"Mystery of UFOs Deepens Even With Official Study"
i 4 i4 a Mystery of UFOs Deepens Even With Official Study , EDITOR'S NOTE After 20 yr of talk shout unidentified flying object-UFOsono object-UFOsono object-UFOsono fact wands out no thorough, scien-' scien-' scien-' tific itudy has ever been made , to see if the little green men , really do exist. But now pres- pres- sure is growing, and scientists w beginning to take a deeper ; 00K If nothing else, man may learn more about his own uni , verse. By ALTON BLAKESLEE J AP Science Writer I From his lOUi-floor lOUi-floor lOUi-floor office atop the highest building on the University University of Colorado campus, Dr. Edward U. Condon has a magnificent magnificent eyrie to scan the skies or UFOs unidentified flying objects. ! His windows view northwest upon foothills of the Rocky fountains, north toward Cheyenne, Cheyenne, Wyo., east over the vast plains stretching north toward .Cheyenne, Wyo., east over the vast plains stretching to the Mississippi, southeast toward Denver 40 miles away. I And Edward Condon, physicist, physicist, is in a sense looking for UFOs. He heads a team of scientists investigating reports of UFOs which some persons believe are visitors from distant planets. Dr. Condon has never personally personally seen a UFO. i In Washington, Richard Hall, tieputy director of NICAP the National Investigations Committee Committee on Aerial Phenomena .works in a third-floor third-floor third-floor office with a view of downtown streets. It is his working guess that some UFOs do come from outer space. I Hall has never personally seen a UFO. WANTS HARD LOOK ' And neither has Dr. J. Allen Hynek, bearded astronomer who for nearly two decades has been a scientific consultant to the U.S. Air Force on UFOs. From his ground-floor ground-floor ground-floor office in the Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University in Evanston, 111., Dr. Hynek campaigned campaigned for a hard, fully scientific scientific look at the UFO phenomenon, phenomenon, a plea that contributed to formation of the Condon committee. committee. For nearly 20 years, UFOs have created a contrail among Americans of mystery confusion, confusion, debate, emotion, scorn, belief, concern and potent points of view. The poles of belief range from conviction that all sightings can be explained as natural or psychological psychological phenomena to the conviction that some truly are visitors from space. In between are millions of people who are simply puzzled. Perhaps the most intriguing question is why after a generation generation of time why there should still be debate? Why are there unexplained sightings? Among reasons offered are, on one hand: Some UFOs could be extrater-festrial extrater-festrial extrater-festrial and there's no proof they are not. Very provocative sightings have been made by trained observers, including scientists and pilots. The Air Force hasn't really made a good investigation. The Air Force is engaged in a conspiracy to hide the truth. The "scientific establishment" establishment" knows the facts, but is embarrassed to admit that a superior civilization and science exist elsewhere. Scientists and others have often ridiculed hon est, reputable people for de scribing what they saw rather than listen to and investigate their stories. CLAIMS NO THREAT On another hand: The Air Force says it is satis fied UFOs do not represent a threat to national security. Proving that UFOs are supernatural supernatural should rest upon the believers. believers. With greater effort and money, probably all sightings could be explained without inferring inferring extraterrestrial origin. Some sightings are hoaxes, most are misidentifications of balloons, aircrafts, stars, meteors meteors or other phenomena. And, says one psychologist, for some people "the indignity of the explanation" doesn't suit "the enormity of the event" that was experienced or the wish to believe in visitations from space. In similar vein, he adds, some persons reject the Warren Commission report that no conspiracy conspiracy was involved in President President John F. Kennedy's assassination. assassination. People who feel this feel that somehow such large events require large explanations. Certainly there is growing public awareness from science fiction and published suppositions of astronomers that there could be life on millions millions or billions of other planets among all the billions times billions billions of stars in the universe. With man sending space probes to nearby planets, could not some far advanced civilization also be inspecting earth? UFOs have brought sizable income to some authors, but serious investigations have limped along on limited budgets. budgets. Project Blue Book, the Air Force's continuing study, is budgeted directly at $72,000 a year. The annual budget of NI CAP, a voluntary civilian or ganization, is $50,000 and there have been far leaner years, Hall says. In both cases, actual expenditures expenditures are higher if indirect costs and time of associated personnel are included. OLD LEGENDS For centuries, people have sighed curious or unexplained lights or phenomena in the skies. Some legends, in China, Peru and elsewhere, have been interpreted as meaning that living living beings came from space to populate the earth. Current, continuing UFO interest interest in the United States was sparked by the report in 1947 of a businessman-pilot, businessman-pilot, businessman-pilot, Kenneth Arnold, of seeing nine strange moving objects over