Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Issue #41 Understanding Radar

Some of the best UFO sightings are recognized as being legitimate sightings because they were able to be verified not just by ground observation, but also because they were picked up on radar.

We hear about radar on a daily basis now, be it weather radar, the cop with his radar gun waiting to give you a ticket, or air traffic controllers keeping our skies safe. But what is radar, how does it work, and how did we come to depend on it so much?

According to Wikipedia, radar is "an object detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects." 

Several nations worked together in secret during World War II to develop radar. The term RADAR was developed by the United States Navy as an acronym for Radio Detection And Ranging since 1940. We've come to depend on radar for many reasons since then, but mainly because it helps to save countless lives.

Radar works by transmitting a radio wave through it's antenna, or radar dish, in predetermined directions. When they come into contact with an object, they are reflected back providing the information about the object. There are many different types of radar as well, continuous wave radar, and pulse radar are just two examples.

For the Field Investigator, air traffic control radar is of the most interest, and fortunately you can request records directly from the FAA whenever an investigation requires it. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the airports, and military installations in your area so you will know where the readings will have been taken from as well.

I hope this issue sparked some thought about the uses of radar, and where to find the data when you need it. Don't forget to share with all of your friends, and come back next week for more!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Issue #40 Computer Tips

The one tool that I'm sure every investigator is using these days is the personal computer. Not long ago that would have sounded like a line from a science fiction novel, but in today's world the fact is that the computer has become our top form of communication and information.

All MUFON Field Investigators use what is called the CMS, or Case Management System, and our data from our investigations is organized into reports that are generated by the information that both the witness and investigator have entered. It is a great database, however MUFON is in the process of creating an even better one!

Besides just entering the information from the sighting, there is a lot of other data that one needs to enter to complete an investigation. Weather information is critical to any investigation, and I personally like to use for all my current, and historical weather data. 

Conducting a telephone interview is made much easier by using Skype, especially since there is an extension available for it that allows you to record your calls. For $30 a year you can make calls anywhere in the United States, and for another $30 a year you can also get a number to receive calls. So for a total of $60 a year you can have secure number to use for your interviews, allowing you to keep your cell phone or home number private. Of course Skype is free to use between other users anyway, but the extra calling features make it extremely useful.

One thing to always be cautious about is bogus links in emails. I recently got my email hacked due to a link in an email from a witness. I should have known better since the telephone number given directed me to a recorded sales pitch. Be careful! If you do pick something up that starts sending out unauthorized emails, change your password to your email account. That should stop it in most cases.

When typing your report, remember that not everyone will have a new up to date computer, or software. When creating a document that will be shared widely, and most likely by different operating systems, it is best to save it in a file type that everyone can open. Using the oldest form of Word usually works fine. Then it will be saved as a .doc, instead of .docx, which not everyone can access. Older computers really have trouble with newer up to date software. When I used to design websites we always tested out every page on multiple browsers to make sure that it looked good no matter what type of computer or operating system the user has.

Of course pictures are a big part of investigation, which is why I use Photoshop, and Adobe Creative Cloud. Since all my computers are Macs, I also have an extension added on to my browser (I use Chrome) that reads the EXIF data from the pictures I'm analyzing. Having a large monitor helps quite a bit as well.

Here are a couple of 'tricks' to help you get the most out of your computer.

Want to see what your doing in fullscreen? If your a Windows user all you need do is press F11. For Macs select 'View' from your menu bar, then 'Enter Full Screen', or you can use the keyboard shortcut shown in the menu. Having trouble reading small print? Hold "Control" and press the + or - key. Your page will readjust with a larger font size!

I hope this issue helps answer a few of your computer questions! Don't forget to share with all of your friends, and come back next week for more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Issue #39 Closing Your Investigation

To the new Field Investigator, the classification system for MUFON case files might seem a little bit tricky at first. Some categories seem to get mixed up from time to time, so hopefully this little review will help clear this up.

