Ufology is the study of reports, visual records, physical evidence, and other phenomena related to unidentified flying objects (UFO). UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists. However, ufology, as a field, is rejected by modern academia and is considered a pseudoscience.
==Etymology== The term derives from UFO, which is pronounced as an acronym, and the suffix -logy, which comes from the Ancient Greek λογία (logiā). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the first documented uses of the word ufology can be found in the Times Literary Supplement from January 23, 1959, in which it writes, "The articles, reports, and bureaucratic studies which have been written about this perplexing visitant constitute 'ufology'." This article was printed eight years after Edward J. Ruppelt of the United States Air Force (USAF) coined the word UFO in 1951.
The modern UFO mythology has three traceable roots: the late 19th century "mystery airships" reported in the newspapers of western United States, "foo fighters" reported by Allied airmen during World War II, and the Kenneth Arnold "flying saucer" sighting near Mt. Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947. UFO reports between "The Great Airship Wave" and the Arnold sighting were limited in number compared to the post-war period: notable cases include reports of "ghost fliers" in Europe and North America during the 1930s and the numerous reports of "ghost rockets" in Scandinavia (mostly Sweden) from May to December 1946. Media hype in the late 1940s and early 1950s following the Arnold sighting brought the concept of flying saucers to the public audience.
As the public's preoccupation in UFOs grew, along with the number of reported sightings, the United States military began to take notice of the phenomenon. The UFO explosion of the early post-war era coincides with the escalation of the Cold War and the Korean War. If correct, the craft causing the sightings were thus of importance to national security and in need of systematic investigation. By 1952, however, the official US government interest in UFOs began to fade as the USAF projects Sign and Grudge concluded, along with the CIA's Robertson Panel that UFO reports indicated no direct threat to national security. The government's official research into UFOs ended with the publication of the Condon Committee report in 1969, formerly known as GEPAN (1977–1988) and SEPRA (1988–2004), a unit under the French Space Agency CNES. During the Cold War, British, Canadian, Danish, Italian, and Swedish governments have each collected reports of UFO sightings. Britain's Ministry of Defence ceased accepting any new reports as of 2010.
==Status as a field==
Ufology has generally not been embraced by academia as a scientific field of study, even though UFOs were, during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the subject of large-scale scientific studies. The lack of acceptance of ufology by academia as a field of study means that people can claim to be "UFO researchers", without the sorts of scientific consensus building and, in many cases peer review, that otherwise shape and influence scientific paradigms. Even among scientifically inclined UFO research efforts, data collecting is often done by amateur investigators. astronomer J. Allen Hynek, computer scientist and astronomer Jacques F. Vallée, and University of Arizona meteorologist James E. McDonald.
===As a pseudoscience=== Ufology is characterized as a partial or total pseudoscience, which many ufologists reject. Pseudoscience is a term that classifies studies that are claimed to exemplify the methods and principles of science, but that do not adhere to an appropriate scientific method, lack supporting evidence, plausibility, falsifiability, or otherwise lack scientific status.
Gregory Feist, an academic psychologist, proposes that ufology can be categorized as a pseudoscience because its adherents claim it to be a science while the scientific community denies that it is, and because the field lacks a cumulative scientific progress; ufology has not, in his view, advanced since the 1950s. Rachel Cooper, a philosopher of science and medicine, states that the fundamental problem in ufology is not the lack of scientific method, as many ufologists have striven to meet standards of scientific acceptability, but rather the fact that the assumptions on which the research is often based are considered highly speculative.
Stanton Friedman considers the general attitude of mainstream academics as arrogant and dismissive, or bound to a rigid worldview that disallows any evidence contrary to previously held notions. Denzler states that the fear of ridicule and a loss of status has prevented scientists of pursuing a public interest in UFOs. J. Allen Hynek's also commented, "Ridicule is not part of the scientific method and people should not be taught that it is." Hynek said of the frequent dismissal of UFO reports by astronomers that the critics knew little about the sightings, and should thus not be taken seriously. Peter A. Sturrock suggests that a lack of funding is a major factor in the institutional lack of interest in UFOs.
