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The Harvard professor who thinks aliens exist Avi Loeb makes the case for extraterrestrial life

We are not alone. Credit: Joe McNally/Getty Images

We are not alone. Credit: Joe McNally/Getty Images


March 27, 2023   9 mins

A year of spy balloons and UFOs in North America has sparked renewed interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life — and not just among conspiracy theorists. Some of the world’s leading cosmologists are convinced that alien technology has already reached planet Earth. Harvard Professor Avi Loeb has spent years tracking mysterious objects in our solar system, and believes they could be fragments of an extraterrestrial civilisation.

In an interview with Florence Read, he explains his theory of the objects’ origin, why they were sent here, and how we should interact with aliens if we find them.

Florence Read: When was the first unidentified interstellar object detected in our solar system?

Professor Avi Loeb: It was spotted in October 2017 by a telescope in Hawaii. It was given the name ‘Oumuamua, which means “the scout”. And at first, of course, everyone thought it was a rock from another star that just happened to pass by.

The more we learned about it, the more it looked weird. It was tumbling every eight hours and the amount of sunlight reflected from it changed by a factor of ten as it was tumbling. So that meant that it had a very extreme shape. The best fit for the variation of reflected sunlight was that of a flat object, pancake-like, which is quite unusual.

And then, this object didn’t show any cometary tail — there was no evaporation from it visible — yet it exhibited an excess push away from the sun, by some mysterious force. I suggested that since the force is not the rocket effect of evaporating gases, it could be being pushed by the reflection of sunlight. But for that to be the case, the object had to be very thin, sort of like a sail being pushed by light. And, of course, if it happens to be that way, then it could be artificial in origin.

Nature doesn’t make sails that are propelled by reflecting light. In fact, the same telescope in Hawaii discovered another object which exhibited the same qualities as ‘Oumuamua: it was pushed away from the sun by reflecting sunlight, and had no cometary tail. And within a few weeks, the astronomers realised it was actually a rocket booster that was launched in 1966 by NASA, as part of a lunar lander mission. It was made of stainless steel, so it didn’t evaporate. It had thin walls, and that’s why it was pushed away by reflecting sunlight. Here’s an example of an object we know is artificial, because we made it. The question is: who made ‘Oumuamua?

 

FR: And your answer was: potentially extraterrestrial life?

AL: It’s a possibility. We don’t have conclusive evidence. My book, Extraterrestrial, describes the anomalies of ‘Oumuamua. But it didn’t come close enough to Earth for our telescopes and even radars to resolve it. We don’t know what, exactly, it looks like.

About a year and a half ago, I established the Galileo Project. One of the goals is to design a space mission that will come close to the next ‘Oumuamua. We have a “dating app” — the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile — that will start operations within a year. It has a camera of 3.2 billion pixels, 1,000 times as many pixels than you have in your cell phone. It will survey the southern sky every four days, and has a good chance of finding more objects like ‘Oumuamua. We can review them, and swipe most of them to the left on this “dating app” — but if we decide that one of them looks like ‘Oumuamua, we might come close to it and take a close-up photograph. And if we see that it’s a rock, so be it — but it could also show some bolts and screws on its surface, and even a label, made on an exoplanet.

I should say that almost four years before ‘Oumuamua was discovered, the very first interstellar object was discovered, in the form of a meteor. ‘Oumuamua was the size of a football field, but in 2014 an object roughly half a metre in size exploded in the lower atmosphere of the Earth. The US Space Command confirmed that this object is interstellar. The data indicates that this object survived all the way down to the lower atmosphere of the Earth, where it was subjected to very extreme stress — it was tougher than iron meteorites. In fact, it’s 10 times tougher than all meteors ever identified in the same catalogue.

So the question is: was it from some unusual source very different from the solar system? Or was it artificial in origin? Maybe it was made of stainless steel, and was a spacecraft from another civilisation. We’re going to find out the composition — we are going to the Pacific Ocean this summer to look for the fragments leftover from this meteor. By collecting them from the ocean floor, we hope to figure out their composition and tell whether they were just a rock or part of a spacecraft.

FR: If it’s artificial, where might it come from?

