Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘UFO’ Category

ANOTHER INTERSTELLAR VISITOR, AND SO SOON!

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Comet-C2019Q4-Orbit-20190914

Back to science! (For now.) Space exploration more specifically, possibly my all time favorite branch of science. Well, second favorite. Molecular gastronomy is probably the ultimate science, though I’m really only interested in its results. Moving right along, Comet Borisov. It was discovered by Crimean amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov on August 29. He quickly realized it was a previously unknown object. His first calculations indicated it might come close to Earth, so he posted about it on the web. Other astronomers began observing Comet Borisov and determined it posed no danger to Earth. Phew, a 2 plus km comet hitting Earth would rival the worst impacts in Earth’s history. And within two more weeks astronomers had determined it was interstellar in origin, Borisov would sweep past the Sun never to return.

So far Borisov looks like a “normal” Oort Cloud comet. Its size is 2-16 km wide. The rest of this year it will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere, around December it will peak in brightness. After which it will head out of the Solar System, visible from the Southern Hemisphere as it departs our Solar System. It’s not going to come anywhere near any planets, and sadly will require at least an eight inch telescope to see. Poot, it would have been neat to lay eyes on an interstellar object, even if with binoculars.

Astronomers will no doubt point every available instrument at Borisov to learn whatever they can. Alas, a probe to it seems out of the question because of its velocity and direction of travel. If we had spotted it a few years earlier we might well have gotten a probe to it. Not surprisingly, since Oumuamua flew by in 2017, a lot of high IQ brainstorming has been done on how to intercept an interstellar flyby object.  In fact it still seems possible to send a probe to catch up with Oumuamua, and there’s been some talk of that. The big problem isn’t catching up with it, it’s being able to slow down enough to actually study it. Fodder for a future post.

Anyhow, I’m excited. Our second interstellar visitor in two years. I will post as more is discovered. Unlike Oumuamua, which was basically an unusual rock, Borisov seems pretty comet-like. So there likely won’t be much speculation about it being an alien probe or such. Except at the fringe of course, there’s never a fringe too far. So just for fun, here’s my theory on what the aliens are up too. Tongue seriously in cheek:

A few years back humans detected the very first known interstellar object flying through the Solar system. The odd asteroid-like Oumuamua. There was a certain amount of speculation that Oumuamua was artificial, but the science showed pretty clearly it was just a rock from the void. Oumuamua was discovered by the Pan-STARRS telescope, a telescope that just came on line in 2010. A telescope designed to watch the sky and spot small objects like Oumuamua. Before Pan-STARRS Oumuamua would have flown undetected through the Solar System. It was speculated that objects like Oumuamua are flying through the Solar System undetected all the time.

And now, a few years later, comet Borisov. Another Pan-STARRS find? Nope, big bright comet, of the type we have been spotting for centuries. Over 6,000 of them to date. And Borisov is the very first one of interstellar origin. It’s an interesting, but almost certainly meaningless coincidence. What are the odds? Well, at least 6,000 to one. However many rocks are flying through the Solar System, large interstellar comets are pretty rare. And speaking of odds, apparently the odds of Oumuamua passing so close to the Sun were like 100 million to one.

Then there wasTabby’s Star two years earlier in 2015. This was a nearby star that was dimming at irregular intervals, like nothing that had ever been seen before. At first there was speculation that the dimming might be caused by artificial orbital megastructures orbiting the star. It was pretty wild speculation, but fun while it lasted. Soon enough it was established that the dimming was caused by natural processes.

So in conclusion, in 2015, 2017, and 2019 humans have discovered unusual objects of interstellar origin, at least two of which hinted at the possibility of intelligent aliens. And the odds of these three-in-a-row almost simultaneous events are astronomical. (Sorry.) So … what if there are intelligent aliens watching us, and this is their way of breaking us in slowly to the idea? Presumably alien anthropologists are well versed on how catastrophic it can be for primitive societies to be contacted by technologically superior societies. At least if human history is any example. So if my hypothesis is correct, either something about Borisov will hint at alien origin, or something else interstellar will happen in 2021.

