The German design studio Kurzgesagt --"in a nutshell"-- created these entertaining clips full of interesting infographics, to tackle at one of the most persistent logical quandaries in modern Science: The (in)famous Fermi Paradox --a.k.a. "where are all the bloody aliens?!"
The videos stick firmly with the accepted scientific parameters, while at the same time utilizing some of the latest far-out concepts proposed by the likes of Freeman Dyson and Nikolai Kardashev, who came up with a classification system for advanced civilizations depending on their energy consumption --ours is about level 0.75, while the Galactic empire in Star Wars is probably between 2 and 3 (though the matter would no doubt trigger an onslaught of rants from angry fanboys everywhere!)
What's interesting also is how our own technological advances dictate the differences in how we decide to interpret the paradox itself. In 1950, when Enrico Fermi first came up with the idea during an informal conversation, notions re. the vast distances between stars and the age of the Universe were only initially considered, whereas now that we live in the Information Age, new elements like the emergence of strong A.I. and Virtual Reality also have to be thrown into the mix --why risk your life in something as useless as conquering the Galaxy, when you could choose immortality inside a simulated Paradise catered to your every whim?
NASA and SETI keep insisting that evidence of intelligent ETs is 20 years in the horizon --though they keep repeating that every 10 years or so. The prediction will either come true or it won't, like so many other scientific broken promises (where's my god-damned jet pack?!) and if in 2035 we still hear nothing but apparent silence from the Great Beyond, I'm sure the Fermi Paradox will remain an inexhaustible fountain of creative ideas to explain our cosmic isolation.
...Maybe that's the point of it?
Last week in Spain a group of fantastic researchers into the UFO phenomenon came together for the 'Inhabited Sky' conference in Spain (three of whom I've had the honour of publishing, in Darklore and standalone books). Jacques Vallee, Chris Aubeck, Theo Paijmans and Nigel Watson discussed sightings of UFOs throughout history, and the various things we've learned in recent times about the phenomenon.
As many readers would know, Jacques Vallee's Passport to Magonia (re-released last year by Daily Grail Publishing) is the classic work in this field, but his more recent book with Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky, updates the historical catalogue of sightings significantly. Nigel Watson and Theo Paijmans are also respected Fortean historical detectives, looking back at old sightings and stories and digging for the truth behind them. So the line-up was definitely an impressive one.
Luckily for us, their presentations at the 'Inhabited Sky' conference were captured on video (see the top of this post), so there's a full 3 hours of fascinating lectures and Q&A for interested readers to dig into. While the introductions and questions are in Spanish, the speakers themselves presented in English - see the timeline below if you're searching for something in particular:
3:30 - Theo Paijmans, ufologist, Dutch author and editor, examines the social impact of spaceships and aliens in comics and literature of the early twentieth century.
41:00 - Nigel Watson, author of the recent book UFOs of the First World War (2015), tell us how advances in aviation and space travel were published in the media and art and how it shapes our view of them.
1:17:30 - Jacques Vallée, astrophysicist, computer scientist and world-renowned ufologist, will talk about the importance and impact of anomalous phenomena observed since ancient times.
2:04:00 - Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, questions and debate on anomalous phenomena observed since ancient times.
Related book: Passport to Magonia
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Right after Kenneth Arnold's sighting of 9 Chevron-shaped objects flying at great speed near mount Rainier in June of 1947, the American media was flooded with similar reports coming from all around the country. The modern era of UFOs had begun, and during the next decade civilian associations like NICAP and APRO were founded in an attempt to understand the nature and origin of these objects, as well as to demand transparency from the government which was suspect from the beginning of hiding what it knew about them to the public.
During their arduous struggles in trying to gather evidence which could prove the existence of what they believed were extraterrestrial craft visiting our planet, these investigative associations were consistently forced to change their expectations about what flying saucers could and couldn't do. When only reports of high-altitude objects were deemed credible, there soon came sightings at close range; when sightings at close range were finally accepted, they were followed by reports of actual landings; when landing cases were reluctantly deemed credible, there soon came sightings of the saucer occupants leaving their craft and interacting with the witnesses. As seasoned abduction researcher Dr. Leo Sprinkle once said to Mike Clelland during an audio interview, the phenomenon is forever one step ahead of us, and is always delighted to shatter whatever comfortable preconception we might have of it.
One preconception that has always been hard to accept --even to this day-- is the idea that UFO occupants would establish a long-lasting relationship with a particular witness, choosing him or her as their appointed ambassador to the rest of Humanity. And yet that's exactly what a few individuals claimed during the 1950's and 60's, speaking before amazed audiences --and suspicious government agencies-- about their regular encounters with these beings; these were not tentacled monsters coming to our planet with ill-intents, they said, but our (very human-like) brothers from outer space, bringing a message of love and universal peace to mankind.
Both NICAP and APRO always considered people like George Adamski and George Van Tassel, with their stories of mingling with angelic Venusians and etheric spacecraft, to be nothing but crackpots at best --or hucksters and attention-seekers at worst; and now that the tools of modern Science has shown Venus to be an inhospitable hell-hole, and the photos taken by Adamsky or others have been proven to be hoaxes, our opinion of the Contactees has only worsened.
But now comes a new documentary by film-maker Patrick Connelly, intended to take a fresh, new look at that fascinating moment in XXth century history, when the wounds of WWII were still fresh and the new threat of nuclear annihilation loomed menacingly above the seemingly tranquil suburban landscapes of America. A time when people looked to the sky searching for answers, yearning for someone who could save us from ourselves.
They Rode the Flying Saucers is still in production, and will feature interviews with scholars like historian Aaron Gulyas who wrote a book about the Contactee era, as well as my friend Greg Bishop who has always been enamored with the tales of the Space Brothers --Greg interviewed Patrick last year on his show Radio Misterioso, so if you wish to listen to the podcast click here.
To learn more about the film, visit its official website. And just to get you Urantians ready for a vibration-raising weekend full of interplanetary kinship, here's the Carpenter's 1970 classic Calling Occupants from Interplanetary Craft:
Are you ready for the transmission to commence?
"It would be many years later, in front of the firing squad, when Col. Aureliano Buendía remembered that remote afternoon in which his father took him to see the ice..." ~Excerpt from the novel 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'.
2015 marks the first anniversary of Gabriel García Márquez's death. Without a doubt the most popular Latin American writer of his time, his literary style constitutes one of the best examples of the artistic movement known as 'Magical Realism', which is characterized by the insertion of fantastical events into common circumstances, thus transforming the extraordinary into ordinary and vice versa. It's no wonder the Colombian-born Nobel laureate ended up writing One Hundred Years of Solitude --his most famous novel-- during his stay in Mexico city; a place even more outlandish than Macondo, the fictitious Caribbean town he created as the setting of most of his stories. Salvador Dalí once said of Mexico, that he couldn't stand being in a country that was more surrealist than his own paintings.
I'm sure the eccentric Spanish artist would have felt vindicated, had he been present at the spectacle I attended on the night of May 5th. That evening UFOlogist Jaime Maussan --even though he keeps insisting he's merely a journalist-- invited the Mexican citizens along with the rest of the world to beWITNESS: The event that would "change history" by showing for the very first time "physical evidence" confirming the famous Roswell saucer crash of 1947, and the extraterrestrial presence in our planet. At the National Auditorium no less, the most illustrious public forum in the country with a total capacity of 10,000 seats, during a presentation which ended up being worthy of a García Márquez's novel.
But not for the reasons the organizers intended...
From the onset the whole thing seemed bizarre enough. After a couple of years of rumors concerning the recovery of 2 old Kodachrome slides purportedly showing a genuine corpse of an alien being, allegedly recovered after the Roswell crash --the be-all and end-all of all UFO cases according to American researchers, given their obsession with this particular 68-year-old mystery-- the story finally irrupted into the mainstream in early February of this year
Since 1989, Ufology Research in Canada has collected UFO sighting data from active Canadian researchers, and each year has compiled it into an annual 'Canadian UFO Survey' and released it publicly "in an attempt to promote the dissemination of information across the field of ufology".
The 2014 report is now out, and it seems that - contrary to some media reports - UFOs are certainly not dead. 1021 UFO sighting reports were collected in Canada during 2014 - almost three a day - the third-highest number of UFO sightings recorded in the last 25 years.
Other interesting facts from the report summary:
- The Top 5 metropolitan areas with the most UFO reports are (in order of highest): Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary and Montreal (tie), and Edmonton.
- Although there has been a trend during the past 25 years of having more UFO reports received in the mid-summer months (corresponding to long nights and fair weather for observing UFOs in the night sky), 2014 was exceptional in that the was a marked peak in UFO reports in the early fall. In fact, almost 17 per cent of all reports in 2014 came in September, well above the average of 9.5 per cent for September during the past 25 years.
- In 2014, the average Strangeness rating of UFO reports was 4.26, well above the 25-year average of 3.5 and above last year’s average of 3.67. Strangeness measures the degree to which a UFO report is comparatively unusual, for example a simple light in the sky being 2 or 3, and occupants observed outside a landed craft being about 8 or 9 on the Strangeness ratings scale. The average Reliability rating was similarly up in 2014, suggesting more cases were of higher quality or were better investigated. Most UFO sightings, unfortunately, are not well investigated, leaving the field wide open for speculation and sensationalism.
