Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tweeting the Aliens

The "Wow!" Signal

On August 15th, 1977, the Big Ear radio observatory in Ohio was taking part in the SETI(Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project and detected an anomalous signal from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation.  The signal lasted 72 seconds at about 1420.456MHz and was powerful enough to push Big Ear's monitoring device off the charts. Dr. Jerry Ehman, a volunteer working on the project, circled the corresponding data in the paper printout and wrote "Wow!" in the margin...so it became known as the "Wow!" Signal.

Scan of the "Wow!" Signal original printout with notations
StNR analasys of the "Wow!" Signal

"Wow" Signal location
Though SETI has focused on the location the signal came from many times for extended periods since then, nothing even remotely like that original transmission has been recorded since, and in fact that area of space has been shown to be very quiet. While it is disappointing that no like signals have been picked up in all that time, the data collected during subsequent listening periods have been enough to rule out the possible "natural" causes for the original signal that were postulated.

Of course, that does not mean the signal was artificially generated. It just means we don't know.

The Reply

In an interesting (and definitely NCSI-worthy) development, National Geographic has announced a project that will send crowdsourced messages to any extraterrestrials who may be listening out there.
The first part of the experiment will take place on Friday, June 29th(ten days from the writing of this article) and will begin at 8pm EST. For the four hours up to midnight, all Twitter messages tagged with the #ChasingUFOs hashtag will be collected into a database and later compiled into a transmission packet.
Then, on Wednesday, August 15th--the 35th anniversary of the reception of the "Wow!" Signal--the Arecibo Observatory Radio Telescope, which has a diameter of one thousand feet and is the world's largest radio telescope, will blast the collected tweets into space.

Arecibo Radio Telescope - Aerial Photo 1
Arecibo Radio Telescope - Aerial Photo 2

Arecibo Radio Telescope - Suspended Transceiver Array

Arecibo Radio Telescope - Underneath the suspended reflector lattice
(The above images are thumbnails of extremely clear high resolution photos.  Click on them for full size.)

The National Geographic show "Chasing UFOs" is highlighting this 'tweet the aliens' project, calling it the "Wow Reply." Below is a one minute video of the NatGeo promotion for this event.

The First Transmission

Arecibo has actually been used before as a SETI transmitter instead of just a receiver. In 1974(three years previous to Big Ear's reception of the "Wow!" Signal), some modifications had been made to the Arecibo transmitter, enabling it to broadcast signals at a power of up to 20 terawatts--that's 20 trillion watts--and as an inaugural test of these improvements it was decided by SETI to transmit an encoded message, a message of the kind they had been hoping to receive.
The message was actually transmitted on November 16th, 1974 and consisted of 1679 pulses of binary code which took a little under three minutes to transmit. It was transmitted on a frequency of 2380MHz, and was aimed towards the globular star cluster M13, some 25,000 light years away and consisting of some 300,000 stars in the constellation of Hercules.

The message, in it's original binary form, was as follows:

0000001010101000000000000101000001010000000100100010001000100101100101010101010 1010100100100000000000000000000000000000000000001100000000000000000001101000000 0000000000000110100000000000000000010101000000000000000000111110000000000000000 0000000000000000110000111000110000110001000000000000011001000011010001100011000 0110101111101111101111101111100000000000000000000000000100000000000000000100000 0000000000000000000000010000000000000000011111100000000000001111100000000000000 0000000001100001100001110001100010000000100000000010000110100001100011100110101 1111011111011111011111000000000000000000000000001000000110000000001000000000001 1000000000000000100000110000000000111111000001100000011111000000000011000000000 0000100000000100000000100000100000011000000010000000110000110000001000000000011 0001000011000000000000000110011000000000000011000100001100000000011000011000000 1000000010000001000000001000001000000011000000001000100000000110000000010001000 0000001000000010000010000000100000001000000010000000000001100000000011000000001 1000000000100011101011000000000001000000010000000000000010000011111000000000000 1000010111010010110110000001001110010011111110111000011100000110111000000000101 0000011101100100000010100000111111001000000101000001100000010000011011000000000 0000000000000000000000000011100000100000000000000111010100010101010101001110000 0000010101010000000000000000101000000000000001111100000000000000001111111110000 0000000011100000001110000000001100000000000110000000110100000000010110000011001 1000000011001100001000101000001010001000010001001000100100010000000010001010001 0000000000001000010000100000000000010000000001000000000000001001010000000000011 11001111101001111000

Not very informative? What would a hypothetical "Alien SETI" do if it received this message? Hopefully they would do what our SETI would do: look for a "key" in the data related to the message--frequency, pulse patterns, etc.--by combining the message with that data in different ways.
In this case, the first "key" is contained in the number of pulses, 1679. This number was chosen because it is what is known in math as a "unique product," meaning there is only one pair of numbers that, when multiplied together, equal 1679. Those two numbers are 23 and 73, both of which are prime numbers and therefore also a type of unique number.
Presumably, there will be at least one serious alien math geek at the Alien SETI who will point this out to his fellow alien nerds and, after some contemplation, will attempt a configuration of the message data into 23 columns and 73 rows, which will look like this:


Patterns then become apparent with this configuration, and can be decoded with a little skull sweat.

