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UFOs in the daily Press:

The 1954 French flap:

The article below was published in the daily newspaper Le Petit Varois, de Toulon, France, page 8, 6 octobre 1954.

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AN AUTHORIZED OPINION

"FLYING SAUCERS?
NOT SERIOUS!"

says Professor SCHATZMAN
Researcher at the Astro-Physics Institute

Paris. -- The "flying saucers", which poison the Western skies whenever important international events occur, extend their field of action over the African continent.

An official report to the Government of the Ivory Coast by the administrator of the Danane subdivision, 500 kilometers north-west of Abidjan, reported a "phenomenon" observed on 19 September, 8:30 p.m. to 09:05 p.m., by the said head of subdivision, Mr. Vernhet, his wife and Reverend Yvard, gathered in the courtyard of the Residence.

It was a luminous spot surrounded by a halo which at first grew rapidly, moving towards or away from the horizon. The witnesses saw the machine lighting a powerful headlight, sometimes directed upwards, sometimes downwards. The ovoid-shaped craft was surmounted by a cupola, and light rays seemed to be detached from each side.

When it disappeared after half an hour, the witnesses saw clearly - according to the report - two halos of light, oval in shape, forming at the presumed location of the craft which moved without any noise.

The same day, at Soubre, 250 kilometers north-west of Abidjan, similar phenomena were observed by the head of subdivision.

In France, flowering flourishes, passing through all forms of flying crockery: in Corbigny (Nièvre), it is a luminous orange disc moving vertically; in Breuil-Caussée [sic] (Deux-Sèvres) it is a diver mounted on a plate that scared an employee of the center of slaughter; in Vron (Somme), it is a millstone around which strange individuals prowl and flies away; in Levroux (Indre), it is a luminous machine 1 meter in diameter that is spotted "at the height of the buildings" by two widows of the area, and in Vatan (also in the Indre), it is a ball that 15 people see dancing like a dancer. In Milly-la-Forêt (S.-et-O.) it is a half-moon surmounted by a ring that appears to a restaurant owner.

Finally, on Monday in Chamonix for more than an hour, the officers of the high mountain school, many gendarmes of Chamonix and a pilot specializing in high-altitude flight flying over the region at that time followed the moves of a brilliant machine of bizarre form between Mount Lachat and Mount Blanc.

The opinion of a scientist

If one addresses the most qualified scientific circles, there are two attitudes: that of refusing to answer on the pretext that the problem does not exist and that of critically examining the published testimonies and to provide public opinion, confused and excited by the Press, the positive element allowing to recognize the natural phenomena.

This latter attitude is that of Professor Evry Schatzman, a research fellow at the Institute of Astrophysics and a lecturer at the Sorbonne, to whom we have asked to enlighten our readers.

"Is it true that scientists are beginning to take the flying saucers seriously?"

- I have never met any astronomer who believes the flying saucer stories [ast]. I have personally read many books on this subject, seeking to grasp the exact meanings of the testimonies reported. By admitting descriptions made in good faith - which is always to be doubted - it always results in a perplexity as to the elements that can be drawn from it. In the majority of cases they are incomprehensible: the precise hour, the duration, the exact direction of the "phenomenon" is not known, nor even if it occurred by day or night. Or they are made unreliable by details that cannot be distinguished. And they are reported with the intention of making believe in the mystery. When one has a precise and complete description, one can do what is at stake and which can make illusion for the heated imagination of a public knowingly deceived for commercial and political purposes.

- Can you describe such phenomena?

- The list is long and not yet exhausted, because it is necessary to take into account still unknown atmospheric and meteorological phenomena. Among the phenomena which may give rise to misunderstandings, these are the most characteristic, not to mention the "visions" prompted by the causes of popular anxiety, such as these parachutists spotted by artillerymen in May 1940, who every night shoot at... Venus!

1. The rising and setting of the planets (Especially Venus and Jupiter).

2. The "shooting stars" and the "fireballs": one tonne a day arrives on the earth. The light is produced by the heating of the aura on the meteoric trajectory. The smallest shooting stars visible to the naked eye are grains of matter of 1 milligram which vanish completely between 120 and 90 kilometers. Only the fast fall on the ground limits the complete destruction of the bolides, that a longer course in the atmosphere would also annihilate.

3. The phenomena of "parhelia", which give rise to false suns, together with halos, and which are explained by the presence in the upper atmosphere of hexagonal prismatic ice needles. The concentration of light rays (sun and moon) in calm air on these crystals produces luminous spots on the right and left of the sun or moon at an equal distance from the halo radius of 22 degrees 5. A halo occurs more with other suns or other moons, with a double angular diameter.

Thus the inhabitants of Péronne "believed to see" an unexpected sun eclipse on June 20 and 21. A normal halo of exceptional intensity occurred, about which Daniel Roguet, astronomical correspondent, described the effects in these terms:

"At certain times, depending on the cirrhus [sic] variation, the inside of the halo was very dark gray-black and the iridescent colors of the halo as bright as those of a beautiful rainbow, beyond it, a milky sky, slightly ocher, forming a magnificent contrast with the central part".

4. The high-voltage power line balls that serve as landmarks for aviators were recently mistaken for mysterious craft by cyclists who at night saw these balls swept by the lighthouse of an airfield.

5. Weather balloons from meteorologists.

6. Ball lightning: these are configurations that occur at certain thunderstorms, with a precarious charge balance.

7. The phenomenon of mirage in the atmosphere. You know how it happens on the ground: the light rays do not propagate in a straight line in hot air, but they just reflect on the film of overheated air, for example by the road tar during the summer. You think you see puddles of water in front of you [mir1]. The inversion of temperature at altitude also causes a change in the index of refraction: hence the effect for an aviator to see a spot of light go straight ahead, while this point has its real source on the ground. [mir2]

The object, which always seems to be at the speed of the airman, is, moreover, characteristic of the object situated at very great distances.

- But is it not possible to scientifically design terrestrial craft comparable to the "saucers" seen here and there?

No, for the great velocities of which the "witnesses" claim these "machines" are animated could only be reached in regions of rarefied air, at the limit of the atmosphere. The mechanical action of the air on their surface would soon have dispersed the molecules of the substance which they would be made of.

In short, to summarize the scholar's thought, there are three elements to be distinguished in these flying saucers stories:

1. A scientific element: discussion of observations, explanation of natural phenomena, sociological explanation of the phenomena of collective hallucination [hal].

2. A logical element: inconsistency of opinions and testimonies.

3. A political element: excitement of public opinion, substitution of imaginary problems for real problems, etc. [pol]

Mr. Evry Schatzman has enumerated the phenomena of vision, false perception, and hallucinations which may explain the most precise and complete testimonies-which are a minor infirmity and always subject to caution.

There is no scientist to take seriously the assumptions made by scientific writers, science-fiction specialists and members of the Pentagon [pol], who have also renounced the theory of extraterrestrial craft, as revealed in the last book by Mr. Keyhoe.

The saucers museum is always empty of exhibits. And it is difficult to admit, if the "saucers" are terrestrial craft, that we never collected a single fragment [fra], never heard the supersonic detonation [sup], nor ever observed a perturbation in the air.

It should also be noted that "saucers" and "other cigarillos" seem to be systematically missig in the Soviet skies, Chinese skies and people's democratic countries... [pol] [est]

This is not the place to comment on the "true" - there are - and the "false" in the remarks attributed to Evry Schatzman; I wanted to make a few brief comments anyway:

[ast] This is literally true: Evry Schatzman certainly never met an astronomer "giving cfrredence to the saucer stories". What would be false is to claim that none existed (Hynek, La Paz, Tombaugh...)

[pol] Like many other French scientists of that time, Evry Schatzman was a Marxist, with an devotion to the ideology of the USSR. It had been claimed in these circles that the "saucers" were "political", that is, the "Pentagon" used them to make people anxious, whereas Communist countries would not do such a thing.

[est] It is totally false that there were no "saucers" in the Communist countries. Read Boris Shurinov, Felix Zigel, for example.

[mir1] It must be understood that the mirages on the ground do not make appear "saucers" nor "spacecraft".

[mir2] Evry Schatzman believed correct the ideas of the "skeptic" American astronomer Donald Menzel. They are without foundation on this matter; there has never been anything like a "luminous mirage in the sky". What can happen is a refraction of radar waves, detecting objects on the ground (truck, boats) and then showing them on the radar screens - but with the speed of movement and the trajectory of the truck or boat... The radarists of the time had to recognize them as such; later, these "false echoes", these radar returns of slow objects on the ground were filtered electronically so thatthe radar men did not have to bother about them anymore.

[sup] It is the French scientist Jean-Pierre Petit who later showed how even with our already known technologies (MHD), it would be possible to suppress the sonic boom. The argument could stand in 1954, it should no longer be used.

[fra] There is no shortage of cases with "fragments"; certainly often debatable if not debunked. The museum of the saucers remains to be built, no one having ever been concerned to preserve correctly the most intriguing fragments.

[hal] Mistakes are obviously not "collective hallucinations", the journalist does not seem to understand. Misinterpretations and collective misinterpretations exist, "collective hallucinations" simply do not exist. The problem is very rarely a "false perception", it is often a "false interpretation".

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