Kevin Knuth, Associate Professor of Physics, University at Albany, State University of New York Writes about UFOs … Are We Alone? The Question Is Worthy of Serious Scientific Study

Are We Alone? The Question Is Worthy of Serious Scientific Study

By Kevin KnuthUniversity at Albany, State University of New York | July 13, 2018 12:37pm ET



US F/A footage of a UFO (circled in red).

Credit: Parzival191919, CC BY-NC-SA

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Are we alone? Unfortunately, neither of the answers feel satisfactory. To be alone in this vast universe is a lonely prospect. On the other hand, if we are not alone and there is someone or something more powerful out there, that too is terrifying.

As a NASA research scientist and now a professor of physics, I attended the 2002 NASA Contact Conference, which focused on serious speculation about extraterrestrials. During the meeting a concerned participant said loudly in a sinister tone, “You have absolutely no idea what is out there!” The silence was palpable as the truth of this statement sunk in. Humans are fearful of extraterrestrials visiting Earth. Perhaps fortunately, the distances between the stars are prohibitively vast. At least this is what we novices, who are just learning to travel into space, tell ourselves.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Aces Parachute Landing Test

Watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ace its 16th parachute test, this one aimed at testing parachute deployment in the event of a low-altitude launch abort. The test was performed at the Naval Air Facility El Centro in Southern California in June 2018. Credit: SpaceX


Next Up

Asteroid Day 2018: ESA/ESO Offering 2-Hour Webcast (Preview)


Cannot load M3U8:

You do not have permission to access this content

Cover of the October 1957 issue of pulp science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. This was a special edition devoted to ‘flying saucers,’ which became a national obsession after airline pilot Kenneth Arnold sighted a saucer-shaped flying objects in 1947.

I have always been interested in UFOs. Of course, there was the excitement that there could be aliens and other living worlds. But more exciting to me was the possibility that interstellar travel was technologically achievable. In 1988, during my second week of graduate school at Montana State University, several students and I were discussing a recent cattle mutilation that was associated with UFOs. A physics professor joined the conversation and told us that he had colleagues working at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, where they were having problems with UFOs shutting down nuclear missiles. At the time I thought this professor was talking nonsense. But 20 years later, I was stunned to see a recording of a press conference featuring several former US Air Force personnel, with a couple from Malmstrom AFB, describing similar occurrences in the 1960s. Clearly there must be something to this.

With July 2 being World UFO Day, it is a good time for society to address the unsettling and refreshing fact we may not be alone. I believe we need to face the possibility that some of the strange flying objects that outperform the best aircraft in our inventory and defy explanation may indeed be visitors from afar – and there’s plenty of evidence to support UFO sightings.

The Fermi paradox

The nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi was famous for posing thought provoking questions. In 1950, at Los Alamos National Laboratory after discussing UFOs over lunch, Fermi asked, “Where is everybody?” He estimated there were about 300 billion stars in the galaxy, many of them billions of years older than the sun, with a large percentage of them likely to host habitable planets. Even if intelligent life developed on a very small percentage of these planets, then there should be a number of intelligent civilizations in the galaxy. Depending on the assumptions, one should expect anywhere from tens to tens of thousands of civilizations.

With the rocket-based technologies that we have developed for space travel, it would take between 5 and 50 million years for a civilization like ours to colonize our Milky Way galaxy. Since this should have happened several times already in the history of our galaxy, one should wonder where is the evidence of these civilizations? This discrepancy between the expectation that there should be evidence of alien civilizations or visitations and the presumption that no visitations have been observed has been dubbed the Fermi Paradox.

Carl Sagan correctly summarized the situation by saying that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The problem is that there has been no single well-documented UFO encounter that would alone qualify as the smoking gun. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that many governments around the world have covered up and classified information about such encounters. But there are enough scraps of evidence that suggest that the problem needs to be open to scientific study.

UFOs, taboo for professional scientists

When it comes to science, the scientific method requires hypotheses to be testable so that inferences can be verified. UFO encounters are neither controllable nor repeatable, which makes their study extremely challenging. But the real problem, in my view, is that the UFO topic is taboo.

While the general public has been fascinated with UFOs for decades, our governments, scientists and media, have essentially declared that of all the UFO sightings are a result of weather phenomenon or human actions. None are actually extraterrestrial spacecraft. And no aliens have visited Earth. Essentially, we are told that the topic is nonsense. UFOs are off-limits to serious scientific study and rational discussion, which unfortunately leaves the topic in the domain of fringe and pseudoscientists, many of whom litter the field with conspiracy theories and wild speculation.

I think UFO skepticism has become something of a religion with an agenda, discounting the possibility of extraterrestrials without scientific evidence, while often providing silly hypotheses describing only one or two aspects of a UFO encounter reinforcing the popular belief that there is a conspiracy. A scientist must consider all of the possible hypotheses that explain all of the data, and since little is known, the extraterrestrial hypothesis cannot yet be ruled out. In the end, the skeptics often do science a disservice by providing a poor example of how science is to be conducted. The fact is that many of these encounters – still a very small percentage of the total – defy conventional explanation.

The media amplifies the skepticism by publishing information about UFOs when it is exciting, but always with a mocking or whimsical tone and reassuring the public that it can’t possibly be true. But there are credible witnesses and encounters.

Why don’t astronomers see UFOs?

I am often asked by friends and colleagues, “Why don’t astronomers see UFOs?” The fact is that they do. In 1977, Peter Sturrock, a professor of space science and astrophysics at Stanford University, mailed 2,611 questionnaires about UFO sightings to members of the American Astronomical Society. He received 1,356 responses from which 62 astronomers – 4.6 percent – reported witnessing or recording inexplicable aerial phenomena. This rate is similar to the approximately 5 percent of UFO sightings that are never explained.

