The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

The Denver UFO: Yup, It’s Unidentified… So What Does That Mean?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 18, 2012

Over the last few days there has been a media sensation built up around a UFO in the Denver, Colorado area.  Here’s a closeup of the object in question:

Image source

The story has garned a great deal of attention, as evidenced by this video clip from a local news station…

Indeed, the news team does a so-so job of investigating this UFO, though there is a lot of sensationalizing in the report (surprise, surprise!), but there is one point I would like to emphasize in greater detail which this report totally glossed over.  That is the fact that this thing, whatever it is, is unidentified… as in Unidentified Flying Object.  Repeat after me three times: unidentified flying object… Unidentified flying object… UNIDENTIFIED flying object!!!

I want to be very clear on this point because, as I expected, the Internet is already abuzz with talk of alien spacecraft, government cover ups, and conspiracies galore.  And those leaping to this dubious conclusion (that the thing is “obviously not of this world”) are committing what is known as an argument from ignorance – that is, in one breath they will admit that we don’t have enough information to conclude what it is, but then in the next breath they will say, quite emphatically, that it HAS to be an alien spacecraft.

And such thinking contains a direct contradiction: the argument basically says that because we don’t know, then we know.  With reasoning as loose as this, one can “justify” the existence of leprechauns, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, or Invisible Pink Unicorns!  What the heck is wrong with saying “We don’t know” and just leaving it at that?

Incidentally, while the possibility of a plane or helicopter has been ruled out, it is likely that the object in question is a bug of some kind.  There is a very good article on this point over at the Illuminutti blog…

… OK – everybody now… it’s bugs.  This bug-UFO is especially bad because on some of the shots the insect actually hovers and moves around like an obvious insect. The videographer did not notice them because they were small fast-flying insects. Or perhaps they did notice the insects, but did not connect them to the unfocused black dots buzzing about on the video. It is also possible they know exactly what they are, but is just pranking  the local news station (hence the anonymity).

One or two shots in there are probably birds. You can see an apparent wing flap. Birds and bugs are common sources of UFO artifacts in the video age. They are small objects close to the camera that will appear as out-of-focus dots and streaks that can be mistaken (by the willful or truly incurious) for objects that are large and farther away. The fact that no one saw them live and there was no radar tracking should be a clue, but for the believer can just add to the mystery.

The lameness of this video being presented in breathless terms as a compelling UFO might have something to do with the declining interest in UFOs. Anyone with a genuine interest – enough to join a UFO group and try to find real evidence that UFOs are visiting ETs, would probably get tired of all the bugs and lanterns after a while. …

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4 Responses to “The Denver UFO: Yup, It’s Unidentified… So What Does That Mean?”

  1. Woody said

    I like it when I know, but I also like it when I don’t. Whatever it is might yet be possible to study, test (if repeatable) and gather the possibilities. Cleverly designed testing can reduce the possibilities even further! I appreciate the natural world so much now, now that i’ve stopped falling for the nearest popular and exciting mythology.

  2. Ron Murphy said

    Why do these ‘aliens’ just happen to use technologies that reflect or emit light just sufficient to leave blurred images on cheap video cameras, yet remain invisible to all other technologies?

  3. Anthony Booher said

    If you use an interferometer (3D camera) you can rule out the bug theory. This does not look like other “bug UFO” video artifacts I have seen before but it could still be a bug. Easy to test the theory but im allergic to THC so im not doing to Denver to do it.

    • mattusmaximus said

      There is an even easier way to confirm the bug hypothesis: try simply hanging a bedsheet up about 20 feet in front of the camera and see if the “UFOs” appear in front of it or behind it. The fact that the supposed investigators haven’t even performed this simple test, not to mention the lack of sonic booms and similar atmospheric effects due to the supposedly fast-moving “UFOs” seems to let some air out of the mystery…

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