BOSTON - For decades, the idea of UFOs and extraterrestrial life has inspired fascination - and fear.
And with the US military's recent acknowledgement of unexplained aerial phenomena, interest in them - and the public's belief they might be alien spacecraft - have grown.
At a House hearing in Washington on Tuesday, the Pentagon revealed its UFO database, saying there is no evidence of aliens but admitting there are some mysterious sightings they can't explain. The report unveiled Tuesday is made up of 400 incidents documented since 2004.
One video showing mysterious triangles traversing the sky at high speeds was explained away by Scott Bray, deputy director of Naval intelligence, as "the result of light passing through night vision goggles and then being recorded by an SLR camera." But Bray admitted "I do not have an explanation" for another video of what they now prefer to call unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP).
The hearing "illustrated that the government is serious about finding out what the nature of these unidentified objects is," says Harvard science Professor Avi Loeb, founder of the Galileo Project, a research inquiry into the origins of UAPs past and present.
"It seems like objects from outside the solar system do not appear to resemble objects that we have seen before within the solar system," he told WBZ. "So, there is a chance that we will find technological objects from another civilization by which we will first realize that we are not the smartest in the universe, that there might have been a smarter scientist before Albert Einstein."
Professor Loeb says telescopes like one he uses at Harvard have the capacity to provide answers on some of these sightings, if government secrecy and academic skepticism of the topic doesn't stifle research. And the obvious public desire to know more was, for once, met with bipartisan support from the members of this House committee.
As the alien says in one of the all-time great movies about alien visitors, "The Day the Earth Stood Still": "klaatu barada nikto."
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