Relax, it’s not Aliens

Relax, it’s not Aliens. By Michael Shermer.

The US Government has recently been releasing information on real, non-hoax videos that appear to show UFOs, stimulating reports in the media:

For example, 60 Minutes’ correspondent Bill Whitaker asked Lue Elizondo, who directed the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), “So what you are telling me is that UFOs, unidentified flying objects, are real?” To which, Elizondo replied: “The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that. The United States government is telling you that.”

But no one — not the media, not the military, and certainly not the United States government — is saying that these sightings represent alien visitors. What they are confirming as “real” is the videos themselves as representing something out there in the world, and not a hoaxed CGI production. But when both believers and the general public hear the word “real” their brains tend to autocorrect to “alien” (or “Russian or Chinese assets” if they’re exhibiting a modicum of skepticism), instead of an ordinary effect of cameras and visual illusions or, simply, an unexplained anomaly.

What’s going on:

The three most widely viewed and discussed videos were filmed by infrared cameras mounted on Navy F/A-18 jets over the Atlantic seaboard and off the coast of Southern California. … They are now known as “Flir1” (San Diego in 2004) and “Gimbal” and “Go Fast” (Florida coast in 2015).

Flir1 is Navy pilot Chad Underwood’s video from 2004. According to Popular Mechanics, it first came to light in 2007 on a UFO website. It landed in public consciousness when it was reposted by the New York Times in Leslie Kean’s original article, then re-reposted in 2019 … In response, the Navy acknowledged that the videos were “real,” meaning that they are authentic videos and not hoaxes. …

Flir1 and Gimbal, says [Mick West, a columnist for Skeptic magazine], are what one would see if a jet were flying away from the camera, thus accounting for the eyewitness accounts that the object showed no directional control surfaces or exhaust. The apparent saucer-like shape of the Gimbal object, West continues, are due to glare on the lens of the camera. As he told the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Andrew Dyer, “What we’re seeing in the distance is essentially just the glare of a hot object,” most likely that “of an engine — maybe a pair of engines with an F/A-18 — something like that.”

In one of the videos, the object appears to zoom almost instantly off the screen, interpreted by some to indicate extraordinary speed and turning ability far beyond anything our jets are capable of. Astonishingly, West appears to be one of only a few people among the millions who have viewed these videos to have noticed in the upper left of the screen the camera “zoom” indicator double from 1 to 2 at the moment the object zooms to the left. When West slowed down the video replay by half at that moment, the extraordinary maneuver becomes quite ordinary. In addition, West notes, sudden movements of the cameras can make the objects look like they are themselves making extraordinary maneuvers: “The supposed impossible accelerations, and eventual loss of tracking lock, in the ‘Tic Tac’ video were revealed to coincide with (and hence caused by) sudden movements of the camera, leading to the conclusion that the object in the video was not actually doing anything special.”

The “Go Fast” video purportedly shows an object with no heat source (and therefore propelled by some unconventional engine) that appears to move impossibly fast just above the surface of the ocean. West then conducted what he describes as “10th grade trigonometry” (based on the numbers provided in the video image itself) to show that, in fact, the object was well above the ocean surface at around 13,000 feet and was probably just a weather balloon traveling at about 30–40 knots. “Because of the extreme zoom and because the camera is locked onto this object … the motion of the ocean in this video is actually exactly the same as the motion of the jet plane itself. You’re seeing something that’s actually hardly moving at all and all of the apparent motion is the parallax effect from the jet flying by.”

The most talked-about video is “Gimbal,” an object that appears to skim effortlessly over background clouds then come to an abrupt stop and rotate in midair, apparently without the propulsion systems necessary to pull off such a maneuver. West noticed that when the Gimbal object rotates, background patches of light in the scene also rotate in perfect union with the object. “I think what’s clear about Gimbal is it’s very hot — it’s consistent with two jet engines next to each other and the glare of these engines gets a lot bigger than the actual aircraft itself so the aircraft gets obscured by the glare,” West explains. “At the start of the video,” he adds, “it looks like the object is moving rapidly to the left because of the parallax effect, and the rotation was a camera artifact, and that the ‘flying saucer’ was simply the infrared glare from the engines of a distant aircraft that was flying away.” When he looked up the patents for that camera West found that the gimbal mechanism was responsible for the apparent rotation.

Since these three UAP videos were re-re-reposted by the Pentagon in 2020, two more videos by the UAP Task Force have been released. One shows a flying triangle and the second an apparently zig-zagging submersible sphere. West noted that the triangle UAP was filmed at night beneath the flight path into LAX, and that the object blinked in perfect unison with that of commercial airliners flying into Los Angeles from Hawaii. The triangular shape, he surmised, was most likely the result of a triangular-shaped lens aperture, producing a slightly blurred “bokeh” effect, where the shape of an out-of-focus small light takes on the shape of the aperture. In fact, there were other triangle shaped objects in the image that correspond perfectly to celestial objects that West identified as the planet Jupiter and some known stars.

The videos are shown at the link.

With the proliferation of high quality cameras in the last few decades, how come UFO pictures are always so blurry? If the UFOs are all over place as claimed, why can’t anyone take a snapshot that shows the alien craft in detail?