jamestabbott.com http://jamestabbott.com/_rss.blog Blog Rss Feed Nationalism & Groupism //jamestabbott.com/blog/nationalism-groupism What work is currently going on to study UFOs is heavily condensed into nation-sized chunks. Every nation has its UFO study groups – large and small – and only rarely do they ever peek above their national boundary fences to talk to each other.

The fragmentation of the UFO research community is oft bemoaned, but it is also understandable. Some organisations have adopted a more “scientific” approach than others, some are up to their necks in conspiracy theories, and yet others are too small and resource poor to make any difference at all. Indeed, in many nations, the bulk of the work is being conducted not by national organisations but by local groups of varying capability but uniformly low profile.

In most nations the shape of the UFO organisational landscape is similar. Usually, one will find at one extreme a body whose beliefs are virtually theological. In the UK (and several other countries) that slot is filled by the Aetherius Society (founded by George King back in the 1950s and based on the same sort of claims of alien visitations as those of George Adamski in America). This society is quite successful in terms of membership but is more cosmic religion than UFO research body. In the middle of the spectrum one generally finds bodies which straddle the subject from conspiracy to investigation. This group includes the better known, middle of the road UFO organisations. But it also include organisations which major on a range of mystical and occult phenomena. For example, the British Earth and Aerial Mysteries Society (BEAMS) is a popular mix of UFO research and mystical investigations. At the other end of the scale are more “scientific” groups which try to focus on the collection and investigations of reports. In America that segment is probably filled by NARCAP while BUFORA (the British UFO Research Association) does its best to meet the need in Britain.

Almost always, these national organisations are paralleled by groups of enthusiasts at local and regional level. Sometimes, as with MUFON in the United States, these groups form part of a wider network, but this is relatively rare. In the UK there are around a dozen regional and local groups of which those for Birmingham, Cornwall, London and Wales are perhaps the best known.  In the United States NICAP, MUFON and CUFOS are in the middle with a host of bodies on the mystical and cosmological end of the spectrum.

So, you can see what I mean. The groups do a good job and they produce fascinating and very important results, but their limited resources are thoroughly diluted by the colume of work needing to be done.

This is pretty much the same whatever western nation you look at; diffused resources stretched across the wide plain of UFO research, divided by individual rivalries as well as by differing beliefs and hypotheses. The situation is similar to the fragmentation of some religions into sects and break-away churches which mitigates against an efficiently organised and truly scientific approach. The sort of landscape which, in fact, tends to repel rather than attract the outsider.

A rational outsider would probably advise that ufologists optimise resources by creating a single UFO research organisation per nation and perhaps set up separate organisations to address the occult and mystical aspects. But there is little hope for such a common-sense structure. If UFO groups within nations cannot cooperate even when it makes eminent sense and would potentially strengthen their capability, there would seem no hope at all that national organisations would be able to enter into meaningful formal international cooperative agreements.

One or two organisations have set up such cooperation but progress is slow.

Nationalism and groupism are stultifying human characteristics in most spheres. In the UFO environment, they act as perhaps the most serious barrier to effective UFO research. And, to be blunt, one cannot see that situation changing anytime soon.

Sun, 04 Aug 2019 15:34:00 GMT //jamestabbott.com/blog/nationalism-groupism
Why is a UFO like a Rock? //jamestabbott.com/blog/why-is-a-ufo-like-a-rock It’s not a joke. It’s a riddle. Why is a rock like a UFO?

The answer is that they have both suffered from the same derision.

Yup. We once laughed at rocks. To be more accurate, scientists queued up to scoff at the idea of burning rocks which fell from the sky. For hundreds of years men of science – they called themselves natural philosophers in those days – fell about laughing at the notion that huge rocks could plummet to earth. Their laughter doubled in volume when ordinary folks also claimed that the rocks were burning as they fell.