===Methodological issues=== Scientific UFO research suffers from the fact that the phenomena under observation do not usually make predictable appearances at a time and place convenient for the researcher. Ufologist Diana Palmer Hoyt argues,
On the other hand, skeptics have argued that UFOs are not a scientific problem at all, as there is no tangible physical evidence to study. Astronomer Carl Sagan stated on UFO sightings, "The reliable cases are uninteresting and the interesting cases are unreliable. Unfortunately there are no cases that are both reliable and interesting."
Peter A. Sturrock states that UFO studies should be compartmentalized into at least "the following distinct activities": # Field investigations leading to case documentation and the measurement or retrieval of physical evidence; # Laboratory analysis of physical evidence; # The systematic compilation of data (descriptive and physical) to look for patterns and so extract significant facts; # The analysis of compilations of data (descriptive and physical) to look for patterns and so extract significant facts; # The development of theories and the evaluation of those theories on the basis of facts.
Denzler states that ufology as a field of study has branched into two different mindsets: the first group of investigators wants to convince the unbelievers and earn intellectual legitimacy through systematic study using the scientific method, and the second group sees the follow-up questions concerning the origin and "mission" of the UFOs as more important than a potential academic standing.
====Hynek system==== Developed in the 1970s, J. Allen Hynek's original system of description divides sightings into six categories. It first separates sightings into distant- and close-encounter categories, arbitrarily setting five hundred feet as the cutoff point. It then subdivides these close and distant categories based on appearance or special features: * Nocturnal Lights (NL): Anomalous lights seen in the night sky. * Daylight Discs (DD): Any anomalous object, generally but not necessarily "discoidal", seen in the distant daytime sky. * Radar/Visual cases (RV): Objects seen simultaneously by eye and on radar.
Hynek also defined three close encounter (CE) subcategories: * CE1: Strange objects seen nearby but without physical interaction with the environment. * CE2: A CE1 case that leaves physical evidence, e.g. soil depressions, vegetation damage, radiations or causes electromagnetic interference. * CE3: CE1 or CE2 cases where occupants or entities are seen.
Later, Hynek introduced a fourth category, CE4, which is used to describe cases where the witness feels he was abducted by a UFO. Some ufologists have adopted a fifth category, CE5, which involves conscious human-initiated contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. * Close Encounter (CE): As per Hynek. * Maneuver (MA): Trajectory discontinuity in flight. * Fly-by (FB): No observed discontinuity in flight. * Anomaly (AN): Unusual lights or unexplained entities.
The five subcategories can apply to all previous categories of sightings:
# Sighting # Physical effects: for example, radar sighting # Life form or living entity # Reality transformation: witnesses experienced a transformation of their sense of reality (often corresponding to the popular characterization of the incident as an abduction) # Physiological impact: Such as death or serious injury
Thus, the Vallée categorization categorizes cases as MA-2, AN-1, CE-4, for example.
===Ufology and UFO reports=== In addition to UFO sightings, certain supposedly related phenomena are of interest to some in the field of ufology, including crop circles, cattle mutilations, and alien abductions and implants. Some ufologists have also promoted UFO conspiracy theories, including the alleged Roswell UFO Incident of 1947, the Majestic 12 documents, and UFO disclosure advocates.
Skeptic Robert Sheaffer has accused ufology of having a "credulity explosion". He claims a trend of increasingly sensational ideas steadily gaining popularity within ufology. In the same statement, McDonald said that, "Again, one must here criticize a good deal of armchair-researching (done chiefly via the daily newspapers that enjoy feature-writing the antics of the more extreme of such subgroups). A disturbing number of prominent scientists have jumped all too easily to the conclusion that only the nuts see UFOs". In a later larger survey conducted among the members of the American Astronomical Society, where 2611 were questionnaires mailed and 1356 were returned, Sturrock found out that opinions were equally diverse, with 23% replying "certainly", 30% "probably", 27% "possibly", 17% "probably not", and 3% "certainly not", to the question of whether the UFO problem deserves scientific study. Sturrock also asked in the same survey if the surveyee had witnessed any event which they could not have identified and which could have been related to the UFO phenomenon, with around 5% replying affirmatively.
