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In this episode of The Conversation Weekly, we examine the report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and explore the cultural history and scientific taboo around UFOs. And three months after the rebels killed the president of Chad in Central Africa, we are talking to experts about the balance of power there.

When it was finally dropped on June 25, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Report did not mention the word extraterrestrial. And no one expected it. Still, ufologists were thrilled that this official US government report could give them a signal or evidence of otherworldly explanations for the mysterious sightings of Navy pilots over the past decades.

In this episode, Chris Impey, distinguished professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, explains what the government’s report really reveals. And he explains why doing serious research on UFOs has been such a taboo for scientists battling the link between UFOs and conspiracy theories. “Guilt by association for many scientists is just enough that they don’t want to go,” says Impey. The report may move the needle a bit, he tells us, “but not substantially”.

Greg Eghigian, professor of history at Penn State University, gives us a cultural history of UFOs. He explains how the American obsession with them started in the late 1940s in the United States and then spread around the world. “It’s always been global,” says Eghigian. “Different governments around the world have, at different times, investigated this or had dedicated UFO offices.”

And in our second story (27m54s), we are heading to Chad in Central Africa. When the country’s longtime president Idriss Déby was suddenly killed by rebels in April, his son, a general, took over as head of a transitional military council promising to hold new elections within 18 months.

Line Engbo Gissel, associate professor of global political sociology at Roskilde University in Denmark and Troels Burchall Henningsen, assistant professor at the Royal Danish Defense College recently published research on how the Chadian political elite retained their grip on the power. They explain to us why the legacy of this “guardian policy” will last beyond Déby.

And Naomi Joseph, arts and culture writer at The Conversation in London, gives us some recommended reads (40m10s).

This episode of The Conversation Weekly was produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our musical theme is from Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom. or by e-mail on [email protected] You can also sign up for The Conversation’s free daily email here.

News clips for this episode are from CNBC News, NBC News, CBS News, Channel 4, Channels Television Network Africa, Reuters, France 24 English, RT and France 24.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly through any of the apps listed above, our RSS feed, or find out how to listen differently here.

This article has been updated to clarify that the report was produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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