Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

UFO Study at Minot AFB; October 68

  1. Jul 26, 2011 #1
    The following is a link to one of the better written investigations of an unidentified flying object sighted at Minot AFB North Dakota in October 1968. The report includes AF documents, radar data, and oral interviews with Air Force officers from the Strategic Air Command base.

    http://www.minotb52ufo.com/index.php" [Broken]

    The report is not a quick read. It documents an aerial phenomenon that occurred over a SAC bomber and missile base that is not explainable despite multiple witnesses and information from radar.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Very comprehensive look at an interesting case. I must question if the curious break-in at Oscar-7 was related, and/or possibly staged by AFOSI as a test or training exercise? The descriptions of the aerial object(s) by the airmen both on the ground and in the B-52 make the aerial objects seem unlikely to have been part of a test or exercise by AFOSI. There are elements in this case that are very like those in the Iran incident.

    There is this succinct passage:
    "In one instance, security personnel at three of the LCFs similarly described “the object separate in two parts and go in opposite directions and return and pass under each other.”[5] In another, a FSC reported that an “object which looked to him as the sun” came near the hardened antenna within the security fencing of his LCF. It then moved away and he dispatched his two-man Security Alert Team (SAT), who followed the object to within a half-mile of where it appeared to be landing. When the object reached the ground the light dimmed and extinguished. After this, they could see nothing.[6] Independent reports mutually described a very large, brightly illuminated aerial object that would alternate colors from brilliant white to amber and green, with an ability to hover, accelerate rapidly and abruptly change direction.[7]"

    These descriptions, so typical of many UFO reports, remind me of sightings which are potentially explainable in terms of the partly-understood physics of ball lightning and other electrical eccentricities obtained from atmospheric and solar storms. Even so, it is difficult to account for the objects seeming non-random interactions or physical effects in purely naturalistic terms.

  4. Jul 26, 2011 #3
    Hi Steve,

    I liked the level of detail in the report although it didn't flow exactly as I would have liked.

    I don't think there is a definite link between the aerial object and the open hatch at Oscar-7. Apparently opened hatches had happened 2-3 times in the past. So I would label that as a coincidence unless there is more evidence to correlate it to the aerial object.

    I too thought about the 1976 Iran incident. In both cases, the crew's ability to transmit radio signals to the tower was lost whenever they were close to the object.

    The Blue Book report wrote this case off as possibly ball-lightning. Unfortunately, Blue Book was understaffed and did not do the level of detailed investigations required to draw that conclusion.

    Several portions of the report argue heavily against a ball lightening phenomenon as an explanation. A single data point can be explained away but the preponderance of points argues against any known explanation.

    --- The Captain's description of a metallic tubular section to the object as he flew over it
    at an altitude of 1500 feet.

    --- Radar contact from both the ground and the B-52. B-52 radar indicating a large object

    --- Radar detection of the object at 3 miles distance and rapid closing to 1 mile.

    --- Lights flashing on and off.

    --- Ground observations of the object that went on for over an hour.

    --- Sudden changes in direction noted both by the B-52's radar as well as ground

    Ball lightning's small size and limited time of existence (< 1 minute) makes it a difficult hypothesis to explain the events at Minot, N.D. Perhaps it is a yet unknown phenomenon. At any rate, IMHO, events similar to this are worthy of scientific investigation.


  5. Jul 27, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hi Robert,

    I think naturally occurring electrical phenomena can potentially explain most of what this incident presents. But the Captain's description of a crescent extension on a tube requires further explanation. Here are some possibilities:
    1) The Captain was simply mistaken. Did anyone else see this?
    2) Strong EM fields are known to cause hallucination in the temporal lobe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Persinger
    3) Earlier, one of the objects was seen to "separate in two parts and go in opposite directions", a common enough electrical phenomenon. Perhaps what the Captain saw was a fraction of this process, which he incorrectly interpreted as being mechanical in nature. We know the UFO could not have been mechanical due to its observed performance of separating into parts, hovering, accelerating rapidly, abruptly changing direction, and finally disappearing while on the ground.
    4) Ordinary materials, even water, when in the ionized state can be made to perform tricks in the laboratory in which unusual and seemingly solid geometrical properties are noted by researchers. Here, we are confronted with the disconcerting possibility that the object, while being perfectly natural, had the ability to organize itself into various shapes or configurations, much as the chameleon or turtle.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2011
  6. Jul 27, 2011 #5
    Hi Steve,

