top of page

Addressing the Most Common Criticisms Against Studying UAP

Associate Professor, Dr. Matthew Szydagis

Edited by: Jeremy McGowan, VP of UAPx

Department of Physics, The University at Albany SUNY, Albany, NY

Member of UAPx, Inc., and SCU (Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies)

Despite numerous newspaper articles from trustworthy sources in the

mainstream media [1], despite Pentagon admissions [2] and Congressional hearings [3], interest in UAP studies is met with laughter and derision, both from inside and outside of the scientific community, including from prominent science communicators [4]. Why is this the case? Let’s break down the common criticisms of UFOlogy/UAP studies and debunk the debunkers for a change. While some of the arguments will be generic, I will spend a great deal of time on aliens, a common hypothesis requiring significant attention, but this essay should not be read as a list of counter-arguments only in favor of aliens.

(1) Cameras continue to improve in resolution, but there is still no good image or “smoking gun” video of UAP. Doesn’t that “prove” that this is all nonsense?

Source: Elon Musk, Twitter / Anita Search-True

This seems to be debunkers' go-to #1 “killer app” argument. If the individuals making such proclamations would just stop to try to take a picture of a simple human-made airplane passing overhead, they would quickly realize what a non-trivial task this is, especially if the aerial object is unexpected. I have attempted this myself with my iPhone (a 13 mini), and it is not always simple to get the focus to work and capture a high-quality, high-resolution image of a rapid-moving, distant object. Furthermore, many people are terrible at taking good pictures, no matter how much digital camera technology improves. As my wife will tell you, I am one of those individuals. A smartphone has *not* stopped me from taking blurry, out-of-focus pictures and videos with people and objects of interest cut off.

(1) is a variant of monkeys typing Shakespeare. Giving many human beings cameras, even decent cameras, does not make them all great photographers. But before I get inundated with countless pics of faraway birds and planes, let us consider if UAP might be inherently fuzzy. What if some are naturally occurring gaseous anomalies or plasma (ionized gas)? Earthquake lights [5] and ball lightning [6] come to mind — though these examples explain one unknown using another controversial phenomenon, so this is a bit circular. Low observability is, in fact, one of the five UAP observables: according to [15], UAP are often blurry and change in size and shape (14:28) and can exhibit multi-imaging effects and refraction of light around the UAP (19:00). These are physical effects which should provide important clues as to the nature of UAP. Hypersonic speeds are also sometimes (not always) claimed.

If we consider craft (not necessarily non-human), there is still an explanation on that front: what if an exotic form of propulsion is involved? We do not have to jump to space-time warping, even though that is increasingly looking like it is in the realm of possible [7–9], but turn to currently existing human tech by which air is ionized in front of the craft to prevent sonic booms [10,11]. Taking a picture of plasma or a plasma-generating object is surely a challenging endeavor, regardless of speed.

Public Domain Picture

Pictures may be necessarily poor quality. You try photographing something exhibiting O(100–1,000+) g’s of acceleration [12,13]. It is true that most of this is just hearsay… except for radar data from the JAL incident [14] and calculations from my friend Dr. Kevin Knuth and our SCU colleagues [15], not to mention Hermann Oberth, mentor to Werner von Braun, mentioning this many decades ago [124]. Or, Carl Jung admitting that radar data seemed to prove that “flying saucers” were not a psychiatric phenomenon [16]. If some of the quoted velocities and accelerations are true, they trivially explain why great pictures/videos are hard to come by.

There will be an argument (likely) that comes back to ask about objects which were low and slow: why aren’t there any clear photos of them? (for example, the recent F/A-18 pilot over the channel islands [70] or the Calvine UFO photo [71]). Well, a plasma sheath is, in that case, still not only a convenient explanation but a logical one: coming from either exotic propulsion or natural phenomena. But my final counterargument is that some sharp, good photos may actually exist: like the famous 1965 Heflin photograph [72]. Part of the problem is not just taking the photo but also analysis to determine its provenance to make sure it is not a hoax or a small speck very close up. We know that a typical smartphone camera is not superior to a DSLR in most ways (e.g., sensor size, artificial bokeh, light sensitivity, restriction on physical zoom, and the reliance upon “digital” zoom). For example: compare a Nikon D580 or similar to an iPhone [73].

Public Domain Photo / Fair Use

“There are also thousands of UAP videos and photographs, despite the mathematically remote prospects of photographing high-flying or fast-flying UAP. As physicist Brad Stark explains on page 382 of The UFO Encyclopedia, due to the limitations of smartphone cameras and the need for the target to be very close and slow, we should not expect even a single clear UAP photo from billions of smartphones over a 5 year period. Nevertheless, there are many photos and videos (such as the FLIR and Gimbal videos) that defy simple conventional explanations. The government has also collected a considerable amount of authentic video and radar data in the short time since they resumed officially studying the UAP issue in 2020.” - Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (Clinton/Bush) [74]

(2) “It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.” [75]

This statement is so extremely and willfully ignorant that it is hard for me to decide where to start debunking it. First of all, it ignores the huge cluster of sightings during a total solar eclipse in Mexico City in 1991, with the seemingly same object (silvery disk) sometimes observed at different angles by different people. This was covered by the classic Unsolved Mysteries series with Robert Stack and by famous Mexican journalist Jaime Maussan [76]. I like to consider this a case of potential alien tourism [77], given that total solar eclipses are probably rare in the Universe due to the need for a host star and moon to cancel out perfectly in size versus distance [78]. All kidding aside, this unexplained event is remarkable. With everyone looking up at the same time and cameras ready to capture the eclipse, a lot of corroborative data was able to be captured. More recent sightings south of the U.S. border can be examined as well, such as a Mexican Air Force pilot’s 2004 encounter [79]. South American governments have great interest in UFOs, most notably Chile, after an encounter between a Chilean air force pilot and a spherical UFO [80], and the Brazilian Senate recently held its own hearings similar to those in the U.S. [81] The lack of sightings in Asia given its high population is strange, but I still call [75] cherry-picking of the data, as not only are the Mexican encounters ignored, and Canada has the Shag Harbour and Hotel Bonaventure incidents, but Africa is mentioned as low on sightings without considering quality, not just quantity. The author of [75] should have been more careful — he did not mention the Ariel school alleged UFO landing in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. There have been countless news stories, books, and now a documentary [82]. Almost a hundred students were witnesses and stick to their (independent) stories into adulthood. If you want to consider all of Africa, read reference [120].

Zimbabwe students’ drawings / Fair Use

Mistrust in government and/or dismissal based on religious belief are additional considerations. Turning to Europe: what about Britain, especially the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident? It resulted in radiation burns for an American soldier, for whom Sen. John McCain had to advocate to get him adequate (VA) benefits [83]; the governments of the UK and U.S. wanted to pretend that incident never took place and denied the “inconvenient” physical evidence. What of NATO chasing a whole spate of triangle UFOs in Belgium in 1989–90 [84] and Italy [85]? France has two reports [86–87], with the first (COMETA, 1999) explicitly concluding the ET hypothesis is rational and fits the data best. Look at those reports: they are hundreds of pages. There is no lack of sightings in Europe, either.

