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FUT: Friday UFO thread


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Published by some friends and colleagues of mine:

International Experts Refute 'Alien' Mummy Analysis, Question Ethics And Legality

Link is broken

If you go reply you can see more of the code, dunno how it fucked up but the true link can be found, if one wants

International Experts Refute 'Alien' Mummy Analysis, Question Ethics And Legality
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


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told ya.. :)
No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s U.F.O. Unit Will Make Some Findings Public

For over a decade, the program, now tucked inside the Office of Naval Intelligence, has discussed mysterious events in classified briefings.

U.S. Navy Releases Videos of Unexplained Flying Objects
The U.S. Navy has officially published previously released videos showing unexplained objects.
The U.S. Navy has officially published previously released videos showing unexplained objects.CreditCredit...Department of Defense, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean
  • Despite Pentagon statements that it disbanded a once-covert program to investigate unidentified flying objects, the effort remains underway — renamed and tucked inside the Office of Naval Intelligence, where officials continue to study mystifying encounters between military pilots and unidentified aerial vehicles.
Pentagon officials will not discuss the program, which is not classified but deals with classified matters. Yet it appeared last month in a Senate committee report outlining spending on the nation’s intelligence agencies for the coming year. The report said the program, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, was “to standardize collection and reporting” on sightings of unexplained aerial vehicles, and was to report at least some of its findings to the public every six months.
While retired officials involved with the effort — including Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader — hope the program will seek evidence of vehicles from other worlds, its main focus is on discovering whether another nation, especially any potential adversary, is using breakout aviation technology that could threaten the United States.
Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who is the acting chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told a CBS affiliate in Miami this month that he was primarily concerned about reports of unidentified aircraft over American military bases — and that it was in the government’s interest to find out who was responsible.

He expressed concerns that China or Russia or some other adversary had made “some technological leap” that “allows them to conduct this sort of activity.”
Mr. Rubio said some of the unidentified aerial vehicles over U.S. bases possibly exhibited technologies not in the American arsenal. But he also noted: “Maybe there is a completely, sort of, boring explanation for it. But we need to find out.”

In 2017, The New York Times disclosed the existence of a predecessor unit, called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. Defense Department officials said at the time that the unit and its $22 million in funding had lapsed after 2012.
People working with the program, however, said it was still in operation in 2017 and beyond, statements later confirmed by the Defense Department.
The program was begun in 2007 under the Defense Intelligence Agency and was then placed within the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, which remains responsible for its oversight. But its coordination with the intelligence community will be carried out by the Office of Naval Intelligence, as described in the Senate budget bill. The program never lapsed in those years, but little was disclosed about the post-2017 operations.

The Pentagon program’s previous director, Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence official who resigned in October 2017 after 10 years with the program, confirmed that the new task force evolved from the advanced aerospace program.

Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence official, was the director of the Pentagon’s previous program on unidentified aerial vehicles.Credit...Roger Kisby for The New York Times
“It no longer has to hide in the shadows,” Mr. Elizondo said. “It will have a new transparency.”
Mr. Elizondo is among a small group of former government officials and scientists with security clearances who, without presenting physical proof, say they are convinced that objects of undetermined origin have crashed on earth with materials retrieved for study.
For more than a decade, the Pentagon program has been conducting classified briefings for congressional committees, aerospace company executives and other government officials, according to interviews with program participants and unclassified briefing documents.
In some cases, earthly explanations have been found for previously unexplained incidents. Even lacking a plausible terrestrial explanation does not make an extraterrestrial one the most likely, astrophysicists say.
Mr. Reid, the former Democratic senator from Nevada who pushed for funding the earlier U.F.O. program when he was the majority leader, said he believed that crashes of objects of unknown origin may have occurred and that retrieved materials should be studied.
“After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports — some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession,” Mr. Reid said in an interview.

No crash artifacts have been publicly produced for independent verification. Some retrieved objects, such as unusual metallic fragments, were later identified from laboratory studies as man-made.

