Etudes des Soucoupes volantes

Articles de termes sélectionnés du cours Science 101  "Soucoupes volantes " du Dr. Thornton Page
Trimestre de Printemps, 1968.

Livret d'exemple.

Couverture du livret de Mai 1968


Ce pamphlet reproduit 4 articles de terme et une partie du 5ème préparé durant le semestre de printemps par des étudiants dans le cours Science 101 X, Soucoupes volantes. 21 autres étudiants ont préparé des articles semblables, certains aussi bons, sur des sujets liés (aurores, météores, comètes, Lune, système solaire, relativité et cosmologie). Un pamphlet précédent du même titre reproduit 3 articles de terme écrits durant le semestre d'automne (sur les implications politiques et théologiques, et le voyage interstellaire).

Thornton Page, professeur d'astronomie.

Université Wesleyan
Middletown, Connecticut 06457

L'existence de la vie

James J. Fazzalaro

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? [Robert Browning]

Before man came to realize the immensity of his universe, it was easy for him to assume an egocentric position in its framework. He observed the motion of the sun and moon and all the other celestial phenomena taking place around him and logically he assumed a central position in the cosmic panorama. Utilizing his only reliable instruments, his eyes and his mind, he formulated his universe on the assumption that he and his fellow humans were its sole occupants. To him, the earth was the pivotal point of a comparatively small and definitely bounded universe. Yet, even when he could do no more than observe and wonder, man has dreamt of leaving the earth and visiting the moon and the planets.

Today, though the theories have changed and technology has become incredibly complex, the dream persists. With realization of the expanse of the universe and our seemingly insignificant position in it, we have become aware of the fact that there are most likely other races, whether identical to us or widely dissimilar, dwelling in the cosmos. This has added new dimensions to the dream of the ancients. As long as we maintain the idea that we are not unique, we will not be satisfied with merely hopping from place to place. We are constantly driven to find another race of beings with whom to share our feelings of awe and anxiety at the frightening spectacle of the universe. This paper will attempt to recount some of the reasons we have for believing that life exists on other worlds besides our own.

One of the first questions to deal with in the discussion of life on planets other than ours is whether the race of humans on earth is an isolated phenomenon, or whether it is a stage of evolution which will occur on any planet capable of supporting life. Are we unique? Is a reasoning, thinking creature like man an inevitable evolutionary product in any environment?

To be sure, man is strictly a product of his environment - a creature who has best adapted to the terrestrial environment. On another planet located in a solar system like our own, with all conditions for the creation of life being roughly paralleled, it would seem almost inevitable that another race rational, reasoning creatures would evolve and become the dominant life form. For our specific environment, with all factors being in this particular balance, we are the life form which has adapted the best. Change the balance of the factors and you will change the ultimate product of the environment. Had the balance of environmental factors on earth been changed at any time during its evolution, the evolutionary process itself would have come out differently. So, on a planet where events have occurred roughly parallel to those on earth, we are liable to find another race of humanoids somewhat like earthmen, but with specific physical adaptations to cope with the differences in environment. However, should the evolutionary dice have been cast and a different combination of factors rolled, the dominant race might be quite unlike a human, but still, I believe, would possess the capacity to reason. A reasoning creature will always become dominant. So the answer to our question, then, is that as a race we are most probably unique in that we alone possess the adaptations to cope with our particular balance of environmental factors; but as the highest form of life, the rationality and creativity or man is most likely to dominate. The physical form of extra-terrestrial life may be different, but intelligence will be common.

For life similar to ours to be created anywhere , certain chemical conditions must be fulfilled. The four elements which must be present in some form are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Interestingly enough, it is these four elements which are the four most abundant in the universe.

According to A.I. Oparin, these elements were present in the atmosphere of the primitive earth, but in combination with other elements. Oxygen was present in water(H2O),. nitrogen in ammonia (NH3), carbon in methane (CH4), and hydrogen in hydrogen gas (H2) and other gases. [1]  This atmosphere which contains no free free oxygen is known as a reducing atmosphere. As Oparin believes, the delicate balance of these compounds in the reducing atmosphere was disturbed by lightning and heat and some of them reformed into simple organic compounds which were carried into the ocean by rain. Here they developed and became more complex. Then, through a process which is still a little unclear (possibly a type of trial-and-error selection) an organic compound developed which could feed on the other organic compounds and reproduce itself. The protein compounds, DNA and RNA, possessed the two basic qualities of life, growth and reproduction.

Following Oparin's theory, Stanley L. Miller performed a most significant experiment which duplicated the first half of this development in the laboratory. His system of flasks contained an atmosphere of hydrogen, ammonia and methane similar to the reducing atmosphere. After bombarding the atmosphere for a week with a 60,000-volt spark, Miller found that such simple amino acids as glycine and analine had formed, along with lactic acid, acetic acid, urea, and formic acid. The experiment showed, first, that the hydrogen atmosphere was capable of synthesizing these compounds, and second, that they were produced at an enormous rate, perhaps reaching the level of one percent of the ocean. [1]

Of course, much experimentation has occurred since Miller's experiment, but the important thing to remember is that the first step in the creation process was reproduced under artificial conditions and, it appears, would be a likely occurrence on any planet with the same type of reducing atmosphere, similar temperatures and liquid water. Thus, it follows that on at least some of the other planets with optimum conditions, the next step would occur and life would develop. As a matter of fact, almost all scientists who have worked on this problem concur that life exists elsewhere than on earth.

A favorite device of the science-fiction writers is the possible evolution of life based on things other than carbon and water - for example, on silicon or ammonia. To this, both Urey and Miller have answered that it is impossible. One of the reasons is that large molecules formed from chains of silicon atoms wouldn't have the extremely important side chains found on the carbon chains. Likewise: ammonia would be a poor substitute for water as the medium of development because it remains liquid in a very narrow range of temperature, and because frozen ammonia sinks in liquid ammonia while ice floats on liquid water. An ammonia ocean would soon freeze solid: (from the bottom up) and remain that way for a long time. [1]

It seems that if there is life elsewhere in the universe, it will be based on roughly the same substances as we are, but almost certainly in a different stage of development. Now a new question arises: where should we look? We first must examine our own solar system. The sun, like other stars, is surrounded by a "habitable zone", an area where the temperature is sufficient for life to develop. The size of this zone is dependent on the size and brightness of the star. In the case of our sun, the habitable zone extends from the orbit of Venus to the orbit of Mars. Earth is near the center of the zone; both Venus and Mars are near the fringes. If we are to find any other life forms in our solar system, they will be almost assuredly on either of these two planets.

Unfortunately, the chances look slim that either one could support a humanoid life form. The traditional picture of the Cytherean surface was one of a planet with a tropical climate, shrouded in clouds and covered with steaming jungle growth. Live creatures would most likely be similar to those in our Carboniferous period. [2] This was an intriguing construct but, unfortunately, quite fictitious. Scientists have now found that Venus has retrograde rotation, that is, east-to-west rather than west-to-east as most of the planets have. No water vapor or oxygen has been found in its atmosphere, but there are large amounts of carbon dioxide (about 5%) and most likely nitrogen (about 95%). As for the surface itself, we cannot be sure what it looks like because we cannot see below the upper layer of clouds. Perhaps it is a desert, perhaps an ocean, most likely neither. Some recent observations have indicated that there might be water vapor above the clouds. [2]

The overwhelming factor, however, is that the surface temperature of Venus is probably as high as 800 deg. F. If this temperature extends all over Venus and was always this high, life could never have developed there. Because of several other characteristics, some scientists believe that Venus is potentially receptive to life, perhaps the most receptive in our solar system." Some even foresee possible colonization of Venus.

