Discussion with Harvard Astronomer Avi Loeb

Evin Weiss: Avi, welcome to the show. How are you? 

Avi Loeb: Thanks for having me. I’m great. 

Evin Weiss: Awesome. And what part of the country are you living in or do you operate from?

Avi Loeb: Boston. And since the pandemic I’ve been at home and jogging every morning at 5:00 AM in the company, ducks, birds, wild turkeys and rabbits, 

Evin Weiss: Yeah. How do you, how many miles do you run every morning?

Avi Loeb: 35 minutes. So that’s about three miles. 

Evin Weiss: Wow.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. And then it has been a very sort of rejuvenating experience because I don’t need to worry so much about what’s wrong with what people say when I’m in embedded in it. 

Evin Weiss: That’s a good point. Okay. So my, my big question for you is it’s a broader one. What is a muah?

Avi Loeb: More and more is an object that was discovered in on October 19th, 2017 by a telescope in Hawaii called Pan-STARRS. And because of that, it was given this name a more and more, which means a scout in the Hawaiian language. The first object from outside the solar system that we spotted near earth with that telescope.

And then it was the size of a football field. And of course, the first thing you can think of is if it came from outside the solar system. And we know that because it moved too fast to be bound to the sun then maybe it came from another star and it’s just like the rocks that we have seen already in the solar system, except that it came from it.

System like the solar system, but then as the astronomers collected more data about it, didn’t look like anything we’ve seen before. Didn’t look like a comet or an asteroid. A comet is a rock covered with ice and when it gets close to the sun, the ice evaporates and you see a commentary too. Of gas and dust, water vapor.

But there was no such tail visible around this subject. And moreover the Spitzer space telescope looked for carbon based molecules. Didn’t see any traces of that. And so it was definitely not a comment of the type that we have seen before. And then as it was tumbling, every eight hours, the amount of sunlight that was reflected.

Changed by a factor of 10, you have to understand that we identify such object. We find them by the reflection of sunlight. Access a lamppost that illuminates the darkness around us and allows us to see objects passing by. And this one, as it was tumbling changed its brightness by a factor of 10, which meant that has a very extreme shape and the most likely shape is that of a pancake flat object based on the change in the reflected light.

And So, that’s very unusual, a factor of 10, and we usually see it most, the factor of three. And so in addition to that, as it was moving there wasn’t access, push acting on it. In addition to the force of gravity, which we know how to calculate from the sun and this success push. The only way I could explain it was as a result of reflecting sunlight.

And for that, the object had to be very thin a cell. But the nature doesn’t make such objects that are so thin. And in fact, the inception. 2020 just last year, the wars and other objects detected that exhibited the push away from the sun by reflecting sunlight with no cometary tail. And it was discovered by the same telescope in Hawaii and the astronomers figured out, ah, actually this object that was given the name 2020 S oh.

It’s actually a rocket booster that was launched in 1966 as part of a lunar Lander mission. And so we know why it was pushed by reflecting sunlight, because it had very thin walls. It had the large area for its mass, and that’s why it behaved like a sailor. So we know that we produce this object artificially.

It’s a rocket booster from 1966. The question is who produced Omar?

Evin Weiss: Can I move a more, also be a space debris from another era?

Avi Loeb: no, because it moved faster than any chemical rocket that we can launch. And moreover, it’s not bound to the sun. It’s just impossible for it to be a Relic from.

Evin Weiss: And how many meters per second are we talking? 

Avi Loeb: Yeah, it’s motion was of the order of 40 or so kilometers per second. Obviously speed change. They, it was moving around. So kilometers per second, or, yeah. Per second, not per hour, it’s really a very high speed. But in astronomy, this is the characteristic speed by which objects like stars move through interstellar space.

So it’s tens of miles per second. 

Evin Weiss: tens of miles per second. Now that’s really fast. Now Y isn’t the scientific community. Open-minded about the idea that this might be extra terrestrial.

