In his latest blog, Robin Hanson writes

There have been over 100K UFO sightings reported worldwide since 1940. Roughly 5% or so are “strong” events, which seem rather hard to explain due to either many witnesses, especially reliable witnesses, physical evidence, or other factors.

Yet, I am not aware of a single UFO encounter that can't be explained by one of:

  1. Unreliable eyewitnesses
  2. Things that go away when we get better cameras

Importantly, Hanson's post did not include a link to the "Wikipedia of UFO encounters" listing all 100k UFO sightings and which 5000 he considered most credible.

Where is that Wikipedia?

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4Charlie Steiner10mo
I poked around and it seems non-malicious. They thank the "mutual UFO network" for their dataset.

UFO sightings turn out to be explicable as distant planes, celestial bodies, lighthouses, birds, balloons, satellites, or superior mirages like 9 times out of 10, sometimes requiring great investigative efforts to determine that. Robin Hanson seems to be claiming to have cases he can point us at that are of higher quality than average.

2Charlie Steiner10mo
Well if they're confidently explainable 9 times out of 10, just post facto pick the 1 remaining and call it the high quality one :P

The David Fravor event in particular doesn't seem to me like an unreliable eyewitness, the object was seen with human eyes, with the cameras on the planes, with the radar on the plane, and with the radar on the ship. I have no idea what to think of his account in particular. Either he (and all the pilots there with him that day and all the people on the ships who saw stuff on the ship radars) are lying for some unknown reason, or there are aliens on Earth. In which case their behavior makes absolutely no sense to me, either completely hiding themselves, or full outright reveal would make sense to me, but this weird "let humans have sneak-peaks but never any actual proof" is just weird.

I think this is evidence that should increase our p(aliens), but not enough evidence to make the claim "either all are lying, or aliens are real".

It's also evidence of something like "they are wrong but honest"; "the instruments bugged"; "something about reality we don't get which is not aliens" etc 

My impression has been that we mostly just have David Fravor's word that most of those independant lines of evidence exist.  Have there actually been interviews with, e.g., the ship radar operators where they describe seeing things that were only consistent with the UFO story?

Also, even if they do exist, the question remains as to how closely it corroborates what Fravor observed. I.e. if there were some glitches that were happening that week including at the time of Fravor's observation, that's very weak evidence; whereas if we had a detailed trajectory from each source that matched closely, that would be stronger evidence. My impression is that the claimed connections are towards the weak end of that spectrum.

In which case their behavior makes absolutely no sense to me, either completely hiding themselves, or full outright reveal would make sense to me, but this weird "let humans have sneak-peaks but never any actual proof" is just weird.


For whatever it's worth: Jacques Vallée highlighted how the baffling & seemingly nonsensical nature of these encounters is one of the few constants. One I recall (off the top of my head — I was told this one, I have no idea how to offer references here) was a report of some ship landing in a farmer's field and then pe... (read more)

Interestingly, in European folklore demonic spirits are afraid of salt. 

