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von Neumann probe

What do we know about UFO phenomena

The following people has expressed they consider ETH at least as a viable hypothesis


Some notable UFO sightings

  • World War II foo fighters: Colorful spheres repeatedly spotted by military air crews around the world.
  • 1946 Ghost rockets: Objects with characteristics of cruise missiles were sighted repeatedly over Scandinavia; Swedish Defense Staff expressed concern.
  • 1948 Green fireballs: Objects reported over several United States military bases; an official investigation followed.
  • 1948 Chiles-Whitted UFO Encounter: Two experienced pilots reported their DC3 had nearly collided with a strange torpedo shaped object flying near them.
  • 1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident: A series of sightings in July 1952 accompanied radar/visual contacts at three separate airports in the Washington area. The sightings made front-page headlines around the nation, and ultimately lead to the formation of the Robertson Panel by the CIA.
  • 1976 Tehran UFO incident An UFO allegedly disabled the electronic equipment of two F-4 interceptor aircraft, and ground control equipment as well. The event is well-documented in the U.S. DIA report and other documents. The Iranian generals involved in the incident said on public record that object was extraterrestrial.
  • 1990 Belgium mass sighting of large, silent, low-flying black triangles, which were tracked by multiple NATO radar and jet interceptors, and investigated by Belgium's military.

Notice also 2007 National Press Club discussion of the UFO topic: you read the witness statements of attendants, who can't easily be labeled as "crackpots".

It seems reasonable to believe most of the sightings reported as UFOs are actually misinterpreted ordinary phenomena, for example satellite, meteorite or military airplane. But even if most of the sightings can be explained conventionally, it doesn't necessarily mean all can. This is something that seems to be surprisingly hard for many people to accept. There have always been a handful of sightings that are not easily explained. Even if most of the sightings have characteristics of misinterpretation - or sounds like a story of delusioned person - one just can't pack all the sightings neatly in one basket.

How to explain the most buzzling cases then?

Explanation can be divided to three main categories:

  • a misintepretation of known phenomena
  • some unknown phenomena other than extraterrestial device
  • extraterrestial device

I don't completely reject the idea that ultimately all UFO sightings are misntepretations of familiar phenomena, as many skeptics claim. However the crucial question is how probable this explanation is. Some of the sightings have such an unusual characteristics that you really have to stretch your imagination to figure out any mundane explanation. You can almost always come up worth something, at least weather balloon or mass hallusination if nothing else. But to make it fit you often have to distort the reality to such extent that the credibility of explanation suffers seriously. As I said, the result is without doubt a mundane explanation but often more or less troublesome one.

How about some unspecific unknown phenomena: the bad thing is there doesn't seem to be any reasonable hypothesis for this. There have been speculation about time machines, another dimensions, strange meteorological phenomena, unknown biological lifeforms, effect of magnetic fields on human brains and so on. But as long as there is not even crude understanding how these could be compatible with our current scientific knowledge and how such assumptions could be tested, we probably can't get very far away with them. Therefore we maybe shouldn't consider them as the most obvious explanations.

The problem with extr. hypothesis is that there isn't any truly convincing evidence of their presence. There are lots of eyewitness reports of objects and/or their presence on radar screen, many photographs and videos of alleged flying saucers and some other alleged pieces of evidence. But to truly convince most of the people (including me) there should be something concrete: undisputed high-resolution pictures or videoscombined with recorded output of other measuring instruments.


None of the explanation seems to be clear winner. The good thing in extraterrestial device hypothesis is that the absence or presence of it could be scientifically tested pretty comprehensily, even if it might require lots of effort and resources. This is the case now: there are good changes to believe we will get the answer in near future with scientific experiments, whether we want it or not.



What is von Neumann probe

Von Neumann probe is a hypothetical robotic space probe. It is programmed to search space for raw materials and energy in order to build copies of itself. It can be considered as a mechanical bacterium or virus. Besides self-replicating, von Neumann probes will execute tasks they are programmed to do. You can read more about von Neumann probe on Wikipedia.