Looking to the Sky for Extraordinary Evidence of UAP (UFO's) - with Avi Loeb | Merged Podcast EP 10

Looking to the Sky for Extraordinary Evidence of UAP (UFO's)  - with Avi Loeb | Merged Podcast EP 10

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From our private experience, when we find a partner, it changes the meaning that we assign to our existence. And in the same way, I believe that when humanity finds a partner, an interstellar partner, it will change everything. It will make the universe have some meaning, because they may have answers to questions that we didn't figure the answers to, but we could also interact with them in a way that we can learn about our future. Because if they already went through part of our technological future, we will see technologies that we've never imagined.

This is knowledge that should be shared by all humans, because it will change our perspective about our place in the universe. And for one thing, my hope is that if we find evidence for a smarter civilization out there, then we would realize that the small differences among us humans are meaningless. And we should treat each other as equal members of the human species. Cuyas Institute is a pioneer in the field of AI-driven comparative and qualitative analysis, and was established with the primary goal of uncovering the hidden value left behind in complex data sets.

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Today we're joined by a very distinguished guest, Professor Avi Loeb. Professor Loeb is a Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University. He has authored eight books and over 800 scientific papers. Today we're going to delve into his views on UAP. We'll probe the profound implications of these phenomenon to help us better understand our place in the universe.

And now, Professor Avi Loeb. Avi, thank you for inviting me in your home. My pleasure. It's truly an honor to be here. I'm a bit of a compatriot. I'm a

Massachusetts native. Yourself, currently at Harvard, it's always been a school that I've looked up to. But it's been part of kind of my local culture being from Massachusetts.

So it's truly an honor and a pleasure sitting down across from you today in your home. Thank you. I've been in Massachusetts for 30 years at Harvard.

And altogether, half of my life were spent here. The other half elsewhere, five years at Princeton and before that, 26 years in Israel. That's where I grew up. Wow. I'm very excited to talk about some

of your experiences in Israel. But first, let's just start very quickly with the Galileo Project. We're sitting down across from each other because we're both tangentially involved in the unidentified anomalous or aerial phenomenon activities that have been going on lately. I think one thing that we can agree on is that there's not enough data on the topic.

Can you please tell us what the Galileo doing to help remedy that situation? Right. So first, why do we call it the Galileo Project? Because the idea was conceived already by Galileo Galilei about four centuries ago. And it was a simple idea rather than insist of what the world should be. Let's look through our telescopes to figure it out.

And he found that there are moons to Jupiter. And from that came across the idea that perhaps the Earth orbits the sun, that in fact, not everything moves around the Earth. And at the time he was cancelled, put in house arrest simply because the clergy at the time did not want the public to hear this opinion. Of course, that didn't change the motion of the Earth around the sun.

So that's the lesson to learn that reality is whatever it is. And we better adapt to it. We shouldn't adhere to our wishful thinking, which usually puts us at a favorable light. For example, the universe enters on us.

That was a view advocated by Aristotle. And then for a thousand years, everyone believed it because it fluttered their ego. Also, you see the sun moving in the sky.

So that seems like a very viable idea. But then Galileo argued otherwise. Copernicus argued otherwise. And we ended up figuring it out despite the fact that there was a lot of opposition to that view.

And now we launch a spacecraft that reached the destinations thanks to our understanding of how the Earth moved around the sun, how the planets move around the sun and so forth. Otherwise, we would never reach those destinations. We'd never get to Mars or to the moon. So reality is whatever it is. And we better not insist on our prejudice. That's the lesson.

And we apply that within the Galileo project to objects near Earth that look weird, that do not look like rocks that were found before from the solar system in our neighborhood, because it is our backyard near the Earth. And then if you go out to your backyard, often you see rocks that are familiar. But every now and then you might see a tennis ball that was thrown by a neighbor. And so that's the idea. Let's check if there are any technological devices that were produced by extraterrestrial technological civilizations, because we know that most stars in the Milky Way galaxy and also in the universe formed billions of years before the sun.

So time is measured in billions of years. In the cosmos, we live for at best one part in a hundred million of the age of the universe. That's a tiny blip. And moreover, space is vast.

The size of the observable universe is quadrillion times bigger, 10 to the power of 15 times bigger than the separation between the Earth and the sun. So when Elon Musk was interviewed recently and was asked about aliens and he said, I don't see anything out there. And, you know, I'm the space guy and I would be the first to notice and I will tweet about it. That's a little bit presumptuous because if if you compare it, let's say, to exploring the solar system.

What he witnessed in his life experience is similar to what an ant will see in an area the size of the head of a pin relative to the size of the planetary system around the sun. So you cannot say anything about the planets in the solar system just by observing an area the size of the head of a pin, which is pretty much the experience of Elon Musk. And moreover, his lifespan is one part in a hundred million of the age of the sun. So claiming I don't see evidence is just like a homebody, you know, looking around the living room and saying, where is everybody? We don't have neighbors the way Enrico Fermi said. And the answer is, well, you better look through your windows and you better use telescopes to do that, which is what the Galileo project is doing. So saying that we don't have extraordinary evidence for neighbors, technological neighbors without seeking the evidence is inappropriate, scientifically speaking.

It's not professional. You are just expressing your opinion without checking if it's right. And what Galileo taught us is that sometimes we have the wrong ideas. And the best way to figure out whether we are right or wrong is by collecting data and evidence.

