After the US Air Force used the conclusion of the Condon Report as an excuse to officially close down its involvement in the investigation of UFOs, Blue Book abandoned all concerned citizens wishing to file an official report of a sighting. That void was unevenly filled by civilian organizations like MUFON, and more recently with social channels like Youtube, which allows the almost instantaneous dissemination of audiovisual content purportedly showing anomalous objects in the sky. The convenience & ubiquitousness of the Internet has turned into a double-edge sword, though: Even if the photo or video doesn't appear to be a blatant hoax, if the poster doesn't bother to include pertaining information about the circumstances of the sighting --location, date, duration, etc-- barely nothing of true value can be learned from it.
But some countries still take UFOs seriously, and they have even established official agencies in charge of gathering & analyzing all reports of unidentified aerial phenomena occurring within their national territory. Such is the case of CEFAA (Commitee of Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena), the Chilean agency subordinate to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC). It's mission statement according to their webpage, is to study such cases "through a serious, scientific and objective investigation, with the purpose of determining if the security of aerial operations has been compromised, thus contributing to aviation safety in Chile" [My translation].
The latest case CEFAA investigated --which has received a lot of attention from the Spanish-speaking media this week-- was a series of 2 photographs taken during the mid of April of 2013 at the Collahuasi mine in the north of Chile, located 4,300 meters above sea level. The images, taken by a digital Samsung camera model Kenox S860, show a silvery 'flattened disk' of approx. 5 to 10 meters in diameter at an altitude of around 600 meters, which was observed by several witnesses (35 technicians & mine workers) performing a series of aerial maneuvers --vertical & horizontal displacements, showing sometimes the disk as a lenticular object, other times as an ovoid-- for a span of 1 to 2 hours, denoting some sort of intelligent control or predetermined flight.
A meteorologist concluded the object could not have been a lenticular cloud, and after an expert analyzed the photographs using a series of filters, the official conclusion of the agency is that the object is a real UFO --which does NOT mean they're saying the disk is an interstellar alien ship; it simply means the object is not a conventional aeoronautical craft, nor a known meteorological event.
In her best-selling book UFOs: Generals, Pilots & Government Officials Go on the Record --the kind of book you need to keep a copy in your library, in order to shut the mouth of lazy debunkers claiming the phenomenon is not taken seriously by anyone other than woo woo peddlers-- Leslie Kean included the testimony of General Ricardo Bermúdez Sanhueza (ret), who was the director of CEFAA from 1998 to 2002. In it, Bermúdez stated that of all the cases analyzed by the agency, approximately 4% remained unexplained. He also went as far as to affirm that although there wasn't sufficient evidence to support the Extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) in his opinion the possibility should not be discarded beforehand "just because it may sound harebrained."
In this age of Photoshop & digital manipulation, photographic evidence is barely evidence of anything. Yet it is still comforting to know there are still researchers out there, committed to apply scientific rigor in the analysis of an image showing what very well may be a truly extraordinary phenomenon. Even more comforting, is knowing there are nations not willing to let the United States dictate them what is or isn't of significance to their national security; and if the USA wishes to retain their position as leaders of the world perhaps they should start by getting their head off the sand and acknowledge that, no matter how much they refuse to look up, the UFOs are not going anywhere.
They should also improve their performance at the World Cup, while they're at it --I mean, srsly guys.
Link: Ovni visto en Chile; científicos confirman autenticidad
Original CEFAA file: Informe Caso Collahuasi (Power Point)
UPDATE: Leslie Kean wrote about the Collahuasi photos for the Huffington Post. He also contacted Ret. General Bermúdez for comment, along with veteran UFO researcher Bruce Maccabee:
"This is clearly not a normal thing seen in the sky (bird, plane, cloud, etc.)," added Dr. Maccabee in an email. "That makes it either the real thing - UFO - or a hoax, and it doesn't appear to be a hoax, although the inability to question witnesses does reduce the credibility. Certainly this case is worthy of further study."
In perusing the Daily Grail news briefs every day, be careful to not fall victim to this...
- Psychedelic drugs put your brain in a "waking dream", study finds.
