Saturday, June 24, 2006
[Click title to read post]
This has been a truly remarkable couple of weeks. Science-y fellows who dismiss others because they hold differing views; pundits grasping real issues and tarnishing them with their "taint"; and now this...
Richard "Dick" Hall, former member of NICAP and once a hero to aspiring and established UFOlogists everywhere, has issued a statement on the recent Heflin case dustup, and his comments very simply mark the end of an era.
If the following comments are an honest accounting of the NICAP investigation...and Hall's opinions...of the Heflin case, please leave a comment as to whether or not you agree.
I present the Hall comments in red...followed by my reaction.
I find this whole model train wheel obsession quite amusing, but
we must let the techies do their thing. David Rudiak, Viktor
Golubik, and Martin Shough all strike me as quite sincere and
fair-minded, but I note that they have a hard time getting
together on basic technical data, much less overall research
Just like all techies I have known in the past, they tend to
think that their photoanalytical skills provide a magic short-
cut to truth without regard to witness information or thorough
case investigation. Their motto might be, The Truth is In There
(in the pictures themselves) and I will find it, with which I
emphatically disagree. (I'm going to post this message, then
scurry for the bomb shelter.)
As I told Viktor in private (he didn't buy the argument), the
last thing a hoaxer using a model train wheel is likely to do is
to allow a skeptical TV producer to interview him in his home
and show him his model trains. That just makes no sense at all.
Further, as I have tried to point out a couple of the NICAP
investigators spent a lot of time in Heflin's home, got to know
him very well, and knew about all of his hobbies and interests.
Again, a hoaxer using a model train wheel would not likely be so
open about his interest in model trains.
Finally, I am not aware that anyone has made an effort to
retrieve Dr. Robert Nathan's research papers on the case from
1965 and later. Maybe they are not available, I don't know, but
his work seems to be rather airily dismissed as unimportant. He
was not just some stumblebum amateur. I quote from two NASA
JPL, NASA, Aug. 9, 1966. JPL COMPUTER PROCESS BRIGHTENS SURVEYOR
MOON PICTURES. Re: the "sparkling success of Surveyor I in
taking television pictures of the Moon's surface....These
sharper prints are produced by a computerized system which
corrects distortion and improves resolution in original
photographs taken by television cameras. The system was
developed by Dr. Robert Nathan, who led the JPL video fdigital
(computer) data research for NASA. Robert Selzer was in charge
of Surveyor picture enhancement." (Is he--Selzer--not the guy
now re-examining the Heflin photos for the JSE paper?)
JPL, NASA, Oct. 25, 1985. "[NASA] has presented an award of
$20,000 to Dr. Robert Nathan of Jet Propulsion Laboratory for
significant scientific and technical contributions in the field
of imaging." The award was for his "Combined Technical
Contributions to Planetary and Biomedical Image Processing and
Scientific Data Analysis Techniques....In 1976, seeing the need
for more advanced technology, he developed techniques to reduce
computer time by [a] factor of 100 and established Very Large
Integrated Systems use at JPL and emerged as leader in VLIS
Nathan, who originally was very skeptical, found no evidence of
a string or hoax -- twice. In fact, all the techies can do to
resolve photo authenticity is find clearcut and unequivocal
evidence of a hoax. They cannot prove that a photo is genuine.
That sort of proof lies in the character and background
investigation and the preponderance of evidence. So the Truth is
not in the photois themselves, unless and only if the photo is a
Would someone please tell me after reading this why ANY credible scientist would associate themselves with UFOlogy?
I leave it to you all to comment on the post above. I am simply at a loss.
[Thanks Anne, for convincing me to keep it short. :) ]
[h/t to UFO Updates]
Friday, June 23, 2006
Linda Moulton Howe brings us a report of a "floating horse" in Milan. The story comes via UFO/paranormal sensationalist Jaime Maussan, which may affect the potential validity (or invalidity) of the story for you.
I try to keep an open mind about my list of UFO/paranormal sensationalists. Your mileage may vary. LOL
At any rate, the question was raised whether the object might actually have been a horse-shaped mylar balloon. I have taken the liberty of cropping such a horse balloon and super-imposing it over the frame shown on Moulton Howe's "Earthfiles" web site.
The similarities seem rather startling...well, as startling as a horse balloon can be.
What seems most sad about this story...besides the webspace devoted to it...is that somewhere a child is without his/her horse balloon. Bummer.
My opinion? Horse balloon...until some evidence is presented to the contrary.
[h/t to Coast to Coast AM]
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Leonard David posts an interesting article at Space.com, and includes comments by a number of big names in the space/UFO game...Seth Shostak, Ted Roe, Kevin Randle, and Bruce Maccabee among others.