And of course, on this subject, the public has a lot of opinions and not only the public, but people within academia have very strong opinions and they're often amplifying the importance of us saying maybe we are the only intelligent species that ever existed since the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. I say that is very unlikely because there are tens of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone and a substantial fraction of them somewhere between 3 percent to 100 percent of the sunlight stars have a planet the size of the Earth, roughly the same separation. So it's really arrogant to suggest that we are the only species that sent equipment to interstellar space, especially when you deal with SpaceX of Elon Musk. You know, there could be space Y, space Z of other civilizations out there, very likely.

And one thing to recognize is that we invest two trillion dollars a year in military budgets worldwide. If we were to listen to the words of John Lennon in his song saying, imagine all the people living in peace and then we would have a surplus of two trillion dollars a year because we don't want to kill each other. What would we do with it? One possibility is space exploration. And I calculated that we could send a CubeSat to every star in the Milky Way galaxy, tens of billions of them within this century if we were to, instead of fight each other, explore space. So another civilization could have been more intelligent than we are. I mean, one reason I'm seeking intelligence in our space is because I don't often find it here on Earth.

Now, some of these experts that you've spoken to or you reference, such as Elon or even maybe some of the more academically flavored folks that you've dealt with, I'm sure there's been opposition. Do you really think that they go to those numbers and statistics that you just listed and say, even though I recognize these numbers are so large and the possibility of us being alone would make that such a small probability? Do you think they truly look at that objectively when they decide not to look at this topic scientifically or do you think there's something else stopping them? Well, there are several reasons why people in academia or the public would avoid seeking the evidence. One is the best way for us to be the most intelligent in the universe is not to find others. OK, so then we win the competition, right, because there is only one. And we put blinders basically not search and insist on the fact that there is nothing out there, that in fact, it's an extraordinary claim to assume that there might be something out there.

Then you don't search. And obviously, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a circular argument and you will feel very comfortable. So that serves the ego of many people that want to believe that they are unique and special and serve some cosmic purpose.

But it doesn't change reality just the way that the earth moved around the sun. You know, all these civilizations out there lived and died. Most of them died by now because, you know, most stars formed billions of years before the sun and within a billion years, the sun will burn up the surface of the earth, boil off all the oceans. And so we wouldn't be able to stay here within a billion years. And that means if the clock started ticking a billion years earlier for another civilization, they had to go on an exodus out of that planet at some point. They must have sent signals out, crying for help before all of them boarded spaceship, tried to leave the planet.

And we didn't listen because we were not around a billion years ago. And there must have been a lot of cries for help within the Milky Way galaxy. The point is, if they were sent electromagnetically, all these radio signals or whatever they were are now billions of light years away.

So we can't detect them. And to say we don't hear anything for 70 years, which is basically the objective of the SETI community, to detect any signal electromagnetically from other civilizations. You know, that's a very short time and there aren't many stars within 70 light years from us. Signal degradation is a thing too. So the signals are not going to arrive. And also it's not, I mean, it's just like waiting for a phone call at home.

You need the counterpart to be calling you at the time that you're waiting, taking into account that the time it takes the signal to arrive to you. And it may not be the case. However, if you are searching your mailbox for any packages that may have arrived, those packages may still be there even if the sender is dead. And the important thing to keep in mind is chemical rockets of the type that we are using move at a speed that is 10 times smaller than the escape speed from the Milky Way galaxy. So they cannot escape. They basically

move at the characteristic speed of stars within the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. And they're still around. So it's just like plastic in the ocean. It keeps accumulating.

And by 2050, there will be more mass in plastic in the oceans than the mass there is in fish, which raises the possibility that we might eat plastic instead of fish. I think we're probably a little bit. Or plastic inside fish. But the point is it keeps accumulating over time because unless we clean it up. But interstellar space is not being cleaned up as far as I know. And so these probes may be out there.

And Elon sent a Tesla into space. Just think of how many Elon-like entrepreneurs there might be on exoplanets, might have been over the past billions of years, that send not only cars, but small probes. And just to give you another sort of context, our telescopes and instruments were able to detect objects the size of a football field within the orbit of the Earth around the sun just over the past decade, only over the past decade. So Enrico Fermi could not have asked where is everybody because he couldn't have detected those probes back 70 years ago or 60 years ago. The point is only over the past decade we had a survey of the sky because Congress in 2005 basically told NASA to find 90 percent of all the objects bigger than a football field, 140 meters, that may come close to Earth because they pose a risk.

We know that the dinosaurs were killed by a rock the size of Manhattan Island. And here we're talking about the size that is about 100 times smaller. But nevertheless, we want to find even those so that we don't incur the damage to our cities, to precious strategic locations and so forth.

And so as a result of that, a survey telescope named Panstas was established in Hawaii and in 2017, October 2017, they detected the near Earth object. They labeled it the near Earth object. That's why they looked at it because it came close within a sixth of the Earth's sun separation. And they realized it's moving too fast.

So it came from outside the solar system. And then a couple of years later, together with my student Amir Siraj, we realized that in fact there were two other interstellar objects that were detected. One in January 2014 and the second in March 2017, seven months before the Panstas object that is called Omuamua. And these interstellar objects were much smaller, about 100 times smaller, the size of a person roughly. Smaller than Omuamua? Yeah. And they were discovered not from the reflection of sunlight the way Omuamua was.

You can't see objects much smaller than Omuamua with the Panstas telescope within the orbit of the Earth around the sun. These objects were discovered, the meteors, as a result of them bumping into the Earth. So they collided with the Earth and burnt up in the Earth's atmosphere, created a fireball.

