Saturday, May 22, 2021

Aliens that weren't aliens

[This is a transcript of the video embedded below.]

The interstellar object ‘Oumuamua travelled through our solar system in 2017. Soon after it was spotted, the astrophysicist Avi Loeb claimed it was alien technology. Now it looks like it was just a big chunk of nitrogen.

This wasn’t the first time scientists yelled aliens mistakenly and it certainly won’t be the last. So, in this video we’ll look at the history of supposed alien discoveries. What did astronomers see, what did they think it was, what did it turn out to be in the end? And what are we to make of these claims? That’s what we’ll talk about today.

Let’s then talk about all the times when aliens weren’t aliens. In 1877, the Italian astronomer Giovanni Shiaparelli studied the surface of our neighbor planet Mars. He saw a network of long, nearly straight lines. At that time, astronomers didn’t have the ability take photographs of their observation and the usual procedure was to make drawings and write down what they saw. Schiaparelli called the structures “canali” in Italian, a word which leaves their origin unspecified. In the English translation, however, the “canali” became “canals” which strongly suggested an artificial origin. The better word would have been “channels”.

This translation blunder made scientific history. Even though the resolution of telescopes at the time wasn’t good enough to identify surface structures on Mars, a couple of other astronomers quickly reported they also saw canals. Around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, the American Astronomer Percival Lowell published three books in which he presented the hypothesis that the canals were an irrigation system built by an intelligent civilization.

The idea that there had once been, or maybe still was, intelligent life on Mars persisted until 1965. In this year, the American space mission Mariner 5 flew by Mars and sent back the first photos of Mars’s surface to Earth. The photos showed craters but nothing resembling canals. The canals turned out to have been imaging artifacts, supported by vivid imagination. And even though the scientific community laid the idea of canals on Mars to rest in 1965, it took much longer for the public to get over the idea of life on Mars. I recall my grandmother was still telling me about the canals in the 1980s.

But in any case the friends of ET didn’t have to wait long for renewed hope. In 1967, the Irish Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell noticed that the radio telescope in Cambridge which she worked on at the time recorded a recurring signal that pulsed with a period of somewhat more than a second. She noted down “LGM” on the printout of the measurement curve, short for „little green men”.

The little green men were a joke, of course. But at the time, astrophysicists didn’t know any natural process that could explain Bell Burnell’s observations, so they couldn’t entirely exclude that it was a signal stemming from alien technology. However, a few years after the signal was first recorded it became clear that its origin was not aliens, but a rotating neutron star.

Rotating neutron stars can build up strong magnetic fields and then emit a steady, but directed beam of electromagnetic radiation. And since the neutron star rotates, we only see this beam if it happens to point into our direction. This is why the signal appears to be pulsed. Such objects are now called “Pulsars”.

Then in 1996, life on Mars had a brief comeback. That year, a group of Americans found a meteorite in Antarctica which seemed to carry traces of bacteria. This rock was probably flung into the direction of our planet when a heavier meteorite crashed into the surface of Mars. Indeed, other scientists confirmed that the Antarctic meteorite most likely came from mars. However, they concluded that the structures in the rock are too small to be of bacterial origin.

That wasn’t it with alien sightings. In 2015, the Kepler telescope found a star with irregular changes in its brightness. Officially the star has the catchy name KIC8462852, but unofficially it’s been called WTF. That stands, as you certainly know for Where’s the flux? The name which stuck in the end though was “Tabby’s star,” after the first name of its discoverer, Tabetha Boyajian.

At first astrophysicists didn’t have a good explanation for the odd behavior of Tabby’s star. And so, it didn’t take long until a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania proposed aliens are building a megastructure around their star.

Indeed, the physicist freeman Dyson had argued already in the 1960s, that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations would try to capture energy from their sun as directly as possible. To this end, Dyson speculated, they’d build a sphere around the star. It’s remained unclear how such a sphere would be constructed or remain stable, but, well, they are advanced, these civilizations, so presumably they’ve figured it out. And they’re covering up their star to catch its energy, that can quite plausibly lead to a signal like the one observed from Tabby’s star.

Several radio telescopes scanned the area around Tabby’s star on the lookout for signs of intelligent life, but didn’t find anything. Further observations now seem to support the hypothesis that the star is surrounded by debris from a destroyed moon or other large rocks.

Then, in 2017, the Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk made a surprising discovery when he analyzed data from the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii. He saw an object that passed closely by our planet, but it looked neither like a comet nor like an asteroid.

When Weryk traced back its path, the object turned out to have come from outside our solar system. “‘Oumuamua” the astronomers named it, Hawaiian for “messenger from afar arriving first”.

