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about The Tectonic Strain Hypothesis.
© Dr. Michael Persinger, 1999 (reproduced with permission)
Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are contemporary terms that have been applied primarily to anomalous luminous phenomena (ALP). They display odd movements, emit unusual colors or sounds and occasionally deposit physical residues. When these phenomena closely approach a human observer, exotic forces and perceptions are frequently reported. Most ALPs display life times in the order of minutes and appear to show spatial dimensions in the order of meters. Despite their remarkably similar descriptions over time and across cultures, the transience and localized occurrence of these phenomena have limited their systematic investigation.
Explanations for these phenomena have ranged from social misperceptions and delusions to some variant of mystical or extraterrestrial intelligence. However the only testable concept that has been formulated to date is the Tectonic Strain Theory or TST. It states that most UFO phenomena (not due to frank misobservation) are natural events, generated by stresses and strains within the earth’s crust. The phrase “most UFO phenomena” is emphasized because the primary measurement is still human observation and classification. Due to their limitations, overinclusion of events or experiences that are not coupled to tectonic stress or strain are expected. Highly unlikely but nonetheless possible episodes of extraterrestrial sources could be contained within that residual.
The TST was originated from inductive rather than deductive processes; the data themselves revealed the principle that allowed the development of the theory. Between 1969 and 1972 the several thousands of events referenced by Charles Fort were designated to several dozens of categories (Persinger, 1976; Persinger and Lafreniere, 1977). Because we assumed that transient, anomalous and dynamic phenomena required substantial sources of energy, measures of intense displays such as tornadoes, earthquakes and weather extremes were included in the analyses. The most consistent and strongest correlations in time and space occurred between what Fort had labelled “luminous phenomena” and the numbers of earthquakes. At about the same time we were completing these analyses, Paul Devereux had begun his field research and John Derr had focused upon the intriguing problem of earthquake lights.
A basic scientific motive, the understanding of nature and of the hidden mechanisms within it, has stimulated the development of the TST; it was never intended to serve a debunking function. The pursuit also has been encouraged by the prospect of practical application. If ALP are indices of tectonic strain and it generates earthquakes, then the possibility existed that some form of ALP, such as UFO reports, could be used to help forecast the locality or occurrence of earthquakes. A necessary consideration of the TST, although not directly related to its verification, is the consequences of both ALP and the beliefs concerning their origins upon human behavior and attitudes. They are often as important to scientific discovery as the physical principles themselves.
The TST predicts that most ALP and their contemporary equivalent, UFOs, are generated by natural geophysical forces. The major source is tectonic stress; it is primarily a consequence of the slow cooling of the earth. The stress occurs continually as a field within the earth’s crust. However the direction and magnitude of stresses change over space and time. These changes induce strain within the local crust. In general the stresses are focused and the strain is induced within areas that contain the optimal geological architecture or that have traditionally undergone strain release. They include faults, rifts, many river systems and localities of enhanced compressional deformation.
As stresses accumulate over time, UFO phenomena are generated. Generally there is a critical magnitude of stress that precipitates a sudden, substantial release in the strain energy: this is called an earthquake or a seismic event. According to the TST, detectable earthquakes do not cause most UFOs. Instead, both UFOs or ALP and earthquakes are generated by the same process: earth stress. Because earth stresses generally escalate over several months to years before earthquakes, most UFO reports should precede earthquakes. However variations in local stresses frequently follow strong seismic events; consequently a small proportion in the numbers of UFOs should occur during these adjustment periods.
There should also be a temporal distribution of UFO reports within the 24 hour period preceding and following significant releases of seismic energy. These ALP occur and have been called earthquake lights. If these ALP are generated by the same process that produces UFOs, then their properties should be similar. Even within classification systems (e.g., Galli, 1910, as reported by Terada, 1931) that were developed before the classic UFO period , the remarkable similarities between earthquake lights and UFO phenomena are evident. Major classes of earthquake light include luminous masses (some of which appear to rotate on axes); football or lantern shaped fireballs, metallic-looking forms; luminous columnar, funnel or trumpet shapes; and sprinkles. Comparable ALP are still reported today. The most recent earthquake-related ALP were documented by Marcel Ouellet (1990). They occurred around the Saguenay region in Quebec and were associated with the intense earthquake on November 25, 1988.
At this level of analyses, the TST’s major limitation is similar to that encountered by any process that cannot be measured simultaneously in one place at a particular time. Although general patterns in tectonic stress can be interpolated using a variety of methods (Zoback & Zoback, 1981), the simplest measure for analyses is the occurrence of discrete events that can be counted: earthquakes. Because the occurrence of earthquakes and more specifically the energy released by seismic events is assumed to generally reflect the amount of stress within the region, these measures are used to infer tectonic stress. Effectively the amount of energy release has been used as an index of strain. An analogous difficulty occurred in meteorology before the dense spatial grid of weather stations was established. Without the optimal instruments (barographs) and continuous measurements over multiple locations, the concept of a low pressure air mass could not have been envisioned or documented.
Despite the limit of direct strain measurement, there are precise extrapolations that can be generated and tested:
Because tectonic stress is never zero, UFO reports can occur anywhere but should occur more frequently in geological regions undergoing increases in stress accumulation.
Because stress accumulation occurs gradually over time and then is associated with a sudden release, most UFO reports should precede increases in earthquake activity; in those areas in which strain continues to occur after a quake, UFO reports could also occur but their numbers should be diminished unless another major release of energy is imminent.
Historical equivalents of UFO reports should have occurred frequently, especially in regions that have maintained earth stresses over decades or centuries (“window areas”).
Because UFO phenomena are generated by geophysical processes, the understanding and perception of UFO reports as a phenomenon is only evident within the spatial and temporal time frames required to understand seismic process, i.e., hundreds to thousands of square kilometers and months to years.
Any process or event that affects seismicity should affect the numbers of UFO reports; because some forms of seismicity are coupled to the solar cycle, UFO reports should reflect this periodicity or a subset of it, such as a single intense flare. Local factors, including large scale fluid injection into the crust or stress shifts (changes in major river, lake or reservoir volumes), could trigger episodes of ALP and UFO reports.
Since 1979, approximately 25 technical articles have been published that support the validity of the TST as an explanation for most reports within UFO or ALP data bases from a number of different places. There have been two major approaches to the problem. The first involves “local” episodes of reports within a diameter of 50-100 km; they include the Salisbury Uinta Basin episode during 1967 (Persinger & Derr, 1985a), the Long-Vogel-Akers Toppenish Ridge Sightings between 1973 and 1977 (Derr & Persinger, 1986), the Rutkowski Carman, Manitoba occurrences between 1974 and 1977 (Persinger & Derr, 1985b), the Rutledge New Madrid field study of 1973 (Persinger, 1988a) and the Zeitoun, Egypt phenomena that were reported during the years 1968 and 1969 (Derr & Persinger, 1989a).