Harry Reid pushed for funding the earlier U.F.O. program when he was the Senate majority leader.Credit...Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times
Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a consultant for the Pentagon U.F.O. program since 2007, said that, in some cases, examination of the materials had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude, “We couldn’t make it ourselves.”
The constraints on discussing classified programs — and the ambiguity of information cited in unclassified slides from the briefings — have put officials who have studied U.F.O.s in the position of stating their views without presenting any hard evidence.
Mr. Davis, who now works for Aerospace Corporation, a defense contractor, said he gave a classified briefing to a Defense Department agency as recently as March about retrievals from “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”
Mr. Davis said he also gave classified briefings on retrievals of unexplained objects to staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 21, 2019, and to staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee two days later.
Committee staff members did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.
Public fascination with the topic of U.F.O.s has drawn in President Trump, who told his son Donald Trump Jr. in a June interview that he knew “very interesting” things about Roswell — a city in New Mexico that is central to speculation about the existence of U.F.O.s. The president demurred when asked if he would declassify any information on Roswell. “I’ll have to think about that one,” he said.

Either way, Mr. Reid said, more should be made public to clarify what is known and what is not. “It is extremely important that information about the discovery of physical materials or retrieved craft come out,” he said.

Stew :)


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March 18, 2021

In 2017 astronomers spotted a very unusual object approaching Earth. What was most unusual about it was that it was on a trajectory that would take it out of the solar system. Given its path it could only have come from outside the solar system – our first ever discovered extrasolar visitor, named Oumuamua. For an extrasolar object, it came improbably close to the Earth and the Sun, which gave us a great opportunity to take a close look at it. And then, as it passed by the sun and headed out of the solar system it became even more unusual. First, we could see that it was an very long and flat object, not typical for a comet or asteroid. Second it accelerated as it moved away from the sun, like a comet would from sublimation of ice into gas acting like a rocket. But we could not see a comet-like tail, and the albedo was off. Curiouser and curiouser.

This lead some to speculate wildly that Oumuamua may be an alien artifact, most famously Avi Loeb, a Harvard scientist who has now even published a book – Extraterrestrial: The First Signs of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. This is a clear case of the “aliens of the gap” fallacy – any astronomical phenomenon we do not currently fully understand must be evidence of alien technology. Of course, all natural explanation must first be excluded. But even then, we don’t have aliens, we have an unknown phenomenon that needs further exploration.

Oumuamua is now yet another great case in point. Two Arizona State University astrophysicists, Steven Desch and Alan Jackson, have come up with a plausible explanation for Oumuamua’s funky properties. Perhaps, they hypothesized, our attempts so far to explain the object’s behavior and properties failed because we were making false assumptions about what kind of ice it might contain. We assumed it would have a profile of ice similar to the comets we know. But what if the ice is made of something else, because Oumuamua is not a typical comet. When they looked at the properties of nitrogen gas – bingo. This would nicely fit the data, including the combination of the rate of acceleration from ice sublimation near the sun and the low albedo – not as much reflective ice would have been necessary to cause the acceleration.

Nitrogen ice might also explain Oumuamua’s strange shape. If it is not a typical comet but rather a piece of a Pluto-like planet that broke off from a collision, it might contain mostly nitrogen ice. As the outer layers of ice then sublimated away during its long journey due to cosmic rays, that would have the effect of flattening it out. Desch and Jackson further calculate that a chunk of solid nitrogen ice could have survived an interstellar journey for half a billion years, long enough for such a journey to reach Earth.

There are so many examples of this sort-of thing happening in the history of science we need to keep it in the front of our minds when considering new scientific mysteries. There may be assumptions we don’t know we are making. There may be new phenomena out there we have not discovered yet. There is simply too much unknown to make any sort of argument from ignorance.

My favorite historical example is that Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the Earth to be mere millions of years old based on his thermodynamic equations and the rate of Earth’s cooling. But he did not know about radioactive decay, which serves to heat the Earth’s crust and slow its cooling over time. This is why scientists need to keep an open mind, and consider all possible logical hypotheses for any phenomena. Only by going systematically through all possibilities can we be at all confident in our conclusions, and even then we have to acknowledge the possibility of unknown unknowns.