2Gerald Monroe10mo
Assuming, just for the sake of argument, that these entities were "real". How could these events happen? Physical aliens would be grabby, we wouldn't see stars next to us lacking Dyson swarms, if the aliens arrived recently you would expect to have seen their starship decelerating in a flare of gamma rays. (Assuming propulsion methods we know of, most high isp high thrust engines emit such a flare). When I brainstormed this I thought of one kinda unsatisfying idea. In parallel universe theories, the earth may be an attractor for parallel earths, and we could be seeing bleedover from these parallel realities. Simulator glitches would also explain this. Neither is a satisfying explanation and not obviously exploitable or reproducible, this is just me trying to understand what could do this. If real, we could be seeing the ghosts of other flying machines from other timelines or corrupt memory from a simulator showing essentially the same. (I think pReal is small, less than 5 percent)
  One possibility: Suppose that our 3D-ish reality is actually a tiny part of something much, much larger. And when I say "larger", I don't mean just "more dimensions" or "parallel universes". It's worth remembering that our impressions of space, time, object, etc. are basically bits of software interface that let us interact with… something… in ways that seem to be relevant to our survival. That doesn't mean they represent reality as it actually is, any more than the folder icons on your computer desktop represent the state of your computer as it actually is. If there's something we'd interpret as entity-like when it interacts with our tiny corner of existence, but whatever that something is operates mostly in the bigger context, we'd find its behavior immensely baffling. Kind of like ants trying to make sense of an anteater, or of a storm. Or a kid fucking with the ants out of passing curiosity. The kinds of things we think of as resources only make sense in the context of our survival. What if "survival" as we think of it looks about as meaningful to mega-"entities" with a larger perspective as our watching a rock finish rolling downhill? Oh no, it stopped moving. The horror. And how callous of us not to care about the rock-in-motion's possible desire to keep existing! And I mean this much, much more vastly than with UFO-type stuff. We don't know where the laws of physics come from for instance. We notice beautiful symmetries and fascinating correspondences between different parts. But what that shows is a kind of consistency. A river is relatively consistent too. It still makes sense to ask where the river comes from, even though you can fully explain the river's local behavior based on the shape of the terrain and the presence of already-moving water. It's awfully strange to pretend we know everything about the river because we can give these explanations. Those explanations miss almost everything about almost everything. So I think there's a lot of roo
2Charlie Steiner10mo
Indeed, the category "UFO," so named because it's the bin into which we put the things we can't identify, seems to have the common property that all the things in it are hard to identify. In fact, as we get better sensors, the UFOs move out to the edge of our new sensor ranges. It's as if they're watching us. Adapting.
  That's actually just false, just FYI. By reports, fairly often they show up specifically as though they're trying to be seen. There's also a whole set of incidences where UFOs showed up to fuck with nuclear machinery, demonstrating that (a) they knew exactly where the "hidden" bases were and (b) they could control the launch process better than the people at the control panels. Understandably, this isn't something that gets advertised very much and can be explained away. It's pretty important to make such incidences as plausibly deniable as possible given the game theory of MAD. But in terms of "better sensors make the UFOs seem to vanish", that's just flat-out false. That's not what the reports suggest basically at all.

It sort of makes sense if they occasionally. need to get some probes down on the surface to collect detailed information - that is after all exactly what we do on other planets - and they have a high level objective of avoiding interference, but realize that some humans will believe in UFOs without any evidence, and others will not even believe if their governments admit and provide compelling evidence, and thus they have some significant operational leeway.

Regardless the most compelling 'evidence' for UFOs is simply the high prior probability that aliens ... (read more)

But it's just that we don't see any evidence of alien civilisation when we look at the stars, implying that any alien civ that does exist has a very, very strong preference for not being seen... which doesn't square at all with the "oh well if humans see us a bit it's no big deal" attitude, this is a civilisation who has hampered its own technological growth probably for millenia (required for travel between stars) in order not to be seen. The seas are so vast compared to the area that fighter jets can survey, and apparent capabilities of the alien ships so incredible, that it should be trivial for them to evade literally all observation. ( And the CMV temperature placed an upper bound as a function of time on the lowest temperature you can achieve in outer space anyway)
We don't see any evidence for what I would call stellavore civilizations, but that was always a strange model of the future anyway. Regardless it just seems incorrect to have a stronger prior on the future of technological civilization than the copernican prior on the uniqueness of earth. In other words the prior that aliens never developed anywhere in the galaxy before us starts as something like (1−X)N, where X is the probability that a specific alien star developed civilization and is constrained by the copernican/anthropic considerations and can't be a tiny probability, but N is a very large number in the billions. We know the value of N more or less, and via copernican/anthropic arguments we have some confidence X can not be too small, which leads to more confidence that aliens exist than justified confidence that we know the shape of future tech civilizations. So from that we can rule out stellavores. Stellavores are literally stupid anyway as they can't utilize exotic reversible/quantum computing at scale - exploiting the latter requires moving out into the cold dark void. Any advanced tech civ will need to achieve near zero temp, and doing that at scale naturally results in being difficult to detect.
The way to actually make the universe colder and preserve all the energy currently going to waste in stars is to dump all the matter in your galaxy in two giant spinning black holes, and then extract energy via the Penrose process. There's no way that a civilisation would just say "oops, we want to use reversible computing, I guess we now have no use for all those stars and giant gas clouds, let's just leave them be as they are now..."
No offense, but I don't think you understand the physics/engineering of far future computation even remotely close enough to have anything remotely justifying the insane confidence you'd need to override the prior (as nobody does). As just one example, advanced civs may be able to subtly alter the laws of physics via accumulated acausal trade over the seed params of new universe creation through a bubble nucleation process, and they would always favor new hidden physics which allows for expansion of local compute to continue exponential or hyper-exponential growth. Expanding into the stars is complete stagnation in comparison as it allows only weak polynomial growth. In other words, you are assuming expansion rather than transcension, and have no possible reasons to justify an extremely high prior against transcension to overcome the update that we indeed to not see the expected evidence of expansion.

