Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Issue #37 Safety In the Field

Going into the field to investigate a case is probably one of the most important aspects of investigation. Although it is a rare occurrence, when the need arises, you definitely want to be prepared. Whether you are merely going to the home of a witness to record their statements, or you are going out in rough terrain in search of an alleged crash, there are steps you will want to take to ensure your safe return.

I do not advise any Field Investigator's to conduct personal interviews of the witness alone. For one thing, it is bad investigative technique. It takes two people to really pay attention to all of the aspects of the witness during questioning. But not only that, there is also safety in numbers. It is a lot less likely that anything unseemly will occur if there are two Field Investigators present.

I also recommend that Field Investigators notify either their State Section Director, or their State Director before going out into the field on any type of investigation. That is just standard procedure in any type of investigation to let someone know when, where, and why you are going somewhere. That way if anything happens to them, someone knows where to start looking.

Obviously if you are going out into "the boonies" in search of a crash, or any evidence of that nature, you will want to take extra steps according to the type of terrain you will be traversing. Dressing appropriately should be your first concern.

Make sure to wear good sturdy boots, and make sure that they fit properly. Getting a blister miles from help could be disastrous.

Next you want to protect yourself from the sun. I don't so much believe that U.V. rays are worse now than when I was younger as I do that we've learned more about them and the damage they can do when exposed to them for long periods of time. At least use SPF 30 on any exposed areas.

Depending on the time of year you could use your own judgement as to whether you would want to wear shorts or long pants, and the same goes with shirts. However I do recommend that no matter what time of year, always make sure to have at least a light jacket handy. Weather can change at a moment's notice.

A hat is also something that can provide not only protection from the sun, but can also aid in cooling you off if you are overheated. All you have to do is get it wet and it can really help to keep your head cool.

If you are going into any kind of back country, make sure that you have your compass, and plenty of maps of the area your will be covering. You might also want to consider an emergency GPS device, such as Chuck Modlin reviewed during training. If you need rescuing, that could be the difference between life and death.

Snakes, bugs, and wild critters that are common to the area you are going should be considered as well. Generally though most will leave you alone if you extend the same courtesy. Just be aware of your surroundings constantly.

Also be sure to have a flashlight, spare batteries, and whatever other backup source of illumination you deem necessary. I like to have a few glow sticks as well. Light is something that is very important at night, but is also a signal from miles away as to your location.

And then of course, one has to consider...what do you do if you actually come across a crashed UFO? I think if I were to come across one, I'd be reaching for my geiger counter immediately! I'd probably be concerned about what I might be breathing as well, and might want to put on some sort of protection, such as a gas mask. Remember, any time you get a reading of high levels of radiation, back off immediately! If you do not detect radiation I would still be extra-careful...there are no "Citizen Guides To Crash Retrievals" that I'm aware of, so one would be writing protocol as they went so to speak, so exercising extreme caution would just make sense.

I hope this provokes a little thought on the subject of safety...I want you all to be able to come back next week for more!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Issue #36 Safety

One thing that every Field Investigator should always be aware of is safety. I probably should have written about this a lot sooner, so please don't let my tardiness imply that it is of little importance.

I'm sure the first thing that comes to mind is personal safety. In the course of investigating UFOs, we as Field Investigators come into contact with the public on a regular basis. As an ethical, conscientious investigator, we are all to go into each situation with an open mind, and no preconceptions about the witness. This isn't always easy to do, especially when a witness is less than honest.

It would be foolish for me to imply that every witness has a sterling character, that just isn't the case. Unfortunately the subject of UFOs has been so infiltrated by everything from agents of disinformation, to  reports from people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or other delusions, that we have to be able to sift through them and distinguish which cases are credible. And of course, the ones that aren't are the cases that you want to be especially careful with your personal information on.

One should keep in mind that in this day and age, every time you make a phone a call, the person on the other end has your phone number. I personally use an iPhone, which has the 'block number' feature available, so that if a witness keeps calling me back harassing me, I can easily block their number.

Of course there is also an element of danger if one is doing an in-person interview of a witness. I would recommend never doing this alone, under any circumstances. Besides the fact that you need a second person to observe things that you might miss during the questioning, there is always safety in numbers! 

Of even more importance is the safety of the witness. At all times one must endeavor to keep all personal information about the witness private. It is never okay to give out a witness's address or phone number to anyone, and that is especially true if the witness wishes to remain anonymous. Protecting the identity of the witness should be a top concern. Just suppose someone from the defence industry decided to make a report with you, and in your excitement you write about it and give all kinds of details that make it easy to piece together who the witness was. Then the next day you read in the newspaper that your witness was found with five knives in his back, a rope around his neck, and a suicide note. You'd probably feel a little bit responsible! Not very good for the witness, but who says the perpetrators would stop there...they'd likely come after you next. So always exercise caution with the information you are given.

Another item that needs to be considered, is the finished report. I would recommend a very secure location, such as a safe or locking cabinet for storing your completed reports. If your home were to be broken into, it would not be wise to have witness information laying around where anyone can access it. It is full of private information still, even though the case has been concluded. You should also make sure that any reports are not easily accessible on your computer. Always protect your files with a password. That way you can assure the safety of the witness as well.

