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Paul Beardsley
2014-Jul-12, 12:15 PM
There have been a lot of discussions recently (always?) about specific UFO books or sightings that usually turn into a general discussion about why aliens would bother to visit us, why they would come all this way but not make proper contact and so on, which is off topic.

My reason for not thinking aliens are visiting us is better expressed in general terms. Note I am also using very precise terms. I do not say, "I believe there are no aliens," or even, "I believe there are no aliens visiting Earth." I am saying I do not think that aliens are visiting Earth. In other words, I see no reason to suppose that aliens are visiting Earth. I freely accept that I might be mistaken, or, more accurately, misinformed, or, better yet, uninformed. Perhaps the crew of an alien stealth craft are paying regular visits to a family on a remote farm in Kazakhstan. But it seems to me that a sensible default position is to assume that this is not happening unless and until compelling evidence is presented to suggest that it is.

I have two reasons for dismissing all accounts of extraterrestrial visit. The first of these is noise. By this, I mean stuff that isn't signal. If you are using an oscilloscope to monitor the signals from a piece of electronic equipment, you typically get a very clear sine wave, or square wave, or whatever, perhaps 2 volts in height. But when you disconnect the source, you typically get a load of fast-moving squiggly lines less than a tenth of a volt in height. This is the noise, and everybody knows there is no point in trying to interpret anything in it.

Most, if not all, UFO accounts are firmly in the noise region. Accounts made long after the event, by people who are unfamiliar with the stars and planets, by people who did not record the time or location, by people who lie and so on. Shaky video footage of Venus out of focus, of a light bulb reflected on a window pane and so on.

The moment something real happens - the meteor over Russia on 15 February 2013, for instance - it's recorded on multiple phones, car cameras, CCTV cameras and so on. It is signal. It's not contradictory word-of-mouth, it's not reported just by drunks and people of a certain mindset, it's not restricted to a couple of blurry photos and talk of government cover-ups.

My other reason for dismissing all accounts of extraterrestrial visits is related but somewhat more controversial. It comes down to evidence of absence.

I understand that if someone says they put a needle in a haystack, and you search the haystack but you don't find the needle, that is not evidence of the needle's absence. But if the "haystack" is only a metre tall (and cubic), and the needle is a steel knitting needle, and you've had 60 years to search the haystack with increasingly sensitive metal detectors, then the conclusion that there is no needle starts to seem more convincing. And the argument, "But you have too narrow an idea of what 'steel knitting needle' actually means," looks increasingly like an excuse.

Thoughts?

Hlafordlaes
2014-Jul-12, 03:19 PM
I could not agree more, and would categorically state that there is zero evidence; no ifs, ands, or buts.

My wife belongs to the other camp, and is convinced she has seen UFOs on several occasions (love her like mad, regardless). How folks over 7 yrs old turn the remotest possibilities into near and present certainties remains a mystery to me.

Confession time: I did used to read, ahem, Carlos Castaneda way back in the day, hoping I'd see some of the promised anthropology, but by the second book all I did was mark how often he ate or drank something before a wild experience. Have a college chum who still subscribes to that stuff, and has visited the areas of Mexico and Guatemala where some of the witch doctors were supposedly from. I imagine they gave him something to drink or eat, too, else he would have wised up. Whadda buncha... silliness.

I wonder how many young people, seeing such CGI realism on TV and in movies, believe in mythical ETs and monsters and such. That is, I wonder if that realism may represent the dark cloud portion of today's technical silver linings.

Noclevername
2014-Jul-12, 04:39 PM
I think XKCD agrees as well: http://xkcd.com/1235/

NoChoice
2014-Jul-12, 11:00 PM
As far as I am concerned your take on the UFO issue is as good as anybody else's.
Whatever you want to think about it - it's all fine with me.

Where it starts getting problematic in my book is when people think that there opinion is somehow more scientific than others.
You may believe that your position is more scientifically minded, and maybe it is in the sense that many other science enthusiasts may agree, but that doesn't make it scientific.

When it comes to UFOs, ghosts, etc the only currently valid scientific stance is: We have no hard data. All we can currently say is: We don't know.
That is currently the only conclusion that can be reached by applying the scientific method to the available data.

Strange
2014-Jul-12, 11:29 PM
When it comes to UFOs, ghosts, etc the only currently valid scientific stance is: We have no hard data. All we can currently say is: We don't know.

Really? You are not prepared to apply any more analysis to the problem than that? You think that the only thing we can say about Russell's Teapot, invisible pink unicorns, alien visitors and the flying spaghetti monster is, "we don't know"?

Perhaps that degree of open-mindedness should be admired. I would certainly find it hard to imitate.


Some people speak as if we were not justified in rejecting [an idea] unless we can prove it false. But the burden of proof does not lie upon the rejecter. ... If you were told that in a certain planet revolving around Sirius there is a race of donkeys who speak the English language and spend their time in discussing eugenics, you could not disprove the statement, but would it, on that account, have any claim to be believed?

Strange
2014-Jul-12, 11:32 PM
But when you disconnect the source, you typically get a load of fast-moving squiggly lines less than a tenth of a volt in height. This is the noise, and everybody knows there is no point in trying to interpret anything in it.

Although, to counter that analogy, some broadband spread-spectrum signals such as GPS are indistinguishable from noise. And, in fact, by the time they reach the receiver, they are below the level of background noise. But the information is recoverable "if you know what to look for" ...

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-13, 11:38 AM
When it comes to UFOs, ghosts, etc the only currently valid scientific stance is: We have no hard data. All we can currently say is: We don't know. That is currently the only conclusion that can be reached by applying the scientific method to the available data.

I see no reason to "allow" for completely un-evidenced things.


Might as well "allow" for the existence of anything.


....bringing us back to one of my favorite "sayings"...when any answer is possible, all answers are meaningless.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-13, 11:41 AM
Just a slight difference of opinion...


