Uh huh.. Do you know what one of the most interesting things about UFO sightings is, MR? In 1996, the Earth was under attack from an alien mothership. Do you remember? Fortunately, Will Smith was on hand to save the planet. This did happen. At least in cinemas. Independence Day was the blockbuster film of the year, but the fiction it portrayed may have had an impact on the real world - a huge jump in the number of reported sightings of UFOs. Documents from the Ministry of Defence released by the National Archives show the department recorded 117 sightings in 1995 and 609 in 1996. This was also the year when television series The X-Files, about attempts to find extra-terrestrial life, was at the height of its popularity in the UK. David Clarke, an expert on UFO sightings based at Sheffield Hallam University, believes there is a link between sightings and science-fiction. "The more that alien life is covered in films or television documentaries, the more people look up at the sky and don't look down at their feet. "Maybe what they are seeing is ordinary, like an aircraft, but because they are looking for a UFO, they think it is one." It's difficult to prove, he says, but there is a correlation between films and what people are reporting as strange objects in the sky. The year with the most sighting was 1978, when Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in the UK, although the year that ET was packing people into cinemas, 1982, was a year when sightings dipped. "The lows are also interesting. After 9/11, there were a few years when everyone was distracted by what was going on elsewhere in the world, and then the last couple of years there seems to have been more sightings, possibly due to Chinese lanterns being released at weddings and festivals." Ya, eyewitness testimony is so reliable. Elizabeth Loftus performed experiments in the mid-seventies demonstrating the effect of a third party’s introducing false facts into memory.4 Subjects were shown a slide of a car at an intersection with either a yield sign or a stop sign. Experimenters asked participants questions, falsely introducing the term "stop sign" into the question instead of referring to the yield sign participants had actually seen. Similarly, experimenters falsely substituted the term "yield sign" in questions directed to participants who had actually seen the stop sign slide. The results indicated that subjects remembered seeing the false image. In the initial part of the experiment, subjects also viewed a slide showing a car accident. Some subjects were later asked how fast the cars were traveling when they "hit" each other, others were asked how fast the cars were traveling when they "smashed" into each other. Those subjects questioned using the word "smashed" were more likely to report having seen broken glass in the original slide. The introduction of false cues altered participants’ memories.