UFO ‘studies’ have come a long way since the days of Billy Meier, when you could just throw a pie plate or a hubcap into the air and take a polaroid, and presto … proof of flying saucers! Now in these days of Photoshop and CGI, you can get much more elaborate and realistic images — none of those silver blurs anymore. DJ Chubakka introduced me to a weird world of modern UFO enthusiasts.
Nowadays you can read the markings right off the hulls of the spaceships.
The hot new fad in the LGM crowd is “drone” sightings — weirdly intricate objects that float in close and maneuver strangely and pause long enough to be photographed before zipping out of sight. These are claimed to be examples of alien technology used by shadowy government agencies. There are fora dedicated to discussing these objects very seriously, and reports on invisibility and antigravity devices. It’s a strange world on the fringe.
There are also videos. This is what I find incomprehensible about the mindset that accepts these weird phenomena: this movie shows still photos of the drones, presented as genuine, and it also includes video clips that were generated by a computer artist to show that these pictures are easily faked … and the proponents don’t care! It’s all good, man. Just throw that pretty picture in the pot.
While many seem to be gullible enough to fall for it, a few are catching on: it looks like the whole thing might be the product of an elaborate viral marketing campaign for a video game. Halo 3, anyone?
It must be tough to be a UFOlogist anymore. Even the crispest, cleanest, most complete series of photographs isn’t going to be enough, since we all know how easily anything like that can be faked. I almost feel sorry for the pitifully credulous little nerds.
Christian Burnham says
So- is the Bad Astronomer going to be discussing squids today?
Fernando Magyar says
You mean SQUID Superconducting Quantum Interference Device or
SQUID Swimming Queers United in Denver? No, I didn’t make that up.
The saddest thing about the UFO obsession is that real science gets hidden behind the idiocy. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a worthwhile persuit, but it gets tarred with the same brush as “Ufology”.
Ironically, if an alien spacecraft was to visit earth, any reports of it would probably be masked behind a vast smokescreen of fraud, credulity and plain stupidity. Considering that Iridium Flares are routinely reported in the popular press as “UFOs”, a genuine sighting of an alien spacecraft probably wouldn’t stand out.
There is about as much evidence for alien visitation as there is for life under Europa’s ice. For some reason, it’s ok to speculate about one of these, but not about the other.
Christian Burnham says
At least Microsoft isn’t launching its space program with captured Apple technology.
Presenting the iRocket.
Ufology is what nerds do instead of religion.
Rev. BigDumbChimp says
I vote Halo.
PZ Myers says
We know Microsoft didn’t steal Apple technology for this one. If they had, the UFOs would all be smooth and shiny and simple geometric shapes with curvy rounded corners, and there’d be a line of people three blocks long standing beneath them, staring upwards adoringly with drool running out of the corners of their mouths.
And if they’d stolen the ideas from Linux, the UFOs would be a stack of really cool parts lying on the ground. It’s your job to make it fly.
Apologies if my irony/crank detector is malfunctioning :)
Eric, there is a reason why speculating about Europan life is more serious than speculating about alien visitation. Aliens visiting earth would need to cross interstellar space. “Space is big. Really big. You may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space…” It’s not that it’s wrong to speculate about alien visitation, it’s just that the size of the universe makes such visits difficult. Aliens who have the technology to do so would probably be terrifyingly powerful.
But Europa might have liquid water under the ice. Io, another Jovian moon, is geologically active. Europa could be geologically active. On earth, there is an abundance of neat life in conditions similar to what MIGHT exist on Europa. Such specualation is reasonable, as long as we remember that it’s just speculation. Ultimately, it’s a question that we could settle by going to Europa. Or more sanely, by sending robots to Europa. Again, I’m sorry if my irony detector is not functioning, that’s the trouble with text based communication.
Ogawd, what are my cousins up to now?
There’s an even better reason. We are on Earth, and consequently have rather more data to go on. There may be life on Europa, but we haven’t really had an opportunity to find out yet. We’ve had ample opportunity to notice any extraterrestrials lurking in our gardens, but they stubbornly refuse to leave behind any observable evidence whatsoever.
“Space is big. Really big. You may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space…” It’s not that it’s wrong to speculate about alien visitation, it’s just that the size of the universe makes such visits difficult.
