Saturday, September 08, 2018

Shadow of a Doubt - September 2018

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics

  • September 8 lecture - UFOs, the Air Force and the Colorado Study by Retired USAF Colonel David J. Shea
  • History and Project Blue Book
  • October 13 lecture: Photographer (and former ghost hunter) Kenny Biddle will demystify paranormal videos
  • NCAS Board Elections:Results
  • Prez Sez
  • Quick Shout Outs 
  • Torn from today's headlines
  • AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
  • Shadow Light
  • Member renewals

September 2018

NCAS Public Lecture Series

UFOs, the Air Force, and the Colorado Study

Presented by Retired USAF Colonel David J. Shea

Saturday, September 8, 1:30pm - 4:00pm
Connie Morella Library
7400 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD [map] [directions]
(Bethesda Metro station)
FREE admission – Everyone welcome, members and non-members

The US Air Force investigated UFO reports for more than two decades (1947-1969). By the time the final investigations project (called “Blue Book”) ended, over 12,000 reports had been investigated, and 701 remained unidentified.

During the final years of Project Blue Book, the University of Colorado was contracted by the USAF to conduct a scientific study of UFOs “in more detail and depth than [had] been possible to date.”

USAF Captain David J. Shea was the Pentagon press spokesman for Project Blue Book from 1967 to its termination in December 1969. Now a retired Colonel, he’ll provide a first-hand account of the USAF's work with the University of Colorado and physicist Edward U. Condon, the director of the study.

Note: In 1999, the Colorado Study’s final report was transcribed for the Internet by NCAS and hosted at by permission of The Regents of the University of Colorado.

David J. Shea received a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Fordham University. He was designated a distinguished graduate of the Air Force ROTC program there and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the regular Air Force. He earned his master’s degree in mass communications from the University of Denver and wrote his thesis on “The UFO Phenomenon: A Study in Public Relations,” based in part on his interview of Dr. Condon.

All his Air Force assignments were in the public affairs career field, including director of Public Affairs for three Air Force major commands: Air Training Command, United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Force Systems Command. Shea concluded his military career as the director of Defense Information, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, the Pentagon, in October 1988.

He joined Hughes Aircraft Company in its Washington DC office, which merged with Raytheon Company in December 1997 where he was the director of media relations.
Shea is a co-author of Media Isn’t A Four Letter Word, a guidebook providing tips and techniques for executives on how to deal with the press. Originally published in 1994, the book is now in its fifth edition.

Refreshments and socializing after the talk.

HISTORY and "Project Blue Book"
HISTORY (formerly the History Channel) will begin ("this winter") televising a new drama series entitled "Project Blue Book," from executive producer Robert Zemeckis:

Judging from the trailer, this may be a period-piece (1950s) version of "The X Files." A scientist and an Air Force captain are partners in UFO investigations. The scientist character is astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek, the real-life scientific consultant to Blue Book. (His partner is Captain Quinn...perhaps a reference to Blue Book chief, Hector Quintanilla?) The trailer incorrectly describes "Blue Book" as "top-secret":

Another UFO investigations drama series was "Project U.F.O." (aired 1978-79 on NBC), also starring a pair of investigators (both were USAF officers). Co-created by Jack Webb ("Dragnet," "Adam-12," "Emergency!"), it was his final series.

October NCAS Lecture
Photographer (and former ghost hunter) Kenny Biddle will demystify paranormal videos. Saturday, October 13 at 1:30 PM at Connie Morella (formerly Bethesda Regional) Library.

Board of Directors Election
Results of June's NCAS member vote on candidates for the board of directors have been tabulated. Re-elected and incumbent members are: Nelson Davis Jr, Chip Denman, Grace Denman, Bing Garthright, Brian Gregory, Curtis Haymore, Beth Kingsley, J. D. Mack, Melissa Pollak, Walter F. Rowe, Brian A. Sharpless, Scott Snell, and Marv Zelkowitz.

At its July 9 meeting, the NCAS board of directors selected its officers, who are: Scott Snell, president; J. D. Mack, vice president; Walter F. Rowe, secretary; and Beth Kingsley, treasurer.