One of them released a few percent of the energy output of the Hiroshima atomic bomb that was the smaller among them, half a meter in size, over the Pacific Ocean in 2014. And the second one released as much as the Hiroshima atomic bomb, it was about a meter in size, twice as large, which means eight times the mass. So altogether we have the first three interstellar objects and each of them looked different than the space rocks that we had seen before from the solar system. Were the smaller ones of more unique shape elongated, similar to Omuamua or were they? We couldn't tell the shape because they exploded in the Earth's atmosphere. All you could see is the fireball.

That's how the US government sensors detected them. And nobody looked back to realize that they were moving too fast to be bound to the sun. The way to figure out an interstellar object is that outside the solar system, it was moving towards the solar system at some speed and then it gained more speed as it approached the sun. So usually near the Earth, it's moving faster than all the rocks that are bound to the sun. And if you measure the speed, you can tell whether it came from outside the solar system or not. And so these meteors we figured out. In

fact, the first one was moving at 60 kilometers per second outside the solar system towards the sun. And that's faster than 95 percent of all the stars in the vicinity of the sun. So it was moving really fast.

And an interesting possibility is that maybe it was a spacecraft, who knows, that was propelled. And the reason I say that is because the data that the government released allowed us to infer the material strength of this meteor, which was tougher than all other meteors ever recorded in the catalog that NASA compiled, 272 of them over the past decades. So why would the first interstellar meteor be at least 10 times tougher than the next in line from all the space rocks that belong to the solar system? So there are two possibilities. Either it came from some system that is very different than the planetary system that we live in.

For example, an exploding star or a collision of two neutron stars, some other environment that makes very tough objects. Or it was artificial in origin. It was made of some alloy, like stainless steel. And we are going to find out. That's the

amazing thing. We can follow the scientific method. It's not a matter of speculation because we are planning to go in summer 2023 to the Pacific Ocean and look for the fragments, the relics of this first interstellar meteor. And we will analyze their composition so we can tell if it's natural or artificial, depending on what elements made this meteor.

But what I'm trying to say is this was unusual, an outlier, an anomalous object. And it was the first one. And then the second one was another meteor. And it also had a material strength higher than all the rest of the meteors in the NASA catalog.

So we now have two meteors from interstellar space that appear to be very different. The chance for that happening out of the distribution of material strengths of the space rocks in the solar system is less than one part in 10,000. So that's the first two objects. And then later, Oumuamua, the object from 2017, appeared to be most likely flat based on the reflection of sunlight. Again, we don't have an image of it. And it was pushed away from the sun by some mysterious non-gravitational force.

And there was no cometary evaporation apparent from it. So the question is what pushed it? And I suggested it might have been just thin. And then the sunlight bouncing off this object would have pushed it. And of course, nature doesn't make very thin objects, like less than a millimeter in thickness, which is what you need in order to give the push that was observed. So I said, well, maybe it is a very thin object produced artificially.

And recently I wrote a paper suggesting a specific scenario for that. Freeman Dyson, about six years ago, suggested that perhaps very advanced civilizations may build what is now called the Dyson sphere, basically a mega structure made of tiles. And the simplest configuration, engineering-wise, would be to have tiles that are like light sails.

Basically, the radiation pressure from the star is balancing gravity. So they just hover above the star and you put lots of these tiles, just like kites. They float, hover above the star, and you basically cover the entire star, let's say, at the separation of the Earth from the star, roughly. And then you can harvest all the energy output. It's clean energy, except when we

talk about clean energy, we are talking about the energy intercepting the Earth. And here it's the entire sphere surrounding the star. So Freeman Dyson said that's a very good way to get a lot of energy. And perhaps some civilizations do that.

And if any of them does that, after a while, you know, the star will evolve and could break this Dyson sphere, either because it becomes brighter, so it basically pushes those tiles away very easily. I mean, they will just fly out because they were very barely bound to the star. They were not even bound. They were just hovering. And now if the star gets brighter, they will just be pushed out. Or you can have asteroids breaking that mega structure.

At any event, what you would get as a result of that is lots of small fragments that are thin, filling up interstellar space. And perhaps a mua mua was a piece of a broken Dyson sphere. That's one possibility. It could be just space trash, like a layer from a bigger object, whatever it is. I argued maybe it's artificial. And just this suggestion got, I mean, people very emotional about it. I should

say that when the paper was submitted for publication, it was accepted within a few days. And the referee was very positive about it. And at that time, most astronomers talking about mua mua, this object, were saying, "It's really weird. I wonder what it is." Was there any hesitation in publishing that idea, that concept? No, I didn't have. I'll tell you why, because prior to that, I worked on the nature of dark matter.

I worked on the first stars when nobody was working on that. And I wrote two textbooks about it. And now it's the most celebrated frontier because of the Webb telescope observing the first star. So I basically established the theoretical foundation to what we expect the first galaxies and stars to look like. And I wrote two textbooks about it. And

nobody was interested at the time in this subject. I had a graduate student and at the PhD thesis defense, one of the reviewers said, "Well, but this will never be observed. This is how do you know that what you're working on is at all relevant to the future of astronomy?" So, you know, it taught me a lesson not to listen to what people say when you're pioneering a new frontier. But I also worked on black holes. And I

was the founding director of the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard, the only center worldwide that brings together physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and astronomers to study black holes. And Stephen Hawking came to exactly this room. He was sitting where you are back in April 2016 at the Passover Center.

