Just days ago, an anniversary of global importance passed by yet again, with nary a fanfare or tribute in the world’s media. June 24 was the 65th anniversary of the world’s first UFO sighting, and yet no fireworks lit the skies above Washington DC, no celebratory banner unfurled from the Eiffel Tower, and North Korea failed to put on anything resembling a gymnastics show. Even I nearly forgot, and I’m supposedly an expert on this sort of thing.
At least that’s what the media usually calls me – either that or ‘Dr Who’. The truth is that my PhD was on UFOs, but it was in Cultural Studies, not ‘ufology’, as the cardigan-clad seekers of ‘the Truth’ call their oft-maligned brand of fringe science. I’m not a believer myself, but you might call me a ‘ufologist’ given that I study the belief in UFOs but not the UFOs themselves. Perhaps it’s that shining aura of the unknown – or more precisely, the unknowable – which surrounds UFOs that I find most intriguing. Even from a semantic point of view, the familiar acronym of ‘U.F.O.’ conceals more than it reveals. The strange object in the sky becomes a ‘UFO’, but in calling it this we are, by definition, identifying it as something unidentified. ‘UFOs’ doesn’t actually mean anything. What a wonderfully counter-intuitive paradox – unless, of course, you happen to be a believer.
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