Tag: Avi Loeb

The UFO Community Still Believes — and Science is Starting to Listen

by Chabeli Herrera                March 19, 2019                   (orlandosentinel.com)

• Over the past two years, scientists, politicians and professionals have increasingly been willing to touch the taboo subject of UFOs and perhaps lend a little credence to those who still believe.

• In December 2017, the New York Times reported that the U.S. had funded a secret, $22 million project to study UFO claims from 2007 to 2012. Declassified video taken in 2004 by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets off the coast of San Diego showed a craft with no apparent propulsion moving at alarmingly fast speeds. Navy pilot Commander David Fravor who witnessed the Tic Tac-shaped craft told the Washington Post that it was “something not from Earth.”

• Harvard’s astronomy department chair, Avi Loeb, along with colleague Shmuel Bialy, wrote in a publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters that an interstellar object seen passing through our solar system called Oumuamua “is a lightsail, flowing in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment.” Loeb theorized that, “Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

• NASA’s Ames Research Center scientist Silvano Colombano went on record recently to suggest that NASA and the scientific community should be more open-minded in its approach to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. NASA is preoccupied with finding biosignatures through its Center for Life Detection Science than interested in analyzing alleged UFO sightings.

• MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) does analyze UFO sightings. It has 3,500 members in 42 countries. Barbara Stusse, 80, has been coming to MUFON meetings for three years. She says that her mother saw a UFO in 1947. In 1965, she read about Betty and Barney Hill and “believed it”.

• Kathleen Marden is MUFON’s director of experiencer research. She was 13 years old in September 1961 when her Aunt Betty Hill and her Uncle Barney Hill saw a UFO in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There were two hours they couldn’t account for, and Barney was sure he’d seen eight to eleven figures dressed in black shiny uniforms that were “somehow not human”. Under hypnosis, the Hills related how they were abducted and physically examined inside the UFO. “They examined their hands, they took their shoes off, they examined their feet, they did tests on them that appear to be testing their nervous systems, as well,” says Marden. She has written about the government’s ‘tampering’ with the Hill case. But lately Marden has seen a recent shift in the credence that people give to the UFO phenomenon, with the 2017 New York Times article being the turning point.

• Trish Bishop of Kissimmee, Florida, relates her story of March 2013 at dusk when she saw a tall, muscular man wearing a formfitting tan colored uniform, boots and gloves was lingering in her backyard at the edge of a forest. But his face wasn’t human. His eyes bulged far out of their sockets. His jaw was over-sized. And his skin was white as chalk. Paralyzed with fear, she pretended not to watch the man while she called for help on her phone. Then man appeared to be climbing invisible steps. When he was about 10 feet off the ground, he turned his back to her and pulled himself up “into a UFO?” she thought — and he was gone. After four years, she got the nerve to report the incident to MUFON.

• The challenge with UFO and alien sightings has always been the lack of evidence. Bishop said she was too scared to take a photo of her alien. Little to no consequential evidence exists in other cases. University of Central Florida psychology professor Alvin Wang thinks that people project their predisposition to believe in conspiracy theories, and seek out others who reaffirm that belief. “[T]hey get …confirmation support, when they are members of UFO believers community,” said Wang.

 

He appeared as if a hologram at first — then solid — suddenly there and clear as you or I, at the edge of the forest behind Trish Bishop’s home in Kissimmee.

It was a Thursday in March 2013, the glow of the afternoon tucking in for the day behind the trees. He stood tall, at least 6-foot-3, perhaps 220 pounds and certainly muscular, wearing a formfitting tan colored uniform, boots and gloves. He lingered by the crape myrtle tree in the middle of the backyard.

When he turned around, it was his face, she remembers, that stopped her.

Bulging eyes jutting so far out of the sockets that Bishop wondered whether he could close them. Skin white as chalk.
And a jaw so large, it dispelled any notions the government worker had of the visitor being human.

“If you compare a human jawbone to his, we would be a chihuahua to a pit bull,” Bishop said.

