Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
The government’s secret UFO reading list is revealed. Wow.
FOIA release sheds light on the DOD's own struggle to understand UFOs.
- A just-unclassified Department of Defense reading list on UFOs is stunning.
- The DOD is wondering if the truth lies in some of the most far-out theories.
- Science fiction has nothing on science fact.
The public finally had a chance in 2017 to see some of the government's tightly guarded UFO footage — never mind the sudden admission that it existed in the first place. The handful of clips that were de-classified were eye-popping, depicting flying somethings with ridiculous maneuvering capabilities, far beyond anything we'd seen in human craft. Sure, we wondered where they came from and who was driving those things, but just as urgent was a desire to wrap our heads around how they were doing the things they were doing. Apparently, the Department of Defense (DOD) was right there with us, because their recently published reading list suggests their suspicions went in some seriously sci-fi directions.
The reading list
The first page of the DOD reading list. (Full list here.)
We're seeing this list because of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. It was released to Congress in January 2018.
At the top, as you can see, it's somehow both "UNCLASSIFIED" and "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY." And, if you're not confused yet, both phrases are crossed out.
The DOD’s possible explanations for UFO behavior
What's on this reading list jumps right into the theoretical and even quasi-fictional (Star Trek's warp drive?). After all, any explanation for both the presence of UFOs and their observed behavior would have to solve two currently unanswerable riddles.
- If these are aliens, how did they successfully traverse the massive distances between Earth and, well, basically anywhere?
- How are these whatever-they-ares moving the way they do with such startling agility and speed?
The DOD seems to be looking at this question from a variety of angles, also including the effects of space travel on biological tissue, communications technologies, and energy storage. They're also wondering, apparently, if they're from space or are somehow home-grown. Also, um, weapons?
Many of the books listed appear to themselves be classified and thus unavailable to the general public. It's also worth noting that some of the publications are by NASA, which demonstrates their out-of-box thinking, too.
Where do these things come from?
The DOD has apparently revisited the Drake equation that quantifies the likelihood of intelligent alien life. But could these weird craft maybe be the product of a single brilliant earthling? Maybe. Maverick Inventor Versus Corporate Inventor is on the list.
Possible means of interstellar travel
How would alien vehicles traverse vast stretches of space? As Douglas Adams famously wrote in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."
Care for some light reading on confinement fusion? How about vacuum engineering or aneutronic fusion propulsion? Positron propulsion, and negative mass propulsion? Star Trek's warp drive? Yup, and we'll throw in inter-dimensional travel, too: Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions. Speaking of extra-dimensional shortcuts, how about Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy? And, of course, quantum entanglement, always a party favorite.
The DOD's interests in this area have to do with a wide range of elements, from materials — Biomaterials, metamaterials, Metallic Glasses — to methods of control, such as Metallic Spintronics, and antigravity. There's also the disturbing Technological Approaches to Controlling External Devices in the Absence of Limb-Operated lnterfaces. And you know how UFOs can sometimes suddenly disappear? Sit down, Hagrid: The DOD read Invisibility Cloaking.
And then there are the observations of multiple craft doing "impossible" things. How are they all working together? You could read Cognitive Limits on Simultaneous Control of Multiple Unmanned Spacecraft before lights-out tonight if it wasn't classified.
Bang, bang, or zap, zap
We'll just say this: The DOD has lasers on its mind. There are a few publications here on high-powered lasers. Also maybe microwaves.
So, seriously what on earth?
It's unlikely that the entire DOD takes UFOs this seriously, or is so obviously well-versed in science fiction as to even consider some of these angles. Clearly, though, at least some members of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program have spent as many hours immersed in space opera as we have. This list reveals two startling things: Science may be catching up to fiction. And maybe us nerds aren't so crazy after all.
Michio Kaku: Let’s not advertise our existence to aliens
The finding is remarkably similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency.
- Recent studies asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers.
- The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness, while attractive people underrate their looks.
- Why this happens is unclear, but it doesn't seem to be due to a general inability to judge attractiveness.
