A recent Reddit post laid out the case that Peter Thiel, the billionaire rightwing venture capitalist who flirts with white nationalism, has succeeded Robert Bigelow as the new patron of the UFO industry. As you might be aware, Thiel is the sponsor of Hereticon, a conference for “weird” fringe types, notably those interested in the usual Bigelow-style topics of consciousness, immortality, and UFOs. Nick Pope spoke at the most recent Hereticon a few weeks ago. Thiel has funded immortality research for a decade and may have moved into ufology as a result of Bigelow-circle claims about the survival of consciousness being linked to interdimensional poltergeists. Thiel is friends with Jacques Vallée groupie Diana Pasulka, the American Cosmic academic who celebrates ufology’s religious elements, and Pasulka called Thiel a “genius” in a recent interview.
The post points out a surprising number of connections among UFO figures and Thiel’s firm, Thiel Capital. Politico recently reported that Thiel has been discussing UFOs at fundraising dinners for Senate candidates, while the managing director of Thiel Capital, Eric Weinstein, has publicly reversed his position on UFOs and has now embraced all manner of bizarre ideas about flying saucers. Another company employee, Jesse Michels, produces YouTube UFO videos under the American Alchemy brand in which he interviews the usual crew of ufology suspects, including Avi Loeb, Deep Prasad, Garry Nolan, and will soon release an interview between Weinstein and Hal Puthoff. There is as yet no evidence to connect these developments, but given Ross Coulthart’s recent claim that a major data analytics firm is looking to expand in to UFO research, and the fact that Peter Thiel founded and chairs just such a firm, Palantir Technologies, which provides software for the Defense Department and U.S. intelligence community, the whole this has a certain stink to it.
This seems to be wholly of a piece with Garry Nolan’s recent interview in which he claimed that “people” in the United States government have hired him to work on UFO issues, which he then elides into his apparently private study of crashed UFO metals. Given that Nolan has previously identified onetime CIA paranormal researcher Kit Green as the person who connected him with the “people,” the government agency must be the CIA. A careful reading of his claims seems to make plain that Green facilitated Nolan’s study of government medical records of people with brain injuries, some of whom claimed to have seen UFOs, and this was separate from his testing of alien metals, which appears to refer to those collected by Jacques Vallée and the defunct To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science.
As in previous interviews, Nolan claims to have found unusual isotopic ratios in the metals he tested, and in one case found layers of different elements stacked atop one another. Nolan was also unclear on the provenance of the metals. He claimed to have tested as many as twelve samples, but despite implying his metals work was connected with his government UFO research, he later claimed the samples came from “people” (i.e., not the government) and that he had to establish a chain of custody, and he said that he funded the testing himself, to the tune of $70,000.
I was particularly struck by the illogic of Nolan’s efforts. At first, he admits to not knowing what the materials he is analyzing could be, or even if their formation was intentional—as would seem logical for someone who is not trained in the study or metals. “The open question is, was it manufactured, or a product of standard smelting? I don’t know.” But then he engages in bizarre speculation despite his own admitted ignorance, rooted, he concedes, in science fiction: “I am a big reader of science-fiction. Materials we see ejected could be some form of propulsion. Others say that the bismuth-magnesium material is a waveguide.” Those are claims from Hal Puthoff and friends, who speculated about materials like Art’s Parts, previously tested and identified as industrial waste. Puthoff has never provided evidence any piece of metal was part of a propulsion system or spaceship waveguide—or, for that matter, that flying saucers are coated in waveguides.
Nolan said that he intends to benefit from Congress’s newly mandated Pentagon UFO office and plans to apply for money that he says is earmarked for research into imagined UFO crashes. He also claims to have heard that the government has crashed UFO wreckage. “I'm hoping to get access to some of the other materials that are claimed to be owned by the government, to take a look at it.” How much do you want to bet he “heard” that from other ufologists like Lue Elizondo, who in turn have gotten their ideas from still earlier UFO speculators in a stew of science fiction and hoaxes? The government did have some alleged crashed UFO wreckage, back in 1947, which the military obtained from the Maury Island incident, but the U.S. government’s portion was destroyed or lost in a plane crash, and the privately held bits were tested and shown to be industrial waste.
The only other point worth mentioning is that Nolan seems to have a different definition of reverse-engineering a UFO than conventional dictionaries might recognize. Reverse engineering usually involves taking apart a piece of technology to see how it works, but Nolan doesn’t actually need the slag to be technology to somehow still reverse engineer unseen tech. Nolan follows the Puthoff / Mellon / Elizondo / Vallée school and instead thinks of reverse engineering as a thought experiment. “Imagine a science-fiction level instrument, then back track to the practical level. Start with the impossible and reverse engineer to make a practical level one.” That is not reverse-engineering. That is imagination, and you don’t need to fantasize about shoddy alien jalopies shedding rusty parts to use your imagination to invent new technologies. If you already read the science fiction, why, someone even did the imagining for you!
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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