Szydagis Point #2: “It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings, and sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders."

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
Continuing on with Dr. Szydagis' article on "debunking the debunkers" I'll offer up some thoughts on point #2. I'm calling this a kind of Straw Man necklace or hat. Szydagis is responding to an actual misguided quote, but it's not really from a debunker or a debunk of anything specific, nevertheless, Szydagis attempts to place this idea around the neck or onto the head all debunkers.

The actual quote as used by Szydagis is as follows and is footnoted as (75):

It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.
Content from External Source
The footnote takes us to an article by Chris Impey at UofA titled:

I’m an astronomer and I think aliens may be out there – but UFO sightings aren’t persuasive
Content from External Source

As seems to happen elsewhere in the Szygdagis article, the quote is a little out of context. Here is the paragraph the line is pulled from:

There’s a long history of UFO sightings. Air Force studies of UFOs have been going on since the 1940s. In the United States, “ground zero” for UFOs occurred in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. The fact that the Roswell incident was soon explained as the crash landing of a military high-altitude balloon didn’t stem a tide of new sightings. The majority of UFOs appear to people in the United States. It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.
Content from External Source
Note that "Asia and Africa have so few sightings" is a hyperlink that takes us to a YouTube of an animated map showing UFO reports as dot of light from 1906 through 2014 that is screen grabbed below. While still poorly worded, Impey is reacting to the map showing the large concentration of sightings in the US and UK, compared to the rest of the world, something he should have clarified. Even so, it still shows sightings in Mexico as well as South America and Africa, just far fewer.

1666297749055.png
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAopNJMbFEI


As I alluded to above, I'm not aware of Chris Impey as an online or YouTube debunker. I found 8-10 videos with him, most of which are live Q&A sessions on astronomy and a panel discussion I'm going to go back and watch about life on other worlds. From the video description:

Topic: Astrobiology- How strange life might be? Life on Earth is found in surprising places: in high and arid deserts, on the sea floor near volcanic vents, and even deep within rock. The discovery of biological adaptation to extreme conditions makes it very likely that variations on biology will exist on moons and planets around many of the billions of Sun-like stars in the Milky Way. The talk addresses the issue of even more unusual forms of life, where the biological basis may be different or unrecognizable.
Content from External Source
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNgZsc4Y_2E


In his short article, Impey's debunking is limited largely to this paragraph (bold by me):

The absence of evidence for intelligent aliens is called the Fermi Paradox. Even if intelligent aliens do exist, there are a number of reasons why we might not have found them and they might not have found us. Scientists do not discount the idea of aliens. But they aren’t convinced by the evidence to date because it is unreliable, or because there are so many other more mundane explanations.
Content from External Source
All EC from Impey: https://theconversation.com/im-an-a...ere-but-ufo-sightings-arent-persuasive-150498

Still, having established that Impey apparently speaks for all debunkers, Szydgis seeks to debunk the claim, and giving how poorly worded the line is he's using, it's not that hard. But what he chooses to highlight to counter the claim is enlightening. As in the rest of his article, he pulls out old and often overhyped cases, seemingly unaware that there are good explanations for a many of them, if not outright debunks. As his article is about "debunking the debunkers" I'll offer up the approriate debunk for the cases listed. If one debunks the debunk of the debunkers is it a de-debunk?

First up is Jaime Maussan and the Mexico Eclipse UFOs:

First of all, it ignores the huge cluster of sightings during a total solar eclipse in Mexico City in 1991, with the seemingly same object (silvery disk) sometimes observed at different angles by different people. This was covered by the classic Unsolved Mysteries series with Robert Stack and by famous Mexican journalist Jaime Maussan (76).
Content from External Source
A quick check of footnote 76 takes us to the very Scientific authority, Unsolved Mysteries. So, we have actor Robert Stack and known huckster Jaime Maussan probably hyping bad footage of Venus as a genuine UFO. Astronomer Tim Printy pretty much debunked this back in 2003:

