Uncovering the Truth: Feynman's Perspective on Flying Saucers

In summary, there is a lot of variety in reports of what people see when they look at flying saucers, and it's not clear yet whether they're probably occurring or not.
  • #1
zoobyshoe
6,510
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"If we come to the case of flying saucers, for example, we have the difficulty that almost everybody who observes flying saucers sees something different, unless they were previously informed of what they were supposed to see. So the history of flying saucers consists of orange balls of light, blue spheres which bounce on the floor, gray fogs which disappear, gossamer-like streams which evaporate into the thin air, tin, round flat things out of which objects come with funny shapes that are something like a human being.

"If you have any appreciation for the complexities of nature and for the evolution of life on earth, you can undestand the tremendous variety of possible forms that life would have. People say life can't exist without air, but it does under water; in fact it started in the sea. You have to be able to move around and have nerves. Plants have no nerves. Just think a few minutes of the variety of life there is. And then you see that the thing that comes out of the saucer isn't going to be anything like what anybody describes. Very unlikely. It's very unlikely that flying saucers would arrive here, in this particular era, without having caused something of a stir earlier. Whay didn't they come earlier? Just when we're getting scientific enough to appreciate the possibility of traveling from one place to another, here come the flying saucers.

"There are various arguments of not complete nature that indicate some doubt that the flying saucers are coming from Venus-in fact, considerable doubt. So much doubt that it is going to take a lot of accurate experiments, and the lack of consistency and permanency of the characteristics of the observed phenomena means that it isn't there. Most likely. It's not worth paying much more attention to, unless it begins to sharpen up.

"I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. (Incidently, I must explain that because I am a scientists does not mean I have not had contact with human beings. Ordinary human beings, I know what they are like. I go to Las Vegas and talk to the show girls and the gamblers and so on. I have banged around a lot in my life, so I know about ordinary people.) Anyway, I have to argue about flying saucers on the beach with people, you know. And I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that's true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not but whether it's going on or not. Whether it's probably occurring or not, not whether it could occur.


"That brings me to the fourth kind of attitude toward ideas, and that is that the problem is not what is possible. That's not the problem. The problem is what is probable, what is happening. It does no good to demonstrate again and again that you can't disprove that this could be a flying saucer. We have to guess ahead of time whether we have to worry about the marian invasion. We have to make a judgement about whether it is a flying saucer, whether it's reasonable, whether it's likely. And we do that on the basis of a lot more experience than whether it's just possible, because the number of things that are possible is not fully appreciated by the average individual. And it is also not clear, then, to them how many things that are possible must not be happening. That it's impossible that everything that is possible is happening. And there is too much variety, so most likely anything that you think of that is possible isn't true. In fact that's a general principle in physics theories: no matter what a guy thinks of, it's almost always false. So there have been five or ten theories that have been right in the history of physics, and those are the ones we want. But that doesn't mean everything is false. We'll find out."

Richard P. Feynman
The Meaning of it All
Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
Part three: This Unscientific Age pp.75-76
Perseus Books, Reading, Mass. 3rd printing, May 1998

Note on the "Venus" reference: the book consists of the texts of three lectures Feynman gave in April 1963 at the University of Washington, Seattle, as part of the John Danz Lecture series. At that time the notion that flying saucers were from Venus was the prevalent one, probably because of the books of a guy named George Adamski who, much like current alleged UFO contactee Whitley Strieber, got a lot of press with his tales of contact with aliens. Adamski reported the aliens said they were Venusians.
 
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  • #2
man what a load of waffle... ;)
 
  • #3
It may be waffle, but the scientific community seldom say that
something is impossible, but as material evidence for UFOs
has never been shown to the public, why do people believe
in them, when the possibility or probability of them visiting
earth is so low?
 
  • #4
wolram said:
It may be waffle, but the scientific community seldom say that
something is impossible, but as material evidence for UFOs
has never been shown to the public, why do people believe
in them, when the possibility or probability of them visiting
earth is so low?


Cause we send TV signals into space, and everyone loves Pimp My Ride?
 
  • #5
So many Waffle's I could not eat them all but I do believe that faster than light travel of information is possible and that the universe probably has other forms of reconisable life forms somewhere. Not sure I get it but from what I understand travel into the past is not possible beyond the experiment was executed. Then again maybe I am just confused or misinformed.
 
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  • #6
What is now proved was once only imagined.
William Blake
 
  • #7
mmmmmmmmmmmm...waffles....
 
  • #8
Why would an alien race expend time and resources to continually visit
what to them is a primitive race, How would they find us, by chance, no
by our EM emissions, how far has the first of these emissions travelled?
however far that would have to be the limit from their world to ours.
just for argument say this is one hundred LYs, how many life supporting
planets are predicted in this sphere? if intelligent life evolved on these
planets why are we not picking up their EM emissions etc etc.
 
  • #9
http://www.space.com/searchforlife/shostak_seti_et_010816.html
A good starting point for realistic research into the probability
that aliens have visited us.
 
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  • #10
how long before someone brings up the femi paradox? :biggrin:
 
  • #11
I'm cool with life forming an many planets, but Iwonder about high energy electromagnetic radiation using life. There were a couple of bottlenecks in the history of Earth life where life could have gone away from evolving intelligence. The Chixulub comet strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, for example, and gave the mammals their big chance. Drake's equation uses uniform probabilities, but Earth life is partly formed by random accidents.
 
  • #12
Well I can’t let this one go unanswered. :biggrin: The core problem appears to be that Feynman was uninformed, and misinformed; and I think even playing a little politics.