The message is comprised of several sections, each depicting a particular aspect of our civilization. At the top are binary representations of the numbers one through to ten. The numbers eight, nine, and ten each occupy two columns, intending to show that we can specify numbers too large to be written on a single line can be 'carried over'.
The next section contains the binary values 1,6,7,8 and 15, indicating the atomic numbers of the primary elements for life on Earth; Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phosphorus.
The larger section of three rows represents the formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA. Beneath this is a graphical representation of our DNA double helix, on either side of a straight vertical bar which indicates the number of nucleotides in DNA.
Directly below the DNA double helix is a small representation of a human. On the left is a binary value of the population of Earth. This can be calculated as roughly 4.29 billion, which was the approximate population of the world in 1974. On the right of the humanoid form is a binary code for the height of humans. Because we cannot communicate measurements (such as feet, inches, centimeters, etc.) the height is represented in a way that uses the frequency wavelength of the message as another "key."
The frequency was 2380MHz, the wavelength of which is approximately 12.6cm. From the code for the height of a human, we can see that the value is 1110 in binary, or 14. 14 multiplied by 12.6cm is 176.4cm, or roughly 5 feet 9 inches - the average height of humans. So when the Alien SETI guys multiply 14 by the length of the frequency wave, they will get the height of humans in terms they can understand, because they will multiply 14 by the length of the wavelength as measured in their own measurement units. So if a 2380MHz wavelength measures out to 34.9 alien inches, they will get the height of humans as 488.6 alien inches, which will be correct because 34.9 alien inches = 12.6cm, and therefore 488.6 alien inches = 176.4cm = 5ft, 9in.
The next section is a simplified representation of Sol System. It shows the sun and nine planets, roughly representative of size. The third planet is lifted as a way to highlight it--basically saying "We Are Here."
The last section depicts the origin of the message itself - the Arecibo radio telescope, which is the curved structure. Underneath this, as the last two lines of the message, is another binary number. This time it's 100101111110 (split onto two lines) and equates to 2430. When multiplied by the frequency wavelength, it gives the diameter of the Arecibo transmitter dish, which is one thousand feet.

Interesting, yes? But wait...there's more!

The Reply

On Sunday, August 19th, 2001, a very interesting crop formation was discovered in a field near Wherwell, Hampshire, in England. It was found on the grounds of the Chilbolton Radio Telescope Observatory...a fitting place, seeing as it appears to be a "response" to the 1974 Arecibo message.

The "Chilbolton Code" crop formation in the field next to the observatory

It is immediately apparent that the formation is structured in the same format as the Arecibo message, and appears to convey the same types of information as contained in the Arecibo message--with some differences apparent--and this is why many consider it to be a "reply" to that transmission. Many others, including SETI, consider it to be a hoax.

Of course, SETI considers all crop formations to be "hoaxes," meaning their "official" opinion is that crop circles are all made by clever, speedy, sneaky ninjas using ropes and boards. Ninjas with excellent night vision. Ninjas with Ph.D.'s in mathematics and a minor in Vector Graphic Design.

However, we here at NCSI cannot really fault SETI for maintaining this official opinion of crop circles. SETI is in the business of seeking extraterrestrial communications using radio signals from space. If they were to admit the possibility that extraterrestrial communications are currently taking place in images imprinted in fields, it would be difficult for them to continue to justify renewals and increases in their budget allotment.

Note that NCSI does not postulate that crop formations are definite alien attempts at communication. Nor are we saying that they are not made by humans. In fact, many crop formations are openly made by humans in the form of advertisements. The creators are paid for their work, and the farmers who own the crop fields are approached beforehand and paid a 'rental' fee for the space. As for the formations that appear mysteriously in fields without permission of the land owners, there are two distinct types: messy trampled ones that break and kill the crops, and clean, perfect ones where the stalks are folded down and woven into patterns as many as 9 layers deep without killing the crops. We are of the opinion that humans are responsible for the "messy" ones. As for the "clean" formations, our opinion is that their origins are unknown because it is highly unlikely that humans are responsible.

The "Chilbolton Code" formation is one of the 'clean' types, which indicates to us that its origins are unlikely to be human and therefore unclear. Nevertheless, this is one of the few crop formations where we know it is, in fact, a communication of information and not just an interesting and pretty design, and furthermore, the message format is one we know how to decode.

