Friday, July 22, 2005
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Interesting quote: "If we were attacked, the questions would have been: 'Why didn't you get it out there, why didn't you connect the dots?' " he said.
Sounds like a logical rationale for civilian monitoring groups, as well. :)
(via the Washington Post)
Organizations with a NEO/NETological bent
Existing civilian/amateur groups pose cross-collaboration potentials?
NUFORC.org - Peter Davenport's excellent data collection site. Peter inspired my NEO/NETology proposal via his own inspired piece on civilian passive radar. (PDF document)
SatObs.org - Mentioned in my last post...a group that monitors and catalogs orbiting craft.
AmaSci.com - A collective and catalog of amateur science projects. The FAQ is very interesting and amusing. Don't be put off by the site design...there is good work here.
FBOweb.com Flight Tracker - A great resource for tracking scheduled airflights. Provides real-time zoomable flight maps. (Free registration required)
Access5.org - A project to enhance the capabilities of UAVs, soon to be common in civil airspace.
NEOAmateur.org - All kinds of radio-related projects.
BAMBI.net - An amateur "SETI" using 4Ghz radio telescopes to monitor space for signals. A MULTI-NODE project, as well! (This is an organization that could help bridge the wide gap between Ufology and SETI). Also, one of the founding members, Bob Lash, has a site.
HAMHUD.net - Resources for all sorts of radio/radar projects...HOME-BUILT! Check out this page on amateur radar using cheap electronics and surplus gear.
AstroMan.fsnet.co.uk - Maurice Gavin's page on amateur spectroscopy. Includes HOW-TO for building spectroscopy gear. (Page is a few years old...but even more doable as a result of even lower cost electronics coupled with the goal of identifying and cataloging potential threats.)
ARRL.org - Their ARIA project enlists amateur radio hobbyists to monitor Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). It is a report from 2003, but the goals are convergent with NEO/NETology.
I'll post more as I find them. But the evidence is clear that NEO/NETology could already be a reality, if far-flung groups such as these were gathered under a single banner, and with the intent to "detect, collect, and protect". Stay tuned...
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Thanks to correspondent James Smith for finding a group...SeeSat...which is already doing work very similar to what I have proposed. With minor changes (chiefly removing the "filters" that allow a focus on satellite orbits), such an endeavor dovetails nicely into the NEOlogical framework.
SeeSat is part of SatObs.org, which also promotes
James also provided a link to an example of a SeeSat report.
Perhaps a collaboration could be crafted whereby their "filtered" data is passed along rather than just noted and forgotten.
I have also begun looking at the "grant" landscape to see what NOAA or the NSF might provide. I'll also be on the lookout for other groups like SatObs and SeeSat, for more potential synergies.
But this find by James is at least proof that civilians can create groups to monitor even potentially secret craft, without being "squashed". Thanks James!
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
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Participatory Culture Foundation has released a tool that leverages RSS, BitTorrent, XML and HTML to allow anyone to run a virtual TV station...all for free (as in speech, and beer!). Along with the broadcast app, they are soon releasing a viewer app for viewing the "channels".
The PCF is also having a design contest for the "look and feel" of the apps and icons.
If you wanted a ground-floor opportunity to showcase your design talents...or actually broadcast your own TV shows...check out this project. Tell them UFOreflections sent you!
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
UFO, UAP, NEO, WTF?
A proposal has been brought forth to move to a new moniker for the collective phenomena we now lovingly(?) refer to as UFOs. First, is this desired or necessary, and second, what are the choices?
UFO is a term which conjures up a vivid mental picture in most of us. Whether it manifests with rolling of eyes or with awe is an individual thing. It is clear however that the term has grown far beyond "something weird flying through the air".
It has become a "brand" of sorts as well. We can go to "UFO conferences" and hear about abductions, pyramids, alien/human hybrids, mutilated livestock, and of course crop circles. Such a conference might not even include a true UFO case or presentation.
UFO is a self-conflicted term which means less and less(by including more and more) with each passing year. So clearly, a change is in order if only to describe specifically (again) what one who studies such things (weird flying things) should rightly be called.
When trying to come up with a name for a field of study I think it's important to be conscious of the popular culture and its love of "labels". A good example of a group with a name which appeals to this culture is SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence). SETI invokes images from history (Seti was a pharaonic name) AND it recalls science fiction (Tau "C"eti is a star in Star Trek's Federation...the spelling being less relevant than the "sound" of it). SETI sounds...in a word...cool.
Add to this "cool" factor SETIs idea of inviting the public to assist in processing the millions of bits of data collected by providing for download a "cool" screensaver, which includes an application that uses the PCs idle time to process packets of this data. The initiative, "SETI@Home", has been an unqualified success. Teams of SETI@Home participants even compete to see who can process the most packets of data, for which they are rewarded via a point system. The project could not have expected such rabid involvement. Was it due to the "panache" of sifting through radio signals? No. SETI@Home looked cool (the screensaver presents a real-time 3D graphical display of the packet processing), and it sounded cool. This method of "distributed computing" has now been adopted by at least one other processing-intensive project...to great effect. Witness "Folding@Home". Even the term "@Home" is perceived as "cool".
