|The woo is out there|
|Aliens did it and ran away|
“”UFOs are real. The Air Force doesn't exist.
An unidentified flying object is any observed atmospheric phenomenon for which there is no apparent explanation. These are more likely to occur at night, since many identifiable flying objects have funny flashing lights and little else to go by in the dark.
How "unidentified" a phenomenon is depends partly on the quality of the observation and the amount of effort invested in identifying it. Multiple observation locations and reasonably accurate bearings and azimuths can make identification much easier. Single observations of brief phenomena are more difficult to analyze.
The basic list of what needs to be eliminated for something to remain "unidentified" would proceed from known commercial and private airflights, to harder to verify military flights, to rocket launches and corresponding spent stage ejections, to weather balloons, meteorites, kites, Ball lightning, atmospheric phenomena (like the Northern Lights, or strangely lit clouds), Iridium flares, pranksters, and, of course, alien spacecraft.
Barring omniscience, there will always be some things in the sky that humanity cannot identify. However, in popular meaning, "Unidentified Flying Object" has come to mean "Alien Spacecraft" by default. Identifying UFOs as flying saucers negates the "U" part of UFO, of course. So far, no verified alien machinery has been found on Earth. We have, however, left examples of alien machinery on the Moon, Mars, and Venus. There are also two or three objects hurtling out of the solar system, on their way to starring roles in Star Trek movies.
 How UFOs got turned into "flying saucers" and gathered media interest
 First wave of interest
The first notable wave of interest in UFOs was actually in the 1890s. Interestingly, this helps put later waves of interest in UFOs in perspective: because popular culture had yet to define what a UFO was supposed to look like, the spacecrafts described were rarely shaped like flying saucers (in one incident, the supposed craft was shaped "like a giant cigar") and the flashing lights later common to many stories were much rarer. The craft were also much slower (though they would've passed for fast at the time).
 Foo Fighters
"Foo Fighter" was the term given by Allied pilots to unusual aerial phenomena and so-called UFOs they encountered during World War II. There were reports from both theatres of war, namely Europe and the Pacific. Various explanations have been put forward, including St. Elmo's Fire, Nazi secret weapons, ball lightning, the planet Venus, and even disorientated pilots suffering from vertigo.
 Kenneth Arnold
On December 10, 1946, a U.S. Marine C-46 transport plane crashed on the southwest side of Mount Rainier in Washington State, and was not located until the next summer.  A private pilot named Kenneth Arnold volunteered to aid with the search. While he was circling the mountain he spotted a cluster of nine brightly glowing meteors rushing past his plane toward the massive, remote bulk of Mt. Adams to the south.
Since they were pieces of a meteoric fireball in the process of breaking up, they seemed to be flying in formation, so Arnold assumed they were aircraft, and he naturally interpreted their brightness to be the sun glinting off of polished aluminum. The pieces were tumbling, and this made them hop up and down in the airstream. Arnold told reporters they flew "like a saucer skipping over water."
This was a highly publicised UFO sighting, and it sparked a national obsession with "flying saucers" that bordered on mass hysteria. Suddenly there were many more sightings. Some were ordinary mistakes but most were outright copycat hoaxes. An important point that is often missed is how Arnold's description of the actions of his nine meteors skipping like saucers somehow got garbled into the shape of the objects being like saucers, and once that got locked into the public's mind, all UFOs suddenly began to look like saucers.
Many frauds came forward to push this hysteria, including George Adamski who claimed to have ridden across the solar system with Venusians.
 Project Mogul
In the late 1940s, the USAF ran Project Mogul, a top secret attempt to detect sound waves from potential Soviet nuclear explosions using microphones flown by high-altitude balloons. On July 7, 1947 Mogul Flight #4 crashed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. A rancher found the debris field and brought some of the debris to the nearby air base. The public information officer at Roswell Army Air Field made a press release reporting that a crashed "flying disc" has been recovered. The press went nuts, cementing the meme of the "flying saucer" in the public's consciousness. After the sensation hit the headlines, the officer was reprimanded, and new information was announced: the wreckage was from a weather balloon. Years after the fact, the story got embellished and mutated into different versions, becoming the archetypal "crashed saucer" myth, complete with recovered alien corpses (or live aliens!) and a government cover-up.
 The rise of the conspiracy
The first was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which sparked a poisonous conspiracy mindset that, before, had largely been found only within fringe groups. The second event, the Tet Offensive in 1968, seemed to validate this mindset to many people, who realized with shock that the government had lied to them and victory in the Vietnam War was actually nowhere in sight. The third and final event was the cover-ups and incredible abuses of power of the Nixon Administration in the Watergate affair.