Most, if not all, UFO accounts are firmly in the noise region.


I would say all UFO reports are "noise"...if any report became "signal", then that would be credible evidence of alien UFO's...


....but that hasn't happened...at all...in over 60+ years of reports...

Noclevername
2014-Jul-13, 12:44 PM
Where it starts getting problematic in my book is when people think that there opinion is somehow more scientific than others.
You may believe that your position is more scientifically minded, and maybe it is in the sense that many other science enthusiasts may agree, but that doesn't make it scientific.
Per the OP:


Note I am also using very precise terms. I do not say, "I believe there are no aliens," or even, "I believe there are no aliens visiting Earth." I am saying I do not think that aliens are visiting Earth. In other words, I see no reason to suppose that aliens are visiting Earth. I freely accept that I might be mistaken, or, more accurately, misinformed, or, better yet, uninformed. Perhaps the crew of an alien stealth craft are paying regular visits to a family on a remote farm in Kazakhstan. But it seems to me that a sensible default position is to assume that this is not happening unless and until compelling evidence is presented to suggest that it is.

(bold mine)


When it comes to UFOs, ghosts, etc the only currently valid scientific stance is: We have no hard data. All we can currently say is: We don't know.
That is currently the only conclusion that can be reached by applying the scientific method to the available data.

There's no reason to rule those things out, but there's no reason to rule them IN either. Any more than invisible elves, unicorns, Superman or flying spaghetti monsters. They are all equally non-supported by evidence.

If those things were observed by reliable eyewitnesses, don't you think there WOULD be some repeatable and recordable observations? "ALL the pictures are blurry but the subject was clearly visible to me" seems like an extremely implausible coincidence.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Jul-13, 09:46 PM
Disappointing that NoChoice cannot move on from the vacuous "science can't say anything" assertion. But as he ignores the key points in posts (thanks for highlighting them, NCN) this is not likely to change.

It is absurd to suggest that science has nothing to say. We know stuff about the atmosphere, conditions outside the atmosphere, biology, the distance to stars, the physics of travelling between the stars, some of the practicalities of journeys to celestial bodies, and much else besides. Sure we don't know everything, but we can make educated guesses, which are, frankly, superior to the claims made by people who know virtually nothing about these things and simply want to believe.

Strange, I acknowledge the limitation of the noise analogy.

Strange
2014-Jul-13, 11:09 PM
Strange, I acknowledge the limitation of the noise analogy.

That wasn't intended as a serious criticism, by the way -- I think your analogy is good -- it was just a bit of interesting trivia. And I quite like the way "if you know what you are looking for" reflects the attitude of some conspiracy theorists.

Solfe
2014-Jul-13, 11:18 PM
I live near an airport and due to the arrangement of runways, I only see red lights on aircraft. Very rarely, an airplane or helicopter has to do something different and my kids are befuddled by green lights in the sky. UFO's are basically the same thing - you see something, you think you have an answer, but really you haven't seen the big picture. A little more information or a few more details changes a UFO into airplanes. (I love this house, but sometimes we get buzzed by stuff like Mercy Flight, the Sheriff's copter or military aircraft; if I dropped some details, it'd make a wonderful UFO story, black helicopters and all.)

Personally, I like the idea of alien life so I play along at home with Seti@home (now Boinc). I would promote Seti@home as a useful tool in the respect that it is a cheap investment for training that actually generates results. The funny bit is, the results have nothing to do with alien life. Boinc has successfully branch out to a great number of meaningful projects that net real world results, thanks to distributed computing. It also is useful for hobbyists and students to learn to work together in a variety of fields. Failure to find life has been a great success for science.

I am pretty well convinced the best place to find alien life is someplace in our solar system. I'd bet a pizza on it, but funding for getting to the interesting places is dicey. I am better at funding my pizza addiction than most governments are at funding science, and planetary sciences are worse off than most other sciences. We need to keep funding exploration.

No one launched an expedition to find penguins, yet they were found. As long as we continue to do planetary sciences and space exploration, our chance of formulating the correct questions and finding answers about life will just take care of itself. I am optimistically hoping for a discovery about life elsewhere, but the adventure and exploration is worth it no matter what the answer is.

Van Rijn
2014-Jul-14, 10:36 AM
When it comes to UFOs, ghosts, etc the only currently valid scientific stance is: We have no hard data. All we can currently say is: We don't know.


What conditions would you require to accept that there was hard data regarding UFOs? At what point would you think it to be reasonable to take a scientific stance on the subject? UFOs and other subjects that have a bearing on UFO claims have been studied for several decades, and there is a great deal of data supporting mundane causes, but you seem to casually dismiss all of it.

It's interesting to me that you put UFOs and ghosts in the same sentence with a claim of a lack of hard data. It sounds like you are treating both subjects similarly. I have to ask: Are you approaching both of these subjects from a scientific standpoint, where falsifiable hypotheses can be made and you would accept the results if data shows the hypotheses have been falsified? Or are you looking at them from a position of unfalsifiable personal belief, in which case science and data is irrelevant?

Van Rijn
2014-Jul-14, 11:28 AM
I understand that if someone says they put a needle in a haystack, and you search the haystack but you don't find the needle, that is not evidence of the needle's absence. But if the "haystack" is only a metre tall (and cubic), and the needle is a steel knitting needle, and you've had 60 years to search the haystack with increasingly sensitive metal detectors, then the conclusion that there is no needle starts to seem more convincing. And the argument, "But you have too narrow an idea of what 'steel knitting needle' actually means," looks increasingly like an excuse.

Thoughts?