As expected, Sturrock found that astronomers who witnessed UFOs were more likely to be night sky observers. Over 80 percent of Sturrock’s respondents were willing to study the UFO phenomenon if there was a way to do so. More than half of them felt that the topic deserves to be studied versus 20 percent who felt that it should not. The survey also revealed that younger scientists were more likely to support the study of UFOs.

UFOs have been observed through telescopes. I know of one telescope sighting by an experienced amateur astronomer in which he observed an object shaped like a guitar pick moving through the telescope’s field of view. Further sightings are documented in the book “Wonders in the Sky,” in which the authors compile numerous observations of unexplained aerial phenomena made by astronomers and published in scientific journals throughout the 1700s and 1800s.

Evidence from government and military officers

Some of the most convincing observations have come from government officials. In 1997, the Chilean government formed the organization Comité de Estudios de Fenómenos Aéreos Anómalos, or CEFAA, to study UFOs. Last year, CEFAA released footage of a UFO taken with a helicopter-mounted Wescam infrared camera.

The countries of Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom have been declassifying their UFO files since 2008. The French Committee for In-Depth Studies, or COMETA, was an unofficial UFO study group comprised of high-ranking scientists and military officials that studied UFOs in the late 1990s. They released the COMETA Report, which summarized their findings. They concluded that 5 percent of the encounters were reliable yet inexplicable: The best hypothesis available was that the observed craft were extraterrestrial. They also accused the United States of covering up evidence of UFOs. Iran has been concerned about spherical UFOs observed near nuclear power facilities that they call “CIA drones” which reportedly are about 30 feet in diameter, can achieve speeds up to Mach 10, and can leave the atmosphere. Such speeds are on par with the fastest experimental aircraft, but unthinkable for a sphere without lift surfaces or an obvious propulsion mechanism.

1948 Top Secret USAF UFO extraterrestrial document. United States Air Force

Credit: United States Air Force

In December 2017, The New York Times broke a story about the classified Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, which was a $22 million program run by the former Pentagon official Luis Elizondo and aimed at studying UFOs. Elizondo resigned from running the program protesting extreme secrecy and the lack of funding and support. Following his resignation Elizondo, along with several others from the defense and intelligence community, were recruited by the To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science, which was recently founded by Tom DeLonge to study UFOs and interstellar travel. In conjunction with the launch of the academy, the Pentagon declassified and released three videos of UFO encounters taken with forward looking infrared cameras mounted on F-18 fighter jets. While there is much excitement about such disclosures, I am reminded of a quote from Retired Army Colonel John Alexander: “Disclosure has happened. … I’ve got stacks of generals, including Soviet generals, who’ve come out and said UFOs are real. My point is, how many times do senior officials need to come forward and say that this is real?”

A topic worthy of serious study

There is a great deal of evidence that a small percentage of these UFO sightings are unidentified structured craft exhibiting flight capabilities beyond any known human technology. While there is no single case for which there exists evidence that would stand up to scientific rigor, there are cases with simultaneous observations by multiple reliable witnesses, along with radar returns and photographic evidence revealing patterns of activity that are compelling.

Declassified information from covert studies is interesting, but not scientifically helpful. This is a topic worthy of open scientific inquiry, until there is a scientific consensus based on evidence rather than prior expectation or belief. If there are indeed extraterrestrial craft visiting Earth, it would greatly benefit us to know about them, their nature and their intent. Moreover, this would present a great opportunity for mankind, promising to expand and advance our knowledge and technology, as well as reshaping our understanding of our place in the universe.

Kevin Knuth, Associate Professor of Physics, University at Albany, State University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on FacebookTwitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Not just for naughty boys’: The rise in adult ADHD pills By Jim Reed Reporter, Victoria Derbyshire programme


More than 1.6 million prescriptions for ADHD medication were dispensed in the UK last year – double the figure of a decade ago. With adults now the fastest growing patient group, what is it like for those living with the condition?

“I’d always put it down to just not having any willpower, and not being able to cope in stressful situations,” Sam Sykes tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“I thought I was a bit of a lesser human, frankly.”

Sam was diagnosed with ADHD last year at the age of 44. Her seven-year-old son also has the condition, which often has a genetic link.

Sam says she has lived life with “almost constant anxiety”, and finds it hard to stay in a job for any length of time.

“I get to the point where I can’t cope anymore,” she says.

“Either I’m too bored, or too frustrated, or I genuinely believe that I’m doing such a terrible job that I need to put my employer out of their misery.”

Image caption NHS prescriptions for ADHD medications have more than doubled over the last decade

When diagnosed, her doctor prescribed pills – slow-acting stimulants – which she now takes once a day.

“I was a bit scared because it occurred to me quite quickly this could be something I was going to have to be on for the rest of my life,” she says.

“But from the perspective of everyday survival it’s turned my life around.”

Most common behavioural disorder

Even among doctors, ADHD is still often thought of as a childhood disorder.

It was only officially recognised as an adult condition in the UK in 2008.

There are no official figures for the numbers affected, but academic studies suggest up to 204,000 British adults could benefit from treatment – making it the most common behavioural disorder in the country.

The NHS lists the symptoms as impulsiveness, hyperactivity and inattentiveness. It can often lead to connected mental health problems, like severe anxiety or depression.

It is possible to develop ADHD as an adult, after a brain injury for example, but the majority of those diagnosed later in life will have been living with it since birth.

Tony Lloyd
Image caption Tony Lloyd says untreated ADHD can have a “very significant impact” on someone’s life chances

“There is still a great deal of ignorance,” says Tony Lloyd, chief executive of the charity ADHD Foundation.

“Many adults who are coming to me now are saying, ‘I just thought ADHD was about naughty children’.”

He adds: “We’re really just beginning to understand that undiagnosed, untreated ADHD can have a very significant impact on somebody’s health, wellbeing, employability and their life chances.”

The exact causes of the disorder are still not fully understood but there is a growing consensus that biology is to blame.

A complex mix of mainly genetic but also environmental factors appears to lead to a shortage of the chemical messengers dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain.