Maybe that’s when the mother ship arrives. Things always happen in threes though, so maybe Borisov is the mother ship. Queue music. Scientifically speaking, my guess is it will be comet like, but also unique in ways no one expected. Always a safe prediction when a brand new astronomical phenomena is investigated.

More on Saudi Arabia soon. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Pompeo is calling the attack an “act of war.” That can’t be good.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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(Image: Borisov’s path through the Solar System. Note Borisov is travelling almost perpendicular to the plane the planets orbit on, so it will be well “below” Mars. Credit: NASA. This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted”.)

Written by unitedcats

September 20, 2019 at 3:21 am

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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66447493_10157413177964722_6022236441885540352_nAnother week gone, give or take. I guess technically Sunday is the first day of the week Saturday the last. So the week starts with a day of rest? That makes no sense, another one of those things that shorts out the human to alien translators. Still, maybe it’s good that our freaking race is nuts, protects us the way walking in the road talking to yourself is a good way to get through a bad neighborhood. “We’re not going to invade Earth, those creatures are nuts.” Fermi Paradox solved, isn’t logic grand?

It would be if more people used it. Came across an interesting article: Did Black People Own Slaves? The answer is pretty obvious, of course they did. Slavery was practised in the Americas from the beginning, and there have been free blacks since the beginning. In the Confederacy though, the focus of the article, the number of black slave owners was miniscule. And at least a good proportion of them owned a slave or two to protect a relative or friend. It wasn’t unusual for blacks to buy women slaves to marry them. I thought that was interesting because that was a common way for female slaves to achieve their freedom in Roman times.

Alas, because humans are humans, some blacks owned slaves for purely selfish reasons. It’s always easy to find humans exploiting other fellow humans. Especially if it’s legal and encouraged and everyone else is doing it. Like Japan before WW2, they saw European countries benefiting from colonizing and exploiting nations, why shouldn’t Japan have a colonial empire of their own? It was a valid point, then and now generally ignored or quietly mumbled away by western apologists. Yes, what Japan did in China was horrible. Of course what the Dutch, French and others were doing in East Asia was equally horrible, but that tends to get overlooked.

Yes, I’m on a roll here. People are messed up. And it shouldn’t have to be said, but it does after reading comments left on the article where posted on Facebook, a few blacks owning blacks is not in any way, shape, or form a defense of slavery. Granted apologists for slavery have done so, but that doesn’t make discussion of the topic in and of itself a defense of slavery.  In fact the whole idea that blacks owning blacks somehow justifies slavery is both racist and logically fallacious. Just cause Timmy jumped in the lake doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Or the falls I suppose.

No, they don’t hate us for our freedoms. I mean, if they did, wouldn’t they be hating us a lot less now? I am referring to Muslims, terrorism, and US foreign policy. They hate us because of our endless wars in the Middle East. This article is a nice review of the sad situation, to semi-quote the article, an America where since 9/11 Muslims have been so demonized and the military so fetishised that endless war in the Middle East is now completely normalized. Bears reviewing once and awhile to keep one’s head clear. I wonder what young people think of it all, growing up in the post 9/11 world. OK, that was kind of rhetorical, since I actually know some young people and what they think.

In Trump news, brace yourself, Trump remains not giving a damn about UFOs. That’s the title of the article. Best for one’s sanity not to read it though. Basically the UFO populists thought Trump would be the one to reveal all, instead he’s been rather dismissive of the subject. He didn’t even joke about UFOs like his predecessors, though the article helpfully points out that Trump’s humor is never intentional. Basically the UFO people think some relatively recent release of military “UFO” films is some sort of slam dunk proof of their existence. Um no, it isn’t. If anyone really wants to know why, I’ll blog on it, but I’m kind of reaching my limit explaining why nonsense is nonsense. At least when it comes to things like UFOs. So, I guess it’s a good thing that Trump doesn’t believe in little green men.

