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UFOLOGY: FROM FRINGE FIELD TO SERIOUS SCIENCE

For decades, academic researchers have dismissed the study of UFOs as pseudoscience. But as the evidence becomes harder and harder to ignore, some organizations are finally taking steps to make the field legitimate.


For as long as humans have claimed they’ve seen UFOs—and it’s been a long, long time—the established scientific community has more or less considered them to be nonsense. While that hasn’t changed much, even as we’re in the midst of a modern ufological renaissance, some renegade scientists are fighting to bring academic rigor to UFO research.

Take Richard Hoffman, a 25-year information technology expert on contract with the U.S. Army’s Material Command at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. As a Senior Lead Architect, he keeps the Army’s digital infrastructure running and safe from attack.

He’s also a UFO researcher.

“The scientific community still has to deal with the decades of stigma associated with what they see as pseudoscience or fringe science,” Hoffman tells Popular Mechanics. “Many scientists do have interests in the phenomena, but are most often discouraged by others to embrace it so they hide it.”

Hoffman is one of three board members who run a nonprofit scientific organization known as the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU). Unknown or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) is the current rebranding of unidentified flying objects (UFO), a term that many believe to carry too much cultural baggage.

“There are very few UFO organizations remaining today,” Hoffman says. “Of the few that do remain, they each have their unique contributions to the phenomena, but most are in data collection roles versus long term scientific study of cases.”

The difference with the SCU—and it’s a big one—is that it collects data that can be analyzed and studied by scientific experts, subsequently generating peer-reviewed papers published in journals and on websites, says Hoffman. The SCU doesn’t collect day-to-day UAP sighting reports, but rather, digs into the more complex cases where multiple sensory data like radar tracks and video may exist.

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