Avi Loeb: There are many reasons for that. I’ve been working on other topics throughout my career and I’ve written by now more than 800. Scientific papers and published eight books on different from tears, including the early universe, the first stars that were lit up in the universe, the scientific version of the story of Genesis.

Also, I worked on black horse. In fact, I’m the founding director of the black hole initiative at Harvard, where we imaged a Blackboard in 87. That was the first image of a black hole that was obtained in the conference room of our center. And I. It’s the nature of dark matter and all kinds of questions, scientific questions for which we don’t have the answer yet.

And in some of those instances, when you know, the evidence is not sufficient, you suggest possibilities, you suggest them ideas. And I should say, I suggest that the ideas that are far more speculative than this but. 

Evin Weiss: Okay.

Avi Loeb: I never received the pushback of the type I received to this possibility that was of artificial origin.

And if you ask me why, I would say for several reasons, one is it takes scientists out of their comfort zone because the public is extremely excited about this subject and that our stories science fiction there is there are all kinds of UFO reports and scientists shy away.

From that because they maintain activity separate from the public’s interest that I find that separation to be actually inappropriate. I think we should actually reflect the public’s interest because then we’re actually doing our job. We’re funded by the public and we are supposed to echo the public’s interest.

And the second thing. It touches on a very emotional aspect of our existence, which is our ego. And it’s much better to think that we are special, unique and the smartest and the it started a thousand years ago. Or thousands of years ago when people argue that we are the center of the universe and our startled, the ancient Greek philosopher argued that.

And people believed him for a thousand years because it flatters our ego to think that we are the center and then Copernicus and Galileo recognize that based on the data that they had, that the most likely the earth moves around the sun and philosophy. Basically refuse to look through Galileo’s telescope and put him in house arrest.

But that didn’t change the fact that we are not at the center and we move around the sun and the when my daughters were young, they tended to think that they are the smartest. And when we took them to the kindergarten, that was a psychological shock for them to see other kids that might be smarter than they are.

And for our civilization to mature, we need to meet others, but if we keep our windows closed and the curtains closed we cannot. We are the smallest. We can argue that we don’t have neighbors. And we can argue that we need extraordinary evidence before we even need to discuss this subject, which is pretty much what my colleagues are doing.

They’re saying, give me extroardinary evidence. Otherwise I would not. I would ridicule this possibility. Of course we can do that, but and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because if you’re not looking through the window, if you’re not investing funds in the search at the level of the funds that are being used to search for dark matter, for example hundreds of millions of dollars, if we don’t do that, then you will not find extraordinary evidence.

It’s pretty much very comfortable to sit in a position where you say the evidence is not sufficient, but I don’t want it. Any funds in that direction. And that’s pretty much what happens. And in this way, we can maintain the illusion that we are the smartest, that we are really special, unique, and privileged, which is a comfortable position to be in.

And then the reason. In taking a different position, of course. And most of the people in academia prefer to not take risks, rather improve their image so that they can get Honduras and awards. And then that pretty much dictates the culture in academia Right.

now, which I would say. Is actually less risk-taking than the private sector, which is surprising.

Companies that are willing to consider blue sky ideas much more than you see the same thing in academia, which is supposed to be blue sky. The tenure system in academia is supposed to give you job security so you can take risks. Yeah. But, and that’s pretty much what I do. 

Evin Weiss: Oh, that’s great. Now with the recent releases from the Pentagon with with the UAV footage and the like, as as a theoretical physicist, as a astrophysicist, as a cosmologist, What does your mind see when it sees this footage? Is it yay? It’s something from another planet or nay. It must, it could be something that’s human of human origin.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. The most important statement in the report is that some of the objects are real because they were detected by multiple instruments, radar systems, infrared sensors, optical camera. Multiple people seeing the same thing, doing the same thing. And that’s an extremely important statement. It’s not a smudge on the camera.

It’s not a malfunction of an instrument, one single instrument. It’s not illusions by some pilot. And so if you accept that, and if you also recognize that the intelligence agencies would have known if it belongs to the Russians or the Chinese, because it would have reflected some technologies, three are familiar with.

