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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

An article by Stanton Friedman in PHYSICS TODAY, 1971:

The main page of the science section is here.

Stanton T. Friedman, born in New Jersey, 1934, spent two years at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey then switched to the University of Chicago in 1953. He received BS and MS degrees in Physics from UC in 1955 and 1956, where Carl Sagan was a classmate. He worked for fourteen years as a nuclear physicist for such companies as General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse, TRW, Aerojet General Nucleonics, and McDonnell Douglas on such advanced, highly classified, eventually canceled projects as nuclear aircraft, fission and fusion rockets, and nuclear power plants for space. He developped a serious interest in UFOs and gave hundreds of lectures and participated in many documentaries on that topic. He his one of the most well known Roswell case researchers as he was the first civilian investigator of this incident, and co-authored "Crash at Corona" and instigated the "Unsolved Mysteries" TV Roswell program.

Stanton T. Friedman

The article underneath has been published in Physics Today, January 1971, p. 97.

More on UFO's

Stanton T. Friedman

W. T. Powers [June, page 14] is correct about the generic difference between "good" UFO reports and those that can be identified. The organized study he desires has already been completed. Reference 1 is the final report of a two-year study of 2199 UFO reports conducted by scientists and engineers at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. Every report was finally categorized and evaluated as shown in Tables 1 and 2. The "other" category includes a miscellaneous collection such as hoaxes, searchlights on clouds, birds and so on. Of special interest are the UNKNOWNS - "Those reports of sightings wherein the description of the object and its maneuvers could not be fitted to the pattern of any known phenomenon" and those labeled "insufficient information" defined as "some essential item of information missing or there was enough doubt about what data were available to disallow identification as a common object or some natural phenomenon."

The UNKNOWNS were NOT sightings for which there was not enough information. Note, too, that the higher the quality of the report the more likely it was an UNKNOWN, and the less likely that there was insufficient information - exactly what one would expect if the UNKNOWNS were indeed generically different from the KNOWNS. In addition, a chi-square statistical comparison between the characteristics (speed, color and so on) of the UNKNOWNS and the KNOWNS showed that the probability is less than 1 percent that the distributions are the same. The average duration of observation for the UNKNOWNS was no longer than for the KNOWNS with 45 percent being observed for more than 5 minutes. In short, UNKNOWNS are neither like KNOWNS (IFO's), nor are they rapidly passing lights observed for a brief period of time by an incompetent observer - quite contrary to the viewpoints of the scoffers who know so little of the facts concerning UFO's. If one were to apply the same fallacious reasoning as implied by the notion "because most sightings can be identified, all can," one would certainly reject the discovery of the anti-He3 particle (June, page 59). Obviously, if all but five of the 2 x 10^11 particles examined weren't anti-He3, none were.

After 11 years of study of UFO's I am convinced not only that some UFO's are extraterrestial vehicles but that the problem with the acceptance of UFO's is a psychological one just as was the acceptance of the Copernican universe 300 years ago. Antihelium particles don't upset our present notions about the universe or our own importance. UFO's do. For example, about 30 of the 100 reports discussed in the Condon report (2) could not be identified. The negative conclusions about UFO reality are in fact contradicted by the data in the rest of the report. Reference 1 is not even mentioned, though it is the largest study ever conducted and Condon knew it.

There is a great deal more that might be said about the inadequacy of the "Scientific study of UFOs". More to the point, a UFO study committee set up by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics concluded after three years that the University of Colorado study did not resolve the question of UFO reality and that what is needed are more quantitative investigations by members of the engineering and scientific community. Clearly, with Man having already walked on the moon, it is time to lift the "laughter curtain" and start thinking instead. A good source of information is reference 3 and the many documents referenced therein.


  1. Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14, UFO Research Institute, Pittsburgh.
  2. D.J. Gilmor, Condon, E. U., "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (The Condon Committee Report)," Dutton (1969).
  3. "Symposium on UFO's Hearings," House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 90th Congress, 29 July, 1968. Catalog No. PB 179541, CFSTI.

STANTON T. FRIEDMAN, Redondo Beach, Calif.

Table 1. Categorization of UFO Sighting Reports:

Category       Number  Ratio in %
Astronomical ................ 479 ......... 21.8
Aircraft .................... 474 ......... 21.6
Balloon ..................... 339 ......... 15.4
Other ....................... 233 ......... 10.6
UNKNOWN ..................... 434 ......... 19.7
Insufficient information .... 240 ......... 10.9
Total ...................... 2199 ........ 100.0

[Data from reference 1]

Table 2. Quality distributions of UNKNOWNS:

Quality   Percent Un- percent Insuff. Percent
Group  No. of Total knowns of Group Inform. of Group
Excellent 213 9.7  71  33.3   9   4.2
Good   757 34.5  188  24.8  27   3.6
Doubtful 794 36.0  103  13.0  111  14.0
Poor   435 19.8  72  16.6  93  21.4
Total  2199 100.0  434  19.7  240  10.9

[Data from reference 1]

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