Mt. Rainier, Rainier, in the State of Washington. The term "flying saucers" was coined. Later came the designation designation "UFOs," meaning any aerial aerial object the observer is unable to identify. Late in 1947, a year of intesi-fying intesi-fying intesi-fying cold war, the Air Force launched a study which later was dubbed Project Blue Book. Each year has brought a steady flow of reported sightings to Blue Book, with flurries of 1,501 cases in 1952, 1,006 in 1957, and the runner-up runner-up runner-up high of 1,060 in 1966. At Wright-Patterson Wright-Patterson Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, Maj. Hector A. Quintanilla, Jr., career officer in charge of Blue Book, sums u plhe 12,107 reports since 1947: Six per cent 676 are still listed as unidentified, including 30 of last year's. Another 242 are listed as lacking sufficient information to try to identify. Blue Book's answer remains negative on three questions: No evidence that any UFO it has evaluated is any threat to national security. No evidence that "uniden titled sightings involve any thing beyond the range of present-day present-day present-day scientific knowledge. NO EVIDENCE No evidence that "uniden-tifieds" "uniden-tifieds" "uniden-tifieds" are extraterrestrial vehicles. vehicles. But, "The Air Force does not deny the possibility that some forms of life may exist on other planets in the universe." And. it adds, all photographs evaluated have been determined to be "a misinterpretation of natural or conventional ob jects." To Project Blue Book, an "un identified" sighting is a report that seemingly contains all perincnt data necessary to suggest suggest a valid hypothesis concerning concerning the cause of explanation of the report, but the descriptions descriptions of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena." Then what are people seeing? Blue Book ascribes the bulk of siahtines to aircraft, weather and sounding balloons, satel lites, meteors, bright stars and planets, missiles, searchlights, clouds, birds, reflections, tem perature inversions, mirages, sparking of electric wires, swamp gas, even a lighthouse. Recently, ball lightning and plasmas of ionized air nave been suggested as one cause of Philip Klass of the magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology. Technology. Quintanilla and his slatf ot three, including one secretary, receive reports from civilians and from Air Force bases to which UFOs are reported. Each base has an officer on UFO duty. Recent regulations call for their paying closer attention to first-hand first-hand first-hand reports. CHECK OUT GIVEN The Blue Book procedure is to look first for a likely explanation explanation or "stimulus" from among the many reports. They check out balloon launchings and flight paths. Air Force opera tions that might be misinter preted, they check star charts and satellite paths or other possible possible causes that might fit initial reports. A eood deal of checking is done by telephone and by ques tionnaire forms seeking more details from observers. - Occasionally, Occasionally, when a sighting report persists for a few days, they go to the scene, catcning riaes on military planes if available, oth erwise going by commercial flights. "Some sightings leave me mystified," Quintanilla says. "A high percentage of reports are submitted by serious people, mystified by what they saw, and motivated by patriotic responsibility. responsibility. But many sightings are subjective, . 'out what people thought they saw. Some offer more of a challenge than others." others." "If a citizen is going to take the time and pains to report a sighting, it is our duty to take time and pains to find out more about it," the major adds. "Sightings vary according to weather and how much publicity publicity any sightings receive nationally. nationally. If publicity continues for several days, sighting reports go up throughout the country as well as in that locality. Sight ings pick up in the spring and fall when meteorological changes are more common." Quintanilla grins at rumors that the Air Force has a morgue containing "humanoids from a UFO crash," or that the Project Blue Book office once had a "flying saucer in its basement." "The building didn't have a basement," the major says. U.S. VIRTUALLY ALONE The United States stands virtually virtually alone in having any official official agency investigating UFO reports, an Associated Press survey of 21 nations finds. The comment from Moscow is that the Soviets "are not talking." Britain has no official agency, but sightings are reported to the Defense Ministry. In Sweden, the Defense Research Institute registers reports and investigates investigates some sightings. In Australia, Australia, the Australian air force tries to evaluate reports. Civilian UFO clubs or organi zations are active in about half the countries surveyed. Newspaper Newspaper coverage ranges from avid, at least at limes, to occa sional or little interest. Critics charge the Air Fnrre with making a sketchy, superfi cial investigation ot UrO reports, reports, of taking a negative approach, approach, of having, in Project Blue Book, a staff far loo small really to probe the question. Air Force officials reply that their job is to determine whether whether UFOs represent a security threat, and ask whether Con- Con- gress would grant the money to dig deeply into the question of whether, some are extraterrestrial. extraterrestrial. The 10-year-old 10-year-old 10-year-old 10-year-old 10-year-old NICAP, a