Reveal Your Presence

Reveal Your Presence

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

castleThe scientific journal Nature published a review of a book that examines the strange history and literature of the flying saucer phenomena (1).  I have not read the book and am not asking you to buy it, just have a careful look at the appraisal posted on the Nature Books and Arts blog, A View From the Bridge.

Titled ‘The Rise and Fall of the UFO,’ it would not be surprising if readers came away with an impression the book explores a dead topic.  Clearly, judged by mainstream press coverage, the UFO heyday passed many decades ago.  However, UFOs are still with us and people who witness them persist in seeking explanations for them.  A quick search of Amazon.com will reveal that new works on UFOs are published regularly.

In my limited personal experience, UFOs and paranormal events are rarely discussed by my colleagues.  For many academics any professional interest in UFO phenomena probably died with the publication of the Condon Report.  With such limited formal scientific study and discussion of the topic it is not surprising many scientists today would view UFOs as a long dead craze of the past prompted by swamp gas and stoked through mass hysteria.

Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the ivory tower may not realize their perspectives are restricted.  You have a rare opportunity to help them avoid confirmation bias; anyone may post a comment to this blog.  Read the review, see how it strikes you and issue an opinion if you deem it appropriate.  A substantial public response to the review theme may demonstrate to the Nature readership the UFO topic is still alive today.  And perhaps the editors will recognize that interest warrants more coverage.

Let them know you are out there.

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  1. http://blogs.nature.com/aviewfromthebridge/2016/09/22/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-ufo/

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Dog Won’t Hunt: Awaiting a MUFON Renaissance

Dog Won’t Hunt:
Awaiting a MUFON Renaissance

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D.

dogs-and-catsThe Mutual UFO Network, MUFON (1), has launched a public relations campaign to update its brand and recruit more members (2).  Inching toward the 50th anniversary of its founding, this organization is facing significant challenges.

The MUFON core mission is the scientific investigation of UFO reports and reporting of the findings.  However, the passage of time, replacement of personnel and technological advancements may cause even the most vibrant organizations to lose momentum and focus.  Recognizing the situation, research organizations may undertake periodic reviews to ensure program goals are being achieved and remain relevant.  To obtain the most unbiased evaluations possible, review groups typically include scientific community peers drawn from other institutions.  Hopefully, the MUFON leaders utilized a similar approach when they assessed the condition of their organization.

It seems the MUFON directors have decided a key selling point of the organization is its scientific approach toward the UFO mystery.  A good decision given that competing with Ancient Aliens for a TV audience looks hopeless.  How well is the MUFON doing with its brand of science?

I have to wonder how any external scientific reviewers reconciled the information posted on the MUFON website with some statements of Executive Director Jan Harzan (2) “… we are a team of trained and certified investigators, researchers and enthusiasts who share a healthy curiosity and skepticism of the UFO phenomenon.”  A well-crafted public relations campaign may arouse interest, but any prospective recruits viewing the current MUFON website will see a picture radically at odds with Director Harzan’s words.  A competent and comprehensive evaluation would have alerted the MUFON leadership to the obvious contradictions.  Perhaps work to harmonize web page content with the newly crafted brand is in progress.

The dilemma for the MUFON is that even the most artful narrative shaping cannot conceal deep deficiencies in fundamental approaches to research and ethics.  Researchers featured prominently at MUFON symposia and honored with lifetime achievement awards spout unsubstantiated, patently pseudo-scientific nonsense (3).  Compounding the problem are high-ranking leaders in the organization and/or affiliates unleashing embarrassing, wholly uncorroborated claims such as having served as a “breeder” for aliens (4).  Worse, one MUFON region director sells an unproven, alien technology-inspired, medical device to prevent influenza (5).  Perhaps the necessity to offer members an opportunity to purchase “support seats” at the 2016 Symposium (1) reflects a free market in which consumers have become more discerning than the mystified meeting organizers.

It is unclear what sort of evaluation process sparked the MUFON leaders to rebrand.  However, it will not take long to recognize whether their new narrative is a renaissance or a superficial cover story to stave off collapse.  Yes, they can spray paint it gold, drench it with perfume and send it to the finest obedience school, but unless the systemic problems are solved that dog will never hunt.

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(1)   http://www.mufon.com/
(2)   L. Fullerton.  2016.  The ‘Real X-Files’- MUFON – Motivated by Increasing Interest in UFOs, Company Orders Rebrand.  The Drum.com, 12 September 2016.   http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/09/12/the-real-x-files-mufon-motivated-increasing-interest-ufos-company-orders-rebrand
(3)   J. Brewer.  2015.  MUFON, Sham Inquiry and the Woods-Jacobs Scandal.  The UFO Trail, 11 August 2015.  http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/2015/08/mufon-sham-inquiry-and-woodsjacobs.html
(4)   T. Kokjohn.  2014.  Try a New Hypothesis, Sherlock. JayVay, 18 February 2014.  (https://jayvay.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/try-a-new-hypothesis-sherlock/).
(5)   National UFO Center, Filer’s Files #36-2009.   http://www.nationalufocenter.com/artman/publish/article_295.php

 

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Is Air Pollution Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease?

