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Enigma Issue 16: News Roundup

by Paul Vigay | Spring 1998

Arthur C.Clarke on UFOs

Arthur C. Clarke, inventor of the geo-stationary satellite and author of "2001, A Space Odyssey", recently commented on NASA spacecraft Galileo's photos of Jupiter's moon Europa.

"Running right across one of the pictures is an absolutely straight narrow line, and if you saw this you'd say, well, that's obviously a highway or a railroad track, and no-one can explain it - it's about 200 km long and its dead straight except for a slight wriggle where there's sort of a change of terrain, and we're all very, very puzzled about this and in fact I'm beginning to think the unthinkable."

Note: Europa is about the same size as the Earth's moon.

...and the following interview with Arthur C.Clarke in The Times Newspaper;

Arthur C. Clarke on the myth of the extra-terrestrials

Why ET will never call home.

It is probably too much to hope that the US Air Force's belated revelations about the source of many UFO sightings will put a stop to this tedious nonsense. Could anyone ever have seriously imagined that the Earth's skies have been full of alien visitors for the past half century, without the matter being settled one way or another?

For decades now, the radars of the great powers have been able to track all objects much larger than a football that come anywhere near our planet. Of course, it may be argued that alien spacecraft invariably use Stealth techniques but it is hard to see why they should bother, since they seem so willing to make contact. In any case, that would hardly help them to evade detection by the legions of amateur astronomers who constantly scan the skies.

Though it is perhaps unkind to do so, I would like to remind the UFO fanatics how earlier, widely accepted stories of alien meetings turned out to be ludicrous fabrications. Does anyone still remember George Adamski's Flying Saucers Have Landed? He reported cities on the other side of the Moon, and I believe there was once a lady who made a good living lecturing about her honeymoon on Venus.

Well, we have seen the lunar Farside (and I've never forgiven the Apollo 8 crew for resisting the temptation to report a black monolith there) and we know that any Venusian rivers are likely to consist of molten lead. We will have to go further afield than our immediate neighbours to look for intelligent life, perhaps life at all.

What is particularly ludicrous is the widespread idea (la Independence Day) that for several decades some super-secret branch of the United States Government has had alien spacecraft and aliens in its possession. Anyone who will believe that, will believe anything. I have known many of the people who would have been involved in such a cover-up, and I can assure you that it would have a half-life of about 48 hours. As one Pentagonian once remarked sadly: "I wish it was true then all us majors would be colonels." I think that settles the matter; but then of course, I may be part of the conspiracy.

Indeed, at least two of my friends were on the CIA committee looking into the UFO question, at a time when it was seriously considered that spaceships might be involved. One member (the late Professor Luis Alvarez, now famous for his theory that dinosaurs were exterminated by an asteroid 65 million years ago) told me how easy it was to dispose of most of the sightings, because the average observer simply does not know how many remarkable things there are in the sky.

Frankly, if you have never seen a UFO, you're not very observant or else you live in the city and don't have access to the sky, which nowadays is an all-too-common state of affairs. I have seen at least ten UFOs, and several of them were very convincing: it took quite an effort to convert them into Identified Flying Objects. And I still can't get over the fact that my most dramatic sighting was from Stanley Kubrick's penthouse on the upper East Side the very night we had decided to make a little home-movie together. (I'm embarrassed to say that the brilliant light we watched moving across the sky turned out to be the Echo balloon satellite, seen under rather unusual circumstances. Also, Stanley and I were in somewhat exalted mood, and perhaps not as critical as we should have been.)

One of the chief reasons I have never been able to take reports of alien contact seriously is that no spaceship ever contains aliens. The occupants are always human! Oh, yes, they do show a few minor variations such as large eyes, or pointed ears (Hi there, Mr Spock!) but otherwise they are based on the same general design as you and I.

Genuine extra-terrestrials would be really alien - as different from us as the praying mantis, the giant squid, the blue whale. Nature is incredibly ingenious: just look at the fantastic variety of creatures on this planet. We are products of thousands of throws of the genetic dice; if evolution was re-started once again on Earth, at any point the branches of the tree of life might have taken a different direction and we would not be here. But something would be...