The second approach involves larger areas of space. These analyses have included the central-eastern U.S.A. record between 1945 and 1966 (Persinger, 1980; 1981a; 1983a), the Washington-Oregon analyses (Persinger & Derr, 1984), the Charles Fort United Kingdom period between 1850 and 1920 (Persinger, 1983c), the New Madrid Region 1945-1977 analyses (Persinger, 1981b, 1983b), the 1965 to 1977 Swedish series (Mattsson & Persinger, 1986), the central U.S.A. 1947 to 1966 period (Derr & Persinger, 1990) and the Rio Grande Rift (New Mexico-Colorado) area (Derr and Persinger, 1989b; Persinger & Derr, 1990). With the exception of the United Kingdom, New Madrid Region and Mattsson sources, the data for these analyses were obtained from the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS).
Initially the analyses involved numbers of UFO reports and numbers of different intensity (Mercalli) earthquakes per unit time. In response to suggestions by John Derr and Chris Rutkowski, two major shifts in conceptualization have been employed. First, measures of seismic energy release replaced the use of numbers of earthquakes. The reasoning was simple. Release of seismic energy is more theoretically related to strain release than the numbers of earthquakes. If UFO reports are related to strain, then changes in their occurrence must be related to the amount of seismic energy release. Secondly, discriminative validity was pursued. Although most UFO reports are likely to be natural, geophysical phenomena, data bases are probably heterogeneous collections of human experiences. By differentiating between likely sources of ambiguous observations from more robust descriptions, in a manner similar to the strangeness scale employed by David Saunders for the CUFOS data, classic UFOs and ALP should be most correlated with indices of seismicity.
For the local studies, three major questions were asked: 1) is there a significant correlation between earthquake numbers (or energy release) and the numbers of UFO reports?, 2) what is the distance of earthquakes that are most correlated with UFO reports? and 3) what is the temporal relationship between the occurrence of the UFO reports and the occurrence of the seismic energy release? To minimize the problems that occur by including the extremes of temporal distributions of data, most analyses were completed for the intervals in which the cumulative numbers of UFO reports were relatively linear. Usually approximately 90% of the reports within a collection occurred within this period.
Increments of one month have been used primarily because the duration of the data bases were relatively brief, i.e., in the order of years. The numbers of earthquakes (or the amount of energy release) per month was compared with the numbers of UFO reports or ALP per month. To determine the optimal distance of earthquake inclusion, correlational analyses were completed that incorporated earthquake measures from successively increasing distances from the focus of UFO reports until the magnitude of the correlation coefficient peaked and then deteriorated. Determination of the optimal temporal relationship between numbers of UFO reports and earthquakes was completed by the lag-lead procedure. Multiple regressions were completed between the seismic measures per month and the numbers of UFO reports or ALPs the same month or each of the three months before or afterwards.
The second approach utilized much larger areas. Numbers of UFO reports or ALP per six month increment (usually January-June, July-December) were correlated with the numbers of earthquakes or the amount of energy released during the same increment and for each of three increments before and afterwards. For control analyses, seismicity of the surrounding area was often included. Contrary to the critique of Rutkowski (1984) and Rutkowski and Del Bigio (1989), all of these procedures include routine analyses and are neither complicated nor contrived; they do require a rudimentary understanding of problem solving. Over the last 10 years the following major patterns have been found.
Except for some peak periods in UFO reports, a simple relationship in time between their numbers per day and the numbers of earthquakes are rarely statistically significant or obvious. Retrospective studies strongly suggest that a rapid onset of ALP and UFO reports have occurred during the approximately 10 days before some unexpected (no obvious seismological precursor) strong earthquakes in a region. Within: 1) large areas at the level of states or regions in the U.S. and smaller countries in Europe and 2) six month increments of analyses, the correlations are almost always statistically significant. When temporal increments that exceed 1 to 2 years are employed, the strength of the correlation weakens. When the area of inclusion exceeds regional geological boundaries of seismic patterns, the coefficients are diluted.
For six month increments the magnitudes of the coefficients between numbers of seismic events and numbers of UFO reports has ranged between 0.50 and 0.70 and usually involved 15 to 20 years (30 to 40 cases) of successive intervals. For fixed six-month analyses the strongest coefficients have been between the numbers of earthquakes and the numbers of UFO reports during the previous six month interval. These results support the hypothesis that both UFO reports and earthquakes are caused by stress and that UFO reports are generated by the temporally evolving processes that precede and create earthquakes.
More recent analyses of the Rio Grande Rift System and the central U.S.A. indicate that the numbers of UFO reports were significantly correlated (0.60 to 0.75) with the amount of seismic energy release within the region but not within surrounding regions that served as control areas. For these studies and for the Denver (Derby) episode between 1962 and 1967 (Derr & Persinger, 1989), substantial increases in UFO reports occurred when the imminent energy release exceeded 1 x 1017 ergs within a six month period or some variant of it. Because natural forces do not conform to arbitrary temporal increments (6 months) of analyses, the UFO-energy relationship is likely to be higher; in fact with variable interval analyses that optimally partition continuous intervals into increments of shared variance, the correlations between numbers of ALP and the amount of seismic energy release were marginally higher (0.70 to 0.80).
Even when the “local” episodes of UFO reports are analyzed, the optimal increments of analyses still involve months and the distances include hundreds of square kilometers. In all six of the these analyses, the UFO flap that generated the record keeping was associated with the most energetic seismic release in the region. Although the number of localities are too small to be conclusive, it is interesting that the optimal distances of earthquake inclusion that was required to obtain the strongest correlations between UFO reports and seismicity involved between 100 and 200 km within the Western U.S.A. and between 500 and 700 km for the central U.S.A.
These patterns support the hypothesis that the organization of the crust may in large part determine the effective “region” for analysis. In areas, such as the western U.S.A. (Uinta Basin, Toppenish Ridge) the crust is a collection of small accretions whereas in the central U.S.A. the crust involves a much larger plate that may be affected by extreme load variations on major river systems. This variability in the earth’s crust must be accommodated in order to test the TST appropriately.
Determination of the optimal increment of space and time in order to perceive a phenomenon is a routine procedure in science. In order to perceive the gestalt of mountain one must not be too close or to distant. In order to perceive the action potential of a neuron the increments of time must be neither too brief (or the event is displayed as a horizontal line) nor too expanded (or the event transmutes into a vertical line). If UFO phenomena are coupled to geophysical processes, then the causality would be most apparent when the dimensions and temporal properties of the local stress fields are identified.
What does such a temporal and spatial perspective imply for UFO research? At too large a level of analyses, several strain fields are included and the maximum relationship may be obscured. At the optimal level, the relationship becomes clear (Figure 2). However as the spatial frame is reduced to the level of the local researcher and the time frame approaches the duration of human interest and activity, the relationship between UFO reports and earthquake activity is totally dissociated. Without fixed and reliable stations of data collection, in a manner similar to those required for weather forecasting, the picture will continue to be fragmented.