Grey line

Find out more

Watch Jim Reed’s full film on the rise in ADHD pills on the Victoria Derbyshire programme’s website.

Grey line

Medication has been around for decades in different forms. Most of the drugs are stimulants designed to artificially boost the levels of those chemicals.

“It takes an hour to metabolise and – click – it just kicks in,” says Sam. “There is no anxiety and you just get on with your day, that’s it.”

But there can be side-effects.

Sam says taking the pills can make it more difficult to eat and sleep during the day.

“To be honest those side effects are small in comparison the difference the medication has made to my life,” she says.

The most commonly-prescribed drug, methylphenidate, is also said to be associated with an increased risk of heart defects in infants whose mothers take the medication during pregnancy, according to a 2017 study in the journal JAMA.

‘Mind-altering substance’

Figures compiled by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme show NHS prescriptions for ADHD medications have more than doubled over the last decade, rising from 761,763 items in 2007 to 1,654,694 in 2017 across England, Wales and Scotland.

The data suggests that adults are now the fastest-growing patient group.

In Scotland, the only nation that records age groups, one in every four on medication is now at least 20 years old.

The huge rise in medication has proved controversial, especially in the US where more than six million children are now diagnosed.

“I am really worried about it,” says Dr Joanna Moncrieff, a senior clinical lecturer at University College London.

“It’s important for people to realise they’re taking a mind-altering substance, basically a low dose of amphetamine or a drug that’s similar to amphetamine.”

Many other psychiatrists reject that argument, saying that stimulant pills alone often allow people with ADHD to control the disorder.

“The actual effect of giving somebody with ADHD medication is that they just feel normal,” says Dr Helen Read, a NHS psychiatrist who specialises in adults with the condition.

“That might sound like a small thing but for somebody who’s struggled all their life to do the things that everybody else finds easy, that is absolutely incredible for them.”

Image caption Zoe says she was unable to concentrate on her work at school and college

Zoe Twin, 21, from Orpington in Kent, was first diagnosed in the middle of her GCSE exams six years ago.

“It’s mentally debilitating,” she says. “You get overwhelmed and you just go into this paralysed state because you don’t know what the most important thing is.”

She says she was unable to concentrate on her work, and was suffering from depression.

Aged 16, she fell off the radar of the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provider and, after a bad experience, stopped taking her medication.

But the symptoms did not go away. After a struggle she was eventually seen by doctors as an adult and put on a different slow-acting stimulant.

“It’s a bit like blinkers for my brain, it just allows me to focus and sort out my priorities.” she says.

“I’d like to say I wouldn’t need it for all my life because we don’t know the actual effects of that, but at the moment it’s what I need.”

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.



Posted, but certainly not written by, Louis Sheehan




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An enzyme involved in cancer and aging gets a close-up Understanding what telomerase looks like could guide therapies for cancer, other illnesses

An enzyme involved in cancer and aging gets a close-up

Understanding what telomerase looks like could guide therapies for cancer, other illnesses

10:00AM, MAY 4, 2018

HANDY ADD  Telomerase (bottom structure), a complex of proteins and RNA, adds DNA to telomeres (green caps), the ends of chromosomes (blue X’s). The telomeres shorten when cells divide.

Like a genetic handyman, an elusive enzyme deep inside certain cells repairs the tips of chromosomes, which fray as cells divide. It’s prized by rapidly dividing cells – like stem cells and tumor cells – and by scientists on the hunt for cancer and other disease therapies.

Now researchers have the best picture yet of this enzyme, called telomerase. Using cryo-electron microscopy, structural biologist Kelly Nguyen and her colleagues describe the structure of telomerase at a resolution of 0.7 to 0.8 nanometers, three times better than the last attempt.

This close-up reveals how the enzyme’s proteins and RNA are put together, potentially offering insight into ways to fight cancer and understand genetic diseases caused by faulty versions of the enzyme, the researchers report online April 25 in Nature.

The discovery of telomerase in 1984 earned a team of biologists the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine (SN: 10/24/09, p.14). Since then, scientists have pieced together connections between the enzyme’s activity and cancer, aging and inherited disorders. But the development of therapies has suffered from the lack of a detailed snapshot of the enzyme.

One difficulty is that there is very little of the enzyme in the body. Nguyen, of the University of California, Berkeley, says that she and one of her coauthors “grew thousands and thousands of plates of human cells” to collect enough telomerase to work with.

The team’s images reveal a two-lobed structure, held together by RNA, Nguyen says. One lobe contains proteins that put all of the pieces of telomerase together and make sure the enzyme gets to the right place in the cell.

The other lobe contains the enzyme that adds DNA to the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, which are made of repeated DNA stretches. Telomeres lose DNA with each cell division, and telomerase lengthens them again, to protect the chromosomes’ genetic information. Along with providing structural support, the RNA guides telomerase as it adds DNA to telomeres.

The work provides an “unprecedented view” of how the parts of telomerase are organized, biophysicist Michael Stone of the University of California, Santa Cruz, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study.

“One can generally think of any required step in that assembly process as a potential therapeutic target,” Stone says in an interview. But to assist in developing treatments, he says, researchers will need to capture telomerase at a resolution of 0.3 to 0.4 nanometers, which will reveal how the enzyme’s atoms interact. “The more that you know how the machine is put together, the more you can imagine ways of putting a jam into the machine.”


T.H.D. Nguyen et alCryo-EM structure of substrate-bound human telomerase holoenzymeNature. Published online April 25, 2018. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0062-x

Michael D. Stone. Detailed view of human telomerase enzyme invites rethink of its structureNature. Published online April 25, 2018. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-04756-3

Further Reading

C. Gramling and L. Hamers. Chemistry Nobel Prize goes to 3-D snapshots of life’s atomic detailsScience News. Vol. 192, October 28, 2017, p. 6.

T.H. Saey. Nobel in medicine honors discoveries of telomeres and telomeraseScience News. Vol. 176, October 24, 2009, p. 14.

