What was that?

If I were a less skeptical blogger I would be much more excited about what I saw high in the clouds this morning. I only saw a glimpse, but it was cigar shaped and glowing, and if I were the suggestible type and someone showed me an image like this,


then I could well end up saying “yes, that’s exactly what I saw” (unfortunately now my skeptical side really kicks in and notes that the above image looks a lot like some rather dodgy Photoshopping of a replica Star Trek comms badge). To be precise, what I saw seemed to glow like the top nearside surface of the above object, I saw nothing that looked like the shadowed “wing” above.

Of course, what I saw before it moved into the clouds is most likely just a flash of reflected sunlight on a passenger jet due to a synchronicity between my position, the position of the plane, and shafts of sunlight through the clouds. This hypothesis is supported by my being not far from the airport at the time.

But then, as I’m philosophically inclined to the view that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that’s a typical progression of ideas for me

  1. Ooh that’s interesting
  2. I’ve never seen anything like that before
  3. What ordinary property of matter would make something normal around here look so different?

For others who come to a different sort of conclusion about unusual flashes of light in the sky, then the typical progression of ideas (largely unconscious, just as it was with me) would be more like –

  1. Ooh that’s interesting
  2. I’ve never seen anything like that before
  3. Something that strange must be dangerous and important
  4. Hell, that was an alien UFO?

and then they convince themselves that what they saw had lots more detail and looked something like this:


Categories: history, skepticism, Sociology

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. Great post!
    Do you know that Ronald Reagan claimed to have seen a UFO, as does Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kuchinch?
    My great aunt Beryl also had a UFO story – apparently Cole (my great uncle) walked outside his house one morning and came back in with the declaration ‘I’ve just seen a UFO!’
    Strange, the habit these UFOs have of turning up in stories about other people, or as odd bits of light on the horizon, rather than manifesting themselves, say, in our living room…! (I’d be quite happy to have them, so long as they didn’t try any of that War Of The Worlds take-over-the-planet stuff).

  2. Yah. I’ve seen UFOs: They were objects, flying; and I couldn’t identify them.
    Naturally, I don’t claim they were alien. . .

  3. Tim, I knew of Jimmy Carter’s sighting but never heard of Reagan’s alleged sighting before. A bit strange as I thought most President’s would be aware of the existence of aliens after the Roswell debriefing.
    I remember that the town of my birth, Grafton on the NSW North Coast, had a few UFO sightings. Invariably a milkman was involved.
    Tig, I’ve been thinking of UFOs as a topic for the annual Carl Sagan blogathon this year.

  4. Couldn’t have been an alien. But an unmanned US spy plane spraying us with mind control substances; that is totally possible! Should have been here before the election though. Heads will roll.

  5. Shaun, I didn’t even know there was an annual Carl Sagan blogathon. Cool.

  6. One of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcasts, a couple of months ago, had an interview with Jimmy Carter in which he clarified his story. ie he didn’t know what it was (doesn’t think it was Venus, which the SGU folk do) but never claimed it was alien. They will have it archived on their website or via iTunes.

%d bloggers like this: