Well this been another very busy week and I have been worn out by the confluence of conferences and workshops that just happened in the weeks following our trip to Chile for the solar eclipse. After the Ninth International Mars Conference we had the co-located meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) and the 2019 International UFO Symposium.
Yep, I actually attended one day of the UFO Symposium and will make some comments shortly, but first we should make a couple of comments about MEPAG. This all day meeting was also live-streamed so I took advantage of that and sat through a couple of presentations in my easy chair. One presenter (sorry I couldn't keep track of their name) showed this panoramic view of orbiters and other missions being planned for the coming decade. We see Mars 2020 rover and ExoMars Rover and Mars Sample Return Orbiter and Lander. The trend in mission goals has gone from following the water, to exploring for habitability and on to seeking signs of life.
|Introductory slide showing evolving study emphasis on Mars (Source: MEPAG July 26 meeting at Caltech)
Another presentation that caught my attention is summarized in the slide below. I was reminded of a '50 scifi movie titled something like "Mars needs Earthwomen", but here in this case the movie title would be "Mars needs Civil Engineers." It was interesting to hear that some programs are progressing to such an extent that the goal is not always just scientific exploration, but how to make structures and survive on Mars. The presentation covered topics like building structures primarily from materials already present on Mars and also mining for water and ice. Hmm, this might be a call for some OCA folks; are you listening Marcello, Eric and Mike!
|What? Civil Engineers needed now for Mars? (Source: MEPAG July 26 meeting at Caltech)
In addition to all the conferences and symposiums there was also a stack of periodicals to go through. While there were many articles, there was one special one, brought to my attention by Astronomer Assistant Ruby. This article in Science talked about how humans selected dogs according to their expressive eyebrows. Genetically, it seems that the gene in dogs responsible for allowing for more expression in the eyebrows, a gene that is missing in wolves, for example, co-evolved with the human adoption of dogs.
|Coevolution of dogs gives them advantage with humans (Source: Science, 12 July 2019)
Well, as a scientist wannabe, I had to do some observing of the naturel world and see what I could out about this fancy puppy eye effect. Yep, Astronomer Assistant Ruby seems to have the use of this levator anguli oculi medial muscle down pat! Yep, she used those muscles to trick us and we just had to adopt her. Thanks for that and everything else, Ruby!
|Astronomer Assistant Ruby displays her puppy dog eyes (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Ok, ok, back to some real physics. After hearing talk after talk about the evolution of the atmospheres on exoplanets and Earth over its long history, I dug a little deeper in my "Atmospheric Evolution" textbook by Catling and Kasting. The following diagram from that textbook shows how the variation in our own sun's current brightness and variation over the 11 year solar cycle affects the Earth's atmosphere and temperature. Now we know that this effect is taken into account in global climate change models, but it was really interesting to see how the solar variation really mostly just affects, quite wildly, the exosphere and thermosphere. Previously, I had always just assumed that the small percentage variation just varied the everyday temperature, up and down, but no, it seems the effect is mostly just upper atmosphere. The higher temperatures there don't interfere much with the infrared radiation from the Earth's surface.
|Effect of quiet sun vs. active sun on Earth's atmosphere (Source: Catling & Kasting, "Atmospheric Evolution")
While just reading some other articles in Science, a local TV news broadcast mentioned the 2019 International UFO Symposium was getting underway in Irvine. This was going to be a four day event and normally I would not have been too excited about going to the symposium, but, hey, I decided that I could take in at least one day at the local event. So, it was off to the Irvine Hotel for registration and check in for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) event.
|Checking in for the 2019 International UFO Symposium in Irvine, CA (Source: Palmia Observatory)
My primary reason for going to the symposium was to check out the mini-course on UFO Field Investigation. Well, I couldn't get my schedule changed to attend the on-site training but I did pick up and examine the 6th edition of the Field Investigator Manual. See below!
