“Considering the source” (Ancient aliens)

DRAGPYR

One of the points emphasized by ancient astronaut proponents is that cultures which had no knowledge of each other produced similar structures. This supposedly suggests a common source provided the technology and ingenuity to make wonders such as the step pyramids in Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran.  

Ken Ham employs similar logic with dragons, pointing out there are similar tales, descriptions, and artwork of such creatures in different civilizations and times. He uses this to bolster support for his belief in flying, fire-breathing beasts. Blogger Nicole Canfield does the same with fairies, positing that stories of diminutive playful humanoids in disparate cultures attests to the creatures’ existence.

There’s actually quite a bit of difference in how fairies have been depicted in various cultures and periods. Some of the earliest fairies appeared in Roman myths, where they were female personifications of destiny. They exemplified wisdom and power, so were portrayed as being matronly or even ancient and were bedecked in standard fashion for senior women of the time. By the Middle Ages, fairies had gotten hold of Dr. Oz’s anti-aging cream and were usually thought of as resembling little girls in virginal white. Accoutrements like pointy hats, wings, and flower petal necklaces were creations of the Victorian Era. These instances of sprite evolution likely rile Ken Ham, so we’ll let him and Canfield bicker over the legitimacy of that occurrence; meanwhile we’ll focus on whether step pyramids that resemble each other indicate a common, extraterrestrial origin.

The key question is whether the similar features of the pyramids were necessary for function. If peripheral elements of the pyramids are identical, that likely would suggest that those constructing them were drawing from the same source. If those peripheral elements are different, the pyramids were likely independent inventions of each culture.  

Unfortunately for ancient alien aficionados, the step pyramids’ lone similarity is design. They are built in a logical way, with the larger, heavier steps supporting the weight of the smaller, lighter ones, which also allow the structure to be ascended.

Other than that, the structures differ. The number of steps, the height, the design at the top, and what they were used for all varied by civilization. That which was necessary for function is the same everywhere, but the aesthetics, cultural, and artistic underpinnings differ.

Steven Novella noted that many cultures have come up with similar living residences (“quadrangular structures with walls at 90 degree angles,” is how he put it). Yet there are no History Channel episodes suggesting aliens were constructing these homes in between finishing off the Moai and commencing with Macau Picchu.

Additionally, archeologists have studied and understand the evolution of pyramid design and construction. They started out as bench-like burial mounds for pharaohs and ended up as the massive structures that today are synonymous with ancient Egypt.

Since there’s no reason to believe ancient Egyptians, Persians, Mesoamericans, and Indonesians were drawing from the same source, the alien angle is even less relevant. And even if we had a reason to suspect homogony, we could stay Earthbound.

There is an Incan city wall that alien proponents consider to be beyond the abilities of primitive craftsmen. They maintain the Incans lacked the technology to shape huge stones to such precise degrees that a piece of paper cannot fit between them. However, retired architect John McCauley demonstrated how all one would need would be boards, ropes, sticks, stakes, bronze pounders, and flint scrapers. The tools were rudimentary, but the ingenuity was irreproachable, and the dedication unrivaled – this was a multi-year project.

There’s enough awesomeness in our universe that there’s no reason to fabricate any. It is, for instance, fascinating that there were a people without electricity, power tools, or motorized transport, and who were limited to indigenous resources, who still constructed grand structures that stand millennium later. But these civilizations also dreamt up terrible ideas that are long forgotten, and that is why the ancient alien notion is an instance of survivorship bias. This is when one focuses on the greatest successes of a group, idea, or object and consequently ascribes inflated abilities to it. Ancient alien believers consider the architecture far beyond the means of a primitive people, yet they never see the trial and error that led to the great successes.

Steve Jobs is an inspiring tale of a college dropout who started in his parents’ garage and built one of the world’s largest private employers. Yet we see only him, not the untold masses who attempted a similar journey and never made it out of the garage. While confidence, vision, and ambition are important, they are no guarantee of success or even adequacy.

During World War II, the Navy was trying to make its planes less susceptible to being shot down. Plans were developed to add armor to the plane parts that showed the most damage upon return from battle. But ruminating statistician Abraham Wald noted this approach only considered craft that had survived their mission. They had been hit in places they could be struck and still return safely. Therefore, the armor should be added to places not showing damage – places which aircraft that had not returned had likely been hit.

Alien enthusiasts see the pyramids, Moai, or Tholos of Delphi, and consider them evidence of extreme outsourcing done by advanced visitors. They never see the structures that were razed because of their impracticality, poor craftsmanship, or inability to weather attacks from a Ken Ham dragon.

“Helicopter apparent” (Abydos temple image)

phwings

Pharaohs received luxurious accommodations during their lifetimes and even nicer surroundings once they died. In the case of 13th Century BCE ruler Seti I, a mortuary temple was built for him in Abydos.

This site would be little-known outside of Egyptology and anthropology circles were it not for a creative interpretation of part of the inscription on its walls. Some consider it evidence that ancient Egyptians had conquered flight in the form of helicopters. Here is the image, seen in the top row, second apophenia manifestation on the left:

copter

The image could also be said to resemble a locust but no one is going to recruit fervent supporters with that kind of hypothesis. Few of the believers credit the Egyptians with inventing the helicopter, but feel this was the work of extraterrestrial beings, time travelers, Atlanteans, or Nephilim. The seeming flying machine is an example of an Out Of Place Artifact. These are apparent anachronisms that believers in time travel, creationism, ancient astronauts, Atlantis, or Alternate Chronologies use to bolster their claims. These artifacts usually have a reasonable, scientific explanation, but if they don’t, it still requires implementing the Appeal to Ignorance fallacy to credit the artifact as evidence for one’s belief.