    If one can explain the vast bulk of an incident with a natural phenomena then I suspect that to be the cause. But if it takes multiple unlikely and unusual known phenomena to explain an incident then the odds of likelihood become extreme. For example, let's assume the likelihood of ball lighting appearing on a given day to be 1 in a 10,000. Ball lightning is rare. Next the ball lightning had to be picked up on radar at over a mile. Yes, a strong plasma in certain situations can be detected by radar. But ball lightning is less than a foot in diameter and this was between 1-3 miles distant according to radar. What evidence exists that a radar set can pick up a very small plasma at that distance? And how do we explain the plasma moving from 3 miles to 1 miles and then holding stationary? Next comes the problem that the light was seen for over an hour. Ball lightning is a fleeting event. Has there ever been a case of ball lightning remaining in existence for longer than a few minutes? Sometimes an incident just cannot be explained. I guess my final thought is...why the need to identify it as ball lightning if the shoe doesn't fit. Why not just say, "At this point in time, there is no reasonable explanation for what occurred?"

    A ground crew saw it but was too far away to see any detail. It is always a possibility that the Captain was mistaken. But we do have a very well trained pilot who is responsible for a nuclear loaded bomber. His altitude was only 1500 feet. He estimated the object's size as 100-200 feet based on the tree around it. At 1500 feet an object 100 feet in size will occupy 3.8 degrees of space or about 7 times the relative size of a full moon. That indicates the pilot should have had no problem in seeing the object.

    Also true. However, if we are to make that assumption then we need to be able to reasonably argue that a ball lighting plasma of just a few inches across and at a distance of 1500 feet can cause hallucination. That means the ball lightning EM field must be sufficiently strong to create an EM field at 1500 feet and at the proper frequency to induce hallucination. If you can show me the numbers to demonstrate that, I will buy the argument.

    The point in time when two lights were seen to separate and go in opposite directions was seen by a ground crew and the two lights were in the sky. The Captain was looking towards the ground after he was order to fly over the object. That is two separate events. Whether the object that the pilot saw on the ground was mechanical or not, we don't know.
  7. Jul 27, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, I do not identify the object(s) in question as ball lightning per se, but rather as similar phenomena, obviously longer lived, more energetic and better organized. A priori, I rule out supernatural phenomena, and visitors from another planet.

    We must remember that at PF we must work within accepted physics, offer no opinions, yet hopefully strive for something more edifying than "there is no reasonable explanation for what occurred".

    If you seek more audacious ideas from me, you can send me a PM. It's not worth it to speculate in an open thread, otherwise we risk getting the thread locked or receiving an infraction.

    Respectfully yours,
  8. Jul 27, 2011 #7

    Science does not require one to force fit an explanation. The "Pioneer Anomaly" is a good example of an unexplained phenomena. It now appears to be due to heat emitted by the radioactive batteries in the spacecraft. Prior to that, it was theorized that a new law of physics was involved. Opinions are part of science, which is why we have hypotheses. When the day comes that a scientist can no longer "offer an opinion" then we will surely have returned to the days of Galileo.



    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to
    entertain a thought without accepting it. “
  9. Jul 27, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Dear Robert, I'm sure you're right. I, as a science rookie, have to be triple careful with my opinions. As one of ancient years, I'm armed and loaded with many of them.:biggrin:

  10. Jul 27, 2011 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I would agree with Steve here, there is a difference between speculating on a new area of science and advocating it. Reports such as this are not evidence of aliens, they are reports that there is an unexplained event. The pioneer anomie was an example of this, it was not indicative of new areas of science but that something has happened that we did not expect. Your post at #5 is close to being a logical fallacy, namely an argument from improbability.
  11. Jul 27, 2011 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Hi Robert,

    You are posting on our forum and we have strict rules which we enforce. As Dotini said we don't allow overly sepculative posts, non-mainstream science, or personal theories here.

    Our forum is for mainstream science, which is stated in our rules.

