A topic about outer-space and everything in it, from little green men to big spirally galaxies

The Uncanny Vallee: Face to Face with a UFO Legend

The ride through the desert countryside is smooth and pleasant, and I try once again to take a shot of the arid landscape with my phone. It's my first visit the Southwest of the United States, and the novelty of the scenery feels almost dreamlike. Add to that the fact I'm riding shotgun with Greg Bishop, host of Radio Misterioso and author of Project Beta --who up until now I'd never met face to face, despite the fact we've known each other and interacted online for almost 10 years-- and that the two of us are driving to the 25th International UFO Congress, at the We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, to watch the Jacques Vallee --arguably the most notable figure in the UFO field living today-- make his first re-appearance at a public UFO event since who-knows-how-many years (last time he spoke at a public UFO event, he was literally booed out of the stage!) all while listening to Greg's curated collection of weird-ass music, and the surreality of it all reaches 'Fear and Loathing' levels; to the point I almost feel the pressing need to yell "we can't stop here! This is saguaro country!"

Well, the name of the game on this road trip is not Gonzo Journalism, but Guerrilla Advertising: One of the reasons Greg and I decided to travel to Arizona and attend the congress, was because we wanted to promote an anthology of UFO essays Greg had previously posted online on the now-defunct blog UFOMystic, which he's now self-published under the title It Defies Language! --Greg came up with the oxymoronic name, BTW, through the use of the cut-up technique created by William S. Burroughs, one of his personal heroes.

I became involved with It Defies Language! back in October of 2015, when Greg and I were chatting on Skype and I decided to show him some of the caricatures I'd doodled through the years of some of our mutual friends (Micah Hanks, Nick Redfern and others); it was then that Greg asked me if I'd be interested in doing some illustrations for his book, the same way Mike Clelland did for the late Mac Tonnies' The Cryptoterrestrials. Imagine you were the biggest Star Wars fan in the whole world, and then you received a call from J.J. Abrams inviting you to participate in the new trilogy. Of course he had me at 'Hello'!

Consider also how I was unemployed at the time and with nothing to do but worrying about my murky future, and you can see why Greg's invitation was a lifeline which helped me focus on other things besides my dwindling bank account and my self pity. He gave me absolute freedom and only made minor objections to my ideas a couple of times; in return I drew illustrations for every chapter, and even ended up designing the covers for the book. By then I was heavily invested in It Defies Language! and wanted to help Greg in any way I could to ensure its success. So when we learned Vallee was going to the IUFOC we saw it as the perfect opportunity for killing two birds with one stone: Meeting Vallee --whom he had been in brief contact previously, in a failed attempt to invite him to Radio Misterioso-- and attempting to have a private conversation, where we would give him a copy of the book as a token of appreciation; while at the same time preparing flyers, bookmarks and even a few posters I printed in Mexico, which we would use to promote the book among the other speakers and attendees.

* * * * *

Saying the International UFO Conference is the Comic Con of UFO-related symposia is a double-edged compliment. While it is true the IUFOC is the largest event of its kind in the world, its current number of attendees don't even come closer to what Sci-Fi/Fantasy events were gathering in the mid-nineties. And while those gigs keep getting bigger and bigger, it's not preposterous to presume UFO-related conferences are going the way of the dodo. On an article for New York Magazine in 2014, Marc Jacobson pointed out to the dwindling attendance and aging demographic found at the annual MUFON conference in New Jersey, "a far cry from the thousands who attended the MUFON conference in the late 1970s, after Close Encounters of the Third Kind introduced extraterrestrials to the mainstream moviegoer."

Where Jacobson was dead wrong in his piece, however, was in equating the disappearance of UFO conferences to an overall decrease of public interest in the topic, which couldn't be farther from the truth. As I pointed out on The Daily Grail's comment section, Jacobson failed to take into account the Internet's impact in the way people interested in UFOs go about finding new information. In the 70's or 80's, live conferences and the journals published by the civilian UFO organizations were indeed the only game in town when it came to getting the freshest news and updates from researchers; but in 2016, when you can find almost anything about the topic freely online, and researchers are regularly invited to podcast shows, many in the younger generations don't see the point in spending up to a thousand bucks and almost a whole week of their vacation time, so they can sit on an auditorium to listen to a speaker for 45-60 minutes --and without even the chance to press PAUSE in order to play a round of Candy Crush.