P. Barry. Reading the repeats: cells transcribe telomere DNAScience News. Vol. 173, January 5, 2008, p. 6.



Posted, but certainly not written by, Louis Sheehan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Cichociemni (Polish pronunciation: [t͡ɕixɔˈt͡ɕɛmɲi]; the “Silent Unseen”) were elite special-operations paratroops of the Polish Army in exile, created in Great Britain during World War II to operate in occupied Poland (Cichociemni Spadochroniarze Armii Krajowej).[2]

Altogether 2,613 Polish Army soldiers volunteered for training by Polish and British SOE operatives. Only 606 people completed the training, and eventually 316 of them were secretly parachuted into occupied Poland. The first operation (“air bridge”, as it was called) took place on 15 February 1941. This operation was conducted by Captain Józef Zabielski, Major Stanisław Krzymowski and political courier Czesław Raczkowski. After 27 December 1944 further operations were discontinued, as by then most of Poland had been occupied by the Red Army.

Of 316 Cichociemni, 103 perished during the war: in combat with the Germans, executed by the Gestapo, or in crashes. A further nine were executed after the war by the Polish People’s Republic. Altogether 91 operatives took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

The name[edit]

The origins of the name are obscure and may never be known with certainty. “Silent Unseen” probably related to how some soldiers seemingly disappeared from their line units overnight to volunteer for special operations service, and also describes those “who appear silently where they are least expected, play havoc with the enemy and disappear whence they came, unnoticed, unseen.”[3]

The Silent Unseen were trained initially in Scotland in preparation for missions for the Polish underground in occupied Poland, such as building-clearance and bridge-demolition. In 1944, training was also carried out in BrindisiItaly, which had by then fallen to the Allies.

Initially the name was informal and was used mainly by soldiers who volunteered to parachute into Poland. However, from September 1941 the name became official and was used in all documents. It was applied both to the secret Polish Headquarters training unit created to provide agents with necessary knowledge, money and equipment, as well as to agents who were transported to Poland and other German-occupied countries.


On 30 December 1939 Captain Jan Górski, a Polish Army officer who had escaped to France after the invasion of Poland, drew up a report for the Polish Chief of Staff. Górski proposed creating a secret unit to maintain contact with the underground ZWZ, using a group of well-trained envoys. After his report was ignored, Górski resubmitted it several times. Finally the commander of the Polish Air Force, General Zając, replied that, while creation of such a unit would be a good move, the Polish Air Force had no means of transport and no training facilities for such a unit.

Górski and his colleague Maciej Kalenkiewicz continued studying the possibility of paratroops and special forces. After the capitulation of France, they managed to reach the United Kingdom. They studied documents on German paratroops and drafted a plan to create in exile a Polish airborne force to be used in covert support operations. The force was to be employed solely in aid of a future uprising in occupied Poland. Their plan was never adopted, but on 20 September 1940 the Polish commander-in-chief, General Władysław Sikorski, ordered the creation of Section III of the Commander-in-Chief’s Staff (Oddział III Sztabu Naczelnego Wodza). Section III’s purpose was contingency planning for covert operations in Poland, air delivery of arms and supplies, and training of paratroops.


Soon after, the General Staff’s Section III began recruiting volunteers. Those selected left their erstwhile units in secret, silently and at night – hence, the perhaps at first facetious name, Cichociemni (“Silent Unseen”). Of 2,413 candidates, only 605 managed to complete the training and pass all the tests; of those, 579 qualified for airlift.

The volunteers included 1 general, 112 staff officers, 894 officers, 592 non-commissioned officers (NCOs), 771 privates, 15 women, and 28 civilian emissaries of the Polish Government in Exile. The training established by the General Staff’s Section VI (Oddział VI Sztabu Naczelnego Wodza) and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) comprised five courses:

  • physical-conditioning course (kurs zaprawowy)
  • psychological and technical course (kurs badań psychotechnicznych)
  • parachuting course (kurs spadochronowy)
  • covert-operations course (kurs walki konspiracyjnej)
  • final course (kurs odprawowy)

During the first phase of training, all the volunteers were taught to use every kind of weapon (British, Polish, German, Russian and Italian weapons) and mines. In additional courses, the soldiers were trained in basic covert operations, topography, cryptography, and sharpshooting. They were also taught details of life in occupied Poland, from German-imposed laws to current fashions in occupied Warsaw. The fourth course included all kinds of covert operations, jujitsu, and shooting at invisible targets. The final course included learning a new, false identity. All soldiers who passed the training were sworn in as members of the Home Army.

Air bridges[edit]

Cichociemni after delivery to Home Army RadomKielce inspectorate, 22 September 1944

The first air-bridge operation took place on 16 February 1941. The Allied air commands carried out 483 air-bridge operations altogether, losing 68 planes to crashes and enemy fire. Apart from the Silent Unseen themselves, some 630 tons of war materiel were delivered in special containers. In addition, agents delivered the following sums of money to the Home Army:

Through 27 December 1944, 316 soldiers and 28 emissaries successfully parachuted into Poland. Additionally, 17 agents were dropped into AlbaniaFranceGreeceItaly and Yugoslavia. An unknown number of Poles (including the best known, Krystyna Skarbek) were also parachuted into France by the British Special Operations Executive to start an underground movement among the half-million-strong Polish minority.

Though the Silent Unseen were organized in collaboration with SOE, it was largely independent. The Polish section of SOE was the only one which freely chose its own men and operated its own radio communications with an occupied country. Also, the identities of the Polish agents were known only to the Polish General Staff. Those transported to Poland included soldiers of all grades. The oldest was 54 years old, the youngest was 20. As a rule, all volunteers were promoted one rank at the moment of their jump.