This is VENUS! The other videotapes are not as clear and are too far zoomed in/cropped. If the originals were checked and giving a full viewing, I am confident the results would be more convincing.
Content from External Source
http://www.astronomyufo.com/UFO/mexico.htm

Next up is the 2004 Mexican Airforce video, also hyped up by Maussan:

More recent sightings south of the U.S. border can be examined as well, such as a Mexican Air Force pilot’s 2004 encounter (79).
Content from External Source
The footnote just leads to a video uploaded to military.com with little information. It's likely oil rigs flaring and is discussed here:

https://www.metabunk.org/threads/mexican-air-force-ufo-video-oil-rigs.10837/

Then he actually goes with the Chilian UFO encounter!

South American governments have great interest in UFOs, most notably Chile, after an encounter between a Chilean air force pilot and a spherical UFO (80),
Content from External Source
This case is a poster child for a clear and reasoned debunk. Even noted UFOlogist and activist, Leslie Kean, who originally "broke" this case, had to eventually admit it was just a distant Iberian Air jet. Skeptiod's @Brian Dunning summed it up this way:

Mick West, who runs the Metabunk website, wrote up an analysis of how this all went so wrong for Chile and so right for Internet crowdsourcers and published it for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, later in 2017, and included other examples of large communities quickly solving puzzles that small numbers of experts in the wrong fields could not.
Content from External Source
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4838

How is Szydagis unaware of this? He's going after debunkers and this is a classic debunk. His footnote 80 just leads to a short news story, probably originally from Kean, in January of 2017. He is either woefully ignorant, locking himself in an echo chamber of the most credulous UFOlogist, or disingenuous.

He includes the Airel School case from Africa:

...but Africa is mentioned as low on sightings without considering quality, not just quantity. The author of (75) should have been more careful — he did not mention the Ariel school alleged UFO landing in Ruwa, Zimbabwe. There have been countless news stories, books, and now a documentary (82). Almost a hundred students were witnesses and stick to their (independent) stories into adulthood.
Content from External Source
Discussed here:
https://www.metabunk.org/threads/th...-ufo-sighting-has-it-ever-been-debunked.5389/
And here:
https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4760

Then there is Rendlesham Forest:

Turning to Europe: what about Britain, especially the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident?
Content from External Source
Discussed here as likely a light house and some confusion:
http://www.ianridpath.com/ufo/rendlesham.html

Note that all the cases Szydagis lists above as evidence for UAP activity outside the US that is ignored by debunkers, were in fact debunked! His own list counters his main argument, or at least it would if he acknowledged that the debunks exist.

The rest of the section goes on to talk about how, since things in sciences like cosmology can't be replicated, there is no need to have replication in the study of UAPs:

The concept of “reproducibility” is a hallmark of the scientific method, and so it is a common sub-argument against UAP studies: you cannot reproduce strange encounters; thus, you mustn’t study them. That reasoning is fair when applied to psychics claiming to view the future, but not to UAP. We have just established that sightings occur in different countries. There are also “common shapes,” implying reproducibility in descriptors. (Although the U.S. government thinks shapes should be classified! Why? (91)

Most damning of all: not all of the established sciences can rely on reproducibility in its most pure or direct form anyway! Take, for instance, cosmology — without access to the multiverse (if it even exists, of course), we have only 1 Universe or cosmos to study, with 1 Big Bang and 1 Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). We can do computer simulations, of course, and come close to reproducing the conditions of the Big Bang in the highest-energy particle (LHC) or ion colliders (RHIC), but that’s not the same as having multiple universes or many CMBs to study. Yet, cosmologists can still do their work.
Content from External Source
Not being a cosmologist, I'll let someone else tackle this.

All EC from the Szydagis article: https://uapx-media.medium.com/addre...-criticisms-against-studying-uap-5663335fe8c8
 

Rory

Senior Member.
So rather than tackling an actual debunkers' argument - such as "why do the vast majority of sightings occur in countries where UFOs are heavily advertised by the media?" - he's taking a needlessly-literal interpretation of a sentence written by a single astronomer?