In the earlier thread I was mentioning another aspect of the lack of evidence: Aside from more people having phone-cameras, there are quite a number of near-Earth space searches being done today for various reasons, such as NEO asteroid searches, meteor watches, people looking for unreported spy satellites, etc. Sometimes bits of unreported spacecraft are discovered because they just happen to go across a telescope's field of view. And amateur astronomers today do things like watching Mars probes as they're heading away from Earth. It turns out to be *very* hard to hide objects in space.

A single example of a near-Earth object that accelerated more than current technology could allow, tracked by telescopes around the world for a day or two, would almost conclusively establish the existence of ET spacecraft. Yet we have all these claims of gaudy, obvious ET spacecraft zipping around in the atmosphere, that not only manage to elude cameras while in the lower atmosphere, but also when they should be visible to telescopes across much of the planet.

Rather than arguing what I'd dismiss, I think of this more as putting constraints on what is plausible. So, if there are ET spacecraft near Earth, and they manage to be stealthy enough to avoid general detection, it's unlikely they would do crazy-obvious things like flash bright lights at everyone, move 4,000 mph at low altitude, or make extremely rapid changes in direction. These are all things that would be likely to get them noticed, and not just by government authorities.

In general, I think that if we were being monitored by ET spacecraft, and given that there aren't any web pages with ET spacecraft ephemerides for telescope viewing, they would probably have to avoid getting near the Earth. They could more easily maintain stealth if they stayed at least a few million miles away, though they might possibly have probes hitch a ride on NEO asteroids from time to time. Even this would eventually have to be further constrained, as we start exploring more NEO asteroids, and build better telescopes. For instance, Sentinel:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinel_(space_telescope)

would look for asteroids using IR, and should be able to find most asteroids that could pose a threat for Earth. That also likely would be good for picking up spacecraft heat sources, unless they are small and low powered.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-14, 12:09 PM
I think your analogy is good

I like it...ie. the whole of the flying saucer myth is composed of noise. There has never been a "signal" relating to any alien visitors.

It's a neat and simple analogy.

kzb
2014-Jul-14, 12:48 PM
I'm not saying I disagree with your conclusion, but perhaps the oscilloscope noise analogy is not the way model it. In fact that way of looking at could end up "disproving" your conclusion.

There are more and more sophisticated ways of extracting a signal from a large random noise background. Looked at purely statistically, the fact that so many people have reported being abducted by aliens that look similar on each occasion would be statistically significant.

Some clever statistician could no doubt build a maximum likelyhood model (what ET looks like, what they do, what do the craft look like and do) from statistical analysis of all reported ET events.

Strange
2014-Jul-14, 12:54 PM
IThere are more and more sophisticated ways of extracting a signal from a large random noise background. Looked at purely statistically, the fact that so many people have reported being abducted by aliens that look similar on each occasion would be statistically significant.

But significant of what? Human physiology and psychology (and this seems to be consistent with other known and well documented effects) or ET (unsupported by any independent evidence)?

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-14, 01:11 PM
...the fact that so many people have reported being abducted by aliens that look similar on each occasion would be statistically significant.

How can something completely un-evidenced be statistically significant?


Some clever statistician could no doubt build a maximum likelyhood model (what ET looks like, what they do, what do the craft look like and do) from statistical analysis of all reported ET events.

Only if we assume that these "reported ET events" actually happened as described.

primummobile
2014-Jul-14, 01:42 PM
There are more and more sophisticated ways of extracting a signal from a large random noise background. Looked at purely statistically, the fact that so many people have reported being abducted by aliens that look similar on each occasion would be statistically significant.



The reason they are so similar is that people hear what other people are "seeing". The only way you would have something there is if you could take truly isolated populations and compare what they believe they are witnessing. And then you would have to rule out all the likely earthly explanations where they would actually be observing the same phenomena.

I and others have mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again. In the 1950s, pictures like George Adamski's looked high tech and otherworldly. Today they look silly. That's why people don't "witness" craft that look like that anymore.

Jeff Root
2014-Jul-14, 02:00 PM
Noise and spurious signals are usually different things.
Sometimes noise is misinterpreted as a signal -- I often
hear opera singers, or worse, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'
when I'm in the shower, because of the particular range
of noises made by the running water -- but I think that
more often, real UFOs -- real signals -- are interpreted
to be of alien origin.

An example I'm not the least bit sure about: A video of
a bright light jumping around in the sky at accelerations
that would tear apart any human-made flying machine,
because the hand-held camera was zoomed in on Venus.
Is that noise or signal? I dunno.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Paul Beardsley
2014-Jul-14, 05:08 PM
Slight tangent, but for a time I associated a male colleague with Princess Leia, and for a long time I couldn't work out why. Eventually I realised - I often stood by him when he was photocopying, and the photocopier made a noise like the first four notes of Leia's Theme.

I'm using "noise" here to refer to all the material that gets presented as evidence. It seems varied at first glance but on closer examination it quickly begins to look very similar in that none of it is remotely compelling, and UFO proponents are likely to present it again and again even when you point out the obvious mundane explanation to them - they like to rescue things from the dustbin.

Now let's suppose that real alien spacecraft in flight happen to look just like Venus being videoed out of focus by someone with a shaky hand. It's not very likely, I'll grant you, but it's conceivable. The problem here is that the genuinely alien phenomenon is indistinguishable from the mundane phenomenon, so even though we might be looking at an actual alien craft, it cannot be cited as evidence because it's lost in the noise.

Of course I think it is unlikely that real alien craft will closely resemble mundane phenomena. When something extraordinary happens - such as my example of the Russia meteor - it will look very different to the mundane and unreliable stuff that makes up the noise.

Jeff Root
2014-Jul-14, 06:26 PM
A meteor and a re-entering satellite could be indistinguishable
to most people, while knowledgeable observers would find them
merely almost indistinguishable. What can really help identify
the object is an expectation that a satellite in a known circular
orbit will re-enter very soon, and the track of the observed
object matches the known orbit.

If you expect to see alien spaceships, ....