"If we come to the case of flying saucers, for example, we have the difficulty that almost everybody who observes flying saucers sees something different, unless they were previously informed of what they were supposed to see.

This statement is obviously false. For one, it is painfully self evident that if observations were completely different, then they wouldn’t all be called be flying saucers, would they? If I see a flying cigar-shaped craft, or a triangle, do I call it a saucer?. Perhaps Feynman is suggesting that eyewitness testimony can differ given the same observed events. No kidding. But this does not take away from the potential reality of the events.

The term “flying saucer” references the now classic description for the motion of objects reportedly observed by pilot Kenneth Arnold while he was flying over Mt Rainier, in Washington State, in June of 1947.

See this thread for a good example of how the media is responsible for much misunderstanding created and how the facts can change with time. Compare Arnold’s original report with the book that came out later. Arnold’s flat ellipsoids were magically transformed into a flying crafts with wings and presumably LASER blasters. :biggrin:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=13065]

The “flying saucer” is now treated as a family of reported UFOs. In spite of the immediate misuse of the term “saucer” by the media and people who reported seeing them later, typical UFO reports described flat ellipsoids [or sometimes a sombrero shape], or teardrop shaped, just as was described by Arnold in his actual but unpublicized, official report. The media hype that followed is what did not stand the test of time. In fact, “two saucers stuck together” would be a better description of the typical drawing or description of what Arnold saw. It is also noteworthy that contrary to Feynman’s suggestion, reports of various types of UFOs are consistent even though they are inconsistent with the notion of a saucer. If we knew that all aliens drive identical vehicles then I guess the objections of the author would be well founded. Is this what Feynman is suggesting? I wasn’t aware of any such discovery.

So the history of flying saucers consists of orange balls of light, blue spheres which bounce on the floor, gray fogs which disappear, gossamer-like streams which evaporate into the thin air, tin, round flat things

Orange balls of light are still seen and are often called UFOs since they apparently do fly around, and since nobody knows what they are. Unless Feynman means to argue that any unidentified orange balls of light must by default be people from Venus, I don’t see the point. Next, we have blue spheres that bounce on the floor. This sounds to me like a typical reference to ball lighting reports. At the time that Feynman wrote all this, the existence of ball lighting was dismissed; and often dismissed as just another silly UFO report. Now meteorologists agree that ball lighting does exist. So, not only is Feynman’s reference inappropriate to the context of a serious UFO discussion, any assumption that these blue spheres do not exist is false. It is obviously silly to lump these in with UFO reports as Feynman strangely chooses to do.

Next we hear of gray fogs which disappear, and gossamer-like streams which evaporate into the thin air. After twenty five years of interest I don’t know about gray fog reports. It seems that very obscure references are chosen here, rather than typical reports. Gossamer-like streams This almost certainly references reports of observed nuclear tests in the 50s and 60’s. Are we to assume that these tests did not take place, or should we take this as evidence of the reliability of human testimony? People reported what they saw. It was that simple.

The “round flat things” are the only reference that I see to a classic “flying saucers”.

"If you have any appreciation for the complexities of nature and for the evolution of life on earth, you can understand the tremendous variety of possible forms that life would have. People say life can't exist without air, but it does under water; in fact it started in the sea. You have to be able to move around and have nerves. Plants have no nerves. Just think a few minutes of the variety of life there is. And then you see that the thing that comes out of the saucer isn't going to be anything like what anybody describes. Very unlikely. It's very unlikely that flying saucers would arrive here, in this particular era, without having caused something of a stir earlier. Whay didn't they come earlier? Just when we're getting scientific enough to appreciate the possibility of traveling from one place to another, here come the flying saucers.

Here a link between UFOs and aliens is assumed. In most cases, UFO sighting do not involves claims of aliens. Next comes a huge stumbling block for Feynman’s argument: UFO sightings are not a new occurrence. The history of the subject is thousands of years old; even biblical. It is all a matter of perception - how these unidentified objects, or even how beings are interpreted by observers of the time. I will stop on this point since I fear a cock may crow a third time, any minute now – the implications are biblical.

"There are various arguments of not complete nature that indicate some doubt that the flying saucers are coming from Venus-in fact, considerable doubt. So much doubt that it is going to take a lot of accurate experiments, and the lack of consistency and permanency of the characteristics of the observed phenomena means that it isn't there. Most likely. It's not worth paying much more attention to, unless it begins to sharpen up.

References are made here to the many scam artists and nut jobs that have always existed in the fringes of the serious “UFO community”. The Venusians had their day in the nut-light, but did this group typify all UFO advocates of the time? By this logic we can also assume that all Christians wear white sheets on Friday nights. To group honest and intelligent, and serious UFO “witnesses” and investigators with people claiming to be from Venus, or people that have “met someone from Venus”, or someone that mystically knows our Venusian brothers and sisters, is utter silliness. We find nut cases in all walks of life. The UFO crowd does not escape this fact any more than do churches and political organizations, or internet forums for that matter. When we judge the claims of a political organization, do we consider the core claims, or should we take those claims of dishonest people, or disturbed people who have lost touch with reality?

"I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. (Incidentally, I must explain that because I am a scientists does not mean I have not had contact with human beings. Ordinary human beings, I know what they are like. I go to Las Vegas and talk to the show girls and the gamblers and so on. I have banged around a lot in my life, so I know about ordinary people.) Anyway, I have to argue about flying saucers on the beach with people, you know. And I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that's true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not but whether it's going on or not. Whether it's probably occurring or not, not whether it could occur.