Oh, then the fact that they come out with this report that says, we don’t know the nature of these objects, and some of them are real. It’s quite significant because at this point, what I would say is that it’s intriguing enough for the subject to move away from the talking points of politicians and national security advisors and military personnel into the realm of science.

And you don’t expect the plumber to bake your cakes, right? So you don’t. Officials in Washington, DC politicians to explain to you what in the sky. That’s the job of scientists and these people were not trained as scientists. I’m currently raising funds from the private sector to initiate scientific research into this question so that we can address.

The nature of these objects, because the public cares about it. And if it’s not other nations spying on us, which is unlikely to be the case as according to the nature of the reports then it could be one of two things. It could be some natural phenomenon, the atmosphere that we haven’t had dissipation or.

It could be extraterrestrial technology that we also didn’t anticipate. And either way we will learn something new. So it’s exciting. And I see anomalies things that do not line up with what we expected. It’s an opportunity to learn something new about the reality. Many of my colleagues see it as a threat because they prefer to believe that we already know it.

And then my view is pretty much that of a kid kids learn about the world. They don’t have a prejudice, they just experiment try to find more about every object. And that’s why they get bruised. Sometimes they make mistakes but it’s part of the learning experience. And I pretty much maintain my childhood curiosity.

That’s the privilege of being a scientist is that you. You don’t need to pretend that the answers, you are not a politician as a scientist, you are, you’re not supposed to pretend to portray an image as if you know everything as if you are superior. That more than the public knows.

That’s not really the purpose of science, the purpose of sizes. In order to collect evidence and let’s figure out what things are and if we make mistakes, if we think something is behaving that way, but it turns out to be different. So be it, but let’s find let’s get more evidence so we can clear up the fog.

And on the case, on the subject of UAP, unidentified, aerial phenomena, we just need better quality scientific evidence data that I think we can. 

Evin Weiss: And what do you say to those who say, why are these detected around military facilities and structures? Is that a clue about it? About their origin point.

Avi Loeb: No, I would say it’s also possible that we have more patrols in those regions. So it’s not clear to me whether that’s just the selection effect. And one way to find out is to put a telescope on a desert die. And monitor the sky there. 

Evin Weiss: that’s a good point. Now, do you think there’s a correlation or a communication between these UA fees? And muah, some sort of communication network going on.

Avi Loeb: It’s possible that the reason that the more and more was a flat structure size of a football field that was tumbling is that it was collected. Data from probes that were sprinkled on planets in the inner solar system a long time ago. It’s possible. We should not dismiss that. But my point is we should look for more.

Objects like and take a close-up photograph of them in the future, or take a lot, a high resolution photograph of a UAP and an object that was unidentified before or new objects that resembled those objects that were not identified. And once we have a high resolution image, like a mega pixel.

Image we could resolve the label on the object and see whether it says made in a country saw and saw on earth or made on planet X. That will tell us the origin of this. And we can get such an image. It’s just a matter of using telescopes for that part. 

Evin Weiss: Okay. And tell me about your latest book called extra terrestrial. What inspired you to write it? And can you tell me.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. So what inspired me originally was more and more, and I tell the story of a more in the book which together with my proposal that it may be may have been an artificial. Object. And also the response of the scientific community to that intertwine with my personal history. Affected the way I behaved under these circumstances.

I’ve been serving for nine years as the chair of the astronomy department at Harvard while this was happening. And then moreover, I would say one thing. This book of course got the attention of the public and the media. I had about a thousand interviews about it over the past six months, which is basically back to back every day from 8:00 AM, till 7:00 PM for six months.

And that was possible only because of the pandemic the book. Became seller in many countries, including the New York times and here in the U S and then was translated to 25 languages worldwide 28th edition. So far it’s only half a year after it came out. And then there were about 25 film makers and producers that contacted me.

about using the book for a script.

And I should say. I wouldn’t write the book if we had an image of a more and more that could tell us whether it’s an artificial object or Iraq. So they say usually a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, a picture is worth 66,000 words. The number of words. 

