8 thoughts on “UFOs

  1. I am a criminal defense trial lawyer. This is one of the best explanations I have ever seen in communicating to people that “eye witness” testimony as the “gold standard” is misguided. While it can be reliable, it can also be misleading as many of us do not realize how perception bias can influence our interpretation of visual data. That does not even begin to address the many other factors that may influence oneâ??s ability to recall accurately what we observed.
    Thank you!

  2. Pam, the tv series “Numb3rs” had an episode where Charlie(I think that’s his name), the mathematician, talked about police line-ups for identification.

    He wrote six numbers on a piece of paper and asked a policewoman to choose any number, and then another, etc. She always chose a number between 1 and 6. So he asked why and said that he hadn’t limited the numbers, but only asked her to choose any number.

    He went on to show something similar with a series of 30 or so pictures presented to a witness. Of course the show has weaknesses, as Charlie can write new algorithms faster than I can cough. Still, I like it as it presents science in positive terms.

  3. Regarding UFO “sightings” -there could be some interesting data about real (but poorly known) electronic phenomenons (just consider the “sprites” above thunderclouds that were only confirmed a few years ago), alas, thanks to the “UFO” label, no serious researcher wants to touch unaccounted for light phenomena with a ten-foot pole.

    As for saucer believers, a bona fide super-civilisation would be using “smart dust” for intelligence gathering, and any spacecraft would not be recognisible as such (ultra-thin light sails have no place for crews).
    The typical “flying saucer” is a projection (imposed on any atmospheric light phenomena) made by 20th-century people, just like the funny illustrations of Jules Verne novels were projections made by 19th-century people. Neither provides useful illustrations of the real thing.

  4. Good point. NDT is totally wrong when he says there are no aliens because the astronomers would have seen them. We need to check with the microbiologists and isotope chemists!

  5. Neil reminds me a lot of Bill Cosby’s early stand-up years – except that Bill isn’t a scientist.

    @Pam: One thing that always annoyed me was how certain professions (medical doctor, priest, police) are considered more trustworthy than other people (not just the defendant) despite the absence of any supporting evidence for such assumptions.

  6. Bernarda, I love that show! Of course, if I could do math I would not be a lawyer-from the time I was old enough to know what it was, I wanted to be a genetic research scientist. Of course, no one told me that math is the language of science. So much for that.

    For continuing CLE we go to seminars titled “Actual Innoncence” where things such as what was the premise of this show are discussed. I really love this because in these seminars you have everyone in the Criminal Justice system invited. Cops, Judges, Prosecutors and Defense Lawyers. The presenters are usually scientists who are experts at dumbing down this stuff. Maybe someday we will not put innocent people in jail.

    MadScientist, I am with you. If I had a dime for everytime someone told me they “always believe cops because everyone knows they are the good guys and they would not lie” I could actually think about retiring someday. I always try to discuss peoples’ propensity to suspend judgment regarding the truthtelling propensity of some types of professionals and abdicate their responsibility to do the hard work of rational analysis.

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