The Rocketing Dutchmen: Isaac Asimov on UFO's

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The Rocketing Dutchmen: Isaac Asimov on UFO's

Post by lpetrich » Thu Mar 10, 2016 5:19 pm

"The Rocketing Dutchmen" in The Planet That Wasn't is one of Isaac Asimov's numerous science essays that he had written for the magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction. Needless to say, he had written articles for numerous other publications also.

The title was inspired by the Flying Dutchman, that legendary ghost ship, first recorded in the late 18th century. I remember once researching ghost ships, and I couldn't find any that were earlier than the 18th cy., despite ghosts in general being a widespread and ancient belief.

IA reported on how the proceedings of a 1973 conference on UFO's has an article by a certain Stanton Friedman on "Science Fiction vs. UFOlogy". It started with "Many people are surprised when I point out that two of the most noted science fiction and science writers, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, are both quite vehement in their anti-UFO sentiments." IA got annoyed at how he would supposedly believe in some mystic cult that seems to have something in common with SF. But then again, it shows how influenced by SF the UFO business has been.

After IA asked why ET's would go through the trouble of crossing interstellar space without bothering to contact us, SF wrote "(What egos we earthlings have! Are we worth contacting?)" He then quoted IA as saying "I will continue to assume that every reported sighting is either a hoax, a mistake, or something that can be explained in a fashion that does not involve spaceships from the distant stars." SF wrote "‘(How about the nearby ones, Isaac ?)", and IA responded that even the nearby ones are distant.
Friedman goes on to urge me to write a non-fiction book about flying saucers, saying that ‘cases like the Betty and Barney Hill case are far more exciting and interesting than any of Asimov’s stories.’ Well, perhaps, Mr. Friedman, but they are also much more fictional.
The Betty and Barney Hill case was the first notable UFO-abduction case.

IA then continued in question-and-answer form.

1) Why do you insist on calling them ‘flying saucers'? Isn't that unfair ridicule? Why not call them UFOs, a more sober term?

He responded that if one wishes to treat them as unidentified, then UFO is an appropriate term, because it's short for "unidentified flying object". But if one insists on identifying them as extraterrestrial spaceships, then he will use "flying saucer".

2) Do you deny that there are other intelligent life forms in the Universe?


He certainly didn't.

3) Well, then, why are you so skeptical of the possibility that spaceships guided by extraterrestrial intelligences are visiting Earth?


He then noted interstellar distances and the difficulty of interstellar travel. I don't find that argument very strong, since it may be possible to send out some huge space-colony spaceships. One of them would arrive at the Solar System and its inhabitants would then explore the Earth with much smaller spacecraft. They may even build forward bases relatively close to the Earth or else use big carrier spacecraft for their exploration spacecraft.

4) But suppose we just happen to be in luck as far as the distance of the nearest advanced civilization is concerned? And why are you so certain that the speed of light is the ultimate limit?

IA conceded that a close ET homeworld is possible, and that faster-than-light travel may be possible.

5) But if all that is so. what are your objections to the concept of flying saucers? Why might not ships be exploring Earth freely and frequently?

He argued that they would either contact us or else keep themselves hidden from us.

6) But how can you be sure you understand their motives? Perhaps they don’t care to communicate with us, but, on the other hand, don’t care if we see them.

IA responded "Ah, but if you keep on piling up the conditions you need to improve your case, you come very rapidly to the point of the totally unconvincing"

7) Now wait, there is certainly direct evidence for flying saucers as spaceships. There have been numerous reports from people who have seen spaceships and their extraterrestrial crew members. Some claim even to have been aboard the ships. Have you investigated these reports? If not, do you dismiss them all out of hand as worthless? What justification do you have to do that?

He conceded that he has not investigated any such report, stating that "My justification in dismissing them out of hand is that eyewitness evidence by a small number of people uncorroborated by any other sort of evidence is worthless." He then noted eyewitness evidence of angels, ghosts, spirits, levitation, werewolves, precognition, fairies, sea serpents, telepathy, abominable snowmen, etc.

Some UFOlogists, like J. Allen Hynek and James E. McDonald, have pointed out that the mainstream of the scientific community had once been similarly skeptical about extraterrestrial rocks, and for that sort of reason. It took a meteorite fall of L'Aigle, France in 1803 to demonstrate that meteorites were indeed extraterrestrial rocks.

