Flying saucer

Flying saucer is the name given to a type of unidentified flying object (UFO) with a disc- or saucer-shaped body, usually described as silver or metallic, occasionally reported as covered with running lights or surrounded with a glowing light, hovering or moving rapidly either alone or in tight formations with other similar craft, and exhibiting high maneuverability.

Although disc-shaped flying objects have been interpreted as recorded occasionally since the Middle Ages, the first highly publicized sighting by Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947, resulted in the creation of the term by U.S. newspapers. Although Arnold never specifically used the term "flying saucer", he was quoted at the time saying the shape of the objects he saw was like a "saucer", "disc", or "pie-plate", and several years later added he had also said "the objects moved like saucers skipping across the water." (see Arnold article for list of newspaper quotes) Both the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc" were used commonly and interchangeably in the media until the early 1950s.

Arnold's sighting was followed by thousands of similar sightings across the world. Such sightings were once very common, to such an extent that "flying saucer" was a synonym for UFO through the 1960s before it began to fall out of favor. However, the term is still often used generically for any UFO.

More recently, the flying saucer has been largely supplanted by other alleged vehicles such as the black triangle.cite web|url=http://www.rense.com/general9/flys.htm|title=Where Have All The Flying Saucers Gone?|first=James|last=Neff|publisher=rense.com|date=2001-01-04|accessdate=2007-09-04] The term UFO was, in fact, invented in 1952, to try to reflect the wider diversity of shapes being seen. However, unknown saucer-like objects are still reported, such as in the widely-publicized 2006 sighting over Chicago-O'Hare airport.

Many of the alleged flying saucer photographs of the era are now believed to be hoaxes. The flying saucer is now considered largely an icon of the 1950s and of B-movies in particular, and is a popular subject in comic science fiction.cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/exploration/futurespaceflight/flyingsaucers.shtml|title=Flying Saucers|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2007-09-04]

ightings

Perhaps the oldest recording of a saucer-shaped object is from 1290, when a silver disc was reported flying over a village in Yorkshire.cite web|url=http://www.strangemag.com/invadersfromelsewhere1.html|title=Invaders from Elsewhere|accessdate=2007-09-04|publisher=Strange Magazine] Disc-like flying objects were occasionally reported throughout the millennium, one of which was spotted over the village of Kiltealy in 1986. For example, in a mass sighting over Nuremberg in 1561, discs and spheres were reported emerging from large cylinders. (woodcut at left) They also frequently show up in religious artwork, [ [http://www.2012.com.au/Historical.paintings.pdf Other examples of saucer-like objects in old artwork] ] though it is usually ambiguous as to whether the artists were trying to depict something that had been seen or whether there was obscure religious symbolism involved. (example at right) In particular, artwork of the Annunciation of Mary frequently shows a narrow beam of light descending from a saucer-like object. (example lower left)

However, perhaps the first well-documented instance to specifically compare the objects to saucers, and the first to be widely reported, was the Kenneth Arnold sighting on June 24. 1947 while Arnold was flying near Mount Rainier. He reported seeing 9 brightly-reflecting vehicles, one shaped like a crescent but the others more disc- or saucer-shaped, flying in an echelon formation, weaving like the tail of a kite, flipping and flashing in the sun, and traveling with a speed of at least 1,200 miles per hour (1,900 km/h). [ [http://www.mimufon.org/historical_folders/nicap_pages/ReportOnWaveOf1947.pdf The UFO Wave of 1947] by Ted Bloecher, 1967; URL accessed March 07, 2007] In addition to the saucer or disc shape (Arnold also used the terms "pie plate" and half-moon shaped), he also later said he described the motion of the craft as "like a saucer if you skip it across water", leading to the term "flying saucer" and also "flying disc" (which were synonymous for a number of years).

Immediately following the report, hundreds of sightings of usually saucer-like objects were reported across the United States and also in some other countries. The most widely publicized of these was the sighting by a United Airlines crew on July 4 of nine more disc-like objects pacing their plane over Idaho, not far from Arnold's initial sighting. On July 8, the Army Air Force base at Roswell, New Mexico issued a press release saying that they had recovered a "flying disc" from a nearby ranch (the so-called Roswell UFO incident, which was front-page news until the military issued a retraction saying that it was a weather balloon.

On July 9, the Army Air Force Directorate of Intelligence, assisted by the FBI, began a secret study of the best of the flying saucer reports, including Arnold's and the United Airlines' crew. Three weeks later they issued an intelligence estimate describing the typical characteristics reported (including that they were often reported as disc-like and metallic) and concluded that something was really flying around. A follow-up investigation by the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio arrived at the same conclusion. A widespread official government study of the saucers was urged by General Nathan Twining. This led to the formation of Project Sign (also known as Project Saucer) at the end of 1947, the first public Air Force UFO study. This evolved into Project Grudge (1949-1951) and then Project Blue Book (1952-1970).