Paralyzed with fear, she watched as what she believed to be an alien appeared to climb invisible steps, stopping often to snatch glances at her from where she sat on her back porch, fumbling with her phone to appear as though she couldn’t see him.

Her finger was pressed on the number “9” to dial for help.

When he was about 10 feet off the ground, he turned his back to her and pulled himself up — “into a UFO?” she thought — and was gone.

Bishop sat stunned. “I’ve got a freaking alien in my backyard,” she thought.

It would be four years before she told anyone her story, before she’d discover the Mutual Unidentified Flying Objects Network, a nationwide organization 50 years old, and file her report under case number 84886 with the local Florida chapter.

But she worried: Who would believe her?

These days, more people than you’d think.

Across restaurants and meeting rooms in the United States, MUFON groups still gather every month to discuss cases like Bishop’s with the enthusiasm that once gripped the nation during the Cold War, when UFO sightings still made a splash on the front page.

The Space Coast group, made up of some former NASA employees and engineers, has 118 members, the largest in the state. Across the U.S. they number 3,500, with additional offices in 42 countries.

For many years, they were alone entertaining UFO theories. No more.

In the past two years, scientists, politicians and professionals have increasingly been willing to touch the taboo subject and perhaps lend a little credence to those who still believe.

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The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Heats Up

by Dirk Schulze-Makuch                  March 11, 2019                    (airspacemag.com)

• A remarkable meeting occurred over the weekend of March 9-10 in Tutzing, Germany, just outside of Munich. Its theme: Are we alone in the Universe? Eminent German astrobiologists and scientists were invited to give presentations, including Karl Menten, Director of the Max Planck Institute, Gerhard Haerendel, recipient of the Allan D. Emil Memorial Award for pioneering achievements in space sciences, Andreas Losch from the Institute of Systematic Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the article’s author, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, who spoke on the Cosmic Zoo hypothesis.

• The meeting was hosted by the evangelical academy, underscoring the continuing interest of religious groups in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and what it might mean for faith communities. The Catholic Church appears to me to be the most interested group of all. In 2014 the Vatican Observatory even co-hosted a conference in Arizona on whether we are alone in the Universe.

• Earlier this year, the discovery of a new source of Fast Radio Bursts suggested that they could be messages from advanced technological civilizations. Tabby’s Star, which suddenly dips its light curve, has been linked to alien megastructures.

• Last November, Avi Loeb of Harvard University suggested that ‘Oumuamua’, the first object seen to enter our Solar System from interstellar space, could be a lightsail built by an advanced intelligent civilization. Its motion seems to indicate that something other than simple gravitation might be at work.

• The longest unresolved enigma is the Wow! signal, which has all the hallmarks of an alien transmission but unfortunately was only received once. It may have been a transmission from one starship to another, or perhaps from a ship to its home base, and Earth just happened to be in the way.

• However likely or unlikely these anomalies, it is clear that interest in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is on the rise again, as shown not only by this latest conference near Munich, but by NASA’s renewed interest in what’s now called “technosignatures” of advanced life. Many people, beyond just scientists, understand what a detection of extraterrestrial intelligent life elsewhere would mean – nothing less than a complete re-assessment of our place in the Universe.

 

A remarkable meeting occurred outside Munich, Germany this past weekend. Its theme: Are we alone in the Universe? The most eminent German-speaking scientists in the field of astrobiology were invited to give keynote presentations, which included talks by Karl Menten, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, on the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life; by Gerhard Haerendel, recipient of the Allan D. Emil Memorial Award for pioneering achievements in space sciences, on messaging to extraterrestrial civilizations (METI); and by Andreas Losch from the Institute of Systematic Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, on the scientific, philosophical and theological consequences of the presence of extraterrestrial civilizations. I also gave a talk, on the possibility of complex life on other planets based on the Cosmic Zoo hypothesis.

The meeting was hosted by the evangelical academy in Tutzing, Germany, underscoring the continuing interest of religious groups in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and what it might mean for faith communities. The Catholic Church appears to me to be the most interested group of all. In recent years I’ve seen many of its representatives at scientific meetings. In 2014 the Vatican Observatory (yes, they have their own observatory) even co-hosted a conference in Arizona on whether we are alone in the Universe.

