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UFO: A close encounter of the flashing light kind

There has not been much interest in UFOs lately – at least not around here. There seemed to be a lot more interest back in the ‘70s. Our school book club even had an Usborne book on UFOs for sale that I loved. There was also a TV series called Project UFO which was based on the Air Force Project Blue Book that investigated UFO reports between 1947 and 1969. My friend and I tried taking our own fake UFO photographs – not to fool people, but just for fun. All the best photos in books were fuzzy and out of focus and that was something we could duplicate.

Not a UFO hovering over nearby houses

Not a UFO. It’s just a part of an egg cooker stuck to a window. The fuzzy effects are not due to instagram. This was how all my photos turned out.

A close encounter

In the late ‘70s when I was a teenager I was a passenger in the back of our family car returning home one Sunday night along the New England Highway with my parents. Even though the road is a highway it is not a particular busy one and there were just the usual few cars about that night. It was a dark night and there was a lot of cloud about. There were a few cars in front of us travelling behind a truck that was bout 500m in front of us and a few more cars behind us. We noticed a bright blue flashing light coming towards us and it seemed to hover just above the truck. The truck and all the cars behind pulled off the side of the road. We continued up to it and pulled in behind. Everyone stayed in their cars and watched the flashing light move up into the clouds. The flashing lit up the clouds and then it travelled east out of sight. Everyone started their cars and drove off.

A view along the highway where the incident occured

The stretch of road where the incident occurred. The group of trees on the right mark the entrance to the CSIRO government research centre.

I don’t claim it was a UFO. It could have been a plane as there is an airport about 10km further ahead. It was odd that the only light was white. Normally planes have red and green lights as well. Also we did not hear a noise. All aircraft using that airport in those days were propeller aircraft and normally the drone of an engine could be heard. Nearby is a CSIRO government research facility, but as they were only doing research on farming and land care I doubt if it was involved.

What impresses me most now is that a line of cars that all stopped to watch it, which indicates that it must have been unusual enough for the drivers to stop.

I have difficulty believing UFOs exist, but I do love the idea that they could; that there is another life form that drops in every now and then to see what we are up to.

A detector

I remained interested in UFOs and one day I found a magazine in our school library that contained plans to build a UFO detector, called the “Official UFO Model BJ UFO Detector”. The plans were fascinating. It seems the detector was based on the premise that UFOs create magnetic interference. Apparently many people that have witnessed UFO sightings have noticed compasses spinning and that sort of thing. I never built it as it was beyond my abilities and used components that were not easy to source in Australia.

Years later I built a detector based on a compass to give a warning when the compass needle moved. I wasn’t really expecting to detect a UFO, rather I was interested to see if a compass needle ever deviates and what may cause it. So far I have not detected anything unusual. That project will be the subject of a later post.

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Detecting weak electric fields with your bare hands

Detecting when an electric blankets is switched on

I have often wondered about the effect that electricity may have on our bodies. Years ago I discovered that I could tell when Mrs Piffle’s electric blanket was switched on while she was laying on it by running my finger very gently down her arm. When the blanket was switched off it felt smooth. When it was on I could feel a slight vibration which is hard to describe. It certainly felt less smooth. We did a series of tests with her turning it through the different settings – sometimes on sometimes off, and I could always tell when it was on or off. Just for the record, the electric blanket was on a foam mattress on a wooden base.

Do I have super powers? Am I particularly gentle person? Am I just awesome? Probably not. If I can detect this when some others can’t it is more likely that I benefit from baby bottom soft skin on my hands from years of office work. A few other people who have tried it, including Mrs Piffle have been able to detect the effect too, so it seems to be common, but due to the weakness of the effect maybe we just don’t usually notice it.

Electricity from a TV antenna

I had also noticed a similar, but stronger effect when I rubbed my finger along the rabbit ears antenna that was connected to our previous television but only when the TV was turned on. I’ve read that leakage can occur within TVs resulting in some power being released into the antenna socket. So, that probably explains that one.

Power from a laptop

I had forgotten about it until recently after my wife got a Macbook Pro. She was sitting on the bed one day with the laptop connected to the charger and I touched her arm and got exactly the same vibration. We tried unplugging the power connecter from the side of the laptop and the effect stopped, plugging it back in and it returned. Another series of blind tests showed that I could tell every time if it was connected or not. We did another series later and at that time the effect felt much weaker, so there must be something else at play. These laptops are in an aluminium case which is probably relevant. It’s interesting to note that the effect only happens when it is plugged into mains power. We then tried with the lid closed in sleep mode and the effect was still there, and then with it shut down, but still plugged into the power adapter and again the effect was still there.

Mrs Piffle can even notice it herself through the tips of her fingers sometimes when she is resting them on the metal case in front of the keyboard.

The power adapter for the Macbook has a fairly low output voltage of just 16.5v – not what I would have thought could be detected with your finger.

Nothing from an iPad

We also have an iPad so I did a few tests with that – after all it also has an aluminium body, but I could not detect any difference.

Is it a form of mains hum?

The mains power her is 240v 50Hz. Perhaps the higher mains voltage is relevant, perhaps not. The frequency of the vibrations seems identical in all tests so perhaps it is 50Hz from our mains electricity, but I can’t think of away to measure it with the equipment I have. It’s odd and very interesting, at  least to me.

My technique

I found I got best results when you rub an area of skin that has no hair as the roughness of the hair makes it more difficult. Inside arms and the side of the neck seems to work well (except with the rabbit ears antenna – I rubbed my fingers up along its … ears?:)). Sometimes I use a fingertip, other times I find a knuckle works better.