The term "flying saucer" quickly became deeply ingrained in the English vernacular. A Gallup poll from August 1947 found that 90% had heard about the mysterious flying saucers or flying discs, and a 1950 Gallup poll found that 94% of those polled had heard the term, easily beating out all other mentioned commonly used terms in the news such as "Cold War", "universal military training," and "bookie."

Air Force statistics indicated that the basic saucer-shape continued to be the most commonly reported one through the 1950s and 1960s until Project Blue Book ended in 1970. There have been some claims, still undocumented by scientific study, that reports of saucers began to decline in the 1970s, being supplanted by other craft such as black triangles, cylinders, and amorphous shapes. It has also been asserted that despite the increase in portable cameras, photographs dwindled as Cold War and Space Race interest decreased and a number of notable images were exposed as fakes.

Explanations

In addition to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, a variety of possible explanations for flying saucers have been put forward. One of the most common states that most photos of saucers were hoaxes; cylindrical metal objects such as pie tins, hubcaps and dustbin lids were easy to obtain, and the poor focus seen in UFO images makes the true scale of the object difficult to ascertain. However, some photos and movies were deemed authentic after intensive study. An example was the saucer-like object photographed by farmer Paul Trent near Portland, Oregon in 1950, which passed all tests when studied by the Condon Committee in the 1960s. [ [http://brumac.8k.com/trent1.html Most complete analysis of Trent photos by Dr. Bruce Maccabee] [http://www.temporaldoorway.com/ufo/report/500511.htm text of Condon report] ]

Another theory states that most are natural phenomena such as lenticular clouds and balloons, which appear disc-like in some lighting conditions. [cite web|url=http://www.iwasabducted.com/ufomistakes/clouds/|title=Lenticular cloud UFOs|publisher=UFO Mistakes|accessdate-2007-09-05]

A third theory puts all saucer sightings down to a form of mass hysteria. Arnold described the craft he saw as saucer-like but not perfectly round (he described them as thin, flat, rounded in front but chopped in back and coming to a point), but the image of the circular saucer was fixed in the public consciousness. The theory posits that as the use of the term flying saucer in popular culture decreased, so too did sightings. [cite book|title=The Outer Limits: More Mysteries from the Philosophy Files|first=Stephen|last=Law|isbn=1842550624|year=2003|publisher=Orion Books]

However, one Air Force commissioned study contradicted some of these contentions. A scientific and statistical analysis of 3200 Air Force cases by the Battelle Memorial Institute from 1952-1954 found that most were indeed due to natural phenomena. But only about 2% were due to hoaxes or psychological effects and only .4% were thought due to clouds. Other very minor contributors to the identifieds were birds, light phenomena such as mirages or searchlights, and various miscellaneous such as flares or kites. The vast majority of identified objects (about 84%) were explained as balloons, aircraft, or astronomical objects. However, about 22% of all sightings still defied any plausible explanation by the team of scientists. The percent of unidentifieds rose to 33% for the best witnesses and cases. Thus when carefully studied, a very substantial fraction of reports cannot be easily explained away as being caused by mundane phenomena. Other scientific studies have come to similar conclusions. (see Identified flying object for details)

Earth-based examples

Attempts have been made, with limited success, to produce manned vehicles based on the flying saucer design. While some, such as the Avrocar and M200G Volantor have been produced in limited numbers, most fail to leave the drawing board. The Avrocar, with vertical takeoff and landing, was originally intended to replace both the Jeep and the helicopter in combat situations, but proved to be inadequate for both.In spite of a powerful turbojet, it could not rise more than 4 or 5 feet off the ground, i.e., out of ground effect. [cite web|coauthors=Lindenbaum, Bernard and Blake, William|title=The VZ-9 Avrocar|url=http://www.vtol.org/pdf/Vertiflite-VZ9.pdf THE VZ-9 AVROCAR|accessdate=2007-09-04] Unmanned saucers have had more success; the Sikorsky Cypher is a saucer-like UAV which uses the disc-shaped shroud to protect rotor blades.