But keep the context in mind here – I am stating why the argument from ignorance is so weak. This is not an excuse to turn the possibility of unknown unknowns into yet another argument from ignorance, or a refutation of all possibility of meaningful knowledge. The key is to understand the difference between building a positive case for one hypothesis vs just assuming a hypothesis based entirely on what we don’t known or the possibility that we don’t know.

Plausibility and Occam’s razor are also important concepts here. There are potentially unlimited hypotheses to explain any phenomenon, if we let ourselves speculate wildly and introduce any idea, no matter how implausible and contrived.

Oumuamua, in addition to being a very cool astronomical find, will go down as yet another cautionary tale about the alien of the gaps fallacy.
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Interstellar Travel is Hard

Published by Steven Novella under Technology

The Fermi Paradox points to an apparent contradiction – the universe is a big place, and the laws of physics that have allowed life to evolve on Earth are the same everywhere. Therefore, the universe must be humming with life. Yet, we have not detected any evidence of extrasolar life so far. Given our current technology the only way we could have made such a detection is if such life came visiting to our own solar system. To date there is no convincing evidence of aliens visiting the Earth. (This is obviously a much deeper issue, but I strongly stand by this conclusion and firmly reject the arguments of the so-called UFO crowd.) So where is everyone?

There are many possible solutions to the Fermi Paradox, ways of resolving the apparent contradiction, and many of them have merit. But I think a sufficient explanation is simply that interstellar travel is really hard. It is overwhelmingly likely that the vast majority of science fiction, which depicts some form of faster-than-light (FTL) travel, is wrong. FTL ships are a necessary plot device to have a story span multiple worlds, but the reality is quite different.

At present there is no plausible or even theoretical method for FTL travel. Worm holes almost certainly won’t work. There is no hyperspace or subspace, no warp drive, or jump ships. At this point it seems overwhelmingly likely that the laws of physics simply do not allow for FTL travel. Einstein will not be denied. Of course, we don’t know what we don’t know, and there may be some subtle aspects to the universe we are missing that will allow for FTL travel. But it doesn’t seem likely. And if it is theoretically possible, it is also highly likely that incredibly advanced technologies harnessing massive amounts (prohibitive amounts) of energy would be required.

One simple explanation for the Fermi Paradox, therefore, is that FTL travel is exactly as impossible as it currently seems, and no amount of science or technology will change that. Even advanced civilizations must therefore content themselves with sublight speeds. What does this mean? For starters it means that getting to even the closest star systems will take years of travel. The closest system to Earth is the Centauri system, about 4 light years away. If we could manage an average speed of 0.5 light speed, that would make the trip take 8 years. Something like that is probably as good as it’s going to get, even with the most advanced interstellar ships.

What kind of ships could theoretically work for interstellar travel? Right now we can only theorize. It’s pretty clear that no ship that has to carry around its own fuel will work for the long trip durations of interstellar fight. The rocket equation simply will not allow it (the idea that you have to carry enough fuel to propel your fuel, and the fuel for that, etc.). For long distances the rocket equation quickly hits a wall of ridiculously prohibitive fuel requirements. The only plausible fuel source would be antimatter, with the ability to effectively harness most of the energy from matter-antimatter annihilation for propulsion. Even here, travel times will be years to decades for even relatively close stars.

Using external energy is a better option. For my money, some kind of light sail is our best option for interstellar travel. Another option is the Bussard Ramjet, in which a giant magnetic field scoops up interstellar hydrogen to be used in a fusion engine. However a recent recalculation of what it would take to work is very pessimistic. Such a ship would require a magnetic field 150 million kilometers across and one AU deep. The stresses on the ship itself would be immense, limiting the ultimate speed of such a ship to perhaps about 20% the speed of light.

So at best even an advanced civilization might come up with an interstellar ship that can manage 20-50% the speed of light and require tremendous resources. Interstellar travel may simply seem not worth it.

Further, if you want to transport actual living beings through interstellar space the challenge is orders of magnitude more difficult. The biggest problem is cosmic rays, very high energy particles that would constantly bathe interstellar passengers. This is especially dangerous for longer trips. Right now we don’t have the technology to shield against cosmic rays, they are just too high energy. Effective shielding would likely be very thick, and therefore heavy, making the resources needed to accelerate an interstellar ship even greater. You could use a powerful magnetic field as a shield, but that requires a lot of energy, which would have to be produced somehow, getting us back to the rocket equation.

