Sunday, November 11, 2018

Shadow of a Doubt - November 2018

The Monthly Calendar of the National Capital Area Skeptics

  • November 3 lecture - The Disappearance of Cyclops: Lost Without a Trace Presented by Marvin W. Barrash
  • Amazon Smile Donation Increases
  • December 8 lecture: Anastasia Wise, PhD of NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute will present Genomic Medicine.
  • Torn from today's headlines
  • Shadow Light
  • Member renewals

November 2018

NCAS Public Lecture Series

The Disappearance of Cyclops:
Lost Without a Trace

Presented by Marvin W. Barrash

             Saturday, November 3, 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

2018 marks the centennial of the final voyage of U.S.S. Cyclops, a U.S. Navy collier.  After departing Barbados for Baltimore on March 4, 1918, no radio signal was received from it, and no trace of the 542-foot vessel or the 309 people aboard was ever found.

The details of this genuine mystery of the sea have been obscured by sensational promoters of "The Bermuda Triangle" myth, but author Marvin W. Barrash has meticulously researched the legendary ship and the men aboard her, including one of his great-uncles, in his book, U.S.S. Cyclops (Heritage Books, 2010).

What are the more likely explanations for the disappearance of Cyclops, and where might the wreck be found?  The solution to this century-old mystery may soon be within reach.

A life member of the U.S. Naval Institute and the Naval Historical Foundation, Marvin W. Barrash has provided many years of volunteer service with the Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard.  He has produced finding aids for many artifacts and documents, assisted in preservation of historical materials, and researched responses to historical inquiries. He has appeared on-camera as the subject matter expert concerning the U.S.S. Cyclops in two television documentaries produced for the National Geographic Channel.  Barrash continues his research with the hope that the ship's remains will be located and studied, not salvaged.

Copies of U.S.S. Cyclops (hardcover, 794 pages, $152) and his latest book, the prequel Murder on the Abarenda (Heritage Books, 2016; paperback, 176 pages, $21), will be available for purchase (cash only, please) and signing by the author.

AmazonSmile Donation Increase from October 29 through November 2
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Typically the donation is 0.5% of the purchase price.  But from October 29 through November 2 at 11:59 PM PT, AmazonSmile is increasing its donation rate to 5%.  (Terms and conditions are provided below.)

The link to support NCAS while shopping at AmazonSmile is
Thanks to our members who choose to support NCAS during this special promotion!
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December NCAS Lecture
Anastasia Wise, PhD of NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute will present "Genomic Medicine."  Saturday, December 8 at 1:30 PM at Argosy University, 1550 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 712, Arlington, VA.

Torn From Today's Headlines
By Scott Snell
UFOs Have Returned to the Pages of the New York Times
The Nov/Dec 2018 special issue of Skeptical Inquirer on "A Skeptical Look at UFOs and Aliens" includes a news item from Joe Nickell and James McGaha entitled, "New York Times Again Hypes Saucers," referring to an August 3 Times article by Laura M. Holson, "A Radar Blip, a Flash of Light: How U.F.O.s 'Exploded' Into Public View."

Holson's article, categorized as "Science" by the Times, provides a retrospective of the Washington, DC visual and radar UFOs of July, 1952.

Nickell and McGaha provide a detailed critique of the article, but there's a quicker way to assess it.  It employs a common fake-news technique: the omission of important information.  Its readers would be unaware that the Civil Aeronautics Administration (forerunner of today's Federal Aviation Administration) investigated the case and released a report in May, 1953:

"Correlation of controllers' reports with United States Weather Bureau records indicated that a surface temperature inversion was almost always noted when such targets appeared on the radar."

(Note that Jim Klotz of CUFON provides a cover sheet to the PDF file stating, "Of note is that the report ignores the incidents of July 26, 1952..." but actually the report doesn't ignore the incidents.  Table I includes July 26-27 reports and meteorological readings.)

The case was also investigated by the University of Colorado UFO Project ("The Condon Study"):

Holson simply states, "One theory promoted by the Air Force was that a layer of hot air in the sky, called a temperature inversion, caused radar to mistake a weather event for flying objects."  Apparently Holson interviewed only non-skeptics, or at least used only their input.

One genuinely unsolved mystery is the existence and timing of the August Times article.  No new information was presented, the anniversary wasn't divisible by 10 or 5 (66), and the date didn't correspond with the 1952 incidents (July 19-20 and 26-27).  Perhaps the "buzz" generated by last December's front-page UFO stories (which at least were categorized as "Politics" instead of "Science") whetted the editors' appetite for more of the same.

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