Welcome to the June 2007 round up of news and views on UFOs, alien abductions, crop circles, ghosts, the paranormal, the unexplained, the weird and the wonderful.
MoD To Release UFO Files
The MoD is to release its UFO files. Some UFO files have already been released and are available either at the National Archives in Kew, or online in the Freedom of Information section of the MoD website. The next files to be released will be 24 Defence Intelligence Staff files that had previously been contaminated with asbestos. It was originally feared that they would have to be destroyed, sparking conspiracy theories among the UFO community. Now the files have been decontaminated and will be scanned onto the MoD website over the next few months. But these 24 files are the tip of the iceberg. To date, the MoD has received over 10,000 UFO reports and a case file on a significant incident can consist of over 100 separate documents. Once the 24 Defence Intelligence Staff files have been released, the MoD will turn its attention to the rest of the files. One reason for this is that the burden of responding to requests on the subject is becoming intolerable. The MoD receives more Freedom of Information Act requests on UFOs than on any other subject, including the war in Iraq. There are two complicating factors. Firstly, exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act mean that certain details, such as the capability of a military radar, must be deleted. Secondly, the Data Protection Act precludes the release of personal information such as the names and addresses of UFO witnesses. The upshot of this is that every page of every file has to be checked and redacted to remove any such data. It's a massive job and full disclosure will take time. It is noteworthy that the French Government released their UFO files earlier this year. The resultant interest was so great that servers crashed and the official website went down. Doubtless the MoD will learn from this experience and put the material out gradually, rather than all at once.
Flying Saucer Anniversary
On 24 June 1947 a civil aircraft pilot called Kenneth Arnold witnessed a formation of nine crescent-shaped objects moving at immense speed over the Cascade Mountains in America. In talking about the movement of these craft (not the shape, as is popularly believed) he said that they moved like a saucer would if you skipped it across water. A journalist then coined the phrase flying saucer, and the story became international news. While people have always seen strange things in the sky, this event is generally acknowledged to mark the start of the modern UFO mystery. The 60th anniversary is generating a lot of excitement among UFO researchers and some interest from the media.
Just a few days after the flying saucer sighting mentioned above, something crashed in the desert near Roswell in New Mexico, USA. The exact date is not known but most researchers think the incident occurred on or around 2 July. The military said that they had recovered a flying disc, but quickly retracted the statement and claimed that the object that crashed was just a weather balloon. The 60th anniversary of this incident will doubtless also attract some publicity. As reported in my May column, Channel Five has already broadcast a new documentary on the subject, entitled The Roswell Incident - The True Story.
Scientists have found an Earthlike planet orbiting a nearby star, the red dwarf star Gliese 581. Out of the two hundred or so extrasolar planets discovered to date, this is the first one in the so-called habitable zone. In other words, it lies at the correct distance from the star to allow water to exist in liquid form. Most scientists believe the presence of liquid water is an essential prerequisite for life. I cannot overstate the enormity of this discovery. Up until a few years ago, there was no direct evidence that any other stars had planetary systems at all. For all we knew, our solar system was unique. Now we know that planetary systems exist around many other stars, just as most astronomers had predicted. Not only is this the first potentially Earthlike planet discovered, but it is incredibly close in Galactic terms, being just 20 light years from Earth. Following the announcement, bookies slashed the odds on intelligent life being discovered elsewhere in the Universe, and even the mainstream media took this possibility seriously - I was interviewed about it by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News on 25 April, just as the story broke.
Crop circle season is now upon us, and whether you believe these patterns are made by extraterrestrials, Earth energy, or people with planks of wood, there are some beautiful formations to be seen. Click on www.cropcircleconnector.com to see the best crop circles of 2007 and the most spectacular formations from previous years.
Daily Express Remote Viewing Article
On 23 April the Daily Express printed a double page article I had written about the MoD remote viewing study, which involved trying to recruit psychics to track down items and individuals of interest to the British Government. The final report of this study was released by the MoD earlier this year, under the Freedom of Information Act, and made news all around the world. I was even interviewed about it on Newsnight, the flagship BBC news programme. Large parts of the 168-page document were blacked out and the study had been classified Secret UK Eyes Only. Only three copies were ever made. The document stated that the aim of the project was to recruit one or more individuals who it was felt could be trusted to be used for the sensitive targets. These targets were not mentioned in the report (or if they were, the details had been blacked out) but as I have speculated previously, the targets are like to have included weapons of mass destruction and Osama Bin Laden. Following the Newsnight interview and Daily Express article, James Whale tackled the subject on his popular late night show on Talksport Radio. I came into the studio on 31 May to discuss the subject with him, and we even carried out our own tests, live on air, to see whether we could recreate the MoD experiments, and improve on the results.
Large Hadron Collider
On 26 November the largest machine ever built will be switched on. The new CERN particle accelerator is known as the Large Hadron Collider and replaces the existing particle accelerator. But the activation of this immense machine will not be without controversy. Most scientists believe the machine will help them answer some of the most fundamental questions we face, such as how did the Universe begin, does dark matter exist, and can we ever see into hidden dimensions? But a few think the machine could inadvertently destroy the Earth, by creating a mini black hole. While such views are a tiny minority, CERN took the possibility seriously enough to commission a risk assessment, and the possibility was mentioned in a recent documentary on the Large Hadron Collider, broadcast by the flagship BBC science programme Horizon. Watch out for more on this story in the media later this year, as we get closer to the day the machine is turned on.
In my column last month I wrote about Shape The Future, a booklet sponsored by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The booklet was the brainchild of University of Oxford student Tsz Fok and is aimed at encouraging students to take up engineering in their studies and career. 5000 copies are being distributed to schools, colleges and other interested organisations and individuals. I contributed an article, along with people like Sir James Dyson, Professor Kevin Warwick, Carol Vorderman and Lord Sainsbury, the former Minister for Science and Innovation. Tragically, Tsz Fok was killed in a road accident on 18 April. The Royal Academy of Engineering consulted his family about the booklet, and all agreed that distribution should go ahead, as this is what Tsz would have wanted. This will form part of the legacy of a remarkably gifted young man who will be sorely missed by his family, friends and fellow students, as well as by the scientific community as a whole. My column this month is dedicated to the memory of Tsz Fok.