The temple was both a manifestation of and monument to Seti’s ego. He began constructing it to honor himself and to have a place for his followers to worship him and Osiris after he died. Seti never finished, with that job falling to his son, Ramesses II. This slacker young’un did lazy work that including hasty chiseling, plastering over old inscriptions, and making modifications using plaster infill. This altering of the original inscription, along with erosion, made the image what it is today.

Where some see a helicopter, Egyptologists see a filled and re-carved titulary, which is a common site in pharaoh temples. However, there may be a bit of fraud at work as well. The photos that appear on believer sites look to have been digitally altered to make the inscription (or helicopter) look more uniform than it is. Unretouched photos appear to show more clearly  that one name has been carved over another.

A substantial strike against the notion of flying pharaohs is that the machine that would carry them is seen in this temple no place else in ancient Egyptian literature, artwork, or hieroglyphics. Egyptians built the Sphinx and pyramids and made great advances in agriculture, justice systems, and written language. They were proud of all this and to think they would have managed flight without celebrating it their art and historical records is unlikely. Additionally, aircrafts require fuel, specialized parts, and factories and there is no evidence any of those existed in Egypt 4,000 years ago.

Also, Seti I led his country in several wars and this technology would have allowed Egypt to conquer anyone while suffering no casualties. There would have been no reason to not use this capability then, nor any reason to abandon the technology.

The case that the hieroglyphic helicopter is instead a carved-over name is substantial and there are innumerable examples of the same practice at other sites throughout Egypt. In this case, the naming convention of Ramesses II was carved over his father’s and, combined with four millennia of wind, sand, and neglect, created an image somewhat resembling a helicopter.

My position as a skeptic is a strong reason for me to embrace this explanation. But I will concede another incentive. Unless ancestry.com has led me astray, Seti I and Ramesses II were my ancestors, 119 and 118 generations back, respectively. That means I have a case for getting my name carved into the walls.

“Planet 9 from Outer Space” (Nibiru apocalypse)


nibiru

This year’s end of the world will take place in October. There have been predictions about the end since humans became capable of contemplating their mortality. So far, the doomsayers’ all-time winning percentage is .000.

Recent panicky prognostications have included Harold Camping in 2011, the Mayan brouhaha a year later, and John Hagee’s Blood Moons in 2016, all three of which we are still here to ridicule. The latest doomsday centers on the planet Nibiru and the brown dwarf it orbits, Nemesis.

The primary promoter of this notion is David Meade, author of Planet X, the 2017 Arrival. This terrifying tome informs us that this fall will see Nibiru and Nemesis barrel toward Earth. Neither of them will necessarily collide with our planet, but their gravitational pull will lead to massive sinkholes, firestorms, typhoons, and other cataclysmic unpleasantries. Life on Earth will come to an end. The fatal flaw in this idea is the complete lack of evidence for the existence for Nibiru or Nemesis.

Space features so many fascinating phenomenon like dark matter, antimatter, bizarre exoplanets, gravity waves, quasars, and black holes that it’s unfortunate some feel the need to fabricate awesomeness. But such an incentive prompted Zecharia Sitchin to concoct the Nibiru tale in 1976. A self-declared expert in the Sumerian language, Sitchin deduced that some Sumerian writings referenced Nibiru. Through his idiosyncratic translation, Sitchin figured out that Nibiruians resemble three-foot tall humanoids. About 500,000 years ago, they bopped over to Africa to mine gold. While they liked being able to access this precious metal, they disliked the associated work. So they genetically altered our ancient ancestors and used the resultant species as slave labor. So while they (or at least their planet) is coming to destroy us, we can’t be too angry since we wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for them.

The documents also revealed that Nibiru exists in the remotest outskirts of the solar system, but swings by Earth every 3,600 years. That means only about one in 50 generations will experience this celestial visit, but of course, our generation is that one. That’s the way doomsdays and prophecies work. Be they aficionados of Nibiru, Nostradamus, Edward Cayce, or Revelation, believers almost never predict that something will happen 100 or 1,000 years from now. It has to be in their lifetimes or it loses all excitement and meaning. Also, by exposing these coming apocalypses, doomsayers feel some control over it. They can build bunkers, warn others, and get right with a god or alien species in hopes this obsequiousness will save them.

Sitchin was a rare exception to the rule about not picking a doomsday date beyond their lifespan. When a few folks tried to fuse the Mayan and Nibiru doomsdays, he rejected this and said Earth would last until 3012. That saved him from them the public humiliation of failure that his fellow seers suffer.

Setting a date for the apocalypse has its good and bad points. Few persons would have paid attention to the Camping and Mayan predictions if they had been treated like a movie and announced that they were “coming soon.” Pinning down a specific time is more likely to generate publicity, sell books and DVDs, and attract YouTube viewers. The drawback comes the day after when there is indeed a day after. However, this is not the fatal flaw that a rational person would expect it to be. When the end doesn’t come, few believers see this as a failing. Rather, it was just a minor mathematical miscalculation or even evidence that the believers’ conduct leading up to the day placated the god, alien invader, or heavenly body that was going to annihilate us.

Camping recalculated and gave us another date, which his followers accepted. After her followers emerged from their bunkers on Dec. 22, 1954, Marian Keech reassured them that their piety had saved the world, as the extraterrestrial army backed off when it saw there were still some good Earthlings left. Blood Moons came and went, yet Hagee devotees are still snagging his latest book about the approaching end, which now includes the TRUE date. While it is incredible that failed seers get away with this, those they are bamboozling have a strong incentive to let them. Otherwise, their time spent prepping, praying, meditating, telepathically communicating, and giving away possessions would have been wasted.

Sitchin’s creation was floundering in 1995 when alien communicator and psychic Nancy Lieder announced the planet was about to collide with Earth. This fueled a renewed interest and other annihilation-by-Nibiru claims surfaced in 2003, 2012, and 2015. Today, Meade tells us that Nibiru and Nemesis are hidden at the far end of the solar system and following large oval paths, meaning we will be unable to detect them until it is too late.