And you have to sympathise with those early scientists. The claims entailed not one, but two, intuitively silly ideas: that a huge chunk of rock could get itself up into the sky in the first place, and that rock – which we use to protect surrounding vegetation from a campfire – could burn. The concepts were impossible and the learned men had many a merry evening laughing at the peasants who innocently claimed to have seen such things and could point to what they claimed were the rocks which fell..

Scientists enjoyed themselves at the peasants’ expense until, in 1764, a German natural philosopher by the name of Ernst Chladli proposed the idea that the rocks did not come from Earth but from outer space. Yes, you’ve guessed it. He, too, was heavily derided. For another forty years the scientific established continued to have immense fun at the expense of Chladli and anyone else who “believed” in heavy rocks burning as they fell through the sky. Then in the early nineteenth century there was a massive fall of burning rocks in Normandy and – finally – the French Academy of Sciences and the British chemist Edward Howard worked out what was happening. The rocks were definitely from space and they were set alight by intense friction with the atmosphere. Suddenly meteors and meteorites became mainstream knowledge and our scientists pretended they’d always wondered, and that it took just a few small pieces of additional information for them to work it all out for us.

So, although almost every ordinary person on the planet knew that rocks certainly did fall burning from the sky, the scientific establishment discounted the whole concept as lunacy for many hundreds of years.

Does that remind you of anything? UFOs perhaps?

Across the world since the turn of the present century there have been up to a couple of million global sightings of unidentified flying objects. Of those, somewhere around 100,000 cannot be explained in conventional scientific terms. Yet the majority of our scientists continue to mock and scoff in their slightly defensive way. None of it makes sense they cry. Our existing understanding of science says it’s all nonsense.

This attitude is reinforced by the media. No matter what country you live in, the media will almost always accompany any report of a UFO sighting with a phrase or image which protects their backs. We’ve all seen the raised eyebrows, winks, and knowing looks of the TV anchors, and the pictures of laughable flying saucers and little green men which editors insist on placing alongside a newspaper article on the subject. Some papers even printed such images alongside the recent reports of three separate sightings of strange things by US Navy pilots!

When you think of it, that’s both astounding and shameful. These are the guys upon whose highly professional skills we rely to protect us. Would the media have poked such fun at those same pilots reporting incoming nuclear missiles or bombers?

The end result is that we have a serious scientific and philosophical subject – UFOs – which has plagued the world for at least the past century (and possibly much longer), which has now developed its own self-perpetuating loop of disrespect. Person A reports UFO, media report it but in such a way that the report is subtly derided. The result is that scientists cannot investigate without opening themselves up to ridicule and humiliation.

So, nothing gets properly investigated.

Our current knowledge – as opposed to speculation – is that UFOs are not alien spaceships. They are unidentified flying objects. Every single one of those 100,000 inexplicable sightings – accumulating at the rate of around 6,000 every year – may turn out to be entirely explainable in conventional terms. But, isn’t it about time we stopped playing children’s sneering games and began doing some serious, long-term scientific research into what is most certainly even more of a major scientific anomaly than rocks from the sky?

Sun, 04 Aug 2019 15:17:00 GMT //jamestabbott.com/blog/why-is-a-ufo-like-a-rock
The Stats are not Enough //jamestabbott.com/blog/the-stats-are-not-enough Twice the proportion of people see UFOs in Vermont as see them in California. But the latest stats as discussed in USA Today don’t go far enough.

The article gave us fifteen years of total UFO sightings for each American State but it didn’t analyse by State population – that is, there was no way that the reader could understand how important the figures were. By calculating the sightings by population I was able to do some more work.

I added the population of the States and then did some correlation analysis – trying to see whether sightings were related to size or density of population. In some ways it was disappointing. The stats show that there is virtually no connection between any of the variables and UFO sightings.

