tive opinion or any opinion at all
for that matter about the reality.
of UFOs..........until after he has.....
- Stanton T. Friedman.
Flying saucers, as they were called in those days, became a sensation. Newspapers, radio, and television told of new sightings. Magazine articles and books played up the idea of space craft from the cosmos. To many observers, the scene resembled a low-grade infection - the objects were present but unimportant. The Air Force, however, took the matter seriously and started a nationwide investigation. It was hoped that the phenomenon would prove to be a manifestation of human silliness and fade..
away. It did not. A quarter of a century passed and the situation did not change much. True, the Air Force finally tired of its mission and abandoned the chase. But the UFOs are still with us.
The possibility that the witnesses may have been telling the truth is strongly suspected when a general uniformity of the reports is noticed. For example, one may be impressed that the same type of object was reported by, say, a French physician in 1954 and a Brazilian peasant in 1968. It is especially significant in such cases when a particularly bizarre detail is mentioned by both witnesses. One might suspect collusion, but this is usually extremely unlikely or completely impossible. As in this example, the Brazilian peasant may have been deprived of all communication beyond his own village and never heard of UFOs. It would have to be considered remarkable if his report echoed the content of another one from a distant land. Is there any way in which the trustworthiness of such reports can be established?
Reliability of Reports
The theoretical question of reliability became quite important during the years when intercontinental ballistic missiles were being developed. These weapons, implanted in underground silos in the western states, must remain on stand-by for long periods but they must always be operable. They are extremely complex mechanisms; consequently, many things can go wrong with them. The strategic posture of the United States is defined by the existence of these missiles plus the assurance that they would work if called upon. Every aspect of these weapons, from their control systems to their maintenance schedules, had to be planned to meet the stringent demands of reliability. This obligation fostered a new and powerful tool that is known as Reliability Theory. (1) This theory establishes the relationship between the performance of a complex system and its subsystems and components. If the reliability of the individual components is known, the theory may be employed to compute the reliability of the complete system. Conversely, if the required reliability of the.
.overall system is specified, the theory can be used to establish the requisite reliability of all the constituents. In the latter case, each element that goes into the system must be tested extensively to prove that it meets the prescribed standards. The mathematical statement of reliability is a single number from 0 to 1.0, similar to the scale of probability. Absolute reliability, represented by 1.0, is theoretically unattainable.
This theory has been successfully applied to UFO reports. As with any complex system, the problem was first broken down into its finest elements. Such factors as the number of witnesses, their training in aerial observation, and the circumstances of the sighting were isolated. Details of the original documentation were accounted for with emphasis upon interviews of the witnesses and the professional qualifications of the interviewers. Finally, the quality of secondary reports that had been prepared from the original documents was assessed. Reliability Theory was then used to derive an equation expressing the reliability of a report. One hundred sixty (160) sightings from Japan, France, Venezuela, and the U.S.A. were selected and analysed. (2)
In 1961, a large, spherical object was observed by a famous television commentator and hundreds of other people. It hovered over the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, at two different altitudes before moving away rapidly to the south. It was apparently metallic with a steady green light on top and flashing red lights on the bottom. Just above its equator was a row of windows. The Reliability Index for this sighting turned out to be in excess of 0.999! In other words, one can be well assured that this incident took place according to the reports, although absolute certainty is ruled out. Even the structural details of UFOs, such as the windows in this instance, must be taken seriously when they are included in highly reliable reports.
Other interesting sightings whose Reliability Indices were also found to be greater than 0.999 are summarized below:
a. Bright light on shadowy object. Confirmed by radar. Scrambled jet fighter had radar lock-on. UFO broke into
.three pieces that all flew away.
b. Rigid submarine-shaped cloud with metallic disc spiraling around it. Disc flew over a four mile area then returned to the "submarine."
c. Bright, cigar-shaped object with windows. Hovered then left rapidly. Emitted strong strands or fibers that evaporated upon touch and stained hands.
d. Ovoid, aluminum-colored object. Landed on a hill. Grass flattened in rough circle 60 ft in diameter. Moved as a white cloud with fuzzy edges.
e. Two convex, disc-shaped objects near a large balloon. Speed changes and extremely fast departure. Size estimated between 200 and 300 ft.
f. Night lights in rigid pattern. Approached, hovered, then flew away. Inferred size about 150 ft. No structure discernible but impression of metallic surface. Car could not catch it upon departure.
g. Bright glowing object proceeding over hills in undulatory path.
These examples are especially important because they are quite typical UFO reports. It would be difficult to dismiss these events or to interpret them in any way other than at face value.