I'm pretty sure we've figured this one out already: It was probably a navy optical and radar spoofing technology, being tested. Creating an optical effect through focused lasers has supposedly been possible for a while, and the details of the reports are 90% consistent with it just being a glowing image, and the remaining inexplicable details sound to me like the kind of overinterpretation that's inevitable when a person has a brief encounter, in frenzied glimpses, with a type of thing they didn't realize existed.

The radar readings are harder to explain, b... (read more)

I would be surprised if it was anything as exotic as spoofing technology, let alone aliens.  I expect rather more boring causes - and note the causes plural. In my view, if you take a grab bag of observations filtered by weirdness (we don't hear about the cases where weird things weren't observed) we should expect a baseline level of weirdness for various mundane reasons, and I have not seen any compelling evidence that the observed weirdness level is beyond the expected baseline assuming no aliens and no exotic technology. (The tic-tac sounded to me like it could be something like, e.g. an X-32 seen from the side, and a lot of observations seem like they could be oddly shaped balloons, but neither is exotic technology). If you assume every weird observation has a common cause, you're going to wind up making them a whole lot harder to explain than is really warranted.
2mako yass10mo
It sounds to me like you haven't actually read the case you're passing comment on. It's way weirder than that.
Checking one of the first summaries that comes up on a search turns up mostly facts I was already familiar with from past discussions: So, the radar had glitched for two weeks. Note that this summary misleadingly implies that the aircraft had been sent out to intercept an object with these characteristics, but it you follow the links two steps (via Popular Mechanics) to, you can see that they were actually sent to intercept something moving at " 100 KTS @ 25 KFT ASL" which is actually really slow and at a fairly normal (if lowish) height.   meaning they saw one object hovering and moving erratically some distance above the water (may or may not be close to fifty feet) and churning the water through a strong downdraft (such as would be caused by an X-32 testing hover capability) and the pilots misinterpreted that churn as a separate object under the water surface. I recall one commentary (not this one) mentioning the churn as appearing "like a Harrier" which implies to me that it might have a similar cause (e.g. X-32).   Eyewitness accounts of size and especially speed are notoriously unreliable. I have encountered people placing an absurd amount of faith in the perceptual capabilities of these pilots because they are supposedly "experts" but, really, there is no one who can reliably estimate this sort of thing. In any case, apart from the speed all of this is fairly close to an unmarked X-32 if they didn't get a good angle/(weren't close enough) to see the wings. This summary then (again misleadingly) implies that the object seen here did not emit hot gases. However, if you follow the links to you can see that this claimed observation was from followup planes allegedly finding something hovering at the same latitude/longitude at around 15-20k feet, and only spotted on radar and FLIR (n
2mako yass10mo
Would you not prefer to hear it from the witnesses? Articles like this are really frustrating, they're speaking in terms of what happened, they don't know what happened, no one does, they only know what was reported, their interpretation can only introduce errors on top of that, so just listen to what was reported by pilots and the ship crew instead. My impression from the interviews I heard (at least one was on joe rogan), was that when Fravor saw it hovering near the ocean surface, it was moving too abruptly to be a vtol plane. It's also pretty implausible that he wouldn't notice the cockpit or the wings when it flew past him. That said, my memory or interpretation of those interviews might be introducing errors too. I'm just another layer of interpretations. Go to the source. (sorry I can't really link any, I remember seeing a compilation of a bunch of interviews with princeton staff at some point, I think on LW, but I'm finding it tricky to find.)
OK, I will see an interview. My preregistered objections before I check out the interview: In order to judge movement of a distant object, a human needs to see its motion relative to some background. If there were large visually salient waves, then a human would likely use the waves as a background, but if there were not, and there were a region of churned water under the object, a human would likely use the churned water as a reference. But, IMO, there is no strong reason to expect the visually apparent churned water to remain particularly centered around the object even if it is an X-32 or similar, as the visual appearance of the churn will be affected by the underlying waves even if not themselves visually salient, and the actual position and the resulting appearance will be affected by interaction with the wind