Monday, September 17, 2018


The problem of UFO artefacts, Part 2

“Art’s Parts”

Another such item, the bismuth sample, has been called “Art’s Parts” because it was sent anonymously to radio host Art Bell in the 1990s.

This UFO artefact has a cloudy provenance, too, but it’s nevertheless a very fascinating tale. UFO proponent Linda Moulton Howe described its acquisition in a number of lectures and presentations:

The strange layered metal came in a box through the United States Postal Service with a typed letter, and we're going back 21 years to mid April 1996, when I was doing real X-Files news reporting for a weekly broadcast called Dreamland that was hosted by Art Bell. We received the first of four typed letters each postmarked from South Carolina and signed only “A Friend.” Later, the writer called me and explained that he was active Army, on route to the Middle East and wanted me to know in case he did not come back alive. His first letter was dated April 10th 1996, and included several pieces of square-cut gray metal, not the bismuth magnesium, but allegedly other metal… odd shapes cut from the same crashed UFO.

There are startling statements that sound like science fiction, but as I read the entire first letter, no one has ever heard this from me before. Keep in mind the Army man is allegedly quoting from his now a deceased grandfather’s diary, a grandfather who said he was in a security team that surrounded a wedge-shaped craft. Quote: “Granddad spent a total of 26 weeks in the team that examined and debriefed the lone survival of the Roswell crash.” Now this crash is not Roswell this crash. It is on White Sands. The grandfather left the box with the various metal pieces in it, along with his diary of an extraordinary time in his life, and in fact an extraordinary time in the history of this world.

Now here is the first letter from the Army guy with his grandfather’s diary content: “Dear Mr. Bell, I followed your broadcast of it last year or so and have been considering whether or not to share with you and your listeners some information related to the Roswell UFO crash. My grandfather was a member of the retrieval team sent to the crash site just after the incident was reported. He died in 1974, but not before he had sat down with some of us and talked about the incident. I am currently serving in the military and hold a security clearance and do not wish to go public and risk losing my career and commission. Nonetheless, I would like to briefly tell you what my own grandfather told me about Roswell. In fact I enclose for your safekeeping samples that were in the possession of my grandfather until he died and which I have had since. His own estate was settled, as I understand it, they came from the UFO debris and were among a large batch subsequently sent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. From New Mexico my grandfather was able to appropriate them.”

Furthermore, this person’s grandfather claimed:

…they had been ringing this craft, shaped like a wedge of pie, for several hours and the military that were the backup and surrounding the area had left, but they left the security team around this craft that had been glowing with light for three hours from the bottom, and when the light went out… he reached over to the craft and pulled the six pieces off with his hand. They were brittle and he wanted to have some kind of a souvenir from whatever this was.

This is certainly the same material that has been described in TTSA materials and posts, and commented upon by Dr. Hal Puthoff among others.

UFO proponent Linda Moulton Howe advocated the scientific analysis of the artefact, but an expert in thin film technology who tested it stated explicitly:

At the most basic of levels, we would freely state that the artifact portion provided by LMH does NOT seem to be composed of elements or compounds which are unknown. Nor is it composed of alloys that appear to be of a purity or combination beyond the scope of current material science. The artifact bears a strong resemblance to irregular layered residue often found in large physical vapor deposition (PVD) coaters.

And debunker Jason Colavito noted:

A final piece of evidence suggests that the Bigelow’s men are overstating their claims. In 1996, Linda Moulton Howe commissioned technologist Nicholas A. Reiter, himself an anti-gravity researcher and a fringe believer in UFOs and paranormal things, to investigate the “Roswell sample”—i.e. the same piece that Puthoff is now promoting. Reiter determined that it was earthly and, while unusual, was not impossible. In 2001, he updated his findings with this information: “The combination of bismuth and magnesium had eluded us for four years. But then one day, we found a reference to an obscure industrial process used in the refinement of lead. The process, called the Betterton-Krohl Process, uses molten magnesium floated over the surface of liquid lead. The magnesium sucks up, or pulls bismuth impurities out of the lead! Often, the magnesium is used over and over again…” Presumably, this is the same process that was patented in 1938, producing a thin crust of layered magnesium and bismuth, which is removed from the lead. When the magnesium is reused, new layers would form. (The Fortean Times endorsed this solution in 2016.) Remember that Vallée’s sample was specifically identified as slag—i.e., industrial debris. Howe refused to publicize Reiter’s results, preferring to string along the “alien” mystery. Of course, we would need a known sample made by the industrial process to test the “alien” versions against, but the distribution of the slag in industrialized nations (Vallée claims examples from France, Argentina, and America, for example) point in favor of this solution.

