Last week, the Society for Scientific Exploration held its thirty-seventh annual conference, this time in combination with the International Remote Viewing Association. The two organizations focus on fringe science claims about psychic powers, the mysteries of consciousness, alternative energy, alternative medicine, etc. You will of course recognize the SSE as the publisher of Edge Science, a magazine whose articles about ancient astronauts and related claims I have had occasion to criticize more than once. Well, at last week’s conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Hal Puthoff gave a lecture on his work for To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and the Pentagon’s UFO program. Like the secret showman that he has long been, he hinted at things he refused to say and used blanket claims about government classification to avoid dealing with provable details to support his implications and allegations. However, he accidentally led me to the solution to the mystery of To the Stars’ secret “alien” metal alloy that they have been promoting since last year.
You know how I hate to leave a mystery unsolved, and the “alien” alloy really bothered me. But you’ll have to wait until the end to find out the solution. I am mean that way.
Regular readers will recall that former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), working at the behest of campaign donor and UFO believer Robert Bigelow, passed legislation creating the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program, a UFO tracking bureau, whose work (and funding) were outsourced to Bigelow’s company until funding ended in 2012. This program made headlines last December when a former official left the Pentagon, joined Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars, and revealed the existence of the shuttered Pentagon enterprise to the New York Times at the same time that To the Stars began promoting declassified Pentagon videos purporting to show UFOs.
Puthoff is DeLonge’s Vice President of Science and Technology at To the Stars Academy. He is a former Scientologist who worked on remote viewing projects and made a name for himself as a believer in various paranormal phenomena, and he is also a paid subcontractor for Bigelow. He admitted this week that he worked on the Pentagon project under financing from Bigelow. While he has endorsed a number of unusual phenomena, he does have his limits. He told fringe writer Philip Gardner in 2013, for example, that he did not endorse the claim that a powder made from “white monoatomic gold” could be used bend space and time or to levitate objects. Strangely, though, this was not because he doubted its power per se but because the owner of the alleged white monoatomic gold powder never provided him with a testable sample. Oddly, though, that exactly what To the Stars has alleged chunks of broken metal from space alien ships can do. Funny how these things always come back around.
Puthoff delivered a speech describing his investigation of what he calls “Advanced Aerospace Vehicles” and the pieces of debris that fall from them with astonishing regularity. In his speech to the conference, Puthoff creatively deployed claims of government classification when convenient. One might imagine that if he is indeed correct that the American government is actively investigating these space vehicles and their technology that their very existence would be just as classified as the decidedly less exciting description of their metallic composition, but apparently not, for Puthoff has no trouble sharing allegations that the U.S. is aware of non-human technologies, but hesitates to provide any details about testable material derived from these.
Anyway, he says that “you’ve got these Advanced Aerospace Vehicles flying around that we don’t know where they come from, who’s driving them, what the intent is – possibly off-world even.” He implies that this is a Pentagon revelation, but it seems that this is instead his own gloss on plain old everyday UFO reports, for he alleges that the Pentagon’s actual concern regarded planning for encounters with advanced aircraft. Puthoff suggests that these would be future UFO invasions, but there is nothing that suggests this other than his own assertion, and I find it difficult to grasp the idea that the Pentagon would only care whether the Russians or Chinese might use crashed UFOs to gain a technological edge over the Americans. Surely the arrival, and potential capture or destruction, of fucking SPACE ALIENS and their craft really ought to warrant some level of interest if true. Puthoff says that space aliens pose no strategic threat that concerned either the Soviet or American governments during the Cold War, so therefore the only concern was whether the enemy might make better use of crashed alien spaceships.
What the actual fuck?
I mean that genuinely.
Even leaving aside the fact that the arrival of beings from another world would open us to the potential for Andromeda Strain-style devastation, it is impossible to conceive of a world where intelligent beings from another world are buzzing through the skies regularly and literally nobody cares, except about how much money they can save by piggybacking off their technology. The same Pentagon that obsessed for years over whether you can kill a goat by staring at it has no interest in what would have been the most important scientific, technological, and even existential development in millennia?
This is the same problem I have with ufology and ancient astronaut theories. If these people genuinely believed that they had discovered true and incontrovertible evidence of an intelligence beyond human, surely they would be profoundly transformed and not utterly blasé about it. Every street-corner prophet who imagines he has heard the voice of God speaks with more passion and commitment than the men and women who say that they have proved that we are not alone.
When we get into the fine details of Puthoff’s claims, things start to get a little fuzzy. Puthoff admits that the Defense Intelligence Agency’s efforts to find a contractor to investigate alleged “advanced aerial vehicles” were “unclassified,” along with the scope and limits of that investigation. He says this in the hope of absolving Bigelow of the implication that Reid, having been convinced to fund the project by Bigelow and those in Bigelow’s orbit, received the Pentagon’s contract as a favor. But Puthoff actually admitted that DIA wasn’t hiding the program and hadn’t classified the supposedly forbidden details. Indeed, he also admitted that most of the documents produced by experts for the program, whitepapers on the future of air and space travel, for example, were also unclassified. These papers covered sci-fi topics such as “positron aerospace propulsion, IEC fusion as a compact energy source, warp drive, dark energy, extra dimensions, metallic glasses for aerospace use.” These papers were shared openly throughout the government.
Ah, but when it comes to actual material that Tom DeLonge is profiting from, suddenly things change. Puthoff talks about the allegations that so-called “meta-metals” have been recovered that were beyond human technology. “I’d love to talk about really fancy materials, but they’re classified,” he said. Oh, but of course. The existence of non-human spacecraft isn’t a secret, but the fact that they are made of fancy metals is both a secret and one that can be openly admitted in public so long as he doesn’t provide any details at all. That’s some very selective classification.
Puthoff, however, says that he can talk about a chunk of metal that the late radio host Art Bell had told him about decades ago.
Puthoff said that he examined the sample after a self-described military man said he had recovered it from a UFO crash site and sent it “by email” to Bell. It appears that Puthoff is not describing an actual physical sample in Bell’s possession but rather a document claiming to describe a government report on such a sample, but Linda Moulton Howe claimed in the Roswell Daily Record last year that Bell had the actual sample (six in fact!) and that it had been “recovered” from the Roswell UFO crash site and sent to Bell in 1996 by an Army sergeant who got it from his grandfather.
Here is what Puthoff had to say:
It was a multilayered bismuth and magnesium sample. Bismuth layers less than a human hair. Magnesium samples about ten-times the size of a human hair. Supposedly picked up in the crash retrieval of an Advanced Aerospace Vehicle. It looks like it’s been in a crash. The white lines are the bismuth; the darker areas are the magnesium separations. So the question was what about this material, so naturally we looked in all the national labs, we talked to metallurgists, we combed the entire structure of published papers. Nowhere could we find any evidence that anybody ever made one of these. […] Well, years later, decades later actually, finally our own science moves along. We move into an area called metamaterials, and it turns out exactly this combination of materials at exactly those dimensions turn out to be an excellent microscopic waveguide for very high frequency electromagnetic radiation terahertz frequencies.
And where is this sample now? Amazing the way these astonishing pieces of evidence vanish. The research that Puthoff said he did is the exact same research that Howe claims to have done, point for point, and that strongly implies that they were not working entirely independently. Howe’s findings, though, were hardly conclusive. She asked electrical engineer Travis Taylor to do a literature search, and he couldn’t find reference to the magnesium-bismuth material.
This is clearly of a piece with the other bits of exotic metal that fellow Bigelow consultant and ufologist Jacques Vallée has been talking up for the past year. Vallée specifically identified the metal chunks he works with as being made of “magnesium” with unusual isotope ratios. DeLonge claimed that his lumps of metal are unnatural “alloys” that can bend space and time and counteract gravity. Where have heard that before? But specifically, he alleged that the metal was “3D-printed” with different layers of different metals. This is indistinguishable from Puthoff’s description of a sample made of multilayered bismuth and magnesium, and indeed, I found that DeLonge referred to “layered bismuth and magnesium metamaterials” being in his possession. Despite the superficial differences, I have trouble believing that Bigelow’s satellites—Puthoff, Vallée, and even DeLonge—aren’t all promoting variations of the same thing. Garry Nolan of To the Stars seemed to confirm this in describing the magnesium-bismuth metamaterials as alloys, alleging that they have unusual isotope ratios, and endorsing the overlapping claims found in all three of the other advocates’ allegations about the materials.
Here is Nolan confirming my suspicions explicitly: “Yes, Jacques and I have worked together on many projects. Including his recent discussions on the isotope ratios. Jacques previously worked with Peter Sturrock (Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics here at Stanford) a couple of decades ago on composition of materials from UAP.” “UAP” refers to “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
So, to summarize: All of Bigelow’s satellites are engaged in a mutual dance of apparent delusion. Nolan is a microbiologist. Vallée is a computer scientist and venture capitalist. Puthoff trained as an electrical engineer and spent his career in parapsychology. None has expertise in metals or their claimed quantum processes of producing unusual metals. According to no less an authority than Vallée himself, speaking in interviews last year, they have made no use of experts in advanced metallurgy but have instead used commercial laboratories to study pieces of metal and developed their own explanations of the results. “I’m pretty well connected with the high-tech community, including one company that I financed as a venture capitalist,” he told Skeptico last fall, adding that he hired their mass spectrometer to analyze magnesium slag for alien isotope ratios.
But more to the point, try parsing Puthoff’s description carefully. Puthoff wants us to read this as saying that the military recovered a sample of metamaterials, failed to reproduce it, but made great advances over decades after studying it. And yet the description also could just as easily suggest that a secret advanced program had produced such metal earlier than it had become public and that not everyone was aware of who was working on what. Indeed, Puthoff himself provided evidence for that very reading when he admitted that “it’s a high compartmentalizational topic, therefore a slow pace of cumulative progress and integration. We call ’em ‘stovepipes.’ You have a lot of people with lots of detailed information about some particular aspect, but they don’t talk each other even if it is sitting at the next desk.”
Basically, if we apply the most plausible reading to the claims as given (which is a dicey proposition to start with), Puthoff is acting surprised that a classified military program may have tested aircraft with advanced materials that were not publicly described for several decades after testing began. This should surprise no one. Stealth aircraft were under development for many years before they made their public debut—and, indeed, the U.S. government may even have encouraged ufological explanations for sightings of stealth craft before they were ready to be officially acknowledged in order to help keep them secret.
That there is something fishy in all of this can be seen in the fact that the magnesium-bismuth layering is not a new discovery but is widely discussed in fringe literature for decades. Linda Moulton Howe has been promoting it since the 1990s, and it appears routinely in twenty-first century books about anti-gravity technology and UFOs, going back at least to the early 2000s. I am torn between thinking that the Bigelow group are blindly pursuing what they think is real U.S. government research into magnesium-bismuth layering and thinking that they are cynically pulling bizarre claims from UFO literature to excite ufologists and UFO believers into thinking that they have real pieces of a flying saucer.
A final piece of evidence suggests that the Bigelow’s men are overstating their claims. In 1996, Linda Moulton Howe commissioned technologist Nicholas A. Reiter, himself an anti-gravity researcher and a fringe believer in UFOs and paranormal things, to investigate the “Roswell sample”—i.e. the same piece that Puthoff is now promoting. Reiter determined that it was earthly and, while unusual, was not impossible. In 2001, he updated his findings with this information: “The combination of bismuth and magnesium had eluded us for four years. But then one day, we found a reference to an obscure industrial process used in the refinement of lead. The process, called the Betterton-Krohl Process, uses molten magnesium floated over the surface of liquid lead. The magnesium sucks up, or pulls bismuth impurities out of the lead! Often, the magnesium is used over and over again…” Presumably, this is the same process that was patented in 1938, producing a thin crust of layered magnesium and bismuth, which is removed from the lead. When the magnesium is reused, new layers would form. (The Fortean Times endorsed this solution in 2016.) Remember that Vallée’s sample was specifically identified as slag—i.e., industrial debris. Howe refused to publicize Reiter’s results, preferring to string along the “alien” mystery. Of course, we would need a known sample made by the industrial process to test the “alien” versions against, but the distribution of the slag in industrialized nations (Vallée claims examples from France, Argentina, and America, for example) id s point in favor of this solution.
The new information here is that To the Stars seems to be collecting more of the same industrial waste that Linda Moulton Howe has been cycling through the UFO circuit for 22 years.
The “space-time” and “gravitational” anomalies of the metal are also explainable, and have been explained for decades. Howe, Puthoff, and DeLonge all ran high voltage through the metal and made it move. Any piece of metal will react the same way to high enough electrical voltage. If I understand the science correctly, the unusual isotope ratios may also be a result of the industrial process, since the resulting metal is artificial and not a natural occurrence.
Bottom line: The Bigelow-adjacent men may well be testing industrial waste and imagining they have found alien technology, or know better and are lying about it. A photo of the apparent industrial waste makes visible how decidedly unlike a flying saucer’s smooth, sleek, and fictitious finish it appears:
The bigger question is why they are promoting industrial waste as UFO wreckage, and why so many people affiliated with Bigelow are pushing this narrative. I could only speculate.
There are some uncanny echoes to the part of the 1947 Maury Island incident where Harold Dahl and Fred Crisman tried to pass off industrial slag to Ray Palmer as remnants of a crashed flying saucer, only to have the hoax revealed by a careful analysis, leading Dahl to admit the deception.
Puthoff went on to say that he felt the need to communicate with the public about mystery vehicles and therefore left government work to cofound To the Stars Academy with DeLonge. This is another area where I am dumbfounded. Supposedly, he had access to proof positive of space aliens, and their actual technology, and chose to … do nothing, to walk away, and to give speeches instead of working on actual space alien machines and metals. I guess that’s because his actual job didn’t really involve space aliens or UFOs but rather coordinating a series of speculative reports about future aerial technologies. In other words, he doesn’t actually know what he implies that he knows, and didn’t work on the things he imagines that people he admits he didn’t work with were working on.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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