Latest FBI document on Roswell dissected

April 11, 2011
Cover of "Forbidden Planet (Two-Disc Spec...

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Every once and awhile the news reports some alleged new evidence supporting the myth that space aliens crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. And for a long time, I too was a believer in the Roswell case was a legitimate report of alien visitation. The latest alleged evidence is an FBI document from 1950 by someone named Guy Hottel.

UFO enthusiasts are already touting this as smoking gun evidence for their particular belief but Steve Novella takes a closer look at what the document really says. Here’s just a small excerpt:

The body of the report is also very telling. The flying saucers are described as looking exactly like flying saucers looked from 1950s science fiction. This is the ship from Forbidden Planet. The aliens themselves are clothed in shimmering metallic fabric – again, right out of contemporary science fiction. This is three years after Roswell, and clearly the mythology had already evolved a bit. There was a rash of “flying saucer” reports at that time, and it’s no surprise that intelligence agencies were paying attention (especially in light of the growing cold war with the Soviet Union).

He sums up the report has featuring nothing but rumor being passed routinely up the chain of appropriate channels with no evidence it was ever taken seriously:

It reflects the popular culture of the time, and provides no real evidence or insight. This is not the smoking-gun that UFO enthusiasts have been hoping for.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 2.11.11

February 11, 2011
Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Jerusalem UFO video exposed as fake – Okay, so the video looked pretty poor to begin with, giving us nothing but a tiny moving ball of light but it’s still fun to apply more analysis to it anyway. Steven Novella had already done a great critical analysis of the video here where he observed that the video largely consists of a still image with added effects to create the illusion of shaky-cam video footage, but now Phil Plait has found a video posted on YouTube that actually exposes the specific digital editing tricks used to create the illusion of a shaky camera. Unlike other alleged UFO videos, there’s no ambiguity here. This video is a deliberate fake and its been busted cold.

2. Creepy head-mask to punish ‘rude, clamorous” women – Okay, I just thought this story was really cool. This mask was used between 1550 and 1800 to punish women considered to be spending too much time gossiping or quarrelling. When wearing the mask, it’s impossible to speak. Some of these masks, like the one pictured, even had a bell on them to add to the wearer’s humiliation.

3. Robots to get their own internet – European scientists are working on a network that would allow robots to share and store what they discover about the world:

Called RoboEarth it will be a place that robots can upload data to when they master a task, and ask for help in carrying out new ones.

Researchers behind it hope it will allow robots to come into service more quickly, armed with a growing library of knowledge about their human masters.

4. Scientology continues to have a terrible week – I already briefly wrote about the incredible, super-long New Yorker piece by Lawrence Wright on Scientology apostate Paul Haggis, which mentioned that the cult is currently under an FBI investigation for human trafficking. But there are so many highlights to the piece. After finally managing to read the whole article, I got to where Wright talks about fact-checking L. Ron Hubbard’s claim that he was injured during military service and was miraculously healed by the methods now practiced as part of Scientology. After Scientology Spokesman Tommy Davis gave the New Yorker thousands of pages of documents and allegedly admitted that if this Hubbard story didn’t check out, it’d mean all of Scientology was a fraud, Wright and his New Yorker fact-checkers went through the pain-staking process of getting military archivists who are experts in such documents. Those experts concluded that the documents were false, that there was no record of Hubbard’s injuries or of the officer who allegedly signed some of the documents, and that the documents lied about his education and the metals he’d received. Now the New Yorker has even put up a copy of at least one of the documents to show readers precisely how we know it’s a forgery.  Wright has also been turning up on various radio shows to discuss his findings (here and here). It just keeps getting worse for Scientology and they can’t seem to catch a break.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.20.10

July 20, 2010

1. A vaccine patch to replace needles?

The patch has hundreds of microscopic needles which dissolve into the skin.

Tests in mice show the technology may even produce a better immune response than a conventional jab.

Awesome! Of course this isn’t likely to make vaccine deniers any less anti-vaccine. But

2. Lesbian teen Constance McMillen wins $35,000 settlement – Congratulations to Constance, who is the teen who was discriminated against by her high school officials who kept her from attending her own prom. Now she’s won a legal victory against the school, a great topic for a college essay, about 1-year’s tuition towards college, and the respect of a nation.