- The key to consciousness? Researchers stimulated a single part of a woman's brain, and she became unconscious, but still awake.
- The sinister cult of the Singularity: A geek religion that aims to exalt machines instead diminishes humanity.
- Google orders Terminators not to kill founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
- Bigfoot and Yeti are bears, oh my?
- Bring out your Bigfoot: How 'science' is failing at educating the public.
- Extinct humans passed high-altitude gene to Tibetans.
- How tiny details in paintings reveal a secret history of books.
- Why would a plant evolve the ability to hear?
- The alien brains living on Earth.
- Quantum state may be a real thing.
- Fabergé Fractals: Alien objects from another dimension.
- SETI comes up with two new ways to contact aliens on other planets.
- Scientists translate chimpanzee and bonobo gestures that resemble human language.
- The mantis shrimp has absurdly over-engineered eyes, and nobody know why. Except maybe this guy.
- The last of Australia's Aboriginal Police Trackers has hung up his work boots.
- Image(s) of the Day: The shortlist for the 2014 Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
Quote of the Day:
The whole image is that eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God's infinite love. That's the message we're brought up with, isn't it? Believe or die! Thank you, forgiving Lord, for all those options.
Science needs to get over itself. And by 'science', I mean those people who see science as some all-powerful entity containing all the answers; those self-proclaimed members of the 'reality-based community' keen to expurgate the threatening breeze of woo-woo bearing down upon the candle of rationality.
Because science itself is just a method, not a position...right?
This post has been brewing some time, but I finally decided to get some thoughts out of my head and on to your screen after seeing this tweet yesterday by the most excellent science journalist Alok Jha, regarding the 'Yeti DNA study' that's been making news this week:
Yetis. Sigh. S'pose nothing else interesting today. Major stem cell paper retracted, you say? Still prefer covering yetis tho? Oh.
— Alok Jha (@alokjha) July 2, 2014
It's not much, I know. But it continues a series of remarks I've seen in recent times where any stories with the sulphurous smell of the paranormal, or at the very least the strange scent emitted by the fringes of science, are seen as taking up important column space that could be devoted to more serious science. And even worse, perhaps spreading dangerous ideas.
Another example: Back in April, we posted a story about anomalous 'lights' on Mars. NBC science journalist Alan Boyle - whom we have known and loved here at TDG for many years for his fun coverage of science, both serious and strange - covered the story as well, in a blog post titled "Bright Blips on Mars Pictures Spark a Buzz Among UFO Fans". The response from some was not so enthusiastic:
— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) April 8, 2014
My intention here is not to demonise Emily Lakdawalla or Alok Jha - I'm a big fan of their work, and others who are working in science and/or science journalism. What I am trying to point out is an increasing trend with otherwise intelligent and eloquent science lovers to decry or demean anything that even seems remotely associated with the fringes of science, such as ufology, parapsychology or cryptozoology. Not only is it supercilious, but in some cases it may not serve science so well either - for instance with the 'Mars light' story, myself and a few others pointed out there were in fact two images with anomalous lights, but we were shouted down quickly by those who cleave to Occam; the 'light' was just a cosmic ray artefact on the camera, and the two lights were just 'a coincidence that was going to happen sometime'. A day later though, and many of those same people began excitedly back-tracking, wondering whether the 'light' was actually a reflected flash from a shiny rock. In this case, by rushing to remove any hint of an anomaly, those that love science could well have ended up failing science.
But in many ways too, such a response is understandable. There is no shortage of truly crazy theories about Mars, and anything like the 'Mars light' would no doubt bring some flaky individuals out of the woodwork, claiming it as proof of an intelligent alien civilisation on the Red Planet. Even milder responses, such as suggestions that the Curiosity rover should immediately take a detour and drive over to find out what the 'light' actually was, could be rather annoying - every movement of the rover is planned carefully and must take into consideration both dangers to the vehicle, and the science it is tasked to carry out - and some of the replies to those suggestions were indeed short and sharp.
But here's the thing: responding with annoyance, anger and resentment to these stories was a major fail.
Science educators, who are you trying to reach? Scientists, who is funding your work? If the answer to either question is the general public, then the simple fact is that the weird and the strange are your friends, not your enemies.