Going back to Asia, the Chinese government just formed its own UAP task force similar to America’s after denying strenuously that any UAPs were their own tech [88]. The Chinese have already had a very clear interest in SETI [89]. Sociocultural stigmas, which are just reinforced by hyper-skeptical essays, scare off reports from those who see UAPs, creating a systematic bias that can easily explain underreporting, including low counts from some continents. This was mentioned both by the UAP task force report to the U.S. government [90], and by Christopher Mellon in his recent article [74]. Any professor should be familiar with bias that can skew survey results: typically, only the students who hate you and/or your course the most bother to take the time to fill out the student satisfaction surveys at the end of the semester, thus biasing the results low.

The concept of “reproducibility” is a hallmark of the scientific method, and so it is a common sub-argument against UAP studies: you cannot reproduce strange encounters; thus, you mustn’t study them. That reasoning is fair when applied to psychics claiming to view the future, but not to UAP. We have just established that sightings occur in different countries. There are also “common shapes,” implying reproducibility in descriptors. (Although the U.S. government thinks shapes should be classified! Why? [91])

Most damning of all: not all of the established sciences can rely on reproducibility in its most pure or direct form anyway! Take, for instance, cosmology — without access to the multiverse (if it even exists, of course), we have only 1 Universe or cosmos to study, with 1 Big Bang and 1 Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). We can do computer simulations, of course, and come close to reproducing the conditions of the Big Bang in the highest-energy particle (LHC) or ion colliders (RHIC), but that’s not the same as having multiple universes or many CMBs to study. Yet, cosmologists can still do their work. UFOlogist Dr. Bruce MacEvoy shared an analogy with me from zoology, which shows that visiting UAP hotspots is a rational strategy for reproducibility: we can think about UAP as analogous to wildlife. Watching wildlife is not always reproducible (“Do that again, monkey!”), and requires extreme patience and going to where the wildlife are, when you can’t get them into your lab — which changes the conditions anyway.

Fair Use

The most speculative but scariest argument that explains the lack of reproducibility is the possibility of non-human intelligence. Imagine if humans are lab rats trying to study scientists. How could we ever hope to succeed in outsmarting a more advanced race, one that might be capable of inducing hallucinations and spoofing sensors? [92]

(3) Interstellar travel is way too hard due to the great distances and times involved.

This argument is predicated on the assumption that UAPs are “alien craft.” At least some fraction of these objects may be natural hot plasma or gasses. Nevertheless, this is always the elephant in the room. If you wonder why: just consider that the acceleration and speeds discussed above are consistent with interstellar craft (and GOOD ones to boot!) But let us put to bed this argument once and for all, which usually goes something like this: the speed of light itself even is too slow for traveling between star systems, and we can’t go faster than light, ergo no alien visitation is possible. Without even appealing to a “warp drive” or wormholes (both perhaps possible! [17–20]), we can use known physics to address this: relativistic time dilation helps the traveler. Knuth has already shown that one can cross the Milky Way Galaxy, not in 150,000 years, but in only a few months of ship time, applying the measured (allegedly) kinematics of objects we have observed [21]. Knuth wasn’t the first to argue that one can make it across the Galaxy. It’s mystifying how otherwise-brilliant physicists on TV and YouTube forget basic special relativity, which they have surely taught to students. I used to teach Physics 3, and in that class, I would assign a simple problem to my students to show them the Andromeda galaxy, 2 million light-years away, is reachable in 1 human lifetime, going just 0.1 m/s less than ‘c’: no FTL (Faster than Light) need apply.

© Paramount Domestic Television / Fair Use

The truth is “they” CAN get here if “they” exist. It’s not too far, and it would not take too long. Perhaps some of them have been traveling at very sub-light speeds for numerous millennia (generational ships, longer-lived life forms, or AI). They may have no intention to return anywhere if their point of origin even still exists for them as such. We will revisit this argument later, but for now, let us delve deeper into the Andromeda example with math to look at NEAR-light speeds (I promise, the only challenging math in the entire essay for those non-STEM folks reading, as this article is meant to be read by a broad audience).

Consider a craft with 1g of acceleration (9.8 m/s²) as well achievable with our current tech, just not sustainable long term due to fuel requirements. Putting the fuel issue aside, we could do this today without killing the occupant. This 1g acceleration is sufficient to achieve near-light speed in 1 year [93]. High acceleration, not high speed, kills you and causes the feeling of being pressed into your seat in a rocket or even a car. The high speed would not be directly harmful. Radiation would be, and it would be worse at this speed from cosmic particles, so good shielding (beyond current tech) would be needed, but you would not “feel” the speed (in an inertial reference frame).

Beta is the ratio of your speed to the speed of light, and our example would be:

beta = 299,792,457.9 / (c or 299,792,458 m/s) = 1 minus 3.3356407 x 10^-10

where I have written 1 minus a tiny number instead of a long string of 9’s for ease of reading. Next, we must compute the Lorentz factor, or, gamma:

gamma = 1 / sqrt [ 1 — beta² ] ≈ 39,000 (amount of time dilation)

This means that if 2 million years have elapsed on Earth (a photon’s travel time to Andromeda, for a distance of 2 million LY; 1 light-year (LY) is defined as the distance that light travels in 1 year), then only 2 million divided by 39,000 or ~51 years will have elapsed for our intergalactic traveler. If they started at age 19, they might arrive by 70. Moreover, to them, the distance was only 50 LY, due to Lorentz contraction of length, not 2 million LY.

Regarding this enormous time dilation and how it would cause the loss of home and family forever, that point becomes moot if one considers an alien spacecraft not being full of naturally-evolved life but being an artificial (AI) probe without the encumbrances of leaving a civilization. I DON’T just mean “sentient AI,” but anything artificial. Voyager I, with its gold record of music and human forms and instructions on finding Earth, definitely counts.

Going artificial also drastically reduces energy requirements. Project Starshot is a real project chaired by Prof. Avi Loeb of Harvard that intends to send a spacecraft this century to Alpha Centauri, the star system with planets nearest to ours, to take photographs and send them back to Earth. This could end up being a tiny spacecraft with just a camera and a transmitter basically, accelerated up to a significant fraction of the speed of light with no onboard fuel but instead an array of high-powered lasers pointed from somewhere on Earth, like a desert, at a solar-like sail [94], with the lasers providing radiation pressure.

The next naysayer argument is about how hard this would be and the fuel it would take. I am sorry, but that is a question of very clever engineering, not of new physics, and engineers are renowned for finding clever loopholes within the “known laws” of physics. This is simply a rehash of the prior-century (obviously disproven) arguments for air travel not being possible [22] as well as space travel… even mere weeks before the launch of Sputnik [23]. Engineers have proven over and over again that what was once considered impossible is possible but just hard, and there is an infinity of differences between impossible versus just “hard.” A famous quote of unknown origin states, “Those who say that it is impossible should get out of the way of those doing it.” Let us not forget the lauded New York Times famously claiming in a 1920s editorial [24] that rockets were impossible as there’s “nothing to push against in space,” conveniently forgetting the dm/dt term of Newton’s second law (often omitted in our physics curricula, but that is a story for another time). They only issued a retraction in July of 1969 (you’ll know why!) [25].

