by Tim Printy © August 2004
Updated October 2004
Poor skeptical investigations
Equally disturbing to the UFOlogists excessive euphoria were responses by some scientists and skeptics, who did not seem to have all the information. Some suggested meteors/space debris or ball lightning even though the events on the video lasted much longer than these phenomena. It seems that those who were quoted, were quoted out of context or made too quick a judgement on the videos without knowing all the facts.
The Skeptical Inquirer also attempted an early explanation. James McGaha was interviewed stating that they appeared to be equipment artifacts:
They show no vertical motion. They move at a constant velocity, no acceleration. Duplicated images occur. Distances are uniform within each formation. They are bright and out of focus. All of these observations are consistent with system generated images. It's important to note that the pilots never saw these objects visually, only through the infrared imaging system. It's very likely that they used the system incorrectly and that this misuse generated spurious targets. (Christopher 5)
Michael Shermer noted some of the apparent duplication of images in a television interview back in May but did not state this as a final conclusion.
Much of this speculation was based on limited information that was available. It appears that most skeptics did not view the entire videotape and only viewed small clips that were available on the internet. Considering the confusing stories being told by Maussan and the Mexican press, it is no wonder that some of the skeptics/scientists made erroneous explanations. McGaha should have listened to his own comment regarding quick explanations:
The ridiculous claims of believers are bad enough, but it's even worse to see skeptics and scientists engaging in unwarrented speculation. It is unfortunate that they have come out with suggestions that it was ball lightining, fireballs, meteors, or other re-entering debris. This is just nonsense. These atmospheric phenomena do not persist anywhere near as long as the images recorded on the video did. (Christopher 5)
Many of the objects disappeared behind clouds and reappeared in clear locations. This means they were not artifacts of the imaging system. McGaha jumped too quickly on his explanation without apparently viewing the entire video.
However, skeptics weren't the only ones drawing some ridiculous and unrealistic explanations.
UFOlogists dig deeper...sort of....
As the weeks passed, UFOlogists were quick to be dismissive of the initial skeptical reports. However, some of their explanations seemed just as strained. Some suggested that they were US stealth aircraft on some sort of training exercise even though the could not explain why such advanced aircraft could not mask their infrared signature (Modern jet fighters are designed to minimize infrared signatures). Other suggestions were they were videos of satellites reflecting the sun or were some sort of fire balloons. UFOlogists apparently ignored the more obvious issues in that the FLIR video had plenty of information on it. It had the direction and the location of the airplane such that the infrared targets could be easily located on the map. Much of the video on the event that was present on the internet were only momentary glimpses of the full tape. As a result an accurate evaluation of the information could not be made. Those with access to the full tape were somewhat secretive in their efforts. For some strange reason, such data was hinted at but not really released for all to examine.
Even more interesting are the antics of UFOlogist/UFO Proponent (Note: Lehmberg has since taken offense of my labeling him a "UFOlogist". I use the term UFOlogist as anyone who studies UFOs, which Lehmberg has done. Realize that there are no doctorates in UFOlogy and anyone can be labeled a UFOlogist. If Lehmberg feels that he is not up to such a lofty position, I added the "UFO proponent" title) Alfred Lehmberg who opened a line on UFO updates describing his discussion with a FLIR "specialist" who remained anonymous:
He was visibly astonished. This guy has seen aircraft of _every_ type imaged through FLIR equipment of _every_ generation and he'd yet to see anything like this. As we watched the DVD he suggested out loud what these images might be and then discarded these self-suggestions one by one. Balloons, bolides, and birds... electrical discharges, plasmid formations and temperature inversions... reflections, echoes,and misinterpretations... were weighed in turn and then retired from consideration. He found the suggestion that they were a new generation of stealth aircraft from the United States as absurdly laughable (and for the same reasons) as did many of us on this List. One does not design stealth equipment that renders the camouflaged object as so readily seen. (Lehmberg FLIR)
Lehmberg referred to this individual as the "Pro from Dover". This is a joke taken from the movie M*A*S*H*. Lehmberg also likes to quote Conan the Barbarian movie lines. Unfortunately, we have no name for the "Pro" and it is Alfred's interpretation of this person's response. I find it hard to believe that a real expert would make such a response when all he was looking at was multiple lights drifting between clouds. Perhaps the "Pro from Dover" was not such a professional after all. After reading the comments of a real qualified Infrared expert, John Lester Miller, in Robert Sheaffer's September/October 2004 Skeptical Inquirer article, I seriously question Lehmberg's claim of this individual's qualifications. Based on this article and without the individual's name/resume', any comments made by this "Pro from Dover" should be considered invalid in evaluating the video.
It was apparent that at least two prominent investigators, Brad Sparks and Dr. Bruce Maccabee, were conducting some more detailed investigations. While Dr. Maccabee seemed unwilling to make a public disclosure on what he had discovered, Sparks revealed a great deal of what he had learned in the UFO Updates forum.
Christopher, Kevin. "Mexican Air Force UFOs likely equipment artifacts". Skeptical Inquirer July/August 2004. 5
Lehmberg, Alfred. "FLIR Pro From Dover" 10 June 2004.UFO Updates Mailing list. On line posting. Available WWW: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2004/jun/m10-014.shtml
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