I must confess that I was a UFO aficionado back in the 1970’s and early ’80’s. I’ve been interested in space since I can remember, going through an astronomy hobby (still in it a bit) and eventually astrophysics. UFOs, or flying saucers, held the fascinating possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. It seems that the making of six new X-Files episodes (yep, I’m a huge fan) sparked some real-world activity.
I saw a headline on the Fox News website about the CIA declassifying a host of their UFO-related materials. Ah, a teenage dream come true. And I was not disappointed. There are hundreds of documents available, but the Agency made a page of the documents that Mulder would most be interested in and those that Scully would find interesting. I found the Scully list most interesting, especially since it contained the highly-sought-after Robertson’s panel Scientific Advisory Panel’s report (PDF) which has been highly sought for decades.
A great summary of the CIA’s study of the UFO phenomenon is located here. I found it well-written and very familiar based on my earlier reading experience. Project names like SIGN, GRUDGE, and BLUE BOOK, as well as individuals like Rupelt and Keyhoe, all came flooding back. I still have several books by both Rupelt and Keyhoe laying around somewhere. Based on my wide variety of experience, I found the CIA’s summary both well-written, well-researched, and highly credible.
The bottom line is that there was never any credible evidence that UFOs were extraterrestrial or threats to our national security. Both the USAF and CIA concluded that virtually all sightings can easily be explained as natural or man-made phenomenon. The few that cannot be explained easily still offer no evidence of anything other than the scant evidence that they provide towards solving those cases. True believers like Rupelt, Keyhoe, and others kept the pot stirred for a long time, perhaps even to the current X-Files mythology thread, but it was and is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. In God we trust, all others bring data. And there is no physical data or evidence that the few unexplained UFO cases are anything extraterrestrial.
As an aside, the new X-Files altered the UFO mythology a bit. I won’t include spoilers, so don’t worry. However, a key part revolves around gravity warp drive and element 115. Unfortunately for the particle physics challenged, element 115 is unstable with a survival time of just 30-80 milliseconds. That’s hardly enough time to conceive of a spaceship much less build or fly one. X-Files mythology I get, but there are websites dedicated to the concept. Go figure.
Like Mulder, I want to believe. However, facts are stubborn things, and even Scotty couldn’t change the laws of physics.