"The truth is out there," a certain fictitious FBI agent once declared. But increasingly, it seems "the truth" is that there are no UFOs -- or at least none in our neighborhood.
That's the upshot of a couple of surprising revelations out of Canada and the United Kingdom. In twin announcements, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (yes, they know they're spelling it wrong) and the Canadian Department of National Defence (ditto) recently revealed that they have halted investigations of reports of unidentified flying objects over their respective skies.
Citing documents it obtained under Canada's Access to Information Act, CBC News reported in March that the Canadian MND -- and Transport Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well -- has ceased to track and investigate UFO sightings north of our border. Similarly, secret files that have only just been released by the British MoD confirm that in 2009, the British also called a halt to UFO investigations in that country.
So why call off the search for Little Green Men now ?
The answer, it appears, is loonies. Or quid. Or in American English: money.
Pay no attention to those flying saucers
As the MoD memorandum recommending that the ministry stop investigating UFO sightings opined: "The level of resources diverted to this task is increasing in response to a recent upsurge in reported sightings, diverting staff from more valuable defence-related activities."
And this, just when things were getting interesting.
The delayed timing of these revelations probably comes as some surprise to "ufologists." For years, these folks have asserted there's a government conspiracy to hide the truth about UFOs that are visiting Earth.
Now it turns out that the real truth is that if there are UFOs, these governments couldn't care less.
Indeed, according to DefenseNews.com, the U.K.'s MoD turned off its UFO hotline in 2009, a year in which the ministry had heard of 520 UFO sightings in just 11 months -- more than three times the average number of reports received annually from 2000 to 2007. Royal Air Force Air Command functionary Carl Mantell noted in a memo at the time that investigating the multiple reports was resulting in "no valuable defense output." Indeed, according to Mantell, 50 years of investigations at MoD had never "revealed anything to suggest an extraterrestrial presence or military threat to the U.K."
Similarly, Canada has seen a notable uptick in UFO sightings -- 980 in 2011, according to unofficial estimates.
Given that most countries around the world have been preoccupied with economic problems lately, you can imagine that the idea of pinching pennies by turning off the UFO hotlines was a pretty easy sell -- and not just in Canada and the U.K.
Here in the U.S., both the U.S. Air Force and the CIA originally worked hand in hand to investigate UFO reports, on the theory that they might actually be civilian sightings of secret Soviet aircraft. But according to both agencies, any official investigation of reported UFO sightings pretty much ended in 1969 or thereabouts. As in Canada and the U.K., there simply wasn't money to waste on such frivolities.
Even hard-science efforts to search for extraterrestrial life have been pinched.
Originally set up in cooperation with NASA, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- SETI -- project lost Congressional funding way back in 1993. Efforts to keep the program going with the help of grants, local government funding, and support from government agencies suffered a significant funding gap again in 2011.
This resulted in a highly publicized plea for private donations to keep SETI's telescope arrays operational. And that's where you come in.
Your private dollars at work (in space)
If you think governments are dropping the ball in failing to fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (perhaps dangerously so?), there are at least a couple of ways you can help bridge the funding gap.
Here in the U.S., SETI has set up a webpage to collect tax-deductible donations to fund their search for life around foreign stars. To date, more than 5,100 taxpayers have opened up their wallets and have donated a collective $310,349 to the effort.
Alternatively, if you're pressed for cash, you can help out SETI free of charge by downloading free software to donate processing time on your Internet-connected computer. While "idle" to you, your computer will actually be analyzing real-life radio telescope data for SETI, searching the stars for alien life.
Who knows? If the truth really is out there, maybe you will be the one to find it.
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