Archive for August, 2009
This article is written to excerpt, summarize, and illustrate one aspect of a theme that is encountered piecemeal in my recent book: The UFO Experience Reconsidered: Science and speculation (6)
Speculations on how an alien remote sensing probe might
work and why such a probe, based on a charged particle
beam, might be mistaken for an actual physical spacecraft.
The clearest and most succinct summary of reported UFO characteristics I have yet to find was written by the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek in a foreword to the book The UFO Controversy in America (4).
“The reported ability to execute trajectories, often but not always silently, that no
known man-made craft could generate or follow; the ability to hover, and then to
accelerate to high speeds in the order of seconds (and generally without a sonic
boom); on occasion to change shape, and to produce durable physical effects on
both animate and inanimate matter. To be, on occasion, unmistakably detected on
radar, yet to be peculiarly localized and preferential in their manifestation (that is,
their appearance at times and places when and where they would be least likely to
be detected, and their avoidance of level flight which would of necessity open them
to observation by people along the way). The pattern in the ‘close encounter’ cases
is almost universal: a rapid descent to a landing or near landing, a stay of the order
of only minutes, and the ascent, at usually a high angle, and disappearance either
through distance or by some other means (it is often reported that at a height of a
few hundred feet the bright luminosity vanishes). The choice of locale is statistically
significant. The close encounter cases simply do not occur on the White House lawn or
between halves at the Rose Bowl game, but in desolate spots, generally some distance
from habitation and where detection would be least expected. In a small percent
of the close encounter cases, robot-like or human-like “creatures” are reported.”
Dr. Hynek should not need an introduction to anybody who has made even the slightest foray into the field of UFO literature. His own book, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry (3) is considered a classic in this field and many people, myself included, think it is probably the most important book ever written on this subject. The book includes an appendix listing some eighty cases that were carefully selected by Hynek for maximum credibility. Reading these cases it is easy to conclude that the phenomena in question does not move in a way that is dependent on aerodynamics or on any kind of standard propulsion system. Can we create a set of familiar circumstances that would serve an an analog to what has been so consistently reported and ably summarized by Dr. Hynek?
If, in a darkened room, a stream of motor oil was poured through the plane of a laser level (used in construction for casting a level line), what one would see is a red dot with a disc shape to it. The dot could be moved laterally by moving the stream and vertically along the stream by raising and lowering the plane of the laser level. It seems to me that this may be analogous to something that actually happens and may explain, if only through the various geometric relationships involved, some of the characteristics summarized by Dr. Hynek above. What kind of a device can we imagine that would produce similar movement characteristics, but on the scale of those actually observed?
Particle accelerators can produce a stream of charged particles. These accelerators come in two basic configurations: circular (cyclotrons and synchrotrons) and straight (linear or linacs) and are used for research at various laboratories and educational institutions to investigate the nature of subatomic particles or at clinics to produce x-rays for medical purposes such as zapping cancer tumors. My personal experience is with linacs of the traveling wave variety. This type of device consists of a segmented tube of individual cavities with a gun at one end and a target at the other. Once in the tube the particles “surf” on a traveling radio frequency wave whose phase velocity is increased as it travels down the tube, thus accelerating the particles. The longer the tube, the higher the velocities and energies achieved. What would happen if a beam of accelerated charged particles were to be aimed up into the atmosphere instead of at a material target? Physicist Tom Mahood in his on-line essay, “Particle Beams and Saucer Dreams” (5) speculates that a particle beam aimed up into the atmosphere would, depending upon the initial energy and velocity, produce a ball of plasma at some altitude, and he provides some impressive mathematics to back this up. Coming out of the accelerator at high velocity the beam would initially shoulder aside molecules of air, but would gradually attenuate to the point where it would collide with these molecules and dump its remaining energy creating a ball of plasma. Much of the resulting electromagnetic radiation would be in the visual portion of the spectrum, but it would also show up as a false bogie on radar screens, and he suggests therein lies the military interest. (click here to read Mahood’s essay)
The Implications of Quantum Physics
The field of quantum physics (mechanics), is a difficult subject to wrap your mind around. Much of what happens on the level of the very small is counterintuitive to us. Things wink into and out of existence at subatomic dimensions, and the very nature of a particle seems to depend on whether or not it is being observed. Quantum entanglement is one of the strangest aspects of quantum mechanics. It holds that when two or more particles are put into the same state they become “entangled” and afterward mirror each other no matter how far apart they are separated. Moreover, this communication is instantaneous. The mathematics governing such action was first pointed out by Einstein et al. in 1935 (2) but he refused to believe it was possible, calling it “spooky action at a distance.” He proposed that the theory must be incomplete. However, subsequent developments have supported the validity of entanglement, and it has recently been verified experimentally on numerous occasions. As we currently understand it, entanglement is a fairly fragile connection. Magnetic fields, stray radiation, and the presence of other particles or atoms can cause what is known as decoherence. Even so, it would seem to open up the possibility of a number of practical applications. Those mentioned so far include unbreakable encryption, parallel processing by quantum computers, and teleportation. The last of these would seem to border on science fiction but, in fact, teleportation has already been achieved on a very small scale (subatomic particles) over short distances.