Mars, on the other hand, is our best bet for finding life in our solar system. We could not live there naturally, but this does not mean that life does not presently exist there. Mars is too small to retain a dense atmosphere and consequently has one only about 8% as dense as Earth's -- almost all carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Since Mars gets less than half the radiation we get from the sun, its temperatures range from 85 deg. to a low -150 deg. F -- not too comfortable for us, but adequate for both vision and photosynthesis. In short, it is doubtful that humanoids are living on Mars, but some astronomers believe that a type of plant life does exist there. Mars has polar caps, undoubtedly thin frost, which melt during the Martian summer. As these caps disappear, the light gray areas on the planet's surface change to browns, reds and even greens. [2] This effect of water has been denied by some; if it indicates plant life on Mars, then the possibility still exists that there is some type of animal life there besides -- perhaps even intelligent animal life. Clearly, our search for life in our own solar system should be concentrated on the "Red Planet".

The other planets in our solar system can quickly be dismissed as abodes of life. Mercury is an airless oven where lead would melt. Jupiter is too cold and its oxygen-less atmosphere and probable ammonia oceans make it unfit for life as we know it. The rest of the major planets can be dismissed on similar grounds.

There is one more body in the solar system which could be an abode of some type of elemental life, although the odds seem overwhelmingly against it. This body is the Moon. Its small mass means that it was unable to hold the atmosphere which it probably once had. Without an atmosphere the Lunar surface is a deathtrap to humans. There is no shield against meteoroids or the Sun's radiation, and the surface temperature fluctuates from 200 deg. to -250 deg. These things in themselves would seem to disqualify the Moon, but there is more to the story. Unlike the Earth, the structure of the Moon is probably a uniform sphere of rock. Because of its low gravity and its internal structure, the Moon is more liable to have many caverns and crevasses in which simple organic life forms could hide. [2] Observations have shown that large areas of the surface are covered with layers or dust, below which the temperature is about 30 deg. F to -95 deg. F [2]

It is now relatively certain that at one time the Moon had some type of surface water. Some of this may still exist as ice in the caves and subsurface formations. Since the Moon at one time had an atmosphere similar to the early one on the Earth, and also had some liquid water , it is possible, though not really likely, that the simplest organic compounds could have evolved there, too. More
probably, however, the atmosphere escaped into space before any life forms had time to evolve. There is a slim chance that some simple life form came riding in on a meteor, found suitable conditions, and managed to survive, but it is almost certain that our first lunar explorers will find nothing but barrenness.

Vie près d'autres étoiles

Turning our attention away from our own solar system, it is necessary to determine where we should look among the stars. Astronomers believe that there are three factors which determine whether or not life can evolve on planets orbiting other stars: star size, planet size, and temperature.

The size of a star (its mass) is extremely important because this determines its luminosity, its temperature (spectral type), and its longevity [2] (how long it will remain on the "main sequence"). It is only when a star is on the main sequence with constant luminosity and temperature that life will have a chance to evolve. During the life of a star, this is the only long period when its heat output is stable. In fact, we can disqualify the very large stars because they stay on the main sequence for short periods -- nowhere near enough time for life processes to evolve. On the other hand, the very small stars stay on the main sequence for tens of billions of years, but their habitable zones are so small that it is doubtful whether even one planet would be orbiting there. We must look to the moderately small stars -- those of spectral type F which are slightly larger than our sun, those of type K which are slightly smaller, and those roughly equal in size to our sun (G type). Stars of these types are observed to have slow enough spin that they are likely to have planetary systems and large enough habitable zones so that at least one of the planets can be completely contained in the zone. [1]

Many of the nearby stars are in binary and multiple systems, where it would be difficult for a planet to keep from leaving the habitable zone as it is simultaneously tugged upon by two or more close stars. A planet could have a stable orbit in a binary if the two stars were very far apart or very close together, but planets in such a system would be very rare indeed. It is essential that the orbit of the planet be as nearly circular as possible; a highly eccentric orbit rules out the possibility of life on that planet because of large temperature changes.

A second critical determinant is the size of the planet itself. The planet must be large enough to retain its atmosphere, but not so large that all of the elements - even some of the lighter ones which can be lethal to living forms -- cannot escape. One astronomer, S.S. Huang, has calculated that, in order for a planet to retain its oxygen and get rid of its hydrogen in time for higher for forms to evolve, the radius must be between 1,000 and 20,000 kilometers [1] Several other factors, such as the chemical composition and the proximity of other planets, can also have an affect, but the most important is planet size.

The third criterion for a life-producing system is the temperature of the planet. If we are to expect life similar to our own, the critical temperature range of any planet under consideration must fall between 32 deg. F and 212 deg. F -- the freezing and boiling points of water at reasonable atmospheric pressure. Without liquid water, the organic compounds will not be able to "incubate". Here again, a large habitable zone and a very stable orbit are essential factors. The larger the habitable zone, the more likely we are to find a planet within the critical temperature range.

These necessary conditions diminish the number of possible- life-producing stars from over 100 billion to about 20 billion in our galaxy alone. [3] However, there are other factors which limit the number still further. In fact, there are seven factors in the probability of finding civilizations elsewhere capable of communicating with us. Walter Sullivan [1] describes each: 1) The first factor is the rate at which stars were being formed in the galaxy at the time when our solar system was being formed from a condensing gas cloud. This determines the number of stars in the galaxy which would have planets with intelligent life that could have reached maturity in the last few hundred million years. A conservative rate would be one new star per year. 2) The next factor is the fraction of stars with planets. This may range between one-fifth and one-half depending on how much of the leftover material from the formation of stars was wasted in the forming of asteroids instead of planets. 3) Next is the number of planets in each system with suitable environments. This is estimated to be between one and five. 4) The fraction of these planets upon which life actually develops is agreed to be nearly one. Astronomers consider the development of life as an inevitable chemical and physical process. 5) The fraction of those life forms which develop intelligence is again nearly one. As stated earlier, intelligence would arise eventually on any planet containing life. 6) The fraction of intelligent societies that develop both the ability and the desire to communicate with other civilizations is estimated to be from one-tenth to one-fifth. 7) The longevity of each technology in the "communicative state" has been estimated by one astronomer, von Hoerner, who suggested that any society which lasted 4,500 years could eventually establish contact with other societies. However, there is much debate over this figure.

The first step toward establishing interstellar communication was taken on April 6, 1960 when Frank Drake pointed the large NRAO radio telescope at two nearby stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, and listened for radio signals. This was the beginning of "Project Ozma" at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia. The scientists almost immediately received what they thought might be a coherent signal, but subsequent investigation showed it to be earthly interference. Though no other signals were received, astronomers see that the possibilities of success with much larger radio antennas were quite good. Of the 26 closest stellar objects, they had already found two likely targets, and the numbers increased drastically as telescopes of greater range were designed. [3] Project Ozma provided the spark to an expanded network being utilized today.

Not only are scientists listening for signals from other stars, but they are also using the telescopes to broadcast messages in the hope of reaching some other probing civilization.

Since Project Ozma, earth-based radio telescopes have detected many sources in outer space. Some of these have provided new mysteries of the universe, such as the "quasars", and others have mystified astronomers with their apparent coherence and seemingly intelligent patterns. So far, no one has been able to claim beyond a doubt that we are finally monitoring some other civilization's attempt at communication, but the excitement of the first breakthrough has been maintained.

In 1961, the reexamination of a meteorite which crashed to earth in 1864 provided another spark of excitement. Analysis of hydrocarbons in the Orgueil meteorite, according to several scientists, showed compounds found only in living things. "Wherever this meteorite originated," said one examiner, "something lived." [4] However, not all chemists concur, and the real significance of the analysis is not quite clear.

Voyage interstellaire

A final issue is the possibility or probability of interstellar space travel. Interstellar travel at Newtonian speeds is a difficult prospect at best. The methods available are incongruous choices such as "space arks," generation voyages, and suspended animation. At best, the nearest inhabited planet. such as one orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, would be over 100 years away. Space flights at the Newtonian snail's pace are clearly impractical.