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

WayneFrancis
2014-Jul-15, 06:22 AM
I'm not saying I disagree with your conclusion, but perhaps the oscilloscope noise analogy is not the way model it. In fact that way of looking at could end up "disproving" your conclusion.

There are more and more sophisticated ways of extracting a signal from a large random noise background. Looked at purely statistically, the fact that so many people have reported being abducted by aliens that look similar on each occasion would be statistically significant.

Some clever statistician could no doubt build a maximum likelyhood model (what ET looks like, what they do, what do the craft look like and do) from statistical analysis of all reported ET events.

Wouldn't you have to weed out the 99.999999999% of reported events that have them as little grey men. Then with the remaining .000000001% do your analysis to see which ones may be true and which ones are just more people confused/ lying? This is assuming any of the alien abduction reports are even real in the first place and they got to see their abductors.

Noclevername
2014-Jul-15, 10:08 AM
Wouldn't you have to weed out the 99.999999999% of reported events that have them as little grey men.

They started out as little green men. And their ships went from disks to triangle shaped (though some old school circular craft are still reported). I guess alien fashions change to match human pop culture expectations.

kzb
2014-Jul-15, 11:56 AM
Wouldn't you have to weed out the 99.999999999% of reported events that have them as little grey men. Then with the remaining .000000001% do your analysis to see which ones may be true and which ones are just more people confused/ lying? This is assuming any of the alien abduction reports are even real in the first place and they got to see their abductors.

No you're missing the point. To do a statistical analysis you don't select data according to your preconceptions. That is like someone subjectively picking certain blips on the oscilloscope and discarding others as noise.

Alien abduction as a phenomenon is real. I don't mean that people are really being abducted by aliens, but at least some of them really believe it. It's the truth to them.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 12:11 PM
To do a statistical analysis you don't select data according to your preconceptions.

I'll repeat my question...how can you do a statistical analysis on un-evidenced phenomena??


That's like doing a statistical analysis on the behavior of ghosts.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 12:14 PM
Alien abduction as a phenomenon is real.

...and if you eliminated the quack MD's who "promote" these supposed abductions?...how "real" would it be, then??

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 12:29 PM
Alien abduction as a phenomenon is real. I don't mean that people are really being abducted by aliens, but at least some of them really believe it. It's the truth to them.

But the phenomenon is most certainly a purely psychological and cultural one. I would be willing to bet that cultures that don't have our UFO obsession probably have far fewer "abductions" than what happen here. In that case, the proper way to address it isn't to lend credence or legitimacy to their beliefs by studying it as though their claims were real. It should be treated medically. I may be wrong here, but I would guess that most abductees have other problems. Others are just very open to the suggestions of their examiners. But none of that means it is probable that aliens are flying around our skies. The much more likely explanation is that these people have unresolved problems that should be treated medically.

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 12:36 PM
They started out as little green men. And their ships went from disks to triangle shaped (though some old school circular craft are still reported). I guess alien fashions change to match human pop culture expectations.

The "Nordics" were quite popular in Europe for a time.

Swift
2014-Jul-15, 01:11 PM
This is the noise, and everybody knows there is no point in trying to interpret anything in it.

I think your analogy is fine Paul (as with just about any analogy, if you pick at it like it was a precise model, and not an analogy, it doesn't work).

But the quoted sentence is the one thing I disagree with. Not everyone knows it. Maybe everyone who knows how to use an oscilloscope knows that it isn't worth interpreting electrical noise. But in the broader context, it would seem a vast percentage, probably a majority, of humans do not know it isn't worth looking for patterns in the noise. All the images of Queen Elizabeth II found in burnt toast (to pick a non-religious example) would seem to demonstrate that.

Humans' ability and tendency to look for patterns, particularly when none exist, is a powerful thing.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 01:32 PM
Humans' ability and tendency to look for patterns, particularly when none exist, is a powerful thing.

One need look no further than this board to demonstrate that.

When the HIRES images of the "face" on Mars were released, one would think that would have been the end of the whole debacle, yet we had more than one poster trying to defend the lower res images as if the HIRES images did not exist.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Jul-15, 03:04 PM
I think your analogy is fine Paul (as with just about any analogy, if you pick at it like it was a precise model, and not an analogy, it doesn't work).

But the quoted sentence is the one thing I disagree with. Not everyone knows it. Maybe everyone who knows how to use an oscilloscope knows that it isn't worth interpreting electrical noise. But in the broader context, it would seem a vast percentage, probably a majority, of humans do not know it isn't worth looking for patterns in the noise. All the images of Queen Elizabeth II found in burnt toast (to pick a non-religious example) would seem to demonstrate that.

Humans' ability and tendency to look for patterns, particularly when none exist, is a powerful thing.

I agree with all your points, Swift. I was indeed thinking of "everyone" as people who test electronic equipment.

Finding a non-religious example for pareidolia is quite a challenge. I would have suggested Rasputin, except he was a monk.

I'd still like to know the reason for the Martian canals - was that pareidolia, or the veins in the back of the observer?

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 03:09 PM
I'd still like to know the reason for the Martian canals - was that pareidolia, or the veins in the back of the observer?

I think it was pareidolia of an optical illusion when Schiaparelli first described them, and then the power of suggestion took care of the rest. That's just my opinion, of course.

Strange
2014-Jul-15, 03:21 PM
Finding a non-religious example for pareidolia is quite a challenge.

Oh, I don't know ...
http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/494-its-a-dog-nosed-world-accidental-cartography-revisited
http://makingmaps.net/2008/10/13/cartocacoethes-why-the-worlds-oldest-map-isnt-a-map/

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 04:41 PM
I think it was pareidolia of an optical illusion when Schiaparelli first described them...

He called them Canali with means "channels", but was mis-translated into English as Canals...and then Lovell's wishful thinking took over.

