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More Pain Ahead for UFO Skeptics

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December 16, 2017, brought some severe headaches to those who make a practice of denying that UFOs really exist. The New York Times published a shocking story about the Defense Department’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). AATIP was headquartered on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring and was managed by Luis Elizondo for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Times article disclosed that the AATIP, which began in 2007, investigated reports of unidentified flying objects. The online edition of the Times story included gun camera videos of an encounter between a UFO and two Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets, dispatched from the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz. The event occurred off the coast of San Diego in 2004. During the opening moments of the first video, one of the pilots remarked that there was “a whole fleet of them” at the scene. This contrasts with the denialists’ claim that there was only one UFO observed. Of particular concern to UFO skeptics was this passage from the Times piece:

A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered.

Beyond that, the Times reported that Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace had modified buildings “… for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.”

Skeptics and UFO debunkers immediately set about attempting to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Some news outlets and blogs followed the general theme of “nothing to see here – move along”. Some supposedly scientific sources published very un-scientific reports concerning the metal alloys held by Bigelow Aerospace (BAS). None of those reports were based the source’s own examination of any such metal samples. Similarly, the sources conducted no reviews of any BAS reports concerning those metals. Other attempts at pushback focused on the false claim that the $22 million study conducted by BAS revealed nothing.

On the other hand, George Knapp of KLAS TV News in Las Vegas pointed out that Bigelow Aerospace produced 36 technical reports and 38 other reports (some of which exceeded 100 pages) based on information gleaned from this project. Knapp also notes that Luis Elizondo has 24 videos from AATIP investigations. Knapp expects that all of those videos will be released.

UFO researcher Grant Cameron emphasizes that disclosure of the aforementioned Bigelow Aerospace project is just one of six efforts underway to reveal the latest understanding about UFOs. For several years, Dr. Jacques Vallee has been leading his own project involving the examination of anomalous materials recovered in connection with UFO incidents. In an August, 2017 interview conducted by Alex Tsakaris of the Skeptico website, Dr. Vallee offered this explanation concerning what his team learned about isotope ratios for some of those metals:

So, either it should be terrestrial, which we can find out very quickly, or it could be extraterrestrial, in which case you’d expect that it would vary by a few percent from the standard ratio.

Most of those machines are mass spectrometers and they are often used by geologists, among other people, who look at meteorites. Meteorites are extraterrestrial and they don’t have the same ratio of isotopes that you do if you pick up a piece of iron on earth. So they are used to looking at ratios that are a little bit different, but what we find are ratios that are 100% off.

April of 2018 brings the release of American Cosmic, a book by Professor Diana Walsh Pasulka from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. American Cosmic will raise immense problems for the UFO denialists because it will offer information about the involvement of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in the reverse-engineering of UFO technology and the assimilation of that technology into products manufactured by aerospace industry giants. More important, Dr. Pasulka discusses her trip to a UFO crash site in New Mexico (not Roswell) where crash debris is still being collected for examination by scientists working within the appropriate specialties. She shares the explanation provided to her by those entrepreneurs that inspections of material from this site continue to provide the inspiration and direction for some of the newest technological innovations. Some of those products are already in use.

The recent revelations made by the team represented by Luis Elizondo are only the beginning of an evidentiary avalanche, which will overwhelm those who continue to deny the reality of UFOs. Meanwhile, the rest of us can enjoy the music.



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The Haunted Computer

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January 8, 2009

On January 6, Slate featured an interesting report by William Saletan concerning a Defense Department proposal request for a new computer application to help children of deployed service personnel in coping with the lack of parental communication.  The concept is described as a “Virtual Dialogue Application for Families of Deployed Service Members”.  It supposedly would provide an opportunity for children (within the specified age range of 3 and 5 years old) to have a “virtual” conversation with a deployed parent who (for whatever reason) would be unavailable for telephone or on-line contact.  The idea is to have a video image of the parent (possibly high-resolution and 3-D) available to “converse” with the child.  The application is to be either PC-based or web-based.  Here is how it was described on the Defense Department’s TechMatch website:

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury recognizes that family outreach and advocacy is pivotal for both the psychological health of the family and the resilience of the Service Member.  Deployments put stress on the entire family, especially small children and communication is key.  The ability to reach out and communicate with loved ones from areas of conflict is better than at any time in history.  Nevertheless, the stresses of deployment might be softened if spouses and especially children could conduct simple conversations with their loved ones in immediate times of stress or prolonged absence.  Historically, families have derived comfort and support from photographs or mementos, but current technology SHOULD allow for more personal interactive messages of support.  Over 80% of American children between the ages of three and five regularly use computers, and 83% of families have a computer in their home.  So, computer-based applications would resonate with children and capture their interest and imagination.  The challenge is to design an application that would allow a child to receive comfort from being able to have simple, virtual conversations with a parent who is not available “in-person”.  We are looking for innovative applications that explore and harness the power of advanced interactive multimedia computer technologies to produce compelling interactive dialogue between a Service member and their families via a pc- or web-based application using video footage or high-resolution 3-D rendering.  The child should be able to have a simulated conversation with a parent about generic, everyday topics.  For instance, a child may get a response from saying “I love you”, or “I miss you”, or “Good night mommy/daddy.”  This is a technologically challenging application because it relies on the ability to have convincing voice-recognition, artificial intelligence, and the ability to easily and inexpensively develop a customized application tailored to a specific parent.  We are seeking development of a tool which can be used to help families (especially, children) cope with deployments by providing a means to have simple verbal interactions with loved ones for re-assurance, support, affection, and generic discussion when phone and internet conversations are not possible.

Upon reading about this, the first question that came to my mind concerned situations where the parent unfortunately is killed in the line of duty.  Is the child to continue using this application to have “virtual conversations” with a deceased parent?  Would that be healthy?  William Saletan voiced a similar concern in his article:

The deployed parent still has a body, of course.  But, being deployed, he’s at risk of becoming disembodied the old-fashioned way.  At that point, real-time video is no longer an option, and the language of the DoD project — to provide verbal interactions “when phone and internet conversations are not possible” — takes on a whole new meaning.

*    *    *

I’m not saying this kind of ghost is for everyone.  Some of us don’t like our parents.  Some of us find the idea of keeping them around bizarre or sacrilegious.  But I dare you to tell a child who has lost her father in Iraq or Afghanistan that she can’t keep a virtual rendition of him to help her go to sleep.  And I dare you to stop the millions of others who will want ghosts of their own when today’s military project becomes, once again, tomorrow’s mass market.

The reaction to this idea from those involved in the mental health field should be interesting.  Whether or not the military ever embraces such a computer application, Saletan’s point about the “mass market” deserves further pondering.  There will be the inevitable pornographic variations on this project’s theme.  Nevertheless, could such an application be configured in other ways to be of use to adults?  How about “Virtual Seance” — a website that allows users to “communicate” with dead historical figures or celebrities?  Will living celebrities (or, should I say, “has beens”) have websites where fee-paying fans can have a “virtual conversation” with that celebrity?  Will politicians use this technology to allow their constituents “virtual face time” with the pol to vent their spleens?

Healthy or not, this computer application seems like an idea that will not quickly go away.