Although the term flying saucer and UFO emerged around 1947, UFO phenomena existed long before this period. Because human reports of anomalous phenomena are affected by the beliefs and expectations of the period, these phenomenon have been obscured. For example before the earthquake of 1663 in Quebec, people saw “fires, torches, and flaming globes, which sometimes fell to the earth and sometimes dissolved in the air…they saw fires of this sort five or six times at night”. “Terrible specters” were also seen. Not surprisingly, there were the more strange antecedent psi-like experiences such as “wakening in her cabin while all other slept, she heard a distinct and articulated voice that said to her ‘In two days, marvellous and astonishing things will come to pass'”.
Comparisons of the numbers of UFO reports after 1947 with Fortean accounts of “odd luminosities” before 1920 for three regions: western Europe (Persinger, 1983d, 1984a), the United Kingdom (Persinger, 1983c) and the central U.S.A. (Persinger, 1983e) have shown that both UFO reports and ALP were correlated with increased seismicity and energy release. Empirical equations generated from LP and seismicity within Western Europe between 1850 and 1920 predicted peaks in these events between the years 1930 and 1970; these peaks corresponded with the “foo fighter” and UFO flaps. For the central U.S.A., the opposite procedure was employed. Multiple regression equations were determined empirically between the numbers of UFO reports and seismic events for the years 1950 through 1975; standardized measures were then applied to periods (1860 to 1945) before that time. Predicted peak periods of UFO reports were associated with Fortean reports of LP as well as the infamous mysterious airship episodes.
Although the 1896-1897 airship episode is certainly anecdotal and has been considered a hoax by some researchers, the geophysical conditions that were associated with the airship episode are commensurate with both the hypotheses and corollaries of the TST. Approximately 80 to 90% of these reports of odd lights and “airships” occurred at night. One of the greatest floods to have affected the Midwest occurred during the spring of 1897, stressing regional river systems. Between January and May, 1897, reports occurred within dozens of central and eastern states. The events were associated with the interval in which unusually intense earthquakes had been occurring (in inference of major stress) within the region and were terminated during the last of April; on May 31, the intense Giles County, Virginia earthquake struck.
The presence of a moderately strong temporal relationship between the approximately 11 year cycle in solar activity and terrestrial earthquakes is apparent in some seismic data bases (Mazzarella & Palumbo, 1988). Deep earthquakes appear to be significantly affected by solar acceleration while more shallow ones are not (Jakubcova & Pick, 1986). More precise analyses indicates that only specific types of earthquakes, depending upon the type of fault system and the level of stress accumulations may be maximally affected by some factor associated with solar activity. As Louis Winkler has shown with several unpublished analyses, the role of solar activity in the occurrence of both earthquake lights and UFO reports may be more important than now predicted.
The most likely “factor” is geomagnetic activity. The majority of the variance in short-term (minutes to days) variation in the geomagnetic field are changes in either speed or density of the solar wind; these parameters are a function of solar activity. Geomagnetic activity is measured by referenced scales such as the Ap or aa indices. Within 6-month timeframes, the variability in global geomagnetic activity is associated with the numbers of UFO reports and they are associated with earthquake activity during the following six months. However the geomagnetic correlation with UFO reports is not significant if the variance they share with imminent earthquake activity is removed (Persinger, 1985). This results suggest that extreme variability in geomagnetic activity facilitates the numbers of UFO phenomena within a region but only if strain is present as defined by the later occurrence of earthquakes. During the Toppenish phenomena, ALP were significantly more likely to occur within months when single daily Ap indices exceeded 100 (extreme intensity), but only if nearby seismicity was increasing.
Derr and Persinger (1993) re-evaluated the association between monthly volumes within the Mississippi River System and local seismicity in context of the third variable: luminous phenomena. McGinnis (1963) had suggested that seismicity, within the New Madrid System, was triggered by initial rates of change in volume of the annual water loads. Derr and Persinger found that within 320 km of the confluence of the Mississippi System, the numbers of luminous phenomena (reported as “UFOs”) per month peaked three to four months (r=0.87) after the river had crested. However because of the intrinsic cyclicity of the seismicity, luminous phenomena and water levels the occurrence of some intrinsic dynamic could not be excluded.
Extreme but infrequent river loads my trigger “UFO flaps” or temporally and spatially clustered SLPs. One such episode involved the Red River System (Persinger and Derr, 1985a) within southern Manitoba and Minnesota/ North Dakota. A marked increase in luminosities (red, orange or white “bobbing balls of light”) around Carman, Manitoba during early 1975 was followed two months later by an earthquake within 100 km from the twin cities of Breckenbridge, Minnesota and Wahpeton, North Dakota (where the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail Rivers converge to form the Red River) that was the most energetic in recent history. A potential trigger from spring water loads upon the Red River Basin was implicated. Whether or not the most recent floods of May, 1997 will precipitate SLP in the Winnipeg area will depend upon antecedent strain conditions.
Perhaps one of the most active (in addition to the New Madrid Region) and focal areas for earthquakes, seasonal variables in fluid load and numbers of UFO reports is the San Francisco Basin. As an extension of John Derr’s fluid hypothesis, we recently evaluated the relationship between January rainfalls in that basin and UFO reports. More than 50% of the variance (equivalent to a correlation of r=0.70) in numbers of annual UFO reports was explained by the amount of January rainfall. The effect was strongest for SLP within 100 km of San Francisco. The multiple r increased to 0.83 if the geomagnetic activity entered the equation.
Variable water loads within other depositories, such as reservoirs, could also evoke strain and trigger episodes of luminosities. John Keel, one of the most creative and intuitive field researchers, had noted that UFO reports and related phenomena, such as “odd humanoids”, occurred near reservoirs. To discern if small variations in strain could be associated with UFO reports, Derr and I (1993) evaluated the temporal association between water levels within the Grand Coulee Dam (Lake Roosevelt) in Washington state and numbers of SLP within radial increments of 50 km to a distance of 200 km. We found that the change in volume (whose absolute value was about 2% of the total depth of the reservoir, i.e., 44 ft) was the most critical correlate. The numbers of UFO reports within 50 km were associated with an increase rate of change during the same month while the numbers of luminous phenomena within 100 km was associated with the amount of change in volume during the previous month.
Most of the empirical support of the TST has been correlational analyses. Although techniques of discriminative or convergent validity (Anastasi, 1976) can be applied to insure the specificity of the relationship between ALP and earthquakes, most scientists prefer experimental designs that allow control of the key variables. Man-made induction of earthquake activity by flooding, fluid injection or irrigation can serve as potential quasiexperimental verifications. There are many anecdotal candidates that suggest the feasibility of this approach. An example is the temporal relationship between the massive irrigation causing the slow depletion of the Aral Sea (in the Soviet Union) and the nearby Tashkent seismicity and earthquake lightning.