The American people are done with denials though, thousands of them are planning on storming Area 51 to get to the truth about aliens. OK then. Basically America jumped the shark a generation or two ago, and it’s just going to get crazier from here on. I’ll blog about it as long as I’m able. This blog is written both for contemporaries and future people.

And speaking of getting crazier and being able to blog, soon ads will be appearing. Or reappearing. But, one sec. Anyone catch that? A double segue? Not sure I’ve ever done that before. Or a 2 into 1 segue? Has anyone ever classified segues? Some institutionalized grammarist? Is my obsession with segues healthy? <takes breath> OK, yes, in an effort to earn some little monies to support my writing, I will be running some ads soon. Discrete, inoffensive, not-causing-problems, ads. I find intrusive ads very annoying when I cruise the interwebs, so want to spare my gentle readers that.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Meme found on Facebook for Star Trek fans.  Credit: Unknown. Used without permission. Happy to properly attribute if information so provided.)

Written by unitedcats

July 12, 2019 at 3:54 am

Posted in History, Terrorism, Trump, UFO

Still Alone in the Universe

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mars

Alas, yet another well intentioned and optimistic attempt has been made to search for alien civilizations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for SETI (The search for alien technological civilizations) and am glad it gets done.  I just don’t think they are going to find anything, and am not surprised this latest search is a failure. Why? Some background first:

NASA has a satellite, the WISE satellite. Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. It basically made a survey of the sky in infrared. It was a big deal. Many new discoveries, thousands of asteroids, numerous star clusters, and a whole wealth of data about the skies. Including information on millions of galaxies. Then scientists with private funding (our precious tax dollars saved for ever more drone strikes) computer sifted through this data to find 100,000 promising galactic candidates for further investigation. They then hand searched these galaxies, looking for galaxies with signs of widespread industrial civilization. How is that? Well, the idea being that aliens that colonized a galaxy would use starlight to power industry, and thus the galaxy in question would be shy on starlight, but long on infrared, the waste product of industrial processes. The results? Nada. None of the galaxies showed anything that was obviously unnatural. A few warrant further looking, but there was certainly no smoking gun.

What can we glean from this? On the first pass, a Star Trek or Star Wars galaxy is ruled out. Bad news on one level, we won’t be joining any Galactic Federation anytime soon, because it doesn’t exist. That’s not surprising, the aliens in these sorts of imagined galaxies are pretty much just people with funny costumes. While it would be fun and comforting to find out that’s what aliens are like, there’s simply no reason to think aliens would be anything like us. In fact essentially all SETI has been doing is steadily eroding the idea of a universe populated by anthropomorphic aliens. At this point, it’s looking pretty grim for the Star Trek galaxy.

So what’s left? Well, maybe our idea of how advanced alien civilizations would look needs some tweaking. Most, if not all,  of our ideas about SETI involve searching for aliens who are acting like us. Granted, how to imagine aliens who aren’t like us is a bit tricky. I suspect the goal shouldn’t be to decide what to look for and look for it, but try to look for anything that doesn’t have a good natural explanation. Granted that’s a pretty nebulous concept in and of itself, but it has the advantage of eliminating our own prejudices about what aliens will be doing. And yes, it’s also limited by the fact that our understanding of what is and isn’t natural in the Universe is also pretty nebulous at this stage. Still, it would be a start, and I hope at least some in the SETI community are looking into searching for the unexpected.

Lastly, and the point that seems to distress so many people, it’s possible that we are alone. We simply don’t know how likely it is for species like ours to come along and start building technological stuff. Maybe it’s so incredibly unlikely that it’s only happened once. People love to claim that the size of the Universe means there “has” to be others, but that’s simply an argument from big numbers. What are the chances that one grain of sand on Earth contains an exact miniature replica of a McDonalds® outlet down to the smallest detail? Saying, there’s trillions of grains of sand so one must contain a miniature McDonalds® because there are so many grains of sand, is an absurd argument.

