The UFO Experience Reconsidered: Science and Speculation

Domestic Speculations

Robert T. Jones, Aerodynamicist

When I was a youth, in the years immediately proceeding and following adolescence, one of my best buddies was Ed Jones. Ed and his two sisters lived three doors from me in Palo Alto and I spent a lot of time at their house. Their father was Robert T. Jones, the famous Aerodynamicist. I didn’t realize how famous he was at the time. To me he was just their father and he worked for NASA, although the kids were fond of pointing out that their father had invented the swept back wing. Hanging out at the Jones’ house was a real education. Ed was a few years older than I and he had an old Model T. Ford truck that we were continually tearing apart and putting back together. In addition, we built countless model airplanes. In this latter endeavor we received the most expert instruction you could possibly imagine. There were also lessons in optics and electronics. Most of my instruction came to me second hand from Ed, but occasionally I got it straight from “R.T.” himself.

R.T. had a knack for making the strangest looking contraptions fly, and fly well. One in particular sticks in my memory. It was a flying wing, but more like half a flying wing. It was almost all wing and it was straight, but it flew on a bias. In flight, one end would lead by quite a bit and the other end would trail. Looking at it made you scratch your head and think, “How could such a configuration possibly fly?” but it did. R.T. called it an “oblique flying wing.” Many years later, after he retired from NASA and was associated with Stanford University, he spent time developing this concept further. What eventually emerged was a fairly complete design for a Mach 1.6 aircraft that could seat 440 passengers inside a wing with a span of 400 feet. Of course, you don’t see anything like that flying today. It was just too strange for the public to accept. As R.T. himself once wrote “artifacts created by humans show a nearly irresistible tendency for bilateral symmetry” (10). If one of these wings were to appear in the sky without warning you would immediately be struck by the almost “unearthly” quality of its appearance.

There probably are aircraft of various types and configurations under development at secret facilities, and no doubt they contributed from time to time to the total inventory of UFO sightings. The recent unveiling of the stealth bomber and fighter is an example of this kind of secret development.

Area 51

Among UFO enthusiasts are those that frequent the small town of Rachel, Nevada, located near area 51 and the “secret” base at Groom Lake. There you can sign up for a guided evening trek up into the Nellis Range over looking the base. I have never done this, but I understand that on Wednesday nights at a certain location, it can be a very interesting experience, or at least it used to be. The most common description of what was seen involves a ball of brilliant light that changed altitude in a stepped fashion, exhibited terrific accelerations, and made sharp turns at very high velocities. this has all the ear marks of a beam of some kind directed from either above or below –– probably below. But how could such a beam be made to exhibit a bright ball of light without hitting a target or passing through a layer of gas and thus causing fluorescence? I don’t know, but I am addicted to speculating about this kind of thing.

If there was a device similar to the linear accelerators described in the previous chapter that produced a particle beam of some kind, maybe there is a way to run something up and down that beam. Suppose this device produced a beam of protons or positive ions and accelerated them to high velocity. And suppose there was a way of superimposing a wave function on this beam. I envision this as looking like stop-and-go traffic on a freeway when viewed from above. And further, suppose there is a way of controlling the phase velocity of this wave. This gets me back to R.T. Jones again.

In the early days of television, when I was somewhere in the range of ten to twelve years old, I happened to walk into the Jones’s living room one day and noticed what I thought was a TV. not everybody had one in those days, and I commented on its presence. R.T. was nearby and he informed me that what I was looking at was actually an oscilloscope.

“What’s an oscilloscope?” I asked, stumbling over the pronunciation.

“Do you know what oscillation is?”

“Uh huh”, I replied with a nod, not wishing to appear ignorant.

He looked at me for just a moment and an almost imperceptible smile crept over his face.

“Well, oscillation is when something moves back and forth between two limits like the pendulum on a clock.”

I remember being embarrassed that he had seen through me so easily. He then turned on the scope and gave me a lesson in its use. the image that sticks in my head to this day was the standing sine wave that he produced on the screen.  He  made  it  proceed  to  the  right  slowly  at  first  then gradually faster until the wave was just a blur. He then slowed it down again until it was motionless again, all the while explaining about frequency and phase velocity. Anybody who has worked with an oscilloscope has seen what I have just described. Much later, when I worked for the Radiation Division of Varian Associates, I was impressed with the fact that the phase velocity of a radio frequency signal can be used to move particles down the length of an accelerator’s tube, and accelerate them in the process.

So, what if we pass a positive beam through a small synchrotron-like device that has electrons whirling around in it, and we pass the beam through the synchrotron along its axis of rotation. Would there be a way of hanging a ring of electrons on the positively charged beam? And could this ring be moved up and down the beam or be held steady at some location by adjusting the phase velocity? and since the ring of electrons would give off what is called synchrotron radiation from being constantly held to a circular path, would this electromagnetic radiation be in the visible portion of the spectrum? There are a lot of questions here and not many answers.