The human has been modified into a figure that, while humanoid, has a far larger head. The building block elements now include Silicon, atomic weight 14, in addition to the original elements listed. There is now an extra strand on the right side of the DNA double-helix, and another, less obvious, change is in the binary coding of the number of nucleotides in DNA itself (in the center). The human genome has 4,293,917,614, or nearly 4.3 billion nucleotide sequences, while the mystery genome sequence shown in the Chilbolton Code has 4,294,966,190, or 1,048,576 (one million) more nucleotide sequences than human DNA.
The presence of Silicon in the list of important life-related elements is very interesting. The use of the same basic nucleotides suggests that we are related, or that there are a limited number of combinations of things that actually work well, or perhaps both. The humanoid figure suggests that the senders of the code are not unlike what thousands of reliable persons have reported seeing--the classic "alien" figures commonly referred to as "The Greys." The apparent size of this being is 3'4", if one uses the same mathematics that was used in the original transmission, which also is a match to the information about the Greys.
The diagram that depicts our solar system has been replaced with another that still has nine worlds, but planets 3 through 5 are lifted, and the last is drawn larger than the others or perhaps represents multiple moons. The difference in the Solar System information could indicate one of two scenarios. Either it still refers to our own Solar System, but in addition to highlighting Earth is also highlighting the fourth and fifth planets - Mars and Jupiter. Of course, the additional highlight on the 'fifth planet' could actually refer to the asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter and is in reality the 'fifth element' from the sun. Alternatively, it might not correspond Sol System at all, but to the ET's star system - which would also appear to consist of nine planets...although the sun is depicted as slightly smaller.
Decoding the 'population' binary sequence gives a value of approx 21.3 billion - a lot bigger than the original transmission, and indeed Earth's current population. Perhaps this is the population of their own planet, or the combined human and ET population of Earth - if you believe, like some researchers, that Earth is already populated by an unseen ET contingency. If you assume that the alterations to the 'Solar System' section in the crop formation refers to a different star system altogether, then this could indicate the combined population of the inhabited planets of that system.

Now let's take a close look at what replaced the diagram of the Arecibo transmitter from the original message:
It's certainly a far cry from the simple curve and "M" shape of a reflecting signal wave that represented Arecibo in the original. But the angles of our images aren't helping either.  Here's a grid composite of the data from this section:
Click to enlarge
The above is is graphical data only; the transmitter size number data directly below the graphical representation have been deliberately left out.
It looks like no known transmitter array...but it does very much resemble something else.

In 2000, a year before the appearance of the Chilbolton Code formation, a symmetric pattern of multiple interlocked circles had appeared in that spot. Some thought it was merely crop grafitti, but in light of the possible interpretation of the Chilbolton Code, it may be important to observe that in the same place where the Arecibo signal had a representation of the instrument we used to broadcast the signal, the Chilbolton pattern has a simplified binary representation of something that has very similar characteristics to this 2000 formation.

It is possible that the pattern may refer to this design simply because it is a telltale 'mark' of the spot in which the message was imprinted a year later. On the other hand, if it is meant to depict the tool used to transmit the message, then this crop circle contains very valuable information, as it may be a representation of a technology or physics concept beyond our knowledge. Perhaps it is even an image of a device that is used for imprinting crop circles...if that is how they are being formed.

Just for fun, we here at NCSI took some time to run some effects over a closeup of this crop circle--its been inverted, wildly hue shifted, contrast and brightness enhanced, and mercilessly attacked with a smudging tool--in attempt to create a visual environment in which this pattern of overlapping circles can be more readily grasped as a three dimensional object, rather than an abstract two dimensional pattern.
Whatever it is, it's definitely odd looking. We'll leave the problem of it's actual function and purpose as an exercise for the reader.

One final point of interest on the data contained in the Chilbolton Code. A research biologist named Red Setter performed an intensive personal research inspired by the odd DNA images in the Chilbolton Code formation, and his report of his findings is extremely interesting:
"The central part of the Chilbolton pictogram shows that a DNA double helix as found on Earth, with 10 base pairs per turn, has been replaced on one side by a novel single-stranded helix with just 6 bases per turn. I had to work hard for several days to discover that the single-stranded helix with 6 bases per turn refers to 2', 5'-linked RNA or DNA, as opposed to the normal 3', 5' variety. This is known to hardly any molecular biologist, and I found out only by making an accurate model. ...There is no other plausible way of constructing a 6-fold helix as indicated. [Published research] shows that 2', 5'-linked RNA will form double helices, but prefers to remain single stranded. [Other research] explores the use of 2', 5' RNA as an antiviral drug; it seems we have been exposed to such strange molecules in the past, and have evolved an interferon-RNAase L system against them."

