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Pop Quiz: Aliens and UFOs

Donate How well do you know your Skeptoid? Today's pop quiz focuses on aliens and UFOs.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs

Skeptoid Podcast #648
November 6, 2018
Podcast transcript | Download | Subscribe

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Take your seats, class, because it's time for another pop quiz! You seem to all be doing pretty well on these, so this week we're taking it up a notch and choosing a subject that's a bit more removed — as in, physically farther away — from your comfort zone. Today's quiz is on aliens and UFOs. How well have you listened to Skeptoid, and how much do you know about these famous urban legends, and their solutions?

So let's begin. If you want time to think about each of these, just be ready to hit the pause button before I give the answer, and feel free to take as much time as you need. And don't try to look for a pattern, because I used a D6 die as a random number generator to place each correct answer.

1. The Phoenix Lights

1997 brought us perhaps the single most famous mass-witnessed UFO event, when a line of super-bright lights appeared in the night sky above Phoenix, AZ. It's now known that the lights were illumination flares jettisoned by A-10 ground attack aircraft of the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland National Guard, but we didn't know that yet. Shortly afterward, news media called Luke Air Force Base to ask if they had any planes flying over Phoenix. What were they told?

A. The Air Force acknowledged flight operations over Phoenix
B. The Air Force denied any flights had taken place over Phoenix
C. The Air Force refused to comment

Reveal the answer

2. The Hudson Valley UFO

Throughout 1983 and 1984, the Hudson River Valley was plagued by a number of UFO sightings, many witnessed by many people, the looked like a large object rimmed with bright lights slowly and quietly passing overhead. It took an intrepid police officer who vowed to follow the object wherever it went to finally realize what people had been seeing. What did he discover?

A. An advertising blimp en route between sporting events
B. A group of small aircraft flying in formation
C. Various stars and other celestial objects

Reveal the answer

3. Fire in the Sky

In 1975, two Arizona brothers, Travis and Duane Walton, reported that Travis had spent five days abducted by aliens. It is now commonly believed that they devised the story in order to sell, which they successfully did with a book and a movie. Their first target was a $100,000 prize offered by the National Enquirer tabloid for proof of aliens, and they attempted to provide proof in the form of passing lie detector tests. How did they fare with the prize?

A. The Waltons never got any money from the Enquirer
B. The Waltons received the full $100,000 prize
C. The Waltons sued for the prize money and eventually reached a confidential settlement

Reveal the answer

4. The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction

Alien abduction first became a pop culture phenomenon in 1961, when lifelong UFO obsessive Betty Hill and her husband Barney claimed to have been taken aboard an alien spaceship after watching it for a time along a highway in New Hampshire. Betty reported that at one dark turnout where they pulled off to watch it, she saw that the ship had a row of windows with creatures peering out. What do modern investigators now believe she actually saw?

A. A helicopter
B. A tramway
C. A gift shop

Reveal the answer

5. The Rendlesham Forest UFO

In 1980, airmen stationed at the USAF base located at RAF Woodbridge on the Eastern coast of England spotted a mysterious pulsing light through the trees. The constables were telephoned, and base security personnel left the base and entered Rendlesham Forest in pursuit of the lights, fearing an accident. A Lt. Colonel accompanying them narrated the search with an audio tape recorder. Although television networks still call it the most famous UFO case in England, what was finally determined to be the cause of the lights?

A. Patrol car lights belonging to the constables they had summoned
B. Runway lights of RAF Bentwaters nearby
C. A lighthouse on the coast visible through the trees

Reveal the answer

6. The Battle of Los Angeles

Shortly after the United States entered World War II, nervous civil defense gunners in Los Angeles, California opened fire one night with anti-aircraft artillery. Nobody is sure what the first to fire may have seen (it may have been a single meteorological balloon), but everyone else shot at smoke from the AAA bursts illuminated by searchlights. The falling flak did tremendous damage to private property throughout the city. Today, the story goes that they battled a gigantic UFO hovering above the city. When was this element added to the story?

