Interstellar with Dr. Avi Loeb
We’re pleased and honored to present a special guest for this episode, Dr. Abraham “Avi” Loeb. Dr. Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University and received his Ph.D. in Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel at the age of 24. He has written nine books and nearly 1000 papers, led the first international project supported by the Strategic Defense Initiative, and served as a long-standing member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, among many other achievements. Although his work with the Breakthrough Starshot project to send “light sails” speeding toward nearby stars may have initially gained him the most notoriety in science news, his study and theory of a recent anomalous visitor put him on the radar of the general public. In October 2017, a Hawaiian observatory detected the first interstellar object to pass through our solar system, which was subsequently named Oumuamua, meaning “scout” in the Hawaiian language. That fact alone may have registered a blip of mild interest to most. Yet the first artists’ conceptions of the object as a cigar-shaped asteroid put further curiosity of the masses to rest as it being, albeit odd, just another space rock. However, analysis of sensor data of Oumuamua, with no visual inspection obtained during its visit, led Dr. Loeb and his team to conclude that it was nothing like it was portrayed to the public. Instead, their research showed it was roughly the size of a football field, reflective, spinning, thin as a sheet of paper, and moving unusually. Dr. Loeb hypothesized that Oumuamua could likely be a probe, perhaps manufactured by an ancient alien civilization to gather information as star systems pass by. Not surprisingly, many of his peers met this open-minded thinking with dismissive resistance, hesitant or unwilling to entertain such bold and adventurous speculation. Join us for a fascinating discussion with one of the world’s leading astrophysicists on the challenges of searching for extraterrestrial life on the eve of his appearance at the upcoming annual Contact in the Desert conference taking place June 2 through 4, 2023, in Indian Wells, California.
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