France Opens UFO Files but Remains Skeptical of “the Lady Who Reported Seeing an Object that Looked like a Flying Roll of Toilet

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This month has been big for UFO enthusiasts. France last week unveiled its own X Files, and so many people logged on that the server crashed. The site is back up now but so slow that it feels like traveling back in time to 1996.

You can comb through 1,600 UFO sightings over the past thirty years. Not every vision made the cut. “Cases such as the lady who reported seeing an object that looked like a flying roll of toilet paper” were not worth investigating, Jacques Patenet, head of the office for the study of “non-identified aerospatial phenomena,” told New Scientist.

On the other hand, burn marks and radar trackings of flight patterns that defy the laws of physics are taken very seriously. For example, a man working in a field heard a strange whistling sound and saw a saucer-like object about eight feet in diameter land nearby. “It stayed for a few seconds then took off into the blue yonder without making a sound,” says Patenet.

UFO buffs are pleased and UFO scoffs may be amused. But Patenet wants scientists to get involved: “We also want to send a message to more scientists, inviting them to help us analyse these phenomena, when otherwise they might feel uneasy about these issues.”

How would science explain the sight of a flying roll of toilet paper?

—Rose Miller

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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