UFO Acronyms. What is the "LIZ"?

Mick West

Staff member

There are a lot of acronyms floating around the UFO world, some of which I invented (or at least promoted) myself. Here's a list with my definitions:

  • UFO - Unidentified Flying Object - Anything that seems to be flying that can't be identified. Technically this includes white dots in the distance where you can't tell if it's a bird or not. Common usage tends to conflate this with actual flying saucers and alien spaceships, so the term invites ridicule.
  • UAP - Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon - Anything in the sky that can't be identified - essentially the same as the technical definition of UFO, but currently with fewer jokes. Also covers things like ball lightning, and holograms.
  • LIZ - Low Information Zone - A region of low information - either OOF, TFA, low-resolution video, JAL, bad EWAs, etc. UFOs are unidentified because they stay just inside the LIZ.
  • TFA - Too Far Away. Something unidentified because it is too far away. Most UFOs are TFAs
  • OOF - Out Of Focus. Something unidentified because it's blurry, TFAs are frequently OOF.
  • EWA - Eye-Witness Account. Something unidentified because of an unverifiable story.
  • SoFA - Small or Far Away. Something unidentified because the distance (and hence size) is not immediately apparent. Most commonly a fly, but also birds. Usually OOF. (Previously I used "SFA" but people read that as "Sweet F*** All", so I added the "o")
  • JAL - Just a light - A UFO photo or video that's a black background with just a light. The lack of contextual information in the video prevents identification.
  • RIW - Reflection in a window - Often spotted after a photo is taken, lights in a room are often reflected in the window over the sky, and so look like flying saucers.
  • MSN - More Study Needed - The invariable outcome of UFO investigations.
  • NED - Not Enough Data - A common qualifier applied to conclusions in unsolved UFO investigations
[Update Nov 10 2022] I've highlighted LIZ here because it's probably the most important concept. This recent definition in the Urban Dictionary gives more details:

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Liz&page=7#:~:text=Low Information Zone

LIZ or "Low Information Zone" refers to the distance or set of circumstances at which UFOs are recorded when the resulting eyewitness account, image or video contains insufficient information to identify them, even as non-human craft.

Historically, UFOs have stayed at just the right distance so that they can't be identified. Hence, in photos or videos they appear as fuzzy blobs or points of light. Even more curiously this distance seems to vary by if the viewer has a camera, and then by the quality of the zoom lens on that camera. With better cameras and better lighting conditions, the UFOs get further away.

The ability of UFOs to stay in the LIZ has led many to conclude that UFOs are mostly, or entirely, identifiable object like planes, birds, and balloons, and that the reason that UFOs are all in the LIZ is because if they were closer, or had better lighting or focus, then they would be identified and not be UFOs.

The term was coined by UFO skeptic Mick West, in September 2019.

UFO Enthusiast: We have thousands of videos of UFOs
UFO Skeptic: Any that are not in the LIZ?
UFO Enthusiast: Well, no, but there's so many of them!

The earliest usage does indeed seem to be this Sept 17, 2019 Metabunk post:
UFOs exist in what I call the Low Information Zone (the LIZ). That's the physical region around you (or your camera) just beyond the distance where you can make out what something is. The LIZ is a curious thing in that it expands and contracts based on the lighting conditions, the size and shape of the object, the quality of your eyesight, the presence of optical aids like telescopes, and the resolution and zoom of your camera.

The Navy pilots have a LIZ in any given situation (they probably even have an acronym of their own for it). Radar can only go so far and does not always give you much information beyond position and sometimes speed. FLIR cameras have only so much zoom. The human eye has shorter limits and is subject to a variety of confounding factors.

So, regardless of any belief about aliens or secret technology of some sort, whenever you detect something flying in the LIZ, then that's automatically being to a UFO simply because there's not enough information to identify it.

If you were to suddenly change the size of the LIZ, to expand it by getting out your 10x binoculars, then the UFO often becomes an IFO. Sometimes the expansion does not work, because the object is still in the Low Information Zone, the LIZ.
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The best discussion of the LIZ is probably at https://www.metabunk.org/threads/are-the-navy-ufos-real-or-just-in-the-low-information-zone.10921/ , in the first post.