“This system is not aligned with our solar system’s ecliptic, but is coming to us from an oblique angle and toward our South Pole,” he tried to explain. “This observation is difficult, unless you’re flying at a high altitude over South America with an excellent camera.”

Or maybe if you had a powerful telescope, like the kinds at NASA at Mount Palomar, neither of which have astronomers reporting these celestial bodies. But telescopes would only be needed if Nibiru was staying put. Were it on its way, a clear view of the night sky would suffice. The Washington Post quoted NASA astrophysicist David Morrison as saying, “There are no pictures or astronomical observations of Nibiru, but a planet nine months away from crashing into Earth, cruising within the inner solar system, would be visible to the naked eye.”

Meanwhile, Meade asserts that, “The elite are frantically building bunkers and the public is being kept in the dark to avoid panic.” This is contradictory because, without the ability to see or detect Nibiru, how would the elite know there was something to avoid?

Still, Meade claims “overwhelming” evidence in the form of increased numbers of volcanoes and earthquakes, never bothering to substantiate that this is occurring or explaining how that would prove a planet has left its orbit and will destroy us.

If wanting to know more, Meade’s book is available on Amazon for $13. But I suggest waiting a  year, when it should be considerably cheaper. 

“Space Oddity” (Lucifer Project)

saturn

NASA space probes and the works of Arthur C. Clarke can both be appreciated on their substantial merits. But some feel the need to fuse these elements, with the result being the creation of new habitable worlds. Only a select few will be allowed to access these worlds, which will be on the moons of a former gas planet that transformed into a star. Meanwhile the rest of us will be pulled or pushed into a fiery or icy death by the creation of this second sun.

The idea seems lifted from Clarke’s Space Odyssey works in which an alien monolith orbits Jupiter and replicates itself billions of times by using Jovian matter to condense the planet until nuclear fusion is attained. This leads to a freshly-minted star, which is capable of sustaining life on the moons it pilfered from Jupiter. The central feature of the associated conspiracy theory is that NASA is attempting the real thing in a project uncreatively named the Lucifer Project.

Theorists say this was first tried in 2003 when NASA plunged the Galileo probe into Jupiter. Scientists were worried that allowing it to crash into a Jovian moon would run the risk of contaminating any potential microbial life that resided there. Theorists, however, dismissed this as a cover story and said the real intent was to turn Jupiter into a star.

In what would seem a fatal blow to the theory, Jupiter maintained its planetary status. But apocalyptic soothsayers seldom settle back into the fabric of their extant planet when their panicky predictions fizzle. So the destruction of Galileo was written off as a practice run and, fortunately for the theorists, our solar system houses more than one gas giant, so they can afford a doomsday do-over.

The isthmus of common ground shared by NASA and the theorists is that the administration will end its current Cassini mission in nine months by plunging it into Saturn. NASA says this is to avoid contaminating the planet’s moons, while theorists say Freemasons, Illuminati, or Bilderbergers have ordered its plunge in order to create nuclear fusion that will produce a sun capable of sustaining the elites’ life on Saturnian moons.

Some astronomers believe that if Jupiter or Saturn had much more mass, they could have become stars, and the theorists weld this plausible scenario with the notion that space probes could serve as a the fuel that ignites this nuclear fusion.

In order for Gemini and Cassini to travel, they require a non-solar fuel source once they get about three blocks past Mars. Hence, these probes are propelled by the radioactive decay of plutonium 238 pellets inside of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs). But this fuel source also plays the key role in Saturn’s manmade fusion, according to the theory. Astronomy blogger Ian O’Neill explained how the theorists think this will work:

“Dropping Cassini into a place with large atmospheric pressure will compress the probe and detonate it like a nuclear bomb. This will trigger a chain reaction, kick-starting nuclear fusion, and turning Saturn into a fireball. This second sun will have dire consequences for us on Earth, killing millions from the huge influx of radiation by this newborn star.” By then, the elite will be aboard their salvation spaceship and headed to this new home.

There are several reasons why using NASA probes to create new suns and habitable zones will remain in the realm of science fiction. The first sizable obstacle is that plutonium 238 is not weapons grade. Also, the tiny pellets of plutonium 238 that are used to heat and power the probes are in separate, damage-proof cylinders. Finally, the probes burn and break up, eliminating any chance of the plutonium reaching critical mass.

Brian Dunning at Skeptoid further explained, “This critical mass has to be imploded with a simultaneous explosion from all sides, applying sudden pressure precisely from all angles at the exact instant. This couldn’t happen with an RTG design. Although each RTG does theoretically have enough plutonium to make up a critical mass, there isn’t any way that it could all be brought together into the right shape. Any type of pressure or crash event has already sent all the separate impact shells scattering about space, and each is far too small to ever achieve critical mass and implode.”

And even if this all magically happened, Saturn wouldn’t morph into a star anyway. Unless nuclear fusion can be maintained within a stellar body, the reaction would quickly fizzle out. Astronomers estimate this would require a body at least 80 times the size of Jupiter in order to have adequate gravitational confinement.

In response to his column, Dunning received an e-mail from someone identifying himself as Conrado Salas Cano. Cano explained that these obstacles will be overcome because of the advanced knowledge of aliens with whom NASA is secretly working. This enables Cano to confidently assert that in nine months we will see “the sudden appearance of a second bright star in place of Saturn when Cassini is disposed of in the atmosphere of this giant ringed planet.”

So you can look at the night sky next September to see if this has happened. But if feeling the need for unrealistic space entertainment, I suggest reading Clarke instead.

“Satellite deceiver” (Black Knight)

tesla

Many myths originated by combining unrelated tales and this method continues today. One example is the Black Knight Satellite, said to be a 13,000-year-old alien spacecraft that perpetually orbits Earth and teases us with glimpses of its existence every decade or so.  