AL: Freeman Dyson — a British-born scientist, very well-known about 60 years ago — suggested that a very advanced scientific civilisation would not just rely on the amount of energy coming from its star to the surface of its planet, but would surround the star with a megastructure that would harvest the energy of the star. It is called the “Dyson sphere”: it’s a huge engineering project to imagine. It could be made of tiles that are hovering above the star, just like very thin sails. But there would be very high stresses on the construction, and therefore it would be made of very tough material. Once the civilisation loses interest in the Dyson sphere, it might not maintain it, and then asteroids would hit it quite frequently and could destroy it within a billion years. So the pieces of a broken Dyson Sphere could float in interstellar space and they could account for the materials that we found in the interstellar meteor.

FR: But your theory about ‘Oumuamua is different — in your report you argue: “An artificial interstellar object could potentially be a parent craft that releases many small probes during its close passage to Earth.”

AL: A very good approach, to probe a large region of space, is to release many small probes — like a dandelion seeding its environment. If you have a probe visiting the habitable zone of a star like the Sun, the probe itself might be too big and move too fast to land on a particular planet. If you want to probe a lot of regions and a lot of planets, you might just spread dandelion seeds. In fact, just this year, we founded a new space corporation with my colleague, Dr Frank Laukien, that aims to use this approach for the Moon and Mars, instead of the traditional approach of using just one big probe and visiting one location.

FR: How do they propel themselves?

AL: It depends on the nature of the engine. The only type of engine that we employ so far for interstellar probes are chemical rockets that can push a probe up to about a thousandth of the speed of light. But there could be much better schemes. For example, a very distinguished British cosmologist named Hermann Bondi wrote a paper in 1957, suggesting that if you have a negative mass — we are used to positive masses, but a negative mass in principle is possible to construct — then the negative mass will push away, if you put the positive mass next to it. And the positive mass will pull the negative mass with it. So together, they would accelerate indefinitely up to the speed of light. That is a type of engine that we have never constructed, and could potentially be engineered, if we developed the physics behind it.

FR: So should we assume that an alien species could have far more sophisticated technology than we do?

AL: Yes, and the way I think of it, it’s just like going on a date. You can learn from the other person. We should look at it as an opportunity; we shouldn’t be fearful of it. We are probably not sophisticated enough to be a threat to whatever comes to visit us. But we can make money from it — if we learn how to replicate [the technology] here on Earth. We can get a leap into our future.

As for what they might be hoping to accomplish — if you stay on your planet, then you might be annihilated or destroyed by a single-point catastrophe — we will not know until we observe them. I don’t think it makes sense to establish a committee of experts, and decide what the protocol is for responding to visitors. We should just try and figure out what they’re seeking. I spoke to Henry Kissinger just last year, and I asked him — because he negotiated with other nations, where the culture is very different — what is the realpolitik of interstellar communication? And he said that first you want to learn what the other side is seeking, and only then develop a dialogue with them.

FR: Is there any evidence from observatories or telescopes that these probes are actually entering our solar system?

AL: The Government collects data as a result of national security concerns and the sensors the government is using are classified. If there is high-quality data, it’s not being released to the public. But an extraterrestrial technological object has nothing to do with national security. It doesn’t adhere to national borders, and therefore any knowledge about it should be shared by all humans. It shouldn’t be the privilege of the President of the United States. We know that we are not at the centre of the universe; we know that there are billions of other Earth-Sun systems in the Milky Way galaxy alone. We are not at the centre of the stage, and we just came to the cosmic play at the end ,over the past few million years. The play is not about us.

FR: Tell me what it’s like being an expert in aliens. It must be quite an odd field to choose as your specialism.

AL: The way to think of me is as a farm boy. I’m connected to nature more than people. I have no social media. I don’t care how many likes I get. I’m just trying to do what sounds like common sense — something today which is not that common (especially in academia). There are many of my colleagues working on extra dimensions of the multiverse who do fancy mathematics — and it’s their way of showing off that they are smart. But if there is an object from another civilisation that could change the future of humanity, it may not take fancy maths to realise that it’s not a rock. When there is data about something unusual, we’re supposed to be curious. There is uncertainty. You can be wrong. That’s part of the job description.