And he ate everything that my wife served to him. And he gave a speech actually just from the location where you are. At any event, I worked on black holes. But I also worked on dark matter because most of the matter in the universe is a substance that is not the same as the ordinary matter that we are made of or that we see in the solar system.

And back in 1933, it was a revolutionary idea that was proposed by Fritz Zwicky from Caltech. And people didn't really follow him for about 40 years until it became more popular. And now if you ask young people, they'll say, "Of course, there is a huge amount of evidence that dark matter exists, but we don't know what it is."

Sounds familiar. Yeah, it's an example of having something that we don't find in the solar system. So just by studying your backyard, you will never get across the dark matter.

Well, you could get across it if you knew from other data that it might exist, which we know from studying the universe or the galaxy on the very large scales. But the point is, nobody thought that there is a substance different from what the solar system is made of. In fact, even the sun was thought to be made of the same substance as the Earth.

The first PhD in astronomy at Harvard University was by Cecilia Payne Koppaschkin, who applied quantum mechanics that was about 100 years ago to the sun and interpreted the spectrum of the sun to argue that the surface of the sun is made mostly of hydrogen. And when she defended Henry Norris Russell, who was the director of the Princeton University Observatory, the most distinguished stellar astronomer worldwide, said to her, "You should take it out of your thesis. It makes all of us know that the sun is made of the same stuff as the Earth." And, you know, she was just at the beginning of her career. She took it out. And then he worked on the problem for four years and wrote a long paper saying, in fact, she was right, that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen. And now we know it's not only the sun, but most of the ordinary matter in the universe is hydrogen.

That was a major discovery. And so even that was a revelation 100 years ago, but then about a decade after Cecilia found that the sun is made of hydrogen, Fritz Rickey realized that, in fact, the most abundant substance in the universe, in the mass budget, is actually unknown. It's dark matter. It doesn't interact with light. So I say, what is the lesson

we learned from that? That what we find in our backyard does not represent the universe. That's really easy to understand. But just a week ago, Elon Musk talked on TV as if he didn't see evidence for aliens. And I say, well, obviously, people before Swiggy didn't see evidence for dark matter. We know it exists. And before

that, people didn't realize that a decade before that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen. In fact, most of the ordinary matter in the universe is hydrogen. So you have to be humble. You can't just argue that based on your experience, you can extrapolate to the entire universe. And being modest and humble, learning from experience is really the big lesson from the days of Galileo that we are applying to the Galileo project.

And we're trying to understand those interstellar objects, trying to find the next Oumuamua, for example. There will be a telescope, a survey telescope in Chile called the Vera Rubin Observatory, starting operations in 2024. And we're planning to use the pipeline of data, which will become public because it's funded by the National Science Foundation.

We plan to analyze this data and look for additional weird objects out there. And it's just like, you know, we went on a date with Oumuamua. We liked it. It looked weird and interesting. But by

the time we realized that it's so interesting, it left through the front door and we couldn't really follow it. And so then what do you do? I mean, you can obsess with it, argue about it. And in fact, just a few weeks ago, there was another paper about Oumuamua in nature that we showed is wrong and we can talk about it. But also there was a few days ago a paper analyzing the non-gravitational acceleration and confirming it again. So

people keep coming back to it. But my point is, let's look for more of the same, you know, there must be more objects like it. And then we can get much better data with the Webb telescope because the Webb telescope will look at this object from a different direction than the Earth-based telescopes are looking at it. And then you can pinpoint the three-dimensional trajectory of the object very precisely through parlax, basically triangulation.

And that would allow us to tell whether there is any propulsion to an object that comes from interstellar space. And so this activity is under the Galileo project? This is under the Galileo project. So that's one of the missions to find more objects like Oumuamua or like the interstellar meteors and study them in great detail.

And one interesting thing I realized this morning, I have some notes about it, is that the Webb telescope can detect the infrared emission from an object as a result of the illumination by sunlight. So the object gets warmed and then emits. And within the orbit of the Earth around the sun, the characteristic temperature is the same that we have on Earth, 300 degrees. And the peak of the emission is at about 20 micron wavelength, which is being used by these goggles that the military personnel use at nighttime to see, because humans have the same body temperature roughly above absolute zero, as the Earth and as an object illuminated by the sun. So the Webb telescope could see that radiation. Now, what will it tell us? If we see the heat emitted from the object and we also see the reflected sunlight, then we can figure out the albedo of the object.

Because if we know the position of it, then we know what should be the surface temperature of the object. And we can disentangle the area of the object and the reflectivity of the object by observing the emission from it and the reflection from it. So altogether, we can even map the object in three dimensions if it rotates, because the area keeps changing.

And what we didn't know about the Ummuamua is what is the albedo, what is the reflectance. So we didn't know precisely the area. And also we observed it only from the Earth. And now we will have the Webb telescope. So altogether, we will have a wealth of data on the next Ummuamua that we can analyze.

And that's one of the missions of the Galois project. If we look. Well, I will definitely look. I will not miss a second before we start collecting data. It sounds like you are trying to link and you know, true to your statement about how Elon Musk is apparently approaching the problem by looking at a very small data set. You want to link what's happening, it sounds like, in our atmosphere potentially to what's happening outside of our atmosphere.

Here is an interesting anecdote. The second interstellar meteor had the same speed as Ummuamua had at large distances relative to the Sun. And also the same distance of closest approach. Interesting. So I thought maybe it was a probe released from Ummuamua.

