This week I spoke with Dr. Abraham (Avi) Loeb, who made a splash last spring when he suggested an object moving through the Solar System was artificial. It was moving at a relatively slow speed that suggested it had been traveling for a very long time. Make no mistake, this was the first time that something had entered the Solar System from outside of it or maybe I should say, it was the first time that such an object was detected. The question was whether it was artificial or natural. You can listen to that earlier interview here for an in-depth background on that object:
We did talk about his Galileo Project, which was an outgrowth of the discovery. The premise is that if there was one, there are probably others. The search was for those others with an idea of being prepared when that next one showed up. Coincidentally, another such object was found recently, but it turned out to be a used rocket booster from the 1960s. That seemed to underscore that this other visitor was something artificial, given the characteristics of its flight when compared to the flight of the used booster. You can listen to the latest interview here:
I wondered if SETI might not be a little annoyed that here was another group of scientists searching for extraterrestrial life in a different way. While it seemed that some of SETI was on board, others were not. I think that any method of searching for intelligent life deserves our support.
I had also wondered if their rejection of looking at the history of the UFOs, now known as UAPs (I suppose to distinguish them from UFOs, but I’ll stick with the old term… flying saucers, though John Greenewald just posted a YouTube video suggesting the term, UAP, was used as early as 1949) might provide some insight into the nature of these other artifacts. At this point the conversation became a bit adversarial. He believed that the data from the history of the UFO had been poorly collected (which, of course it had) and that it hadn’t been properly documented (which, of course, it hadn’t), and was surrounded in controversy (which it is). He talked of fuzzy images and eyewitness testimony. I said nothing about some of the UFO photographs being quite clear and distinct, and had it not been for the government, Air Force, and some high-profile scientists throwing mud on the cases (think Robertson Panel and Condon Committee here), then the conversation might have been different today.
I did mention, at one point, Dr. Donald Menzel, a Harvard astronomer, was one of those throwing mud. Menzel would offer a variety of answers and solutions for sightings and when all else failed, he just labeled the report a hoax. That was what he did in the case of the Lubbock Lights photographs. Without a shred of evidence that Carl Hart, Jr. had faked the pictures, that was what Menzel said after suggesting some sort of light temperature inversion creating a reflective surface that bounced the light from the city back towards the ground. I will note here that when I spoke with Hart in the 1990s, he said he still didn’t know what he had photographed.
Nor did I mention that Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto, had a UFO sighting in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He saw several square lights fly over. He thought they were separated, but his wife, thought she saw a very faintly glowing object connecting the images. Menzel, who wasn’t there and ignored Tombaugh’s statement that the sky was clear, meaning there was good “seeing,” postulated an inversion level. While you can argue that Tombaugh didn’t see an alien spacecraft, you can’t reject his sighting because Menzel invented an inversion layer. Who is more likely correct about the sky conditions? The astronomer who was there or the one who was in Massachusetts? I vote for the guy who was there rather than the man who believed there cannot be alien visitation and therefore there is no alien visitation.
This was not the direction I wanted the interview to go. I didn’t want to get bogged down in a discussion of how the UFO field had been manipulated from the very beginning and the reason for much of the controversy is the arguments between believers and debunkers with a touch of Air Force duplicity thrown in. Much of it was not about the evidence.
We did get back to the Galileo Project and the search for other artifacts that enter the Solar System from really deep space. The idea that if these are artificial, they would be populated by AI with no thought to reporting what had been found to those who launched the object. The distances are just too vast and the odds are that a successful mission would be tens of thousands of years in the making. The civilization that launched them would probably be gone.
And, although we didn’t really explore the idea, this might be the answer to the Fermi Paradox which wondered if there are other intelligent lifeforms out there, why aren’t they here… It’s because they’ve sent out, what thousands, hundreds of thousands of these probes, of these artifacts without a thought of coming here in person. The reason they’re not here is because their civilizations have collapsed long ago. (This is the flaw in SETI… even if we detected an electromagnetic signal such as radio or TV, the civilization might have collapsed before we received it, or before our reply, if we sent one, could reach them).
Anyway, our discussion took on a more scientific turn than a UFO discussion would. To make up for that, next week, I’ll be talking with Mike Rogers of Fire in the Sky and Travis Walton abduction fame. If anyone has questions, let me know.