It's difficult to believe that someone could have read Impey's article and not understood that "the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders" doesn't mean "there are no sightings in the Americas outside of the US" but rather "there's a conspicuously enormous difference in the number of sightings once one hits the US border".

100% a strawman: pointing to individual UFO reports in Africa, in Mexico, in Chile, etc only debunks an imaginary claim that no one has ever made. But he'd have a much harder time debunking the actual claim:

It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings [in comparison to the US] despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the [number of] sightings [drops off exponentially immediately beyond both] the Canadian and Mexican borders.[/ex]

I'm just surprised that map shows the UK so much higher than the rest of Europe. Are Britishers really that much more into UFO movies and 'Tales of the Unexplained' style books and sensationalised newspaper reports than say the Dutch, the French, the Germans, etc?

Perhaps it's the language thing, making Hollywood movies and American TV shows more marketable and appealing?
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
It's difficult to believe that someone could have read Impey's article and not understood that "the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders" doesn't mean "there are no sightings in the Americas outside of the US" but rather "there's a conspicuously enormous difference in the number of sightings once one hits the US border".
Agreed, BUT it did sound a bit like that the first time I read Impey's article. I think it's an overarching problem with modern news/opinion stories online. At the risk of sound like a grumpy old man, in a Twitter, Instagram and TickTok world, there seems to be a belief that everything needs to be in a short and hyper-condensed format.

Impey is guilty of using a hyper-link as evidence for his assessment, and not presenting the evidence to his readers. A violation of the "no click rule" if you will. I read an article a while ago about a school bus kidnapping incident back in the '70s that I vaguely remembered. It was so refreshing to read a multipage article that took the time to create a framework and sense of place, relevant to an audience 40 years later, and then tell the story in total. Not just some quick retelling with a few hyperlinks to fill in the details.

Of course, Szydagis, is doing this on steroids. Throwing out references as factual, or worthy of serious investigation, with no context of explanation, just a footnote for the reader to track down.

I'm just surprised that map shows the UK so much higher than the rest of Europe. Are Britishers really that much more into UFO movies and 'Tales of the Unexplained' style books and sensationalised newspaper reports than say the Dutch, the French, the Germans, etc?

On the one hand, I wonder if the map in question correlates with air traffic? Probably in general it does. The more air traffic, the more UAP sightings. On the other hand, it would appear your fellow "limeys" are about as credulous as my fellow "yanquis". ;)
 

Rory

Senior Member.
On the one hand, I wonder if the map in question correlates with air traffic? Probably in general it does.

UAP map:

Screen Shot 2022-10-20 at 19.30.57.png

Air traffic map:

1666315915019.png

So I would say "not really".

On the other hand, it would appear your fellow "limeys" are about as credulous as my fellow "yanquis". ;)

Could be that. Those damn Europeans are so sophisticated and smart, and less into Hollywood storylines.

Would be interesting to see box office figures for how films like 'Close Encounters' did in various countries.

Might also be related to avenues for reporting too. I imagine some countries make it easier than others.
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
We see what we believe while certain beliefs are culturally and thereby geographically specific. It's essentially the case of confirmation bias meeting folklore. UFOs are modern Western folklore which is especially pronounced in English-speaking countries with a considerable percentage of Sci-Fi enthusiasts, and further reinforced by film, literature and media attention.

If you'd ask "Have you ever encountered a djinn?" (the evil spirits in Islamic tradition), I'd wager you'd get a very different geographic distribution of 'sightings'. With ghosts you'd likely get a fairly universal one, and so on and so forth.
 

captancourgette

Active Member
I'm just surprised that map shows the UK so much higher than the rest of Europe.
Yes I've seen this image before, to me this is also the thing that jumps out, why the UK.
NZ & Oz seem to have more relatively population-wise than they should as well compared to europe, thus perhaps it is an english language thing.
Then again note spainish speaking Puerto Rico glowing.

