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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

James A. Harder's statement at the 1968 UFO symposiue, at the US congress:

While the "Condon Committee" was finishing its report to conclude that science would find no benefit in studying UFOs, other scientists who had already concluded long before Condon that science would indeed find benefit in studying UFOs and knew that Condon would not take the UFO problem seriously anyway, were at a Symposium on UFOs held at the Committee on Science and Astronautics to present their findings, discoveries, opinions on UFOs, July 29, 1969. Condon did not comment much except that what was presented in these hearings was "nothing new."

Here is the participation of Dr. James A. Harder at these hearings.



JULY 29, 1968


  1. Biography
  2. Oral Statement
  3. Prepared Statement

The biography of Dr. Harder is as follows:


Born: Fullerton, Calif., 1926.

B.S. California Institute of Technology, 1948; Ph.D. (fluid mechanics), 1957;

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 1962 to present; Assistant Professor, Hydraulic Engineering, 1967-62; Resident Engineer, 1952-57;

Design Engineer, soil conservation service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1948-50;

U.S. Navy, 1944-45.

Scientific Societies: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society of Civil Engineering.

Specialty: Engineering Science

Fields of Interest: Hydraulic systems analysis; surface water hydrology; analog simulation.


Dr. Harder. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Your committee has asked me to comment on the problem of propulsion as raised by some reports, and to whatever potential benefits there might be to the aerospace programs from an intense scrutiny of UFO phenomena.

I am very glad for this opportunity to present to your committee some of my views on the problems of unidentified flying objects and to indicate some of the areas in which I think a closer investigation of this problem might provide us with scientific clues that would give us important impetus to basic and applied research in the United States.

As Dr. Hall has said, there have been strong feelings aroused about UFO's, particularly about the extraterrestrial hypothesis for their origin. This is entirely understandable, in view of man's historic record of considering himself the central figure in the natural scene; the extraterrestrial hypothesis tends inevitably to undermine the collective ego of the human race. These feelings have no place in the scientific assessment of facts, but I confess that they have at times affected me.

Over the past 20 years a vast amount of evidence has been accumulating that bears on the existence of UFO's. Most of this is little known to the general public or to most scientists. But on the basis of the data and ordinary rules of evidence, as would be applied in civil or criminal courts, the physical reality of UFO's has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. With some effort, we can accept this on an intellectual level but find a difficulty in accepting it on an emotional level, in such a way that the facts give a feeling of reality. In this respect, we might recall the attitude many of us have toward our own deaths: We accept the facts intellectually, but find it difficult to accept them emotionally.

Indeed, there are flying saucer cultists who are as enthusiastic as they are naive about UFO' s - who see in them some messianic symbols - they have a counterpart in those individuals who exhibit a morbid preoccupation with death. Most of the rest of us don't like to think or hear about it. This, it seems to me, accurately reflects many of our attitudes toward the reality of UFOs - natural, and somewhat healthy, but not scientific.

In my remaining statements you will note that I have tacitly assumed the reality of UFO's as a hypothesis underlying my assessment of the importance of this subject for scientific study.


By way of introducing the propulsion problem of UFO's, I will review a sighting near the city of Corning, in northern California, during the night of August 13, 1960, by two California highway patrolmen. During that night, and several succeeding nights, there were many reports of UFO's over northern California, but this particular event is important not only because of the fact that it has been well authenticated but because of the relatively long time and close nature of the observations. My condensed description that follows is from the official report filed the next day by the two officers (see appendix I and II) from a half-hour taped interview conducted 3 days later by myself and Dr. Carl Johannessen, of the University of Oregon; from a letter written by Officer Charles A. Carson to Walter N. Webb, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Boston, Mass., dated November 14, 1960; and from a telephoned interview conducted by Dr. James McDonald with Mr. Carson on October 27, 1966.