Evin Weiss: Now after I move more left the solar system, where were you able to, how far were we able to track it to.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. So it was visible to us. You have to understand that it gets faint. It gets fainter and fainter as it moves away from the sun inversely with the distance to the fourth power, which makes it practically invisible beyond the, a few months after it was detected, it was already moving away from us.

So now it’s a million times fainter than it was close to the sun. So we can’t see it and we cannot chase it because it moves faster than. Chemical rockets. But what we need to do is search for more of the same. And then there is a telescope that would survey the sky in a couple of years called the Vera Rubin observatory in Chile.

And it will have much greater sensitivity than Pan-STARRS the telescoping now, Hawaii, that detected or more, more so potentially it could discover an object like it every. Potentially, and just because it’s much more sensitive. And my point is, if we find another weird object that doesn’t behave like a comment or an astroid that is getting pushed by reflecting sunlight then we might as well, and we see it a year before it approaches us.

Way towards us. We could send a spacecraft that will intersect it’s a trajectory and take a close up photograph of it, just like those Cyrus wrecks. A close up photo of the asteroid Benu and actually landed on it and brought the sample that it will deliver to earth in 2023 in much of the same way.

If we land on an artificial object we could potentially import the technology to earth. And if it represents our future, like something that we, it would take us a thousand years or a million years to develop ourselves I’m sure there will be a lot of entrepreneurs in Silicon valley that.

Change their focus to, to, to this technology 

Evin Weiss: now if muah, muah is what you, you think it is. Do you think it’s been happening for many thousands of years, this kind of interstellar these places.

Avi Loeb: Oh,

yeah, because it more and more itself th the speed that it was moving would take 10,000 years to cross the entire solar system. Obviously we were not interesting 10,000 years ago. Just think where we were back then. We were almost indistinguishable from animals. But on the other hand, there was this habitable place. Close to the sun the earth that had a lot of greenery from a distance. You could tell that it can horrible. It may, it’s probably horrible life. And there are many planets. In the solar system in the Milky way, galaxy tens of billions of them based on the fact that we now realize that a quarter to half of all the sunlight stars have a planet, the size of the earth, roughly at the same time.

so you could imagine, eh most of the stars form billions of years before the sun, and you can imagine if a civilization like ours existed, let’s say a billion years ago, then they decided. To send out probes that can, that are equipped with artificial intelligence and 3d printers that can replicate themselves once they land on a planet.

And you can imagine that going to all those habitable planets and being there for the past billion years, because it takes much less than a billion years to traverse the Galaxian and move around and fill up all the. Things. And and you can think of AI systems. Equipment, not biological creatures necessarily doing that because we are not suited for interstellar travel.

We selection of creatures like us did not prepare us for space travel. We live for a hundred years, maybe at best, and it takes light four years to reach the nearest star. It takes. Tens of thousands of years to cross the galaxy. And there are very hazardous conditions out there in space.

You are exposed to cosmic rays, and most of us would not survive one. Out there. And so my point is we’re not suited for space travel, but the equipment is, and you can imagine equipment that will travel for a billion years. If it has intelligence like artificial systems, artificial intelligence systems have then that equipment will make its own decisions.

Autonomously. It doesn’t need to con to communicate with us. You can think of AI system. Babies that you can create and then they will have their own life. So you can give them your blueprint of guiding principles and guidance as to how they should what should be the principles by which they’re guided and just send them to the world and let them adapt to circumstances.

Let them make their own decisions and machine learning and so forth can allow them to do that. Just like a human. You raise them and then you send them into reality and that, that may have happened. 

Evin Weiss: Yeah. I When I see that, when I think of the LightSail, I think it’d be an interesting kind of thing to to replicate all you would really need other than the sensor that would so when the sun hits this paper-like structure that the sun itself like the photons from the sun itself push the sale.

Avi Loeb: Yeah, it’s just it can imagine playing tennis and when the ball hits your racket, it gives it a push. 

Evin Weiss: I see. Okay.