"Recall that origin-of-life experiments in the 1980s by Leslie Orgel, found that RNA would often polymerize into two different forms, namely 2', 5' versus 3', 5'; and it was a mystery to chemical evolutionists why 3', 5' was favored on Earth. Note that many abductees remain ill with chronic fatigue, which generally includes a high level of RNAase L; just as if their immune systems have been activated by contact with 2', 5' RNA. The clear implication is that 2', 5' RNA may represent an alternative system of genetic coding to 3', 5' RNA or DNA as found on Earth; and that the makers of the Chilbolton pictogram wished us to understand that fact. Whether a secret band of elite scientists could hoax such a result seems doubtful; since 2', 5' nucleic acids are mentioned rarely in the literature, and nowhere does it say that they form a single-stranded helix with 6 bases per turn. That I found only recently, by painstakingly constructing an accurate model."

So there is significant, scientifically verifiable content in the Chilbolton Code formation that is unlikely to have been placed there in the dark by pranksters because the information is new and almost unknown. Perhaps Silicon is involved in the process by which the genetic encoding choice is made. It plays a role somewhere. Clearly there is room for much more serious thought here, if one is so inclined.

"Don't Touch That Dial"

....or in this case, "keep watching that field," because in 2002, a year after the Chilbolton Code formation, another clear message was imprinted in the field.

The Hampshire Alien
This is another "clean" formation that was created in a single night in complete secrecy--the incredible intricacy of the design and the size of the formation indicates that it would have taken a coordinated effort of a large group of people to complete in a four to six hour window of time, without using any visible lights or making any noise, and approaching and leaving the field unnoticably, with no line of vehicles coming or going or parked alongside the field...not to mention using a technique that somehow refrains from killing the crops that are folded down.
The picture of the being is a much clearer representation of the classic "Grey" alien.  But what is most interesting is the disc part of the formation.

The Binary Disc
This disc contains a spiral of positive and negative bits in a binary pattern, just like a CD. So, using the same type of decoding algorithm used for decoding CDs, researchers decoded the bits on the disc and produced the following:

Beware the bearers of FALSE gifts
but still time
(this section was damaged and this may be an incorrect decoding)
There is GOOD out there
COnduit CLOSING (bell tone)
[Capitals as translated by computer]

Make of that what you will, dear readers.

In related news, the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, affectionately known as "Big Ear" and the receiver of the "Wow!" signal, having been in operation for 35 years since 1963, was decommissioned, disassembled, dismantled, and otherwise destroyed in 1998 to make room for the expansion of a nearby golf course.
Big Ear Radio Telescope
So exploring the physics of the universe with radio astronomy and listening for aliens has been replaced by plaid pants, polo shirts, and golf claps. A worthy exchange? You decide.
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Ufology Part II: A Brief History

"To reason, one must wonder." —Gian Quasar

►►This is the second in a series of NCSI documents on the subject of UFOs and Ufology.  If you have not yet read the first one, you can find it here: Intro to Ufology◄◄

In the previous post in this series, we concluded with a promise to publish Part 2 within a day or so, and that it would focus on the "Modern Era" of Ufology.
Here we are, several weeks later, finally posting Part 2.  Since we have already broken the timeframe part of the promise, we have decided to make it a clean break and change the subject of the post as well.
Some readers have utilized the large amount of time between posts to ask why we used the term "Modern Era" for something that, as far as they knew, was purely a modern phenomenon and therefore needed no distinction from past eras.  As such, this post will focus on answering that question using one of our favorite question-answering techniques here at NCSI: rendering the question irrelevant by showing that one of its assumptions is invalid.  To do that, we need to give a brief demonstration of historical UFO references stretching back into antiquity.

Enough small talk, let's get to it.

This is a woodcut by a German man named Hans Glasser. It is his attempt at a depiction of the strange things that were seen in the sky over Nuremberg on April 14th, 1561. The image was published in a local broadsheet with the following caption, presumably from one of the witnesses:
"The globes, crosses and tubes began to fight one another, and this went on for an hour. Then they all fell to earth, as if on fire, and faded slowly away producing a lot of steam. Afterwards, a black spear-like object was seen, and the whole event was taken to be a divine warning."
The woodcut is currently held at the Zurich Central Library, which also holds the following image in the same file:

It is another woodcut/broadsheet image, this one by artist Samuel Coccius, and depicts the many "flaming" and "large black globes" that were reported by witnesses in Basel, Switzerland in 1566.


"The Assumption of the Virgin" from 1490. Interesting weather they're having, isn't it? One can imagine the meteorologist's report, "Today will be partially cloudy, with a slight chance of abduction towards evening..."