Another example of this cool factor is when internet technology is used to graphically demonstrate concepts like "remote sensing". This movie clip illustrates an elementary inter-connected sensor array (in this case, webcams), and how such an array can be used to inform, while also being visually amazing. It's worth the load-time.
So a new name for UFOs should be something "cool" if its wide adoption is desired. This "coolness" should not be confused with "dumb". Quite the contrary, more intelligent people tend to like "clever", or even humorous names for things. Science, the military and even the corporate world is well known for crafting "creative" acronyms. What makes the success of SETI as a BRAND in the public eye easily discernible is the fact that they have not found a single example of clear alien transmission in their history. They have failed to date, and yet they enjoy wide acceptance, and their organization is considered by many very intelligent people to be "cool". Ufology by contrast has succeeded in collecting lots of evidence of "something', yet has grown more and more to be thought of as "fringe" or "pseudo" or "kooky". Change is definitely in order.
So...what to call the phenomena? What are our options?
One proposal offers not a new acronym, but an older term not so commonly used of late...UAP(Unidentified Aerial Phenomen/on/a). This term was/is preferred by organizations like NARCAP, an organization which catalogs reports of "aerial phemonena". Some contemporary Ufologists also use this term. It certainly describes the field of study, but could we reasonably expect it to be adopted by current AND future participants? Anything is possible, but I think such a term would have trouble gaining wide usage and acceptance. As I said, it isn't new, and I think it falls far from the "cool" factor required to spur wide adoption, particularly among the young.
Another proposal, offered by this writer, is NEO (Near Earth Object). This encompasses not only objects in our atmosphere, but just beyond into the near reaches of space. It encompasses natural phenomena (meteors, weather effects, "swamp gas", plasma discharges, etc.), structured craft (satellites, air and spacecraft of any origin, and perhaps space debris), and misidentified things (birds, balloons, clouds, etc.). The term explicitly excludes objects on the ground, their inhabitants, their motives, their purpose, and their intent. The goal of a "NEOlogist" is to identify that which exists above, regardless of implication.
But does NEO qualify with regard to popular culture? I think it could. Like "SETI", NEO conjures up images in people's minds, too. It literally means "new". This is a positive, particularly as we work to "redefine" the field. NEO is also a name from science fiction, as evidenced in the Matrix. "Neo" is the "saviour" or "the One". Ufology could do worse than be associated with a saviour...indeed, one reason for Ufology should be to "protect" us from being blindsided by an "alien" invasion. :) But it could be even more than that.
NEO as a brand offers a multitude of opportunities. From the ease of saying the phrase, "I saw a NEO", to the concepts of creating NEO@Home, and even NEO@School, where schoolkids can create their own "sensor grids" with other schools, and perhaps compete. Education is one area where the UFO field falls far short. I think kids would embrace something called NEOlogy before UAPology. NEO also offers marketing opportunities for the field that currently are rather...well...tawdry by scientific standards.
So, imagine you are at a conference, and there are two booths. One promotes NEOlogy and the other promotes UAPology. While the opportunities for successful promotion are easily discerned with the former, the easiest opportunity with the latter lies in sarcasm...i.e., "Oh, you're a U-apologist"...or in appealing to those already in the field who are familiar with the term. I don't see the "cool" in that. I don't mean to denigrate the term, but to place it into a popular culture context. It's fair game, like crop circle researchers being called "cereologists". Despite its utility and accuracy it remains the butt of breakfast jokes. It might be "out of the frying pan and into the fire". Ufology has been the butt of jokes for too long.
I am not directly involved in the decision about what term best represents what true Ufologists do. I can also not afford to invest the time and work necessary to implement my idea. It is just an idea. But I feel very confident that if UFOs are to be legitimately "renamed", said name had better be useful, clever, and "cool" if it is to succeed in the lexicon.
In closing I know that Paul Kimball, noted filmmaker and brilliant Ufological theorist, supports UAP. I applaud this support because to many, UAP DOES retain a more "legitimate" aura than UFO... and it has a history. Unfortunately this history is little-known outside the mainstream of Ufology...which is decidedly outside the mainstream of the...mainstream. :)
I should also add that I don't think ANY term will supplant UFO for the existing field of researchers. This is another reason why I think a "new" term is a good idea. A new science with a new way of looking at a phenomena. I don't think it invalidates or replaces Ufology, but rather extends it, in meaning, purpose and...one hopes...in longevity.
Whatever the result, I hope just talking (and writing) about the field will in itself elevate the rhetoric and kindle the debate. In the final analysis, the debate IS the field...for now.
Peace to all...comments are WELCOME.
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Aerostar International makes balloons, parachutes, blimps, etc., for the military among others.
The image to the left is an example, believe it or not.
Aerostar is a subsidiary of Raven Industries, who originally supplied sounding balloons to the Navy back in the 60s.
With all the recent talk about balloons being mistaken for UFOs (going back perhaps as far as Roswell even), knowing that things like this are possible make it clear that a "balloon" is not necessarily...a "balloon". The firm also creates "decoys" of tanks and missile launchers besides helium balloons of every shape and description.
Monday, July 18, 2005
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"Some Girls are Bigger than Others", a new show currently running "off-off the West End" in London, reinvigorates the Smiths' songs by dropping the rock ambience in favor of strings and electronics.
Plays for another week...hurry! :)
I missed my chance to see, the sold-out show, and heaven knows I'm miserable now.