There’s a great joke in Futurama, the cartoon comedy show, about a horror movie for robots. In the movie, a planet of robots is terrorized by a giant “non-metallic being” (a monsterified human). The human is finally defeated by a makeshift spear, which prompts the robot general to say:
“Funny, isn’t it? The human was impervious to our most powerful magnetic fields, yet in the end he succumbed to a harmless sharpened stick.”
The joke, of course, is that the human body might seem much more fragile than a metallic machine, but to a robot our ability to withstand enormous magnetic fields would be like invincibility.
But this got me thinking: how strong would a magnetic field have to be before it killed a human?
Unlike a computer hard drive, the human body doesn’t really make use of any magnetic states — there is nowhere in the body where important…
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It’s seven o’clock and Tierkidi refugee-camp is buzzling of early morning activity. It’s food distribution day, and Nyaboth (16) is patiently waiting for the queue in front of her to get smaller.
No one knows the exact number of refugees in the Gambell-region. But we are at least looking at 250.000. More than a quarter of a million people who are dependent on the food that World Food Program is distributing.
The line is moving slow, but Nyaboth isn’t in a hurry as long as she gets what she came for. Four hours later, she has collected all the items her family is entitled to this month. The previous four hours were more boring than exhausting. Now the tough part comes. The 16-year old has to get 150 kilos of flour, maize, oil, lentils and soap back to her tent a couple of kilometres away.
−I have to sell some…
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Very recently, the United States government declassified and made public its documents on the UFO project Blue Book. I have always had an interest in this intriguing topic. I do not know why this is, I guess I am just interested as to the mystery surrounding these objects and the fact that some of them genuinely remain unidentified. Whilst reading this material I have come across many interesting cases which were attributed to a wide range of entirely normal phenomena. Some of the phenomena remain unexplained to this day. However, I will be honest, I am yet to see one of these unexplained cases for myself. In this post, I will review some of these project blue book cases and analyse the manner in which they were investigated.
15th September 1961
The first case is dated the 15th September 1961 in the Pacific region. The informant appears to be a civilian, whom reported to the authorities a streak of light that was sighted above the horizon. The informant described the streak of light as being four times brighter than the planet Venus. They described how the light exploded and disappeared from view after around ten seconds.
The document states “Streak changing from hot blue to dull red passing through 25 degrees of an arc in 5-10 seconds at 10 deg elevation. 4X as bright as Venus. Exploded at end of sighting”.
Analysts concluded that the object may have been a meteor exploding in the atmosphere. Stating in their records “Description consistant with meteor analysis”. This is a conclusion that I myself agree with as I have seen many meteors whilst out fishing.
However, looking deeper into this sighting and the investigation that was conducted, I believe there may have been an oversight. The report card said that the informant was a civilian, leading me to believe that it was a member of the general public, who may have had little knowledge of the sky and the natural phenomena that occur. However, reading closely into the original report, the informant is identified as a commercial airline pilot flying for Pan Am airlines.
The memorandum states “Interview with pilot and navigator of aircraft… Aircraft Type CLN Pan Am Seven Zero Seven”
I would expect a commercial pilot to have a higher than average knowledge of the natural phenomena that take place in the sky. I would say that a commercial airline pilot has much more credibility than a member of the public. This has got me wondering whether this increased credibility has been taken into account in this report. Apart from the mention in the original memorandum, I can find no other mention of his credibility or his profession anywhere in the record. Therefore, I doubt that his increased credibility was taken into account in this case.
23rd October 1961
The second report that I shall look at is dated the 23rd October 1961, again in the Pacific region. In this report a pilot on a civilian vessel saw a single bright flash originating from a northerly direction. The sky was described as cloudless, with the moon out and good visibility. Again, I thought that there was evidence of an increased level of credibility concerning the informant. He is a pilot, guiding vessels through difficult passages of water or into ports. This increased credibility is acknowledged in the report, stating that his “reliability is extremely good”. I doubt there were any reasons to question what he saw and where and when he saw it. I am convinced that his report is accurate. An accompanying witness, an Able Seaman, is described as “reliability good” concerning his credibility.
What makes this report most intriguing is considering his credibility, and the tensions of the cold war during this time period. The report states that the informant thought that the sighting may have been a nuclear warhead detonated by the Russians.
It stated “Just seen white flash in northerly direction, no tail, thought might have been atomic bomb set of by Russians”.