This is a section of tapestry from the French Basilica Notre-Dame in Beaune, Burgandy, titled "Tenture de la Vie de la Vierge" or "Hanging(tapestry) of the Life of the Virgin" by an unknown artist in 1330. Our interest is in the object in the sky on the upper left. This "hat-shaped" object is one of the best examples out of many that have been found in classical and medieval art.  It is certain that in most cases, these "hat-shaped" objects actually are hats, or have some other mundane explanation...but this one is distinct and is most definitely not connected with any other object or structure in the image. It is quite clearly meant to be part of the deepest layer--the sky in the background--which makes it as large or larger than any of the buildings depicted.

This one is somewhat amusing. These two images are taken from a 12th century text entitled "Annales Laurissenses" ("The Annals of History and Religion" roughly). The text accompanying the images describes an incident in France in the year 776, some three-hundred years before the manuscript was written, so we may assume the author was not an eyewitness(unless he was an accomplished Alchemist), nor was he able to speak to any(unless he was an accomplished Necromancer). Presumably, the Annales was a compilation of church records, as the monks and clergymen were usually literate to some degree and were tasked with keeping track of events by maintaining written records.
This particular account details the Saxon Crusaders siege of the French at Sigiburg Castle. The Saxon army had surrounded the castle, and the siege was well under way when objects described as "flaming shields" began to appear in the skies above the castle(and specifically the castle church, as duly reported by the faithful clergy). The Saxons apparently assumed the objects were there to assist the French, and the entire army dropped the siege and fled, while the French stood at the ramparts and hurled jeers, curses, cows, and insults involving hamsters and elderberries.

The 1784 annual Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society includes a report accompanied by the artwork above by one of the founders of the Royal Academy, Thomas Sandby. Thomas, his brother Paul, and two other witnesses had observed a "luminous object" in the skies above England while on the terrace of Windsor Castle on the 18th of August, 1783. At approximately 9:45pm, an oddly shaped "oblong" cloud was noted moving parallel to the horizon. Under this cloud was a luminous object which seemingly enlarged and brightened until it was a brilliant sphere that gave off "prodigious light, illuminating everything on the ground." At that point it halted and hung motionless for a moment, radiating a pale blue color. Eventually, it took off to the east, the acceleration preceded by a pulse-like increase in brightness. The object abruptly changed direction several times, moving parallel to the horizon and then finally disappearing off to the south-east.

Another report from the Philosophical Transactions, this one from 1742. This sighting was made on the 16th of December in that year and the witness included a written account along with a sketch of the object he observed while walking the Parade in St. James' Park in London.

From "Ume No Chiri" or "Dust of Apricot," published in 1803 in Japan.  The illustration is part of a report of a "foreign" ship seen at the Haratono shore in the Ibaragi Prefecture in Kanto on the island of Honshu. The Japanese script in the drawing indicates the outer shell appeared to be made of "iron and glass."
We here at NCSI have taken particular interest in this image because of the glyphs on the upper right, which were apparently seen either on or inside the ship.

While we do not pretend to have a translation for these symbols(though we may have some glimmerings of possible meanings), their appearance and style brought to mind another report that included a landed object(as this one seems to have been) that was small enough to look down at while standing, and on which glyphs were noted and recorded by the witnesses...only this report is from the U.K. in the year 1980, 200 years and 6,000 miles away. It is of an extraordinary event that took place at USAF occupied RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England and was recorded primarily by eyewitness Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt. It is one of the most well-known and solid UFO cases of all time, containing reports of over 80 military personnel as eyewitnesses and includes sketches, plaster casts, Geiger-readings of the landing area, and copious notes and documents of the internal investigation. It is sometimes referred to as "Britain's Roswell," and is formally known as the Rendlesham Forest Incident.
Rendlesham will be detailed later in this series of NCSI docs. For now, we only want to look at the glyphs from the Rendlesham report from Halt's field notes, which were later digitally reproduced and blown up for study by a cryptologist(who also gave a very interesting report on the glyphs, which we will return to along with the Rendlesham incident).

These glyphs are much better rendered, and there is no exact match, but the graphical styles are very similar--simple geometric combinations. In particular, note that both sets make use of the small circle overlapping the outline of larger shapes.

More from Japan. This one is an illustration of reports of a "burning wheel" sighted over Japan in the year 900.

 The Vedic texts of ancient India are full of accounts of "vimanas" which are alternately palaces or temples or flying vehicles. There are some whole passages that deal with construction and maintenance and operation of a vimana, including what materials should be used to build one, what clothes should be worn when operating one, and advice on what kind of meal to eat before spending a day flying your vimana.

