Ufology: From Fringe to Serious Science
Article by MJ Banias November 22, 2019 (popularmechanics.com)
• In an interview with MJ Banias of Popular Mechanics, Richard Hoffman and Robert Powell discuss the creation of the ‘Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies’. Hoffman and Powell occupy two of the three seats on the non-profit’s governing board. The purpose of the ‘SCU’ is to establish a scientifically credible organization that will collect “multiple sensory data” on UAPs, such as radar tracks and video, which can be analyzed and studied by scientific experts, rather than to simply report and tally random UFO sightings. They intend to publish these studies in a biannual peer-reviewed journal set to begin next year.
• ‘Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon’ or UAP is the current rebranding of Unidentified Flying Objects because the term UFO carries too much cultural baggage.
• The SCU currently has 69 active members who are mostly scientists, former military officers, and former law enforcement personnel with technical experience and investigative backgrounds with companies and agencies such as Lockheed, NORAD, the U.S. Space Command, and NASA. Device physics expert Robert Powell says, “To date, there hasn’t been an extensive and well-funded scientific investigation of these phenomena using state-of-the-art investigative tools and a dedicated investigative team.” The SCU intends to change this.
• Richard Hoffman is a 25-year information technology expert on contract with the U.S. Army’s Material Command at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. Hoffman notes that “The scientific community still has to deal with the decades of stigma associated with what they see as pseudoscience or fringe science.” “Many scientists do have interests in the phenomena, but are most often discouraged by others to embrace it so they hide it.”
• While the SCU doesn’t suppose that non-human intelligence is responsible for UFOs, some scientists have starting to ask more questions in the wake of revelations by the US Navy that UAPs having “capabilities…beyond any known technology” exist, and that the Pentagon ran an Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to study UFOs. The organization has suggested that “the public release of all Navy records associated with (the Nimitz ‘tic tac’ UFO) incident to enable a full, scientific and open investigation is strongly recommended.”
• Still, contemporary ufology makes many academics and scientists nervous. For as long as humans have claimed to have seen UFOs, the established scientific community has been conditioned to consider them nonsense. And the decades-long taboo surrounding UFOs can still kill a professional career. When physical evidence or data has been presented, the well-established ufological conspiracy and myth-making machines set out to discredit that data.
• In 1953, the Robertson Panel was formed at the behest of the government to look at UFO reports after a string of odd aerial objects were seen over Washington, D.C. the previous year. The panel concluded that UFOs posed no risk to national security. Furthermore, it proposed that the National Security Council actively debunk UFO reports and make them the subject of ridicule. The Panel even recommended that UFO investigative and research groups be monitored by intelligence agencies for subversive activity. (see Robertson Panel Report here)
• In 1969, the US Air Force and the University of Colorado produced the Condon Report to close down Project Blue Book (see Condon Report here). A controversial memorandum surfaced that revealed that the report itself had to “trick” the public into thinking the study was objective, but would ensure that the final and official position is that all UFO incidents were hoaxes, delusion and human error. (see memorandum here) UFOs were lumped in with stories of space men from Venus, alien bases in Antarctica, and a subculture of people claiming to be alien channelers, time-traveling ambassadors, and new-age UFO prophets.
• Other UFO study organizations include Project Hessdalen in Norway that monitors strange light phenomena, and the UFO Data Acquisition Project that is designing computer software to monitor and track aerial phenomenon as well as provide metadata that can be analyzed. Alexander Wendt is a political science professor at the Ohio State University who sits on the board of UFOData which also tracks anomalous phenomena in the skies. According to Wendt, neither the government nor the established scientific community are going to fund UFO research. Says Wendt, “I don’t get the sense the scientific community is any more interested or open than it was before. The solution seems to be crowdfunding or finding private donors to invest in these projects.
• In the end, we are simply left to wonder, “What if?” Could the source of some of these data-rich UFO incidents be secret government technology, an alien intelligence, or something fundamentally beyond our physical and philosophical understanding?
• [Editor’s Note] While the purported intention of this article is to bring the UFO community the good news that “real” scientists have stepped forward to conduct “serious” study of the UFO phenomenon, the underlying design of the article, as is typical of this writer, MJ Banias, is to create ‘limited disclosure’ by separating scientifically worthy UFO data from the “conspiracy theories” that deserve to remain on the fringe. I suspect that Banias’ assertive use of the term UAP rather than UFO is also a subconscious cue to treat UAPs as legitimate and UFOs as crazy talk. Soon they will draw a hard line of demarcation as to the type of UFOs that people should pay attention to, and the type that people should not.
The clever Banias employs the mention of past official efforts to stymie UFO research to make his writing seem fair and objective, as if he is “fighting the stigma”. Banias ends the article with the open-ended question “what if” to make it appear that his limited disclosure camp would actually consider that these UFOs might be associated with intelligent extraterrestrial sources interacting with our world – which he doesn’t. MJ Banias can barely wrap his head around the Navy authenticating UFOs with unknown technology. He can’t even bring himself to use the term UFO. To Banias, the existence of anything beyond nebulous UAP sightings is still impossible, belonging to the realm of kooky science fiction rather than mainstream science. Banias maintains the same old dictum: ‘extraterrestrials do not exist, therefore it can’t be extraterrestrials’ while the deep state grins.
For as long as humans have claimed they’ve seen UFOs—and it’s been a long, long time—the established scientific community has more or less considered them to be nonsense. While that hasn’t changed much, even as we’re in the midst of a modern ufological renaissance, some renegade scientists are fighting to bring academic rigor to UFO research.
Take Richard Hoffman, a 25-year information technology expert on contract with the U.S. Army’s Material Command at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. As a Senior Lead Architect, he keeps the Army’s digital infrastructure running and safe from attack.
He’s also a UFO researcher.
“The scientific community still has to deal with the decades of stigma associated with what they see as pseudoscience or fringe science,” Hoffman tells Popular Mechanics. “Many scientists do have interests in the phenomena, but are most often discouraged by others to embrace it so they hide it.”
Hoffman is one of three board members who run a nonprofit scientific organization known as the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU). Unknown or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) is the current rebranding of unidentified flying objects (UFO), a term that many believe to carry too much cultural baggage.
“There are very few UFO organizations remaining today,” Hoffman says. “Of the few that do remain, they each have their unique contributions to the phenomena, but most are in data collection roles versus long term scientific study of cases.”
The difference with the SCU—and it’s a big one—is that it collects data that can be analyzed and studied by scientific experts, subsequently generating peer-reviewed papers published in journals and on websites, says Hoffman. The SCU doesn’t collect day-to-day UAP sighting reports, but rather, digs into the more complex cases where multiple sensory data like radar tracks and video may exist.
An Objective of Legitimacy
The SCU played a significant role in studying the Nimitz UFO Encounter, when it released a nearly 300-page report on the incident. The requisite refresher: Two year ago, the New York Times posted a story about Navy pilots who intercepted a strange object off the coast of San Diego in November 2004 and captured video of the object with their F-18’s gun camera.
Earlier this month, Popular Mechanics published a story about several other military personnel who also witnessed the Nimitz encounter on their radar systems and over their ship’s video system.
The SCU paper examined the available public data and testimony available regarding the case and concluded that the “results suggest that given the available information, the AAV’s capabilities are beyond any known technology.”
To be clear, the SCU hasn’t concluded that some non-human intelligence is responsible. Fully aware of the significant gaps in data, the organization has suggested that “the public release of all Navy records associated with this incident to enable a full, scientific and open investigation is strongly recommended.”
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