When Officer Scott radioed the Tehama County Sheriff's Office, two deputies, Fry and Montgomery, traveled to Los Molinos, somewhat northeast of the first sighting, from which point they observed the UFO simultaneously, though at a greater distance, with Scott and Carson. The night jailer, from a point further north, saw it, and marched his several prisoners out onto the roof of the jail, each of whom saw it. Subsequently, due to newspaper publicity, Carson received a number of letters from motorists who had seen the object while traveling along Highway 99E. After Scott and Carson returned to the Sheriff's Office, they called the radar base again, and talked with the operator while all of them listened in on various extensions. He described to them some of the movements of the object as he had observed it on the radar screen; these corresponded to the movements they had observed.

Several months later, in a personal interview conducted on January 3, 1961, Captain Blohl, Area Commander at Red Bluff, stated that both Scott and Carson had worked for him for three or four years, and that he had the highest regard for their honesty and devotion to duty. They were not publicity minded, he said. Of Scott, he remarked, "Scotty would rather take a knife or a gun away from a man than make a speech." In the unwanted publicity that was forced upon them, Blohl stated that their story stood up unaltered - that there were no baubles [sic] during question periods.



August 13, 1960.

To: Area Commander, Red Bluff.

From: C. A. Carson, No. 2358, S. B. Scott, No. 1851.

Subject: Unidentified Flying Object.

Sir: Officer Scott and I were eastbound on Hoag Road, east of Corning looking for a speeding motorcycle when we saw what at first appeared to be a huge airliner dropping from the sky. The object was very low and directly in front of us. We stopped and leaped from the patrol vehicle in order to get a position on what we were sure was going to be an airplane crash. From our position outside the car the first thing we noticed was an absolute silence. Still assuming it to be an aircraft with power off we continued to watch until the object was probably within 100' to 200' of the ground when it suddenly reversed completely, at high speed and gained approx. 500' altitude. There the object stopped. At this time it was clearly visible to both of us, and obviously not an aircraft of any design familiar to us. It was surrounded by a glow making the round or oblong object visible. At each end, or each side of the object, there were definite red lights. At times about 5 white lights were visible between the red lights. As we watched, the object moved again and performed aerial feats that were actually unbelievable. At this time we radioed Tehama County Sheriff's Office requesting they contact the local radar base. The radar base confirmed the U.F.O. - completely unidentified.

Officer Scott and myself, after our verification, continued to watch the object. On two occasions the object came directly towards the patrol vehicle. Each time it approached the object turned, swept the area with a huge red light. Officer Scott turned the red light on the patrol vehicle towards the object and it immediately went away from us. We observed the object use the red beam approximately 6 or 7 times, sweeping the sky and ground areas. The object began moving slowly in an easterly direction and we followed. We proceeded to the Vina Plains Fire Station where we again were able to locate the object. As we watched it was approached by a similar object from the south. It moved near the first object and both stopped, remaining in that position for some time, occasionally emitting the red beam. Finally both objects disappeared below the eastern horizon. We returned to the Sheriff's Office and met Deputy Fry and Deputy Montgomery, who had gone to Los Molinos after contacting the radar base. Both had seen the U.F.O. clearly and described to us what we saw. The night jailer also was able to see the object for a short time, each described the object and its maneuvers exactly as we saw them. We first saw the object at 2350 hours and observed it for approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes. Each time the object neared us we experienced radio interference.

Sir, we submit this report in confidence, for your information, we were calm after our initial shock and decided to observe and record all we could of the object.

Charles A. Carson, No. 2358.
S. B. Scott, No. 1851.

Officers Scott and Carson were searching for a speeding motorcyclist along Hoag Road, east of Corning, Calif., between U.S. Highway No. 99W and 99E when they saw what at first appeared to be a huge airliner dropping from the sky. This was at 11:50 p.m. They stopped and leaped from the patrol car in order to get a position on what they were sure was going to be an airplane crash. From their position outside the car the first thing they noticed was an absolute silence. Still assuming it to be an aircraft with power off, they continued to watch until the object was probably within 100 to 200 feet off the ground, whereupon it suddenly reversed completely, traveling at high speed back up the 45-degree glide path it had been taking, and gaining about 500-feet altitude.