Why can't we trade in our Newtonian antique for an Einsteinian model -- one that will travel at more than half the speed of 1ight? The question really is not whether it can be constructed, but rather it is a question of how long it will take us to build it. It is not beyond our technology. Poul Anderson [2] believes that with enough exhaust velocity, it is possible to travel at 75 Percent of the speed of light, perhaps even more. This would move Epsilon Eridani from 116 years' travel time to about fifteen years (as it would seem to those on board). The men who pilot the interstellar explorers will be a new breed, a man willing to spend his life in space, for clearly it is impractical to return home after each voyage. These "star wanderers" would seldom return home, but rather, would act as messengers linking the small groups of "local" civilizations , each race joined with the others in its neighborhood. No one can say for sure what the ultimate possibilities are; we must allow imagination to run freely.

As for the possibility that "flying Saucers" are visiting life form, one can only speculate. Perhaps others have built an Einsteinian engine. Perhaps they are about to establish contact with us. Perhaps they already have. The possibilities are as limitless as the universe itself.



  1. Sullivan, pp. 69 - 110
  2. Anderson, pp. 63 - 173
  3. Holmes, pp. 66 - 152
  4. Laurence, p. 24

Dans une critique de cet article, Jeffrey Russell écrit :

...Fazzalaro's discussion of the possibility of other solar systems in our galaxy is far from complete. He speaks of the hypothetical requirements for the existence of life on other planets -- size, temperature, etc. -- however, he lists very few lines of evidence already known to man. These would include the phenomenon of "slow stars", and the related peculiar distribution of angular momentum in stars with planetary systems. There is no examination of the theories of our solar system formation -- a problem I feel is most relevant to a consideration of other such systems. The analyses of stellar motions and their implications might also have been mentioned.

I found the quantitative estimate of the probability of finding extraterrestrial life very interesting. One must remember though, that it must remain (like the discussion of interstellar travel) in the realm of speculation and man's imagination.....

(A good addition to the Bibliography is: Sagan, Carl, and Shklovski, Intelligent Life in the Universe, New York, 1967.)

La question scientifique et philosophique de la vie

Bruce Karten

Partie 4 - Soucoupes volantes

There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are drempt of in your philosophy [Shakespeare, Hamlet]

If extra-terrestrial life -- indeed, highly developed extraterrestrial life -- is possible, might we ever have contact with it? It is a widespread feeling that we could, and furthermore that we are seriously underestimating the possibility.

One of the earliest known references to unidentified flying objects (UFO's) is to be found in the Bible, nomme "Ezekiel's Wheel". It is only in the past twenty years that UFO sightings here have been recorded officially; in this time, there have been some 11,000 sightings reported to the U.S. Air Force. It has been estimated by Prof. Page that perhaps 5% of these objects cannot be ascribed to natural phenomena or to fraud. While we are not here attempting to discuss all the work done in this area, the quotation which began this section prepares us for an important question: Are we ready for the discovery of extra-terrestrial life? It is my belief that science is not ready for the discovery of such implausible truth. To cite a 1968 statement by Dr. James E. McDonald, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, University of Arizona,

"A truism about modern man's outlook on nature.... has strong bearing on .... the UFO problem: In his centuries long struggle out of slavery to superstition and fear of the supernatural , modern science-oriented man has developed subtle but well-ingrained dispositions to reject observations and reports of the anomalous and the inexplicable. The rejection is the more vehement the farther the observations seem to lie beyond the pale of present day science.... A majority of scientists tend to view UFO's as a nonsense problem, one deserving only scorn or silent disdain. Throughout the entire world, only a small handful of scientists have taken the trouble to attempt direct checks on the puzzling and recurrent reports of UFO phenomena... A large and rather vocal group who have ridiculed the notion that there might be unconventional aircraft-like objects operating over our planet, and their scoffing has been based not upon extensive personal investigations of UFO reports but primarily upon a priori considerations."

One again the question: Are we ready for the discovery of extraterrestrial life? It is my belief that humanity is ready for such a discovery or there would not be a "UFO era". Whether or not there are space probes from outer space, man's present infatuation with the flying saucer is a phenomenon of our times.

The determinism of the nineteenth century is a thing of the past. Physicists now prove that we cannot fully understand our environment. Robbe-Grillet tells us that we cannot understand reality by extrapolation, the only method by which art has sought to portray reality. John Cage bids us to plunge directly into reality, a reality without accouterments, without beginning or end. This reality is being brought to the common people as well as the superiors; it is to be a comfort in an age which realizes man's nakedness in his level of understanding.

Both the philosophical Question of life on other worlds and of extraterrestrial life here on earth are of great importance to man. Exploration of these questions may well cure such neuroses as Medieval man's Ptolemaic view of the universe, shared by traditional Christianity

This is a strange way to end our discussion; yet we have incidentally illustrated the very reason for scientific inquiry to help man to better understand himself.


(Dans une critique de cet article, Bradford L. Matthews écrit :

...Karten mentions man's psychological readiness and propensity to hope for proof of other space civilizations. But he fails to discuss this question in terms of its philosophical relevance to man and his conception of the cosmos. If the philosophy of Cage and Robbe-Gaillet is to be representative of man's reaction to the UFO's other-civilization significance, Karten doesn't make it clear.

If these men simply provide a basis for man's readiness to accept and explore the uncertainty of space, then what are the possible projected philosophical implications of life elsewhere?

In another critique, Joseph Noon wrote:

Mr. Karten asks a very pertinent question -- the question of man's readiness to accept extraterrestrial life as a reality. His answer to this question is based on the assumption than we can draw valid parallels in the socio - scientific history of man.... But these parallels lack the scientific control necessary to make them valid. In his inference that we have the same misconception about extraterrestrial life as we did about the origins of life, Karten has drawn a faulty parallel. He fails to account for the early misconceptions' lack of demand for the scientific data which science requires today. He fails also to differentiate between what science will accept as reality and what other men like to believe. To the question, "Are we ready for the discovery of extraterrestrial life?" he answers that science is not ready. His reference to extraterrestrial life as "implausible truth" indicates the unscientific, easy foundation of the common man's beliefs.

Karten forces the problem of extraterrestrial life on the scientists who reject UFO's. This is not a truly valid argument; the possibility of extraterrestrial life is one question , and the possibility that ( if such life does exist ) these other forms of life are UFO pilots is another question. I feel that Karten makes a mistake of treating these two different possibilities as one and the same.

Le développement des fusées des premiers temps

William B. Shepard, Jr.

The history of rocketry goes back as far as man's imagination and his desire to travel away from the earth to other visible celestial bodies. It is the intent of this paper to cover the history of the rocket from the earliest Chinese experiments, through military developments, to its use in space exploration (the first Russian Sputnik).

Rocketry had an obscure beginning; no one knows exactly when or by whom rockets were first invented. Experts on rocketry, led by Willy Ley, believe the Chinese were the innovators when they utilized gun powder to make fireworks early in the thirteenth century. There is evidence that in 1232 the Chinese made use of rockets militarily in defense of the city of Kai-feng Fu against the Mongol invasion. Records mention flying fire arrows and at the same time make no mention of bows or other means of propulsion, leading one to infer the possible use of gunpowder rockets. [1]

Gunpowder was also invented in Western Europe in the thirteenth century; Roger Bacon, an English monk, discovered the formula around 1282. At about the same time, in Germany. Albertus Magnus also discovered gunpowder and realized its use in making a rocket. The first firearm was developed in Europe around 1325, firing a ball from a closed tube with gunpowder as a propellant. With this invention and the realization of its potential use in warfare, military engineers began to invent and refine designs of guns and rockets.

The Polish artillery expert, Kazimierz Sieienowiez, is an important historical figure in rocketry because of his monograph on military weapons first published in 1650. In this work are the earliest known drawings of the stage rocket, the cluster rocket, and the winged rocket. These concepts were to prove of great significance several hundred years later. [1]

Rockets found an important application in war tactics during the Renaissance because of longer range than the smooth bore firearms of the time. Every army in Europe came to have its rocket corps. However, through the use of the rifled-bore, firearms came to achieve greater range and greater accuracy than crude war rockets. In the nineteenth century, William Congreve and later William Hale, both Englishmen, improved the range and accuracy of the gunpowder rocket by improving upon the manufacturing technique and with it the size of the rocket. Hale also devised rockets that spun in flight to increase stability.

