Are mainstream scientists willfully blind to phenomena beyond the safe boundaries of orthodoxy? Taking a fracas provoked by the discovery of interstellar object ‘Oumuamua (1l/2017 U1) (1) as a point of departure, an essay posted on The Daily Grail (2) offers evidence that closed-minded scientists might impede the discovery process.
Everyone a Skeptic, Everyone a Potential Target
Clearly, many scientists are decidedly unenthusiastic about certain claims regarding phenomena outside the customary boundaries of mainstream thought. It must also be agreed that some approach fringe topics, and those promoting them, with disdain. However, the ‘Oumuamua controversy demonstrates that even the most highly accomplished insiders such as Dr. Abraham Loeb will not escape scathing criticism for espousing assertions their colleagues deem based on flimsy evidence. There is no doubt that ‘Oumuamua is a genuine anomaly, but extrapolating from strange observations to an alien creation is too great a leap beyond less exotic competing explanations. To reach his ‘therefore, aliens’ conclusion, Dr. Loeb did not uncover something in the data no one else had seen, he added a colorful – non-falsifiable – explanatory hypothesis that caught eyes and unleashed ire.
Dr. Loeb states he hopes to drive the scientific community to collect more data on the next interstellar object (2). In fact, this would be a traditional approach to develop evidence supporting (or refuting) any hypotheses on the nature of interstellar objects. Invoking Galileo’s tribulations and the evocative notion of giving voice to forbidden thoughts (2) will probably not get anyone’s grant proposal funded. However, maybe a more conservative approach emphasizing the scientifically significant findings to be gained by establishing agreements to observe interstellar objects as early as feasible after first discovery could succeed. Perhaps getting a good look at the next interloper will reveal unambiguous evidence of an alien craft. Even if it doesn’t, we would still learn something about the Universe.
And Yet We Saw It Move
Do scientists refuse to see what they cannot explain (2)? The ‘Oumuamua story puts that notion to rest. This strange object was discovered using the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope working in the automated Spaceguard survey to find and track near-Earth asteroids (1). Preconceived notions about typical asteroid orbital mechanics did not prevent the discovery of ‘Oumuamua, perhaps they actually helped flag it as something out of the ordinary. Scientists recognized the anomalous nature of ‘Oumuamua and immediately organized a fast and nimble response to study it in as much detail as its small size and high velocity permitted. This speedy attention yielded the first discovery of a bona fide interstellar object.
It is a pity ‘Oumuamua sped by so swiftly, but maybe Dr. Loeb’s advocacy will drive the scientific community to be better prepared if and when interstellar interlopers appear in the future. In that event perhaps intense study will reveal their true nature. Should it turn out that an interstellar object is an alien-constructed spaceship, I predict the scientists will recognize a Nobel Prize the instant they see it.
(1) Calla Cofield. NASA Learns More About Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 15 November 2018. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasa-learns-more-about-interstellar-visitor-oumuamua
(2) Greg. 2019. Seeing the Spaceship: Why We Need to Pay Attention to Anomalies. The Daily Grail, 5 February 2019. https://www.dailygrail.com/2019/02/seeing-the-spaceship-why-we-need-to-pay-attention-to-anomalies/