The final sub-argument here is more of a cultural one: time dilation does mean that all of your loved ones, if not all civilizations on your world, would be long dead and gone by the time you finish your journey. This is not a scientific argument, and it anthropomorphizes potential aliens, whose thinking and motivations we may be ill-equipped to understand. As critics will simply call this a variant of the “my ways are so high above yours” or “moving in mysterious ways” argument applied to God via the Book of Job, let us instead consider real-life human examples: nomadic Pacific islanders [26]. Prof. Kevin Knuth extrapolates from them to the possibility of “space-time nomads” and to an entirely nomadic society in interstellar space [27]. So, let us move past the argument based on long distances (contracted in relativity, too) and the allegedly long times. If you repeat a non-truth enough times, it does not actually become true (looking at all who engage in confirmation bias). Please check out [121], papers on colonization by Sagan, and [122] on interstellar travel.

(4) If it IS aliens, why don’t they just land on the White House lawn and reveal themselves?

Alot to unpack there, starting with that American centrism. I am rather certain that the leaders of other nations would have a great deal to say about this. But the bigger point is: do you visit the ants in your garden and try to establish relations with them? While I certainly hope that any alien race would recognize humans as fellow sentient beings, perhaps Neil de Grasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking had it right: they’d be too advanced to ever consider us “equals” in any sense, any time soon. Moreover, perhaps other species (all of the jokes aside from Hitchhikers Guide as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) like whales, dolphins, or even octopuses may be of greater interest to any potential visitors.

Image Source: ID4 / Fair Use

More importantly… have you seen humanity lately? We’re still rather racist and sexist, among many other types of “-ist.” (And many of us are anti-science to boot: just look at humanity’s record on climate change, vaccines, etc.) Why would aliens expect to be treated with anything but extreme fear if not outright hostility, even if human weaponry are primitive compared to theirs (not necessarily the case, as they could be creatures just as mortal as us and with fallible weapons of their own [28])? Have you read much (science) fiction, which can tell us a great deal about human nature? The existence of aliens would pose an ontological security threat to politicians and governments, as stated by political scientist Prof. Alexander Wendt [29].

A fiction-based explanation I’ll mention only for fun: aliens, if real, may have a Prime Directive not allowing significant interference with “more primitive” cultures. They could be observing cautiously (as Picard and crew observed the Mintakans), but sometimes they slip up with their cloaking shields. Or, humanity is a part of a large xeno-anthropological study: “Watch this intelligent race destroy itself!” (Putin…) We can argue rationally that we aren’t ready for contact, given our tribalism and hostilities. But a stronger argument is: you can’t use an assumption about the nature/intent of ET to argue against their existence. If you want to know why aliens would ever even want to come here, and their scientific curiosity is not a good enough reason for you, then please consider Earth’s unique organic molecules, as explained in reference [125].

(5) Why would an alien spacecraft need navigational lights in outer space? That’s ridiculous since space is so vast, there is no need to avoid collisions with other spacecraft using them.

The best explanation which I’ve heard for this comes from Eric Davis (yes, THAT Eric Davis, of the Wilson Memo), who suggests they aren’t lights at all as we consider them, but just soft glows caused by the Doppler blueshift of exotic (relativistic) propulsion, or plasma in general for naturally occurring atmospheric phenomena. Far fetched? Sure, and it doesn’t explain discrete running lights that are alleged, but this is a valid hypothesis. Teachable moment: the word theory is not used the same way by scientists as it is used colloquially. It means a verifiable fact that is buttressed by a mountain of evidence (think the atomic theory, General Relativity, a.k.a. the theory of gravity, the Big Bang Theory, and evolutionary theory). It does not mean “wild-ass guess,” as in “that’s only a theory.” For that, scientists use the word hypothesis, but even that is not fair since hypotheses are often educated guesses. (Counterexamples to this definition do exist, like string theory, which has no empirical evidence. I do not wish to offend my colleagues in string theory, so I will just say that the counterexamples do muddy the waters and leave it at that.)

My colleagues feel it’s well worth mentioning that MOST sightings with lights ARE misidentification, i.e., most of the people who cry “UFO” don’t know the difference between a lamppost and Venus, less so the blinking lights on a drone or airplane. There is little doubt that many civilian reports are misidentified domestic aircraft (including bleed-over of visible light into night vision goggles) but we can consider Davis for the less explainable “glows.” Heck, bioluminescence (air/space organisms?) or ET trying to “blend in” are hypotheses.

Source: Martin Willis, Podcast UFO

(6) Isn’t it extremely improbable that aliens exist in the first place in our Galaxy? And don’t “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”? (Carl Sagan’s ECREE edict)

Aphrase from Bayesian analysis, “update your priors,” applies. We know of thousands of confirmed exoplanets, of which perhaps as many as 10 are Earth-like in the sense of being the narrow human definition of habitable, being in the “Goldilocks zone” around their host star, allowing the potential for liquid water. Of course, we won’t know about potential water (or oxygen, pollutants from civilizations, etc.) without more data from either current or new telescope projects [30–31]. Nevertheless, let's consider just the Kepler mission, extrapolating from the tiny patch of sky in which it has found only a few thousand planets. The Milky Way probably contains trillions (not billions, trillions!) of planets. We estimate as many as 20% could be Earth-like [32–33]. That doesn’t count habitable exo-moons or life not-as-we-know-it.

Kevin Knuth likes to point out that in 1947 when the UFO entered our cultural consciousness via Kenneth Arnold, Roswell, and Puget Sound, the notion of an intelligent extraterrestrial visiting Earth appeared impossible, if not ridiculous. At the time, it was 10 years before Sputnik. Space travel was not a reality, and many scientists thought it was ridiculous. We knew very little about the other planets in our Solar System aside from their atmospheres or lack thereof. And more importantly, we didn’t even know if other stars had planets. Given what we now know, our expectations ought to have changed, and we’re likely closer to the truth by assuming that Earth is not very unique.

Biologically speaking — simplistic life may not be that rare. Life may have started and stopped multiple times on our own Earth, being completely wiped out more than once [34]. Perhaps life is actually extremely resilient, not at all as impossibly rare as we once thought. Again, let us update our “priors,” in this case, using the latest biochemistry. Life may only need some tide pools (so a big moon helps) with the right chemical cocktail collecting in them [35]. There are plenty of ways to monkey with the Drake Equation, for which many of the parameters are not as unknown as they were decades earlier [36], and get reasonable numbers for intelligent civilizations, far from zero. Monte Carlo simulations help more [37].

As for ECREE, who is it who gets to define what is extraordinary: science, the public, everyone? Who in science exactly, since it is not monolithic? I often struggle to convince scientists, including other physicists, of the very likely reality of dark matter [38]. What counts as evidence? In my own field, is gravitational and cosmological evidence sufficient for dark matter? I find that the most powerful scientists at the top-listed and richest universities get to define what “extraordinary” means or does not mean. Combining quotes from Prof. Avi Loeb and Rich Hoffman (SCU), I say, “extraordinary claims require extraordinarily well-funded investigations.” Keepers of scientific dogma reign everywhere and insist on the ET hypothesis being bunk without investigating, and remember how sometimes yesterday’s fringe will become tomorrow’s facts, once the scientific dogmatism and elitism are broken through — atoms (tiny, invisible particles?!), germs (tiny monsters that make you sick?!) and hand-washing, and a constant ‘c’ (in vacuum) come to mind. The history of science and its lessons are often forgotten. Truth isn’t democratic.