The range of the black powder rocket was increased from 200 to 3000 yards. Congreve's rockets were used successfully in 1805-7, in the course of naval attacks on Bologne, Danzig, and Copenhagen during the War of 1812. The British also successfully made use of rockets in the Battle of Bladensburg against the American, which led to the fall of Washington, D.C.

After little, if any, significant use of rockets in the remaining part of the nineteenth century, there was a dramatic rebirth of rocketry in the early twentieth century as a result of modern science based on the work of Sir Isaac Newton and the romantic and fanciful writings of Jules Verne. This rebirth was basically the product of three men: the Russian Konstantin E. Ziolkovsky, the German Hermann Oberth, and the American Robert Goddard. These men, working independently and with little or no outside acclaim, developed the fundamental principles of rocket action and the applications to flight in space.

To take a brief break from the historical aspects of rocketry, it is helpful to the understanding of rocket principles to look at Newton's basic laws of motion. It is Newton's Third Law of Motion that explains the working principle of all reaction engines. This Law, simply stated, is, "For every motion there is an equal and opposite reaction." This very basic principle applies to the chemical rocket motor, consisting of a combustion chamber (where the propellants are brought together and allowed to react, releasing heat energy and gas molecules), and a nozzle, which directs the energy and gas. The rocket engine is a device for expelling small particles of matter at high speeds in a direction opposite to the intended course of the vehicle.

In 1903, Ziolkovsky, a Russian school teacher, became the first person to consider the use of reaction-propulsion rocket power to travel beyond the earth's atmosphere. In his paper, "Investigation of Cosmic Space by Reactive Machines", Ziolkovsky recognized that using liquid propellants, such as liquefied hydrogen and oxygen, instead of black powder, much greater efficiencies would result.

Goddard is considered the father of the modern rocket, however. Using high-pressure steel motors in his tests at Worcester, Mass., he achieved great thrust and efficiency. During the First World War, Goddard was successful in developing a number of lightweight military rockets launched from a hand launcher. After the war, he switched from solid to liquid propellants and, in 1926, successfully launched the first liquid-fuel rocket. Later, working in New Mexico with Guggenheim foundation funds granted in the 1930's, Goddard designed and tested advanced liquid-fuel rockets with turbopumps and gyrostabilizers.

The third important figure of the early twentieth century was an obscure German mathematician, Hermann Oberth. In his pamphlet, "The Rocket Into Interplanetary Space", Oberth predicted the ability of the rocket to achieve great velocity and as a result predicted the use of manned space vehicles in the next few decades. A second work, in 1929, "The Way to Space", built upon the earlier predictions, including some discussion of electrostatic propulsion.

The period of 1927-33 saw the formation of rocket and space flight societies in Germany, Austria, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain. These groups proved valuable as meeting places for discussion and experimentation and means of disseminating information. In the 1930's, the Germans Hohman, Noordung, and Pirquet, published technical studies of rocket power and the future possibilities of space vehicles. In France, Esnault Pelterie lectured and wrote on high-altitude rockets and interplanetary developments. The stage was being set for the German World-War-II rocket developments. These developments, in conjunction with Oberth's inspiring ideas and mathematical analysis, and a rising nationalistic state bent on war, were the prime ingredients for the spectacular breakthroughs that were to follow. The German army, denied long-range artillery by the Treaty of Versailles, was interested in long-range rocketry as a replacement for the artillery. Headed by Wernher von Braun, a German rocket research center [3] was founded at Peenemunde in 1937.

Faced with the problem of sporadic cutbacks of funds throughout the second world war, von Braun was successful in perfecting a series of liquid-propellant rockets. Although the Germans experimented with both liquid - and solid - fuel rockets of many sizes, the most spectacular ones were the V-1 and the V-2. Designed to be launched against Great Britain, the two rockets were about of equal range and Payload. The V-1 had a pulse jet, enabling it to travel at only 350 miles per hour. The V-2 was vastly superior as far as rocket design and performance were concerned. However, neither it nor the V-1 were very effective militarily (less than 25% of the V-1 rockets exploded on target). The V-2 was equipped with an inertial guidance system, generated fifty times the thrust of the V-1, and was able to reach Britain from the continent in less than five minutes. It was highly significant because it became the prototype of postwar American and Russian missiles and space vehicles. A base was laid for the almost unlimited future development of rockets, and the stage was set for a totally new concept of war. [3]

The end of the war saw the destruction of Nazi Germany's missile development and the conflicting efforts of the United States and the Soviet Union to obtain the German rocket scientists for their own rocket-development programs. The United States did not commence active development of rockets until 1940 and was thus fortunate to have Wernher von Braun surrender himself to the Allied side and then come to the United States.

Postwar rocket development in the United States was hampered by inter-service rivalry, with there being three separate and conflicting rocket programs. First in the field of rocket development was the Air Force, which due to a crucial mistake gave the Russians a decided lead in space exploration. For reasons of economy, the Air Force decided against developing large ICBM's and concentrated instead on sub-sonic cruise missiles, which eventually became obsolete.

More significant progress was made by the Army, with its immediate concentration on ballistic missiles. The successful Soviet test of a hydrogen bomb in 1953 added a great deal of impetus to the US rocketry program, with the startling realization of the extent of Soviet technology. All three services immediately began vigorous programs to develop ICBM's. The Air Force, at this time, began work on the Atlas rocket, which later proved to be a rocket of utmost importance to the US space program. [4]

In this USSR-USA race into space, it is important to remember that before any flight could even be considered, there had to be a rocket powerful enough for the purpose. Although the first rocket type used for space programs was the German V-2, it was not designed for (and thus had many flaws for) that purpose. The development of space vehicles became possible only after atmospheric sounding rockets and ballistic-missile technology had become very reliable, and after launching and handling techniques were developed. The technology was developed to the point of high reliability by the Viking and Redstone rockets. Both of these were developed to handle heavy payloads on low-altitude, moderate-range missions. They were perfected for their atmospheric sounding and military missions; then the gradual evolution of the small space vehicle moved along by giving both models relatively small payloads, with which they could reach much greater altitudes at much faster velocities. For their more difficult missions, these vehicles were powered with upper stages, which fired consecutively after the burnout of the next lower stage.

The US space vehicle efforts after much inter-service controversy, were concentrated on a Viking-based carrier, which was independent of the ICBM program. This effort was called the "Vanguard program", which met with lack of success and was surpassed not only by the Russian Sputniks, but also by a later US program. Since the beginning of the Vanguard program, the Army had argued unsuccessfully for the development of the Jupiter-C rocket as a carrier. Although repeatedly turned down, the Army (with Wernher von Braun) carried out the Jupiter-C plans anyway. After the launching of Sputnik, they were given the go-ahead and, using the Jupiter-C, launched a satellite within three months of Sputnik. The Jupiter-C was the first of the ICBM-based carriers, often employed for light payloads. [5]

The Russian space program also used the German V-2 as the technological basis for their rocketry development. The Russians placed much emphasis on "parallel staging", in which the first stage has several engines ignited at the same time and jettisoned as the fuel supply becomes depleted. The space carrier vehicles were based on one of the Russian military carriers, probably an ICBM. Discussion of the Soviet carriers is still a matter of conjecture due to the typical lack of Russian disclosure of technical information.

However, it is startlingly clear that the Russian rocketry program yielded the world's first carrier rocket to place an artificial satellite in orbit. On October 4, 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik I. This first satellite was spherical (diameter 23 inches) and weighed 183 pounds. The satellite, launched at an angle of 65 degrees to the equator, had a speed of 26,000 ft./second; its orbiting period was 96 minutes, with perigee and apogee at approximately 150 and 560 miles, respectively. Subsequent Sputnik shots displayed the ability of the Russian rockets to launch satellites weighing from 1,000 to 3,000 pounds. These feats were far greater than American space capabilities at the time and demonstrate the Soviet's effective use of parallel staging, in contrast to the series staging used in the American efforts. With the use of improved parallel staging, Ordway and von Braun predict [1] the Soviets now have carriers capable of orbiting satellites of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds, of sending 3,000-pound payloads to the moon, and 1,500-pound satellite probes to the nearer planets. These are definitely very impressive feats and surpass American space efforts at this time. So, the race for sufficient rocketry development for manned space trips to the moon and planets continues. So far the Russians have a slight technological advantage, but the winner, and subsequent rewards reaped by him, still remain very much in question.



  1. von Braun and Ordway, Chapter 2
  2. Congreve
  3. Senecke
  4. Ley
  5. Huzel

Soucoupes volantes, mythe vivant

Peter Kalischer

Are flying saucers real? The futility in attempting to answer this question is self-explanatory. This question has long since resulted in an impasse, each side claiming an edge over the other. Every now and then some "evidence" is brought in that "proves" one theory or the other, but the fact remains that no one really knows. The closest thing the believers have to "prove" the existence of flying saucers is a collection of several thousand reports; to the skeptic, these are by no means evidence. So the controversy rests at this; the skeptic rejects the notion of extra-terrestrial beings for lack of "concrete" information and because of present-day knowledge on the negative side; the believer insists, quite rightly, that although no "concrete" evidence is at hand, it by no means denies the possibility of their existence.

To ufologists, everything is an uphill fight. To skeptics, as long as something resembling a flying saucer doesn't land on the White House lawn, their position is relatively safe. Consequently, I will make the assumption that flying saucers as such do not exist. Immediately, the problem arises of explaining the myriad of UFO reports. Something, after all, is catching the observer's eye. Flying saucers, and the term UFO , are misleading , since the word "flying" connotes life, intelligence, and man-made machines. But meteor trails, plasma clouds, headlights on clouds, and the like, do not fly. Therefore, I will use the term "Unidentified Aerial Objects" as a catch-all for such phenomena.

Then what is the UAO? There are many answers. Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory declares all such phenomena are optical illusions produced by the refraction of light through temperature-inversion layers; Dr. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University is called "swamp-gas man" from his somewhat premature and hurried statements that the incidents at Exeter and Ann Arbor were caused by swamp gas; the USAF produces anything from the planet Venus to the flight of birds and balloons. There is no need to look into these explanations in detail. Together they can explain some of the reports, to say the least. What is to be explored here is why the flying saucer fantasy, already in its twentieth year, has survived through constant ridicule, debunking, and rejection by both government and scientific authorities. The answer lies within man.

A Gallup survey showed that 2.5% of the U.S. population had actually seen a UAO, or knew of someone who had seen one. What is of key importance here is not that five million people have seen a UAO during the past twenty years. What is significant is the lack of distinction between UAO and flying saucers.

The main argument I will make here is that flying saucers "exist" solely because there is a fundamental need for them. A flying saucer episode is not unlike a rumor. For a rumor to spread, it must have: (1) an importance to the individuals involved, and (2) the underlying truth must be shrouded by ambiguity, induced either by the sketchiness of the report, or by its conflicting nature. Still, the most important factor for rumor spreading lies in the people's desire to understand and simplify many complicated events. A rumor's principle service is to make things less complicated than they actually are. Man is a being who seeks to extract meaning out of his environment. To find a plausible answer in a confused situation is in fact a motive for a rumor. [1]

At first there may be some doubt that rumors simplify matters. How can anyone feel more secure, for instance, just by labeling an unknown aerial object? -- especially since flying saucers, or beings of higher intelligence, bring with them a whole array of other problems. But it must not be forgotten that fear of the unknown is the single most frightening thing.

People have been witnessing UAO's presumably as long as there were observable events in the sky, but they were not called flying saucers. They were shooting stars, balls of fire, or whatever term was commonly used at the time. Recently, as men started playing with the idea of space probes, people had no hesitation in assuming that intelligent beings of higher and older origin elsewhere had already conquered space. Visitors from outer space were no more intriguing to them than television. The transformation of those UAO's into space vehicles was just a matter of time; if not 1947, it would have come the following year. As it was, the conditions were right in 1947: to one observer, [2] the strange object in the sky "....flew like a saucer..." BANG! the word was out, and in twenty years, the flying saucer has become a living myth.

People are by no means imagining things -- reports are not based on hallucinations. UAO's are seen, to be sure, but flying saucers are seen because people want to see them and need to see them.

Rumors are like second-hand dreams: if a story gives a fancied interpretation of reality that conforms to our secrets, we tend to believe them. Hallucinations in dreams are the direct fulfillment of a desire or of an expectation. [3] Dreams are next to the closest thing to reality that can be produced by man. But whereas physical hunger needs real food, spiritual or psychic hunger needs real visions (such as the visions of Fatima). Flying saucers, therefore, come from the unconscious background which expresses itself in numerous ideas and images. Visions of saucers is a psychic phenomenon such as hallucinations in dreams are. [4]

I have compared this phenomenon to a rumor that has swept through all parts of the world at a fantastic rate. Then I have paralleled the rumor to dreams. But observers are not dreaming -- they are misobserving to fit a desired picture. This tenet of human nature is called cognitive dissonance. It is a prime defense mechanism which deploys selective perception and perceptive distortion in gaining a desired end. For instance, with cognitive dissonance a reactionary will believe almost anything he hears that slanders rival political liberals, a Communist will believe all stories of progress made in the Soviet Union, whereas an American will tend to ignore them as political propaganda.

The theory rests on the fact that ideas or occurrences which contradict a rigidly established standard of judgment will be disregarded, overlooked, or somehow fitted into the norm. "A complex process unfolds itself, progressing from initial perception to final report. Many fascinating transformations occur as the original sensory impressions, past memories, and emotion inextricably fuse. Selective forgetting and subjective distortion inevitably change the values of all events. Habit, emotion, and culture play a part, but the most crucial role is played by attitudes and expectations." [7]

For cognitive dissonance to set in, some kind of motivation is necessary. It may be paranoia in one extreme and the thrill of toying with the supernatural at the other. Love of adventure, sensationalism, and intellectual curiosity are strong motives for fantasies. [5] This is all subconscious; visions are seen by the very people who are least inclined to believe them. Author Aime Michel remarks that flying saucers are mostly seen by people who do not believe in them, or who regard the matter with indifference. In the same way that people dream of past events, or of a subject discussed the day before, the news reports, magazine articles, and daily talk of flying saucers are slowly accumulated in the subconscious, gradually building up images of "the thing".

With the spread of rumor, everyone is contaminated to an extent depending on the intensity of rumor and on the individual's psychology. One well publicized saucer report triggers another, and that in turn, others. The net result is a wave of flying saucer reports. The cause is self-evident: with each report, more attention is directed to the sky, increased chances of UAO observation, and more chance for cognitive dissonance to set in. It would be expected that reports so triggered would be localized in one area, since the proximity and immediacy of reports would greatly increase the contamination effect. Yet the mass media distribute reports fairly widely -- largely centered in the U.S., with the exception of the 1952 wave, when France produced reports at an astonishing rate.

Le psychologue C. G. Jung [4] sees more of a fundamental psychic need for flying saucers. L'impossibilité apparente des signalements, conclut-il, suggère que l'explication la plus probable réside en une perturbation psychique. Pour lui, ces soucoupes sont des projections -- observations erronées par lesquelles des images visuelles sont interprétées par des underlying subjective assumptions. Il raconte comment il rencontré la 1ère fois le phénomène ovni : En 1954 je donnais une interview à l'hebdomadaire Suisse, Die Weltwoche, dans lequel je m'exprimais d'une manière sceptique... with due respect of the serious opinion of air specialists... En 1958 cette interview fut soudainement découverte par la presse mondiale, et les "actualités" spread like wild fire... mais, hélas, sous une forme déformée. Je fus cité comme un croyant aux soucoupes. J'émettais une déclaration pour l'United Press... mais cette fois, the wire went dead ; personne n'en prit note. Ce comportement de la presse confirme en lui-même l'hypothèse d'origine. Les nouvelles affirmant l'existence des soucoupes volantes sont bienvenues, mais le scepticisme est indésirable parce que les lecteurs veulent y croire.

