Date: Tue May 10 1994 07:20:00
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: UFOs as illusions
'It' only came from an astronomical mirage
Erlend Clouston on the new findings of a science writer who has turned his
attentions from the Loch Ness monster to formulating a theory which explains
away 90 pc of extra-terrestrial sightings
IT WAS a large domed object out of which two circular, antennae-laden
robots emerged and attempted to kidnap the startled council worker, tearing
his trousers - and in doing so, propelling the Scottish new town of Livingston
into a hallowed place in ufology's hall of fame.
Oh no it wasn't, says science writer Steuart Campbell. What Robert Taylor
actually saw on the morning of November 9, 1979, was an astronomical mirage
which triggered an hallucinatory epileptic fit.
This week Mr Campbell, an Edinburgh-based former architect, launches a book
that he says will explain 90 per cent of UFO sightings.
What people presume to be spyships from Alpha Centauri are in reality an
optical illusion, produced by the distorting effect of the earth's atmosphere
on lightwaves skipping across the universe.
Mr Campbell, something of a professional sceptic with a book debunking the
Loch Ness monster behind him and another on the stocks scrutinising Jesus
Christ, evolved the astronomical mirage theory while investigating the
incident in a wood north of Livingston, 10 miles outside Edinburgh on the M8
Despite the best efforts of the local CID, no one has so far come up with
an explanation for what attempted to abduct Mr Taylor, agreed by everybody to
be a perfectly level-headed foreman forester not given to hoaxing.
Livingston development corporation was sufficiently convinced that
something queer had gone on to authorise the installation of a commemorative
boulder and plaque - which has since been stolen.
Having scrutinised an astronomical computer programme, Mr Campbell
discovered that both Venus and Mercury were hovering just above the horizon.
Could there have been a connection?
After making complex optical calculations, faithfully recorded in his book,
Mr Campbell has concluded that what Mr Taylor saw was probably a miniature
Venus, out of which emerged miniature Mercurys.
The shock triggered an epileptic fit, causing the forester to mistake his
corneal fibres for robot antennae, and to fall down and damage his trousers.
Astronomical mirages are dependent, says Mr Campbell, aged 57, on a variety
of pre-conditions. They rely, for example, on a layer of warm air overlaying a
cold one. As this flits about the atmosphere, so does the magnified image
projected on to it from millions of miles away, persuading alarmed earthmen
that they are witnessing a top-class display of extra-terrestrial aerobatics.
Mr Campbell's theory has had a mixed reception from the UFO-hunting
community, who have heard him lecture on the subject.
"It is convincing to a point, and I do believe these mirages could exist,
but it stretches the imagination somewhat to have everything explained by this
hypothesis," said Philip Mantle, director of investigations for the British
UFO Research Association.
Mr Campbell sighs: "Most of them don't believe in me. They are incredulous
that it can be so easily explained."
But this does not particularly upset him, as he has bigger fish to fry.
"The book is not really aimed at them, but at the scientific community.
They have ignored the UFO phenomenon for 10 years. They think it is a corny,