Alien ship may be among us, Harvard astronomer insists, despite grumbling and criticism from peers

[He’s not the first Harvard academic to use his pedigree to stimulate the “alien” conversation. John E. Mack was a Harvard psychiatrist who was far less skeptical of the claims of “alien abductees” in public than his peers thought he ought be, too. Loeb’s own quotes indicate that he’s pushing the angle for reasons other than the pursuit of proximate truth, and that’s enough to make you stop and ask yourself what he believes he is doing, or what purpose he is serving, after all. There are UFO cults and Magickal Lodges for that kind of non-academic behavior. Loeb is using his Harvard credentials to sell you dreams, like Courtney Brown at Emory.]

Before he started the whole alien spaceship thing last year, the chairman of Harvard University ‘s astronomy department was known for public lectures on modesty. Personal modesty, which Avi Loeb said he learned growing up on a farm. And what Loeb calls “cosmic modesty” – the idea that it’s arrogant to assume we are alone in the universe, or even a particularly special species.

You can find a poster for one of these lectures in Loeb’s office today, though it’s a bit lost among the clutter: photos of Loeb posing under the dome of Harvard’s enormous 19th-century telescope; thank-you notes from elementary schoolchildren; a framed interview he gave the New York Times in 2014; his books on the formation of galaxies; his face, again and again – a bespectacled man in his mid-50s with a perpetually satisfied smile.

Loeb stands beside his desk on the first morning of spring courses in a creaseless suit, stapling syllabi for his afternoon class. He points visitors to this and that on the wall. He mentions that four TV crews were in this office on the day in the fall when his spaceship theory went viral, and now five film companies are interested in making a movie about his life.

A neatly handwritten page of equations sits on the desk, on the edge closest to the guest chairs.

“Oh, this is something I did last night,” Loeb says. It’s a calculation, he explains, supporting his theory that an extraterrestrial spacecraft, or at least a piece of one, may at this moment be flying past the orbit of Jupiter.

Since publishing his controversial paper, Loeb has run a nearly nonstop media circuit, embracing the celebrity that comes from being perhaps the most academically distinguished E.T. enthusiast of his time – the top Harvard astronomer who suspects technology from another solar system just showed up at our door. And this, in turn, has left some of his peers nonplused – grumbling at what they see as a flimsy theory or bewildered as to why Harvard’s top astronomer won’t shut up about aliens.

What you can’t call Loeb is a crank. When astronomers in Hawaii stumbled across the first known interstellar object in late 2017 – a blip of light moving so fast past the sun that it could only have come from another star – Loeb had three decades of Ivy League professorship and hundreds of astronomical publications on his résumé, mostly to do with the nature of black holes and early galaxies and other subjects far from any tabloid shelf.

So when seemingly every astronomer on the planet was trying to figure out how the interstellar object (dubbed ‘Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “scout”) got to our remote patch of Milky Way, Loeb’s extraordinarily confident suggestion that it probably came from another civilization could not be easily dismissed.

“Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua” – pronounced Oh-mooah-mooah – “is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment,” Loeb wrote with his colleague Shmuel Bialy in Astrophysical Journal Letters in November – thrilling E.T. enthusiasts and upsetting the fragile orbits of space academia.

” ‘Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship, and the authors of the paper insult honest scientific inquiry to even suggest it,” tweeted Paul Sutter, an astrophysicist at Ohio State University , shortly after the paper published.

“A shocking example of sensationalist, ill-motivated science,” theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel wrote in ForbesNorth Carolina State University astrophycisist Katie Mack suggested Loeb was trolling for publicity. “Sometimes you write a paper about something that you don’t believe to be true at all, just for the purpose of putting out there,” she told the Verge.

Most scientists besides Loeb assume ‘Oumuamua is some sort of rock, be it an asteroid ejected from some star in meltdown hundreds of millions of years ago, or an icy comet wandering the interstellar void. But it’s moving too fast for an inert rock, Loeb points out – zooming away from the sun as if something is pushing it from behind. And if it’s a comet spewing jets of steam, the limited observations astronomers made of it showed no sign.

Loeb argues that ‘Oumuamua’s behavior means it can’t be, as is commonly imagined, a clump of rock shaped like a long potato, but rather an object that’s very long and no more than 1 millimeter thick, perhaps like a kilometer-long obloid pancake – or a ship sail – so light and thin that sunlight is pushing it out of our solar system.

And while he’s not saying it’s definitely aliens, he is saying he can’t think of anything other than aliens that fits the data. And he’s saying that all over international news.

“Many people expected once there would be this publicity, I would back down,” Loeb says. “If someone shows me evidence to the contrary, I will immediately back down.”

In the meantime, he’s doubling down, hosting a Reddit AMA on “how the discovery of alien life in space will transform our life,” and constantly emailing his “friends and colleagues” with updates on all the reporters who are speaking to him.

In a matter of months, Loeb has become a one-man alternative to the dirge of terrestrial news.

“It changes your perception on reality, just knowing that we’re not alone,” he says. “We are fighting on borders, on resources. . . . It would make us feel part of planet Earth as a civilization rather than individual countries voting on Brexit.”

So now he is famous, styling himself as a truth-teller and risk-taker in an age of overly conservative, quiescent scientists.

This article was shamelessly lifted from https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/science/ct-harvard-astronomer-aliens-20190204-story.html

NPR drinking game of the week…

Every time they bring up embattled Gov. Northam and mention a photo that he was not in, implying that he was in it, without actually stating that he was in it, you have to take a sip. One could stay drunk all day, waiting for them to not set up a false premise intentionally. No, they cannot help it. They have given up on feigning to be critics, or ought to give it up, since they are clearly partisan participants, and hacks, at that.

Crypto Exchange Says It Can’t Repay $190 Million to Clients After Founder Dies With Only Password

Oh, god, I’m dyin’. The cryptocurrency people are funny. I understand why Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin are using it, but apart from free speech, there seems to just be an all-consuming preoccupation with secrecy and it doesn’t look good. It’s no good when the national security apparatus doubles down on secrecy for the sake of protecting their own turf, and its no good when there’s a product just begging you to let it help you do dirt on the down low. But, hey, this is just one guy talkin’, here. Here’s the article:

Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX says it cannot repay most of $190 million in client holdings after its 30-year-old founder Gerald Cotten, the only person who knew the passwords to its “cold storage,” unexpectedly died in India in December 2018, Coindesk reported on Friday.

In a sworn affidavit with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, widow Jennifer Robertson said that QuadrigaCX owes its customers some $190 million in both cryptocurrency and fiat money. QuadrigaCX has filed for creditor protection because it says it cannot access the funds stored in “cold storage,” just the comparatively smaller amount in a “hot wallet” used for transfers, CoinDesk wrote:

The exchange holds roughly 26,500 bitcoin ($92.3 million USD), 11,000 bitcoin cash ($1.3 million), 11,000 bitcoin cash SV ($707,000), 35,000 bitcoin gold ($352,000), nearly 200,000 litecoin ($6.5 million) and about 430,000 ether ($46 million), totaling $147 million, according to the affidavit.

It was not clear what portion of the exchange’s crypto holding were kept in cold storage, versus its hot wallet. In the affidavit, Robertson explained that “only a minimal amount of coins” were stored in the hot wallet, but specifics were not provided.

Robertson also said that Cotten held “sole responsibility for handling the funds and coins” and no other members of the team could access the stored funds. QuadrigaCX announced Cotten’s death in mid-January, saying he had died “due to complications with Crohn’s disease on December 9, 2018 while travelling in India, where he was opening an orphanage to provide a home and safe refuge for children in need.”

While Robertson has Cotten’s laptop in her possession, CoinDesk wrote, she says she does not know the password, and a technical expert recruited by the firm has been unable to bypass its encryption. She also says Cotten left behind no business records.

Some other reporting has suggested it is possible some of the funds in question moved after the case was publicized, and though the evidence was not definitive, it and the strange circumstances of Cotten’s death spurred accusations that his demise was either faked or the pretext for an exit scam by other parties with access to the holdings, according to CCN. However, Robertson included a death certificate in the filings, CoinDesk wrote.

