Scientists dispute Professor Avi Loeb's claims he found alien technology

Loeb claims tiny spherules he and his team found were most likely a 'technological gadget with artificial intelligence.'
Chris Young
One of the spherules found by Avi Loeb's expedition.
One of the spherules found by Avi Loeb's expedition.

Avi Loeb / Medium 

Last month, controversial theoretical physicist Avi Loeb made headlines yet again when he claimed tiny spherules he recovered from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean were likely alien in origin.

In an interview with The New York Times, Loeb stated they are most likely a "technological gadget with artificial intelligence."

Now, several scientists have challenged Loeb's assertions, with some accusing him of being unscientific.

A Harvard professor's hunt for alien technology

Loeb's latest discovery was found by a $1.5 million expedition he led from Papa New Guinea to search for fragments of a meteor called IM1 at a depth of 1 mile (1.7km) on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

The Harvard professor, who famously suggested the 'Oumuamua interstellar object observed in 2017 was an alien spacecraft rather than a cigar-shaped space rock, targeted IM1 because he believed it was likely an interstellar object.

This is down to two principal reasons: firstly, IM1 crashed into the Pacific at incredible speed; and secondly, Loeb and his team performed an initial analysis of the space rock showing it was tougher than all other 272 meteors in NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies catalog.

Last month, Loeb's team dragged a magnetic sled beneath their expedition boat to collect metal from the ocean floor. They collected numerous tiny spherical objects called "spherules." Initial analysis showed the tiny balls were composed of an unusual combination of iron, magnesium, and titanium.

Scientists dispute Professor Avi Loeb's claims he found alien technology
Professor Avi Loeb holding one of the spherules during the epedition.

Loeb wrote in a Medium post shortly afterward that "this composition is anomalous compared to human-made alloys, known asteroids, and familiar astrophysical sources."

In a later post, he wrote that "their discovery opens a new frontier in astronomy, where what lay outside the solar system is studied through a microscope rather than a telescope."

In an interview with CBS News, he went on to state that the fact IM1 "was made of materials tougher than even iron meteorites, and moving faster than 95% of all stars in the vicinity of the sun, suggested potentially it could be a spacecraft from another civilization or some technological gadget."

Counter-arguments against Loeb's alien technology claims

Now, though, a number of scientists have countered Loeb's claims. The New York Times piece, for example, points out that Steve Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University, explained that the meteorite would have been completely incinerated entering Earth's atmosphere if it was traveling at the speed that Loeb claims.

Desch went as far as saying that Loeb's comments constitute "a real breakdown of the peer review process and the scientific method, and it’s so demoralizing and tiring."

Peter Brown, a meteor physicist at Western University in Ontario, concurred, suggesting that Loeb shouldn't make such bold proclamations during the early analysis phase — it's not uncommon for detected events to appear interstellar at first only to be chalked up to a measurement error.

Irrespective of Loeb's early assertions and the ongoing debate, the Harvard professor has sent spherule samples to Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Bruker Corporation in Germany for more in-depth analysis. Ultimately, much like those arguing against his claims, Loeb will hope it's the science that does the real talking.

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