This tale has been cobbled from various reports of satellites, signals, and UFOs. Most of these reported activities are attributable to human actions or astronomical phenomenon so there’s no reason to assert the existence of nearby ancient alien technology.

In fact, science is fascinating enough without trying to to weave science fiction into it. For instance, we can gaze in awe at Nikola Tesla’s contributions to Mankind without riding his ample coattails and making him the retroactive starting point for Black Knight Satellite contact.

But that’s what some people have done with Tesla’s 1899 report that he had detected signals from space. He thought these might be of alien origin, but scientists later realized he had picked up electromagnetic radiation from a pulsar. These are magnetized, rotating neuron stars that, again, are amazing enough on their own that there’s no need to try and finagle an alien technology angle. But Black Knight Satellite believers identify Tesla’s discovery as the starting point. From there, a series of  unrelated events have been assembled piecemeal to form a hodgepodge timeline.

The next event in this fabricated history was in the 1920s when Norwegian scientists detected Long Delay Echoes from a still-unknown source. Possible explanations include reflections from astronomical bodies, ionized gas clouds, and reflections from Earth’s ionosphere. It could also be an alien satellite, but its existence is not supported by the evidence that distinguish the other possibilities.

Next, newspapers in 1954 reported that two satellites were found to be orbiting Earth in those pre-Sputnik days. This was later shown to be a spoof peddled by a UFO hunter who was promoting his new book, but this revelation hasn’t dissuaded Black Knight Satellite enthusiasts from counting it among their pieces of evidence.

In 1960, the U.S. Navy detected an object that was initially thought by Washington to belong to neither superpower, which were the only nations who had the ability to project spacecraft into orbit. But it turned out to be a capsule casing from the previous year’s Discoverer VII launch. This switch in the “official” story is supposed to be proof of a cover-up, but why the Black Knight Satellite would need to be hidden or why the second story wouldn’t have been prepped and ready to announce if this were a conspiracy is left unexplained.

In 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper was said to have reported a UFO while aboard Mercury 9. Cooper denied this and provided transcripts from the mission to show he had been misquoted.

Ten years later, researcher Duncan Lunan analyzed  Norwegian scientists’ data and deduced that it revealed a chart pointing toward a double star in the Boötes constellation. He decided the signals constituted an invitation from the inhabitants of a planet near the constellation, an invitation that took 12,600 years to reach its recipients. Lunan later acknowledged that his conclusions were unscientific and error-laden, but his work gave the satellite the age that is associated with it.

The final piece of the disparate puzzle came in 1998, when the space shuttle Endeavor made its maiden voyage to the International Space Station. Astronauts photographed a strange object that was likely a thermal blanket lost on a spacewalk, but which was interpreted by believers to be the first photographic proof of the Black Knight Satellite. Astronaut Jerry Ross told reporters that he and others were trying to wrap thermal blankets around four trunnion pins on the ISS node when one got detached from its tether and floated away.

If it was instead the Black Knight Satellite, it was remarkable serendipity that it happened to come along at the same orbit, altitude, and time that the ISS was whirring by. The fact that the object sauntered away after six minutes is consistent with what an object the size and weight of a thermal blanket would do.

That wasn’t enough for YouTube commentator Mercenaries512, who insisted that image-conscious NASA would never release a video of its mistake. So while conspiracy theorists accuse NASA of cover-ups, they also consider the lack of cover-up to be proof.

Then there is the online commentator who called all this a fulfillment of Nostradamus’ vision that “Mankind will discover objects in space sent to us by the watchers.”

The ISS is an excellent example of international cooperation and serves as a long-term laboratory to conduct studies on biology, physics, astronomy, medicine, and meteorology, with capabilities that exceed that of traditional manned spacecraft. But to some it is merely another square on a quilt woven together with overactive imagination, self-importance, and paranoia.

“Invasion of the Space Spiders” (Alien angel hair)

spider

As Y2K approached, an ominous substance slowly descended from the Western Australia sky. A man recorded to history only as Peter reported seeing oodles of white threads floating down and covering power lines, trees, and digeridoo-playing kangaroos. Similar to how extraterrestrial visitors to the U.S. always vacation in the Nevada Desert instead of on the Boston Common, these aliens chose the Outback while eschewing the Sydney Opera House during their 1999 sojourn.

In his report to the Australian UFO Registry, the mononymous Peter explained that the threads were not webbing nor a sticky substance. But that only tells us what it wasn’t. As to what it was, UFOlogists consider it the remnant of ionized air that peels off an alien spacecraft’s electromagnetic field. However, there exists a more Earthly explanation.

Before $800 hammers and toilet seats, wasteful military wasteful spending was focused on UFOs. In 1968, a resulting report described these threads as “a fibrous material which falls in large quantities, but is unstable and disintegrates and vanishes soon after falling.”

The report noted that the composition and origin was sometimes uncertain, but we now have a good idea of what it is. In the case Down Under, an entomologist reported that his car had been covered with the same mystery silly string that had perplexed Peter. The bug scientist further noted that his vehicle was inundated by hundreds of baby spiders, confirming his suspicion that the thread was the result of an arachnid migration. The entomologist deduced the substance to be siliceous cotton, better known as angel hair. He said that through a common phenomenon called ballooning, the eight-legged beasts disperse cotton when hatching from their cocoon. The wind catches the angel hair and carries it away, where it quickly disintegrates.

Less frequently, atmospheric electricity may cause floating dust particles to become polarized, and the attraction between these particles forces them together and this produces a substance sometimes mistaken for angel hair. In any event, the substances have a rational explanation, which means that iconoclasts need to rear their contrarian heads. 