The stops at canada borders is BS, looks to be about the same in canada relative to the US, remember most canadians live close to america. I'm not sure if the following graphic is 100% accurate but I wouldnt be surprised ( vancouver, edmington, calgary )
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
I'm just surprised that map shows the UK so much higher than the rest of Europe. Are Britishers really that much more into UFO movies and 'Tales of the Unexplained' style books and sensationalised newspaper reports than say the Dutch, the French, the Germans, etc?

Perhaps it's the language thing, making Hollywood movies and American TV shows more marketable and appealing?
Might simply be a result of the thoroughness (or lack of) with which the author looked for reports. If he only trawled through English-language sources then that UAP map looks pretty much like what you'd expect. Mostly reports from densely populated regions and from native speakers or persons from regions where proficiency in English as a second language is high (Netherlands, western Europe and so on).
That map might look different if you include whatever 'I think I saw a UFO last night' is in Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese etc.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
Might simply be a result of the thoroughness (or lack of) with which the author looked for reports.
Is there any definition of "reports"? Is it just "things that made the newspapers"? If so, perhaps the distribution map just indicates a propensity of the media to sensationalize to amuse viewers in some countries, while in other places there is either less media coverage overall, or the news is taken more seriously.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Note that all the cases Szydagis lists above as evidence for UAP activity outside the US that is ignored by debunkers, were in fact debunked!
providing another possible explanation is not a debunk. The ariel school sighting for example is highly unlikely but it has not been debunked.

Is there any definition of "reports"?
There's a data source listed on the youtube page. the data source is nuforc,1906 to 2014.
Article:
The National UFO Reporting Center was founded in 1974 by noted UFO investigator Robert J. Gribble. The Center’s primary function over the past four decades has been to receive, record, and to the greatest degree possible, corroborate and document reports from individuals who have been witness to unusual, possibly UFO-related events. Throughout its history, the Center has processed over 150,000 reports, and has distributed its information to thousands of individuals.

The principal means used by the Center to receive sighting reports is this website, which has operated continuously since 1994. Prior to that period, the telephone hotline and the U.S. mail were the primary means of taking reports.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
"Asia and Africa have so few sightings" is a hyperlink that takes us to a YouTube of an animated map showing UFO reports as dot of light from 1906 through 2014 that is screen grabbed below. While still poorly worded, Impey is reacting to the map showing the large concentration of sightings in the US and UK, compared to the rest of the world, something he should have clarified. Even so, it still shows sightings in Mexico as well as South America and Africa, just far fewer.

Going back to the source, it seems that the data for the map comes from nuforc.org - the National (ie, US) UFO Reporting Center.

It does include sightings from other countries but, by its nature, will heavily skew to US reports (and maybe English language reports from other countries) and misses many, many reports from elsewhere.

I also notice that the original YouTube video is now unlisted - meaning it no longer shows up in searches and we can only see it because we already have the link.

Perhaps the makers realised it was skewed and (semi) took it down?

I'm not sure if the following graphic is 100% accurate but I wouldnt be surprised (vancouver, edmonton, calgary)

If Montreal is south of the line (should be) then it's about right (the more northerly cities of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary outweighed by the population of Ontario and Quebec).

The stops at canada borders is BS, looks to be about the same in canada relative to the US

I went to NUFORC and just took their numbers as a whole. Not as fancy as the map but it gives a clear indication of the weighting of reports:

Screen Shot 2022-10-21 at 08.45.33.png
(Rpm = reports per million of currentish population figures)

So the US has about 3x the number of reports per person as Canada, and about 265x when compared to the rest of the world.

But, as above, it's clearly nothing like a complete worldwide database and as such can't be used to show the worldwide distribution of UFO reports.

Screen Shot 2022-10-21 at 09.18.47.png
 
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NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
There's a data source listed on the youtube page. the data source is nuforc,1906 to 2014.
Going back to the source, it seems that the data for the map comes from nuforc.org - the National (ie, US) UFO Reporting Center.