"I want something material and lasting, something that can be studied by many. 1 want an alloy not of Earth manufacture."

Like a mixture of metals that we find difficult to make? That's a rather tall order, but there is something that I've mentioned elsewhere that is the same kind of evidence: materials with isotope-abundance variations. Materials like plastics that require a lot of complicated chemistry to make from their component elements.

If I went aboard an extraterrestrial spacecraft and I brought back a plastic bottle filled with water, and both contained excesses of deuterium in their hydrogen, the bottle would be a *much* stronger case for having ET manufacture than the water. One can easily get "heavy water", but I don't think that anyone has tried to make "heavy plastic".

"I want a device that does something by no principle we understand."

Like a sort of super smartphone?
Best of all I want a ship and its crew in plain view, revealing itself to human beings competent to observe and study them over a reasonable period of time. These reported revelations to farmers in swamps and to automobile drivers on empty highways simply don’t impress me. Nor am I impressed by descriptions of the ships and their interiors that are what I would expect from scientific illiterates who had seen some equally illiterate ‘science fiction’ movies."
I don't know if he ever read George Adamski's book Inside the Spaceships. But given what a horndog he was, he'd be slavering over GA's descriptions of the spaceship crewwomen that he encountered.

More seriously, UFO's often seem much like the typical advanced technology and science fiction of their sighters' times. In 1896-1898, the US had a rash of sightings of "mysterious airships", and in World War II, many military pilots saw "foo fighters", while nowadays it's spacecraft. The clothing of UFOnauts also reflects this -- it's often jumpsuits.

8) But how else can you account for all the reports of flying saucers if you’re going to rule out spaceships?

As he says, "What else can they be?" is a bad argument.

9) What do you think yourself that flying saucers are?

"My own feeling is that almost every sighting is either a mistake or a hoax. Many are so confused and incomplete there is no room to decide what they can possibly be."

Then those few reports that seem difficult to explain.

10) All right, stick to those puzzlers. What are they if they are not spaceships?

"I don’t know. I don’t have to know. The Universe is full of mysteries to which I don’t have the answer. Challenging me and having me fail proves nothing."

Then he mentions J. Allen Hynek's take on the issue, that there is something new and otherwise unknown here.

11) Does Hynek have any theories about this at all? Where does he think science may be heading?

"As far as I know, he’s drawn a complete blank so far."

12) What makes it so difficult to find an answer to this problem?

Because the more mysterious UFO's are difficult to experiment on or to observe carefully.

It must be conceded that there are a few phenomena recognized by mainstream science that have that character. Phenomena like ball lightning. They are rare and evanescent, and not surprisingly, they are very controversial.

Interestingly, UFO skeptic Philip Klass first thought that many otherwise mysterious UFO's were a sort of ball lightning.

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Post by Diagorus » Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:41 am

[quote=""lpetrich""]"The Rocketing Dutchmen" in The Planet That Wasn't is one of Isaac Asimov's numerous science essays that he had written for the magazine Fantasy and Science Fiction. Needless to say, he had written articles for numerous other publications also.

The title was inspired by the Flying Dutchman, that legendary ghost ship, first recorded in the late 18th century. I remember once researching ghost ships, and I couldn't find any that were earlier than the 18th cy., despite ghosts in general being a widespread and ancient belief.

IA reported on how the proceedings of a 1973 conference on UFO's has an article by a certain Stanton Friedman on "Science Fiction vs. UFOlogy". It started with "Many people are surprised when I point out that two of the most noted science fiction and science writers, Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, are both quite vehement in their anti-UFO sentiments." IA got annoyed at how he would supposedly believe in some mystic cult that seems to have something in common with SF. But then again, it shows how influenced by SF the UFO business has been.

