On this episode of Christopher Lochhead: Follow Your Different, Dr. Avi Loeb makes a return to discuss why traditional science and academic circles still consider researching aliens as taboo. If you are not familiar with Dr. Avi Loeb and his work, you can check out our previous conversations with him (FYD 202 & FYD 230).
Dr. Avi Loeb is the most credential scientist and astronomer ever to say that we have been visited by something outside of our galaxy that is alien in nature. He also has a new book out called Interstellar: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars.
And now, Professor Loeb with his team are the first ever to discover and retrieve interstellar objects that landed on Earth. And even further, Professor Loeb says that he thinks there’s a case to be made that these remnants of these objects that came from outside of our solar system and landed in our ocean could be alien. So if you are interested in that and things from outside our earth, stay tuned to this episode.
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Dr. Avi Loeb and his Interstellar discovery
The conversation begins with Christopher expressing his admiration for Professor Loeb’s work and delves into the controversial nature of his recent actions. Professor Avi Loeb then talks about his expedition to Papua New Guinea and its connection to a significant interstellar discovery.
Professor Loeb explains that his journey to Papua New Guinea was prompted by the detection of a fast-moving object that collided with Earth in 2014. This object exhibited unusual properties, including its high speed and material strength. It was determined to have come from outside the solar system, which sparked initial skepticism among his colleagues but was later confirmed by the US Space Command.
To investigate further, Professor Loeb led an expedition to the Pacific Ocean, where the object had crashed. The team used a specialized sled with magnets to collect millimeter-sized particles from the ocean floor, which had rained down during the object’s explosion. After extensive searching, they found molten droplets and other materials that provided crucial insights into the object’s composition and origin.
Dr. Avi Loeb and the Spaceballs
Professor Avi Loeb then talks about the remarkable discovery of spaceballs, which are unusual spherical objects with unique compositions.
Professor Loeb also adds that the expedition was a significant effort funded by private donors, emphasizing the extensive work put into the project. He then talks about receiving the spaceball materials at his doorstep via FedEx, and he wasn’t concerned about a slight delay given the billions of years it took for the materials to arrive on Earth.
They then talk in detail about the analysis of these spaceballs, with Professor Loeb’s intern, Sophie Bertram, helping to discover and analyze a significant number of them. They found three high-yield regions along the meteor’s path, suggesting these regions might correspond to the flares observed during the meteor’s entry. The composition of these spaceballs, dubbed “Bilbao,” was unique, containing elements not found in known Earth, Moon, Mars, or asteroid materials. This composition further supports the idea that these materials originated from outside the solar system.
Dr. Avi Loeb on the skepticism of Traditional Science
Professor Loeb explains that initially, there was skepticism from some colleagues and reviewers when the data about these interstellar landings that occurred in 2014, leading to a delay in publishing the findings.
However, three years later, the US Space Command formally confirmed the object’s interstellar nature with a high level of confidence. This confirmation prompted Professor Loeb to plan an expedition to Papua New Guinea, gather a team, design specialized equipment, and secure funding.
During the expedition, they discovered unique materials known as “spaceballs” that didn’t resemble anything from the solar system. This discovery further supported the US Space Command’s assertion about the object’s interstellar origin.
Professor Loeb expresses frustration with astronomers who clung to traditional models and refused to revise them in light of new data, referring to it as the “Stone Age of Science.” He highlights the importance of adjusting models when they don’t align with observed data.
To hear more from Dr. Avi Loeb and his interstellar discoveries, download and listen to this episode.
“The world’s leading alien hunter”—New York Times Magazine
Dr. Abraham (Avi) Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University.
He received a Ph.D. in Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel at age 24 (1980-1986), led the first international project supported by the Strategic Defense Initiative (1983-1988), and was subsequently a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1988-1993).
Loeb has written 8 books. These includes most recently, Extraterrestrial (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), and about 800 papers (with an h-index of 113) on a wide range of topics. Topics include black holes, the first stars, the search for extraterrestrial life and the future of the Universe.
He had been the longest-serving Chair of Harvard’s Department of Astronomy (2011-2020), Founding Director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative (2016-present), and Director of the Institute for Theory and Computation (2007-present) within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
He is the Chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies (2018-present). Additionally, he is also an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics.
Loeb is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at the White House and a member of the Advisory Board for “Einstein: Visualize the Impossible” of the Hebrew University.
He also chairs the Advisory Committee for the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative (2016-present). Further, he serves as the Science Theory Director for all Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
Click here for Loeb’s commentaries on innovation and diversity.
Learn more about Dr. Avi Loeb!
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