FR: What if you are a young junior professor, at a university like Harvard, when stepping outside the bounds of what’s considered acceptable science is too risky?

AL: If you look at the career of Pablo Picasso, you will find that early on, he was a realist. He tried to draw in the style of traditional painting. After he mastered that, he invented cubism, which was disruptive. So as a young scientist, you don’t want to disrupt the system. You want to learn first of all the basic principles of physics, and apply them along the themes that are defined by senior people in academia, so that you can get a postdoc position after your PhD. Eventually you’re promoted to tenure.

But what happens after people get tenure is they are even more obsessed with their ego. They want to get honours, awards — to be recognised by their peers — and they conform to the beaten path. I say that the road not taken is the most interesting thing to take, because it may have low-hanging fruit. So I advise young scholars: if you’re interested in innovation, once you get tenure, start to be creative: innovate, because that’s the whole purpose of academia. Betray the slogan of the Party in George Orwell’s 1984, “ignorance is strength”. That’s what academia should be about.

But unfortunately, it’s not. I heard, a few days ago, a very distinguished scientist, who said: “I don’t really want to know whether Covid-19 came from a lab leak, or the wet market in Wuhan.” Why would he say that? Because he doesn’t want the image of science to be tarnished, if it came from a lab leak. This is similar to arguing that “ignorance is strength”. Knowledge is strength, and the same is true about the nature of unidentified aerial phenomena, the nature of dark matter. Everything should be driven by our ambition to be knowledgeable, because then we can adapt even if reality doesn’t look as pretty as it should be. Let us see it.

FR: There is a genuine cohort of your colleagues who would say that there is 0% probability that aliens do exist. What do you think the probability is of life beyond Earth?

AL: Galileo was placed under house arrest just for suggesting that maybe the Earth moves around the Sun, and today he would have been cancelled on social media. If you were to ask those theologians, they would say there is zero probability that the Earth is not at the centre of the universe. Now, why would they say that? Because the church wanted to control people. There are always ulterior motives. I bet you that if we find a piece of technological equipment from another civilisation, people will say: “Of course, this was talked about for decades. There is nothing really new — we knew it all along.”

But if I had to guess, I would say not only that we are not alone, but that there were many technological civilisations before us that reached greater heights. We are probably not even close to the top half of their advances. They would have technologies that look like magic to us — like miracles in religious texts. It’s possible that that civilisation could create life in its laboratories. It would bring the concept of God, or something very capable, into reality — it will unify science and religion in some sense. I think it’s very likely that they were out there billions of years ago, maybe not right now. But they existed, and the only question is, when will we find the conclusive evidence beyond any doubt? And for that, we need to search. If there are objects of technological origin, we will find them.

***

This transcript has been lightly edited.


is UnHerd’s Producer and Presenter for UnHerd TV.


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CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Aliens do exist, and in the their millions if not billions.

Currently they are sitting on the other side of the English Channel pumping up their lilos and canoes in preparation for a Springtime invasion/offensive, that would make Adolph or the Kaiser “green with envy “.

We are going to need more than Captain Kirk to stop this one.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Aliens do exist, and in the their millions if not billions.

Currently they are sitting on the other side of the English Channel pumping up their lilos and canoes in preparation for a Springtime invasion/offensive, that would make Adolph or the Kaiser “green with envy “.

We are going to need more than Captain Kirk to stop this one.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A wonderful example of free thinking. I see parallels between what Avi Loeb describes here and the essay by Paul Kingsnorth. Is it merely a coincidence that both appear on the same day? It could be, but i think not. Unherd habitually publishes articles that have resonances, even where the subject matter is quite different.

Let me be clear. This is not so much about “belief in aliens”, or more accurately, extraterrestrial civilisations. It’s about a particular spirit of enquiry, and the plea to young scientists embarking on their careers is of particular importance.

Loeb references cancel culture, and draws parallels with the Inquisition. Quite! It’s worth remembering that whilst the Inquisition may have seemed all-powerful at the time, it did not prevail. I read comments which suggest that our institutions are too captured by Critical Theory for them to change, and i shake my head. CT too, will not prevail. ET won’t care about DEI or deities.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hm, don’t agree. Take the Inquisition, for example. There, new generations with an ever-increasing population were able to overcome the existing regime. But when the indigenous population might decrease and millions of new cultures will come in from around the world, then the future will be at the mercy of those new populations. Certainly, cancel culture will disappear but it might be removed by violent means.
This is why cancel culture is so dangerous. Yes it will disappear but the reaction might well be even worse. Luckily, I will not be around.