After IA asked why ET's would go through the trouble of crossing interstellar space without bothering to contact us, SF wrote "(What egos we earthlings have! Are we worth contacting?)" He then quoted IA as saying "I will continue to assume that every reported sighting is either a hoax, a mistake, or something that can be explained in a fashion that does not involve spaceships from the distant stars." SF wrote "‘(How about the nearby ones, Isaac ?)", and IA responded that even the nearby ones are distant.
Friedman goes on to urge me to write a non-fiction book about flying saucers, saying that ‘cases like the Betty and Barney Hill case are far more exciting and interesting than any of Asimov’s stories.’ Well, perhaps, Mr. Friedman, but they are also much more fictional.
The Betty and Barney Hill case was the first notable UFO-abduction case.

IA then continued in question-and-answer form.

1) Why do you insist on calling them ‘flying saucers'? Isn't that unfair ridicule? Why not call them UFOs, a more sober term?

He responded that if one wishes to treat them as unidentified, then UFO is an appropriate term, because it's short for "unidentified flying object". But if one insists on identifying them as extraterrestrial spaceships, then he will use "flying saucer".

2) Do you deny that there are other intelligent life forms in the Universe?


He certainly didn't.

3) Well, then, why are you so skeptical of the possibility that spaceships guided by extraterrestrial intelligences are visiting Earth?


He then noted interstellar distances and the difficulty of interstellar travel. I don't find that argument very strong, since it may be possible to send out some huge space-colony spaceships. One of them would arrive at the Solar System and its inhabitants would then explore the Earth with much smaller spacecraft. They may even build forward bases relatively close to the Earth or else use big carrier spacecraft for their exploration spacecraft.

4) But suppose we just happen to be in luck as far as the distance of the nearest advanced civilization is concerned? And why are you so certain that the speed of light is the ultimate limit?

IA conceded that a close ET homeworld is possible, and that faster-than-light travel may be possible.

5) But if all that is so. what are your objections to the concept of flying saucers? Why might not ships be exploring Earth freely and frequently?

He argued that they would either contact us or else keep themselves hidden from us.

6) But how can you be sure you understand their motives? Perhaps they don’t care to communicate with us, but, on the other hand, don’t care if we see them.

IA responded "Ah, but if you keep on piling up the conditions you need to improve your case, you come very rapidly to the point of the totally unconvincing"

7) Now wait, there is certainly direct evidence for flying saucers as spaceships. There have been numerous reports from people who have seen spaceships and their extraterrestrial crew members. Some claim even to have been aboard the ships. Have you investigated these reports? If not, do you dismiss them all out of hand as worthless? What justification do you have to do that?

He conceded that he has not investigated any such report, stating that "My justification in dismissing them out of hand is that eyewitness evidence by a small number of people uncorroborated by any other sort of evidence is worthless." He then noted eyewitness evidence of angels, ghosts, spirits, levitation, werewolves, precognition, fairies, sea serpents, telepathy, abominable snowmen, etc.

Some UFOlogists, like J. Allen Hynek and James E. McDonald, have pointed out that the mainstream of the scientific community had once been similarly skeptical about extraterrestrial rocks, and for that sort of reason. It took a meteorite fall of L'Aigle, France in 1803 to demonstrate that meteorites were indeed extraterrestrial rocks.

"I want something material and lasting, something that can be studied by many. 1 want an alloy not of Earth manufacture."

Like a mixture of metals that we find difficult to make? That's a rather tall order, but there is something that I've mentioned elsewhere that is the same kind of evidence: materials with isotope-abundance variations. Materials like plastics that require a lot of complicated chemistry to make from their component elements.

If I went aboard an extraterrestrial spacecraft and I brought back a plastic bottle filled with water, and both contained excesses of deuterium in their hydrogen, the bottle would be a *much* stronger case for having ET manufacture than the water. One can easily get "heavy water", but I don't think that anyone has tried to make "heavy plastic".

"I want a device that does something by no principle we understand."

Like a sort of super smartphone?
Best of all I want a ship and its crew in plain view, revealing itself to human beings competent to observe and study them over a reasonable period of time. These reported revelations to farmers in swamps and to automobile drivers on empty highways simply don’t impress me. Nor am I impressed by descriptions of the ships and their interiors that are what I would expect from scientific illiterates who had seen some equally illiterate ‘science fiction’ movies."
I don't know if he ever read George Adamski's book Inside the Spaceships. But given what a horndog he was, he'd be slavering over GA's descriptions of the spaceship crewwomen that he encountered.