3. Chinese UFO sighting turns out to not be aliens – I know. Shocking. First of all, it was a rocket. Second of all, the footage wasn’t shot in China but in Borat‘s native country (presumably during the running of the Jew festivities). And third, there’s a lot of Photoshopped images being passed off as this Chinese UFO. So every part of this story turns out to be completely wrong. Brilliant.

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Why do space aliens love New Jersey so much?

May 17, 2010

It has long been observed that my home state of New Jersey is the preferred space port of inter-stellar travelers across the universe. First the Martians invaded Grovers Mills, New Jersey on October 30, 1938 (though that turned out to be just Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of War of the Worlds). Then in January of 2009, a UFO was famously spotted near Morristown, New Jersey (though that turned out to just be a hoax by my friends Chris Russo and Joe Rudy).

And now another UFO was spotted near Sumerset County, New Jersey. This was a long, tube-like structure that nobody could identify.

The Air Traffic Control Tower in Morristown did not have any pilot reports of the object, nor did officials at Solberg Airport in Hunterdon, Somerset Airport in Bedminster and Blairstown Airport in Warren County.

Chris and Joe, is this you guys again?

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.15.10

April 16, 2010

1. Teacher to retire over controversy over his teaching of evil-ution – Mark Tangarone teaches third, fourth, and fifth grade students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program at Weston Intermediate School. Unfortunately, the administration isn’t very gifted:

Mr. Tangarone, a 17-year veteran of the Weston school system, claims that a program he wanted to teach about Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln was rejected by the school administration because it involved teaching evolution — the scientific theory that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor.

2. American professor says UFO Studies should be ‘legitimate university subject’ – Philip Haseley thinks this is a legitimate university subject? Well you know who I think would disagree with him? James Carrion, who until just a few weeks ago was the International Director for the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON), who just a week ago called the entire field of UFOlogy “humans deceiving humans.” And this guy had more access to the “evidence” than virtually every other person in the UFO community.

3. Polio finally being stamped out in Nigeria and India – Polio has been eradicated from virtually every corner of the Earth. There’s only about five countries left that still have polio, all of which have dreadful vaccination rates. But now finally two of those remaining nations are winning that battle. Rising vaccination rates and sudden decrease in polio? To the vaccine denial community I ask, coincidence?

That's one lonely cross

4. Editor of leading Catholic publication joins critics – Thomas Fox, the editor of the National Catholic Reporter has defected:

In a column fronting the newspaper’s website, Fox on Wednesday wrote that the remarks in Chile this week by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as the Vatican’s secretary of state is Pope Benedict XVI’s top aide, “sounds more like scapegoating than anything else.”

“What we have here is a huge gulf between the thinking of some top church officials — in this case a very important one — and that of most ordinary Catholics and others. This is a very revealing and equally troubling moment,” Fox wrote.

“Those of us who have followed the wider church story for years have seen this gulf growing. Where we go from here, how the Catholic faithful respond, remains to me a perplexing mystery,” he said.

5. Former $cientologist Amy Scobee to expose more Tom Cruise ‘secrets’ in new book – Not surprisingly…

His powerhouse attorney Bert Fields has already sent a letter denying Scobee’s claims and threatening legal action against her.

6. Oregon jury gives Boy Scouts of America merit badge for negligence in sexual abuse – As a result, Kerry Lewis has been awarded 1.4 million in damages over being sexually abused by an assistant Scoutmaster in the early 1980’s.

Now where's that negligence merit badge?

MUFON head quits, calls UFOlogy “humans deceiving humans”

April 8, 2010

This is just an outstanding news story. James Carrion, the International Director for the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON) has resigned from his position. But he didn’t go without explaining himself. And here’s where it gets very interesting. Carrion essentially denounces the entire “scientific” field of UFOlogy, which plays a central role in the alien visitation believing movement:

That in a nutshell is the sad state of Ufology today, humans deceiving
humans. If there is a real phenomenon, I have yet to see any evidence of
it that would stand under scientific scrutiny.

If you’d asked me to guess who said this quote yesterday I might have said Michael Shermer or Phil Plait. But no, this came from one of the leaders of the UFO/alien visitation community! That is fuckin’ unbelievable!