Again, it’s not impossible that there is some elegant solution to all of this. But a realistic assessment of how incredibly challenging interstellar travel is gets us away from the science fiction fantasy (which largely ignores or magically solves all these problems) and puts things into clearer focus. When we fully understand the immense challenges, concluding that even advanced civilization cannot practically travel around the galaxy, or simply won’t bother, makes more sense.

All this is why some scientists have proposed that advanced alien civilization likely would not bother to send organic material on interstellar journeys. Rather, they would send robotic probes, able to withstand cosmic rays or huge accelerations, can go without food or water, and can survive for thousands of years. In short, sending robots on interstellar journeys is orders of magnitude easier than sending living creatures (certainly humans). The physics are still incredibly challenging, but all the problems of keeping people alive goes away. Why, then aren’t there alien probes everywhere? If even one advanced civilization survived long enough to have such technology, they could have had millions or even billions of years to probe the universe with their droids. Why aren’t they here?

There are a number of possible solutions. One is that alien probes have visited the Earth, perhaps numerous times, but none are here now. Perhaps they did a flyby. Another possibility is that they are here but remain undetected. They may be programmed not to alert any potential sapient beings to their presence. They would almost by definition have technological superiority over us and could likely evade detection if that was their intention. It’s also possible that no one has bothered to send probes to our system, at least not recently. We cannot assume that any alien species would have the same behavior and intentions as us. They may have no interest in exploring other systems. Or they may prioritize non-interference above all else. And of course it’s possible that no such civilization has come into existence in the Milky Way galaxy. Perhaps we’ll be the first.

In any case, the Fermi Paradox is less of a paradox when we have a proper assessment of how difficult and costly interstellar travel is and will likely remain, even for the most advanced civilizations. This may disappoint the science fiction fans inside us, but we won’t be warping around the galaxy anytime soon.


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NASA Joins Study of UAPs

Published by Steven Novella under UFO's / Aliens

NASA announced earlier this month that it will be joining the investigation of so-called “Unidentified aerial phenomena” or UAPs (replacing the older term, UFOs). This has rekindled the debate over what UAP are and what our attitude toward them should be. The topic delights the press, who can’t resist the notion that official are investigating something apparently fantastic, and they are generally doing a poor job of putting the phenomenon into context. Meanwhile, some people who should know better are sensationalizing UAPs and misrepresenting the state of the evidence.

Most notable among them is Michio Kaku, who has said in interviews that the evidence is so compelling the burden of proof has now shifted to those saying UAPs are not alien spacecraft. This is horribly wrong for multiple reasons. Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other hand, pretty much nails it in this brief interview. His main points are – the quality of the evidence is extremely poor, despite the fact that there are millions of high resolution photos and video including rare phenomenon uploaded to the internet daily, so we have to rule out mundane phenomena first.
If nothing else UAPs present an excellent opportunity for skeptical analysis and showing why critical thinking is so important. As you may have guessed, I am not impressed with the notion that UAPs are evidence of anything extraterrestrial. Let me first, however, dispense with a common strawman in the reporting – the idea that investigating UAPs is itself unscientific or shameful. I don’t know of anyone making this argument. Even hardened skeptics are all for doing the investigations. We want the investigations – how else will we have data to analyze. We want to understand the phenomenon as well as possible. In fact, attaching any stigma to merely investigating unusual phenomena is really harmful. It pretty much ensures that serious scientists will stay away, and cede the ground to cranks and amateurs. So let’s please dispense with this silly notion, and the mainstream media can stop wringing their hands over it in every article.

Skeptics are not against doing the investigations, we just want them to be done professionally, and we want the analysis and reporting to be logical and scientific. There are also accepted legitimate reasons for this – we need to know if they represent a risk to aviation, and if they represent the work of foreign adversaries. So far I think the Pentagon, and now NASA, and doing a decent job of doing just that. If you actually read the Pentagon’s report, for example, they are appropriate in their conclusions. They conclude:
The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP.
In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis. There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting.
They also state unequivocally that there is no evidence that UAPs represent extraterrestrial phenomena. The press and enthusiasts have largely treated this as pro-forma hedging or just couching their statements in scientific language, but that’s not how I see it. They are being very clear – there are a large number of reports, a small portion of them lack sufficient information to conclude what they are, therefore we simply don’t know and should study them in more detail. But also there is no evidence that would specifically point to alien spacecraft, or even advanced technology developed by other nations.

