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Relax people. The UFO mystery has been solved. In its March 2009 issue, Popular Mechanics ran a multi-part feature on UFOs titled “Something in the Sky: PM Investigates UFOs“. And what hard-hitting investigative journalism it is.

Ignoring the padding articles (such as “The 10 Most Influential UFO-Inspired Books, Movies and TV Shows“, and the “U.S. Map of the Top UFO Hotspots and How to Report a Sighting“), the real ‘meat’ of the feature is the article “UFO Myths: A Special Investigation into Stephenville and Other Major Sightings“. If the title doesn’t give anything away as to the leaning of this “special investigation”, try this on Page 1:

The illusion that the moon is bigger near the horizon is just one of the tricks our eyes play on us when we observe objects in the heavens. Humanity has long infused these mysterious shapes and lights with portents and meanings interpreted according to the cultural notions of the day…

There is no dispute that UFOs exist—that is, objects flying through the sky that are unidentified. (In fact, one in seven Americans say they have seen UFOs.) But that, of course, does not mean they are ships from a distant galaxy. We humans tend to leap to conclusions, imagining alien spacecraft while discounting more likely explanations.

Over the centuries, the technology to record UFOs has evolved from marks on clay to video clips, and the causes of sightings may have changed from comets to secret aircraft, but the psychological pattern endures: It is the story of people projecting hopes and fears onto objects in the sky.

Now, don’t write it off just yet. According to the introduction, as part of this ‘special investigation’ Popular Mechanics apparently “spent months investigating UFO conspiracy theories, looking for straightforward explanations.” Okay, you can write if off now. “Months” of investigation, and the article is basically the author chatting to a couple of Stephensville locals, then quoting UFO skeptic James McGaha and toeing the military line. How do I get a piece of that gravy train?

Looking hard to find any sort of redeeming qualities to this steaming pile, I can at least pass on the link to PM’s interview with Dr Bruce Maccabee. It’s only five questions though, so hardly anything to write home about. Perhaps it took PM a month to do though, and qualifies as a “special interview” (okay, I’m being facetious – according to Bruce, the entire interview was about 2 hours long, and he wasn’t given a chance to rebut some of the errors of fact in the Stephensville article).

Previously on TDG: