Note — Jan 20, 2019

If True, This Could Be One of the Greatest Discoveries in History

Seen in → No.63

Source →

Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s astronomy department, with some pretty bold ideas on whether Oumuamua is an alien artifact. I liked the article for that side but also for his thoughts on science, tenure, challenging the status quo in ideas, and being “ready to find exceptional things.” (If you get the paywall, Google the title.)

Unfortunately, most scientists achieve tenure – and go on tending to their image. As children we ask ourselves about the world, we allow ourselves to err. Ego doesn’t play a part. We learn about the world with innocence and honesty. As a scientist, you’re supposed to enjoy the privilege of being able to continue your childhood. Not to worry about the ego, but about uncovering the truth. Especially after you get tenure. […]

“If you average the velocities of all the stars in the region,” Loeb explains, “you get a system that’s called the ‘local standard of rest.’ Oumuamua was at rest relative to that system. It didn’t come to us. It waited in place, like a buoy on the surface of the ocean, until the ‘ship’ of the solar system ran into it. To make things clear, only one of 500 stars in the system is as much at rest as Oumuamua.” […]

“If you’re not ready to find exceptional things, you won’t discover them. Of course, every argument needs to be based on evidence, but if the evidence points to an anomaly, we need to talk about an anomaly. Who cares if this anomaly appeared or did not appear in science-fiction books? I don’t even like science fiction.” [😱] […]