Friday, June 02, 2023

Thoughts on the NASA Panel and a Suggestion for Data Collection


Yes, I did sit through most of the NASA presentations on what they insist on calling UAPs but we all know as UFOs. It was basically what I had expected. Long on talk but little of importance. They began by complaining about the harassment and bullying of the various panel members on social media. I thought, “Welcome to the world of UFO research.” I can’t tell you how many times I have had to deal with this sort of thing, which is to say that I ignore it, but it does happen.

Dr. Daniel Evans, who opened the Panel proceedings.

They also spent a great deal of time lecturing us on the scientific method and I wondered if that was for the coordination of the panel members or if that was to teach us out here about how science is supposed to work. And we learned many things that seemed irrelevant to me. For example, the FAA representative, Mike Freie, told us that the FAA radars filter the radar returns, meaning, that they don’t see objects that are too small, too low or too slow and those that are too high and too fast.

There was a discussion of past reports suggesting that the data collected was muddled and there was a lack of useful information. They complained that eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, which is certainly true, but it shouldn’t be rejected simply because it is eyewitness testimony.

In fact, some of the presentations suggested that not only eyewitness testimony was unreliable, but data collected by various instrumentation and sensors was almost as unreliable. These sensor arrays gather specific sorts of data which can be corrupted by a variety of outside factors. Or, in other words, they were suggesting that such data might as unreliable as eyewitnesses because of the limits of the sensors. I found this as a preliminary way of rejecting data collected by the arrays. A sort of built in excuse to ignore data that did not fit the bias of those reviewing it. In fact, Scott Kelly, a former astronaut, said later, “In my experience, the sensors kind of have the same issues as the people’s eyeballs.”

That idea was reinforced by some of the others. One of them mentioned that the data collection was not very good and there was a lack of quality control. I wondered if it would be rejected out of hand, which meant that important cases from the past would be ignored. In writing Levelland, I looked at a great many sources that included interviews conducted in 1957 and those that came about later. It was a huge task tracking down sources, but in the end, I believe that I had a very good idea of what happened there.

It wasn’t a matter of the witnesses having to guess about an object seen in the distance, but of the UFO landing close to them. They might not have been completely accurate about the size or the length of the sighting, but that is not a good reason to reject the data. Many made close hand observations and, according to the sheriff, there were dozens of witnesses to the UFO interacting with the environment. However, this sighting would be ignored because data collected in the past might be muddled. It seemed to me that an accurate program would look at a representative sample of these older cases which would help understand the current situation.

In what might have been one of the more important presentations, Sean Kirkpatrick presented an updated version of his report to the Senate, telling us that they had now received something like 800 sighting reports. He covered much of the same ground here as he had there, but the one point that I think was overlooked was that he suggested that only 2 to 5% of the sightings remained unidentified. We have moved from the place a couple of years ago when about 99% of the sightings had no solutions to this point of some 20 to 40 sightings have no solution. As the Condon Committee said half a century ago, and as the Air Force claimed during Project Blue Book, there will always be a residue of unexplained cases because of insufficient data.

In fact, they carried that theme throughout the presentations. The evidence of the past was poorly collected, the data were vague, or incomplete. This was an excuse to avoid the sighting evidence gathered in the past. They didn’t have to look at it because it was badly flawed. But this is the same thing that the Condon Committee said a half century ago and the same thing that the Robertson Panel said even earlier.

Part of that problem was those collecting the evidence, and here I’m thinking of official investigation, was that those responsible didn’t believe it was their job to properly collect data. They were going through the motions because the general population expected there to be an investigation. Rigorous investigation was not part of the Blue Book system for much of its existence.

Which, of course, brings me to the Bolender memo, in which an Air Force general did say that some cases were not part of the Blue Book system. You have to wonder where those cases went and why they were not part of the Blue Book system.

And, that’s not to mention that alibi for the classification of some sightings. We were told that the photographs might be classified, not because of the subject matter, but because of the platform used to capture the image. What was being said here was that the image wasn’t important, but what might be derived by studying the image would provide clues about the capability of our sensors and cameras. This was a way of saying, “Yes, we have classified photographs, but there is nothing interesting in them. We just don’t want to reveal our abilities in capturing the data.” It is a useful dodge if you do get an outstanding photo of a UFO, I mean a UAP, but you don’t want to share that image with the unwashed public.

