US Navy drafting new guidelines for reporting UFOs

These days, few educated people are dismissive of the idea that, elsewhere in the galaxy, there may be advanced technological civilizations capable of space travel.  We have no actual evidence for believing that there are, but the notion seems eminently plausible nonetheless.

When the United States Navy and Air Force affirm that eyewitness reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) can no longer be ignored, it is worthwhile for the rest of us to take notice.  For decades, pilots, both civilian and military, have been aware that pilots who reported having seen UFOs were often labeled as mentally unstable.  For a professional pilot, such a label can end a career.  Therefore, when pilots saw unknown aircraft performing maneuvers of which no known aircraft are capable, they often made no report of the sighting.

Now the cat is out of the bag.  The reports are being officially acknowledged as worthy of respectful investigation.  The downside to this is that the "I told you so" enthusiasts will predictably come to the fore, vying with each other to produce the most spectacular accounts; little green men will become fashionable once again.  At the other extreme, skeptics will struggle to find a "normal" explanation for the abnormal sightings, such as optical illusions or even hoaxes. 

Is there a middle ground?

The temptation is to speculate that some of the sightings are of spacecraft from faraway planets.  Even Oumuamua, the asteroid that streaked through our solar system from another star system, was closely evaluated by astronomers for any indication that it was intelligently manufactured or directed.

Throughout history, mysteries of the unknown were explained in terms of the known (or believed).  In the 1800s, UFOs were reported to be flying ships, ships of the wooden sailing vessel variety.  In medieval times, there were reports of witches flying on brooms.  In modern times, supposed alien spaceships are assumed to be piloted by alien pilots, because our own aircraft are manned by pilots.

The reality, if and when it becomes known, may turn out to be something entirely different from what our experience leads us to extrapolate.

For the Navy and Air Force, there is no practical concern that the UFOs might be extraterrestrial spacecraft.  Even if they are, our technology would be utterly incapable of dealing with them, despite science fiction movies to the contrary.  The actual concern of the government is that our earthly adversaries, can we call them enemies, might be developing advanced technology that poses an existential threat to our nation.

This fear is not entirely without precedent.  During World War 2, the Nazis developed the V-2 rocket, against which there was no defense.  Had the war continued a few more years, such rockets could have reached the United States.

I do not lie awake at night worrying that Russia or China has made a spectacular, secret breakthrough in physics, but neither can we ignore the likelihood that these countries are doing their best to do so, and to weaponize it.

Our best path forward is to study the aerial phenomena that we observe, to explore all avenues of conjecture, even the seemingly silly ones, and to apply discipline and rigor to draw useful conclusions.

Along those lines, after decades of informal study, I have written a series of commentaries.  They are too lengthy for inclusion here, but they may provide some context as to how such a study might begin.  The series is by no means exhaustive or final, but for those who are interested, it might be worthwhile to take a look.

These days, few educated people are dismissive of the idea that, elsewhere in the galaxy, there may be advanced technological civilizations capable of space travel.  We have no actual evidence for believing that there are, but the notion seems eminently plausible nonetheless.

When the United States Navy and Air Force affirm that eyewitness reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) can no longer be ignored, it is worthwhile for the rest of us to take notice.  For decades, pilots, both civilian and military, have been aware that pilots who reported having seen UFOs were often labeled as mentally unstable.  For a professional pilot, such a label can end a career.  Therefore, when pilots saw unknown aircraft performing maneuvers of which no known aircraft are capable, they often made no report of the sighting.

Now the cat is out of the bag.  The reports are being officially acknowledged as worthy of respectful investigation.  The downside to this is that the "I told you so" enthusiasts will predictably come to the fore, vying with each other to produce the most spectacular accounts; little green men will become fashionable once again.  At the other extreme, skeptics will struggle to find a "normal" explanation for the abnormal sightings, such as optical illusions or even hoaxes. 

Is there a middle ground?

The temptation is to speculate that some of the sightings are of spacecraft from faraway planets.  Even Oumuamua, the asteroid that streaked through our solar system from another star system, was closely evaluated by astronomers for any indication that it was intelligently manufactured or directed.

Throughout history, mysteries of the unknown were explained in terms of the known (or believed).  In the 1800s, UFOs were reported to be flying ships, ships of the wooden sailing vessel variety.  In medieval times, there were reports of witches flying on brooms.  In modern times, supposed alien spaceships are assumed to be piloted by alien pilots, because our own aircraft are manned by pilots.

The reality, if and when it becomes known, may turn out to be something entirely different from what our experience leads us to extrapolate.

For the Navy and Air Force, there is no practical concern that the UFOs might be extraterrestrial spacecraft.  Even if they are, our technology would be utterly incapable of dealing with them, despite science fiction movies to the contrary.  The actual concern of the government is that our earthly adversaries, can we call them enemies, might be developing advanced technology that poses an existential threat to our nation.

This fear is not entirely without precedent.  During World War 2, the Nazis developed the V-2 rocket, against which there was no defense.  Had the war continued a few more years, such rockets could have reached the United States.

I do not lie awake at night worrying that Russia or China has made a spectacular, secret breakthrough in physics, but neither can we ignore the likelihood that these countries are doing their best to do so, and to weaponize it.

Our best path forward is to study the aerial phenomena that we observe, to explore all avenues of conjecture, even the seemingly silly ones, and to apply discipline and rigor to draw useful conclusions.

Along those lines, after decades of informal study, I have written a series of commentaries.  They are too lengthy for inclusion here, but they may provide some context as to how such a study might begin.  The series is by no means exhaustive or final, but for those who are interested, it might be worthwhile to take a look.