Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Crowd Control
by Gareth D. Jones et al.

Blank Space
by David Wright

Robot of Dorian Graham
by Richard Zwicker

Seven Styles of Mortality
by Cathy Douglas

Lightning Strikes
by Sean Monaghan

2038: A Mars Odyssey
by Brian Biswas

Innovation Stopped
by William R. Eakin

Midnight in Absheron
by Edward Ashton

Full Fathom Five on Chemical Freedom
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

by Aaron Rasmusson

Shimmer and Fade
by Daniel Nathan Horn


UFOs: the Truth is Not Out There
by Eric M. Jones

Off on a Comet
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



UFOs: the Truth is Not Out There

By Eric M. Jones

THE QUESTION IS NOT WHETHER life exists on other planets, or whether Earth has been visited by these other beings, but whether or not we are to believe the tremendous numbers of flying saucers seen nearly every day. For saucer watching has become a fad. And saucer fans, today, express such a glib belief in human honesty that it seems almost paranoid to question them ...”

So began the article I published in the Number 5, May-June, 1968, issue of “Perihelion Science Fiction.” I am surprised how well it has held up. There are a few changes I would make to update it, but basically nothing of my conclusion has changed: There is not the slightest bit of evidence for the existence of flying saucers.

Some years ago a friend of mine remarked that there would soon be a huge drought of reports of UFOs due to the Sony Handicams being everywhere. In actuality there were many more images of UFOs, but they were all just dots in the sky, doing a jerky little dance because the camera was being hand-held. There is still not a single good photo or video of a UFO. Not a damned one. It’s a shame. Now we have seven billion little Earthlings with cameras and not one decent photo.

Later, little digital cameras of all descriptions, then phone cameras, were everywhere. Sure enough, other than the dance of the dots, there finally did come a peculiar drought of UFO sightings because people got tired of dancing dots. The Air Force’s Project Blue Book was soon closed with a yawn. The development of Adobe Photoshop by the Knoll brothers in 1988, while making it easier to doctor images, also made people generally suspicious of UFOs—or any other images.

Despite what you may have heard, after an exhaustive search, absence of evidence really is evidence of absence; especially when a blockbuster claim is made and not even a single shred of evidence is offered. It’s not up to me or anyone else to prove the UFOs don’t exist, it’s up to the claimant to prove that they really do.

But just because we don’t have a single UFO photo does not mean we don’t have oodles of unidentified stuff to see. Indeed there are at least one thousand times as many isecret base on marsmages as there were in 1968, because robot satellites now take pictures and it’s all available online. The current rage is to examine the millions of photos that NASA and others have sent back from space missions. Here is a photo of a secret base on Mars. Why would it be called “secret” since we have all these pictures? There are many similar image anomalies caused by the imaging-related electronics being pelted by cosmic rays.

[“Martian base” seen from orbit, left. So what does NASA say? They say it is a flaw in the image transmission caused by a cosmic ray. Furthermore, other photos of the same area show nothing. Did the clever Martians hide it?]

But there are also many images that are plainly what the human brain does with nondescript jumbles of light and shadow. The tricks that the human brain plays to see images where there aren’t any, such as seeing animal shapes in clouds, is called pareidolia.

Here’s a better moon base from Google Moon. This certainly can’t be a natural phenomenon! moon base

[Location: 22° 42'38.46N–142° 34'44.52E. At right. Has Google Moon just proven this is a secret Nazi base on the surface of the Moon? Or is this a stitching artifact from assembling thousands of digital photos by computer? You decide!]

The recent excitement regarding the Face on Mars (a picture of which Wikipedia uses to illustrate an excellent article on pareidolia) is a classic case. But there are so many detailed photos of Martian terrain that I am astonished that there are so few claims of faces (or horses, bunnies, dogs, or whatever) on Mars. They are all there. Finding weird shapes with “Google Mars” is easy and can keep you busy through those long business meetings. Here’s one I came up with.

mars faces[Left, Martian Domestic Dispute, on the Kasei Valles-Sacra Fossae Region of Mars.]