It didn't "help" at all that what was being observed was at the very edge of the resolution of the telescopes of the day.

Noclevername
2014-Jul-15, 05:06 PM
]Finding a non-religious example for pareidolia is quite a challenge.

Italy is a boot!

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 05:09 PM
Italy is a boot!

Italy is a boot kicking Sicily, which is a football.

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 05:51 PM
He called them Canali with means "channels", but was mis-translated into English as Canals...and then Lovell's wishful thinking took over.

It didn't "help" at all that what was being observed was at the very edge of the resolution of the telescopes of the day.

I've seen Mars through six inch reflectors. It looks like a reddish-orange blob. How they saw anything is beyond me. Maybe if you look at it long enough your mind makes patterns.

kzb
2014-Jul-15, 05:55 PM
But the phenomenon is most certainly a purely psychological and cultural one. I would be willing to bet that cultures that don't have our UFO obsession probably have far fewer "abductions" than what happen here. In that case, the proper way to address it isn't to lend credence or legitimacy to their beliefs by studying it as though their claims were real. It should be treated medically. I may be wrong here, but I would guess that most abductees have other problems. Others are just very open to the suggestions of their examiners. But none of that means it is probable that aliens are flying around our skies. The much more likely explanation is that these people have unresolved problems that should be treated medically.

But analysing it statistically is a perfectly valid thing to do, scientifically. Factorial analysis. You should probably NOT have any preconceptions about what you want to do with the results of your analysis before you start (i.e medical attention).

Although if you found that alien abduction was correlated with defined psychological problems you might want to look into it. Which is the cause and which is the effect.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 06:20 PM
But analysing it statistically is a perfectly valid thing to do, scientifically.

You are statistically analyzing the un-evidenced "stories" told by credulous believers.

How that is "valid" scientifically, I do not know.

primummobile
2014-Jul-15, 06:30 PM
But analysing it statistically is a perfectly valid thing to do, scientifically. Factorial analysis. You should probably NOT have any preconceptions about what you want to do with the results of your analysis before you start (i.e medical attention).

Although if you found that alien abduction was correlated with defined psychological problems you might want to look into it. Which is the cause and which is the effect.

No, I would first assume that they had some underlying disorder, such as PTSD. We have analyzed these things. We know that the vast majority of "abductions" take place in English speaking countries, even though only about 6% of the world lives in an English speaking country. Why do you suppose that is? The most logical explanation is that the vast majority of literature and media concerning abductions is in English. We know that the descriptions of aliens and craft mysteriously change. Not only do they vary wildly from country to country, but they also almost perfectly replicate pop culture depictions of aliens.

The only reason abductions should be analyzed is to help the people who think they are being abducted. It is very obvious, after countless examinations of the evidence, that it isn't really happening.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 06:45 PM
Which is the cause and which is the effect.

One is extensively evidenced, while the other is not evidenced at all.


Is there really any question as to which is cause, and which is effect??

Jeff Root
2014-Jul-15, 07:11 PM
R.A.F.,

Observation of a person describing his abduction by space
aliens causes that person to be classified as mentally ill.
He is mentally ill because he was abducted.

That's what you were saying, isn't it?

:p

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

antoniseb
2014-Jul-15, 07:20 PM
Jeff Root and R.A.F. ... I don't much care the history of this, but it has been reported, and I'm going to ask R.A.F. to gracefully pretend Jeff Root didn't write it, and for Jeff Root to please stop putting paraphrased words in other people's mouths.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-15, 07:21 PM
deleted post as per instructions...

kzb
2014-Jul-16, 11:43 AM
No, I would first assume that they had some underlying disorder, such as PTSD. We have analyzed these things. We know that the vast majority of "abductions" take place in English speaking countries, even though only about 6% of the world lives in an English speaking country. Why do you suppose that is? The most logical explanation is that the vast majority of literature and media concerning abductions is in English. We know that the descriptions of aliens and craft mysteriously change. Not only do they vary wildly from country to country, but they also almost perfectly replicate pop culture depictions of aliens.

The only reason abductions should be analyzed is to help the people who think they are being abducted. It is very obvious, after countless examinations of the evidence, that it isn't really happening.

OK so that is my point proven. You have statistically analysed the data and extracted information from it. So it was not random noise obviously.

Not only that, but you have come to conclusions based on the statistical findings.

kzb
2014-Jul-16, 11:49 AM
One is extensively evidenced, while the other is not evidenced at all.


Is there really any question as to which is cause, and which is effect??

To be honest, I was mistaken to put that question, because correlation does not necessarily imply cause and effect. That's just basic.

kzb
2014-Jul-16, 11:57 AM
You are statistically analyzing the un-evidenced "stories" told by credulous believers.

How that is "valid" scientifically, I do not know.

The fact is, it is reported by large numbers of people. It's apparently real to them. As an exercise in statistical analysis it is just as valid as anything else.

I've been thinking (and this is not related to my main point), alien abduction may indicate unlawful activities. If you are an organisation or gang you are not going to perpetrate such activities on the well-connected and the articulate. Quite the reverse, you will go for those who will not be believed. So properly analysing this data with this in mind may well be valuable.

primummobile
2014-Jul-16, 12:10 PM
OK so that is my point proven. You have statistically analysed the data and extracted information from it. So it was not random noise obviously.

Not only that, but you have come to conclusions based on the statistical findings.

We can agree on that.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-16, 12:15 PM
The fact is, it is reported by large numbers of people. It's apparently real to them.

Any number of un-evidenced things have been reported by large numbers of people....and these same things are still un-evidenced.



As an exercise in statistical analysis it is just as valid as anything else.

In my opinion, a pointless exercise.



I've been thinking (and this is not related to my main point), alien abduction may indicate unlawful activities. If you are an organisation or gang you are not going to perpetrate such activities on the well-connected and the articulate. Quite the reverse, you will go for those who will not be believed. So properly analysing this data with this in mind may well be valuable.