One word of caution: A report is not proven to be fraudulent
even though it may warrant a low Reliability Index. A single witness who is
neither technically trained nor professionally involved in aerial observations
would rank low on the reliability scale. Yet a sharp-eyed farmer from Pennsylvania
would be perfectly capable of reporting a sighting with sincerity and accuracy.
Consequently, all reports should be studied without prejudice, unless of course,
a hoax or misinterpretation has been proven in a particular instance. Only
on this basis can the maximum amount of information be brought to bear upon
the perplexing problem of UFOs.
The involvement of the U.S. Air Force in the UFO phenomenon is practically synonymous with the modern history of UFOs. It is a long and intricate story. As previous authors have handled that subject expertly, it will be omitted here. (3) Let it suffice to recall that Air Force investigations were handled by an office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio under various code names, the latest and longest-lived being Project Blue Book. The period of active investigation began in the summer of 1947 and continued until December 1969, at which time the Air Force disbanded the investigative team and stored its UFO files.(4)
The general impression left by this activity was that all UFOs had been explained in terms of familiar things. But hardly anything could be further from the truth. According to Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, former head of Project Blue Book, a panel of distinguished scientists was convened in 1953 to consider, among other possibilities, if UFOs were interplanetary space craft. (5) By that time, an analysis of 1,593 sightings had been prepared for their examination. Considerable effort had been expended in attempts to determine what familiar entity might have stimulated each report. Many reports were definitely established as having been confused observations of airplanes, balloons, astronomical bodies, etc. Yet there remained 26.94%, or 429 cases, that were "Unknowns." If the stimulus for an observation could have reasonably been an airplane, the case was tagged as "Probable" airplane. If it were remotely possible that the witness could have been viewing an airplane, the case was tagged "Possible" airplane. Other interesting pigeon holes for parking hoary sightings were labeled "Psychological" and "Insufficient Data." The appellation "Unknown" did not mean that the object of the report had merely not been identified. Rather, it represented a definite conclusion that the object was unknown. While the above 429 cases were admitted to be unidentified, the actual number
was very likely much greater. For example, airplanes were alleged to be the explanation of 11.76% of the sightings. Yet most of the cases in that category were not confirmed as airplanes, and were assigned the subcategories of "Probable" and "Possible" airplanes. By adding all the cases in every category in which identity was definitely established, one finds that only 11.21%, or 179 cases, were actually identified. In other words, 88.79% were not identified. The situation was evidently worse than that, because in Ruppelt's own words, "About 4,400 had actually been received." Most of these were rejected before the Air Force percentages were calculated. Considering that only 179 cases out of the original 4,400 were conclusively identified, it is obvious that only about 4% of the reports were explained. The remainder were not explained. But even accepting the Air Force figure of 179 "Unknowns" gives a clear message: they had plenty of UFOs.
Published data for subsequent years indicate that Blue Book handled several hundred reports each year, running from a low of 378 in 1959 to a high of 982 in 1957. (6)Their performance seemed to improve as the percentages of "Unknowns" fell from around 8-to-l0% in the early period down to about 2% in 1965. There were obviously so many arbitrary aspects to this numbers game that little meaningful information can be extracted from the tabulated results. It is clear, however, that the Air Force had its hands full of UFOs and officially said so.
Residue in Colorado
In the fall of 1966, an independent study of UFOs was undertaken by a staff of scientists at the University of Colorado under the direction of Dr. Edward U. Condon. This distinguished physicist had previously served the U.S. as head of the National Bureau of Standards and had been elected by his peers to the presidency of both the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Initial funding of about $260,000 for the project was eventually extended to over half a
million dollars. Results of the study
were published in a tome with more than its share of heavy, technical jargon.
Certainly more people have scanned newspaper summaries of its findings than
have studied the full report. Several hundred UFO sightings were considered
by the scientists, but attention was focused upon 59 individual examples for
in-depth analysis. One of the more widely circulated quotations from Condon
was the general conclusion that "nothing has come from the study of UFOs in
the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge." (7) He further
elaborated "that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified
in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby." These appraisals
were largely responsible for the sharp decline in interest in UFOs, the reluctance
on the part of news media to publish subsequent sightings, and the
folding of Project Blue Book.
An overwhelming mass of technical detail was assembled in the report. Much
of it is most helpful in the study of UFOs, but some curious aspects are found
in the case studies.
In another instance, a white, rapidly moving object was observed visually and confirmed simultaneously by air traffic control radars at two Air Force bases. A scrambled jet fighter, vectored to the object, reported a radar lock-on. The UFO circled behind the jet and stuck with it through evasive maneuvers. The Condon report devoted eight pages to evaluating this incident and concluded that ". . . the probability that at least one genuine UFO was involved appears to be fairly high" (9) How interesting!