The recent excitement about Mars has again focused public interest in the possibility (most experts would say the the probability) of life on other worlds. However, we should not expect too much even from the fantastically successful Pathfinder mission.

Watch out for Mars Surveyor, next month though, personally, I have considerably greater expectations for life beneath the ice-floes of the Jovian satellite Europa, for reasons given in my book 3001: The Final Odyssey.

With any luck, within the next few years (what a millennial present that would be!) we may have an answer to a question that has haunted mankind since our first ancestors started looking at the skies. And let me give the last word to the brilliant team of engineers and scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab who have amazed the world with such detailed close-ups up of the Red Planet.

In reply to my message: "Hope Rover's hub-caps aren't stolen overnight," they responded: "But how exciting if they are . . ."

And who says that scientists have no sense of humour?

Another article, this time from The Sunday Times, March 22 1998.

Bishops put their faith in aliens
by Maurice Chittenden

C of E phone home. An overwhelming majority of Britain's Anglican bishops believe there could be alien life forms out there.

The bishops' spacemen theory departs from the traditional Christian teaching that God created the world and made man as a unique species in his own image.

In a survey of 42 bishops carried out by The Sunday Times, 40 (95%) said that life could exist on other planets. Thirty-one (74%) said that alien life could be intelligent.

Clerical encounters of the third kind are not unprecedented: Francis Godwin, the 17th-century Bishop of Hereford, is credited by many with writing the first science fiction book, The Man in the Moone. It tells of an adventurer who flies to the moon in a chariot drawn by geese.

However, most churchgoers will be surprised at how many latter-day bishops believe that extraterrestrials like ET are perfectly possible. Some even envisage God as a spiritual spaceman going from planet to planet creating new life forms.

Henry Richmond, Bishop of Repton, said: "Yes, alien life forms could exist. I'd like to think that ETs were human-like but we might have to adjust our ideas and recognise that even little green men are another form of intelligent life that we oughtn't to feel threatened by."

Michael Turnbull, Bishop of Durham, said the discovery of other life could be a positive force. "God created all life. If it were possible to engage with life on other planets it would open our lives to the greater wonders of God's creation."

Most of the bishops accepted that finding alien life forms would require a reappraisal of traditional Christian doctrine. Mark Green, Assistant Bishop of Chichester, said there was no evidence - yet - that God had visited other planets. "But I would not be shocked if he had. If he has children on different planets he would visit them, the way a father would visit his children in different parts of the country."

Such attempts to come to terms with the possibility of life beyond Earth are not just a 20th-century phenomenon, said Lindsay Urwin, Bishop of Horsham. He quoted a hymn written by Frank Faber in the 19th century:

There is grace enough for thousands of new worlds as great as this.
There is room for fresh creations in this upper home of bliss.

"Religion has never just simply looked at the Earth to learn about him," said Urwin. "The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God and I would say that whatever is up there declares the glory of God."

Other bishops acknowledged that their understanding of extraterrestrial life had been heavily influenced by early science fiction. Michael Bourke, Bishop of Wolverhampton, said: "I was brought up on the theory that Mars was covered in canals made by intelligent life. The canals were a semi-respectable belief. Lots of people hoped that we would discover life on Mars . . . But it's all been rather disappointing, really."

Frank Weston, Bishop of Knaresborough, was more hopeful: "I am happy with an expanding universe and I am happy with universes beyond this one. God is an almighty creator and you can't limit his creativity. There must be life in other ways. I am rather excited about it."

The attitude of the Anglican bishops was welcomed by leading British UFO experts. Lionel Beer, vice-president of the British UFO Research Association, said: "The monsignors of the Catholic church might take a different view, but we have had quite a few vicars among our members. Many writers have interpreted events in the Bible, such as the star of Bethlehem, as extraterrestrial happenings."

Lionel Fanthorpe, a Welsh church minister who presents the Fortean TV programme about unsolved mysteries, said: "For me there is no 11th commandment saying thou shall not think. I think statistically it is almost certain there is life on other planets."

