Highly credentialed and never at a loss for creativity or curiosity, Dr. Garry Nolan is a respected Stanford University School of Medicine Professor of Pathology whose main research focus involves cancer and immunology. According to his university bio, he has published more than 300 research articles, owns 40 U.S. patents, and was the driving force behind the founding of eight biotech companies.
Given such accomplishments, it’s easy to see why he has been honored as one of Stanford’s top 25 inventors and is widely regarded as one of the most respected experts in his field. Yet Dr. Nolan is far from being just an ordinary research scientist.
Over the last decade, Nolan has also taken up an intriguing side project in his spare time: he has been involved in the analysis of materials associated with unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP, as well as studying the biological effects on those who claim to have witnessed it.
Such interests were the impetus behind Nolan’s appearance last week at the SALT iConnections conference in New York, which received widespread attention on social media for comments he made during a portion of the event called “The Pentagon, Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Crashed UFOs.”
Asked by moderator Alex Klokus, founder and managing partner of Salt Fund, if he believes intelligent extraterrestrials have ever visited Earth, Nolan said that not only does he believe they have been here in the past, but that they are here right now.
“It’s been here a long time,” Nolan said of his suspicions that an exotic form of intelligence may be lurking nearby.
“And it’s still here,” he added.
“People talk about the ‘Wow Signal’ looking for extraterrestrial intelligence. The wow signal is that people see it on an almost regular basis,” Nolan said. “That’s the communication that’s already here.”
“If you had to assign a probability to that statement,” Klokus asked, “what probability would you assign?”
“100 percent,” Nolan said flatly, going on to describe the establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) as directed by Congress according to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This, in addition to “the creation of a whistleblowers program specifically that allows people from within who, I’m gonna say this, have been working on the reverse engineering programs—reverse engineering of objects—so that they can come in and break their oaths but specifically just to talk to Congress and give that information in classified settings,” adding that “the most recent one that just happened was just last weekend, and it created quite a hornet’s nest in Washington.”
Video clips featuring Nolan’s remarks were widely shared online after the event, giving rise to heated debate and controversy all too familiar to those who have spent any time combing the threads of UFO Twitter. In addition to having become an admired figure among proponents of the subject as a scientist willing to step out and openly discuss his interest in the topic, he has equally become a target of critics who espouse skepticism about UAP and whether the U.S. government’s current efforts to study it truly have any relevance to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Far removed from all the hot takes and social media sound bites, when he isn’t talking about UAP, Nolan runs a research laboratory that explores what he calls the edges of cancer immunity, with a particular focus on the tumor immune microenvironment, along with the development of beneficial technologies related to helping scientists better understand it.
“We’ve invented a number of instruments which, by happenstance, can be used to look at nearly any material,” Nolan recently told The Debrief during a conversation we had regarding the areas where his unique profession has taken him, ranging from immunology to the mysteries of the human brain, and of course, unidentified anomalous phenomena.
“My interests in UAP are really about trying to find data that’s off the curve,” Nolan says, adding that his primary focus with the subject involves “creating data out of whatever materials it is that seem to have reasonable chain of custody and provenance, and then just getting the data out there after peer review.”
Although Nolan is quick to say that he isn’t a brain expert by training, occasionally his biological research does involve such studies. Several years ago, at the request of members of the intelligence community, he began looking into unusual health conditions afflicting several military and other government personnel. This led Nolan to the discovery of unique features in a particular region of the brain—the caudate putamen—that appeared in the MRI scans of some of these individuals.
It had been the caudate putamen connection, Nolan says, that led to some of the earliest detections of anomalous health incidents that are now popularly known as Havana Syndrome. However, that hadn’t been all that interested Nolan about this research.
“It’s actually a perfect example of the unexpected finding leading to something interesting, even if it wasn’t necessarily where you were headed in the first place,” Nolan says.
“Yet it still circles back to things like remote viewing and perception, consciousness, all of these things,” Nolan says, adding that he hopes to gather enough data to be able to apply it toward furthering our understanding of such purported phenomena.
“I will be taking what we learn and going back to ask questions like, is this where anomalous perception occurs?”
When it comes to applying science toward broadening our understanding of the anomalous, whether it stems from within the human brain itself or involves external phenomena like UAP, Nolan says it comes down to the proof required by scientists studying the phenomenon, as opposed to the proof standards for someone who, on the other hand, says they have experienced it first-hand.
“The standard of proof, in terms of the data that might be available to construct the proof for an individual—those who have had experiences, for instance—is at one level an anecdote, but at another level an undeniable fact for the individual who experienced it.”
“They don’t need anybody else to tell them what it is that they saw,” Nolan says, adding that those who have firsthand experiences with purportedly anomalous phenomena “might have to ask somebody else to help them interpret the meaning of what it was, and why it happened to them.”