Remote sensing would also seem to be a possibility. Especially intriguing is the thought that an alien culture might use such technology to monitor events here on Earth. How would that work? It is next to impossible to know or even guess how a technology that may be centuries, millennia, or even much larger time periods, in advance of our own, would work. Nevertheless, I believe we must, at least, try. Extrapolating on current human technology, I imagine a device like a particle accelerator in which entangled particles such as electrons or protons are inserted and accelerated to velocities approaching the speed of light. Then some portion of them is separated off and pointed at a distant target. This would constitute a beam of charged particles. The remaining particles are maintained at velocity in a storage ring something like those in use today at various high- energy labs. When the targeted particles reach their destination they interact with whatever is there and that interaction is mirrored by their entangled “brethren” in the storage ring at home. Maybe the entangled particles could be put through a particle accelerator, then divided by a beam splitter of some kind sending half to a storage ring and putting the other half in orbit around a carrier beam of opposite charge that has wave characteristics. Care would be taken to achieve an exact match in the conditions the two halves experience, and then the traveling half is sent on its way in an annular configuration, by manipulating the phase velocity of the carrier beam. Figure No.1 is a schematic diagram of how such a device might work. A sufficiently advanced technology would have some way of monitoring what happens to the particles in the storage ring and thus could sense the nature of the distant target. Such a monitor might make use of information carried by synchrotron emissions (electromagnetic energy that radiates from such a ring as a result of the particle’s angular acceleration). Perhaps the storage ring is housed in a special chamber that allows a holographic image of the targeted environment to be produced. This synchotron radiation might also be used at the target end for sensing the environment there. Maybe an advanced alien culture could remain at home while monitoring developments in our world. A charged particle beam could be accelerated close to the speed of light fairly easily and sent on its way while the aliens stay in the comfort of their base of operations. They might still have to wait considerable periods of time for the beam to reach its intended destination, because even at velocities close to the speed light the trip could take many years, but once the destination was reached they would get instant results back home.