Some UFOlogists see an extraterrestrial connection and there have been reports of angel hair from the sky for at well over a millennium. The better known manifestations include an appearance at Nuremberg in 1561 and in Portugal in 1917 as part of the Miracle at Fatima. The latter marked a period unusual solar activity that credulous Catholics took to be Jesus and friends dropping by for hot chocolate. There is no way to examine these claims, making them more appealing to those who use them as part of their proof.

UFO researcher Brian Boldman cited 225 cases of angel hair between beginning in 679 CE, and he says 57 percent also featured a UFO. With a percentage that significant, he asserts there may be a connection. Correlation yes, causation no. Believers may see what they consider a strange craft hovering one night, which prompts them to suspect they are observing angel hair remnants the next morning. Or they may come across angel hair and begin to suspect that the seeming helicopter from last night may have been something from much farther away.

Whenever the substance is reported, it tends to soon disappear, which is consistent with the siliceous cotton that is associated with migrating spiders. At the same time, this short existence means there are few chances to analyze it. Therefore, those who like speculating that it is instead something more interesting can do so because there’s no way to test against their idea. Sure, the spider substance secretion disintegrates quickly,  but maybe so too does the ionized air created by a UFO’s magnetic field.

Like their conspiracy theorist and cryptozoologist brethren, alien hunters sometimes paint themselves as curious individuals who are “Just Asking Questions.” But I have found that they are seldom interested in receiving an answer.

Consider what happened this week when the British tabloid The Sun reported that the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may have been solved. Let me first interject that this is an example of Tooth Fairy Science, where someone attempts to determine WHY something is happening before establishing that it IS happening.

The Sun article read, “Strange clouds forming above the Bermuda Triangle could explain why dozens of ships and planes have mysteriously vanished in the notorious patch of sea. A new theory suggests the clouds are linked to 170-mph air bombs capable of bringing down planes and ships.”

The truth is, the number of craft lost over the last several decades is what would be expected of a heavy shipping lane in a hurricane-prone area. Bermuda, Miami, and Puerto Rico were subjectively chosen and these points and resultant Triangle are no more valid than any other shape one could concoct from various locales. The list of ships and planes that supposedly disappeared in the area include some that vanished literally halfway around the world but had previously passed through the Triangle. Further, some of the alleged disappearances were of ships and planes that were reported missing but eventually found.

But even if there was a mystery, paranormal believers don’t want it solved, especially not by mainstream media or the government. After the story ran, theorists pounced. A man with the somewhat presumptuous moniker Jean-Pierre proudly appealed to personal incredulity, announcing, “Most of the disappearances, if not all, happened on clear skies. I’m not buying this theory one bit and it remains a mystery.”  Next up was Olli, who was at least honest about his motivation: “I’ll take the myth and mystery over explanation. 170 mile per hour winds do not explain why a formation of planes disappear just off the coast while on radio contact, nor other disappearances.” Finally, Carol insists no answer will ever be found, declaring, “This is a mystery that will never be solved.”

And for her, it won’t be. The Bermuda Triangle, along with Atlantis, Bigfoot, angelic intervention, and alien visitors give some people more meaning in their lives. Whether they possess a desire to believe in something beyond the five senses or crave for something vaguely spiritual, they find it in these kinds of phenomenon. The world can be a scary, depressing place and we all need outlets. For some people, music, novels, and books are enough of an escape, but others seek something still deeper, and seeming mysteries can oblige.

I can relate to some degree. Now that I know who Deep Throat was, I don’t care who Deep Throat is. Now that the Red Sox have won the World Series, I don’t care if the Red Sox can win the World Series. Mysteries like Jimmy Hoffa, Jack the Ripper, and the Lost Colony of Roanoke are fascinating to contemplate, and while 80 percent of me wants to know the answers, the rest of me acknowledges that the appeal of those things would dissipate if the answers were revealed. 

But I wouldn’t be looking for ways to counter what researchers announced unless I had good reason to suspect their evidence was fabricated, incomplete, or misinterpreted. Finding the truth must always be paramount. I could never let the love of a good mystery stand in the way of valid solutions.

Besides ionized air, UFO lovers also suggest the angel hair may be excess energy converted into matter. No testing done on the angel hair or any research supports either of these conclusions. A third suggestion is offered by Diane Tessman at ufocasebook.com. She suspects that the beings piloting the flying saucers are plasma life forms and that the angel hair is left behind by “plasma activity,” not explaining what that is, how she knows it’s happening, or how we would know what it should look like.

She does relate an experiment during which “Plasma electromagnetic heat and radiation coupled with water and dust created a substance like angel hair.” Perhaps it did, but that is insufficient reason to presume angel hair follicles are leftovers from the plasma activities of the Thing From Zontar.

It is no coincidence that UFOs were never sighted before the advent of Earthly flying machines. There were no flying saucers observed by contemporaries of Lafayette, Francis Bacon, or Eric the Red. This strongly suggests that all the crafts observed over the last century are terrestrial.

Moreover, the gaping problem with the entire UFO field is that virtually all of the reported sightings come from inadvertent witnesses. If campers, motorists, and hikers had combined to see thousands of alien spacecraft, there should be upwards of a million sightings from professional astronomers and amateur stargazers. 

“Summers school” (Worldwide Community of People of the New Message from God)

angelaliens

While there are reasons to question the accuracy of Marshall Summers’ writings, there’s no doubting his drive and determination in cranking them out. For nearly three dozen years, Summers has been busy relaying messages from angelic beings, and filled almost 10,000 pages with visions of doom and a possible escape hatch. Not since Joseph Smith’s heyday has someone been so voluminous in transcribing voices in their heads.

Summers writes of an impending vast darkness, which is contradicted by his having warned about this since 1982. His vague visions of unprecedented calamity are similar to missives from Nostradamus and in Revelation. It also resembles the conspiracy theories which tell of an ultimate disaster which takes place in an Eternal Tomorrow that is always on the cusp of happening yet never quite arrives. The central theme of Summers’ writings is that extreme negative change is imminent, owing to an outside threat, and humans need to prepare for it. After all, it won’t do much good for Summers to print books, press CDs, and make website advertising space available if no one is left to buy them.