But then I checked and it came from a different inclination, so a different direction in the sky. So it wasn't related, but it gave me the idea of a mothership releasing probes. And this is something I discussed in my book, "Exterrestrial". Which I wrote about Ummuamua in January 2021. It had 28 editions in many

languages and became bestseller in many countries. And I had about 2500 interviews about this subject since then. And just a week ago there were 20 filmmakers and producers that approached me to make a documentary film about the research that I'm doing.

And also a playwright that sent me an email with the title "Avilobone Broadway". So I thought it was an April Fool's Day joke because it came a few days before April 1st. But then he attached to the email some photos of him with Barbara Streisand and with Dick Van Dyke. And they had the serial number from the cell phone that he's using. And so it looked authentic. And by now he

already wrote several tens of pages for display. Because I gave him the green light. Yesterday I met with our second postdoc, postdoctoral fellow at the Galileo Project. So I received funding from three postdoctoral fellows in one year.

Expansion. Yeah, so each of these postdocs comes for three years. And it's about them. All together it's equivalent to a donation of a million dollars, the three of them. Just for three years. But the one that arrived yesterday, Laura Doming from Stanford University, you know, she was considered the brightest PhD student for many years by her mentors. And then when I called her to offer her the postdoctoral fellowship under the Galileo Project, she was so thrilled and said, "I can't believe that I hear your voice."

And then I asked her yesterday, "Why is it?" And she said, "Well, since a very young age, I was following those reports about unidentified aerial phenomena, about aliens, about..." And I always wanted to be part of a scientific project that approaches this subject using the scientific method, meaning collecting data with instruments we understand, we calibrate under our control, and analyze it using the most sophisticated computer algorithms, which is pretty much what the Galileo Project is doing. We can get into that. But she said, "When you called me, that was a lifelong dream come true." And I've never heard that. I was the director of the Institute for Theory and Computation for about two decades now at Harvard.

And I made offers to about a hundred postdoctoral fellows during these 20 years. And none of these people who worked in theoretical astrophysics told me it was my life-long dream to work on black holes, or to work on the first star, or to work on galaxy formation. But she said that. And then when I mentioned it to the first postdoc that we accepted, Richard Clouette from the University of Cambridge in England, he said, "For me, it was exactly the same." And they both had to compromise because their academic environment did not provide opportunities to work on this subject, scientifically speaking.

And the Galileo Project is really the first one. Now, many people say there are many other organizations dealing with unidentified objects near Earth. And there is a clear difference. The Galileo Project is the only one dedicated to the collection of new data using the scientific method.

All of these other organizations are either seeking old data or trying to push the government to declassify some existing data that the government has. And the problem with that is that it was all anecdotal. Either private citizens or the government were looking at something else and suddenly saw something that they didn't expect. So it's limited in the amount of information we can milk out of it because it was not anticipated. And also the sensors that the government uses or the public uses are not of the highest quality that we have today.

So instead of once again, instead of obsessing with the past, I'm a very young person in my attitude. Let's just collect new data. And within a few months, the Galileo Project Observatory that is now functioning will collect more data than was ever collected by all the reports on unidentified area phenomena from one location at Harvard University, not far from where I live.

And if you just wait a year, it will be 10 times more than ever collected. So why should we worry about the government releasing what they have? Why should we force them when the data was collected by classified sensors? That's why the data is classified. It's not so much because of the content. To me, it's intriguing that the government is talking about it because it says there is something they don't understand. But the government is not a scientific organization, so we shouldn't ask them to do our job.

And on the other hand, you have the scientific community, which I have a lot to say about, which is reluctant to touch it. Why? Because it's a risky subject and most scientists prefer to get honors and awards in a safe way without taking risks, which is completely opposite to the spirit of blue sky research. The only reason there is tenure in academia is to allow people to have job security and to take risks. But the strange thing is that almost all of them, after they get tenure, start to worry about their image, stature, prestige, in order to get awards recognition from their peers, and therefore they don't take risks.

And they also don't want others to take risks because if they are experts, if they studied rocks in the sky for several decades and they are the expert on asteroids or comets, they would insist that everything we see in the sky is an asteroid or a comet. And the most extreme example is actually a young person who wrote a review paper about Umoa Umoa. And he said to me in an email, he said, "I just finished an extensive review about the comet Umoa Umoa." So I wrote back and said, "What do you mean by the comet Umoa Umoa? We both know there was no cometary tail, there was no coma, there was no evidence for evaporation."

And he said, "Well, I have this theory that when we looked at the object, it didn't have a cometary tail, when we looked away from it, it had a cometary tail." - Quantum comet. - Yeah, and I said, "That's just like going to the zoo looking at an elephant and claiming it's a zebra that shows its stripes when you look away." That is not the way the mainstream science should deal with an anomalous object. And the other thing is, I feel like the kid in Hans Christian Andersen's tale, who said the emperor has no clothes, Umoa Umoa is the emperor, the clothes are the cometary tail. I just say what I see, you know, I don't see a cometary tail. I say

the emperor has no clothes. But everyone around me says, "Oh, no, no, no, no, there are clothes, they're just invisible and they're beautiful." Like the most recent paper from a few weeks ago in Nature was about this comet being made of water that broke into hydrogen and oxygen, and the hydrogen is transparent when it evaporates. And we actually showed that they made a mistake in the energy balance of the surface. But at any event, people keep insisting that indeed the emperor has beautiful clothes, but we can't see them. So how do you... Well, it sounds like

there's a younger generation that's more eager to jump into those conversations that might be more challenging. And I know there's, you know, as you alluded to, the problem with the older generation not wanting to experiment with maybe some new ideas that might cause the base of their knowledge to crumble. I get that. How does this make you feel with this new generation coming in? And how can we really tap into that eagerness, excitement, that energy? Well, so the younger people also make a calculation because they need to think about their future jobs. And the calculation is when they see the pushback that I encounter, and frankly, I don't care about it, I don't care how many likes I get, because I just want to do the right thing. I want to advance the knowledge of humanity in the context of whether we are the smartest kid in our cosmic neighborhood.

