Flying saucers, little green men, and the X-Files — for years, that’s what most people associated with unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. They were the stuff of sci-fi and supermarket tabloids, conspiracy theories and punchlines.
But ever since a bombshell article in The New York Times several years back documented confirmed sightings by navy pilots, UFOs — or UAPs, unidentified aerial phenomena, as they’ve been rebranded — have been slowly migrating into the mainstream.
Today, it’s not uncommon to find scientists, elected officials, and decorated members of the military talking publicly about UFOs. Records are being unclassified, research projects launched — there was even a Congressional hearing dedicated to UFOs. And beneath it all lies the age-old question: Are we alone?
On this episode, we explore the past — and future — of the search for life on other planets. We talk with a historian about how attitudes towards UFOs have changed over the decades; we look at how scientists are approaching the study of UFOs; and we hear the strange story of a sighting back in the 90s that begs the question of what — and who — we believe.
- People have always seen strange things in the sky — but it wasn’t until 1947 that the American public started associating them with alien life. We talk with Penn State historian Greg Eghigian about how popular ideas about UFOs have changed over the decades, and theories about why they’re visiting Earth. His new book “After the Flying Saucers Came: A Global History of the UFO Phenomenon” is coming out in June 2024.
- Adam Frank, professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and author of “The Little Book of Aliens” discusses the current search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the techno-signatures he and other scientists have been looking for in space.