The Fermi Paradox is resolved trivially if “they” are already here or if we apply the zoo hypothesis or the difficulty in interstellar travel. There is no “paradox” at all, and I hate hearing it called that. It is no more paradoxical than the Twin Paradox, only a paradox for those who fail to comprehend the math behind special relativity. Speaking of which: despite my time-dilation argument earlier, I, of course, still admit that interstellar travel will not be easy for anyone. However, hard and impossible are light-years apart. But I must agree with Neil de Grasse Tyson that the U in UAP or UFO just means Unidentified — jumping to alien spacecraft right away is also wrong. Note, however, that Argument (1) was very general.

Regarding the Fermi Paradox again, keep in mind that Enrico Fermi asked, “where is everybody?” precisely because he EXPECTED that they ought to be here! He was puzzled by the fact that they did not seem to be. Ironically, at that time, Fermi was in Los Alamos, which was buzzing with UFOs, along with White Sands, where we had started a program to use Askania Theodolites to photograph them! [74]

On the topic of aliens, however, I do wish to turn “ECREE” around: the claim “we are alone” is itself extraordinary, and I have yet to see any scientific evidence presented to me for it. In fact, the evidence all seems to go the other way, starting with the first discoveries of exoplanets in the 1980s-90s (in fact, today, we know the “M-class” worlds of Star Trek are so very common that fiction was not optimistic enough, even though when I was young I thought Trek was being TOO optimistic regarding the commonness of earth-like habitable planets in our Galaxy, as they seemed to find one every few light-years). Aliens are not the same type of unbelievable claim as psychic phenomena since we already have an exemplar from which to work: sentient life on Earth! The secondary claim that it would be too hard for them to get to Earth may not be “extraordinary,” but it’s a belief that is also unsupported by any scientific evidence. Don’t forget the doctors who used to move from autopsy to surgery or baby delivery just to make a point that germs were only a non-scientific superstition! [95] Or those who died of COVID still thinking that it was made up [96], or the scientists worried about global cooling instead of warming in the 1970s [97], or the chemists and physicists who considered for centuries that atoms were convenient mathematical tools, epistemological not ontic, like the Copernican model, to avoid persecution. But when something is risky or important, regular evidence should suffice versus the ill-defined extraordinary variety.

(7) If UFOs are real, then why don’t commercial airline pilots report them, not just military, and why don’t astronomers whose job it is to monitor the sky frequently see them too?

This is similar to saying UFOs are strictly American. Do your homework! Pilots [98] and astronomers [99] see them but are often (in the past especially) afraid to report them due to ridicule. Reports may number in the hundreds: the taboo makes it hard to get good stats. Ben Hansen found a recent one [100], so I don’t even have to go digging into classic encounters like JAL flight 1628, which was covered on the NBC nightly news with Tom Brokaw [101]. The JAL pilot’s life was ruined by his honesty. Another more recent case involved an American Airlines flight and a cigar-shaped object [102]. It’s also important to note: astronomers, depending on sub-field, don’t just stare at the sky all night, or they focus upon a tiny sliver. We must also not forget the many stories from America’s astronauts [118,119].

(8) Why has SETI not (yet) succeeded if “they” are out there?

I’ll begin with a story: some Pacific islanders decided to test whether other intelligent civilizations existed by sending up some smoke signals; when they received no response from known nearby islands, they concluded that they were alone “in the universe” (given their own definition of the universe) [39]. Even if apocryphal, this story is an illustrative parable. What if radio signals are as primitive to advanced civilizations as smoke is to modern humans?* We need to expand our horizons to lasers, gammas, etc. What if advanced civilizations use something we have not even invented yet, something non-electromagnetic, akin perhaps to the fictional “subspace communication” of Star Trek or the (FTL) “ansible” of science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin? Magnetic vector potential communications are another possibility, capitalizing upon the quantum-mechanical Aharanov-Bohm effect [40].

* We have been throwing out our own smoke signals in radio bands, which travel at the speed of light, since the late 1930s, which means only a VERY small fraction of the Galaxy has been alerted to our presence by our radio signals.

I have heard the arguments for starting with radio, and it is fine to do so, assuming that intelligent civilizations go through a stage of utilizing some form of E&M for communication. I support SETI efforts. I just wish astronomers would stop speaking negatively of UAPs [41]. LIGO [42] used to be slammed as too expensive and doomed to fail. It succeeded, to the benefit of multiple fields. I wish SETI folks could be more positive about this topic, but they likely fear being considered pseudoscientists and losing funding.

Again: the civilizations that may or may not be out there may not wish to communicate with us for reasons already delineated earlier. We are still unable to treat all members of the human race as being from the same race, so how would we treat members of a race that is legitimately “alien” to humanity? With fear and loathing.

We may at least be able to find alien/ET artifacts (exo-archaeology, Loeb), but SETI astronomers, while content with looking for “technosignatures” on the Moon or further out in our Solar System are reluctant to do so on Earth itself. Why? Could it be our hubris and insecurities about being the “top dogs,” and improbabilities are made into excuses? I thought that considering humans as the pinnacle of creation was a religious idea, not scientific. I wonder whatever happened to the Copernican Principle: isn’t it likely that Earth is average?

Image Source:

To be fair, some would argue that the existence of the very word “extraterrestrial” in the acronym SETI precludes searching for aliens on Earth. Perhaps having them look here would be akin to going to McDonald’s for a rib eye: it is outside of their scope. I’d say that if the extraterrestrials become terrestrial by coming here, then that is not the case. I’m not alone in this thinking: a couple of very brave SETI astronomers, Drs. Jacob Haqq Misra and Ravi Kopparapu agree with me [103]. Back to the astro-archeology point: we do not have to restrict our scope to living civilizations. Perhaps we will be able to locate artifacts, even advanced ones, of non-human intelligent races. In fact, astronomy has always been like archaeology in an important way.

The recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has brought awareness to the fact that astronomers have always been “stuck” studying the past rather than what is “currently” happening. When I teach astronomy, especially as a general education course for non-STEM majors, I always like to emphasize to my students (blowing their minds?) that astronomy is and has always been a form of time traveling due to the fact that the speed of light ‘c’ is finite (not instantaneous, infinite velocity). If you gaze upon a distant galaxy 1 billion light-years away, you are looking at it as it was 1 billion years ago! This is one of the reasons astronomers as well as cosmologists are able to say so much about the distant-past history and evolution of our Universe with such confidence, despite “not having been there.”

Our examples don’t even have to be so extreme: when you look at the Sun (not directly, please) that is NOT the Sun now but the Sun as it was over 8 minutes ago, and if you look at the Moon, that is what it looked like over a second ago, due to the time it takes light to travel. Looking at your computer or phone screen reading this essay, you are looking at what your screen was a tiny fraction of a second ago, as the photons from the screen must reach your eyes. What does this mean for SETI, back to our main point on Argument (8)? It means that if we observed a civilization 100 light-years away, right now, using the JWST (city lights, evidence of chemical disequilibrium in their atmosphere, etc.) that appeared to be at or close to our own level of technological advancement, then they are already 100 years more advanced than we are “right now!” The finite speed of light also means that there is no such thing as a universal “now”: we know from special relativity that simultaneity is an illusion. Future Mars missions will be forced to deal with communication delays of multiple minutes even when Mars is at its closest to Earth.