Is Air Pollution Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease?

by Guest Blogger,
Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D

brain-envA scientific study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America unveiled data strongly suggesting large quantities of air pollution particles enter and remain lodged in our brains (1, 2).  Nanoparticles of magnetic iron (magnetite) formed by combustion processes are abundant in urban air-borne particulate matter and so small they may follow a direct path through the olfactory nerves straight into the brain.  These tiny embedded magnetite particles might be intimately involved in the genesis of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

The gray matter of AD patients contains profuse extracellular deposits, termed plaques, composed of clumped chains of 40-42 amino acids known as β-amyloid.  The levels of magnetite deposits are elevated in AD subjects compared to age-matched controls (3).  Several lines of evidence suggest magnetite nanoparticles associated with amyloid-containing plaques might generate neurotoxicity-enhancing reactive oxygen species in the brain.  Could pervasive air pollutants such as diesel exhausts and exposures to other sources of magnetite nanoparticles like printer toner promote AD development?  A frightening prospect and a great question worthy of further investigation.

Whether the findings of Maher et al. (2) are cause for alarm or necessitate changes to the air pollution control measures applied to vehicles, power plants and other environmental sources of magnetite nanoparticles remains speculative.  Correlations are not necessarily amyloid-plaques-2causes.  AD dementia pathology is complex and despite years of research its underlying cause(s) remains unclear.  Amyloid plaques in the brain have long been linked with AD, yet not everyone harboring these deposits becomes demented (4).  In addition, recent studies have confirmed that 25% or more of patients diagnosed clinically as suffering from AD dementia have minimal or no amyloid deposits (5).  Maher et al. (2) offer a plausible model of the environmental source and route of entry for the magnetite deposits observed in human brain tissues.  Detailed histological exams may confirm or refute their magnetite nanoparticle entry/route and pathology generation hypotheses.  Additional efforts to correlate pathology-confirmed AD diagnoses with geographic residence histories may help clarify the contribution of air pollution exposures to cumulative risk of dementia.

Although a new immunotherapy clinical trial has generated some hope (6), the long quest for an AD cure has been frustrating.  The complexity of AD dementia (4) suggests that seeking a single cure might be too simple-minded.  Until effective and affordable remedies are in hand, identifying and controlling AD risk factors is extremely important.  Our life-sustaining environment has been shoved out of balance while we compound the problems by spewing toxic chemicals into the air, water and land, adulterating our diets, consuming more medications and adopting sedentary lifestyles.  Which of those actions might be promoting the rise in debilitating chronic afflictions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease?  That’s a trick question; the correct answer is probably all of the above.

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(1)   M. Price. 2016.  Industrial Air Pollution Leaves Magnetic Waste in the Brain.  Science, 5 September 2016.  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/industrial-air-pollution-leaves-magnetic-waste-brain
(2)   B. A. Maher et al.  2016.  Magnetite Pollution Nanoparticles in the Human Brain.  PNAS Early Edition, 31 August 2016.   http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/08/31/1605941113
(3)   D. Hautot et al.  2003.  Preliminary Evaluation of Nanoscale Biogenic Magnetite in Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Tissue.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B (London) 270 (Suppl 1):S62-S64 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1698038/
(4)   C. L. Maarouf et al.  2011. Alzheimer’s Disease and Non-Demented High Pathology Control Nonagenarians: Comparing and Contrasting the Biochemistry of Cognitively Successful Aging.  PLoS One 6(11): e27291. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210154/
(5)   T. Fagan.  2015.  When There’s No Amyloid, It’s Not Alzheimer’s.  ALZFORUM, 11 September 2015.  http://www.alzforum.org/news/research-news/when-theres-no-amyloid-its-not-alzheimers
(6)   E. C. Hayden.  2016.  Alzheimer’s Treatment Appears to Alleviate Memory Loss in Small Trial. Nature, 31 August 2016.  http://www.nature.com/news/alzheimer-s-treatment-appears-to-alleviate-memory-loss-in-small-trial-1.20509

Curious about how much magnetite nanoparticle pollution is raining down on you?  A simple method to collect the magnetic fallout generated by meteors and/or air pollution was published a few years ago.

Miller.  2013.  How to Collect Micrometeorites in Your Back Yard. io9, 18       February 2013.  http://io9.gizmodo.com/5984951/how-to-collect-meteorites-in-your-backyard

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