagines scientists reading the book (286), Trinity is no work of science, scholarship, or even investigative journalism. Indeed, it reads like a first draft, in sore need of a thorough editing for content and structure, let alone a proof-reading.

 Unlike Vallee's other books, Trinity is self-published, and thus escaped proper editing.

Avi Loeb wrote an"opinion and analysis" piece in Scientific American, "Astronomers Should Be Willing to Look Closer at Weird Objects in the Sky" (Sept. 29, 2021). I've never known any astronomer to be unwilling to look at weird objects, assuming such objects can actually be found. Loeb writes,

Under typical weather conditions, Earth’s atmosphere is opaque to infrared light beyond a distance of about 10 kilometers or less. Resolving a feature the size of a cell phone on the surface of a UAP at that distance requires a telescope diameter on the order of 10 centimeters. Having a few such telescopes on a given site will allow us to monitor the motion of an object in three dimensions. These telescopes could be supplemented by a radar system that would distinguish a physical object in the sky from a weather pattern or a mirage.

If UAP are solid objects, they should heat up as they rub against air at high speed. The surfaces of objects that move in air faster than sound, such as supersonic airplanes or space rockets, are heated by hundreds of degrees. I calculated that the infrared glow of fast objects above a meter in size, supplemented by the heat from shockwaves in the air around them or an engine they carry, should be detectable with infrared sensors on telescopes out to the desired distance.

The Galileo Project makes much of looking for hypothetical alien objects in orbit around the earth. But if an object is in orbit, it will not "rub against air at high speed." So he is talking about objects zipping around in the atmosphere at high speeds, like UFOs are supposed to be doing. This is exceedingly implausible, since such an object would quickly fall to earth if unpowered, so he is assuming that aliens can both power it and control it from light years away.  Loeb seems to think that a few four-inch telescopes felicitously positioned within 10 km of the speeding alien probe will catch the sneaky bugger. This is about as likely as getting hit by lightning just as you bend over to pick up a discarded $1000 bill on the sidewalk, at the same time as your cell phone receives a call from Publishers Clearinghouse to inform you that you've won the Grand Prize  Really, really unlikely


On January 19 I did a two-hour podcast with Kal Korff and Melissa Martel on The Wicked Truth. We talked about Betty Hill and her crazy stories, like a building that walked  away and disappeared, or a truck that flew over the freeway. Kal told how Friedman kept making claims he knew were false. We also talked about the roles of Robert Bigelow, Joe Firmage, and others in promoting dubious claims. Have a listen!