Thursday, September 21, 2023
Darn that NASA!
“Darn that NASA! Why don’t they do what we want them to do and admit UAP are alien spacecraft?”
The furore has not died down. UFO buffs are still distrustful of NASA for what it said (or didn’t say) in its UAP report released in September 2023. Never mind that it was late, or that they didn’t want to say who would be the new UAP director. Or even that by their own admission they won’t be looking at classified UAP data.
What, exactly are they hiding?
Actually, as I noted in my interviews on NewsNation, CTV, and CBC, it’s really not as bad as most ardent UFO fans are stating.
The NASA UAP report is a huge first step for an organization that has generally held UFOs at arms length and at bay for its entire existence. Astronauts have been almost universally (see what I did there?) dismissive of UFOs and played down the subject, with the exception of a few whom UFO fans insist saw aliens on the Moon and in Inner Space.
Dan Evans of NASA’s UAP study stated very clearly that “understanding UAP is vital” to NASA’s mission. Nicola Fox, of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that NASA wants to “de-stigmatize” UAP so that it is a legitimate field of study, and funds will be made available for research projects. And Bill Nelson, NASA’s director, wants to shift UAP discussion from “sensation to science.”
All great ideas and goals.
So what’s the problem?
Here’s the nub: pop ufology and science don’t mix well. Bringing a biker boyfriend to a debutante ball doesn’t usually lead to a good blending of cultures.
In the NASA UAP report, there’s a clear explanation of the issue, but it’s buried on page 29:
In science, data need to be reproducible, and hypotheses falsifiable—the scientific method works by systematically analyzing data with the intent to falsify a hypothesis.
As a general principle, the data should support measurement that can rule out specific explanations or interpretations, leaving us with no choice but to embrace its opposite. In the case of UAP, the hypothesis we seek to reject (or “null hypothesis”) is that the UAP have phenomenology consistent with known natural or technological causes.
And that’s exactly opposite to pop ufology.
Typically, I receive several UFO (or UAP) reports every week, from various sources, including witnesses. The implication is that I am asked to explain what was observed, if I can. Often, I simply receive a blurry video of a light in the sky that the witness says was mysterious. Sometimes, I am even challenged to explain photos and videos, usually without the sender providing any context such as where the images were taken, the date, time, and any other necessary information for evaluation.
In other words, we are given a report of an object that is deemed unexplained and asked to try and explain it.
That’s not the “null hypothesis.”
In the case of a photo of an object in the sky, the null hypothesis would be something like: “This is a photograph of an object in the sky. Determine if it is unexplained.”
Pop ufology starts with the assumption that something is unexplained/unusual/alien and then debunkers are tasked with coming up with a viable explanation.
The Peruvian “mummies” that were trotted out at a UAP conference recently show how this plays out. The sticklike bodies of odd-looking creatures were presented and announced to be aliens. It was then up to others to try and explain them.
In science, however, what would have happened is that such artefacts would have been presented along with all necessary provenance and documentation, offering them to researchers as objects of interest. It would be the researchers who would then test them, analyze them and compare them with other artefacts to see what they might be. Alien mummies would be a possible explanation, but much, much father down the line.
A second important thing in the NASA UAP study was its confirmation of the numbers of UAP reports that the AARO has received during its few years of operation. From page 26:
Between March 5, 2021, and August 30, 2022, DoD received a total of 247 new UAP reports, according to an analysis published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in 2022. In contrast, 263 reports had been filed in the 17 years prior to March 2021. Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick reported at this panel’s public meeting that AARO has now collected more than 800 reported events. This includes the addition of data from the FAA.
While these numbers have been bandied about by UFO fans, if you take a good look at the numbers, they aren’t that impressive.
Between about 2005 and 2022, there were a total of 510 UAP reports received by the US Department of Defense. That’s an average of 30 each year, or maybe two each month. Everywhere. Around the world. From all American military bases. (Yes, all the reports were from military personnel only.)
In contrast, the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) receives about 5,000 UAP/UFO reports from civilians (and some military personnel) each year.
The 510 AARO reports were added to by including reports of UAP filed by civilian pilots with the FAA, and so by September 2023, the total number is now above 800 reports. That’s about 50 per year, a factor of 100 less than the rate reported to just one civilian group.
At the moment, there is no way for civilians to file UAP reports with NASA, and it’s not clear how this will change. Civilians also can’t file reports with AARO.
Another point of note from the NASA UAP study is their definition of an unidentified UAP. In her remarks at the news conference, Nicola Fox stated that one problem with UAP is that there is limited high quality data about them, “which renders them unexplained.”
If you missed the implications of that, read it again. NASA’s view is that because there is insufficient data to explain some UAP, they then are considered unexplained.
Not that the UAP in question are truly mysterious, but that there’s just not enough information to rule out other explanations.
That’s not the way most UFO fans consider the term “unexplained.”
This is especially relevant when you look at the original UAPTF report in which 144 UAP reports were examined.
We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence. In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.
Aha! 143 cases were unexplained!
Yes, that’s not really what “unexplained” means, is it?
In contrast, during my talks and presentations on UFOs, I often use this graph, taken from Project Blue Book Special Report 14, in which 3,201 UFO reports from 1947 to 1952 were analyzed and broken down by classification. There were categories of Astronomical (such as stars, planets, and meteors), Aircraft, Balloon, Other, Insufficient Information, and Unknown.
For now, let’s ignore the fact that there were 19.7% of all cases that didn’t have an explanation.
But consider this: the majority of UFO reports had explanations, about 69%. It’s the category of “Insuf. Info” that’s significant. In other words, only about 10% of the cases didn’t have enough information to rule out a plane or a meteor.
But the UAPTF report had only two categories: explained (1) and unexplained (143).
Why? Because science.
Either the data is sufficient to warrant a definitive conclusion, or not. In a court of law, you are either guilty or not guilty, regardless of circumstances. If you can’t tie the murder weapon to the accused with certainty, including using DNA testing to prove he had actually been in the room with the victim, the murderer walks.
So while the majority of UAP reports examined by the UAPTF are “unexplained,” they are likely only “Insuf. Info.”
The problem is that without the actual case data being made available for us to examine, like for the Blue Book cases or the Canadian UFO Survey, we don’t know for sure what the actual percentage of “unidentified” cases there really are that are held by AARO.
And if NASA is using the AARO process of UAP analysis, who knows what they will find.