In the first independent review
of UFO phenomena since 1970, a panel of scientists has concluded
that some sightings are accompanied by physical evidence that
deserves scientific study. But the panel was not convinced that
any of this evidence points to a violation of known natural laws
or the involvement of an extraterrestrial intelligence.
The review was organized and directed by Peter Sturrock,
professor of applied physics at Stanford University, and
supported administratively by the Society for Scientific
Exploration, which provides a forum for research into
unexplained phenomena. The international review panel of nine
physical scientists responded to presentations by eight
investigators of UFO reports, who were asked to present their
strongest data. Von R. Eshleman, professor emeritus of
electrical engineering at Stanford, co-chaired the panel.
Although UFO reports date back 50 years, the information
gathered does not prove that either unknown physical processes
or alien technologies are implicated. But it does include a
sufficient number of intriguing and inexplicable observations,
the panel concluded. "It may be valuable to carefully evaluate
UFO reports to extract information about unusual phenomena
currently unknown to science." To be credible to the scientific
community "such evaluations must take place with a spirit of
objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses" that
has so far been lacking, it added.
This conclusion differs from that reached by Dr. Edward U.
Condon, director of the Colorado Project, in his 1968 UFO
report. He concluded that "further extensive study of UFOs
probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science
will be advanced thereby." It is very similar, however, to the
conclusion reached by the American Institute of Aeronautics and
Astronautics' Kuettner Report issued two years later, which
advocated "a continuing, moderate-level [research] effort with
emphasis on improved data collection by objective means and on
high-quality scientific analysis."
In the current study, the scientific panel focused on incidents involving some form of physical evidence, including photographic evidence, radar evidence, vehicle interference, interference with aircraft equipment, apparent gravitational or inertial effects, ground traces, injuries to vegetation, physiological effects on witnesses, and debris. Of particular concern are reports that UFO encounters may be hazardous to people's health. Some witnesses have reportedly suffered radiation-type injuries. These reports led the panel to draw the attention of the medical community to the possible health risks involved.
The scientists found that some of the reported incidents may
have been caused by rare natural phenomena, such as electrical
activity high above thunderstorms or radar ducting (the trapping
and conducting of radar waves by atmospheric channels). However,
the panel found that some of the phenomena related to UFOs are
not easy to explain in this fashion.
Further analysis of the evidence presented to the panel is
unlikely to shed added light on the causes underlying the
reports, the scientists said. Most current UFO investigations
lack the level of rigor required by the scientific community,
despite the initiative and dedication of the investigators
involved. But new data, scientifically acquired and analyzed,
could yield useful information and advance our understanding of
the UFO problem, the panel said.
The reviewers also made the following observations:
1.The UFO problem is not a simple one, and it is unlikely
that there is any simple, universal answer.
2.Whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the
possibility that scientists will learn something new by studying them.
3.Studies should concentrate on cases that include as much
independent physical evidence as possible.
4.Continuing contact between the UFO community and physical
scientists could be productive.
5.Institutional support for research in this area is
The review panel consisted of Von Eshleman; Thomas Holzer, High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colo.; Randy Jokipii, professor of planetary science, University of Arizona, Tucson; Francois Louange, managing director of Fleximage, Paris, France; H. J. Melosh, professor of planetary science, University of Arizona, Tucson; James J. Papike, professor of earth and planetary sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Guenther Reitz, German Aerospace Center, Institute for Aerospace Medicine, Cologne, Germany; Charles Tolbert, professor of astronomy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and Bernard Veyret, Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory, University of Bordeaux, France. Eshleman and Holzer served as co-chairs of the panel.
The UFO investigators who presented evidence were Richard
Haines, Los Altos, Calif.; Illobrand von Ludwiger, Germany; Mark
Rodeghier, Center for UFO Studies, Chicago; John Schuessler,
Houston; Erling Strand, Ostfold College, Skjeberg, Norway;
Michael Swords, professor of natural science, Western Michigan
University, Kalamazoo; Jacques Vallee, San Francisco; and
Jean-Jacques Velasco, CNES, Toulouse, France.
The study was initiated by Laurance S. Rockefeller and supported financially by the LSR Fund.
The Journal of Scientific Exploration is the quarterly
peer-reviewed research journal of the Society for Scientific
Exploration, an interdisciplinary organization of scholars
formed to support unbiased investigation of claimed anomalous
Stanford University Press Release
DATE: June 29, 1998
Stanford University Contact: David Salisbury, Science Writer, Stanford University News Service, phone: 650-725-1944
Society for Scientific Exploration Contact:
Marsha Sims, Executive Editor, Journal of Scientific
Exploration, phone: 650-593-8581, fax: 650-595-4466
For Comment Contact:
Prof. Peter Sturrock, workshop director, phone: 650-723-1438
Prof. Von R. Eshleman, panel co-chair, phone: 650-723-3531
Dr. Thomas Holzer, panel co-chair, phone: 303-397-1567