For a while there drones were being classified as 'Unknown - UAV'. It is obvious that there are just too many drones available these days to be able to look at one in the sky and know who makes it, and what model it is.

Many young people have remote control helicopters and drones, with spectacular lighting on them, and of course they are awfully cool to fly. It's not their fault that someone watching the sky can't identify what is up there and thinks it is a UFO.

Not long ago I closed out a case that I knew for sure was a drone, and it made me very uncomfortable to have to class it as an 'Unknown' of any flavor, so I contacted Fletcher Gray with my concerns. He agreed with me that drones do not belong in the 'Unknown' category, so officially they now go in the category IFO - Man Made. Don't worry about having to identify what kind of drone it is, if you feel confident that is what was seen, then that is good enough.

Another big problem we have with the classifications of cases are the obvious psychological cases. I don't mean the cases where there were psychological effects from interacting with craft or aliens, I mean the cases that come in from serial filers with obvious mental issues. It is a sad fact that this happens more than we would like. Unfortunately there are many reports that come in from people who are suffering from varying types of mental illness, and they truly do believe that they are seeing something remarkable. Automatically closing these cases out as hoaxes is not a correct solution. By definition they are not hoaxes. The people might be delusional, but they are not consciously lying. The best disposition for these types of cases is to close them out as 'Information Only'. This way at least you won't antagonize a possibly unstable witness, and they won't be hurt by the flat out lack of credibility associated with closing the case as a hoax.

It is my belief that we need to establish a category that reflects sensitivity to cases, yet at the same time sets them apart from the other categories. Maybe something like 'Imagined Event'? It is my understanding that 'Information Only' is to be used for cases that are secondhand retellings of events that did not happen to the party reporting them, or for something that someone came across through some other form of literature.

Of course the most misunderstood category is the 'Unknown' category. I tell all my Field Investigator's that if they only have talked to one witness, and they don't have any other evidence, they do not have a good case for making it a UFO, or 'Unknown'. Unknown should only be used when you are absolutely certain that you have something that can not be identified that you are investigating. Do not, I mean...DO NOT use it if all you have is a gut feeling! MUFON is the world's leading scientific investigator of UFOs, not the Fantasy Network. That means we have to back up our investigation with evidence that can stand the tests of science, otherwise we just don't have the proof that we need.

Insufficient Data is a proper category if you think something might be an unknown, but just don't have the level of proof required to make it an 'Unknown'.

In reviewing Project Blue Book Special Report #14, it is apparent that many of the sightings in it could have been 'Unknowns', if only there were more information that could be verified. Disregard that fact that the Air Force got their numbers wrong and incorrectly stated that there were only 3% that were 'Unknowns' in the report...apparently they have trouble with classifications AND math! If you add their 'Insufficient Data' cases to their 'Unknown' cases, the number was closer to 30%. I would tend to think of Insufficient Data as being more closely related to 'Unknown', than to 'Information Only', and in fact over time more information might come to light in such a case, and the disposition would then be able to be changed to 'Unknown'.

In any case, if you just can't decide what category to class your case when you are closing it out, don't be afraid to call your State Section Director or State Director to get some help with how to classify it. Together we can make CMS stronger in this way.

I hope this issue helps answer a few questions about classifying your cases. Be sure to share with all of your friends, and come back next week for more!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Issue #38 Military Cases

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my penchant for cases involving military personnel. To me those kinds of cases have a special appeal, not just because there is often a paper trail associated with the case, but also because there is quite often a concerted effort to cover up the sighting. One does not need to study too many cases of this nature before it becomes apparent that there is a procedure in place by every branch of the military to handle these cases in the most covert manner.

When one actually starts looking at the frequency of UFO sightings that involve either military personnel, or military bases and launch facilities, the number of reports is quite staggering. It also becomes apparent that the security classification of these sightings has not been lowered one bit. The security surrounding these instances is just as tight now as it was in World War II. Whether it is because of the technologies involved, or because of what is known about whoever is flying them, the lid of secrecy has not budged in almost 70 years.

