Saturday, March 15, 2008

BOOK: Ivan Sanderson, "Invisible Residents" (cont.)

Ivan T. Sanderson: Invisible Residents. London: Tandem, 1974. (First ed.: NY and Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1970.) SBN 426138805. 254 pp.

[Continued from last week.]


“[A] ridge 50 miles long by 15 miles wide rose 2¼ miles overnight in South Atlantic in 1924” (p. 22). He cites “Zodiac, staff magazine of Cable and Wireless, Ltd., October 1923; Daily Mail, 22 August 1923; Evening Standard, 28 August 1923.” I don't know how reliable these newspapers are, but I doubt that such a thing is possible. But I am very impressed that he fished out such obscure articles about obscure events, and all that in an age without Google and similar search engines :)

“[D]uring the past year, as of writing this [. . .] we now do have a working plane [. . .] that can go into and come back out of water.” (P. 58.) That would be very cool, but I have no idea what he's talking about. I've never heard of any such thing. He also mentions this on p. 98: “not merely on the drawing board, but in fact, as reported in Popular Mechanics. It is also thought that a prototype of such a plane, named the ‘Flying Fish,’ was built by the Douglas complex for, and on the specs of, the O.N.R.”; the first one supposedly crashed but the next model, after some adjustments, “performed as required”. In a footnote, he cites Popular Mechanics, September 1967, pp. 114–5.

I found chapter 6 to be particularly interesting. It's about a small artefact found in Colombia, dating from the pre-Columbian period. It could be representing a (quite unusual) fish or insect, but it could also be a delta-wing airplane. (“[T]his bloody thing does not look like any kind of known animal but it does look astonishingly like some kind of small airplane,” p. 92.) Sanderson showed casts of the object to various aviation experts, who say that it does look like an airplane but also differs in some important details from what a real plane would have to be shaped like (“Perhaps it is an artist's ‘impression’ ”, p. 92).

Another very interesting chapter is ch. 7, about underwater ‘lightwheels’: long and slowly rotating rays of light underneath the water, emitting from a common centre and their tips suddenly terminating at a certain distance away from the centre. See e.g. p. 107 for a description, written by one Comdr. J. R. Bodler (USNR). Sanderson also cites a proposed explanation of the phenomenon by one Dr. Wally Minto, who suggests that underwater sound waves may be activating the bioluminescence in certain kinds of plankton (pp. 115–7); but it isn't clear what could be causing such sound waves.

In ch. 9 he mentions examples of airplanes whose pilots found that they had covered a distance in an amazingly short period of time. He concludes that this cannot be explained just by strong tail winds, because meteorological stations on the ground would have detected these winds as well; thus perhaps “the planes slipped into areas wherein time ran slower” (p. 162). Oh dear. I think it's much more plausible that some unusual wind-related phenomenon is at work than that time somehow slows down in a certain area...

He mentions his ‘vile vortices’ several times without clearly explaining them, as if he assumed that the reader already knows them (pp. 134, 147, 151); but then in ch. 11 he describes how he got to define them. They are conveniently located around the world so that, if you also count the poles among them, you get the vertices of an icosahedron. And this despite the fact that he says “I don't like such neat patterns emerging in anything in nature; it looks far too much as thought somebody had got the idea first, and then tried to fit the facts into it. You can fit almost anything into almost anything else if you try hard enough” (p. 165). This is amazing — he is aware of all this, and yet he pursues his ridiculous vortex theory?!

An instance of amazing honesty: “[T]here is as of now totally insufficient evidence even for the existence of these vortices, per se.” (P. 177.)

He claims that in the Bermuda Triangle and a few other areas, the number of disappearances is unusually large, even if you take the amount of traffic into account (pp. 166–7); that's interesting, if it's really true.

Apparently the surface of the ocean is not perfectly level, but forms ‘depressions’ in some areas: “There is even a story, which I have been trying for four years to have confirmed or disproved, that some old freighters sold to Japanese scrapyards had failed to make the grate up the slope out of one of these patches and had to be helped out by ocean-going tugs.” :))))

In the last few chapters of the book, which try to present theories and explanations for the unusual events described earlier in the book, he has an annoying tendency to devote space to half-kooky ideas recently proposed (recently from the point of view of when he was writing the book) on the fringes of physics. The problem is that undoubtedly dozens of such ideas are proposed by physicists every year, with most of them soon discarded or forgotten, so that it's silly to take one from the last year and hint, in your paranormal book, that this one may turn out to be the explanation behind your paranormal phenomena. In practice what is more likely to happen is that in five years nobody will remember that theory anymore. Have you ever heard of Dr. John Carstoiu and his “Gravity II” (p. 173)?