So if we properly analyze all the un-evidenced stories that have been told over the years, and taking into account that kidnapping is illegal, we "discover" absolutely nothing because it's not real.

Seriously... you are trying to "find" relevance where there is none.

Strange
2014-Jul-16, 12:41 PM
In my opinion, a pointless exercise.

I disagree. I think it is useful to understand why people believe these things. There may be multiple explanations ranging from some sort of disorder to well-documented effects like sleep paralysis. Understanding this is potentially useful because it could provide methods to help those who suffer stress because of their beliefs (which may have been induced because they are stressed...)


because it's not real.

The symptoms are real. That is like dismissing delusional parasitosis or schizophrenia because they are "not real" parasites or voices.

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-16, 12:49 PM
I disagree. I think it is useful to understand why people believe these things. There may be multiple explanations ranging from some sort of disorder to well-documented effects like sleep paralysis. Understanding this is potentially useful because it could provide methods to help those who suffer stress because of their beliefs (which may have been induced because they are stressed...)

Well, of course. What I'm saying is that there is no reason, or evidence that these people's "problems" were in any way caused by alien intervention.

That's all...




The symptoms are real. That is like dismissing delusional parasitosis or schizophrenia because they are "not real" parasites or voices.

While I appreciate your analogy, I wasn't really looking for a discussion re. people's psychological problems, as in my opinion, it is a distraction from the topic...

Strange
2014-Jul-16, 01:11 PM
Well, of course. What I'm saying is that there is no reason, or evidence that these people's "problems" were in any way caused by alien intervention.

But I don't think anyone (here) is suggesting that. (But maybe I have misunderstood.)

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-16, 01:12 PM
But I don't think anyone (here) is suggesting that. (But maybe I have misunderstood.)

...or maybe I have...happens all the time. :)

R.A.F.
2014-Jul-16, 01:16 PM
What I'm saying is that there is no reason, or evidence that these people's "problems" were in any way caused by alien intervention.

Upon re-reading this, I have changed my opinion...just a bit.

Certainly the mental problems of "abductees" are caused by their belief in that they've been abducted, but that was kind of my point...that what they believe is not relevant to the question, "are there aliens visiting the Earth?"

...and the topic of this thread is evidence (or lack thereof) that aliens are visiting Earth...


Hope that clears things up...

IsaacKuo
2014-Jul-16, 02:19 PM
In general, I think that if we were being monitored by ET spacecraft, and given that there aren't any web pages with ET spacecraft ephemerides for telescope viewing, they would probably have to avoid getting near the Earth. They could more easily maintain stealth if they stayed at least a few million miles away, though they might possibly have probes hitch a ride on NEO asteroids from time to time. Even this would eventually have to be further constrained, as we start exploring more NEO asteroids, and build better telescopes. For instance, Sentinel:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinel_(space_telescope)

would look for asteroids using IR, and should be able to find most asteroids that could pose a threat for Earth. That also likely would be good for picking up spacecraft heat sources, unless they are small and low powered.
If a probe is solar powered, then the photon flux going in is going to be equal to the photon flux going out. Depending on the characteristics of the probe, it could be difficult or impossible to distinguish from a random asteroid or comet.

Still, I think it's safe to say that such a probe does not exist in high Earth orbit--the most obvious place to put an Earth observation probe. This is the closest location with long term stability and a view of most of the Earth. The only down side is that this location can't really observe the poles.

However, there are two other obvious locations for an Earth observation probe:

1) The Moon. While it's a bit further away than high Earth orbit, this location gives a useful view of the poles. Possible downsides to this location include the complications of landing, 2 week long nights, and lunar dust.

The Moon is a big place. If there were an alien probe just sitting on the surface staring at us, we probably wouldn't have noticed it yet.

2) Some high inclination solar orbit. This location would only come close to Earth infrequently. But it would have a good view of the poles when it does. Also, such a probe could monitor all planets in the system, not just Earth. In particular, using a highly elliptical orbit with a close perihelion allows the probe to use small adjustments to bring its aphelion close to any specific planet.

A probe in this location would look like an asteroid or inactive comet. Unless it's pretty large, it would be difficult to detect even near perihelion. (I had been hoping that interstellar probes might be detectable by SOHO/STEREO, but BOE calculations indicate that they'd have to be huge to be visible to those telescopes.) High inclination would make such a probe even less likely to be detected by us.

In any case, even if we have detected a probe, it's unlikely we would have noticed something about it to distinguish it from the other small asteroids/inactive comets we have detected.

Note that I am assuming that the alien probe's location is chosen for convenience, with little or no effort to hide from us.

Jeff Root
2014-Jul-16, 03:59 PM
Certainly the mental problems of "abductees" are caused
by their belief in that they've been abducted, but that was
kind of my point...that what they believe is not relevant
to the question, "are there aliens visiting the Earth?"
What if an overwhelming majority of people all over the
world, including scientists, psychologists, and posters here,
believed that space aliens actually are abducting humans,
and the evidence available to you was exactly the same as
you have now? Would you still believe that what they
believe is not relevant to the question?

I think you would want to understand why they believe what
they believe. "They" being both the abductees and those
who evaluate their stories.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Paul Beardsley
2014-Jul-16, 04:20 PM
What if an overwhelming majority of people all over the
world, including scientists, psychologists, and posters here,
believed that space aliens actually are abducting humans,
and the evidence available to you was exactly the same as
you have now? Would you still believe that what they
believe is not relevant to the question?

I think you would want to understand why they believe what
they believe. "They" being both the abductees and those
who evaluate their stories.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

It's hard to imagine how such a situation could come about. If experts on space travel and sleep paralysis were declaring they had been abducted by actual aliens... well, at least you'd be able to ask them more in-depth questions, e.g. why don't you rule out sleep paralysis-related effects as an explanation?

