Abraham Lob, chairman of the Harvard Astronomy Department, recently gave a free-lance interview to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in which he defended his hypothesis that part of the foreign technology has recently passed through our solar system. "If it turns out, that's one of the greatest discoveries in human history," he said in an interview published Monday. In the same interview with New Yorker Loughb, he made the same argument in which he said, "My motivation, in part, is to motivate the scientific community to gather more data about the next subject, not to claim that they know in advance. The answer. "
What is Leeb talking about? Did we find alien life and did not notice? Not exactly – in October 2017, Hawaiian University astronomers discovered an object that moved quickly across the night sky with a telescope mounted on the top of a volcano. After further investigation, astronomers discovered that they were the first humans to ever have seen an object known to have originated outside of our solar system. Researchers at the university call the site am Oumuamua, which translates to intelligence in Hawaii, and publish their findings in a book in Nature.
A year later, Loeb and post-graduate student Shmuel Bialy published a follow-up report in Astrophysical Journal Letters, analyzing the movements of the site. In conclusion, the authors suggest that am Oumuamua may be "debris of modern technological equipment" or "a fully operational probe sent deliberately into the Earth's vicinity of extraterrestrial civilization."
Taking into account the consequences of intelligent extraterrestrial life, the article generates a huge amount of talk and coverage in the press (including Slate). The huge response from other academic circles and scientific circles is that Leeb's hypothesis, though possible, is unlikely to be true. The subsequent debate that came back when Loboff dropped Haaretz earlier this week serves as a reminder of the challenges inherent in assessing whether something that behaves strangely in the sky is a sign that we are not alone in the universe, , the challenges inherent in the debate of foreigners.
"It's very gratifying to know the answer, but sometimes it's not possible. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start checking the fields of what is not .
– Don Lincoln
Critics have Okkam's razor to claim that it is very, very improbable that Leeb's hypothesis is accurate. Michele Bannister, an astrophysicist from the Royal University of Belfast in Northern Ireland, has recently been quoted in popular science, claiming that there are plausible explanations for the movements of Oumoumuna that do not involve foreigners. – Do the data require hypotheses when you have reasonable hypotheses that fully match the data? she asked. Bannister, a study published in Nature last year, found data supporting the hypothesis that heat from the sun causes Oumuamua to separate a stream of gas that is powerful enough to cause acceleration.
Even in the face of these disagreements, Leb kept his belief in the foreign explanation. He told Verge in November: "I can not think of another explanation for the special acceleration of Oumuamua." In the Haaretz interview, he claims that no one has seen a trace of dust behind Oumuamua, which we would expect if the gas was the drive of the object.
We have never been able to produce any solid evidence that there are aliens, which puts some tricky limitations on determining whether an object like umu Oumuamua is artificial. How do you even start to grasp the probability of something that has never been observed?
"When you have no information at all, this is no longer an official thing," says Don Lincoln, senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. "It's a great pleasure to know the answer, but sometimes it's not possible. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start checking the boxes of what is not. "Researchers at the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Search Institute trained a radio telescope in Oumuamua in 2018, but they did not find any signals emanating from an object that would indicate artificial origin. Other astronomers have noticed that the object is lacking the smooth movement and finesse necessary for the light canvas, and that extraterrestrial civilization will not be able to retrieve any data from am Oumuamua for millions of years if it is actually a probe.
The infinitely small probability that any of the strange things we see in space is proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life makes these debates difficult to portray in an appropriate context. Combine this dynamics with the general hunger among cosmic enthusiasts for signs of alien intelligence and it is easy for a nuanced scientific debate like the one around am Oumuamua to distort in public imagination. In 2015, astronomers were considering the possibility that KIC 8462852 was an extraterrestrial megastructure because it showed strange oscillations in the light. Most astronomers see it as a remote opportunity that deserves to be discussed and may be considered later, although some media view it as a real discovery of alien megastructure.
It seems less like this kind of misinterpretation in the press with am Oumuamua. Indeed, with the exception of Leeb, most scholars quoted in the media seem to treat this more as a thought experiment rather than a real development in alien search. The general consensus is that it is worth considering the type and magnitude of the evidence they would require to confirm that 'Oumuamua is artificial, but such evidence has not yet been presented.
"Here's how you do this science: you take a crazy hypothesis and say, 'OK, maybe it's true. If it is true then it will be X, Y and Z, "Lincoln said. "[Loeb’s hypothesis] is valued in qualitative, qualitative and slightly quantitative ways, and the hypothesis is found unintentionally."
It is also difficult to balance the infinite importance of confirming alien life with the low probability that any hint is legitimate. An appropriate consequence is the discussion of asteroids potentially causing earthquakes. There has never been a documented case of an asteroid that kills a person, but the thought of an apocalyptic scenario still seems to be high when it is unlikely that a rather large person will cross paths with our planet. As Mark Boslau, a physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told the Washington Post when he discusses the fact that Earth will pass through a dense patch in the Tauris meteor stream this year, "This is one of those with very low probability but potentially high . risks of consequences that are difficult to quantify and difficult to talk about. The probability of many people to die from asteroid impact is super, super low, but not zero. "
Talking about 'Oumuamua then is like talking about a big asteroid that comes a little closer to Earth than others. The fact that "Oumuamua is an object that goes outside our solar system, and that someone with the growth of Loeb has cast his impressive knowledge and academic honesty behind the hypothesis of alien origin, makes it seem like this time just to come across some hard proof. But it is difficult to adequately betray how funny it is that this scenario is unlikely even if that foreign claim is a little more powerful than another.
However, Lincoln believes that speculative talks about possible extraterrestrial artifacts are productive. While it is easy to replicate the narrative "am Oumuamua is an alien probe," these reflections challenge the curiosity that motivates our exploration of the cosmos. "I am totally pleased with such things," he says. "It feeds the charm of mankind, space and stars."