- More than 47 per cent of all UFO sightings were of an object described as a “point source,” or starlike.
- The typical UFO sighting lasted approximately 13 minutes in 2014, comparable with other years.
Head over to the Ufology Research website for more details, and follow the links to dig into the data.
(h/t Chris Rutkowski)
Last month I announced the coming release of The John Michell Reader, Inner Traditions' collection of essays by the late English counterculture icon. Well, the book is now available through all the major bookstores [Amazon US & UK] and it would definitely make a fine addition to any Fortean's library. "Radical traditionalist" is a spot-on way to describe Michell, who used his witty prose on his column at The Oldie --a humorous monthly magazine aimed for senior readership-- both to complaint about the loss of the traditional lifestyle in British rural areas, condemn modern Agriculture, rant about Darwinism, support the Monarchy system, as well as extolling the use of psychedelics to promote thought-provoking conversations at suitable parties. You can't get more "radical center" than that!
At the same time, Michell also directed his attention to a plethora of Fortean topics, including Sacred Geometry, Stonehenge, the Grail lore, Fairy legends and UFOs. It is on this last subject that I find Michell's ideas resonating heavily with my own, which is why with Inner Traditions' permission, I'm posting one of his essays concerning the most controversial aspect of the UFO phenomenon: Alien abductions.
UFO Abductions and the End of Innocence
The first UFO contactee I met was a young lad from a poor Protestant family in Northern
Ireland, named Ivor Brown. One evening he was walking along a dark country road toward a dance hall when he saw in front of him an ovalshaped object. Some creatures came out of it and took him inside, where he was seduced or whatever you call it by two strange but attractive females. Somehow Ivor got in touch with Desmond Leslie, the author of the very first UFO book, who took me to meet him.
We were inexperienced at that time, so were rather disconcerted by Ivor Brown. Our main concern was whether or not he was lying, and our ideas on how to tell a liar from an honest man were unimaginatively conventional. We had hoped to find the type of reliable witness who appeals to lawyers, firmeyed and rationalminded. That was not Ivor Brown. He was nervous, impressionable, uneducated, and prone to symptoms that are familiar to psychiatrists. Ever since his experience he had maintained psychic contact with his abductors and knew when they were near his house. His sensitivity spread to the rest of the family. Their minds and habits were changed and they left their home to go on psychically guided travels. The last I saw of Ivor was when he passed through London with old Mr. Brown and a younger brother, on their way to visit the grave of Matthew Hopkins, the fanatical witchfinder of seventeenthcentury Suffolk.
There is now a vast literature on the subject of “UFO abductions”— the modern folklore term for the kind of experience described by Ivor Brown. A large and growing number of similar encounters are reported all over the world, particularly in America. Opinions are divided about their meaning. Some say that they are to do with extra-terrestrial beings, while others believe they have a psychological origin. My own persuasion is that the sensible approach to the phenomenon of UFO abductees is by comparing it with past records—the records of folklore.
In any regional account of British folklore one can find stories about people who have been abducted by unworldly creatures, conventionally identified as fairies. The details in such cases are infinitely varied, but one detail is always the same. In every account of an abduction, whether by fairies, demons, or UFOcreatures, the abductee is mentally changed and acquires a new, spiritual perception. The results are not always of obvious benefit—abductees are likely to become lonely, melancholy, introspective. Some are persuaded that they have gone mad and there are always a few who think that God or the Venusians have chosen them to reform mankind.
In certain cases, however, a person who has undergone the abduction experience is awakened to life and gains the level of understanding, which, in ancient and tribal societies, was induced by a ritual initiation.
I now know that Ivor Brown was telling the truth, that he had a genuine, traumatic experience and that he naturally described it in modern, spaceage imagery rather than, as he would have done a generation or so earlier, in terms of demons and fairies. The actual cause of that experience is a mystery, which, I feel sure, will never finally be explained. Yet is has to be accepted as a real, effective phenomenon. To any sympathetic reader who has the slightest idea what I am driving at, I offer for contemplation the following suggested connections: violation of innocence by “UFO abductors”; by rumoured covens of “cult ritualists”; by tribal elders in the course of their initiation of adolescents. These are terrible things to undergo, but the victim may find certain compensations, such as maturity and a finer sensibility.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The John Michell Reader by John Michell, introduction by Joscelyn Godwin © 2015 Inner Traditions.
Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
The above clip is part of the promotional campaign for both Jaime Maussan's Be Witness live presentation --which will be featured on May 5th at the National Auditorium in Mexico city-- as well as Adam Dew's Kodachrome documentary. It shows (alleged) random reactions of passersby in Chicago, after they are shown what has purportedly been claimed to be 2 black-and-white slides of a humanoid being inside some sort of glass showcase --If you want to see a low-res image of one of those slides, click here.
If there's one thing that's clearly shown in the video, is how the images seem to perfectly conform with our pop culture assumptions of what an alien being is supposed to look --short stature, slim body and large cranium. What it's not shown, though, is whether these images are as real as the Santilli 'alien autopsy' video of the 1990's, which was equally hyped as the smoking gun that would finally unravel the 'Cosmic Watergate' behind the truth of UFOs and ET visitation.
To say these images are controversial is the understatement of the century. A lot of assumptions have been made with regards to the slides by the people behind tomorrow's presentation. There's the assumption that the slides were taken by Hilda Ray, who was a lawyer, a pilot, the wife of geologist Bernerd Ray; there's the assumption that the couple's illustrious careers and connections with the top elite of American society in the 40's and 50's, would have somehow made them privy to very sensitive material --like the retrieval operations of crashed saucers conducted by the Military.
And of course, there's the majestic assumption --see what I did there?-- that the body (or bodies) shown on the slides are of an extraterrestrial biological entity, AND that these entities were involved in the (in)famous Roswell event of July 1947. That's enough 'ifs' to make your head spin faster than a Reticulan spaceship, which is why some of the most prominent researchers involved in the history of the Roswell affair --namely Stanton Friedman and Kevin Randle-- declined to actively participate in what Maussan and Dew call "the biggest UFO event of all time."
"Is this for real?", one person asks after being shown the slides. That's what Don Schmitt, Tom Carey, Adam Dew and Jaime Maussan keep telling us, and they promise to show us all the evidence to back that claim tomorrow onstage and via live streaming. I'll be there to see whether they deliver the goods... or crash and burn trying.
Is there life on Venus? Most planetary scientists would say 'no', or at least 'unlikely' - despite being almost a twin to Earth in size, the second planet from the Sun is the closest thing we might imagine to being hell. With surface temperatures close to 900°F, even the Devil might be looking for a vacation to a cooler climate.
And yet, in 2012, a senior Russian planetary scientist claimed not only that Venusian creatures existed, but that they had already been photographed. With all the modern publicity for Mars exploration - especially by the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers - it is often forgotten that the former Soviet Union successfully landed probes on Venus nine times in the thirteen year period between 1972 and 1985. By virtue of the hellish conditions on the planet's surface, these missions were short affairs - the longest any of them survived once on the ground was a little over two hours.
But during their short Venusian encounters, a number of these probes did transmit photos back to their orbiters, taken from a camera that repeatedly scanned across the panorama. Apart from giving us a glimpse of the alien landscape, Russian scientist Leonid Ksanfomaliti has suggested these images might also show us alien life.
Ksanfomaliti was inspired to re-analyse the images by the many recent discoveries of exoplanets of many sizes and conditions, which made him question whether we have made a mistake in thinking that life likely only exists under Earth-like conditions. Another factor might have been the ongoing discovery in modern times of many 'extremophiles' on Earth: organisms that live in conditions well beyond what we previously thought life was capable of.
To search for signs of life, Ksanfomaliti compared multiple images of the same area, taken at different times as the cameras scanned backward and forwards over the landscape, looking for changing - that is, moving - elements. The challenge then was to figure out whether anything that moved was living, or instead some sort of non-biological phenomena (e.g. dirt being blown by wind), or effects of changing light, digital imaging artifacts and so on.
His startling conclusion: the images do indeed show forms of life, including one that he nicknamed a 'scorpion'. Because Venus isn't hellish enough already, am I right?
At the blog of the Planetary Society, Emily Lakdawalla was impressed enough by Ksanfomaliti's credentials that she decided to critically evaluate his claim, despite it seeming "so obviously ridiculous" that she would "ordinarily not give it a second thought." With a strong understanding of image transmission and processing in planetary exploration, she was less than impressed by his analysis:
With all of these natural and artificial reasons why there may be changes in pixel values from one image to the next, it's hazardous to read too much into small changes of blobby shapes. But that's exactly what Ksanfomaliti goes on to do. There is a bold sentence in the paper that I asked Twitter help in translation, and it reads: "It must be emphasized that in the present work on the processing of the initial images images any retouching, drawing-in, additions to, or adjustment of images was completely ruled out." And he says that the use of Photoshop was "categorically ruled out." Yet he goes on to say that adjustments were, in fact, made. Missing bits of images were filled in with data from other images, contrast and brightness adjusted, and (most strangely), the "Blur" and "sharpen" functions in Microsoft Windows Paint were sometimes employed. These are all fairly standard operations in image processing (except for the use of Windows Paint instead of Photoshop for blur and sharpen filters, which is just odd), but they are most definitely "adjustments" of images, especially that blur and sharpen business. Sharpening, in particular, can have weird effects on noisy images.
