Whether or not science, or anyone, can tell us what UFOs are, depends on the nature and validity of the evidence for such encounters. Without real physical evidence, all we have to go on is that most unreliable of all forms of evidence, the testimony of human beings. In the following excerpt from the new book, The Best of FATE: UFOs and Close Encounters, James A. Harder, at Berkeley when he wrote this piece, takes a measured look at whether physical evidence that UFOs have landed exists, and if so, why scientists have not reported it. Then reports on the surprising conclusions he drew from his own personal metallurgical analysis of fragments found at the site of one UFO sighting.
The Hard Evidence for UFOs
By James A. Harder, Ph.D.
In describing the hard evidence for UFO reality, I do not wish to detract from the vast amount of "softer" evidence which has been amassed during the past thirty years. Much of this has been in the form of eyewitness testimony from law enforcement officers and is from multiple witnesses to the same event, and although most of the sightings have been from distances in excess of a mile, a significant number have been of UFOs at close range and have been of such duration that conventional aircraft or ground vehicles cannot explain them. Were this sort of eyewitness testimony offered in a murder case, the offender would be convicted beyond any reasonable doubt.
One definition of "hard evidence" is that provided by artifacts from UFOs or fragments of UFOs recovered from crash sites. I shall be describing two such instances, plus two cases that do more than simply provide evidence to show doubters—they tell us something about the nature of UFOs.
The first case is that of the Brazilian magnesium fragments, well described by Dr. Olavo T. Fontes in Chapter Nine of the book The Great Flying Saucer Hoax by Coral E. Lorenzen and in a condensed form in Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, commonly known as the Condon Committee Report. These fragments were reportedly picked up in 1957 by a group of vacationers shortly after they observed the fiery explosion of a UFO above the surf near the town of Ubatuba, Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they were fishing. Dr. Fontes tracked down the fragments and submitted them to two laboratories; they reported that one of the fragments was of unusually high-purity magnesium, with no impurities detectable by spectrographic analysis. A second fragment was entirely consumed in efforts to explain its unusual density (1.866 grams cc instead of the expected 1.741) by repeatedly dividing it to look for oxide inclusions; none were found except on the surface.
A third fragment was sent to the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization in the United States. The Condon Committee submitted it for analysis to the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the Internal Revenue Service. The division also analyzed two highly purified samples of laboratory grade magnesium, Dow Chemical Company "triply sublimed" magnesium and "Grignard reagent grade" magnesium. The reported results are shown below:
Impurity Levels in Samples of Magnesium Metal (in PPM) as Determined by Neutron Activation Analysis
Dow Mg. Triply Sublimed Brazil UFO Grignard Reagent Mg.
Manganese 4.8 + 0. 35 + 5 150 + 20
Aluminum N.D. (<5) N.D. (<10) N.D. (<5)
Zinc 5. + 1. 500. + 100 3. + 1
Mercury 2.6 + 0.5 N.D. N.D.
Chromium 5.9 + 12 32.0 + 10 3. + 1.
Copper 0.4 + 0.2 3.3 + 1.0 4.9 + 0.2
Barium N.D. 160. + 20 N.D.
Strontium N.D. 500. + 100. N.D.
Manganese and aluminum values were obtained by gamma spectrometry and half-life measurement; zinc, mercury, and chromium values were obtained by gamma spectrometry alone; copper, barium, and strontium values were obtained by gamma spectrometry after radiochemical separation of the elements.
Because the Brazilian UFO magnesium "was found to be much less pure than the regular commercial metal produced in 1957 by the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan," the committee concluded that it need not have come from an extraterrestrial source.
The committee investigators discovered that in 1940 Dow had produced a seven hundred-gram sample of magnesium that contained about the same amount of strontium (an unusual addition), though they said nothing about the barium or zinc. The investigators also failed to note that the Brazilian UFO fragment had no detectable mercury, whereas the Dow magnesium had 2.6 PPM mercury. Thus if we assume that .5 PPM is the detection limit for mercury, the Brazil UFO fragment had to be at least five times as pure (in this component) as the Dow metal. Also note that the Brazil magnesium was on the order of four times the purity of Grignard reagent grade magnesium in the manganese component.
Now, a little bit of elementary algebra will show that there's no way to produce the UFO magnesium out of either or any combination of these laboratory-grade samples of magnesium. It is conceivable that somewhere in the world somebody could have gone to an extraordinary amount of trouble, starting with Dow triply sublimed magnesium, putting it through the purification process used for Grignard reagent grades, and planted the story and fragments with a gossip columnist. I suggest that logically this alternative hypothesis has a vanishingly small probability of being true.
