UFO or unidentified flying object, in the original, literal sense means any airborne object whose nature is not readily known.
Nowadays, the term UFO is generally used to mean those cases that are believed by some to be the spaceships of extraterrestrial aliens. As early examples were saucer-shaped, they are also known as flying saucers, a term originating in a claimed sighting of a UFO by Kenneth Arnold on June 24 1947, near Mount Rainier, Washington. This event is generally considered the beginning of modern UFO interest.
Since the mid-twentieth century, UFOs have been the subject of thousands of books, motion pictures, songs, documentaries, and other media. UFO topics were amongst the most popular on early BBSes, and millions of people have some degree of interest in the subject. There have been studies of UFO enthusiast subcultures from an anthropological persepctive. A 1996 Gallup poll shows that 71% of the U.S. population believes that the Government is covering up some information about UFOs.
Typical reported characteristics of UFOsEdit
- Saucer, toy-top, or disk-shaped craft without visible or audible propulsion. (day and night)
- Rapidly-moving lights or lights with apparent ability to rapidly change direction — the earliest mention of their motion was given as "saucers skipping on water"
- Large triangular craft or triangular light pattern
- Cigar-shaped craft with lighted windows (Meteor trails sometimes appear this way)
The number of different shapes, sizes and configurations of claimed UFOs has been large, with detailed descriptions of chevrons, equilateral triangles, spheres, domes, diamonds, shapeless black masses, eggs and cylinders being prevalent. Skeptics argue this diversity of shapes, size and configurations points to a socio-psychological explanation. Professed experiencers and believers reply that the volume of highly detailed sightings reported by witnesses from commercial airline pilots to United States presidents possesses strong consistency and cannot be explained away as mundane phenomena (weather balloons, aircraft, venus), arguing for the non-conventional interpretation.
Origins of the term "flying saucer"Edit
The nine objects Kenneth Arnold said he saw were not saucer-shaped. Drawings showed something more resembling a flying wing style aircraft. However, he described their movement as a kind of skipping, like a saucer skimmed over water. Press reports picked up the "like a saucer" phrase, and reported it as a "flying saucer".
There are also pictures of an object looking like a saucer with three big balls underneath, which according to the photographer was flying through the air. This photo has long been believed to be 'the real thing', untill the photographer confessed it was actually a plate (thus really a saucer) with 3 meatballs that he flung in the air, photographed out of focus and turned upside-down (the man owned a fastfood shack where he sold meatballs amongst others).
Ufology is the study of UFO reports and evidence.
Most mainstream scientists have found existing UFO evidence unpersuasive, and consider such evidence and sightings misidentification of natural phenomena or hoaxes. Some professionals and academics have argued that while current evidence may be lacking, evidence should be evaluated objectively as it arises.
Others — including many amateurs — continue research and consider the extraterrestrial hypothesis for UFOs a possibility.
UFOs have been subject to many studies over the years, with a wide range of scope and scientific rigor. Perhaps the best known study was Project Blue Book, conducted by the United States Air Force.
The study of UFO claims over the years has led to valuable discoveries about atmospheric phenomena and psychology. In psychology, the study of UFO sightings has revealed information on misinterpretation, perceptual illusions, hallucination and fantasy-prone personality which may explain why some people are willing to believe hoaxers such as George Adamski. Many have questioned the reliability of hypnosis in UFO abduction cases.
A group which encourages critical investigation of the alien spacecraft hypothesis from a scientific point of view is the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. CSICOP has existed 28 years, and has previously included such people as TV science program host Bill Nye, Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan. Its current main proponents are Philip Klass and James Randi. CSICOP have been criticised, however, by some researchers.
Some in the scientific community feel there is enough evidence to warrant further investigation efforts, comparing it to the period in the history of Meteorite research when there was only witness testimony available. But others--perhaps a majority--feel that the subject is a waste of time, due to a number of factors, including unreliable witnesses. Some feel that it is still a worthwhile topic because of open questions about the psychology of why and how law enforcement personnel and aircraft pilots allegedly hallucinate detailed UFO from time to time. Thus, some will say the topic is really about "inner-space" instead of outer-space.
Although thousands of UFO sightings have been widely publicised in news columns over the years, the fact that many have subsequently been explained as natural phenomena or hoaxes has largely been ignored by the media. There are UFO sites listing claimed sightings, but none listing the explanations for most of those sightings. The fact that on investigation most UFOs actually become IFOs -- Identified Flying Objects -- seems not to be newsworthy. While a possible alien visitor is sensational, a mundane explanation is a non event.
It is sometimes said that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"; but many pro-research groups only claim that the topic deserves further investigation, not that UFO are necessarily alien craft. The threshold of evidence for further investigation is lower than that for a conclusion about the nature of UFO.