That's why online conferences and pay-per-view video streaming are more than likely the way these events will survive in the digital age; if at all. But here's the thing: When you come down to it, the reason why spending all that money and free time is worth your while, is because of what happens AFTER the presentations are over. Getting to see people in the field you always wanted to meet in person is something you will definitely NOT get from your laptop --or even your Oculus Rift.

On the list of people I'd never met before, there was for example ... Read More »

Today I Learned: There is Such a Thing as 'Meteorburn'

Chelyabinsk meteor

Today's accidental research find: some people were actually sunburnt by the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 (okay, maybe that should be 'meteorburnt'). Of 1113 witnesses who were outside during the event, some 415 reported feeling warm, 315 "hot", while 25 (2.2%) noted the heat was so intense they were 'sunburnt' by it. One of those, Korkino resident Vladimir Petrov, reported sunburn "as severe as causing his skin to peel off some time after the event".

Additionally, 180 people reported that their eyes hurt during the event, with 70 of those temporarily blinded, and 11 receiving retinal burns.

Interestingly though, it is a bit of a mystery as to how the fireball could have 'sunburnt' people on the ground:

The estimated UV dose resulting from the passage of the Chelyabinsk fireball would not have exceeded 200 W at a range of 30 km, and yet reports of suffering sunburn and skin peeling, the latter requiring a minimum dosage of at least 1,000 W, were reported—indeed, the sensation of feeling heat was reported at ranges in excess of 100 km from the Chelyabinsk fireball path. Clearly, this is an area requiring continued investigation. (Reference: "Electrophonic Sound Generation by the Chelyabinsk Fireball", by Martin Beech)

Other odd experiences during the event included so-called 'electrophonic sounds' (sounds heard at the same time as the meteor, even though it was too far away to hear instantaneously), and odd smells including a sulfur scent. All in all, the sort of thing Charles Fort would have enjoyed very much....

Update: It seems 'meteorburn' is not a new thing! Martin Kottmeyer sent in this report of a huge fireball seen over England in 1719 that has many parallels with the Chelyabinsk meteor:

“Sitting at the fire-side about eight a clock at night, the Moon shining then very bright, and the sky clear, not the least cloud to be seen, on the sudden there appeared a very great light far brighter than the Sun at noon-day, accompanied with so great an heat, that the arm of mine which was next to the window burnt for many hours as if it had been scalded. There was so great a smoak, that I thought, and so did many others, that all the ground had been on fire; but we soon perceived that it was in the sky.

...Some minutes after this (I should think at least seven or eight) we heard a report like a great cannon (much greater than ever I heard.) It shook the house and windows very much. About a minute after, there went off to our thinking, about thirty, not so big. They sounded just as the Tower-Guns did, when we were in Mincing Lane, but shook the house and windows much more.

Witness testimony of this fireball also included reports of electrophonic sounds; one account mentions "I thought I heard a noise of hissing, like what is made by the flying of a large rocket in the air".

Related stories:

TED Talk: The Most Mysterious Star in the Universe

Image

One of the big controversies in astronomy this year has been the "Astronomers Discover Something 'You Would Expect an Alien Civilization to Build', and SETI Wants a Look" story. For anyone wanting to better understand the scientific story behind this topic, check out the TED talk above by astronomer Tabetha Boyajian.

Something massive, with roughly 1,000 times the area of Earth, is blocking the light coming from a distant star known as KIC 8462852, and nobody is quite sure what it is. As astronomer Tabetha Boyajian investigated this perplexing celestial object, a colleague suggested something unusual: Could it be an alien-built megastructure? Such an extraordinary idea would require extraordinary evidence. In this talk, Boyajian gives us a look at how scientists search for and test hypotheses when faced with the unknown.

Related stories:

Vallee Collector's Edition Crowd-Funding Campaign - Last Chance to Order a Copy

Golden Orbs from 73BCE

Late last year we linked to a crowd-funding campaign to help fund high-quality UFO research through the sale of a collector's edition of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck's Wonders in the Sky.

Though the campaign didn't reach its financial target before the end date, Jacques was encouraged enough by the amount of interest from collectors to go forward with the publication of the limited edition, and while doing so started a secondary campaign for those that might have missed the chance to grab a copy first time around.

