UFOs: Science Looks Into It


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Legitimate academic work about extraterrestrial life has to carefully separate itself from the musings of amateur scientists and conspiracy theorists. Meanwhile, those engaged in the search through bona fide organizations have come up with minimal results. The Pentagon acknowledges that it tracked sightings for years, but claims it shut down its program in Meanwhile, astronomers have been trying to communicate with alien life using radio waves since , work continued by the SETI Institute in California and its high-profile scientists—but nothing.

He makes a case for discarding these dusty beliefs and for sociologists to imagine how alien societies might evolve, physicists to do more speculative work on space-time, and energy and technologists to model ways in which technology might evolve in other civilizations.

Bower says funders and academic institutions favor scientific research with a certain kind of pedagogy. In other words, those who report seeing UFOs will question themselves afterward, and academics will bristle at conclusions that point to aliens. And researchers expect more data about interstellar objects when the Large Synoptic Telescope in Chile starts operating in The U.

A few academics engaged with the UFO question the University of Colorado psychologist David Saunders came up with a widely-used coding system, for one , but not many. For the most part, academia saw the study of UFOs as illegitimate.

Early CIA Concerns, 1947-52

But the human sciences started to take an interest starting in the s though there had been a few studies in earlier decades , not in identifying the flying objects but in identifying what made people believe in them. I asked Eghigian if it changed at all the nature of the mistrust between the two groups, that ufologists had finally started to get attention from mainstream scientists, but it was their persons rather than their hypotheses that were the objects of study.

Human experimentation. So while it would be wrong to say that ufologists were anti-science, they had plenty of reason not to trust scientists and scientific institutions.

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The secrecy with which the U. This sort of actual, intentional secrecy is likely rare, but there are plenty of barriers to understanding that to the right or wrong mindset could read as suspicious. And even if they could, the statistical methods and jargon scientists use in their writing could be hard to parse.


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But for the general public, that impenetrability of being able to know how to look under the hood—that creates problems. That may not to us academics look like secrecy but to others it does seem like we have our own secret language.

UFOs, taboo for professional scientists

It is, however, interesting to note that roughly 6 percent of the 10, UFO reports the U. Air Force investigated were classified as "unidentified. Of these unidentified cases, the Condon Committee concluded that , "most of the cases so listed are simply those in which the information available does not provide an adequate basis for analysis.

Why Scientists Don't Freak Out About UFO Videos

For example, the Lakenheath-Bentwaters Incident , which took place in England in , involved both the U. Air Force and the Royal Air Force. About this case, the committee reported, "in conclusion, although conventional or natural explanations certainly cannot be ruled out, the probability of such seems low in this case and the probability that at least one genuine UFO was involved appears to be fairly high.

Who knows?

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What UFOs Mean for Why People Don't Trust Science - The Atlantic

This was over 60 years ago. Our scientific technology was far behind what it is now. Then again, so was our ability to pull off hoaxes. Much of the problem with cases like Lakenheath-Bentwaters is that they are not repeatable.

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When something happens just once and never again, it is really hard to test our hypotheses—and the bedrock of the scientific method is that a hypothesis simply must be testable to be handled scientifically. Another famed example of a nonrepeating and unresolved case happened in with the "Wow! An extremely strong narrow-band radio signal was detected by the Big Ear radio telescope at almost exactly the frequency of a fundamental hydrogen transition line Fast-forward 40 years, and astronomers identify a previously unknown comet that was passing by back in and could have accounted for the "Wow!

Does this new discovery rule out an E. But Occam's razor suggests that a comet that we know exists—and we know could have caused the signal—seems a tad more likely.

You’re Not Crazy if You Believe in UFOs. Let’s Discuss in Scientific Terms.

Extraterrestrial life was also on the table as an option in when Jocelyn Bell Burnell observed short radio pulses coming from a fixed location in the sky—and repeating. Because the pulses repeated, it was possible to rule out conventional explanations such as stars, or Earth-based emissions. As Burnell writes about the potential of E. But the source did repeat, and more of these repeating radio sources were found, and hypotheses could be tested.

What were these mysteries signals? Burnell had discovered pulsars, extraordinary dense and spinning remnants of supernova. While an E. I will admit that our repeated failures to detect signs of E. One reason this gets to me is because of something called " Fermi's Paradox. So as Enrico Fermi famously asked: "Where are they?

Our very limited evidence on Earth suggests this is not so; life arose on our planet almost as soon as it possibly could have.

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