Mutual mistrust may have added a few X-files to the UFO era

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Uncloaking the flying saucer movement in the United States could 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, according to a Penn State historian.

Scientists, military officials and amateur unidentified flying object 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.

“From that event, this very quickly explodes and becomes a focus of media attention, but the question for me as a historian is why haven’t historians been more curious about what took place and what has been going on for some time now,” said Eghigian. “It’s had clear impact on the way people think about science, the way people think about technology and the way they think about government and authority.”

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