In my mind, the pilot and Able Seaman must have been concerned for his own safety to mention those words in his report to the navy. Despite these points, the analysts at Wright Pattersen air force base decided that there was “insufficient data for evaluation”. To this day, this report remains unidentified.
Our second sighting of this post occurred on the 3rd September 1961 again in the Pacific area, an informant, who was a military pilot who was flying between 40,000-50,000 feet in clear conditions saw two white objects with orange tails seen 60-90 minutes apart. He made an official report with 28 NORAD region.
The record of the incident states “2 round white objts w/orange tails emitting sparks. Observed about 1 ½ hrs apart”.
During the investigation, analysts at Wright Pattersen air force base considered options including a man-made phenomenon citing of “possible re-entry or possible activity in nearby warning area”. However, instead of sticking with this possibility, the scientists put the encounter down to a meteor shower.
They stated in their records “Duration and characteristics indicate probably meteors from meteorological shower”. However, I find a couple of reasons to doubt this conclusion, the first one being in the account the pilot gave in his report.
He states “First object was in a climb on a heading of 300 degrees mag. Second object was on a 120 degree heading but appeared to be coming straight down… first object faded, second object disappeared beneath the aircraft”.
I struggle to understand, even with my limited knowledge in the area how a meteor can be on a climb, and how one could end up passing underneath the fuselage of a military aircraft. In my view, I prefer the air forces first assumption that the pilot had seen something man made. What that man-made object could have been, I daren’t guess.
14th September 1961
The third case report occurred on the 14th September 1961 in the Bearing Sea. The informant was a civilian pilot who was flying his aircraft at an altitude of 6,500 feet. He described the weather as clear with unlimited visibility and no clouds in the sky. During the flight he encountered a cloud formation with a “vertical pillar extending up from the horizon then mushrooming on top”. With his profession being a pilot, I think that he has increased credibility over your average member of the public.
The report states “Peculiar looking cloud formation from horizon to 3° above horizon and developing mushroom top. Air visual with clear visibility in sighting quadrant. Object estimated at 300-400 miles distance object remained stationary”.
From the descriptions given, I believe they thought they were witnessing the detonation of a nuclear weapon. This is because of the characteristics of a nuclear explosion, of which results in a vertical column of cloud with a mushroom top. It is interesting as well to consider what the authorities at Wright Pattersen air force base concluded in their investigation of this incident. They concluded in their report that the pilot’s had in fact seen the planet Venus. I fail to see how a mushroom cloud can be confused with the planet Venus. I believe that if the pilot had in fact seen the planet Venus, he would have recognised it. He saw a mushroom cloud, which is totally different sight. I believe that the sighting may either have been a nuclear explosion or a natural cloud formation.
21st September 1961
Our next UFO report from the project blue book archive is dated the 21st September 1961 and concerns a military pilot, who again in my view has an increased level of credibility considering his profession when compared to your average member of the public. The pilot sighted a doughnut-shaped UFO, which was travelling extremely fast and was also witnessed from the ground.
The record states “Object appearing as large circular area of high intensity light. With dark outer rim travelling at orbital speed leaving a faint glow or trail. Doughnut appearance. Observed E and looked light as it got closer it was brilliant with the centre missing. Not like aurora. Ring darker than rim around ring. Object moving ESE”.
The sighting was identified as most likely a missile as according to the report, there were missile exercises in the area at the time of the sighting. There is no photo or physical evidence, just witness testimony to support this sighting.
23rd October 1961
The next case is dated the 23rd October 1961 and is a civilian sighting of a white flash with smoke coming from the rear, it was visible in the sky for around three seconds before disappearing. The case comes to the Wright Pattersen air force base, through a US Navy transmission in which they describe the sighting.
The document states “Blueish-white flash. Ni discernible shape; had meteor type tail or trail or smoke like contrail. Assumed at time to be a meteor”.
Clearly, the informant must have immediately assumed that the object was a meteor. His credibility is described as excellent in the document, with him being a petty officer on board a civilian vessel. I believe that in this case there is evidence of assumption, I have asked myself the question of whether or not this was investigated properly. This is because the air force assumed that the sighting was a meteor because that was what the informant had identified it as.
The official conclusion to this case states “Since observers assumed object was meteor, it is logical to assume their evaluation was correct.