Additional reporting: Samantha Lafferty, Lucy Rollin, Georgina Wintersgill

Chirps and Buzzing in the Ears

Too much crop circle research, or Government Mind Control?

I received the following message via the Internet recently. It makes you wonder if it has any link with the strange 'buzzing' noises often heard in crop circles. It concerns the "Frey Effect" - or Microwave Hearing. I have included the relevant Internet addresses for those who want to continue their own research.

"... The more technical description of the experiment is described by James C. Linn (2). "Frey...found that human subjects exposed to 1310 MHz and 2982 MHz microwaves at average power densities of 0.4 to 2 mW/cm2 perceived auditory sensations described as buzzing or knocking sounds." (also described as clicks or chirps.)

"The peak power densities were on the order of 200 to 300 mW/cm2 and the pulse repetition frequencies varied from 200 to 400 Hz...Frey referred to this auditory phenomenon as the RF (radio frequency) sound. The sensation occurred instantaneously at average incident power densities well below that necessary for known biological damage and appeared to originate from within or near the back of the head..."

"...... A special role is played by the electrophonic effect of microwave hearing. Humans can perceive a buzzing or clicking sound in the back of their heads at exposure to power densities as low as 0.1 mW/cm=B2 of pulsed microwave radiation (200-3000 MHz), depending on the pulse repetition frequency and the peak power density (around 300 mW/cm=B2)..."

"...The military scientists argue that the concept of imprinting a virtual reality experience set is highly speculative, but nonetheless highly exciting. If such a technology was developed in secret and exists today, the unexplainable vividness of some abduction accounts may be explained by the implantation of an experience set into the brain of an abductee. Dr. Joseph Sharp and Allen Frey experimented with microwaves and transmitted spoken words directly into the audio cortex via pulsed-microwaves. Dr. Frey's work in this field, dating back to the sixties, gave rise to the so called "Frey Effect," which is commonly known as "microwave hearing" [34, 35]...."

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UFOs detected by Raytheon

An interesting story appeared in the June 12th 1998 issue of "Aviation Week and Space Technology." It deals with Raytheon's Jan. 16 space test of an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vechicle (EKV) sensor platform for a "Star Wars" type system. The sensor successfully detected the 9 targets (8 decoys and one genuine target) as well as the Lockheed-Martin Multi-Service Launch System (the "bus") which boosted the 9 test targets into orbit.

But the Raytheon space sensor detected a total of 12 objects in all, so some other "things" were apparently hanging around. According to AW&ST;: "The other two sensor-detected items could only be described as "unidentified celestial objects", according to Raytheon officials, who would not speculate on what they might be."

ET Phoning Home?

More from The Sunday Times, by Steve Farrar & Alex McGregor, 7 June 1998

Some of the world's leading astronomers revealed last week that they have collected more than 100 unexplained radio signals during routine surveillance of space.

These faint, pure tones have no natural origin and could have been created artificially, the scientists said. They do not rule out the astonishing possibility that this strange radio traffic could have extra-terrestrial origins.

Most of the signals have been picked up by American radio telescopes managed by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in Mountain View, California, set up in 1988 to study radio static in space and scan it for material that could be evidence of alien contact. A few have also been logged by British astronomers studying stars and galaxies with the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank, near Macclesfield in Cheshire.

"It's tempting to hypothesise that at least some of these seductive signals were truly from ET and that they vanished from the ether when the extra-terrestrials turned off their transmitters or otherwise went off air before we could verify the message," said Dr Seth Shostak, SETI's public programmes scientist.

Alternatively, he said, it was possible they were simply the product of some kind of local interference that did not repeat when the astronomers tried to relocate the rogue signals.

SETI, which was formed by scientists including Carl Sagan and received funding from Nasa until 1993, has yet to discover any clear, repeated radio pattern that might hint at the existence of alien intelligence in the universe.

