30 January 2023


Daniel Coumbe. Anomaly: A Scientific Exploration of the UFO Phenomenon, Rowman & Littlefield, 2023.

A TV interview with jet fighter pilot Commander David Fravor talking about his sighting of a tic tac UFO piqued Coumbe’s interest in the subject, which he had previously dismissed as nonsense. Using his background as a former research scientist at the Niels Bohr Institute, and having a PhD in theoretical particle physics, he decided to explore the world of ufology from a much needed scientific perspective.
Using what he calls a laser-like focus on the data rather than on people’s testimonies, he has spent three years trying to determine if there is anything to this topic. To this end he has reviewed the major types of cases and their reliability.

To enable an analysis of the data he notes that we need to apply filters to discover the best evidence. These filters consist of looking at the validity of the eyewitness testimony, single sensor data, multiple-sensor data and the physical evidence. These four categories can each be scored from 0 to 3 in regard to their quantity, consistency and quality of the source. The highest score for the first category is 12, the second 1 x 12, the third 3 x 12 and the fourth 4 ax12, so a perfect score would be 120.

To apply his filtering and classification system, Coumbe looks in detail at four specific cases. These are the Japanese Airlines Cargo Flight 1628 sighting by Capt. Terauchi on Nov. 17, 1986, the Ubatuba, Brazil, UFO fragments, the Lonnie Zamora, close encounter at Socorro, New Mexico on 24 April 1964, and the Aguadilla object detected by radar flying a few miles to the northwest of Rafael Hernandez International Airport, Puerto Rico on 25 April 2013.

Looking at these cases in detail he gives JAL Flight 1628 a score of 52, the lack of physical evidence being a vital factor. The Ubatuba case consists of physical evidence, no sensor evidence and has an anonymous ‘witness’ so scores a lowly 42. The Zamora encounter scores on all counts except for the multiple sensor data category and gets a 67. Finally the Aguadilla object gets a high marking of 71 due to the eyewitness evidence and the single and multiple sensor data, but supplied no physical evidence.

In the second part of the book Coumbe looks at the ‘bigger picture’ where he considers the global nature of UFO sightings, why they might occur and when. Data from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) shows that more people report sightings in the northwestern and northeastern states of the USA. To determine why, Coumbe checks this data against the distribution of USAF bases, the closeness to US coastal regions, US nuclear storage sites, earthquakes in the US. Worldwide data is used to look at earthquakes and the blood types of witnesses. The result of his statistical work is that there does seem
to be a correlation between coastal regions, earthquakes and people with rhesus-negative blood.

Considering when UFO events occur Coumbe finds that for worldwide sightings from 1940 to 2021 there was a steady increase until 2014 when the numbers have declined. Most sightings seem to occur in June and July in both hemispheres of the world, and there is a correlation between the number of ET movies and sightings. Regarding the latter it is hard to determine if a rise in sightings causes more movies of this type to be made, or if more ET films encourage people to look for and report UFO activity.

To decide what UFOs are, Coumbe has produced a 'decision-tree', at the top is ‘the phenomena’ then there is the choice of man-made or not man-made. In the man-made branch there is the choice of not US or US, then whether the UFO seemed to be manned or unmanned. On the not man-made route, is the choice of whether it is natural or not natural, if natural is it known or known, if not not natural it is an ‘other’.

Based on his decision tree, Coumbe uses it to determine the Japan Airlines case is something unmanned, not man-made or natural, making it a case of something being ‘other’. Given the pilot said he saw something the size of two aircraft carriers, that two other nearby aircraft did not see, and the radar data says it accelerated eleven times at impossible speeds including three accelerations of about 10,000g. Surely it would have been seen and heard over a vast distance? The other might well have been a technical glitch. As for the Ubatuba case I’d give it a big fat zero as the fragments were from an anonymous source and not entirely beyond the capabilities of human manufacturing abilities.

What this book fails to address is that hoaxes and misidentifications can get a high scoring in his system, and he is naïve about the characters behind the Advanced Aerospace Identification Program (AATIP) that was not given a 22-million-dollar black budget as he states but was an unfunded and unofficial study by Luis Elizondo. He even says the grandly titled ‘AATIP’ document ‘Anomalous Acute And Subacute Field Effects on Human and Biological Tissues’ contains ‘a powerful and shocking statement from the US government itself’ that unconventional and advanced systems are causing injuries and neurological effects on UFO witnesses. The truth is that it is based on a civilian report written in 1996 which was never classified. That report was called ‘A Catalog of UFO-Related Human Physiological Effects’ by John F. Schuessler, a former director of the U.S. Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), and was freely put online years ago. The MUFON database used for the report was a very weak source of information to even suggest non-human technologies have caused injuries, let alone bring aliens into the equation.

Coumbe’s desire to remain objective and evidence driven is a noble goal, yet his scientific approach to the subject is undermined by the fact that the data out there is highly contentious and promoted by ufological sharks.
  • Nigel Watson

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