More seriously, UFO's often seem much like the typical advanced technology and science fiction of their sighters' times. In 1896-1898, the US had a rash of sightings of "mysterious airships", and in World War II, many military pilots saw "foo fighters", while nowadays it's spacecraft. The clothing of UFOnauts also reflects this -- it's often jumpsuits.

8) But how else can you account for all the reports of flying saucers if you’re going to rule out spaceships?

As he says, "What else can they be?" is a bad argument.

9) What do you think yourself that flying saucers are?

"My own feeling is that almost every sighting is either a mistake or a hoax. Many are so confused and incomplete there is no room to decide what they can possibly be."

Then those few reports that seem difficult to explain.

10) All right, stick to those puzzlers. What are they if they are not spaceships?

"I don’t know. I don’t have to know. The Universe is full of mysteries to which I don’t have the answer. Challenging me and having me fail proves nothing."

Then he mentions J. Allen Hynek's take on the issue, that there is something new and otherwise unknown here.

11) Does Hynek have any theories about this at all? Where does he think science may be heading?

"As far as I know, he’s drawn a complete blank so far."

12) What makes it so difficult to find an answer to this problem?

Because the more mysterious UFO's are difficult to experiment on or to observe carefully.

It must be conceded that there are a few phenomena recognized by mainstream science that have that character. Phenomena like ball lightning. They are rare and evanescent, and not surprisingly, they are very controversial.

Interestingly, UFO skeptic Philip Klass first thought that many otherwise mysterious UFO's were a sort of ball lightning.[/quote] IA is one of my favourite authors, not so much on the SF side but he wrote a lot of easy to read science fact (or theory). I have just received his 'View from a Height' a replacement of a copy I bought in 1962 and someone 'borrowed' AI was a jack of all trades and master of many. I am also a UFO skeptic. How I believed Adamski in 1950's, impressionable school boy. Now I laugh at him. Yet there are people that still believe in him.
AI as a SF writer had to ignore a lot of fact, spaceships traveling the solar system, space walks in the asteroid belt all ignore the intense radiation in space. Unless an alien civilisation has developed shielding it is not possible to travel in space so UFO's need another explanation. Also the effects on the human body of long terms in space are ignored. If these effects are considered in SF it would spoil a good source of entertainment. UFOs could exist as un(peopled) probes which as we know are possible. A NASA spokesman recently said we can't get to the moon until we solve how to pass through the Van Allen Belts. Was that a 'goof' or what ? I'm still sceptical about those moon landings, but let's not get into that.
Last edited by Diagorus on Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: error

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Post by lpetrich » Fri Mar 11, 2016 4:48 am

(my quoted OP snipped for brevity)
[quote=""Diagorus""]IA is one of my favourite authors, not so much on the SF side but he wrote a lot of easy to read science fact (or theory). I have just received his 'View from a Height' a replacement of a copy I bought in 1962 and someone 'borrowed' AI was a jack of all trades and master of many.
[/quote]
I have a big collection of Isaac Asimov essay books. They are all in dead-tree form, because they haven't been published online. Some of them I find very interesting.
I am also a UFO skeptic. How I believed Adamski in 1950's, impressionable school boy. Now I laugh at him. Yet there are people that still believe in him.
I think that it's a cute fantasy. I've considered a stripped-down version of his scenario, and I find it rather halfway plausible. Stripped down including being retconned into the present understanding of the Solar System. In fact, I've been writing a science-fiction story along those lines. Everybody lives in enclosed cities scattered across the Solar System from Venus to Eris, and the "Saturnians" live in cities on Saturn's moons. How they got that way I'll reveal in the story.

Here's a sort of prequel of that story: Tunguska and the Titanic - Wattpad

As to GA's followers, they've retreated from some of his more bizarre assertions. However, some of them have claimed that there is evidence of ET bases on the Moon.
AI as a SF writer had to ignore a lot of fact, spaceships traveling the solar system, space walks in the asteroid belt all ignore the intense radiation in space. Unless an alien civilisation has developed shielding it is not possible to travel in space so UFO's need another explanation. Also the effects on the human body of long terms in space are ignored. If these effects are considered in SF it would spoil a good source of entertainment. UFOs could exist as un(peopled) probes which as we know are possible. A NASA spokesman recently said we can't get to the moon until we solve how to pass through the Van Allen Belts. Was that a 'goof' or what ? I'm still sceptical about those moon landings, but let's not get into that.
Which NASA spokesman stated that? Could you please dig up a link to where you found it? I'd like to see the original.