According to Jung, the disturbance is of a psychic origin, much deeper than love for the mystic. The projections arise from emotional tension, the hidden fear felt by people during dark days of depressions, war scares, and the like. "The individual feels that he is unable to rely on his own resources to see him through. He lacks self-confidence and believes that his own efforts are largely insufficient." [6] This means the individual believes his life and faith are largely dependent on forces outside himself: or chance, on economic conditions , on the whim of the supernatural. The feeling of emotional insecurity is likely to be augmented as the situation deteriorates."..... Emotional insecurity makes him lose faith easily in any appropriate standards he may have. The net result is that the individual becomes highly susceptible to suggestion... [6]

A case study of the famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast [A CBS broadcast of H.G. Well's novel starring Orson Wells was played on Halloween, Oct. 30th 1938, 8:00 - 9:00. The broadcast was said to have been so professionally done, that as a result over a million people were in a state of panic] illustrates this point. The study shows an amazing display of cognitive dissonance. Of those interviewed, 68% attempted to check up on the broadcast. Of that number, one-third tested the authenticity of the program by analyzing its intrinsic qualities. Among others who had tried to check with reference to some other information, half were unsuccessful:

"I looked out of the window and everything looked the same as usual, so I thought it hadn't reached us yet."

"We looked out of the window and Wyoming Street was black with cars. People were rushing away, I figured."

"We turned to another station and heard church music. I was sure a lot of people were worshipping God while waiting for their death."

"I stuck my head out of the window and thought I could smell the gas. And it felt as though it was getting hot, like fire was coming."

"I looked out of the window and saw a greenish eerie light. I was sure it was the monster..." [6]

Overcoming interruptions for station identification, blatant cases of time lapse, and the pure fantasy of the plot, the listeners were unhindered in their belief. Individuals went as far as reconstructing the events from their own points of view in order to make what was apparently too fantastic more credulous (cognitive dissonance).

The general situation in 1938 must be brought into account. Although eight years after the Crash, much of the unsettled conditions were left over from the depression -- insecurity and lack of confidence in society. The broadcast followed the European war crisis and there was much concern about a foreign attack. Half of the frightened people envisioned the invaders as Martian giants -- creatures of semi-human form -- but another fifth reported visions of soldiers attacking with advanced military weapons.

From this case study we see that things develop under pressure that otherwise would not have developed. This same broadcast would not have caused a mass panic ten years earlier, during the Gay Twenties. This pressure was in the form of a long stagnant economy at home, and war scares abroad. A general uneasiness was created. The subconscious accumulation of fear within the individual finally came to a head in the form of an uncontrolled panic. Many listeners made mental checks, but false standards of judgment they had already accepted were so pervasive that their checks were rationalized as confirmatory evidence.

Assuming, then, that mass paranoia can be caused by adverse socio-economic conditions, it should also follow that flying saucers (if also a direct result of a disturbed psyche) will too. The following is a study of this correlation, to see whether it exists. Data on the number of UAO's reported over the last twenty years were obtained from three sources: the USAF Project BLUEBOOK files, the UFOIRC files which list reports under the headings "outstanding" and "reliable", and (as a measure of the "talk-about-town" contamination effect) the number of articles printed in the New York Times about flying saucers, including book reviews, editorials, and news reports.

These three sources were not always complementary; the UFOIRC files produced five years with the same number of reports, and the other years, except for one, had no more than two or three reports more or less than the preceding years. This brings us to conclude that the number of reports were not proportional to the intensity of reports during that year. Since there are only 128 reports in the file, one would expect few differences more than two or three reports. But the general conclusion is that the number is proportional to the reliability and sensationalism of the reports.

The New York Times produced three peaks; as one would expect, 1947 brought a high number of articles, but the number of articles decreased appreciably after the initial debut. Although the curves from the three sources do not correspond well, there are three years that are significantly high in all; 1952, 1957, and 1966. as shown in Figure 1. The conditions in these three years were:

1952: The Chinese intervention in Korea and the "Yellow Peril" scare reinforced the already dark days of the McCarthy Era.

1957: Following the defeat of the Hungarian nationalists, the Suez crisis brought the Major Powers to a confrontation.

1966: Vietnam, another unpopular war was deteriorating from bad to worse, with the threat of continued escalation.


For the three peaks in UAO reports , I have matched some news event to fit my purpose. But how about other crises during periods of low UAO reports, such as the Berlin Blockade, the first Middle East crisis, the fall of China, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and the Kennedy assassination?

First we must differentiate these crises in terms of emotional tension that triggers public paranoia. This paranoia, in the form of unconscious, hidden fear, is triggered not by any one incident, but more likely by a prolonged period of uneasiness. The first Berlin crisis was quickly terminated by the airlift. It was clear to everyone just what the problem was about. The Middle East crisis was a localized war involving a comparatively small number of people The building of the Berlin Wall did not arouse fear; it was, rather more of a "You-Bastards" attitude towards the East Germans. The Missile Crisis was over before anyone fully realized its consequences The Bay of Pigs affair, again over in a matter of days, was "just another revolution".

On the other hand, the 1950-52 McCarthy Era was a period of heavy tension. In the words of author Joseph Heller, "They were days of constant fear. Everyone was just was war with Russia tomorrow." [7] The brinkmanship policy of John Foster Dulles, a renewed Communist threat in Asia, and Communist infiltration scares within the country, bit into the public. Things were wrong, but there was nothing to pinpoint their fears. Paranoia is evident in the way people distrusted each other. Accusations, purges, and counter accusations made the individual unable and unwilling to accept the news on face value. (The Kennedy assassination brought with it a similar feeling or distrust and uncertainty. But instead of an increase in flying saucer reports, the Conspiracy Theory evolved, arising from this underlying fear.)

The 1956-57 Hungarian revolution with Russian intervention and American "apathy" led to an uneasiness, The Suez crisis, the confrontation of the Big Powers and a possible Third War scare augmented the uneasiness.

In 1965-66, the worsening conditions in Vietnam with the threat of continued escalation and a confrontation with China resulted in uneasiness. The paranoia is again evidenced by the distrust of the news.

In conclusion, flying saucers, if not extra-terrestrial visitors are a product of the psyche -- if not paranoia, then man's desire for sensationalism. These saucers are "signs in the heavens" for many. When fear is created, man looks for help from an extra-terrestrial source, since it cannot be found on earth because of individual's distrust of governments and society. From fear whose cause is far from being fully understood, therefore unconscious, there arises explanatory projections which purport to find a cause in a manner of secondary phenomenon, however unsuitable it may be. [5] This phenomenon is today the flying saucer, regardless of all attempts to smother its existence, a living myth.


  1. Allport, The Psychology of Rumor, chapter 2, (Russell & Russell Inc.) 1965.
  2. Ken Arnold June 24. 1947. Quoted in Life
  3. Freud, Introduction to Psychoanalysis, chapter 5.
  4. C.G. Jung, Flying Saucers - A Modern Myth, chapter 1.
  5. C.G. Jung, Op., Cit.
  6. H. Cantril, Invasion from Mars
  7. A paraphrasing of a talk by Joseph Heller at the COL Lounge Wed., April 24.

Une vision psychologique du phénomène ovni

Par Daniel Olim.

Ce article se focalisera sur les interpretations psychologiques des phénomènes ovnis non pas en raison d'un quelque préjudice de ma part mais parce que je pense que la psychologie peut se révéler un outil très utile dans l'effort d'expliquer les ovnis. Toutes les théories existantes exposées par l'Air Force et divers physiciens ayant chercher à expliquer les observations d'ovnis se sont basées sur la supposition que l'approche empirique des sciences physiques, étant moins "subjective", était par conséquent l'approche "supérieure". Je ne peut concourrir à cette supposition, pour un certain nombre de raisons. En premier lieu, je pense que, comme l'a mis en avant Michael Polanyi (philosophe de Oxford) dans un article récent du magazine de l'Association Psychologique Américaine (APA), l'ensemble de la science est à la fois intuitive méthodologiquement et essentiellement "subjective". En second lieu, les explications des sciences physiques de phénomènes naturels (météores, formations de nuages, planètes, étoiles, plasma-foudre en boule, oiseaux, "inversions de températures", gaz des marais) ou de phénomènes artificiels (divers appareils, ballons météo, satellites, etc.) ne parviennent pas à expliquer un nombre trop grand (bien qu'une minorité) des observations signalées. En raison de ce groupe marginal d'observations inexpliquées, les sciences physiques ont toujours à faire la preuve de leur réussite à fournir une alternative à la théorie ET (extra-terrestrel) de véhicules intelligemment guidés.