That second campaign is now at 97% of its target funding (just $385 short of its goal), with only two days to go before it finishes. So if you want to grab your own copy of this special edition from one of the legends of ufology (only 500 copies will ever be printed), you can help get this crowd-funding campaign over the line by heading to the IndieGoGo page and making a pledge now.

We have re-launched our campaign based on the initial success with early collectors, who have already reserved the first 150 books. Their contributions have enabled us to finish the research and the layout for the book, which is now being printed in China, with an expected release date in the US of late May 2016.

Wonders in the Sky is a collector's limited edition book by world-leading UFO researchers Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, which presents the scientific research and artistic beauty of 424 UFO sightings prior to the Industrial Revolution. This is the new benchmark in UFO research.

Under our contract with the initial publisher of the paperback edition of Wonders in the Sky (Tarcher-Penguin) we have agreed no more than 500 copies of this exceptional, Limited Edition will ever be printed.

The text has been augmented with many new cases, a new round of analysis of all previous cases, and stunning new iconography in high-resolution color.

Jacques tells me has just reviewed the final proof of the book, and printing will take place next week - so those who have ordered themselves a copy should begin receiving their books in late May and early June. Get in!

Link: Wonders in the Sky: A Breakthrough in UFO Research

The First Martian: A Short Film Inspired by Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot

Delivery from Earth is a sweet little science fiction short film that takes its inspiration from Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The film...

...was the winning entry of the Lockheed Martin / NM Film Foundation filmmaker grant. A science-fiction short film about the first human born on Mars, told from the perspective of a Navajo family living in Gallup, New Mexico.

(h/t @elakdawala)

The 1961 Story About a Chicken Farmer Who Claimed that Aliens Gave Him Pancakes

Joe Simonton with alien pancake

Those who have read the UFO classic Passport to Magonia, by Jacques Vallee, will be familiar with the odd case of Joe Simonton, a chicken farmer who claims to have met aliens and been given, of all things, pancakes by them (It is also, if memory serves me, mentioned in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger):

The time was approximately 11:00 A.M. on April 18, 1961, when Joe Simonton was attracted outside by a peculiar noise similar to "knobby tires on a wet pavement." Stepping into his yard, he faced a silvery saucer-shaped object "brighter than chrome," which appeared to be hovering close to the ground without actually touching it. The object was about twelve feet high and thirty feet in diameter. A hatch opened about five feet from the ground, and Simonton saw three men inside the machine. One of them was dressed in a black two-piece suit. The occupants were about five feet in height. Smooth shaven, they appeared to "resemble Italians." They had dark hair and skin and wore outfits with turtleneck tops and knit helmets.

One of the men held up a jug apparently made of the same material as the saucer. His motions to Joe Simonton seemed to indicate that he needed water. Simonton took the jug, went inside the house, and filled it. As he returned, he saw that one of the men inside the saucer was "frying food on a flameless grill of some sort." The interior of the ship was black, "the color of wrought iron." Simonton, who could see several instrument panels, heard a slow whining sound, similar to the hum of a generator. When he made a motion indicating he was interested in the food that was being prepared, one of the men, who was also dressed in black but with a narrow red trim along the trousers, handed him three cookies, about three inches in diameter and perforated with small holes.

The whole affair had lasted about five minutes. Finally, the man closest to the witness attached a kind of belt to a hook in his clothing and closed the hatch in such a way that Simonton could scarcely detect its outline. Then the object rose about twenty feet from the ground before taking off straight south, causing a blast of air that bowed some nearby pine trees.

...When two deputies sent by Sheriff Schroeder, who had known Simonton for fourteen years, arrived on the scene, they could not find any corroborative evidence. The sheriff affirmed that the witness obviously believed the truth of what he was saying and talked very sensibly about the incident.

I was surprised to find recently that YouTube has a video of Joe Simonton being interviewed about his encounter, and showing off one of the 'pancakes' he was given. For those interested, here it is:

Loved the matter-of-fact way he discussed the taste of the pancakes: "They were hot and greasy...if that was their food, God help them, because I took a bite of one of them and it tasted like a piece of cardboard. If that's what they lived on, no wonder they were small".