Shostak predictably plays his rational dry "science-y" part, deducing in part that current UFOlogy is "argument from ignorance". Ever the fence-mender and concensus-builder, that Seth. LOL
Odd that the "hypothesis" underpinning his SETI project has even less supporting evidence than the much-maligned extra-terrestrial hypothesis (ETH). At least the ETH-ers have photos, video clips, and eyewitness testimony to wave. SETI just has money...LOTS of money. Oh well...
Randle laments the fact that UFOlogy is basically down to a "rehash the old trash" game these days. The current imbroglio over the vaunted and near-discredited Heflin photos would seem to bear out "Randle's Lament".
Maccabee offers up a stalwart if hackneyed defense, implying that the lack of hard UFO evidence is partly "Air Force tradition", and partly the reluctance of science to delve into the field.
While the tradition argument seems pretty weak, there is in fact evidence that science might be starting to take a different look at the UFO enigma.
NARCAP head Ted Roe suggests that using the approach that UFOs...or UAPs...represent a threat to aviation is one way to attract science. I heartily agree. Ted's idea is the most exciting point in the article. By shifting the emphasis from "weird lights in the sky" to potential electromagnetic and other types of "threats" to general aviation, we invite science to help SOLVE A REAL PROBLEM, rather than look at photos and movie clips, or listen to breathless sighting reports.
Ted's idea is nothing less than a "paradigm shift"...something I and several others have advocated for a very long time. I think his idea has tremendous potential to help redefine UFOlogy as a serious scientific line of inquiry.
The most odd comment in the article comes from Dr. Maccabee.
When asked "Why is there precious little to show [the] world of science that UFOs merit attention?", Bruce responded in part...
"Obviously there is not a simple answer...".
Actually there IS a simple answer. And while it may not be THE answer, it is very likely NOT one Dr. Maccabee or other ETH adherents would like to hear.
The TRUTH remains elusive.
All in all, an excellent thought-provoking article. Kudos to Leonard David for a reasoned and balanced approach, and a nice...if brief...capsule of the range of thought on the current state of UFOlogy.
UFO researcher Ann Druffel responded to frustrations among researchers that she was refusing to allow researchers access to the Heflin Polaroids. I have copied the full response below...
I wanted to explain again that Dr. Kelson
is writing a second paper on his re-analysis of the Heflin photos,
with expanded information on the enhancement results, besides those
given in the 2000 JSE paper. A scientist has every right to keep
his data to himself until he's finished his work, and this is all
that Dr. Kelson is asking. (By the way, Dr. Kelson's first name
is Eric, not Ed.)
When Bob Wood wrote you that "the original Polaroids are 'in
principle available for research under controlled conditions'"
he meant that after Dr. Kelson is finished with his second paper,
the originals will be available to be viewed at my home. I promised
Rex Heflin that I would preserve them for perpetuity for the use of
the UFO community, so I could not let them out of my own archives,
although they will be available for study, as Bob Wood says, under
All best wishes,
[EMPHASIS AND TEXT COLORING MINE...KK]
Please note the text bolded in red. Ms. Druffel claims that the high resolution scans currently being used by Eric Kelson constitute "...his data". Well, that is certainly so, if he was responsible for the scans.
However, the original photos themselves are not "his data".
Next, note the text bolded in blue. She wont allow the photos to be seen at all until after Kelson's paper is released.
Ms Druffle further claims that she "...promised Rex Heflin that I would preserve them for perpetuity for the use of the UFO community...".
How can refusing to allow access until after the Kelson paper in any way mesh with her promise to Heflin?
How could allowing additional researchers to re-scan the photos in Ms. Druffel's presence in any way violate her supposed promise?
If she feels that allowing other researchers to have access to the photographs before Kelson's reanalysis is complete is somehow counter to the search for truth, I'd be mighty interested in hearing her reasoning on that issue.
Otherwise, I think we can only be left to believe that the search for truth is...for Ms. Druffel...wholly dependent on whose "truth" one is "in search of".
Why should the community have to wait for yet another reanalysis to have access to data which was purportedly "preserved for the use of the community"?
Is Kelson's report more important than getting at the truth?
Will Kelson's report presumably to be the "last word" on the Heflin subject?
Will the Kelson report be for sale?
Guess we'll just have to wait for the steward to address those questions.
What a shame. Maybe Heflin picked the wrong "preserver".
Hmmm...or perhaps he picked the "right" one.
Monday, June 19, 2006
"...Since the facts of Riddle's story are fully consistent with
seeing a copy-cat hoax there is really no "need" for Heflinites
to question his reliability..."
Who could these "Heflinites" be? The "convinced", perhaps?
Say it ain't Shough!!
Also, comments have been made that Riddle might have been shoughn "copycat" photos, while offering ZERO evidence that this is the case. But it "helps" the "Heflinite's" case. Hmmmm.
Also, after being strongly criticized for not performing my own re-creation experiments...which I was initially hoping would be done by some of the folks who claimed to already OWN the camera in question..."some" now claim it would be a waste of time except to shough that the Heflin photos could be duplicated, or to support Heflin authenticity by shoughing that a string WOULD be visible.