‘Oumuamua gave astronomers and physicists quite something to think. It entered our solar system on a path that agreed with the laws of gravity, with no hints at any further propulsion. But as it got closer to the sun, it began to emit particles of some sort that gave it an acceleration.

This particle emission didn’t fit that usually observed from comets. Also, the shape of ‘Oumuamua, is rather untypical for asteroids or comets. The shape which fits the data best is that of a disk, about 6-8 times as wide as high.

When ‘Oumuamua was first observed, no one had any good idea what it was, what it was made of, or what happened when it got close to the sun. The Astrophysicist Avi Loeb used the situation to claim that ‘Oumuamua is technology of an alien civilization. “[T]he simplest, most direct line from an object with all of ‘Oumuamua’s observed qualities to an explanation for them is that it was manufactured.”

According to a new study it now looks like ‘Oumuamua is a piece of frozen nitrogen that was split off a nitrogen planet in another solar system. It remained frozen until it got close to our sun, when it began to partly evaporate. Though we will never know exactly because the object has left our solar system for good and the data we have now is all the data we will ever have.

And just a few weeks ago, we talked about what happened to the idea that there’s life on Venus. Check out my earlier video for more about that.

So, what do we learn from that? When new discoveries are made it takes some time until scientists have collected and analyzed all the data, formulated hypotheses, and evaluated which hypothesis explains the data best. Before that is done, the only thing that can reliably be said is “we don’t know”.

But “we don’t know” is boring and doesn’t make headlines. Which is why some scientists use the situation to put forward highly speculative ideas before anyone else can show they’re wrong. This is why headlines about possible signs of extraterrestrial life are certainly entertaining but usually, after a few years, disappear.

Thanks for watching, don’t forget to subscribe, see you next week.


  1. This is one of my favourite 'Science Without the Gobbledygook' videos. I'm fascinated with how people weave their perceptions into narratives and beliefs. We've been examining and learning our solar system and outer space for millenia but often still using the same mental machinery as our remote ancestors. Humans are bizarre.

    If humanity ever does make contact with technologically advanced aliens, maybe we can ask them for more info on photons. ;)

  2. I was sure we'd see the Mars Face in this video... slightly disappointed now ;-)

    1. I have something to say about the Mars face in another video that's up in two weeks :)

  3. But what about ? I doubt we'll ever know what Oumuamua is and I seriously doubt it's an alien vehicle. Still...where are they? The galaxy is pretty freaking old.

  4. If UFOs are actually visitors from other civilizations, they must have a technology that is far more advanced than ours is. But don't be concerned, there are no other civilizations involved with UFOs... these fearful objects are but a dimly seen preview of a new epoch in science and technology that could be available to humankind if only we can embrace it without fear.

    The laws of nature in their full expanse are just now becoming visible. But even at this very early juncture, the specifications of this new technology are truly awesome. What is to come in the very near future is beyond the dreams of the most imaginative Sci Fi authors but new military sensors can now preview the dance moves of these flying profits of the future.

    The AN/APG-79, and other AESA radars like it on fighter aircraft, offer a huge leap in capability in virtually every respect. This includes a massive improvement in reliability as a steerable radar dish is no longer needed with electronically scanned arrays.

    Mechanically scanned arrays have to quickly sweep in all directions physically and even under heavy G forces and buffeting, and they have to survive crashing down on a carrier deck after missions over and over. So, migrating to a system with few moving parts was a massive coup in terms of reliability for Navy fighters. he AN/APG-79's resolution, range, speed of scan, simultaneous tracking, and target discrimination abilities are drastically improved over its predecessor. Even the ability to operate in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes at the same time has been introduced. In addition, advanced software and processing that interprets what the more sensitive radar 'sees' provides a higher quality end product to Super Hornet crews, resulting in dramatically improved situational awareness.

    All this means that AESA equipped fighters can see farther, better understand what was being detected, and have a hugely enhanced ability to detect objects flying low over surface clutter. Even small or low observable (stealthy), or slow-moving targets, or those that attempt to hide in the 'doppler notch' of a threatening fighter's radar by flying perpendicular to it, have a tougher time eluding detection and engagement when facing opposition fighters packing AESA radar sets.
    With all that being said, apparently, this same leap in sensor technology also lifted the curtain, so to speak, when it came to detecting UFOs flying near Navy fighters while on training missions. 
    The pilots began noticing the objects after their 1980s-era radar was upgraded to a more advanced system. As one fighter jet after another got the new radar, pilots began picking up the objects, but ignoring what they thought were false radar tracks.

    As with any advancement is scientific sensing, new discoveries immediately follow.

    Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been in the Navy for a decade has come forward after talking to the Navy and Congress about the events he and his squadron mates witnessed between 2014 and 2015.

    This navy pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. It looked to the pilot, Lieutenant Graves said, like a sphere encasing a cube.

    When I see these polygon shapes, I know what ballpark that the game is being played in. These are the classic supersolid shapes. I see the marks that these shapes impress in material corrosion all the time in micrographs. Triangles, hexagons,  pyramids,  and  even saucer-shapes are also seen. 

    There may be an instance of fear involved in the interpretation of this new reality like a bushman seeing his picture on a smartphone for the first time.  When a nanoscale object described in a math paper is just an exercise in logic, but when that same object, now  the size of a bus, is pacing your jet airliner at 30,000 feet, the culture shock is beyond most of us and that is when the fear sets in. 

  5. Good morning. The italian astronomer's mame is Schiaparelli, in the text there is no c after S.
    Thanks for your work

  6. Avi’s claim is easy to track down. A link for the big chunk of nitrogen would be nice.

    1. The paper is here. Google for "Oumuamua frozen nitrogen" to get popular science summaries.

  7. This is how consensual mainstream science works nowadays: Try to fit common sense to the conundrum. If the common sense doesn't fit to the conundrum, then try to fit the conundrum to the common sense. Believe or not, human beings have beliefs. This case of 'Oumuamua looks to me like the famous Pioneer Anomaly. At the end of the day, the JPL told us that they had figured it out, the rare acceleration was caused by a thermal recoil force. End of Pioneer Anomaly story. In order for your common sense to follow the path of that Pioneer Anomaly conundrum, you have to fit it to the fact that aliens do no exist, but frozen nitrogen do. So, once you have figured it out, you can sleep better at night, because aliens won't trespass your yard and abduce you, happily, and 'Oumuamua will escape the solar system for good and forever.

    1. Hi Albert, I agree with you but the problem with the 'common sense' argument is that people use it to shore up their ignorance. For example, all the people online who cite 'common sense' to justify their ignorant bigotry when they opine on social media. Those same people always invoke 'science' when discussing issues where the science has well proven them wrong, such as anti-vaxxers and anti-transgender/LGBTQI+ conservatives. I prefer to argue from parsimony: Occam's Razor. We've more conclusive evidence for frozen and gaseous matter traveling through the Universe than exists for aliens.
      I wish it was as simple as the 'Oumuamua situation.

  8. People dream about meeting aliens but can not suffer the black person walking down their street.
    Strange, but mostly sad.

  9. Part 1 0f 2

    What if UFOs are actually Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMP). Maybe the common conception of what a particle can be is too limited at least in terms of size. What if UFOs are the appearance of dark matter on earth. I have a number of reasons in support of this conjecture.

    A case in point, the The Hessdalen lights.

    The Hessdalen lights are unexplained lights observed in a 12-kilometre-long (7.5 mi) stretch of the Hessdalen valley in rural central Norway.

    The bus-sized Hessdalen lights are of unknown origin. They appear both by day and by night, and seem to float through and above the valley. They are usually bright white, yellow or red and can appear above and below the horizon. The duration of the phenomenon may be a few seconds to well over an hour. Sometimes the lights move with enormous speed; at other times they seem to sway slowly back and forth. On yet other occasions, they hover in mid‑air.Unusual lights have been reported in the region since at least the 1930s. High activity occurred between December 1981 and mid-1984, during which the lights were being observed 15–20 times per week, attracting many overnight tourists who arrived in for a sighting. As of 2010, the number of observations has dwindled, with only 10 to 20 sightings made yearly. 

    Many attempts at trying to get to the bottom of these lights have centered on the local geology to explain their casation. The one that I like the best is the explanation that attributes the phenomenon to an incompletely understood reaction involving hydrogen, oxygen and sodium, which occurs in Hessdalen because of the large deposits of scandium there. This explanation seems to support the catalytic formation of a metallic hydrogen based polariton condensate. But how can  this condensate grow so large, the size of a bus. A clue comes from research observations about how the Hessdalen lights are initiated:

  10. Part 2 of 2

    "The light phenomenon is always preceded by very short-lasting (on the order of a fraction of second) flashes of light which appear everywhere in the valley and which emit power ranging from 10 to 300 W. Sometimes such flashes are recorded at a very short distance (up to 5 m) from the observer."

    This indicates that the large bus-sized condensate waveform condenses from the entanglement of many smaller sub clusters. There is no alien civilization origin story involved here.

    There are many such areas around the world that have seen these lights produced on a regular basis including the Marfa lights in Texas.

    But there are other clues that can lend support to the assignation of WIMPs status to UFO sightings.

