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Acronym for Unidentified Flying Object, also known as a “flying saucer” due to the media misinterpretation of pilot Kenneth Arnold's (which see) 1947 sighting.
Since that time, endless reports of UFOs have come in, most of them actually of weather balloons, science projects, meteors, regular airline flights, and other relatively mundane events. In most cases, sizes and distances have been given, though such figures simply cannot be determined without the use of proper instrumentation, a comparison object, or another properly recorded, independent report. It is an illusion most people have that they can tell the size and/or the distance of an object without these advantages, and it is just not true.
The viewing of an unknown object or image in the sky has almost automatically brought in suggestions of extraterrestrial origins. While there can hardly be any doubt that because of the vastness involved, other forms of life must exist in the universe besides those of which we are already aware, that fact does not imply that a viewed UFO is a manifestation of such life. It is simply what its name implies: an object or other phenomenon seen in the sky, apparently flying, and of unknown origin and nature, at that time and place, to that observer.
The currently favorite UFO claim is that of “abduction,” in which “abductees” report to the media — in considerable detail — how they were whisked away by alien craft as biological specimens. Almost invariably we hear that the UFO occupants carefully examined the genitals of the victims, who delight to dwell on that factor. The Journal of Irreproducible Results in the United States awarded their 1993 “Ig Nobel Prize” in psychology to scientists John Mack of Harvard Medical School and David Jacobs of Temple University in Philadelphia for their joint conclusion that people who believe they were kidnapped by aliens from outer space probably were, and that the purpose of the abduction is the production of children. The opinion of Mack and Jacobs on the Tooth Fairy was not revealed.
A Brazilian combination of the ideas of Allan Kardec and the teachings of Candomblé, which is a religion of African origin presided over by women. Created about 1920, Umbanda is often incorrectly referred to as Macumba. It is popular and highly respected in Brazil.
A mythical animal resembling a small horse with a beardlike appendage and a long, spiral, tapering horn (known as an alicorn) projecting from the forehead. The only person who can tame a unicorn, it is said, is a virgin. A virgin is recommended as necessary for capturing the beast. None of the beasts has been captured.
The Chinese have long recognized this beast in their mythology. They refer to it as ch'i-lin, which translates as “male-female.” The earliest Greek reference to a unicorn (by Ctesias) is in 400 B.C. and may have actually referred to the Indian rhinoceros. It is described there as having the legs of a buck deer, the head and body of a horse, and the tail of a lion. The horn is said to be white at the base, black in the middle, and red at the tip. Its body is white, the head red, and the eyes blue. This description was largely ignored and an all-white beast became accepted as typical.
In early Greek writings on animal husbandry there is a description of the process whereby horn buds of a goat kid are extracted and one of them is implanted at the center of the forehead. This produces in the mature goat the appearance of a small unicorn. The simple operation has also been done, first in 1933, with an Ayrshire calf. Since then, angora goats thus modified have been offered for sale as novelties.
Powdered unicorn horn was said to neutralize poisons and cure dropsy, epilepsy, gout and many other ailments, and it was sold for those purposes by early apothecaries. The substance thus offered was probably narwhal horn, actually a form of specialized tooth growing from the mouth of the male narwhal, a small whale that is found in Arctic waters. (Incredibly, a powdered horn substance is still available in oriental pharmacies in the form of rhinoceros horn, which is extolled as an aphrodisiac. This is yet another fallacy that shows clearly the manner in which ignorance and greed by humans are destroying the assets of our planet, in this case leading inexorably to the extinction of the white rhinoceros.)
The demon Amduscias, Grand Duke of Hades, is said to have the form of a unicorn.
See philosopher's stone.