UFOs, aliens, media & science
Themes of UFOs, aliens, media and science are juxtaposed in the "sound bit" serving from News.com.au found at: http://www.news.com.au/feature/1,,5015786,00.html put together by reporter Jolleh Abshar. The internet piece was titled, somewhat underwhelmingly and uninspiringly, "MARS ATTACKS: UFOs ARE BACK" and was presented in 3 brief segments - "Believers" (4.20 minutes): "Alien assaults, ufologists and pilot encounters ... an insight into the underground culture of Australian UFO research", "Sceptics" (2.29 minutes): "Only amateurs see UFOs," and "Westall UFO Incident" (3.03 minutes) - a brief account of the Westall school case of 1966 from the perspective of Canberra academic Shane Ryan who has been undertaking a detailed retrospective on this classic case - a daylight suburban Melbourne UFO incident that was witnessed by many school children, some teachers and locals. A landing (or more than one landing) was described with evidence of possible landing sites ("physical traces"), along with claims of extensive official presence and intrusion and "cover-up."
So how well served were each of these themes?
I was able to make brief mention of the famous Sea Fury case of 1954. For a fuller internet account see Bill Chalker's UFO Top Ten at: http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/ufofiles/516/bill_chalkers_ufo_top_ten.html
and in my UFO SubRosa Document at: http://www.theozfiles.com/ufos_subrosa2.html
Peter Khoury briefly mentioned the forensic DNA study of the "hair of the alien" case documented in my 1999 International UFO Reporter (IUR) article "Strange Evidence" (see the PDF copy at: http://www.cufos.org/strange_evidence.pdf ), in my 2005 book "Hair of the Alien" (available through Amazon.com), and briefer reports such as "Hair of the Alien - the DNA Paradigm" at: http://www.auforn.com/Bill_Chalker_35.htm
Shane Ryan was able to discuss the 1966 Westall case and make a request for any official participants (military, government or police) to make contact.
The "Believer" segment was somewhat devalued by the use of filler footage and photos that were mainly low weight, dubious or hoax material. Given the opportunity, the UFO research community could have readily assisted News.com.au in advising on better photographic and film material.
I wondered about the silly choice of headline: "MARS ATTACKS", but my expectations weren't very high. Maybe News.com.au and its editors were in a "dumbing down" moment or didn't see fit to exercise any serious thought and decided to go with the unimaginative "entertainment fodder" line. Perhaps they were inspired by the context of the interviews of Peter Khoury and myself. We were interviewed at the opening of the VISITORS exhibition back in early December 2007. I was interviewed with artist Simon Champ's wonderful "Mac Attack 2007" painting as a back drop. He states in the exhibition catalogue, "I make secret drawings of people in Maccas or Hungry Jack. Politically I'm opposed to these places. I detest them, but they're about the last place the poorest and the richest, the sane and the mentally ill get to stand together in the same place." See http://www.penrithregionalgallery.org/entry.htm
Here we just got a bit of typical low weight popular cultural stereotyping. The only actual case reference was material via Peter Khoury's interview.
Well this was what the piece was all about - the media's handling of the subject.
While the "sound bit" interviews - Shane Ryan, Peter Khoury, myself and the "skeptics" served to give the semblance of balance, it was clear that the "skeptics" were not very well informed about the subject of UFOs. This was most evident in Dr. Nick Lomb's statements. He is an expert on astronomy, but he is clearly uninformed about serious UFO research when he makes a comment along the lines that no serious observer, particularly astronomers or even amateur astronomers, has ever seen a UFO! Anyone seriously acquainted with the UFO subject would dispute this statement. eg. Clyde Tombaugh the discover of Pluto reported UFO sightings, Dr. Hynek undertook an early 1950s survey which revealed some atronomer's sighting, and Professor Peter Sturrock's survey during the 1970s revealed further evidence of UFO sightings by astronomers. Dr. Hynek once took photos of UFOs himself. He couldn't explain what he captured on film from a plane window. My own 1996 book "The OZ files - the Australian UFO Story" describes a 1957 Mount Stromlo sighting, of which the assistant director of the observatory, Dr. A.R. Hogg stated, "it was the first time the observatory had sighted what might be called an unidentified flying object. What it was remains an open question." Much earlier, 1902 in fact, Adelaide observatory astronomers reported a "UFO." I even describe a UFO sighting made by the late Dr. John Dawe, who was the manager of the Sidings Springs Observatory. He described his sighting near Merriwa in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 January 1995, stating it was "classic stuff ... It was something I still cannot explain. But I am 99.99 percent certain it was nothing alien." A UFO still - a UFO being an unidentified flying object.
It was a pity the piece could have been well served by some fact checking before release on the net. The dubious footage and photos used for the story would have been criticised by most informed UFO researchers. I certainly would have told them to describe me not as a biochemist, but rather more accurately as an inorganic chemist.
Despite these flaws the piece at least gave exposure to a cross section of opinions about the subject and put a bit of a spotlight on a few cases, in particular the 1966 Westall school case.
Well science was casually served given the "sound bit" platform. The skeptics got to give "armchair" mainstream scientific consensus, which I put into perspective:
"Science and UFOs has kind of really had a pretty sorry history ... It's kind of slowly creeping I guess towards a sort of critical mass where I think eventually its going to be seriously looked at. Scientists in the future will look back at it and will say we lost a lot of opportunities of looking at something really interesting, and perhaps we should have looked at it a little bit more, in more detail perhaps."
More indepth reviews of science and UFOs can be found in the following books:
Bryan, C.D.B. Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind – Alien Abduction and UFOs – Witnesses and Scientists report Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1995
Chalker, Bill, Hair of the Alien, Paraview Pocket Books, New York, 2005
Clark, Jerome The UFO Encyclopedia - The Phenomenon from the Beginning 2nd Edition, Omnigraphics, Detroit, 1998
Denzler, Brenda The Lure of the Edge University of California Press, 2001
Emmons, Charles At the Threshold Wildflower Press, 1997
Hall, Richard The UFO Evidence – A Thirty-Year report Scarecrow Press, Lanham, 2001
Hynek, J. Allen The UFO Experience – a scientific enquiry Abelard-Schuman, London, 1972
Jacobs, David (edited) UFOs & Abductions University Press of Kansas, 2000
Sturrock, Peter The UFO Enigma – A new review of the Physical Evidence Warner Books, New York, 1999