Note that this ignores the personal accounts and direct observations that are believed by the friends and families of the UFO witnesses. In fact the order of logic suggested is actually backwards. First a person hears UFO stories, or he or she sees something that can’t be explained as any other known phenomenon, then the “could it be possible” questions arise. People don’t just get up one day and decide to believe in UFOs, or aliens, as was suggested by the reference. No, first people are given reasons to believe in these things. When considering whether or not the claims of observed alien spacecraft and such that are to be believed, many people will consider that the universe is a pretty big place. We’re here; why not others, and why not others much more technically advanced than us - maybe the observers really saw exactly what they said that they saw. The burden of proof lies with science, not the observers. Must I be a meteorologist, or must I prove the mechanism for precipitation in order to observe the rain. Do I need to catch some lightning in order for my claims of lighting sightings to be true? Should Tsu check in with the local university to see if I really saw what I know I saw, or should she believe me based on twenty years of trust? There is a big difference between scientific proof, and experiences to be believed by people that we trust. I can’t prove that I had coffee yesterday morning, but I did. Tsu will believe this without one bit of scientific proof; and she is completely justified in doing so.
 
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  • #13
This brings me to the fourth kind of attitude toward ideas, and that is that the problem is not what is possible. That's not the problem. The problem is what is probable, what is happening. It does no good to demonstrate again and again that you can't disprove that this could be a flying saucer. We have to guess ahead of time whether we have to worry about the marian invasion. We have to make a judgement about whether it is a flying saucer, whether it's reasonable, whether it's likely. And we do that on the basis of a lot more experience than whether it's just possible, because the number of things that are possible is not fully appreciated by the average individual. And it is also not clear, then, to them how many things that are possible must not be happening. That it's impossible that everything that is possible is happening. And there is too much variety, so most likely anything that you think of that is possible isn't true. In fact that's a general principle in physics theories: no matter what a guy thinks of, it's almost always false. So there have been five or ten theories that have been right in the history of physics, and those are the ones we want. But that doesn't mean everything is false. We'll find out.

This bit of window dressing means nothing. It ignores the impetus for nearly all belief in these things: direct observations. The last time I checked, observations were considered a valuable tool in science. Should we just ignore UFO observations because we don’t like them. Is this how science works?

Considering my great fondness and respect for this giant of modern physics, and considering that so many obvious holes and logical flaws are presented here in so few sentences, the overwhelming impression for me is this: Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman.
 
  • #14
Ivan
If some one were to show me the smallest scrap of material evidence for
alien visitation i would jump for joy, but the painfully fact is there is none,
as for what people see, well every one knows that a very large proportion
are bogus and the remainder are "unidentified", This ufo thing is almost
a religion, requiring faith not fact, I would give a lot for a close encounter
but I am willing to bet my money is safe.
 
  • #15
wolram said:
Ivan
If some one were to show me the smallest scrap of material evidence for
alien visitation i would jump for joy, but the painfully fact is there is none

What would you like? Edit: Should I expect a muffler, or a gravity sheild, or an energy cell to fall off somewhere? If it did would you know a piece of one when you saw it?

as for what people see, well every one knows that a very large proportion are bogus and the remainder are "unidentified",

it is estimated that on the average, 90-95% or all claims are either bogus, or they can be reasonably explained by other known events, but your next following statement really has nothing to do with this aspect of the discussion. Approximately 5 - 10% of all sightings merit serious consideration. If I knew that only 0.00001% of all UFO sighting were really alien spacecraft s, then I might still have more than a passing interest.

This ufo thing is almost a religion, requiring faith not fact

...unless you or someone you know and trust happens to see one. Also, unless you have scrutinized thousands of eyewitness accounts like I have and have concluded otherwise. My position on UFOs is based on logic. Any assertion otherwise is based on a belief.

I would give a lot for a close encounterbut I am willing to bet my money is safe.

So would I [well, depending on how close you have in mind], but unfortunately I've never seen one that I know of; in fact, I've never even been chased by one on my motorcycle! :wink: :biggrin:
 
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  • #16
So would I [well, depending on how close you have in mind], but unfortunately I've never seen one that I know of; in fact, I've never even been chased by one on my motorcycle!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Checkmate, well not really, but people must be allowed to believe in their
convictions, but what convinces someone who has not had an experience?
Feyman is a scientist and i think it is only ethical for him to take this stance.
Ivan you have all the information, what evidence would you put before him
to prove your case?
 
