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Thanks for the Moments…

by Brian Dunning, Nov 22 2012

What more could a good skeptic ask for on Thanksgiving, but a private little mysterious sighting?

Like every year, I’m currently spending the holiday week camped out in a remote part of Death Valley with the family. We haul an offroad popup trailer to the middle of nowhere with the Jeep. The nights are clear and still and very beautiful, and last night after midnight I was standing outside after everyone else had gone to bed. I happened to catch a brilliant meteor zing past. Continue reading…

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Area 51, UFOs, Roswell, Commies, and Nazis—all rolled into one story!

by Donald Prothero, May 25 2011

Just last week, a strange phenomenon occurred which casts light on the mindset of people inclined to believe in the paranormal. Among the Top 10  best-selling books this week is Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top-Secret Military Base by “journalist” Annie Jacobsen. In the genre of crazy books about aliens and UFOs, this one is the nadir. Not only does it recycle all the debunked garbage about Area 51 and the Roswell “alien crash,” but it strains the limits of credulity by claiming the Roswell crash wasn’t an alien craft, nor the weather balloon that the evidence has really shown was behind the myth. No, the Roswell crash was actually a Nazi-inspired Soviet aircraft sent by Stalin to make us think we were being invaded by aliens, and the “aliens” are malformed teenagers resulting from genetic experiments of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. At last, a crazy paranormal story complete with UFOs, Area 51, Roswell, conspiracy, Communists, and Nazis, all rolled up into one!

Her evidence for this bizarre story? It came allegedly a “retired unnamed engineer” from the government contractor EG&G (now part of URS Corporation). No one asked the obvious question about what a retired aerospace engineer would be doing examining bodies, or how he would know they were genetically and surgically altered. In fact, we didn’t even know the structure of DNA until 1953, so there is no way someone could do “genetic engineering” in the 1940s. And if the “teenagers” were genetically engineered by the Soviets using Mengele, they would have to have grown up remarkably fast in the two years from 1945 when Soviets occupied Berlin until 1947, when the Roswell incident took place. In addition, this supposedly all took place over 64 years ago, and this alleged “engineer” would have to be at least in his 30s to have the training and experience to hold such a job. If you do the math, he’s in his 90s or older. Doesn’t that strike anyone as suspicious? Doesn’t that fail the “smell test” of credibility for most people? When Jacobsen was questioned skeptically by interviewer Terry Gross of the radio program Fresh Air on NPR about the problems with the “engineer” story, all she could say is “I don’t think he is lying to me.”

Continue reading…

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Kids See the Darndest Things

by Daniel Loxton, Feb 15 2011

Ghastly Beyond Belief, Neil Gaiman and Kim Newman’s wonderfully weird book of science fiction quotations, relates an amusing anecdote involving skeptic Isaac Asimov.

Asimov once penned a novelization of the sci-fi flick Fantastic Voyage (the story of a submarine miniaturized for a mission inside a human body). He recalled his daughter’s reaction to the film’s ending, in which the crew members escape from the patient’s body and return to their normal sizes, leaving their vehicle behind.

“Won’t the ship now expand and kill the man, Daddy?”

“Yes, Robyn,” I explained, “but you see that because you’re smarter than the average Hollywood producer. After all, you’re eleven.”1

Funny how kids sometimes see straight to the heart of things. I notice this often when talking with my five-year-old son.
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Never More Than Three Possibilities…

by Brian Dunning, Jun 24 2010

This is a frame from Westall 66: A Suburban UFO Mystery which aired on the Australian Sci-Fi Channel on June 4th. I did not get to see the show, as it has not aired in the United States as of this writing; but my educated guess is that the filmmakers were attempting to illustrate the investigative process, by eliminating possibilities. (To learn about the 1966 Westall UFO, you can check out my Skeptoid episode about it.)

Their presentation purports that there are only three possibilities to explain the UFO sighting: Hoax or hysteria; experimental aircraft; or an object of extraterrestrial origin. Actually, that’s four possibilities, since a hoax and mass hysteria are two completely different things. Continue reading…

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The UFO Mystery Solved

by Brian Dunning, Apr 23 2009

It seems I’ve been getting ahead of myself here, posting all sorts of mysteries and puzzles, and never getting around to giving the answers. I pledge to tie up all the loose ends before continuing down this reckless path.

So, first on the hit list, is the UFO Mystery that I posted last week. I gave enough facts that I thought you’d probably be able to figure it out, and figure it out you did. (If you haven’t read it yet, check it out now, and then come back here for the spoiler.) Continue reading…

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The Top UFO Debunker? Really?

by Brian Dunning, Dec 18 2008

I’m not sure why Stanton Friedman selected me as the subject of his writings these past couple of weeks.

I’m certainly not the first, or even the most articulate, to challenge his mission of promoting belief in alien visitation. Writing about Roswell last year, I referred to him as an obsessed UFO wacko, but he’s been called worse by others. Anyway he called me petty, ignorant, cavalier, lazy, biased, and an anti-UFO fanatic, so I guess we’re…even? Continue reading…

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Stanton Friedman Doesn’t Like Me

by Brian Dunning, Dec 04 2008
Stanton Friedman 

 

Stanton Friedman

A reader wrote me on Facebook that he was listening to the “Paranormal Podcast”, another of the usual promoters of nonsense inexplicably allowed to remain in the Science & Medicine section of iTunes. The guest was Stanton Friedman, the principal author of the Roswell, Travis Walton, and Betty & Barney Hill UFO mythologies. Anyway, at 25 minutes into the episode (#56, but don’t bother listening as it’s only a 15 second blurb), Stanton mentioned that he “came across a piece on the Internet” the other day that got “40 flat-out false claims” about the Betty and Barney Hill story, and added with a condescending chortle that he “couldn’t believe it.” It was the online transcript of my Skeptoid episode on that story.

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