Maybe the map could use a thread of its own, but I don't think it was that big of a deal. It seems to be from a series of "animated map" videos they made. This one happened to be UFO sightings and it's probable that source for the sightings was secondary to the cool looking effect of the animated map.

It was a dubious source to begin with, that Dr. Impey should have been more careful with and in turn created a badly written line that Szydgis could jump on with the fallacious notion that "debunkers ignore UAP sightings around the world". I offered it up merely as an explanation for how this became Szydgis' second point.

providing another possible explanation is not a debunk. The ariel school sighting for example is highly unlikely but it has not been debunked.

Point taken.

In the context, I was pointing out that Szydigs' list of non-USA based UAP cases, were in fact discussed, delt with and in some cases totally debunked both here and on other sites. Thus, proving his whole contention false. I could have used better wording I suppose.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Maybe the map could use a thread of its own

Yes, I think if it was still publicly online that would be good to do. But since it's now unlisted - presumably they realised it wasn't great - I think I'll let it lie.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
I could have used better wording I suppose.
yea. and people keep starting these Szydagis threads as if outside readers have any idea of who Szydagis is. You dont even link to the source until the end of a very long OP. (and what does "EC" mean?)
:)

Article:
Addressing the Most Common Criticisms Against Studying UAP
Associate Professor, Dr. Matthew Szydagis

Edited by: Jeremy McGowan, VP of UAPx

Department of Physics, The University at Albany SUNY, Albany, NY


note: Dr seems to be a doctor of philosophy. I only mention this because when i first looked him up i thought he was a PHd astrophysicist.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-szydagis-07b66a9
 

Duke

Active Member
note: Dr seems to be a doctor of philosophy. I only mention this because when i first looked him up i thought he was a PHd astrophysicist.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-szydagis-07b66a9
By definition PhD is a "Doctor of Philosophy." The degree can be awarded in any number of academic disciplines from accounting to zoology.
Dr Szydagis has a PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago.

From the original article:

Dr. Matthew Szydagis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University at Albany SUNY (State University of New York). He holds a BA (2005), MS (2006), and Ph.D. (defended 2010) from the University of Chicago in physics, with a specialization in astrophysics & astronomy. From 2010–2014 he was a postdoctoral scholar working on the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) dark matter experiment and LBNE (Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment) at the University of California Davis. Since 2014, he’s been at UAlbany, SUNY (Assistant Professor 2014–20, Associate 2020-present). His “day job” is experimental astroparticle physics: in particular, rare-event searches — especially direct detection of dark matter with LZ, and detector development. He is the co-discoverer with Prof. Cecilia Levy of the snowball chamber for radiation detection.


https://uapx-media.medium.com/addre...-criticisms-against-studying-uap-5663335fe8c8
 

NorCal Dave

Senior Member.
yea. and people keep starting these Szydagis threads as if outside readers have any idea of who Szydagis is. You dont even link to the source until the end of a very long OP. (and what does "EC" mean?)
Yeah, your right. My mind got out ahead of my typing hands. Duke originally posted Szydagis' article on "debunking the debunkers" as a single thread. I think Mendel suggested it be moved to General Discussion where the article could be discussed in full, something I was in favor of. But as Szydagis makes 13 different points, Mick said it would be way to messy, sooooo...

It's been split into 3 threads, so far, tackling it point by point. Having all that background in my head, I dove right into the deep end without considering how it would appear to someone that didn't see the original article/thread.

