Considering the amount of ground covered in each one-hour Chasing UFOs episode, it isn’t always possible to present the science of each investigation in a comprehensive way. So, for those who wish to learn more about the science behind Chasing UFOs, read on!
Considering Cattle “Mutilations” and Classification Errors
Admittedly, my background isn’t in the biological sciences. Bearing this in mind, my ability to directly contribute to the analysis of unusual animal deaths or carcasses is limited. However, I did want to speak to a danger one must avoid when dealing with or analyzing a group of unknowns, such as a simultaneous investigation of unexplained sightings and animal deaths. This is the idea of the classification error.
Briefly, because any two unknowns are similar to the human psyche in that they are both unexplained, it is tempting for people to link them together because they are each unexplained. However, unless driven by any firm data to link the two phenomena, this is an enormous fallacy.
I believe it is very likely that something similar is afoot with respect to so-called cattle “mutilations,” first between individual unusual animal deaths with respect to each other (i.e., that all deaths are part of the same mysterious phenomenon as opposed to a mix of different but exotic terrestrial causes), and secondly between animal deaths and unidentified lights in the sky (i.e., that the lights are actually preceding or causing the deaths in some way).
Beware the temptation to connect question marks to create a narrative, particularly when some people find the narrative thrilling, such as that alien visitors have traveled to Earth and are carrying out clandestine biological experiments.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Soil Sampling and Situational Awareness
Our purpose for what eventually became the “mountain lion” nighttime recon sequence featured in the Colorado episode was to collect soil samples at the site of several alleged mutilations. This was so that we might be able to test against claims that unusual concentrations of hematite, magnetite, or micrometeorites are frequently found at “mutilation” sites, with the subsequent claim that this somehow indicates the presence of extraterrestrial spacecraft – but we were addressing one claim at a time.
After collecting samples, we remained in the area after dark at the suggestion of a local rancher who said he had recently seen strange “lights in the sky.” It is here, looping back to biology, that I wanted to address the mountain lion tracks we came upon in the dark and offer a warning: Don’t try this at home.
- Note: While rare, feline claw marks can be present with tracks in deep mud, which was the case with the inner two digits of the track featured during this segment in thermal infrared. More pertinent to accurate track identification is the fact that canine tracks include a “scoop” in the heel pad, whereas feline heel pads have multiple lobes. The lack of an indented heel pad in this case rules out a canine track.
In the winter, when food supplies are scarce, predators such as mountain lions often retreat to the mountain block and remain next to freshwater supplies as hunting grounds to let the prey come to them. As depicted above, I was stalked in such a scenario back in 2009, and as the night wore on, several distinct similarities in the geography and conditions had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I was actually inspired to mention my mountain lion encounter from years earlier long before we encountered our own fresh mountain lion tracks.
Punch-line: If hiking, exploring, or investigating in the mountains during the winter season, develop and maintain an awareness of local wildlife and your geographic relationship to regional water supplies. Situational awareness might just save your skin.
And for the record, while it appears based on editing that I claimed scanning for fresh cow carcasses was one of the “most damn practical uses” for a thermal infrared camera I’d ever seen, in actuality I had been talking about using the technology to keep an eye out for mountain lions in the dark. –While I reject the former, I absolutely stand by the latter.
The Difference Between “Thermal” and “Infrared” Cameras
As a science stickler, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the difference (or lack thereof) between “infrared” and so-called “thermal” cameras. The former we’re all familiar with as the green-tinted “nightvision” cameras that allow us to see in the dark using a wavelength of light just longer than we can see (near-infrared). The latter is somewhat less familiar and shows the difference in hot and cold objects, a’ la the “alien vision” in the classic movie, Predator.
The reality? They are both infrared cameras. The only difference is sophistication.
All matter emits electromagnetic waves (light) with a wavelength that relates to its temperature (See: black-body radiation). Ordinary objects in our temperature range emit in the infrared, but get something hot enough and it will even start glowing beyond infrared and breach the visible spectrum, (i.e., “red-hot”). Therefore, what we all know as “heat” is fundamentally characterized by the emission of infrared (and other) light.
In this context, a consumer-grade infrared camera has a limited sensitivity, usually beneath what would be required to see the infrared glow of human skin. It only detects faint ambient infrared light. A thermal camera, on the other hand, has advanced sensitivity and on-board computing systems that give it the ability to assign any number of artificial colors to different wavelengths (temperatures) of infrared light.
Not only can these “thermal” infrared cameras detect the infrared glow we all emit, but it can even detect the range of temperatures across our bodies down to a very fine level of detail, tell the difference between separate gases in the air at different temperatures, the heat of plants compared to the ground, and so on. This makes such technology useful for a range of industrial and commercial applications, from manufacturing to home insulation inspections.
So ultimately, just because manufacturers and operators make a distinction between “infrared” and “thermal” cameras, know that they all work by detecting the emission of infrared light.
