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Hi from NateC
Hi all. I'm NateC from the Skeptiko forum, I'm a friend of the Rev Michael Cocks, a retired Anglican vicar, who has written several books on his 1970s involvement in a channelling circle in Christchurch, New Zealand in which the communicating spirit presented as the Christian Saint Stephen. The Rev Cocks is in his late 80s now and has been interested in the paranormal for most of his life. He runs the semi-monthly newsletter 'The Ground of Faith' which examines the scientific approach to evaluating the paranormal, with a particular focus on what it might imply for Christian theology.

I have a background in Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, where I've experienced some interesting phenomena including healing, but I became frustrated with the Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic community and their general resistance to openminded scientific investigation of the paranormal.

I've also long had an interest in the life of the legendary WW2-era American radar scientist Thomas Townsend Brown, whose name often appears in hushed tones in conspiracist tellings of the UFO phenomenon. (Partly because he founded the UFO investigating body NICAP, and partly because of his efforts since the 1920s to build electrostatic gravity-modifying devices - the 'gravitor' and then the 'electrohydrodynamic saucer'; partly also because his life as a consulting defense scientist who built some apparently still unexplained devices appears to have kept him in close connection with both both the US Navy and the loose network of US scientists interested in UFOs, gravity control and psi).

Around ten years ago the author Paul Schatzkin ("The Boy Who Invented Television") began a project with Townsend Brown's daughter Linda to write a definitive biography of the man. He produced one draft, before abruptly quitting the project, but fortunately kept the web forum up.

Several years of forum drama later, Linda has a new semi-closed forum called 'The Cosmic Token' in which she occasionally posts while preparing for the publication of her own autobiography (not yet released). In the last couple of years I have also written a few articles on this forum in which I try to retrace some of the threads around both Townsend Brown and the wider defense-science community who were interested in radio, psi and anomalies.

The 1970s US Psychotronic Association, for instance, and their US Navy-associated friends at Mankind Resources Unlimited, as well as a small clique of UFO writers around the Borderlands Sciences Research Foundation were the source of a fair number of legends about Townsend; he was also linked in the 1950s to Roger Babson's Gravity Research Foundation, which although it failed to build gravity control, ended up kickstarting the Golden Age of General Relativity.

If anyone is interested in 'the nuts and bolts of Townsend Brown's actual science', I would point them at the works of Tom Valone and the late Oleg Jefimenko, as I think these two people best capture the unusual physics phenomenon that Townsend variously called 'electrogravity', 'the Biefeld-Brown Effect', 'electrostrictive hydrodynamics', 'electrohydrodynamics', 'high frequency gravity waves', and 'petrovoltaics'. During his life his research was controversial, as it remains after his death; if the particular strange physical effect he believed existed really does manifest, it does so only under unusual circumstances and resists easy classification and replication. Like many WW2 Navy radio people, Townsend was an unconventional thinker, a hands-on experimentalist rather than a theorist, and his personal vision of physics - again, like many of his generation - was more akin to an intuitively grasped 'ether theory' than to Einstein's austere mathematical relativity. This conflict with Relativity as it is commonly envisaged may or may not damn his research to the dustbin of history; personally, I don't think it does, but I've yet to see an actual piece of hardware based on his work that definitively exhibits the 'electrogravity' effect. So it *might* have all been an illusion.

(The 'Lifters' Internet phenomenon of around 10 years ago was *inspired by* one particular design of Townsend Brown's, for an 'electrohydrodynamic fan'. The general scientific consensus in the 2000s - as it was during Townsend's life - was that this device only uses 'ion momentum transfer', a form of recirculating ion wind that scavenges electric charge and leaves uncharged particles in its wake, not any more exotic physical principle. But Townsend apparently remained convinced that other electric forces were at work, such as electrostriction or something more exotic.)

The Townsend Brown story does unavoidably wander into the fields of psi, as he and his close friends and family also seem to have been gifted psychics. There are also people involved in the telling of his story in the last ten years whose credentials and motives remain obscure, and the story as yet has no definitive ending. This is frustrating if, like Schatzkin, you want a biography with a clear emotional through-line and end point. Was Townsend a secret agent, a charlatan, a genius betrayed by mediocrity, a misguided amateur scientist, a cult leader, a UFO contactee, or all or none of the above? The answer as yet is: we simply don't know. And those who do claim to know, aren't yet prepared to talk clearly and not in riddles.

Among other things, Townsend appears to have had early advance notice of George Adamski's rather ridiculous 1952 'scout craft' flying saucer and/or lampshade, generally considered to be a particularly poor hoax. That Townsend both took this 'craft' seriously and seems to have got hold of it before Adamski's book was published, says some odd things about him.

But he wasn't alone. There are some interesting folks all through the history of WW2 radio, many of whom appear in scientific textbooks but not with all their activities attached.

Here's an example of one person whose dual interests don't always make it into the same article: Theodore 'Ted' Rockwell, Manhattan project scientist and champion of atomic power, who also maintained an interest in parapsychology at least from the late 1960s, if not earlier.

Regards, Nate
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