An episode of the original Star Trek series handles the science on this point extremely correctly [104] with an alien using a high-res powerful telescope to look at Earth and seeing it centuries earlier, then acting confused how humans have arrived using the warp drive. Putting warp (FTL) speed aside, which would allow for this situation to happen, this was accurate in the sense that going to a planet hundreds of light-years away and looking back at Earth, you would see it that many hundreds of years in the past, assuming your equipment could collect enough photons. Let’s go to the extreme of billions of light-years away: space can expand faster than the speed of light, and so within a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, the observable radius from Earth is not simply 13.8 billion LY; we’ve, in fact, already observed objects >13 billion light-years away with the JWST.

(9) Speaking of artifacts, if we have crash parts, why haven’t we reverse-engineered them?

I’ll start by saying how skeptical I am of actual non-human crashed craft parts being in our possession, for this reason: if “they” are really advanced, they sure seem to crash a lot, and potentially more often than human planes?! (Kevin Knuth jokes there is a memorial on some distant world “for all those lives lost on Sol III.”) But more seriously: the counter-argument is that atmospheric travel is more difficult than outer space travel (not relativistic travel where a dust mote could destroy your ship at 0.99999+ times c), the non-humans are not used to travel in our air, etc. I don’t find these arguments compelling.

But what I find more compelling is the story of Mr. Anthony Bragalia, whose FOIA request, after years of fighting, was finally honored by the Pentagon in Feb. 2021 [43]. He specifically worded his request as seeking results of tests on any UFO wreckage recovered/stored by us. Instead of saying “none” as the answer, the DOD sent him over 150 pages on shape-memory alloys, cloaking, metamaterials, and other old or cutting-edge science [44]. While they do not explicitly admit to these being alien or non-human, this is kind of like pleading the Fifth Amendment to me. You may not be guilty, but the suspicion is there. I continue to be flabbergasted that this FOIA story wasn’t front-page news across the country and the world. I have only been able to find the story in small news outlets thus far [45].

The X-Files

The question of possession of crash parts came up in the most recent Congressional hearing on UAPs [46], the first in over half a century, where the Defense Department denied having any. Putting aside the fact that lying to Congress is a serious crime, I think they told the truth, but in a sneaky way: if we have anything, they would be distributed across private companies as government contractors and sub-contractors, buried deep and FOIA-exempt by definition (corporations, non-governmental). While I commend Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) for pressing this issue, as well as the one of UAP shutting down our nuclear missile silos (surely a national security issue) he could have asked a follow-up tough question about this private company holdings loophole too. In Dr. Diana Pasulka’s excellent book American Cosmic [47], which I highly recommend, is a story of a real engineer collecting strange metallic crash parts in the New Mexico desert (not Roswell, but a different incident) that I find compelling even without the peer-reviewed evidence. It is worth exploring further.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, we have parts. Where is the tech from them? If you read those documents Bragalia received, we apparently DID get some, but let us put him aside for the sake of argument. An analogy I like to use is this: give a modern laptop to one of the greatest minds of the 1890s — such as Michael Faraday. He had discovered much of what we know today about electromagnetism, but how long do you think it would take him to figure out a computer? He’d probably die before being successful. Once the computer battery died and he had no power outlet, his progress, if any, would slow down a great deal. One of my SCU friends makes a more extreme analogy: Aristotle with an iPad screen talking about various colored “humors,” but I am a little more optimistic regarding human scientific progress, even if we compare to ET, who might be centuries or even multiple millennia ahead of us, as we at least have relativity and quantum mechanics now. There is surely much more to discover about our universe (dark matter, dark energy, etc.), but the tiny sliver of it that we do know about, we do seem to know rather well. Given our strong understanding of atoms and electrons, for example, you are reading this on a screen.

The bottom line remains the same: we may be like Faraday or Maxwell with a PC. Kevin Knuth suggested to Dr. Hal Puthoff that the alleged “metamaterials” we possess were somehow part of a complicated navigational computer (for tracking stars moving around the Galaxy, over the eons, in its rest frame) and not anything to do with propulsion. Hal responded, “Kevin, we wouldn’t know the difference between a computer and a sandwich.”

Image Source:

(10) OK, maybe *some* UAP are advanced craft, BUT they’re manmade: perhaps black ops?

Secret black-money programs always come up, but putting aside the multiple leaps in technology and potentially physics knowledge that would be needed, let’s analyze this with just logic. I’ll answer this question with some of my own (rhetorical) questions. If the U.S. has this tech, why did we lose in Afghanistan? Why would we lose any war, ever? Why don’t we send “tic tacs” to Ukraine? Why would we toy with our own pilots, including in war zones? [48] That is both illegal and unethical. Why aren’t those same pilots flying the best stuff, graduates of our (real-life) “Top Gun” academy? Why would we bother continuing to operate fixed-wing aircraft? Why waste the time and $$ if we have something so much better in our possession already?? And why not show this off to Russia and China? Lastly: why would we return to the moon 60 years later with 1960s propulsion technology?

I will grant that there is historical precedent for this, but in much less dramatic ways, such as adaptive optics, employed first by the Navy then rediscovered by astronomers for telescopes 30 years later [49]. The crucial fact there is that civilian scientists eventually discovered the technique on their own. Human nature also provides a natural time limit to any “conspiracy,” inversely proportional to the number of people involved [50]. People violate Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). People steal and leak classified documents. Why are most of the people coming forward talking about craft operated by a non-human intelligence and not black ops?

Circling back to my “multiple leaps” claim, I can already hear debunkers shouting at me that the only “evidence” which backs up those technological leaps comes from anecdotes and not empirical evidence. You can just say, “we have no proof of anything violating laws of aerodynamics outside of anecdata.” We do have radar evidence, all classified, since we don’t want unfriendly nations learning about U.S. radar capabilities. Some of the radar data is hearsay (although not all: see again JAL flight 1628). But even if it weren’t, you can always hide behind claims of glitches upon glitches and plead Occam’s Razor. Let’s consider a list of counter-arguments.

  • There are hundreds, if not thousands, of UAP witnesses. Many of their reports could still be wrong, but we can restrict ourselves to the few dozen sightings that are both the oddest and most credible.

  • Expanding on that first point — government and military personnel have come forward. If UAP are neither a national security threat nor a flight safety risk, our government would be incompetent and irresponsible for holding the recent UAP hearings. Those with the authority to have classified data treat UAP very seriously. We should not dismiss them purely because we lack that data.

  • There are cases with physical evidence (beyond images/videos) like Socorro, NM [105] and Delphos, KS [106], to name only two: photographs of burnt rocks and hydrophobic molecules that caused negative health effects, respectively.

  • Why would those coming forward lie and get their careers ruined? (e.g., Senior Chief Kevin Day [107]) Witnesses do NOT all become rich and famous.