Ionizing radiation is indeed a problem in outer space, but for the most part, it's tolerable.

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Post by Diagorus » Fri Mar 11, 2016 5:38 am

[quote=""lpetrich""](my quoted OP snipped for brevity)
Diagorus;629428 wrote:IA is one of my favourite authors, not so much on the SF side but he wrote a lot of easy to read science fact (or theory). I have just received his 'View from a Height' a replacement of a copy I bought in 1962 and someone 'borrowed' AI was a jack of all trades and master of many.
I have a big collection of Isaac Asimov essay books. They are all in dead-tree form, because they haven't been published online. Some of them I find very interesting.
I am also a UFO skeptic. How I believed Adamski in 1950's, impressionable school boy. Now I laugh at him. Yet there are people that still believe in him.
I think that it's a cute fantasy. I've considered a stripped-down version of his scenario, and I find it rather halfway plausible. Stripped down including being retconned into the present understanding of the Solar System. In fact, I've been writing a science-fiction story along those lines. Everybody lives in enclosed cities scattered across the Solar System from Venus to Eris, and the "Saturnians" live in cities on Saturn's moons. How they got that way I'll reveal in the story.

Here's a sort of prequel of that story: Tunguska and the Titanic - Wattpad

As to GA's followers, they've retreated from some of his more bizarre assertions. However, some of them have claimed that there is evidence of ET bases on the Moon.
AI as a SF writer had to ignore a lot of fact, spaceships traveling the solar system, space walks in the asteroid belt all ignore the intense radiation in space. Unless an alien civilisation has developed shielding it is not possible to travel in space so UFO's need another explanation. Also the effects on the human body of long terms in space are ignored. If these effects are considered in SF it would spoil a good source of entertainment. UFOs could exist as un(peopled) probes which as we know are possible. A NASA spokesman recently said we can't get to the moon until we solve how to pass through the Van Allen Belts. Was that a 'goof' or what ? I'm still sceptical about those moon landings, but let's not get into that.
Which NASA spokesman stated that? Could you please dig up a link to where you found it? I'd like to see the original.

Ionizing radiation is indeed a problem in outer space, but for the most part, it's tolerable.[/QUOTE].....https://www.youtube.co/watch?v=NlXG0REiVzE I have no way of knowing this is an official NASA publication but I accept it as so. And another if you like....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHJUVDL68iw Now I have found that the belts were discovered in 1958 but I can't find when they were first in put in the public domain. I don't recall any mention of them during the Apollo series.
Last edited by Diagorus on Fri Mar 11, 2016 6:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by lpetrich » Fri Mar 11, 2016 9:00 am

[quote=""Diagorus""]I have no way of knowing this is an official NASA publication but I accept it as so. And another if you like....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHJUVDL68iw Now I have found that the belts were discovered in 1958 but I can't find when they were first in put in the public domain. I don't recall any mention of them during the Apollo series.[/quote]
Titled links with my comments:

NASA engineer admits they can't get past the Van Allen Belts - YouTube
I watched the video, and he admitted no such thing. Only that the Van Allen belts are something that must be watched, in case some of the Orion spacecraft's electronics are not as radiation-hardened as they ought to be.

NASA admits MAN Never went to the MOON! - YouTube
Totally stupid. It includes some of the first video as well as some video from the ISS. As to why the ISS is in low Earth orbit, that's because it takes the least amount of rocket fuel to get there. It's simple physics that's been understood since Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's work if not Isaac Newton's work.

Apollo and the Van Allen Belts -- calculates the ionizing-radiation dose that the various Apollo astronauts received. The maximum was received by the Apollo-14 astronauts: 1.14 rads. Most others received half of that or less. (Wikipedia)Rad (unit) -- their doses were well below the dose where one starts getting (Wikipedia)Acute radiation syndrome (about 100 - 200 rads over 24 hours).

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Post by lpetrich » Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:42 am

As to J. Allen Hynek's approach, UFO skeptic Donald Menzel conceded that he had much more sympathy for it than for most other UFOlogists' approaches ("UFOs: A Scientific Debate"). So Isaac Asimov was not alone.