 In the text known as the Ramayana there is a passage that reads, "The Pushpaka chariot that resembles the Sun and belongs to my brother was brought by the powerful Ravana; that aerial and excellent car going everywhere at will .... that car resembling a bright cloud in the sky ... and the King [Rama] got in, and the excellent car at the command of the Raghira, rose up into the higher atmosphere."
The Mahabharata tells of conflicts between gods who are said to have settled their differences apparently using weapons as lethal as those we have now. Apart from 'blazing missiles', the poem records the use of other deadly weapons. 'Indra's Dart' (Indravajra) operated via a circular 'reflector'. When switched on, it produced a 'shaft of light' which, when focused on any target, immediately 'consumed it with its power'.

In one passage of the Mahabharata, the hero, Krishna, is pursuing his enemy, Salva, in the sky, when Salva's Vimana, the Saubha, is made invisible in some way. Undeterred, Krishna immediately fires off a special weapon: "I quickly laid on an arrow, which killed by seeking out sound". Many other terrible weapons are described, quite matter-of-factly, in the Mahabharata, but the most fearsome of all is the one used against the Vrishis. The narrative records:
"Gurkha flying in his swift and powerful Vimana hurled against the three cities of the Vrishis and Andhakas a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and fire, as brilliant as ten thousands suns, rose in all its splendour. It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas."

In the Sanskrit Samarangana Sutradhara (Literally, "controller of the battlefield"), it is written, "Strong and durable must the body of the Vimana be made, like a great flying bird of light material. Inside one must put the mercury engine with its iron heating apparatus underneath. By means of the power latent in the mercury which sets the driving whirlwind in motion, a man sitting inside may travel a great distance in the sky. The movements of the Vimana are such that it can vertically ascend, vertically descend, move slanting forwards and backwards. With the help of the machines human beings can fly in the air and heavenly beings can come down to earth."

Here are a few more such images for your viewing pleasure. Some may or may not be simply religious iconography. Even so, they delineate an ongoing interest and cultural acknowledgement of extraordinary events in the skies.

With that, we feel we have successfully defined several pre-modern eras of Ufology, and can therefore move on to the next document in this NCSI series, "Ufology Part III: The Modern Era." History has shown us that this phenomenon, whatever it may be, has been with mankind for a very long time, but only now are we beginning to approach a technological sophistication with which we might begin to find some real answers, and so we shall take a look at the recent history of sightings up to the present day.
History has also taught us that it might be best not to give out promises as to the release of the next part in this series...so we will say only that it is already in the works, and it will be released.  Until then....keep your eyes on the skies!
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Giant Post

Does anyone believe this?

"A" is the "relative size guy," Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Maybe not.  The biblical Golyat (Goliath) would have been "C" or "D".  We have those in modern times, or at least close to it:

Even in photographs, these men stand out.  They loom, even when in friendly and non-threatening poses.  What would be the effect of "F", at 20 feet...or "I" the 36 foot colossus?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intro to Ufology

"Experiment adds to knowledge, Credulity leads to error." —Anonymous

When sifting through the endless deluge of information that cascades daily through the global communications systems of the human race, seeking those out-of-the-norm, out-of-the-box, not-in-Kansas-anymore incidents for inclusion into the NCSI database(otherwise known as the Omnifariam Diablerie Depositorium, or the O.D.D. files), it is to be expected that during the course of the search we will come across many reports of events that lay within the purvey of that particular brand of Fortrean science known as Ufology [(yoo•foluh•jee), noun].

Ufology is the study of Unidentified Flying Objects--otherwise known as UFOs.  Yes, you heard correctly, we did in fact refer to it as a science.

There is every bit as much reason to refer to Ufology as a science as there is, say, Astronomy.  This may sound utterly ludicrous at first(and we can hear you laughing--yes that's right, you there in the back), but if you will give us a few moments to explain, perhaps we might begin to change your mind.

First, let us take a look at the word science:
"Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe[...]In modern use, "science" more often refers to a way of pursuing knowledge, not only the knowledge itself."
Science, Wikipedia
So science is, among other things, a method of pursuit of knowledge.  Very well, let us then look at what it means to approach something scientifically--to employ the scientific method:
"Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning[...]the chief characteristic which distinguishes a scientific method of inquiry from other methods of acquiring knowledge is that scientists seek to let reality speak for itself, and contradict their theories about it when those theories are incorrect."
Introduction to the Scientific Method, Wikipedia
(For more detail into the definitions of science and the scientific method, the histories of both, and their evolution from their beginnings to the modern era, follow the links to the Wiki articles, both of which are extremely well constructed and referenced.  For the purposes of this article, the quotes above taken from the introductions are sufficient, however.)

Science, then, is a method of pursuit of knowledge, this method being a body of techniques for investigation of phenomena.  These techniques are commonly referred to as the Process Skills of Scientific Inquiry, and are generally listed as follows:
  • Observe
  • Classify
  • Infer
  • Interpret
  • Measure
  • Predict
  • Question
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiment
  • Model Building
A proper scientific investigation would ideally follow this list, beginning with observation and ending with experimentation and model building.