What I discovered was that the phenomenon is based in deception – of the human kind –and that there is no way ANYONE will understand the real truth unless they are willing to first accept that. No, I am not talking about some grandiose cover-up of alien visitation, but instead the documented manipulation of people and information for purposes that I can only speculate on. How do I unequivocally know this to be true? Well let me lay it out for you in laymen’s terms.

People are easily manipulated because we are all subject to the psychological pressures of ego, biased beliefs and tunnel vision. For example, those that KNOW that earth is being visited by aliens have blinders on and no amount of alternative explanation will convince them otherwise. They are the die hard in the wool believers for whom Ufology serves as a religion to confirm their beliefs that they take on faith. On the other end of the spectrum are the debunkers who must counter every claim with a reason why it can’t be so, without bothering to examine the data or lift a finger in conducting original research of their own.

Whoa! Wait a minute, what about those who don’t take things on faith and actually collect data and conduct investigation? Good question. I decided to examine the data collection and investigative practices in Ufology, and after poring over thousands of historical case files from MUFON, NICAP and APRO investigators in the MUFON archives, what I found, was inconsistent investigation with a total lack of evidentiary standards. I also found a paper trail of disinformation and misinformation that has kept Ufology in check through infighting and red herrings, rabbit holes and elaborate deception operations.

I have to give Carrion a lot of credit for overcoming what I can only imagine was extraordinary cognitive dissonance. To have devoted all that time to this community, so much so that you were among its leaders, and then take a real critical look at it and essentially denounce. That takes a lot of courage. It also takes a lot of courage because he’ll no doubt be receiving lots of vitriolic hate mail from people within the movement he’s forsaken.

Congratulations James. You’re one of us now.

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.6.10

April 7, 2010

1. More Catholic child buggery in Minnesota

Vatican officials failed to take action against a priest accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls in Minnesota despite repeated warnings from a local bishop starting in 2005, attorneys for one of the alleged victims said Monday.

Yeah, what else is new?

2. What’s the funniest religion? – A new “risque” British comedy film The Infidel, about an ordinary Muslim family man who discovers he’s Jewish has inspired an internet competition seeking to determine which religion is the funniest. My vote goes to Christianity. 3 gods = 1 god? Transubstantiation? Jesus riding on the back of an ass solely to fulfill a prophecy? Land of milk and honey? Hell? C’mon, it’s no contest.

3. Jordanians fools by April Fools UFO hoax – 72 years after the town of Grovers Mill, New Jersey was invaded by Martians only to discover later that it was was just a radio broadcast by Orson Welles, Jordanians fall victim to a similar hoax in the April Fools edition of a local newspaper, proving that perhaps UFO hoaxing is the oldest trick in the book. And early last year my friends Joe Rudy and Chris Russo hoaxed Morristown, New Jersey with their own UFO hoax. You’d think such a major news story being broken by newspaper instead of the internet would have been a big tip-off but what can you say? People fall for it every time! And that’s why the people of Jordan are this year’s April Fools.

4. Australian police ban Easter crucifixion re-entactment – It wasn’t real re-enactment though. It’s the Philippines who are go all the way with actual crucifixions because they’re hardcore. The Australian version was just a display of a semi-naked Jesus splattered in fake blood. . .cause Australians are pussies. (Kidding)

5. Poll suggests 78% of Americans believe in Jesus’ resurrection – And in related news, 78% of Americans are certifiably insane.

6. Move over Mexicans and Indians. Cause now robots are stealin’ are jobs! – It’s only a matter of time before a Skynet-designed Donald Trump Replicant calls you into his office to tell you that you’re terminated, while assuring you that all of this has happened before and it will happen again. Fuckin’ Cylons!

7. Pope’s ‘revenge’ as LA gets Opus Dei bishop – Remember that strange, radical Catholic group in ‘The DaVinci Code’ that was based on a real group, which then protested the book and film because it depicted them as masochistic freaks when in reality, they’re only masochistic freaks on weekends (or was it every other Tuesday?) Anyway, Opus Dei are back, baby! And this time they’re taking L.A.

But I’m sure it will all be fine. I mean, what could go wrong?