It was only after this vast attitude shift occurred that people looked back and read ominous things into the comedy of errors that took place at the beginning of the UFO era. Alien bases were imagined to exist in the southwestern United States. An entire alphabet soup of imaginary government agencies were cooked up, that supposedly controlled all information on the alien presence. Even the information that these agencies existed was, conveniently, also classified top secret. There were imaginary projects to recover downed flying saucers and imaginary projects to overhaul and test-fly recovered flying saucers. And the very lack of evidence for any of these claims was put forth as proof that a conspiracy to hide the truth existed.
In the fall of 1977 and again in the spring of 1982, Steven Spielberg made a pair of movies (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) with "good" aliens and "bad" federal agencies that tapped into the new mythology and made enormous amounts of money. In reality, no coordinated government plan to respond to alien contact, if there even is/was any, has ever been made public.
 Actual conspiracy
It has been alleged by at least one wing-nut that the government created the alien conspiracy theories to provide a cover for other projects, such as the Lockheed Skunk Works. Gullible farmers would be shown so-called "alien crash sites," and told to keep quiet. This cunning plan did two things:
- Caused them to tell everyone they knew.
- Created the impression of a government cover-up.
 The USAF line
The USAF did actually launch an investigation of UFOs - Project Blue Book - that lasted between 1952 and 1970. It didn't find anything interesting. They received technical assistance from imagery interpretation specialists at the Central Intelligence Agency.
CIA documents indicate that the agency monitored the UFO situation from 1952. In 1952, the CIA reacted to the new rash of sightings by forming a special study group within the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) and the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI). Edward Tauss reported for the group that most UFO sightings could be easily explained, but recommended that the Agency continue monitoring the problem, in coordination with the Air Force Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC). He also urged that CIA conceal its interest from the media and the public, "in view of their probable alarmist tendencies".
Upon receiving the report, Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI) wp: Robert Amory, Jr. assigned responsibility for the UFO investigations to OSI's Physics and Electronics Division. Amory, who asked the group to focus on the national security implications of UFOs, was relaying concerns from the Director of Central Intelligence, wp: Walter Bedell Smith's concerns. Smith wanted to know whether or not the Air Force investigation of flying saucers was sufficiently objective and how much more money and manpower would be necessary to determine the cause of the small percentage of unexplained flying saucers. Smith believed "there was only one chance in 10,000 that the phenomenon posed a threat to the security of the country, but even that chance could not be taken." According to Smith, it was the CIA's responsibility by statute to coordinate the intelligence effort required to solve the problem. Smith also wanted to know what use could be made of the UFO phenomenon in connection with US psychological warfare efforts.
After the BLUE BOOK report, in 1967, the Air Force issued a contract, to the University of Colorado, for the study of UFOs. The principal investigator from the University was Dr. E.U. Condon, director of the National Bureau of Standards from 1946 to 1950. The project gained some support from the Central Intelligence Agency. The 'Condon Report' was published in 1969.
From the National Photo-Interpretation Center (NPIC), Condon's group was allowed access to classified material through the collateral SECRET level (a relatively low level of intelligence category). Information was provided under the rules: "
- "Any work performed by NPIC to assist Dr. Condon in his investigation will not be identified as work accomplished by CIA. Dr. Condon was advised by Mr. Lundahl to make no reference to CIA in regard to this work effort. Dr. Condon stated that if he felt it necessary to obtain an official CIA comment he would make a separate distinct entry into CIA not related to contacts he has with NPIC.
- "NPIC will not prepare any written comments, will not analyze information with the intent of drawing a conclusion, nor prepare written reports. NPIC personnel will be available to assist Dr. Condon by performing work of photogrammetric nature, such as attempting to measure objects imaged on photographs that may be part of Dr. Condon's analysis. Work performed by NPIC will be strictly of a technical nature using services and equipment generally not available elsewhere."
In summary, "At about 1235 the group adjourned to lunch and following lunch they left NPIC for a meeting with Brig.Gen Gillers at the Pentagon.
- "Most all the discussion during the morning was of an unclassified nature dealing with primary fundamentals of photogrammetry, photographic analysis and problems related to the acquiring of enough information to conduct meaningful analyses."
Condon and the same group met again in May 1967 at NPIC to hear an analysis of UFO photographs taken at Zanesville, Ohio. The analysis debunked that sighting. The committee was again impressed with the technical work performed, and Condon remarked that for the first time a scientific analysis of a UFO would stand up to investigation.
Seriously, the list of crashed UFOs (complete with body counts!) reads like a history of general aviation fatalities. Yet we are told these are advanced beings with superior technology. If they are so advanced, why do they crash so readily? Conversely, if millions of visits to Earth have been made, their crash rate is a lot lower than, say, the United States' Interstate 25 highway.
As always, the evidence is "believed by some to be buried" or "reported recovered" or "the memo also states that it was believed" and even reports from foreign governments are somehow shut down by the US government. And every single scrap of wreckage is whisked away by the Air Force which is omnipotent in this area, but so incompetent they allowed B-52s to fly over the US, unaware they were carrying live nuclear weapons (for which the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force were sacked).
