Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Swamp gas from a weather balloon

"All right, Beatrice, there was no alien. The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus." - Men in Black.
An odd story came my way today, repeated with permission. Felix Grant tells me of unusual goings-on in Weston-super-Mare: a relative's child had phoned Felix at work to say that his younger sibling had been sent home from school, and the school closed, because a UFO had landed in the school field. "Black bugs had come out and were laying eggs and stuff; there were men in white suits everywhere." The children's mother had phoned the school, and took an hour to get through. When she eventually reached the head, he said the lines had been jammed by newspapers, TV stations, et al, calling the school for the story.

This was as far as Felix knew it. No signs in the local press. But I checked a little later and found in the Weston & Somerset Mercury this account: UFO sighting in Rowle:

A UFO was spotted high above Worle at the weekend.

Aliens were spotted running the grounds of Castle Batch Primary School in Rawlings Avenue.

Police, scientists in white protective suits and the press turned up to the site on Monday morning to see the area where a flying saucer had 'crash landed'.

The mock-up was all part of an exercise, organised by teacher Kate Gill, to get the youngsters at the school enthusiastic about writing.

Pupils were shown computer-generated images in assembly of a flying saucer above the school and a silver alien running through the grounds. The 450 youngsters then had to write about their experiences.

To a conspiracy theorist, this would be wonderful fodder: "a writing exercise" seems such a lame explanation that it sounds like a cover story. However, more likely, this has the look of accidental meme creation: an exercise in fiction that managed to escape from its intended confines.

The newspaper report is rather inexplicit about which bits were mock-up. Involving police, press and people in white suits sounds an implausibly elaborate and expensive way to float a topic for a primary school essay. Were these people part of the mock-up, or were they real-world services that turned up in response to children propagating a story that had become too effective a meme?

As I said, very odd. More later, if possible.


holfordwatch said...

If I may go this far - gobsmackingly, unbelievably odd. A C21 War of the Worlds, but this being the UK, no mass hysteria, just children sent home early.

paulC said...

Just read your comments on Canard Noir re Victorian life expectancy and thought I'd reply here as the relevant post is a couple of weeks old. You've made a very basic but surprisingly common error in that the life expectancy figures you cite are at birth. Once a mid-Victorian child had survived the admittedly hazardous first 5 years, they could expect to live as long as we do, or slightly longer. And they were practically immune to degenerative disease. If you'd like to know more, have a look at a series of 3 papers just published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, co-authored by Clayton (me) & Rowbotham. You are free to disagree with the science, but the history has been agreed and approved by the leading experts in the UK. So let's move the debate up a notch!

Poor Pothecary said...


It'd help if you could actually reply somewhere pertinent.

a) I didn't make that error. The original poster made it in failing to specify expectancy-from-what-age.

b) Even when you take that into account, the argument is still bilge. Cancer rates were lower at whatever post-middle-age you want, because people in that bracket generally died of other illnesses later reduced by sanitation/treaments that left people alive longer to die of cancer.

And don't play the authority card: "approved by the leading experts in the UK". Who? Provide us the links. And if you want the discussion to continue, identify yourself because I normally normally bin comments from anonymous wankers.