Over the weekend, the internet exploded with reports that legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin and others have convinced experts that they encountered aliens by passing lie detector tests.
Irresistible to true believers and sceptics alike, coverage of the story topped the Google News and Google Trends science corners.
So, did Buzz Aldrin really see a UFO?
The story was originally published as an “exclusive” by UK tabloid the Daily Star.
The article states: “Aldrin has always maintained he spotted a UFO on the way to the moon,” and that Aldrin said: “There was something out there that was close enough to be observed, sort of L-shaped.”
This quote likely comes from a mid-noughties science program called “First on the Moon: The Untold Story”, which claimed Aldrin saw a UFO during the Apollo 11 mission.
At best, this is technically true. Aldrin and others have debunked any speculation that he actually witnessed evidence of aliens numerous times. For example, Aldrin addressed the sighting in a 2014 Reddit Ask Me Anything session.
The astronaut explained to readers that, while he did spot a weird, moving light during the Apollo 11 journey to the moon, he was “absolutely convinced” it was just sunlight reflecting from a rocket panel that had separated from the lander.
Technically, he wrote, the source of this light could be classed as “unidentified.” But, it certainly wasn’t caused by aliens. In fact Aldrin couldn’t be clearer on this, writing, “It was not an alien.”
If this isn’t enough, Aldrin himself explained what really happened a number of times on programs including Fox News and Larry King Live in the mid-noughties. NASA scientist David Morrison has also explained that the UFO claims are overblown. The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, gave the show a thorough debunking in two 2006 blogposts.
Did Aldrin pass a lie detector test?
This brings us to the crux of the Daily Star article: that Aldrin’s UFO-spotting claims were lie-detector tested by Institute of BioAcoustic Biology in Albany, Ohio.
Using technology that, the article states, “could soon replace those used by the FBI and police,” experts tested Aldrin’s voice to see if he had been fibbing all along.
They also tested the voices of Al Worden, Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper.
Although bioacoustics is a serious field of research, it’s usually concerned with the production and reception of sounds in animals. According to ScienceAlert, however, the institute’s work smacks of pseudoscience.
Its website makes some pretty bold claims, stating that voices can offer “a holographic representation of health and wellness.”
“You may be able to lie to your friends and deceive yourself with your words but the vocal frequencies do not lie,” the website claims, promising its services can evaluate “entire matrix of information, from your DNA to your partner preferences.”
Even if the sceptics are wrong and the institute offers a legitimate, accurate lie detection service, its work on Aldrin’s voice seems redundant.
It is not clear what recording of Aldrin was used, but if it was his quotes about a mysterious sighting on the Apollo 11 mission, and even if the lie detector test is 100% accurate, it tells us nothing more than Aldrin has already explained, time and time again. Yes, he saw a weird light in space, but no, it wasn’t evidence of aliens.
Newsweek has reached out to Aldrin’s representation for clarification on this story, but has not yet heard back. His team were pretty clear in their response to Pedestrian, however, stating: “This is bogus and we don’t know where it came from.”
Newsweek also reached out to Sharry Edwards of the Institute of BioAcoustic Biology, but she did not immediately respond.
But don’t dismay, alien-hunters. Aldrin does think there is a very good chance that life exists somewhere else in the universe, and maybe even in the Milky Way. He explained in the Reddit AMA that extraterrestrial life may simply be “hundreds of light years away.”
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