Stan Romanek’s “Mysterious” Tesseract
During our conversations with Stan Romanek, he revealed that he claims to have had nuclear physics and astronomical information implanted in his mind against his will, presumably during his alleged extraterrestrial “abductions.” Evidence of this “implantation” manifests, according to him, as nocturnal scribbling that he allegedly discovers upon waking, which he shared with us.
Because of my professional background in astronomy and radiological engineering, I recognized most of the equations, which were interesting in context but not anything that appeared to me to be “extraterrestrial” in nature. An assumption deserving of critical analysis here is that information allegedly implanted by an alien race would be accomplished in Latin script and not in some sort of E.T. script, but that is another matter.
So, while nothing demonstrated to me that these drawings and equations had to be anything other than the construct of an imaginative mind with some time spent absorbing astronomy and physics textbooks, there was one diagram in particular that caught my attention.
The diagram in question, (as seen above), is a clear but novel use of what is known as a hypercube shadow, or tesseract, which I feel is worth explaining because the concept is a scientifically interesting one. Simply, a tesseract is a mathematical construct – a tool – that is used to help us visualize in three dimensions a hypothetical “fourth-dimensional” cube.
Now, if even the words “fourth-dimensional cube” sound mind-bending, you are not alone. In fact, the words must sound perplexing by definition, as no human being can directly imagine a true fourth-dimensional cube using our three-dimensional brains. However, we can instead imagine a 4D cube’s shadow. Just as the shadow of a three-dimensional wire cube can appear as a square-within-a-square connected at the corners, the shadow of a hypercube would appear as a cube-within-a-cube connected at the corners, which is what is drawn above.
In a rudimentary sense, then, it appears that a tesseract is being used in the above diagram to suggest higher-dimensional geometry with respect to our solar system and an alien solar system, which is depicted to exist about a star related to the constellation Orion, with some sort of “wormhole,” conduit, or pathway drawn in-between.
I haven’t ever seen a hypercube used in such a way before, which on its face is a very interesting way to imply the idea of higher dimensionality. Again, however, the information didn’t need to come from extraterrestrials in order to exist in someone’s thoughts. Reading Edwin A. Abbott’s book, Flatland from more than a century ago comes to mind, which could inspire extremely similar ideas.
The Romanek Mask Test
The visual similarities between Stan’s video and our demonstration video to me are striking, especially considering that the mask I used was simply an upper-grade Halloween mask with no customization. It appears certain that nothing in the original video as compared to ours rules out the possibility that a mask or puppet is what is captured on film, (with an obvious strength of the mask hypothesis being that it requires no unproven underlying assumptions).
Many cite the appearance of blinking eyes or reflections as evidence that the “being” captured on video could not have been artificial in nature. However, it should be noted that special-effects artists such as Phil Tippet and Stan Winston, along with famed puppeteer Frank Oz and an armada of popular ventriloquists, have all made successful careers during the last century out of making and using masks and puppets that not only blinked, but they also frowned, talked, and smiled.
A Note on Romanek’s Reaction
As so much of the “evidence” we’re given to explore comes in the form of human testimony, which as I have previously stated is amongst the poorest forms of data available, I think it is perfectly reasonable to include human reactions as the subject of critical assessment. And while I’m not jumping to any conclusion (or certainly any accusation), I want to at least call attention to Stan Romanek’s reaction when James calls on the radio to report that he has seen an alien outside of the Romanek household’s office window.
Why? Quite frankly, it’s not the reaction I would have anticipated based on everything that Stan had been telling us.
Prior to James’s bombshell transmission, as seen in the episode, Stan reacts to reports of electrical fluctuations and camera malfunctions with foreboding statements like, “This is how it starts…” The pitch of his voice is low, introspective, worried. However, his immediate reaction after James says an alien may have actually arrived is marked not by further concern or fear, with an, “I told you!” or a terrified, “Oh my God,” or something of the like. Instead, he delivers in a raised pitch that for all the world sound like incredulousness, “I don’t believe it! Really?!”
I find that reaction very interesting, upon which readers may draw their own conclusions.
The idea of linking unknowns is part of human nature. As an outgrowth of evolutionary necessity (e.g., recognizing the shapes of predators in foliage), we seek patterns in the noise (See: Apophenia). However, in the context of the modern world as applied to allegations of the ambiguous or unexplained, this tendency is merely a bias that prevents us from seeing the data and/or evidence plainly, as it is. Relative to the concepts in Chasing UFOs, this means that we must avoid the desire to unify all disparate unknowns under a common question mark until ruling out simpler individual explanations.
Only in this way can we challenge our own tendency toward pattern-seeking bias and help ensure the rigorousness of an investigation.
Something to think about!
Ben McGee is a member of the Chasing UFOs team. A true skeptic by nature, Ben is Chasing UFOs’ resident scientist.
Get to know Ben and the rest of the Chasing UFOs team, Fridays at 10P et/pt. And be sure to check back to the blog Friday night for Ben’s post-show wrap-up.