The new information here is that To the Stars seems to be collecting more of the same industrial waste that Linda Moulton Howe has been cycling through the UFO circuit for 22 years.

But recently, Dr. Harold E. Puthoff, co-founder and Vice President of Science and Technology with TTSA, described this artefact thusly:

This is an open source sample. It was sent anonymously to talk show host Art Bell. The fellow claimed to be in the military. He said that this sample was picked up in a crash retrieval, and so he sent it by email. So what does that mean? Chain of custody non-existent.  Provenance questionable.  Could be a hoax. Could be some slag off of some foundry floor or whatever. However, it was an unusual sample, so we decided to take a look at it.

It was a multilayered bismuth and magnesium sample. Bismuth layers less than a human hair. Magnesium samples about ten-times the size of a human hair. Supposedly picked up in the crash retrieval of an Advanced Aerospace Vehicle. It looks like it’s been in a crash. The white lines are the bismuth; the darker areas are the magnesium separations. So the question was what about this material, so naturally we looked in all the national labs, we talked to metallurgists, we combed the entire structure of published papers. Nowhere could we find any evidence that anybody ever made one of these.

Secondly, some attempts were made to try to reproduce this material, but they couldn’t get the bismuth and magnesium layers to bond.

Thirdly, when we talked to people in the materials field who should know, they said we don’t know why anybody would want to make anything like this. It’s not obvious that it has any function.

The fact that the piece of layered material doesn’t have any overt connection to alien technology and is of uncertain provenance has not deterred hardcore believers. The suggestion that humans wouldn’t or couldn’t possibly have used bismuth in such a way implied it might have been created by aliens.

But anyway, it’s amazing we’ve gone through this and this is the kind of structure we go through a lot. You get a material sample with unusual characteristics to be evaluated, the method of manufacture is difficult to assess or reproduce, the purpose of the function is not readily apparent – as with our sample here, and then as our own technical knowledge moves forward we finally see a possible purpose or function comes to light.

It seems as though supporters of the TTSA approach are saying that even if alleged UFO artefacts are not demonstrably from alien spacecraft, they are nevertheless evidence that advanced research in composite materials does lead to knowledge about possible developments in space travel. And, if you can’t absolutely prove that a particular artefact was made on Earth, then the possibility still exists it was made elsewhere.

This is also the case with the artefacts found and promoted by Frank Kimbler, Assistant Professor of the Earth Science at the New Mexico Military Institute. He spent time combing the area near the suggested Roswell UFO crash site and discovered several very small pieces of metal that are described as being “of possible extraterrestrial origin.”

Kimler’s pieces were tested by a laboratory and he announced that the results indicated the magnesium isotope ratios in the sample were different than those of terrestrial samples, proving extraterrestrial origin.

But a review of the results by another lab disagreed, noting that the anomalous result was not as significant as stated, since error bars of the analysis were not taken into account.

The data is presented and plotted as isotopic ratios. Although AH-1 is shown as a point, it is really an area on the chart extending from 0.120 to 0.135 on the horizontal axis and from 0.125 to 0.140 on the vertical axis. (These ranges are calculated from the observed data.) It is clear that this range does in fact intersect the line and is suggestive that the AH-1 sample is not extraterrestrial.

As I reviewed the confusing back-and-forth arguments about “metamaterials” and UFOs, something jogged my memory. Colavito’s comment about “industrial waste” and a “22 year” period of time made me think about another alleged alien artefact that also caused quite a stir within ufology, but quite some time ago, again demonstrating that many aspects of current ufology are duplicating work that has been done and debated previously.

I’d read this all before: the debates over authenticity, the competing analyses, the reluctance to release results, the involvement of less-than-objective individuals, and a UFO fragment that was tested and thought to be anomalous.

And it’s missing from Vallee’s list.

It started (we think) in 1960, in Quebec, Canada.

The 3,000-lb. UFO artefact

According to the most-cited story regarding the case, on June 12, 1960, between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. EDT, a sonic boom rocked the area around Quebec City, Canada. At about the same time, a fiery object was said to fall out of the sky and split into two pieces as it fell, one somewhat larger than the other. The object was estimated to have been moving at an altitude of one to two thousand feet. Both pieces were thought to have fallen into the St. Lawrence River near Les Écureuils, about 20 miles upriver from Quebec City.

This account was said to come from a French language newspaper in Quebec, although I have been unable to find any reference to this in any of Le Devoir, La Presse, or Le Soleil, the major newspapers at the time.