Alan Boyle knows that. His story about the Mars 'light' was perfect. It began by pointing out an anomaly, a curiosity, something that any normal reader would respond to with "whoah, a strange light on Mars...what the hell is that?" He then guided the reader into the science of Mars research by pointing out the likely rational explanation. Instant win for science-lovers: educating people as well as bringing focus to what is an amazing scientific endeavour, the robotic exploration of another planet.
Rather than quickly trotting out the first rational 'explain-away' they could come up with, both NASA and others could have used this story as a springboard for so much more. Thousands, maybe millions of people's eyeballs are upon you, do you know how much some people pay for that? "We think the light might just be a camera artifact, but we sure are open to other ideas! It's difficult for us drive the rover in that direction on short notice, but if we get the chance you can be sure we'll be checking out this folks. Keep a close eye on the next round of images we'll be releasing on our website and let us know if you see anything else". There, it's not that hard is it?
Another example: I have always wondered about what damage SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) did to their cause by strongly aligning themselves with the pseudo-skeptical group CSICOP around a decade ago. Two of the organisation's most public faces openly derided the UFO phenomenon, and those interested in it, in blog postings and interview appearances. This seems insane to me...there is vast interest in the general public on this topic, a perfect 'way in' for SETI to use to attract interest in their projects and/or raise funding, and instead they took a dump on their own dinner plate. Most of those truly interested in the UFO topic ended up seeing SETI as the opposition. Fail.
Another factor contributing to the issue is that for those intimately involved in science, the minutiae are important. Those things that might seem boring to others are important. But, members of the reality-based community, here's the reality of the situation: Joe Public out there is coming home from a long day of (often mindless) work, looking for a combination of entertainment and education in the one or two hours they might have to spare before going to bed and then wading through the same shit all over again. Would you like to listen to a bricklayer bemoaning the lack of understanding in the general public about the finer points of a good mortar? That's what you sound like folks. People's time is valuable, and they don't want to spend it hearing you whining about how everyone else doesn't invest enough time in what you find valuable.
So get out of your echo chamber, stop being so stodgy and pretentious about what you do, and entertain the punters while you educate them! Bring out your Bigfoot, kick-start your UFO, do what you need to get the story across and have some goddamn fun while you do it! And you know what, in the process, you might even find that some of those weird anomalies you're using to educate people have some interesting science to them as well and could be worth a closer look...
Scientists Gather 37 Samples Alleged to be from Yetis and Bigfoot - and Return with a Surprising ConclusionPosted by Greg at 12:24, 03 Jul 2014
Can science answer the question as to whether the mythical Yeti exists? A new DNA analysis of dozens of hair specimens allegedly belonging to the cryptozoological critter has found that the physical evidence at this stage does not provide evidence confirming the creature's existence, with almost all the samples providing DNA associated with common hairy animals such as cows, dogs and bears.
This was no common debunking exercise however. The researchers, led by Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, were keen to apply their knowledge to a topic that has long been unfairly dismissed by orthodox science:
Despite several decades of research, mystery still surrounds the species identity of so-called anomalous primates such as the yeti in the Himalaya, almasty in central Asia and sasquatch/bigfoot in North America. On the one hand, numerous reports including eye-witness and footprint evidence, point to the existence of large unidentified primates in many regions of the world. On the other hand,
no bodies or recent fossils of such creatures have ever been authenticated. There is no shortage of theories about what these animals may be, ranging from surviving populations of collateral hominids such as Homo neanderthalensis, Homo floresiensis, or Denisovans, extinct apes such as Gigantopithecus or even unlikely hybrids between Homo sapiens and other mammals. Modern science has largely avoided this field and advocates frequently complain that they have been ‘rejected by science’. This conflicts with the basic tenet that science neither rejects nor accepts anything without examining the evidence. To apply this philosophy to the study of anomalous primates and to introduce some clarity into this often murky field, we have carried out a systematic genetic survey of hair samples attributed to these creatures.