Yes, with our technology. But what could a 2 million year old physics do? We don’t even know what time, space, gravity, interia, etc are yet. If there are any techno-aliens out there, they would likely be much more advanced than us, since we’ve only been technological for 150 years. It may also be that once technology gets hold, it’s such a huge survival advantage that it tends to spread. But with a sample size of one, we just don’t know…
There’s an even better reason. We are on Earth, and consequently have rather more data to go on. There may be life on Europa, but we haven’t really had an opportunity to find out yet
If the ice is miles thick, it’s effectively removed from observation, and all you have is speculation.
Missing the point. No data either way is considerably better than lots of data against.
It’s fine to speculate about alien visitation, but it’s quite a different matter to assert that it has already happened. And to go from that to asserting that there’s a massive inter-governmental cover-up, or that the secret world government are in league with the aliens and /or using reverse engineered alien technology to control your mind, well… That’s kinda like saying that not only is there definitely life under Europa’s ice, but that you’re regularly communicating with them via your fillings, and they have very strong views on who should win the next season of “American Idol”.
I clicked through to read about the “elaborate viral marketing campaign.” I laughed. It seems the evidence to suggest that’s what it is, is as sketchy as the evidence to suggest they are really UFOs. These people will believe anything.
However, the most telling evidence of hoax is the fact that every report quoted states the pictures had been sent to local news agencies. The way the media picks up on these kinds of things, those pictures would have spread right across the world in no time. The fact that we haven’t seen a report on CNN yet suggests to me that the claims that photos were sent to the news media were lies.
There’s a third possibility: It could be an ARG (alternative reality game). If that’s the case, then at least some percentage of the forum types “discussing these objects very seriously” are either part of the game, or are roleplaying gameplayers looking for clues.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t a viral, since many ARGs are used as marketing. But an ARG is by definition not a hoax, although that distinction isn’t always clear to an outsider.
I clicked through to read about the “elaborate viral marketing campaign.”It seems the evidence to suggest that’s what it is, is as sketchy as the evidence to suggest they are really UFOs. These people will believe anything.
There’s one slight difference: we do know that such campaigns actually exist. Therefore, it’s a more viable hypothesis than one which proposes that it’s a member of a set whose very existence is not proven. “Viral marketing” is a parsimonious hypothesis – it does not propose any new entities.
I especially liked:
1. The fact that “experts have not been able to prove the images a hoax,” when it’s obvious to a nonexpert (i.e. myself) that
A. the lighting on the craft is nothing like the lighting on the trees
B. the “faked” videos look exactly the same as the “real” still images.
2. The NIN music gave a nice touch.
I for one cast my vote against Halo. I follow the video game scene pretty closely, and while Microsoft has been doing some silly viral marketing for Halo 3, this is far outside their style. The Halo 3 marketing has been people with signboards on street corners promoting a made-up cult around a race from the Haloverse. There was no mention of Forerunners or Ancients in this video.
Also, I seriously doubt Microsoft would go promoting Coast2Coast AM. That’s not something they’d want to be associated with their brand.
Microsoft is very careful and deliberate, very “on-message,” and this video is sloppy. So, IMO, this has nothing to do with Halo. Whether it’s marketing something, I don’t know, but Halo it is not.
there is a reason why speculating about Europan life is more serious than speculating about alien visitation
Actually, I think the real reason is that one kind of speculation helps NASA get funding for cool missions, and the other doesn’t. :) Ditto for Martian life speculation.
I think the fun of it is trying to figure out what the ARG/Viral campaign is promoting…
The coverfield/1-8-08 arg is pretty slick and has the feel of a scavenger hunt in a way and it definitely is promoting a monster movie. Some say it may even be godzilla. i’m hoping for something Lovecraftian.
The Drone’s campaign is different in that someone sent photos to the Coast to Coast radio people and then supposedly someone else posted the Caret stuff which is definitely connected. It could be hoaxers trying to break into the movie business by displaying their conceptual and cgi skills. The symbols feel really well art directed but the CG is off in all the photos. There already is a Halo 3 ARG that hasn’t really shown any connection directly to the UFO stuff other than an image buried in a site connected to that showed a part of one of the UFOs.