Philip Klass had something of that approach in his early years as a UFOlogists, publishing his ball-lightning theory in "UFOs Identified". He later became a more conventional sort of UFO skeptic, however. "UFOs Explained" is an excellent book, but it's still not online.

It was J. Allen Hynek who came up with that common classification of UFO sightings that yielded a certain movie title. I'll add a few more that some people have suggested, the 4th and 5th kinds.
  • Nocturnal Lights
  • Daylight Disks
  • Radar-Visual Cases
  • Close Encounters of the First Kind: within 500 ft / 150 m
  • Close Encounters of the Second Kind: with physical traces
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind: with occupants
  • Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: abduction
  • Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: friendly contact
BTW, Isaac Asimov hated Close Encounters of the Third Kind ("The Reluctant Critic" in "Asimov on Science Fiction"). He conceded that Star Wars was good fun, even if not much else.
Close Encounters, however, took itself seriously or put on a show of doing so. It was pretentious, and that was fatal. What’s more, it made its play for Ufolators and mystics and, in its chase for the buck, did not scruple to violate every canon of good sense and internal consistency.
He then discussed the responses that he got.

Like the responders who complained that he was ignoring the special effects ("They were referring to the flying chandelier at the end."). He asked if it was really worthwhile to watch a bad movie just for its special effects.

Other responders objected to how nasty his review was, and still other ones asked what made IA a judge of science fiction. IA had been writing it for nearly all of his adult life, though it was all print-media SF and not movies or TV shows.

Many of them asked "Why do you criticize its lack of science, Dr Asimov? It’s just science fiction." That made him feel very hurt, as if it is OK to be illogical and dumb just because it is SF.

One of his responders he knew as someone who was persistently erroneous, and that responder objected to IA's criticism of the CEIII ET's as illogical. They are aliens, that responder wrote. They are supposed to be illogical.
It was a well-rounded incomprehension totally worthy of my correspondent. John Campbell once issued the challenge: ‘Show me an alien thinking as well as a man, but not like a man.’
IA conceded that that was a difficult challenge, one that only a few SF writers have dared to do. Being illogical clearly doesn't count.

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Post by lpetrich » Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:08 pm

Isaac Asimov and Science Friction - latimes
Asimov noted his rejection of Stephen Spielberg's offer to write the screenplay for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Recalled Asimov, acerbically: "I didn't know who he was at the time, or what a hit the film would be, but I certainly wasn't interested in a film that glorified flying saucers. I still would have refused, only with more regret."

"Close Encounters" was "in some respects, an idiot plot," Asimov said. It epitomized the tendency of science-fiction films made by the major Hollywood studios to "sacrifice common sense and rationality, to special effects. . . .

"Frankly, I'd rather sit at home and write my books."
He also stated in that interview that he prefers writing books to doing screenplays for movies and TV shows, because all the other contributors would make the result "a very diluted Asimov".

"An Interview with Isaac Asimov"- by Phil Konstantin
And as for Close Encounters, I'm afraid I detested that. It was too noisy and parts of it were just silly.
Film Review: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) discusses the movie in some detail.
The main flaw in the film is that it appears to be the result of two entirely different scripts. The mischevious and downright sadistic behaviour of the UFOs in the early stages of the film bears no relation to the obviously friendly creatures who are revealed at the end.

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Post by Shaka » Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:25 am

[quote=""lpetrich""]1) Why do you insist on calling them ‘flying saucers'? Isn't that unfair ridicule? Why not call them UFOs, a more sober term?

He responded that if one wishes to treat them as unidentified, then UFO is an appropriate term, because it's short for "unidentified flying object". But if one insists on identifying them as extraterrestrial spaceships, then he will use "flying saucer".[/quote]

You know this is strange because from what I see that Friedman is using term ‘flying saucers' - I mean if you look from the titles of his books. So I guess he was tutored by Asimov.

