Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagAvi Loeb

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Space cosmic background of supernova nebula and stars field

Leading Astronomer Gets It All Wrong About Free Will and Destiny

Logic and reason aren’t laws of physics and therefore they transcend physical properties

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, has recently written an essay in which he considers whether human beings have free will and how long the human race will survive. Loeb is a prolific and often quite thoughtful scientist who has a refreshing propensity to think outside the mainstream. However, his recent essay in Scientific American, titled “How Much Time Does Humanity Have Left?”, is well off the mark. I think he profoundly misunderstands human nature and human destiny. Loeb opines on the question of human free will: The Standard Model of physics presumes that we are all made of elementary particles with no additional constituents. As such composite systems, we do not possess freedom at a fundamental level, because all particles and…

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A moody science fiction concept, of a figure standing in a field with UFO lights glowing in the sky. On a foggy spooky night. With a vintage, grunge edit

The UFOs Carl Sagan Was Convinced Of But Couldn’t Talk About

Sagan had already been denied tenure at Harvard, a sci-fi screenwriter reflects, and he couldn't afford to take more chances

Sci-fi screenwriter Bryce Zabel recalls a memorable dispute with cosmologist Carl Sagan (1934–1996) in a parking lot forty years ago: The Voyager II unmanned spacecraft had been launched in August of 1977. Now, four years later, it was due to make its closest approach to Saturn on August 25, 1981. It was even going to send back photos in almost real time. I got an idea. Bryce Zabel, “Cosmic Collision: My UFO Debate with Carl Sagan” at Medium (August 24, 2021) His idea was to interview Sagan (remember the insignificant Pale Blue Dot that Earth is supposed to be?). I got to host Saturn and Beyond, and it was going to be Carl Sagan and me “live,” without commercial interruption,…

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Oumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.

What Space Object ‘Oumuamua Says About How Science Works

The space object, thought by at least one famed astronomer to be an ET lightsail, prompts thoughts about how scientists decide what to believe

The subtitle of Matthew Bothwell’s wrap-up on ‘Oumuamua is most informative: An alien-made artefact or just interstellar debris? What ʻOumuamua says about how science works when data is scarce. At least one astronomer, Harvard’s Avi Loeb, insisted that ‘Oumuamua must be an “extraterrestrial light sail.” And few suggested that that couldn’t possibly be true. Right. What do we do when we are not sure? Bothwell, author of the forthcoming Invisible Universe, offers some thoughts. W all imagine ET in our own image: Victorians of the late 19th century, living in the era of ambitious engineering, looked at Mars and saw globe-spanning canals – evidence, they believed, of a grand industrial civilisation mirroring their own. In the Cold War 1960s, as…

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Background with a Planet, Moon and Star

SETI’s Seth Shostak Explains the New Galileo Project To Find ET

Controversial Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has put together a private funding package to search for alien life

The Galileo Project, formed in response to the recent release report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), proposes to look “systematically, scientifically and transparently” for evidence of ET. The report noted that a number of observed phenomena remain unexplained. SETI’s Seth Shostak explains: Avi Loeb, a Harvard astrophysicist who doesn’t hesitate to swim in the shark-infested waters of controversy, is proposing a major effort to find aliens in our solar system, perhaps even in our airspace. He has raised $1.7 million in private funding to launch something he calls the Galileo Project, an initiative to bring the rigor of experimental science to ufology. Loeb’s plan is to use a telescope now under construction, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, to study interstellar…

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alien portrait with stars

SETI Director Warns: Those Aliens Could Be Malevolent

Harvard astronomer agrees: We’ve sent a lot of signals in recent years; they may have got them. But now what?

As the Mars Rover Perseverance bumps around looking for fossil bacteria and such, many students of possible ET life are becoming surprisingly cautious about what it might mean: “We have no reason to believe that technological advancement and altruism or morality are somehow linked,” SETI researcher Andrew Siemion told Inverse. “There probably are malevolent civilizations elsewhere in the universe so that’s certainly something that we should consider as we continue to explore the universe.” Siemion, who’s the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal of the alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project, is invoking a tension at the heart of any project searching for alien life. Successfully finding it would change the world — but there’s also no guarantee humanity…

oumuamua-is-a-mildly-active-comet-and-the-first-interstellar-object-detected-passing-through-the-solar-system-elements-of-this-image-furnished-by-nasa-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Oumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.

Astrobiologist Cautions Against Jumping the Gun in Spotting ET

Scientists he says, are cautious with good reason. There are many weird natural phenomena like Oumuamua out there.

At Nautilus, astrophysicist (and astrobiologist) Caleb A. Scharf offers some sobering reflections on the diligent search for extraterrestrial intelligences (ET) in recent decades: Despite this effort, there has been no evidence to date of extraterrestrial life. But that lack of evidence is not because the scientific enterprise is uniformly conservative, rigid, and close-minded, as implied by [astronomer Avi] Loeb and uncritically echoed by some columnists. It’s because no discovery or event has risen to the level where it is inexplicable in any other way. Could greater funding and support change that story? Perhaps, but the same could be said for almost any other ambitious scientific enterprise, and the answer cannot be known beforehand. Caleb Scharf, “The Alien-Haunted World” at Nautilus…