Were there no other evidence for UFOs than this account supplies, most of us would accept this highly unlikely chain of events to explain the Brazil UFO magnesium fragments; what the UFO critics ask us to do, however, is to accept not one but hundreds of similarly unlikely alternative hypotheses in hundreds of other cases as well.
The very small number of apparent accidents like the one investigated by Fontes and described above has suggested an alternative hypothesis: that UFOs don't exist.
This notion is usually expressed in the question "If they're really here, why don't their craft ever malfunction?" Another hypothesis is that as part of a secrecy policy followed by the UFO intelligences such remains are recovered by the UFOs. Certainly the few instances in which artifacts have been recovered by human beings seem to be those in which the UFOs were unaware of the loss.
Such a case has been reported from Sweden. In 1956 two carpenters were returning from work one evening when suddenly the engine of their car stopped, just as they observed a large shining object coming from the sky on the right. They reported no sound but watched the object land in the road only about seventy-five meters ahead of them. They described it as being about fifteen meters across but not quite as high. After about eight or ten minutes it took off, lifting straight up for about ten meters and then accelerating quickly away. They had noticed that it was glowing, casting light for about one hundred meters around it, and gave a shimmering appearance, just as an asphalt pavement will do on a hot day.
Here I can do no better than to quote from a letter written by one of the men, Harry Sjoberg, to a Swedish UFO investigating organization, the IGF-UFO Sweden:
One November evening in 1956 I, Harry Sjoberg, and my friend Stig Ekberg were driving to the job we were doing at Vaddo. The trip took place on a Sunday evening, as we had been in Stockholm during the weekend. During the weeks we lived in a cottage we had rented near the working place.
As I remember this evening it was moonlight (full moon) and not a cloud in the sky. One Swedish mile or two (about six to twelve English miles) before we arrived at our cottage, we suddenly saw, to the right in the sky, a light which was moving in the direction of the moon, which was on the left side of the road. When the object had come over to the left side, it made a sharp yaw to the right and landed on the road about seventy to eighty meters in front of us. Just before that, the motor of the car had begun to give us trouble and was then quite silent.
Stig said the phenomenon must be a new sort of searching the army had, but I disagreed strongly. This, I was sure, was something exceptional.
I remember that the road was about fifteen meters wide and that the object covered the whole road. I can imagine that it was about fifteen meters wide, and I estimate the height to be about four meters. To say something about the color—well, it was rather flat. The shades in the central section were steel-gray with a tinge of light yellow, the upper and lower sides somewhat reddish or orange.
I don't recall any smell but I do remember that it felt heavy to breathe. But this may be due to the fact that I live in a central part of Stockholm and now had come out of the city into the fresh sea air.
When the object had risen and disappeared out of our sight, we got out of the car to investigate the reason that the motor had stopped functioning. Stig opened the motor hood and began with a check of the cables from the battery to the distributor housing and the ignition plugs, but he could find nothing wrong. So he asked me to get into the car and try to start it, and it started without trouble. Stig took his seat behind the steering wheel to drive on to the cottage.
I wanted him to stop where we assumed that we had seen the shining object lying. Stig was anxious to return to the cottage as soon as possible, but at my insistence we stopped.
The first thing I noticed when I got out of the car was that the high grass growing along the ditch bank and inward from the road had been flattened in a curved area from the road, on both sides of the road. The light from the full moon lit the road brilliantly. Stig provided further light with his flashlight. Suddenly the flashlight beam caught some object which we at first thought was an oddly shaped stone. When Stig picked it up, it was warm. When I got it in my hand, I knew from its weight that it must be some kind of metal, and comparing the weight with the small size, I realized that the specific weight must be high. Stig took the "stone" and put it in the glove compartment, and we drove on to the cottage at Vaddo.
At the end of the week we went back to Stockholm. When I told my friends about the event, none of them believed me. Everybody said that it must be a joke or that our eyes were deceiving us. So I decided from then on to keep quiet about it.
In the summer of 1957 Stig and I met a metallurgist. Stig asked him if he would care to look at a metal piece we had found. The metallurgist saw it and suggested that it might be platinum, but he gave us the address of a laboratory that could analyze the piece. This was done but without result. After tests and research at two other laboratories, the metal piece was returned to Stig, divided into three smaller pieces, but with no information about the material of the piece. After that the metal pieces remained lying about for several years.
Some years ago, when Stig was in a bookstore, he heard a young man asking for books about flying saucers. Stig engaged him in conversation and learned that the man was connected with the Swedish UFO group. And that is how we came to write to you about our experience.