I did notice one thing that I found a bit odd. Those speaking later, seemed to have responses to those who had spoken earlier. It seemed to me that there was a coordination among those speaking to be sure to mention the lack of evidence of alien visitation. These were just “drop in” comments, as if they were an afterthought, but I sensed a coordination here. Stay away from the dreaded association with UFOs but make these backhanded comments about there being no evidence that they had seen. Please note that they said that they had seen no evidence as opposed to there being no evidence. It’s all a matter of semantics.

The NASA Panel.

And for those of you who don’t read between the lines, let me point out that while something might be true, if you were unaware of that truth, and claimed that truth was, well, untrue, then you would be spreading a version of the truth. You weren’t lying, you were merely wrong. It could be a case of closing your eyes so that you don’t see the evidence that you don’t want to see.

So, when one of the panelists was asked about non-disclosure agreements signed by the astronauts who might have seen something about UFOs, the answer was that he wasn’t aware of any such agreements. Didn’t mean there weren’t any, only that he knew of none, which is not quite the same thing.

Maybe I’m oversensitive to the language here, after dealing with government bureaucrats for decades and listening to politicians not really answer a question, I listen to what is said.

This applies to statements about possible extraterrestrial craft in our atmosphere. The mention of alien visitation was avoided, with only minor references to the lack of evidence for that conclusion, stated by several, that there was no evidence of alien visitation. Later, apparently after the show was over, Scott Kelly said, “I want to emphasize this loud and proud. There is absolutely no convincing evidence for extraterrestrial life associated with unidentified objects.”

Please note the careful choice of words. He said convincing evidence and that makes me wonder what he might have seen… and how high is the bar on that. Does convincing evidence mean the wrecked craft and alien bodies or is the bar somewhat lower.

We do have statements from other astronauts that seem to contradict that statement. While Kelly might not have seen no convincing evidence, it seems that Edgar Mitchell has seen such evidence.

And I noted there seemed to be no sense of urgency here. The presentations were fairly routine and dealt with the trivia of investigation and lectures on scientific method, but no digging deep into the phenomena that has been around for decades.

However, the type of evidence that NASA, and AARO for that matter, are looking for is being gathered by Fran Ridge’s MADAR network.

As but a single example, on September 17 of last year, the witnesses, in Provo, Utah, were sitting on a rocky bluff when the man saw a bright, shiny object in the deep blue sky, which he thought was an airplane. But the object was hovering, which ruled out an airplane. The witness saw no movement, though there was a strong wind blowing, which would rule out a balloon.

He finally called to his wife, who saw the UFO and said that it was “really, really weird.”

The UFO began to descend rapidly, and the man used a cell phone to record the sighting, ending when he lost sight of it as it dropped lower. But a moment later, he spotted it hovering above the trees, seeming to fade in and out of visibility. Finally, it just disappeared completely.

The Utah Photo.

A MADAR site did register a magnetometer reading that was the highest at the time of the sighting. However, there was no compass variation and the other, closer MADAR Node was off line at the time. However, this sighting, like so many others on the MADAR network could supply the sort of scientific evidence that the NASA study requires, if they bothered to check it out.

One last observation about the NASA panel that is more nitpicking than anything of real substances. One of them mentioned Carl Sagan’s claim that extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence. That quote was not from Sagan (though he might have said it) but originated, according to Jerry Clark, by Marcello Truzzi. Not a major point but I thought I would mention it.


William G. Pullin said...

The information we received from NASA, and the way it was framed, was not surprising in the least. I agree with your measured look at what was being said, and not said. Words matter, specifically what words are being used, and how. I suppose it was much to do about nothing of any real substance. Thanks Kevin, hope all is well on your end.

Scotland said...

Hey, what evidence do you have that points to UFOs being extraterrestrial? As far as I’m concerned, while there is lots of eyewitness testimony, that is just that, eyewitness testimony. Some of which at times isn’t always accurate and fraudulent. An example of that could be with Roswell, where several of the witnesses were not honest with their military backgrounds and with their stories. Not only that, but why should NASA look at old UFO sightings. Most of those sightings are old, and were not collected in a very scientific matter, and even if they were to look at the evidence provided, most of the “evidence” is eyewitness testimony. It’s not like they can go back in time and re-interview the eyewitnesses as well as examine the landscape. Furthermore, some of the witnesses are probably dead, and the ones that are alive would be recalling memories decades-old. Who is to say that some of the eyewitness testimony have been tainted by other folklore elements in the UFO community. Additionally, I would like to add that one reasons why, several of the panelists said the word credible evidence, is because a lot of people in the UFO community claim they have “evidence” that doesn’t mean it’s credible, perhaps using the word credible evidence is meant to illustrate that they want evidence that is verifiable and substantiated, from a range of different sources. A lot of so-called evidence in the UFO community is not really credible, because of the way it’s collected and from the lack of data points and not to mention, often is tainted either by other perspectives, or by peoples beliefs system. And an example of this could be with the photo that you provided about the UFO incident on September 17. The photo adds some credibility to the story, but the problem with this here is that it shows a photograph with a smudge on it, and honestly, that could be anything. In terms of the eyewitness testimony, we would have to assume it is accurate, and the person is not exaggerating or lying about what they have seen here. In other words, there is a lack of data here to prove any credible evidence that this is some sort of extraterrestrial probe. (Yes, I know you did not claim it was extraterrestrial that’s not the point however) Overall, I don’t blame some of the scientists for saying that there’s no evidence or credible evidence of extraterrestrials. Mainly because there really isn’t any, instead what you have is a bunch of eyewitness testimony, which at times is most certainly questionable. The eyewitness testimony that is interesting doesn’t necessarily point to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, the Nimitz encounter, I think it is example of this. Electronic warfare/spoofing and drones I think would be better candidates for what happened with the Nimitz. But that’s a story for a different time.

Last, but not least my condolences about your loss.
Also what happened to your Podcasts, you used to do them every week, do you not do them anymore?

Scotland said...

Hey, what evidences do you have that point to UFO being extraterrestrial. From what I understand while there is lots of eyewitness testimony, but that is just that, eyewitnesses testimony. A lot of which was not collected in a very scientific manner and at times is questionable and fraudulent. An example of this can be seen with Roswell, where several of the people that you interviewed were less than candid about their military background and certain events that transpired. Furthermore, I don’t blame NASA for not looking at the old UFO sightings. Many of the old UFO sightings, were not collected in a very scientific matter. Additionally, even if they were to review the old UFO sightings many of the witnesses are either dead, or the ones that are alive are recalling memories decades old. How do we not know some of the eye witnesses are wrong about what they have seen and have not been tainted by UFO folklore? While I understand that there have been some people who have inhibited the collection of UFO data, I can also understand why NASA is not really looking into it, besides, eyewitness testimony, there really isn’t much other data to go off by. Additionally, I would like to add that one reasons why, several of the panelists said the word credible evidence, is because a lot of people in the UFO community claim they have “evidence” that doesn’t mean it’s credible, perhaps using the word credible evidence is meant to illustrate that they want evidence that is verifiable and substantiated, from a range of different sources. A lot of so-called evidence in the UFO community is not really credible, because of the way it’s collected and from the lack of data points and not to mention, often is tainted either by other perspectives, or by peoples beliefs system. And an example of this could be with the photo that you provided about the UFO incident on September 17. The photo add some credibility to the story, but the problem with this here is that it shows a photograph with a smudge on it, and honestly, that could be anything. In terms of the eyewitness testimony, we would have to assume it is accurate, and the person is not exaggerating or lying about what they have seen here. My point here is that this doesn’t prove its extraterrestrial (I am aware you were not suggesting it was extraterrestrial, but that’s not the point), and this has more to do with the lack of data. Overall, I don’t really see much evidence for the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Mainly because I don’t really see much evidence of it at all. I do see a lot of eyewitness testimony, blurry photographs, video and people pushing very strong narratives, but that is just that, nothing more. This has been going on since the 1940s, and not much has changed.