A. In the 1980s, when the Majestic 12 documents appeared
B. In 2011, with the release of the Hollywood movie of the same title
C. In the 1950s, when Project Blue Book was underway

Reveal the answer

7. The Westall '66 UFO

Australia's most famous UFO case happened in 1966, when many students at Westall High School witnessed two events: first was large silvery disk which silently descended behind a row of trees near the school, and second was a small streak of light being pursued by a small group of light aircraft for some 20 minutes. The first was proven to have been an errant meteorological balloon known to have passed in that exact direct at that exact time. The second object — which, though never proven — was satisfactorily determined to have been what?

A. A nylon target drogue towed by an instructor for student pilots to follow
B. A pair of advertising banners towed by small airplanes, one of which was tangled
C. A small group of skydivers from Dandenong Airfield

Reveal the answer

8. The Astronauts and the Aliens

Alien theorists cite many examples from the NASA space program as evidence that astronauts have interacted with aliens on some missions. The earliest such report is still the most famous, that a cloud of friendly "fireflies" gathered around John Glenn's capsule Friendship 7 while it was in orbit. Initially, everyone figured these were ice crystals from the hydrogen peroxide attitude control rockets, but Glenn was unable to correlate the use of the rockets with the appearance of the fireflies. What were the fireflies later proven to have been?

A. Ice crystals from the attitude control rockets
B. Ice that had frozen on the rocket before liftoff
C. Ice from waste ejected from Glenn's capsule

Reveal the answer

9. The Red Rain of India

Newspapers worldwide buzzed with news that a rare blood-red rain that fell in India in the year 2001 had been determined to be an example of panspermia: cells of alien life. What did the final true explanation turn out to be?

A. Dust from windstorms in Africa
B. Spores of a red-orange algae
C. Acid rain from industrial pollution

Reveal the answer

10. The Alien Buried in Texas

A famous story tells that the body of an alien whose spaceship crashed in 1897 is buried in the town cemetery of Aurora, Texas. The reason nobody has dug it up is because it turns out the original newspaper item which gave birth to the urban legend was merely a satire poking fun at what actual event?

A. A famous locomotive race
B. A traveling exhibition of the Cardiff Giant
C. A hot air balloon flight

Reveal the answer

As always, tweet me your score at Twitter.com/BrianDunning, or post it to the Skeptoid Podcast page on Facebook. Of course if you claim to get them all right but you're lying, then you'll just have to live in shame. You may even choose to stay forever hidden — just like all the aliens seem to.


By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.

 

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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Pop Quiz: Aliens and UFOs." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 6 Nov 2018. Web. 18 Nov 2018. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4648>

 

References & Further Reading

Anonymous. "Mystery Solution?" The Dandenong Journal. 28 Apr. 1966, Letters to the Editor: 21.

Klass, Philip. "The New Bogus Majestic 12 Documents." Skeptical Inquirer. 1 May 2000, Volume 24, Number 3.

Klass, Philip J. UFOs: The Public Deceived. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1983. 133-136,161-221.

Macdonald, J. "Alien Abduction: Betty & Barney Hill." Making Light. Nielsen Hayden, 19 Sep. 2007. Web. 26 Oct. 2018. <https://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009378.html>

NASA. "SP-404 Skylab's Astronomy and Space Sciences." NASA. NASA History Division, Office of Communications, NASA, 29 Jan. 2002. Web. 5 Aug. 2010. <http://history.nasa.gov/SP-404/ch7.htm>

Ortega, Tony. "The Hack and the Quack." Phoenix New Times. New Times Inc., 5 Mar. 1998. Web. 26 Apr. 2007. <http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1998-03-05/news/the-hack-and-the-quack/>

Porterfield, B. A Loose Herd of Texans. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1978. 174-184.

Ridpath, Ian. "The Rendlesham Forest UFO Case." IanRidpath.com. Ian Ridpath, 1 Jun. 2009. Web. 16 Jan. 2010. <http://www.ianridpath.com/ufo/rendlesham.htm>

Sampath, S., Abraham, T., Sasi Kumar, V., Mohanan, C. Colored Rain: A Report on the Phenomenon. Kerala: Center for Earth Science Studies and Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, 2001.

Schmalz, J. "Strange Sights Brighten the Night Skies Upstate." The New York Times. 25 Aug. 1984, Newspaper.

 

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