  • #17
Ivan Seeking said:
This statement is obviously false. For one, it is painfully self evident that if observations were completely different, then they wouldn’t all be called be flying saucers, would they?
In 1963 they would. The term "flying saucers" was used to apply to anything we would now call, much more accurately, a "UFO". Feynman is just using it the way everyone did at the time. Your attempt at rigor of terminology is anachronistic. The distinction between a flying saucer and a UFO didn't exist in everyday speech in 1963.
Orange balls of light are still seen and are often called UFOs since they apparently do fly around, and since nobody knows what they are. Unless Feynman means to argue that any unidentified orange balls of light must by default be people from Venus, I don’t see the point. Next, we have blue spheres that bounce on the floor. This sounds to me like a typical reference to ball lighting reports. At the time that Feynman wrote all this, the existence of ball lighting was dismissed; and often dismissed as just another silly UFO report. Now meteorologists agree that ball lighting does exist. So, not only is Feynman’s reference inappropriate to the context of a serious UFO discussion, any assumption that these blue spheres do not exist is false. It is obviously silly to lump these in with UFO reports as Feynman strangely chooses to do.
Feynman isn't the one lumping them together. Everyone did at the time. They were all suspected of being from another planet by the average guy who speculated about it. Feynman's comments are perfectly appropriate to a serious 1963 discussion of flying saucers. You can't require him to have been commenting on the more sophisticated breakdown of these phenomena that exists today, but didn't exist then.
Gossamer-like streams This almost certainly references reports of observed nuclear tests in the 50s and 60’s.
No. This almost certainly refers to weird stuff that falls from the sky now and then, called by various names. There's quite a bit of info about it in Mysteries of the Unexplained When that was published in 1980 they had had some of it analysed and it seemed to be algae. They suspect that storms and tornados suck it off of ponds and throw it into the high atmosphere where it's whipped into filaments. Sometimes masses of it are spotted in the air, probably just being blown along.
Here a link between UFOs and aliens is assumed. In most cases, UFO sighting do not involves claims of aliens.
He's specifically talking about cases where people claim humanoid beings emerge from the craft at this point.
Next comes a huge stumbling block for Feynman’s argument: UFO sightings are not a new occurrence.
Feynman is clearly addressing putated visitors from other planets, an idea that only came into being at the time our technology made us start thinking about interplanetary travel. He's right on the money with this. Before this, anything strange in the sky was reakoned to be something else. People just didn't associate it with the thought of visitors from another planet.
References are made here to the many scam artists and nut jobs that have always existed in the fringes of the serious “UFO community”. The Venusians had their day in the nut-light, but did this group typify all UFO advocates of the time?
Yes. This was the current thinking. If you were interested in UFOs, you read George Adamski, and were unconcerned if any scientists called him a nut. He, and people like him, seemed to have all the info. It was around this time that I attended my first flying saucer lecture. A woman came to our town and gave a talk about the flying saucers that had landed in her back yard a few times. She had 8mm film of it. She had met the occupants, who were from Venus. At the end of the lecture you could buy copies of photos made from the film. I spent my whole allowance, a dollar, and got the two best shots, and asked her to autograph them, which she did. I was there, Ivan. Back then, flying saucers were from Venus. This was the "proper" understanding for the informed flying saucer buff, because previously they had been "wrongly" assumed to be from Mars. All the people who actually met the flying saucer guys agreed it was actually Venus.
People don’t just get up one day and decide to believe in UFOs, or aliens, as was suggested by the reference. No, first people are given reasons to believe in these things.
You start thinking seriously about it simply because the idea is in the air, it's going around: you know people who are into it, and their talk makes an impression. It's completely unnessesary to know anyone whose actually seen one, or to have seen one yourself. That's the way I was at first. Then, of course, I saw the 8mm film and actually got the autograph of the woman who'd met the Venusians.
When considering whether or not the claims of observed alien spacecraft and such that are to be believed, many people will consider that the universe is a pretty big place. We’re here; why not others, and why not others much more technically advanced than us - maybe the observers really saw exactly what they said that they saw. The burden of proof lies with science, not the observers.
Feynman doesn't address what claims should be believed, rather what interpretations should be reasonably entertained. As I've said before in other threads, if you say you saw something, it is encumbent upon me to believe you saw something. I have no obligation to accept your interpretation of it, though.
Must I be a meteorologist, or must I prove the mechanism for precipitation in order to observe the rain.
Course not, but I am under no obligation to accept any interpretation you put on the phenomenon of rain.
Do I need to catch some lightning in order for my claims of lighting sightings to be true?
No, but you will need to catch some if you want to prove a clain that lightning is essentially the same as static electricity. That is: if you want to support some specific interpretation of lightning.
There is a big difference between scientific proof, and experiences to be believed by people that we trust.
There are people you can trust to be reporting the truth as they know it, but the leap from seeing a flying saucer to asserting you saw a craft from another planet is one of interpretation. This is what Feynman is pointing out: interpreting strange things in the sky as alien spacecraft gained currency with our technological development in that direction: better and better telescopes and rocketry. Strange things in the sky began to be lumped together under the term "flying saucers".
I can’t prove that I had coffee yesterday morning, but I did. Tsu will believe this without one bit of scientific proof; and she is completely justified in doing so.
Because there's nothing the least bit suspect about such a claim. What does having coffee have to do with seeing flying saucers? And what does seeing a flying saucer have to do with any interpretation you add to the sighting? It's fine to say you can't think of any terrestrial craft that could account for it, but that doesn't mean it's from another planet.
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking said:
This bit of window dressing means nothing.
It's quite on the money, actually. He is addressing the logic he has run into over and over among the average joes and showgirls. They apparently reason from the premise that since flying saucers can't be proved impossible, it means they are probable.
It ignores the impetus for nearly all belief in these things: direct observations. The last time I checked, observations were considered a valuable tool in science. Should we just ignore UFO observations because we don’t like them. Is this how science works?
Personally, I reccomend ignoring any speculative interpretation of flying saucers presented as fact.
Considering my great fondness and respect for this giant of modern physics, and considering that so many obvious holes and logical flaws are presented here in so few sentences,
Meaning yours, right?
the overwhelming impression for me is this: Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman.
Oh, in your dreams.
 
  • #19
Ivan Seeking said:
This statement is obviously false. For one, it is painfully self evident that if observations were completely different, then they wouldn’t all be called be flying saucers, would they?
Zooby said:
In 1963 they would. The term "flying saucers" was used to apply to anything we would now call, much more accurately, a "UFO". Feynman is just using it the way everyone did at the time. Your attempt at rigor of terminology is anachronistic. The distinction between a flying saucer and a UFO didn't exist in everyday speech in 1963.

