In the first independent review of UFO phenomena since 1970, a panel ofscientists has concluded that some sightings are accompanied by physicalevidence that deserves scientific study. But the panel was not convinced thatany of this evidence points to a violation of known natural laws or theinvolvement of an extraterrestrial intelligence.
The review was organized and directed by Peter Sturrock, professor of appliedphysics at Stanford University, and supported administratively by the Societyfor Scientific Exploration, which provides a forum for research into unexplainedphenomena. The international review panel of nine physical scientists respondedto presentations by eight investigators of UFO reports, who were asked topresent their strongest data. Von R. Eshleman, professor emeritus of electricalengineering at Stanford, co-chaired the panel.
Although UFO reports date back 50 years, the information gathered does not provethat either unknown physical processes or alien technologies are implicated. Butit does include a sufficient number of intriguing and inexplicable observations,the panel concluded. "It may be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports toextract information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to science." To becredible to the scientific community "such evaluations must take place with aspirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses" that hasso far been lacking, it added.
This conclusion differs from that reached by Dr. Edward U. Condon, director ofthe Colorado Project, in his 1968 UFO report. He concluded that "furtherextensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation thatscience will be advanced thereby." It is very similar, however, to theconclusion reached by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics'Kuettner Report issued two years later, which advocated "a continuing,moderate-level [research] effort with emphasis on improved data collection byobjective means and on high-quality scientific analysis."
In the current study, the scientific panel focused on incidents involving someform of physical evidence, including photographic evidence, radar evidence,vehicle interference, interference with aircraft equipment, apparentgravitational or inertial effects, ground traces, injuries to vegetation,physiological effects on witnesses, and debris. Of particular concern arereports that UFO encounters may be hazardous to people's health. Some witnesseshave reportedly suffered radiation-type injuries. These reports led the panel todraw the attention of the medical community to the possible health risksinvolved.
The scientists found that some of the reported incidents may have been caused byrare natural phenomena, such as electrical activity high above thunderstorms orradar ducting (the trapping and conducting of radar waves by atmosphericchannels). However, the panel found that some of the phenomena related to UFOsare not easy to explain in this fashion.
Further analysis of the evidence presented to the panel is unlikely to shedadded light on the causes underlying the reports, the scientists said. Mostcurrent UFO investigations lack the level of rigor required by the scientificcommunity, despite the initiative and dedication of the investigators involved.But new data, scientifically acquired and analyzed, could yield usefulinformation and advance our understanding of the UFO problem, the panel said.
The reviewers also made the following observations:
- The UFO problem is not a simple one, and it is unlikely that there is anysimple, universal answer.
- Whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility thatscientists will learn something new by studying them.
- Studies should concentrate on cases that include as much independentphysical evidence as possible.
- Continuing contact between the UFO community and physical scientists couldbe productive.
- Institutional support for research in this area is desirable.
The review panel consisted of Von Eshleman; Thomas Holzer, High AltitudeObservatory in Boulder, Colo.; Randy Jokipii, professor of planetary science,University of Arizona, Tucson; Francois Louange, managing director of Fleximage,Paris, France; H. J. Melosh, professor of planetary science, University ofArizona, Tucson; James J. Papike, professor of earth and planetary sciences,University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Guenther Reitz, German Aerospace Center,Institute for Aerospace Medicine, Cologne, Germany; Charles Tolbert, professorof astronomy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and Bernard Veyret,Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory, University of Bordeaux, France. Eshleman andHolzer served as co-chairs of the panel.
The UFO investigators who presented evidence were Richard Haines, Los Altos,Calif.; Illobrand von Ludwiger, Germany; Mark Rodeghier, Center for UFO Studies,Chicago; John Schuessler, Houston; Erling Strand, Ostfold College, Skjeberg,Norway; Michael Swords, professor of natural science, Western MichiganUniversity, Kalamazoo; Jacques Vallee, San Francisco; and Jean-Jacques Velasco,CNES, Toulouse, France.
The study was initiated by Laurance S. Rockefeller and supported financially bythe LSR Fund.
The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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