Unfortunately, it's been too long and I can't go back and edit my OP above to provide the proper background.
 

captancourgette

Active Member
Might simply be a result of the thoroughness (or lack of) with which the author looked for reports. If he only trawled through English-language sources then that UAP map looks pretty much like what you'd expect.
India, nigeria, kenya/uganda. OK perhaps not india but in the other places english is the primary languages used in the media.
True netherlands most people know english (and they use subtitles & dont dub unlike nearly everywhere else) but why the lack in scandinavia.
In saying this I think you're prolly correct in that theres some sort of bias with how the person gathered the data of UFO reports
 

Landru

Moderator
Staff member
India, nigeria, kenya/uganda. OK perhaps not india but in the other places english is the primary languages used in the media.
True netherlands most people know english (and they use subtitles & dont dub unlike nearly everywhere else) but why the lack in scandinavia.
In saying this I think you're prolly correct in that theres some sort of bias with how the person gathered the data of UFO reports
What? English is the primary language used in media? when I was in Greece there were a lot of print, TV and radio. Almost all of it was in Greek (one newspaper in English plus a supplement in the Herald Tribune). Turkey, France and other places were about the same.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Actually, perhaps so - it showed up on Twitter yesterday and has quite a few shares:

Screen Shot 2022-10-22 at 14.58.15.png
Source: www.twitter.com/StephenPiment/status/1583661053203820545
compare
Article:
Percentage of English speakers by country (2014).
20170509-diversity-tag-uk-english.jpg

The graphic is sourced to Wikipedia, but I couldn't find it there.

And obviously population density plays a role as well, which explains Australia and Canada somewhat.
 

jplaza

Member
I think the flaw here is assuming the "efficiency" of gathering UFO reports is the same everywhere.

I mean, in Europe there are some countries with nationwide associations that still gather UFO reports. But in Spain, for example, there is not. Only some people, individually, collect them and there is little effort to "centralize", or put that in common.

And then you have countries like China, or Russia (ex-USSR) where communication is (was) obscure, so difficult to know what is(was) happening.

I think there may be several factors to take into account before directly comparing number of cases in one country or another.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I think the flaw here is assuming the "efficiency" of gathering UFO reports is the same everywhere.

Szydagis's flaw?

Percentage of English speakers by country (2014)

I would think number of English speakers would be more applicable than percentage.

I suppose the big question is: does NUFORC harvest reports from other countries and organisations' databases or do they solely rely on reports that are submitted to them?

In any case, I think it's clear that no one really knows what the actual spread of sightings is across the world. Though I think it's safe to say that a light in the sky is more likely to be interpreted as a spaceship in Vermont than it is in the middle of Mongolia or Rwanda.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
The principal means used by the Center to receive sighting reports is this website, which has operated continuously since 1994. Prior to that period, the telephone hotline and the U.S. mail were the primary means of taking reports.
I suppose the big question is: does NUFORC harvest reports from other countries' and organisations' databases or do they solely rely on reports that are submitted to them?
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Yeah, I thought I'd read something like that somewhere. ;)

I wonder what the non-principal/primary means were/are?

Perhaps regional UFO groups in other countries have submitted them en masse? There may not be a comparative ton of non-US/Canada reports but there are still 10,000+
 
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jplaza

Member
More like the map makers flaw, compounded by Impey's flaw for using it willy-nilly and more compounded by Szydagis reacting to Impey. This map could use its own thread it would seem.
Not really a flaw of the map, but of anyone pretending it represents the whole world, or tries to draw conclusions to apply worldwide.

The database represents only a portion of the world, in the same way that spanish databases show cases from Spain, Portugal and Andorra, but none from the US or UK, and that doesn't mean Spain is the preferred vacational resort of aliens.

Szidagi is not even correctly debunking Impey's assertion, but presenting only anecdotal evidence of cases outside the US.
 

captancourgette

Active Member
I believe @captancourgette was referring to the other countries in his list, specifically Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, where English is one of the official languages.
Official language yes but esp in the media you will encounter english. Party due to history when the UK (same also applies with france) constructed those countries they just brought a lot of disparate peoples together who spoke different languages thus english was choosen as the lingua franca thus if you turn on the TV nowadays you're 90% likely to have the program in english, i.e. theres a much higher percent of english programming than other countries where we think a large % of people speak english like sweden or holland.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
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