UFO is a term that was used at least as early as 1948 as can be seen in the reference to Project Bluebook. I’m not sure what name was used in projects Sign and Grudge before that.
http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/ufo/proj_b1.pdf

There are many, many examples.
“I know that neither Russia nor this country has anything even approaching such high speeds and maneuvers. Behind the scenes high ranking officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs, but through official secrecy and ridicule many citizens are led to believe that the unknown flying objects are nonsense

Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, Former Director of the CIA.
1960 NICAP press conference

What’s more, any honest intellectual evaluation of the subject would have made this distinction in the first place. To ignore the distinction between flying saucers, and bouncing balls of light, shows that either no serious evaluation is ever intended, or he knew very little about the subject.


Feynman isn't the one lumping them together. Everyone did at the time

No they weren’t. Feynman only chose to speak to the least rigorous and least credible perspectives.

They were all suspected of being from another planet by the average guy who speculated about it. Feynman's comments are perfectly appropriate to a serious 1963 discussion of flying saucers. You can't require him to have been commenting on the more sophisticated breakdown of these phenomena that exists today, but didn't exist then.

You are incorrect. There were many very serious people back then and Feynman chose to ignore them. What’s more, above all I would expect a sophisticated evaluation from someone like Feynman, if he were serious.

Gossamer-like streams
No. This almost certainly refers to weird stuff that falls from the sky now and then, called by various names. There's quite a bit of info about it in Mysteries of the Unexplained When that was published in 1980 they had had some of it analysed and it seemed to be algae. They suspect that storms and tornados suck it off of ponds and throw it into the high atmosphere where it's whipped into filaments. Sometimes masses of it are spotted in the air, probably just being blown along.

Nuclear tests that produced webs and streamers were often reported as UFOS. The point is that people were reporting what they saw. In either case this stands as more evidence to the reliability of widely reported sightings of unexplained phenomena.

He's specifically talking about cases where people claim humanoid beings emerge from the craft at this point.

In that case the point is fair enough but it does not stand a baseline for evaluation. If ET is here, then the parameters for a reasonable discussion of what’s possible in this respect may change dramatically. Feynman should have recognized this fact.

Ivan said:
Next comes a huge stumbling block for Feynman’s argument: UFO sightings are not a new occurrence.
Zooby said:
Feynman is clearly addressing putated visitors from other planets, an idea that only came into being at the time our technology made us start thinking about interplanetary travel. He's right on the money with this. Before this, anything strange in the sky was reakoned to be something else. People just didn't associate it with the thought of visitors from another planet.

Not true.

From 3000 BC, China: From the book " Memories of the Sovereigns and the Kings " published in the 3rd century AD in China.
:...in the third millennium B.C., before the birth of Huang Ti or of Chi You. ...'sons from the sky', would descend to Earth on a star which was the shape of a saucer

I contacted the Roerich Museum in New York and confirmed the following quote. The curator’s assistant, being very familiar with this excerpt, then added that Roerich’s wife was also on this expedition. In her diary she comments that this must have been a craft with people from somewhere else; then she suggests the existence of life on other planets. [Ivan]

“On August fifth [1929] - something remarkable! We were in our camp in the Kukunor district not far from the Humboldt Chain. In the morning about half-past nine some of our caravaneers noticed a remarkably big black eagle flying over us. Seven of us began to watch this unusual bird. At this same moment another of our caravaneers remarked, ‘There is something far above the bird’. And he shouted in his astonishment. We all saw, in a direction from north to south, something big and shiny reflecting the sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed. Crossing our camp the thing changed in its direction from south to southwest. And we saw how it disappeared in the intense blue sky. We even had time to take our field glasses and saw quite distinctly an oval form with shiny surface, one side of which was brilliant from the sun.”
-----Nicholas Roerich, Altai-Himalaya

What’s more, it doesn’t matter. He was wrong so the argument fails. If you only intended this as a historical document then you should have specified that the arguments are wrong and no longer apply.

Ivan said:
References are made here to the many scam artists and nut jobs that have always existed in the fringes of the serious “UFO community”. The Venusians had their day in the nut-light, but did this group typify all UFO advocates of the time?

Zooby said:
Yes. This was the current thinking. If you were interested in UFOs, you read George Adamski,

Says who? Boy that’s a loaded argument if I ever heard one. If you were serious you read the books written by the nuts? No. If you were serious you read Hynek. He never mentions Hynek does he.

WHAT is the responsibility of the scientist confronted with observations
that seem not only a challenge but sometimes also an affront to science?

http://www.nicap.dabsol.co.uk/whatresp.htm

Ivan said:
People don’t just get up one day and decide to believe in UFOs, or aliens, as was suggested by the reference. No, first people are given reasons to believe in these things.

You start thinking seriously about it simply because the idea is in the air, it's going around:

Why? You do because many people see these things; and not just a few people who met the Venusians. Most of the tens of thousands of UFO reports have nothing to do with any direct claims of alien encounters.

Ivan said:
When considering whether or not the claims of observed alien spacecraft and such that are to be believed, many people will consider that the universe is a pretty big place. We’re here; why not others, and why not others much more technically advanced than us - maybe the observers really saw exactly what they said that they saw. The burden of proof lies with science, not the observers.
Feynman doesn't address what claims should be believed, rather what interpretations should be reasonably entertained. As I've said before in other threads, if you say you saw something, it is encumbent upon me to believe you saw something. I have no obligation to accept your interpretation of it, though.

First, Feynman was speaking to the logic that people use in regards to UFOs.
They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not but whether it's going on or not. Whether it's probably occurring or not, not whether it could occur.

They wonder because people see things that can’t be explained.