The 2019 International UFO Symposium had a well attended vendor display area with about two dozen vendors display their wares from books (and authors ready to sign their books) to clothing to quantum elixirs to night vision goggles to jewelry. Who knew that hats would be so popular!
|Alien family displaying their AlianSpeedBrand.com clothing (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Ok, so the main plenary session is ready to start in one of the hotel ballrooms. The event was well attended by many international visitors, including discussions about UFO investigation in Russia and Brazil, and folks from across the United States, even a few of us from Orange County. This was my second event sponsored by MUFON and the previous one, sponsored by the Orange County chapter of MUFON, was way back in July 2017 as described in the post of: http://www.palmiaobservatory.com/2017/07/oops-chair-mentioned-last-time-is-not.html#more
In addition to checking out the methodology described in the Field Investigation Manual, was just hearing how the speakers would describe their interest and experience with UFOs and aliens. In deciding, how to summarize what I heard and thought after attending just one day of the three day symposium, I elected to summarize three different talks that seemed to capture my impression of the speakers in general.
My first selected speaker is Jim Penniston, who told of his experience of UFOs at the Air Force base in England, "Rendlesham, Days and Future Past." You probably are aware of this series of events that occurred at a joint RAF and US base in England and how Jim and others experienced what they describe as flashing lights and finding a UFO on the ground and how it eventually lifted off the ground and disappeared. It is interesting that Jim claims to have actually touched the small craft and received sort of a telepathic message in binary code. After some discussion of being asked by security personnel to report something different in respect to national security. So experiencing strange lights in the sky is one thing, but then to claim actually touching the UFO is quite another thing. But the story gets more unbelievable. Years later, after clearing away any national security issues, Jim can now tell the rest of the story and recalls the coded message received during the encounter and after having the binary message decoded reports that the series of numbers represent latitude and longitude of special sites on Earth such as Machu Picchu, Giza Pyramids and Easter Island and some unknown island below sea level off the coast of Scotland or somewhere. Hmm, now the story just gets even more unbelievable!
Next up was Clas Svahn of the Swedish UFO organization called Archives for the Unexplained, website: afu.se, and this group has been diligently collecting reams and tons of reports and documents from many UFO observers around the world. This huge collection of material is sent to Sweden and copied and digitized and returned to the originators in digital format. Clas told many interesting stories of how the group, mostly of volunteers, collects and organizes over 50 years of experience so that it is not lost and is made available to current researches. Clas described how many of the UFO investigators were quite secretive and took a lot of persuasion to get access to the files for copying and sharing with others. Clas's story was one of a dedicated group of individuals who strive to collect and maintain all of the early and current UFO investigative files. Hmm, Clas and group seem to be just dedicated volunteers busily going about documenting and preserving historical records. Good job, Clas!
Last of the three examples is by Professor Michael Masters, a biological anthropologist. As an anthropologies, Dr. Masters has studied the UFO reports and finds some interesting connections between the shape and size of the aliens and the growth and evolution of humans. As humans evolved, they acquired larger, rounder heads and larger and rounder eyes and had less need of large muscular arms. Could it be, he conjectures, that the UFO aliens are related to humans, but are from a different evolutionary time? What if they came to probe today's humans to recover some genes that were lost in the future, but needed to cure illness there? He spends several minutes detailing how, even though the universe might be teaming with life, but lesser amounts of intelligent life, nevertheless, they are so far away from our little solar system and with constraints on space travel times imposed by modern physics and relativity, perhaps the alien UFOs are really visitors from the Earth itself, but from our future? He outlines several general relativity concepts of connected time lines and Lense-Thirring effects of rotating bodies, which is also maybe why alien craft are often reported to be rotating, and so it might be theoretically possible to create time travel technology. Hmm, seems a bit out there, but at least it is an attempt to base the conjecture on scientific data! I also remembered the Lense-Thirring effect, which is still way too difficult of a topic for me, as mostly causing frame dragging and precession around compact objects, like neutron stars and black holes, but, hey, who knows how much mass is inside of a UFO, remember Dr. Who's Tardis, for example!
|Professor Michael Masters explains his "aliens are from Earth's future" conjecture (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Hmm, after sitting through these presentations, I was glad that the Hotel Irvine bar made a perfectly good martini for this human. Finally, every conference that I have attend in the recent years, whether on physics, astronomy and now even UFOs, has in the vendor area, a little booth displaying and selling jewelry. Well, that little place is like a magnet for me because one thing I have learned there that it is very easy to find a little bauble of some kind to bring back to the Resident Astronomer, who keeps the observatory under control. Thanks for that, Peggy! Also thanks to Liz Alpert for displaying and selling her artistry!
|Resident Astronomer Peggy displays pendant brought back from symposium (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Until next time,
Resident Astronomer George