Earth Lights

Paul Devereux. Earth Lights: Towards an Explanation of the UFO Enigma. Turnstone Press, 1982.
In this book Paul Devereux tries to set out a new approach to the UFO problem. He admits that '...this current version is still by no means a complete theory...' and indeed the gaps in the theory are rather obvious. Devereux resorts to the device of plugging these gaps with highly speculative ideas, so that unexplained observations are discussed by employing rather dubious hypotheses, which only adds to the confusion.

The basic idea of the book is that UFOs are natural phenomena, produced by forces generated by stresses which build up in the vicinity of geological faults. An additional hypothesis is that the people who built the stone circles and other mysterious structures in various parts of Britain were aware of these forces and that the structures were designed to tap the energy and to use it in some way that we do not understand. There is nothing new in this idea, of course; various pseudo-scientific books and articles have been and are being written on this topic, most of them showing little understanding of elementary logic or basic scientific principles.

However, Devereux is associated with a group known as the Dragon Project, which was formed to investigate the 'Earth energy' allegedly associated with many prehistoric sites. The group includes people with qualifications in appropriate subjects, such as physics and electronics, and they claim to have recorded anomalous readings in the vicinity of stone circles, particularly in their measurements of radioactivity, which are said to differ significantly from the normal background readings. This aspect of their work has recently been described in the New Scientist (21 October 1982).

Unfortunately, only a brief account of the work of the Dragon Project is given and much of the book is taken up with trying to link up UFO reports with geological faults. Apparently, the distribution of stone circles in Britain shows a strong positive correlation with geological faults and these in turn show a fairly strong correlation with the distribution of UFO reports, when this distribution is corrected for population density. However, in order to map the distribution of UFO reports it is first necessary to make a selection from all available reports and such a selection must inevitably be a highly subjective process.

Many of the reports described in detail by Devereux seem to be somewhat similar to reports of ball lightning or St Elmo's Fire. Many writers seem to think that ball lightning occurs only in thunderstorms, but there are many reports of it being encountered in their absence. A perhaps more common, but usually less spectacular, phenomenon is St Elmo's Fire. When the potential gradient near the ground reaches a certain intensity the flow of current between earth and air may produce visible or even audible phenomena. High potential gradients exist on hill tops in certain atmospheric conditions. Such phenomena could thus be seen to favour certain places.

The work of Devereux and his colleagues no doubt gives us some ideas to work on in investigating UFO reports, but he goes beyond science in speculating that UFO phenomena can be directly affected by the minds of the observers, like the 'ectoplasm' allegedly produced by physical mediums. This hardly seems helpful if it is desired to attract the attention of scientists to the study of such phenomena.

So many controversial matters are discussed that it would be impossible to deal with them in a reasonably brief review, so I can only invite our readers to read it critically and judge it for themselves.

Before I finish, I cannot resist drawing attention to the photograph on page 98 which shows: 'An example of ball lightning. The dashed form of the light trace indicates that the phenomenon was pulsing..' This same photograph is reproduced, in colour, on the cover of The Taming of the Thunderbolts (C. Maxwell Cade and Delphine Davis, Abelard-Schuman, 1969) only the other way round - i.e. laterally inverted. Which is the correct version?). It is obvious to me that the 'ball lightning' is a sodium-vapour street lamp (the lamp-post is clearly visible) and the trail is produced by the photographer waving his camera about during the exposure. The dashed effect is caused by the alternating current. However, as Devereux does not mention this picture in his discussion of ball lightning reports, I suspect it may have been inserted by the publisher. -- Reviewed by John Harney

Paul Devereux replies to this review at length HERE

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