What we saw at Vaddo in 1956 was no vision, but a flying saucer that for some reason had force-landed to exchange a damaged part and for some reason had left the exchanged part where we found it.
The fifty-gram piece was sent to the National Enquirer as part of its UFO reward program and then to APRO for analysis. Our findings confirmed that it was extraordinarily dense, 14.92 grams/cc, and a spectrographic analysis showed that it was predominantly tungsten carbide, cemented with a small quantity of cobalt. Scanning electron microscope photographs showed the crystal structure to be very fine, with individual crystals ranging in size from one to three microns in diameter with a mean of 1.5 microns. This suggests a cemented structure that is produced by powdered metallurgy for tool bits. But comparison with a typical large tool bit, approximately the same size as the fragment, showed a density only on the order of 12.5; however, we found that carbide inserts used as cutting edges for large circular saws were very much smaller but were manufactured to a comparable density by a combination of heat and high pressures. So there is nothing in terms of composition except its unusual size combined with high density that can clearly distinguish it from terrestrial cutting tools.
Tungsten-carbide cutting edges are used in machining because they can hold an extremely hard edge at red heat. But the Swedish artifact has none of the characteristics of a cutting tool. Four surfaces are very flat, to be sure, but all of the edges are well rounded (except where it is broken at the sixth face) and seem polished. The two larger parallel sides are slightly tapered (less than 1/1000); when measured for flatness, there was no observable deflection, on a machinist's dial gage that could be estimated to 1/10,000 inch, over a distance of .75 inches. The apex, or nose, is smoothly rounded in three dimensions, with radii of curvature about five mm. The thickness is twelve mm; the two converging sides are each about twenty-two mm long and form an included angle of 75°. None of these characteristics agrees with the form of a cutting-tool blank. To have a machine form this piece would be an extraordinarily difficult task, even for a skilled machinist: tungsten carbide cannot be cut, except by a diamond wheel, and must be ground using diamond abrasives, excepting for the minor sharpening done with a carbide wheel in shops.
Moreover, despite their very good flatness, the surfaces seem somewhat pocked by tiny pits resembling the micro-meteorite pits found on lunar rocks. There is one gouge, about four mm long and one mm deep along one of the rounded edges; the most interesting aspect of this gouge is that it does not have the fracture type of edge but seems almost flame-polished or ablated. This supports an hypothesis that the fragment has been exposed to outer-space micrometeorites, or perhaps has suffered reentry ablation.
We tried looking for cosmic-ray tracks in the carbide crystals but found none. Reportedly the fragment was subject to a melting attempt with the use of an oxyacetylene welding torch in Sweden, and this would be expected to anneal out such tracks (the melting point of tungsten carbide is 3143°K, nearly 5200°F, so the attempt was unsuccessful). So far we have found no anomalous isotope ratios.
I find it mildly amusing that UFO critics have frequently said that if UFOs were real, we would find physical evidence of them, perhaps at crash sites. But when shown physical evidence, they argue that it cannot be valid because UFOs are not real.
The above examples are of physical artifacts. Next I should like to turn to evidence which is somewhat softer but which nevertheless is instrumented—that is, a camera or other aid to observation was employed. Moreover, in each of the two cases, some intriguing quantitative data were obtained.
One is the Sedona photographic case, first published in the APRO Bulletin. The photograph was taken by C. Dwight Ghormley on September 23, 1967, near Sedona Arizona. Ghormley observed what looked like a large cylindrical but bright propane tank in a horizontal position on the ground three-quarters of a mile off the highway and decided to photograph it with his Kodak "Holiday" 127 camera. But after he released the shutter and turned to roll the film to the next frame, he could see only a cloud of smoke or dust. He estimated that the object was three-fourths of a mile away, based on its position relative to the background bluff.
By a stroke of luck Ghormley took the film to be developed to the photo shop of an APRO member, N. C. "Mac" McEntarfer of Flagstaff, who recognized its value and has been able to find the original photographer, the negative, and the camera. Ghormley, the photographer, has been cooperative and helpful and has provided APRO with the negative and the camera for evaluation. Apparently Ghormley released the shutter at nearly the exact moment (actually about .005 second later) that the UFO began a nearly vertical ascent. The rest of the story is provided by the film record.