    I have mentioned the polygon structure of the UFO which is a result of the supersolid nature of polariton lattice formation.

    There is mention by Navy pilots to the roiling of the surface of the sea that is occurring on the surface of the ocean directly under the ocean hugging  UFO.

    I have seen this intense vortex action appear in cavitation based polariton condensation formation where the anopole spin circulation induces massive vortex formation behavior in water.

    Next, polariton condensation is a surface localized reaction where the condensate is attracted to any nearby metal surfaces. This could be why the UFOs attempt to approach ships and jet aircraft. 

    If the UFO based condensate does ever contact the surface of a ship or plane, that surface may dematerialize. That would set the defence department into an alien attack based panic. These bus sized WIMPs could be dangerous and not to be toyed with.

    As far as an application of UFO WIMP technology goes... if an aircraft could be encased in a dark matter field, the aircraft might  demonstrate the performance behavior that the UFOs are currently showing to the US Navy. This includes MOND based antigravity, no control surfaces, no restraint by air resistance,  zero inertial maneuvering,  instant acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction, and point to point quantum teleportation. 

    The WIMP hunters now searching in those multi million dollar holes in the ground might be better served to lift their eyes toward the skys.

    When Ed Witten set down his mathematical description of a tachyon condensate, no one would ever imagine that these equations could ever actually be realized.

    1. Sabine states above that she will in two weeks write about the "Mars face" and I presume related issues. I will leave this for the most part until then. UFOs have been around for many decades, and from what I have seen absolutely nothing has been really found or learned from them.

  11. I read Loeb's book on this, and I'd say his idea is still very much in play. Saying that Oumuamua "now looks like" something that's never actually been seen strikes me as a bit disingenuous.

    Loeb's real point is that there's no justification for saying that an alien origin is "unlikely". Certainly, extraterrestrial life in general no longer seems like a long shot.

    1. " Saying that Oumuamua "now looks like" something that's never actually been seen strikes me as a bit disingenuous."

      The phrase "it looks like A is B" does note mean "A looks like B". More importantly, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. The hypothesis that Oumuamua was produced by aliens explains absolutely nothing. You can't calculate anything from it. You may as well say "it was sent by God" and leave it at that. What Loeb is trying to say is that there's no natural process that could have produced it. Difficult case to make, it was likely to be wrong. As I explained in my video...

    2. That's perilously close to saying that an idea doesn't qualify as an "explanation" unless it allows scientists to publish papers about it that contain math. As a non-mathematical person, should I just give up thinking about these issues?

    3. Nobody is saying it is impossible. It just appears implausible, should we say a tiny Bayesian prior. We have sent 5 craft into interstellar space. 12 humans walked on another planetary body, though that is about a billionth the distance to another star. Yet, on balance the "Jimmy the Greek" odds we might put on this Oumuamua being an alien artifact must be tiny.

    4. The Las Vegas-established 'likelihood' of advanced extraterrestrials will remain extremely low right up until the day it becomes 100%.

  12. I suggest to the US defense department that they assume a more proactive posture to analyze the nature of the UFO by probing the physical nature of the UFOs that are intruding into US restricted airspace as follows:

    I suggest that one of the most intelligent and capable Super Hornet missiles: the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile undergoes warhead replacement with a custom UFO sensor characterization package to probe the internal structure of the UFO. These sensors might include magnetic field characterization, UFO real time flight data location recording, time dilation detection, field energy power level measurement, inertial movement measurement and recording, and sundry environmental measurements and recording which might include temperature, pressure, electric polarization, and the like.

    The Super Hornet warhead sensor replacement package might include package recovery signaling similar to a black box air crash recorder.

    The AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile already has the necessary targeting, pursuit and penetration capabilities necessary to localize the UFO, intercept it and proceed to penetrate the UFO's interior so that data can be recorded and saved for later analysis.

    By following an after action sensor package signaling beacon, the Navy can locate and retrieve the sensor package either on land or under the ocean anywhere on earth.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Edit: I read all your comments, I think earth-bound phenomena are also more likely than WIMPs, but interesting possibilities there.

  13. All of science is, metaphorically speaking, looking under the street light of current consensus (a.k.a. unquestioned yet fundamentally false dogma) to try to find its lost dime (of the way to true discovery), instead of out in the dark of honest ignorance where it lost that dime.

    In short, the truth is entirely apart from what you are all smoking here (again, figuratively speaking).

    If you want the truth, indeed the next paradigm in science, study my blog. (Consider me the Galileo of this climactic time in history.)

  14. Why do we prefer to think of Oumuamua as a chunk of nitrogen scattered of a plutoid dwarf planet somewhere by an impact, rather than see space aliens? It is for much the same reason pulsars were determined to be rotating neutron stars. Which is more plausible? It is contrary to this reasonable to think that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. It is also not unreasonable to think they send spacecraft into interstellar space. After all, we humans have 5 such craft heading out there. Yet, in the universe what do we suspect the ratio of spacecraft or artifacts to asteroid collision ejecta is? It cannot be that large a number. The other, such as with pulsars, coming to a recognition of what something most realistically is tells us far more than continuing to think some signature is due to aliens. Astrophysics has advanced enormously since knowing pulsars are rotating neutron stars. If for some reason we persisted in seeing them as LGM or aliens our understanding of the universe would have stalled.

  15. A couple of days ago I watched a Youtube video titled: “Was Earth visited by intelligent life? Astrophysicist Avi Loeb believes it was”, posted on 22 March 2021. Professor Loeb is interviewed by Frank Buckley, and discusses his interpretation of Oumuamua as a light sail sent off into interstellar space perhaps millions of years ago by a technical civilization. Surprisingly, Professor Loeb downplays the FLIR footage taken by an F/A-18F Super Hornet with an AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) system of one of the now famous “tic-tac” UAP’s (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). He also discounts the likelihood of Oumuamua being a slab of frozen nitrogen by asserting that carbon compounds should have been mixed in with the frozen nitrogen and no organics were detected spectroscopically. However, reading the paper: “Oumuamua as an N2 ice Fragment of an exo-Pluto Surface:…”, that Sabine linked, the frozen nitrogen explanation sounds very plausible.

    The intercept of the tic-tac UAP by Squadron Commanding Officer David Fravor, and his wingman Jim Slaight, in a pair of Super Hornets, occurred on 14 November 2004. But several days earlier numerous UAP’s were detected with the SPY-1 radar system, a phased array radar employed by the USS Princeton. They were detected in groups of 10 to 20 at 80,000 feet, after coming in from low Earth orbit (as reported by Senior Chief Kevin Day), then plunge to 28,000 feet in just 0.78 seconds near Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands. These islands are between 79 and 86 miles from San Diego.

    Interestingly, examining three photos taken from the 2nd or 3rd floor window of a hotel, where our oceanographic research group stayed for the first night in San Diego, in late April of 1995, there appear in two of the photos what I always assumed were just emulsion defects. These photos were taken with a film camera just seconds apart as gauged by the positions of a number of identifiable autos on the roadway in the foreground. In the background is a waterway with some marinas and a land mass that appears thin to the left getting wider further to the right. This must be San Diego bay, with the Coronado peninsula behind it where the Navy base is located. What’s odd is that the ‘emulsion defect’ in the absolutely clear blue sky changes position relative to the foreground landscape in just a few seconds, where a yellow taxi cab moves about 50 or 60 feet on the roadway to the right.

    The ‘emulsion defect’ is pure white in color and changes shape between the two images. The second image rather resembles the object in the 1st of three FLIR videos released by the Pentagon. In that video the object elongates prior to accelerating off the left, and this elongated version of the object resembles the ‘emulsion defect’ in the 2nd image taken with my film camera. Curiously, in the 1986 Walt Disney movie “Flight of the Navigator” the alien spaceship physically stretches out prior to a class 5 maneuver, or something like that. If the tic-tacs were using space warping technology, presumably the object itself immersed in the warp field would undergo contortions. But, anyway, I think what was on my pics were simply emulsion defects.

  16. In my previous comment at 12:42 PM, May 25, 2021 I speculated that white-colored emulsion defects present in a clear blue sky above the Coronado peninsula, on two photos taken from a hotel window in San Diego in quick succession, might have been an early capture of one of the now famous tic-tac AUP’s, visually observed by four naval aviators in November 2004. The aviators described the tic-tac they saw as being solid white in color and capable of hypersonic velocity. My pictures were taken in late April of 1995, or 9 and 1/2 years prior to the Nimitz encounter. Carefully examining with a 5X headset the 20 pictures taken on this April-May oceanographic research expedition only those two photos showed a white emulsion defect.

    On both pictures the defect is 1.5 millimeters in length, but with a different shape. In the earlier photo the defect forms a thin, shallow arch angled down to the right by about 5 degrees. In the next photo a defect appears with the same length, but is now about twice as thick on its left side and angled down to the right by about 12 or 13 degrees with respect to the local horizon. Luckily the terminus of a range of hills in the background is visible in both shots. It was therefore possible to overlap the photos and determine that if the ‘defect’ in both photos was one and the same object that it traversed 125 mm between the consecutive shots. So just for fun I decided to make a ballpark estimate of how far this ‘object’ was from my position at the window, and how fast it might have moved between the two shots, based on the 40 foot estimated length of the Nimitz encounter tic-tac.