Silent Unseen of a Home ArmyKedyw unit, RadomKielce Home Army area, 1944

The fight[edit]

In Poland the Silent Unseen were assigned mostly to special units of the ZWZ and Home Army. Most of them joined WachlarzZwiązek Odwetu and KeDyw. Many became important staff officers of the Polish Secret Army and took part in Operation Tempest and uprisings in WilnoLwów and Warsaw.

The Silent Unseen assumed various duties in German-occupied Europe. Some 37 worked in intelligence, 50 were radio operators and emissaries, 24 were staff officers, 22 were airmen and airdrop coordinators, 11 were instructors of armored forces and instructors in anti-tank warfare at secret military schools, 3 were trained in forging documents, 169 were trained in covert operations and partisan warfare, and 28 were emissaries of the Polish government.[2]

Famous Silent Unseen[edit]

The most notable Silent Unseen included:

Rank Name and pseudonym Dropped Note
Captain Józef Zabielski– Żbik 15 February 1941 Dropped into Poland in the first Cichociemni operation, the night of 15–16 February 1941, with Stanisław Krzymowski and Czesław Raczkowski.
Colonel Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki– Antoni 14 March 1943 Commander of Home Army General Staff Section II (intelligence and counterintelligence); discovered the German V-1 and V-2 testing facility at Peenemünde; fought in the Warsaw Uprising.
General Leopold Okulicki – Niedźwiadek 14 March 1943 Last commander of the Home Army; commander of the Nie organization; arrested by the NKVD and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in the staged Trial of the Sixteen, he was murdered on 24 December 1946 in Moscow‘s Butyrka prison.
Second Lieutenant, later Lieutenant (now Brigadier-General rtd., an honorary rank) Stefan Bałuk – StarbaKubuś 10 April 1944 Specialist in document-forging and microphotography, an operative of the “Agaton” legalization section, participant in Home Army intelligence operations. During the Warsaw Uprising, he was deputy commander of “Agaton” Platoon, and finally commander of “Communications Unit 59”, a detachment protecting the Home Army General Staff.
Captain Tadeusz Klimowski – Klon 7 January 1942 Chief of Staff of the Polish 27th Home Army Infantry Division
Second Lieutenant Tadeusz Chciuk-Celt – Sulima 28 December 1941 and 4 April 1944 Operation Jacket and Operation Salamander—the only Silent Unseen to go on two parachute missions and return to base
Captain Adam Borys – Pług 2 October 1942 organizer of the Agat group fighting against the Gestapo. The unit’s best-known operation was the assassination of Franz KutscheraSS and Reich Police Chief in Warsaw, in an operation known as Operation Kutschera
Captain Władysław Kochański – Wujek / Bomba 2 September 1942 organizer of the Huta Stepańska and 700 strong Huta Stara (Bomba’s Unit) self-defences. Kidnapped by Soviet Partisans in December 1943 and imprisoned in the Soviet gulags. Released in 1956 and returned to Poland, worked and studied at the Higher School of Economics, graduating in 1963 with a master’s degree. Awarded the Silver Cross of Military Virtue.
Warrant Officer Adolf Pilch – GóraDolina 17 February 1943 organizer of a 1000-strong cavalry partisan unit in the Nowogródek area, broke through to the Kampinos forest near Warsaw and liberated it with his men, fighting 235 battles between 3 June 1943 and 17 January 1945.
Lieutenant Colonel Maciej Kalenkiewicz – Kotwicz 28 December 1941 organizer of the Cichociemni and the main planner of the Operation Ostra BramaKIA in the Battle of Surkonty against NKVD forces on 21 August 1944.
Lieutenant Józef Czuma – Skryty 18 February 1943 organizer of a partisan unit of his name in the Warsaw area, arrested by the Gestapo on 12 July 1944, probably tortured to death in Pawiak prison.
Lieutenant, later Captain Stanisław Jankowski – Agaton 3 March 1942 forgery specialist, help set up the Home Army’s document forgery department, codenamed ‘Agaton section’; commander of ‘Agaton Platoon’ during the Warsaw Uprising; later adjutant to the Home Army’s C-in-C; he survived the war to become a notable architect
Colonel Józef Spychalski – GrudzieńLuty 31 March 1942 commander of the Kraków AK Area, arrested by Gestapo on 24 March 1944.
Colonel Roman Rudkowski 26 January 1943 commander of the 3rd Detachment of the Home Army General Staff (air forces and aerial deliveries).
Major Bolesław Kontrym 2 September 1942 organizer of the secret police force, took part in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war, he was arrested by Poland’s Security Service and executed in January 1953.
Major Hieronim Dekutowski“Zapora” “Odra”, “Reżu”, “Stary”, “Henryk Zagon” 16–17 September 1943 Dropped on the night of 16–17 September 1943, along with Bronisław Rachwał “Glin” and Kazimierz Smolaker “Nurek”, as part of Operation “Neon 1”. Initially he was a staff officer in a Home Army unit commanded by Tadeusz Kuncewicz “Podkowa”. Eventually, he became commanding officer of the 4th company of the 9th Pułk Piechoty Legionów AK of the Local Inspectorate of Home Army “Zamość”. In addition to sabotage and his regular fighting against German anti-partisan units, he organized hideouts for Jewish refugees in his partisan camps. After the war, he joined Wolność i Niezawisłość. He was arrested by the Security Service, tortured, and tried in secret on 3 November 1948. He was sentenced to death and executed on 7 March 1949. His burial place is unknown.
Wacław Kopisto “Kra” 2 September 1942 Dropped into Poland on 2 September 1942. Commander of Kedyw in the Łuck Inspectorate,[5] organized Polish self-defence in Wołyń. He was captured by the Soviets in 1944 and sentenced to death, commuted to 10 years in Siberia. He returned to Poland in 1955.[5]
Major Jan Piwnik “Ponury” 7 November 1941 Dropped into Poland on 7 November 1941. He was commanding officer of KeDyw in the Radom-Kielce Home Army district. He organized a large Home Army unit, Zgrupowania Partyzanckie Armii Krajowej “Ponury”. He was killed in action near the village of Jewlaszcze on 16 June 1944.
Brigadier-General rtd. (an honorary rank) Elżbieta Zawacka – “Zelma”, “Zo” 10 September 1943 the only female Silent Unseen agent to be dropped into occupied Poland; she served as a courier between Home Army Headquarters and the Polish Government in Exile. After the war, she was arrested and tortured by the Security Service and spent a long period in prison. After the war, she pursued academic research, earning a doctoratefrom Gdansk University.
Lieutenant Colonel Stanisław Dmowski – “Podlasiak” 27 December 1944 Dropped into Poland to drop point Wilga during Operation Staszek 2, he subsequently fought in Battalion “Andrzej” operating in Silesia, disrupting German communications and harassing their retreating forces. After the arrival of Russian forces, he was at the disposal of Area Commander Kraków, where he was Chief of Action 2 and Military Intelligence, Home Army Headquarters.Arrested and interrogated by the Security Service, he was released and escaped from Poland in 1946.