Now, let us consider Astronomy, which we previously stated as comparable to Ufology as a science, thereby contributing to our readers' good health through that best of all medicines, laughter.
Astronomy presents some difficulties for the aspiring scientist, in that it presents some difficulties--and as yet outright impossibilities--in regards to the scientific method.  The phenomena studied by astronomers differs from that of physicists or chemists, because it cannot be brought into the controlled environment of the laboratory.
Out of necessity, astronomers focus primarily on the very first process skill, Observation.  They build hugely delicate and expensive tools to assist them in observing astronomical phenomena.  Should they wish to focus on one particular type of astronomical phenomena, such as supernovas, they must wait for one to occur, in conditions favorable to them and their instruments for observing it.
Astronomers do employ many of the other process skills of course.  They classify, infer and interpret and measure, make predictions, and formulate questions and hypothesis.  Lacking the ability to experiment, however, greatly impairs the ability of astronomers to solidify their knowledge base, because they cannot demonstrate principles through repeatable controlled experiments.
Instead, they must wait for the universe to supply such data on its own.  So they spend a lot of time observing.

Now, imagine if Earth had a permanent globe-encircling cloud cover, such as Venus does.  Anyone looking to the sky would see dull gray clouds in daytime, and a pitch-black blankness at night.  Most people would probably never bother looking skyward if that were the case.
Even so, let's say that two or three times a week, in random, unpredictable places on the globe and at random, unpredictable times, there would appear a small, brief break in the cloud cover.  Most of these would occur over oceans or the vast unpopulated areas of land.  Those that appeared over populated land would most often be missed by humans who never look skyward because there's nothing to see there usually.
Of the breaks in cloud cover that are actually noticed, most would be during the day, as the difference between blue sky and dull grey cloud would draw the attention of any eye that happened to be lifted at that moment.  The cloud cover breaks at night would be hard to spot even should someone be looking directly at it--not much difference in pitch-black clouds and pitch-black sky.  Those that happened to be looking in exactly the right place at exactly the right time when the break was positioned to allow a star or two to shine through would probably just blink a few times and wonder if they maybe sat up too quickly.
Meanwhile, most people would shrug and laugh at the occasional wild-eyed redneck hillbilly that insisted one night he saw a giant hole in the sky rimmed in glowing silver, lit by a bright white disc with mottled gray markings that looked like a face, and shining so brightly that it illuminated him and everything around him with an eerie glow.
And most people would probably roll their eyes and walk away if that hillbilly went on to insist, with religious fervor in his eyes, that the blessed silver light of the Sky Face had shown him that evil hides in everything, including himself, but that evil flees from the cold burning light of the Silver Visage and he himself had witnessed this as a deep blackness stretching away from everything that was lit up by that light...a blackness that took a distorted shape of whatever it stemmed from and ran along the ground away from the light of that Terrible Face!!

People would not believe him, and who could blame them?  What the hillbilly saw was the full moon, which does indeed generate enough light to cause shadows.  But what human would believe him?  Perhaps those who had witnessed a startling chunk of purest lovely blue one day and had wondered and pondered about it ever since.  Maybe a few who had seen a portion of the bright stars of the constellation Orion or Scorpio would listen to his wild tale and believe he saw something, but was just exaggerating and looking for attention.  Other than that?  Probably no one.
Perhaps, eventually, humans as a race may come to believe that there was indeed something going on up there in the sky.  If there were a couple of mass-sightings of the full moon, where thousands of people at once saw it, resulting in many people watching the skies whenever they had a spare moment and thus resulting in many more reports of stars, patches of blue, an impossibly blinding bright yellow-white disc...eventually, Astronomy would begin.  It would be, of necessity, almost nothing but Observation for a long, long time.
Eventually, people would begin to grasp that there was, in fact, a lot of different, strange stuff up there...but would they ever figure out the solar system?  Other planets, stars, comets and meteors, galaxies and neutron stars and pulsars and quasars and black holes and nebulae and supernovas?  The moon?  How long would it take them to figure out that the thin fingernail-shaped arc was the same as the misshapen oval which is the same as the bright silvery disc?

What would they think about tides?

The purpose of the above scenario is to take a familiar and accepted observational science--astronomy--and impose upon it circumstances which would make it comparable Ufology.  The difficulties of studying something when you never know when or where it is going to manifest are obvious.  That does not mean it cannot be approached scientifically.
Consider again the testimony of the poor hillbilly redneck.  The first part of his description is fairly objective for a layman.  He describes the glow as "eerie" and refers to the break in the clouds as a "hole in the sky," but aside from that he sticks to the facts--this includes the mention of a face, because he only says it looks like one, not that it is one.
The second part of his description shows that he has gone off the deep end.  But to those of us who know what he is really seeing, his description--though laughably colorful--is still recognizable.  The proverbial "grain of truth" is actually a thread of reality with which he has woven a tapestry of subjective fancy.