The resulting scientific paper, "Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates" has just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The hair samples were collected from museum and individual collections after a call for submissions was made in 2012. In the end, 37 samples were selected for genetic analysis. 35 of those samples were a bust - they were found to be from a range of already known mammals. Two of the samples, however, both from the Himalayas, did provide some data of interest: the researchers found that the closest genetic affinity the samples had was with a Palaeolithic polar bear, Ursus maritimus, which lived some 40,000 years ago.
Sequences derived from hair sample nos. 25025 and 25191 had a 100% match with DNA recovered from a Pleistocene fossil more than 40 000 BP of U. maritimus (polar bear) but not to modern examples of the species. Hair sample no. 25025 came from an animal shot by an experienced hunter in Ladakh, India ca.40 years ago who reported that its behaviour was very different from a brown bear Ursus arctos with which he was very familiar. Hair sample no. 25191 was recovered from a high altitude (ca. 3500 m) bamboo forest in Bhutan and was identified as a nest of a migyhur, the Bhutanese equivalent of the yeti. The Ladakh hairs (no. 25025) were golden-brown, whereas the hair from Bhutan (no. 25191) was reddish-brown in appearance...[it seems likely that the two hairs reported here are from either a previously unrecognized bear species, colour variants of U. maritimus, or U. arctos/U. maritimus hybrids.
The researchers concluded that if these bears are widely distributed in the Himalayas, "they may well contribute to the biological foundation of the yeti legend".
Nevertheless, the results do provide some food for thought for the field of cryptozoology. "Rather than persisting in the view that they have been ‘rejected by science’," the paper notes, "advocates in the cryptozoology community have more work to do in order to produce convincing evidence for anomalous primates and now have the means to do so. The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims".
Alan Boyle has an excellent article on the paper over at NBC's Cosmic Log, in which he talks to both Sykes and well-known cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Their words suggest that the open-minded research has already contributed to a healthier dialogue between orthodox science and cryptozoology. Loren Coleman, far from being disappointed in the result, noted that Sykes' method was "the correct way to do cryptozoology science." Sykes, for his part, thought that though much of the research done on the topic so far "just wasn't science",nevertheless cryptozoologists had been, "I think, quite badly treated by scientists over the past 50 years".
There are plenty of headlines all over the web today about how the study has debunked Yeti/Bigfoot, but Sykes certainly doesn't feel that way. "I don't think this finishes the Bigfoot myth at all," he told NBC. "What it does do is show that there is a way for Bigfoot enthusiasts to go back out into the forest and get the real thing."
July 2nd is as much a worthy date to celebrate World UFO Day, as the USA team is a worthy candidate to win the World Cup championship.
- At last! Here's what Assange's Wikileaks documents reveal about the secret US interest in UFOs.
- My Grimericompadres interview Nick Pope & John Burroughs to talk about 1 of the most fascinating UFO cases in history: The Rendlesham encounter(s).
- NASA successfully launches spacecraft designed to monitor carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
- A simple experiment that could reveal the hidden structure of the quantum world.
- The first step in the path of Gnosis: Agnosticism.
- Filmmaker David Graham Scott relates how Ibogaine helped him kick off his methadone addiction. To learn more, watch his documentary Detox or Die.
- Charles Darwin: My name Is
Iñigo MontoyaAlex Agassiz. You Killedhumiliated my father. Prepare to... be proven wrong!
- Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes has published his paper on the DNA analysis of purported Bigfoot & Yeti samples. What does it mean for Cryptozoology?
- Alas, we haven't overcome the age of lazy Cryptozoology debunking yet(i).
- After his latest appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience, Geomythologist Randall Carlson received a flood of criticism from skeptics. Here's his open letter response.
- Recreating a 200-year-old elixir of long life.
- The most influential people in the last 35 centuries, according to Wikipedia --yet further proof the online library needs an overhaul...
- Moaning Moguls: Why tycoons in the XXIst century feel like the victims.
- Stairway to Lawsuit: Did Led Zeppelin steal its most famous songs? [More]
- Moments that changed the movies: When CGI made dinosaurs roar for the 1st time.
- Red Pill of the Day: Letter written in 1931 finally delivered. Better late than never, eh?
Quote of the Day:
"[Cryptozoologists] have been, I think, quite badly treated by scientists over the past 50 years."
