No, Buzz Aldrin didn’t pass a lie detector test about the existence of aliens

“‘I saw a UFO’”, screamed the Daily Star headline. “Buzz Aldrin PASSES lie detector test revealing truth about aliens,” the paper continued, declaring the story an exclusive.

Typically, there are three reasons you might have an exclusive:

  1. Your reporters have broken an incredible story all by themselves
  2. It’s a dull story that nobody else would cover
  3. It’s so implausible a story that nobody else wants to ruin their reputation by publishing it

I would like to say this piece fits firmly in the type-3 category, only the internet is now awash with outlets uncritically repeating the reports, which seem so dubious as to barely bother writing about, but look, I’m 107 words down now, so I may as well finish this.

“Completely convinced”

So where did the Daily Star get its story from? That would be the Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health, based in Albany, Ohio. The Daily Star claims that Buzz Aldrin, Al Worden, Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper “all took part in the study”, which should already raise eyebrows. Why? Because Cooper and Mitchell died in 2004 and 2016 respectively.

So when it’s reported they took part in the study, what it presumably means is that the Institute used voice recordings of them talking to somebody else, which seems like generous usage of the term “took part in” – kind of like saying I took part in Theresa May being elected Prime Minister by voting Liberal Democrat in a ward that Labour won.

Okay, we’ve established the astronauts weren’t there, so what happened? Well, according to the report, the Institute claims the “top-secret” technology they used to analyse the astronauts’ voice patterns prove they were “completely convinced” that “the signs of alien life they claimed to have witnessed during historic missions were genuine.”

That’s no huge surprise: Worden, Mitchell and Cooper have all spoken about extraterrestrials and UFOs – the real shock would be if a lie detector test found they were making it all up. Putting aside the pseudoscience of lie detector tests for a second, they only claim to establish what people believe to be true, not whether it actually happened. This would be heading straight to the non-story category if it weren’t for the presence of Buzz Aldrin – the big name on the list, and the second man to step on the moon.no_buzz_aldrin_didnt_pass_a_lie_detector_test_about_the_existence_of_aliens_-_1

The Star says: “Aldrin has always maintained he spotted a UFO on the way to the moon, saying: ‘There was something out there that was close enough to be observed, sort of L-shaped.’” This is beyond disingenuous when you see the quote in full. I managed to track it down – it’s from a documentary entitled First on the Moon: The Untold Story, and here is the full quote in context:

“There was something out there that was close enough to be observed… and what could it be?… Mike [Collins] decided he thought he could see it in the telescope and he was able to do that, and when it was in one position it had a series of ellipses. But when you made it real sharp it was sort of L-shaped. That didn’t tell us very much… Obviously the three of us were not going to blurt out ‘Hey Houston, we’ve got something moving alongside of us, we don’t know what it is, you know, can you tell us what it is?’ We weren’t about to do that! ‘Cause we know that those transmissions would be heard by all sorts of people, and who knows what somebody would have demanded that we turn back because of aliens or whatever the reason is.”

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That, as far as I can tell, is it. And Aldrin doesn’t deny the experience, nor does he ever try to claim it was aliens. In fact, the most recent recounting of the experience comes from an appearance on Reddit, where he was asked about it again. This time, he dismissed it as sunlight reflecting off an adapter panel. “It was not an alien,” he wrote. “Extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence. That’s what Carl Sagan said.”

So what, exactly, were the researchers at the Institute of BioAcoustic Biology and Sound Health measuring? I don’t know for sure, because they don’t seem to have published the research (sidenote: this is unlikely to have passed peer review), but assuming they used their voice analysis on the audio I quoted above, then again: you’d expect it to pass a lie detector test, because Aldrin wasn’t making it up. He just never said it was aliens, no matter how much spooky music you put in the background to make it look like he did. Aldrin’s people have also denied the research, telling Pedestrian via email that: “This is bogus and we don’t know where it came from.”

Reckless reporting

So a tabloid publishes a dubious report as fact. Even overlooking that the images they’ve used imply Aldrin was in the room, that’s hardly news is it? The Sun claimed Freddie Starr ate a hamster 32 years ago, after all.

The problem is twofold. The first is that the internet publishing model actively encourages this kind of nonsense. I said at the start that I hoped it was an exclusive because nobody else would give it credence, but a quick search on Google News shows that lamentably isn’t the case:screen_shot_2018-04-09_at_10

The second part – not particularly helped by the first – is that we live in an age where reason has taken a holiday and conspiracy theory is running rampant. The first comment on The Daily Star’s story reads: “An astronauts credibility is near 99%. My governments [sic.] credibility is practically 0 so I’m going to have to go with space aliens.” Argh.

There have always been cranks and conspiracy theorists, but at a time when fake news is helping to get unqualified charlatans elected, and influential YouTube’s answer to its own conspiracy theory problem is laughably weak, you’d really hope our media would do better than publish and republish bullshit like this for a brief shot of ad revenue.

The truth is out there: it’s just that Google isn’t very effective at spreading it.

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