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The scientific truth behind UFOs

It can border on the outrageous, the credible and even the entrepreneurial. For centuries people claimed to have boarded UFOs, encountered aliens and even sipped on Crop Circle Beer. Skeptics may dismiss believers as nerds and nutters but there's no doubting the increasing popularity of the paranormal in the mainstream. Canada has one of the highest rates of UFO sightings per capita and, for many Canadians, life beyond earth is a definite reality.

Thanks to films like E.T., Alien and Star Trek, many Canadians believe UFOs are proof of extraterrestrial visitors from far away galaxies. But most scientists, including Michael Pursinger, offer a more mundane explanation for UFO sightings. They include weather balloons, the planet Jupiter and more significantly, earth tremors. Dr. Pursinger, a professor of psychology at Sudbury's Laurentian University, has studied more than 6,000 sighting reports going back to the 18th century.

Pursinger offers CBC Radio Quirks & Quarks host Jay Ingram a solid scientific explanation for UFO sightings. He claims most UFO sightings follow small earth tremors. These earth tremors cause electromagnetic fields and depending on the size of the tremor and the intensity of the field, it can lead to large luminosities (radiant, bright lights) in the air. These luminosities cause alterations in TV and radio reception, melt fuse boxes and even cause power outages.

According to Pursinger, when people get too close to these luminosities, they experience a tingling sensation, paralysis and in some cases may be knocked unconscious. In the context of an outdoor environment, says Pursinger, such events may lead many to believe that they've had a paranormal encounter.
• One of Canada's most famous and still unexplained paranormal events took place in Nova Scotia. In October 1967, hundreds of people saw a UFO crash into Shag Harbour near Dartmouth. The event is the world's only government documented UFO crash. (For more on Shag Harbour, see the clip The infamous Shag Harbour incident.)
Medium: Radio
Program: Quirks & Quarks
Broadcast Date: Nov. 8, 1980
Guest(s): Michael Persinger
Host: Jay Ingram
Duration: 7:38

Last updated: September 18, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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