For tax purposes, Summers operates under the banner of the Worldwide Community of People of the New Message from God. Summers seems to be alluding to the Biblical deity, using language like angels and creator, but he keeps it generic enough that adherents of other religions or an unspecified spirituality can buy into it as well. Extraterrestrial beings figure prominently in the writings and these beings work with governments, so he’s got the alien and conspiracy crowds covered as well.

In a typical message, Summers relates that we are “at a time of great change, conflict and upheaval,” which describes every period in history. Despite mirroring terrifying prophecies from other religions, Summers claims his is a new and improved doomsday since it includes aliens. He clarifies that only he receives these messages, so ignore any voices in your head you might be hearing.

An interviewer asked Summers how he knew the messages were genuine. He said his certainty of their legitimacy was the proof, a ridiculous non-answer. He offers an equally weak explanation for how others will know he’s revealing the truth, saying they need only to open themselves to the message and it will be revealed. When asked what it’s like receiving these messages, he could only feebly offer, “It can’t be described.” Likewise, when pressed for evidence of his claims, he said, “The evidence is all around us.”

He insinuates that no explanation will suffice for those who are doubtful, which is rubbish. If a satisfactory explication were made using sound science and it met the demands we ask of any other unsubstantiated claim; if he got his angelic presence on speed dial to help him with the James Randi Challenge; if he made a public series of specific predictions that consistently came true, he would win millions of new converts, including members of the skeptic community.

Instead, Summers expects his readers to unquestionably accept notions such as a species of advanced, enlightened aliens who wish to do us harm. Not ray-gun zapping or kidnapping for slave labor, but by being superficially cordial in hopes of gaining our allegiance for unspecified future plans that will increase their power.

Summers commits perhaps the most comically literal circular reasoning I’ve ever seen. Consider this example from an interview :

“What is Wisdom?”

“Being able to live with knowledge.”

“What is knowledge?”

“Living with Wisdom.”

He has a more direct answer about what people can do to prepare for the alien invasion: Buy his stuff.

 

“The tooth comes out” (Tooth Fairy Science)

tooth

When my children put teeth under their pillow, they wake up with substantially more money than I did at their age.

If attempting to ascertain why, I could examine various factors, such as whether the amount the Tooth Fairy leaves has kept up with inflation, if the Fairy values incisors more than molars, and if the time in between lost choppers impacts the amount left. I could query 1,000 children, analyze results for socio-economic trends and determine if there is a correlation between the frequency of Tooth Fairy visits and the sell of home security systems. I may even endeavor to conclude once and for all if the Fairy is male, female, or androgynous. The findings could be put in a snazzy hardcover book with impressive graphics and detailed footnotes. Yet none of this would establish that a stealthy, mobile spirit is replacing extracted calcified objects with cash.

Tooth Fairy Science refers to doing research on an unverified phenomenon to determine what its effects are, rather than to ascertain if it exists. It is post hoc reasoning in research form. The phrase was coined by Dr. Harriet Hall.

This shoddy science is a regular feature of studies into ghosts, cryptozoology, reincarnation, alien visitors, alternative medicine, parapsychology, and creationism.

I have three co-workers who believe our office is haunted. Curiously, this spirit only manifests itself when the workers are by themselves at night. Perhaps he is nocturnal and dislikes crowds. We have ample video and audio equipment in the office, and we could set these up and record what times bumps most occur, detect any unexplained shadows, and note any high-pitched whistles. This data could by analyzed and a conclusion reached about the ghost’s characteristics. But this would not take into account wind, pipes, electromagnetic interference, or a worker on floor above coming in at 11 p.m. We would have to assume the ghost’s existence and attribute these factors to it.

Similarly, cryptozoologists will shoot sonar into Loch Ness or look for disturbed vegetation in Bigfoot’s supposed stomping grounds, then attribute any findings they consider consistent with their monster to be proof the animal was there. As such, they do not consider other explanations, such as the sonar detecting a bloom of algae and zooplankton, or a warthog beating Sasquatch to the trap.

That’s because when Fairy Tale scientists uncover data that is consistent with their hypothesis, they assume the data confirms it. For example, psychiatrist Ian Stevenson spent years collecting stories from people who claimed to be reincarnated. He used these anecdotes to support his belief in reincarnation, and he used reincarnation to explain the stories, a textbook case of circular reasoning.

Moving onto alien abduction, John Mack talked with persons who claimed to have been taken by extraterrestrial beings. He assumed the stories to be real instead of considering that he might have implanted the ideas by asking leading questions, such as, “Was the alien about four feet tall,” as opposed to “How tall was the alien?” The mental state and susceptibility of the subject was not considered, nor were explanations like fraud, attention-seeking, or sleep paralysis. 

Alien abductees aren’t the only subjects that spend time on a Tooth Fairy scientist’s couch. So do alternative medicine patients. Chi, meridians, and blockages are assumed to exist in “energy” medicines such as craniosacral therapy, iridology, therapueitic touch, reflexology, chiropractic, Reiki, Ayuvedic, and more. I have addressed the rest of these in previous posts, so we’ll address Therapeutic Touch here.

First, Therapeutic Touch is neither. The practitioner’s hands are close to the patient, but are never on them. As to the therapy part, practitioners claim to be able to sense a patient’s “human energy field” with their hands, then manipulate the field by moving their hands near a patient’s skin to improve their health. Scientists have detected and measured minute energies down to the subatomic level, but have never found a human energy field. Nine-year-old Emily Rosa designed a controlled test of the practice which Therapeutic Touchers failed spectacularly. Any seeming success is because of the fluctuating nature of many illnesses, the placebo effect, confirmation bias, and nonspecific effects. The latter is a common error and refers to confusing the effects of practitioner-patient interaction with the supposed effect of the treatment.