  • But perhaps the best explanation is from Christopher Mellon, formerly of the Defense Department, whose recent article made many of the same points as I do, often more eloquently. He writes:

There is a fundamental difference in evidentiary standards between the national security community and scientists and academics. Scientists strive to formulate hypotheses that can be tested and disproven; they then publish their results so others can independently replicate their findings. This time-honored approach, combined with free markets and freedom of speech and association, underpins our prosperity and incredible advances in health and living standards. This disciplined approach generally works well in a laboratory or observatory, but the national security community does not always have the luxury of working with inert materials or controlled environments. In fact, the organizations and individuals national security analysts study are often diligently working to confuse and deceive us. Policymakers also do not always have the luxury of deferring conclusions or action until conclusive data is available. These disparate standards and circumstances sometimes lead to contrasting reactions to the same information.” - Christopher Mellon [74]

We should have some degree of confidence in the individuals sworn to protect the United States, even if most of them are not scientists. I find trusting them to be less objectionable morally and more logical than considering so many service members to be either liars or grossly mistaken. Scientists’ mistrust of non-scientists is not a new problem, despite the fact that most experimental/observational science is based on witness testimony at the root level — we rely on honest presentation of data. Meteorites are one of my favorite analogies for UAP: stories of meteorites were viewed with suspicion for a long time by natural philosophers since “of course, rocks do not fall from the sky!” Substitute: “of course aliens can’t come here; it is common sense!” (Although common sense also incorrectly tells you that heavier objects fall faster and that non-motion is the more natural state.)

I consider some of these examples “failures” of Occam’s Razor, which Agent Fox Mulder of The X-Files famously called “Occam’s Principle of Limited Imagination,” [108] or at least of the version everyone seems to quote. It’s not as simple as saying that the most concise explanation “tends” to work the best (and where is that in the scientific method?). Instead, this philosophical principle states that the most concise explanation that still fits all trustworthy data (underscoring the data-collection role of UAPx and others) tends to be true. Here’s one example I use when teaching the basic tenets of critical thinking within the context of science: the ancient Greeks’ five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and ether sure sound a lot simpler than either the Periodic Table of over 100 chemical elements or the Standard Model from particle physics (simplifying to 17 fundamental, subatomic particles but still missing dark matter).

Fair Use

All of this shows we do need to collect open data, like UAPx and other all-civilian organizations (both scientists and non-scientists, including current and former engineers, military, and law enforcement) are already doing; we don’t need to wait for government declassification or disclosures. Skeptical scientists should engage in peer review of the data instead of making snap judgments justified by “common sense” or Occam’s Razor.

Returning to my list of rhetorical questions: Occam’s Razor may indeed point to toying with our own pilots. That happens, and a UAPx member has pointed out to me that it happens a lot, confiding in me a personal example. The USG has a long history of chicanery. From putting infantry into ditches to “watch” nuclear explosions to so-called “blue-on-blue” unannounced exercises which occur outside of test ranges, our government’s ethics regarding its own people is suspect at best. Harming of non-military personnel is another ballgame, however; I direct readers to the famed Cash-Landrum tale, where civilians actually received cancer from alleged UAP exposure [109]. It’s not unheard of for our government to perform harmful tests outside the military (MKUltra, Tuskegee…) I hope that unethically messing with our pilots is an improbable solution. But the goal is the truth, regardless of how comfortable the truth is. Even if it isn’t little green (well, you know, gray) men, there is a scientific mystery to investigate.

To more fully respond to the black ops claim, I point back to the lack of use of extraordinary technology in real wars. What are we waiting for?! And why is America still losing wars? Don’t forget those claims of UAPs shutting down nuclear silos [110]. It would be really handy to shut off Russian missiles when their use is threatened [111]. Again: people are not coming forward talking about being black ops pilots or remote operators; there have been numerous denials from all levels of government of late that UAP are not ours, and conspiracies should have natural half-lives to decay. I do understand why people come out to talk about UAP but not black ops: there may be fewer penalties for talking about UAP. In fact, imposing an official sanction would be nearly the same as an admission of their significance. But to talk about black ops is a direct violation of national security and lands one in an Outside the Continental U.S. (OCONUS) prison, off the grid. That being said, NDAs on UAP have been alleged by both Lue Elizondo [112] plus some Nimitz witnesses [113]. So there’s a good deal of food for thought for a thoughtful reader to digest.

Remember, last summer’s UAP task force report explicitly said the craft (if, again, that is indeed what they are, not atmospheric phenomena) are not American. I know that is what they would have to say to keep a project secret. But again, telling a substantial lie like this to Congress is a felony. Many principal individuals have been asked, and they have consistently denied that UFOs are secret U.S. government vessels.

While it’s a felony to lie to Congress I must mention the 2007 study finding only 6 convictions in the previous 60 years based upon perjury or related charges [114] related to Congress; if a topic is a state secret, there is little chance of a concerted effort to expose the truth when a program is designed to be hidden. But this also indicates a low chance of success in prosecuting anyone coming forward with black ops stories. The arrest/disappearance of a whistleblower would eventually be ferreted out by someone on the internet and thus become evidence of the government admitting there was something to what they had said. OR — they could be left to be a laughingstock to ensure people think they are crazy. We can run in circles forever, but the recent effort seeking immunity for relevant parties may make this discussion moot soon [115].

The last cop-out I often hear is the U.S. needs to say “they” are not ours to increase defense budgets. Given how impressive the feats are that certain UAP may have performed, that seems a bit backwards to me: why not show off, then ask for money to make more? Moreover, does a trillion-dollar budget department really need greater funding? Just human nature to seek money? For specific programs? Nevertheless, I’m skeptical. If I had the same budget as DOD in my field of experimental astroparticle physics, I probably would have not only found dark matter with my collaborators by now, but we would have dark-matter-powered ships for you! (It is sad how tiny a percent the basic research budget is compared to… well, anything else, especially defense.)

(11) Maybe UAP are Russian or Chinese?

Ifso, it would seem odd that the Russians are still suffering losses in Ukraine and the Chinese haven’t swarmed Taiwan. Attacking this issue from another angle: there is a scene in a recent documentary by Caroline Cory, A Tear in the Sky [51], in which I referred to the specific episode of the History Channel show Unidentified about newly declassified documents which refer to 50-ft. flying white butane tanks in the 1940s and 50s. They sure sound a lot like 40-ft. tic tacs! Coincidence? If not, then Russia and China sure recovered fast from WWII and, in the latter case, a civil war, really fast, and have had far better technology than America for nearly a century. How likely is that when so much Russian tech is outclassed (again, just look at Ukraine)? Critically: radar jamming was alleged for at least one UAP incident [116]. That not only implies some sort of signature management but that is also an act of war against the United States. Would that be so casually dismissed?

(12) Aren’t eyewitnesses unreliable? Countless studies have shown this to be factually true.

