The Hack and the Quack

The "Phoenix Lights" made Frances Emma Barwood the darling of the global space-alien lobby. And it'stransformed computer geek Jim Dilettoso into a star in the UFO firmament.

"What about the captions which appear in the [Meier] book under each photo? Are they correct?" Korff asked Dinwiddie.

"Those are their interpretations, not ours. Nothing we did would have defined what those results meant."

It was clear to Dinwiddie, Korff writes, that Dilettoso and Stevens dreamed up the impressive-sounding captions despite that they had nothing to do with demonstrations De Anza had performed.

Korff showed Dinwiddie a caption below a Meier photo that purports to show a hovering spacecraft: "Thermogram--color density separations--low frequencies properties of light/time of day are correct; light values on ground are reflected in craft bottom; eliminates double exposures and paste-ups."

"No, we put those colors in the photo!" Dinwiddie exclaimed. "Jim [Dilettoso] said, 'Can you make the bottom of the object appear to reflect the ground below?' I said yes, and we performed the operations that they asked for."

Added Dinwiddie: "My impression of Jim Dilettoso is that he freely chooses to use whatever descriptive text he enjoys to describe things. He is not particularly versed in computer technology. He's a pretty good piano player, though."

Korff says that since his book was published in 1995, Dilettoso has made no efforts to dispute its contents.

Dilettoso tells New Times that he didn't write the captions, but that they aren't misleading. "If you talked to Ken Dinwiddie today, he would say we didn't do this."

New Times did talk to Ken Dinwiddie last week, and he remembers things the way Korff describes them.

Dilettoso has applied even more questionable methods in his "validation" of UFO photographs.

In 1987 and 1988, he worked for an Arizona affiliate of NASA; his work involved helping NASA technology get to the private sector, he says.

But he admits that he wasn't working for NASA in 1991 when he provided Wendelle C. Stevens with a seven-page analysis of UFO photographs taken in Puerto Rico. On NASA stationery, Dilettoso writes that "this is not an official project," but concludes that the photos of a flying saucer encountering an F-14 Tomcat are authentic.

Puerto Rican UFO investigator Antonio Huneeus says the case involved a man named Amaury Rivera who claimed he was abducted by aliens on his way home from work in 1988 and managed to get a picture of their spacecraft as it left with three Tomcat jets in hot pursuit. Huneeus says that UFO enthusiasts who were convinced of the truth of Rivera's story early on now dismiss it as a hoax after, among other things, a photographer named German Gutierrez admitted that he had helped Rivera fake his snapshots.

But Huneeus points out that the case has still played prominently in Mexico, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Argentina and Taiwan, always with the startling revelation that NASA had confirmed the authenticity of Rivera's photographs.

Dilettoso admits that he was no longer working for NASA when he gave his analysis to Stevens, but he says Stevens had lost the analysis he had done three years earlier when he had been employed by the space agency.

"He came into my office and asked me to write the letter and, you know, I did," he says. "An Air Force colonel coming to me and asking for that letter, I at least took pause and said ahhh, all right, but this is not an official project," he says.

So Dilettoso did the favor for Stevens, who indeed is a former Air Force colonel. He's also an ex-convict. Department of Corrections records show that he pleaded guilty to child molestation and spent five years in prison. He was released in 1988.

Jim Dilettoso is asked to explain how he can look at videotape of the March 13, 10 p.m. event and, using image analysis, declare that the lights are not flares.

He begins by explaining that the electromagnetic spectrum includes x-rays, infrared radiation, visible light.

And musical notes.
It's one of the least preposterous things Dilettoso says during a two-hour interview.

He's sitting in the conference room at Village Labs. In the next room, there's a bank of computers which has become a fixture in television footage filmed at the Tempe firm. On the walls and spread out over the large table are charts and diagrams which suggest that complex work happens here.

Dilettoso has finished his explanations about music as a form of electromagnetic energy (it isn't, of course, but it seems rude to interrupt), and he's now explaining how a camcorder can, even from miles away, record the finest details of a light bulb, such as its glowing filament, if you just know how to extract that image from the recorded blob of light. His computers can do just that, Dilettoso says.

If this were possible, astronomers and other scientists would gladly beat a path to Dilettoso's door. Unfortunately, there's something that prevents a camcorder from recording such detail.

It's called physics.
The power of a camcorder, telescope or other visual device to resolve a distant object is limited by its optics. The larger the mirror or lens used, the greater the power to resolve faraway things. That's why astronomers crave bigger and bigger mirrors for observatories--the bigger the mirror, the farther into space a telescope can resolve details.

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