Noted UFO researcher and nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman, penned an open letter to Astronomy Magazine lambasting them for the lack of scientific merit in their recent “The Science Behind UFO’s” piece. And with no wonder. The article is a weak attempt to discredit the UFO phenomena and serious study of past and current UFO cases. For instance, in the article, author Philip Plait recounts his own terrifying personal UFO sighing which turned out to be – ducks. Yes, ducks. And they were quacking (the author notes that he had a vague recognition of the sound but took a bit to dawn on him what the sound was). The author seems to make the case that people see UFOs because they are not familiar with the sky, that most people do not understand that planets and satellites can be visible from Earth. The author even points out that the Moon has been mistaken for a UFO. Yeah, the author’s case is that weak.
Paranormal skeptics are always welcome, after all, they pressure serious paranormal researchers into doing their due diligence before spouting nonsense. Still, the Astronomy Magazine article missed the opportunity to vet its own author’s assertions. Contrary to Astronomy Magazine’s claim that there is little evidence to support unidentified flying objects, that there must be a rational explanation for every paranormal type of event, Dr. Friedman handily makes the point that evidence is available in abundance.
Here is Stanton Friedman’s open letter in its entirety.
As a scientist who has been studying UFO evidence since 1958, I must commend ASTRONOMY for publishing such a splendid example of the intellectual bankruptcy of the pseudoscience of anti-ufology, namely Phil Plait’s “The Science Behind UFOs” (May 2013). He avoids all the science! There are 5 large scale scientific studies. None are mentioned. There are at least 12 PhD Theses about UFOs. None are mentioned. There are numerous radar visual accounts. None are mentioned. There are more than 5000 Physical Trace Cases collected by Ted Phillips from 95 countries. None are mentioned. There are a number of well investigated UFO abduction cases investigated by Professionals such as Psychiatrist Dr. John Mack of Harvard. None are mentioned.
The largest study is “Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14” done by engineers and scientists at Battelle Memorial Institute under contract to the USAF. It has over 200 tables, charts, graphs, maps, etc. and deals with 3201 UFO sightings of which 21.5% were finally listed as UNKNOWNS, completely separate from the 9.3% listed as Insufficient Information. The better the quality of the sighting the more likely to be an UNKNOWN.A chi-square statistical analysis showed that the probability that the UNKNOWNS were just missed knowns was less than 1%.
The 247 page ”Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects: Hearings Before the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives” ,July 29, 1968, provides testimony from 12 scientists , three of whom were astronomers. One was Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Chairman of the Astronomy Department at Northwestern University, and for more than 20 years consultant to the USAF Project Blue Book. His book “The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry” should be required reading and contains many intriguing sightings. The most comprehensive presentation was by Dr. James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona. He covered 41 separate cases including sightings by astronomers such as Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto, and multiple witness radar visual cases.
The University of Colorado’s “Scientific Report on UFOs “(The Condon Report) included information on 117 cases of which, according to a special UFO Subcommittee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 30% could not be identified. This book has the following statement about the Trent Photo from McMinnville, Oregon, May 1950, noted by Plait. “This is one of the few UFO Reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk shaped, tens of meters in diameter and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses”.
The explanation given for the earlier Phoenix Lights as representing jets flying in formation is ridiculous. The object was huge, silent, flying slowly, blotting out the sky. It had no red and green lights. An important witness was Arizona governor, Fife Symington, a former air force officer and pilot. Plait acts as though all UFO sightings are just lights in the sky which are easily identified by somebody like him “A scientist, a Skeptic, a Hardnosed realist”. The facts indicate that this is totally untrue.
One possible explanation for Plait’s complete failure to deal with the science of UFOs is that, considering the date, it was written as an April Fool’s Day joke. If so, I apologize.