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.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Lights in the sky

In March of 2022, dozens of people saw a UFO near the town of Lygurio, Greece.  The apparition has yet to be explained.

Lygurio is in the eastern Peloponnese, in a wooded region at the foot of Mt. Arachnaion.  It only has 2,500 inhabitants, but its scenic beauty and the proximity to the ancient Sanctuary of Asclepius attracts a good many tourists every year.  It's a rural area, far enough from Athens that it's mostly the quiet home of olive growers and vineyard owners.

The UFO was seen by many people in the village, but the best account comes from a man named Christos Tarsinos and his fifteen-year-old son.  Their story was corroborated over and over by others who had witnessed the mysterious occurrence.

"They were six bright lights," Tarsinos said.  "At first we thought it was a military helicopter, but it just flew meters above our car without wind or making any type of noise.  It was silent."

After a few minutes of watching, they saw the light rise and hover over some nearby houses.  "It was a bright tube of light," Tarsinos said.  "It appeared to shine down on the houses for a minute or two, as if looking for something.  The lights were low, about fifteen or twenty meters or so above the roofs.  They then moved down towards the old abandoned quarry.  The UFO, or whatever it was, hovered above the quarry for a few more minutes."

At that point, his view was obstructed by nearby hills and trees.

"We couldn’t see the lights anymore but we could hear them doing something.  A loud mechanical sound started to come from behind those hills.  It sounded like some type of hammering or drilling… it was mechanical in nature, I can tell you that."

Tarsinos's son asked what it was, and the father had to admit he had no idea.

"I told my dad that it was too big to be a drone, and I knew it wasn’t a helicopter," his son said.  "They were so bright and scary.  The lights were different colors.  The first two were red, the second two were white, and the last pair were greenish in color...  It was so bright, we couldn’t see our hands in front of us.  I thought we were going to die."

Several witnesses took photographs on their phones, but the quality is poor -- all they show is a scene at night and some glowing lights on the horizon of a hill in the distance.  (If you want to see the photographs, go to the link provided, but be aware they're nothing to write home about.)

Police investigated, and while a dozen witnesses who had been out on the road all said pretty much the same thing about the floating lights, interestingly none of the inhabitants of the village who were home at the time noticed anything amiss during the time when Tarsinos's "bright tube of light" was scanning the houses.  Myself, if a UFO sent a brilliant beam of light down toward my house at night, I think I'd notice.  Or at least my dogs would.  Someone would.

So, what are we to make of this?

The story is certainly suggestive, and the fact that we don't have the usual UFO situation of a lone observer in the middle of nowhere lends credence to the claim that the people in Lygurio saw something.  In other words, it isn't just a hoax.  But what was it?

The fact is, we have next to nothing to go on.  The poor quality of the photographs isn't really that surprising; phones take notoriously bad shots in dim light unless you know what you're doing to compensate.  But a couple of distant lights in an otherwise black photograph doesn't really prove anything.

As far as the eyewitness testimony, I'm in agreement with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson; "In science, we need more than 'you saw it.'  Eyewitness accounts, by themselves, do not meet the minimum standard of evidence a scientist needs to support any kind of conclusion."

It's unfortunate, but in the many accounts of UFO sightings I've read, not one has reached that minimum standard -- hard evidence, of the kind that can be studied in the lab, of something of alien manufacture.  Now, understand that I'm not saying that none of the thousands of UFO sightings could possibly be alien spacecraft; there are a good many that have defied conventional explanation, and I'm also in agreement with physicist Michio Kaku that if even one percent of sightings cannot be accounted for, that one percent is well worth studying.

So, it could be that what Christos Tarsinos, his son, and a dozen other witnesses in Greece saw that night was a visitor from another planet.  But "it could be" is a far cry from "therefore it is one."

The whole incident, as curious as it is, can be summed up by another quote from the eminent Dr. Tyson: "Remember what the 'U' in 'UFO' stands for.  It stands for 'unidentified.'  Well, if it's 'unidentified,' that's where the conversation stops.  You don't go on to say 'therefore it must be' anything."


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