Skeptics say there are indeed genuine sightings of strange flying objects which are usually logically explained, that no physical evidence of an alien spacecraft has ever been produced, and that many claims have been disproven as fraudulent. They also point out that the burden of proof lies with whomever makes a claim, and that it is not up to someone else to disprove each and every piece of evidence believers come up with.
Believers and conspiracy theorists in their turn argue that the subject is predjudiced by ridicule and stigma, that an extremely large body of undisproven evidence also exists, including photography, motion video, and multiple independently corroborated sworn affadavits. They also contend regarding physical evidence that it exists abundantly but is swiftly and sometimes clumsily suppressed by governmental entities, not always uniform, with a strong agenda to insulate a population they regard as psychologically not yet prepared for the social, theological, and security implications of such a reality.
The field of UFOs does not necessarily overlap the paranormal, although in practice it often does. The UFO phenomenon need not have a paranormal explanation, though some who believe in UFOs also have a fascination with the paranormal.
UFOs are sometimes claimed to be part of an elaborate conspiracy theory in which the government is said to be intentionally covering up the existence of aliens, or sometimes collaborating with them.
There is also the speculation that UFO phenomena are test of experimental aircraft or advanced weapons. In this case UFO's viewed as failures to retain secrecy, or deliberate attempts at disinfomation: to deride the phenomena so that can be pursued unhindered. This theory may or may not feed back intro the previous one, where current advanced military technology is considered to be adapted alien technology. See also: skunk works and Area 51. This also feeds into the opinion that all or most human technology and culture is based on extraterrestrial contact. See also ancient astronauts
Mystical and religious aspects of UFOsEdit
Much mysticism has arisen around UFOs. Several religions have UFOs as a component of their mythology:
- Unarius: Founded in 1954 by Ernest Norman and Ruth Marian.
- Aetherians: A group founded by a British mystic who claimed to communicate with the Cosmic Master Aetherius
- Order of the Solar Temple: In order to move to somewhere near the star Sirius many believers committed suicide in Europe and Canada in the 90's
- Heaven's Gate: Believers committed suicide in Caifornia, in 1997 believing they would be carried off in Comet Hale-Bopp.
- Raelians, who claimed they would clone their leader so he could live forever.
- Scientology: The higher-level beliefs of Scientology include the story of Xenu, the galactic emperor, who brought billions of people to Earth and killed them.
Some have common beliefs around UFOs mixed with Christian elements:
- Heaven: Lights that comes from the sky.
- Faith: you have no evidence what UFOs are. You can only see by yourself or believe others.
- Saviour: Superior beings coming out of those lights.
- Apocalypse and redemption: Superior beings coming from the heavens to at the same time destroy civilization as we know and save those few who accept them by carrying those believers in their spacecraft.
- Voices: Many claim to hear voices that might be from spirits, angels or aliens from a distant galaxy.
Erich von Däniken goes the other way round and states that many old religions were influenced by UFOs. He claims to have found evidence in old Aztec, Inca and ancient Egypt temples that phenomena indentified as signs of Gods were the same as actual unindentified flying objects. In his book Were The Gods Astronauts, von Däniken goes beyond and states that those objects were in fact alien visitors who landed in earth a thousand years ago and influenced deeply in the birth of civilizations.
Notable sightings and eventsEdit
- 1947 - Kenneth Arnold's sighting begins the modern interest in unidentified flying objects.
- 1954 - a huge French UFO flap brings the subject to international attention.
- 1961 - Betty and Barney Hill report being taken on board a UFO against their will - the first reported Alien abduction case.
- Military flying saucers
- List of major UFO sightings
- Crop circle
- UFO conspiracy theory
- Conspiracy theory
- List of magazines of anomalous phenomena
- Anomalous phenomenon
- The Disclosure Project (nonprofit research project)
- UFO Evidence homepage
- AUR Organization investigating UFOs
- Mutual UFO Network homepage
- The Coalition for Freedom of Information (sponsored by the Sci-Fi Channel)
- Society for Scientific Exploration
- Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
- Haisch, Bernard, "UFO Skeptic". Palo Alto, California.
- Verga, Maurizio, "Nazi UFOs & Wonder Weapons".
- "The Phoenix Lights Mystery".
- Jeffrey, Kent, "Roswell: Anatomy of a Myth".
- Landman, Jack, "Mexico City, August 6th, 1997".
- Lindemann, Michael, "Mexico City, August 6, 1997: An Analysis". CNI News.
- Holman, J. L., et. al., "Mexico City, August 6, 1997". UFON. (MOV file format)
- BBC article on Mexican Airforce videotape