One of the most well known cases in the U.S.A. was the Derby quakes; approximately 1000 of these events were evoked during the years 1962 through 1967 near Denver, Colorado due to injection of several tens of millions of gallons of fluid into the bedrock. Once the quakes were initiated, they appear to have continued, despite curtailment of injection, resulting in the most energetic seismic events of the region. These events were studied extensively. Correlative with this energy release was an unprecedented number of UFO reports within the Denver area.
John Derr and I analyzed the monthly occurrence of ALP within 100 km, between 101 and 250 km and more than 450 km (used as the control region) from Derby. Within the Derby region LP were positively correlated with the volume of fluid injection of the same month; however for the adjacent region, the strongest relationships occurred 2 months after the injections. There was no significant correlation between LP beyond 450 km and fluid injection. These results suggest that the same stimulus (fluid injection) that evoked earthquakes also evoked ALP. Our (Derr and Persinger, 1990b) analyses also strongly suggested that some process, coupled to the production of ALP, was diffusing away from the injection site at speeds between 50 and 100 km/month to distances as far as 300 km.
The possibility the man-made fluid injections could induce an aseismically propagating hydrological pulse that would be the physical manifestation of the hypothetical “strain field” was explored more fully within the areas of Attica, New York, Rangely, Colorado, Sanford (Amarillo), Texas and Hanford, Washington. Each of these areas had been subjected to man-made fluid injection by either aqueous loading of a lake or forced injection of millions to billions of gallons of fluid into crustal vaults. Luminous events, reported as UFOs, within 100 km of the injection sites peaked within two years. At larger radial distances, between 101 and 200 km and 201 km and 300 km, the peaks in UFO reports occurred after two years and were less intense. The results were consistent with the radial propagation of a strain field whose magnitude and speed diminished non-linearly with distance.
That injection of billions of gallons of fluid into oil fields, in order to enhance recovery of petroleum, may have been and may be a trigger for luminous displays such as the Marfa (Texas) lights can be demonstrated empirically. However quantitative data that includes the amount of fluid injected, the rate of fluid injected and the local tectonic strain status would be required in order to predict the occurrence of these lights. For most of these areas the natural topography encourages the occurrence of SLP. Frequently, there are historical antecedents or culturally-described references to these luminous events within the legends of Native Americans. Contemporary technology simply enhances the frequency and amplitude of the occurrences of the LP.
There are four immediate implications that could be considered if fluid injections can evoke propagating strain fields. First, from a mundane but historical perspective, could the infamous 1947 observations that resulted in the term “flying saucers” have been initiated by man-made factors? These observations, that began in the western portion of Washington state, occurred approximately three years after the deposition of radioactive fluids into crustal vaults near Hanford, Washington.
Secondly, the possibility that injection of millions of gallons of fluid can propagate 100s of km from the site suggests that reports of LP could be employed as markers of diffusion from storage sites. Third, if components of the fluid propagate with the strain field, the constituents of some single UFO events could contain these materials. For example, would the infrequent episodes of radioactive burns or poisoning from animals or humans who were proximal to luminosities occur near sites where radioactive material was injected into crustal vaults? To answer these implications prudence rather than panic is required; such questions demand empirical analyses and evaluation.
Fourth, any area where fluid injection or accumulation is occurring could become an experimental site to test the tectonic strain hypothesis. One candidate area, Marmora (near Peterborough), Ontario has been the site of luminous displays (reported as apparitions of the Virgin Mary), odd electromagnetic events, episodes of “visitations by small humanoids around the bed” and classic SLP. The spatial adjacent magnetite mine and quarries have been filling with water (several millions of gallons per month). Preliminary analyses have indicated (since 1995) an association between the numbers of reports of luminous experiences and seismicity within the region.
Fields are difficult to perceive and must be both inferred and revealed by discrete effects upon matter. For example the presence of the field between the poles of a magnet is not obvious, until its effects on the orientation of iron filings are observed. The passage of a low pressure air mass is not apparent, until one constructs the daily isobars (lines that connect stations with similar barometric pressure). If strain fields exist, they would be apparent by viewing the weekly or monthly changes in the numbers of LP in space as the field moves through the crust.
In both the Uinta and Toppenish episodes, where earthquakes occurred in a quasicircular distribution around the concentration of ALP, they occurred primarily in the period between a seismic event on one side of the circle and a subsequent earthquake on the opposite side. This effect might be explained by the movement of a strain field; while moving between stress-release (epicenter) points, it traversed through the focal area and generated the ALP. Once the field passed through the area, the ALP were no longer produced and consequently UFOs were no longer reported.
The concept of a strain field existing around an epicenter is supported for some larger earthquakes. Earthquake lights are known to occur at distances of approximately 500 km from the epicenter of more intense seismic events. However, a moving strain field that converges upon an imminent epicenter would be more convincing. This pattern has been shown for some larger magnitude events. For example, the distance between all LP in the region and an imminent epicenter (near Tucumcari, New Mexico) gradually decreased over several months. For another intense seismic event within that region (Los Alamos) there were no ALP within 100 km of the imminent epicenter 15 to 21 months before the quake. Ten LP were observed during the period 7 months to 14 months before quake. However about 50 ALP were reported during the six month period that preceded the quake. After the quake, there were significantly fewer ALP and their distribution was totally random.
Of course the movement of a field-like pattern could have alternative, geophysical explanations. One of them, as suggested by John Derr, involves the movement of ground water. Lateral movement and percolation of the massive fluid reservoir through the earth’s crust can certainly affect the distribution of forces along fault lines. Alterations in the distributions or levels of ground water, especially along river systems in response to load extremes (floods), could affect these forces in a manner that would be very similar to that proposed for moving strain fields. Maintained injection of fluids, such as within the Derby site and many major oil fields, might also be expected to influence hydrodynamic factors. It is important to emphasize that at least in the Derby case, both the numbers of LP and the numbers of earthquakes within the same month were most strongly correlated with the volume (in millions of gallons per month) of fluid injection.
There are reliable relationships of moderate strength that exist in time and space between numbers of UFO reports and the amount of seismic energy release within a geological region. Because both types of discrete events are produced by tectonic stress and strain and they are not directly measured but only inferred, the TST has not been demonstrated conclusively. The situation is analogous to the relationship between a fever and the later development of influenza. Although both the fever and the flu are produced by a virus, the association between the two is limited unless both can be related to the virus. The pattern may display strong reliability, i.e., there is a systematic positive lagged correlation between the fever and then the flu. However the pairing does not necessarily demonstrate the validity of the hypothesized relationship: the virus causes both. The limit of the TST is analogous.
Most of the evidence that supports the TST is based upon correlational analyses and procedures that require a moderate level of appreciation for multivariate methodology. This feature is shared by many other areas of science, including epidemiology, meteorology, astronomy and of course seismology. The temporal and spatial correlations between UFO reports and earthquakes are comparable to the association between: 1) radon levels and lung cancer, 2) alterations in stratospheric constituents and global warming and 3) foreshock patterns and seismic events. Sometimes phenomena that involve statistical processes are difficult to perceive and, for some researchers, frustrating to understand.
