DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY
Edited by: Major Donald G. Carpenter
Co-Editor: Lt. Colonel Edward R. Therkelson
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
What is an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO)? Well, according to United States Air Force Regulation 80-17 (dated 19 September 1966), a UFO is "Any" aerial Phenomenon or object which is unknown or appears to be out of the ordinary to the observer." This is a very broad definition which applies equally well to one individual seeing his first noctilucent cloud at twilight as it does to another individual seeing his first helicopter. However, at present most people consider the term UFO to mean an object which behaves in a strange or erratic manner while moving through the Earth's atmosphere. That strange phenomenon has evoked strong emotions and great curiosity among a large segment of our world's population. The average person is interested because he loves a mystery, the professional military man is involved because of the possible threat to national security, and some scientist are interested because of the basic curiosity that led them into becoming researchers.
The literature on UFO's is so vast, and the stories so many and varied, that we can only present a sketchy outline of the subject in this chapter. That outline includes description classifications, operational domains (temporal and spatial), some theories as to the nature of the UFO phenomenon, human reactions, attempts to attack the problem scientifically, and some tentative conclusions. If you wish to read further in this area, the references provide an excellent starting point.
From available information, the UFO phenomenon appears to have been global in nature for almost 50,000 years. The majority of known witnesses have been reliable people who have seen easily-explained natural phenomena, and there appears to be no overall positive correlation with population density. The entire phenomenon could be psychological in nature but that is quite doubtful. However, psychological factors probably do enter the data picture as "noise." The phenomenon could also be entirely due to known and unknown phenomena (with some psychological "noise" added in) but that too is questionable in view of some of the available data.
This leaves us with the unpleasant possibility of alien visitors to our planet, or at least of alien controlled UFO's. However, the data are not well correlated, and what questionable data there are suggest the existence of at least three and maybe four different groups of aliens (possibly at different stages of development). This too is difficult to accept. It implies the existence of intelligent life on a majority of the planets in our solar system, or a surprisingly strong interest in Earth by members of other solar systems.
A solution to the UFO problem may be obtained by the long and diligent effort of a large group of well financed and competent scientists, unfortunately there is no evidence suggesting that such an effort is going to be made. However, even if such an effort were made, there is no guarantee of success because of the isolated and sporadic nature of the sightings. Also, there may be nothing to find, and that would mean a long search with no proof at the end. The best thing to do is to keep an open and skeptical mind, and not take an extreme position on any side of the question.
what do you guys make of all this?