And if not, let's learn from them. That's my objective. There is a lot for humanity to benefit from. And this is discussed in my next book, actually, that comes out in August 2023. It's called Interstellar. And it discusses the implications for humanity.

So you see, when you meet a partner, it affects you. And in my view, it would be a great benefit to humanity to recognize that there might have been a smarter kid on our blog because we can learn from it. And moreover, it will change our aspirations to space, will give us a better understanding about our place in the universe. And, you know, Steven Weinberg, the Nobel laureate in physics, said towards the end of his book, famous book, the first three minutes, he said, "The more we understand, the more the universe appears comprehensible to us, the more pointless it looks." And I say it looks pointless to cosmologists because they focused for decades on lifeless entities like elementary particles or stars or galaxies.

These are entities that have no life. They are dead. And from our private experience, when we find a partner, it changes the meaning that we assign to our existence. In the same way, I believe that when humanity finds a partner, an interstellar partner, it will change everything.

It will make the universe have some meaning because they may have answers to questions that we didn't figure the answers to, but we could also interact with them in a way that we can learn about our future. Because if they already went through part of our technological future, we will see technologies that we've never imagined. What about our past? Do you have any thoughts on the concept of panspermia? Yeah, so there are two types of ways by which life can move from one planet to another.

In fact, Mars cooled before Earth and had liquid water and an atmosphere on it for the first half of its lifespan. And so only about two billion years ago, it lost its atmosphere and the liquid water evaporated because liquid water needs an atmospheric pressure to stay. And so it's possible that life started on Mars before it started on Earth. And in fact, it's also possible we know there are rocks from Mars that arrived to Earth.

One of them was not heated to more than 40 degrees Celsius. So you could have tiny microbes as tiny astronauts in the interior of a rock that would survive the journey from Mars to Earth. And perhaps we are all Martians. And when Elon Musk says he wants to die on Mars, it's just like wanting to go back to your childhood home and die there.

So we don't know whether life started on Mars and was delivered to Earth or started on Earth. And it's quite plausible that rocks made it with the kind of life. And one way to find out the history of Earth would be to find evidence for life on Mars. It's not easy, but there are some attempts to do that. And if we do find life on Mars, the question is, is it identical to life on Earth in terms of the DNA structure? And if it is, there is a good chance that it was transferred between the two planets.

And that's called panspermia. I'm personally interested in something that was never done, which is there are these lava tubes on Mars, which are similar to those that you find in Hawaii. Basically, when there is volcanic activity, lava flows and then it cools at the top first, and you create sort of a crust that serves as a ceiling. And then the lava continues to flow under that ceiling and you end up with a cave, a tunnel. And you see that in Hawaii, beautiful lava tubes.

But the moon and Mars also have that. And what I'm curious about is, you know, we started in caves to protect ourselves from harsh weather conditions and so forth. And I'm curious to go into one of these lava tubes on Mars with a flashlight and check without any paintings on the walls of those lava tubes from some beings that used to exist there.

I'd go with you. I'll hold the light. I mean, we can send a drone just not to risk our lives, but it's quite possible that there were creatures on Mars. And one thing I calculated is over a billion years, you know, the two billion years since Mars lost its atmosphere and liquid water for every square kilometer on Mars, there were asteroid impacts that released energy equivalent to 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs for every square kilometer. Just think about it. So much energy release. So it's very difficult to find on the surface skeletons or any anything other than dust.

But in the caves, you might still find something. And especially because it's protected from cosmic rays. By the way, if we ever go there, the first place to go is to these lava tubes, not to be on the surface because bombardment by cosmic rays can harm the human body and basically make it unlivable within a few years. So those problems we haven't quite solved yet. We're kind of looking past in some

ways when we talk about Mars. And we started in caves. And if we go to Mars, we'll end up in caves. That's what I'm saying. The humans go back to their roots, so to speak.

But altogether, you know, panspermia in the natural ways, transfer of rocks between two neighboring planets. And there are other planetary systems. For example, Trappist 1 is an example at about several tenths of light years away from us that has seven planets packed in a very, in very close proximity. So if one of

them had life, it's quite possible that rocks were liberated from that planet. These rocks are liberated when an asteroid impacts the surface and lifts some surface material and it could include microbes. So that's natural indirect panspermia. But there is also the concept of directed panspermia where a civilization decides to send probes that would replicate life. And the way I think about the future of humanity is, well, it involves artificial intelligence, AI, because we are already at a point where GPT-4 has a hundred trillion connections, only a factor of six shy of the number of synapses in the human brain, six hundred trillion. So we are getting to the point where the complexity of these language learning models like GPT-4 are getting to the level of complexity of the human brain.