Of 344 men transported to Poland, 112 were killed in action:

  • 84 in fighting against the Germans, or arrested and tortured to death by the Gestapo;
  • 10 committed suicide in German prisons or concentration camps;
  • 10 were executed by the Communists during or after the war;
  • 9 were shot down with their planes before reaching their targets.

Of 91 Silent Unseen who took part in the Warsaw Uprising, 18 were killed in action.


The first book on the Silent Unseen was published in England in 1954. The Polish edition, Drogi cichociemnych: opowiadania zebrane i opracowane przez koło spadochroniarzy Armii Krajowej, was published by Veritas; and an English edition, The Unseen and Silent: Adventures from the Underground Movement, Narrated by Paratroops of the Polish Home Army, was published by Sheed and Ward.

The Polish edition was republished in England several times, last in 1973. A miniature version of Drogi cichociemnych was published in two volumes in communist Poland in 1985 by Kurs.

General Stefan Bałuk‘s memoir, Byłem Cichociemnym (I was a Cichociemny), was published in 2008. He was 94 years old when it first appeared in bookstores. In 2009 it was translated into English as Silent and Unseen: I was a WW II Special Ops Commando.

On 4 August 1995, the Polish special-forces unit GROM adopted the name and traditions of the Cichociemni.

Polish TV has produced a series, Czas honoru (Time of Honour), about the Silent Unseen.

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ KubaWinter (2015). “Cichociemni”Sezony operacyjne. Ekipy SpadochronoweEncyklopedia skoczków AK. Introduction with Index of Individual Subpages. Archived from the original on 2006-02-08. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  2. Jump up to:a b Kazimierz Iranek-Osmecki (pl)The Unseen and Silent: Adventures from the Underground Movement, Narrated by Paratroops of the Polish Home Army, Sheed and Ward, 1954, p. 350.
  3. Jump up^ Kazimierz Iranek-OsmeckiThe Unseen and Silent, p. 350.
  4. Jump up^ Krzysztof A. Tochman. Major Wacław Kopisto – Cichociemny Oficer AK Sybirak. Wydawnictwo Libra PL sp. z o.o., Rzeszów. ISBN 9788389183583. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  5. Jump up to:a b S.B.P.L. “Wacław Kopisto”. Słownik biograficzny powiatu łańcuckiego. Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2014.


  • Ian Valentine, Station 43: Audley End House and SOE’s Polish Section, The History Press, 2006, p. 224, ISBN 0-7509-4255-X.
  • Hubert Królikowski, Tobie Ojczyzno – Cichociemni: Wojskowa Formacja Specjalna GROM im. Cichociemnych Spadochroniarzy Armii Krajowej, 1990-2000, Gdańsk, 2001.
  • P. Bystrzycki, Znak cichociemnych, Warsaw, 1985.
  • Drogi cichociemnych, Warsaw, 1993.
  • Kazimierz Iranek-OsmeckiThe Unseen and Silent: Adventures from the Underground Movement, Narrated by Paratroops of the Polish Home Army, Sheed and Ward, 1954.
  • Jędrzej Tucholski, Cichociemni, Warsaw, Instytut Wydawniczy PAX, 1984, ISBN 83-211-0537-8..
  • Jan Szatsznajder, Cichociemni: Z Polski do Polski (The Silent Unseen: From Poland to Poland), Wrocław, 1985.
  • C. Chlebowski, Cztery z tysiąca (Four of a Thousand), Warsaw, KAW, 1981.
  • G. Korczyński – Polskie oddziały specjalne w II wojnie światowej, Warsaw, Dom Wydawniczy Bellona, 2006, ISBN 83-11-10280-5.
  • Elżbieta ZawackaKatarzyna Minczykowska, Wydawnictwo Fundacji Archiwum Pomorskie Armii Krajowej, Toruń, 2007.

Posted, but not written buy, Louis Sheehan




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tick-borne illnesses, especially Lyme disease, are on the rise, according to new data out today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Tick-borne illnesses, especially Lyme disease, are on the rise, according to new data out today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of tick-borne illnesses has more than doubled since 2004. Cases of Lyme—by far the most common—have also nearly doubled since then, to 36,429 reported cases in 2016.

But CDC experts believe the actual number of Lyme infections is much higher—perhaps totaling as many as 300,000 a year, says Lyle Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s division of vector-borne diseases, who spoke at a media briefing today.

Tick-borne diseases are also occurring in an increasingly wide area, reports Petersen. Part of the reason may be warmer weather, he says, which lengthens the season when ticks are active.

Another factor, according to Thomas Mather, Ph.D., director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Diseases (who was not involved in the new study), may be the increasing geographic spread of deer, which often carry the disease-carrying ticks. As ticks spread geographically, more people come into contact with them, increasing the odds they, too, will be bitten and infected.

Lyme disease, which causes fever, aches, and often a characteristic bull’s eye rash, is the most prevalent of tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. If it is left untreated with antibiotics (from one to four months post-bite), the bacteria can spread to the muscles, joints, heart, and brain.

