Harvard astronomer studies UFOs, thanks in part to Pentagon report

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WASHINGTON – Days after the government released its UFO report, Avi Loeb received a call from Harvard’s Department of Astronomy which sparked a series of unusual events.

An administrative assistant informed Loeb, a science professor at Harvard, that he was getting new funding for the research. And soon after, a billionaire visited Loeb on the porch of his house to question him about aliens.

“I’ve been in academia for about 40 years and was a department chair,” Loeb said. “I have never seen a situation where a faculty member gets funding without seeking it out and even meeting with the donor.”

The hunt for UFOs, or what is now officially called “unidentified aerial phenomena,” is hot these days, but too hot for college rooms. Loeb is trying to change that.

He is in a unique position to have both the credibility and the interest in applying real scientific methods to what has long been the domain of pseudoscience and hucksters.

His new project Galileo – named after the 17th-century Italian astronomer known for his use of telescopes and the controversy it sparked over his discoveries – plans to install an array of small telescopes around the world to observe the sky in the hopes of capturing even a single, high-resolution image of something “bizarre,” as Loeb puts it.

With the help of a number of other well-known astronomers who are committed to offering their expertise, the project plans to use artificial intelligence to help filter planes, drones, birds, and all that n is not strange.

“It is a win-win proposition because even though we find that these aerial phenomena are rare atmospheric effects that we do not expect, we are learning something new,” he said. “If there is something out there, we have to find out.”

There is never enough money to go around science, especially in a field like astronomy where experiments can cost billions because they require sending probes into space or building telescopes atop the remote mountains of the Chilean desert.

But Loeb is quick to note that the relatively modest $ 1.755 million he starts with comes from private sources, so he doesn’t take grants that would otherwise be spent, for example, on dark matter research – a topic that ‘He’s just as bizarre as aliens and a lot less relevant to everyday human life.

This is exactly the kind of research many have requested after the release of the Pentagon intelligence report in June, which found that the government could only explain one of 144 encounters with unidentified flying objects reported by pilots. military.

Avi Loeb, chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 27, 2019.Lane Turner / Boston Globe via Getty Images File

Advocates like Loeb and others argue that military and intelligence agencies have shown no interest in seriously investigating these phenomena and would not tell the public what they found, even if they did.

Loeb’s interest in the subject angered the mainstream astronomical community, despite widespread public interest. A third of Americans believe UFOs could be alien craft, according to Gallup.

He first became interested in the subject in 2017 when astronomers discovered ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object seen in our solar system, which had an unusual appearance and behavior.

Loeb thought it might be some sort of alien device and has argued it publicly in scientific journals, (many) media appearances and a book, “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth ”, which was released this year.

Other astronomers and physicists have called the work “a shocking example of sensationalist and unmotivated science”, “insult (to) honest scientific inquiry ”and wondered if he really believed his own theory or if he was just doing it for attention.

In private, some have wondered if he had lost his mind, had a midlife crisis, or if he was just letting his ego and all the publicity get the better of him.

But Loeb feels justified now that the Pentagon, the NASA administrator, senators, former CIA directors and former President Barack Obama admit to seeing things that cannot be easily explained.

“You have the cranks that say ‘nonsense’. Then you have the scientists saying, “See, you’ve got all these people talking nonsense, so we shouldn’t be engaging,” he said. “I don’t think being ignorant is a good idea.”

Loeb also can’t be easily fired – a rare scientist who has reached a position where he can afford to take risks and alienate his peers, but his research is still taken seriously.

He is one of the country’s best-known astronomers, was the longest-serving chairman of Harvard’s astronomy department, and held prestigious positions in the White House and top academic societies.

Notably, Harvard allows Loeb to use his Imprimatur for the Galileo Project, although he said it took some time to convince that what he intends to do is in fact only negative. basic observational astronomy, looking through telescopes to understand the universe.

“I was struck by the number of top astronomers and instrumentalists who said it was always something they thought about, but never thought they would get funding,” he said. -he declares. “I even got emails from center directors saying, ‘I agree with you, but I’m afraid to talk about it. “

Its funders include William Linton, the founder of a biotech company that is also at the forefront of research into the potential uses of psilocybin (the drug found in “magic mushrooms”) to treat the problems. psychiatrists, and billionaire Frank Laukien, the founder of a company that manufactures complex scientific instruments.

“Why must science be boring? Loeb said. “Here we are talking about a discovery that would change the history of mankind, so how dare we put it aside.”



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