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They're out there, watching us . . .
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UFO sightings have doubled in Canada: Are there aliens among us?

By: Leslie Scrivener, Feature writer
Published on Sunday, June 02, 2013

How to explain the stunning increase in UFO reports - all those humming, blinking, blinding lights - which have more than doubled in Canada in the past year?

Are observers simply seeing the orange glow of Chinese lanterns floating aloft?

Are they inspired by guitar-strumming Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to gaze skyward, seeking the bright light of the orbiting space station and seeing other strange phenomena?

Is it evidence of Laurentian University Prof. Michael Persinger's "tectonic strain theory" that luminous shapes precedes earthquakes?

Or, as ufologists would have it, are more of them watching us?

May was a busy month in the UFO world: Ufology Research, based in Winnipeg, issued its Canadian UFO Survey. Not surprisingly, reports peak in the summer months.

In Washington, D.C., six former members of Congress - each paid $20,000 for their time - and 40 witnesses met in a series of hearings to plead for a UN-sponsored world conference on UFOs.

Retired McGill University psychology professor Don Donderi published the book UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions - A Scientist Looks at the Evidence. He asserts that UFOs are here and we'd better get used to them.

Vanity Fair magazine had a profile on once-esteemed Harvard psychiatrist John Edward Mack, who studied the testimonies of UFO abductees and advocated for them.

And tonight, Discovery airs a two-hour documentary, Aliens: The Definitive Guide, in which the world's top scientists discuss their search for life beyond Earth.

One of them is MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager, Toronto-born and educated, who gets all kinds of letters from people who have seen strange things in the sky and would like her to explain. "What am I supposed to say?" she asks in an interview.

She is searching for what she calls the Goldilocks planet, one far out in space that might support life - not too hot, not too cold, just right.

"I don't know of a single scientist who actually believes in UFOs and that aliens have visited," she says. She needs to see hard evidence, hardware that can be objectively studied - put on a lab bench and analyzed. In the meantime, "It's good to get the message across that we are doing the real search for aliens, though not necessarily intelligent life."

That is, they will likely not find a reptilian creature of science fiction. "It could be microbial life."

In Winnipeg, Chris Rutkowski and Geoff Dittman recently released their analysis of the leap in UFO sightings in Canada - 986 reported in 2011; 1,981 last year, or about five every day. Ontario has more sightings thanany other province, but it also has the largest population.

There is more activity in the sky and possibly more people looking, Rutkowski says. Most reports are of lights, which could be popular Chinese paper lanterns that float high with a heat source, military exercises, airliners viewed at odd angles, or comets entering the atmosphere. Access to UFO sites on the internet makes it easier to report.

Timiskaming Sighting

Only a small number, about 8 per cent of the Canadian sightings, have no obvious explanation.

"I share the view with most astronomers that there probably is life out there but it's difficult to get here from there and vice versa. We don't have enough information to say these are spacecraft from other planets," he says.

"The probability of that is not zero, but it's very small."

Of the 148 sightings that couldn't be explained last year, not one included a report of alien creatures.

Rutkowski argues we need to understand what people see and experience in the sky and that the science of UFO investigation has become nearly extinct.

"Science has viewed the phenomenon as too silly to bother with or dismissed because it can be easily explained," says Rutkowski, an author and researcher. "I think those positions are untenable because polls have shown that one in 10 Canadians believe they have seen a UFO. That's three to four million people with UFO experiences."

One of the reports in Rutkowski's survey came from Rod Buckmuller, 58, retired from the courier business and living on Lake Timiskaming near North Bay. The day after he and his wife Barb saw coloured lights zipping near their house, he sat down to record the experience.

It was 10 p.m. on Aug. 9. Barb was smoking on the side porch; he was letting the dog out. She screamed for him to come quickly. She'd seen red and white lights above the tree line. They'd crossed the lake and then shot high in the air. By the time Buckmuller spotted the object - he thought it was a disc about a metre in diameter - it was rotating slowly and the red light gave way to a green one.

They both heard a whirring sound. For a while, it hovered near a utility pole. "It was moving in a very controlled manner," says Buckmuller, who walked down the road near his house to get a better view. "If I had the chance I was going right up to see what it was. I wasn't scared. I was really curious."