The camera was an inexpensive model with a fixed focus, single-speed shutter, and a fixed lens opening. When examined in my laboratory in April 1973, the shutter opened (from 10 percent to 90 percent) in five milliseconds (ins), remained open for a duration of twenty to twenty-eight ms., and closed in four ms. The duration showed a time random fluctuation, partly due to the different pressures used to press the release and apparently partly due to some stickiness in its operation. The calculated effective speed was thus 1/35 second. This camera was reported to have a shutter speed of 1/75 second, so I then flooded the shutter mechanism with ethylene dichloride solvent and found that the rise time remained at five ms., but the duration was shortened to eleven to fourteen ms. and the fall or closing time to three ms. After this cleaning the effective shutter speed was 1/60 second, which was probably closer to its speed when new. The shutter speed in 1967 was probably some value between these two, and I will assume a duration of twenty-plus ms., an opening time of five ms., and a closing time of four ms.
From the focal length of the lens and the length distance to the object and the length of the trace on the negative, we can calculate the distance (at right angles to the line of sight) that the object moved. Measurements from the negative show that from the lowest barely visible image to the brightest of the images is .14 inches; from the brightest image to the last distinct image is .20 inches, and above that there is a faint trace .10 inches long, for a total length of .44 inches. At a distance of four thousand feet from the camera, this represents a transverse distance of seven hundred feet traversed in approximately 29 ms. The calculated speed is thus on the order of twenty-four thousand feet per second, or sixteen thousand miles per hour.
This is indeed a very high speed, but it is still within the range of speeds measured by radar (as for example in the Lakenheath, England, case). It is high enough to give the appearance of "disappearance" to a nearby observer, insofar as it is more than several times the speed of a rifle bullet.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the photograph is the large number of distinct images that appear. From their density on the negative, which is greater than that of the brightest part of the sky, we infer that the object was quite bright and that possibly the distinct images are due to a flashing on and off of a light source. Since each flash could be no more than about .001 second (one ms.) in duration and the sky was exposed for the entire shutter opening, the object brightness was on the order of twenty-five to fifty times as bright as the sky.
Interestingly, the density of the first several images increases steadily from the beginning of the trace to the point where, on the basis of a uniform velocity, one would expect the shutter to be fully opened. A similar observation is not possible at the end of the trace, where the images fade into the cloud background. Critics have suggested that the traces are but a lens flare. They do not, however, look like any lens flare known to the writer, and it seems unlikely that a single-lens camera would show such multiple images of the sun. To support such a theory one would have to claim that Ghormley was perpetrating a hoax (since he claimed he did see the UFO on the ground and the cloud of dust). But who would expect a hoaxer to produce such an unlikely photograph of a UFO?
A second instrumented observation was made by Wells A. Webb in 1953. It has provided evidence of something similar to a very strong magnetic field surrounding the UFO he observed. When he first saw the object, it appeared to be a fuzzy white oblong object at an altitude angle of about 45°, azimuth north. Its length was about half the diameter of a full moon, its width about one-third its length. He observed no change in appearance when it was observed with and without Polaroid glasses.
After about five minutes the object had moved to a position 30° eastward; it then suddenly became circular in appearance and no longer moved but became gradually smaller. In this position he observed three concentric dark rings around the object; the largest was about six times the diameter of the object. The rings were visible only when viewed with Polaroid glasses.
Webb repeatedly looked with and without glasses. The sky was clear blue and the time (10:00 A.m.), and the position in the sky suggested to the writer that the rings were the result of the rotation of polarized light scattered from the atmosphere. That the rings were about one-third width of their spacing again suggests the Faraday effect. Assuming the Verdet constant for the sodium line to apply (V = 6.8 X 10-° minutes arc/gauss-cm) at sea-level conditions, we can infer a maximum rotation of about 450° (90 plus two times 180) was caused by a magnetic field of 4 X 10° gauss-cm, or a field of 100 gauss extending over a distance of forty meters, according to my calculations. The Wells A. Webb observation is the first known instrumented observation (other than camera) of a UFO.
If what Webb observed was due to a magnetic field, it could have been produced only by a steady field, or one in which the field strength changes as in a square wave. An ordinary alternating sine-wave field would smear out the rotation. Such a huge, steady field would have a noticeable attractive effect on any iron object in the vicinity of the UFO; this is not reported, except in some of the levitation reports, which of course are not restricted to iron objects. On the other hand, a very high frequency high-intensity magnetic field could cause some of the other effects reported on electrical machinery and in connection with the stopping of automobile internal-combustion engines depending on a spark ignition.
The above four examples do not do justice to the very large number of cases which constitute the hard evidence for UFO reality. But these represent hard evidence of a sort that has involved physical evidence and instrumented observations which not only prove the existence of UFOs but also provide hard evidence of scientific value as well.
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