J'ai toujours été sceptique quant à la théorie ET. Je suis aujourd'hui encore plus sceptique. Ce scepticisme est basé sur une foi en la science et en l'homme. Il me semble que nous ne pourrons jamais trouver une explication pleinement satisfaisante pour l'ensemble des événements liés au phénomène ovni -- les scientifiques ne pourront jamais, par exemple, expliquer tous les "blips" radar à la satisfaction de tous. Mais en explorant la caractéristique commune de toute observation d'ovni — l'HOMME — nous pourrions peut-être expliquer cette minorité marginale de rapports de haute crédibilité.

Mon approache incorporera des interprétations psychoanalytiques, artistiques, religieuses, politiques et économiques par nécessité et par désir -- un désir d'examiner la nature totale de l'homme qui tente d'expliquer les événements dont il fait l'expérience par lui-même.

Vision de l'Univers

Dans l'histoire passée de la pensée humaine en évolution, l'humanité a procédé à une série d'ajustements concernant sa vision de l'univers. Le 1er ajustement fut de cesser de croire à un monde qui était anthropocentrique, centré sur l'homme lui-même. Après que les civilisations les plus élevées du Proche et du Moyen Orient aient pris conscience de la révolution journalière du Soleil, des étoiles et des planètes errantes, elles formulèrent un concept géocentrique de l'univers, souvent appelé théorie Ptolémaique. Ceci fut étroitement lié avec le développement religieux et psychologique de l'humanité. Il fallu attendre le 16ème siècle après J.-C. et la révolution Copernicienne pour que l'homme change son concept de l'ordre dans l'univers. Les scientifiques qui étaient des exposants de la (alors) nouvelle théorie héliocentrique de l'univers (avec notre Soleil en son centre) firent face à une opposition simplement parce que l'héliocentrisme allait à l'encontre de la doctrine de l'Eglise, les théories primitives de St. Augustin et de Dante, et les premières spéculations des scientifiques grecs.

Finalement l'humanité s'ajusta à la théorie héliocentrique de l'univers et accepta le Soleil comme centre, non seulement de la famille des planètes locales, mais aussi comme la totalité de l'assemblage sidéral. Ceci nécessita d'autres révisions dans la religion mais man's psychological makeup changes little; as he had clung previously to other official dogmas which proved to be incorrect, he adopted heliocentrism as a dogma. This was fairly easy to rationalize with quasi-scientific rationalizations and observations. For instance, the Milky Way lies along a great circle: it is a band of starry light that divides the sky into two practically equal parts, with about the same brightness in all its parts. By implication, therefore, the sun and earth are centrally located. Further evidence was that the numbers of stars seemed to the early census takers to fall off with distance from the sun in all directions as though the sun were central, and this position among the stellar billions provided man a dignity of location in the cosmos that was not at all disagreeable.

As late as 1917 the astronomical leaders held that the sun was central, or very near the center of the sidereal universe. But new evidence (such as the period-luminosity relation for Cepheid variable stars used as a sounding tool, and the determination of the distances and distribution of the globular star clusters) indicated that heliocentrism was also fallacious. Other "galaxies" were officially recognized, and the earth and mankind forever lost its position or great significance in the universe. While the introduction of heliocentrism had little philosophic impact in the sixteenth century, the death of that theory had much more significant repercussions on the concept of the universe and mankind's uniqueness in a world that was no longer his, however flattering such advances of human knowledge were to the human mind.

The "galactocentric" hypothesis put man on the outer fringe of one galaxy, more than twenty-five thousand light years distant from the center, in a universe of millions of galaxies. Another psychological) adjustment had to be made, not only with the location of our earth in the time and space of the physical world, but with our location in the world of biological phenomena. Scientists and laymen alike have now had to accept the fact that man is not alone in the universe. The work of such scientists as Harlow Shapley and Su-Shu Huang suggests that not only if there life in the universe but that it may be fairly "close" to our earth. Huang suggested that Tau Ceti, a star 10,8 années-lumière away, may have life-supporting planets. The adjustment of mankind necessitated by this would be, in Shapley's phrase, our Fourth Adjustment. He states that, "The mystery of life is vanishing. Objective science is replacing the subjective miraculous." He further suggests that the fifth adjustment may lie almost wholly in the "psychological realm".

Of course the Fourth Adjustment is also psychological in nature. Psychology has shown us a great deal about mankind's myth-making abilities (even needs) and one need not have a Ph. D. in psychology to be aware of this characteristic. If science is responsible for removing the "subjective miraculous", it is also likely that quasi-science, fantasy, mythology and mass-media-culture would create replacements to fill the needs of a not-so-rational human psychological makeup. I feel that there are many causative factors involved in man's turning once again to his mind's inner world, attempting to dispel the fears and insecurities manifested in UFO phenomena.

Une théorie des phénomènes ovnis fut défendue par le pionnier éminent en psychologie qu'est Carl Jung, qui voit dans les observations d'ovnis autant de cas de projection psychologique, avec un cause psychique. Un des explications qu'offre Jung est ce qui suit :

...Il y a des cas où la même cause collective produit des effets identiques ou semblables (i.e, les mêmes images et interprétations visionnaires) chez les gens-mêmes qui sont le moins préparés à de tels phénomènes et les moins enclins à y croire. Ce fait donne aux récits des témoins oculaire un air de particulière crédibilité : il est généralement souligné que le témoin est au-dessus de tout soupçon parce qu'il ne s'est jamais distingué par son imagination fertile ou sa crédulité mais, au contraire, pour son jugement froid et son esprit critique. C'est simplemetn dans ces cas que l'inconscient doit recourrir à des mesures particulièrement drastiques afin de faire percevoir son contenu. Il le fait de manière la plus vivante par projection, en extrapolant son contenu en un objet qui reflète alors ce qui est auparavant resté caché dans l'inconscient...

Jung offre de plus une interprétation intéressante des "soucoupes" volantes, caractérisées par leur rondeur :

Si nous appliquons les principes de l'interprétation des rêves à l'objet rond -- qu'il s'agisse d'un disque ou d'une sphère -- we at once get une analogie avec le symbole de la totalité, bien connu de tous les étudiants de psychologie profonde, c'est-à-dire le mandala (Sanskrit pour cercle). Ce n'est en aucune manière une nouvelle invention, car elle peut être trouvée en toutes les époques et en tous lieux, toujours avec la même signification, et reappears time and again, indépendamment de la tradition, in modern individuals as the 'protective' or apotropaic circle... un symbole de l'ordre moderne, qui organise et englobe la totalité psychique...

...Les symboles circulaires ont joué un rôle important in every age in our own sphere of culture, for instance, they were not only soul symbols but 'God-images'. God in his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence is a totality symbol par excellence, something round, complete, and perfect.

One can substitute the "ability to fantasize" for the word "projection"; Ray Bradbury [3] himself has said that "the ability to 'fantasize' is the ability to survive."

L'imagination de l'homme n'a presque pas de limites, bien que sa théologie semble en avoir. I do not think it idle to speculate that the recent "Death-of-God" theology may have forced modern man to look elsewhere, especially to the heavens, for a new God. That we should externalize a quality so deeply rooted in man's nature is not at all surprising and one need not accept Marshall McLuhan's ingenious speculations to see that quite logically man uses his interior world with its enormous powers to try and locate what he has often believed to be omnipresent, yet somehow external. "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere" is a doctrine that originated with St. Augustin in the third century A.D. More recently, Einstein spoke of a sphere in four-space as t he best mathematical model of the universe, being boundless yet finite.