Cases of other tick-borne infections, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and the rare but deadly Powassan virus (which can cause inflammation in the brain), have also trended upwards, according to the CDC’s report.

While the CDC report concludes that the development of vaccines and improved insect-control programs throughout the U.S. could aid this growing problem, consumers themselves can follow precautions, such as using insect repellents and treating their backyards with insecticides, to help reduce the risk of bites.

Mosquito Threat Also Increasing

In addition to tick diseases, mosquito-borne infections have increased, according to the CDC report. Those numbers, however, have fluctuated over the years due to epidemics such as the Zika outbreak of 2016.

The report also mentions new illnesses emerging regularly during the past 14 years. “A number of new germs spread through mosquito or tick bites have been introduced here,” says Robert Redfield, M.D., CDC director, who spoke at today’s briefing. Nine new “vector” diseases have been reported in the US since 2004. The most well-known is Zika, but seven of the others are transmitted by ticks, such as the Heartland virus and the Bourbon virus, which can both cause fever, headaches, and fatigue.

Mather says that it’s reasonable to expect more new tick-borne diseases to emerge as different species of ticks spread geographically. When ticks encounter new populations of animals, they can pick up germs the animals have and spread them—for the first time—to humans. “Now, probably more than ever, people have to wonder, just what that tick potentially gave to me,” Mather says.

The CDC’s Petersen says experts are not yet able to predict how severe this coming tick and mosquito season will be: Much will depend on how hot—and thus friendly to disease-carrying insects—temperatures will get this summer and fall. “We know that we just need to be prepared for whatever might occur,” he says.

How to Protect Yourself

The CDC’s new research is concerning, says Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumer Reports’ senior scientist, “and it suggests that ticks could be a more serious problem in the future,” he says. “That’s why consumers should be taking control in their own yards, and taking actions to reduce the risk of exposure to ticks.”

Here’s what to do:

Get dressed to protect. If you plan to be outside in an area known to be infested with ticks, wear long pants, long sleeves, and socks. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pant legs into your socks. Once back inside, check your clothing and body for ticks. If you find one, use our guide to removing it.

Use the right bug repellent. Check Consumer Reports’ ratings to find the insect repellents that are most effective. In our tests, we’ve found that some products containing either 15 to 30 percent deet, 20 percent picaridin, or 30 percent oil of lemon eucalyptus were all effective against both mosquitoes and ticks.

Bug-proof your yard and your pets. To make your yard less appealing to ticks, keep your grass mowed. And since ticks love shade, remove any leaves or other debris and keep brush trimmed. You can also try using tick bait boxes, which work by attracting rodents that carry ticks and applying tick-killing insecticide to them. To reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around your yard, regularly look for—and drain away—any standing water that’s collected. Check places such as gutters, birdbaths, wheelbarrows, and swimming pool covers. Check your outdoor pets daily for ticks, and consider using an anti-tick collar, medication, shampoo, or other product.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2018, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Posted, but certainly not written, by Louis Sheehan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Game-Changing Study Finds Dozens of Genes Tied to Depression

Game-Changing Study Finds Dozens of Genes Tied to Depression

Game-Changing Study Finds Dozens of Genes Tied to Depression

Credit: Shutterstock

Scientists have uncovered dozens of genes that increase the risk of depression, a major finding that underscores the complexity of the disease and reveals why antidepressant therapies work well for some people but are utterly ineffective for others.

A global consortium of more than 200 scientists identified 44 gene variants, or small changes in genes, each one contributing in some small way to a person’s risk of depression. Thirty of the gene variants had not been identified in any previous study.

The hope is that the discovery will pave the way to new, diverse therapies for depression, an often-crippling disease that affects nearly 15 percent of adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Only about half of patients respond well to existing treatments, which include both drug and psychotherapy. [9 DIY Ways to Improve Your Mental Health]


Depression is one of the world’s most serious yet elusive public health problems, said Dr. Steven Hyman, director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who was not involved with this study.

“Despite decades of effort there have been, until now, only scant insights into its biological mechanisms,” Hyman told Live Science. “This landmark study represents a major step toward elucidating the biological underpinnings of depression.”

The massive study, which was published yesterday (April 26) in the journalNature Genetics, analyzed the genomes of more than 135,000 patients with major depressive disorder, colloquially called major depression, and compared them to the genomes of nearly 350,000 people with no depression.

Many of the genes tied to depression also are associated with other psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as health issues linked to depression, including obesity and insomnia, the study found.

Some of the gene variants control neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and adrenaline, which the current class of antidepressant drugs can target. Other gene variants have nothing to do with neurotransmitters, though, which may be why antidepressants don’t work for some people if the genetic underpinnings of their depression lie elsewhere in the brain, the scientists said. [7 Ways Depression Differs in Men and Women]

Each of the newly identified gene variants is essentially a target that could be addressed with a drug therapy, said co-lead study author Dr. Patrick Sullivan, director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. (Sullivan, along with several other of the study researchers, has ties to either pharmaceutical or genetics companies.)

In the new study, the researchers found no single gene variant that was a strong risk factor for depression, the way that mutations in the BCRA1gene frequently lead to breast cancer. Instead, each gene variant contributes to depression in an incremental way.

“If there were something major, we would have found it,” Sullivan told Live Science.

All people carry some of these gene variants for depression, but some people have more than others, placing them at a greater risk for depression, said lead study author Naomi Wray, a professorial research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Earlier studies on identical twins have revealed that genes may be responsible for half of all cases of depression. Other times, the cause may be stress or trauma. Some people, for reasons not understood, can remain resilient despite living through experiences that would make others depressed.

“We know that many life experiences also contribute to risk of depression, but identifying the genetic factors opens new doors for research into the biological drivers,” Wray said in a statement.

