Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WEIRD OF WHAT: Alien Encounters

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/30/13

This new series features William (Star Trek, Boston Legal) Shatner as the host looking into strange phenomena.  This episode starts with cattle mutilations, and people worrying that it's being done by aliens.  Expert researchers, though, have shown that such effects occur by natural processes -- including carrion-eating flies.  Rather than (sensibly) stopping there, the show then presents a man who believes the cows are being mutilated in a government conspiracy to cover up (or control) mad cow disease, and another who actually believes aliens are taking them.

Next up: Alien abductions, people who believe they are being taken by aliens (often in the middle of the night) for experiments.  But Dr. Susan Clancy believes that these episodes are easily explained by backfiring sleep paralysis (which affects 1 in 5 Americans), linked to dream-fantasies when the brain wakes up before the body.  Essentially, the body is still dreaming while the brain believes itself to be awake; dreams and waking overlap.  Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger believes the phenomenon can be explained by the brain reacting to electromagnetic pulses (from natural and other sources), and experiments with a special helmet he's designed seem to produce the same results.  Despite all this, though, a researcher at Temple University believes that so many people believe they've been abducted, that it must be real.  (A logical fallacy  BTW.)  He also believes that aliens are breeding alien-human hybrids from these experiments.  (Yeah, right.)

Finally, the show looks at the "Wow!" signal where, once several decades ago, a radio telescope seemed to pick up an alien transmission from outer space -- but only once.  Two theories explain this: one is that the instrument could have picked up a "sideways" signal from Earth (or a satellite passing overhead -- which the radio-telescope team denies).  The second is that it was a "burp" (radio energy burst) from a black hole.

I hadn't intended to do a full review of this show (or series), but the combination of irrational theories and rational explanations made it intriguing, and a cut above the other supernatural "reality" shows on SyFy and other channels.  This, at least, explains the rational side.

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