It’s always obviously a hoax when you don’t have then name, a photo and an interview with the people who took the photos.
THe one thing that does look very haloesque…
if you get the hi res image of the “primer” and zoom in on the graphic that is circled and numbered #7129.
It looks alot like a Halo alien weapon.
This reminds me of those amazing anecdotes about people who were spared car crashes by what seemed to be large robots that appeared out of nowhere and somehow slowed or redirected the car away from the hazard.
Some investigation (by an intrepid reporter?) turned up a genius garage-inventor guy, a former design engineer who’d worked on Mini Coopers, who was making robots out of Cooper parts. A few incredible videos turned up, showing the inventor testing out his robots in his garage (or warehouse, or whatever it was). My brothers and I went crazy trying to figure out if it was legit. It seemed so real!
This was about eight or nine years ago, so I was around 14, my brothers 9 and 7. Dad took a look and concluded that it must be faked. (Duh.) Turns out there was a book coming out that was ALL about this. The stories and vids were promoting the book. I think that’s all there was to it – not exactly a hoax, not an ARG (I don’t think) – it was a promotional thing.
I thought we saved the videos, but I can’t find them. Nor can I remember the name of the “inventor.” Does this ring any bells out there in Pharynguland?
I suspect this is an elaborate hoax being played on the credulous UFO community. Watching the video, I was instantly reminded of the crop circles hoax, where the patterns started out simple, and became more elaborate as time went on. In the video, the simple first ‘drone’ was followed by the slightly different second one (which should have triggered doubts), and finally by the absurdly complex third one. As with crop circles, I figure the hoaxers are seeing just how ridiculous their designs have to be before the ‘ufologists’ say “hey, wait a minute …”.
I had to chuckle at the ‘debunking’ article. The author gets all skeptical at the drone ‘evidence’, but treats Roswell as gospel?
Hyperdeath @#3 said:
Anyone wondering what an Iridium Flare is, check out this blog entry. I have personally done what the author did at the start of the entry, to a group of passers-by in a mall parking lot in east-end Ottawa. The effect is stunning. If you’re interested in seeing one of these yourself, check out the website I use: Heavens Above
Aw, drat. I meant to say “absurdly-complex fourth one”. Sorry about that.
Yes. It’s simply amazing to me how vehemently some can insist that there is no god, yet become every bit as offensively defensive when their saucerian cults are attacked as the buncombe that they are.
The cognitive dissonance is stunning.
Apparently aliens use dyslexic Katakana as their writing system.
Long live the Jurai empire!!!
Well, that would tend to explain the baffling success of Sanjaya.
From the viral campaign article: “The person who released the photographs provided themselves with a caveat for this: They were all taken by a professional photographer.”
That’s it! The aliens are papparazzi, swooping down from the sky to snap pics of Paris Hilton doing her home detention! They cooperated with the photographer purely out of professional courtesy. This also explains the close association of UFOs with the tabloid newspapers. See? It IS a conspiracy…
I saw these “dragonfly drone” images not too long ago and I immediately thought, “this looks like an ARG.” I’d say the clincher is that “ar.jpg” link to the Halo 3 ad-ARG–that’s clearly a zoomed in image of one of the drone “photos”.
This all made me think that “UFOlogy” is going to be funny to observe in the near future, because at least Halo 2 has shown that creating incredibly elaborate hoaxes is a great marketing idea that turns people into fans before the product is even available. I suspect you’ll see such hoaxes produced not merely as entertainment, but as resume builders.
Bob L says
Wow, would a though that advanced alien technology look exactly like a bunch of 3D mesh primitives with the Roswell font that you can download from a half dozen websites on the internet on then? Maybe this is a disinformation campaign from the aliens, to make their probes look precisely like something rendered in 3D studio down to the default background and lighting! Advanced thinkers indeed.
Re Comment #18: Actually the lighting looks more realistic in the “not actual footage” video than in the “real” photographs.
Has anyone noticed how “photographed” UFOs have evolved to match the aesthetics of movies, comics and now videogames?
Ah. Found it. Hippo Eats Dwarf.
I don’t know if Colin Mayhew really exists, but he does have a home page.