My sister-in-law sent me her collection of pictures of face-resembling wood grained doors in a care facility she worked at, “proving” that lost suffering souls were trapped there (she didn’t work there long). This is around the time the Jesus-Christ-on-Toast weirdness was in the news. I find it surprising when things resembling faces pop up from my toaster, but ascribe to them nothing more than the delightful tricks that the mind plays.

When I was a sophomore in college in 1966, a guy who I knew casually flew to the Bahamas on Spring break. When he returned, he came rushing into my dorm room and excitedly told me about what he had seen from the airplane window. (Being considered, in those days, the dormitory boffin in all things—at least photographic, scientific, and maybe extraterrestrial.)

He said, waving his hands in the air to paint a picture, “I saw the most amazing thing ... I glanced out of the airplane window and saw a cloud that looked exactly like George Washington. And I mean exactly! And just to his right I saw what looked like a red ribbon on a Christmas tree and down at the bottom of the tree, there was a large glowing ball.”

I regarded him quizzically and said, “Too bad you didn’t take a picture of it. I could probably tell you what it was.”

He surprised me when he replied, “Oh, I did take a picture of it. As soon as I got back I sent the film out and I’ll show you the picture when I get it.” He left and promised again to show me the photograph.

The big day finally came. He rushed into my dorm room and showed me an eight-by-ten photo. With great confidence I put the picture under the desk lamp and carefully examined it.

It was the most amazing thing! It appeared to be a cloud that looked exactly like George Washington. And I mean as exactly as a cloud could possibly form such an image. But what was more astonishing was just to the right I saw what looked like a hazy red ribbon on a Christmas tree zigzagging back and forth down the tree, and down at the bottom of the tree, there was a large glowing ball, just hanging there.

I stared at the picture trying to detect any sign of retouching. The picture seemed absolutely genuine. This was years before digital fakery. The clouds formed a perfect three-dimensional likeness of George Washington’s head and chest reminiscent of a Gilbert Stuart painting. The ribbon made no sense at all. I thought it might have been a rocket contrail, as the flight path could have been within a hundred miles of NASA’s Wallops Island Launch Facility, which was pretty busy in 1966. But the glowing ball ...? Could it have been some strange mirage of the sun? A rocket exploding? The biggest problem of all was George Washington. How could a cloud look so much like George Washington? I told him it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen and asked for a copy. I never got the copy, but did make a quick sketch of it before he left.

So there are things to be seen that perhaps nobody can explain; tricks of light, shadow and coincidences; evanescent shadows and forms. The human mind can interpret images in the strangest of ways. When our brain has little to go on, it grabs what it can get and runs with it.

Many people place great significance on a person’s place in life to give an observation credibility. This is simply a logic fallacy. Priests, pilots, military men and bankers don’t necessarily tell the truth or have special powers of observation. Being referred to as a “NASA Engineer” really doesn’t count for very much. There are too many people with medals and diplomas walking around claiming truly boffo adventures to believe them without a vast amount of corroboration. Police and courts won’t even convict a person based solely on eye witness testimony— no matter who makes it. People drink and take drugs, their brains go sloshy; they feel unappreciated and forgotten so they get some excitement from telling weird tales. But extraordinary claims still demand extraordinary proof. This has always been simply common sense. Google “You Tube John Lear.” Bill Lear (of Learjet fame) was married four times and named one daughter Shanda ... Get it? ... “Chandelier.” Tells you something about the family. John Lear, son of Bill Lear, is now a tale-teller of conspiratorial renown. Hey, if you can’t trust John Lear, who can you trust?

Well ... Google “Major Robert Dean” or “Jim Marrs” and follow links from there. Dr. Pete Peterson. George Green. Paul LaViolette. Joseph P Farrell. Steven Greer. Mike Harris. Brian O'Leary. Graham Hancock. Jim Humble. Benjamin Fulford. Gary McKinnon. All these guys tell stories of aliens and secret bases and abductions. Curiously, few of them have the same details except what is part of common science fiction TV culture ... and not a single good photo among them.