“[T]here is currently considerable speculation as to whether there may not be a sort of counter-time that flows fromour future to our past” (p. 179). I don't doubt that there has been such speculation, but where? Among drug-addled new-age kooks?

“There is a theory that disturbs many geomorphologists. Briefly stated, this is to the effect that the earth is really a sort of vast crystal and is trying to adopt a tetrahedral form — namely, a three-sided pyramid with an apex at the Antarctic and a flat triangular base around the North Pole.” (P. 186.) ROFLMAO!!! I don't doubt that it disturbs the geomorphologists. They are probably laughing so hard that they cannot get any work done :)

I wonder if the book originally had a section of plates between pp. 192 and 193. It looks as if something has been cut out at that point.

He has a silly obsession with the idea that it's better to build underground than above the ground (or above the ocean floor, if you're a mysterious but advanced underwater civilization), presumably because above the ground you are more exposed to the elements (such as “vile currents (winds)”, p. 196 — he sure was fond of the word ‘vile’ :)). But why does he pretend not to notice how much more difficult and expensive it is to dig rooms from the bedrock than to put up walls and a roof above the ground?

One of the obvious problems with his idea that there's a super-advanced underwater civilization that we're mostly unaware of is of course that civilizations in general have a tendency to make themselves noticed. He suggests: “why it should not be so far in advance of us technically that we would neve have even noticed it until we started to develop a few really sensitive gadgets” (p. 199); earlier on the same page he emphasizes that, since life first evolved in water, there has been much more time for advanced species to evolve in the water than on dry land: “we have only just now achieved this after some 300 million years. What might intelligent entities, having had more than twice as long to evolve [in water] [. . .] have achieved?” But I think this line of arguing is completely implausible. Surely nobody doubts that (unless we destroy our civilization with some kind of ecological disaster or nuclear war or something of that sort) we will colonize the oceans in a few thousand years' time, let alone in 300 million years. Thus, if an advanced aquatic civilization had evolved that had 300 million years head-start on us, it would have colonized dry land long before our ancestors had ever even climbed the trees, much less came back down from them.

He makes a good point on p. 203: “It has always seemed strange to me that almost everybody not only believes in, but almost casually accepts, the existence of a Universal Power, God, [. . .] without a single iota of the sort of concrete evidence for His existence that they so clamorously demand before they will even ‘believe in’ anything as concrete as a lake or sea monster.” (P. 203.) But actually, it doesn't seem so strange to me. A person's beliefs aren't guided just by truth and evidence, but also by the consequences of those beliefs. Believing in the existence of lake monsters doesn't help you much, but believing in some kind of god might provide you with consolation and a sense that at least somebody cares about you and has this chaotic and messy world of ours under control. At least that's what I imagine that the good sides of believing in a god might be, although of course I don't know for sure, seeing as I don't believe in any myself.

A touching, and hilarious, glimpse of the good old days when it was believed that artificial intelligence was just around the corner: “We have ‘invented’ devices that we call computers. Some of these, such as those, for instance, developed by Drs John C. Loehlin of the University of Texas, Kenneth M. Colby of Stanford, and the Gullahorns of Michigan, are now already not only ‘thinking’ but developing personalities and showing characteristics such as we call emotions.” (P. 216.) ROTFLOL :))))

He suggests that, as our technology grows more and more complex, people are less and less able to really understand it: “Soon machines will be teaching the next generation of our species [. . .] Might it not be that at least some OINTs [= other intelligences] are so far ahead of our present status that they have completely lost controls of themselves and just plain given up thinking [. . .]? Take poltergeists, for instance. [. . .] the ‘work’ they do is, at least according to the record, 100 per cent stupid, mischievous, and for the most part both logical and insane.” (P. 217.)


  • Sanderson's Abominable Snowmen, a book about the yeti, sasquatch, and similar legendary beings.

  • Apparently Jung wrote a book the UFOs: Flying Saucers, A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies (NY: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1959). (Mentioned here on p. 244.)

