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In Research Of

Mar 9, 2020

Jeb and Blake discuss the Season 1 episode of In Search Of... on the topic of UFOs.

Watch this ISO episode on YouTube. 

Mentioned in this Episode:

Kenneth Arnold and the first "Flying Saucers"

Mellen, Wisconsin case - covered by NICAP report.

Reported by Phillip Baker (and family).  This is the artist sketch of what they reported:

Mellen, WI UFO sighting rendered by artist sketch

(And this is the Legion of Doom headquarters from the animated Super Friends.)

The Legion of Doom HQ


You never know what kind of data you'll uncover when researching ISO eps:

Americans eat more than 7 pounds of pickles each year.

Please see attached PDFs for related news stories from contemporary papers.

Ted Phillips doing serious amateur science while wearing the best outfit of Season 1 (IMHO -Blake).  Ted's Physical Trace Catalogue is online.

Ted Phillips UFO researcher and 70s fashion icon

Obit for Edward Zeller (1925 - 1996) the scientist analyzing samples in the episode.

Janet and Helen Kay's case comes from Medford, Minnesota. The artist sketch of their sighting follows.

Artist sketch of Medford, MN UFO

The title card for this episode shows the dead grass associated with this case, but it doesn't seem like compelling evidence of a landing to Jeb and me.

We briefly discuss the difference between ground damage from alleged landings and the geometric shapes that become known as "crop circles."

The Critchfield sighting from Big Chimney, West Virginia.

Artist sketch of Critchfield UFO from Big Chimney, WV

According to NICAP reports for 1975:

June 12, 1975; Big Chimney, WV
Shortly before 10:00 p.m. A diamond shaped object landed on a gravel road in a mountainous area. It was witnessed by four members of the Crichfield family. Four landing gear imprints were found at the site. (Sources: Center for UFO Studies case files, letter dated August 3, 1975; Larry Hatch, U computer database, citing Alan Landsburg, In Search of Extraterrestrials, p. 8)

Nimoy quotes a 1973 Gallup Poll about UFO beliefs.  A contemporary write-up of those findings is attached below.

Jeb was familiar with the thermoluminescence research done in this episode, but we also reached out to Dr. Chris Cogswell of the "Mad Scientist Podcast" to talk about the process and I thought his explanation might further illuminate the matter.  I quote here from November 16, 2019 correspondence:

Solid materials in their normal state have imperfections in their crystal lattice. Think about the grain of a piece of wood. The wood is solid, however the grain is not continuous necessarily throughout the wood sample. This is also true of solid materials. At the atomic scale these grain boundaries and other similar imperfections in the lattice of a crystal create areas where electrons cannot easily transport. Note that this isn’t true of metallic solids, where electrons have enough “space” to move freely throughout. 
The essential principle of thermoluminescence is that when a solid crystal lattice is exposed to radiation some of the electrons will become trapped in an excited state, and the amount of electrons trapped in this way will correspond to the intensity of the radiation dose the sample is exposed too. Normally after excitation an electron will de-excite and release a photon after a short period of time. However, due to the defects in ceramic crystal structures some of those electrons cannot de-excite normally, leaving behind electrons trapped in the excited state as well as holes where electrons would normally sit. To fix this, we can re-heat a sample of the solid and all of those trapped electrons will de-excite, releasing photons in the process. 
The test being performed in the episode is a process where a solid sample is heated in a chamber to de-excite those trapped photons. The goal is to collect the trapped photons and use those to determine the relative intensity of radiation the sample was exposed too. The relative number of photons released correspond to the intensity of some past radiation exposure, and so in this way they can tell if the soil was exposed to a high dose of some kind of radiation by comparison to other soil samples in a similar non-affected area. In archeology they can use this method and knowledge of the natural decay of trapped electrons in materials to estimate the date of the radiation exposure. 
Some caveats here though. The radiation a sample is exposed to could be the kind that creates giant hulking monsters (or not…), however it could also be extreme heat. In fact it looks like it is the date of the firing of a clay pottery sample that archeologists determine using this test. Current testing looks to suggest that the type of radiation will change the “glow curve” as it's known, however at the time I don’t know if they were doing those sorts of tests. 
Based on all of that, the testing can tell them if the ground was exposed to some kind of intense heat or radiation of some kind. However, there is no way to tell from the curve they showed if the data is remarkable, since we would need background curves to normalize against sunlight, heat, environmental effects, etc.

Nimoy Fashion Alert: UFO Edition

Nimoy UFO Fashion