Unidentified Flying Objections

October 1997
By Perry DeAngelis

Our modern era of technological wonder and scientific achievement is once again usurped by extraordinary claims of a more advanced race of interstellar visitors. Our puny science and terrestrial achievement is dwarfed by these alien travelers, or so the credulous legions tell us – endlessly. I am speaking of the modern myth of UFO’s (Unidentified Flying Objects), and their alleged pilots, ET’s (Extra Terrestrials).

Sightings, Sightings Everywhere.

There have always been objects in the sky that are unidentified. Traces can be found in ancient Sanskrit texts of The Ramayana and the Mahahbarata that tell of Vimanas, or sky borne chariots that engaged in great battles with lights and flashes akin to lasers and nuclear holocaust (4). Today, there is vastly more in our atmosphere that can trigger UFO sightings. We live in the space age, where rockets, kites, weather balloons, satellites and shuttles all dot our skies in great abundance. This does not even begin to list the numerous natural skyward entities that have always been present, such as birds, meteors, and Venus, to name a few. There are also numerous hoaxes to feed the widespread interest in UFO’s.

Thus, it is not surprising that people look into the skies and see odd objects that they cannot identify. Skeptics and scientists do not doubt this. Rather, it is the leap that these unidentified objects are interstellar craft piloted by extraterrestrials that bring our skeptical magnifying glasses to bear.

UFO sightings typically come in a steady flow, but are accelerated in times when our attention is drawn skyward. After the launching of Sputnik II in November 1957, for example, reports of UFO’s skyrocketed from 100 to 400 a month. Then by January, when our attention span had lapsed, reports resumed normal levels. Yet, regardless of the number of reports, the fact is that 95%+ of all sightings are dismissed as “Misidentified Prosaic Objects,” (or MPOs).

The United States Air Force studied the phenomenon for more than 20 years with its Project Blue Book. The conclusion of the study in 1969 was that “less than 2% of all reports remain unidentifiable.” This, of course, does not mean that they were therefore alien spacecraft, as many UFOlogists would argue. A classification of unidentified simply means that an explanation was not found during the investigation that was conducted. The closing of Project Blue Book signaled the last governmental research into the phenomenon.

Conspiracy Theory

This cessation has also lent itself to wild conspiracy theories about how the government is covering up its “real” knowledge of extraterrestrials. The conspiracy theorists offer that the government believes people would be unable to handle the knowledge that we are not alone in the universe as the reason for this cover up. On the contrary, I think the vast majority of humanity would welcome such knowledge, and be enthralled with the possibilities it would present. Regardless of potential motivation, there is as little evidence for a conspiracy as there is evidence for the UFO’s the conspiracies are alleged to cover up.

Conspiracy theories are created by UFOlogists simply to explain away the striking lack of evidence of extraterrestrial visitations. For, if the government is hoarding and obfuscating all of the “actual” data on ET’s, then how could skeptics and scientists require such from claimants? The conspiracy theory has become part of the “untestable ET Hypothesis,” which states that we are being visited by aliens which are undetectable and leave no traces behind which cannot be erased by government conspirators who wish to keep these ET’s a secret. Any hypothesis which is untestable by its very formulation, such as undetectable ET’s, is by definition non-scientific.

Such hypotheses have left the field rife with those of a credulous bent to their work. Today’s students of UFO’s, so called UFOlogists, want to believe in the ET hypothesis (ETH). They therefore typically operate with the hallmark banner of pseudoscience, in that they have a predetermined conclusion and then skew their research and logic to fit this desire. Ironically, they often accuse scientists who are skeptical of the ETH of being motivated to reject this hypothesis because of its tremendous implications. Scientists, however, are chiefly motivated to discover new truths, the more earth-shattering the better, and therefore this counter-accusation by rejected UFOlogists does not ring true.

Most UFOlogists, on the other hand, have earned the title of pseudoscientist by invoking conspiracy theories to justify a lack of evidence, committing logical fallacies such as confusing “unidentified” with “alien space-craft,” and by failing to conform to the tried and true conservative nature of science. UFOlogists refuse to reject the ETH due to lack of evidence. They ignore Occam’s Razor by jumping to extraordinary claims and conclusions when far more prosaic and likely ones are at hand. And they will not simply say “I don’t know” in the face of insufficient evidence to say otherwise.

They are also notorious for accepting any evidence which is supportive of the ETH, prior to any skeptical analysis. Most recently is the alien autopsy fiasco, which was widely touted by UFOlogists as hard evidence for the Roswell story. Now that the alien autopsy film has been shown conclusively to be a hoax (through anachronistic errors) it will be interesting to see how many UFOlogists will admit their error, or learn from it. Good scientists are conservative in that they never make claims or draw conclusions which exceed what the evidence will support.


The “evidence” for the existence of extraterrestrial spacecraft comes in two basic flavors, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

Eyewitness Testimony

By far, the vast majority of evidence for ET craft is eyewitness testimony. It is almost impossible to look into the sky, in any lighting condition, and report accurately on an object that is seen, for there are no reference points. Factors such as size, distance, speed, luminescence, and others simply cannot be judged by the naked eye. Even trained observers can be fooled when monitoring the atmosphere. Astronomers, air traffic controllers, and pilots have all been fooled into believing an earthly object was an ET craft. When a navel aircraft crew en route from Iceland to Newfoundland reported a UFO, even Project Blue Book listed the incident unexplained. It was not until years later that painstaking research discovered that the crew had actually seen the upper tip of a crescent moon, barely visible on the horizon.(3) Only the hard work of science was able to uncover the truth. The average eyewitness or UFOlogist does no such research, and instead bows before the mythology of our time and the media, declaring their object an other-worldly spacecraft. It is easier, more satisfying, and more thrilling.

