Buzz Aldrin Clarifies Apollo 11 'UFO'

Buzz Aldrin

One of the long-running stories in ufology touches on UFOs allegedly seen by astronauts on the Apollo Moon missions, with one of those being Buzz Aldrin's supposed confession that he saw a UFO outside the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the way to the Moon. The legendary American astronaut participated in a Reddit AMA yesterday, and during that question and answer session clarified what the 'UFO' likely was:

On Apollo 11 in route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world – it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And i feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don’t know. So technically, the definition could be “unidentified.”

We well understood exactly what that was. And when we returned, we debriefed and explained exactly what we had observed. And I felt that this had been distributed to the outside world, the outside audience, and apparently it wasn’t, and so many years later, I had the time in an interview to disclose these observations, on another country’s television network. And the UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that i had not given them the information. It was not an alien.

Link: Buzz Aldrin Reddit AMA

News Briefs 08-07-2014

Breathe...

Quote of the Day:

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

Pink Floyd ("Wish You Were Here")

US$23,365 Gathered on a Potato Salad Kickstarter Campaign. Because This is the Internet

So you have this great idea for a new book, a film or a new invention, and you're considering trying your luck in the crowd-funding pool & appeal to the generosity of the online community to make your dream a reality.

FOOL! Don't you get it by now? Nobody cares about the kick-ass screenplay that's been brewing on the back of your head all these years, or the sweet gadget that's totally going to revolutionize the world overnight. When it comes to crowd-funding, it's all about the LULz.

The LULz —and potato salad.

Zack Danger Brown from Columbus, Ohio, decided to try & make potato salad for the 1st time, and he had the good sense of creating a Kickstarter campaign to back him up:

Basically I'm just making potato salad. I haven't decided what kind yet.

What may have started as something of a joke, has clearly escalated into a 5-fork viral phenomenon. As of the moment this article will be posted, Zack has already acquired the support of 1,842 backers, gathering a total amount of $23,586(!!!), with still 25 days to go until the campaign is officially funded —Bear in mind that when I first learn of this story this morning, they had gather about half of that amount. So basically the sky's the limit with this one, and it's going to be brimming in potato salad.

Here's a look at the latest stretch goals in the campaign:

NEW STRETCH GOALS:

$1000: I'll do a live stream of the potato salad making

$1200: I'll pay someone to film a thank-you video for all of my backers!

A BIG STRETCH GOAL:

We're really tearing through these stretch goals. I honestly don't know what is realistic anymore. So, I thought maybe we try to double the current number?

$3000: My kitchen is too small! I will rent out a party hall and invite the whole internet to the potato salad party (only $10 and above will be allowed in the kitchen)! The internet loves potato salad! Let's show them that potato salad loves the internet!!

Should they reach $100k, I honestly feel Zack ought to officially change his name to Mr. Potato Salad.

H/T to The Grande Zkombe, who along with me is going to create a Macaroni salad Kickstarter now that we've finally read the signs. You think a solid million would be too conservative at this point?

Giant Salamander sighted in Kyoto, Japan

Footage of the Kyoto salamander:

See video

On the 4th of July a normally nocturnal dog-sized Giant Salamander decided to take a walk alongside the Kamogawa River in down-town Kyoto, Japan. People were apparently so shocked by the sight of the rare creature that the police were summoned to the scene.

There are only three species of Giant Salamander in the world: The North American Hellbender (AKA "snot otter", "devil dog", "mud-devil", "grampus", "Allegheny alligator", "mud dog", and "leverian water newt") which grow to around two feet in length; the Japanese Ōsanshōuo ("giant pepper fish" because of the peppery smell they exude) which can be five feet long; and the Chinese Giant Salamander which can reach six feet in length.

The Ōsanshōuo live in clear rivers and streams, have very poor eyesight and hunt fish, frogs and small mammals using special sensory cells which cover their skin to detect minute vibrations in the water. Once collected for food and now with their habitat under threat, the species is classified as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

 Hanzaki Festival from altjapan.typepad.com

While the residents of Kyoto may have been shocked to see a Giant Salamander out for a stroll (especially since, unlike other salamanders, they can't actually breathe out of water, so I hope he/she headed back into the river soon after), some 200km (125 miles) East in the Okayama mountains there is an annual festival held in celebration of the creature.

The village of Yubara Onsen has held its Hanzaki Festival for almost fifty years now. Hanzaki is the local name for the Giant Salamander which refers to the ancient belief that if the creature were cut in two, both halves would live and grow into a whole.

A procession takes place through the village every 8th of August. Two floats with gigantic models of Giant Salamanders - a black male and a red/brown female - are followed by singers and dancers.

After a day of festivities the Hanzaki Song is sung "Shiawase wa, hanzaki matsuri dakara..." ("Happiness is the giant salamander festival!").

More info on the Hanzaki Festival can be found here: http://altjapan.typepad.com/my_weblog/20...

National Geographic short about the Japanese Giant Salamander at:

See video

News Briefs 07-07-2014

I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you…

  • Consciousness on-off switch discovered deep in brain. What if it had only been an off-switch?
  • Scientists discover physical correlate of magic mushroom-induced dream-like state.
  • Scientists on the hunt for real life midi-chlorians: are religious rituals like circumcision, the communion chalice, kissing of relics, holy wells, cannibalism, condoms, celibacy and festivals examples of microbial host control? (pdf)
  • Seahenge has a sister.
  • Chimpanzee dictionary published.
  • Premature birth causes Human Brain Project damage.
  • His time on this 'grim rock' may nearly be up, but the inventor of Sabre, a reusable rocket engine, is still committed to powering humanity's exodus.
  • World's earliest known example of erotic graffiti found on Greek island.
  • Amateurs, empiricism, and the tedium of psychical research. Guest Post by Alicia Puglionesi on the Forbidden Histories blog.
  • Tiny bio-bots powered by rat muscle.
  • These are not maps of where atheists live, but of isolated religious communities.
  • The shocking truth about men spending time with themselves.
  • Architecture meets magnetism.
  • 'Leprechauns' gain protection under EU law.
  • Train derailment leaves plane fuselages stranded.
  • A stone circle to unite England and Scotland?
  • Witch or glitch?

Quote of the Day:

Your weirdness will make you strong. Your dark side will keep you whole. Your vulnerability will connect you to the rest of our suffering world. your creativity will set you free. There's nothing wrong with you.

Andréa Balt

Crop Circles? They Belong in a Museum!


Whatever you think of the crop circle phenomenon —alien symbols, messages from Gaia, vandalic graffiti or magick sigils— I think we all can agree at least on one thing: Many of them are gorgeous to look at. Which begs the question: Why hasn't there ever been a proper museum exhibit showcasing these fascinating works of art?

Fortunately, the fine folk working at the Witlshire museum have corrected this unforgivable omission. From June 21st to August 31st of 2014, the exhibit "Exploring the Mystery and Beauty of Crop Circles" will be showcased; the first ever exhibition of its kind, right at the heart of the crop circle capital of the world.

The exhibit is being curated by Dutch and German crop circle researchers Monique Klinkenbergh and Andreas Müller, and along with large-size prints of the most prominent crop circle photographs taken since the phenomenon started —or since the circles gathered public attention, whichever you prefer— it also seeks to offer some background information in the history of the phenomenon, and the research conducted so far in trying to explain it.

"The concept of our exhibition is based on the idea that there is a genuine, not man-made phenomenon", adds Monique Klinkenbergh. "For this view, we present evidence and background facts. Over the last three decades printed and aired media presented the phenomenon mostly as the result 'Dough and Dave', the two elderly tricksters who suddenly appeared on the scene in 1991, followed by students and hoaxers. With our exhibition in the Wiltshire Museum we also want to set some records straight from a research point of view.

But what of the possibility of visiting an actual circle, instead of just looking at an aerial photograph? The Wiltshire museum also hosts the Crop Circle Access Centre, which is a mobile app informing on the latest formations & which ones are open to the public; it also seeks to compensate farmers whose field has had the 'fortune' of being chosen by the crop circle makers, paying them a portion of the money raised through the passes —field owners in other countries would wish to be so lucky…

Over the years my personal opinion on the matter of crop circles has changed substantially. Back in the late 80's & early 90's I was convinced these 'agro-glyphs' represented tangible evidence of some sort of communication with a non-human intelligence; now I side with the notion that the great majority of the circles are created by clandestine artists, who prefer to remain anonymous as much to avoid legal repercussions, as to infuse their creations with the necessary amount of mystique.

And yet that doesn't make those circles 'hoaxes' in my mind, nor does it mean some subtle interaction with an external influence is not occurring; a lot of the makers admit to sometimes feel 'compelled' to choose a particular design or location for reasons beyond their understanding, or sometimes report odd happenings while they are flattening the wheat using the infamous 'planking method' popularized by (the equally infamous) 'Doug & Dave.'

Whichever the case, if you happen to have the chance to visit Wiltshire this summer, you might want to stop by at the museum, and perhaps write for us a review.

[Hat tip to Andreas Müller]

Links:

This UFO is Real, According to a Government Agency

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."

News Briefs 04-07-1014

In perusing the Daily Grail news briefs every day, be careful to not fall victim to this...

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.

Bill Hicks

Bring Out Your Bigfoot: How 'Science' is Failing at Educating the Public

Harry

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:

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:

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...