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

(Image: DOD)

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

(Image: Sony)

Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

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.

  1. If these are aliens, how did they successfully traverse the massive distances between Earth and, well, basically anywhere?
  2. 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?

(ITW Security Division/Lena_graphics/Big Think)

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

(Image: Douglas Adams)

Image from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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.

Amazing maneuvers

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

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less