#25: Yes. It’s simply amazing to me how vehemently some can insist that there is no god, yet become every bit as offensively defensive when their saucerian cults are attacked as the buncombe that they are.
The cognitive dissonance is stunning.
I like to think of the belief in aliens as the same kind of beliefs in strange beings beyond our “cognitive horizon” which has existed throughout the earth’s history.
In medieval Europe, the empirical knowledge about, say, Asia, was mostly anecdotal even among scholars. We can say Asia was beyond their cognitive horizon – “at the edge of the world”. Thus, they dreamed up stories of all kind of amazing creatures which could exist beyond the sea -monopods, cockatrices, wyverns and so on (Check out any of the medieval bestiaries for more – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestiary ).
Today, our cognitive horizon has expanded to include not only the whole earth, but the solar system as well. Yet still we dream of what amazing creatures might exist at the edge of our known world – which now is outer space. Unsurprisingly, their appearance in the “sightings” are usually very anthropomorphic, and has changed over time. Whatever happened to those little green men – did they get outsmarted by the Roswell Greys?
Throughout the history of man, that is… I doubt the first oxygen-producing blue-green bacteria were very concerned with pixies and leprechauns.
Does it make me a weirdo if I really like the first tune played in that clip?
I love bees!
Hmm. Well, Dirac, I yield to both your superior analysis and your QFT. :)
It’s the Halo 3 ARG. I do so love bees.
It’s not as slick as the NIN Year Zero stuff.
Of course, there you had the slightly mad work of good artist.
This is dreck.
Your Name's Not Bruce? says
The still shot of the “drone” in this post kinda reminds me of the late, lamented “Galileo” spacecraft. It’s been modified a bit, but the thing on the bottom looks like the folded up high gain antenna, the top bit looks like the Jupiter atmosphere probe and the long thing sticking out of the side looks like the magnetometer boom. The radioisotpe thermoelectric generators and the science instrument scan platform have been removed, but there is definitely a strong resemblance…
Why is it the Halo ARG?
The glyph doesn’t appear on the UFO. Some of the UFOs do look like the glyph in an abstract way though.
Justin Moretti says
That’s kinda like saying that not only is there definitely life under Europa’s ice, but that you’re regularly communicating with them via your fillings, and they have very strong views on who should win the next season of “American Idol”.
I wouldn’t half mind a Europan competing in “American Idol” (perhaps more like “Australian Idol” for me) – given the scintillating talent of some of the contestants (not), the alien might stand a pretty good chance of winning.
“Sorry,” one Europan hissed to the other. “I couldn’t vote for her – pseudopodia the wrong shape, you see.”
Because it is.
But seriously, it’s been known that these images belong to the Halo 3 promotional ARG for months now. Just ask the lovely people at UnFiction.
Although this time around Microsoft opted for something substantially more boring than I Love Bees. I Love Bees was a once in a lifetime thing…the best 4-5 months of my life.
And PZ, I think Christian was referencing the fact that many Marathon fans felt Microsoft “stole” Bungee from Mac to get their hands on a game like Halo…not anything about the shape and form of the aircraft in the picture. Though your Linux example was quite humorous.
Note to self, get new NIN album…
Anyways, there is an alternate reality game that is “tied in” with the new NIN album. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with aliens, and these images don’t seem to be associated.
1) It would make little sense for Trent to have brand new songs already “in play” get used for something else, and it would confuse the hell out of the players. If this is a viral marketing campaign then they may be in deep, deep shit.
2) It is part of the game, but may be a red-herring for the players.
3) Someone is trying to grief the game.
4) It’s the usual hoax crap, the NIN is incidental.
darrell, didn’t see your post.
Halo 3, the game, is an FPS.
Year Zero, the game, is an ARG.
There is a Halo ARG called Iris, not Year Zero.
Year Zero, the album, is Halo 24.
Halo 3, the album, is Head Like A Hole.
It looks like the Year Zero doesn’t regard rabbitholes as OOG, and the rabbithole could be Bungie’s, which explains the high quality.
That just shot to the top of my list of possibilities.
All I can find is speculation from players. Both being listed on an ARG site doesn’t make them the same game, do you have a link to something definitive?