In any event I hope SETI continues. Heck, I wish it was better funded, but it’s too easy an idea to ridicule and there’s no SETI lobby to speak of, and certainly no SETI industry, so it’s going to continue to be a privately funded search. I wish SETI all the luck in the world, I just don’t recommend making any bets on it succeeding any time soon.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image was taken on Mars about a year ago by the Curiosity rover. As a NASA photograph, it is for most practical purposes, including inclusion in this blog, a public domain image. NASA does not in any way endorse Doug’s Darkworld. I used this image because, gee, Mars is sure looking like a barren lifeless rock. And because I still think its effing incredible that we have machines on Mars able to send pics like this. The blue sky means it’s sunset. On Mars the sky is normally scarlet or a bright orangeish-red colour. It turns rose at sunset and sunrise.)

Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Paranormal Watch

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PIA14934_saturn

I feel almost guilty writing this post. I used to be such a fan of paranormal mysteries. Loch Ness, UFOs, ancient aliens, and other curious little corners of reality. I’m still a fan, but I have grown more skeptical over the years. Sadly this is because I’ve realized that the signal-to-noise ratio is rather low in these areas. Worse,  cashing in on the credulous has grown mainstream, and now things like the History Channel are shamelessly spreading paranormal nonsense to make a buck. Still, just because there’s a lot of fraud, poor scholarship, and pseudo-science doesn’t mean it’s all nonsense. A UFO could crash on the White House lawn tomorrow. Not bloody likely, but not impossible. And in the vein of keeping my toe in the paranormal water so to speak, here’s a brief rundown of recent developments on the fringe.

UFOs: OK, the big recent news is that the Russian PM said that if Obama doesn’t come clean about aliens living among us, Russia will. He made the remark in the context of a joke about the Men In Black movies. Some in UFO circles took it seriously. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Obama’s announcement. Ufology is a very active field, but it mostly concerns itself with blurry  videos of lights in the sky. Or anecdotal reports. Nothing with actual evidence. And the field is always rife with some rumor about how all is going to be revealed soon. A peculiar class of belief not limited to ufology by any means.  I also did some recent research on Roswell, and it’s not looking good. One of the biggest “researchers” on the case was shown to be a fraud, all of his “discoveries” are suspect, and some main stream ufologists no longer think Roswell involved aliens or an alien craft. Well, crap.

Bigfoot: Oh, the usual crop of blobsquatch videos. There was a claim awhile ago that Bigfoot DNA had been obtained. It’s generally considered to be a hoax at this point. There’s a recording of Bigfoot screeches making the rounds. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that this is evidence of nothing. Animals make a vast array of sounds, this will more than likely be eventually explained as normal wildlife noise. At this point, well, it’s hard to understand why a bigfoot hasn’t shown up as roadkill. Maybe they are smart enough not to cross roads? In other words they are smarter than people? Wouldn’t that be wild if Bigfoot was the true intelligent species on the planet, and they were just hiding and biding their time until we destroyed ourselves? Stranger things have happened. Sarah Palin for example.

Loch Ness Monster: Exciting news on this front. None less than Megan Fox believes in the Loch Ness Monster! Who is Megan Fox? Damned if I know. That’s about it on the Loch Ness monster. I’m assuming the whole silly thing is dead since I pointed out that no sightings preceding the 1930s is impossible to explain. You can thank me later for clearing this one up.

Baigong Pipes: Someone brought to my attention the Baigong Pipes, supposed iron pipes that predate human civilization by tens of thousands of years. Well, two problems. The first of which is saying someone laid all these pipes, but left no other evidence? That’s a little hard to swallow. Secondly, scientists believe (backed with actual evidence) that the Baigong pipes are natural formations that are created when buried tree trunks get replaced by iron deposits. Examples are found in a number of locations around the world. Scientists would be thrilled to find evidence of ancient alien technology. Think of the research grants and fame and getting laid by cute ancient aliens chicks that would result in. So when scientists say: “Um, no, these are natural formations.” I think we can believe them.

