The Glasshouse Effect

The rather clammy and smelly paged ‘Sightings’ magazine has in this issue (Vol. 2 Issue 9) an article by one Dermot Butler of IUFORA (Should really be IUFOPRA, The Irish UFO & Paranormal Research Association), entitled ‘The Wicklow Hotspot’, a watered down version of his ‘Irish Case Files Update ‘.
To be utterly pernickety, ‘Sightings’ habit of randomly littering their publication with irrelevant photographs of unidentified flying objects and wizened grays is less than useful. This is especially true in the Irish article, as none of the UFOs mentioned were photographed. The article is a meander through the various reports from the county of Wicklow, into which the urban sprawl of Dublin reaches.

Unfortunately, it’s neither long enough or in-depth enough to attempt serious analysis of each case. It does however, give one the impression of that Wicklow is a ‘window’ area. I don’t dispute this, but it should be noticed that County Wicklow covers an area of 782 sq. miles (2025 sq. km).
Wexford is also mentioned and if one doesn’t cut off the ‘window’ at the exact county border with Dublin, but permit it run to the edge of the Dublin mountains where they sweep down to the city, we have a larger area altogether.
Another Irish UFO group, ICUFOS mentioned in this column many times before, claim window areas in Roscommon and Bantry, West Cork. Blather is rather concerned about this. If this little republic of ours develops any more UFO windows, the damn things will start overlapping, possibly causing what I propose to label ‘The Paranormal Greenhouse Effect’. If this motion is carried, I might as well claim to be the first sinner in the glasshouse to start flinging sceptical lumps of Wicklow granite.

In light of my still-not-having-got my talons on the Roscommon documents , Blather reader Hugh O’Connor in New South Wales, Australia has come up with some interesting Swedish correspondence regarding the Saab Gripen. The identity of the correspondent has been kept from me, for obvious reasons.

‘. . . all the testflights concerning the plane’s performance or it’s technical devices are still done by the testpilots from SAAB. Some of them are employed by British Aerospace originally, but rented out to SAAB if they have anything to do with the Gripen or the 2000.
‘The testpilot, who flew the very first Gripen and the prototype of the 2000, happens to be the father of a friend of mine and through him I know most of the pilots and the going ons around those planes. I haven’t asked, but if there had been a deadly accident with two testpilots killed, #### would have surely talked about it. If not him, #####, the guy from England who’s been visiting me last week, had been working on the plane till end of 97, he talked to high ranked SAAB people only on Friday, but he didn’t mention anything either. They were surely not testing the plane or its performance when they came down.
‘And the Americans must know about the technical things inside it already, because a lot of them have been in Linkping all of last year and everybody was very hush-hush about the purpose of their visit, so it was not for the commercial planes they came. . .
‘Linkping is such a small place in some ways, if i go to my favourite bar, half the people there are from SAAB and the other half either from Ericsson or university. . .
‘On Saturday night the guys who would have been sent to make inquiries about the crash from the company were all there. .. at least the ones I know, but they were in good spirits and planes coming down usually makes them gloomy and hectic.’

So — we’re left none the wiser, really. Blather has emailed Saab, and may yet go as far as to phone them.


There were plenty of interesting responses to last week’s ‘Subjectiveness Trap ‘.
Todd Pellman quite justifiably makes a point:

‘It seems to me that in your discussion of SETI in the previous Blather you made a mistake as to the motivating assumption of SETI. It is not “If there are other technologically advanced cultures, then it is likely that they will be transmitting certain radio signals,” but instead that “If we receive certain radio signals, then it is most likely due to a technologically advanced culture.” Pointing out that intelligent life may exist without the use of such technology in no way weakens the assertion that evidence of such technology implies intelligent life.’

Blather would agree, but would assume that in order to propose the latter theory, one has to consider the former.
Reader Stephen Gallagher, on the chances of another lifeform utilising radio.

‘If we’re talking of life of a ‘similar intelligence’ to human, then it seems very likely that at some stage in their development that they would invent radio technology.
‘If they were any way intelligent then I don’t think they would have made a decision like [deciding that radio was obsolete], I can’t see how radio is going to go out of fashion any time soon.’

Blather stated that ‘It’s worth realising that our perception of intelligence is potentially chauvinistic and very subjective — if it doesn’t seem intelligent to us it’s just not intelligent. The perceived intelligence of another lifeform seems dependent on its ability to communicate with us’.
To which Stephen responded:

‘So there is no such thing as some absolute measure of intelligence? I think we can be fairly objective in this matter with regards to assessing the potential ‘intelligence’ behind something like a radio transmission. If we detect some signal that can’t be attributed to already known radio sources like quasars etc. then we can investigate in more detail whether the signal has the necessary complexity to have an intelligent source.’

Derek Bell piped up with:

‘About two distinct intelligent species being unable to understand each others’ language: this is quite plausible if Chomsky’s linguistics is a good model of what happens in intelligent beings. Basically, Chomsky proposes that humans have a “meta-grammar” (my term) in our genes that describes the types of language that humans can speak/write/whatever. If another intelligent species appears with a quite different meta-grammar, there may be no common ground for them to communicate! (The two meta-grammars having no grammars in common.)’

And Pat Marren:

‘The real test of the feasibility of SETI is, how long is it likely to take before some superior civilization beams us an order for take-out Chinese? That, of course, depends upon the density of “sun-like stars” in our neighborhood of the galaxy, and the probability that each might give rise to civilizations with a taste for Chinese food.
‘The earth began emitting a decent amount of human-broadcast radio waves about seventy-five years ago. Assuming the speed of light is constant, that means we are at the center of an ever-expanding communications shell of a radius of seventy-five light years. Assuming further that our alien pals are hungry, and therefore prompt about sending out a reply, the “reply” radius is currently half of seventy-five light-years, or about 37 light years.
‘Carl Sagan states his belief that if one in a million sun-like stars foster intelligent life, then there are millions of instances of intelligent life in the galaxy. Now I don’t believe in UFOs, because if I were a superior being I would not be mucking around trailer parks in search of sexual experimentation. I’d go right to the center of the action — the West Wing of the White House. But Sagan was obviously right. There must be millions of civilizations– it’s just statistics.
‘So my question as a taxpayer must be, how many sun-like stars are there within 37 light years? And how many sun-like stars is our ever-expanding sphere of radio emanations likely to encompass before I am out of the taxpayer role and in a trailer park? A million? If it’s a million, then it’s worth it. If it’s thirty-seven or fifteen, then the hell with it.

Arthur Goldstuck, in South Africa, has named Blather as this week’s Legendary Site of the Week. You can also visit Arthur’s ‘Legends from a Small Country‘ site. [links no longer work]
ERRATA No one, other than the fastidiously vigilant Paul (Archeire) Clerkin spotted the glaring mistake in last weeks issue, where I appeared to claim that Carl Sagan’s book ‘Cosmos’ was ‘the best selling book in the English language’. What Blather really meant was ‘best selling science book’.
Dave (daev) Walsh
13th February 1998

The disembodied collective editorial voice of the only really nice website in Ireland.


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