I don't know about you, but if the Heflin photos could be "duplicated" using nothing more than the same camera, similar conditions, some fine thread and a model train wheel, I think I would find the veracity of the Heflin photos...taken by a man now asserted (and not challenged) to have had model trains in his possession...very much in question. One of the tenets of the scientific method is repeatability. If I hypothesize that Heflin thought he could perpetrate a hoax using one of his train wheels and his camera, repeating the experiments would have something very close to "probative value". At least it would to me...an unconvinced Non-Heflinite. :)
Besides, if my experiments and Victor's turn out to very closely approximate the Heflin photos, I will feel quite confident that the Heflin case is a hoax. The Heflion photos will have failed the "walks like a duck" test, and once more, the most likely explanation will be presumed to be the correct one...until someone comes up with a good reason to think otherwise. At least it will for me.
It would SURE be good if Ann would just allow the precious images to be re-scanned with modern equipment, in her presence, for the good of the research. It would go such a long way to laying at least some of the questions about this case to rest.
Of course, any or all of this may not be enough for Heflinites or others who are "convinced".
Of course, I forwarded the blog address rather than just send the images, in the interest of full disclosure. Martin Shough felt compelled to reply, and was apparently offended or thought all my comments were directed at him.
Martin makes some excellent points, although in several cases he is mistaken. But no matter.
He is right in saying that many of his points were first brought to light by him. I never claimed otherwise, but I have managed to insult him. Whatever. Unfortunately, I don't write to please Martin, or anyone else.
His comments are linked to the title of this post for anyone to read. I urge you to read the post. [But please ignore any "...anger, antipathy, dismissal, and just plain rudeness ... " you find therein. LOL]
At least he agrees with the important issues...which I never doubted.
If you are interested in this case, and care to see the results of my re-creation...watch this space. I am bidding on the camera and film now, and will be visiting a local train shop today to compare wheels for a suitable candidate. It will be interesting to compare results with Victor...
And Martin...you had the idea FIRST! LOL
Sunday, June 18, 2006
It is a photo taken at the same location as the Heflin photos, but is of a lens cap suspended by a fine thread just outside the vehicle.
Apparently the Condon investigators actually attempted to re-create the photos.
I think they did a pretty good job considering that they didn't have a "model train wheel".
Still, it's a fairly accurate reproduction, and I don't see a suspension thread evident, although admittedly this is a web graphic of a copy of a Polaroid photo...just like the images the current researchers are using.
Oddly, the person who currently holds the actual Heflin photos...former NICAP investigator Ann Druffel (an author of the re-investigation of the case in the '90s)...will apparently not release the photographs for re-analysis. Supposedly she and others plan to re-re-reanalyze the photos.
At any rate, in the re-analysis available here...mention is made of the photo you see above. But while the analysis correctly states that the Heflin photos would likely be highly over-exposed, quoting the report...
"It is important to note that the Polaroid camera used to take these photographs used a unidirectional automatic light sensor to set film exposure. The shaded interior of the truck likely led to a low-light reading and inadvertent overexposure of the first three images. Such an overexposure would “wash out” important contrasts in the relatively bright sky but not obliterate them."
...the report claims there IS no suspension thread, stating...
"The first important observation that can be made from these enhancements is that no supporting strings or wires are evident in the background sky around the object in any of the photographs (Figures 14 through 16). Since the enlargement and enhancement clearly show the grain in these photographs, further scale-stretch enhancement would be unproductive. Prior claims of a supporting wire in the Heflin Photo 1 were likely due to problems introduced during multiple-generation reproduction and/or handling of intermediate generations."
...However, these two paragraphs are contradictory. If the over-exposure is capable of "washing out" contrast and sky detail, it is certainly capable of washing out a suspension line. Such a line would be far enough away from the camera to be at the scale of the film grain (this is ASA 3000+ film!!) And it could easily be of LOWER contrast than clouds to the background sky, so these two statements clearly contradict one another.
The report later bypasses this paradox to dismiss the Condon recreation seen above, stating...
"...our state-of-the-art computer enhancement has failed to reveal any sign of a string or other supporting mechanism, thus verifying NICAP’s original analysis and the analyses of other early researchers who studied the photos. Our own enhanced version of the same area puts to rest William Spaulding’s contention that the Heflin photos were hoaxed by photographing a small model hung on a string. It also renders unacceptable William Hartmann’s “replication” of Photo 3 in the 1969 official report of the Condon Committee (Condon, 1969)."
Unfortunately, the re-analysis' "enhanced version" does no such thing. The lack of an evident suspension line is explained in their OWN report...see Paragraph 1 above.
This case is beginning to look more and more like a hoax which has been "washed out" by NICAP itself!
I certainly wish Ms. Druffel were willing to allow these photos to be "independently" analyzed using CURRENT "state of the art" analysis.
Might save everyone a lot of time and trouble.