I could write a whole issue just on safety in the field, so I'm not going to cover that today...maybe next week. In the meantime, keep in mind that common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone's garden, so always be on your guard!

I hope this installment is helpful, and that some of you re-examine your safety protocols to make sure that both you, and your witnesses stay safe!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Issue #35 Cloud Anomalies

Any fan of the X Files television series will probably remember the opening credits with the UFO shaped cloud that is in the beginning sequence. I'm sure the producers picked that shot because of it's striking resemblance to reported UFOs, as are many cloud anomalies that one might see in the course of investigations.

Lenticular Cloud

As you can see in the above picture, it is understandable why some people might think that the object is a UFO. It even appears to have a dome shape on the top of it. Lenticularis (Latin for 'lens-shaped'), or lenticular clouds, have three different types; stratocumulus, altocumulus, and cirrocumulus. They can occur at altitudes up to 40,000 ft., and can even sometimes precipitate rain. They are formed by a mechanical obstruction of the ambient wind flow, which could be hills, mountains or even large buildings. When stable, moist air flows over mountains, it can create long-standing waves on the downwind side, and if the temperature at the crest of the wave lowers to the dewpoint, a lenticular cloud may form. I would highly encourage any Field Investigator to spend some time Googling pictures of lenticular clouds, so you can be familiar with their appearance...and because most of the pictures of them are truly magnificent!

The next anomaly I'd like to introduce is called a 'Fallstreak Hole'. This amazing anomaly is the one responsible for people commenting, "it looks like a cloaked mother ship!" I must admit, it does remind me of the 'Predator' just a tiny bit.

Fallstreak Hole

As you can see from the above picture, it is easy to imagine that there is actually something there making the cloud appear this way, after all if that was a basin of soapy water, it is exactly how we would expect it to act if there were another body floating on it. In fact, they are formed when the water temperature inside the cloud is below freezing, yet the water hasn't frozen yet due to lack of supercooled water, or ice nucleation particles. When the water does freeze it causes a domino effect which causes the water around the ice crystals to evaporate, leaving the hole in the cloud. Interestingly, these can be caused by passing aircraft, which can leave a drastic drop in pressure behind the wings, or propeller tips.

There are many conditions that can cause clouds to take on shapes we not understand. Pareidolia is the scientific name for a common phenomenon...seeing familiar shapes in objects such as clouds. I would strongly recommend that any cases involving anything that even remotely looks like it could be a cloud be evaluated thoroughly. More than likely that is exactly what it is.

I hope this issue helps with anomalous identification! Don't forget to share with all your friends, and come back next week for more!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Issue #34 Investigation Vs. That 'Ol Gut Feeling

I often get emails asking me how one can become a Field Investigator with MUFON, and I am always more than happy to help someone along the way to becoming one. I know that there is a lot of hard work involved, and there is a lot of ground to cover in many different disciplines of science. So when I hear someone utter the phrase, "I have a gut feeling about this one", or some similar remark, I can't help but cringe. Since I don't have the world's best poker face, I'm sure it has not gone unnoticed.

MUFON's mission statement is: "The scientific investigation of UFO's for the benefit of all humanity." Not the 'crystal ball' method. I hate to say it but I've seen cases where the witness as much as said that the object in question was probably something that they just couldn't identify, only to read the Field Investigator's report and find out that they "feel" there was more to it than there really was. I'm sorry but "feel" doesn't cut it. It isn't evidence, and it's not something that can be scientifically proven.

I think what some Field Investigators are thinking is that no one will question their conclusion, and it will be case closed. That just isn't true. The better the sighting, landing, abduction case, or whatever kind of case it may be, the more evidence is needed, and more in-depth investigation is definitely required. The evidence has to be able to stand up to scrutiny, and as much supporting testimony from witnesses as possible should be gathered. The more witnesses an investigator talks to, the better they will be able to put together a comprehensive picture of what happened. One witness, and little or no evidence does not make a very convincing case.

There is no such thing as taking too many pictures to support a case either. Remember to take them from the four cardinal directions, and remember to use a photographers scale so there will be a size reference in the picture. You also want to remember to take pictures wherever evidence is found, looking straight down at where the evidence is situated, and making sure to include the evidence number and the scale in the picture. I would recommend using a tripod whenever possible.

So evidence is gathered, witnesses have been interviewed, and photographs have been taken. Sounds like everything is done, right? Wrong. The Field Investigator also needs to know about the weather conditions that day, and any astronomical data that might have a bearing on the investigation. One would look pretty ridiculous if they ignored a meteor shower while investigating a sighting of a fireball. 

Flight data needs to be considered too. Any air traffic in the area needs to be accounted for, and a check of any local missile tests, or live fire exercises at any military installations in the area should be done as well. One should also consider if there are any holidays, or publicized events going on at the time, where those attending might be inclined to light Chinese Lanterns, or some such celebratory device.

One should also know the terrain around the area. Fortunately we can use Google Earth now to see exactly where a sighting occurred, and we can even use it to measure the distances involved.

As you can see, there is a lot that must be considered when investigating a sighting. If one makes the mistake of relying on only the report, and their feelings, they can be assured of coming to the wrong conclusion. As a Field Investigator it is imperative that each case be approached with an open mind, and that the evidence is what the conclusion is based on...not your gut feeling.

Please remember to share this issue with all your friends, and come back next week for more!