L'effet EM

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It has not been the purpose or design of this study to attempt an analysis of various vehicles to determine possible failure mechanisms. The possibility exists that:

  1. Typical vehicle interference has been associated with an unusual phenomenon which can be explained, or
  2. The witnesses either imagined or hallucinated the vehicle interference and UFO, or the interference was real, but the UFO sighting was hallucinated through unknown mechanisms.

To illustrate the first point, consider the case of October 21, 1969 near Twin Falls, Idaho, taken from Project Blue Book files (1). A farmer was driving his tractor at 9:45 P.M. (MDT), with the headlights on, when he observed a large light rise into the sky from the horizon. A brighter and smaller light rose from within the first and continued to ascend into the sky. Just before the farmer had observed the first light, the headlights and radio on the tractor went out simultaneously. The duration of the sighting was six or seven minutes.

A fairly typical EM event, at first glance. Yet the Air Force determined that at 9:39 P.M. (MDT), a Minuteman rocket had been launched from Vandenburg AFB in California. The farmer's sightline to the UFO was southwest, in the same direction as the missile launch. Obviously the sighting could be explained as the first and second stages of the launch, and while one can well understand the farmer connecting the two events, as the Air Force stated, "There is no evidence that the visual sightings and the electrical failures are related."

Due care has been exercised to discard such events from this study, but that is no guarantee that one or two catalogued events do not fall into this category.

While there are no readily available examples of the second category, such events might be quite numerous. Vehicle failure occurs fairly often, as those who drive the Interstate system or own a used car can attest. Over approximately a thirty-year period, 441 cases of vehicle interference and UFO sightings in conjunction might not be considered excessive. Perhaps most can be explained by some type of hallucination or fear reaction.

Perhaps . . . but this study was partially intended to demonstrate that such an explanation for EM events is not really tenable. Too many events have multiple witnesses, even two or more vehicles, to be explained by an appeal to mass hallucination. Basterfield has suggested an explanation for some sightings, both EM and not, by invoking the phenomenon of hypnagogic imagery (2). While plausible for some single witness events, it fails as an explanation for those cases with two or more observers. It is prudent to conclude that most witnesses report objectively their experience of an EM event, including both the UFO and the vehicle interference. Rather than appeal to various psychological mechanisms, our analysis will proceed on the assumption that actual vehicle failure occurred, and that the witnesses saw something. Our task is to determine how and why the vehicle failed, as well as the nature of the UFO sighted by the witness.

As a brief digression, let's consider just a few of the numerous means by which an internal combustion engine may be affected or halted. They are:

  1. An increased resistance in the secondary coil of the ignition coil, which will severely decrease current flow to the spark plugs.
  2. The capacitor in the distributor might not charge because of a large electrostatic field surrounding the vehicle (though one would expect shielding from the metallic body of the vehicle).
  3. A high magnetic field might saturate the ignition coil and reduce voltage to the spark plugs.
  4. Through unknown mechanisms, fuel might be prevented from entering or leaving the carburetor.
  5. Resistance could be increased within the spark plugs, sufficient to prevent sparking.
  6. Ionization of the air will also reduce or prevent sparking (though there should be effects upon the witnesses not always reported).
  7. Destruction of connections in the electrical system by excessive heat would prevent operation.
Tableau 21 - Nombre d'événements avec divers types d'interférences avec véhicules
Effet Evénements
Moteur et système électrique 208
Moteur seulement 71
Radio seulement 69
Puissance réduite du moteur 33
Phares seulement 27
Radio et phares seulement 14

Cette list n'est en aucun cas exhaustive, ni ne contient tous those mechanisms by which only the electrical system may be affected. It does illustrate the problem of trying to suggest a plausible mechanism to cause vehicle interference.

