We are not alone! We live for a short time, but do you… | Written by Avi Loeb | February 2024

We are not alone!  We live for a short time, but do you… |  Written by Avi Loeb |  February 2024

Avi Loeb
Lotem Loeb (left) – a first-year student at Harvard College next to her father, Avi Loeb – a 31st-year professor in the Harvard Department of Astronomy, during a book sale event with 300 fans at the Harvard Science Center on February 8, 2024 (behind the camera: Cleal Loeb – recent graduate of UMass Amherst).

We live for a short time, but does it make sense to pay millions of dollars for just tens of seconds of exposure? The Super Bowl kicks off tomorrow and advertisers are willing to pay an average of $7 million for a 30-second spot in front of viewers of the event on television. With many popular shows shifting to live streaming platforms, live events like the 2024 Super Bowl LVIII provide a unique opportunity for advertisers to draw the attention of a large crowd, typically more than 100 million people in 190 countries and 25 languages, toward commercial products. Due to their high cost, Super Bowl ads often reflect trends within society.

From that perspective, is there any hope for science to appear in a Super Bowl ad? Thirty seconds of a Super Bowl ad costs more than our next trip to the Pacific Ocean to recover large portions of the 2014 interstellar meteorite, IM1. The research team on our Galileo project has just completed some new papers (with the first two published here and here and an expanded paper I worked on day and night last week) describing the results of a six-month analysis of 850 balls recovered from our project. The first expedition to the IM1 meteorite site from June 14 to 28, 2023. Our discovery of millimeter-sized spherules with a unique exoplanet composition, never before reported in solar system samples, motivates our plan for the next mission. Finding centimeter-scale fragments of IM1, which have not lost volatile elements, will allow us to deduce the nature of the original object. Aside from revealing the full physical composition and structure of IM1, these fragments – which are thousands of times larger than the spherules we found in the first mission – will contain enough material to allow dating of IM1’s age.

The isotope uranium 238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, which is similar to the age of the solar system, while the isotope thorium 232 has a half-life of 14 billion years, which is similar to the age of the universe. Most of the stars in the universe formed in the period between these two time scales ago. As I ran at sunrise one morning aboard the expedition ship Silver Star, I realized that dating interstellar objects would allow us to know where they came from. Knowing its speed near Earth means we can integrate its path back in time and figure out its point of origin among the stars.

To detect centimeter-sized pieces of IM1, the mission team will need to use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and a real-time video feed down to the ocean floor. Finding large fragments will allow us to deduce whether IM1 is an interstellar rock from the tidal disturbance of a planet near a common star, as I argued in a recent paper I wrote with postdoctoral researcher Morgan McLeod, or perhaps a Voyager-like meteorite launched by someone else. . Civilization.

Centimeter-scale fragments were recently recovered from the meteorite 2024 BX1 that exploded on January 21, 2024 over Berlin, Germany. The diameter of BX1 was similar to that of IM1, and thus it gives hope that we may be able to recover fragments of similar sizes from IM1. Finding centimeter-scale fragments a mile deep in the ocean requires expensive tools that could cost as much as a 20-second commercial in the 2024 Super Bowl.

This is what surprised me when I saw the new Super Bowl ad from director Martin Scorsese, titled: “Hello Down There.” In one minute of the video, which grossed $14 million in prime time, the ad features a visit by aliens ignored by earthlings preoccupied with their daily routine. When a reporter asked me about this announcement yesterday, I noted that it was consistent with my view that new knowledge requires seeking new data with a beginner’s mind. This is what our next cruise is all about.

Depicting an alien visit that will appeal to more than a hundred million viewers for the 2024 Super Bowl means I’m not alone. you are not alone. We are not alone.

I highlighted this vision to hundreds of fans at a sell-out event at the Harvard Science Center two days ago. In a week’s time, I am scheduled to address heads of state and other high-level politicians at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Politicians are looking for popularity. To prove that science engages an audience, my host Rolf Dobelli suggested that we show Scorsese’s video as an opening to my presentation. A day later, I head to Toruń, Poland, where the Polish government will celebrate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473), who discovered that we are not at the physical center of the universe. Coincidentally, my birthday is a week later, on February 26th. My main hour-long lecture was entitled “The Next Copernican Revolution.” Scorsese could probably sum up my 30-second message for the 2025 Super Bowl.

About the author

Image credit: Chris Michel (October 2023).

Avi Loeb He is head of the Galileo Project, founding director of the Harvard Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and former chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University (2011-2020). ). He chairs the Advisory Board for the Breakthrough Starshot Project, is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a former Chairman of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is a best-selling author.”Extraterrestrial: The first sign of intelligent life outside Earth“And co-author of the textbook.”Life in the universe“, both published in 2021. His new book is entitled”Interstellar“, published in August 2023.

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