Aliens And UFO

For more than 50 years, UFO investigators have scoured the skies for signs of
alien life--completely snubbed by the scientific community as cranks. But today,
in the first independent scientific review of UFO evidence in nearly 30 years,
scientists gave a faint nod in their direction by concluding that it might be
worthwhile to evaluate UFO reports, marking a major and important shift in the
eyes of some UFO investigators. "What we need are more scientists looking
at this area if we are going to get answers," said Peter Sturrock, the

Stanford University physicist who convened the international panel of
"skeptical" scientists. Sturrock assembled the group after being
approached by New York philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller, the grandson of

John D. Rockefeller and someone who reportedly has a longstanding interest in

UFOs and psychic phenomena. Sturrock, whose Society for Scientific Exploration
promotes the examination of ideas outside the scientific mainstream, hopes the
panel\'s review of UFO reports, to be published today in the alternative Journal
of Scientific Exploration, spurs more solid research in the arena. To be sure,
after a rare meeting between scientists and UFO investigators, the scientific
panel remained skeptical. Nevertheless, they said the scientific community\'s
refusal to even entertain the analysis of such information has been
counterproductive. "The history of Earth science includes several examples
of the final acceptance of phenomena originally dismissed as folk tales,"
such as meteorites and sprites, the report says. "It may therefore be
valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports to extract information about unusual
phenomena currently unknown to science." One UFO investigator was pleased
with the findings. OPENNESS, EVIDENCE Mark Rodeghier, of the Center for UFO

Study in Chicago, interprets the panel\'s greater openness as an important step
to bring the world of science--which demands empirical evidence-- closer to that
of UFO observers, some of whom believe they now know what aliens do during human
abductions. Taking a break from the national Mutual UFO Network conference,

Rodeghier said, "It would be extremely important for us to know if aliens
are visiting the Earth surreptitiously. I didn\'t expect in five days that they
would change their mind completely. I think it\'s sufficient that they say the
subject deserves study." For its review, the panel examined evidence such
as a 1981 photograph of "a silvery oval-shaped object set against the blue
sky," taken in British Columbia--the photographer swears it was not a trick
photo of a frisbee--and a 1965 report by two French submarine crews in

Martinique of "a large luminous object (that) arrived slowly and silently
from the west, flew to the south...and vanished like a rapidly extinguished
light bulb." The last time scientists took a serious look at UFOs was in

1968, when Dr. Edward U. Condon, director of the Colorado Project, undertook a
two-year study sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Air

Force. His dismissive conclusion: "Nothing has come of the study of UFOs in
the past 21 years...and further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be
justified..." Already some of this panel\'s scientists are steeling
themselves for ridicule from peers. "I haven\'t gone around and advertised

I\'ve done this. I thought I\'d wait until our report came out and then let them
take their jabs then," said Thomas Holzer, senior scientist at the National

Center for Atmospheric Research. Still, he adds, he shares the panel\'s view that
more openness is needed. NATURAL PHENOMENA Some UFO reports, the scientists
concluded, could be explained by rare natural events such as sprites, or what
appear to be huge sheets of light moving upward from cloud decks caused by
electrical activity high above thunderclouds. Unusual radar patterns that UFO
investigators interpret as flight patterns of alien craft are likely radar
echoes caused by refraction in the atmosphere, said panel member and Stanford
professor Von Eshleman, who studies the structure of the atmosphere through
experiments on U.S. space missions. And, the scientists said, some in their
community may be more interested in UFOs than they are willing to admit.

Sturrock said his own surveys of astronomers show that many privately admit to
interest in UFOs. Asked for his own views, Sturrock was coy. "I don\'t
believe in UFOs, but they may exist whether I believe in them or not," he
said. "That\'s saying I don\'t have an opinion I wish to share." When
pressed, panel member Eshleman said he thinks it would be surprising if there
weren\'t life forms on other planets. Asked about the likelihood of complex alien
societies, he said, "It\'s less probable, but there\'s no reason to limit it
anywhere." Gregory Benford, a solar physicist at