[Before you read this book review, know that I not only intend to offer my opinion on the novel, but also explore the historical events of the Mexican Conquest in some depth. If you are a complete neophyte in the topic & want to enjoy Graham's War God without 'spoilers', then I suggest you close this link & open the Amazon page to order it instead, since my ultra-ultra short review is "I liked it, get the book" anyway --same goes for anyone daunted by the prospect of reading a 3000+-word-long essay, which will only reinforce your decision to buy War God. For the undecided (and the masochists) please enjoy]
Broken spears lie in the roads;
We have torn our hair in our grief
The houses are roofless now, and their walls
Are red with blood.
Worms are swarming in the streets and plazas,
And the walls are spattered with gore
The water has turned red, as if it were dyed
And when we drink it,
It has the taste of brine
We have pounded our hands in despair
Against the adobe walls,
For our inheritance, our city, is lost and dead
The shields of our warriors were its defense.
But they could not save it.
We have chewed dry twigs and salt grasses:
We have filled our mouths with dust and bits of adobe.
We have eaten lizards, rats and worms
When we had meat, we ate it almost raw.
Weep my people
Know that with these disasters
We have lost the Mexican nation
The water has turned bitter
Our food is bitter
These are the acts of the Giver of Life.
~From the book The Broken Spears, chapter XV
As a literary fan, I honestly don't know which would be harder: To write a completely fictional story, or a fictionalized account of a true historical event. The open-ended freedom of pure fiction could turn into a double-edged sword in the hands of an inexperienced writer; whereas with fictionalized events, you wouldn't be allowed to surprise the reader by deviating too much from what was actually recorded in the History books – unless you're Quentin Tarantino, that is.
Which is why I was very interested in reading Graham Hancock's War God, his first non-fiction (‘first non-fiction-based novel’, or ‘second fiction novel’?) book & a novelized exploration of an event I probably know better than most: The Spanish Conquest of Mexico in the 16th century. ... Read More »
Forget the story of the shoemaker and the elves...the 21st century equivalent might be the laser physicist and the machine elves. Scotland-based physicist-turned-artist Tom Beddard (aka subBlue), creates computer-generated 3D fractal artworks that he refers to as 'Fabergé Fractals'...and they look like something that the denizens of the DMT realms might use as furniture.* Beddard uses iterative fractal formulas to create his astounding CG models:
The 3D fractals are generated by iterative formulas whereby the output of one iteration forms the input for the next. The formulas effectively fold, scale, rotate or flip space. They are truly fractal in the fact that more and more detail can be revealed the closer to the surface you travel.
The fascinating aspect is where combinations of parameters can combine to create structural 'resonances' of extraordinary detail and beauty— sometimes naturally organic and other times perfectly geometric. But then like a chaotic system it can completely disappear with the smallest perturbation.
I look forward to someone bringing these things into the real world with a 3D printer.
Beddard is also the co-creator of an app called Frax that lets you create your own fractal art. And he also has a pretty cool Vimeo channel full of fractal animations to make your head spin, like the one below.
For similar videos and images, see some of the links at the bottom of this post.
(* Beddard's use of the word 'Fabergé' is interesting, given Terence McKenna's own description of what he saw under the influence of DMT: "So you burst into this space. It's lit, softened lighting, some kind of indirect lighting - you can't quite locate it. But what is astonishing and immediately riveting is that in this place there are entities - there are these things, which I call "self transforming machine elves"...and then they proceed to sing objects into existence. Amazing objects. Objects that are Fabergé Eggs, things made of pearl, and metal, and glass, and gel; and you, when you're shown one of these things, a single one of them, you look at it and you know, without a shadow of a doubt, in the moment of looking at this thing, that if it were right here, right now, this world would go mad. It's like something from another dimension. It's like an artifact from a flying saucer. It's like something falling out of the mind of God - such objects do not exist in this universe, and yet, you're looking at it.")
You might also like:
Proof that Grailers are ahead of the curve: the news headlines today read like a summary of books we've released in recent years…
- The woman who shoots ghosts. (Incidentally, Shannon's photographs feature in the most recent book release from Daily Grail Publishing, Talking with the Spirits: Ethnographies from Between the Worlds)
- Why are exorcisms so fascinating?