Also, if the critical facts are ignored then any interpretation is meaningless. Many cases are mind boggling and the “explanations” more science fiction than science. For example, consider the JAL flight where the pilot reported a craft the size of an aircraft carrier - flying right next the cargo plane for a time - and the explanation eventually given was that the pilot saw Venus. Now, this may sound like a comfortable explanation to many Astronomers and such, but it is hogwash nonetheless.
 
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  • #20
Must I be a meteorologist, or must I prove the mechanism for precipitation in order to observe the rain. Do I need to catch some lightning in order for my claims of lighting sightings to be true?
Course not, but I am under no obligation to accept any interpretation you put on the phenomenon of rain. No, but you will need to catch some if you want to prove a clain that lightning is essentially the same as static electricity. That is: if you want to support some specific interpretation of lightning.

Observers are not bound to prove anything. It is the responsibility of science to sort out the facts. If there is not enough information to be useful then the correct perspective is that we don’t know what happened, or what people saw.

Ivan said:
There is a big difference between scientific proof, and experiences to be believed by people that we trust.
Zooby said:
There are people you can trust to be reporting the truth as they know it, but the leap from seeing a flying saucer to asserting you saw a craft from another planet is one of interpretation. This is what Feynman is pointing out: interpreting strange things in the sky as alien spacecraft gained currency with our technological development in that direction: better and better telescopes and rocketry. Strange things in the sky began to be lumped together under the term "flying saucers".

The problem as I see it is that facts [observations] are ignored in order to find convenient explanations. More insulting yet are the constant references to the least challenging and least believable UFO claims as opposed to addressing the tough reports. This only serves to trivialize the subject at the expense of honest observers and at the expense of the truth – the truth of whatever really is happening that accounts for all of this.

Ivan said:
I can’t prove that I had coffee yesterday morning, but I did. Tsu will believe this without one bit of scientific proof; and she is completely justified in doing so.


Zooby said:
Because there's nothing the least bit suspect about such a claim. What does having coffee have to do with seeing flying saucers? And what does seeing a flying saucer have to do with any interpretation you add to the sighting? It's fine to say you can't think of any terrestrial craft that could account for it, but that doesn't mean it's from another planet.

I was speaking to the difficulty in proving transient events, after the fact. Next, at what point is trust stretched too far? Surely not when Feynman or anyone else says so. This is a personal judgment. Its not as if we can declare that anyone making claims not understood by science is lying; can we.

Ivan said:
This bit of window dressing means nothing.
It's quite on the money, actually. He is addressing the logic he has run into over and over among the average joes and showgirls. They apparently reason from the premise that since flying saucers can't be proved impossible, it means they are probable.

Well, maybe he should have gained some perspective from serious people before forming an opinion about any of this. If he understood what drives the average opinion then he might change his own. Instead he looks to the lowest level of understanding for perspective. People are lead by people they believe. What he is really arguing is whom one should believe. He just doesn’t understand this because of his obvious lack of knowledge on the subject.

Ivan said:
It ignores the impetus for nearly all belief in these things: direct observations. The last time I checked, observations were considered a valuable tool in science. Should we just ignore UFO observations because we don’t like them. Is this how science works?

Personally, I reccomend ignoring any speculative interpretation of flying saucers presented as fact.


Okay we’ll take it on your word then. That’s good scientific reason to rule something out.
 
  • #21
wolram said:
Ivan you have all the information, what evidence would you put before him to prove your case?

First I want to point out that even after 25 years of interest and having read thousands of reports - I can hardly even guess how many really - I have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I constantly hear and see references to new material. I have already posted a lot of the best internet information available - that I can find - so I will refer you to this thread. After a bit of agumentation the thread has many links to specific information.

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=10376

and of course the UFO Napster above.

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=2805

What has convinced me that something very strange and unexplained is happening is the shear volume of information that is consistent over even thousands of years [in some cases]. If there were absolutely no physical evidence to back this up, that would be interesting, but we do get pictures, videos, and radar tracks that show that some spectrum of very real and unexplained events do take place as described.

The scientific explanations offered ignore some the the most significant facts and events; or they are explanations without an explanation - like "they are earthlights". Okay, what are earthlights? Given any lattitude for belief, and not just the best factual evidence possible, this problem grows exponentially.

I don't claim to understand any of this but I do know that the subject deserves to be treated seriously. This is really all that I have ever argued.
 
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  • #22
As for the possibility that ET really is here and contacting people.

First, who in that positioin would not sound like a nut? Shouldn't we expect any "true contactee" [and I'm not saying that there are any] will sound like a lunatic? This "he's a nutjob" attitude towards "contactees" may be appropriate whether or not their stories are true.

Next, why do we assume that ET tells the truth? Really, if we are going to assume the premise then should we expect ET to tell the truth? Just because ET said he was from Venus, was he really? Does the question sound silly? How silly is the assumption that real ETs would never lie. Isn't it more likely that someone was treated like a lab rat and pacified while ET screwed him up somehow?
 
  • #23
I want to make one more comment about this. Does anyone understand why so many UFO believers are so hostile? There are two reasons that I know of. First, people become attached to their beliefs; fair enough. I understand all too well the fanaticism that one runs into in the UFO community.

Next and just as important I think, people [the general public] are told time and again not to believe something until scientists say its okay. Guess what? No one ever gave up their right to judge for themselves. If they disagree with the popular [and likely transient] scientific opinion of the day they are treated as fools. Almost any self respecting person reserves the right to make their own choices without being treated as and told that they're a fool. But scientific people usually offers little else.

Keep in mind that a significant measure of the physics that was "believed" in 1963 was just as wrong as the men from Venus theory.
 
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  • #24
Surely there are more likely sources of the phemonem from our own planet than others...etc.
 
  • #25
Fast Walkers & Uncoordinated Targets

Get with the new speak folks...
Flying Saucers & UFO's INDEED!

For the POLITICALLY CORRECT it's de rigor to refer to these PHANTASMS (sic) as, Fast Walkers & Uncoordinated Targets.
One wonders at the reams of disinformation promulgated on the general public by the pseudo scientific discussions of this subject. Carried out I might add by those who would seem to have a rather obvious axes to grind. As I see it there's a startling lack of objectivity and, we seem to have entered whole heartly into the investigation of this deeply devisive topic from a non empirical perspective. What it ULTIMATELY boils down to is that for 'most' skeptics nothing will serve, but the bodies (dead or alive) :surprise: of ET's and/or their vehicles, or unambiguous parts thereof. There are of course those who vehemently suggest that such 'proofs' already exist in 'Area 51'.
I WONT go into the 'proofs' that have satisfied me that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, regarding certain alleged 'coverups', but sufficient to say that there's a HELL of a lot of smoke out there for no FIRE!
As a final illustration of the dogmatic skeptism rampant in the human genome I offer a comment on an old movie taken in the days of the Wright brothers first European flights. It seems that some skeptic "despite the evidence of his OWN EYES", just had to bend over and look underneath the Wright flyer, as it passed by, "to prove to himself no doubt" that heavier then air flight had been achieved!
 
  • #26
Ivan, you are still misreading the Feynman as a debunking of flying saucers, which it isn't. It shouldn't require any introduction from me for someone reading what he said to figure out what he's addressing, which is the "everyman's" reasoning in believing in flying saucers.

His point is more like this: if they were proved to exist tomorrow, the everyman who believes in them today would still have believed in them by flawed logic.

"Surely your joking, Mr Feynman" has a lot of other examples of people believing things for the wrong reasons, from the Brazilian students he encountered who learned physics by rote memorization without the least understanding of what they were repeating back during exams, to the school board who approved the purchase of a book based on what the publisher told them it said: they hadn't even opened their copies of it, because if they had they would have found it contained blank pages.

You fault him for not addressing the much more rare people whom you consider looked at the phenomenon more critically and still believed it. The average guy isn't reading what that type of person has to say. He's picking up his info from "popular" sources, bits here and there, and not doing any exhaustive research of the history of sightings of unexplained aerial phenmonena.
--------
As far as trusting peoples interpretation of what they've seen, it is so obviously dumb to accept anyone's assessment that they saw an extraterrestrial craft when we all mispercieve all kinds of completely ordinary phenomena all the time; stuff we're completely familiar with and should be able to properly interpret. Think how often people read other people's posts too quickly and jump to the conclusion they've said something that they actually haven't. All the letters and words are perfectly legible, no unfamiliar words, and yet the reader can misread it. How much easier would it be to jump to the wrong conclusion about something that has a very novel and surprising appearance, and then leaves no traces to be examined after the fact? The sincerity of the person reporting the story is not the issue at all. They could pass 10 lie detector tests in a row with flying colors and still inaccurately interpret what they saw.

Your policy of believing the interpretation they put on it because they are sincere people is like asserting that honesty guarrantees accuracy.
 
  • #27
There's nothing wrong with distrusting people's judgement, i can't fault it logicaly. But this is where me and science walk our separate ways, i do have a trust in people's judgement especially in circumstances where the same thing has been seen by separate eye-witnesses. Of course people are going to get distances and size all muddled, that's a given, but if the object is moving over a long enough distance then you can track it, and from viewing it at different angles make a pretty good assesment of its shape.
I also generally don't see any reason why you should get the shape of a ufo wrong, or mistake a glider/areoplane for a ufo. People are used to seeing conventional craft all the time, so when people see something that isn't conventional its going to regesiter immediately.
Anyway all that's immaterial as everyone has a video camera these days, and with the handy zoom feature we've got some amazing footage of ufos:
To the extend where you can actually call them craft and start to put them into separate categorys relevant to their appearance.
As to wether or not these are of alien orgin or terrestrial i don't know that for sure, but mentally putting together all the evidence id lean towards these crafts being of a extraterrestrial origin.
Some reasons to consider, ufos have time and time again been filmed and reported following US military craft, NASA craft, and hovering over major US citys at very low altitudes.
Now i think we have it in our minds that these ufos generally are probably just US government black ops vehicles. That being the case why would they follow their own craft, in effect following them selves? And flying black ops craft over major citys, sometimes in broad daylight, is entirely inconsistant with how black operations are handled.
So from this i think we can gather that this isn't just the US military at work. But who else have the money and manpower to put into black operations that can't be disclosed to the public and i would imagine cost an arm and a leg seeing as they would be on the cutting edge of technology.
The only other nation that springs to mind is the chinese, although again you have a similar problem why would the chinese be chasing around US crafts when they wouldn't even dare fly a spy plane over US territory? It would be insane for any country to tail US miltary craft and fly at crazy altitudes over major citys. It makes no sense, and considering that the US is the only super power its practically sucidal.

What it comes down to is either a small number of developed countrys are buldiing ufos and playing chicken by flying in each other's no-fly zones and making unnecessary hostile manuvers, or these are extraterrestials. On balance i actually find the latter to be more plausable, and with abductions being reported all around the world, it would certainly tie up a lot of loose ends. In fact at this moment in time its the only explanation that makes any sense to me.
 