[quote=""lpetrich""]More seriously, UFO's often seem much like the typical advanced technology and science fiction of their sighters' times. In 1896-1898, the US had a rash of sightings of "mysterious airships", and in World War II, many military pilots saw "foo fighters", while nowadays it's spacecraft. The clothing of UFOnauts also reflects this -- it's often jumpsuits[/quote]
Yeah people seem to see flying in the sky stuff that is technology of the times. Like in medieval times people saw witches on brooms, before that gods in carriages, then as you said in 19th century balloons.

[quote=""lpetrich""]It was J. Allen Hynek who came up with that common classification of UFO sightings that yielded a certain movie title[/quote]

To me Hynek has no respectability. I mean he and his protegee Jacques Vallee, that was featured in that movie you mention, endorsed that idiot Ingo Swann.

[quote=""lpetrich""](my quoted OP snipped for brevity)
Diagorus;629428 wrote:IA is one of my favourite authors, not so much on the SF side but he wrote a lot of easy to read science fact (or theory). I have just received his 'View from a Height' a replacement of a copy I bought in 1962 and someone 'borrowed' AI was a jack of all trades and master of many.
I have a big collection of Isaac Asimov essay books. They are all in dead-tree form, because they haven't been published online. Some of them I find very interesting.
[/QUOTE]

Yeah he is possibly my favorite author. My favorites are probably his autobiographies. For me "I Asimov" is probably the golden standard of autobiographies. I mean take R. Dawkins' recent autobiographies, he stretched his life to two volumes but he ain't half as good writer as Asimov so his autobiographies are mostly boring, although they both feature prominent scientist. Interestingly enough Dawkins' 2nd autobio. is compiled like "I.Asimov" meaning chapters are based on subject and not just chronology. - Maybe somebody told him to look upon good doctor A.
I've read a lot of Asimov's books I guess some that I plan to read is his book on UFOs, which is called just that "Unidentified Flying Objects"

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Post by Jobar » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:22 pm

Asimov died before the proliferation of cell phones with cameras, and the spread of video cameras offering 24/7 coverage of the sky, and many locales on Earth. I'm sure he would have noticed, as others have, that the number of UFO reports has plummeted as a result.

OTOH, ball lightning has been caught on film repeatedly, proving its existence beyond doubt. You can find many good ones on YouTube;

(Not loaded: lavcOYUGnfQ)
(View video on YouTube)

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Post by Peez » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:08 pm

[quote=""Jobar""]Asimov died before the proliferation of cell phones with cameras, and the spread of video cameras offering 24/7 coverage of the sky, and many locales on Earth. I'm sure he would have noticed, as others have, that the number of UFO reports has plummeted as a result. [/quote] Image

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Post by Peez » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:29 pm

lpetrich:
NASA admits MAN Never went to the MOON! - YouTube
Totally stupid. It includes some of the first video as well as some video from the ISS. As to why the ISS is in low Earth orbit, that's because it takes the least amount of rocket fuel to get there. It's simple physics that's been understood since Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's work if not Isaac Newton's work.
I suppose that if some people can accept creationism then it should not be surprising that some people think the Apollo moon landings were faked, but I still get startled when someone voices skepticism about this. Then I think of this: Buzz Aldrin reacts after being harassed by a rude moon-landing-denier (I know that most people who are "skeptical" of the moon landings are not a rude as that guy, but it is still a fun video.)

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Post by Jobar » Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:28 am

[quote=""Diagorus""] I'm still sceptical about those moon landings, but let's not get into that.[/quote]

We had a discussion about that some years back, Diagorus.

Skepticism is a fine thing, certainly; but there comes a point when available evidence could and should overwhelm it.

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Post by Shaka » Fri Mar 03, 2017 11:56 am

Since we're kind of talking about Asimov I just want to share a curiosity. During 80's there was in Serbia publishing house that printed a lot of SF and some covers really didn't make sense with the content of the book, although it did maybe with the title. Like cover for Asimov's "Caves Of Steel"
Image

This looks like as if illustrator didn't know anything about the book except it's title. He probably thought: "It's SF novel about some caves and since it's SF they must be in outer space and to get to them they most likely needed a spaceship so I'll just draw big metallic tubes in outer space with spaceships buzzing around."

Or for Asimov & Silverberg's novel "Ugly little boy" (translated as "Child of time") which is about little neanderthal boy being brought to our time via time machine and not about some big red robotic harvester like on the cover of the book.

Image

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