So, are we?

If you were to ask Avi Loeb of Harvard University, he would likely direct your attention to ‘Oumuamua, the first object seen to enter our Solar System from interstellar space. Last November Loeb pointed to six strange facts about ‘Oumuamua, suggesting that it could be an artificial object, possibly a lightsail built by an advanced intelligent civilization. Most puzzling of all is its shape: long, shiny and unusually thin for a rock. And its motion seems to indicate that something other than simple gravitation might be at work.

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Be Kind to Extraterrestrials

by Abraham Loeb                     February 15, 2019                     (scientificamerican.com)

• Because the Earth is prone to catastrophes from time to time, it would be prudent to spread Earth-like terrestrial life to other worlds. Yet, as On Walden Pond author Henry David Thoreau wrote, “…we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed…”. Thoreau raises a fundamental question in space exploration. Should we allow ourselves to terraform planets in an effort to make them habitable and seed objects in space with life as we know it, or should we leave nature out there to its own devices, intact and pure?

• Rather than descending upon a ‘new world’ in order to annex and appropriate it to our own designs, as the Spanish did when they invaded South and Central America in the early sixteenth century, perhaps we should be mindful of the natural aspects of existing extraterrestrial “Walden-like” ponds. Perhaps we should take advantage of the opportunity to appreciate other life-forms that have existed before our arrival.

• As we explore nature in extraterrestrial ponds, might life there resemble what we see on Earth, or take new forms? Could it follow a different chemical network? Could it flourish in liquids other than water? Could it adjust to conditions more extreme and longer lasting than on Earth?

• It would be particularly shocking to find out that our new pond included creatures far more intelligent than we are. For if alien civilizations had been already come there, they would have already contaminated its nature by artificial intent. There is no denying that it would be more poetic to find unspoiled the nature of our new extraterrestrial pond.

• At the same time, nothing done by humans really matters in the big scheme of the universe. Humans have access to an extremely limited fraction of the cosmos. So the human imprint on the cosmic stage is destined to remain negligible. Perhaps we should limit our cosmic ambitions in light of this perspective. As Thoreau said, “Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves.”

• Cosmic modesty would leave us with the sole desire of embedding ourselves in the true nature of an extraterrestrial world, soaking in its beauty as spectators not reformers, and suppressing ego-motivated plans for space colonization.

 

In his celebrated book On Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau wrote: “We need the tonic of wildness…. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Thoreau raises a fundamental question in space exploration. Should we allow ourselves to terraform planets in an effort to make them habitable and seed objects in space with life as we know it, or should we leave nature out there to its own devices, intact and pure?

On the one hand, it would be prudent not to keep all our eggs in one basket; we might choose to spread terrestrial life to other worlds in an effort to reduce the risk of it being eliminated by catastrophes on Earth. But at the same time, one might worry that by doing so we could unleash unforeseen forces that would modify natural ecosystems in ways that could get out of hand. Moreover, artificial seeding of Earth life would muddy the waters in extraterrestrial “Walden-like” ponds. It would deprive us from the opportunity to find out if other life-forms may have existed before our arrival.

Such an impact might resemble the effect of the Spanish invasion of South and Central America, which decimated the rich culture of local populations such as the Maya. For this reason, NASA enforces tight regulations on the sterilization of space vehicles in an effort to avoid contamination of space targets with terrestrial microbes.

As we explore nature in extraterrestrial ponds, the key question is whether life there resembles what we see on Earth or takes new forms. Could it follow a different chemical network? Could it flourish in liquids other than water? Could it adjust to conditions more extreme and last longer than on Earth? But most important, how intelligent is it? It would be particularly shocking to find out that our expanded habitat includes creatures that are far smarter than we are.

Our loyalty to Thoreau’s legacy would depend on whether we are alone, for if alien civilizations had been already engaged in such activities, then nature had been contaminated by artificial intent and there is no way to find it pure and primitive.

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