Avi Loeb: much the same way when a photon, which is a particle of light hits the surface of this sail. It gives it a push as it bounces back. But as I said before, it doesn’t need to be a city.

It just needs to be a thin object, thin structure. It could be used for communication just to collect 

Evin Weiss: And I’m assuming that it also have to have some sort of a accelerometer or a gyroscope of magnetometer to get some sort of direction.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah. The key here is it’s a fishing expedition and we don’t know what kind of fish we will find them. I think the key is to be open-minded and just use evidence to guide us. And that’s the key, getting more data. And the worst we can do is to say business as usual, forget about it. 

Evin Weiss: Yeah. It’s funny. I don’t know if Seth Shaw. At the set at the Sandy center. Yeah. I interviewed him and we’re talking about, it’d be a really great idea for us to send probes up to Mars and send the 3d printers and have the 3d printers creates structures like self-sustaining structures and things like that.

And he, poo-pooed the whole idea. He’s like, why would we do that? We would never, and I, it reminds me of what you said earlier with, in academia where there’s this close minded view of a lot of this kind of.

Avi Loeb: Yeah, fortunately the reason I seek intelligence from space is I don’t find it often here on earth. If another civilization were to look at us we are wasting a lot of resources and fight each other, trying to feel superior relative to each other. And I define intelligence as a culture that adopts the principles of science which are cooperation and sharing of evidence-based knowledge.

And there are two key ingredients here. A corporation. And the second is evidence-based. And what Schostak is doing is basically saying, oh, there is not point in doing this, searching for that. That is not evidence-based knowledge. And my point.

is, if we can imagine sending to other places, why would we assume that others like us didn’t do it already.


Evin Weiss: my point.

Avi Loeb: Oh, yeah. So we should be completely open-minded and the strange thing the amazing thing you talk to people that are so that’s their job, right? He is in the city. 

Evin Weiss: I know that’s why I asked him that

Avi Loeb: Yeah. But I find that remarkable, because he was supposed to advocate for anything related to that. But instead, what he’s trying to do is protect the mainstream. Approach saying, let’s be careful. Let’s not think too in directions that are too risky. And I think that’s part of this mentality where the subject is being ridiculed and he’s worried about how he will be perceived.

For me I’m acting just like basketball players are supposed to act where they have to keep their eyes on the ball and not on the audience, but unfortunately, most scientists and including Seth and he keeps his eyes on the audience. He just wants many likes on Twitter and a lot of these people.

And I hope to change this culture and I can guarantee to you that what will happen is I, if I get this research initiative funded and then it becomes a main stream activity because a lot of people are interested in that there is money coming from the private sector. More money is infused into science.

That is exciting. So young people get into it. Then at some point, everyone would say, oh, of course this was a subject that everyone cared about for many years. And in fact, I advocated for that in the sixties Schostak would say, and it’s nothing new. And then he would say, I said it before, and I argued for that.

And that is, that was so my point is. When you look at the audience and not on the ball, you can always claim that you actually did not suppress the study. But I think by now we have everything documented. So any historian that would like to go back and see what happened before it became a mainstream would be able to. 

Evin Weiss: And as they say, you cannot really arrive at truth with popular appeal. And like you said to where only when it’s safe to, to to embrace an idea then people clamor around to be part of it. Like you said, that they’re only interested in likes and popularity and all that.

Avi Loeb: I have another aspect of it that.

I think should be emphasized. And that is if you just seek extraordinary evidence, but you are not willing to fund the search then of course at some point, even if you close the curtains on your windows, at some point, there might be a knock on the door and your neighbor will show up. But at that point, it would be too late for you to act responsibly because the only way you can behave in a way that reflects reality is if you have an advanced awareness of it. And I think it’s always good to know your environment, to know if you have neighbors to collect data and why would anyone invest hundreds of millions of dollars in searching for the nature of dark matter?

And not invest a thousand times less money in the search for extraterrestrials that are just like us. Why would that be the case? It makes no sense whatsoever. I think it has a potential for impacting society that is far greater and by the way, the public cares about it. Just put these two together and you will get more funding for science.