  • #28
Overdose said:
i do have a trust in people's judgement especially in circumstances where the same thing has been seen by separate eye-witnesses.
The group sighting phenomenon pushes the sighting from individual hallucination over into the realm of authentic "UFO", meaning that it makes you more confident there is some objective thing actually flying around that they're all seeing. True. On the other hand, I was personally a member of a crowd who had such a sighting, and while I know we could all say what it wasn't, no one in that crowd could accurately tell you what it was. (This was a crowd of people waiting outside a movie theater in the evening. We saw two yellow balls of light doing peculiar, non-ballistic maneuvers in the sky right above us. Then, one ball joined up with the other and they both just disappeared. Everyone in the crowd of about 30 people saw it because the first person who spotted the balls pointed them out to everyone. The whole crowd became silent and stared at them until they disappeared.)
That being the case why would they follow their own craft, in effect following them selves?
You forget the phenomenon of inter-governmental competition and one-upsmanship. Each organization within the government is always trying to stake out and protect its own "territory". Just as local law enforcement gets its feathers ruffled when the FBI steps into something, so would the CIA always want to have an edge over the military. It was just such competition between the FBI and the military that lead to the misinterpreted "Hoover note": both the FBI and military wanted to be in charge of investigating any reports of downed flying disks. Neither found any that weren't hoaxes, but both were on alert about it since there was some slight evidence they might be of soviet origin.
And flying black ops craft over major citys, sometimes in broad daylight, is entirely inconsistant with how black operations are handled.
Really, I can't take your word for that. The most you or anyone could know about it is what has been leaked. Does anyone actually involved with black ops even know how all of them are handled?
The only other nation that springs to mind is the chinese...
Well, the French aren't too happy with us. Who knows if there isn't a secret sub-agency of the French military with crack technicians and the ability to funnel lots of money into their coffers? Alot of middle-eastern countries have huge amounts of money in the hands of their elite classes. Who might those people be funding? What about the former Soviet Union? What might they have developed, and who did they sell it to when things fell apart? It could a country that is a total surprise to everyone. Tesla came from a tiny country. What tiny country might there be out there with it's own Tesla who never emigrated and was made the head of their "special-craft" program? I could speculate forever about reasons it wouldn't have to be the Chinese.
It makes no sense, and considering that the US is the only super power its practically sucidal.
If you had a craft we couldn't shoot down, it wouldn't be suicidal at all. It would be a lot of fun.
What it comes down to is either a small number of developed countrys are buldiing ufos and playing chicken by flying in each other's no-fly zones and making unnecessary hostile manuvers, or these are extraterrestials.
Why extraterrestrials? Why not beings from another dimension that coexists with ours right here on earth? Why not beings from a civilations that has existed from time immemorial at the deepest depths of the world's oceans? Why not beings who live in a remarkable system of subterranian caverns who can flawlessly hide the entances and exits? The main reason we say "extraterrestrials" is simply because that's the idea that has gained currency. It started when they pointed a telescope at Mars and speculated the canals might have been made by an intelligent civilization. H.G. Wells took that idea and wrote "War of the Worlds", which planted the notion in people's minds that intelligent beings from other planets might have the technology to reach earth. In other words: that particular idea came to western civilization straight from fiction. Now, it's the first thing that pops into people's minds.
On balance i actually find the latter to be more plausable, and with abductions being reported all around the world, it would certainly tie up a lot of loose ends. In fact at this moment in time its the only explanation that makes any sense to me.
Abductions are something else entirely. Persinger has recreated them in his lab by applying EM fields to peoples heads. I have personally been "abducted" during an attack of the neurological sleep disorder known as "sleep paralysis" (not by aliens, but by two weird and unpleasant guys), people who experience complex-partial seizures sometimes feel they've been removed from their body by vague, menacing beings, and taken to unfamiliar environments.

The "aliens" of alien abductions, have a distictly non-ordinary ability to enter peoples homes without recourse to doors and windows, and to remove people by the same method, whatever that is. The kinds of creatures reported in these stories don't have any need of physical craft. I personally think the link between abductions and UFO sightings is a false connection.
 
  • #29
I have banged around a lot in my life

Feynman's a peeyimp. :-p
 

Related to Uncovering the Truth: Feynman's Perspective on Flying Saucers

1. Who is Feynman and what is his connection to flying saucers?

Feynman refers to Richard Feynman, a renowned physicist and Nobel Laureate. He is known for his work in quantum mechanics and particle physics. He also had a fascination with flying saucers and was involved in investigating various UFO sightings.

2. What is the main argument of "Feynman vs the Flying Saucers"?

The main argument is that Feynman, being a highly respected scientist, used his knowledge and expertise to debunk the existence of flying saucers and explain away supposed sightings as natural or man-made phenomena.

3. Are there any evidence or proofs presented in the book?

Yes, the book presents various evidence and explanations for supposed UFO sightings, such as atmospheric disturbances, experimental aircrafts, and optical illusions. It also delves into the psychology behind belief in extraterrestrial life and how people interpret and remember unusual events.

4. Is the book based on real events or is it a work of fiction?

The book is based on real events and the author, Marcia Bartusiak, extensively researched Feynman's involvement in investigating flying saucers. However, the book also delves into the cultural and historical context surrounding the phenomenon and may include some fictionalized elements for storytelling purposes.

5. What is the impact of "Feynman vs the Flying Saucers" on the scientific community?

The book sparked discussions and debates within the scientific community about the validity of UFO sightings and the role of scientists in investigating such claims. It also sheds light on the intersection of science and popular culture and the influence of scientific figures in shaping public opinion.

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