UFO Conjectures

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Robert Sheaffer provides (at Kevin Randle's blog) the Joel Carpenter analysis of the Trent/McMinnville photos

And ongoing discussion of the Trent/McMinnville UFO photos at Kevin Randle's blog has brought out the usual pro/con comments of some UFO habitues.

Robert Sheaffer checked in and provided, magnanimously, a link to a "lost" exegesis of the Trent photos by (the now deceased?) Joel Carpenter in 2004.

The analysis by Mr. Carpenter is a prime example of how a UFO sighting/event should be evaluated and here is the link that Mr. Sheaffer provided....and we thank him for making it available again:


(I normally wouldn't intrude upon Mr. Randle's effort but this Trent analysis is so good that I think it should be seen by as many ufological hobbyists as possible.)



  • Thanks for Robert for providing this long unavailable work.


    By Blogger Lance, at Thursday, September 11, 2014  

  • I was quite shocked and saddened learning of Joel Carpenter's death at a young age. Joel was very smart, detailed, and methodical, leaning to the skeptical side but a skeptic in the good sense, not a knee-jerk naysayer (also known as pseudoskeptics and debunkers). He did some very valuable documented chronologies of such phenomena as the WWII "foo fighters" and 1946 "ghost rockets".

    We also collaborated to some extent on the Trent photos. I sent Joel (and Bruce Maccabee and Brad Sparks) my measurements from site visits and Joel (and I) built our own 3D models of the scene.

    That being said, Joel's analysis has some obvious mistakes. E.g., he used the wrong distance between garage and house, which has a strong effect on determined camera placement. He forgot to add in the height of the foundation on the house and garage, giving him incorrect heights for the wires and camera.

    However, most importantly, he proposed a now-shown incorrect theory of what a hoax model would have been ("truck mirror") that Robert Shaeffer has been championing. He suggested an ingenious means by which Trent could have suspended a model using the top overhead power wire (most propose a model tied to the bottom wire), by tying a model with line and slinging it over the top wire.

    Both these theories have now been scientifically shown to be wrong using a control photo (nothing suspended from wires) from about the same position as the first Trent photo, the control photo taken by LIFE photographer Loomis Dean, who visited the Trent place about 5 weeks later when the photos went public and reported nationwide.

    By scaling the two photos properly and overlapping the wires it is clear there is no deflection at all of the upper wire, so no relatively heavy truck mirror suspended from it.

    The lower wire also mostly shows no deflection from weight, but perhaps a tiny bit (one wire width; the recent French IPACO study claims 2 wire widths) directly above the object in Trent's photo.

    The long-understood physics of sagging lines like wires (or physical analogs like springs), tells us that the amount of sag is directly proportional to the total weight of a wire. The lower wire in the Trent photo sags about 1', so if you double the weight by adding an equal weight to it, basic physics tells us it will sag a total 2'. If you triple the weight of the wire, it will sag 3'. If you add 50% to it, it will sag 1.5', etc. etc.

    A "truck mirror" is relatively heavy compared to the wires. The wires 50' long can be shown to weigh in the neighborhood of 2 pounds each. Joel's proposed truck mirror would weigh in the neighborhood of one pound. Therefore, it would add 50% to the weight of the lower wire and it would sag 50% more, from 1' to 1.5' (or ~6 inches more). But no such sag can be found, not even remotely close.

    This absolutely proves Carpenter/Sheaffer's "truck mirror" is impossible (unless suspended from something else other than one of the visible overhead wires, i.e., a not visible suspension system).

    This does not eliminate the possibility of a model because a very lightweight model, such as might be made from paper or balsa wood hung from the wires, might not be detectable from sag.

    I just had a big fight with Lance on Kevin Randle's blog about this, but Larry told Lance I was absolutely right. Physics is physics and both Larry and I have degrees in same. (Larry has a few more technical degrees than I do, particularly engineering and is an actual "rocket scientist".) Lance apologized.

    Unfortunately ZoamBot again repeated the physical impossibility that a thin, lightweight wire would show no deflection if a significant fraction of the wire's weight (in this case a truck mirror) is added to it. This is true pseudoscience and shows that Zoam is scientifically illiterate or is just trolling.

    By Blogger David Rudiak, at Monday, September 15, 2014  

  • @Rudiak
    > The lower wire also mostly shows no deflection from weight

    It seems you assume, without warrant, the object would be hanging straight down. Look at the wire, but to the left of the object (from our perspective). There appears to be a bend.

    Think about it. If the object was hung with a string, the hanger would give it a push to produce the appearance of movement. Otherwise, the two images would have shown an immobile object, which would not have fit with the story.

    I'm not saying that's how it happened, I'm only challenging what appear to be faulty assumptions.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Tuesday, September 16, 2014  

  • Terry,

    I certainly have considered a moving model, since you can't reproduce some of the features seen in the two photos without it (unless Trent used two different size models).

    However, I haven't considered the effect on sag, but the basic physics says it won't affect it much.

    To take an extreme example, if the hanging line was swung a rather large 45 degrees, the force of gravity would now be distributed equally downward and sideways (.71 of the full straight downward force of a passive hanging model and .71 sideways).

    This would mean it would deflect downward only 70% if it was just sitting there, but that would still be detectable (unless an very, very lightweight model). It will also make the wire deflect sideways the same amount. Again, unless the model is very lightweight, this should have a very detectable affect on the observed distance between the wires.

    By Blogger David Rudiak, at Thursday, September 18, 2014  

  • I am from McMinniville and was there at the time of the UFO sighting As was true of many students we worked at Alderman's farms where Mr. Trent was a truck driver.. My good friend lived on a farm next to Trent's and when I asked him if it was a hoax he just laughed. When questioned further he said Mr Trent had no imagination and was never interested in such things. His photos back that up.No wires strings on any other sign of a fake.
    Alex Miller

    By Blogger Alex Miller, at Sunday, May 24, 2015  

  • > any other sign of a fake

    But you have to admit the object in the photos looks fake, hence, doubt.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Monday, May 25, 2015  

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