Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top 10 Best UFO Sightings

Whitley Streiber posted this link a few days ago.  It is to a short film ('round 45 minutes) that gives a rundown of the Top 10 UFO sightings based on quality evidence (ranked by whom exactly I have no idea.)
After reviewing the clip, I have the following thoughts on it:

What worked:  It was refreshing to see someone compile a list such as this based on the amount of evidence, not sensationalism or "World's Most Shocking UFO Sightings" (and yes, "shocking" should be in an electric or otherwise "extreme" font.)  The cases are given depth by respected investigators in the field of Ufology, such as Stanton Friedman, Nick Pope, Bruce Maccabee, and the late great Mac Tonnies.  The witnesses are not the kind that are interviewed in The Weekly World News.  They are astronauts and military officers.  
On the whole, the selection of cases is fairly solid.  Entries such as the RAF Brentwaters case, the Tehran UFO, and the sighting by the crew of the RB-47 are crucial to understanding that there is plenty of evidence when it comes to the subject of UFOs, no matter what skeptics have to say.  But then again there could never be enough evidence to convince a hardcore skeptic, so it's all a bit like pushing a rope uphill isn't it?  I am very glad that the story of Malmstrom, AFB was included.  Back in the 1960s, a UFO appeared and then hovered over a nuclear missile base in Montana.  The launch control systems for a good many of the missile silos were somehow disabled.  Retired USAF officers attest to this.  The Air Force maintains that the occurrence was really no big deal.  The security of our nuclear weapons?  Most destructive firepower we know?  The things we're deathly scared of shady men in turbans getting their hands on?  Nah, of course not?  Nothing to worry about.

What wasn't that great: Like any "top 10 list," there will always be objections over entries included and worthies omitted.  This one is no different.  I would liked to have seen the 1991 mass sightings of triangles in Belgium on the list.  That case has actual recorded evidence from F-16 cockpits.  Likewise, I would have thought that the 1952 mass saucer wave over the U.S. Capitol would have warranted at least a mention.  And why include a 16th Century wood carving as any kind of evidence?  It's art and as I say repeatedly on Strange Horizons, art is wholly dependent upon interpretation.  On that point, there is a lack of any other viewpoint on the matter.  While I do find the majority of the cases solid, I would be curious to hear if there is anyone with alternate explanations (beyond the hokey Blue Book ones, I mean.)
One other distraction is the obviously Canadian narrator's propensity to mispronounce the word "nuclear" as "nuke-u-ler."  That's something that has always grated upon this English scholar's ears and was only made worse by the political climate of the past decade.  Sorry.  If you read my blog, you'll be subjected to my political views.

Mac Tonnies sums everything up quite elegantly.  There is compelling evidence for UFOs and evidence to the contrary is not always entirely dissuasive.  The 10 sightings (as well as the other three or four that I would lobby for inclusion) are worthy of scientific inquiry.  If for nothing else but to study how our minds perceive things and how this affects culture. 
But we are still a ways away from that happening.  What scientist is going stake their professional reputation on UFO studies with the popular conception of it the way it is?  Even SETI has wondered about this very obstacle.  If an astronomer actually did stumble across a broadcast from outer space, would they even take the chance of announcing it?  If proven wrong, they'd become a magnet for ridicule.  If proven right, it would most likely be covered up anyway and they end up looking at best incompetent and at worst ignorant.
Social norms are powerful things.

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