Investigating these cases is a lot harder than most sightings, simply because many witnesses are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements which bind them into silence for the remainder of their lives. The people who take these oaths, take them very seriously, as they should, and can not be faulted for not revealing what they know. If anything, they should be commended for keeping their vows. Many times though, service personnel are bothered by the secrets that they keep, and find that what they are doing is morally not in keeping with their beliefs. There is a fine line between being a whistleblower and being a traitor. Too many times the blanket excuse of "National Security" has been wrapped around secrets, when the truth is it was the security of the people hiding the secret, not the nation, that was at risk.

Probably the most famous cover-up would be the Roswell incident of 1947, when Maj. Jesse Marcel was ordered to pose with the wreckage of a weather balloon as if it was what was found on Mac Brazel's ranch. Anyone who would suppose that a member of the world's most elite bomber squadron at the time, the only nuclear bomb group in the world, would make that kind of simple identification mistake, should really consider the ramifications of what they were trying to sell, and see it for the lie it was. Here's the real kicker though...even though he knew what it was that he saw on the ranch, Jesse Marcel did what he was ordered without question, and never spoke of the incident again until many years later. It became a non-event.

If not for the Freedom of Information Act, many of the accounts would never see the light of day. It is evident that when many of these cases from way back when were classified, the people in charge of the secrets had absolutely no idea that in the future any of these documents would ever be revealed. Had they a suspicion that would be the case, I'm sure that many of them would have been outright destroyed rather than taking a chance that they would ever be released.

I have had quite a few of these cases through MUFON, and there have been many that I have been researching over the years on my own. In the course of investigating these types of cases, I repeatedly come across accounts of secondary debriefings by unknown officers, not known to the witness beforehand, and often being intimidated to comply by these outside influences. I investigated a case a few months ago that took place at Edwards Air Force Base, where the Security Police involved saw a disc hovering over the rocket laboratory building on base. When they spotted the disk it rose up from the building and started moving towards them, and their vehicle and radio both went dead. The disc appeared to hover over them before ascending, then taking off at an incredible speed. When their radios came back on, they discovered that they had actually been out of communication for two hours, and personnel were actively searching for them.

As bizarre as this would seem, it was nothing compared to the debriefing that both men endured. After being questioned by their CO, they were both called back in to be questioned by an officer who had been flown in, and made to sign documents which stated that what they had seen was nothing more than a helicopter. This is a recurring theme for military personnel. Being ordered to say what is not true is apparently okay with the powers that be. That sure says a lot about the way they do business.

Then there are the accounts by children of military personnel. I am currently investigating a case where a young boy and his cousin were watching television when the boys father came in the house from the back yard looking for his binoculars. Since he sounded excited of course everyone filed out into the back yard after him, where he pointed out a really bright light that seemed like it was coming from the high voltage lines that ran behind the property. When he looked at it through the binoculars though he soon realized that what he was looking at was an extremely large, tube-shaped craft! As they all watched, three discs appeared, and started circling and hovering near the larger craft, then two spherical objects appeared circling the discs a few times before all the objects entered the larger craft, which then took off at tremendous speed. Of course everyone was excited by what they had just seen, and the boys father, who was stationed in San Pedro, filed a report the next day when he returned to base. According to the son, his father came home that day in a very subdued mood, and told them all they were not to talk about what they saw anymore. The boy, now grown up, filed a report with MUFON because he is genuinely wondering whatever happened to that report. I am going to file some F.O.I.A. requests on his behalf, but we may never find out the truth about he sighting.

Perhaps it is the challenge of these cases that interests me so much, but I can't help but feel that there is a lot more to them then we suspect. Maybe some day when the truth is finally revealed and these cases can be talked about in the open, we'll get a better understanding of exactly what the interaction with these visitors really was. Until then we can only speculate.

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