I would like to add to this that established camera capability ratings reflect this idea: that there is a distance beyond which specific types of objects can be detected, but not recognized or identified. Faraway objects have just enough pixels to see something is there, but not what it is.

SmartSelect_20211008-100416_Samsung Internet.jpg

SmartSelect_20211008-100117_Samsung Internet.jpg

The observation/detection zones in this picture represents the actual LIZ for people-sized objects for a specific camera type.
I really like Mendel's chart above, though I think we'd need a few more pixels to get into the "Identification" range: I didn't gestalt "soldier" for the first one, was seeing a motorcycle/bicycle in the second, and was stuck on aircraft carrier/submarine for the third (probably due to having made a false assumption on scale, once I read "inflatable boat" I look at it and see an inflatable boat now.) I suspect that "identifying" things in the 28 pixel wide range may be aided a bit by already knowing the answer... :)

And yes, I used "gestalt" as a verb. Sue me.
I think we'd need a few more pixels to get into the "Identification" range
You have a point; "identification" is subjective. I didn't mention this because I'm really concerned with non-identification for the LIZ discussion. And as long as we agree that the left column of that picture matrix is firmly in the LIZ, it supports my point. I wasn't planning on dissecting camera ratings in "UFOs and Aliens".

What is good enough for 'identification' can vary considerably among people. In our trainings and presentations, we have seen passionate debates break out about what passes for identification.
When people look at an image by themselves, the answer often appears 'obvious'. It is only when they confer with other people that it becomes a debate as they realize many others have different perceptions.

This'd be a great topic (there are lots of example pictures!) in the"chitchat" subforum: entertaining, and guaranteed to not go anywhere. ;-)
NRA - Noise Reduction Artifact - Camera software alters pixels identified as noise based on context. When the entire zoomed portion is less than ~10 pixels, even 1 altered pixel can significantly change the apparent shape of the object and render further analysis meaningless.

DZA - Digital Zoom Artifact - Camera software uses interpolation beyond the resolution of optical zoom to render further magnification. When only a few pixels are involved, this can destroy any information that remained.
• NHI - Non-Human Intelligence. Posh term for "aliens". Largely synonymous to "extraterrestrial visitor", but leaves open that it might be robot AI or interdimensional travellers.
I'll add some of the various UFO civilian and government programs I've run across. Not in any particular order, just grouped together and by no means exhaustive. There are lots of them.

I'm being a bit non-Metabunk here, in that I'm not listing all the sources for these various entries. My thought was to have some quick summaries that have the important dates, people and general outline. Someplace to find something like APRO was the Lorenzens and they had the Brazilian meta-materials. Not so much a source for debunking, but a reference and a place to start when these names come up.

: Aireal Phenomenon Research Organization. Founded in 1952 by Jim and Coral Lorenzen it became HQed in Tucson AZ by 1960. Many members eventually left and formed what would become MUFON. APRO tried to stress scientific investigation of UFOs. APRO faded out in the late’80s. It is known now mostly for the Lorenzen’s custodianship during the '60s and '70s of the supposed meta-materials from a UFO crash in Ubatuba Brazil in the ‘50s. Garry Nolan of Stanford is the latest person to attempt testing of the Lorenzen’s supposed meta-material despite their clouded provenance and complete lack of providence.

NICAP: The National Investigations Committee on Aeireal Phenomenon. Founded in 1956 by Thomas Brown, its board included noted UFO book author and governmental UFO cover up conspiracist Donald Keyhoe. Like many civilian UFO investigative organizations, it tried to collect, record and collate UFO reports while dealing with questionable leadership, infighting and constant financial pressures. Its membership peaked in the mid ‘60s at ~ 14,000. It largely stayed away from contactees and related reports and attempted to work with the Airforce’s Condon Committee, but Keyhoe who was running NICAP by then pulled out. It folded in 1981, though many of its reports are still circulated today.

