Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Roswell redux

Sometimes, I swear the universe is listening to me.

In my post yesterday, a story about the "Falcon Creek Incident" in Manitoba, I mentioned that the story was a lot more credible than Roswell.  So it is only fitting that less than an hour after I hit "publish," I found that Jocelyne LeBlanc over at Mysterious Universe had just posted a story...

... that UFOlogists are reopening the Roswell case.

My first thought was that I've read a lot of accounts by UFOlogists, and my impression was that the Roswell case was not, and in fact never will be, closed.  You've all seen the famous "alien autopsy" video, which was sold to television stations in thirty-three different countries by a guy named Ray Santilli (who said he had gotten the film from an anonymous military officer), but what you may not know is that a filmmaker named Spyros Melaris admitted that he and Santilli had faked the entire thing.

All this got from the UFO enthusiasts was a wiggle of the eyebrow that says, "of course you know that if someone admits it's a hoax, it has to mean that they've been threatened by the Men in Black."  In other words, evidence against something is actually evidence for it, if you squinch your eyes up and look at it sideways.

My visit to Roswell.  I'd tell you more, but I've been sworn to secrecy.

But you should prepare yourself for the whole thing rising from its shallow grave, ready to swallow the brains of True Believers everywhere, because there's just been a claim of a 2001 "leaked memo" involving physicists Kit Green and Eric Davis, and aerospace tycoon Robert Bigelow, and the memo says the autopsy video was real.

Green supposedly was briefed three times on the subject of the crash and the video, and was shown photos back in 1988 of the alien cadaver taken at the crash site.  The memo concludes, "The Alien Autopsy film/video is real, the alien cadaver is real, and the cadaver seen in the film/video is the same as the photos Kit saw at the 1987/88 Pentagon briefing."

Better yet, Bigelow et al. claim there are still tissue samples from the alien being held at the Walter Reed-Armed Forces Institute for Pathology Medical Museum, located in Washington, D.C.

But I haven't told you how all of this stuff became public:

Linda Moulton Howe.

As soon as I saw this name, my eyes rolled back so far I could see my own brainstem.  Howe is one of the "ancient alien astronauts" loons, a protégé of Erich von Däniken, about whom RationalWiki has the following to say:
Howe's gullibility and deceptive "reports" have caused even staunch Ufologists to give her extremely low marks for credibility... She occasionally asks real scientists for opinions on these matters, but then promptly dismisses or rationalises them away.
In fact, the site is even more unequivocal:
Someone once summed up Howe very well with two words: ' Media entrepreneur '.  While having been a major player in the cattle mutilation mystery, Howe's credibility has gone way downhill as she sensationalizes everything from mundane animal deaths to promoting Brazilian UFO fraud Urandir Oliveira and the Aztec UFO Crash Hoax while selling alien books, videos and lectures.  Howe dabbles in all things strange including Bigfoot, crop circles, alien abductions, and UFOs.  Howe also sits on the board of advisors to the Roswell UFO Museum along with the likes of Don Schmitt.  See Howe's site, which she actually charges a subscription for in order to access some stories.  Also see Howe turning an explained animal death into an encounter with Bigfoot.  A leap not even Bigfoot itself could make.
So yeah.  There's that.  I know I was pretty charitable with the Falcon Lake Incident yesterday, but this one is just making me heave a heavy sigh of frustration.  No one would be happier than me if alien intelligence did turn out to be real; in fact, it might even make me feel better about the lack of intelligence I so often see down here on Earth.  But much as (in Fox Mulder's words) I Want To Believe, this one's just not doing it for me.


In August of 1883, one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history (literally) obliterated an island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The island was Krakatoa (now known by its more correct spelling of "Krakatau").  The magnitude of the explosion is nearly incomprehensible.  It generated a sound estimated at 310 decibels, loud enough to be heard five thousand kilometers away (sailors forty kilometers away suffered ruptured eardrums).  Rafts of volcanic pumice, some of which contained human skeletons, washed up in East Africa after making their way across the entire Indian Ocean.  Thirty-six thousand people died, many of whom were not killed by the eruption itself but by the horrifying tsunamis that resulted, in some places measuring over forty meters above sea level.

Simon Winchester, a British journalist and author, wrote a book about the lead-up to that fateful day in summer of 1883.  It is as lucid and fascinating as his other books, which include A Crack at the Edge of the World (about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake), The Map that Changed the World (a brilliant look at the man who created the first accurate geological map of England), and The Surgeon of Crowthorne (the biographies of the two men who created the Oxford English Dictionary -- one of whom was in a prison for the criminally insane).

So if you're a fan of excellent historical and science writing, or (like me) fascinated with volcanoes, earthquakes, and plate tectonics, you definitely need to read Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.  It will give you a healthy respect for the powerful forces that create the topography of our planet -- some of which wield destructive power greater than anything we can imagine.

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