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hm, don’t agree. Take the Inquisition, for example. There, new generations with an ever-increasing population were able to overcome the existing regime. But when the indigenous population might decrease and millions of new cultures will come in from around the world, then the future will be at the mercy of those new populations. Certainly, cancel culture will disappear but it might be removed by violent means.
This is why cancel culture is so dangerous. Yes it will disappear but the reaction might well be even worse. Luckily, I will not be around.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A wonderful example of free thinking. I see parallels between what Avi Loeb describes here and the essay by Paul Kingsnorth. Is it merely a coincidence that both appear on the same day? It could be, but i think not. Unherd habitually publishes articles that have resonances, even where the subject matter is quite different.

Let me be clear. This is not so much about “belief in aliens”, or more accurately, extraterrestrial civilisations. It’s about a particular spirit of enquiry, and the plea to young scientists embarking on their careers is of particular importance.

Loeb references cancel culture, and draws parallels with the Inquisition. Quite! It’s worth remembering that whilst the Inquisition may have seemed all-powerful at the time, it did not prevail. I read comments which suggest that our institutions are too captured by Critical Theory for them to change, and i shake my head. CT too, will not prevail. ET won’t care about DEI or deities.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 year ago

I would be astonished if we somehow learned that this insignificant rock contained all the life in the universe. Truly astonished. This is not the same as claiming that other intelligent/sapient life exists and certainly not the same as stating that is visiting us. In that sense, I still think we’re alone in the universe.

Consider concepts such as the Drake equation, which multiplies a series of probabilistic values for intelligent life to occur in our galaxy. Such as appropriately hot, stable and long lived stars, the probability of a planet with appropriate chemistry etc. Although a number of the probabilities are extremely tentative (e.g. is the odds of life occurring on an earth like planet closer to 1 or 0) with the lack of data points we have, the starting number is 400,000,000,000.

This can be paired against the concept of the Great Filter, which is related to the steps in The Drake equation but asks which one is the point that blocks off development – life forming in the first place, evolving complex biology or developing a technologically advanced civilization.

I have no idea what our current inquiries will discover, but detecting proof of even the most basic life of non-terrestrial origin would likely indicate the universe is teeming with life of some sort. The Great Filter is perhaps where we we are now, a civilization that has lost its urge for discovery and progress. Or maybe it’s just speed bump.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

For myself, I suspect the reason for the Great Silence (aka the Fermi Paradox) is that any lifeform that gets to where humanity is, is only going to stay in that state for a (cosmically speaking) miniscule period of time. We are on the verge of hacking our own genetic coding, and when we do, it’s unlikely humanity will retain it’s existing evolutionary/biological drivers for long – what we become therafter is unknowable, and terrifyingly that scenario is likely no more that a dozen decades away.

Michael Daniele
Michael Daniele
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

“In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:
N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL
[where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.]
This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses—just so we’re clear—are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice. As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science.”
https://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Crichton2003.pdf

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

For myself, I suspect the reason for the Great Silence (aka the Fermi Paradox) is that any lifeform that gets to where humanity is, is only going to stay in that state for a (cosmically speaking) miniscule period of time. We are on the verge of hacking our own genetic coding, and when we do, it’s unlikely humanity will retain it’s existing evolutionary/biological drivers for long – what we become therafter is unknowable, and terrifyingly that scenario is likely no more that a dozen decades away.

Michael Daniele
Michael Daniele
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

“In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:
N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL
[where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.]
This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses—just so we’re clear—are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice. As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science.”
https://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Crichton2003.pdf

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 year ago

I would be astonished if we somehow learned that this insignificant rock contained all the life in the universe. Truly astonished. This is not the same as claiming that other intelligent/sapient life exists and certainly not the same as stating that is visiting us. In that sense, I still think we’re alone in the universe.