- Unlocking the mystery behind near-death experiences. I discussed the topic at length in my recent book Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife.
- Hallucinogenic nights: "Sleep paralysis has tormented me since childhood. But now it's my portal to out-of-body travel and lucid dreams".
- You can learn how to lucid dream yourself in Paul Devereux's book Lucid Dreaming: Accessing Your Inner Virtual Realities (published by us!).
- What kinds of people hear voices?
- Some conspiracies are messy and flawed. Therefore, all conspiracy theories are nonsense. Behold ladies and gentlemen, the finest critical minds of our time…
- Is this enough of a reason to quit Facebook? The massive social media company screwed with the emotions of hundreds of thousands of users INTENTIONALLY to see how they'd react. FOR SCIENCE!
- Reality reclaimed: have we been interpreting quantum mechanics wrong all this time?
- How my dad's equation sparked the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
- If E.T. is out there, why haven't they contacted us? Here's some possible reasons.
- NASA's 'flying saucer' makes a hard landing in the Pacific Ocean after initial test.
- Well-known ufologist Stanton Friedman suffers a heart attack. All our best to Stan in his recovery!
- UFOs explained: it's the alcohol silly! More here.
- Strange giant stone spheres top list of new World Heritage locations.
- What is the mysterious, mind-numbing hum that is driving residents of Windsor, Ontario out of their heads?
- Mysterious earthen mounds created by plants, not animals.
- David 'Mulder' Duchovny says The X-Files isn't done "until one of us dies".
- The 25-year-old supernova that could change the speed of light forever.
- Eight old time paranormal researchers cooler than hipsters and smarter than you.
Quote of the Day:
All your beliefs, they're just that. They're nothing. They're how you were taught and raised. That doesn't make 'em real.
Cryptozoology legend Loren Coleman informed me today of the concerning news that well-known ufologist Stanton Friedman suffered a mild heart attack last Friday night. Thankfully, Stan survived the emergency and is making good progress. Here's the latest update from one of his close friends Kathleen Marden, with whom he has co-authored multiple books:
I spoke with Stan Friedman this morning and am very pleased to report that he is feeling strong and chipper. His heart enzymes have declined, so he has turned the corner. He wants me to make it clear that he will be transported to a larger hospital, only because his local facility doesn't have the equipment to do a dye test and an echo cardiogram. This will probably occur today or Wednesday, as July 1 is a national holiday in Canada.
"Well wishers can send cards to Stan at P.O. Box 958, Houlton, ME 04730. He appreciates everyone's thoughts and prayers.
Stan's medical issues will sadly stop him from attending this year's Roswell UFO Festival, but hopefully his good medical outcome will allow him to spend many more future years there. We send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to him.
Deluded? Nah, not me!
- Near-death experiences are overwhelmingly peaceful.
- An ear-grass is the latest in chimp fashion, but maybe their taste in music has deeper roots.
- The influence of expectation on perception revealed in an impressive audio illusion.
- Stonehenge: a 'botched job by cowboy builders' according to Professor Ronald Hutton.
- 9 stunning panoramas of starry skies, captured with a homemade camera rig.
- Is this an automatic sperm extractor, or is someone taking the piss?
- Is this a Gollum-like creature, or was someone taking a piss?
- The Ambonwari of Papua New Guinea use cell phones to call the dead (in between games of Flappy Bird).
- Why some urban legends go viral.
- Tomb of Golden Dawn founder S.L. MacGregor Mathers unearthed in Paris.
- Sarah Angliss on the unheimlich manoeuvres of Ventriloquism.
- 'The Youngness Paradox': why SETI has not found any signals from extraterrestrial civilisations.
- Or maybe they've just cleaned up their act: pollution on other worlds may show 'advanced' alien life.
- Girl 'possessed' after Ouija session revealed to have taken shamanic drug.
- Warning signs erected for River Avon Crocodile.
- 50,000 year-old poo confirms Neanderthals ate veggies.
- Robot to hitchhike across Canada.
Quote of the Day:
When told that man lives in delusion everyone thinks of himself as the exception; hence his delusion.