But the lights vanished. They'd watched for two minutes. "It was a real object. Both of us saw it. It was not a radio-controlled craft." The next day, Buckmuller was surprised to see a cable company repairman working on the utility pole.

Rutkowski laments that the only organizations collecting data on UFO sightings around the world are voluntary. "People without official backing and, in many cases, individuals without scientific background. It would be useful to have an independent objective agency to collect UFO reports to eliminate the sense of bias."

Another data collector, Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Centre, based in Washington state, says spacecraft may visit Earth every day. It's the most important scientific question confronting mankind, he says. "Are we alone in this galaxy or are we not?"

But for decades, governments have taken a hands-off approach.

In the 1960s, Canadian UFO reports were captured in the National Research Council's study of celestial fireballs and meteors. Scientists examined the reports and often wrote personal replies to those who sent in inquiries.

But there were always doubts about the validity of the reporting. "One must also recognize the data distortion which goes on in the eye-brain mechanism of the observer, and the psychology of the human both individually and en masse," cautions a 1972 NRC pamphlet called "UFO's: What are They?"

Other federal departments, including National Defence, Transport and the RCMP, sent the council reports of sightings until the mid-1990s, when the NRC stopped collecting. The files are still available at the NRC archives in Ottawa and online.

Most governments take the view that UFOs are not a threat to national security, may be no more than imaginary, or can be explained as natural phenomena. The White House, in a 2011 statement, said flatly there's no evidence of life outside the planet or that no ET had contacted anyone here.

Based on its investigations of UFOs from 1947 to 1969, the U.S. air force concluded that the sightings were not highly sophisticated technologies that surpassed earthly scientific knowledge.

Donderi, the ex-McGill prof, disputes that. He says extraterrestrial vehicles are a threat to national security, are technologically superior to human invention and some of these visitors have abducted earthlings, in a kind of "catch-and-release" program.

Donderi maintains that Earth is under extraterrestrial surveillance and that governments should chase away those visitors with fighter jets. (The U.S. air force, he says, surreptitiously does that now, anyway.)

Donderi, who co-wrote a university textbook on psychology and for nearly five decades researched human visual perception and memory, also argues that a lack of physical evidence doesn't mean extraterrestrials don't exist. "Eyewitness testimonies are also evidence," he says, adding perhaps the spaceships just haven't crashed.

Laurentian's Persinger - known for his work creating mystical experiences in the so-called God helmet - has long proposed that luminous events that people call UFOs are natural phenomena, tied to tectonic strains on the Earth that precede earthquakes.

In a recent paper in the International Journal of Geosciences, Persinger and geophysicist John Derr report that "pyramids of fiery red colour" and "elliptical corona of amazing brightness" were observed two weeks before a 1749 London earthquake.

In their theory, strains in rock caused by tectonic stresses generate visible electromagnetic waves. Aluminum, silicates and other materials in the Earth's upper crust contribute to the illusion of metallic shapes people describe in UFO sightings. Electromagnetic fields can also explain UFO-related reports of cars stalling and electrical systems being knocked out, as well as the seizures or amnesia that some report in so-called alien encounters, he says.

Also in Sudbury, Michel Deschamps, 48, a shipper-receiver, sees things quite differently: he counts 27 UFO sightings since he was 9. He now gathers UFO research and reports it on his website www.noufors.com (Northern Ontario UFO Research and Study).

Most sightings have been what he calls lights behaving weirdly, but he had a spectacular and frightening experience in 1990, in which a shiny sphere appeared to hover over the site of the former Canada Forces Falconbridge radar station.

Deschamps believes ETs have been investigating Earth since the first atomic bombs were dropped. "That's what got their attention and they've been coming even more."

Like other ufologists, Deschamps was heartened by the Phoenix Lights incident of 1997, when thousands of people reportedly saw a series of lights in a chevron high in the night sky over the city. Some described it as a giant spacecraft and prominent witnesses included the former governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, also a former Air Force pilot, who wrote a CNN commentary on the event.

"I can't wait to see what's around the corner," says Deschamps. "Maybe something bigger. Maybe they will be more bold, showing themselves in broad daylight andhovering over large metropolitan areas for days on end. This would force the government to cave and admit 'we've lied to you' all these years."

The Toronto Star - Sunday, June 2, 2013
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