After thinking about this a little more, I realized the synchrotron is not necessary. All you need is a small linear accelerator arranged perpendicular to the larger positive beam. This linac would put out a stream of electrons at just the right velocity and distance from the center of the positive beam so that they go into a stable orbit around the stream of positive particles. The phase velocity of the positive beam could be adjusted so the positive peak of a standing wave (zero phase velocity) was at the intersection of the two beams while the orbit was being established. Once established, the phase velocity of the positive or carrier beam could be increased, sending the ring on its way. (see A Hard Look at UFOs)

After writing the above I decided to see if anybody else had come up with the idea of linking particle beams and UFOs and this led me to the web site authored by Tom Mahood entitled Bluefire (11). From his site, I gathered that Tom was at one time an area 51 groupie, but has since reformed and is now a physicist. This combination of attributes provides him with a unique perspective on the question of UFOs sighted over area 51. Tom 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 eventually collide with these molecules and dump its remaining energy creating a ball of plasma. A good deal 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 that is where the military interest lies. Mahood notes a paragraph from David Darlington’s book, Area 51 — The Dreamland Chronicles[06]. Darlington, quotes Mark Farmer and because it is such a descriptive passage, I will quote it also:

“I’ve seen two of them out here,” Farmer divulged.
“One was a light that kept bouncing around and then just  went  away.  The  other  was  colored,  floating, glowing orb that popped up behind the jumbled mountains south of Groom Lake. It went straight up, then started jerking around and wobbling up and down — at times making right-angled, or greater than right-angled, turns then sitting still in a rock-hard hover. It became distorted when it moved part of it lagged behind the main object, then the trailing edge would catch up. I had a Celestron twelve-hundred- millimeter telescope, and I watched it for an hour and forty-five minutes. It wasn’t quite round; it was sort of squashed, and shimmering the whole time as if  it  were  surrounded  by  some  kind  of  field.  It  was crimson on top, blue-green on the bottom, and gold in the middle. I have no idea what it was” (12).

After reading his on-line essay “Particle Beams and Saucer Dreams,” (13) I had the feeling that Mahood is probably closer to established science than I am, but who knows what is yet to be established? I’ll touch on this kind of thing again in the next chapter, but from a different point of view. (Click here to read Mahood’s essay)

Historical Coincidence?

The first particle accelerator, a cyclotron, was built in the early 1930s, but they really didn’t proliferate until the invention of the synchrotron and the linear accelerator in the mid 1940s. I think it is interesting to note that the modern era of UFOs is generally considered to begin in 1947. As Tom Mahood speculates, the military interest in accelerators probably has to do with their ability to create a false radar target. Just how much development and distribution the resulting device has received is unknown, but I get suspicious whenever I read about UFOs being sighted in conjunction with large military maneuvers or naval exercises.

Robert Thomas Jones, May 28, 1910 — August 11, 1999 by Walter G. Vincenti /
Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences
[06] p. 237

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Sunday, January 25th, 2009 Chapter 4 (sample) No Comments


Let me admit, right from the start, that this field of study is extraordinarily polluted. the paucity of hard facts has allowed imaginations to run wild, hoaxes to be perpetrated, fraud, and outright lies. in addition, a large number of reports (perhaps the majority) are simply misidentifications or misinterpretations of familiar objects or phenomena. But is there a signal hidden in all this noise?
UFO’s exist, of course, that is, Unidentified Flying Objects exist. If a flying object is observed which cannot be identified then it is a UFO by definition. The key question is whether there is an extraterrestrial intelligence behind any of them, and that is where the confusion starts. Go into any book store and ask where the shelf containing books on this subject is, and you will receive directions to the section on the occult, mysticism, the paranormal, and metaphysics. There, nestled in with Bigfoot and poltergeists you will find the books on the subject at hand. I don’t see how there could be any clearer testimony to the feeling of the general public (not to mention the scientific community) when the subject of UFO’s is broached. even those who bill themselves as UFO investigators or “ufologists” are a pretty erratic lot, tending toward sensationalism, continually quoting or disagreeing with each other. You have to move mountains of detritus to find a few flecks of gold.

Some authors on this subject have been proven to be fraudulent. long before space probes established that the planet Venus has a surface temperature that can melt lead, and is an arid inferno of crushing atmospheric pressure and acidic clouds, George Adamski claimed, in the book Flying Saucers Have Landed [07], to have had a conversation with a christ-like alien being who informed him he was visiting from Venus.1 All of the above has caused serious, scientific investigators to avoid the subject like the plague. I am not a scientist; I’m an engineer with some exposure to particle accelerators. Being an engineer probably gives me a slightly different slant on things. engineers are usually more concerned with how things can be made to work (technology) as opposed to the basic nature of things (science). the reader may detect that inclination in this book.

Until I read The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry[13] by J. Allen Hynek I was quite skeptical concerning the whole subject. Since reading the book I have moved from negative to neutral, or agnostic and very curious. Dr. Hynek convinced me that some physical phenomena is being observed that deserves serious investigation. But what is it? in this book speculations are offered in three general categories: natural causes, domestic technology, and alien technology. But perhaps more importantly, a new way of looking at the phenomena is proposed that finds itself at home in any of these three possibilities. More space has been given to possible alien technologies because of the far-reaching implications for the human race.

Monoprint - A Signal in the Noise by R.L. Mason

Monoprint - A Signal in the Noise by R.L. Mason

Writing this book has been a personal adventure of the mind which is why it is written in the first person. The tale unfolds roughly in the sequence of the adventure with recollections and research inserted where they seemed to fit best. The initial motivation grew out of ten years worth of conversation with Gordon Chism whose own adventure is included in chapter 2. Gordon is a firm believer in an alien presence, and if I had been in his shoes, I might be too. However, I am a natural born skeptic. I am sure Gordon’s account is accurate, but I had doubts about his interpretation. So I had to ask myself “okay, what did he see?” Chapter 3 is a summary of my first attempt at answering that question, and although it was an interesting exercise, it ended up inconclusive. in succeeding chapters I wander off in other directions, explore other avenues, and learn much in the process. eventually, in chapter 13, I come full circle and return to my starting point armed with new knowledge and what I believe is a unique perspective. In short, what we have here is a puzzle. I have always enjoyed trying to solve puzzles, and in this case the reader is invited along for the adventure.


1 [07] p. 198
2 [13] p. vii

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Friday, September 26th, 2008 An Introduction 1 Comment