Why the UFO Subject Deserves Scientific Study

UFOlogy is gaining legitimacy, but will scientists answer the call?

Matthew Forman
6 min readMar 12, 2021
“Gimbal” UAP, Department of Defense.

The topic of UFOs, or UAPs as the Navy calls them, has changed immensely since the days of Project Blue Book, swamp gas, and disregard of the truth surrounding these objects by mainstream science and an unconvinced public. With the release of Department of Defense footage, an exposé in the New York Times, and multiple eyewitness accounts from credible Navy pilots who report confounding close encounters with craft displaying physics-defying maneuvers, incredible velocities and accelerations under seemingly intelligent control, the subject has gained a new image and attention unseen since the UFO craze of the ’40s and ’50s. The phenomenon caught the attention of former Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid back in 2007 who allocated funding to study UFOs through the formation of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program or AATIP, headed by a senior intelligence officer, Luis Elizondo.

Despite all that has happened over the past three years, the general public and mainstream scientific community have all but ignored the subject. This can likely be attributed to the significant stigma associated with the phenomenon and an immediate deduction to an extraterrestrial explanation. The word “aliens” is baked into our cultural lore along with bigfoot, ghosts, and tinfoil hat-wearing loons. Few respected people have had a serious interest in the subject aside from a closeted fascination with the possibility of life beyond Earth, yet this has changed immensely. Along with Harry Reid, government officials such as Christopher Mellon, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence under Bush and Clinton, and Senators such as Marco Rubio have expressed their interest and concern over UAPs in light of the revelations over the past few years and the credibility behind them. Yet little has come of this aside from a task force appointed to investigate and compile a public report to be released in 2021 which was slipped into the COVID-19 relief bill under President Trump. What will it take for the public to take UFOs seriously and demand transparency from the government regarding their knowledge of the phenomenon?

The most common question from people is: where is the evidence? Where are the bodies, the crashed craft and debris, the high definition footage and photos of these supposed objects? Most people don’t go further than that to discover that there is a substantial amount of evidence in the form of declassified documents released through FOIA requests which clearly indicate the government’s secret interest in UFOs, not to mention testimonies from extremely credible military personnel. The answer to these questions is that we simply do not have enough data to make reasonable conclusions about the origin of these craft, their capabilities, who is piloting them, or if they’re autonomous. The reason for the lack of data is that scientists are by-and-large not interested enough in the topic to lend their expertise and time to such an outlandish field of study.

This doesn’t mean scientists aren’t interested in intelligent life in the universe. SETI or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence scans the skies for radio signals broadcasted by distant civilizations and astronomers survey exoplanets to determine their habitability and potential to sustain life. But the topic of UFOs? It’s too risky for scientists to express interest in UAPs without jeopardizing their reputations and careers over such a controversial subject. For example, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb was mostly outcasted by the scientific community for suggesting that Oumuamua, an interstellar object that zipped through our solar system in 2017, could be extraterrestrial in origin.

The irony of the UFO dilemma is that while we lack data and quality evidence, which is what skeptics demand, there is little to no interest amongst scientists to investigate UAPs, preventing the data from ever being collected. Despite this, there are serious professionals determined to study the phenomenon.

Kevin Knuth, a physics professor at SUNY Albany and former NASA scientist has pushed for a serious investigation of UAPs and has already estimated their flight characteristics in a scientific paper with the little data available. The estimated numbers involved in Knuth’s paper are astounding to say the least. In the infamous Nimitz encounter of 2004 off the coast of San Diego, the strike group’s radars picked up anomalous objects entering Earth’s atmosphere from space before hanging out at an altitude of 80,000 feet. The UAPs would then drop closer to Earth at around 28,000 feet before rapidly descending to sea level in under a second. In an estimation, Knuth calculates the objects reaching accelerations of 5600 G’s. Humans pass out and can be killed at around 9 G’s. Going even further, Knuth estimated the energy required to accelerate an assumed mass of 1000 kg in the given time interval, coming up with a jaw-dropping 1100 Gigawatts. As Knuth points out for comparison, this insane amount of energy is equivalent to the total nuclear energy output in the USA by a factor of ten (and in under a second!).

From one paper and very limited data, Knuth demonstrated that we can indeed apply the scientific method to the study of UAPs and hopefully generate some interest amongst scientists and request more data and investigation for further study.

Fortunately, it isn’t just Knuth who wants a scientific approach to study the phenomenon. Knuth is in collaboration with two non-profit organizations, the Scientific Coalition (SCU) for UAP Studies and UAP Expeditions (UAPx), dedicated to applying scientific techniques and observations to gather data about UAPs in our airspace. SCU aims to bring together P.h.D level scientists to seriously study the UAP phenomenon and provide genuine insights into what these craft can do and hopefully why they zip around in our airspace with impunity. These organizations are a first step in legitimizing the study of unidentified craft and dismantling the stigma behind discussing the subject openly and without scorn.

There are many possibilities when trying to find out who or what is piloting these craft. Theories range from extraterrestrial or extradimensional to ultraterrestrial (non-human entities indigenous to Earth) and even breakaway civilizations uninterested in the destructiveness and ignorance of modern civilization. Maybe it’s a combination of them, or maybe it’s something we haven’t even thought of. Maybe we are the ants on a mound in Africa, unaware of the developments in quantum mechanics or geopolitical matters living alongside a pervasive yet unseen presence of something beyond our comprehension. Whatever the answer is, it is apparent that humans are of interest to something else in the universe or that our meddling with powers beyond our control are dangerous and must be monitored to prevent our own destruction or threaten other people in the galaxy.

I have talked to many people about my personal fascination and study of UFOs and usually get the same reaction every time. There is an acute resistance and tinge of discomfort when I try to seriously discuss the topic. Is the stigma so strong that the mere mention of UFOs is equated to believing in bigfoot or cyclops? Is it the fear of the unknown, that there may be an intelligence far more evolved and technologically advanced than humans, capable of turning our planet to space dust in an instant? It challenges our everyday reality and anthropocentric predispositions, directly in conflict with almost every major religion. Is the nature of reality as it seems or is the truth simply stranger and more unsettling than we can imagine?

The goal of science is to further our knowledge of the universe by letting observation and data speak for itself. If there is some unknown phenomenon we cannot explain in conventional terms, is it not the duty of scientists to investigate it, regardless of what social or cultural baggage it carries? Galileo offered senior cardinals from the church to view celestial bodies through his telescope such as Jupiter and the Moon. They refused to even look. He was then deemed a heretic by the Catholic Church and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life for suggesting the heliocentric model of the solar system. Only now do we appreciate how absurd it is to vilify contrarian thinking. The cardinals refusing to look is synonymous with the UFO phenomenon where skeptics have already decided the topic is not fit for scientific investigation. It is human nature to resist the unknown and turn our heads when our reality is questioned, but this comes with the consequence of inhibiting scientific discovery and explaining how the universe actually works or who else in the cosmos may be trying to do the same thing.



Matthew Forman

Astroparticle physics PhD candidate at UC Irvine, Citizen Scientist, curious Homo Sapien. instagram: @human_wavefunction, twitter: @human_wavfnctn