Timestream Post: Moment of Self-Doubt from 06.14.2012

14 06 2017

Well, all of my posts can’t necessarily be rosy, can they? 

Today, I’m grappling with the ramifications of my decision to engage in a popular television project investigating alleged Unidentified Flying Object sightings and crashes.  The results of the project, now titled, “Chasing UFOs,” bears little resemblance to the hard science project I was led to believe I was helping to create. 

The end result is adventurous and entertaining enough, but today all I can see is what was left out… which was essentially all of the scientific and educational moments I strove to include from the very beginning.  Many of these informative moments I was counting on being included to help preserve my scientific integrity.

Further, considering the time commitment involved and the credibility hit to my scientific reputation I can already see occurring – (especially after some sly political maneuvering performed by other project members during the shooting of the show changed its fundamental structure) – I’m not inclined t0 participate again should the option arise… which it looks like it will.

Will my declining to participate in further episodes entrench me in a legal battle?  (I signed no explicit term of commitment… but then again, when potential money is involved…)  

How does the future see it?  Was the decision to engage in the project ultimately a good one?  Or do I regret the decision in retrospect?

A little advice from the future would be nice.

Cheers,

Ben

From 04:41p.m., June 14, 2012

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Jumping the Timestream: A Note from 07.20.2011

20 07 2012

I’m writing today one year into the future because I can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen in the next few hours.  (Strange, I realize, but I can’t just publicly ask my future self in a few hours due to contract obligations relating to the answer… so I have to send this far enough out to not cause any legal troubles.)

In short – I’ve got a phone meeting in a few hours that may result in my getting offered to participate in a TV show, and I have no idea what will happen and/or what I should do(!).  The show relates to my paper on xenoarchaeology – it triggered interest in a show on investigating suspected UFO crash sites from an archaeological perspective…  If there is an offer, accepting might stretch my scientific credibility – not to mention that my pregnant wife may object to my leaving to perform fieldwork for weeks at a time with a newborn at home.

What to do?  What to do?

So, future self: What happened?  What the heck happened?  What did you do?  Was whatever you decided to do a good idea?

Out of my mind with anticipation,

Ben

July 20, 2011.

July 20, 2011. 12:54pm.





The Science Behind “Chasing UFOs” – Episode 1

30 06 2012

A Saturn V rocket at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. (Credit: Ben McGee)

For those who might like to delve more deeply into (or simply know more about the science behind) the National Geographic Channel series “Chasing UFOs,” including moon rockets, interviews with a former NASA Human Factors Director, and an artifact find at the Old Grist Mill, look no further!

Link through to my article on the NatGeo TV blog here:

http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/06/30/the-science-of-chasing-ufos-texas-is-for-sightings/

Cheers, and here goes nothing!

Ben





Science outreach, crossing the mainstream divide, and “Chasing UFOs”

24 05 2012

Hosts James Fox, Me, and Erin Ryder during the filming of National Geographic’s “Chasing UFOs.” (Credit: David West)

I know there will be quite a lot on this here at the Astrowright blog in the coming weeks and months, but to begin very briefly, I’m excited to report that I’m set to appear on/host a National Geographic series next month (somewhat sensationally) entitled, “Chasing UFOs.”  

The project zeroed in on the “top 5%” – the most bizarre or inexplicable – of all alleged unidentified flying object cases in history.  However, unlike previous programs, in addition to firsthand interviews, we physically travel to the site of each alleged event, whether on a mountaintop or in the Amazon, to see if any material evidence exists to support extraordinary claims.

Aside from the “field adventure” component, the show’s presentation is novel in that three different viewpoints are represented in each case – skeptic, believer, and “agnostic.”  I’m thrilled that NatGeo has endorsed including someone like me on a project like this – essentially allowing the scientific/skeptical viewpoint to be heard. 

This is ultimately why I decided to engage in the project in the first case. 

For those who have been reading this blog for any length of time, it is obvious that I sit squarely on the skeptical side of the fence.   (In my view that’s the side that history ultimately bears out.)  However, I’m also comfortable enough in my own “scientist” skin to be willing to dive into any question, even if it has been (perhaps justifiably) shrugged off by mainstream academia.  This is particularly true when it concerns something for which there is a great deal of public interest and that exists in such close proximity to my personal passions – planetary science and space exploration.  In my view, the important thing to note is that people curious about UFOs are asking the right sorts of questions:

  • “What is going on in the night sky?”
  • “Are we alone in the universe?”
  • “What is the possibility of extraterrestrial life?”

-And with pseudoscientific, speculation-riddled and archaeology-confounding programs out there like “Ancient Aliens,” if scientists refuse to engage in mainstream media and contribute to the conversation, the conservative scientific viewpoint will rarely (or worse, never) be heard or explained.  If it is obvious to an astronomer that a flashing “UFO” is simply light from Venus on the horizon taking a long path-length through the atmosphere, and he or she doesn’t bother to explain it, science doesn’t stand a chance in the face of a passionate “talking head” declaring it to be proof of extraterrestrial intelligence in our own skies.  We fail twice – first to capture an excellent learning moment and secondly in that we ultimately succeed only in disenfranchising a curious public with respect to the scientific establishment.

As anyone in the sciences knows, STEM outreach needs all the help it can get.  We have to engage.  (And who knows?  I’m open to the possibility that people have really seen something extraordinary if evidence backs it up, though I would be just as excited were it to be exotic high-altitude electrical phenomena as opposed to green men from Mars.)

So, here goes.  Set the time circuits for June 29, 2012 at 09:00 on the NatGeo channel.  I haven’t seen the finished product myself, but I know what we did and guarantee it to be an action-packed, thought-provoking ride. 

Tune in and please feel free to let me know what you think!








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