Unformatted text preview: The Truth Is Out There: A UFO/Paranormal Refined Search Engine UFO Crawler: The New Paranormal Search Engine After graduating from a high school whose mascot was a "grey ghost," named after the spirit of a girl who haunts the old building as occasionally reported by janitors and employees, I have had a soft side for people who make seemingly wild claims about seeing ghosts or UFO's. The television launch of the X-Files in 1993 brought a wave of obsession over paranormal phenomena into pop culture, as did popular movies like Independence Day. Twentieth Century US History is certainly not complete without mentions of the 1947 Roswell incident, as well as the now de-classified two decade investigation of UFO phenomena made by the US Air Force between 1952-1969 known as Project Blue Book. Famous sightings are of course not limited to what may seem like a by-product of mid-20th Century American pop culture, but rather they transcend world history and civilizations, dating as far back as an Egyptian Pharoh's description of multiple "circles of fire" in the sky and as recent as the Tunguska impact event in Siberia in 1908. Ghosts are sighted even more frequently, especially after EVP (electronic voice phenomena) was recently popularized with methods of analyzing Gaussian white noise in digital recordings. With millions of ghost and UFO sightings reported throughout history, what's a paranormal enthusiast to do to navigate that vast network of special information? The article cited above talks about a new site launched jointly by IBM and the Anomalies Network known as the UFO Crawler ( ) that is a dedicated search engine for paranormal phenomena. The Anomalies Network is currently the world's largest online database of documents and files containing reports of UFO sightings and other abnormal mysteries. The article claims that paranormal sightings have recently been on the rise, so I guess they picked the perfect time to launch this specialty search engine. After all, what better time than now when just last week in the United Kingdom, there were reports of an object floating across the moon? Let's not forget the incidents reported last month, one in Chicago's O'Hare airport where pilots and mechanics of United Airlines witnessed a disc-shaped object hovering just below some dense clouds, and another where police in Phoenix received reports from residents of four bright lights near the horizon. Why then, should there be dedicated search engines for things like this? The article goes on to claim that Google is an "excellent search engine on a mass scale, but finding specific information can be very difficult and requires fairly complex search queries." When we discussed page ranking algorithms in class, used by these mass scale search engines, we were shown how hyperlinks to the page from other sites influence its ranking in a search query. When a paranormal enthusiast, for example, searches for "abduction" on Google, it will likely catch several alien abduction sites, but it will undoubtedly mix those results with child abduction sites, which to the general public is of more immediate importance and is likely to be hyperlinked more often. If we refine our search to "alien abduction," once again there are a few sites central to the topic of alien abduction, but now what we find that among the results are highly-linked articles from what's generally perceived as a legitimate source (like the Harvard Gazette) explaining alien abduction as an emotional response to trauma. A believer looking for the latest sightings, or trying to correlate historical sightings, does not want to hear gibberish like this. In a similar popular media discussion of the UFO Crawler search engine, it is cited that a search on "Area 51" returns thousands of irrelevant and inaccurate results. It is very easy to see intuitively that a phrase like "Area 51," which has made it to all corners of pop culture and has been referenced in so many songs, TV shows and movies to date, would give a great deal of bad results. Finally, it's not as though Google doesn't already have a solution to this refined database search in their Enterprise search applications, but the article goes on to say that the UFO Crawler prefers to use the free OmniFind Yahoo! instead of paying at least $2000 for Google Enterprise Solutions. Offering a refined search engine for the famed Anomalies Network and digging into the vast network of paranormal stories is certainly a good step forward for the community of paranormal enthusiasts, but what does it mean for someone like me just looking for an old high school legend? Alas, typing "grey ghost" into the UFO Crawler returns me nothing relevant......
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- Spring '07
- Ghost, search engine, Web crawler, Unidentified flying object