Furthermore, a local UFO group investigated the report, but

…were unable to find anyone in the Les Ecureuils area who had actually heard or seen the metal fall - strange, in such a small town. So the manner in which the metal arrived at the scene still remains a mystery.
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

Nevertheless, the UFO and the objects that fell to Earth were believed associated, and the story of the “Mysterious Chunk of Space Hardware” began in earnest.

The UFO group in question was the Ottawa New Sciences Club, which was founded by Wilbert B. Smith, the legendary and controversial figure in Canadian ufology.

In its ufozine, Topside, the Ottawa group described the provenance of the found objects:

A local resident, who supplements his income by beachcombing, covered the area pretty thoroughly the first day or two of June. Then came three days of rain during which he did not work the area. When the weather cleared, he found the two pieces of metal on the shale bed… The smaller piece was close to the shore and visible at low tide; the larger one was further out into the river and was often completely submerged.
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

This “beachcomber” tried to move the larger piece but couldn’t, so he:

…loaded the small 800-lb. piece and sold it for one cent a pound to a scrap metal dealer on Quebec City where it was erroneously classified as non-ferrous metal. The large magnetic crane used for handling the scrap would not lift the metal due to its low magnetic permeability, so it was pushed into a pile of non-ferrous scrap and eventually shipped to Japan.
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

That’s right; a possible alien artefact ended up in a scrap heap somewhere in Japan, if it ever made it there at all.

But now the good news: the other piece was taken to a major government facility where it was analysed. According to Topside: “…rumour of the find reached the Canadian Arsenals Research and Development Establishment (CARDE) in the area, who, thinking it might have been part of a space capsule, picked it up for investigation.”

[NB: the name of the government division was consistently cited erroneously in all Topside issues. CARDE was actually the Canadian Armaments Research and Development Establishment, now part of the Valcartier Research Centre of Defence Research and Development Canada.]

And what did CARDE find? This is what the Ottawa New Sciences Club told its members:

The Findings: After analysis, CARDE reached the following conclusions: “The x-ray diffraction analysis indicated that the unidentified object consisted of a metallic face-centred cubic compound, with a unit-cell dimension agreeing with those of: 1) austenitic steel, and 2) meteoric iron. The semi-quantitative spectrographic analysis showed, however, that there was insufficient nickel present for the metal to be of meteoric origin. The amount of manganese detected in the spectrographic analysis suggests that the metallic material is best described as high-manganese austenitic steel. This is consistent with the very weak ferro-magnetic nature of the metal. The iron oxide and the hydrated iron oxides on the surface are normal results of the exposure of steel to the atmosphere. The amounts of quartz and calcite detected by x-ray diffraction are very small, and are common extraneous materials. The low nickel and high manganese content are not consistent with a meteoric origin, whereas they are consistent with common high-tensile steels. The object is therefore considered to be of terrestrial origin.”

Another report states in part: “The metal object proved to be a mass of high strength metal which had fallen, or had been dropped, while in a plastic state, and had splattered like a ball of mud. It was 6ft. in diameter and 2ft. thick at the centre. At the centre of the body there was an outline of a tube about 10 inches in diameter which protruded from the mass about 6 inches. A small electronic potting can was embedded near one of the outer edges. By scratching away the potting plastic, it was possible to identify an electronic component which appeared to be a transistor. There was also the imprint of another electric can which appeared to have been removed by curiosity seekers. It is not considered that the object fell in the location it was found, because there was no crater or splattered material in the vicinity. The tidal flats at this point are solid rock. An analysis by CARDE revealed that the metal is an alloy with high manganese content. CARDE personnel who are familiar with foundry operations consider it to be a normal product of a foundry consisting of slag with semi-molten scrap embedded. Their investigation did not reveal any electronic components.”
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

Well, that seemed to be rather straightforward. Furthermore, it was pointed out that about 100 miles upstream was the Sorel Iron Foundry, which produced material similar to the artefact. End of story.


A Smith and a foundry

Completely analogous to the Bob White artefact debate, the Ottawa New Sciences Club rejected the CARDE findings.

Despite the findings of CARDE, an element of doubt exists as to whether these are completely accurate. Although they considered the object to be of terrestrial origin, laboratory experiments on the metal carried out by the late Wilbert B. Smith and co-workers resulted in a number of unusual reactions not consistent with the normal behaviour of terrestrial metal. This was most evident when a small piece of the metal was heated with an acetylene torch which caused it to blossom into a miniature white cloud with extremely bright sparks in it - a sort of A-bomb in miniature. WBS concluded that the magnesium went exothermic, reduced the ferrite in the spinnel crystal structure, formed the cloud and left the iron free to burn with 02 in the air. He warned that anyone attempting to heat a larger chunk of the metal might very well fry himself! He also considered that the intense heating should have burned the object worse than it did and he therefore reached the conclusion that it could not have been a blast furnace product. Further experiments revealed that some parts of the metal could not stand too much heat thus limiting the possibilities as to why such a manufactured item came to grief. In testing the metal with the acetylene torch, it was noted that the resulting sphere, with its intensely brilliant shower of sparks, burned until nothing remained- no residue or slag, as is common with Earth metals. CARDE suggested that the metal may have been slag from a foundry, brought to the area via an ice floe. The facts of the case, however, do not bear this out. The nearest mills are many miles from Les Ecureuils, and it was the month of June! The material is not a common foundry product, and even if it had been, one wonders why the foundry would waste 3,000 pounds of metal!
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