“Throughout the history of man, that is… I doubt the first oxygen-producing blue-green bacteria were very concerned with pixies and leprechauns.”
of course not forsen – they were more concerned about freakish pink bacteria, flying in from other rock pools and probing their vacuoles.
Halo 3 related. That glyph means its part of the Iris ARG.
Marcus Ranum says
>2. The NIN music gave a nice touch.
And here I figured that any aliens coming to earth would be Johhny Cash fans. :(
Graculus: Sorry from me too! I didn’t mean to imply that the UFOs from the Halo ARG had anything to do with NIN or Year Zero…they don’t. I think the NIN background music was a coincidental choice, or spec.
The UFOs are from the Halo ARG, as far as I know. I haven’t been following the Year Zero ARG. Sorry for the confusion, I think I missed some context back there somewhere. Oops.
we’ve actually discussed this quite a bit over at echoing the sound. i lead most of the devil’s advocate arguments about it not being space aliens, because the “aliens” in the story treat humanity with the kind of importance that only humans would.
but the general consensus, and the way the story is going, seems to be aliens. yes. but they don’t come with ufo’s, they come with giant hands coming down from the clouds.
it doesn’t bear ANY of the stylistic marks of the NIN ARG. at least last round — i haven’t checked on it recently, but last i did it had stopped. it should be ramping up again soon, as there’s reportedly another album. but it doesn’t fit the game at all — everything is set 15 years in the future, and information is being transmitted back in time, resulting in some snazzy-looking data corruption.
this is set in the present, and clean. i don’t think the nin is incidental — it’s thematically related. the person who made it probably picked it on purpose.
but it doesn’t fit the game at all — everything is set 15 years in the future, and information is being transmitted back in time, resulting in some snazzy-looking data corruption.
this is set in the present, and clean. i don’t think the nin is incidental — it’s thematically related. the person who made it probably picked it on purpose.
If it’s a rabbithole from Bungie it could be for either game, or both.
The trail from the Halo III ARG sites to the “dragonfly drone” hoax could, I’ll admit, go the other direction. The ARG developers could have picked it up and incorporated it into their game.
The orthography looks pretty familiar, but– alas– I can’t find a good reference to the writing systems invented for the Halo universe, so I can’t say for certain I recognize it. No, I’m not going to reinstall the game and play through it just to verify this claim. In any case, I think the writing system looks like it was constructed by someone without much of a linguistics background, which is typical for the computer games industry, but I’ll defer to the professional linguists if they disagree.
I know I’ve seen that damned orthography somewhere before. (It’s not listed in the fictional writing systems on Omniglot.com. Dammit.)
The Covenant and Forerunners share the same writing system. Each word is a different circle, and they also seem to use color.
The drone itself isnt part of the ARG, but some of the stuff sprinkled through PZ’s links is.
Yeah, I saw that. I’m starting to think the “dragonfly drone” story got hijacked along with all the rest of the UFO lore the Halo III ARG developers snarfed up.
The crazy CARET stuff is amusing to the creative writer in me. The construction of the alien orthography is really crude, and the composition of the supposedly secret language primer is a laugh riot, but I’m actually interested in seeing more from this particular author. The graphical designs are kinda trippy– in a nice, soothing way. There’s a part of me that wants to reach in and fix some of the bugs to make the hoax more plausible.
Cody James says
i have been reaserching UFO’s and extraterrestrials and i have to say i know of these Drones and i know that the smallest UFO is always a scout and that the biggest UFO is a war ship or a transport.And e-mail me back for more info because I have knowledge.
Dan Peter says
Seems everywhere you turn you can find a new twist to the UFO drama. I’m inherently skeptical and the net is full of junk and dead ends with regard to the UFO matter. If anyone would really like to do the homework to find out for themselves, drive to the book store and buy a book on Roswell.
this whole post was made to cover up a retarded mistake made by the government. hacking is fun, and has its uses.
why do people instantaneously believe the bullshit coming out of “smart” peoples mouthes?
use your head people. all the information on free energy, zero point technology, holographic techology, ufo ship templates, tesla technology, quantum genetics, electromagnetism, static electric vacuum effects, and highly advanced oscillation math is ALL HIDDEN, CENSORED, COVERED UP BY PROS, and PROTECTED BY EXECUTIVE LAWS such as NATIONAL SECURITY.
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