SECRET documents have revealed the MoD have been studying the paranormal and other unexplained scientific phenomenon for use in the war against terror.
The newly released files show that just after 9/11, the Ministry of Defence conducted a research project into psychics - with the possibility they could be used to locate terrorist cells.
Last night saw the UK debut of the eagerly anticipated US TV show Fringe, which takes its name from fringe science, an umbrella term for such bizarre notions as ghosts, UFOs, psychics and invisibility.
The series, from JJ Abrams, the creator of Lost, centres on FBI agent Olivia Dunham and uses paranormal plots following in the X-Files tradition.
Coincidentally, as the show takes off, the truth of just how seriously our Government have taken fringe science is slowly emerging.
As Abrams has said: "Though you could say it's science fiction, the weird thing about Fringe is that a lot of the stuff is at least in the realm of possibility.
"When Star Trek came out and they had their communicators, that was a cool dream. Now, in our pockets, we all have communicators. We read a week ago that invisibility is coming. There's stuff you wouldn't think in a million years is possible, and it's happening every day."
That's also the official approach according to Nick Pope, who once ran the MoD's UFO project.
He said: "Everything that you think is Sci-Fi, someone in government or in the private sector is trying to get it to work."
In the Nineties, he worked for the MoD in a department blandly named Secretariat (Air Staff), looking at strange phenomena including UFOs, crop circles and even ghost sightings on military bases.
The research continues today.
Nick said: "As with all these fringe sciences, the reason we are doing this isn't necessarily that the MoD corporately believe in things such as anti-gravity, mind control and telepathy.
"But it is a classic example of what we call low probability, high consequence - which is basically saying it is a long shot, but if we can get just one of these fringe science things to work, the military applications would just be phenomenal."
Freedom of Information has led to the disclosure of top secret MoD documents which show the Government have been looking seriously at fringe sciences. We can assume they didn't want us to know about it as the documents are marked "Secret UK eyes only" - one of the highest classifications used by the MoD.
One study into the phenomenon of psychics, or remote viewing as the MoD call it, was secretly commissioned only a month after the New York terror attacks.
A questionnaire was sent to psychics, none of whom knew it was an MoD project, and it was probably disguised as an academic study. NICK said: "It raises the question of what other academic studies looking at fringe sciences are being run by the military?"
In the documents, there are hints of small breakthroughs. Testers asked psychics to identify a series of hidden images including a wine glass and a picture of Mother Teresa.
The files reveal the psychics "may have accessed some features of the target" - that is, the images. Later, it even talked about recruiting one or two of the psychics to "go after the sensitive targets".
The next part of the study was blacked out but coming so close to 9/11 would suggest that terrorists were the "targets".
It is well known that most police forces have used psychics for years, but the extent to which the Government and the MoD use them is unknown.
Nick said: "According to documents recently released, it transpires that defence intelligent staff have also been dabbling in other fringe science areas.
"These include exotic propulsion systems and even the possibility of using energy fields to modify people's behaviour, hinting at the exploration of mind control."
Nick suspects much of the research is contracted out to defence corporations run by ex-military, which means the MoD can get round the Freedom of Information Act.
Quinitiq, the recently privatised UK defence research organisation, have been doing research into invisibility and Bae Systems were looking at anti-gravity.
Nick admits that when he was first given the job of looking into unexplained phenomena, he was sceptical.
But his research into UFO sightings and access to formerly classified files soon convinced him that the phenomenon raised important defence issues, especially when the witnesses were military pilots or where UFOs were tracked on radar.
He said about 80 per cent of UFO sightings could be explained as misidentifications of something ordinary, such as aircraft lights or satellites.
And he admitted that in about 15 per cent of cases there was insufficient information to draw any firm conclusions.
But he said approximately five per cent of sightings, including some in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, seemed to defy conventional explanation.
A new survey has shown that 88 per cent of people in the UK didn't know their Government had fringe science projects and 77 per cent thought it was a waste of money.
But Nick said: "At first, I probably thought it was a waste of time and money as well, but these are fairly modest bits of research.
"Tome, all the scientific progress we have made has come about because we dared to dream and push the envelope of human understanding to the limit.
"If we took the view that all these things are a waste of money, we probably would never have developed the aeroplane or the rocket.
"There were always people in history saying that things were impossible but we did it anyway. Some of these things may just be things we haven't figured out how to do yet. It seems crazy not to try."
Fringe stars relatively unknown Australian actress Anna Torv, probably best remembered for playing a lesbian love interest in the BBC series Mistresses, and the two-hour pilot cost £5million.
The show will stick to familiar paranormal territory but, in a departure from JJ Abrams' Alias and Lost, each episode can stand alone.
Abrams hopes people's fascination with fringe science will get them tuning in to his latest production on Sky.
He said: "It's definitely meant to scare the hell out of you, but it's also meant to make you laugh."
Fringe continues this Sunday at 9pm on Sky1 and Sky1 HD.
'It transpires that defence intelligence staff have been dabbling in other fringe science areas'
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