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Thomas G. Genoni Jr.

Skeptical Briefs Volume 7.2, June 1997

Roswell Proponents Switch Sides

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the “Roswell incident,” an event that helped kick off our culture’s undying fascination with UFOs. Although its passing will undoubtedly be marked with more sensationalistic “documentaries” and continued cries of conspiracy, two former proponents of the incident have had a change of heart.

In the March issue of his Skeptics UFO Newsletter, Philip Klass reports that Kent Jefferey, an international pilot and organizer of the International Roswell Initiative (which collected more than 25,000 signatures aimed at obtaining a Presidential Executive Order to declassify UFO information), is expected to explain his new position — that there’s little evidence to support the Roswell case — in an upcoming issue of the MUFON UFO Journal.

Earlier this year, Klass reported that Roswell researcher Karl Pflock had publicly disclosed his revised view that “no flying saucer or saucers crashed in the vicinity of Roswell or on the Plains of San Agustin in 1947.”

Will the revelations of these converts dampen the anniversary hype? Probably not. But skeptics should be pleased to know that a book by Klass about Roswell is in the works, to be published by Prometheus Books later this year. (Skeptics UFO Newsletter, March 1997)

Faking the Final Frontier

According to one theory, the recent production of Apollo 13 — with its amazing special effects and camera tricks — had a great deal more in common with the famous NASA mission than just the story. As Jon Blanton reports in the North Texas Skeptic, some conspiracy buffs still believe that the moon landings and the many other Apollo missions were mere Hollywood fakery. Their proof?

First, they claim that the lighting in both the still and video records of the moon walks is totally inconsistent with what would be expected on the moon — and entirely consistent with staged studio lighting effects (e.g., “pools” of light around the central figure with rapid fall-off of lighting in the surrounding areas; “fill-in” lighting on central figures where shadows should have been virtually black; etc.).

Secondly, they claim the audio is suspicious. For instance, Armstrong’s quiet voice describing the landing has virtually no “background noise” — whereas he ought to have been yelling to make himself heard above the noise of the engine controlling the descent.

Thirdly, they believe there are glaring inconsistencies between the video and still records (of Aldrin’s descent onto the lunar surface, for example).

Is it possible that NASA didn’t have the resources to get a man on the moon and simply faked the whole thing? That’s a stretch. Besides, as Blanton likes to point out, he once stood in the control room at McDonald Observatory and watched while a laser beam was bounced off a reflector left by the Apollo 11 astronauts. Of course, maybe Blanton is part of the conspiracy. . . . (North Texas Skeptic, March 1997)

Decorating for Balanced Energy

If you've recently moved your sofa to make room for that new recliner, your relationship just might go down the tubes. And those shelves you just put in? They might lead to financial ruin. Or, as Robert Baker points out in a recent Kases File, if you don’t pay careful attention to the location of that litter box, you might find yourself in a heap of trouble.

Feng-shui (pronounced “fung-shway”) is an ancient Asian folk belief that the way objects are arranged and placed in one’s home will affect ch'i, or qi (pronounced “chee”). Ch'i, of course, is that invisible field of electromagnetic energy that determines our vitality, fortune, and love life. And for one reason or another, this folklore has caught on in America.

According to a recent New York Times article, “Thousands of people . . . are taking weekend courses and promising to change the fortunes and love lives of eager clients through consultations that can cost as much as $1,000 an hour.”

Feng-shui consultants and gurus are even showing up in Architectural Digest and other magazines, dispensing advice on how to rearrange the ch'i in your home. (KASES File, Volume 10, Number 1)

Awards for Credulous and Incredulous Reporters

As all skeptics know, getting fair, balanced reporting on paranormal topics is rare. The wild claims of astrologers, healers, and psychics of all kinds often go unchallenged and uninvestigated by reporters. But this is not always the case. Occasionally, thorough stories do appear, in which the investigator took the time to look at both sides of the issue. Keith Taylor, a member of the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry, believes both types of reporters should be recognized, and his group is establishing new awards to do just that.

Though the names of the awards have not yet been decided, the hope is that local reporters will be singled out for their gullibility or honored for their responsible journalism. It might even generate some publicity for the local group. And perhaps other skeptics groups will be inspired to start similar programs.

Suggestions for award names can be sent to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry, 945 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101. (Rational Inquiry, January/March 1997)

Thomas G. Genoni Jr.

Tom Genoni is the CSICOP West Coast Bureau Chief at the Center for Inquiry—West in Los Angeles, California. He interviewed Art Bell by phone in March.