Wilbert B. Smith was not a metallurgist, but an electrical engineer with a Master’s degree, working for the Department of Transport, and later the Department of Communications in the Canadian government. He was responsible for broadcast standards and equipment design and testing for radio in Canada, and helped set the frequencies used by radio and TV stations across the nation.

Smith is most remembered as having been at a broadcasting conference in Washington and made “discreet enquiries” at the Canadian Embassy where he was told: “Flying saucers exist” and “The matter is the most highly classified subject in the United States Government, rating higher even than the H-bomb.”

Later, Smith claimed he was in direct contact with aliens, sometimes telepathically, sometimes visually. His information on aliens included such facts as:

“There is much evidence that people who build and fly flying saucers are people very much like us. They have been seen on many occasions and there are many claims of personal contact having been established with them. Communications with these people tell us that they are our distant relatives; that we are descendants of their colonists on this planet, and that they still regard us as brothers even though we don’t often act like it. There is much evidence that the technology of these people is quite a bit ahead of ours, and that through study of the behavior of the saucers and from the alleged communications we have been able to piece together some of this technology, and it is amazing to say the least. We are informed that these people are really civilized, in that they regard all men as brothers; that they do not have wars, and live under conditions of personal freedom of which we cannot conceive.”

He also wrote articles about advanced quasi-scientific concepts such as the “interdependence between Reality and Awareness,” and how: “The application of the Quadrature Concept to the Third Parameter yields a further parameter which we might describe as Density or gradient, and is really an expression of how Reality is distributed in Space.” (

He also speculated there were 12 dimensions on Earth, and that his research into gravity and higher consciousness was assisted by “extraterrestrial helpers.”

That kind of thing.

Anyway, Smith and his contactee UFO group were convinced that the CARDE results were wrong. I went in search of the original CARDE report, and contacted DRDC directly. They replied that no such report on the analysis of a large quantity of metal found in the St. Lawrence River existed in their records. This could be because it simply was not an official research study, but one taken on as a public courtesy.

In an interview with Smith in November 1961, he had decided that the mysterious chunk of metal was part of an alien spacecraft:

Our Canadian Research Group recovered one mass of very strange metal... it was found within a few days of July 1, 1960. There is about three thousand pounds of it.  We have done a tremendous amount of detective work on this metal. We have found out the things that aren't so. We have something that was not brought to this Earth by plane nor by boat nor by any helicopter. We are speculating that what we have is a portion of a very large device which came into this solar system... we don't know when… but it had been in space a long time before it came to earth; we can tell that by the micrometeorites embedded in the surface. But we don't know whether it was a few years ago - or a few hundred years ago.

Wilbert B. Smith died in December 1962, at the age of 52.

Carol Halford-Watkins, the assistant editor of Topside, but effectively the president of the Ottawa New Sciences Club, kept the group going in Smith’s memory after he passed away. The ufozine continued publishing throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, often devoting entire issues to things like channelled messages from Nikola Tesla.

One discovery about the massive artefact that certainly contributed to the Ottawa group’s persistence regarding its non-terrestrial nature were a number of “inclusions” on its surface.

A further mystery, indicating the possibility of exposure of the metal in outer space, is that the outer surface, under powerful magnification, shows minute inclusions which may well be micro-meteorites picked up during a long sojourn in space. The Club has in its possession a series of photographs of the outer surface of the metal, taken with the aid of micro­photography, in which these inclusions can be observed quite clearly. The density of these particles is about 30 per square centimeter. Dr. Peter Millman of the Canada National Research Council estimated that micrometeorites of this size would occur through a sq. cm. section at about 10-6 second, so it would take about a year to accumulate such a density.
Topside, Number 20, Spring 1966, pp. 4-6

The calculation was that because there are about 31 million seconds in a year, the accretion rate per centimeter works out to the stated value. However, there is no indication in any of the tests performed on the artefact that any of these alleged micrometeorites were tested and found to be such things.

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