James T Abbott

Official Website


    Why is a UFO like a Rock?

    It’s not a joke. It’s a riddle. Why is a rock like a UFO?

    The answer is that they have both suffered from the same derision.

    Yup. We once laughed at rocks. To be more accurate, scientists queued up to scoff at the idea of burning rocks which fell from the sky. For hundreds of years men of science – they called themselves natural philosophers in those days – fell about laughing at the notion that huge rocks could plummet to earth. Their laughter doubled in volume when ordinary folks also claimed that the rocks were burning as they fell.

    And you have to sympathise with those early scientists. The claims entailed not one, but two, intuitively silly ideas: that a huge chunk of rock could get itself up into the sky in the first place, and that rock – which we use to protect surrounding vegetation from a campfire – could burn. The concepts were impossible and the learned men had many a merry evening laughing at the peasants who innocently claimed to have seen such things and could point to what they claimed were the rocks which fell..

    Scientists enjoyed themselves at the peasants’ expense until, in 1764, a German natural philosopher by the name of Ernst Chladli proposed the idea that the rocks did not come from Earth but from outer space. Yes, you’ve guessed it. He, too, was heavily derided. For another forty years the scientific established continued to have immense fun at the expense of Chladli and anyone else who “believed” in heavy rocks burning as they fell through the sky. Then in the early nineteenth century there was a massive fall of burning rocks in Normandy and – finally – the French Academy of Sciences and the British chemist Edward Howard worked out what was happening. The rocks were definitely from space and they were set alight by intense friction with the atmosphere. Suddenly meteors and meteorites became mainstream knowledge and our scientists pretended they’d always wondered, and that it took just a few small pieces of additional information for them to work it all out for us.

    So, although almost every ordinary person on the planet knew that rocks certainly did fall burning from the sky, the scientific establishment discounted the whole concept as lunacy for many hundreds of years.

    Does that remind you of anything? UFOs perhaps?

    Across the world since the turn of the present century there have been up to a couple of million global sightings of unidentified flying objects. Of those, somewhere around 100,000 cannot be explained in conventional scientific terms. Yet the majority of our scientists continue to mock and scoff in their slightly defensive way. None of it makes sense they cry. Our existing understanding of science says it’s all nonsense.

    This attitude is reinforced by the media. No matter what country you live in, the media will almost always accompany any report of a UFO sighting with a phrase or image which protects their backs. We’ve all seen the raised eyebrows, winks, and knowing looks of the TV anchors, and the pictures of laughable flying saucers and little green men which editors insist on placing alongside a newspaper article on the subject. Some papers even printed such images alongside the recent reports of three separate sightings of strange things by US Navy pilots!

    When you think of it, that’s both astounding and shameful. These are the guys upon whose highly professional skills we rely to protect us. Would the media have poked such fun at those same pilots reporting incoming nuclear missiles or bombers?

    The end result is that we have a serious scientific and philosophical subject – UFOs – which has plagued the world for at least the past century (and possibly much longer), which has now developed its own self-perpetuating loop of disrespect. Person A reports UFO, media report it but in such a way that the report is subtly derided. The result is that scientists cannot investigate without opening themselves up to ridicule and humiliation.

    So, nothing gets properly investigated.

    Our current knowledge – as opposed to speculation – is that UFOs are not alien spaceships. They are unidentified flying objects. Every single one of those 100,000 inexplicable sightings – accumulating at the rate of around 6,000 every year – may turn out to be entirely explainable in conventional terms. But, isn’t it about time we stopped playing children’s sneering games and began doing some serious, long-term scientific research into what is most certainly even more of a major scientific anomaly than rocks from the sky?


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