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, however, is one of the worst afflicted by the clerical sexual abuse crisis that has convulsed the US Church since 2002.

Son of a bitch!

8. Carbon nanotubes make quantum-sized black holes -This is how they say awesome in science-ese:

Physicists at Harvard University have found that a high-voltage nanotube can cause cold atoms to spiral inward under dramatic acceleration before disintegrating violently. Their experiments, the first to demonstrate something akin to a black hole at atomic scale, are described in the current issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

Area 51 former contractors confess nothing all that interesting happened there

April 2, 2010

Back in my pre-skeptic days I used to believe all sorts of fantastical claims about this military base near Groom Lake, even as the myths grew more and more elaborate, and in the process, more and more implausible.

For example, would the government really continue to test top secret aircraft based on alien technology out in the open where nerdy civilians could so easily see them (while always managing to forget to bring video equipment)? For such well kept secrets, it seemed rather easy for people with no spy training to sneak a gander, don’t ya think?

And once Area 51 became a video game, I pretty much had to accept the truth, that there was probably nothing all that amazing happening there and claims to the contrary were primarily products of overactive imaginations. I mean after the area turned into a tourist attraction for wannabe Fox Mulders you’d think the Men In Black would move the operation to a less public locale, no?

But now some of the secret projects at Area 51 have been declassified and former contractors who worked on the infamous base have broken their silence, revealing that if there were space alien spacecraft or human spacecraft modeled on alien spacecraft, they never saw it. No Aurora Project. No little green men or big-eyed grays.

Of course they could all be lying to throw us off the real government conspiracy but that doesn’t really make much sense for various reasons:

A. Why now?


B. The true believers aren’t likely to take their accounts seriously anyway.

There hasn’t been any more clamor over declassifying Area 51 than usual so if anything, this only draws more media attention to Area 51. If you’re covering up a conspiracy at Area 51, wouldn’t you want to draw as little attention to it as possible, especially since nobody of any consequence is banging on the government’s door for answers. Of course, conspiracy theorists can easily fill in any plot hole with the ever popular game of, “because they know that we know that they know that we know,” ad infinatum and argue that they these are intentional plot holes to throw us off.

Ultimately, this meme has a life of its own now and nothing is likely to change most people’s minds about Area 51. It’s still an interesting news story none the less.

The CIA report CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90 says it best:

Like the JFK assassination conspiracy theories, the UFO issue probably will not go away soon, no matter what the Agency does or says. The belief that we are not alone in the universe is too emotionally appealing and the distrust of our government is too pervasive to make the issue amenable to traditional scientific studies of rational explanation and evidence.

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.3.10

February 4, 2010

1. UFO sighting in Lake Saint Louis has more mundane explanation – A number of people reported something mysterious in the sky. It had flashing lights in multiple colors and looked like a flying saucer. And then it vanished in the night sky. At first it seemed like no one could explain it. Until of course, someone did:

The answer lies with Paul Bauer, 51, an inventor and electrical engineer who lives across a narrow cove from Cole and Hogrebe.

Bauer was testing one of his latest devices Saturday night: a remote-controlled helium balloon. The 6-foot-diameter balloon with a ring of flashing, colored LED lights was hovering 100 feet in the air and tied to his truck trailer. It hit a tree branch as Bauer was guiding it down and deflated.

“It’s just an experiment to see if it would look good as an advertising balloon,” said Bauer, who hopes to sell it to businesses looking for high visibility.

“It had the effect that I was looking for,” he said.

Now what were the odds that someone would have figured out this precise explanation if they didn’t find the man who was responsible? My guess is that few could have reasonably come up with this particular explanation because of its unusual nature. So what does this teach us? Perhaps that unless we live in Africa, if we hear hoofs clopping outside, we’re probably better off first expecting it to come from a horse instead of a zebra.

2. 26 congresspeople petition Boy Scouts to end ban on gays – This move was motivated by a recent case in Vermont where a lesbian couple were forbidden to enter their 10-year-old son into the Scouts for fear they would “push their lifestyle on the boys.” As a private organization, the Boy Scouts can legally discriminate as much as they want, so long as they’re not collecting any tax-payer money. However, I’m now sure whether they are or not. If they are taking federal money then congress can do far more and force them to not discriminate. But if the Boy Scouts don’t collect any money from the government, they can legally do what they want, so merely asking them to reconsider is about as far as government officials may be able to go.

3. Beware of the Sheepman!

A Turkish sheep has given birth to a dead calf with the face of a human being. The eyes, nose, and lips are remarkably anthropomorphic, though its ears are quite sheep-like.

. . .

But that wasn’t the case way back in the dark ages of last September, when a similarly mutated goat was born in Zimbabwe. This one was alive for several hours before being murdered by frightened villagers. The local governor declared the goat an abominable man-beast created via evil bestiality.

Yeah, further proof that Mary Shelley was dead on. People are superstitious assholes! And did anyone else think the sheep looked remarkably like Mr. Garrison?

4. Age of Autism launches “vaccine” “news” site – A site devoted to criticizing vaccines? But don’t they already have that site? And what do vaccines have to do with their alleged mission to fight autism? It’s almost like their autism mission is a sham that’s merely designed to further their real endgame, to smear the reputation of vaccines.

And the award for biggest potential waste of money in a recession goes to…

December 2, 2009

And the award for biggest potential waste of money in a recession goes to…


Congratulations you guys for making the “Bridge to Nowhere” sound like money well spent.

So what won Denver the award?

A proposal to create a Denver commission to study visitors from outer space will go before voters this summer after supporters gathered the required signatures to get it on the ballot.

City Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O’Malley sent a letter on Monday to Jeff Peckman, who submitted the signatures, stating she had deemed them sufficient.

The ordinance change required 3,974 valid signatures. Peckman submitted more than 10,000 signatures; 4,211 were valid.

You’re shitting me! I don’t know what amuses me more, that the ordinance change required exactly 3,974 signatures (sucks to be you, hypothetical ordinance change that only managed to get 3,973 signatures), that they managed to get the required number of signatures and then some, or that 6,000 of the signatures (60% for the remedial kids) handed in were invalid. It’s like trying to choose which kid you love the most.

Peckman said he will ask voters to approve creating the commission from “grants, gifts and donations.”

Better do it quick before all those starving kids get it. Damn you, Sally Struthers!! Can’t you see that we need that money for the war effert if we’re ever to quell the Martian insurection! They’ve got anal probes, woman! ANAL PROBES! And possibly death rays.

The seven-member commission would be tasked with collecting evidence that extraterrestrials and their “UFO vehicles” have been visiting Earth.

Yes, because that worked sooooo well the last time…until that damned Wil Smith and Tommy Lee Jones showed up and banished Agent Mulder to the basement of the FBI.

He predicted that the election would cause high-profile believers in extraterrestrial to come out and tell Denver voters about what they know.

“They will see there is an attentive audience, and that people are digging into this issue,” Peckman said. “They will see there is an opportunity to say something when people are paying attention.”

Yes, because until now people kept such a tight lid on their various UFO sighting and abduction stories. Finally now UFO believers will come out of the closet. Who knows? Maybe they’ll start holding massive annual conventions…and blogging…and podcasting about it 24/7.  Then we’ll know the truth because as everyone knows, there’s no better evidence than anecdotal evidence and blurry photos/videos. And eye witness testimony is incredibly reliable, especially when space aliens are concerned.

In 2003, Peckman pushed a “Safety Through Peace” initiative that voters rejected. If that proposal had passed, it would have required the city to implement systematic, stress-reducing techniques or programs that are scientifically proven to decrease stress and would financially benefit the city.

Peckman had suggested the peace-inducing techniques could involve everything from more nutritious food in public schools to mass meditation sessions to piping soothing music into public buildings to reduce stress and violence.

I’m just going to let that one go without comment. Anything you can think of will probably be funnier anyway.

The initiatives Peckman has pushed has generated concern among some city council members who fear the threshold for ballot initiatives invites frivolous initiatives.

Frivolous initiatives? But what about the Martians? There will be plenty of time to address war, famine, poverty, disease, environmental concerns, and actual scientific endeavors to seek out alien life like SETI later. We wanna collect more tall tales, dammit!

I feel like I took this article far more seriously than this news story deserved.