Some more advanced flying saucers capable of spaceflight have been proposed, often as black projects by aeronautics companies. The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle was a secret project run by Convair for a saucer device which could carry both astronauts and nuclear weapons into orbit; the nuclear powered system was planned in depth, but is not believed to have ever flown. More exotically, British Rail worked on plans for the British Rail "Space Vehicle" a proposed, saucer-shaped craft based on so far undiscovered technologies such as nuclear fusion and superconductivity, which was supposed to have been able to transport multiple passenger between planets, but never went beyond the patent stage.cite web
url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4801928.stm
title=British Rail flying saucer plan
date= 2006-03-13
publisher=BBC
accessdate=2007-03-17
]

There is at least one design that received a US patent in 2005: US patent|6960975 It claims to be "propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state".

Additionally, a professor at the University of Florida has begun work on a Wingless Electromagnetic Air Vehicle (WEAV) for NASA which has received public interest because of its coincidental resemblance to a flying saucer. [http://www.livescience.com/technology/080612-plasma-saucer.html] [http://blogs.amctv.com/scifi-scanner/2008/07/real-flying-saucer.php] [http://www.scientificblogging.com/news_releases/weav_patent_application_for_a_plasma_propelled_flying_saucer] [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=worlds-first-flying-saucer] clarifyme

Flying saucers in culture

The flying saucer quickly became a symbol of both extraterrestrials and science fiction, and features in many films of mid-20th century science fiction, including "The Atomic Submarine", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers". As the flying saucer was surpassed by other designs and concepts, it fell out of favour with straight science-fiction movie makers, but continued to be used ironically in comedy movies, especially in reference to the low budget B movies which often featured saucer-shaped alien craft. The saucer design did, however, make a temporary comeback on the television series "Babylon 5" as the standard ship design used by a race called the Vree, described on the series as one of Earth's long-standing allies who had in fact visited Earth in the past, and it bore a strong resemblance to the "Greys".

The sleek, silver flying saucer in particular is seen as a symbol of 1950s culture; the motif is common in Googie architecture and in Atomic Age décor. [cite web|url=http://astroprofspage.com/archives/593|title=Astronomers and the Space Needle|publisher=Astroprof's|accessdate=2007-09-04] The image is often invoked retrofuturistically to produce a nostalgic feel in period works, especially in comic science fiction; both "Mars Attacks!" [cite news|url=http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/12.12.96/mars-attacks-9650.html|title=Alien Notions|publisher=Metroactive|accessdate=2007-09-04] and "Destroy All Humans!" [cite web|url=http://uk.gamespot.com/ps2/action/destroyallhumans/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;review|title=Destroy All Humans! for PS2|publisher=Gamespot|accessdate=2007-09-04] draw on the flying saucer as part of the larger satire of 1950s B movie tropes.

Raëlism is a UFO religion founded by a purported contactee named Claude Vorilhon. They believe that Elohim (plural) are advanced extraterrestrials who created humanity and life on Earth whose previous and ancient contacts have provided the founding for many major religions in existence today.

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Flying saucer — Saucer Sau cer, n. [F. sauci[ e]re, from sauce. See {Sauce}.] 1. A small pan or vessel in which sauce was set on a table. [Obs.] Bacon. [1913 Webster] 2. A small dish, commonly deeper than a plate, in which a cup is set at table. [1913 Webster] 3 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • flying saucer — ☆ flying saucer n. a UFO, orig. and typically saucer shaped, that is thought to be an alien spacecraft …   English World dictionary

  • flying saucer — flying saucers N COUNT A flying saucer is a round, flat object which some people say they have seen in the sky and which they believe to be a spacecraft from another planet. [OLD FASHIONED] …   English dictionary

  • flying saucer — [n] spaceship extraterrestrial vessel, spacecraft, UFO, unidentified flying object; concepts 504,506 …   New thesaurus

  • flying saucer — ► NOUN ▪ a disc shaped flying craft supposedly piloted by aliens …   English terms dictionary

  • flying saucer — n a large round spacecraft from somewhere else in space, that some people believe they have seen in the sky →↑UFO …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • flying saucer — noun count a round flat object believed to be a SPACECRAFT from another planet ─ compare UFO …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • flying saucer — noun an (apparently) flying object whose nature is unknown; especially those considered to have extraterrestrial origins • Syn: ↑unidentified flying object, ↑UFO • Hypernyms: ↑apparition, ↑phantom, ↑phantasm, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • flying saucer — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms flying saucer : singular flying saucer plural flying saucers a round flat object believed to be a spacecraft from another planet • See: UFO …   English dictionary

  • flying saucer — noun a) An unidentified flying object; UFO; usually with disc like properties. Some connect the recent spate of flying saucer sightings with a rumored top secret military aviation project. b) In fiction, an alien interplanetary vessel with a disc …   Wiktionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.