Yes and no. An average eyewitness will fail to see the gorilla, true [52]. But there are outliers who are stupendously bad eyewitnesses and also outliers who are very accurate eyewitnesses. Like many qualities of living beings as well as inanimate objects, this skill may lie along a Gaussian distribution, known as a bell curve. The idea of a trained observer is surely not a myth: wouldn’t law enforcement and military personnel forced to have situational awareness be less likely to be mistaken or miss something compared to an “average” human being? Certainly, if their lives depended on it — which they do. This should especially hold true for our Naval/Air Force pilots who must identify the country of origin and type of distant fast-moving aircraft on the fly. They’re trained to do so. Numerous psychological studies have shown that memory can be improved with training [53]. It’s not static. But it’s not only about training: the point of the gorilla study was to show how we’re blind to some stimuli when paying attention to others. Using this against witnesses such as pilots conveniently neglects the point that they were paying attention to the UFO, and so weren’t going to be blind to it.

Fair Use

Speaking of psych: you always hear debunkers talk about mass hallucination. I have spoken with multiple trained psychologists about this possibility. Guess what? There is no such thing. It is a myth. I challenge any psychologist or psychiatrist with a Ph.D., an MD, or both, to send me a single scientific paper that shows in a controlled study that this phenomenon exists: i.e., two or more individuals experiencing the same hallucination at the same time. Surely that would require telepathy, which is crazier than UFOs? The best I’ve been able to find is [54] but combing through the bibliography, there’s no seminal study underneath it. So, besides images streaming from mind to mind, the only other notion I can come up with is a dominant personality convincing someone to see what they’re seeing too, but can that (hypothetical) effect be extended to multiple people over a long time period?

Coming back to the “trained observers” point: in law enforcement, training will be on body language, bulges in shirts concealing weapons, make and model of vehicles, etc. As a police officer for 12 years, a member of UAPx has told me, “never once did I undergo a class that taught me the difference between a 747 reflecting moonlight and Mars.” So this may not be a solid argument for police observing UFOs, but pilots observing their environment for known dangers and obstacles should surely be able to identify aircraft quickly. They are explicitly trained to do so [117]. While they are not trained to identify the unknown, a logical impossibility of course since if it’s unknown, then it’s un-trainable, the process of elimination is powerful. I think it’s laughable that, together with IR/radar, our finest pilots would mistake the exhaust of a distant jet for something truly odd.

“…hundreds of UAP were being observed by all manner of personnel in the vicinity of Los Alamos at precisely the time Dr. Fermi was professing bafflement over a perceived absence of alien life. The UAP evidence included numerous reports by trained observers, pilots, scientists, and security personnel, as well as photographs and even radar tracks and theodolite measurements.” -Christopher Mellon [74]
“Unidentified Aerial Phenomena are a potential national security threat, and they need to be treated that way. For too long the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis. Pilots avoided reporting or [were] laughed at when they did. DoD [Department of Defense] officials relegated the issue to the back room or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community. Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained. It’s true, but they are real. They need to be investigated and [the] many threats they pose need to be mitigated.” -Andre Carson (D-IN) during the UAP hearing.

(13) There are no peer-reviewed scientific publications in high-impact journals on UAP so it is all garbage, QED. Harrumph, harrumph.

There is a paradox here: there are no journals that will allow UAP publications. Thus, in short: there are no publications, since no one is permitted to study UAP without jeering and rejection of any attempts at submitting publications. Why are UAPs made fun of, and publications about them rejected? Because there are no existing publications! The Catch-22 should be blatantly obvious. The scientific method is surely about being curious and studying nature, not using your own personal biases and dogmas to avoid doing any study in the first place. There are some articles that made it through review, but unfortunately, most are in rather poor-quality (“crackpot”) journals. The exceptions, however, are outstanding [55, 56, 123]. (A criticism of Kevin’s paper is that he was the chief editor of the journal. He recused himself from any decision as the author, which is standard procedure, but even so, see above about the circularity which has to be broken somehow.*) It really is impossible to accomplish anything sans funding, and there are NO programs at the NSF or DOE, e.g., to fund civilian UAP research. If this was truly garbage, you would not have a renowned Harvard professor looking into UAPs [57]. But debunkers consider their blog posts and YouTube videos to be rigorous and trustworthy.

After I started writing, respected preprint database arXiv approved a paper on UAP by Ukrainian astronomers [58] for inclusion. Even if their work does not pass peer review, it’s a sign of stigma reduction that arXiv accepted it at all. Another recent article in The Hill (politics, not science, but pertinent) reports that Congress is specifically not investigating “human” craft, implying that the UAP task force is only studying non-human craft! [59]

* Not the whole story. Kevin’s paper started as a conference proceeding. The conference organizers were guest editors for the special journal issue hosting invited, extended-length papers based on the conference proceedings. The guest editors (conference organizers) had total editorial control of that issue, which Kevin refused to be involved in.


I never explained why I’m interested in UAP myself. The arguments against UFOs have always stayed the same. It’s something mundane; it’s an enemy aircraft, a hoax, a hallucination, etc. But the data have piled up to such a degree that I am no longer convinced by these arguments. At best: they discredit only one aspect of a case. What are the chances the most advanced radar systems in the world and IR tracking cameras from the world’s most advanced military, supported by a trillion-dollar budget, malfunctioned at the same time when multiple pilots all happened to imagine the exact same thing or agreed to all fabricate the exact same story, one that would hurt their careers? They didn’t want to become famous. This is such a lengthy string of improbabilities, even if one discounts the eyewitness testimonies (which as shown earlier should still be considered as data, not entirely discredited, despite being imperfect). The debunkers then default to human civilian aircraft even when records show none in the area, or seagulls with such perfect feathery insulation that they show up on IR as being in equilibrium with the air or colder, both physically impossible from the standpoint of thermodynamics. I started being interested in UFOs as a child, and came back to it full circle later in life after focusing on “real” science first (in quotes as I think UFOs/UAP can and should be “real science” too). Currently I work on dark matter, which itself is not universally accepted, even within the scientific community.

But we must differentiate between a skeptic and a debunker: good scientists should always be skeptical and stand up for scientific truth, but never attempt to rewrite facts to suit our own comfy worldview when we find them challenging. Kevin had a colleague (a mathematician) stand up at a conference and say this is all ridiculous and that even if aliens landed in his yard, he still wouldn’t “believe,” a word that shouldn’t be used within science. I became a scientist to have my worldview challenged — not confirmed. We should deal with the facts and evidence (let’s not say “proof,” given that we are not mathematicians) wherever they lead. Astronomer Dr. Fred Hoyle once said, “I don’t see the logic of rejecting data just because they seem incredible.” (Ironically, he himself rejected all of the data and evidence on the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, which supported the Big Bang Theory, as it invalidated his pet theory of cosmology, the “eternal” or steady state universe.)

I strive for balance, between immediately accepting versus immediately rejecting any “crazy” idea, like the ET hypothesis for UAP. In our modern-day society, polarization to the extremes seems to be the norm. As a scientist, being told I am not allowed to study something because it is taboo makes me furious. That being said, I am certainly not going to sit here and tell you that we have definitive evidence of “alien spacecraft” operating in Earth’s atmosphere. But I will tell you that we have definitive evidence that “The Phenomenon,” whatever it is, is real and worth studying. Crackpots have enthusiastically filled the vacuum created by the lack of serious scientists and engineers being involved in the study of UAP. Not all UAP enthusiasts are crazy; given recent governmental admissions, they’re probably all owed a few apologies for being lied to and being called insane for many decades. Dr. Garry Nolan, a Nobel Prize nominee and world-renowned immunologist, recently said as much when discussing his work with the government on radiation damage in military personnel encountering UAP [60, 61].

