• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

What a Scientist Claims to Discover ‘Alien Life’ and Why His Peers Are Upset | News explained

What a Scientist Claims to Discover ‘Alien Life’ and Why His Peers Are Upset |  News explained

On January 8, 2014, a fireball from space burst through Earth’s atmosphere and landed in the sea north of Manus Island off the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea. Its location, speed, and brightness were recorded by US government sensors and quietly entered into a database of similar events.

That data persisted for five years and was undisputed until theoretical astronomer Avi Loeb. Harvard UniversityThen Amir Siraj, a graduate student at the university, stumbled upon it in 2019.

Last month, Loeb led an expedition to recover fireball fragments off the western Pacific coast. He claimed on June 21 that there was. Such discoveries, he says, may be the way scientists find evidence, to the chagrin of many of his colleagues. Alien life.

“They’re not biological creatures like you see in science fiction movies,” Loeb said. “It’s almost a technological gadget with artificial intelligence.”

However, many astronomers see the announcement as the latest example of Loeb making an outlandish announcement too forcefully and too hastily. His announcements (and a promotional video in Times Square about the search for extraterrestrial life) distort public understanding of how science actually works, they say.

“People hear about Avi Loeb’s wild claims,” ​​said Steve Desch, an astronomer at Arizona State University. “It’s polluting good science — mixing the good science we’re doing with this ridiculous interactivity and sucking all the oxygen out of the room.”

Desch added that many of his colleagues now refuse to engage in Loeb’s peer review, the process by which scholars evaluate each other’s research to ensure that only high-quality studies are published. “This is a real breakdown of the peer review process and the scientific method,” he said. “It’s very frustrating and tiring.”

Loeb was a powerhouse of a cosmologist for most of his career, publishing hundreds of papers on black holes, dark matter, the first stars, and the fate of our universe. But since the interstellar object Oumuamua zoomed past our planet in 2017, he has been fascinated by the search for aliens. While scientists debated whether the visitor was an asteroid or a comet from another star system, Loeb argued that it could be an artifact of intelligent life.

Loeb began studying the fireball catalog at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies NASA. That led to the discovery of the object in 2014. Based on its direction and speed of impact — 28 miles per second — Loeb and Siraj concluded that something gravitationally bound to our Sun was moving too fast for a fireball. That means, like Aumuamu’a, it must have been interstellar.

In 2019, she wrote a paper on the discovery. It was initially rejected by The Astrophysical Journal, but the same journal accepted it for publication in November, and a few months later, the US Space Command announced in a memo circulated on Twitter that measurements of the fireball’s velocity were sufficient to infer an interstellar origin.

That appeal to power isn’t enough, said Peter Brown, a meteorologist at Western University in Ontario. Not sure how accurate that is US Department of Defense Data affects the probability that the object came from beyond.

“We know from experience running ground-based radar and optical networks that a large percentage of all events you detect appear to be interstellar,” Brown said. To this day, he continued, almost all incidents can be chalked up to measurement error.

Brown and others were troubled by Lobb’s lack of engagement with the community of experts studying fast-flying fireballs.

Loeb’s recent Sea expedition The rescue of the suspected meteorite remains was funded by $1.5 million from cryptocurrency entrepreneur Charles Hoskinson and organized by EYOS Expeditions. The trip followed the expected path of the 2014 fireball about 60 nautical miles north of Manus Island. A group of scientists, engineers, sailors, a film crew and Hoskinson accompanied Loeb. He chronicled the journey and its aftermath in a 42-part (and counting) series of self-published blog posts.

For two weeks, the science team towed a custom-built sled equipped with magnets, cameras and lights through the seabed, retrieving it at regular intervals to search for metal bits of the 2014 Fireball stuck to its surface. In the end, they recovered shiny pearls less than a millimeter in diameter. Preliminary analysis carried out on board revealed that these spheres were made mostly of iron, with small amounts of other metals.

It’s not commonly found in the waters around Manus Island, said Maurice Tivy, a marine geophysicist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who was not involved in the expedition but once used underwater robots to map the area under the sea. Instead, sediments and volcanic ash are abundant — material that doesn’t move much once it settles on the ocean floor.

That, combined with the rounded shape of the recovered fragments – suggesting they were once aerodynamic – seemed crucial to the TV. “So I think he found parts of it,” he said.

Doubts about the effort flared up at the recent Asteroid, Comet and Meteor Conference held while the deep-sea expedition was under way. There, Desch argued, if the fireball had moved as fast as reported, there would have been nothing to find — the meteor would have completely burned up in the atmosphere. Even in the most generous scenario, he said, only a milligram of the material would survive and spread over tens of square kilometers of the ocean floor.

Brown presented a recent analysis at the conference using data from a set of instruments to cross-check measurements of 17 objects listed in the same NASA Fireball catalog used by Loeb and Siraj. His results, which have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, indicate that catalog data often get directions and velocities wrong, and that the size of the velocity measurement error increases for faster objects.

Those errors are large enough to shift 2014 Fireball from an unbound orbit to a bound one, Brown explained — meaning it won’t be interstellar. If the object was actually traveling at 12.5 miles per second on impact, he found that its reported brightness, density and air drag better fit theoretical models of meteors.

Based on that, Brown concluded that the fireball was likely to impact at low speeds. “If the speed was overestimated, the object would be more or less in the field we see, relative to other objects in the solar system,” he said.

Loeb disagreed with that push.

“When I studied as a physicist, I was told when you have a model that doesn’t fit the data, that means you have to revise your model,” he said, referring to measurements in the NASA catalog.

Unlike many of his colleagues, he believes that US military sensors are reliable, even if he does not have access to their raw readings. Lob said that they are responsible for national security. “I think they know what they’re doing.” The fact that he and his team found fragments of the 2014 meteor where those measurements indicate gives him even more confidence.

The government is unlikely to explain how accurate the data from those devices is. So Loeb is banking on another kind of proof: He sent the spherules to labs at Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Germany’s Bruker Corporation. Spheres older than our solar system or with a specific isotopic signature must be interstellar.

At Berkeley, Loeb conducted some of the first tests himself. Early tests revealed the presence of uranium and lead, whose abundance can be used to estimate the age of the material. Two spheres found in the expected path of the fireball appear to be as old as the universe itself, Loeb claims.

That contrasts with a sphere recovered from the path of a fireball, and the lobe is expected to be either of geological origin or another meteorite. He estimated that this sphere, comparable to our solar system, is a few billion years old.

Even if the fireballs actually came from another cosmic neighborhood, more evidence is needed that these balls are related to extraterrestrials.

“He could be wrong,” said Rob McCallum, co-founder of EYOS Expeditions and primary organizer of the recent expedition, “but we won’t know unless we look.”

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