Table 21 is a listing of the number of events in which different vehicle components were affected. It is likely that the distribution of effects can be understood by considering the effects of various types of engines, vehicle bodies, and electrical equipment in each event. Engine components manufactured by one company may have a quite different sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation at various frequencies than the same type of component from another manufacturer. Since important details such as type of vehicle, vehicle history, and engine make have been recorded for very few cases, and crude magnetic signatures haven't been taken except for two or three cases, we are not in a position to speculate authoritatively on specific causes of vehicle interference. However, I suggest that the variance displayed in Table 21 is due, in part, to the many different vehicles that have been affected and their likely heterogeneous response to the UFO phenomenon. Another source for variation is the distance of the UFO from the vehicle, though the relationship between severity of effect and distance has not been established.

Laboratory experiments should be conducted to simulate vehicle interference, and most importantly, rigorous studies should be undertaken on all future EM events, recording the answers to questions such as those raised in the special BUFORA Vehicle Interference supplementary questionnaire form R4 (3).

Some cases included in this study have been examined in depth, such as the November 5, 1967 case in Lake Elsinore, California, which was a part of the Condon report (4). Crude magnetic signature tests with a simple compass were done on the affected auto and a comparison vehicle. Results indicated that the car had not been subjected to a strong magnetic field. However, F.C. Gillespie has discussed several considerations which cast doubt on this conclusion (5). In particular, the Condon investigation did not eliminate a possible change in the vertical component of the car's magnetization. Dip readings should always be taken in addition to compass readings. Secondly, the analysis assumes that the magnetic field was static. An alternating magnetic field could cause partial demagnetization of the vehicle, according to Gillespie. It is also within the realm of possibility that a sufficiently high frequency of field reversal will not affect the magnetization, to first order. If the relaxation time for the material composing the auto's shell is much longer than the period of field reversal, then the car's body will not "see" the magnetic field. Engine components or electrical systems can still be affected.

An experiment was done by Watts in England of interest to this subject (6). He found that only an alternating magnetic field (50 cps) produced loss of engine power in his test vehicle. A static magnetic field produced no change in engine operation. The induced field was on the order of 500 gauss at the coil, which was placed directly over the engine. While inexact, the experiment makes plausible the supposition that an alternating field could cause some EM effects. This possibility, in conjunction with the points raised by Gillespie, should give us pause when assessing the significance of magnetic signature data. We are still, unfortunately, unable to say with certainty which, if any, electromagnetic fields were in the environment of a vehicle experiencing an EM effect.

Partially because of such considerations, a statistical study was attempted, rather than an analytical one. The presence of a few cases like the Twin Falls, Idaho, event should not mask the results of a statistical study, by definition. Hopefully certain patterns and trends which have been isolated will allow an analytical study in the near future.

One event not in the catalogue should be mentioned. It has some bearing on the question of which fields and intensities can interfere with a vehicle's operation. The event is not in the catalogue because it did not involve a UFO sighting, but a lightning stroke instead.

There were five witnesses, including a high-school chemistry and physics teacher, riding to a football game in September or October 1973, at about 5:00 P.M. During an intense rain, necessitating slower than normal travel, they discovered that the game had been canceled, so the driver began to execute a U-turn to return home. In the middle of the turn, a bright lightning stroke touched the ground within 1000 meters of the automobile. Instantaneously, the engine stopped as if the ignition had been switched off. The driver failed in three or four successive tries at restarting the engine. After waiting about thirty seconds from the time of engine failure, the car was finally restarted (7). The vehicle, a 1968 Oldsmobile sedan with a 455 V-8 engine, had no history of engine trouble or of stalling in wet weather. The car has continued to function normally after the incident.

While the failure of the engine could be due to wet weather or regular wear, the fact that no problems were encountered, either before or after this event, argues powerfully for the cause to be placed on a change in the environment caused by the lightning. Magnetic fields generated by typical lightning strokes are on the order of 104 gauss. At the vehicle, the field strength will be reduced by about a factor of 100 (since the B field varies as 1/r for a current flow in one direction), giving a field strength of perhaps 100 gauss. This hardly seems adequate to initiate engine failure, unless some combination of the damp conditions, electric and magnetic fields caused a momentary halt to current flow or increased resistance in some engine component. No check for residual magnetism has been made on the vehicle.