So, for example, the statistics show a very strong correlation between total numbers of sightings and total population (0.94 for the statisticians among you). This stands to reason; the more people the more sightings. But there’s a fascinating contradiction. Logic would also tend to argue that, in that case, there would also be a strong link between the States with the highest population densities and those with the highest numbers of sightings – but there isn’t (0.11). Similarly, there’s only a very weak statistical link between States with the highest numbers of sightings and those with the highest Internet density (0.23).

What this means is that, for all their detail these current statistics tell us very little except that the more people there are the more UFOs are seen. Not exactly Earth-shattering!

But what they may tell us, instead of immediate revelations, is that we don’t have the full picture. If, for example one was to assume that higher densities of people or Internet usage should link strongly to more sightings then it could be that we still don’t know how many sightings there really are. The US Today stats are drawn from the big UFO organisations but do they really represent how many UFOs are seen? What proportion of UFO sightings are ever reported to the official UFO bodies?

The data also show how rare UFO sightings are. For every 100,000 people in California, for example, only three – just three people – reported a UFO each year over the fifteen-year span. The equivalent figure in Vermont was five people per 100,000 per year. In California a town of 100,000 people would have just three who have seen a UFO in any one year!

We need more data and we need more people who see UFOs to report them.


Fri, 02 Aug 2019 14:54:00 GMT //jamestabbott.com/blog/the-stats-are-not-enough
UFO Shapes //jamestabbott.com/blog/ufo-shapes Over the years unidentified objects have been reported as being of many different shapes – circles and discs, triangles, wedges or boomerangs, spheres, cubes, cigars and tubes, and a few others.

Some are seen as objects with those definite shapes while others are reported as just lights or fireballs. Some have also been reported as changing shape in the middle of the observation.

When things were first seen in the sky in Victorian and Edwardian times they were generally reported as being “airships” and artists depicted them as such. It’s a question we probably will never be able to answer but were those witnesses seeing gondolas beneath the objects and ropes and wires suspending the engines and gondolas from the main gas envelope? Or were those descriptions simply the only way that their minds could deal with a lighted cigar-shaped object in the sky?

Sceptics argue that people see what they want to see and that is why UFOs come in so many assorted shapes and sizes. Once one shape has been seen in an area, they say, other people tend to see that same shape.

If, on the other hand, the objects are real, why so many different shapes? Our own limited experience of building aircraft and spacecraft might suggest that – within tight boundaries – the shapes for any given purpose should be very similar. An aircraft until recently could be large or small but all needed a fuselage and wings and all are recognisably from the same family. More modern aircraft can be pure deltas without tailplanes but, again, the shape is not too dissimilar to earlier aircraft like (say) Concorde. Space craft are also very similar to each other – a feature which is virtually mandated by aerodynamics or – in space – by the need to hang lots of equipment from a central body.

I guess the question is – are the different shapes just people’s imaginations being allowed to run riot, or are they perhaps different because they are caused by, or come from, different sources?

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 17:20:31 GMT //jamestabbott.com/blog/ufo-shapes
Credibility //jamestabbott.com/blog/credibility What makes for a credible report of a UFO sighting or other related event? It’s a question which puzzles ufologists and skeptics alike.

If a police officer sees something unidentified in the air, is their testimony more (or less) credible than that of a retired army sergeant? Is a report from a twelve year old girl on her way home from school less credible than one from a twenty-year old male motorbike fanatic? If a family of three testify to seeing a UFO is that more or less credible than a similar statement from three construction workers who see an object from the top of a newly built house?

Credibility is one of those things at which the skeptics have been throwing bricks for decades. They say, effectively, that no-one’s testimony is more credible than anyone else’s because everyone can make mistakes.

I'd argue with that because there are professionals who are trained to observe. If an experienced airline pilot tells me he's seen a strange thing I will take that very seriously - and doubly-so if the report is corroborated in some way. Same goes for a police-officer or someone in the front line of the military. It doesn't mean that other reports are not credible - merely that certain types of report must be accorded higher levels of credibility than others.

What do you think?

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 17:19:14 GMT //jamestabbott.com/blog/credibility