==Studies, panels, and conferences==
===Project Sign, Project Grudge (US, 1947–1949)===
The first official USAF investigations of UFOs were Project Sign (1947–1949) and its successor Project Grudge (1949). Several hundred sightings were examined, a majority of them having a mundane explanation. Some sightings were classified as credible but inexplicable, and in these cases the possibility of an advanced unknown aircraft could not be ruled out. The initial memos of the project took the UFO question seriously. After surveying 16 early reports, Lt. Col. George D. Garrett estimated that the sightings were not imaginary or exaggerations of natural phenomena. Lt. General Nathan F. Twining expressed the same estimate in a letter to Brig. General Schulgen, and urged a concerted investigation by the Air Force and other government agencies. Twinings memo led to the formation of Project Sign at the end of 1947. In the summer of 1948, Sign's first intelligence estimate (Estimate of the Situation) concluded that some UFO reports were extraterrestrial in origin. The rejection of the estimate by USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg led to the dissolution of Sign and the formation of Project Grudge.
===Flying Saucer Working Party (UK, 1950–1951)===
The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence, alarmed by reports of seemingly advanced unidentified aircraft, followed the US military's example by conducting its own study on UFOs in 1950. A research group was formed based on the recommendation of the chemist Henry Tizard, and was involved in similar work, such as "Project Sign". In 1952, the directorate informed Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after his inquiry about UFOs, that they had found no evidence of extraterrestrial spacecraft. Smith believed UFOs were using this method to achieve flight. It discussed twenty-five UFO sightings reported during 1952, and concluded with the notion that "extraterrestrial space vehicles" are probable. This committee, called Project Second Story, was sponsored by the Defence Research Board, with its main purpose being to collect, catalog, and correlate data from UFO sighting reports.
===Project Blue Book (US, 1951–1969)===
As a continuation of Project Sign and Project Grudge in 1951, the USAF launched Project Blue Book, led by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt. Under Ruppelt, the collection and investigation of UFO sightings became more systematic. The project issued a series of status reports, which were declassified in September 1960 and made available in 1968. Project Blue Book was terminated in December 1969, following the report of the Condon Committee. Until then, 12,618 incidents had been investigated, the grand majority of which explained by conventional means. 701 cases, around 6%, remained "unidentified". Officially, the USAF concluded from the project that the phenomena investigated were of no concern to national security, and that there was no evidence the sightings categorized as "unidentified" were caused by extraterrestrial aircraft. Those reports classified as "unidentified" numbered 21.5% of the total (33% of the highest quality reports) and required unanimous agreement among the four project scientists, whereas "identifieds" required agreement by only two of four analysts. A statistical analysis of six characteristics, such as speed and sighting duration, found statistically significant differences in at least four of the six categories between identifieds and unidentifieds. However, the report emphasized the subjectivity of the data, and stated that the conclusions drawn from the study were not based on facts, but on the subjective observations and estimations of the individual. Furthermore, the report summary and conclusion stated that "unknowns" were not likely something beyond the era's technology, and almost certainly not "flying saucers". The December 1953 Joint-Army-Navy-Air Force Publication 146 (JANAP 146) made publication of UFO sightings a crime under the Espionage Act. In October 1966, the USAF contracted the University of Colorado, under the leadership of physicist Edward U. Condon, for $325,000 to conduct more scientific investigations of selected UFO sightings and to make recommendations about the project's future. As a direct result of the Condon report, Project Blue Book was closed in December 1969. The paper gave a historical summary of the UFO phenomenon, talked briefly about issues concerning extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel, presented a few case studies and discussed the phenomenological content of a UFO sighting, reviewed hypotheses, and concluded with a recommendation to organize a central UFO report-receiving agency and conducting more research on the phenomenon. The findings were published in the book Project Identification: the first scientific field study of UFO phenomena. Although taking a specific interest in describing unidentified aerial phenomena, as opposed to identifying them, the book references the presumed intelligence of the sighted objects. Rutledge's study results were not published in any peer-reviewed journal or other scientific venue or format. The unit was initially known as Groupe d’Etudes des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés (GEPAN), changed in 1988 to Service d'expertise de rentrée atmosphérique Phenom (SERPA) and in 2005 to Groupe d'études et d'informations sur les phénomènes aérospatiaux non identifiés (GEIPAN). However, Jean-Jacques Velasco, the head of SEPRA from 1983 to 2004, wrote a book in 2004 noting that 13.5% of the 5,800 cases studied by SEPRA were dismissed without any rational explanation, and stated that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin.