Explanations for EM-like events caused by known phenomena are perhaps necessary precursors to our better understanding of the UFO EM phenomenon.

At this point, it would be well to discuss two theories advanced to explain some types of EM events. Persinger's theory (8) that many UFO sightings, not only EM events, can be explained by seismic stresses causing electric fields above the ground through the piezoelectric effect, has been reviewed briefly by Hendry (9). The theory has numerous difficulties when applied to UFO sightings, but should be seriously considered. Persinger has at least advanced a plausible mechanism, unlike that advanced by Klass — plasma phenomena (10).

Persinger's discussion of electromagnetic effects does, though, evince a lack of familiarity with the typical EM case. He writes that, "Because of the high electrostatic potential involved (in the EM column), light systems in cars would also be influenced as well as automobile engines because of effects across the spark-plug gap" (11). Such a field would cause effects on the witnesses, such as paralysis, skin prickling, and ionization of the air, all of which are reported in just a few events; moreover, our discussion of engine failure should have shown that we do not know whether or not such high electrostatic fields could cause a malfunction.

In addition, data previously presented has demonstrated that the distribution of EM events by time of day is non-random (refer to Figures 9, 10, and 12). Such a distribution is not consonant with the Persinger theory, which predicts a more uniform distribution.

The correct position to take continues to be that theories should be constructed only after the data has been analyzed as to possible patterns and relationships, not beforehand.

James McCampbell a démontré comment les radiations micro-ondes, focalisées sur un filament de phare de véhicule par la conception parabolique du réflecteur, provoqueront une augmentation de la résistivité du filament. Cette augmentation sera suffisante, étant donnée une radiation suffisamment intense, pour stopper le flux de courant, amenant ainsi le phare à cesser d'éclairer (12). Cet effet ne peut intervenir à proche distance lorsque l'ovni est dans une région étroite directement devant le véhicule. Un examen des rapports dans le catalogue n'étayera en aucune façon la conclusion que tout cas de défaut de phares respecte cette condition. De nombreux cas de défauts de phares ont été signalés lorsque l'ovni était au-dessus ou sur le côté du véhicule. Donald Johnson a montré qu'il y a une tendance statistiquement significative à ce que les défauts de phares interviennent lorsque l'ovni est devant le véhicule (13), mais ce résultat lui-même illustre la difficulté de théoriser. Il doit y avoir au moins un autre mécanisme provoquant l'arrêt des phares, même si McCampbell a raison, pour expliquer ces cas avec l'ovni qui n'est pas en face du véhicule. Et s'il existe un autre mécanisme, pourquoi, peut-être qu'il opère aussi lorsque l'ovni est devant (il pourrait ne pas dépendre de la position). Si c'est le cas, comment différencie-t-on, avec le niveau actuel de nos connaissances, les 2 mecanismes ? La réponse est que nous ne le pouvons pas.

Je ne souhaite pas porter atteinte aux excellentes idées de McCampbell et Persinger, pas plus qu'à la possibilité que leurs théories très originales soient en parties correctes. Leur travail est important, mais il devrait être examiné à la lumière de l'ensemble des données actuellement disponibles.

Notre discussion de la théorie de McCampbell a mené à la possibilité que plus d'un mécanisme générateur puisse causer des événements EM. This view has been taken by numerous investigators of the UFO phenomenon. To wit: It is quite likely that more than one theory will be needed to explain the UFO phenomenon, because it is really the UFO phenomena, composed of events generated by distinct and different mechanisms. Evidence bearing on this question will be presented in the final section, but reference is made here to Merritt's work on landing imprint cases (14). Quantitatively distinct categories of reports were isolated out of seemingly homogenous data.

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