Swift
2014-Jul-16, 05:08 PM
Originally Posted by R.A.F.
Certainly the mental problems of "abductees" are caused
by their belief in that they've been abducted, but that was
kind of my point...that what they believe is not relevant
to the question, "are there aliens visiting the Earth?"
What if an overwhelming majority of people all over the
world, including scientists, psychologists, and posters here,
believed that space aliens actually are abducting humans,
and the evidence available to you was exactly the same as
you have now? Would you still believe that what they
believe is not relevant to the question?

I think you would want to understand why they believe what
they believe. "They" being both the abductees and those
who evaluate their stories.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
I'm not answering for R.A.F., I'm giving my own opinion.

There are two different questions here, as I see it. First, are alien abduction stories evidence of alien visitation? My answer to that is no, particularly without any correlating, physical evidence. The fact that these people believe they were abducted by aliens has no influence on my opinion as to alien visitation.

I seriously doubt that "an overwhelming majority of people all over the world, including scientists, psychologists, and posters here, believed that space aliens actually are abducting humans", but even if true, particularly with your addition of no further evidence, I doubt that would change my opinion. There are all sorts of things that large majorities of people believe (the immediate examples I can think of are religious in nature, so I won't discuss further) and their opinion doesn't change my understanding.

The second question regards the why: "I think you would want to understand why they believe what they believe". Again, I can't speak for either R.A.F. or you, but I don't particularly find that question interesting, though I can imagine that some people would.

Jeff Root
2014-Jul-16, 05:45 PM
Well, I find it interesting that you don't particularly find it
interesting! I suspect that if you believed the implausible
situation I described were actually the case, then you
*would* find the question interesting. It is your belief
that it isn't the case that makes it uninteresting.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Swift
2014-Jul-17, 01:21 PM
Well, I find it interesting that you don't particularly find it
interesting! I suspect that if you believed the implausible
situation I described were actually the case, then you
*would* find the question interesting. It is your belief
that it isn't the case that makes it uninteresting.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
Uh.... I'm not sure, but probably mostly not. I'm not particularly interested in a psychoanalysis of why either specific people or people in general might believe certain things.

To pick something I'm much more interested in than UFOs and alien abductions - Global Warming and climate change. I'm very interested in that topic. There are certain people, against overwhelming evidence, who don't believe it is real. I have no particular interest in trying to figure out or understand why they might believe such a thing.

Back to your "implausible situation" (a vast majority believe the opposite of what I believe), religion is the perfect example of that for me. The vast majority of humans have some amount of religious belief and believe in such things. That doesn't change what I believe, nor does it generate a desire in me to understand why they believe what they believe (actually, I think I know why, but that neither changes my opinion nor makes me interested in confirming that why).

Anyway... I really don't wish to debate my interests or beliefs, and so I'm going to probably back out of this thread...

TedH
2014-Jul-23, 07:45 AM
Hi all, I've learned to ignore those who want us to think flying saucers and that kind of stuff are real. There is no benefit in fighting windmills ;-)
There will always be people thinking our ancestors were not capable of building the pyramids (they must have had help!), not able of thinking ahead... planning big things. For them we just came down the trees last Sunday. They ignore the facts because they don't understand the matter; they repeat "what my friend / cousin / a tabloid says". They don't even try to get their heads around these topics or confirm certain news because then.... they have to become active, to think themselves and that's a thing they've never learned.
Ok, my behavior cuts me off of a number of people but... it makes my live easier ;-)

Dave12308
2014-Sep-26, 06:02 PM
I live near an airport and due to the arrangement of runways, I only see red lights on aircraft. Very rarely, an airplane or helicopter has to do something different and my kids are befuddled by green lights in the sky. UFO's are basically the same thing - you see something, you think you have an answer, but really you haven't seen the big picture. A little more information or a few more details changes a UFO into airplanes. (I love this house, but sometimes we get buzzed by stuff like Mercy Flight, the Sheriff's copter or military aircraft; if I dropped some details, it'd make a wonderful UFO story, black helicopters and all.)

Somewhat related to this, I often wonder how many UFO reports that came out prior to the early 1990's (coincidentally around the time the F-117A Nighthawk and B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft were made public) were actually people seeing Lockheed-Martin's own aircraft out of the "Skunk Works".

Actually, I wonder this in general. A lot of the experimental aircraft designs our own defense contractors have experimented with in the past have resembled UFOs more than traditional planes.

http://www.roswellufomuseum.com/research/ufotopics/earthmadeflyingsaucers.html

All of the planes on the above website are actual designs that at least made it to proof-of-concept stage. And every single one of them looks like something out of the description of a UFO encounter. I assume that is why we "expect" an alien UFO to resemble what we commonly refer to as a "flying saucer". Because it's a design that we KNOW works, and we project our own ideas of what works best onto the hypothetical alien races.

Then again, most of these truly would be "Unidentified Flying Objects" to 99.99% of the population. Then again, technically, so would a Cessna 172 if you for some reason were unable to identify it.

I always wondered why people assume a UFO would be of alien origin. It's not like the fact that we have top-secret aircraft is an unknown thing. Given this knowledge, unless I had evidence to the contrary, I would automatically assume that any UFO I might encounter would be an experimental aircraft of terrestrial origin.

Solfe
2014-Sep-29, 01:12 AM
I would think that some could be experimental craft, but the second something goes out of it's normal flight norms, you can also have problems identifying a plane or helicopter.

We have had that very situation over the summer, but in the opposite way. Several older model helicopters have buzzed the neighborhood. What is unusually is that they have a person sitting on a shelf on the skid. I can identify the make and model of helicopter, but for the life of me, I have no idea why someone would ride on the skid. They certainly aren't low profile, some are bright orange, green, or black and all have clear tail markings and it is only done in broad daylight. They tend to fly very low and slow; so much so, that the passenger on the skid can smile and wave to people on the ground.

