Monday, October 18, 2010

OCT. 18. - Critical Thinking About UFOs in the Social Media Age‏

Dear Friends,

"Just the facts ma'am..." Click the link to access the links.

Be Well.


Facts Still Matter (More Than Ever)

Richard Dolan

Critical Thinking About UFOs in the Social Media Age

Among the “UFO crowd” these days, it's the trend to disparage the collection and investigation of UFO reports themselves. We live in the age of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, smart phones, and instant information. Why, then, bother to interview witness after witness to ask the same old tired questions just to prove they saw something unusual: “if you held out your fingers at arm’s length, how large would the object have been?”

Besides, we already know UFOs are real, right? So why bother meticulously going over old news? Let’s move on to more interesting issues, like the ET agenda, figuring out the cover-up, or the coming New World Order.

In fact, I do spend a good portion of my time on those very issues. But there is a danger in forgetting the importance of the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of the field.

The recent spate of interest in Project Blue Beam has got me thinking about this. The Blue Beam meme, which had percolated at a low level for over a decade, morphed in the last week into a viral campaign that basically scared the living shit out of quite a few people.

Facts Still Matter

Spreading fear has become so easy. After all, we have Facebook, that addictive purveyor of friendships, online games, and rumors of all stripes. Any and all claims can be copied and pasted and posted and commented and liked to our collective heart’s content. If it's not a fast enough blast, there's always Tweeting.

In the ramp-up to Blue Beam’s supposed arrival, we were treated to a barrage of YouTube links (mostly via Facebook), which featured one particular person warning us to be prepared for the Great Event. No need to go into details and bring more unwarranted attention to these people. They are always around, always willing and able to invent all manner of claims – and there are always people willing to believe what they say.

Say anything you want, don’t worry about supporting your statements with facts or actual research, and then spew out your message. It’s curious and a bit disturbing, that these people believe they actually are doing real research. In truth, most of them have no idea what real research is. Research is hard, it is specific, it takes time.

Research is not “I heard this from a friend of mine who heard this from a scientist in Russia.” Research is not “it’s obvious -- look it up, I’ve given you all the facts.” Research is not “it’s on the sites of Alex Jones and David Icke.”

Talk is cheap. Literally, it’s free. It costs nothing, nothing at all, to make a claim. My dad, a retired police officer, has always framed the issue with the forthright statement that “money talks, bullshit walks.”

It’s true. If you have something to say, back it up. Really back it up. Otherwise, please take a walk.

The problem is that wild, unsupported claims can and do spread so much more easily today than they could twenty years ago. Today, claims and videos and even conversations can go viral. Not everyone believes these things, but over the past week, several people personally expressed their own fears to me that, just maybe, there really might be a major event that would disrupt and wreck everything in their lives. Maybe, they wondered, that all these rumors had some truth in them.

Now, we do live in dangerous, tumultuous times. I happen to think that there are great challenges and difficulties ahead for us. Of course, we must keep in mind that this has always been the lot of humanity, and we have faced many catastrophes in our history. In order to be ready for any future difficulties, we need genuine information, not rumor. We need to be able to discern actual facts from groundless claims and general grandstanding.

For any of these rumors, any of these endless series of predictions that clog our pages and cloud our cognition, we all have several solutions at our disposal.

The most important thing is to remember to ask some basic questions: What is the source of the claim? What is the nature of the evidence? Is it possible to fake the evidence? Does the purveyor of the information appear to have a particular axe to grind -- a particular viewpoint to promote? What is the structure of the argument? How strong is the logic? Are there any missing pieces to the argument? Are there any unstated assumptions that might be affecting the person’s viewpoint? Is there a prior history of such a claim being made? Are there any refutations out there, and if so how strong are the refutations?

We all have the ability to ask these questions. As we ask them, again and again, we become better at answering them.

Especially because this is not only the Age of Facebook, but the Age of YouTube, traditional investigation has shown itself to be not some vestige of long ago days, but more important than ever. None of us can be everywhere all the time, and not even the web can give us instant answers to many of the questions we will ask. For it’s one thing to post a video to YouTube. Anyone can do that with full anonymity. Many people are reasonably capable at creating fake UFO videos; a few are really good at it.

On October 13th, the day of the Blue Beam non-event, we learned that the people of downtown Manhattan were treated to a UFO display. It even made the local news and appears to have been very interesting. Some people claimed that the objects high in the sky were balloons, one person said it was a group of parasails, others wondered if they were real UFOs, and a few immediately claimed this was part of Blue Beam (to which I would say, if THAT was the Blue Beam event, then we have little to worry about).

Then, we find that a local elementary school apologized and said the display were escaped balloons from their teacher's engagement party.

If you want to know how many UFO reports there are every year, a good place to start is the National UFO Reporting Center. For the Year 2009, a total of 4,767 reports were posted, which translates to more than 13 per day. This year, statistics are available through the end of August (2,749 so far), giving the slightly lower rate of about 11 per day. Of course, most of these are never thoroughly investigated.

The point is, if you want to predict a UFO sighting to occur on any day -- any day whatsoever -- you will be (drumroll please......) correct!

What is needed to investigate these events – as it has always been – are people willing to go to the scene, talk to witnesses, check with aviation authorities, collect evidence, and prepare an analysis. This takes time, always time. Doing it right does not coincide with the demands of instant gratification, and cannot allow one to keep pace with the frenzy of a viral event on the web. But there is no other way to do it right.

Which takes me to my final point on all this. Predictions, I think, have become the bane of not simply UFO culture, but alternative culture in general. Since no one seems to enjoy happy predictions, it’s only the scary ones that ever gain much traction. Again, I am not saying bad things can’t and won’t happen. But we need to keep a rational head when confronting these claims.

So, the next time you are encountering the End of the World:

  • Take a slow, deep breath.
  • Read or listen carefully – and critically.
  • Make sure you are receiving actual evidence.
  • Be skeptical.
  • Be slow – not fast – to react.

If you are one of those people who just can’t live unless you repost someone else’s crazy talk, THINK carefully about what you are doing. You do not need to be part of the problem. You really don’t.

Finally, remember that we all have the power of reason in these brains of ours. We can choose to use it.

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



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