The maverick Harvard physicist who believes in aliens

The maverick Harvard physicist who believes in aliens

The maverick Harvard physicist who believes in aliens

The maverick Harvard physicist who believes in aliens

A

vi Loeb doesn’t care if people think he’s a maverick. He explains it like this: one day, when he was a boy at school, he entered the classroom and saw the other children jumping on their desks and stopped to watch. When the teacher came in she said, look at Avi, he is so well behaved. “I was not particularly well behaved,” he told me recently. “I was just wondering whether it makes sense to jump around. I don’t do what everyone else is doing because I want to think about it for myself.”

Little has changed in the 50-plus years since then, and maverick is a word frequently used to describe the Israeli-American theoretical physicist since the arrival of Oumuamua in our solar system, the unidentified interstellar traveller first spotted by the Pan-STARRS telescope at Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii, on 19 October 2017.

The following year, Professor Loeb, who is the Frank B Baird Jr Professor of Science at Harvard University, made worldwide headlines after publishing a paper suggesting the object might be a wafer-thin solar sail built by an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation. It was a view that placed him firmly outside scientific orthodoxy, which prefers to characterise Oumuamua as having a natural origin. More than three years later, Loeb – whose book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, was published last month – is unconcerned about the mainstream opinion.


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