(Full disclosure: Passport to Magonia is currently published by us here at The Daily Grail)

Apollo 10 Astronauts Heard 'Music' on the Dark Side of the Moon

The Science Channel series NASA's Unexplained Files is airing an episode on a mysterious incident from the 1969 Apollo 10 mission. Declassified in 2008, NASA tapes reveal the three-man crew heard weird "outer space-type music" while orbiting the dark side of the moon. For the entire hour, the astronauts discuss and describe the music, even debating whether to inform NASA command.

"It's unbelievable! You know?"

"Shall we tell them about it?"

"I don't know. We ought to think about it."

Apollo 10 moon NASA music astronauts

It's a genuine mystery that remains unsolved. For one thing, Apollo 10 was out of radio contact while orbiting the far side of the moon, so the music couldn't have been a transmission from Earth. Also, the moon has no magnetic field or atmosphere that could interfere with their radio. Unfortunately, actual recording of the strange music isn't publicly available.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden keeps an open-mind on the mystery:

"The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there. NASA would withhold information from the public if they thought it was in the public's best interest."

However, there's one explanation that is highly likely. Could the Apollo 10 crew have heard the sounds of Jupiter? All of the planets emit radio waves that can be reproduced as sound. NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have recorded the 'music of the spheres', eerie hums and whistles reminiscent of the "outer space-type music" described aboard Apollo 10. It's very likely, but until we hear what the astronauts actually heard, there's no way to know. It may as well be Hitler playing Wagner on the moon.

Previously, on the Daily Grail:

  • The Overview Effect
  • Musical Interlude: Beyond The Blue Horizon

    Here's a jazzy little tune spiced up by computer animation courtesy of Bill Domokos. Or, maybe, Bill removed the filter preventing humanity from seeing the true faces of the performers, The Three Suns.

    This tune's notable for inspiring Alex Courage's composition of the haunting Star Trek theme, as it was a "long thing that...keeps going out into space...over a fast moving accompaniment."

    Those were gentler times when the expanse of space held promise for everyone, not just the plutocrats and their k-razy exit strategies.

    C'mon and sing along with Artie Dunn and his pals, who certainly didn't name their band in honor of their homeworld's trinary system far, far away.

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

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    New Developments Around KIC 8462852

    Image
    A new paper on prior observations of KIC 8462852 deepen the mystery surrounding this star. Also known as "Tabby's Star", this F3-type star is brighter, hotter, and more massive than our sun. The mystery lay in the sudden dips of luminosity seen by the Kepler Space Observatory. Kepler's mission is to detect earthlike planets transiting distant stars.

    Speculation about this object captures our imagination, with Jason Wright suggesting it could be evidence of an alien megastructure in his paper The Ĝ Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations with Large Energy Supplies [1], while others claim it's just comets. [2] The basis for arguing this is artificial stems from the lack of flux when it dims. If the cause was natural, like a cloud of cometary dust, the dimming should be gradual rather than abrupt.

    Recent attempts to detect the extraterrestrial intelligences behind this anomaly have fallen flat. No radio signals were detected by the Allen Telescope Array between the 15th and 30th of October 2015. [3] Between the 29th of October and the 28th of November, weather permitting, the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory joined the fun. But astronomers didn't detect any periodic optical signals one could ascribe to alien communications. [4] Barely two months of observations of an anomaly possibly a thousand years old is merely a drop in the bucket. Yet the absence of evidence from this dataset only emboldens those pushing their comet agenda. Which reminds me of a soundbite from Jill Tarter's 2009 TED Talk on the search for extraterrestrial intelligences:

    All of the concerted SETI efforts, over the last 40-some years, are equivalent to scooping a single glass of water from the oceans. And no one would decide that the ocean was without fish on the basis of one glass of water. [5]

    While SETI may only have forty years of observations, traditional astronomers are sitting atop a mountain of photographic evidence collected since the 19th century. Tabetha Boyajian, author of the original paper KIC 8462852 – Where’s the flux?, knew this and took advantage of the archives at the Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard (DASCH) for past data on KIC 8462852. DASCH is a treasure trove of digitized astronomical photographic plates from previous sky surveys from the late 19th century to the present. Upon review, her conclusion was summed up as "the star did not do anything spectacular over the past 100 years" [6]

    Bradley Schaefer disagrees with her conclusion, having pored over the plates himself. His findings are outlined in his new paper at arXiv.

