Sunday, March 14, 2010

UFOs over Cleveland

As if Cleveland isn't scary enough. Now there are strange lights darting about the sky. One man video taped it. "A local man said he spotted a UFO and he believes it's proof we're not alone. 'Absolutely nothing we have on this earth even looks like that,' said Eugene Erlikh." Immediately, Josh on the mailing list (go here to join) reminded us of the words of Michael Shermer, "before we say something is out of this world, we should first make sure that it's not in this world." Carla Jackson, the lone skeptical voice from the article, is even tougher to please. "Camera trick," said Carla Jackson. "I have to be there to actually see it."

Apparently Lake Erie has become known as a hotspot for UFO sightings.  According to the above article, Musician Michael Lee Hill has filmed many UFO videos from this area and posted them on YouTube. He has even sold some of them to news and documentary makers. Although the videos just look like airplanes from the nearby Hopkins and Burke Lakefront airports, Hill rules out this prosaic explanation by pointing out that the lights are not blinking.

If a sighting is not just a plane, there are other possibilities as well. Last year in New Jersey, two skeptics out to demonstrate the credulity of the media, ufologists, and the public at large launched several flares attached to helium balloons and let the mayhem begin. Of course there are those who create hoaxes for other motives such as money or media attention (but one should be careful not to jump to this conclusion either). One member of the Cleveland Skeptics suggested that lasers of some sort could be reflected off of clouds to create a UFO effect.

Yet another explanation involves no humans intervention at all. Josh points out that even though they spend more time looking at the sky than anyone, astronomers and lay expert astronomers rarely report UFOs. "Notice how there aren't a lot of UFO reports from professional and amateur astronomers." That's because they know how to identify objects such as Venus, meteors and other astronomical phenomena which are often labeled as UFOs by the untrained eye.

Josh sums it up, "Lets all remember what the 'U' stands for.  'Unidentified'. To go from calling it an unidentified flying object, to calling it an alien spaceship from another planet is committing the logical fallacy, (the) argument from ignorance.  The only thing that 'argument' proves is that you don't know what it is. "  

Additional Links:

Case closed:MUFON says Euclid, OH, UFOs Are Planes

Lake Erie UFOs Are Stars on YouTube

Neil deGrasse Tyson's take on the UFO phenomena

Do astronomers see UFOs? by Phil Plait

A Website for Astronomers to Report UFOs

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Phil Plait did an excellent write-up on this story.