“But then to a scientist, basically you have to hand them, at the very least, a table of numbers that they can compute with, and come to the same conclusion, or at least close to the same conclusion that you might hypothesize is the truth.”
As a scientist, but also as a person who says he has experienced phenomena that he cannot easily resolve in terms of our conventional understanding of the sciences, Nolan says he finds himself somewhere between these two sets of standards.
“I think people like me will sit on both sides of the fence,” Nolan told The Debrief.
“And yet, I understand that that is insufficient to hand to my scientific colleagues so that they can work with it.
“People who have come to me and said, oh, well, you shouldn’t be doing this, or you’re wrong for the following, let’s say, silly and inappropriate reasons, that just fires me up,” Nolan says. “Okay, well, I will show you.”
“And I don’t need to sit on Twitter and try to convince people in endless threads. I’m just like, okay, you don’t believe me. That’s fine. You do what you do, I’m gonna go off and prove it.”
While scientists like Nolan are working to provide data that can broaden our understanding of the phenomenon and eventually offer evidence that could irrefutably prove its existence, recent efforts within the United States government also point to there being tangible phenomena worthy of study.
Nolan says such developments, which include the current efforts of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office under the direction of Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, as well as the renewed attention from elected officials that have resulted in a pair of Congressional hearings on UAP, represent an ongoing shift in attitudes toward UAP that has remained underway for the last several years.
“The arguments have been made,” Nolan says. “The people who represent us in government have finally listened.”
“They’ve started some of their own poking around,” Nolan adds, though also noting what he calls the reflexive responses to such inquiries that appear to be aimed at dampening efforts to evaluate unidentified anomalous phenomena seriously. Efforts that, to Nolan, only appear to help bolster the argument for the existence of UAP.
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Nolan told The Debrief.
“There’s so much pushback and so much verbal dancing around that’s going on… people know that something is being hidden.”
When it comes to information that he has personally been made privy to by individuals with knowledge of a deeper level of information about UAP that exists—particularly within the holdings of the U.S. intelligence community—Nolan says that he has indeed been provided compelling information. However, he still hasn’t been shown hard physical evidence of UAP.
“I haven’t sat in the cockpit of one of the craft,” Nolan jokes.
However, the number of individuals he has spoken with, and the information they have provided, inclines him toward believing that at least some of it must be accurate information.
“Human experience and society works by trust,” Nolan says. “If you believe the many individuals with whom you’re talking, including some of the whistleblowers and those who are not whistleblowers but are still knowledgeable… I can’t imagine them spending so much time with someone like me to fool me.”
Despite such compelling information, Nolan says he is prepared to accept that he could be mistaken, or even that some of the information might have been provided with the intent of misleading him.
“I’m happy to be proven wrong in all of this,” Nolan says, adding that he “won’t feel ashamed” if he were to learn in the future that “it was a big psyop.”
However, a growing number of scientists like himself seem to hold the opinion that there appears to be a tangible phenomenon worthy of study. Several promising scientific efforts aimed at studying UAP also appear to help corroborate the information provided by those who claim there is more data on the phenomena in the government’s possession than the public has been made aware of, which includes Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb’s Galileo Project, of which Nolan is a member.
“I think that probably Avi will be the one that first shows the possibility that there is something flying around in our atmosphere in a scientifically credible way,” Nolan says, referencing a recent article by Loeb describing an exchange he had with two government officials regarding the phenomenon.
“Two individuals from Washington had visited him,” asking Loeb if he was wasting his time.
“I think the answer is obvious,” Nolan said, “that he didn’t disband the Galileo Project upon whatever answer it was that he was given. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to infer that.”
“I think the best scientist goes from one place and changes their mindset. Avi is a perfect example of that. At the beginning, I’m not sure that he wanted to get into the UAP area. And yet, now he’s more than willing to set up observation stations all around the planet to determine the answer to the question.”
“But I think Avi as well is just as willing to say, well, if it isn’t, it isn’t. If they don’t add up, they don’t add up.”
“So far, they’re adding up.”
For Nolan, however, the study of unidentified anomalous phenomena has less to do with proving that there are objects in Earth’s airspace of exotic origin but instead with following the data wherever it leads.
Speaking with The Debrief, Nolan offered an anecdote from a past conversation with a colleague as a way of summarizing his mindset toward the UAP problem.
“There’s two kinds of questions. There’s the Las Vegas question, where if you spend six or seven months—or years—of your life on trying to answer something where you’re only interested in ‘yes,’ and the answer ends up being ‘no,’ then you’ve just wasted your time.”
“Then there’s the Zen question,” Nolan says, “which is you ask the question in a form that no matter what the answer is, it’s interesting.”