In a test that proponents claimed proved Therapeutic Touch’s validity, researchers gauged the effects of the technique on reducing nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. All patients were on the same chemotherapy regimen and they were randomly divided into three groups of 36 patients. The first group received usual Therapeutic Test treatment, the second group got a similar treatment except the practitioners’ hands were farther from the patients, and the third group received no treatment. A single practitioner performed all the treatments, which was fatal to conducting a proper study because he should not have known which patients were receiving which treatment.

Since there is no evidence the energy field exists, there can be no evidence that how far the practitioner’s hands are from the patient would make a difference. The alleged energy can’t be measured, so there’s no reason to believe any energy was transferred to, or benefited, any patient. While the authors claimed the study showed Therapeutic Touch worked, they had failed to establish that the central feature of the practice even existed.

Likewise, parapsychologists are quick to point to rare instances of a subject performing better than chance as proof that various forms of ESP are legitimate. Unsatisfactory results are considered as the power being unable to be accessed due to cosmic interference, negative energy from a skeptical observer, or some other ad hoc reason. They look to justify the failure as owing to a particular cause rather than the cause being that the power doesn’t exist.

Then we have the creationists. The Institute for Creation Research website informs us, “The very dependability of each day’s processes are a wonderful testimony to the design, purposes, and faithfulness of the Creator. The universe is very stable. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Earth turns on its axis and always cycles through its day at the same speed every time.”

All of these phenomenon are explicable through known laws of physics and astronomy, and the ICR has affirmed the consequent by saying if there is order in the universe, there has to be a god controlling it, and since we see that order, a god exists. They attribute any majesty to this deity without bothering to prove his existence first. It’s one thing to do this as faith in one’s religion. It’s quite another to claim this as science while bypassing the entire Scientific Method.

I’m going to have to wrap this up. My daughter lost another tooth so I’ve got more research to conduct. 

“Illogical alien” (Otherworldy visitors)

'Great job Zork, we're lost... you couldn't find Uranus with both hands and a flashlight!'

All manner of accomplishments and actions have been attributed to aliens, who for some reason seem to have a travel preference for the Americas. There are relatively few sightings or handiwork left behind on other continents. Some aliens are malevolent beings like the Robot Monster, while others like E.T. are friendly. Still others are neutral and satisfy themselves by scratching images on Ica rocks.

Aliens are also said to be responsible for Nazca lines, crop circles, destroying Atlantis, building Pyramids, reproduction experiments, Mayan temples, cattle mutilation, unpleasant prodding, New Mexico desert wreckage, and providing the blueprint for reverse engineering of advanced spacecraft. For all this, believers have yet to produce a confirmed alien artifact, souvenir, implant, or DNA sample. This is sometimes attributed to aliens having the ability to erase memories. More ad hoc reasoning explains why extraterrestrial creatures would travel unimaginable distances just to build stuff or screw with us and never engage in meaningful outreach or dialogue. It’s because the various alien populations have entered into a no-human contact agreement. This makes the lack of proof the proof.

We don’t know of any life on other planets, though there could be. There may be microbes, which would be significant but not that fascinating. There may be an equivalent of a mammal or reptile, which would be better but still not entirely cool. The best would be intelligent life, which I define as being able to appreciate what finding comparable life elsewhere means. For example, if intelligent life were discovered at the outer edge of the Milky Way, humans would comprehend this and understand the implications, whereas goats would not.

With billions of galaxies each having billions of stars, most of which are orbited by multiple planets, life could have developed on one or more of them. In the search for this life, astronomers look for traces of water and oxygen in the Goldilocks zone. On one hand, this could be myopic, as life may have other ways of developing. On the other hand, this is the only way we KNOW life can form, so it makes the most sense to look there first.

But if beings do exist elsewhere, the idea of them dropping by unannounced seems highly improbable due to the distance. Earthlings are 500 light seconds from the sun, but four light years away from the second nearest star, Alpha Centauri. That equals 24 trillion miles. Buck Rogers would need a sustained speed of 100 million miles per hour to get there in 30 years. By contrast, the fastest spacecraft to leave Earth, Voyager, travels at 40,000 miles an hour.

So aliens would need to travel at amazing speeds, plus keep a population housed, fed, clothed, medicated, entertained, cooperative, and sustained, probably for millenniums. Also necessary would be equipment repairs, plus planning and good fortune to avoid the perils of deep space. All this just to flatten some corn, scribble some artwork, or take skin samples from unwilling medical subjects.

Accounts of alien abduction have precursors in Medieval and ancient times. Some European nuns believed they had been seduced by demons. BCE Greek women reported that the gods Jupiter and Dionysus had incarnated as animals, then had sex with them, resulting in Minotaur and Centaur offspring. There were no reports of alien visitation until man began pondering interstellar travel in the late 19th Century. Jules Verne and the 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon, which featured a rocket crashing into the lunar body’s eye, popularized the concept of otherworldly beings.

Whether holding a prod or a paintbrush, the aliens are described by witnesses as being about four feet tall, with heads shaped like inverted eggs, having large craniums, slanted eyes, usually earless and with very small noses. This mirrors how movies, novels, and comic books have usually portrayed them. The first widespread abduction tale was that of Betty and Barney Hill, who told their story following a hypnosis session in 1961. Hypnosis can have limited value in specific instances, but is an unreliable method of accessing lost memories, and can even be used to create false ones.

Mr. Hill reported that the aliens had “wraparound eyes.” Not coincidentally, beings with these features were broadcast 12 days earlier on The Outer Limits. After the Hills story became public, reports became commonplace as the cultural delusion and communal reinforcement took hold. It helped that this took place during the Cold War, a time of a technological and arms races against a mostly faceless Red Menace. The situation seems to have not been reversed in Soviet Union, as its citizens had no access to Invaders From Mars or Flash Gordon comics. Most reports indicate a period of forgetfulness after the encounter. Hypnosis or some other type of suggestion session is needed to lift the fog of being sprayed with alien amnesia juice.