There's no shortage of disparities between attractive and unattractive people. Studies show that the best-looking among us tend to have an easier time making money, receiving help, avoiding punishment, and being perceived as competent. (Sure, research also suggests beautiful people have shorter relationships, but they also have more sexual partners, and more options for romantic relationships. So call it a wash.)
Now, new research reveals another disparity: Unattractive people seem less able to accurately judge their own attractiveness, and they tend to overestimate their looks. In contrast, beautiful people tend to rate themselves more accurately. If anything, they underestimate their attractiveness.
The research, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, involved six studies that asked participants to rate the attractiveness of themselves and other participants, who were strangers. The studies also asked participants to predict how others might rate them.
In the first study, lead author Tobias Greitemeyer found that the participants who were most likely to overestimate their attractiveness were among the least attractive people in the study, based on average ratings.
Ratings of subjective attractiveness as a function of the participant's objective attractiveness (Study 1)
"Overall, unattractive participants judged themselves to be of about average attractiveness and they showed very little awareness that strangers do not share this view. In contrast, attractive participants had more insights into how attractive they actually are. [...] It thus appears that unattractive people maintain illusory self‐perceptions of their attractiveness, whereas attractive people's self‐views are more grounded in reality."
Why do unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness? Could it be because they want to maintain a positive self-image, so they delude themselves? After all, previous research has shown that people tend to discredit or "forget" negative social feedback, which seems to help protect a sense of self-worth.
To find out, Greitemeyer conducted a study that aimed to put participants in a positive, non-defensive mindset before rating attractiveness. He did that by asking participants questions that affirmed parts of their personality that had nothing to do with physical appearance, such as: "Have you ever been generous and selfless to another person?" Yet, this didn't change how participants rated themselves, suggesting that unattractive people aren't overestimating their looks out of defensiveness.
The studies kept yielding the same finding: unattractive people overestimate their attractiveness. Does that bias sound familiar? If so, you might be thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes how incompetent people tend to overestimate their own competency. Why? Because they lack the metacognitive skills needed to discern their own shortcomings.
Greitemeyer found that unattractive people were worse at differentiating between attractive and unattractive people. But the finding that unattractive people may have different beauty ideals (or, more plainly, weaker ability to judge attractiveness) did "not have an impact on how they perceive themselves."
In short, it remains a mystery exactly why unattractive people overestimate their looks. Greitemeyer concluded that, while most people are decent at judging the attractiveness of others, "it appears that those who are unattractive do not know that they are unattractive."
Unattractive people aren't completely unaware
The results of one study suggested that unattractive people aren't completely in the dark about their looks. In the study, unattractive people were shown a set of photos of highly attractive and unattractive people, and they were asked to select photos of people with comparable attractiveness. Most unattractive people chose to compare themselves with similarly unattractive people.
"The finding that unattractive participants selected unattractive stimulus persons with whom they would compare their attractiveness to suggests that they may have an inkling that they are less attractive than they want it to be," Greitemeyer wrote.
Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.
This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.
Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.
These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.
The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.
This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.
The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.
"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.
"This just hasn't been possible before."
Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.
New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.
"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."
"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."
Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.
Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.
"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."
Tiny specks of space debris can move faster than bullets and cause way more damage. Cleaning it up is imperative.
- NASA estimates that more than 500,000 pieces of space trash larger than a marble are currently in orbit. Estimates exceed 128 million pieces when factoring in smaller pieces from collisions. At 17,500 MPH, even a paint chip can cause serious damage.
- To prevent this untrackable space debris from taking out satellites and putting astronauts in danger, scientists have been working on ways to retrieve large objects before they collide and create more problems.
- The team at Clearspace, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, is on a mission to capture one such object using an autonomous spacecraft with claw-like arms. It's an expensive and very tricky mission, but one that could have a major impact on the future of space exploration.
This is the first episode of Just Might Work, an original series by Freethink, focused on surprising solutions to our biggest problems.
Catch more Just Might Work episodes on their channel: https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work