What I think the Pentagon leaves out is that another major goal of such investigations is to understand the nature of perception, how even pilots can be fooled, and how this will inform the study of UAPs. They also could use some skeptical consultation in their analysis.
Why am I not impressed with UAPs as evidence for anything unusual? This is primarily for the “Blobsquatch” reason. Why are all photos and videos allegedly of Bigfoot (Sasquatch) blurry, obscure, and on the edge of detectability (with the exception of a few demonstrable fakes)? Because the blurriness is the phenomenon. Photos and videos that are close-up and in focus are identifiable as mundane things, like bears or other people. The phenomenon is blurry photos, not Bigfoot. Bigfoot is just the cultural belief that we insert into the void of knowledge created by the blurry photos.

The same is true of UAPs – they are UAPs not because they are unusual phenomena, but because they are blurry, indistinct, on the edge of detection, and lack sufficient details to identify. When aerial phenomenon are identified, they are birds, planes at a distance, drones, balloons, weather phenomena, or something similar. We are filling the skies with stuff, and the more of our own stuff is zipping about the more UAPs we find. However, as Tyson points out, in the last 50 years of the UFO phenomenon, the quality and number of photos and videos has increased exponentially. There are trap-cams that take photos of even rare animals – but no Bigfoot. No one so far has managed to whip out their cell phone and take a picture or video of an actual alien spacecraft.

As a skeptics, the problem I have with how people interpret UAPs is the logical fallacies that follow the unidentified part. First, they confuse “unidentified” with “unidentifiable”. The Pentagon, however, makes it clear that these sightings are not unidentified because they are clearly alien or foreign, but because we lack sufficient information. If we had better information, they could be identified. They are not inherently unidentifiable. The second logical fallacy is the argument from ignorance – we don’t know what they are, and I’m not saying they’re aliens, but they’re aliens. The third, and more subtle, logical fallacy is special pleading – arguing that the phenomenon itself creates the low quality evidence (rather than resulting from the low quality of the evidence). For example, some Bigfoot enthusiasts have argued that Bigfeet are psychic, and/or they can teleport, so they know exactly how to avoid human detection. Likewise some UFO believers have argued that the aliens have the technology to avoid unambiguous detection.

To this last point skeptics have argued that if this is the case, why are they detected at all? Clearly they would need to have advanced technology, why not just render their craft invisible to our primitive sensors? Why are they zipping about anyway, can’t they just observe us from a comfortable distance in orbit? The astonishing response is often that the aliens want us to know they are there, but ambiguously so that their presence can also be denied, as a way of warming us up to the notion of their existing. Of course, this argument, which was never slightly compelling, losing weight when eight decades pass. How long are they going to keep up this game until they think we are ready? This is special pleading – that the phenomenon just happens to have the characteristics that prevent definitive evidence. But again the arrow of causation is backwards – the low quality of the evidence is the phenomenon.

The point of this blog post is not to examine the evidence itself, but rather the poor logic often used in thinking about and report on UAPs. Mick West, I think, has done a generally excellent job of analysing UFO videos and showing why they are very likely misinterpreted mundane phenomena. I have absolutely no hesitation in putting my nickel down – the more UAPs are investigated the more we will see that they are just the heat flared from distant jets, or birds flying close the water, or insects that got close to the camera lens, etc. This is the same stuff we have been seeing for decades. The only difference is the exact nature of the evidence depends on the technology being used, and every technology has its strengths and weaknesses. That is very useful information that will come out of ongoing UAP research – how is our technology fooled by glitches, illusions, and unusual situations?

I predict UAPs will never get beyond the “Blobsquatch” stage, because the blurriness is the phenomenon. I would be happy to be wrong, but logic and evidence says otherwise.