Thursday, January 01, 2015
The myth of radioactive UFOs? Part 4: Condon et al.
The dubious nature of radioactivity claims regarding UFOs is nothing new. The information presented in this series of blog posts shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Over the years, there have been some red flags published regarding alleged UFO-related activity.
One of the most relevant was in the infamous Condon Report, which most ufologists agree was a public relations exercise more than a scientific study of UFOs. Yet within it are actually some excellent resources and discussions about the analysis of UFO data and evidence. the ultimate conclusion of Condon may have been flawed, but the contents of the report itself are very significant.
For example, in Chapter 3, on physical evidence, outspoken debunker Roy Craig noted:
The independent evidence most frequently claimed is presence of unusual radioactivity at the site. In cases where such claims were checked by our field teams, (32, 42) the claim was found to be untrue. In one case (22), radioactive material was found to be present by Canadian investigators and in other cases, (e. g. Fisherville, Va., 12-21-64) which could no longer be checked, testimony by persons other than the UFO observer supported a claim that the site was found to be radioactive. In such cases, however, if radioactive material actually were present, the possibility that it was placed there by humans cannot be ignored. If humans are known to have visited the site before official confirmation of presence of radioactive material has been made, and the material found is either a naturally occurring radioactive mineral or a commercially available luminous paint, the presence of this material serves to weaken any claim of strange origin of the markings.
The cases referred to by Craig were Case 32 (Snippy the horse mutilation) and Case 42 (Herb Schirmer CE3), where no radiation was ever detected. The other was Case 22, the Falcon Lake case, which Craig personally investigated and decided was a hoax.
Curiously, Craig also rejected the Fisherville case (http://www.ufocasebook.com/stauntonvirginia1964.html) even though it would have been supportive of radioactivity associated with a landed UFO. From the NICAP book UFOs: A New Look, published in 1969, the case involved an odd structed object that landed and left behind radiation that could be detected easily.
...a few days later, a local radio program announced the formation of a UFO investigations group at Eastern Mennonite College, under the direction of Dr. Ernest G. Gehman, a professor of German at the college. At his wife's urging, [the witness] got in touch with Gehman by way of the radio station to report his observation.
On December 31, Dr. Gehman traveled alone to the landing site and made a geiger counter test of the area. An extremely high reading was obtained, and was verified by the arrival of two DuPont research engineers who, having heard about the landing, had driven to the site the same day Dr. Gehman made his investigation.
In fact, Dr. Gehman had been able to locate the landing spot (later verified by the witness) by the readings on his Geiger counter.
But Craig thought the radioactivity had likely been planted by someone, probably the witness.
Craig pointed out the major problem in studying landing traces:
The existence of an imprint of odd shape or a circular area of crushed vegetation often can be established. Its mere existence does not prove, however, that the marking was made by a strange being or vehicle. Demonstration of a connection between such markings and strange objects has thus far not been accomplished. Attempts to establish such connection must still depend upon personal testimony. Generally, personal testimony includes the reported sighting of an UFO in the area of the discovered imprints or nest. Quite frequently, however, UFO origin of the markings is assumed, even though no UFO was seen in the area near the time the markings must have been made.
The last sentence is obviously true of modern-day physical trace cases, such as crop circles.
But then he sums up the problem of scientific study of UFO-related physical traces quite nicely:
Generally there are no physical tests which can be applied to a claimed saucer landing site to prove the origin of the imprints.
Yes, there it is. There is no way to prove scientifically that a UFO left behind a physical trace. So the value of field investigation is what, exactly?
And so it goes.