    For size reference I assumed the yellow taxi cab in the foreground was a typical mid-sized sedan, or 201 inches long and an estimated 120 feet from the window. By lining up both photos with the background terminal hill visible in both photos I roughly estimated the distance traversed by the taxi between shots as 96 feet. The time between shots can then be estimated if one knows the speed of traffic on the road. As the road is 2 lanes in each direction and perfectly straight, I assumed a speed of 40 mph. To make a long story short I came up with an estimated distance for the ‘object’ of 1.2 miles (1.93 km.) and a velocity between the two shots of about 2700 mph (4345 km/h). These numbers are fraught with huge potential errors, and could be off 50% or more. However, to be honest, I’m not convinced that these whitish images are anything more than emulsion defects.

  17. I could scarcely believe it. I was about to fall asleep in front of the TV after watching two back to back episodes of Josh Gates exploring caves in Israel’s Dead Sea region for Biblical era scrolls, when Expedition X started up. Amazingly, his two young investigators Phil Torres and Jessica Chobot were looking into reports of both UFO’s and Unidentified Submerged Objects (USO’s) near Catalina Island. This was one locale where the USS Princeton, of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, picked up multiple targets transitioning from low Earth orbit to 28,000 feet above the ocean at hypersonic velocities in 2004. Once aware of what the program was about I instantly perked up.

    As the team’s hired yacht approached the town of Avalon on Catalina Island it brought back memories. In 1995 when our group completed a 3 week oceanographic research cruise we came ashore here to stretch our sea legs and down some local brews. Once ashore, Josh Gate’s team pursued a two pronged investigation. Jessica Chobot, and her assistants, set up some very high-tech gear on a remote part of the island with an unobstructed view of the sky and nearby ocean. Phil Torres, in turn, made arrangements to conduct an underwater exploration of the magnetic anomaly off the north end of Catalina Island.

    While they waited for nightfall no less a personage than Luis Elizondo, the former senior intelligence officer for the Secretary of Defense, arrived by helicopter. Elizondo and Torres scuba dived down to the seabed to investigate the magnetic anomaly, discovering an uncharted shipwreck. But the anomaly was in water to deep for scuba diving. So once nightfall came, Phil Torres deployed a video camera equipped ROV to the 1000 foot depth where the anomaly was located. Numerous bioluminescent sea life came into view as the ROV descended, until suddenly an extremely bright light flash was seen off to one side. At that exact instant the ROV’s video feed froze. Moments after this event, Jessica Chobot’s video camera monitoring the ocean picked up a light source rising out of the ocean near the yacht, which disappeared into the night sky out of the camera frame.

    Reviewing their findings the next day Phil Torres stated he was on the verge of believing aliens were involved in the phenomena they recorded during the night. Among the video recordings was one taken by another of Jessica’s cameras of what looked like a glowing tic-tac shaped object moving at spectacular speed across the night sky before blinking out. All in all it was an extremely interesting program.

  18. Hi David,
    I wonder if the white marks on those photos might have been something that got onto the film when it was exposed somehow?
    I had white artefacts appear on prints I made from a roll of film I'd manually spooled and developed in tech college, I don't know if a normal film might have a similar issue, if not an emulsion flaw?

  19. If these "unidentified flying objects" were actually objects, then a sonic boom would be produced as they passed the sound barrier. Since no sonic boom has ever been reported one can only conclude that no such objects exist. Better to call them "unidentified visual artifacts."

    1. The UFOs are not actually objects, they are balls of light called plasmoids.

      The word plasmoid was coined in 1956 by Winston H. Bostick (1916-1991) to mean a "plasma-magnetic entity"

      "The plasma is emitted not as an amorphous blob, but in the form of a torus. We shall take the liberty of calling this toroidal structure a plasmoid, a word which means plasma-magnetic entity. The word plasmoid will be employed as a generic term for all plasma-magnetic entities."

    2. A temperature inversion can lens light on a parabolic-like path. Last decade a case of UFO sightings were identified as the image of a town being seen in the sky this way. The lights appeared in the sky and appeared to move around.

      I suspect most UFO sightings are optical phenomena of one sort or another. Ice crystals at high altitudes can scatter light, such as seen in sun-dogs or glories, and pilots are sometimes fooled by this.

      A plasmoid is related to ball lightning. I have seen ball lightning. I used to send model rockets into thunderstorms with a wire connected to them. This would bring lightning down close, bright and really loud. I did this as a project to measure the spectra of lightning with a grating spectrometer. Sometimes plasma balls would fly around on the ground for a second or so. These were transient, and magnetic fields with no monopole source can only confine in idealized models. So I doubt these are stable enough to be UFOs.