On still another occasion, one of
three lights maneuvering over a school flew silently toward three women and
an 11-year-old girl and stopped overhead at an altitude between 20 and 30
ft. It was described as a solid disc about the size of a car. That an unusual
object was flying over the school was verified by two policemen who had responded to a telephone call. Most of this sighting was ascribed to the planet Jupiter except that the conclusion stated "No explanation is attempted to account for the close UFO encounter reported by three women and a young girl." (10) How quaint!
Actually, no more than 25%of the cases studied by the Condon team were successfully identified. Here is another official pronouncement that indicates the existence of unknowns in stark contrast to the general impression that there are no such things. It should be observed that this study did not undertake a systematic examination of the many thousands of cases on record at Project Blue Book, nor the approximately 700 cases that had been at that time officially designated as "Unknowns."
Probably the most effective work in the UFO field has been conducted by unofficial, civilian organizations. Most notable among these are the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena of Washington, D.C., founded by Major Donald Keyhoe, and the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization of Tucson, Arizona, founded by Coral and Jim Lorenzen. The number of cases of unexplained observations is enormous, and many of them have been well researched. It is estimated that the files of these organizations amount to 15,000 and 10,000 cases, respectively, with very limited overlap or duplication. Although publications issued by these organizations were reviewed during the Colorado study, these reservoirs of information on UFOs were not consulted.
One of the most prominent and respected
individuals of long term association with UFOs is Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Dr.
Hynek is a noted astronomer at Northwestern University and is in charge of
the Dearborn Observatory. He is best known to the public through his role as a civilian consultant to the Air Force during its investigations of UFOs. It is most instructive to trace the evolution of his views. He was initially called upon to examine reports received by the Air Force to determine which ones might be instances of astronomical objects causing UFO reports. Apparently quite a few people thought that Venus, other planets, or astronomical objects were UFOs. Of the first 237 reports received by the Air Force and analyzed by Hynek, approximately one-third appeared to be of astronomical origin. (11) The remaining two-thirds, apparently not associated with astronomical displays, were about equally divided between those for which some reasonable explanation was suggested by the nature of the report and those for which no explanation was evident. At that time, Hynek had a low opinion for the concept of UFOs and "regarded the whole subject as rank nonsense, the product of silly seasons, and a peculiarly American craze that would run its course as all popular crazes do." (12) During the middle years of his association with the Air Force, however, he became troubled by a hard core of reports that continued to defy explanations in common terms. In a magazine article he listed outer space as a possible source of the unidentified objects and called for serious, scientific study of UFOs. (13) In an open letter to his scientific colleagues he "strongly urged the Air Force to ask physical and social scientists of stature to make a respectable, scholarly study of the UFO phenomenon." (14) He went on to say that he could not shrug off the UFO problem because the unexplained cases contained "frequent allusions to recurrent kinematic, geometric, and luminescent characteristics," a point that will take on extraordinary significance in later chapters. Before the Committee of Science and Astronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives he pressed his suggestion ". . . that there is scientific pay dirt in the UFO phenomenon - possibly extremely valuable pay dirt - and that therefore a scientific effort on a much larger scale than any heretofore should be mounted for a frontal attack on this problem." (15) The following year, a similar appeal for action was issued at a session devoted to UFOs at the annual meeting of the
Eventually, Dr. Hynek published the findings of his own scientific analysis of UFOs. (17) As a point of conservatism, he rejected any report submitted by a single witness and studied selected multi-witness cases in which he had been personally involved. His conclusions should be convincing to the most skeptical reader. He finds that disc-shaped, metallic craft of unknown origin are flying around during the daytime. At night, their presence is indicated by peculiar lights moving in typically jerky patterns. From sightings at close range he discloses a) some structural details of the craft, b) physical evidence that they have leŁt on tile ground, and c) human-like creatures occupying the craft. To say the least, this book should be on every must-read list.
Springboard to Discovery
Some UFO reports have been found to be extremely reliable by methods that are technically sound and employed extensively in other fields. The Air Force, in effect, has been telling the public for many years that UFOs have been flying around in great numbers. This point was confirmed by an expensive, independent study conducted by scientists at the University of Colorado. Civilian groups have been collecting and investigating UFO reports by the tens of thousands and have written highly reputable books about them. A leading astronomer who has been professionally associated with the subject for 25 years found that his original attitude of scoffing at UFOs was gradually replaced by the conclusion, established by scientific means, that UFOs are real. It would seem that these factors lend a reasonable basis for adopting the reality of UFOs as a tentative perspective. If they are some strange kind of craft, a considerable amount of detail about them might be discovered by careful attention to what the witnesses have said.
1. See article, "Reliability of Equipment and Bibliography,
McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science