Infinite Universes: It’s long been a  popular meme that since there may be infinite universes, then there are infinite versions of each of us on said universes. IE if you got up and decided to wear a blue shirt today, there is a universe where someone identical to you chose to wear a red shirt. Ad infinitum. Well, some scientists (yes, that matters) have taken a look at this idea and pointed out that it is “highly speculative.” In other words, science fiction. For one thing, the idea that our universe is infinite is by no means the accepted scientific view. Secondly, they point out that if there are infinite possibilities for life, then each planet with life could and should be unique. Crap. And I was so hoping to exchange places with a richer me in one of these universes.

Quantum Birds: Well, it turns out that quantum physics may play a role in biology. A big role actually. This is a revolutionary idea, but it is gaining credence as experiments suggest it is the case. It almost certainly plays a role in photosynthesis. It’s also suspected to play a role in small and animal navigation. Research continues, but this could be the “new biology” of the 21st century. It would take me a whole post to explain quantum physics, and even then I might get it wrong. OK, probably would get it wrong, quantum physics is hard to grasp.

“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine – it is stranger than we can imagine.”  — J.B.S. Haldane

(The above image is of Saturn taken from the Cassini Orbiter. The Sun is directly behind it. It’s legal to use this image non-commercially. Credit and copyright: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Institute, Cassini Imaging Team. I chose it because it’s a beautiful spooky image … and an example of the incredible frontiers science is still advancing on. NASA rocks.)

The Universe is so Ginormous, There Must be Other Life Out There!

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life

This argument that has been repeated endlessly since at least 1961. Anyone who has any interest in space exploration and science generally is so familiar with it that for all practical purposes it is a matter of faith. Even such luminaries as Neil Degrasse Tyson, famous astrophysicist and science communicator, has uttered a version of it, helpfully illustrated above. Myself, I get tired of hearing it repeated uncritically. And there’s no question, it is repeated uncritically by many people, most of whom have no idea where the argument originated, and are often vague as to what the idea really means. The original Drake Equation was about intelligent tool-using life such as humans, ET as it were. The above is about life in general. Let me restate the argument in a way that is easier to parse:

“Considering the vast size of the Universe, with at least 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, statistically speaking, Earth cannot be the only planet where life evolved.”

That, in a nutshell, is the oft repeated sentiment that aliens must be out there somewhere. The problem I have with this argument is that it is neither scientific nor logical. There are other other problems with how Mr Tyson chose to word his argument above, but I degrasse. (You were warned about my sense of humor.)

The big flaw, in fact fatal flaw, in the argument is this. We don’t know how likely the formation of life is from natural ambient chemistry. We’ve never seen Abiogenesis in the wild, we’ve never achieved it in the lab. We have a lot of theories, and we know about the creation of self-replicating molecules, and we certainly haven’t come up with any good reason why DNA life couldn’t have evolved in some primordial soup. We know it happened once, because here we are. However, in any scientific, statistical, or logical sense, one data point is the equivalent of zero data points. If the creation of DNA life is unlikely enough, it may have only happened once. No matter how big the Universe is, there is also no end to how low the odds on an event occurring are.

The typing monkeys demonstrate this. How likely is it that a monkey sitting at a keyboard randomly hitting the keys will type Hamlet by chance? Essentially zero of course. However, if we convert all mass in the Universe into typing monkeys, typing for the lifetime of the Universe, how likely is it that one of them will type Hamlet by chance? Still, for all practical purposes, zero. Is the creation of life as likely as a monkey typing Hamlet by chance? No one knows. And until we have a definitive answer to this question, speculating about life elsewhere is just that, speculation. Note I’m not saying there isn’t other life out there, I’m just saying that the affirmation that there must be other life out there is wrong.

And when it comes to intelligent language using life such as ourselves, the situation gets worse. First, the odds clearly have dropped. Of the as many as 40 billion species that have evolved on Earth, only one has evolved tool-using, language, and intelligence. So humans may have been an unlikely fluke. Secondly, we don’t even know if our kind of intelligence is a good idea or not. Humans do seem to have some very self-destructive tendencies, and our species has only been around an eye-blink of time, maybe species such as ours quickly destroy themselves? Human intelligence may be an evolutionary dead end, until we find others like us that have been around awhile, or we last a  few million years, we simply can’t say.