If you are looking the wrong way, all you hear is the whop-whop-whop and see nothing at all.

Weird, eh? My only guesses to their purpose is surveying for tree trimmer crews, checking power lines from above or filming for a movie.

Colin Robinson
2014-Sep-29, 08:57 AM
Somewhat related to this, I often wonder how many UFO reports that came out prior to the early 1990's (coincidentally around the time the F-117A Nighthawk and B-2 Spirit stealth aircraft were made public) were actually people seeing Lockheed-Martin's own aircraft out of the "Skunk Works".

Actually, I wonder this in general. A lot of the experimental aircraft designs our own defense contractors have experimented with in the past have resembled UFOs more than traditional planes.

http://www.roswellufomuseum.com/research/ufotopics/earthmadeflyingsaucers.html

All of the planes on the above website are actual designs that at least made it to proof-of-concept stage. And every single one of them looks like something out of the description of a UFO encounter. I assume that is why we "expect" an alien UFO to resemble what we commonly refer to as a "flying saucer". Because it's a design that we KNOW works, and we project our own ideas of what works best onto the hypothetical alien races.

There's another explanation for the idea or expectation that ETs travel by flying saucer. Namely that flocks of birds can on rare occasions reflect sunlight to a human observer in such a way that they take on the appearance of a row of distant bright ovals with a distinctive saucer-like wobble.

Arthur C. Clarke mentions in his essay "Things in the Sky" that he had heard this theory discussed, but found it hard to accept that birds could look like saucers until he saw the phenomenon himself one evening close to sunset. This is how he describes the visual impression he got:

"a line of brilliant silver discs... like metallic mirrors, and they were oscillating or flip-flopping with a regular seesaw motion... I could not guess their size or distance... in the few minutes before they came closer I felt myself wondering... this was the only time I have ever seen a fleet of textbook flying saucers."

But when the objects did come closer, he saw that they were seagulls.

Substantia Innominata
2014-Oct-07, 02:15 AM
My thoughts are legion, but right now I've got a question for the sake of simple understanding:


The moment something real happens - the meteor over Russia on 15 February 2013, for instance - it's recorded on multiple phones, car cameras, CCTV cameras and so on. It is signal.


Does this mean, for you, an event like this -- while perhaps still qualifying as a signal -- would've been noisier, if instead over Siberia, not far from a sizeable city, in clear sight of dozens of CCTV, phones and auto cams (which, rather coincidentally and mainly for legal reasons, are more common in Russia than elsewhere), it had happened somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, with only a couple of seamen and four airplane pilots witnessing by then and no cell phone ready at hand? Which, considering your emphasis on it being real, moreover brings up the question whether the event of a meteor going down in the middle of the Sahara, to you, would be strictly less real than that of one doing likewise over Amsterdam? After all, a meteor is a meteor is a meteor?

In other words, the signal-to-noise ratio, so to speak, in this case has less to do with the actual kind of event than with our momentary relation to it?

But if this were so, please consider earnestly what you'd find more digestible on the face of it:

1) You're seeing multiple video footage, coming from some way off place in Russia, obviously though from many different devices, recorded by different people, from many points at least miles apart, showing what arguably looks like a sort of gigantic spaceship of utterly alien (if a bit gaudy) appearance slowly drifting in the sky.

2) You're being told by a group of mariners and four experienced airline pilots they recently saw a massive meteor coming down somewhere over the Pacific.


What's noise, what's signal? Or what's noisier? And why? Well, I for one had no hard time choosing and that, to be sure, isn't only due to my knowledge and suspicions regarding the possibilities of modern day video editing and special effects. There's other reasons. Yet that clearly indicates trouble insofar as I had to admit I couldn't even tell (much less beforehand) what specific kind of evidence it would have to be, and how much of it, coming from who, and when, and... in order to make me buy something so plain ridiculous as extraterrestrial visitors on Earth. If however, you deem this foul play while protesting that one scenario, clearly, is vastly more plausible than the other, I'd have to ask you what'll remain of your noise spectrum after we've subtracted everything that's simply implausible to begin with? Especially considering we're dealing with UFOs!

Methinks, then, the magic signal, being implicated by your noise-analogy, may turn out just as much of a fantasy as is all the noise. Perhaps the only difference being that those who freely pull specters from the noise (can) do so because they've known already what they were looking for. Which you don't. Without a definite notion of a signal, however, the noise loses its intended counterpart too and the whole analogy seems fruitless. That's exactly what I take it to be. An unnecassarily circuitous take on what could be so neatly assigned to and paraphrased as: commonsense. Only without false expectancies. Otherwise I did not quite catch your intentions. ;)

Hlafordlaes
2014-Oct-07, 11:28 AM
There's another explanation for the idea or expectation that ETs travel by flying saucer. Namely that flocks of birds can on rare occasions reflect sunlight to a human observer in such a way that they take on the appearance of a row of distant bright ovals with a distinctive saucer-like wobble.

Arthur C. Clarke mentions in his essay "Things in the Sky" that he had heard this theory discussed, but found it hard to accept that birds could look like saucers until he saw the phenomenon himself one evening close to sunset. This is how he describes the visual impression he got:

"a line of brilliant silver discs... like metallic mirrors, and they were oscillating or flip-flopping with a regular seesaw motion... I could not guess their size or distance... in the few minutes before they came closer I felt myself wondering... this was the only time I have ever seen a fleet of textbook flying saucers."

But when the objects did come closer, he saw that they were seagulls.

This one I hadn't heard. Thanks for that.

Phil Plait in some of his Slate articles covers optical illusions. Great tool for helping people realize the pitfalls of perception, only somehow the examples seem too abstract or hypothetical to more than a few readers, as if they did not apply as a general caution.