Consider concepts such as the Drake equation, which multiplies a series of probabilistic values for intelligent life to occur in our galaxy. Such as appropriately hot, stable and long lived stars, the probability of a planet with appropriate chemistry etc. Although a number of the probabilities are extremely tentative (e.g. is the odds of life occurring on an earth like planet closer to 1 or 0) with the lack of data points we have, the starting number is 400,000,000,000.

This can be paired against the concept of the Great Filter, which is related to the steps in The Drake equation but asks which one is the point that blocks off development – life forming in the first place, evolving complex biology or developing a technologically advanced civilization.

I have no idea what our current inquiries will discover, but detecting proof of even the most basic life of non-terrestrial origin would likely indicate the universe is teeming with life of some sort. The Great Filter is perhaps where we we are now, a civilization that has lost its urge for discovery and progress. Or maybe it’s just speed bump.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago

It’s a question of time. There probably were advanced civilisations within 100 lightyears of Earth, but existed, flourished, then died; a long time ago. No overlap.
To suggest that we are / will be, the only intelligent life in the universe chimes with the excessive narcissism of todays bien pensant, but that’s all it is. Any advanced extraterrestrials passing our way would observe us, conclude we were stupid and cruel, then drive on by.

Kathleen Burnett
KB
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago

It’s a question of time. There probably were advanced civilisations within 100 lightyears of Earth, but existed, flourished, then died; a long time ago. No overlap.
To suggest that we are / will be, the only intelligent life in the universe chimes with the excessive narcissism of todays bien pensant, but that’s all it is. Any advanced extraterrestrials passing our way would observe us, conclude we were stupid and cruel, then drive on by.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

It seems pretty arrogant to assume there is no other intelligent life in the universe, based on the assumption that humans are so super clever.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 year ago

As Douglas Adams observed, humans think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because we invented things like money and jobs, whereas dolphins just swim around having fun all day. Dolphins think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because they swim around having fun all day..

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Dalton
CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

“Dolphins think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because they swim around having fun all day.”

Until they are eaten by ORCAS.

Who really are “the smartest animals on the planet”.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

In the story the Dolphins escape the Galactic Highway destruction by beaming up and saying ‘Thanks for the fish’. The Orcas perish with the rest of us.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Blast!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  James Kirk

Blast!

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

In the story the Dolphins escape the Galactic Highway destruction by beaming up and saying ‘Thanks for the fish’. The Orcas perish with the rest of us.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

“Dolphins think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because they swim around having fun all day.”

Until they are eaten by ORCAS.

Who really are “the smartest animals on the planet”.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
1 year ago

As Douglas Adams observed, humans think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because we invented things like money and jobs, whereas dolphins just swim around having fun all day. Dolphins think they’re the smartest animals on the planet because they swim around having fun all day..

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Dalton
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

It seems pretty arrogant to assume there is no other intelligent life in the universe, based on the assumption that humans are so super clever.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

Given interstellar distances it’s highly likely that mankind will never encounter aliens.
If we do they will probably be an artificial life form that destroyed their biological creators.

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

Given interstellar distances it’s highly likely that mankind will never encounter aliens.
If we do they will probably be an artificial life form that destroyed their biological creators.

James Kirk
JK
James Kirk
1 year ago

Like gods, I’ll believe in aliens when I see them. The SciFi aliens with bulbous hairless heads that is. If they are invisible, ethereal or cross dimensional perhaps they cannot, or have no wish to, acknowledge us. I watched an interesting film / movie on the topic with quite educated people convinced we are visited by benevolent beings on a selective basis. They seemed a bit mad, like attendees at a séance, very frustrated they could not share their ‘visions’ with the rest of us.
Are we ready? It would be good to have non intrusive surgery, new teeth, cancer banished and hostile viruses’ diminished. Putin’s missiles frozen in mid flight, Mars terraformed and fast transit between. New tech that dealt with poverty overnight. Knowing us, we’d reject all that with our control freakery. ‘We demand the right to be attacked by munitions,’ sort of thing. They seem to be running Planet Earth at the moment.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  James Kirk