I was lucky to be a first-person witness to a curious incident in which an “expert observer” saw a UFO (and I mean Unidentified Flying Object), although perhaps it wasn’t actually flying. I was flying a Cessna 172 in November with my friend Byron and his wife, descending from 3,000 meters to land in Santa Monica, CA (Byron was bored one day so he opened a university. He also made hardware that has now left our solar system ... but I digress).

EMJ: “Santa Monica tower, Cessna 20EJ [2-0 Echo Juliet], with Alpha [current weather information code] at Sepulveda Pass [a VFR reporting point north of the airport].”

Tower: “Standby 20EJ ... Santa Monica Tower to unidentified aircraft over Pacific Palisades [a VFR reporting point west of the airport], state your intentions ...”

Very expensive moments pass. We’re rapidly using up aviation’s three most precious commodities: time, fuel, and altitude.

Tower: “Santa Monica Tower to unidentified aircraft over Pacific Palisades, state your intentions ...”

The copilot and I scanned the dark sky carefully. The visibility was spectacular. But all we saw were the lights of Santa Monica, stars in the sky, a couple of airplanes headed elsewhere and the magnificently bright “Evening Star” planet Venus setting in the west.

EMJ: “Cessna 20EJ, at Twin Towers [a closer VFR reporting point].” We hadn’t yet been given permission to land but we expected to be told to either land straight in or enter the traffic pattern at any moment.

Tower: “Standby 20EJ. Santa Monica Tower to unidentified aircraft over Pacific Palisades, State your intentions ...” The tower controller sounded flustered. Sometimes airplanes have radio problems, and sometimes pilots tune to the wrong frequency. Sometimes pilots are drunk or asleep, too. Airplanes with no radio communication are just another flight problem for tower controllers to solve.

But where was this airplane? The copilot and I looked carefully and again saw only the stars and the planet Venus, and it suddenly occurred to us that the tower controller was trying to get Venus to respond to his calls ... and not having much luck at it either!

In truth, our airplane was a thousand meters higher than the tower, so our view was much better. In my very politest pilotese, I informed the controller that the planet Venus was the “mysterious light.” There was a long moment of silence ... then suddenly: Tower: “20EJ cleared to land runway 21, Santa Monica. Contact ground point niner.”

I clicked my transmit button twice to confirm, and no more was said of it, at least on aviation frequencies.

So in conclusion: If you see something amazing in the sky, don’t hastily jump to conclusions about what you think you see. Take a photo of it; take as many photos of it as you can. Little jiggly lights don’t count for anything. Record your experience (maybe in a notebook) at once. Then consider the possibility that the local college braniacs have conjured up a really memorable hoax ... or that the Ultra-Rich Asian/South American drug lords have devised an amazing new cocaine transporter, or someone is making a movie, or someone slipped you a hallucinogen, or it’s errant Iranian space debris, or it’s some really rare cloud phenomena, or you have a tumor of the visual cortex, before you start thinking of really cool little green Lizard Men from another dimension ...

Be apprehensive of leading and conspiratorial language like: “Could this be another government cover-up? Why don’t they tell us the truth about chem-trails? Why were the UFOs continually landing and rising up from these fields? What could they be doing here and why? Is this a secret Nazi moon base? Why are people seeing all these UFOs in the Hudson River Valley area? Is this the start of an alien invasion?” END

Further Reading

The Skeptic Society & Skeptic Magazine.
Billy Meier on Wikipedia.
22 People Who Found Jesus in Their Food.

Eric M. Jones is the Associate Editor of “Perihelion.” He is an engineer, designer, consultant, and entrepreneur. His Internet business PerihelionDesign, builds and sells products, parts and materials to the home-built experimental aircraft community.