Still a great mys­tery

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Bond's World by Anita Bond As I men­tioned last week, the con­tro­versy about uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­jects (UFOs) has been some­what quiet of late. The mys­tery of UFOs seems to have flared up and is still burn­ing brightly with the oc­cur­rence of the Roswell In­ci­dent. And still to­day, this ‘in­ci­dent’ has no real an­swers for those who in­sist on the truth, which is sup­pos­edly ‘out there’.

Sus­pi­cions sur­round­ing the top-se­cret air base in New Mex­ico show no signs of re­ced­ing; and still, many years later, the enigma of Area 51 lives on. Area 51 lies in a re­mote part of Ne­vada around 230km north of Las Ve­gas. It is the most no­to­ri­ous – and most heav­i­ly­guarded – patch of scrub­land on Earth.

Of­fi­cially named Air Force Flight Test Cen­ter De­tach­ment 3, it has been the home of such top-se­cret de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes as the F-117A Stealth air­craft and the SR-71 spy-plane.

How­ever, some UFO con­spir­acy the­o­rists be­lieve it is also the last rest­ing place of sev­eral aliens and their wrecked craft. This all started on 2nd July 1947, when a bright disc-shaped ob­ject was al­legedly sighted over Area 51. The fol­low­ing day wreck­age was re­port­edly dis­cov­ered – and ac­cord­ing to some, alien bod­ies.

In 1989, a tech­ni­cian named Bob Lazar claimed to have seen nine alien space­craft in stor­age at a site near Area 51, and a glimpse of an alien body. Lazar be­came a celebrity as a re­sult of his claims, which may have been the point, but in­trigu­ingly, he did claim to know some­thing about the propul­sion sys­tem used by the craft.

While much of his ac­count is sci­en­tific non­sense, some as­pects of it – such as the use of space-time warps to get from place to place – are rem­i­nis­cent of con­cepts that have since ap­peared in main­stream physics re­search jour­nals.

Sight­ings of rare oc­cur­rences in the sky have been go­ing on for many, many years. In 600BC The Old Tes­ta­ment priest and prophet Ezekiel, de­scribes bizarre ‘wheel-like’ ob­jects with mark­ing and be­hav­iour rem­i­nis­cent of UFOs.

At sun­rise on 14th April 1561, groups of cylin­dri­cal UFOs re­port­edly ap­peared in the sky over Nurem­berg, Ger­many, and fought one an­other.

In the early hours of 25th Fe­bru­ary 1942, a fleet of UFOs ap­peared over Los An­ge­les, and was fired on by anti-air­craft bat­ter­ies.

And then there was Roswell: in 1947, pri­vate pi­lot Ken­neth Arnold’s de­scrip­tion of a UFO mov­ing – ‘like a saucer if you skip it across the wa­ter’ coins the term ‘fly­ing saucer’.

In July of the same year, a rancher work­ing near Roswell, New Mex­ico, finds mys­te­ri­ous de­bris, prompt­ing re­ports of a cap­tured UFO and its oc­cu­pants.

In 1951, US Air Force be­gins Project Blue Book, ex­tend­ing early at­tempts to col­late UFO re­ports sci­en­tif­i­cally. Mount­ing scep­ti­cism leads to its clo­sure in 1969.

A year later, George Adamski claims to have had a ‘close en­counter’ with a hu­man-like alien from Venus, who tells of con­cern about the use of atomic weapons.

Now, with so many satel­lites, me­te­orites and other uniden­ti­fied de­bris float­ing around in space, it is hard to tell if any type of alien space­ship could be spy­ing on us. But the mys­tery of UFOs still goes on. The truth about the Roswell In­ci­dent is still de­bated to this day.

What is not in doubt is that the re­sult­ing claims and coun­ter­claims gave the UFO con­tro­versy a rep­u­ta­tion for shaky facts and even shakier ex­pla­na­tions that have dogged it ever since. It is a rep­u­ta­tion, which re­vived a boost in 1968, with the pub­li­ca­tion of a re­view of over 20 years’ worth of UFO re­ports col­lected by the US Air Force as part of so-called Project Blue Book.

Also known as the Con­don Re­port, af­ter the dis­tin­guished Amer­i­can physi­cist who directed the study, it con­cluded there was noth­ing of sci­en­tific value in the re­ports, and there­fore, no point in pur­su­ing the UFO is­sue. When this was en­dorsed by the pres­ti­gious US Na­tional Academy of Sciences, the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity had ev­ery rea­son for dis­miss­ing the UFO con­tro­versy as out of hand.

That re­mains the at­ti­tude of many, if not most, sci­en­tist to this day, and their scep­ti­cism has hardly been un­der­mined by the con­tro­ver­sies over in­ci­dents like Rendle­sham For­est, and the al­leged ex­is­tence of a top-se­cret US com­mit­tee called MJ-12.

Rendle­sham For­est, Suf­folk, Eng­land, was the scene of a con­tro­ver­sial close en­counter: named as Britain’s most no­to­ri­ous in­ci­dent, it took place on 27th De­cem­ber 1980. Around 3am that night, two US se­cu­rity pa­trol­men from Wood­bridge NATO air base saw un­usual lights out­side the back gate, and a three-man search party was sent out.

They al­legedly saw a two-me­tre­high tri­an­gu­lar metal­lic ob­ject il­lu­mi­nat­ing the sur­round­ing trees, with a pul­sat­ing red light on top and a row of blue lights un­der­neath. As the pa­trol­men ap­proached it, the ob­ject shifted away from the trees and van­ished. The fol­low­ing day three shal­low holes were sup­pos­edly found where the ob­ject had been sighted, along with burn-marks in trees and anoma­lous ra­di­a­tion read­ings.

The Min­istry of De­fence de­nied any knowl­edge of the in­ci­dent, but ufol­o­gists used the US Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act to ob­tain copies of the deputy base com­man­der’s re­port, which broadly con­firmed the story. It also emerged that an ob­ject had been tracked on radar, dis­ap­pear­ing into the for­est.)

Se­ri­ous de­bate of the UFO is­sue has con­tin­ued in aca­demic cir­cles – and the re­sult cast se­ri­ous doubt on some of the stan­dard ar­gu­ments lev­elled against the idea that UFOs are craft from other worlds.

But, as Mul­der used to say, the truth is out there...

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