Evin Weiss: This is a great subject here, which is when and where and why the scientific culture changed from being an open-minded one to a close minded. What, w what’s your thesis?

Avi Loeb: I think it stems from the fact that. Scientists are often reward. It became a closed bubble where scientists reward each other for showing that they’re smart rather than for focusing on evidence. And you, the proof is that you have a whole culture of theoretical physics centered about extra dimensions, the multiverse.

Ideas that cannot be tested experimentally string theory, and these are celebrated. So this is, these are considered this mainstream and people are getting prizes, awards Harari society’s membership based on the fact that they do intellectual or mathematical gymnastics and demonstrate that they’re smart.

And the question of whether there is any evidence. Empirically by experimental for what they’re talking about is irrelevant in that culture. And it’s a good place to be in because you cannot be proven wrong by experiments and therefore you’re safe. It’s just it’s a sandbox where you can demonstrate how smart you are.

And if that’s the objective showing that you are smart, then it’s perfectly legitimate to adapt that we embrace that. And at the same time to say, Oh, more and more. I must be a rock because that’s all eh that’s also a very good statement in the sense that you don’t take any risks and you basically ridicule any other possibility and you maintain business as usual, you continue to justify whatever everyone else is thinking.

And therefore people like you on Twitter and everywhere else. So I’m saying that Yeah.

the culture of the Smith not paying it attention to anomalous evidence and the culture. Not even asking for evidence, but going in directions that cannot be tested. Those two can live quite exist. They support each other.

And the common denominator is evidence is not really important. What is what’s important is that we show that we are smart. 

Evin Weiss: I’m guessing you’re not big. You’re not a big fan of string theory, but This kind of reminds me of, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Russian mathematician. Grigori. 

Avi Loeb: Yes. 

Evin Weiss: W where it’s the same thing where it kind of highlights how the mathematics academic community is not interested in, in, in solving like real important problems in mathematics.

For example, he solved a conjecture and they wanted to award them like a million dollars or something like that. And there was a Sarah. Yeah, there’s a ceremony. And he didn’t attend as a protest against exactly. What you’re talking.

Avi Loeb: Yes. I agree. That’s the reality of the situation. What you hear from me is not, it’s not the hallucinations I was pretty much I served in many leadership positions and at some point when my parents passed away a few years ago, I decided we lived for such a short time.

Why pretend, why play these games? Which make little sense. And then I I’m obviously carrying the consequences of that. And early in my life I was, I served in the military and and when I wasn’t in in paratrooper training, I remember the saying, sometimes the soldier needs to put his body on the barbed wire so that other can pass through.

And that’s pretty much what is happening to me because I get a lot of. I feel the pain from people attacking me personally, just because I express a different view. It’s just like in the kindergarten that there is a kid that looks different and then everyone else is bullying or ridiculing that kid.

And then I think it should have been exactly the other way around th the science community should have celebrated the situation where the re something, a normal loose people should have been excited and would. Said, wow. There is something that we didn’t expect. Let’s collect more data.

Let’s find out what this thing is. That’s part of the excitement of exploring the world, instead of saying, forget about it It doesn’t it must be a rock and ridiculing anyone suggesting something else. I find that really strange.

Evin Weiss: it is strange when I do read articles of a Momoa, the depiction or the illustration is always a rock, which I found interesting.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. It’s not just that, but then some people took seriously the anomalies and they came up with explanations that are natural origin that the rest of the community said, yes, it must be that. But all of these suggestions. Invoked something that we’ve never seen before, like a hydrogen iceberg or a nitrogen iceberg, or a dust Bonnie, a collection of that spot, the loosely bomb.

We’ve never seen anything like it. There are issues with each and every of these explanations. Papers on why these explanations, eh, cannot work. But irrespective I say if it’s something that we’ve never seen before, let’s collect more data, let’s find more evidence. But instead what you find is first of all, there was a review paper in nature written by a lot of people that worked on rocks in the solar system, basically saying, oh, it must be natural.