The short, indistinct signals that have been detected are a far cry from the resounding pulses featured in the movie Contact, in which Jodie Foster played a SETI astronomer who deciphered radio contact with aliens. Foster's signed photograph is pinned to a wall in SETI's Silicon Valley office. None of the signals has been heard by human ears - they were all picked up by computers monitoring radio telescopes.

"If you could hear the signal at the frequency it is received, it would sound like a faint whistle, a pure tone which could only be made by a transmitter. As far as we know, nature can't make a pure sound," said Shostak. Each time one of these signals is detected by a radio telescope, an alarm alerts SETI astronomers, who work around the clock. None has yet been pinpointed or recorded a second time, so that scientists have been denied the chance of making a study of their source or composition.

SETI is stepping up efforts to increase its chances of relocating one of these signals and has secured agreement to use the world's largest radio telescope - which was featured in the James Bond film GoldenEye - at Arecibo in Puerto Rico.

The Americans are also negotiating with British astronomers to launch a five-year project to allow speedy verification and tracking of these elusive noises.

Whenever SETI identifies a suspect signal, radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank will scan the same section of the sky to locate it. In this way the scientists can rule out possible terrestrial interference from radar, traffic and even electric fences as a cause.

"I'm sure there are signals that have come and gone that we couldn't get to the bottom of. That's not to say it's little green men trying to communicate with us, but we just don't know," said Dr Tom Muxlow, an astronomer at the British radio astronomy observatory. He disclosed that Jodrell Bank had picked up about six rogue signals.

The possibility that the signals have extra-terrestrial origins cannot be ignored, according to Nobel laureate Tony Hewish, emeritus professor of radio astronomy at Cambridge University. In 1967 Hewish and Jocelyn Bell, a student, believed they had found evidence of an alien first contact when they detected a regular pulse of radio signals coming from a distant star.

"It all had an air of unreality about it, but for a month we thought it was possible that the signals were coming from intelligent life on another planet. When radio astronomers pick up signals that are very peculiar they take it with a big pinch of salt, but you cannot remove the possibility," said Hewish. Instead, they had found a pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, a discovery for which Hewish won a Nobel prize in 1974.

Shostak is not put off by the prospect that any signal from an alien world would probably be indecipherable. "If we heard from an ET, it would be from a civilisation that is a long way ahead of us, maybe even a million years more advanced than we are," he said.

Fluoride in Drinking Water linked to bone cancer

Fluoride in drinking water has been linked to osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

A New Jersey Department of Health study has strengthened the significance of two previous studies. In the report, osteosarcoma was found in males under 20 to be 50% higher in New Jersey municipalities serviced with artificially fluoridated drinking water, than their non-fluoridated counterparts. "In the three most heavily fluoridated communities, an almost sevenfold increase in osteosarcoma was found in young males between 10 and 19 years of age," reported John Lee, a medical doctor and fluoride expert.

William Marcus, a toxicologist and senior science advisor at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), said that "If this were any other chemical but fluoride, there would be a call for the immediate cessation of its use. It shows potential of great harm."

Oldest astronomical monument found

This is from BBC News on Line:
by Science Correspondent David Whitehouse, Thu, 02 Apr 1998.

An assembly of huge stone slabs unearthed in Egypt and dated 6,500 years old has been confirmed by scientists as the oldest known example of a stone monument aligned with the sky.

Nabta, located west of the Nile in southern Egypt, consists of a stone circle and five lines of standing and toppled megaliths. At 6,500 years old, Nabta predates Stonehenge by more than 1,000 years. One of the megalith lines is aligned east-west.

"This is the oldest documented astronomical alignment of megaliths in the world," says professor J.McKim Malville of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The ruins lie on the shoreline of an ancient lake that began filling with water 11,000 years ago when the African summer monsoon shifted north.

It was used by nomads until 4,800 years ago when the monsoon shifted south again.

The stone circle at Nabta contains four sets of upright stone slabs. Two sets were aligned in a north-south direction while the second pair provides a line of sight towards the summer solstice horizon.

Professor Malville believes that the people who built the Nabta monuments were later responsible for the development of the sophisticated civilisation that developed in ancient Egypt.

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