So we won't fully understand how they operate. But the way I see it is as an opportunity to send those systems to space because they could learn from experience and then we can harden them so that they don't suffer the damage from cosmic rays or ultraviolet light or they would not mind being dormant for millions of years on travel to another planetary system. And then once they get there, they could, if they have 3D printing capabilities with them, they can make the kind of life that we have here on Earth. So instead of sending passengers like in Star Trek, and by the way, just a couple of days ago, I sent my wishes, best wishes to the producer of Star Trek. From 1966, he will turn 100 years old on May 1st, 2023. And he responded.

Wow. And I also met a few weeks ago the person who wrote the script for Contact. Oh, that's one of my favorite ones. Jim Hart. And he came to me and said, you know, I think of you as the successor of Carl Sagan. He also said that he believes he spent three years with Carl Sagan and his wife, Andrea, that the hero in the film Contact represents Andrea, he thinks.

Oh. And so it's interesting to see those people from the past. And in fact, I'm working now with the producer of another fantastic film, science fiction film Arrival, which I like the most, actually, because it talks about the challenge of communication with something that is different than you are. That will be the next challenge. You know, the first challenge is to find something that is not natural to Earth, not a bird, not a bug, and not also human made like drones, balloons of the type that the US government shut down, not airplanes. But

it looks technological and it maneuvers in ways that we cannot explain using our own technologies. So if we find that that will be the first revelation, which would be amazing. Then the next phase would be more challenging. And that would be to figure out the intent of such devices, what information are they seeking? So what do they represent? It's sort of like looking at being in a cave. I go back to the cave allegory of Plato, which was basically dealing with prisoners chained to a cave and looking at the shadows on the wall in front of them from things behind them that they cannot see.

And when we meet devices like AI astronauts from other civilizations, there would be the shadows of the senders. There will not be the senders. I don't believe we will have an encounter with biological creatures because they cannot survive the journey over millions of years and they need a lot of patience. It's much more likely to be a technological gadget with AI. And so these AI systems, just like we are creating AI systems in our image, whatever we find from another civilization will be in the image of the senders. And just like the prisoners in Plato's allegory of the cave, we are chained to earth by gravity. Okay,

so it's a perfect match. This is our cave. We are looking at the shadows of the senders of those gadgets.

And the question is, could we figure out what the senders were like? At the very least, we can learn something about our technological future because these AI systems will probably be much more advanced than ours. So you know, Alan Turing about almost 90 years ago came up with the imitation game of the Turing test, figuring out whether a machine is a machine or a person based on the interactions, the exchange of information that you have with it. And the way I see the imitation game is between our AI systems and extraterrestrial AI systems because once they come here, the visitors, we will use our AI systems to interpret their AI systems. And in fact, their AI systems might be so much more advanced than ours that ours would like to imitate them. And that would be the imitation game. Very interesting. We've talked a little

bit about, you know, I think how you've got to where you are today. And I think I see some of the the corollators with your past research and how you've kind of taken that bold stance on UAP. But people are familiar with that, I think people might not be as familiar with the earlier past and some of your earlier experiences. So if we could, I'd love to hear as you know, I'm a former military pilot and you have some very interesting military experiences yourself. The big question is, how did that really lead to you to where you are today? But first, let's talk a little bit about, you know, what you experienced in the military when you were in Israel.

Yeah, I'll be glad to. First, I just wanted to mention that the Galileo project is trying to figure out the nature of the objects that you were reporting about when you were a fighter pilot. And so we have an observatory operating at Harvard University 24/7 and basically taking a full picture of the sky in the infrared, the optical band. It has a passive radar system and an audio system. And we hope to make

multiple such sensors such that we can triangulate in all of these wave bands and find the distance to objects because that's crucial. And then we are currently planning to have copies of this first observatory and place them in different geographical locations. And the number of copies will depend on how much funding we have. So currently, I received a few million dollars from people who came to my home during the pandemic and without any fundraising offered to support this research. And we have about 100 people involved in the Galileo project with a thousand showing interest and so forth. But if we get several tens of millions of dollars, that would allow us to build tens of copies of our first observatory, which is operating already.

So we know exactly what needs to be done. We have the expertise. It took us a year and a half to build it. A lot of hard work. So all we are missing is several tens of millions of dollars in order to get to the bottom of the nature of those unidentified objects, because we calculated if we have tens of observatories spread over the US or elsewhere, we should have enough statistics to figure out what these anomalous objects in the sky might be. And we are also analyzing data from satellites of planet labs. And so

altogether, I'm hopeful that with enough funding, within a year or two, we will have much more information. Now, how did I get to this point? I started as a farm boy. You know, I was very much connected to nature. I grew up on a farm. I used to collect eggs every afternoon.

I had two sisters. And in fact, when collecting eggs, they forced me to the left lane because they were right handed. I was also right handed, but I had to collect the eggs with my left hand.

So I was able to do it both ways. And I remember finding the chicks when we got them to the farm at night with a flashlight looking for them, which is similar to going with a flashlight on Mars now, I guess. But then I used to drive the tractor to the hills of the village and read the philosophy books because I cared about the big picture. That was the thing that attracted me. I read the books on existentialism, mainly by French philosophers like Sartre or Camus, and really saw my future in philosophy because this was the stage where the biggest questions were asked. Had you been introduced to mathematics to a high degree at that point? So I learned mathematics and physics in high school, and I was very good at it. I

was at the top of my class. But what I cared about are the big questions. And in Israel, you have to serve in the military. There is no way out. And

because I was good in math and physics, I was selected to a program that allowed me to finish a first degree in physics and mathematics for three years. And then serve five additional years developing research projects that are useful for the defense of the country. And to me, that sounded the closest to philosophy that I can do rather than run in the fields with a machine gun. And so I agreed to go there. And in fact, this program was very special because we went to all the military sections, including the Air Force and the Navy. And we drove tanks. I parachuted three

times, jumped from a plane, and it took a few minutes. And of course, we knew what to do if the parachute doesn't open up. That was very important.