I wonder whether the air force actually conducted a thorough investigation into this sighting or whether they just assumed it was a meteor. Looking through the project blue book files on this case, I find no evidence to suggest that an active investigation was carried out by analysts at Wright Pattersen air force base. There is a complete absence of investigative notes, the only files being the summary card and the naval report. During further research, I have been unable to find any further information on this sighting.
29th October 1961
The next case from the project blue book files is dated the 29th October 1961 and is a ground sighting by a member of the military, who saw a bright object moving in a south-easterly direction. The object was visible for eleven minutes before disappearing. There were numerous witnesses to this case including the commanding officer, who considered the object to be a satellite rather than anything untoward. He made the following report to Wright Pattersen air force base for the blue book project.
“Object was sighted at an elevation of 66 degrees bearing 210 degrees. Travelling in a south-easterly direction. Object had brightness of 2nd magnitude star, visible eleven minutes. Air and surface radar alerted, could not pick up. Observed by CENSORED and CENSORED, lookouts. Captain was called and sighted same… Object disappeared bearing 130 degrees… Object appeared to make slight change of course”…
The air forces analysis of this case was consistent with the view of the commanding officer in the sense that they thought it could be a satellite. The report conclusion states “Duration, direction and motion conform to pattern of satellite observation. Not verified with space track info, however there is no indication this other than a satellite”.
Looking through the thousands of pages of declassified United States government documents relating to the UFO phenomena, it is clear to see how seriously the topic was taken by the government, especially considering the era they were in at the time. As you can see from the summary of the reports presented here, there was a lot of suspicion and anger at the thought of nuclear weapons being deployed by the Russians. Project blue book clearly documents this historic era and provides much more information than just UFO reports, it describes the mentality and the mind-set of both the American public and the military during the cold war. After looking through these sightings, I am intrigued to examine more, and I am sure more posts like this will follow.
This morning I woke up to read, with sadness at the death at the age of 60 of Anne Kirkbride, who played Deidre hunt in Coronation Street. She joined the cast of the popular British soap at the age of 17, and led a life of pure drama on set, sometimes playing major roles in some of the soaps largest story-lines. Viewers of the show immediately became infatuated with her domestic dramas and her trademark large, round spectacles. However, off the stage she struggled with her fame, suffering with illness and depression.
Kate Ford, who plays Deidre’s daughter in the soap, tweeted “Heartbroken at the loss of my friend and beautiful on screen mummy. The most crazy, funny 100 per cent human. My life was enriched by her.”
Anne is famous for the storyline that panned out in 1983 when she became involved as part of a love triangle with Ken and Mike. Viewers of the show became so enthralled by her on-screen ordeals that an update on the show was imparted onto the scoreboard during the half time interval at a Manchester United football match. The former prime minister, Tony Blair even jokingly vowed to undertake a review of her case when she was wrongfully imprisoned as part of a story line in 1998 which caused natural outrage.
Phillip Schofield tweeted: “Just checked my phone and have heard of the sad loss of the wonderful Anne Kirkbride. My deepest condolences to the #Corrie family x.”
Anne leaves behind her husband David and her brother John.
RIP Anne Kirkbride.
Like bread dough, my writing seems to require time to rise in a warm, draft-free place. The long proofing period is necessary; turn up the heat to hurry the rising, or don’t leave it long enough, and I get a stodgy, dense loaf.
Under ideal conditions—solitude, free time and excitement about what I’m writing—the words pour forth quickly. It’s exhilarating. But normally, I write when I can. I like to have control over an essay or story as it forms, and I edit as I write, considering each sentence as I put it to paper—does it say what I want it to say, or does it imply something else? I read what I’ve written aloud—does it have the right rhythm? Is my translation of Vietnamese dialogue as true to the original as possible? Does it sound natural?
The second proofing of the dough is as important as the first. Even…
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Mary Miller is the author of the short story collection Big World. Her work has been published in Mcsweeney’s Quarterly, American Short Fiction, the Oxford American, and other journals. A former Michener Fellow in Fiction at the University of Texas, she currently serves as the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. The Last Days of California is her first novel.
Curtis Smith: Congratulations on THE LAST DAYS OF CALIFORNIA. I really enjoyed it. In your acknowledgements, you thank your agent for wanting “to represent a woman who said she would always and only be a short story writer.” Can you talk a little about that?
Mary Miller: When my agent asked to represent me, I wasn’t sure why. I was writing short stories exclusively and had given up on the idea of writing a novel. They just seemed impossible. I’d heard about people working…
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