There is nothing to worry about business as usual, that’s it? So they said, And then you see a group of scientists saying, oh no, actually, maybe it’s a hydrogen iceberg, something we’ve never seen before. And therefore, quite interesting. And then you see another group saying, oh, maybe it’s a nitrogen iceberg.

Then you see a third group saying maybe it’s a collection of dust particles a hundred times less dense than air. And I say to myself, If it was obvious to the regional team, that it must be natural. How come those other scientists, why did they have to write papers that took them months to write, trying to explain that normally this way or another way that in the form of something we’ve never seen before.

So this. Hoard water. It’s not consistent to own the one hand claim. It must be a rock and natural and nothing special about it. And at the same time, other scientists saying no, it must be something exotic, still natural. That it doesn’t make sense. It reminds me of when in the 1930s, there was a group of scientists, a hundred scientists that decided to write a book against Einstein’s theory of relativity.

And they, it was titled 106. Against relativity or something like that. And Einstein was asked about it and he said if there is something wrong with my theory, it’s sufficient to have one scientist. Explain it. 

Evin Weiss: I go it goes back to the whole popularity thing. If you have a hundred scientists, then it must be true.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. And it’s not about that. It’s about evidence. Science is about evidence and not about because in the days of Galileo, everyone agreed that the sun moves around the earth. You look at the sky, you see the sun moving, what else could be more obvious? Obviously the sun moves around the earth and that’s straws on when you are sitting in a train you see everything moving past.

And you say, okay, I’m not moving. Everything is moving past me. That’s a natural thing to think, but the reality is we see the sun moving because we are moving. And that is something that took a while for people to recognize. And the fact that the majority voted in favor of us being at the center of the universe, it would mean that if there was social media back then Galileo would have been canceled.

Not only not only putting house arrest, but people would constantly say, forget about ridiculed him and say, that’s really ridiculous. How can he dare to claim that we are not at the center of the world? We know it since Aristotle for a thousand years, how dare he say that? And so popularity has nothing to do with the reality we live in.

We now know we sent we sent the satellites, we sent the space. We can see the earth. We can see the sun and we see that the earth moves around the sun. It’s obvious there is no dispute about it now, but just think what people thought thousands of years ago and to them, it was obvious exactly the rivers.

So then you ask yourself, is science based on popularity? Is reality really reflecting what most people think? No, obviously not. If you don’t look through the windows, you will think that you don’t have neighbors. 

Evin Weiss: And Albert Einstein can’t be spared from thinking about spooky action at a distance, which was a quantum entanglement.

Avi Loeb: Yeah.

no. In the last decade of his career, he made three wrong statements, three mistakes. One was that black holes don’t exist. The other one that gravitational waves do not. And the third one was that quantum mechanics doesn’t have what he called spooky action at a distance. And he was wrong on all three which is to show that if you’re dealing with reality, if you are making statements about something that can be tested experimentally, you might be wrong.

That’s part of the learning experience. But the way to avoid that of course is not to make statements that can be tested. But as far as I’m concerned, that’s very similar to what Bernie made. Thought Bernie made have told people, just give me your money and I will make more of it irrespective of what the stock market does.

And that was a beautiful thought. It was so beautiful that people gave him their money. It was, they were happy to give him their money. He was happy that they gave him the money. Everyone was happy. So if you were to ask at that point, what is the popular idea? You would say Bernie made of Sadia is popular because it makes the people happy.

The people that gave him the money happy and he made it, makes him happy. Everyone is happy. So based on popularity, this idea wins. When was this idea abandoned? When people asked for their money back they told him, okay, now give us the money back. And he couldn’t do that. Couldn’t deliver. That was an experiment, a reality.

And then he was put in jail, that’s called the Ponzi scheme. So how do you tell if an idea that everyone likes that is beautiful, whether that idea is a Ponzi scheme or it describes reality? The only way to tell is to do the experiment. And that’s a key facet of scientific inquiry. You can’t rely on popularity.

You can’t rely on what most people like.

Evin Weiss: or emotion.