Last, but not least my condolences about your wife.
Also, what happened to your Podcasts you used to do them every week?

The Disillusioned said...

Letting the scientific community do its thing is never easy for people involved in the UFO phenomenon.

There are problems with the NASA panel's presentation, but we should have expected it. I did.

Ignoring the past for a second, the scientific community has its own way of doing things and the scientific method is it.

While the past tells us the US government's involvement in addressing the UFO phenomenon has been disingenuous, probably because the government was of a different mindset then, today's government seem far more open-minded.

Today's situation is very different. The people are demanding answers. The media is open enough to discuss it seriously, and many academics too. Scientists are willing to engage with the subject without fear of losing their credibility and jobs security.

The opinion of believers and 'experiencers' and UFO commentators isn't considered scientific. If the scientific community is allowed to investigate, of course it's going to use the scientific method!

It will take longer to provide definitive answers, but, hey, they'll be definitive.

Focusing on tech is a reasonable response from scientists. Fuzzy images do not provide definitive answers to what was seen and that has to change.

Scientists are people, individuals with different ways of thinking about things, compared to their colleagues, so of course there's going to be some perceived resistance or openness about how to go about studying the UFO phenomenon. Studying UFOs is highly problematic.

Eyewitness accounts do not provide definitive answers only more questions. Some of these questions can't be answered, yet. No matter how many times an eyewitness says they saw something extraterrestrial, no scientist will accept that without more data. J. Allen Hynek is viewed as the exception, but he still believed eyewitness accounts (including his own mind) without asking further questions.

How does a scientist prove (using the scientific method) that an eyewitness saw what they claim they saw? If the scientist is fortunate enough to correlate a few things, that is interesting but not yet scientific evidence. Quality scientific data isn't easy to come by; it takes hard work and the right tools for the job. If scientists can be fooled (until they ask the right questions), the public will be fooled all the more (because they tend not to ask the right questions).

Okay, maybe I sound a little naive here, but it's a problem to get everyone to agree on what to do. And to agree on what to say - minus the conspiratorial thinking. I have high hopes and will surely be disappointed. If tech is the only thing that will provide definitive answers, from a scientific perspective, then so be it.

Brian Wagner said...

There are no ufos from space, but keep loving the fantasy. Watching season 3 of Skinwalker Ranch right
now because it's stupidly non-science reality crap but it's my Kardashians TV dream.

William G. Pullin said...

"Welcome to the world of UFO research." Absolutely Kevin. I also listened to the presentation in it's entirety, and was struck by what was being said and not said. I was not overly impressed with the content, but we shall see what the future holds.

KRandle said...

The Disillusioned -

While your points are well made, the problem is that we've been here before, and that is why history is important. The very first thing done by science, once the problem is stated, is a literature search. A look at what has been done in the past so that there is no effort wasted in duplication.

Yet here, we seen to be rejecting the literature search. What would we have found, ignoring the Air Force efforts to convince us there is nothing to all this, is that the University of Colorado study undertaken in the late 1960s, is a perfect example of science at work. In the final publication of their research, entitled, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, we learn that there is no evidence suggesting alien visitation.

However, what was not discovered until decades later was a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hippler to Dr. Robert Low, that the Air Force wanted the study concluded in such a way that the Air Force could end the investigation of UFOs, a statement that the Air Force had done a good job, and that nothing of scientific value could be learned by further research.

So much for allowing science to do its things.

I could also refer to the Robertson Panel of 1953, which looked at UFOs in depth and found that there was nothing to them and that a program to debunk sightings and other data be started. Solve the mystery by claiming it was solved.

So, when I watch things that the NASA panel and see and hear the same things that were being said a half century ago, or three quarters of a century ago, I am unimpressed. We have already seen some of the old standards creeping into this latest effort. More subtle, maybe, but the same thing. I'll wait to see what they find, but I have little faith that it will be dispassionate research or very scientific.