  • Sanderson says on p. 127 that a radio commentator named Art Ford “has now spent many years investigating” the case of Flight 19, “and he has run into some really very extraordinary and disturbing facts concerning the affair. His book on the case is to be published shortly” — however, I couldn't find any such book mentioned on the web, nor in the LOC catalogue. I did find several web sites mentioning that it was Ford who reported that the Flight 19 leader, Lt. Taylor, was heard to say things like “They look like they're from outer space — don't come after me.” This perhaps gives us a hit of what Ford's book is probably like, if he did get around to publishing it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pardon me, but you referred dismissively to Dr John Carstoiu as an example of "fringe" physicists. Being his son, I would like to call you on your mischaracterization. My father never was a "physicist". He was in fact a mathematician. His degrees were in "applied mathematics" and "aeronautics". He sometimes collaborated with physicists, including some of the accomplished physicists of the 2oth century. Simply google the name Leon Brillouin, a celebrated member of both the French Academy and The National Academy(US) and full professor at Columbia U, and one of my father's closest friends and collaborators, to reveal how far off you are in your implied characterization of the physicists (not Dr Carstoiu) that my father worked with.
My father published over 100 technical papers in esteemed journals published by the National Academy of Science, NASA, and the French Academy's Compte Rendu.
While on occasion my father may have communicated with persons of more questionable scientific rigor, that fact is more an indication of his open mind, a willingness to hear out any curious mind that approached him. In fact, the great body of his work was highly technical and of continuing interest to the world scientific community.
The next time you casually throw out names to make a point, check your sources and examine your arguments. The fact that his name is not 'popularly' known, to the point of being subject to discussion in non-technical blogs, is more a function of the high mathematics that informed the body of his work (a language not accessible to the layman reader)than anything else. If you google the name John Carstoiu, a number of such technical papers are available for browsing. Are you, sir, capable of understanding the math? I doubt it.

Friday, April 18, 2008 4:30:00 PM  
Blogger ill-advised said...

OK, fair enough. I'm sorry for implying that your father was a fringe physicist. Actually what I was trying to say was that ideas like his Gravity II (that is mentioned by Sanderson) are on the fringes of physics. You are of course quite right in saying that I'm not capable of understanding the math involved in his research -- I never had any illusions about that. However, I did perform a cursory Google search, from which I got the impression that neither he nor his proposed "Gravity II" is exactly a household word, not even among physicists. That's what I was trying to point out -- Sanderson makes it seem like it would be a really major scientific breakthrough just around the corner, but what it actually seems to be is just another perfectly decent hypothesis that, like the vast majority of others, eventually turned out to be either a small contribution or a blind alley -- but not the next best thing after sliced bread, which is what Sanderson makes it out to be. But you're probably right that this exaggeration is Sanderson's
fault rather than your father's.

I just hope that I won't get complaints from Sanderson's children now :) If I do, I'll just leave it to you folks to duke it out among yourselves :)

Friday, April 18, 2008 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanderson didn't have any children!
He worked for British Naval Intelligence until the U.S. joined the war then came under their authority.

Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really need to research Ivan T. Sanderson and what he did and how he was really a "Fortean." Though some classify his later work as paranormal, it really doesn't fit that classification. He did not believe in ghosts and the occult. He was not a fan of the ET explanation being a naturalist. He did know that there was much on this planet that is ignored simply because it doesn't fit the given accepted theory at the time. The quickest example of this kind of thinking that comes to mind (but I don't remember was related to any of Sanderson's work) was the idea that earth hasn't been hit by comets in thousands of years and was almost impossible... until we witnessed a comet breaking up and slamming into Jupiter's atmosphere in the mid 1990s. Or the often quoted derision of the Wright Brothers attempts to fly.

Sanderson wanted scientists to prove why they thought what they thought and explain why things happened, or how they were possible or not possible. He had respected scientists as members of his society, too. He was a scientist himself and hosted early radio and television programs in England and later the U.S. on CBS and NBC and guested on countless shows, usually bringing all kinds of unusual or not often seen animals into the public eye. He had an early love of the work of Charles Fort who also delighted in tweaking the scientific establishment. He pursued his line of exploration as he got older and was less able to travel.

As for his mentioning of the possibilities of AI being explored at the time of his writings, your ridicule of that is funny. There are many respected publications and scientific authors who do the same today. We may not have flying cars yet in regular use, but the tech is there. That was predicted often in the past and a person of his generation had already gone from horse and buggy through movies, radio, television, jet airliners, computers and man landing on the moon. Sanderson after all was on the first regularly scheduled color program on CBS when color tv standards were first being established. His mother helped finance the early experiments of one of Britain's television pioneers.

Do some digging instead of being another annoying blogger/commenter who doesn't know what they are talking about.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 9:56:00 PM  

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