The role of cognitive style in problem solving and the frequent incompatibility between discrete and probabilistic thinking are important variables in this area of research. For example one experienced exploration geologist felt that for the TST to be totally supported each ALP should be shown to be associated with a particular earthquake. Such an approach is comparable to attempting to equate each cough with a particular spot during an episode of measles. Like any field phenomenon, some measure of the field’s property rather than its individual constituents is essential.
The third major limit of the TST is the subject matter. UFO reports are based upon human observation. Consequently issues such as sampling, estimates of how many true UFO events are represented by a single UFO report, and the general problem of consistent recording of odd events (even an anomalous event becomes routine if displayed frequently enough) are potential sources of variance that affect the magnitude of the relationship between UFO reports and earthquakes. It is likely that if these errors were minimal, the relationship between ALP and earthquakes would be so conspicuous that statistical treatment would not be required. Sampling errors generally dilute, not enhance, the strength of replicable relationships.
An important difficulty with UFO reports is that they probably represent heterogeneous phenomena. Whether or not: 1) unidentified lights moving in a straight line, 2) rotating red balls of light with multiple smaller balls along their periphery, and 3) metallic-looking shapes originate from different sources of variance or are different manifestations of the same source (tectonic strain) must still be established. The presence of this heterogeneity suggests that single UFO cases cannot be used to refute either the phenomena (in the tradition of Philip Klass) or the TST (in the tradition of Stanton Friedman).
Whether or not UFO reports in one part of the world are comparable to those reported in another must still be addressed. Indirect evidence suggests similarity because historical episodes of increased global seismicity have been associated with “world-wide epidemics of luminosities”. In North America, there has been consistency in the proportion of different types of UFO reports within the Uinta, Rutledge, Yakima (Toppenish) and CUFOS collections. Most classified UFO reports are odd luminosities, comparable to CUFOS’ classification Type III through Type VI ; the more strange observations constitute less than about 5% of the population of reports. The strongest correlations occur between classic ALP and earthquakes; the stranger the observations the less clear is the association to imminent seismic activity.
From an extreme behaviourist perspective, the persistent correlation between UFO reports and seismicity may only suggest that anomalous human behavior (in the form of strange perceptions) may precede earthquake activity in the region. Escalations of UFO reports could be considered as a type of epidemiological phenomenon that is analogous to other forms of odd animal behavior that may precede some earthquakes. This hypothesis can only be excluded when construct validity between UFO reports and other measures, e.g., photographs, spectral analyses, has been completed.
The logical extrapolation from the TST is that the individual UFO event, primarily an ALP, is the transformation of the energy associated with mechanical deformation within the earth’s crust into electrical, light, magnetic, sonic or even chemical forms. The transformation is in principle similar to the transduction of any energy. However because the earth’s crust is composed of heterogeneous materials with different thermoelectric, piezoelectric and chemical compositions, the conversions are more varied. This multivariate factor predicts that a variety of different physical mechanisms are involved with the generation of UFO events. If different mechanisms generate different products, then the rich variation in the physical properties of UFOs might be explained.
Despite this multiplicity of mechanisms, there should be predominant modes of transformation because the earth’s crust displays larger percentages of certain types of minerals. Because quartz-containing rocks are so widely distributed, the piezoelectric form is one possible mechanism. An equally common process would involve a variant of the nucleation reaction that is hypothesized to precede earthquakes. Considering the magnitude and forces involved one would predict that most UFOs should generate substantial electromagnetic fields that could include the entire spectra of light (and color), biologically hazardous ionizing radiation, and even quasistatic magnetic field components that are sufficient to affect lighting and ignition systems.
No direct extrapolation from the TST can predict what actually happens when the quantum of strain is translated into the phenomenon that is then perceived as a UFO. Does this quantum of stress translate into a microearthquake? Is the gradual increase in stress before its catastrophic release (e.g. an earthquake) associated with an escalation in the numbers of microearthquakes and hence the “release” of UFO phenomena? Or is the quantum of strain transformed into the UFO event in lieu of the release of mechanical energy? What is the ratio of transformations of quanta of strain that are directly observable, i.e., are the (visible) UFOs only a small fraction of the actual numbers of strain quanta? Are the others released as pockets of radon gas or electromagnetic radiation? There are no contemporary answers to these questions.
The physical properties of the UFO event should reflect some fundamental feature of the local earth’s crust and the mechanism through which the ALP is generated. We should find that the predominant red color of ALP should reflect a frequent chemical property that accompanies the transformation of the quanta of strain. The involvement of sulphide-based ores would be expected to generate sulphur-oxide or methylsulfonamide (the smell added to propane gas) correlative with the LP. Involvement of outcrops of acidious quartz diorite might promote the release of the relatively common radioactive gas, radon, and evoke reports of “residual radioactivity”. Enhanced gas emissions and chemiluminescence have been postulated to generate at least some types of earthquake lights (Hedervari & Noszticzius, 1985).
One would expect that measurable residues of LP, when they touch the ground, should reflect the primary constituents of crustal material. The few metallurgical analyses that have been conducted revealed oxidized forms of the most frequent elements of common rocks: silica, manganese, and aluminum. Quantitative estimates indicate that only a few grams of metal (Persinger, 1984b), dispersed along a strong electromagnetic surface, would appear as “metallic”. Interestingly, the temporal association between some LP reported during the nineteenth century and the deposition of “slag” or metallic fragments was frequently reported by Charles Fort. If the ALP had been labelled “spaceship”, then these materials would be attributed to “spaceship fragments”.
The occurrence of specific ALP is predicted to occur in topographies that are associated with stress release. Consequently LP should be more frequent along fault lines or their topographic equivalents such as rivers and creeks. To test this prediction, a comprehensive knowledge of the local structural geology would be required. The systematic pursuit of this hypothesis has been completed almost exclusively by Paul Devereaux (1989) and his research group. They have shown that ALP are distributed along fault lines. In the U.S. the only comparable study involved the collections by Greg Long (1990) for the Toppenish Ridge ALP. There are likely to be hundreds of keen observers who have noticed the relationships between very local and brief displays of ALP, fault lines and seismicity. Without the implementation of Ron Westrum’s (1982) concept of a social network, the presence of these observers would remain obscure.
If the individual UFO is primarily an electromagnetic phenomenon, it should follow those principles. Verification of this prediction would require classification of the natural and man-made structures of the local environment along a continuum of conductors to non-conductors. Classic UFOs or ALP would be expected to occur over powerlines, near the apices of structures (towers, steeples, hills); they would also be attracted to moving semiconductors such as trains, cars and the human being. Although qualitative descriptions support the general hypothesis, well designed quantitative studies are required.
