Encinitan designs spotting device
Full instrumentation of UFO monitoring stations, Gonsett said, will eventually include the magnetometer, a radio frequency interference (static) detector, and an electrometer for measuring electrical fields. PMS is also considering three more experiments to round out its array - infrared, ultraviolet, and infrasound (low frequency sound) detectors.
According to Gonsett, ultraviolet radiation in particular has been associated with UFO sightings. Some witnesses have been severely sunburned, and photographs taken of UFO's are frequently blurred not by motion, but by the high-energy ultraviolet light apparently emitted by UFO's.
The entire system of sensors will be integrated by a single-track cassette tape recorder which, by subtle means, can record on eight channels. Two of the channels will be for calibration and time keeping. The remaining six may be used for experiments.
A predetermined signal from the magnetometer will activate the recording system, which will run for 10-20 seconds before turning itself off automatically. Two 12-volt car batteries will power the apparatus, and the batteries will be kept charged by house current. In the event of an electrical failure, the monitoring station could run for a week to a month on a single charge.
No pattern in sightings
PMS boasts 35 scientist and engineer members. Most, for fear of damaging their professional or academic standings, shun publicity. Working on their own time, without pay, they hail from reputable institutions as the University of California at San Diego, San Diego State University, the Naval Electronics Laboratory, the Naval Undersea Laboratory, General Dynamics Electronics Division, and Gulf General Atomic.
PMS is on the lookout for even more engineers to help in the development of low-cost, but state-of-the-art, monitoring devices.
Said J.F. Herr, director of PMS, “We are, as far as we are able to determine, the first group to build instruments to detect UFO's.”
Herr and Howard Boyland, co-founder of PMS, began the UFO study group three years ago, when they were both graduate students at San Diego State University. They obtained partial funding from the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization (APRO) in Tucson, Arizona.
Besides the science and engineering staff, 120 persons from all occupations and educational backgrounds make up PMS's lay volunteer force. The laymen check sightings and interview witnesses.
Before PMS began it's 24-hour answering service in January of this year, an established facility for taking UFO reports did not exist in San Diego. Howard Boylan, who is in charge of the answering service, estimates that 300 calls have been taken since January. There seems to be no particular pattern in the sightings, except, Boylan reports, that most come from rural areas.
Boylan asks callers who want to report a sighting to give a description of what they saw, when they saw it, and where. He also asks for the number of witnesses and the identification of the caller.
The special PMS number, 286-0808, will be listed in the new phone directory under “UFO Reporting Service” in the white pages and in the yellow pages under “Meteorological Reporting Services.”
In exploring the highly controversial, and sensitive, domain of UFO's, PMS gets its share of contacts from crackpots. “By crackpot, “says Herr, “I mean uncritical, accepting things at face value.” Most crackpot calls come in over the 24 hour line. A few are merely unusual, the UFO's-can't-exist-because-they-aren't-mentioned in the Bible kind. There are also some silly calls from teenagers, mostly girls (Herr, who holds a degree in psychology, is curious about that). There has been one threat.
UFO fanatics are barred from membership. Herr feels that members who are unstable, or too imaginative, could only harm the organization's credibility.
Two months ago, for instance a man who seemed to be a a highly competent circuit engineer tarnished his image by expressing the view that UFO's contain angels. About a year ago, a man who claimed to have made contact with people from the center of the earth was politely shown the door.
“I make it a point not to hang up on anyone.” Herr said. “If I let them talk it out, they're happy and they generally don't call back.
Imply star travel
Herr, in spite of his emphasis on rigorous thought and the tenets of scientific method, is not averse to a little speculation on UFO's and their meaning. Most UFO's, he's quick to point out, are explicable on the basis of natural or man-made phenomena, things like aircraft, meteors, planets and other celestial bodies, lightning (in a peculiar but completely natural form called ball-lightning), and atmospheric disturbances. The remaining few percent of the UFO's might be manned extraterrestrial vehicles.
Since man is almost certainly alone as an intelligent being in this solar system, Herr speculates that manned vehicles imply star travel. Interstellar space travel may also imply long lifespans, Herr feels.
The star closest to out sun, Proxima Centauri, is so far away that even at the speed of light, the voyage there would consume more than four years. Light travels at about 186,000 miles per second in airless space.
At an acceleration of one G, Herr said, aliens could make the trip from Proxima Centauri to earth in about 10 years. An acceleration of one gee would give a human being his normal earth weight.
Might cause panic
Although the now famous Condon report, issued by the Air Force in 1969, concluded that further scientific study of UFO's would be of no value, Herr believes the final word is not yet in. The Air Force, Herr indicates, may have had reason for failing to disclose all it knew.
Her listed four possible reasons: 1) the Air Force might feel awkward about being unable to defend American airspace against alien interlopers; 2) security wraps may exist until the UFO propulsion system has been duplicated; 3) the Air Force may feel itself in the embarrassing position of having kept a secret for 25 years; 4) the knowledge that flying saucers exist may have been withheld to prevent panic.
Robert Gonsett, the man behind much of the PMS's present technology, is not particularly aggressive in his speculation. “My own interest in UFO's is to try and figure out how they work,” Gonsett said.
“I think there is a fundamental law of nature the we can get our hands on with UFO's.” but, he added, “the important thing about research is to abandon one's preconceived notions. I speculate about UFO's because I have a nagging hunch they're of extraterrestrial origin.