Le psychologue de Harvard B. F. Skinner dit que personne n'a jamais dépeint un paradis intéressant. Arthur Clarke [5] voit que les véhicules ET se conforment aux notions de l'Homme de Jean Paul Sartre, Paradis et Dieu. Les ET sont bénéfiques, pas hostiles -- Toute race suffisamment intelligente pour conquérir l'espace interstellaire doit d'abord avoir conquis ses propres démons internes. Ils sont pratiquement omnipotents ; les "aliens" seraient capables de transmuter tout élément en un autre, ne nécessitant que de matériaux bruts et de l'énergie de la lumière du Soleil. Je dis "pratiquement" omnipotents parce que même le concept de Dieu de l'humanité Le limite ; le Dieu de St. Augustin ne pouvait achever la création ex nihilo.

Arthur Clarke est plus sophistiqué que nombre des ufologues, et sa croyance que des possibilités de communication having aient déjà eut lieu entre des ET et notre planète n'est pas une foi religieuse. Il cite les signaux radio qui ont surveillés au MIT depusi 1963, mentionne les spéculations de Fred Hoyle concernant un réseau de communications galactique, et cite l'astronome du MIT Alan Barrett :

...Les propriétés des signaux radio sont une forte intensité, une largeur de bande étroite, une origine de régions de taille angulaire extrêmement réduite, une forte polarisation et, peut-être, une variation dans le temps. Les variations de temps apparentes dans l'amplitude des signaux semblent avoir une période de jours, ou semaines - un peu plus longues qu'on ne devrait s'y attendre pour des communications interstellaires, mais pas beaucoup plus longues que de raison. While declining to claim that the signals do indicate a vast interstellar communications network, Barrett insiste que de telles spéculations ont largement dépassé le domaine de la science-fiction...

All those statements are very guarded, reflecting the realm of possibilities, not probabilities. Clarke later cites Hoyle's speculation that a sufficiently complex signal from space might serve as a genetic blueprint for constructing an extraterrestrial entity. He also makes good use of humor and sarcasm, saying that aliens might think the dominant life form in the United States was the automobile. It is peculiar that he uses sociology and psychology quite often in building his case for ET's.

Pro-ET observers are forever invoking the "Unimpeachable Source", saying that this man's credentials are beyond question. If this were to serve as the overriding criterion for assessing the nature of the UFO phenomenon, then we must also accept the necromantic arts, the hypnogogic state, ghosts, and reincarnation (Buddhists believe in reincarnation. ) Just because J. Allen Hynek has experienced a "flying saucer" affecting an automobile's electrical system, must the world community necessarily accept his ET-intelligent-being explanation of UFO's? We would put precious little faith in psychology, and forget that humans are fallible. Freud has been proven incorrect.)

Sociology and psychology have been misused in analyzing the Hill case, which John Fuller capitalized on. Too much faith was put in the ability of hypnosis to distinguish "reality" from hallucination. This brings me to the nature of hallucinations , imagination, fantasy, daydreaming, and their role and function in man and his consciousness.

Our culture is filled with fantasy, particularly in the U.S., the source of most of the UFO reports and activity. Science fiction has all but destroyed the animated cartoon television program. Hollywood has beaten to death the outer-space fantasy theme. Chuck Jones (successor to Walt Disney) and Ray Bradbury rightly bemoan these events; high quality fantasy has all but disappeared (although two Charles Schulz "Peanuts" episodes and Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" were rated among the top five TV specials in 1961). There is, in our mass-media-culture no alternative to intelligent fantasy for adults other than the outlet provided by UFO's.

This discussion attempts to explain why believable fantasy is essential for the mental well-being of any culture, if only as an emotional outlet. It is not necessary to establish a need for "psychic housecleanings", to borrow Norman Mailer's phrase. People do "fantasize" -- hallucinatory activities such as day dreaming are scientific fact. The importance of daydreaming has long been neglected in psychology and sociology. In 1966 Jerome L. Singer published his pioneer research [8] on daydreaming, where he writes:

"Very likely man's capacity to daydream is a fundamental characteristic of his constitution. Like other abilities -- perceptual, motor or cognitive -- it is there to be developed depending on circumstances. "the practiced daydreamer has learned the art of pacing so that he can shift rapidly between inner and outer channels without bumping into too many obstacles. He has developed a resource that gives him some control over his future through elaborate planning, some ability to amuse himself during dull train rides or routine work, and some sources of stimulation to change his mood through fanciful inner-play." (Emphasis added.)

This may provide us with a partial explanation for the fact that so many UFO sightings are made by experienced pilots - Air Force career officers and commercial airline pilots. Ufologists always cite the pilot's experience as an indication of high credibility; but they fail to perceive that "experienced" implies routine, and routineness implies increased susceptibility to hallucinatory experience.

The questions and controversies raised by UFO phenomena are not likely to be answered conclusively, and the likelihood is diminished even more by the animosity between social and physical scientists. John Fuller, in a recent (sensationalized) article in Look magazine [9] said that the NICAP [National Investigating Committee for Aerial Phenomena] people were disturbed by the fact that four of the first five scientists selected for the Condon Committee investigation of UFO's at the University of Colorado were social, not physical scientists. It is difficult to judge the objectivity of the Colorado study group from John Fuller's article, but it does seem to me that the brunt of the proof lies on those who subscribe to the ET theory. There seem to be no photographs of UFO's that have withstood careful examination, and none taken at an astronomical observatory. Even Hynek says: [6] "What is needed is for us to find a baby UFO somewhere in the crates of UFO reports."

No one has yet found a "baby" for Hynek or even a piece of a full sized UFO. The closest we come may be the efforts of cartoonists although the Australian girl who claims to have been made pregnant by a UFO alien may have something. Pro-ET investigators can be criticized for their rhetoric, fake photographs, and irresponsible quotations. (Hynek quoted the Soviet writer Felix U. Zigel, who has been strongly criticized by Soviet scientists.) It will require a great deal more sophistication to solve the UFO riddle, if it can be solved. The Air Force obviously has not and cannot handle it and NICAP hasn't done much better. The social scientists have been accorded rough treatment from the physical scientists, who have themselves been irresponsible. It may be the philosophical approach which ignores all the "contradictions", that will provide the best answers. (If men examine anything long enough and hard enough, "contradictions" always appear.) Scientists must admit that conflict is inevitable in a discussion of a human problem, and that we can't be as "rigorous"as we'd like to be. As Dr. Floyd W. Matson [10] states; "When man is the subject, the proper understanding of science leads unmistakably to the science of understanding."



  1. Harlow Shapley, "The Fourth Adjustment" 1967.
  2. Carl Jung, "Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth", 1964.
  3. Ray Bradbury in Psychology Today, April 1968.
  4. B. F. Skinner in a Psychology Today interview, September 1967.
  5. Arthur Clarke "When Earthman and Alien Meet", Playboy Jan 1968.
  6. J. Allen Hynek, "The UFO Gap" Playboy Dec. 1967.
  7. John G. Fuller, The Interrupted Journey, New York, 1966.
  8. Jerome Singer, "The Importance of Daydreaming", Psychology Today April 1968.
  9. John G. Fuller "Flying Saucer Fiasco", Look, May 14, 1968.
  10. Floyd Matson, Broken Image.

Dans une critique de cet article, Bradford Matthews écrit :

L'approche de M. Olim est valide, et il jette des doutes sur la théorie extraterrestre (ET) avec une efficacité humoristique et, parfois, scathing. Les déterminants psychologiques des observateurs d'ovnis constituent un argument solide pour le scepticisme envers le phénomène ovni. La seule faiblesse dans l'article fut le fait pour M. Olim de reposer sur le jugement de Hynek qu'aucune image acceptable n'a été prise d'ovnis. Il y a de fait des photos qui ont défié l'explication. En utilisant la technique "je suis du Missouri" de Olim, il y a des photographies d'ovnis jusqu'à ce que des experts puissent prouver qu'il n'y en a pas.