The Magnet 75
Spy UFOs and Screaming Yellow Zonkers
Spy UFOs and the Pitted Windshield Panic of 1954
So far, the U.S. has shot down four “unidentified aerial objects” in North American airspace. Last week, National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby gave a vague press conference that offered almost no information about what the things are. As to why there are suddenly so many scary floating objects, Kirby said the military is on high alert, which means that they are going to find more.
This brings to mind a cognitive bias called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. This happens when a person, after learning or becoming aware of a new word or piece of information, suddenly notices it being mentioned frequently in their environment. This increase in perceived frequency is due to increased attention and awareness, not an increase in frequency.
One of my favorite examples of Baader-Meinhof is the Pitted Windshield Panic of 1954. Drivers in Seattle, Washington began to notice small pits and cracks in the windshields of their cars. This led to widespread panic and concern about the cause of the damage, with many speculating that it was the result of some kind of radioactive fallout, oscillations from a new radio transmitting station, cosmic rays, or a chemical attack. Some drivers reported seeing bubbles forming in their windshield as sand fleas deposited eggs through the glass! Seattle’s mayor reached out to the governor and President Eisenhower for help.
As the panic rose, a committee of University of Washington scientists studied the phenomenon. They found there was nothing to worry about. "The most likely explanation at the moment is that pitting is the result of normal driving conditions, in which small objects strike windshields," the committee said, according to this April 16, 1954 article in The Seattle Times. The paper went on to say, “These scientific appraisals jibed with yesterday's verdict of the Police Department's crime laboratory that what real damage existed, estimated at about 5 per cent of the reports to police, was caused by hoodlums. The remainder, in the opinion of police, was old damage being spotted for the first time, plus a strong mixture of imagination.”
Could the current rash of scary balloons be a combination of hoodlums and a strong mixture of imagination, or at least increased vigilance?
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