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Cold War attitudes at work in society is related to ‘flying saucer’ movement

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Washington: Revelation of the flying saucer movement in the United States can offer historians a snapshot of Cold War attitudes at work in society, as well as insights into how science communication may be tied to current denialism and conspiracy theory movements.

Scientists, military officials and amateur unidentified flying object (UFO) investigators, often called ufologists, have clashed almost since the start of the modern flying saucer era, which began in 1947 when aviator Kenneth Arnold spotted what he claimed were nine silver flying discs in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, said Greg Eghigian, associate professor of modern history, Penn State.

Eghigian, who reports his finding in a recent issue of Public Understanding of Science, said that the UFO phenomenon has ebbed and flowed since the late 1940s, but has recently died down from its height, something he attributes to the end of the Cold War.

According to Eghigian, in a sample of 25 newspapers, the number of headlines mentioning UFOs or flying saucers has fallen to less than 20 headlines each year in the post-Cold War era. Prior to the 1990s, there tended to be more than 40 headlines about the phenomena annually.

Mainstream scientists were almost immediately dismissive of the UFO movement, and the ufologists’ response to that dismissal, in many ways, mimics current debates on climate change and vaccination.

The study has been published in Public Understanding of Science. (ANI)

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