Even if nothing comes from studying UAP, despite the work of many scientists and new scientific collaborations, we can at least ignite the next generation's imagination. That happened to me: I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and ended up becoming a real scientist after idolizing Lt. Cmdr. Data, the android science officer. So, even if FTL warp drives and wormholes aren’t real right now, or at least not connected with any aliens visiting Earth, the study of UAP may inspire someone to invent them.

“For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, / Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be…” — Alfred Lord Tennyson (1842) as quoted on the bridge of the USS Voyager (Star Trek)

I fear the impact of UAP denialism on trust in science in general. If “believers” are consistently mocked and eyewitnesses disregarded, and then it becomes widely admitted that the mainstream narrative was wrong, why would the general public ever trust the scientific establishment again?

Could we be looking at the biggest “see I told you so” within scientific history or even human history in general? If there’s even the slightest chance we’re dealing with non-human intelligence, it would have profound implications for our society. I call this a “zero times infinity” type gamble. The return is probably nothing (zero), but if something is found, it could be earth-shattering (infinity), making it worth the risks: the risk of finding nothing and the risk to one’s scientific reputation. Many argue that UFOs are inextricably linked to the “paranormal,” e.g., ghosts and telepathy, but I disagree. Even if they are, we can take a modular approach. Let us start with some nuts and bolts by, for example, considering seriously the hypothesis that some tiny fraction of UAP may be craft designed, constructed, and operated by some form of non-human sentience. This hypothesis is arguably even testable. I’d like to at least start there, and then we could move on to the more speculative stuff like alleged alien abductions. Data taking could include cameras and other sensors in the bedroom, given the claim of repeat abductions by abductees/contactees/experiencers; we can even test CE5 claims by doing it many, many times, and differently as control.

I will conclude by asking if you have ever heard of the tragedy of Mikolus Westus the Wise? While a designer of parlor games and not a natural philosopher by training, he was able to explain away the four large moons of Jupiter allegedly discovered by Galileo as lens flares in the telescope. After all, are you not aware of optical effects seen in lenses and atmospheric effects? Those so-called ”moons” could have been “anything”! Maybe birds or kites. After all, the accumulation of multiple anomalies has never led to a scientific paradigm shift before!

The Galilean moons of Jupiter

Of course, it has [62]. It is my fervent hope that readers will share the arguments made here the next time a debunker is bugging you about all UFO pictures being fuzzy or interstellar travel being too hard. Don’t let them get away with that any longer! Fire back politely. If you need more ammunition, look at the quotes of Congressmen leaving classified UAP briefings saying they thought they were getting briefed on “Ezekiel’s wheels” or were watching what seemed like sci-fi videos for hours [63, 64]. In a 180-degree change of policy, NASA has commissioned a study on UAP [65] after positive remarks by its administrator, Bill Nelson [66].

So, that means that multiple government agencies are looking at this now, on top of the many private organizations driven by civilians, citizen scientists, professional scientists, or a mixture of all of the above. Consider [67–69], which are only some of the most recent. Other organizations go back decades. Ideally, I hope that many of these, which create an alphabet soup of organizational acronyms, will stop stretching the existing resources thin. Increased collaboration, combined with a balance of some outright mergers versus healthy competition between approaches, such as different sensor suites and analysis techniques, will benefit the science. But, currently, there are just too many groups when money and researchers willing to study UAP are scarce. I guess everyone wants to be the first to win the Nobel Prize for solving the UFO mystery, and who would want to share?

People ask if I “believe in UFOs” or “believe that UFOs are real.” Even my scientific colleagues, who should know better, ask this, and I cannot emphasize enough how much I loathe that question. “Belief” isn’t enough for me. As a scientist, I want to KNOW. That’s only problem number one. The second problem with that question is that it comes with the assumption of alien spacecraft buried underneath the question, when again that ‘U’ simply means unidentified or unknown. It just means we don’t know — initially. That’s it! There are also different levels of identifications (for example, “bird” versus “seagull,” which is more specific). Classification is not binary; we are probably dealing with multiple different phenomena here. Let us work together, though, to turn more UFOs into IFOs, whatever they may be.

“The world of UFOs and UAPs and aliens in general is foreign to me because of the high ratio of outlandish conspiracy theorists to actual hard evidence. I’m a scientist first and foremost, but an open-minded one, often looking and thinking outside the box. I’m often disheartened by the close-mindedness of the scientific community, and in equal part, by the lack of rigor and basic scientific inquiry and study on the part of the conspiracy theorists. I believe there is a line somewhere between the two extremes that more inquisitive minds should walk. I think we humans know very little about our world, what’s out there among the stars, the nature of reality, and the nature of our very own minds. The path to understanding can only be walked humbly. The very idea that there’s a possibility that David [retired US Navy pilot David Fravor] witnessed a piece of technology, whether human-made or alien-made, that moved in the way it did, should be inspiring to every scientist and engineer on this Earth. There may be propulsion and energy systems yet to be understood that once understood and mastered, will put distant galaxies in reach of us human beings. Paradigm shifts in science and leaps in understanding can only happen I think if we open our eyes and allow ourselves to dream, to think from first principles, and remove the constraints on innovations placed on us by the scientific conventions and assumptions of prior generations.” -Lex Fridman, MIT computer scientist, as transcribed from his podcast by Robert Naeye

About the Author:

Dr. Matthew Szydagis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University at Albany SUNY (State University of New York). He holds a BA (2005), MS (2006), and Ph.D. (defended 2010) from the University of Chicago in physics, with a specialization in astrophysics & astronomy. From 2010–2014 he was a postdoctoral scholar working on the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) dark matter experiment and LBNE (Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment) at the University of California Davis. Since 2014, he’s been at UAlbany, SUNY (Assistant Professor 2014–20, Associate 2020-present). His “day job” is experimental astroparticle physics: in particular, rare-event searches — especially direct detection of dark matter with LZ, and detector development. He is the co-discoverer with Prof. Cecilia Levy of the snowball chamber for radiation detection. He is a member of UAPx (, whose members he thanks for a thorough review of this article and for contributing new ideas. He is the father of four nerdy children and husband to a wonderful wife who happens to be a great copy editor who fine-tuned this whole essay. Isn’t she great? (Yes, she wrote that part.)



[2]; and

























































[59] ;





















[80] ;


[82] ;







[89] ; ;




[93] ; ;






[99] ;






[105]; The UFO Encyclopedia 3rd Edition, edited by Jerry Clark





[110] ;

[111] ;









[120] Cynthia Hind, “UFOS over Africa”

[121] ;

[122] ;

[123] Nolan, G.P., Vallée, J.F., Jiang, S., and Lemke, L.G., 2022. Improved instrumental techniques, including isotopic analysis, applicable to the characterization of unusual materials with potential relevance to aerospace forensics. Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 128, page 100788.

[124] Lecture Notes For Lecture About Flying Saucers, 1954, Hermann Oberth


For Further Reading / Viewing,,,

266 views0 comments