Statistics show that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of UFO sightings in the past 30 years, according to statistician Sam Monfort, and he put together a few graphics to illustrate the data. Using nearly 105,000 UFO reports submitted since 1905, not only is there a marked increase in the number of sightings overall but, again since 1980, there has been a sharp uptick in UFO sightings involving individuals seeing some of “lights” instead of the usual, traditional geometrically shaped objects.
The graphs Sam Monfort, a PhD student in Human Factors and Applied Cognition at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, posted to his blog, Visualize This, were the result of research using UFO sightings reports in the database of NUFORC (National UFO Reporting Center), which bills itself as being “dedicated to the collection and dissemination of objective UFO data.” Monfort not only put together graphs concerning the overall sightings of UFOs from 1905 to 2010, he also constructed graphs reflecting the number of sightings in each state, sightings of before and after 2008, the number of sightings in the United States compared with the rest of the world, and the number of sightings in relation to internet availability, among others. But the most striking of them all is the line graph that shows the number of UFO sightings attempting to go perpendicular during the 1980s.
The graph shows that the number of UFO reports/sightings began rising in the 1940s (coinciding as it does with the advent of “foo fighters” seen during World War II and the 1947 Roswell Incident) and 1950s (a decade that saw the advent of the U2 spy plane program and the famed UFO sighting in Washington, D.C., which prompted Sir Winston Churchill to call for an investigation into the phenomena). There is a steady rise until the 1970s, which saw a slight trailing off on reports. But the average number of UFO sightings more than doubled to over 10,000 in the decade leading up to 1990. But in the next ten years, the number was four times higher. In the following decade (2000-2010), the number of UFO sightings rose to about 45,000.
So what could explain such a steep rise in UFO sightings?
The Internet has been a common go-to correlate for UFOs, giving people quicker and easier access to report the sightings, not to mention the Internet’s anonymity feature. But Montfort found only a weak positive relationship between internet access and UFO sightings.
Still, access is not the same as use (some still report object sightings to authorities or to the media, the old-fashioned ways), nor does Internet access necessarily provide a causative explanation. Thrillist offered a set of assumptions that could help explain at least part of the massive uptick in UFO sightings: “The increased prevalence of drones, military aircraft, commercial aircraft, and satellites, among a host of other reasons, likely accounts for a portion of the rise. Additionally, the internet has made it easier to know where and how to report sightings. And smartphones have made it easier to snag a picture of your otherworldly encounter.”
An article at The Conversation in July suggested that people were beginning to believe in the existence of UFOs because they had started becoming less disenchanted (that is, more spiritual and less willing to allow science to have the final say) during the 1980s. The advent of the worldwide web and the Internet, 24-hour news and cable/satellite television, seemed to also propel a rise in the search for connectedness an religious spiritualism. Oddly enough, the same decade brought with it the popular Fox Television show, The X-Files, and the lessening of the stigma associated with the reporting of and talking about UFOs. In short, there was a reawakening of enchantment which manifested itself in the rise in popularity of science fiction and fantasy, the exploration of spiritualism, a growing denial of scientific research as a definitive answer, and the increased belief in UFOs as actual phenomena.
At the same time, during the mid-80s, the the sightings of lights as UFOs supplanted the traditional disk or flying saucer type of UFO as the most reported UFO phenomenon.
Although there are undoubtedly a variety of reasons why more people are reporting UFO sightings than they did three decades ago, it should be noted that the United States is leading the way. Americans report, according to Monfort’s analysis, 300 times more UFO sightings than does the rest of the world.
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