Lastly there’s the science of it all. Again, bad news, SETI has come up with nothing so far. And despite Mr Tyson’s pronouncement above, SETI has covered a lot of territory at this point. If there are beings like us out there, no evidence of their existence has been found. Granted SETI has a lot of ground to cover still, and some excellent new ideas have been proposed recently, but at the very least the 1950s idea that the galaxy was teeming with intelligent aliens is now wishful thinking at best. Worse, we are starting to get a good picture of solar systems around other planets, and it turns out our solar system and Earth itself seem to be unusual. Again, a blow to the 1950s, Star Trek, and all that follows:

Picard: “We’ve entered the system Data, what do you see?”
Data: “Two hot Jupiters, and two giant super hot Earths.”
Picard: “Any sign of life?”
Data: “No Captain, another sterile system, like the previous 8,792.”
Picard: “If we don’t find life soon, even a slime mold, I’m going to snap.”
Data: “Sixteen other Star Fleet captains have been relieved of duty this year because they suffered psychological breakdowns due to boredom.”
Picard: “Worf, toss Data out the airlock.”

It kinda gets even worse if one steps back a bit further. What if DNA life isn’t really life? What if DNA was invented by real life for information storage, real life which we haven’t ever encountered? We’re just a  lab spill that didn’t get cleaned up? Or in the analogy above, we examine a cup of water from the ocean that a scuba diver dropped his watch into, will that watch teach us anything about the ecology and biology of life in the sea? Mr Tyson, and people who make this argument, are in essence saying they can use the cup of water to prove their theory about what is or isn’t in the rest of the ocean, but other people’s theories make no sense. Excuse me? The bottom line is we don’t know how life appeared on Earth, so speculation about what is out there is just that, speculation. Speculation is never certainty.

I rest my case.

(The above image was lifted from Facebook and falls into a category that’s probably years or decades behind the law. I’m claiming it as Fair Use, and am in no way making commercial use of the image, and will remove it instantly if the original copyright holder asks. Many of the other things Mr Tyson says are right on, so no one should take this as an attack on him. In fact the guy is pretty smart, and his statement above is a beautifully crafted edifice of false arguments, so I wonder if he did it deliberately wondering if someone would call him on it?)

Written by unitedcats

January 9, 2013 at 5:52 am

The McMinnville UFO photographs

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Trents

May 11th, 1950. on a farm about nine miles from McMinnville, Oregon. Evelyn and Paul Trent saw a strange object flying in the sky. Mr Trent retrieved his camera and took the two photographs above. Click on them for the full size version, and I do mean full size version. The pictures eventually went public and became well known, being published in LIFE magazine. The Trents grew old and died, but the case lives on. It’s one of the most well known UFO cases of the 1950s, just behind Roswell. It even has its own annual gathering of UFO buffs, again, just like Roswell. So what did the Trents see and photograph that morning? No one knows. See, quick post, Merry Christmas everyone!

OK, the photographs have been analyzed seven ways from Sunday. The negatives have been analyzed. They all concluded the same thing. They are real pictures of real objects in the sky. Alien spacecraft, a top secret military prototype, or a truck rear view mirror. Basically so little is known about the shooting conditions, camera settings, and weather that people can come to any conclusion they want. It’s safe to say that no one has discovered anything definitive in the pictures that proves or disproves them. The Trents have also been extensively analyzed. There’s nothing that screams hoax, but there’s nothing that rules it out either.

Basically, people who believe in UFOs find the Trent case to be one of the best UFO cases. People who don’t believe in UFOs think it’s a hoax. It’s not so much of a debate, as it is people searching for evidence that supports their assumption. IE the UFO believers interpret it all as support for their belief, the skeptics find aspects of it to be skeptical about. If the gentle reader wants to get into the nuts and bolts of it, a good place to start is the Wikipedia article. Personally I think the pictures are the best bet to go on. They are certainly the only solid evidence. That’s why I uploaded the huge versions above, so people can see for themselves. I couldn’t see anything, but granted I only spent a few minutes peering at them and comparing them.

