Most reports of UFOs are cases of error or merely hoaxes. However a certain percentage defy all rational explanation. This study examines a number of cases that have been well documented and corroborated, yet remain unexplained.
If the truth is out there, why haven’t we found it? A 1997 conference at the Pocantico center in Tarrytown, N.Y., assembled UFO researchers and distinguished air and space scientists to review theories and evidence concerning inexplicable lights, big disks and other odd, exciting stuff in the sky. If they produced no new conclusions, their work certainly makes informative reading.
A professor emeritus of Space Science and Astrophysics at Stanford, Sturrock synthesizes the conference reports and deliberations into 120 carefully considered pages. One presentation (in Sturrock’s summary) shows why some UFOs can be explained as weather-related phenomena. Another shows why UFO investigators and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) radio astronomers don’t get along.
Sturrock calls for more, and more widely available, research into UFOs; he notes that physical scientists, while not trained to evaluate witness reports, can analyze material evidence. Most of the rest of the book is comprised of essays (“Post-Pocantico Reflections”) and “Case Material” (about specific UFO reports) by a variety of hands. Richard Haines considers a Frisbee-shaped aerial object in a vacationer’s photo; Jennie Zeidman reports on “A Helicopter-UFO Encounter Over Ohio.”
The ongoing French study called GEPAN or SEPRA emerges as a leader in recent studies of UFOs, decidedly on the back burner in the United States. All the contributors write in the impersonal, precise, deliberately colorless language proper to scientific journal articles. If the results are less than thrilling, they represent a hoard of raw information, and some admirably cautious reasoning, from which any reader who already cares about UFOs might be glad to learn. Photos, charts and diagrams not seen by PW. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A comprehensive investigation of encounters with unidentified flying objects, all the more riveting because it is both skeptical and scrupulously objective. What facts do we have regarding UFOs? asks an international team of scientists headed by Sturrock (Physics/Stanford University).
What is the physical evidence, and what is it trying to tell us? Taking pains to avoid sounding frivolous, the team reviews the records of UFO encounters. Many can be explained as misinterpretations of such man-made objects as satellites, or as natural phenomena like marsh gas, manifestations of lightning, or wave ducting, which causes radar mirages. Other experiences are characterized here as “suggestive but far from sufficient” in terms of data. Even more intriguing are the “anomalies,”” a full 30% of the notable contacts, often sighted by multiple observers without discernible ulterior motives, some with photographic evidence, some with material remains, some tracked on radar screens, all left unexplained after a battery of tests that include such jawbreakers as micro-densitometry scans of photographic film crystals, and the probings of spark mass spectrometry.
The scope and detail of these analyses make them tough going for the lay reader, but the narrative sections and interviews are captivating. Its particularly gratifying to read the investigators exquisite debunkings of the bureaucratic obfuscation and mumbo jumbo with which government officials have smugly dismissed UFO sightings. This cavalier attitude wont do, the study argues; we need more systematic data collection and procedures. Given the randomness of UFO events, however, that may be asking for the impossible. The ultimate conclusion here is a rousing Who knows? Nonetheless, a signal emerges from the noise and that signal is not readily comprehensible in terms of phenomena now well known to science.’’ In other words, something is out there; its just unidentified. (Photos, charts, diagrams). Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.