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Dow Chemical ( the Scientific Analysis of UFO Debris )

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posted on Feb, 12 2003 @ 12:31 PM
One of the most famous and puzzling incidents in UFO history is the Ubatuba, Brazil case, in which debris said to have been retreived after the explosion of a UFO was determined to be magnesium metal of unusual composition.

But there is another, surprisingly similar incident that occurred in the US at the dawn of the modern UFO phenomenon. This incident directly or indirectly involved a host of people and organizations that were later to have a major impact on the study of UFOs in the United States, and points out that there is still much to be learned concerning the early investigation of the phenomenon by the military, the intelligence community and even, perhaps, by the corporate world.

Project Blue Book's detailed case file on the earlier incident tells a weird and fascinating tale. According to Dow documents preserved in the file, the event began just after 5:00 on the afternoon of July 9, 1947, as a forty-five year old electrician named Raymond Lane and his wife were picking huckleberries near Midland, Michigan. A strange sizzling noise abruptly drew their attention to a bizarre mass of bright white, fiery sparks hovering about a foot above the ground and about a hundred feet away. It reminded them of a Fourth of July sparkler, but it was much bigger -- the size, as they later put it, of a bushel basket. The fireball burned brilliantly for about fifteen seconds before dying out. When the smoke drifted away, there was nothing left except some hot, light-and-dark-colored metallic-looking debris on the sandy soil. Lane collected fragments of the material in a tin can and considered whom to tell.

The mysterious fireball had appeared in a uniquely appropriate place. Midland happened to be the home of one of America's most well-equipped materials analysis facilities: the laboratories of Dow Chemical company, well known for its metallurgical expertise and a world leader in magnesium technology.

Shortly after World War I, Dow metallurgists had developed an alloy that the company called "Dowmetal" -- refined magnesium to which was added about six percent aluminum and one-half percent manganese. Dowmetal was widely promoted for automotive and aviation uses and was highly profitable for the company, eventually giving it a virtual monopoly on magnesium production in the US. In 1933 the company was approached by Belgian scientist Jean Piccard with a request to design and build a Dowmetal cabin for a record-setting high-altitude balloon flight. The design was highly successful and eventually enabled flights to over 70,000 feet.

During World War II Dow's extremely lightweight, strong magnesium alloys became an indispensable ingredient of aircraft and missile structures. The company also became a contractor for an unusual flight test program that had a direct link to Project SIGN, the Air Force's 1948 UFO research establishment.

One of the most significant figures behind Dow's success was a chemist named John Josef Grebe [pronounced "gree-bee"]. Born Hans Josef Grebe in Uerzig, Germany in 1900, he emigrated to Ohio in 1914 and became a US citizen in 1921. Grebe graduated from the Case School of Applied Science in 1924 and was immediately hired by Dow. Considered a genius by his colleagues and known as the "Idea Man," Grebe was given free rein to work on projects of his own devising. He established the company's Physical Research Laboratory, an organization that produced a steady stream of valuable inventions, particularly in the field of plastics. Chemists under his direction were responsible for the discovery of several now-universally used plastics, such as styrene, Styrofoam, and polyvinyl chloride, and also developed a synthetic rubber that was vital to the US military in World War II.

Josef Grebe.

Dow illlustration detailing products of Grebe's Physical Research Lab.

Grebe even perfected a method of extracting magnesium from sea water, a process that became Dow's main source of the metal. After Japan's surrender Grebe was assigned to work with the Oak Ridge nuclear laboratory, and in 1946 he was an observer at the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests. He also worked closely with the US Army's Chemical Corps on the highly classified toxicological and radiological warfare programs (in fact, by 1948, Grebe would be named the Chemical Corps' chief technical advisor).