This observation was from a distance of one-half to 1 mile. They said it was about the size of a DC-6 without wings; Officer Carson later made a sketch which shows an elliptical object 150 feet long and 40 feet high.

It was a very clear night, with no clouds, and as the object hovered for about a minute they got a good look at it. It was obviously not an aircraft of any design familiar to them, they said. It was surrounded by a white glow, making the object visible. At each end there were definite red lights, and at times five white lights were visible between the two red lights. They called the night dispatching office at the county sheriff's office and asked that other cars be sent, and that all other cars in the area be alerted. They also asked the radar base be notified.

The object then drifted westward toward them, losing altitude, and got within some 150 yards of them, easy pistol range, before drifting eastward again. During this time it performed aerial feats that seemed unbelievable. It was capable of moving in any direction - up, down, back, and forth. At times the movement was very slow, and at times completely motionless. It could move at extremely high speeds, and several times they watched it change direction or reverse itself while moving at unbelievable speeds.

As the object moved away from them toward the east, they followed at a judicial distance, encouraged by the expectation that they were to be joined by other officers. At that time they also radioed the Tehama County Sheriff's Office requesting that they contact the local radar base. By telephone the radar operator confirmed the UFO and stated that it was unidentified.

The two officers drove the next day to the local radar base, were refused permission to talk to the radar operator that had been on duty, and were given what Carson described as the "ice water treatment" by the commanding officer.

There follow many interesting details of their hide-and-seek chase with the object over the next 2 hours along the back roads of northern California, trying to get close enough to this thing to get a better observation. It seemed always to know they were there and always kept about half a mile away.

However, when we restrict our attention to the propulsion problem, the significant facts are: (1) there was no observable noise, (2) the UFO could hover - seemed to float as if it were in water - and move in any direction without altering its orientation, (3) it could sustain very high accelerations and move very rapidly, (4) it was able to hover or to move relatively slowly for at least 2 hours under circumstances that precluded suspension by aerodynamic lift forces.

What can we learn about the propulsion of UFO's from the information provided by the observations of these two police officers? Mainly, it is negative information. From the silence it seems impossible that it could have been supported by a jet or rocket reaction. There are further considerations involving specific impulse, energy, et cetera, that we need not go into here, that provide compelling arguments against any conventional way of counteracting the earth's gravitational field. There remains a slight possibility of developing sufficient reactive force by expelling relativistic neutrinos, for they would not be intercepted by the earth under a UFO and would not be noticed.

Expelling neutrons would have this same advantage, but in the quantities required they would induce far more radioactivity than has ever been measured at sites where UFO's have come close to the ground or have been reported to have landed.

Fortunately, there has been at least one observation that tends to provide a bit of positive information. Mr. Wells Allen Webb, an applied chemist with a master of science degree from the University of California, was 1 mile north of Spain Flying Field, 7 miles east of Yuma, Ariz., just off U.S. Highway No. 80, when his attention was drawn to the sky to the north by some low-flying jet aircraft. Then he noticed a small white cloud-like object in an otherwise cloudless sky.

He watched for about 5 minutes as it traveled eastward; as it reached a spot north-northeast of his location, it abruptly altered shape from being oblong and subtending about half the angle of the full moon - about 15 minutes of arc - to be circular and subtending about 5 minutes of arc. Webb was wearing polaroid glasses and noted that there appeared around the object a series of dark rings, the outermost of which was about six times the diameter of the central white or silvery object, or about the diameter of the full moon. The object or cloud then decreased in apparent diameter, as if it were traveling away from him, and disappeared in another few minutes. During this time Webb repeatedly took off his glasses and then put them back on, noting each time that the rings appeared only when he was wearing the glasses. He did not know what to make of the sighting, but took notes, including the fact that it was about 10 in the morning. The date was May 5, 1953.