There’s a well-documented incident where a “hovering craft” shut down the controls at a US nuclear missile facility for a couple of hours.
Pentagon Investigating UFOs That Possibly Turned Off Warheads (popularmechanics.com)

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  James Kirk

There’s a well-documented incident where a “hovering craft” shut down the controls at a US nuclear missile facility for a couple of hours.
Pentagon Investigating UFOs That Possibly Turned Off Warheads (popularmechanics.com)

James Kirk
JK
James Kirk
1 year ago

Like gods, I’ll believe in aliens when I see them. The SciFi aliens with bulbous hairless heads that is. If they are invisible, ethereal or cross dimensional perhaps they cannot, or have no wish to, acknowledge us. I watched an interesting film / movie on the topic with quite educated people convinced we are visited by benevolent beings on a selective basis. They seemed a bit mad, like attendees at a séance, very frustrated they could not share their ‘visions’ with the rest of us.
Are we ready? It would be good to have non intrusive surgery, new teeth, cancer banished and hostile viruses’ diminished. Putin’s missiles frozen in mid flight, Mars terraformed and fast transit between. New tech that dealt with poverty overnight. Knowing us, we’d reject all that with our control freakery. ‘We demand the right to be attacked by munitions,’ sort of thing. They seem to be running Planet Earth at the moment.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Fascinating read and enjoyed the actual podcast too.
I’d not sensed there was a scientific community attempt to close down such analysis or thinking. I think it’s about being inquisitive and open minded. Anyone v fixed in their thinking on this question probably worth ignoring as a general rule.
I watched the BBC’s ‘First Contact – An Alien Encounter’ few months ago. Was gripping and used some of the ‘Oumuamua’ theory. Of course it’s fiction but plausible fiction and IMO v well done. Certainly thought provoking.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Yes, saw that, thanks for the reminder.
The only problem is whether those with fixed thinking are in a position to prevent career advancement for those who aren’t. This applies in so many spheres (probably not those utilising Dyson spheres!)

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Yes, saw that, thanks for the reminder.
The only problem is whether those with fixed thinking are in a position to prevent career advancement for those who aren’t. This applies in so many spheres (probably not those utilising Dyson spheres!)

j watson
JW
j watson
1 year ago

Fascinating read and enjoyed the actual podcast too.
I’d not sensed there was a scientific community attempt to close down such analysis or thinking. I think it’s about being inquisitive and open minded. Anyone v fixed in their thinking on this question probably worth ignoring as a general rule.
I watched the BBC’s ‘First Contact – An Alien Encounter’ few months ago. Was gripping and used some of the ‘Oumuamua’ theory. Of course it’s fiction but plausible fiction and IMO v well done. Certainly thought provoking.

Kirk Susong
KS
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

“How presumptuous to think we humans are special.” And yet these science-minded people cannot see that this is a fundamentally theological argument, not a scientific one.

I would be curious to know the overlap between people who believe in aliens and those who participate in organized religion. I would suspect there is little overlap — because alien-interest is one of the ways man’s fundamentally religious outlook is expressed among people who who have committed themselves to the idea that religion is bosh or God doesn’t exist or the like.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

“How presumptuous to think we humans are special.” And yet these science-minded people cannot see that this is a fundamentally theological argument, not a scientific one.

I would be curious to know the overlap between people who believe in aliens and those who participate in organized religion. I would suspect there is little overlap — because alien-interest is one of the ways man’s fundamentally religious outlook is expressed among people who who have committed themselves to the idea that religion is bosh or God doesn’t exist or the like.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

Starfleet commander, make your report! Yes, emperor Zog. We travelled many light years, braved supernovae, black holes, and gravity storms! We finally found a planet they call Earth. Crewbeing Zagga mooned a lonely drunk on a dirt track in Arizona, then we returned home. Excellent, you did well, like all the others. I mean, what else were you supposed to do?

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

Starfleet commander, make your report! Yes, emperor Zog. We travelled many light years, braved supernovae, black holes, and gravity storms! We finally found a planet they call Earth. Crewbeing Zagga mooned a lonely drunk on a dirt track in Arizona, then we returned home. Excellent, you did well, like all the others. I mean, what else were you supposed to do?