and wind changes, and by turbulent flow within the air column between the object and the water. Therefore, I expect that Fravor will have seen relative motion between the object and the churned water, under conditions of low visual saliency of waves, and interpreted as a rapidly moving object over stationary churned water, when in fact the opposite is the case. (edit still before watching interview: if the object had been making small changes using conventional vtol capability, that would induce large changes in the underlying churn after a short delay for air travel time, due to thrust vectoring. This is now my main expectation here). If the above is ruled out (e.g. by large visually salient waves, or there being clear visual reference points other than the churn) then I will still note the low reliability of human witnesses at judging things like speed, but it will in that case be slightly more convincing than the case where the waves are not visually salient.  My expectation going in is that it won't actually have been particularly close at any point, and I will be paying attention to anything regarding "flew past" or similar as to how close they wo
2mako yass10mo
Btw I've heard these have been identified as a known model of radar screwing/deflecting(?) balloon. The pilots who reported encountering these never, as far as I heard, reported seeing them moving. They reported them not being where their radars expected them to be when they arrived, and they seemed to interpret that as meaning the objects were hiding by suddenly descending, which doesn't seem like the right way to interpret it to me.
Hmm, sounds like the balloons could be reflecting radar in a way that gives inaccurate readings? Not sure how difficult it would be to do that.
2mako yass10mo
If I recall correctly, didn't he say it was moving in a cross pattern, so you'd expect it to leave a cross shaped disturbance if it were a vtol jet? I'm not actually sure, he usually says it was moving erratically, quite sudden changes in velocity. I wonder if that would be consistent with 1) a human-piloted vtol, or else 2) a drone-piloted vtol (much more comfortable with very abrupt velocity changes?)? But how do you reconcile this with "no rotor wash"? Wouldn't that disturbance look similar to that? I'm drawing pictures that're about as big for me as he says this thing was for him given his memory of his distance from the surface when he was above it, and it really isn't easy to argue that a pilot could mistake a triangle at this distance for a capsule, given that a capsule isn't even something he'd be primed to expect (?). But maybe as you say that sort of perceptual error fits within the weirdness margin. The sudden disappearance of the object does not sound explicable if it was a regular plane. Note that he says one of the planes was keeping a distance, an overview, it also said it just disappeared. (This is easily explicable if it were an optical decoy being projected from a drone somewhere, either it was turned really fast, or it just turned off)
Not that I recall. He said that the choppy water was cross shaped, and that the object above was moving erratically. Which I interpret to mean, it was cross shaped at any one time, and the cross shape was moving erratically leading him to erroneously conclude that the object was moving, due to the lack of any other visual reference. This leads me to make the postdiction that the VTOL jet output is emitted in a cross shape. If I'm wrong that a conventional human-tech VTOL jet (or even, less significantly, the X-32 itself) can have output emitted in such a shape, count that as evidence against my interpretation. "no rotor wash", as I understand it, is based on the assumption that the FLIR videos were showing the same object. Since in my interpretation the FLIR videos were caused by a glitch, this is to be expected regardless of whether the original object had rotor wash or not. It wouldn't call it a triangle exactly, it's more like a diamond shape. I expect he may have interpreted opposite sides of the diamond (i.e. diagonally relative to the actual orientation) as the front and back. Later on, he would have seen it more sideways, but may not have noticed any difference since the X-32 also looks really weird side on especially from slightly below (see the main photo on the wiki article) . No, he asked the other plane about it when he lost sight of it and they then said they couldn't see it. Which is not the same thing at all - they may have lost sight of it at any time between the original sighting and that point. Note that he explicitly says he wouldn't have been able to see it if it weren't for the choppy water, so it would have been easy to lose track of.
2mako yass10mo
In one interview with one of the other staff, I'm fairly sure I remember it being mentioned that not everyone agrees with Fravor about this, that they all saw what he says they saw. But I got the impression they didn't want to recapitulate the details there, probably, they're not interested in making smoke and embarrassing their friend beyond necessity, but it seemed to be implied that this disagreement had been public, I haven't gone looking for it.