Prez Sez
By Scott Snell
On Tuesday, August 21 at 6 PM, please join me and fellow board members for a meet and greet at Pacci's Pizzeria (8113 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring). You're also welcome to stay for our open board meeting, when we'll be planning upcoming events. Look for the table with the NCAS pyramid!
There's plenty of parking in the lot (accessible from Mayor Lane, near Sligo Avenue) and the garage behind Pacci's.

Things have changed since I was last president, a decade ago. For example, the phrase "fake news" is now part of the lingo of the land, and probably always will be. Longtime skeptics are, of course, very familiar with fake-news techniques: the omission of important information, unlikely interpretations of presented information, and undue emphasis or de-emphasis of particular details. Some publishers and TV/radio producers have been doing that for decades regarding UFOs, ESP, astrology, alternative medicine, ghosts, cryptozoology, the "Bermuda Triangle," and so on. Just as in the political realm, undoubtedly their personal biases and dedication to causes are why this occurs, though their own genuine ignorance and cynical exploitation of the public's misconceptions surely play a part too. Political fake news has probably been around just as long as the paranormal type, just harder to check until today's easy access to full recordings of speeches and other primary sources of "political data."

Quick Shout-Outs
Happy birthday to James "The Amazing" Randi (age 90) and astrophysicist/Nobel Laureate John Mather (72), both on August 7, and both Klass Award Laureates. (Perhaps an astrologer predicted that, but we never heard about it.) And yes, there was a 14% chance that at least two of the eleven Klass Laureates would share a birthday.

Also a shout-out to NCAS member Kevin W. Parker of Greenbelt, who had his letter published in the Sept/Oct issue of Skeptical Inquirer.

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
YouTube Attaches "Information Cues" to "Conspiracy Videos"
On March 13, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced at the 2018 South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, Texas, that YouTube would soon begin attaching an "information cue" to videos associated with "conspiracy theories." The cue is attached without the consent or control of the YouTube account holder. (The topic of conversation lasts about three minutes.)

A cue can be clicked to read more about the topic at a reputable site. During her demonstration, the "Moon Hoax" and "Chemtrails" cues linked to Wikipedia pages on "Moon Landing" and "Contrails."

Wojcicki's comments seemed to suggest that Wikipedia's page listing of conspiracy theories would be the source for identifying which topics constitute "conspiracies."

The next day, the Wikimedia Foundation issued a statement explaining, among other things, that they were not given advance notice of the YouTube announcement:

For whatever reason, apparently many of the current cues are to Encyclopaedia Britannica pages. For example, here's a video promoting the "Moon landing hoax":

The same cue is also attached to skeptical videos, including one from the Smithsonian:

A video promoting the "Bermuda Triangle" includes a cue:

as does this "JFK assassination" video:

However, the chemtrail video Wojcicki showed, featuring an information cue to the Wikipedia page on "contrails" currently (as of August 21) has no information cue:

A climate change video by Siemens has a cue to Wikipedia's "global warming" page:

Author's Comment:
Overall, this appears to be a positive development. Imagine if, decades ago, the mystery-mongering magazines and books, falsely labeled "non-fiction," in libraries and stores had similar "cues" that would offer readers a better understanding of the topic. My only concern is that some of the cues may not directly address the extraordinary claims. For example, the Britannica page on the "Bermuda Triangle" is superficial in its treatment of the subject. A novice might interpret the article as unfairly dismissive of the mysteries. In Britannica's favor, presumably their pages are less prone to mischievous editing than their Wikipedia counterparts. Though we have Susan Gerbic and her fellow Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia to thank for keeping those pages fact-based. (See her 2017 NCAS lecture at )

AmazonSmile: Thanks to our members who are supporting NCAS!
When shopping at, you'll find the same low prices, vast selection, and convenient shopping experience as, with the added bonus that a portion of the purchase price (0.5%) goes to NCAS! It's simple and automatic, and it doesn't cost you anything!

AmazonSmile's disbursements to NCAS in the second quarter of 2018 came to $24.22, meaning that over $4800 of purchases were designated in support of NCAS. (As an example of how NCAS can put that money to good use, it's more than enough to cover an hour of a Montgomery County lecture room rental.)

Thanks again to our members who have chosen to support NCAS!

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