There is a bit of a discrepancy between the evidence needed to show an extraterrestrial origin for UFOs and the evidence so far acquired and used by UFO enthusiasts. If they were real, it would - in principle - not be difficult to show their alien origin.
 Evidence we need
- Images taken by the aliens of their own homeworld.
- A sample of alien DNA (or the equivalent).
- Emission spectroscopy of the light emitted by the UFOs
- Exotic material never yet produced on Earth, perhaps as part of "UFO" wreckage.
- A mathematical proof which would be quite routine for the alien but which has not been solved by us on Earth at this time.
- Similarly, any technology or scientific theory - unification of quantum mechanics and relativity would be nice.
 Evidence we got
- Blurry pictures of hubcaps captured mid-toss.
- Unsteady handheld video of some lights floating in the darkness which could well be the parking lot of a desert roadhouse a half-mile away.
- A black dot seen in two frames.
- Anecdotes and stories - but never photographic evidence - of closer encounters with spacecraft.
- Pictures created by a "how to make your own UFO" guide.
- Project Blue Book, cataloguing every UFO story anyone bugged the USAF with for eighteen years and listing why pretty much every one was conventionally explicable.
 Conclusions on evidence
Now with the wide spread of cheap mobile phone cameras, high quality point & shoot cameras, as well as cheap, high definition handheld recorders an influx of much clearer and well-focused, UFO recordings are expected. Any time now. Aaaaaany time now... indeed, the quality of UFO evidence has not increased with the technological ability to capture it.
UFO proponents usually defend the lack of evidence based on a form of special pleading for UFOs. Perhaps science shouldn't discount eyewitnesses, no matter how drunk, or should drop some of its intellectual rigour for the sake of UFOs - say, to forget about reproducing any experiments, as most of the time no two UFO reports ever cite the same details with true independence.
 Genuine Weirdness
While it can be assumed that a large amount of UFO sighting are either mistakes or bullshit there are several examples of genuine weirdness surrounding UFOs. There have been numerous reports of UFOs by credible witnesses, ranging from airline pilots, to Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper, to former POTUS Jimmy Carter. While these may have been, like other reports of UFOs, simple cases of mistaken identity, it proves that there are credible witnesses of UFO phenomena and that not everyone who sees them is batshit crazy. A notable example of odd behaviour by the government was the 2006 O'Hare International UFO sighting, during which over a dozen employees witnessed numerous UFOs over gate C-17. The FAA declined to investigate and stated the sighting was a "weather phenomenon." Many UFOlogists state that this runs counter to FAA regulation, which decrees that any potential security threat be investigated. Finally, during Project Blue Book, the last serious USAF investigation into the UFO phenomenon, the committee found that 701 reported cases remain unidentified. It must be noted that this does not mean alien, it means "unidentified."
- UFOs: Russian or Martian? BBC Radio 4, Today, 18 August 2012.
 See also
- Roswell - The mother of all UFO conspiracies.
- The Battle of Los Angeles
- Everything You Know Is Wrong! -- Firesign Theatre
- Those flashing lights in the sky over there! Quick, look! Nevermind, you missed it. It was there though, I swear.
- Crop circles - revealed to be a hoax ages ago, but still used as "proof".
- Alien abduction - When UFOs get a little too close.
- Raëlism - When aliens are your creator.
- The Aetherius Society - when aliens contact humanity via a taxi driver's radio.
- SETI — projects to try to detect any alien communications.
- ↑ See Wikipedia on Aurora Borealis
- ↑ "Later," as in: "during the era of commercial aviation." Go figure.
- ↑ A Curtis Commando R5C transport plane crashes into Mount Rainier, killing 32 U.S. Marines
- ↑ The Roswell Incident and Project Mogul, The Skeptical Enquirer
- ↑ Return to Roswell, The Skeptical Enquirer
- ↑ Ramsay, Robin. "Disinformation About UFOs." Conspiracy Theories. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006. 114-25. Print.
- ↑ At least according to Ed Stein...
- ↑ Of course, that's what they want you to think.
- ↑ Gerald K. Haines. "CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90: A Die-Hard Issue". https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/97unclass/ufo.html.
- ↑ "Visit of Dr. Condon to NPIC, 20 February 1967". Condon 1967. http://www.ufocrashsite.com/articles/foia/foia-cia-condonvisitsnpic.php. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- ↑ Peter Sturrock (1987). "An Analysis of the Condon Report on the Colorado UFO Project". p. 75. http://www.ufoskeptic.org/sturrock/toc.html.
- ↑ i.e., not including material containing code word or sensitive compartmented information
- ↑ "Visit of Dr. Condon to NPIC, 20 February 1967". Condon 1967. Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. http://www.ufocrashsite.com/articles/foia/foia-cia-condonvisitsnpic.php. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
- ↑ http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Spectroscopic_MASINT