Avi Loeb: Or emotion.

you have to rely on evidence, which is based on what instruments collect and that’s my point. And how can that not be accepted? How can people say, we know the answer in advance. We don’t need the evidence. Obviously it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, just like the philosophers.

During the days of gorilla, they didn’t look for his telescope and they were convinced that room. 

Evin Weiss: Yeah and it’s such a, it’s so disappointing that it’s very prevalent. In the scientific community and other academic sectors. Now, if extraterrestrials are real and these probes are real and it seems like they could be, do you think it’s a good idea to communicate with them? And do you think there’ll be, they would see us as prey.

Avi Loeb: No, I do think that most likely we will meet, we will have contact with equipment. And most likely that equipment will be autonomous. It’s not, it doesn’t have time to communicate with whoever sent it. And if I were to think. The most likely situation, it would be an artificial intelligence system that could be smart and they learn and make decisions on its own just like humans do.

And then you ask yourself, okay, how can we interpret that? We will have to rely on our artificial intelligence systems, our computers, and in order to figure out what they are doing it’s relying on your kids. To tell you what on the internet, because the kid has better computer skills and we will have to rely on our computer computers.

And in a way it’s a race between artificial intelligence systems. We will be spectators in that. And that’s the question of what the intent. Of those systems is, will have to be figured out again by evidence. We will have to see what kind of data they are seeking those systems. How do they respond to what we’re doing? And then we can try to engage with them. And I think it’s a whole fascinating. Frontier for us to think about once we are sure that they are near us and for that to happen, we need to collect more evidence about the UAP about objects, like more and more. And that’s what I plan to do. 

Evin Weiss: And hopefully we can all get smarter about evidence and not emotion and popularity contest to be able to really take this information in and benefit humanity.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. and I should say that if anyone listening is interested in contributing to the project that I’m working on they’re welcome to contact me. I already received some significant funding. From a wealthy individuals. And then of course the scope of the research will very much depend on the total level of funding.

We can do much or the more we get.

Evin Weiss: and where can people go to get information on that? Do you have a way.

Avi Loeb: Yeah. They can go to my website at Harvard it’s if you put it on Google Avi, L E B, I have a professional website where a lot of money. Weekly essays in scientific America and our feature then also the project itself will be announced within by the end of July. So then there would be opportunities to read more about it. 

Evin Weiss: okay, Avi. One last thing I want to ask you is tell me a personal story about you. Something that you find interesting that you want.

Avi Loeb: Oh I guess the first day in school which is mentioned in my book when I came to the classroom on my first day in school at age seven or so I saw the kids jumping up and down on their desks. I just got into the classroom and I saw kids jumping up and down. Yeah. I was trying to figure out why would they do that?

Does it make any sense? So it took me A few minutes to try and figure this out. And in the meantime, the teacher entered the room. And so the teacher saw the other kids jumping up and down on the desks. And she saw me looking at them and behaving quite respectfully. And so she said to all the kids, why don’t you behave?

Just he’s so well behaved. And I thought to myself, I wanted to correct her. I wanted to tell her I’m not well behaved. I’m just trying to figure out if it makes sense to jump up and down on the desk. That’s all. And that pretty much reflects my career in science. True scientist.


I’m not doing what others are doing just because they’re doing it just as I can be liked by them. I’m just trying to do what makes them. Yeah. 

Evin Weiss: That, that is a great story. And actually emblematic of the topic we’re talking to now, are there any other subject matters? You want to talk about that? I might’ve not touched on

Avi Loeb: no, I think we covered pretty much everything. 

Evin Weiss: and okay. That’s pretty much it. One second here. It’s going to be edited by the way. Thank you Avi, for being on the show. Really appreciate it. 

Avi Loeb: It was a great pleasure, Evin. Thank you.

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Discussion with Harvard Astronomer Avi Loeb

Evin Weiss: Avi, welcome to the show. How are you?  Avi Loeb: Thanks for having me. I’m great.  Evin Weiss: Awesome. And what part of the country are you living in or do you operate from? Avi Loeb: Boston. And since the pandemic I’ve been

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