    The KIC8462852 light curve from 1890 to 1989 shows a highly signifcant secular trend in fading over 100 years, with this being completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star. Such stars should be very stable in brightness, with evolution making for changes only on time scales of many millions of years. So the Harvard data alone prove that KIC8462852 has unique and large-amplitude photometric variations. [7]

    Dumbing it down a bit more, the anomaly's been gradually dimming the star over the past 125 years. For the extraterrestrial faithful, it supports the hypothesis of little green men engaged in one of the universe's largest public works projects this side of the Death Star. Just as Jason Wright, et al., riffed on Boyajian's discovery, Chris Lintott and Brooke Simmons let their imagination run wild with Schaefer's evidence at the Journal of Brief Ideas.

    We assume our observations cover a typical period in a constant construction rate. Given the current B magnitude of 12.262 and a decrease in flux of 0.165 mag (or 14.099% of total observed flux) per century, an alien civilisation requires at least 7.09 centuries to occlude 100% of the observable surface of its star. Thus, if this time is typical, an alien civilisation capable of constructing such a structure requires a minimum of 1400 Earth years to do so. [8]

    Regardless of what's behind this, whether aliens, comets or something completely different, the mystery behind KIC 8462852 isn't going away anytime soon.

    You may also enjoy:

  • Astronomy, Megastructures, SETI, and Synchronicity
  • Astronomers Discover Something 'You Would Expect an Alien Civilization to Build', and SETI Wants a Look
  • 'Wow!' Signal Receives 'Meh' Explanation
  • REFERENCES

    1. http://arxiv.org/abs/1510.04606
    2. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?fe...
    3. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.01606v1.pdf
    4. http://arxiv.org/abs/1512.02388
    5. https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_tarter_s_...
    6. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1509.03622v1.pdf, page 7
    7. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1601.03256v1.pdf
    8. http://beta.briefideas.org/ideas/424bb64...

    'Wow!' Signal Receives 'Meh' Explanation

    If you talk to a member of SETI, he'll probably tell you the closest we've ever got to finding scientific evidence of Extraterrestrial intelligence was in 1977, professor Jerry Ehman at Ohio State University detected a peculiarly-strong signal from deep space using the Big Ear radio telescope. This is the famous Wow! signal, which was cemented in popular culture thanks to a brief mention during the start of The X-Files' second season.

    But now Antonio Paris, professor of astronomy at St Petersburg College in Florid, wants to burst our galactic bubble. His explanation for the Wow signal? The passing of one or two comets.

    He points the finger at two suspects, called 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs). “I came across the idea when I was in my car driving and wondered if a planetary body, moving fast enough, could be the source,” he says.

    Paris theorizes that the large quantity of hydrogen released by the comets as they were passing right in front of the Big Ear, could have generated the strong signal which caused the excitement of Ehman and spurred almost 40 years of speculation among SETI scientists.

    Other astronomers are skeptical that cometary hydrogen could create a signal that 'bright' in the radio frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum --because if they did, radio telescopes would be picking them up all the time. But the strength in Paris' hypothesis is that it can be tested: All we have to do is wait for those comets when they return to our solar neighborhood, and listen closely:

    To test his idea, Paris proposes looking at the same region of space when the comets are back. Comet 266P/Christensen will transit the region first, on 25 January 2017, then P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), on 7 January 2018. An analysis of the hydrogen signal of the comets should reveal if he is correct.

    If Paris is correct, then that gives yet another blow to the SETI methodology for searching intelligent life we can Skype to. Then again, if you're reading this then chances are you're already of the opinion that SETI is a pointless endeavor, because the aliens are ALREADY visiting us --or that instead of Skype they rely on PSI abilities to chat with self-proclaimed Contactees.

    Here is important to point out how Antonio Paris, unlike most of his colleagues, is not hostile to the UFO phenomenon. In fact, he's the director and founder of the Aerial Phenomena Investigation Team, intended to investigate UAPs through the lens of Science. He's been on many podcasts and radio shows, and here you can listen to an interview conducted by Open Minds' editor Alejandro Rojas.

    Should we mourn the Wow! signal's possible unexciting explanation? Certainly not, IMO. After all, as the late Terence McKenna used to say, "to search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant."

    LINK: Famous Wow! signal might have been from comets, not aliens