...There is so much variation in noise among these five images, and they have been so processed with sharpening and infilling of data, that I think it is pointless to micro-analyze tiny little features and whether they have changed, much less whether they represent the presence of moving, living creatures or not. These images are much less convincing even than those of the Mars Sasquatch.
What was perhaps most surprising to Lakdawalla was how such a respected and knowledgeable planetary scientist could come up with something "so patently off the wall". Someone noted to her that Ksanfomaliti has always been interested in ideas "slightly on the edge of reality", while another suggested that perhaps three decades of analysing old data sets might make anyone crazy. Her own thoughts, however, were more about the dangers in being so smart that you convince yourself that your new theory is the start of a new paradigm:
I've seen before when successful people become so convinced that they are smart and right that they go over some edge and suddenly think that any crazy idea that flits into their head must be right, because they thought it and they're always right, right? There's no way for me to know what's made Ksanfomaliti make so much out of absolutely nothing. All I know is, there's nothing here. Move along.
Dammit, I was so hoping that Venusian scorpions were a thing.
My friend Adnan Ademovic, who runs the Youtube channel and website UFO Hub, had the chance to interview Richard Dolan at the 2015 Ozark Mountain UFO conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In the clip, Richard talks about how the UFO phenomenon has such an underestimated importance in both the Sciences as well as the political arena.
Richard also gives his opinion about the highly-charged UFO Disclosure movement. He believes Disclosure critics --of which I happen to be one-- are seeing the issue from a wrong perspective, and it's not that we should expect our governments and elected officials to "do everything for (us)," but that we as citizens should never forget that governments are supposed to be accountable to their people, and therefore owe us some answers re. the UFO phenomenon.
A valid point, though one that presupposes governments have in fact reached some answers with regards to what UFOs are, their origin and intentions --but what if they haven't?
I personally feel the extinction of the nation-state as we currently know it is far more likely, than to see those states openly recognize the reality of a phenomenon that is clearly beyond their control. UFOs are the ultimate symbol of Anarchy --why they don't even bother to obey the law of Gravity for crying out loud!
Thanks to the Robertson panel and the Condon report, by the 1970's UFOs were no longer considered a story worthy to be covered by 'serious' newspapers, and thus were relegated to the supermarket tabloids. That suddenly changed in 1975, when the mysterious disappearance of a young logger by the name of Travis Walton, drew the attention of media outlets from all across the globe.
Their co-workers were suspected of murdering him, and accused of trying to cover the crime with a fantasy tale involving flying saucers and death rays. Then the case did a complete 180° when Travis reappeared, suffering the effects of physical and mental shock. His amazing account of interacting with non-human entities became one of the most famous UFO cases of all time, and was brought to the silver screen with a motion picture under the same title as the book he wrote --Fire in the Sky.
Unfortunately, Travis' story suffered a lot of distortions under the Hollywood treatment, and many elements of his abduction were completely omitted --for instance, the fact that along with the short, big-headed aliens we've come to know as "the Grays," Travis also came into contact with beings that looked completely human. The film's producers were convinced no-one would bother to watch a movie about aliens if they weren't portrayed as terrifying monsters; after all, if they zapped him and abducted him against this will, that means their intentions are evil… right?
Well, Travis himself is not so sure about that. His opinion about the events have shifted over the years, and now he's convinced his abduction was his own fault after his reckless decision of coming too close to the UFO's 'energy field'.
“An accident happened and they didn’t want to leave me behind.”
Seeking to set the record straight, Filmmaker and MUFON state section director Jennifer Stein created a new documentary, in which he managed to gather the personal testimony of Travis and his old co-workers, along with several high-profile researchers like Richard Dolan, discussing the importance of this fascinating case. The film was premiered at the International UFO Congress last February, where it won 2 awards --Best UFO Film of the Year and People's Choice Award-- and it will be screened in several other venues in the United States, and also in Canada and Australia.
This year will also mark the 40th anniversary of Travis' experience, which will be suitably commemorated at the Skyfire summit on November 5th, near the same location where the event happened in 1975. Prior to that He will also be a speaker at the Paradigm symposium in Minneapolis, where I myself will be thrilled to finally meet him in person.