As everyone knows, the common automotive engine operates by drawing air and vaporized gasoline into a combustion chamber where the mixture is ignited with an electrical spark. Disruption of a running engine by an object at some distance must effectively interfere with the fuel, air, or spark, or any combination thereof. The flow of both fuel and air is a consequence of the piston evacuating the cylinder and drawing air through the carburetor, where it picks up minute droplets of fuel. These functions must continue as long as a vehicle is moving and in gear, whether or not the engine is delivering power. In other words, these two essential functions of a running engine which is pulling a heavy vehicle cannot be stopped by any means short of physically halting the vehicle, like against a concrete overpass. The only way to stop a running engine, therefore, is to disrupt the electrical system. Thus the influence of UFOs upon automobiles is most assuredly electrical or electromagnetic in nature. This inference, based on the effects upon radios, is surely correct. Any doubt on this point is completely dispelled by an unlikely coincidence in Italy in 1954 when a UFO flew over a conventional tractor and a diesel tractor running side by side. The conventional tractor was stopped, but the diesel was not. (2) Similarly in England, the driver of a truck told the police that a hovering UFO knocked out his lights and radio while his diesel engine continued to run. (3)

The above line of reasoning may seem to be very elementary, but it was by no means obvious to the Condon Committee. (4) The primary effort of that investigation into the interference with engines was directed toward experimentally determining the effect of strong magnetic fields upon the components of the electrical system. In very strong fields up to 20,000 gauss, insignificant effects were measured for the spark plugs, battery, and lamp filaments. For the common steel encased coil, the spark was occasionally interrupted at 20,000 gauss. It was concluded that in view of "the magnetic shielding action of the sheet steel in the car body, the strength of the field outside the car would have to be considerably greater than this." Such strong fields would permanently alter the normal magnetic pattern of the car body. Hence, a car exposed to a strong magnetic field supposedly surrounding a UFO would carry a record of the event. Tests were conducted on a car that was alleged to have been stopped by a UFO. Its magnetic pattern was essentially the same as that of another car of the same make and model. The inquiry was dropped at that point with the conclusion that the car had not been exposed to an intense magnetic field. The implication was that it had not been exposed to a UFO, but of course, it may well have been stopped by a UFO without experiencing a strong magnetic field.

Instead of focusing exclusively upon strong magnetic fields, the investigation should have encompassed fluctuating, electromagnetic fields that could have effects upon engines, radios, and headlamps without altering the magnetic signature of the car body. This approach was suggested by David R. Saunders, who held a key position on the project . (5) High-frequency electromagnetic radiation is an excellent candidate for the cause of UFO interference with cars. It might be found capable of inducing high voltage surges in the secondary winding of the coil. The resulting sparks in the cylinders would be completely out of time with the sequence of events required for an engine to run. Timing of the spark is quite critical; an engine will not run if it is only slightly off timing. This mechanism might explain why engines seem to be unusually sensitive to UFO interference. Regarding radios, it is clear that a high frequency field could cause static, or if strong enough, saturate the input circuit, thereby blocking its normal reception. A physical basis for the effect upon headlamps is the increase of resistivity of tungsten in the presence of microwave energy (6) Increasing resistance would reduce the flow of current through the lamp filament thereby diminishing the heating. The lamp would grow dim as the temperature dropped, or become entirely extinguished when the current became too low.

The "tungsten" effect offers an alternative explanation for engine failure also, in that distributor points, being made of tungsten alloy, would be subject to interference. An increase of resistance would reduce the current in the primary winding of the coil, thus reducing the spark intensity in the secondary winding or eliminating it altogether. As the distributor cap enclosing the points is non-metallic, the absence of good shielding could make the ignition system extremely sensitive to this mechanism. Two more incidental effects, related to vehicles, that must be accounted for by a valid interpretation are a wildly oscillating behavior of both ordinary compasses and magnetic speedometers.

This short piece on E-M and internal combustion engines is dated but may be as accurate now as it was then, written by James McCampbell.

Fran Ridge,
MADAR Director

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