(courtesy of Robert Sheaffer); In the previous posting, we talked about all of the new controversies swirling around the "classic" 1964 sighting of an alleged landed UFO by Patrolman Lonnie Zamora in Socorro, New Mexico. Was it a student hoax from the adjacent New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology? Was it the landing of a propane hot air balloon? A piece of space hardware being tested? Extraterrestrials? The issue is that there are serious problems with all proposed explanations for what Zamora reportedly saw, prosaic or otherwise. The big problem is that Officer Chavez reportedly arrived at the site just three minutes after the sighting, and both of them were soon walking in the area where the object reportedly set down, leaving marks. Whatever craft reportedly landed there sure disappeared quickly. Lonnie Zamora Problems with Student Hoax Theory: How exactly did they pull it off, presumably using a balloon? How did they get rid of the balloon so quickly? For that matter, how did they disappear themselves from Zamora's sight so quickly? It would have to be like a magician's disappearing act. Also, serious attempts to investigate the student hoax theory have turned up plausible rumors and implications, but so far no solid and demonstrable facts. Problems with a Propane Hot Air Balloon: Again, the main problems is having the balloon disappear so quickly. Some investigators claim that a balloon would have to move against the wind to move as Zamora recounted. Problems with a Test of Space Hardware (Lunar Surveyor, or Lunar Excursion Module): Could not arrive and depart so quickly. The tests of the Lunar Surveyor were carried out towing the vehicle below a helicopter, which would surely have been visible and obvious. The LEM was reportedly tested near Socorro, but not until at least a year after the Zamora incident. Problems with an Extraterrestrial Craft. Again, we have the problem of simply too little time for a device of any construction to blast itself away completely out of sight in a short time, while leaving behind very little disturbance or evidence of its departure - IF it is following the laws of physics. To examine that question, we need to refer back to a "classic" 1967 peer-reviewed UFO article in Science [157, 1274] by astronomer Dr. William Markowitz, "Physics and Metaphysics of Unidentified Flying Objects." I wrote about it in some length in 2012 when discussing "Is Interstellar Travel "Preposterous"? Markowitz' article was obviously intended as a reply from the astronomical community to Hynek's letter published in Science the previous year, arguing that UFOs were worthy of scientific study [154, 329, 1966]. Markowitz cites some obvious inconsistencies in Hynek's statements about UFOs. What Zamora reportedly saw. Markowitz writes, First I consider the physics of UFO’s when the laws of physics are obeyed. After that I consider the case where the laws of physics are not obeyed. The specific question to be studied is whether UFO’s are under extraterrestrial control... If an extraterrestrial spacecraft is to land nondestructively and then lift off, it must be able to develop a thrust slightly less than its weight on landing… if nuclear energy is used to generate thrust, then searing of the ground at 85,000 deg C should result, and nuclear decay production equivalent in quantity to those produced by an atomic bomb should be detected. This has not happened. Hence, the published reports of landing and lift-offs of UFO’s are not reports of spacecraft controlled by extraterrestrial beings, if the laws of physics are valid. We can reconcile UFO reports with extraterrestrial control by assigning various magic properties to extraterrestrial beings. These include ‘teleportation’ (the instantaneous movement of material bodies between planets and stars), the creation of ‘force-fields’ to drive space ships, and propulsion without reaction. The last of these would permit a man to lift himself by his bootstraps. Anyone who wishes is free to accept such magic properties, but I cannot. Longtime UFO author and Roswell investigator Kevin Randle wrote a very surprising Blog entry on December 9 titled "Lonnie Zamora as the Hoaxster" (sic). What makes this surprising is that Randle had just published a book a few weeks earlier titled Encounter in the Desert: The Case for Alien Contact at Socorro. Randle appears to have gone from "Zamora saw aliens" to "Zamora probably just made it all up" in about sixty seconds. He wrote, According to what we know, no one else saw the landed craft. No one else saw it lift off and disappear in seconds. No one else saw the little beings near the craft. All of this came from Zamora and if he wasn’t telling the truth about it, well, then, the hoax becomes easier to accept. Just assume that he hadn’t really seen all these things, and some of the arguments about the alien nature of the craft and its capabilities are no longer relevant. The whole thing becomes much simpler to explain in terrestrial terms... Although many rejected the idea that Zamora had created the hoax on his own for some unknown reason, the Zamora hoax explanation is by far the simplest. It eliminates the need for a balloon either hot air or helium filled, it eliminates the need for other participants to create the illusion of something landing there, and it explains the lack of physical evidence that the hoax scenario should have left behind. If Zamora had done it, he just needed his shovel and a tape measure. Then he called the station to make his report and request that Chavez come out to meet with him. This also explains why none of those other people who said they had seen something ever came forward. All the rest of it, from the alien creatures, the banging of the hatch, the red symbol… all of it was so much window dressing created by Zamora. And while that theory is applauded for its simplicity, it fails when other facts are figured into it. We can begin with the three telephone calls into the police station...I like this idea, that Zamora hoaxed it by himself because of the simplicity of it. However, when we add in other factors, all the factors, it seems that the theory is flawed. Hector Quintanilla suggested the solution for the case would probably be found in Zamora’s head, and had he hoaxed the thing, then Quintanilla had it right. But Zamora never suggested to anyone that he had made up the story, his friends and his actions that night seem to argue against hoax, and there is no real motivation for him to have created the hoax that included the landing site. So while Randle goes a long way towards the theory that Zamora just made it all up, he doesn't quite go all the way down that path. Hynek and Klass at the 1984 CSICOP Conference, at Stanford. They were not always buddy-buddies! (Photo by Gary Posner). One important point not previously noted is a comment about Socorro made by Blue Book scientific Consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek. In a letter to arch-skeptic Philip J. Klass dated 23 January 1967, Hynek writes: No matter what we say about the Zamora case, it is still, because of its one-witness character, a low-order case. It is a [Sigma]5 C4 case in my classification system: taken at face value the report has a high strangeness index, but a low credibility rating primarily because I do not go above 5 in my scale of 1 to 9 if there is only one witness. (p. 102 of the Socorro case documents scanned by Paul Dean, emphasis added)Note that Hynek judged the credibility of the Zamora case to be just 4 on a scale from 1 to 9. So to those who cite Zamora's reported 1964 sighting at Socorro as among the 'best ever,' we remind them that Hynek, who investigated the incident in depth, in person and on site, called it "a low-order case."