OK, my analysis, intellectually dishonest as it is apparently: My first question, could they be faked? Hmm, toss a disk shaped object into the air, photograph it. Take two pictures for verisimilitude. Piece of cake. I don’t see how this is debatable. However, I don’t see how the idea that the Twin Towers collapsed as a result of aircraft impact and fires is a possibility is debatable, but some vociferously disagree with me. Could the photographs be real? Absolutely. No one has come up with a definitive argument proving its a hoax. “UFOs aren’t real, therefore it’s a hoax” is not an argument, it’s just circular reasoning. Maybe it was another hoaxer flying  a UFO shaped balloon. Maybe it was a military experimental aircraft. Maybe it was an extra-terrestrial probe. In other words, examining the possibilities has gotten us nowhere.

In other words, examining the nuts and bolts of this case is fruitless. Let’s step back and look at it as part of a bigger picture. In context as it were. And this is where I’m troubled. This isn’t just “another” UFO sighting. This was a golden age for UFO sightings. The Kenneth Arnold sighting in 1947, the sighting that propelled the idea of flying saucers into the national consciousness, was just three years before the Trent sighting. UFOs were big news, the still famous Mariana UFO incident was in August of 1950, just a few months earlier. Lots of flying saucers were seen in those years. Many were photographed, some were hoaxes. Were there any flying saucer sightings and photos before the Arnold flap in 1947? No. How long did people see them afterwards? About  a decade. Do people still see and photograph them today? No.

This leaves two possibilities. There were flying saucer type objects of unknown genesis flying around the earth in the 1950s (the UFO flap spread world wide,) or this was all a mass social and cultural phenomena. People saw what they were primed to see, and plenty of people were happy to provide “proof.” Since no further evidence has surfaced that would support the flying saucer idea, I think the second possibility is by far the stronger explanation. It’s by no means definitive, but I think a strong argument can me made from the historical context, that of course the Trent photos were a hoax. It’s the simplest explanation that explains the evidence.

I’d be happy to be proved wrong. I think the future of SETI lies in analyzing the surface of the Moon and Mars, not old photos from the 1950s. Merry Christmas everyone!

(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They are not being used for profit, are central to illustrating the post, and are arguably historically important images. Credit and copyright: Paul Trent. By fair means or foul, I don’t know, the Trents are historical figures, a thousand years from now images of them and their story may still be around. Who would have thunk it?)

Written by unitedcats

December 25, 2012 at 7:23 am

Ancient Aliens Debunked

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puma-punku

I saw a fascinating show the other day. Well, part of a show. Ancient Aliens Debunked. It was a far more interesting show than I had imagined. I not only recommend it for people who have seen Ancient Aliens, but also for people who haven’t. Ancient Aliens Debunked can be watched at the link I provided. Well, at least for people who have some interest in the ancient aliens theory or just an interest in the ancients. I found the show fascinating for a number of reasons. (Quelle surprise.)

OK, background and refresher for noobs to the topic. The ancient aliens theory is a theory that in the past humans had contact with aliens. Erich von Däniken would be the most well known proponent of this theory, from his 1968 book “Chariots of the Gods.” The History Channel came out with a series about the theory called … Ancient Aliens. It’s inspired at least two blog posts on my part, here and here. Basically the series was very disappointing to me. It played fast and loose with the facts, and was clearly meant to give credence to the ancient aliens theory without actually examining it critically.  In other words, anyone who was seriously interested in the ancient aliens theory is going to be disappointed by the show. However, the same people should like the Ancient Aliens Debunked show, since at the very least it separates the wheat from the chaff. If you’re gonna promote a theory widely regarded as a crank theory, wouldn’t one want to examine the actual facts in evidence?