"Ok, ok, that's all well and good," you say, "but that's the moon and stars and stuff.  They're real.  But UFOs?  Little green men in flying saucers??  There might be aliens out there somewhere, it's a big universe and all that, but they aren't flying around our planet beaming people up and probing them, ok?"

Ah...but Ufology is not about "little green men" or abductions or..."probing."  It's not even really about "flying saucers," though they may be a division of data classification.  Ufology is about UFOs--objects, flying or floating in the air, that are unidentifiable.  Equating UFOs with flying saucers and aliens is a common misconception resulting primarily from media sensationalism.  Remember the example of the hillbilly; let's try and stick to known facts.

Given the unpredictable nature of the appearance of UFOs, most of the direct observational data is captured by accident by people who are not endeavoring to be a Ufologist.  As a result, Ufologists have spent a lot of time running around gathering witness reports in an attempt to build a collection of observational data.  Most serious Ufologists only became Ufologists after having been a witness to a UFO.
Recently, Ufologists have begun to form large groups or networks that coordinate investigations using the internet.  They have websites with submission forms so that UFO witnesses can easily report sightings and include any photo or video evidence.  Submissions are automatically entered into a massive online database that is searchable in numerous ways including time, location, type of encounter, et cetera.  Most sightings are merely noted and filed, adding to the database.  Some are singled out by the Ufology group for further study, and some of those are found intriguing enough to warrant on-site investigation, and are assigned to a member of the group who lives nearby.
Many people have pointed out that such easy submission systems lead to an increased number of bogus reports.  This is true, and it is actually a good thing.  As the database of information continues to grow, and computational power continues to increase, the ability for software to detect a false claim becomes more and more accurate, as the statistical universe of data begins to show definite trends.

"Ok, so UFOs and Ufology aren't all about little green saucer guys.  It's about that white plastic shopping bag floating around in the wind, or little Johnny's lost helium balloon or whatever," you say.  "Sounds boring.  People actually study this stuff, and build databases for it?"

It is indeed about that bag, or balloon...at least until it is confirmed they are a bag and a balloon.  Then they become identified, and filed as such, where they add to the Ufologists' ability to identify similar cases in the future and rule them out as well.

But in the end it is not the plastic bag, or the lost balloon, that Ufology is about.  It is about the cases in which there were multiple credible witnesses, such as police or military officers or airline pilots, along with anomalous radar data, and accompanying video or photo images, and the UFO still remains a UFO--that is, Unidentified.  It is those cases in which Ufologists are most interested.

To date, there are quite a few extremely interesting--and utterly mysterious--UFO incidents which we here at NCSI feel should be brought to your attention, even if only for entertainment purposes.  As such, this is the first of a short series of NCSI publications in which we will explore the UFO question in some detail.  This first entry, heavy on the text and wholly lacking in imagery, is a tad thick to wade through, and we apologize.
But it is over now, and we hope you will look forward to the next installment, which will be posted in a day or two, wherein we shall look at a synopsis of the history of modern Ufology, touching on some of the classic and famous sightings as we go.

In the meantime, keep your eyes on the sky!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Explosive Photographs

Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton was a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is credited with transforming the stroboscope from an obscure laboratory instrument into a common device.

In 1925 Edgerton received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.  He earned an S.M. in electrical engineering from MIT in 1927. Edgerton used stroboscopes to study synchronous motors for his Sc.D. thesis in electrical engineering at MIT, awarded in 1931. He credited Charles Stark Draper with inspiring him to point stroboscopes at everyday objects: the first was a stream of water coming out of a faucet.

In 1937 Edgerton began a lifelong association with photographer Gjon Mili, who used stroboscopic equipment, particularly a "multiflash" strobe light, to produce strikingly beautiful photographs, many of which appeared in Life Magazine. This strobe light could flash up to 120 times a second. Edgerton was a pioneer in strobe photography, subsequently using the technique to capture images of balloons during their bursting, or a bullet during its impact with an apple.

His work was instrumental in the development of side-scan sonar technology, used to scan the sea floor for wrecks. Edgerton worked with the undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, by first providing him with underwater stroboscopes, and then by using sonar to discover the Britannic. Edgerton participated in the discovery of the American Civil War battleship USS Monitor.

Edgerton was a co-founder of the company EG&G, with Kenneth Germeshausen and Herbert Grier, in 1947. EG&G became a prime contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission and had a major role in photographing and recording nuclear tests for the United States through the fifties and sixties. For this role he developed the Rapatronic camera, which was supplied by EG&G.

The following images are all Edgerton pictures of experimental detonations of nuclear weapons.  The structure that can be seen in some of the images is extremely interesting.