Alan Gore
AG
Alan Gore
1 year ago

Extraterrestrial aliens are a lot more likely to exist than not exist because of Copernicus’ insight, long before there was instrumentation to support it, that mankind is not “special” in any way. The universe does not revolve around the earth. Our sun is an ordinary star, and so is our location in the galaxy. Life can arise from abiological chemical processes.
But we have no direct evidence that any aliens have ever visited Earth. Given the vast distances between stars, what would interstellar travel actually look like? I conjecture that it will take the form of small uncrewed probes, sent out to likely candidate star systems. We have already observed that machines tolerate long-term missions through the irradiated environment of deep space much more easily than humans. I can see that eventually we will be able to launch a probe that includes a fusion engine and a large solar sail. We would use high-powered fixed base lasers, based on the Moon or an asteroid, to accelerate the probe quickly to a good fraction of light speed using the sail, no onboard fuel consumed. The probe would later use its fusion engine to decelerate in the vicinity of the target star. Both accelerations could involve G-forces much higher than human biology could tolerate.
Once in the Oort cloud of the target, the probe could follow programming to forage for the local materials it would need to remodel itself into a communications station to phone home, repurposing the sail as an antenna. It would then send information about the parts of the star system it could see directly, and receive new programming that would cause it to start making and launching Loeb’s “dandelion seed” probes of the inner planets. It would then operate as a relay station for whatever information those probes could glean about the target.
This is what I think our first interstellar exploration might look like. Now consider that anything we can do, Someone Else could probably be doing at the same time…

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 year ago

Extraterrestrial aliens are a lot more likely to exist than not exist because of Copernicus’ insight, long before there was instrumentation to support it, that mankind is not “special” in any way. The universe does not revolve around the earth. Our sun is an ordinary star, and so is our location in the galaxy. Life can arise from abiological chemical processes.
But we have no direct evidence that any aliens have ever visited Earth. Given the vast distances between stars, what would interstellar travel actually look like? I conjecture that it will take the form of small uncrewed probes, sent out to likely candidate star systems. We have already observed that machines tolerate long-term missions through the irradiated environment of deep space much more easily than humans. I can see that eventually we will be able to launch a probe that includes a fusion engine and a large solar sail. We would use high-powered fixed base lasers, based on the Moon or an asteroid, to accelerate the probe quickly to a good fraction of light speed using the sail, no onboard fuel consumed. The probe would later use its fusion engine to decelerate in the vicinity of the target star. Both accelerations could involve G-forces much higher than human biology could tolerate.
Once in the Oort cloud of the target, the probe could follow programming to forage for the local materials it would need to remodel itself into a communications station to phone home, repurposing the sail as an antenna. It would then send information about the parts of the star system it could see directly, and receive new programming that would cause it to start making and launching Loeb’s “dandelion seed” probes of the inner planets. It would then operate as a relay station for whatever information those probes could glean about the target.
This is what I think our first interstellar exploration might look like. Now consider that anything we can do, Someone Else could probably be doing at the same time…

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

There must be life out there. Life but not as we know it, Jim.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Does that apply to Wales?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Still druids around in some quiet communities.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus would be appalled to hear that!

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

Nothing wrong with this interview, but UnHerd is completely missing the boat on this issue in general. It is succumbing to the tribal mentality that it otherwise scorns and buying into the stigmatization of those who argue, on perfectly good evidence, that some form of non-human intelligence is among us already. All one has to do is conduct a deep dive into the work of the credible people. Who are they? Just for starters — Garry Nolan, Jacques Vallee, Leslie Kean, Ralph Blumenthal, James Fox, John Keel, George Knapp, David Fravor, Chris Mellon, Lue Elizondo, Richard Dolan.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

Nothing wrong with this interview, but UnHerd is completely missing the boat on this issue in general. It is succumbing to the tribal mentality that it otherwise scorns and buying into the stigmatization of those who argue, on perfectly good evidence, that some form of non-human intelligence is among us already. All one has to do is conduct a deep dive into the work of the credible people. Who are they? Just for starters — Garry Nolan, Jacques Vallee, Leslie Kean, Ralph Blumenthal, James Fox, John Keel, George Knapp, David Fravor, Chris Mellon, Lue Elizondo, Richard Dolan.