  20. @C Thompson:

    I'm 99.999% sure that something like that is what caused the white marks on my pictures. It was just the fact that the objects visually observed by the four aviators were noted to be white in color, and I was in the region where these tic-tacs were being tracked on radar, that caused me to do a double take.
    Last night at 7:57 US EDT I caught the last bit of "Paranormal Caught on Camera", where viewers submit their personal videos of weird stuff. This show is over-hyped and sensationalized, and the four or five 'experts' on the show often advance the most ludicrous explanations for perfectly natural things like sundogs, etc. But in those last minutes of the show they did a recap of several videos presented during the show. To my surprise and amazement there were two separate reports of "pill shaped", white objects. Only one video clip was shown of such an object. This perfectly white object moving through a partly cloudy sky was proportionally identical to the FLIR image of a tic-tac captured in the 2nd F/A-18 sortie on 14 November 2004 by a USS Nimitz pilot. Unfortunately they didn't provide the context for this video; where it was filmed and when, during the recap. I’m hoping this episode repeats to find this information.


    The absence of a sonic boom from UAP’s that are tracked at supersonic speeds is one of the five “observables” delineated by Luis Elizondo. These are:

    1) “Anti-gravity lift”, where radar tracks show these things loitering for long stretches of time, but no evidence for how this is accomplished is observed – like rotor downwash or hot gases ejected downwards.

    2) “Sudden and instantaneous acceleration”. This aspect of UAP’s has been observed since the 1940’s.

    3) “Hypersonic velocities without signatures; vapor trails or sonic booms”. I’ve often wondered if a warp drive system would avoid the creation of a sonic boom.

    4) “Low observability or cloaking”

    5) “Trans-medium travel: space-air-water”.

    1. @David
      I'd bet a bag of jellybeans that the usual weather, atmosphere and vehicle/aircraft lights are the cause, with human perception added in for fun. Some of the phenomena I've seen photos of are pretty spectacular in their own right. I'm guessing you've seen images yourself.
      I think some people might do better with a bit more interest in the physical stuff on Earth as well as Space it's fascinating in its own right.
      But you know that already. :)

      I remember watching shows about paranormal phenomena on TV at my family home, late-night programming, and it is intriguing if disingenuous entertainment.

      I'm interested to know what 'normal' explanations there are to explain those 5 criteria.
      If it *is* alien phenomena, I can send you a 2-pound bag of my favourite beans. :D

  21. Since free will is questionable, everything we have produced has been created by a complex natural physico-chemical process called "humanization", nothing fancy... We can only dream of other complex phenomena and how they would look like.

  22. There might be circumstantial evidence for an operational warp drive in 2 of the 3 Pentagon videos of UAP’s released in 2017. In the video labeled “GoFast” a squished, pear-shaped object is moving horizontally to the left above a cloud deck. The narrow part of the ‘pear’ is at the front; e.g. in the direction of motion, while the fat part is on the rear side. Additionally, the ‘pear’s’ axis is not perfectly horizontal but angled upwards by about 20 degrees, so that the forward, narrow part is higher than the rear fat section.

    This is quite intriguing with respect to a possible warp drive. As per my comment on 12:42 PM, May 25, 2021, it was suggested that a craft utilizing a warp drive, being immersed in its own self-generated field, might be distorted in shape. The Alcubierre warp entails contraction of the metric forward of the craft (direction of motion) and expansion of the metric rearward. So one might assume that the craft would be squeezed down in diameter in its forward part and expanded on its rear side, just as appears to be the case in the GoFast video. Even more interesting is that the object in this video is angled such that the force vector of the (presumed warp) has a component in the direction of the objects motion (to the left) propelling it along horizontally, and a vertical component that would counteract the force of the Earth’s gravity.

    If indeed this is visual evidence for a working warp drive, how fascinating that science fiction, (Flight of the Navigator movie mentioned earlier), would presage this possible futuristic technology, via special effect, some eight years before Miguel Alcubierre’s warp drive paper came out. But, then again, Jules Verne wrote his novel about a trip to the moon, from Florida no less, just over a century before it became a reality.

  23. I made an obvious error in judgement regarding the notion of a robust shrinkage and expansion of the physical body of the object in the “GoFast” video, mentioned upthread at 9:19 AM, May 29, 2021. In that comment I suggested the visibly expanded rear portion of the FLIR target and the clearly much thinner diameter of the forward section might be evidence for a localized warp field. It was pointed out that the vertical vector component of this (presumed) field would have to counterbalance the Earth’s field. Thus at about 20 degrees to the horizontal this axially aligned warp field enveloping the object might roughly have had a strength of 4 or 5 g’s.