I was very good at sports among the top three of a few thousands in my high school. And when I was in the military, I was offered to join the Delta Force, which is a very challenging... Essentially special operations. Special operations in Israel. I declined it because I was mostly interested in the intellectual work. And so what I ended up doing is develop a new research project at age 21 and proposed it to the Strategic Defense Initiative of Ronald Reagan, President Reagan, in the mid-1980s.

In fact, General Abramson, who led that program, came to visit Israel. And I presented the project to him. In fact, I have a photograph of him. I don't think it was ever made public. That's me here. Sorry, here. And this is General Abramson looking at my presentation with a slide projector.

Back then, that was the technology. And we presented it to him in February 1986. And this was the first international project supported by the US. And that brought me to Washington, D.C., to visit, because I was still in the military at the time. And in one of the visits, I went to Princeton, the Institute for Advanced Study, because I was told that's a very prestigious place where Albert Einstein was faculty.

And I remember the administrators there saying, "We don't allow anyone to come here for a visit. Please send me your CV." And I sent the list of publications. I had 11 publications by then. And it was almost at the completion of my PhD thesis.

And by now, I have more than a thousand. But back then, it was just the beginning. And she allowed me to come over. And she said, "Well, you know, there is only one faculty member who has plenty of time. All the others are

busy. His name is Freeman Dyson." And so she introduced me to Freeman. And Freeman said, "You know, there is a faculty person here that is married to an Israeli. His name is John Bacall. And he loves to speak Hebrew. Do you know him?" And I said, "No, I've never heard of him, because I never worked in astrophysics.

I worked in plasma physics. That was the project. We actually had a patent also on the project."

Anyway, Freeman picked up the phone and called John and said, "There is an Israeli here visiting. Do you have a few minutes to meet with him?" And John said, "Yeah, why don't we have him for lunch?" And then he invited me for a month and then ended up offering me a five-year fellowship, which was a huge risk from his perspective, because I had no track record in astrophysics. I didn't know how the sun shines. And

John's main contribution to astronomy was to explain how the sun shines and to predict how many neutrinos should be emitted per unit time from the sun, which didn't agree with data. And then it was interpreted in terms of the mass of the neutrino. But at any event, it was very embarrassing for me to enter a new field after my military service, not knowing anything, because Princeton was very competitive. And I had to learn the vocabulary from scratch. It felt like there is a thing.

You were learning English at this point when you say learning vocabulary? I know. Vocabulary of astrophysics. I knew English not very well, but I knew some of it. Now I'm a writer. But back then, it took me a while to start dreaming in English. I dreamt in Hebrew for a while. Anyway, so after five years at Princeton, where I learned the vocabulary of astrophysics, I had basically to invent myself, because nobody guided me as to which areas are most interesting.

And therefore, I decided when I received an offer from Harvard University, I mean, at the time, nobody was tenured at Harvard from within for about 20 years. They didn't tenure anyone. So nobody wanted the job, the dream of... In fact, they offered it to someone who declined it and then they said, "Okay, we'll go for Avi."

So I was the second in line. They gave me the offer and I was not worried because I could always go back to the farm, my father's life work. And there was nobody to continue the work on the farm. And I was very happy to do that. My mother was into linguistics philosophy at the time. And that's, you know, a lot of my inspiration came from her, basically, the intellectual curiosity.

But at any event, I went to Harvard because I had plan B to go back to the farm. I didn't worry about job security. I was tenured three years later because Cornell was looking for someone and they made me a tenured offer. And then Harvard came forward six months later and offered me a tenured appointment. So altogether, you know, I ended up in an arranged marriage.

And at the time when I got tenure, I realized that even though it was arranged, I'm married to my true love because there are some fundamental questions in astrophysics that I can explore using the scientific method. And I'm very different than my colleagues. Now, in 2011, I became chair of the astronomy department at Harvard and served for nine years, the longest serving chair. I'm still the director of the Institute for Theory and Computation for about almost 20 years now. And I was the founding director of the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard. And so I was very much part of the establishment.

And moreover, I chaired the board on physics and astronomy of the National Academies. And I was a member of the board of science and technology advisors of the US president at the White House. And so I served on many important boards. I also chaired the scientific advisory board for the Star Shot project, which is to send a probe to the nearest star within a human's lifetime.

And that's where I got introduced to the concept of a light sail, because that's the only technology that would allow us to reach a fraction of the speed of light. And whether there is a probe moving at that speed through the solar system is still an open question because astronomers would not notice it, by the way. It would just appear in one image and then they would dismiss it because most of the rocks move at the speed that is 10,000 times smaller. So anything moving so fast, close to the speed of light would not be even analyzed. So anyway, altogether I was part of the establishment.

But then in 2017, Oumuamua was discovered. And I should say about Oumuamua that when I suggested that it may be a very thin object, it sounded far fetched. Why would it be so thin? But then three years later, the same telescope in Hawaii, Pa

2023-06-26 15:54

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