Active and Passive Sensing Systems
The human eye is an example of a passive sensing system. It gathers ambient light and transmits it as data to the brain. Hearing is also a passive sensing system. Radar and sonar are examples of active sensing systems. A signal is sent out and that portion that bounces back to the receiver is sensed. Almost all astronomy conducted by humans has been passive. What I am suggesting is that alien beings on distant worlds, with sufficiently advanced technology, might use an active sensing system to do astronomy. We know how to do this on a small scale. An electron microscope
is an example of an active sensing system using a beam of electrons to obtain resolutions much finer than can be achieved with light. The disadvantage of an active sensing system for great distances, as in astronomy, is the signal must make a round trip. However, by utilizing the instantaneous communication of entangled particles the aliens could get around this problem. Even if an alien civilization had established a physical presence somewhere in our solar system they still might prefer the use of such a remote sensing device to actual physical exploration. Would this alien monitoring process be apparent to us here on Earth? Under most conditions a cohesive high-energy beam striking Earth might not be visible to the naked eye. If, however, it were to pass through a gas such as methane upon its arrival it could cause the gas to fluoresce. Such fluorescence might act as a natural monitor revealing the organized nature of the beam. Maybe, instead of fluorescence we would see a plasma display as described by Tom Mahood. This would be especially true in low ambient light conditions. Under these conditions one might see a kind of hologram of the storage ring back at the alien base of operations (see Figure No. 2). The hologram might be the interior of the chamber housing the storage ring but seen as it would look when viewed from the outside. It may have its own albedo appearing luminous against a night sky or darker in bright daylight. Thus, the storage ring and its chamber at the source of the beam become a virtual spaceship. It may even be possible to “steer” or control the traveling half of the entangled particles by manipulating those in the storage ring at the source. In other words, they could “fly” their virtual spaceship to various locations of interest while staying physically at their base. On those rare occasions when conditions are just right to reveal their virtual spaceship to the human eye, it seems quite likely that most of the commonly mentioned characteristics of UFOs cited by Dr. Hynek would be met. There is an interesting corollary to this scenario. One of the criticisms that is commonly leveled against alien UFO advocates is the lack of any hard physical evidence. So far there really isn’t any. However, this may be one of those rare instances in which the lack of evidence is evidence. It may be that no hard physical evidence exists because the alien craft are only virtual.
The Explanatory Power of this Scenario
I need to emphasize that this speculation is only my best guess. Extrapolating on current science, of which I am but an interested layman, I have produced a scenario that I think is compatible with the description authored by Dr. Hynek and quoted at the beginning of this article. For instance:
• The probe would be silent and would not create a sonic boom
• Inertial problems are almost nonexistent because of extremely low mass.
• Shape could be flexible.
• A radar signature is probable.
• Descent and ascent at steep angle is to be expected (along the carrier beam).
• It could leave behind evidence of its presence such as burn marks or wilted vegetation.
It might even kill the engine of a car by inducing a current in the circuitry with polarity
opposite that of normal operation.
• The short duration of presence may result from difficulties maintaining entangled
coherence near Earth’s surface. This may also explain the preference for desolate
locations as the avoidance of excessive electromagnetic radiation in more urban
settings. Or . . . they may just wish to remain covert as much
• Changes in intensity could be the result of variations in beam energy all the way down
to zero (disappearance).
• Finally, there is the question of human-like creatures. Already described is what the
earthbound observer might see from a close encounter distance, but should the probe
actually envelope the observer then both ends of the probe would be seen simultaneously.
The observer would see the target environment because that is his/her locale, and
superimposed on this would be the source end, observed via a holograph, of the inside of
the storage ring chamber. Should there be autonomous creatures present in the chamber
at that time then they might be apparent to the earthbound observer. This would explain
events like the classic Kelly-Hopkinsville case (1,3) where glowing creatures appeared to
float and suggests that the beam in that case originated from somewhere with a very low
Major Question Marks
I feel this scenario is conceptually plausible, but I admit that technological unknowns abound:
• How do you make the huge numbers of entangled particles required?
• Can the coherence of entangled particles be made to last for long periods of time
instead of the microseconds we now experience?
• Can particles (electrons?) be put into a stable orbit around a carrier beam with wave
characteristics and moved along the beam by adjusting the phase velocity?
• Does synchrotron emission carry information about the state of particles in a storage
ring and can that information be used to produce a holographic image?
These are a few of the questions that need answers, and I assume that a highly advanced technical civilization would have ironed out these wrinkles long ago. The part I am most confident about is the involvement of some kind of particle beam that could enable remote sensing via entanglement and moves as described by Dr. Hynek.
Notes and References:
1) Calamia, J.R. “August 21, 1955 – Shots Were Fired” MUFON UFO Journal 483 July 2008
2) Einstein, Podolsky & Rosen “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be
Considered Complete?” Physical Review 41,777, May 15, 1935
3) Hynek, J. Allen 1972, The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. Henry Regnery Co. p. 150,
4) Jacobs, David M. 1975 The UFO Controversy in America. Indiana University Press, p. xiii
5) Mahood, Tom 1998 “Particle Beams and Saucer Dreams”
6) Mason, R.L. 2008. The UFO Experience Reconsidered*. Schooner Moon Books
* Available at http://stores.lulu.com/smbs
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