Although tectonic stress must be present to generate ALP, their acute occurrence will depend upon probabilistic processes or the occurrence of a trigger. If the former occurs, then UFO reports could be distributed in a less conspicuous manner over several days to weeks. However there are several candidates that can affect local stresses and force the production of UFOs into narrower and more conspicuous temporal windows. Major triggers are: lunar tides, the passage air masses and geomagnetic storms. They have been found to trigger earthquakes (Latynina & Rizaeva, 1976; Kilston & Knopoff, 1983). A focal strain field associated with the moon rotating around the earth travels in the order of 1000 km/hr. Passage of air masses (Persinger & Cameron, 1986), especially very energetic ones, have been associated with some UFO flaps, ghost lights (such as the Hookerman phenomenon in New Jersey) and earthquake lights (Yasui, 1974). The role of intense geomagnetic storms was discussed in the last section.
Strangeness or unusual properties frequently emerge when a phenomenon’s level of discourse is traversed. At the level of 10 cubic centimetres a glass of water containing lipid membranes appears clear and homogeneous. Within a 1 cubic nanometer volume of that same fluid, odd and unusual properties emerge. There may be some (hydrophobic) regions where there are no water molecules; in other regions the electric charge disparity may be equivalent to a million volts per meter and protein chains may twist and rotate continually. The phenomena are anomalous because the observer has traversed a level of observation and is perceiving an extremely minute subset of the total set.
An analogous situation is predicted to be responsible for the fundamental strangeness of many UFOs. Because the observer is viewing a minute subset of the total phenomenon (the strain field), properties are apparent that would not be discernable at a regional level. This prediction is more metaphorical then empirical. However it opens the possibility for the discovery of unusual physical forces or their anomalous application and perhaps unexpected interactions between the electromagnetic correlates of human cognitive processes and the UFO phenomenon itself.
Most UFO phenomena are measured by complex human processes that involve sensation, perception and memory. They are affected by the person’s expectations, beliefs and learning history. The more dependent the description is upon these processes, the more they affect the details of the original sensation. If the label spaceship is used to label an ALP the recalled details can slowly change from a bright light in the sky to an object with windows, to a craft. Because memory is the “measurement” of experiences, the person cannot easily detect changes within the system. The fidelity of memory, especially for anomalous events, has been discussed elsewhere (Persinger, 1983f, 1984b).
The general tendency for most UFO to occur weeks to months before the release of seismic energy suggests that their temporal relationship is non-linear. If it were not, then more and more ALP should occur as the imminent earthquake approached. The absence of general linearity indicates that some restricted amount of stress or a particular rate of change in stress, early in the stress accumulation, is optimal for the generation of ALP.
The analyses of the Washington-Oregon data (Persinger & Derr, 1984) indicated that the greater the amount of energy release, the greater the temporal lag in the antecedent peak in numbers of UFO reports. Peaks of LP in the Zeitoun episode (Derr & Persinger, 1989a) preceded the major seismicity by almost a year. In an analogous manner, temporal clusters of anomalous seismic activity may occur several years before the occurrence of a major shock (Yoshida, 1987). These results suggest a “critical zone of stress magnitude” that could generate ALP. Depending upon the duration that this zone was maintained and the movement of the stress field, LP could be generated for several weeks (without concomitant seismicity), but then become less evident for years before a significant major event.
Whether or not other kinds of anomalous phenomena are generated by tectonic stresses before and after this critical zone is not clear. Only one analysis (Persinger, 1982) has shown that electrical anomalies (power failures) precede ALP that in turn precede more exotic displays, such as poltergeist-like events. The conceptual and spatial concomitance of LP with poltergeist, haunt and other phenomena was observed in the Toppenish, Uinta and Gold Hills, North Carolina (unpublished reports by Wayne Laporte) displays. The interrelationship between UFO and parapsychological phenomena has yet to be explored.
Although there are many similarities between luminous phenomena generated by compressional stresses within the laboratory and the ALP that could be generated by tectonic strain, a mechanistic connection between the two is less clear. The fundamental assumption has been that laboratory models are valid representations of large scale equivalents. This assumption is prevalent in many scientific disciplines. Unfortunately there have been no published studies by physicists or geophysicists that have applied the discrete relationships of the laboratory to the large-scale field setting. If the essential phenomena are scale invariant, then the lifetime of the average UFO suggests that compressional energies involve hundreds of square kilometers of crustal space.
The issue of abductions by alien intelligence, whether manifested as the angels of the sixteenth century, the fairies of the 19th century or space creatures of the present period, is not critical to the verification of the TST. These experiences involve no more than 1% of the total data set of UFO reports. However the powerful association between the explanations of UFO phenomena and the occurrence of these unusual experiences requires objective attention.
The experienced clinician is cognizant that the concept of the human self is a fragile phenomenon whose integrity is maintained by systematized beliefs and expectations. They produce the sense of personal purpose and facilitate the creation of strategies that diminish the apprehension of personal death. Belief in omnipotent forces such as God or more contemporary equivalents, such as alien intelligence, is one obvious consequence of these processes. An indication of the intimate relationship between these beliefs and the integrity of the self is the anxiety, anger and flurry of verbal activity that are evoked when the beliefs are challenged. Such systematized beliefs are so common that by definition they are normal. Beliefs that dominate a person’s life are considered delusions only when they deviate extremely from culturally acceptable concepts. Psychologically, there is no difference in the belief that God protects a person from harm and the conviction that Omnipotent Space Creatures are spiritual custodians.
Anxiety, depression and dissociation are common features of everyday life. Although the prevalence of the first two are apparent, the incidence of dissociation is less widely known. The intensity of symptoms range from the occasional “staring into space” to large periods of missing time. Approximately 10% of the population dissociates frequently and at least half of the population dissociates during intense personal events, such as divorce, death and occupational disappointments. During these periods the person may experience missing time and report alterations in memory. Memories can be reorganized such that they are no longer accessible to consciousness. When this occurs the concept of self is sometimes changed; in more religious traditions the period coincides with conversions.
If a specific stimulus was associated with dissociation, then a later presentation of that stimulus or something similar to it can activate these alterations in memory. Because these “altered memories” are often odd or personally unacceptable, their revelation generates anxiety; consequently there are strong psychological forces that prevent their emergence. The person may remain vigilant (anxious) or display depression. During periods of personal stress, these dissociated memories, modified by beliefs and expectancies, occur as experiences that are perceived as originating “outside” of the self. These experiences are perceived as real and are frequently ascribed to religious or mystical intervention. The consequent conversion in cognitive structure, alters the perception of the self and the sense of purpose.
Although all portions of the brain are involved with experience, the temporal lobes have a major contribution. These regions contain the most electrically unstable structures of the brain; they are strongly associated with meaning, memory, visual and auditory imagery and the sense of self. Extreme electrical stimulation within these regions is associated with altered perception of normal events, the release of dream states into consciousness, feelings of personal destiny, concerns about the meaning of life, the compulsion to proselytize and an intense widening of affect such that mundane observations, from a crescent moon to a misplaced bracelet become components of a common theme (Persinger, 1983f).
