American movies have borne the cross to shape our world view of what and how aliens are. Right from X-Files to Men In Black, Star Wars to Star Trek, aliens have become a part of pop culture, where they invade the earth, and The Feds always stop them. Sometimes it feels like the only job of federal officials is to save earth from aliens and not humans themselves. Ancient aliens, a programme on the history channel, categorises every majestic, old and unbelievable architecture to be a work of aliens; the irony is indeed not lost on us!
Businessmen have used pop culture to play with the imagination of people and make money simultaneously. A company called St. Lawrence Agency in Florida, USA, offers insurance against alien abduction. This policy provides $10 million in coverage, the insurance provides outpatient psychiatric care, double identity coverage and sarcasm coverage if the victim is ridiculed by people around him.
Mike Lawrence the owner of St. Lawrence Agency spoke to the media about how none of the insurers claimed the alien abduction insurance.
Apart from filmmakers, the US government has always been interested in what and whereabouts of aliens to the extent that they have dedicated a research facility for it. The US government released an unclassified report about the assessment of the threats posed by unidentified aerial phenomena popularly known as UFOs or unidentified flying objects. The Department of Defence (DoD) and Unidentified Agents Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) came forward with this report.
The report does not provide such data; hence it’s of no use as of now. The report did summarise UFO sightings between November 2004 to March 2021. There is no evidence in the report that can prove UFO sightings, but the sightings did not reveal human interference. Former US President Barack Obama, on James Cordon’s The Late Late Show, talked about unidentified objects in sky, saying, “we don’t know exactly what they are”.
When did this obsession begin?
It all started on 24 June 1947 when an amateur pilot from Idaho, Kenneth Arnold, was flying his plane named CallAir A–2 over Mineral, Washington. The way he describes it, it was a clear sky with a light breeze kind of day; Arnold was en route to an air show in Oregon. He searched for a Marine Corps C–46 transport aeroplane near Mount Rainer, which had gone down. He searched for it because there was a reward of $5000 for the person who found the wreckage.
Like any extraterrestrial/Alien/supernatural movie, Arnold recalls that out of the blue, a bright light shined right in his face. Arnold described the bright light to have a bluish tint like a glint of sun which hit him via a mirror angled at his face. At first, he thought that the light was coming from another plane, but when he looked around, there was no plane to be found. All his eyes could see was a DC–four.
The object was around 15 miles away from him, suddenly the bright light shined on his face again. Arnold later told the press that he saw nine flashes in rapid succession. Arnold described those nine flying objects as a diagonally shaped echelonformation. Those nine objects flew in unison over a horizontal plane and danced side to side, similarly to the tail of a Chinese kite. This is how “the flying saucer” came into being. After this, a series of popular culture movies like Steven Spielberg‘s Extra-Terrestrial, The Day The Earth Stood Still and the introduction of Marvin the Martin in loony tunes intrigued everyday American life.
What about the government’s interest?
The library of congress had published articles about extraterrestrial life before the concept of the flying saucer became popular. Apart from this, Area 51, the name of a highly classified United States Air Force facility in Nevada, has been an object of imagination and interest. This facility is completely off-limits to citizens and hence it attracts questions. There have been many conspiracy theories about what happens in Area 51, like shooting the landing on the moon or keeping mutated dwarfs of the 1947 Roswell crash et cetera. The most popular and believable myth is that Area 51 is an extraterrestrial research facility maintained by the US government. Some people believe that the US government has kidnapped and captured aliens in Area 51!
The obsession and questions regarding Area 51 led to a Facebook event of September 2019 called “storm area 51; they can’t stop all of us“. Around 2 million people joined this event on Facebook. Surveys by Gallup in 2019 found out that two-thirds of Americans believed that aliens exist and the US government knows more than it discloses. One-sixth of the Americans believe that they have personally experienced an unidentified flying object or something close to it. One-third of Americans believe that UFOs are actual sightings of an alien civilisation, although humans or natural phenomena cannot explain 60% of the UFO sighting.
What does the scientist community say about UFOs?
NASA believes in the possibility of life beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and it sponsors missions that go into outer space to look for traces of life. But NASA has never claimed to find evidence that can prove extraterrestrial life.
Why is the American government researching aliens?
UAPTF was established in 2020 after Deputy Secretary of Defence David L Norquist felt the need. The task force mission was to make sense of sightings that could not be explained by natural phenomena and obtain insight into them. The recent sightings were centred around US military bases and airbases. One of the sightings is a video taken by Air Force and Navy pilots, where unidentified flying objects were travelling at high speed without any propulsion, performing aerial stunts which were bewildering. After the release of videos in April 2020 by DoD, UAPs were classified as a threat to national security; hence the exploration became a top priority.
What are the findings of the report?
The report cites the sightings of different types of UAP between 2004 to 2021. These UAPs had differen but unexplainable manifestations and behaviours. Between the said period there have been 144 sightings of the UAPs and the department was able to explain only one of them which was thought to be an airborne clutter. The department believes that UAPs pose a threat to flight and soon will pose a threat to national security.
The department tried to make sense of the inconclusive data and found out a few rituals. They categorised the UAPs sightings on the basis of shapes, size and propulsion. The report suggests that most sightings were seen around US defence training and testing grounds. Out of 144 sightings, only 18 UAPs showed advanced technology, 21 UAPs indicated unusual flight patterns and peculiarities.
The report also says that they do not have any explanation that can prove existence of extraterrestrial life. The report cannot explain all the UAP sightings, but few reasons provided by the department are airborne clutter – birds, balloons, recreational unmanned aerial vehicles, airborne garbage like plastic bags. These objects inhibit an operator/pilot’s vision and ability to identify targets like enemy aircraft. The report also explained the natural phenomena like obstruction due to ice crystals or moisture and man-made intrusions like industrial development programmes and foreign adversary systems.
The report explained, “UAP poses a hazard to the safety of flight and could pose a broader danger if some instances represent sophisticated collection against US military activities by a foreign government or demonstrate a breakthrough aerospace technology by a potential adversary”.