    Please be sure to read the overall guidelines which can be found by clicking the Rules link at the top of every page, as well as subforum specific guidelines. This particular subforum has extra guidelines which must be followed. These can be found at the top of the subforum as a sticky when you enter.
  12. Jul 27, 2011 #11

    I never said that the event at Minot AFB was evidence of aliens. Did I state that? Exactly as you said, "they are reports that there is an unexplained event". Nothing more and nothing less.

    I never said that "the pioneer anomaly was indicative of a new area of science". I said that regarding the pioneer anomaly, "it was theorized that a new law of physics might be involved". There was a legitimate argument by some scientists that the gravitational constant might be slightly different as the Pioneer spacecraft left the solar system. That is not an unusual concept. There are scientific debates today as to whether the gravitational constant is the same in all parts of the universe.

    I think that if you re-read my posts you will not see anything unscientific in my arguments. My life has revolved around science. My degree is in chemistry, I studied device physics in the semiconductor field, I managed a world class analytical lab, and I was the engineer manager of a nanotechnology lab that included the use of an atomic force microscope, near field optical microscopy, a TEM, and we initiated research grants with major universities. I also have five patents in the field of nanotechnology. So I think that I have an idea of what is science.
  13. Jul 27, 2011 #12
    Hi Evo,

    Thank you for directing me to the guidelines. I have read through them and I will certainly abide by them. If there is something specific that I have said that violates the rules, please let me know.


  14. Jul 29, 2011 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hey all,

    I'd like to add my two cents. I began reading the site and didn't make it too far before I questioned the journalistic credibility. The problem is that the site is promoting the idea of UFO's as a non-cognitive phenomenon.

    I've taken an extended leave of absence from this forum because of the manner in which unidentified aerial phenomena are discussed.

    If you read the "ABOUT" page (http://www.minotb52ufo.com/about.php) you'll see that the site author, Thomas Tulien, has a vested interest and a written goal of disseminating knowledge of what he calls "UFOs." His definition of "UFO" is very far from the actual definition. Mr. Tulien makes unqualified claims on his "ABOUT" page like the following:
    This close-minded approach to understanding something which is manifestly unidentified seriously damages the credibility of the site and it's content. In Mr. Tulien's mind, UFOs are controlled objects of some type.

    Unfortunately, this makes it likely that his re-reporting of observations may be skewed to favor his interpretation. He may not be lying to you about what has been said, but may choose to present it in a manner which best fits his intended interpretation.

    The above paragraph, as an example, could have been written in the following manner:
    Unbiased writing wouldn't assume an impossibly fast object. Furthermore, it wouldn't assume infallible radar. And lastly, scientific writing would acknowledge the fact that it takes at least two data points, separated by a known delta-t to determine velocity. The writing is sensationalist and intends to convince the reader that the events are unexplainable.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  15. Jul 29, 2011 #14

    Your points are valid. The article was not written in a scientific manner. Still, I find it an interesting read. Unfortunately, there are very few scientific reports that have been written about unknown aerial phenomenon; there is a lack of repeatability to the phenomenon and a lack of quality evidence.

  16. Jul 29, 2011 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    To anybody wishing to read a book about UFO's written in a scientific manner by real physicist, I have a recommendation.

    Project Identification: "The First Scientific Study of UFO Phenomena", by Harley Rutledge, Ph.D.

    Published by Prentice Hall in 1981, this book can be found used for under $10 on Amazon. Funded by a grant from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the professor and his team made a multi-year study of a UFO flap local to the area of Piedmont, Missouri. His report includes maps, plates, tables, drawings, notes, appendix and index. He received full government help, plus advice on plasmas from Dr. Peter Sturrock of Stanford University. If you are a student of the UFO question, read this book. Everyone from Ivan to Flex to Robert will enjoy.

    Respectfully submitted,
  17. Jul 29, 2011 #16
    I did a fast research and located a section on UFO's as Alien Spaceships:
    The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) has a section on UFO:

    Astronomical Society of the Pacific also discusses UFO:
    http://www.astrosociety.org/education/resources/pseudobib06.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  18. Jul 29, 2011 #17


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed Flex, this thread doesn't meet our standards.

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook