The discovery of an intelligent form of life outside our planet may be the biggest shift in the course of humankind .. But what if scientists collectively decide to ignore the evidence pointing to this?
Thus begins a new book by a prominent astronomer who argues that the simplest and best explanation for the unusual properties of an object that passed between the stars through our solar system in 2017 is that it was a technique designed by an alien object.
Does it sound strange? The scientist Avi Loeb says that the evidence shows otherwise, and he is convinced that his peers in the scientific community are so steeped in collective thinking that they are not ready to resort to the principle of the UCAM blade (a method of simple thinking, analysis and conclusion without diving into complications).
It is hard to dismiss the theory of Loeb, who was a longtime head of astronomy at Harvard University, published hundreds of groundbreaking papers and collaborated with greats like the late Stephen Hawking. “The idea that we are unique and distinguished is arrogance,” the scientist said.
He continued, “The right approach is to be humble, and she says, ‘We are not special. There are a lot of other cultures and we just need to find them.”
A mysterious visitor
Loeb, 58, tackled his theory of the alien “Oumuamua” (the Hawaiian explorer) in the book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”
The facts are as follows:
In October 2017, astronomers noticed a very fast-moving object that could only have come from another star, the first recorded case of an interstellar intruder. It did not appear to be an ordinary rock because, after setting off around the sun, it accelerated and veered from the expected path, driven by a mysterious force.
This could be easily explained if a comet expelled gas and debris, but there was no visible evidence of this “gas release” process. The traveler also descended in a strange way, according to the method that made it brighter and dimmer in scientists’ telescopes, and was unusually luminous, indicating that it was made of shiny metal.
In order to explain what happened, astronomers had to devise new theories such as that it was made of hydrogen ice, so it would have no visible effects, or that it decomposed into a dust cloud. “These ideas that came to explain the characteristics of Oumuamua always included something we hadn’t seen before,” said Loeb. He added, “If this is the direction that we are taking, then why not think that it is of industrial origin?”
Sailing in the light
Oumuamua was not photographed up close during its short stay, as it discovered its presence as soon as it left our solar system. There are two types of shapes that match the observed characteristics. Long and thin like a cigar, or flat and round like a pancake.
Loeb notes that the simulations favor the second option, and he believes the object was intentionally built as a sail propelled by stellar radiation. It was also surprising how the body moved, which made its passage even more strange.
Before colliding with our sun, ‘Oumuamua’ was ‘in a resting state’ compared to the neighboring stars, which is rare. Instead of thinking of it as a ship plunging through space, in terms of its shape, our solar system collided with it. “Perhaps Oumuamua was like a buoy that rests in the vast expanse of the universe,” wrote Loeb.
Loeb’s ideas put him at odds with his peers. Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel described him in Forbes magazine as “a scientist who was once respected,” but he failed to convince his peers of his arguments, so he began trying to convince the audience.
For his part, Loeb protests the “bullying culture” in the academy that punishes people who question traditional beliefs, just as Galileo was punished when he suggested that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Compared to speculative branches of theoretical physics, such as searching for dark matter, or the multiverse, the search for the existence of extraterrestrials is a path that makes more sense to follow, he added.
For this reason, Loeb is pushing for a new branch of astronomy, “space archeology”, to search for biological and technological signatures of extraterrestrials.
“If we find evidence of technologies that took a million years to develop, then we can get a shortcut to these technologies and use them on Earth,” said Loeb, who spent his childhood on a farmhouse reading philosophy. Such a discovery could “give us the feeling that we are part of the same team” as humanity faces threats ranging from climate change to nuclear conflict.
“Instead of fighting each other, as countries often do, we may be able to cooperate,” he concluded.