The lability of temporal lobe activity displays a continuum; people who display limbic epilepsy, defined by focal electrical seizures that may or may not generalize to motor convulsions, occupy the extreme end of this continuum. Most normal people would show intermediate forms of activity. However this can be enhanced by physiological states, particularly those associated with elevations in the stress neuropeptides adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and the glucocorticoid, cortisol (Persinger, 1989).
The personalities of normal people who display enhanced temporal lobe activity are dominated by its features. These people usually display enhanced: creativity, suggestibility, memory capacity and intuitive processing (Persinger & Makarec, 1987). Most of them experience a rich fantasy or subjective world that fosters their adaptability. Many of them are prone to bouts of physical and mental activity followed by mild depression during which self-questioning occurs. These people have more frequent experiences of a sense of presence during which time “an entity is felt and sometimes seen”; exotic beliefs rather than traditional religious concepts are endorsed. With the exception of panic and post-traumatic stress disorders, there is no evidence that the incidence of psychiatric disorders among people who display temporal lability is any greater than those less prone to this activity. The delayed emergence (15 years or more after the enhanced lability) of schizophreniform processes cannot be excluded.
Most human cultures have developed techniques that facilitate periods of contact with and “abduction” by mystical entities. The common factor of these techniques is the capacity to encourage temporal lobe lability: fasting, hypoxia, and psychological or physical stress are effective stimulators. Their general consequences are similar. With the details of culture removed, there is little difference operationally between an American Indian encountering his spirit guide and being taken to “the land of the spirits” and the twentieth century North American encountering an alien and being abducted. The fragmented memories, parapsychological themes, missing time, episodes of torment or inspired “messages” and sense of personal significance remain the same.
Because most UFO phenomena are assumed to be energetic natural sources, close proximity to them would preferentially evoke electrical instability within the observer’s brain (Persinger, 1983f). The types of symptoms and their intensity would vary as a function of the current induction within the brain. As the current density increases the consequences would change from tingling sensations or sense of a presence, to odd smells or sounds and then to the release of dream-like images. At very intense currents, partial amnesia might occur and severe hypertonus or convulsions would ensue. Very intense currents would be lethal; unless precise postmortems were completed, the symptoms would simulate a heart attack. If the body was associated with burns, death would probably be attributed to a lightening strike.
Even though disruptions in consciousness would occur, memory would still be consolidated. It would be affected by the label and the beliefs evoked by the person to describe the ALP just before the stimulation. Once the neuroelectrical equivalents of these experiences occurred, a process that involves only a few minutes, the memories would appear as real as those acquired under more mundane conditions. Any form of extraction, from free association to hypnosis, would simply reflect what the person believed happened rather than what necessarily occurred. Considering the predictable manner in which neurocognitive processes adjust to brain trauma, alterations in the “retrieved” experiences or “revelations” should be evident as cognitive dissonance is resolved and information acquired after the incident is incorporated into memory. These processes have been demonstrated experimentally in a variety of psychological contexts (Stern, 1985; Rossi, 1986).
There are important differences between the effects of current induction that can occur proximal to an ALP and those evoked by more mundane sources, such as electroconvulsive shock (ECS). The latter is quick, discrete and occurs within a relatively familiar context. The experimental procedure that evokes experiences most similar to the more extreme UFO encounters is the electrical stimulation associated with neurosurgery. It involves very focal current induction (about 1 cc) within the brain (Persinger & Cameron, 1986). These similarities suggest that the magnetic fields associated with ALP involve highly localized, flux line-like distributions of energy. Most medical utilizations of electromagnetic energy, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, are not representative of this process because they emphasize homogeneity of current distribution.
Because ALP generated by tectonic strain could affect the brain of the nearby observer, some abduction and contactee experiences might be attributable to this source. Considering the variety of psychological and physiological conditions that can affect temporal lobe lability, the majority of these experiences should not involve ALP directly. They would be the subject matter of the experts who study human cognitive processes. In light of the strong correlation between life-time histories of dissociation during stress and early histories of physical or psychological trauma, especially between the ages of 4 and 6 years, these factors would be expected to predominate. For these cases, the TST is simply not applicable.
Epidemic reports of “visitations” and even “abductions”, as defined by experiences attributed to “being taken” into another dimension, have occurred periodically in human history. The succubi and incubi, were nocturnal entities that allegedly visited Europeans during the Middle Ages. The “victim” was sexually explored and even abused. More recent epidemics have included the fairy visitations during the turn of the last century.
The experimental work of Laurentian University’s Neuroscience Research Group has been primarily involved with understanding the neurocognitive correlate to the “sense of self”, perhaps the last major challenge to modern neuroscience. The clinical applications of this work has been focused to help patients with subclinical partial complex (limbic foci) seizures, closed head injuries and some forms of depression. These patients often experience a fragmentation of the sense of self, the “sense of a presence”, the apprehension of “going crazy” and multiple physiological symptoms including anomalous skin blemishes and sleep disturbances. Unless the symptoms are relieved, the concomitant stress biochemistry can produce adverse effects upon neurons
We have been applying very weak, complex magnetic fields transcerebrally (across the hemispheres of the brain). The strength of the fields are in the order of 10 milligauss (RMS) or 1 microTesla and are much weaker than the 60 Hz magnetic fields generated by hairdryers or a personal computer. The critical feature of these fields is that they are complex sequences of patterns containing information to which neurons and aggregates of neurons respond. Traditional medical applications of magnetic fields employ very high intensities of very symmetrical, redundant and neuronally meaningless forms.
When normal individuals are exposed to these complex fields, particulary over the right hemisphere (temporoparietal lobes) for 15 min and then over the left hemisphere, they experience the sense of “a presence”. The presence is attributed to cultural labels brought by the subject into the experimental setting. Some subjects attribute it to a “spirit”, others attribute it to mystical sources. The affective polarity of the experience, i.e., negative or positive, will determine if the attribution is associated with a positive (god) or negative (demon) label.
Our working hypothesis is that the sense of self is associated with linguistic processes that are typically associated with the left hemisphere. From this perspective the proclivity for people to fight or die to maintain their language and culture is not surprising. Altered culture and altered language are often associated with a change in the sense of self. However there must be a homologue of the sense of self within right hemispheric processes. When it is stimulated and the neuroelectrical pattern intrudes into left hemispheric awareness, the experience is that of an ego-alien “presence”. Effectively this “presence” is the other “you”. In most people, the presence is the right hemispheric equivalent of the left hemispheric sense of self.
Because the right hemisphere is associated with emotion and employs slightly different neuronal codes than left hemispheric processes associated with the sense of self, the “presence” will appear strange but have profound affective significance. Because the right hemisphere is associated with hypervigilance and anxiety, the entity is more likely to be experienced on the left side of the body and to be “negative” or “scary”. Women often identify the “presence” as “male” while men report the presence as “female”. The microstructural organization of the feminine brain encourages this type of brief intercalation between the right and left hemisphere. For example the normal right-handed woman and left-handed man experience the sense of presence more frequently (by a factor of about 2) than the right-hand man within the experimental setting.
