It was like the opening scene from a movie: cars pulled over on a busy freeway, with everyone gawking in disbelief at what they were seeing.
Drivers in New Jersey this week thought a flying saucer was hovering above them. But in reality, it was just another day in 2020 and the UFO was an aircraft from planet Earth: the Goodyear Blimp.
Understandably, there are a few expletives in these videos. However, a representative from Goodyear confirmed to several news outlets that the famous blimp flew through New York and northern New Jersey to capture footage of the Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants.
In watching these videos, it’s understandable how so many thought they were seeing a UFO. With just the right lighting conditions, viewing angle and reflections, the blimp looked just like a classic flying saucer. I had a similar experience in college, when a low flying saucer-shaped vehicle hovered over our campus at dusk. Students gathered in awe, swearing and shouting that, finally, the truth was out there and coming to our world. But as it got closer, everyone could see it was just a blimp advertising a new vehicle from Chevrolet.
Why do humans tend to see UFOs? For an in-depth look, I highly recommend a new book by fellow science journalist Sarah Scoles, “They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers.” Scoles travels across the country – to places like a tourist attraction in Colorado called the UFO Watchtower, Area 51 and the International UFO Congress – talking with hardcore UFO believers as well as skeptics.
She delves into why some people subscribe to conspiracy theories, dismiss science, or consider logical evidence in illogical ways. But she does so with understanding and even empathy, with the realization that people are usually motivated by various factors or events from their personal experiences. She doesn’t dismiss the deeply held beliefs by those she encounters, even though she doesn’t always agree with them. As Scoles writes near the end of the book:
“That, I think, is the one thing I know, feel, and believe in: universal uncertainty. Humans are so far from understanding the what, where, when, why, how and who of our swatch of spacetime. And the truth of the future is likely much stranger than the fictions of the present.”–Sarah Scoles, “They Are Already Here: The UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers.“
Lead image: Screencapture of video of New Jersey UFO, which turned out to be the Goodyear Blimp. Video via @DRoyFlor