===United Nations (1977–1979)=== Thanks to the lobbying of Eric Gairy, the Prime Minister of Grenada, the United Nations General Assembly addressed the UFO issue in the late 1970s. On July 14, 1978, a panel, with Gordon Cooper, J. Allen Hynek, and Jacques Vallée among its members, held a hearing to inform the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim about the matter. As a consequence of this meeting, the UN adopted decisions A/DEC/32/424 and A/DEC/33/426, which called for the "establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, co-ordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena".
===Project Hessdalen / Project EMBLA (Norway, 1983–present / Italy 1999–2004)===
Since 1981, in an area near Hessdalen in Norway, unidentified flying objects have been commonly observed. This so-called Hessdalen phenomenon has twice been the subject of scientific field studies: Project Hessdalen (1983–1985, 1995–) secured technical assistance from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, the University of Oslo, and the University of Bergen, while Project EMBLA (1999–2004) was a team of Italian scientists led by Ph.D. Massimo Teodorani from the Istituto di Radioastronomia di Bologna.
Both studies confirmed the presence of the phenomenon and were able to record it with cameras and various technical equipment such as radar, laser, and infrared. The origin and nature of the lights remains unclear. Researchers from Project EMBLA speculated the possibility that atmospheric plasma had been the origin of the phenomenon.
===Project Condign (UK, 1996–2000)===
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) published in 2006 the "Scientific & Technical Memorandum 55/2/00a" of a four-volume, 460-page report entitled Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region, based on a study by DI55 (a section of the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence of the Defence Intelligence Staff) codenamed Project Condign. It discusses the British UFO reports received between 1959 and 1997.
The report affirms that UFOs are an existing phenomenon, but points out that they present no threat to national defense. The report further states that there is no evidence that UFO sightings are caused by incursions of intelligent origin, or that any UFO consists of solid objects which might create a collision hazard. Although the study admits to being unable to explain all analyzed UFO sightings with certainty, it recommends that section DI55 ceases monitoring UFO reports, as they do not provide information useful for Defence Intelligence. The report concludes that a small percentage of sightings that can not be easily explained are caused by atmospheric plasma phenomenon similar to ball lightning; Magnetic and other energy fields produced by these "buoyant plasma formations" are responsible for the appearance of so-called "Black Triangles" as well as having hallucinogenic effects on the human mind, inducing experiences of Close Encounters.
===Sturrock Panel Report (US, 1997)===
From Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, 1997 a workshop examining selected UFO incidents took place in Tarrytown, New York. The meeting was initiated by Peter A. Sturrock, who had reviewed the Condon report and found it dissatisfying. The international review panel consisted of nine physical scientists, who responded to eight investigators of UFO reports, who were asked to present their strongest data. The final report of the workshop was published under the title "Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports" in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1998. The study concluded that the studied cases presented no unequivocal evidence for the presence of unknown physical phenomena or for extraterrestrial intelligence, but argued that a continued study of UFO cases might be scientifically valuable.