    But time dilation at the Earth’s surface, with 1 g acceleration, results in clocks moving a mere one billionth slower than in flat spacetime; virtually undetectable, except with precision atomic clocks. Length contraction would presumably be about the same magnitude. So a warp field providing a few g’s of acceleration would have no visible effect on the physical dimensions of a craft generating the field. Since the FLIR system is imaging infrared light perhaps atmospheric gases, in the vicinity of the GoFast object, are affected somehow by the few g’s of force, they would be subjected to in a low intensity warp field, so as to cause the IR emission pattern observed.

  24. Took a break from lawn restoration and checked Youtube for any more Navy videos of what potentially could be craft from alien civilizations. I found one put up 2 days ago by Jake Broe, a currently serving Air Force officer, titled: “Air Force Officer Reacts to UFOs Confirmed by DoD”. It looked like a rehash of the 3 Pentagon videos, but I watched the first few minutes anyways. To my surprise it turns out that a digital camera shot of the Tic-Tac intercepted SW of San Diego was taken by Lt. Commander Alex Dietrich during the encounter. I had seen this image before, greatly magnified, but didn’t know its pedigree.

    At 4:04 in the video one sees a close up of Lt. Cmdr. Dietrich with her face visor pushed up on her helmet. Reflecting in the visor is an image of her hand wrapped around the digital camera with which she took this photo. This same camera was used by Lt. Cmdr. Dietrich to make several photographs of the Tic-Tac. What’s amazing is that the object perfectly matches the verbal description provided by Commander David Fravor. It looks exactly like a large, white propane tank such as those in the yards of industrial propane supply companies. These photographs are displayed at the 4:40 mark, overlapping one another.

    1. The lack of any clear still photos is one reason I've remained skeptical. If there are stills I hope they'll be in the upcoming report.

    2. I've now seen the photos. Like all UFO photos, they're of low quality and taken at a great distance with an insufficiently long lens. To me the Tic-Tac looks more like a reflective bubble than a solid object - except for 2 apparent projections on opposite sides.

      As has been the case for over 50 years - it's interesting, but no more than that. These reports are certainly credible but lack the sort of data that could take us further.

      The report seems unlikely to add much to what's been leaked. Let's hope the Navy levels up their imaging capabilities.

    3. Even the recent videos of a UFO seen on combat aircraft are odd. They are dark appearing apparent objects, but they have no detail. It is also interesting to note that while its orientation changes, it remains fixed in the frame of the camera. It does not move relative to the pointing of the camera. This strongly suggests this is some optical phenomenon.

    4. Of the 3 photos, seen at 4:40, the top left image taken from Lt. Cmdr. Dietrich’s cockpit shows a bright streak that by its intensity and color is undoubtedly a reflected and distorted image of the sun in upper part of the glass canopy. Only the middle image (top right) gives the appearance of a white colored propane tank seen at an oblique angle, at least that’s the impression I got. This impression is given by a straight line of brightness that could be interpreted as a reflection of sunlight where one would expect it along the side of a cylindrical body. The brightness on the left end of the image gives the impression of sunlight reflecting off a hemispherical endcap for the ‘propane tank’. There does appear to be a swirl of ‘mist’ on either end of the ‘propane tank’, which is more evident in the blown up image as I recall from memory, though I would need to search for that image.

      The bottom right image is presumably the same object. This seems to be a forward facing shot based on the curved structure at the lower right that appears to be the top left edge of the instrument panel in the cockpit. This image is roughly circular with a bright area in the middle. But overall it has a misty appearance, not the more solid appearance in the apparent oblique viewpoint in the photo above it. It would almost seem that this is an end-on view of the cylindrical object, and one has a better view of the swirling mist that appears in the oblique view. Considering Lt. Cmdr. Dietrich’s F/A-18 is moving at nearly Mach 1, and she has to tend to the flight controls, it’s remarkable that she was able to get any still photos at all. So not all that surprising that these are not prize worthy photos taken under ideal conditions in a photo contest.

  25. Some of these UFOs look like sensor pixel burnout in which individual pixels get over saturated with photons and overflow to nearby pixels. I used to run into this problem when I did astrophotography.

    1. IMHO that wouldn't be a factor at these light levels and exposure times. Nor are they sensor dust, or junk on the lens.

      I'm a photographer too, and I'll offer the opinion that the photo shows something well outside the plane, possibly close to the water, although it doesn't quite register with me as a "solid object". I won't speculate beyond that; but watch out for bogus "enhancements" of these images, claiming to reveal more detail by applying "AI".

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. I saw this article and thought it fit:


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