Earlier this year, the world was transfixed by the appearance of balloon-like objects looming over continental United States and other parts of the world. These unidentified flying objects caused such a fear and furor that many were tracked avidly, some disappeared magically and at least one was shot down by the US military.
These objects are poorly understood so an important role for researchers is to bring the steely eye of science to bear on the issue of what these things really are.
Now we have an answer thanks to the work of Michael Lund at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, a long-time editor and contributor to the journal Acta Prima Aprilia.
Lund has compared the distribution of balloon sightings with other UFO appearances and says they both share the same geographic features as do observations of meteor showers. This makes a clear connection between these phenomena.
A tantalizing corollary is that meteor showers are also a known source of extraterrestrial material that provides “some manner of distraction to help alien craft enter the Earth’s atmosphere without drawing undue attention.”
Lund’s conclusion is that “these links between alleged balloon incidents, UFO reports, and meteor showers establish a transport pipeline for alien craft from interplanetary and possibly interstellar space to the Earth’s surface.”
That’s an important piece of science that is rivalled in its profundity only by Lund’s conclusions at the same time last year about the nature of lycanthropy on other planets.
Research on other planets features large in the current issue of Act Prima Aprilia, with astronomers from the University of Arizona in Tucson making strong contributions. Indeed, JJ Charfman and colleagues have developed a new theory of everything by studying planets.
Their thinking is that since planets currently answer all outstanding questions in astronomy, planetary science must be the basis of all science. This leads them to the conclusion that all funding should be reserved for planetary science. Uniquely powerful logic.
This theory would sit on firmer foundations were it not for another paper by Charity Woodrum and colleagues, also at the University of Arizona, who show that exoplanets simply do not exist.
The evidence for exoplanets consists almost entirely of the regular, slight dimming of distant stars that astronomers assume is caused by exoplanets passing in front of them.
Woodrum and co challenge this thinking by proposing a simpler, and therefore better, explanation. They say the same dimming can be explained by the existence of a new type of star with cuboid features that the team call “squars”.
They go on to apply their idea to the well-studied system known as WASP-12b, which was previously thought to be an exoplanet orbiting a yellow dwarf star some 1400 light years from here (and discovered on 1 April 2008).
Woodrum and co say the pattern of dimming of Wasp-12 can be explained if it is a rotating squar with proportions 1:1/8:1 without invoking the idea of exoplanets. “Our findings cast serious doubt on the validity of current “exoplanetary” efforts, which have largely ignored the potential role of squars,” they conclude. William of Occam would be impressed.
Pun In Tended
Elsewhere, Joanne Tan and Tie Sien Suk at the University of California Santa Barbara, have explored the role of humor and punctuation in the success of scientific papers, as measured by the number of citations they attract.
Tan and Suk ranked 6000 scientific papers published between 2021 and 2023 according to their “cheekiness level”, a subjective measure of humor and also by whether their title included a colon or not.
They found that papers with colons in the title have 15 per cent more citations than those without.
The researchers also found a worrying trend in papers beginning with the phrases: “One [insert noun] to [insert verb] them all” (occurring once every 5.5 months), “A tale of [insert]” (occurring once every 4.4 months), and “Caught in the act” (occurring once every 4.5 months).”
However, cheeky titles do not correlate with more citations. And the pair found that cheekiness is anticorrelated with the number of authors, presumably because consensus on a cheeky title is harder to achieve with more people.
Let that be a lesson to the authors of the papers referenced below.
References: UFOs: Just Hot Air or Something Meteor? : arxiv.org/abs/2303.17103
On the Planetary Theory of Everything : arxiv.org/abs/2303.17035
A Modest Proposal for the Non-existence of Exoplanets: The Expansion of Stellar Physics to Include Squars : arxiv.org/abs/2303.16915
As a matter of colon: I am NOT digging cheeky titles (no, but actually yes :>) : arxiv.org/abs/2303.17059
Notable mention: I Murdered Conan O’Brien and Nobody Will Ever Know: an exercise in inference sabotage :