And that’s what Ancient Aliens Debunked does. I leaned a number of things I didn’t know. Always good. The one segment I watched was on  Pumapunku. Or Puma Punku. This is a large pre-Incan temple complex or monument group in Bolivia. It was built by the Tiwanaku civilization, and surrounded by city and farmland where as many as 400,000 people lived. Around the year 1,000 the civilization abruptly collapsed, possibly due to environmental change. The Incans believed Pumapunku was built by the Gods and was where the world began. Ancient aliens theorists believe Pumapunku was built thousands of years before the conventional dating, and required the use of advanced technology. Evidence for this is that the stones used to build the complex weigh as much as 800 tons, they were made of granite and granodiorite, and carved with incredible precision. The Tiwanaku civilization simply could not have moved such stones, nor carved these stones with the copper tools they had. Not to mention they didn’t even have a written language, how does one coordinate and plan such a massive construction without writing?

All sounds pretty convincing, or at least difficult to explain, right? Not really. It’s easy to make things sound mysterious if one picks and chooses one’s facts, and makes up facts if the real facts don’t fit. Let’s start with the purported age of Pumapunku. The conventional age dates the Tiwanaku civilization the the few centuries prior to 1,000 ad or so. How did ancient alien theorists come up with an age of over ten thousand years? Simple, one “researcher” decades ago calculated the age of Pumapunku by looking at celestial alignments, and concluded that it was built more than ten thousand years ago so that the stars would match the alignments. The problem of course is that any “alignments” in the ruins are purely subjective, and using this method one could “prove” Pumapunku is any age one wants.

OK, the Tiwanakuans didn’t have a written language. Um, so what? They did have language, and they most certainly can draw pictures. It’s not like they had to come up with modern blueprints, we are talking stacked rocks here. But wait, how about the amazing precision of the cut blocks and how they were put together? Again, easy. The idea that these blocks were cut and fitted with fabulous precision is simply … a lie. The blocks exhibit  great variety, no two are alike, and their rather crude precision is exactly what one would expect for blocks carved with stone tools.

Wait, how could granite and granodiorite have been carved with stone or soft copper tools? Well, for one thing, the blocks at Pumapunku are not made of granite and granodiorite, they are made of sandstone and andesite. And both of these are relatively soft and easy to work stones. Not to mention that the quarries where these blocks were made have been found, with partially made blocks. And while copper is very soft, Tiwankua was a Bronze Age culture, IE they had discovered how to make much stronger copper alloys by adding other metals to the mix. This isn’t just speculation, archeologists have found many examples of the stone working tools the Tiwankuans made.

Lastly we come to moving these giant 800 ton blocks. Oops, another lie. While some early estimates of the blocks had numbers as high as 800 tons, modern more accurate measurements place the largest block at 113 tons, and the vast majority of blocks are much smaller. And on many of the blocks grooves and other structures have been carved that are clearly meant to attach ropes to the blocks. The illustration at the top of the page shows one such carving. Obviously if one had some sort of alien levitation device, one wouldn’t need to go to the trouble of carving slots and holes for ropes. As a final blow to the levitation idea, all of the blocks clearly have drag marks on one face.

In other words, almost everything that ancient alien theorists say about Pumapunku is a lie, and their “conclusions” are not only unsupported by the evidence, they are contradicted by the evidence. Does this mean that the ancient aliens theory is balderdash? Pretty much. At least until actual evidence of contact with aliens in the past is discovered. So far, no luck. However, I still recommend the Ancient Aliens Debunked series because I learned a lot about history and how ancient stone structures are made from just this one episode. In fact I saw a picture of Stonehenge the other day and I could clearly see the distinctive ripple pattern made when shaping a stone with stone tools. So I not only learned something about Pumupunku, I learned something applicable to any megalithic structure.

Was there any purpose to the is post besides sharing my enthusiasm about a TV show? Not really. I do find it fascinating that people can cling to and promote beliefs that are, well, silliness. It seems to be the nature of humans. As many have observed, this may be why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, there’s no intelligent life down here. Next up, ten ways atheism is a religion. Or maybe something else.

(The above image came from Wikipedia: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License. For those interested in ancient stone cutting techniques, this seems to be a good link: Ancient Egyptian Stone Technology.)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2012 at 11:41 am