Sullivan compared the study on depression and genetics to research that was done on cardiovascular disease decades ago, which has led to drug therapies that significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Most of the antidepressant drugs used today were discovered by chance, but now the search for new drugs can be “rationally driven” by biological discovery, he said.

For example, gene variants are associated with RNA and the movement of molecules out of the nucleus of nerve cells, Sullivan noted. This discovery could lead to “biologically driven therapeutics” targeting RNA, he said.

Scientists involved in this study are working on an online tool to allow volunteers with depression to take part in further genetic studies.  Members of the public who want to be notified about the launch of the study can

Follow Christopher Wanjek @wanjekfor daily tweets on health and science with a humorous edge. Wanjek is the author of “Food at Work” and “Bad Medicine.” His column, Bad Medicine, appears regularly on Live Science.


Posted, but certainly not written, by Louis Sheehan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neutron Stars

NASA Will Solve a Massive Physics Mystery This Summer

“Neutron stars are the most outrageous objects that most people have never heard of,” NASA scientist Zaven Arzoumanian told physicists at the meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

Arzoumanian is one of the heads of NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) project, which forms the technical basis for Morsink’s work. NICER is a large, swiveling telescope mounted on the ISS; it monitors and precisely times the X-rays that arrive in the area of low Earth orbit from deep space.

A neutron star is the core left behind after a massive supernova explosion, but it’s believed to be not much wider than a midsize city. Neutron stars can spin at high fractions of the speed of light, firing flickering beams of X-ray energy into space with more precise timing than the ticking of atomic clocks.

And most importantly for Morsink and her colleagues’ purposes, neutron stars are the densest known objects in the universe that haven’t collapsed into black holes — but unlike with black holes, it’s possible for scientists to figure out what goes on inside them. Astronomers just need to know precisely how wide neutron stars really are, and NICER is the instrument that should finally answer that question.

Scientists don’t know exactly how matter behaves in the extreme core of a neutron star, but they understand enough to know that it’s very weird.

Daniel Watts, a particle physicist at the University of Edinburgh, told a separate audience at the APS conference that the interior of a neutron star is essentially a great big question mark.

Scientists have some excellent measurements of the masses of neutrons stars. The mass of J0437-4715, for example, is about 1.44 times that of the sun, despite being more or less the size of Lower Manhattan. That means, Morsink said, that J0437-4715 is far denser than the nucleus of an atom — by far the densest object that scientists encounter on Earth, where the vast majority of an atom’s matter gathers in just a tiny speck in its center.

At that level of density, Watts explained, it’s not at all clear how matter behaves. Quarks, the tiny particles that make up neutrons and protons, which make up atoms, can’t exist freely on their own. But when matter reaches extreme densities, quarks could keep binding into particles similar to those on Earth, or form larger, more complex particles, or perhaps mush together entirely into a more generalized particle soup. [7 Strange Facts About Quarks]

What scientists do know, Watts told Live Science, is that the details of how matter behaves at extreme densities will determine just how wide neutron stars actually get. So if scientists can come up with precise measurements of neutron stars, they can narrow down the range of possibilities for how matter behaves under those extreme conditions.

And answering that question, Watts said, could unlock answers to all sorts of particle-physics mysteries that have nothing to do with neutron stars. For example, he said, it could help answer just how individual neutrons arrange themselves in the nuclei of very heavy atoms.

Most neutron stars, Morsink said, are believed to be between about 12 and 16 miles (20 and 28 kilometers) wide, though they might be as narrow as 10 miles (16 km). That’s a very narrow range in astronomy terms but not quite precise enough to answer the kinds of questions Morsink and her colleagues are interested in.

To press toward even more precise answers, Morsink and her colleagues study X-rays coming from rapidly spinning “hotspots” on neutron stars.

Though neutron stars are incredibly compact spheres, their magnetic fields cause the energy coming off of their surfaces to be fairly uneven. Bright patches form and mushroom on their surfaces, whipping around in circles as the stars turn many times a second.

That’s where NICER comes in. NICER is a large, swiveling telescope mounted on the ISS that can time the light coming from those patches with incredible regularity.

That allows Morsink and her colleagues to study two things, both of which can help them figure out a neutron star’s radius:

1. The speed of rotation: When the neutron star spins, Morsink said, the bright spot on its surface winks toward and away from Earth almost like the beam from a lighthouse turning circles. Morsink and her colleagues can carefully study NICER data to determine both exactly how many times the star is winking each moment and exactly how fast the bright spot is moving through space. And the speed of the bright spot’s motion is a function of the star’s rate of rotation and its radius. If researchers can figure out the rotation and speed, the radius is relatively easy to determine.

2. Light bending: Neutron stars are so dense that NICER can detect photons from the star’s bright spot that fired into space while the spot was pointed away from Earth. A neutron star’s gravity well can bend light so sharply that its photons turn toward and smack into NICER’s sensor. The rate of light curvature is also a function of the star’s radius and its mass. So, by carefully studying how much a star with a known mass curves light, Morsink and her colleagues can figure out the star’s radius.

And the researchers are close to announcing their results, Morsink said. (Several physicists at her APS talk expressed some light disappointment that she hadn’t announced a specific number, and excitement that it was coming.)

Morsink told Live Science that she wasn’t trying to tease the upcoming announcement. NICER just hasn’t collected enough photons yet for the team to offer up a good answer.

“It’s like taking a cake out of the oven too early: You just end up with a mess,” she said.

But the photons are arriving, one by one, during NICER’s months of periodic study. And an answer is getting close. Right now, the team is looking at data from J0437-4715 and Earth’s next-nearest neutron star, which is about twice as far away.

Morsink said she isn’t sure which neutron star’s radius she and her colleagues will publish first, but she added that both announcements will be coming within months.

“The aim is for this to happen later on this summer, where ‘summer’ is being used in a fairly broad sense,” she said. “But I would say that by September, we ought to have something.”

Originally published on Live Science.


Posted, but certainly not written, by Louis Sheehan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment