Earlier today, NASA held a meeting about UFOs with representatives from the Pentagon’s new UFO office (AARO) and members of NASA’s UFO research group, and the results were about what you would expect. Sean Kirkpatrick of AARO revealed that “Go Fast,” one of the famous videos of a “UFO” cited by the New York Times and claimed by Lue Elizondo and Chris Mellon to be moving at impossible velocities turned out to be traveling around 40 miles per hour, in line with an object at that altitude being blown by wind. He said that a handful of cases seemed truly anomalous but that none indicated any evidence whatsoever of space aliens. Other members of the panel complained loudly about receiving harassment from UFO believers for not supporting the space alien claim.
In Engelsberg Ideas, folklorist Adrienne Mayor has a new piece discussing the Greek myth of Talos as the original version of the “A.I. dilemma,” expanding on ideas from here 2018 book Gods and Robots. Artificial intelligence is all the rage this year thanks to the rapid emergence of A.I.-powered chatbots and image generators. I’ve always had a little bit of a problem with the effort to find in the story of Talos a precedent for robotics and A.I., mostly because the idea of Talos as a robot probably wasn’t original to the myth and likely developed gradually and incidentally.
There were, of course, ancient myths are were explicitly about androids and robots, such as the Chinese story of Yen Shih and his artificial human, which dates back at least to the fourth century BCE. I do not disagree with the concept that the ancients thought about robots. I disagree, though, with the idea that Talos was originally or primarily conceptualized as a robot in the modern sense.
Journalist Peter Bergen, probably best known from his appearances on CNN as a national security analyst, launched a new podcast through Audible today, In the Room with Peter Bergen. The high-profile new podcast aims to cover national security issues and today’s three-episode launch includes an episode on flying saucers—because, of course you need UFOs to draw interest. As you might expect, the podcast includes interviews with the usual suspects, including Alex Dietrich, Chris Mellon, Mick West, and Seth Shostak, as well as New Yorker writer Gideon Lewis-Krauss. It also has nothing of value to say about UFOs, as evidenced by its reliance on Lewis-Krauss, whose only connection to the UFO “mystery” is writing an article about it. But, hey, that’s enough for a lifetime ticket as a UFO “expert”!
Note: This article is cross-posted from my Substack because Twitter is limiting links to Substack. I think you'll find the historical content interesting.
Nearly seven decades after James Dean died, I would have thought that everything that could be known about him was known. All but a small handful of people who knew him in life are now dead, and those left alive have had nothing new to say in decades. The magazine and newspaper articles have been raked through many times, and the scraps of archival materials picked clean. Then, to my amazement, Nate D. Sanders Auctions announced the sale later this month of more than 500 pages of James Dean’s business, legal, and personal correspondence and papers from the estate of his New York talent agent, Jane Deacy, who died in 2008. These papers, never before seen, are, frankly, astounding in what they reveal.
I have been trying to find some time to write blog posts, but it’s been difficult of late. With my livelihood under pressure from ChatGTP and related A.I. programs that are steadily replacing the kind of copywriting that used to be my bread and butter, I’ve been forced to take on less interesting and more time-consuming work to make ends meet, and that leaves me with less time for writing anything that doesn’t pay. Nevertheless, I did want to point out the massive journalistic project the Douglas Dean Johnson undertook to investigate the 1945 so-called “Trinity” extraterrestrial encounter recently publicized in the self-published book Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret by Jacques Vallée and Paola Harris and, according to Vallée and the New York Times, an influence on recent Congressional legislation revising the Pentagon’s remit to include UFO involvement dating back to 1945. In short, Johnson concluded that the old geezers spinning the story are habitual liars and that the story is a bunch of bunk:
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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