Things that go away when we get better cameras

The video speaks about the military approaching the object after they first identified it on the radar. That's not something that just disappears with better cameras. 

I am aware of this one video of a blurry blob showing up on radar.  What I am not aware of is 5000 UFO sightings with indisputable physical evidence.

Where are the high resolution videos?  Where are the spectrographs of "impossible alien metals"?  Where are the detailed studies of time and location of each encounter trying to treat it as an actual scientific phenomena?

Basically, where are the 5000 counterexamples to this comic?

You made a claim in the OP that the incident in the link would disappear if you would just have better cameras. I made the point that this isn't true as it doesn't explain the radar data. Julia Galef wrote about how noticing confusion is a key rationalist skill. If you started with the assumption that this is just can be explained by cameras and that's not true, it makes sense to notice that your assumption was wrong. There are internal military investigations. The military released some data but not all that it has. The military doesn't like Russia/China to learn about its exact camera capabilities so doesn't seem to publically release its highest-resolution videos.  It would be great if all the data was just out in the open, but it's not. 
-1Logan Zoellner10mo
I'm not particularly interested in arguing about this 1 video.  I want to know where are the other 4999 videos. The military is very bad at keeping secrets.  And surely not all 5000 of the highly believable UFO reports occurred within the US military.
Yes, the military can't keep the secret that they have more data that they don't release.  Why? The fact that the military saw something is a good way to know that an incident wasn't doesn't fall under the explanations you listed. 
I suppose you're getting the 5000 number from the 5% claim but Hanson actually doesn't claim 5000 as a number but rather makes the claim "I’d guess there are at least a thousand such strong dramatic reported events." So here you drop from a 5% claim to that of about 1%.  As for where, it doesn't take too much to start getting some leads. Most are news stories that probably don't meet your criteria but this might at least offer some basis for thinking something is going on. I think the question then becomes more why is the government and military taking these steps -- they are clearly not costless and many other efforts are competing for funds -- if there is really nothing but smoke and mirrors.

The best evidence that addresses both your claims would probably come from the military, since they have both state of the art sensors+ reliable witnesses. The recent surge in UFO coverage is almost all related to branches of the military (mostly Navy?) so the simple explanation is, it's classified to varying degrees. My understanding is that there is the publicly released stuff which is somewhat underwhelming, then some evidence Congress and the like has seen during briefings, and then probably more hush hush stuff above that for non civilians. The members of Congress who were briefed seem to have continued making noise on the topic so presumably there is more convincing evidence not yet public. 

I have no idea where Hanson got those figures from, but from your post it seems like you would be able to rule most civilian sightings out anyway because there is no such thing as a perfectly reliable human witness, and to date camera and sensor quality available to the average person is actually pretty poor (especially compared to government/military hardware).

A little smidge of insight about what kinds of things they discuss behind closed doors can be seen here. Former ATIP guy Lou Elizondo (a government worker who was responsible for collecting and investigating reports, for a time) says he's seen some wild stuff that wasn't released but idk whether he's making it up or what.

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Nit: your last word should be "credible", not "credulous".