As was demonstrated in the above case, many times the explanations for UFO’s are in fact celestial bodies. One might think that any reasonably intelligent person would not mistake planets and the moon for alien craft, but investigation proves this far from the truth. Celestial bodies reported as UFO’s are often said to have darted up or down, to execute loops and figure eight’s, meander in square patterns and even zigzag. Allan Hendry, who was chief investigator for the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) reported that in 49 cases of UFO’s later discovered to be celestial bodies, the distance from the observer to the object was reported as between 200 feet and 125 miles. These eyewitnesses were off by a few hundred thousand miles or more.

Also often mistaken for ET craft, are flaming fragments of a meteor-fireball blazing through the atmosphere on a horizontal trajectory. As a meteor enters at very high speed, it ionizes (electrifies) the surrounding air, creating a long, luminous tail. Often this luminescence is understandably reported by pilots as sunlight reflecting on a metallic surface. The flaming reentry of terrestrial space vehicles have also been reported in similar fashion. When the burning reentry of a Soviet rocket that had been launched from the Zond-4 spacecraft was seen by ground observers, they concluded that it was an ET craft. Their minds then quickly “recognized” the flaming fragments as windows illuminated from inside the craft. Shape, size, speed and the rest of the information reported about this sighting varied widely between observers yet were all interpreted in conjunction with what the modern myth had ingrained in these unwitting eyewitnesses.

A final category of eyewitness accounts of ET’s that must be mentioned are the so called “abductees.” These are people that have claimed to have actually been taken aboard ET craft and studied via one terrifying medical examine or another. Their stories are universally frightening, disorienting and hopelessly inconclusive. Not a single artifact, piece of new or predictive data, or any other reasonable evidence has ever been produced by any of these abductees to substantiate these amazing tales, and thus the phenomenon must be sought to be explained via mundane means. Also, almost all abductee testimony has been “remembered” under hypnosis which was carried out in an irresponsible manner capable of suggesting, in fact creating, memories of a standard abduction tale.

Physical Evidence

The majority of physical evidence for ET craft is photographic. I have seen hundreds of photographs of UFO’s. Many, when looked at closely by even a layman, like myself, can be dismissed as MPO’s. However, some of them are obviously non-terrestrial craft of some kind, apparently zooming through the sky. Yet none, not a single one, of these photos has survived close analysis and can be regarded as authentic. All that have been investigated have been proven fakes, and not only duplicated but improved upon later by skeptics. One need only take a picture of an object against a black background, then go outside, and without advancing the film, take a picture of the sky, hence creating a double exposure that is very difficult to detect. The UFO (or teacup or banana, etc.), will thence be seen zooming triumphantly through the sky.

Radar has also been used by the credulous in an attempt to validate the reality of ET craft. However, radar is a complex and ambiguous detector. Its results are open to much debate and interpretation. Everyday, NORAD receives eight to nine hundred radar unknowns, the vast majority of which are quickly dismissed due to aural effects: meteor ionization trails, electromagnetic noise pulses, and re-entering satellites. Radar is also subject to echoes and other technical anomalies, and can even be fooled by atmospheric effects, such as rising heat pockets. Radar is simply subject to too many variables to ever constitute the “smoking gun” which UFOlogists seek.

Other physical evidence of alien visitation consists of broken branches, burned circles, alien implants, and holes in the ground, all of which have a hundred mundane explanations that must be ruled out before the extraterrestrial hypothesis can be accepted as the most likely explanation. Not a single such piece of alleged physical evidence has ever been shown to been of alien artifice. UFOlogists have shown no proclivity to investigate alternative hypotheses for alleged alien artifacts, and so it is left to skeptics to do it for them

Are They Out There?

At this point I must honestly state; “I don’t know.” The possibility of extraterrestrial sentient life in the universe is an open question. With the four hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, and probable hundreds of billions of planets, it seems to me quite likely. Yet, that there is a group, or groups, of these beings buzzing the earth in interstellar craft, playing hide and seek with us, has yet to be proven – even remotely. In the 50 years since this mythology has been born, there has been zero definitive evidence.

About the only thing that I can say about the alleged visitors to our planet piloting their incredible space machines is, they are horrible scientists. They cannot even perform the most basic medical examinations without causing great pain and fear. Their attempts at suppressing the memory of their abductions is foiled by simple hypnosis. Based on the hundreds of photographs, they must have no stealth capability, and I will not even mention their juvenile diplomatic skills. Given the number of crashed spacecraft, I must also suspect that they are frequently guilty of FWI (flying while intoxicated). Indeed, if we are being visited by ET’s in these amazing craft, we must assume that they have stolen those wonderful ships from a far more advanced race.


1) Hendry, Allen. The UFO Handbook (New York: Doubleday, 1979)
2) Korff, Kal K., “What Really Happened at Roswell,” Skeptical Inquirer, July/August, 1997, p. 24+.
3) Klass, Phillip J. UFOs: The Public Deceived (New York: Prometheus Books, 1983)
4) Baker R, Nickell J. Missing Pieces (New York: Prometheus Books, 1992)
5) Sagan C, Page T. UFO’s, A Scientific Debate (Cornell University Press, 1972)