The morning after the fireball incident, Lane took his can of sandy debris to Robert S. Spencer, a senior researcher in Grebe's laboratory, whom Lane had met when he was a Dow employee some years before. Spencer contacted Edward Fales, the company's internal security chief, and together the men went to the site to investigate. Lane told the Dow officials that he thought the object had been a flying saucer, or possibly a meteorite, and that some small lumps of silvery metal in the debris he had scooped up might be platinum. (Ironically, there is no evidence that he or anyone else ever reported seeing an object in flight prior to the appearance of the fireball). Spencer immediately arranged to have the material analyzed. The Spectroscopy Laboratory quickly reported that the shiny pellets in the material were largely silver mixed with a few percent silicon, which probably came from the sand on which the molten material had solidified. The sample was checked for radioactivity, but did not blacken photographic plates. According to a report by Fales,

Preliminary tests of the material show the contents to be as follows: ordinary sand, not radio active [sic], but giving off an ammonia gas. A silver nugget, almost pure except for sand mixed in it, not radio active. Melted or fused sand which gives off ammonia, has little droplets of silver melted in the sand and some other material which is not radio active. The fused sand has some characteristics of the Los Alamos sand [i.e., the glassy material created by the Trinity nuclear explosion] but is not believed to be the same

A portion of Dow's analysis of the July 9, 1947 'flying saucer debris' from Project Blue Book case file.

By the end of September the Lab had run more spectrographic tests on a small quantity of a fine, light, ash-like powder laboriously sifted from the debris. The powder turned out to be a material called thorite, which was discovered to be somewhat radioactive. The remaining portion of the debris yielded traces of iron, aluminum, magnesium, and other metals. There was also evidence of a significant amount of magnesium hydroxide, which some analysts took to be the remains of the combustion of a sizable amount of magnesium.

Interestingly, Dow handled the case as a purely internal matter at first. Fales' inquiries concerning Lane led him to conclude that he was a somewhat peculiar individual who was known to have basic technical expertise. On balance, the incident seemed likely to be the result of some kind of home-made fireworks experiment. The FBI was eventually contacted and an agent conducted a basic inquiry. As will be seen, there was no Air Force involvement with the case in 1947.

Activity surrounding the Midland fireball incident became dormant by the autumn of 1947 but was revived dramatically a year later, when on September 17, 1948, Grebe, then working with the Chemical Corps at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, requested an update on the investigation from Dow. An examination of Fales' dossier set him to speculating. In an October 11 memo to one of his Army superiors, he wrote that

The only technical point that would tend to discredit the report in a very slight way is that the particular spectrum analysis that was made of the sand that was supposed to have been picked up with the sample of the fused mineral matter, which contained nuggets of silver, had a different analysis from the sand picked up in the general area. It had rained, however, in the meantime, which would remove any magnesium hydroxide that might have been around. As a whole, it would appear to me that, every bit of evidence found should be considered seriously as an indication that a self-consuming missile capable of producing a considerable amount of smoke and fire and leaving behind only the minimum residue required to produce a battery and radio transmitter is feasible and was probably observed.

This concept - that the small Midland fireball had represented the self-destruction of some kind of instrumented projectile - marked a drastic change in the official approach to the incident, bringing it in line with the fears in 1946 and 1947 that some anomalous meteor-like events were actually a type of "self-consuming missile" experiments.

It is not apparent from the available source material exactly why Grebe chose this juncture to reopen the case, but there are indications that similar studies were being performed at the time on other samples of apparent UFO debris that were considered to be possibly the remains of missiles. For example, on November 26, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to the Air Force's Director of Special Investigations (IG), concerning a case similar to the Midland incident.

posted on Feb, 12 2003 @ 12:33 PM

Dow's 1947 analysis of magnesium debris from a suspected UFO crash near its own headquarters foreshadows the company's involvement with the far more famous Ubatuba material. These fragments first surfaced in September 1957 (although other accounts exist - see Sources), when they were mailed anonymously to a reporter for a Rio de Janeiro newspaper, who in turn passed them to Dr Olavo Fontes, the Brazilian representative of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO). Coral and Jim Lorenzen, APRO's directors, were impressed by an analysis performed at a laboratory in Brazil, and upon obtaining the samples, Coral Lorenzen arranged to have Dow's magnesium experts study them.

