OMNIA Podcast: UFOs and the Creation of Knowledge (Audio)

Kate Dorsch, Ph.D. candidate in History and Sociology of Science, discusses her research on UFO sightings in Cold War America and how scientific knowledge is created and communicated to the public.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Recorded and edited by Alex Schein

Kate Dorsch, Ph.D. Candidate in History and Sociology of Science 

In December 2017, The New York Times revealed the existence of a Pentagon program investigating unidentified flying objects. For many people, the continued existence of such a program on UFOs came as a surprise, though the military has historically been known to conduct such studies. Most notably, the Air Force’s Project Blue Book investigated more than 12,000 claimed UFO sightings between 1952 and 1969.    

Kate Dorsch, a doctoral candidate in the department of History and Sociology of Science, has been researching UFO encounters reported in Project Blue Book. Her dissertation covers the first “flying saucer” report in 1947 through the release of Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and investigates the creation of scientific knowledge and how this knowledge is communicated to the public.  

(From left to right) Letter of UFO sighting dated November 4, 1966 from the James E. McDonald papers, Special Collections, University of Arizona: “Enclosed I am sending the description of an object that I have observed in 1957 in Indiana, and the picture that was made in 1959 in Illinois (page 2 and 3). If you wish any additional information, please advise. Also I appreciate if you write me a short comment about the enclosed Theory of Transformation.” | A depiction of the UFO sighting known as the "Washington Flap" in July 1952 | An encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object released by the Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2017