Welcome to this week’s Intelligence Brief… this time around, as media attention toward the enduring mystery of UFOs appears to have dwindled somewhat in recent days, we will be spending some time looking at 1) the cycles in interest in UFOs over time, 2) contemporary interest in UFOs, and what that means, 3) a view from a veteran UFO reporter on the present moment with relation to this subject, and where we go from here, and 4) why we need the scientific community looking at the subject.
Lastly, in videos and podcasts, also be sure to check out the latest episode of Rebelliously Curious, where Chrissy Newton catches up with Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb to discuss the Galileo project, a new scientific effort to study UAP.
And with that, it’s now time to take a look back in time, at the cycles in UFO interest held by the public, the media, and scientific organizations throughout time.
The Ebb and Flow of UFOs
There is a peculiar rhythm that public and media interest in the UFO subject follows over time. On many occasions over the last half century or so, events have led to sudden surges in focus on the subject, swelling over a period of several years and then subsiding again after reaching a climax that usually culminates in a defining historical moment relating to the phenomenon.
Examples of this might include the first appearance of “flying saucers” in 1947, with events continuing thereafter for several years and culminating in sightings of unidentified flying objects over the nation’s capital in 1952. The following decade, a series of sightings that began in the spring of 1966 generated enough interest among both lawmakers and the government that a scientific panel was tasked with analyzing data collected by the USAF’s Project Blue Book. The resulting study carried out by the University of Colorado UFO Project led by Edward U. Condon ended up having a negative impact on the subject, with media and scientific institutions largely shunning any serious involvement with UFOs.
This silent period would last until 1973, when a wave of sightings led to another upswelling in interest, the likes of which would occur again in the 1980s with attention brought to the subject from books by popular authors like Whitley Strieber and Budd Hopkins. Then during the 1990s, the USAF’s reassessment of an alleged UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 led to their admission of a coverup pertaining to a top-secret operation involving high-altitude balloons called Project Mogul.
In this recurring ebb and flow of UFO interest, something happens that manages to generate a fair amount of interest—sometimes a tremendous amount—and this tends to build for a time until something else comes along that helps release some of that growing pressure. For anyone who has been closely watching the UFO situation since 2017, once again in recent days it seems we have observed this familiar pattern of focus, climax, and dwindling in UFO interest… although perhaps things are slightly different this time around.
Let’s take a look at why that might be the case.
After the Flood
Following the revelation in 2017 that the Pentagon had a program that looked at UFOs, there was a flood of renewed interest in the subject. In addition to widespread public interest, we have seen a number of historic developments as well; these included an acknowledgement from the DoD that objects in videos obtained by the United States Navy could not be identified.
“The U.S. Navy previously acknowledged that these videos circulating in the public domain were indeed Navy videos,” read a DoD statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”
“The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified’,” the statement added.
The contemporary interest in UFOs appears to have approached its climax point (barring any near future developments that could reinvigorate the debate) leading up to the publication of a preliminary assessment by the UAP Task Force. This provided a general overview of the UAPTF’s findings relating to 144 incidents involving what appeared to be objects of unknown origin, encountered primarily by members of the military. Data for the report was amassed from agencies that included the Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI, National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NSA, Air Force, Army, Navy, DARPA, FAA, NOAA, and ODNI, among others.
Following the delivery of the report to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in June, responses were varied. Some found it to be a significant admission by the U.S. government that there were objects in our airspace that cannot be identified, others saw it as a “nothing burger” that offered few specifics, and virtually nothing conclusive about the aerial phenomena reportedly being studied by the UAPTF. Not surprisingly, public interest in the topic–while still relatively strong–appears to have now calmed down significantly.
The cycle, in other words, repeats… so where do we go from here, and what might be different about this period of UFO interest in the broader scope of the subject throughout time?
A Kean Insight
On Wednesday, The Debrief was pleased to feature an editorial from journalist Leslie Kean, whose participation in an article published in the New York Times in 2017 had been the catalyst behind the contemporary surge in UFO interest we have seen in recent years.
“Having reported on this once-taboo topic for over twenty years – most recently in a series of stories I co-wrote for The New York Times – I believe we may have finally arrived at the threshold of a new paradigm,” Kean wrote for The Debrief.
“The military and intelligence establishments remain the guardians of our most profound secrets on UFOs,” Kean wrote on Wednesday. Noting how the current narrative presented by the United States government presently “frames UAP as a national security threat, which is understandable since the mysterious vehicles operate with impunity in restricted airspace,” she nonetheless asks, “what about the deeper implications of this mystery? Can we find out what UFOs actually are?”
What Kean goes on to argue is the necessity that scientists now become involved in UFO/UAP studies. With the military’s acknowledgement that there appear to be objects of unknown origin in Earth’s skies (and perhaps our oceans too, among other places), it is now incumbent upon qualified civilians within the scientific community to become involved with the study of these phenomena, rather than merely waiting for government officials to do this for us.
This is primarily because the reality of government involvement with the topic is that while government agencies may study the phenomena, they are less keen on the idea of releasing specific details about the data they’ve collected (and thereby potentially compromising sensitive information about their methods, and impacting national security). If we want answers to the UFO/UAP conundrum, serious attention by qualified scientists is our best bet.
Science: The Next Frontier
This is a position I have personally had for some time now. Since the results of the University of Colorado UFO Project were published in 1969, the scientific community has largely been wary of having involvement to any degree in the study of UFOs. This, despite the fact that Edward Condon himself had said that “contrary to popular belief, we do not rule out all future study.”
“History may one day show that we are presently on the cusp of that long-awaited future study of unidentified aerial phenomena,” I wrote in July 2020, “something that would benefit greatly from a renewed interdisciplinary effort. In light of this, perhaps the only question greater than that of the UAP mystery itself is, will scientists rise to the occasion?”
Now, it seems that following the publication of the ODNI report in June, many scientists are doing precisely that.
“After the recent release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically and transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment,” reads a statement at the website of The Galileo Project, a new scientific effort to study UAP led by Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb.
“The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science and on our entire world view would be enormous,” the statement reads, adding that “We now must ‘dare to look through new telescopes’, both literally and figuratively.”
While the well-recognized ebb and flow of UFO interest over the decades has recently seen another of its cyclical appearances, maybe this time things really are different, in that the result culminated in significant admissions from the U.S. government, and now equally significant resulting interest from a scientific community that has slowly begun to warm up to the idea of studying these aerial mysteries.
From this perspective, it has been a process several decades in the making. Therefore, by now it is high time that serious scientific attention be put toward this enduring mystery, and if that trend continues, then this period of interest in the history of discussion about UFOs is quite unlike anything we have seen in previous decades. The results could end up being of incredible significance to science, and the furtherance of our knowledge and understanding about phenomena occurring in our world.