Scientists and skeptics have answered many of the challenges. The crop circle ruse was uncovered by hidden night vision cameras. Erich von Däniken claimed to have alien artwork but this fraud was exposed. He had hired someone to paint spaceships and aliens on rocks and tried to pass them off as ancient. Cattle and other animals can take on an eerie, bloated appearance after scavengers eat their tongues, eyeballs, and other soft parts.

While science demands proof, the alien visitation position asks for considerably less evidence. Nevada businessman Robert Bigelow financed a survey to determine the frequency of alien abduction. It asked respondents if they had ever sensed a presence in the room, had an hour unaccounted for, seen unusual lights, noticed unexplained scars, or had a sensation of flying. Answering four of five yes was counted as evidence of having been snatched by aliens, an especially absurd illustration of magical thinking. It seems more like evidence for having fallen down drunk.

 

 

“Goode grief” (Truth11.org)

NAZIMARS

I spend enough time in critical thinking circles and examining anti-science and conspiracy claims that I have developed a sensitive Poe-meter. The satires are getting better and the ideas they ridicule are becoming more unhinged, so distinguishing between the two is getting tougher, but I can usually tell. But I failed when I came across truth11.org.

The site hawks plenty of generic conspiracies, along the lines of “Monsanto and the Rockefellers pulled off the Boston Marathon false flag in order to cause autism in the monkeys which the Bilderberger aliens used to start the AIDS virus,” or theories to that effect.

But my meter misfired when I saw my first headline from the site: “German secret societies and U.S. corporations nuked subterranean Martians and built slave colonies.”

I clicked on it, expecting to enjoy a good Poe, but ended up finding the real thing, which is usually better. The website goes beyond the normal conspiracy. The idea of Bush minions pulling off 9/11 with explosives is ever so trite. From truth11.org, we learn that instead lasers and mysterious orbs did the trick. The apparent airplanes being actually holograms coordinated to arrive at the precise time as the weapons of light. 

Truth11.org frequently features the happenings of secret societies – secret societies the website always know everything about. The articles provide no substantiating evidence beyond the words of someone calling himself Corey Goode. This man claims to have been a member of a number of projects and organizations that are far more clandestine than the societies he aims to expose.

With regard to Mars, he relates that the reason U.S. corporations conspired with a German Skull & Bones variant to eliminate the planet’s reptilians and insectoids was to access precious metals. This necessitated first exterminating the indigenous aliens, followed by the building of an advanced infrastructure on the red planet. This means it has been under construction for 70 years without so much as a cement truck spotted in one of the craters.

The appeal to ancient authority happens even when dealing with aeronautics, for Goode describes the spacecraft used as being based on BCE Hindu technology. Just to be safe, he had the reverse engineering take place at Area 51.

This website uses extreme post hoc reasoning in lieu of evidence. For instance, it cites a federal law that stipulates if any U.S. corporation ever mines in space, it would not be subject to government oversight. And this law is used as proof that Americans and Germans cooperated on a Martian genocide.

This eradication of Marvin and his underground cronies was followed by the enslavement of engineers and business executives, who were lulled to Mars by being told they would live in a futuristic utopia they would help build. They certainly made for the most affluent and learned chattel in history.   

Whether a theory is as unbelievable as this one, or is one that is more mainstream among conspiracy theorists, the hook is the same: The listener, owing to his shrewdness and independent thinking, is privy to a fantastic secret. This is all leading to the glorious day of revelation that takes place in an Eternal Tomorrow. It is always so close to happening, but never quite arrives. The website reports, “Goode remains confident that his disclosures are a prelude to massive document dump by a secret space program alliance that will finally confirm the truth.”

While waiting for this verification of alien extermination committed by Nazi leftovers, we can learn about giants sleeping in chambers that arrest the aging process. Goode again reaches into the ancient angle grab bag to explain the chambers were constructed by an unspecified lost civilization using undefined crystal technologies. This created a time warp in which 30,000 Earth years speed by while the slumbering behemoths age just 30 minutes.

And while it’s been going on for these tens of thousands of years, the payoff is again taking place in the Eternal Tomorrow: “Goode believes the beings are still alive, and in the process of being revived.”

Goode never explains where the giants came from, what they are, why they are super hibernating, who oversees this, or if it’s good, bad, or neutral. But he does relate that Abraham Lincoln claims to have seen them, so that says something for the honest nature of these accounts.

When the giants wake up, they will learn that Mankind has developed a manner of space travel using the sun as a portal. Goode said this mode of transportation employs “a form of hyper-dimensional mathematics based on sacred geometry.”

And this is just the first of many galactic airport layovers: “This model links all the stars in our galaxy,” allowing astronauts to travel anywhere in the Milky Way. These travel nodes also exist in places such as the Bermuda Triangle and open and close without warning. When activated, these nodes transport unwilling ship captains and airplane pilots anywhere in the galaxy.

Back on Earth, Goode is captivated by a humanoid robot statue at the Grove Hotel in Watford, England. Specifically, he ponders what this means for our future physiology. The Bilderbergers met at Grove in 2013, so Goode deduces that was an endorsement of the statue, and by extension, transforming people into Avatar warriors. This same hotel also hosted a Google event, and the company’s director of engineering is someone Goode describes as a transhumanism proponent.

Transhumans will largely resemble people but will have immense intelligence, strength, and durability. Not quite Superman, but at least Underdog. Goode said the Google executive “must have felt a kindred spirit with the metallic humanoid sculptures. This will lead to a new arms race that will force our society into a transhuman future.”

Or maybe they could just use the weapons they used to nuke the Martians.