Vibrations from the “interstellar meteor” are actually from a local truck; Or validation from the world of celebrities

On January 8, 2014, an extremely bright meteorite fell from space to Earth, flying into small pieces over the ocean near Papua New Guinea. US government sensors that track bright meteors called fireballs recorded this fireball's astonishing speed, about 28 miles per second. NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies recorded this fireball, called CNEOS 01-08-2014, in its catalog of fireballs, where it would be discovered five years later by Avi Loeb, an Israeli-American astrophysicist at Harvard University. And Amir Siraj. Then, a college student at the university. Loeb foundations Galileo Project, a research program that seeks to bring the search for extraterrestrial technology into mainstream science, was searching for objects with unusual speed, which it believed could be a sign of interstellar origin. As Loeb saw, CNEOS 01-08-2014 was moving too fast for something bound by our Sun's gravity, and instead must have originated outside our solar system. Loeb even speculated that the object might be an alien spacecraft.

Loeb and Siraj's first attempt in 2019 to publish this paper in Astrophysical Journal It ended up being rejected, with reviewers pointing out that the military data cited by the authors, which relied on ambiguous readings to protect military secrets, was insufficient to prove an interstellar origin. In 2022, the journal retracted its paper and published it, a few months after the US Space Command, a section of the government aimed at exerting American pressure on the United States. Tactical dominance in spacewhatever that means – posted a note on Twitter making sure That military data was already enough to indicate an interstellar origin. NASA scientists remained Unconvinced. The brave Loeb launched a $1.5 million expedition to dredge the ocean floor in search of meteorite fragments. He found them, or at least found about 850 microscopic metal dots called globules. The composition of about a quarter of these globules indicates that they came from igneous rocks, meaning they were previously molten. “Its chemical composition is unlike any known material in the solar system,” Loeb and his colleagues wrote in a recent article. Preprint.

How was Loeb able to identify the stretch of ocean into which microscopic fragments of a previous fireball may have sunk five years earlier? His team targeted a seven-mile area in the Pacific Ocean based on obscured sensor data from US military satellites, which was publicly released through CNEOS, as well as Data from seismometer From Manus Island, located near where the meteorite fell. All of this would be very interesting if it were true.

On March 12 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, several scientists presented early evidence that directly refuted Loeb's claims. nature mentioned. One argument, directed at globules, comes from Steve Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University. in PreprintDesch argued that the chemical composition of the blobs suggested they were microtektites — pieces of molten rock from Earth — from an asteroid that struck Earth 788,000 years ago. In other words, homemade pellets. Not all scholars are convinced by Desch's counterargument, nature mentioned.

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The second refutation, which is the most entertaining, is directed at the seismic data that Loeb examined to arrive at the meteorite's landing site. When Benjamin Fernando, a planetary seismologist at Johns Hopkins University, examined ground vibrations recorded at a seismic station on Manus Island, he found no evidence of seismic waves from the meteorite. Instead, Fernando noted that the signal Loeb reported “changed directions over time, and exactly matches the path that passes through the seismometer.” press releaseWhich suggests that the “alien sound” was actually a heavy truck driving to and from the hospital. “It's really hard to pick up a signal and be sure it's not from something. But what we can do is show that there are a lot of signals like this, and show that they have all the characteristics we would expect from a truck and none of those characteristics.” “The properties we would expect from a meteorite.”

If the meteor sound was just a truck, what did the actual meteor sound like? in PreprintFernando's team examined data from stations in Australia and Palau equipped with sensors to detect sound waves released by nuclear testing, and found waves that sounded like a meteor striking the atmosphere — more than 100 miles away from where Loeb examined. “The location of the fireball was very far from where the oceanographic expedition went to recover these meteorite fragments,” Fernando said. “Not only were they using the wrong signal, they were looking in the wrong place.”

