The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space. —Carl Sagan
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My friend believes extraterrestrial life is out there. I’m skeptical but I’m not a denier. I’m agnostic.
Probably is, given the population of our Milky Way—300 billion stars and at least that many planets—not to mention a trillion galaxies beyond this one, each with a trillion stars and a trillion planets. There are a zillion possibilities.
My friend believes extraterrestrial life is out there.
Avil Loeb does too. Loeb, the longest-serving chair of Harvard’s department of astronomy, thinks there’s hard evidence for his belief.
On October 19, 2017, astronomers at the University of Hawaii spotted a bright speck tumbling away from Earth and eerily veering away from the sun. The object was named ‘Oumuamua and classified as an interstellar asteroid.
Loeb disagreed with that classification. To him it did not look or act like an asteroid or a comet. He surmised it was a “light sail” launched by a technologically sophisticated civilization somewhere, somehow, some time ago. He makes his case in Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.
“It would be arrogant to think we are alone,” he told a reporter.
Loeb became a media sensation even though most in the scientific community consider his theory kooky. Still, he presses on because that’s what real scientists do, he says. (Think Galileo.)
Loeb grew up on a farm in Israel. He read Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. He dreamed of becoming a philosopher. He joined the army, enrolled in the advanced weapons program, and worked on laser technology. He became a physicist and wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled: “Particle Acceleration to High Energies and Amplification of Coherent Radiation by Electromagnet Interactions in Plasmas.” (I haven’t read it.)
Loeb discovered a lot. But one question keeps nagging him:
Are we alone?
If we discover other intelligent beings out there, we will be humbled, he thinks.
Which got me thinking.
Aren’t there plenty of other reasons to be humble?
Earth is a grain of sand in the cosmic sea. It took 4.5 billion years for humans to stand up on the planet. Millions of other animals arrived long before us. Without bees and trees we’d be dead.
We do not stand alone.
We cannot stand alone.
We are not alone.
See Paula’s photo “Lenten Rose” on the home page. Posted March 21