MUFON: The Mutual UFO Network. Founded in the US Midwest in 1969 it has become one the biggest civilian UFO organizations. It attempts to train UFO investigators to go out and use “scientific” methods to look into reported sightings. It has a large database, claims to have 4000 members worldwide with chapters in all 50 US states and 40+ countries. More recently it’s leader Jan Harzan was heavily involved in promoting the dubious claim by Jaques Vallee and MUFON researcher Paola Harris concerning a crashed UFO at Trinity NM. The story is largely based on the 70 year old recollections of a couple of octogenarians about their adventures as 8-year-olds. Harzan was later ousted due to a criminal complaint. MUFON received ~ $350k of taxpayer money from the US DoD through BAASS and AAWSAP for use of its database in the mid ‘00s. Many current UFO reports still come from MUFON.

NUFORC: The National UFO Reporting Center. Based in Washington State and founded in 1974 by UFO investigator Robert J Gribble, it operated mostly as a one-man shop with Gribble running a clearing house of sorts collecting sightings via a telephone hotline and the mail. In 1994/1995, Peter Davenport and Christian Steipan came aboard and created a web-based collection service. They claim to have over 170,000 reports which are publicly available to experienced UFO researchers.

CUFOS: The Center For UFO Studies. Originally founded by J. Allen Hynek the civilian scientist from the Airforce’s Project Blue Book, it was only open to scientists and other specialist in related fields that might help understand UFOs. It was later opened to the general public. It collected UFO reports from around the US and later acquired the UFO sighting database from the defunct NICAP. These reports are available to researchers online while CUFOS continues to collect reports of sightings.

NIDS: National Institute of Discovery Science. Robert Bigelow’s privately funded research group that studied UFO,s, the paranormal and consciousness, particularly at Skinwalker Ranch in UT. Founded in 1995, NIDS employed, contracted or had as board members many prominent UFOlogist including Hal Putoff, Jaques Vallee, General John Alexander, Eric Davis, John Mack and others. Despite being shut down in 2004 due to lack of progress, former head Colm Kelleher teamed up with UFO journalist George Knapp to write Search for the Skinwalker about all the wild things that went on at SKR.

TTSA: To The Stars Academy of arts and science. Founded by ex-CIA intel officer Jim Semivan along with Hal Putoff and punk/pop rocker Tom DeLong in 2017, the idea was to combine UFOlogical entertainment with cutting edge UFO research and maybe help bring about disclosure. TTSA helped leak or present the Navy videos. In the early years TTSA counted some of UFOlogy's luminaries as board members, contributors and investors, including Christopher Melon, Lue Elizondo, Jaques Vallee, Eric Davis among others. Note many of these same people were involved in NIDS and AAWSAP. TTSA tried to rase $50 million in investments, but only managed ~$1 million. It put out some books by DeLong and some TV shows, but the research seems to be limited to some meta-materials (bits of metal junk) supposedly from the crashed saucer at Roswell and collectively known as Art's Parts. Many of the UFOlogy people moved on after time as scrutiny of the TTSA finances seemed to indicate DeLong was the main beneficiary. For example, DeLong acquired some of Art's Parts from UFO journalist Linda Moulton Howe, then turned around and sold them to TTSA, his own company, for $35,000

THE RANCH. So much of UFOlogy of the last 30 years, and particularly government involvement especially in the last 15 years is influenced by a piece of dirt in Utah.

SKW: Skin Walker Ranch. This is an approximately 512 acre ranch in north east Utah. Owned by the Myers family from 1934 until 1994, not much happened there, though there were some UFO reports in the surrounding Uintah Basin in the ‘70s. After selling the ranch to the Sherman family, the Shermans began telling a few tales about UFOs, cattle mutilations and glowing orbs on the ranch with Terry Sherman responsible for most of these stories after he sold the ranch but stayed on as caretaker. Las Vegas based UFO journalist, George Knapp picked up the story and spread it around, including to his fellow Vegas based hotel running millionaire acquaintance and paranormal/UFO enthusiast, Robert Bigelow. Bigelow bought the ranch in 1996, sent his NIDS team to investigate and used, or some would say culturally appropriated, the Navajo word for what we would understand as an evil spirit or witch, the Skinwalker, as the new spooky sounding name for the ranch. After NIDS, Bigelow would use government money from AAWSAP to continue studying SKR. Knapp would go on to coauthor 2 books about the ranch in the Bigelow days. Bigelow sold the ranch, at a tidy profit, in 2016 to Utah real estate mogul Brandon Fugel who continues to promote the ranches supposed weird stuff on the Discovery network TV shows. Despite nearly 30 years of stories and almost full-time research staffs on site, the only evidence presented has been a few fuzzy pictures, highly speculative suggestions like botched LIDAR surveys show wormholes and assorted anecdotes about weird stuff.

GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. Just some of them for now.
AAWSAP: Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program. Created ~2009 and run by civilian rocket scientist James Lacatski at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with funding provided by Senator Harry Ried (D-Nevada), AASWAP issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for speculative papers and research about future technologies in the realm of aerospace and defense. Fellow Nevadan and Ried campaign donor Robert Bigelow created BASS, which became the sole bidder for AASWAP. Lacatski would later admit in a book he coauthored, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon, that AASWAP was about much more than the original RFP on speculative future tech and was more concerned with the supposed high strangeness that occurred at SKR. AASWAP eventually paid BAASS around $22 million over a few years to create 35-36 speculative papers on future tech and carry on the work begun by NIDS at SKW.

BAASS: Bigelow Advanced AeroSpace Services. Robert Bigelow’s company that was formed for the purpose of bidding on and executing the RFP from AASWAP. Of the few companies interested in the AASWAP RFP, only BASS seemed to understand that what was formally asked for was only a small part of what was wanted and was thus the sole bidder. BASS employed or contracted a number of ex-NIDS people to create speculative papers about future tech per the original RFP, as well as purchased the rights to MUFON’s database of UFO reports, investigated UFOs and generally picked up where NIDS left off at SKR.

AATIP: Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. According to Lacatski who ran AASWAP, this was a made-up acronym created as a ruse to use in a letter to hide the existence of AASWAP. Lacatski and Reid were attempting to have AASWAP declared a classified Special Access Program (SAP) supposedly because it was so successful, they were worried that others at the Pentagon would want a piece of the action and not to hide the fact that a Reid doner was getting DoD money to chase ghosts and UFOs on his private ranch. Lue Elizondo would later claim to be the “head” of AATIP. When the Kean and Blumenthal story hit the NYT in 2017 there seemed to be some confusion as AATIP was giving as the official government UFO program inside the Pentagon as no one had heard of AASWAP at the time. It’s still unclear what AATIP was. It appears to be an offshoot of AASWAP and a side gig for a few people at the Pentagon, including Elizondo and Jay Stratton who had worked with Lacatski and had visited SKR. They may have dropped the more paranormal aspects of AASWAP and concentrated just on UFO/UAPs with DoD connections. Lacatski and Knapp claim AATIP was a made-up name, it never officially existed, was never funded, but that Elizondo and others coopted the name for their side gig.

UAPTF: The Unidentified Airial Phenomenon Task Force. Arising after the 2017 NYT UFO story and release of the Navy videos, it was to collect and analyze UAP/UFOs related to the military. Some accounts have it as the continuation of AATIP. It was run in cooperation with the Office of Navel Intelligence. It was headed or run at some point by Navel Intel officer Jay Stratton, possibly because he had worked with Elizondo at whatever ATTIP was. Stratton brought in TV personality, Ancient Aliens regular and future star of Skinwalker Ranch, Dr. Travis Taylor as "chief scientist". Whistleblower David Grusch claims to have become involved with UFOs while working with/at the UAPTF with Stratton and Taylor among others. By the time the UAPTF was presenting to congress it was headed by Brennan McKernan. The UAPTF presented a number of cases labeled as "unidentified" that turned out to be drones, lens flares and even just stars.

AOIMSG: the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The follow up to UAPTF that was established in late 2021 and like UAPTF was under the control of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, but not in the Office of Navel Intelligence. By summer 2022 it had been renamed AARO.

AARO: The All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office. This is the current US government agency that looks into UAP/UFOs.
Can we have a new acronym to go with LIZ, OOM, TFA .... ?

TMB = Trust Me, Bro.

Definition: When the only evidence to a claim is the claim itself and the claimant provides an assurance of his own credibility to back it up.
@flarkey : was this a sub-consciously intentional typo?
If OOF: Out of Focus, does that make OOM: I made this up, Out of [My] Mind? Or {Out of Sight], 'Out of Mind?
Oops. Well spotted. OOM is a golf competition that I participate in - the Order Of Merit! <facepalm emoji>