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What are UFOs? - The 6 Best Theories

Updated on March 22, 2017
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller; librarian; and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

What are UFOs: best theories.  For many decades people have been trying to explain UFO's.  Are they visitors from another planet?  Visitors from another time or dimension?  Meteorological events?  Or are they a psychological phenomenon?
What are UFOs: best theories. For many decades people have been trying to explain UFO's. Are they visitors from another planet? Visitors from another time or dimension? Meteorological events? Or are they a psychological phenomenon? | Source

UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) have been fascinating, mystifying and frightening people for many decades, and possibly go back as far as ancient times.

Over time, many theories have developed as to who made them, where they come from, and why they are here.

In the public mind, the most commonly held theory is that UFOs are crewed by extraterrestrials from another planet who are investigating or monitoring the Earth for some reason.

Skeptics, on the other hand, tend to hold that UFO sightings are made up of everyday things such as aircraft that have been misidentified, astronomical events, or other explicable phenomena caused by things such as freak weather, or they are just hoaxes.

Below are listed the top 6 theories that seek to explain the mystery of what are UFOs.

I happen to be privileged enough to be in on the fact that we have been visited on this planet, and the UFO phenomenon is real.

— Edgar Mitchell

#1 Alien visitors from another planet

The idea that UFOs are the craft of aliens from another planet who are visiting Earth is probably the most common explanation for UFOs.

It has been speculated that the aliens might be investigating or monitoring the human race – maybe taking a special interest in us because we have begun to venture out into space ourselves.

Some writers, such as the Swiss writer, Erich von Däniken, have been postulated that aliens have been visiting the human race for thousands of years and made even have deliberately influenced human history.

The main criticism of this theory relates to the distances and time involved with space travel for the aliens. In the past, it used to be believed that aliens might live on the Moon, or Mars, or Venus, but now science is fairly sure that there is very little chance of intelligent life being found within our solar system.

This means that the aliens would have to travel from a neighboring star. The distances involved are huge and and would take enormous amounts of energy and decades in time, at the very least, to traverse.

Article concerning the Roswell UFO incident in Roswell Daily Record from July 9, 1947.
Article concerning the Roswell UFO incident in Roswell Daily Record from July 9, 1947. | Source

This 'flying saucer' situation is not at all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomena. Something is really flying around. The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious.

— Gen. Nathan Twining Chief of Staff, US Air Force, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Visitors from another dimension

Different dimensions of time and space used to be very much on the speculative fringes of physics, but has gained such wide respectability in recent years that ideas of a multidimensional are essentially orthodox.

A technologically advanced race may well have mastered how to travel between different dimensions and use this power to explore space and time.

If UFOs are visiting us from a different dimension, rather than a distant planet, then that would get around the problems with them traveling long distances from another planet.

It might also explain some of the strange behavior that people who’ve seen them have reported, such as crafts moving through solid objects and appearing and disappearing out of nowhere.

Visitors from the Future

Another theory is that the UFOs are carrying visitors from the future who are coming back in time to visit us.

This provides an explanation for why the UFOs seem so technically superior to our own aircraft and are able to perform spectacular maneuvers, as well as generally avoid detection.

It also avoids the time and distance problems associated with UFOs traveling to Earth from distant planets.

Although orthodox science accepts that we move into the future at variable rates, thanks to Einstein and his theory of relativity, most scientists dispute the idea that traveling backwards through time is possible, however, because of the difficulties it throws up.

Some scientists believe that traveling into the past is at least theoretically possible. It would have to involve one of the following, however.

  • Traveling faster than the speed of light
  • Wormholes and Alcubierre drive
  • The use of cosmic strings and black holes

Photos of UFOs sighted in Sheffield, England 1962, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1960
Photos of UFOs sighted in Sheffield, England 1962, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1960 | Source

So actually we didn't have any contacts with UFO organizations. It was all strictly government.

— Betty Hill

Top Secret Man-Made Flying Crafts

At the height of the Cold War, there was lots of talk of UFOs actually being man-made secret weapons, built by the US or the Soviet Union.

This was offered as an explanation for the apparent official secrecy surrounding UFOs and why the authorities seemed reluctant to investigate sightings.

There was also a related hybrid theory that said that the craft were man-made, but based on technology discovered at one or more crashed alien UFO sites (the most famous being the Roswell Incident).

The man-made secret weapon theories are less common nowadays. That said, there are still some very genuine cases where members of the public sight or discover things that they weren't supposed to. The authorities will always try to withhold information on new weapons and aircraft.

I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true. It's hard to say whether or not you're a believer. I've been interested in that subject matter, like lots of people. Perhaps foolishly, I've allowed some of that stuff to creep into my music.

— Frank Black

UFOs are Hoaxes

There have certainly been some famous UFO cases that have later been shown to be hoaxes, either because evidence was uncovered which demonstrated how the hoax was carried out, or because the hoaxer later confessed.

Photographic evidence of UFOs has often been hotly debated over the years. Personal testimonies can also be relatively easy to fake.

Given the sheer number of sightings, and the unlikeliness that all of the reporters of UFO incidents were acting dishonestly, it seems probable that many, if not most, UFO sightings are not deliberate hoaxes, however.

Lenticular clouds, such as this one, can sometimes be mistaken for UFOs.  Ball lightning and other meteorological phenomena can also confuse people.  It is likely that at least some sightings are caused by weather events.
Lenticular clouds, such as this one, can sometimes be mistaken for UFOs. Ball lightning and other meteorological phenomena can also confuse people. It is likely that at least some sightings are caused by weather events. | Source

Misidentification of Innocent Objects

This tends to be the skeptics favorite explanation (along with the hoax theory).

They argue that things like freak weather conditions (for example, peculiar cloud formations and lightning) can account for many sightings.

Also things like misidentified airplanes, helicopters, weather balloons could account for some sightings.

Reports of strange lights in the sky sometimes coincide with astronomical events such as meteors and asteroids showers and could be explained that way.

“Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?

No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.

One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"

Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.

— Isaac Asimov

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© 2014 Paul Goodman

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