nonprofit nonprofit group with governors and members representing many walks of life including some scientists, engineers and pilots, charges the Air Force "has practiced an intolerable degree of secrecy, keeping the public in the dark about the amount and possible significance of UFO evidence." MLAF has received more than 10,000 first-hand first-hand first-hand signed reports of UFOs, and 2,500 "are hard-core hard-core hard-core reports, some giving remarkable detail that can't be explained routinely," says Hall, a tall, brown-haired brown-haired brown-haired deputy director of the organization headed by Donald Keyhoe, re tired Marine major. MOSTLY OVALS, DISCS "The most common pattern is objects that are egg or oval or disc shaped that sit there, then zooms away. It doesn't correspond correspond with any objects we ordinarily ordinarily know about. "I think the most reasonable working hypothesis is that they are extraterrestrial," says, Hall, a Tulane graduate in philosophy, philosophy, who joined NICAP in 1958. "We try to be open-minded open-minded open-minded and objective, but we can't rule out. the possibility that there have been landings." More than 30 NICAP field teams, working mainly in their own localities, investigate numerous numerous reports "if they look promising. We investigate because because there is so much evidence of fraud, and a number of cases of psychosis," among reported sightings. Field team results from inter views, assessment of character and background, plus a search for any physical evidence, are forwarded to headquarters in Washington for analysis. We are willing to subject the whole thing to objective analysis, analysis, and are working toward that end," Hall says. Juridically, he adds, "the onus of proving that UFOs are extraterrestrial lies with those who believe that they are." URGES SERIOUS LOOK The scientist with perhaps the longest experience with UFOs, Dr. Hynek, says, "No matter what the UFO phenomenon is. let's take a serious look. There is no . compelling evidence to believe in other than natural causes, and 95 per cent of sightings sightings are easily explicable as balloons, meteors, fireballs, birds, satellites, mirages, or other things." "But why should such reports exist? What do people have to gain? Some are sighted by respectable respectable scientists who cannot explain what they saw. Yet some stories are very far out. "I know of 20 or 30 baffling cases that I would love to have lime to pursue further. "We should not take the view that, a person makes a report, there was not some image on his retina. There's a lot of noise in the signal. But we ought to make a good educated guess as to what constitutes the signal and study that." In the process, Dr. Hynek suggests, scientists might learn new information about meteorological meteorological and aerial phenomena. So long as there are some "unidentiiieds," the question "whether some UFOs are extraterrestrial extraterrestrial must remain open." "No truly scientific investiga tion of the UFO phenomenon has ever been undertaken," Dr. Hynek says. "Are we making the same mistake the French Academy of Sciences made when they dismissed stories of 'stones that fell from the sky?' Finally, however, meteorites were made respectable in the eyes of science." To make an independent study of UFOs, the Air Force granted $313,000 to University of Colorado scientists headed by Dr. Condon, 65, a professor of physics and former director of the National Bureau of Standards. Standards. REPORT IN FEBRUARY The assignment, he explains, is to spend 15 months "taking a good look" at the UFO matter. The report Is due next February, February, and its recommendations will be reviewed by an evalua tion committee from the Nation al Academy of Sciences. Dr. Condon is aware ot some inherent problems, one that an adverse report may be called whitewash . because the Air Force supported it. Or, he says, other people may think the study means the government is admitting there really is some thing to UFOs. , The committee has called on Project Blue Book and NICAP for particular reports it wants, and is receiving some reports directly. If everyone had reported sightings they've seen, there might be 10 to 100 times the 11,-000 11,-000 11,-000 or so collected by the Air Force, Dr. Condon says. A Gallup Gallup Poll says five million people have reported seeing something Ihey believed to be "flying saucers." saucers." And about 100 persons claim to have been aboard or taken rides on extraterrestrial vehicles. vehicles. The Condon group spent its first few months trying to decide procedure; for example, whether and how to try to classify classify reports by categories. One would be cases in which auto mobile ignition was reported to have gone dead near a reported UFO, ostensibly from electromagnetic electromagnetic emanations. The Condon committee in cludes physicists and psychologists psychologists and may call upon as many as 100 consultants from other universities and special research agencies. Psychologists are expected to be helpful in the study. One as sistance could be in preparing interview schedules that do not ask leading questions, and in standardizing basic data collection. collection. ILLUSIONS Suggestibility may play a role in some sightings. And psychol- psychol- oeists have made detailed studi es of perception, how the eye and mind can be deceived under certain conditions.. Different people are subsceptible to illu sions in different degrees. 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