Although we have partially simulated the phenomenon experimentally, it occurs naturally. For example, during some dream (REM) periods following personal distress or during suppression of nocturnal melatonin levels (e.g., increased nocturnal geomagnetic activity), the sense of a presence is more probable. It is the likely correlate of the sense of “Muses” or “Inspiration” reported by creative writers, musicians, poets and artists when they remain awake during the early morning hours (usually between 0200 and 0400 hrs local time).
The results of our experimental work suggest an association between subclinical electrical microseizure activity and the abduction experience. Although we have some cases where the nightly visits of “scintillating humanoids around the bed” disappeared once anticonvulsants were given, the similarity does not imply that the abduction experiences are simply a pattern of microseizures. In addition to the sense of a presence, which is attributed to the contemporary cultural label and explanation–an alien, demon or other-dimensional creature–, there are gender specific experiences. Because the insula, adjacent to the stem of the temporal lobe, appears to be involved with the process, women are more likely to experience uterine and inner vaginal sensations. The propensity for pseudocyesis (false pregnancy) in woman who are highly creative and display elevated temporal lobe signs may be one of the etiologies for the “stolen” embryo stories that are characteristic of many human cultures. For men, the major representation within the insula involves the intestinal and anal regions.
Our approach has emphasized understanding the portions of the brain that mediate the experience. Obviously, we cannot totally refute or support the experiences of people who report they have been abducted or visited by nocturnal aliens. We are more interested in isolating the portions of the brain or the type of neuroelectrical activity that encourage the experiences. The next step is to determine the, very likely, multiple stimuli–perhaps some not yet discovered, that generate these experiences or their variants. The goal is to control the phenomena.
The Role of Belief in UFO Research
The only relationship between UFO phenomena and alien intelligence is that both concepts are strange. Although UFO phenomena are veridical and alien intelligence somewhere in the universe is probable, there never has been any evidence that the two are related. A connection between a “crashed vehicle” and the millions of UFOs displayed as ALP is even less likely. For centuries now, some form of “extraterrestrial” intelligence has been the default explanation for anomalous events that appear in the sky. ETI for UFOs is an empty hypothesis because the intelligence is functionally defined, like the existence of God, in a manner that can never be tested by traditional scientific methods.
With each added anomaly to UFO phenomena, the description of alien causality becomes more and more bizarre. One believer in the alien hypothesis commented that even if the correlation between UFOs and earthquakes was perfect, it would only show that spaceships are following faults lines in order to obtain energy to traverse the fourth dimension. No amount of analyses can compete with intense belief.
However if it were not for such beliefs, tenaciously defended with sometimes religious fervour, the UFO data now available would never have been collected. These researchers were like the early astrologers who obsessively recorded the positions of the planets in order to find their personal future. If those data had not been collected, one wonders if Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler would have had the data base to test their theories of the physical solar system. Without the dedicated believers in extraterrestrial surveillance, government conspiracies and ultradimensional intelligence, UFO data would not have been collected systematically. Inductive hypothesis, such as the TST, could not have developed. The history of science will probably reference them for their perseverance as the data collectors.
The emergence of the TST and other testable competitive hypothesis will no doubt begin, sooner or later, to erode this belief. The systematic collection of data will subside and the empirical pursuit of the phenomena will falter. Science will not necessarily compensate for this deficit because scientists are human beings whose behaviours are also governed by belief. At present the study of UFO phenomena is believed not to merit scientific inquiry and remains in the realm of personal belief. The mentality is reflected in the comments by an anonymous referee who reviewed a manuscript by John Derr and me; the referee wrote: the relationship between ALP and the release of seismic energy in the central U.S.A. is only correlational and if I had a choice I prefer to believe that they are alien space craft rather than caused by tectonic strain.
If the strength of association between two phenomena of such great potential importance, such as UFOs and earthquakes, were found in physics, medicine or astronomy one doubts if the potential would be ignored so conspicuously. However until UFO phenomena are divorced from their association with concepts that are couched within personal beliefs, pursuit of understanding will remain in the periphery of science. Only a few protagonists and antagonists will remain, often at risk to their own reputations.
There are two major implications of the TST that deserve ethical consideration. First, if most UFO phenomena are generated by tectonic stresses and they are associated with the release of anomalous electromagnetic fields and radioactive gases, should epidemiological studies be recommended (Persinger, 1988b)? There are dozens of anecdotal cases of untoward biological effects, including premature mortality, following close proximity to intense ALP. Most UFO researchers are informed of at least one local case of a person becoming ill or dying shortly after close proximity to an anomalous light, especially when missing time is concomitant.
These cases are likely to be the extreme representations of exposure to the electromagnetic correlates of the processes that generate UFO phenomena and ALP. Experimental data clearly indicate that even weak time-varying magnetic fields can affect DNA activity and cell division (Liboff, et. al., 1984). The weak but significant relationship between cancer, including brain tumors, and certain types of EM fields cannot be denied (Persinger, 1988b). If most UFO events are associated with potentially hazardous forces, then risk assessment is a responsibility rather than an option for the cognizant scientist.
Repeated exposures to ALP, when attributed to religious sources, may subject the experients to greater health risks. For example two of the three children who were central to the Fatima (Portugal) episode earlier this century may have succumbed to cancer. One of the approximately five young people who were integral to the Medjugorje (Yugoslavia) Marian apparitions (that anteceded the political conflict) developed a brain tumour (the typical annual incidence of brain tumors is about 20 per 100,000 people). The incidence of cancer near the present Marmora site was sufficient to evoke concern among workers within the adjacent mine.
Of course a prudent balance between concern and prevention of undue alarm is essential. Except in cases where there are multiple close encounters with ALP or in certain “flap” areas where maintained concentrations of ALP occur over time, the risk of health hazards will probably be minimal. Perhaps the question is best phrased by a specific possibility. Who will be responsible for the child who is seriously affected by a close encounter to an ALP because he or she thought it was Spielberg’s ET, returning?
The second consideration involves the psychological status of abductee and contactee experients. The majority of these individuals should be psychiatrically normal. The stress of an anomalous experience can be comparable in impact to that associated with the confrontation of verifiable memories of sexual assault or abuse. The fractionation of the person’s world view can be as devastating and the sudden realization that one’s spouse has displayed infidelity. These problems should be treated by a qualified mental health professional.
If the TST is appropriate for most ALP, then the belief concerning abductions and contactee by alien intelligence is not valid. The encapsulated “abduction experience” would be no more real or unreal, once it has been labelled within brain space as a memory, than any other experience. Confrontation with the delusional origin to the alien experience can be as devastating to the person’s psychological state as proof that God is fantasy might be to a religious believer. Suggestions to the person that he or she only “thought” it happened, with or without the proximity of LP, only demeans the person. There is no requirement to establish or “to prove” if an anomalous experience “really happened”. For the therapist, the goal is to facilitate the person’s adaptation.
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