The fragments probably reached the US immediately after the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik on October 4, and it seems likely that there was suspicion in some US circles that the Ubatuba episode could be related in some way to Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile experiments. Soviet Premier Khrushchev had boasted in August that his new ICBM could strike any point on earth, and now it had been used to launch a globe-circling satellite. In the feverish atmosphere of the post-Sputnik US defense community, no one could afford to overlook intelligence leads -- even tenuous ones. On December 1, 1957, US Army ground search parties were called out in Alaska after sightings of unusual meteors raised suspicions that part of the Sputnik launcher rocket had entered the atmosphere there.

The unusually high purity of the UFO-related magnesium detected by the Brazilian laboratory may have set off alarms in the US, and part of the debris was conveyed to Dow for analysis. Similar searches for fragments of downed Soviet spacecraft became quite frequent in the 1960s and 70s and would become known as "Moon Dust" events.

In 1967, under the auspices of the Air Force-sponsored UFO study based at the University of Colorado and headed by Edward Condon, investigator Dr. Roy Craig obtained a portion of one of the Ubatuba fragments in order to subject it to neutron activation analysis. Since the Brazilian analysis in 1957 had indicated that the material was extremely pure magnesium - purer than terrestrial technology could produce, according to APRO - Craig contacted Dr. R. S. Busk, head of Dow's Metal Products Department.

1955 Dow manual on magnesium laboratory analysis techniques

During or shortly after World War II, Dow had developed a sublimation refining process under which magnesium was heated to vapor and condensed in a vacuum chamber. After three such cycles, the material, for all practical purposes, was pure magnesium with only the most minute residue of other elements. Busk supplied Craig with triply-sublimed material as a reference sample, and while doing so, mentioned Dow's earlier test of the Ubatuba material. In a letter to the author, Craig recalled that.

[P]ersonnel at the Dow laboratories were interested in UFO-related materials. They were most cooperative in furnishing pure magnesium samples and doing whatever analytical work I requested relating to the Ubatuba magnesium samples. I was surprised to learn that, years previously [possibly as early as 1958 - JC], they had done metallographic studies of the very samples of Ubatuba magnesium I was then asking them to analyze. They showed me the results of their earlier work, which they still had on file, and repeated the work for me.

Interestingly, Craig himself had worked for Dow for eight years at the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats Weapons Plant in Colorado, which was a Dow-managed facility that John Grebe had helped establish. Craig did not know Grebe, but they had mutual friends. He had never heard of the Midland case, and, perhaps not surprisingly, has no recollection of Condon describing any earlier involvement with UFO research. The neutron activation analysis Craig oversaw showed that, in contradiction to the Brazilian claims, the Ubatuba sample contained more impurities than the triply-sublimed sample, and could in fact have been made by terrestrial technology. Controversy over the significance of the particular constituents of the Ubatuba sample continues, as does analysis of the material using the latest techniques.

1958 advertisement for Dow magnesium cruise missile components

Grebe continued to work on nuclear projects at Dow until he retired. He died in Sun City, Arizona in 1984. His younger brother Carl, a scientist himself, recalls discussing flying saucers with John in the 1940s, and though they never discussed the Midland incident in detail, he agrees with John's former Dow colleagues that the spinning, self-destructing missile described in the Toftoy memo is exactly the kind of idea that Grebe's fertile mind would produce. The parallels between the Midland and Ubatuba incidents, separated by a decade and by thousands of miles, are striking. Were both incidents simply hoaxes, or is there still more to be learned about Ubatuba? Even Dr. Olavo Fontes observed, in his report on the Brazilian analysis of the Ubatuba fragments, that.

The mystery of that sudden explosion probably will never be solved. It may have been produced by the release of some self-destructing mechanism to prevent the machine from falling into our hands and thus giving us the chance to learn its secrets.

posted on Jan, 13 2007 @ 04:04 PM
I found portions of this thread intriguing and thought i would "bump" it back from page 206.

It's amazing some of the stuff one can find in the thousands of threads reaching back past page uno.

posted on Jun, 14 2008 @ 01:44 PM
John Josef Grebe is my great uncle, he was my great grandma's brother. A little history on him was that he came over to Germany to escape the war and earn money to send to his parents and 11 brothers and sisters to come over to america which they did in 1904 i think and ended up making headlines in the new york times for biggest family to cross over to america. =)

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