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Scientific Panel Urges Study of UFO Sightings

From The Washington Post

Some reported UFO sightings have been accompanied by unexplained physical evidence that deserves serious scientific study, an international panel of scientists has concluded.

In the first independent scientific review of the controversial topic in almost 30 years, which was directed by physicist Peter Sturrock of Stanford University, the panel emphasized that it found no convincing evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence or any violation of natural laws.

But the panel cited cases that included intriguing and inexplicable details, such as burns to witnesses, radar detection of mysterious objects, strange lights appearing repeatedly in the skies over certain locales, aberrations in the workings of automobiles, and radiation and other damage found in vegetation.

The 50-page review, which is being released today, asserts that scientists might learn something worthwhile if they can overcome the fear of ridicule associated with the topic and get funding for research to try to explain the occurrences.

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“It may be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports to extract information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to science,” the report stated, adding that such research also could improve understanding of, and in some cases debunk, supposed UFO events.

For example, earth science researchers have eventually accepted several phenomena “originally dismissed as folk tales,” including meteorites and certain types of lightning, the panel noted.

The findings are from a four-day workshop in Tarrytown, N.Y., followed by a second three-day meeting in San Francisco, both held last fall. The results are published in the current issue of the Society for Scientific Exploration, which was established by Sturrock.

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The inquiry involved scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell and Princeton universities, the universities of Arizona and Virginia, and institutions in France and Germany, among others. A panel of nine physical scientists analyzed presentations by eight UFO investigators, who were encouraged to present their strongest evidence. The project was funded by Laurance S. Rockefeller through his LSR Fund because of a belief, the report said, that “the problem is in a very unsatisfactory state of ignorance and confusion.”

The panel suggests that the scientific community has suffered a failure of curiosity regarding UFOs. Despite an abundance of reports over the last 50 years “and despite great public interest, the scientific community has shown remarkably little interest in this topic.”

Asked about the conclusions, a sampling of scientists and officials outside the panel expressed surprise and some anxiety that a topic with such a high “giggle factor” might be reincarnated for serious study, possibly further blurring the lines between legitimate research and the “lunatic fringe.” Some said they would never comment on the touchy topic, and some said they would reserve judgment until they had read the report.


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