One of the first things to note about the situation as described in the account is that the dark rings were observed with polaroid glasses, but not without them. The second thing is that, from the orientation of the observer relative to the position of the sun at that time of day, the blue scattered light from the part of the sky that formed the background for the object was polarized.

To this fortunate circumstance we must add the fact that Mr. Webb was curious about clouds, the effect of viewing them with polarized light, and took notes of what he observed. He did not, however, realize that he was observing the rotation of the plane of polarization of the blue light in the vicinity of the object. This was the interpretation I made some 8 years later upon reading his account.

Mr. Wydler. How would you define UFO's as you are using it in this paper before us.

Dr. Harder. I don't know how I could define it without being circular.

Mr. Wydler. That is the conclusion to which I came.

You state on the very first page or you more or less say you are going to tacitly assume the reality of UFO's, merely an "unidentified flying object." I think we can assume their reality without worrying much about it. It is only if they have some particular interplanetary significance that might become a real problem, the way we look at it, isn't that so? We all agree there are unidentified flying objects.

I think you are defining them as interplanetary. I don't see you really come out and say that, but I think you hinted at it.

Dr. Harder. Well, if my interpretation of these rings is correct, it is certainly nothing we have been able to accomplish on earth.

Mr. Wydler. Are you saying, when you use this term, for the purposes of your statement, in your testimony, you are assuming they are of an interplanetary nature?

Dr. Harder. Yes, that is right.

Mr. Wydler. All right.

Dr. Harder. In my statement, which is available to the transcriber, I have gone through a little bit of argument suggesting why the outer of the three rings represents light that had been rotated through 90 degrees, so it would not pass through the polarizer, if it is polarized glasses. The next ring represented light that had been rotated 90 plus 180 degrees. If you have polaroid glasses and look at the right part of the blue sky, any afternoon, you can seen that the light is polarized, and as you rotate your polaroid glasses there is an alternate darkening-lightening, as you go through 180 degrees.

We can assume, to begin with, that the plane of the polarizer in his glasses was parallel to the plane of the undisturbed polarized light from the general direction of the object. If then something affected the light so as to turn its plane of polarization through 90 degrees, the portion that had been originally polarized would not pass through the glasses. Likewise, for light that had had its plane of polarization turned through 90 plus 180 degrees, 90 plus 360 degrees, and so on, there would be a partial extinction of light.

On this basis, the outer dark ring was due to the rejection by the polarizing filter of the glasses of light which had had its plane of polarization turned through 90 degrees, the next outermost band by light that had been turned through 27O degrees, et cetera.

This interpretation is strengthened by Webb's observation that the dark rings were narrower than the brighter areas between them; this is what should be expected on the basis of the above explanation.

What hypotheses can be constructed that might account for this unusual observation? There are at least two that have interesting implications for the propulsion problem. First by the Faraday effect, a magnetic field parallel to the path of the light could so rotate the plane of polarization. A quick calculation using the properties of the atmosphere shows that a field of 200,000 gauss, operating over a distance of 130 feet - 40 meters -- could turn the plane 90 degrees; this is indeed a very intense and extensive magnetic field and, of course, would only account for one ring. Three rings would require a million gauss over the same distance.

We have been able to achieve these field strengths in the laboratory for only fractionsof seconds over very small distances. However, the principal argument against this hypothesis is the conclusion that were such a field brought at all close to the surface of the earth its effect would be to induce very strong remnant magnetism in nearly every piece of iron within several hundred yards. This has not been found.

We have been able to achieve that kind of field strength for fractions of seconds only over short distances on earth, or at least we, on earth. [sic] [NCAS Editor's note: apparent severe garble in the transcription]

However, there has been a suggestion made earlier that a very strong magnetic field might so saturate certain iron cores of electrical machinery as to explain some of the observed phenomena of electrical malfunctioning.

Despite the above-described observation, there is little reason to believe that magnetic fields, of themselves could be of much use in propelling a spacecraft, although there has been much uninformed speculation about this in popular UFO publications. The simple reason is that we cannot produce a north pole without at the same time producing a south pole. Tills is a consequence of fundamental theory. Such a dipole cannot exert a force in conjunction with a uniform magnetic field, such as the earth may be assumed to have in a given locality, though it can produce a force in a nonuniform field.

To go beyond the above discussion would be rather speculative, but it is just here that we find a stimulus and challenge to scientific theory. It is almost circular to say that when we find a phenomenon we understand but vaguely we have also found a means of advancing our understanding; this has been particularly true in astronomy.

Concerning the propulsion of UFO's, a tentative hypothesis would be that it is connected with an application of gravitational fields that we do not understand.

Gravitation remains one of the enigmas of modern science, although there have been some advances in its understanding, beyond general relativity, in the past decade. There are theoretical grounds for believing there must exist a second gravitational field, corresponding to the magnetic field in electromagnetic theory, and that the interaction between these two fields must be similar to that between the electric and magnetic fields.

This interaction and its exploitation forms the basis for our modern electrical generators and motors. Without the interaction, we would be back to the days of electrostatic attraction and of permanent magnets - two phenomena that can produce only very weak forces when operating individually. Some day perhaps we will learn enough to apply gravitational forces in the same way we have learned to apply electromagnetic forces. This will depend upon advances in many fields of science. Some of the things required will be enormously increased sources of power from atomic fusion; very intense magnetic fields and current densities, perhaps from superconducting sources; and extremely strong materials to contain mechanical forces. Some of these advances are approaching, or are on the horizon. Others we have yet to see clearly.

May I close this part of our discussion by recalling the statement that the most important secret of the atomic bomb was that it worked. This gave the crucial impetus to other nations in their own efforts to duplicate the research of the United States. In the UFO phenomena we have demonstrations of scientific secrets we do not know ourselves. It would be a mistake, it seems to me, to ignore their existence.

I have further comments on UFO's and high-strength materials, but perhaps the committee would rather interrupt at this point before I go on to that second subject?

Mr. Roush. Any questions?

I think you better go ahead, Dr. Harder, because if we get started questioning it is impossible to stop these people.

Mr. Boone. Mr. Chairman, may I ask one question?

Mr. Roush. Go ahead, Mr. Boone.

Mr. Boone. Have you concluded that what you have just told us is true, we should not ignore their existence?

Dr. Harder. I have no doubt of the veracity of the observer who saw this thing in the sky; I know him personally.

Mr. Boone. I didn't question the observer, I questioned your remark, and the magnetic, if you will, electromagnetic interactions, and so forth, when you said we undoubtedly must admit the existence of these - I am sorry I can't quote you exactly. But your last sentence there is what I refer to.

It does seem like an obvious conclusion resulting from all the previous remarks you said about some supernatural, if you will -

Dr. Harder. Oh, heavens, I never suggested that, I hope.

Mr. Boone. Well, let me say, science fiction propulsion system, then.

Dr. Harder. Well, sir, what we have been discussing this morning, and this afternoon, is perhaps closer to science fiction than anything. I hope it is more science than fiction, however.

Mr. Roush. Go ahead, Dr. Harder.

Dr. Harder. The instances in which physical fragments of UFO's have been found are disappointingly few. To my knowledge, there is only one well-authenticated finding, and that was in Brazil, in 1957. The story of its discovery is contained in chapter 9 of the Great Flying Saucer Hoax, written by Dr. Olavo T. Fontes.

Briefly, several small metallic fragments were recovered by some fishermen near the coastal town of Ubatuba, Sao Paulo, after they saw what they described as a brilliant explosion of a flying disc. Some of the fiery fragments were extinguished in the water near the shore, where they were recovered.

Fontes acquired three of the fragments that weighed less than a tenth of an ounce each, and had one of them analyzed at the Mineral Production Laboratory in the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry. The results of the first analysis was that the substance was magnesium of an unusually high degree of purity, and that there was an absence of any other metallic element.

On the basis of the first examination a second spectrographic test was conducted, using the utmost care and the most modern instruments. The second report was again marked by references to the "extreme purity" of the sample. Even impurities that are sometimes detected due to contamination from the carbon rod used as an electrode were absent. A further test, using X-ray diffraction, failed to turn up any other metallic component.

One of the pieces was flown to California and was analyzed. I have the report here. They used neutron activation analysis and discovered a total of one-tenth of 1 percent of other metallic elements than magnesium, 500 parts per million zinc, that included zinc, which is interesting, and small amounts of barium and strontium.

Certainly this metal is of extraordinary purity, certainly far beyond the capacity of fishermen at Ubatuba to produce.

What could be the use of such high-purity magnesium in the context of a spacecraft? One clue lies in its crystalline structure. It is close packed hexagonal structure, and is in this regard similar to the high-strength metals beryllium and titanium. Hexagonal crystals have but one slip plane, and this tends to make them brittle but strong.

One of the reasons for slip along crystal planes is that local imperfections in the crystal, or foreign atoms, create lines of stress concentration that move rapidly through the crystal, producing deformation.

If these imperfections, or dislocations, could be eliminated, the theoretical strength of the crystal lattice itself might be approached. This strength is on the order of millions of pounds per square inch for any materials. Carefully prepared 1/4-inch diameter glass rods, etched to remove microscopic surface cracks and then lacquered, have withstood stress of 250,000 psi for 1 hour. Fused silica fibers have been stressed to 2 million psi.

Thus, foreign atoms within a crystal lattice are focal points for dislocations - points of stress concentration where the crystal lattice itself tears and slips. We can imagine that a high-purity crystal, free of surface and internal imperfections, would achieve fantastic strengths. Indeed, with the advent of iron whiskers, and boron fiber reinforced composites, we are already approaching some of these strengths, but only for extremely small diameter fibers.

Should, by any good fortune, further samples of UFO material be found, there may be further clues that would spur on research into high-strength materials, and perhaps give us hints of how to achieve superstrength in materials that are larger than the tiny fibers we have produced so far.

Needless to say, if we persist in denying the reality of UFOs we will not be looking for such samples, and may indeed reject them as having no importance when they are brought to our attention.

That is the conclusion of my prepared statement. I would like to comment on some of the suggestions as asked by Congressman Rumsfeld earlier.

I conclude in some of my colleagues' recommendations that a multiple-faceted exploration be made of this subject, preferably at several institutions simultaneously.

I have some suggestions as to how we could acquire additional scientific data even at the present time.

This is a three-point program which involves first the establishment of an early warning network, which the Colorado project began last February. Then to take advantage of one of the characteristics of UFO sightings: that they, in many instances, are seen on one or two successive nights.

We could have prearranged instrument packages which are arranged for instant transportation to locations where UFO's have been sighted. If the budget for such a program were low, you might be able to borrow such things and have them ready at various universities where the instruments were otherwise occupied for research.

That would be the second point of this investigation.

The third point would be the cooperation of the Air Force for logistics and high-speed transport to crucial areas on a 24-hour basis.

Now, that three-point program may well bring to us physical data that so far has appeared only in anecdotal, still from essential amateurs who happened just accidentally to be at the right place. It was truly a fortunate accident when Mr. Webb was there to make the observation I described earlier.

Mr. Roush. Does that conclude your statement?

Dr. Harder. That concludes my statement.

Mr. Roush. Are there questions?

Well, if not, let's go to our next participant. Our next participant is Dr. Robert M. L. Baker, Jr.

The Red Bluff case is presented here.

The Ubatuba fragments case is presented here.

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