===COMETA Report (France, 1999)===
COMETA (Comité d'Études Approfondies, "Committee for in-depth studies") is a private French group, which is mainly composed of high-ranking individuals from the French Ministry of Defence. In 1999 the group published a ninety-page report entitled "Les OVNI et la défense: à quoi doit-on se préparer?" ("UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For?"). The report analyzed various UFO cases and concluded that UFOs are real, complex flying objects, and that the extraterrestrial hypothesis has a high probability of being the correct explanation for the UFO phenomenon. The study recommended that the French government should adjust to the reality of the phenomenon and conduct further research. Skeptic Claude Maugé criticized COMETA for research incompetency, and claimed that the report tried to present itself as an official French document, when in fact it was published by a private group.
==="Disclosure Project" Press Conference (US, 2001)===
On May 9, 2001, twenty government workers from military and civilian organizations spoke about their experiences regarding UFOs and UFO confidentiality at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.. The press conference was initiated by Steven M. Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project, which has the goal of disclosing alleged government UFO secrecy. The purpose of the press conference was to build public pressure through the media to obtain a hearing before the United States Congress on the issue. Although major American media outlets reported on the conference, the interest quickly died down, and no hearing came forth.
===Fife Symington Press Conference (US, 2007)=== On November 12, 2007, a press conference, moderated by former Governor of Arizona Fife Symington, was held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Nineteen former pilots and military and civilian officials spoke about their experiences with UFOs, demanding that the U.S. government engage in a new investigation of the phenomenon.
===United States=== In the US, groups and affiliates interested in UFO investigation number in the hundreds, of which a few have achieved prominence based on their longevity, size, and researcher involvement with scientific credentials. The first significant UFO interest group in the US was the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), formed in 1952 by Coral and James Lorenzen.
===United Kingdom=== The British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) is the oldest of the active British UFO organizations. It traces its roots to the London UFO Research Association, founded in 1959, which merged with the British UFO Association (BUFOA) to form BUFORA in 1964. The Australian Centre for UFO Studies (ACUFOS) was established in 1974 with links to the American CUFOS. Other currently active Australian UFO groups include the Victorian UFO Research Society (VUFORS), and UFO Research Queensland (UFORQ).
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), although not a UFO organization, has investigated various UFO cases and has given a skeptical review of the phenomena in its publications, often in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Founded as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in 1976 by professor of philosophy Paul Kurtz, the committee is known for its member scientists and skeptics, such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Philip J. Klass, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Martin Gardner. The Skeptics Society, founded by science historian Michael Shermer in 1992, has also addressed the UFO issue in its magazine Skeptic.
===World UFO Day=== World UFO Day is a day for people to gather together and watch the skies for unidentified flying objects. The goal of the July 2 celebration is to raise awareness of the Roswell findings, and to gain support in forcing governments to "tell the truth about earthly visits from outer space aliens". This day is celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, Thailand, Belgium, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, Czech Republic, Australia, Spain, Korea, Brazil, Italy, France, Nigeria, Finland, Austria and Poland.
* Ancient astronauts * Fringe science * List of topics characterized as pseudoscience * List of Ufologists * SETI * UFOs in fiction
==Further reading== ;Academic books about ufology as a sociological and historical phenomenon *
;Pro-ufology * *
;Skeptical opinions * *
;Ufology studies * *
==External links== * [http://ufology-news.com/ Ufology News] * [http://www.cufos.org/ Center for UFO Studies] * [http://www.mufon.com/ Mutual UFO Network] * [http://www.cnes-geipan.fr/ Groupe d'Études et d'Informations sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés] * [http://www.bufora.org.uk/ British UFO Research Association] * [http://www.csicop.org/resources#ufos Committee for Skeptical Inquiry UFO resources]