Avi Loeb is among the many statues of Avi Loeb.Anibal Martel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Loeb is an avid blogger. He's already taken to his bully pulpit — his Medium blog — for refute The Truck Hypothesis This week he has posted five blog posts in which he often attacks unintelligent journalists who question his claims, repeatedly compares himself to Galileo — the famous astronomer who was put under house arrest because he suggested the Earth revolves around the sun — and compares his critical journalism to “stoning any… A new messenger in the middle of the city. Here, at least, Loeb is not wrong; He has collected a large number of haters. His history of exaggerated claims centered around evidence of extraterrestrial life has drawn the ire of many of his peers in astrophysics, so much so that some researchers now refuse to engage Loeb's work in peer review, Katrina Miller reported for New York times. “It taints good science, where we confuse the good science that we do with this ridiculous excitement and suck all the oxygen out of the room,” Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State, told Miller.

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Loeb built an institutional career over decades, publishing hundreds of papers on standard astronomical objects — black holes, dark matter, etc. — and rising to various administrative positions at Harvard. This all changed in 2017, when a cigar-shaped object was named “Oumuamua.” It rose through our solar system from last. 'Oumuamua was the first known interstellar object to enter our orbit, and scientists marveled at how it did not fit any existing concepts of an asteroid or comet. Loeb published research suggesting that 'Oumuamua could be a form of space travel called a photosailing, thus marking On the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Since then, Loeb has turned to extraterrestrials, a focus that has seen his profile skyrocket. If you don't read Loeb's blog, you can read Loeb's blog booksRead about Loeb in the glossy series magazine appearanceListen to Loeb Joe Rogan And others Podcasts Or, apparently, see Loeb One man show About his life and the work he did in his attic last November.

None of this is surprising, of course, because that's what celebrity scientists do, as Kyle Paoletta explained in his article The puzzling one. They preach from their pulpits, drawing strange connections from their supposed fields to completely unrelated issues. they Simply He should He goes On Joe Rogan. They're always fascinated by their own photos – Loeb ends each of his blogs with a massive headshot and a bio, in case you forget who you're reading! – Because their faces are part of their brand. They seize the opportunity to show their faces, regardless of the context, and this is how Neil deGrasse Tyson created images that no one asked for in such famous films as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justicehe even played the astrological sign Taurus in Jennifer Lopez's $20 million self-financed fantasy music video. this is me now. (In an interview with American ScientificLoeb expressed his desire to have Brad Pitt play him at his book event Extraterrestrial: The first sign of intelligent life beyond Earth It was never made into a movie.)

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Besides preaching the complexities of vaunted academic knowledge into plain English for the unwashed masses or even just spreading misinformation, perhaps the best thing a famous scientist does is take up space. They attract attention, both in and out Flattering stories About their work and their stories about researchers who inevitably question their work. They use up funding: Loeb finished a media bravado v. a The New York Times The reporter's story about the truck unfolds with the news that his Galileo project has just received a major grant, not that the privately funded project seems at all short of funds. (You may not be surprised to learn that cryptocurrency tycoon Charles Hoskinson, who funded de-extinction company Colossal, apparently so he could eat a dodo egg, Also funded Loeb's trip to the bottom of the sea and even allowing the team to borrow his private plane.) They waste time, forcing scientists like Desch and Fernando to rely on their own resources, resources far less important for reining in Loeb's outlandish claims than developing their own research. Because at the end of the day, Loeb, a tenured professor at Harvard, can do whatever he wants.

No field of science should be associated with the face. It's interesting that a newcomer to the search for intelligent life like Loeb became a SETI icon seven years ago when researchers like Jill Tarter, the SETI pioneer who was the inspiration for the film. communicationNot mentioned once New York Times Magazine Profile of Loeb, “How a Harvard Professor Became the World's Leading Alien Hunter.” (Loeb infamously shouted at Tarter during a public webinar after she criticized his description of the field she has worked in for more than 40 years.) When we give attention to famous scientists, even in the form of much-needed criticism, without highlighting the researchers who do real, exhausting, long-term work that does not always lead to sensational claims and thus are excluded from the discourse, we are still only promoting the famous scientist and their many money-making projects. We are still paying them their salaries.

So let this be the first and last time I write something about Loeb, whose works I want to encounter only after they have been translated and contextualized by his critics. In the case of pellets, Fernando said American Scientific“I think they found some sludge.”

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