According to CBC, the government confirmed a Canadian had died in India, but could not offer more details due to privacy laws.

As CBC noted, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce froze $26 millions worth of QuadrigaCX’s assets in January 2018 “after finding irregularities with payment processing,” and a document from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2018 concluded that “$67-million worth of transactions ended up improperly transferred into the personal account of Costodian Inc, the payment processor.” The issue was resolved, though according to CoinDesk, QuadrigaCX says the legal fight as well as ongoing issues with payment processors has “severely compromised” their ability to access tens of millions of dollars’ worth of holdings held by the processors.

A 2017 Wall Street Journal article noted that unlike stock exchanges, which only facilitate transactions, crypto exchanges are uniquely vulnerable because they store cryptocurrencies for their customers. However, typically the threats associated with this practice are hackers and other cybercriminals, rather than lost passwords.

In the filings, Robertson wrote that the exchange “urgently needs a stay of proceedings which will allow Quadriga and its contractors additional time to find whatever stores of cryptocurrency may be available and also to negotiate the bank drafts available to Quadriga,” CoinDesk wrote.

“This is a tough lesson learned,” Calgary customer Elvis Cavalic told CBC, adding that he had been unable to withdraw $15,000 in holdings in October 2018.

“I would probably avoid [cryptocurrency] in the future,” Cavalic said. “They’ve left us completely in the dark. I’m kind of preparing for the worst.”

Above article courtesy of Gizmodo: https://gizmodo.com/crypto-exchange-says-it-cant-repay-190-million-to-clie-1832309454

Of course it’s a witch hunt, but it’s also more than that.

What is a witch hunt, anyway? Why do they happen? There is an excellent teaching course on this subject named The Terror of History, produced by Teofilo Ruiz, I think. In the course, Ruiz outlines the social, cultural, and political moments in Western history which led to witch trials, and they appear to accompany times of change and the anxiety and insecurity that come with such change. Long story short, it’s the strategy of an ingroup to turn on some outgroup to blame for what they perceive as a world falling apart, as the social order undergoes change that displaces the relative dominance of that ingroup.

I think that we have in Donald Trump a man who was groomed to play America’s foil, and who was surrounded by a very colorful team of foils, and they are all playing the social and political role of witches for an entrenched political and media class (is there really a difference?) and the professional classes more broadly. The slow and steady parade of names and the perpetually-breathless annunciations of the imminent downfall of Trump, have been going on for years without the media ever looking up to re-assess first premises. I think it is organic enough to be plausibly denied as a project by national security/secret society people, since it only takes a few people to actually be blown in, and a few others could grasp it and play along without ever having been given a script.

But why? Why would they do it? Well, because you don’t remain dominant in information space by sitting around, waiting for clever, bad actors to blind-side you with narratives you didn’t see coming. No, what you do is invent the threats and generate drama that catches up would-be conspirators (by nature) in an irresistible, and mostly-manufactured intrigue. I think the whole Donald Trump Presidency was always going to be theater of a Reality TV nature, and everyone knows it, so the trick, as it always is in politics, is to center the lie elsewhere. Politicians lie, but on multiple levels, and it is their professional skill to out-lie other players who are also lying on one or more levels, such as their own constituents. Same/same, here.

Black Panther is coming back to theaters in honor of Black History Month?

I’m not even black and I rankle at the gall of Disney, here. There is no history in Black Panther. Not a drop. Wakanda is not real. I don’t think black folks are actually confused about that, but apparently Disney is hoping they are confused on this. The cottage industries that pop up around identity are parasites, and the folks at Disney looked at them and said to themselves, “We need to get some of those Susceptible to Pandering dollars.”

I’m vaguely a Jordan Peterson fan, but…

I’ve been hoping without hope that Peterson would wind down his bizarre mischaracterizations of “Postmodernism”. It just IS the case that the early Enlightenment project began with the rational turning away from the Church as absolute arbiter of truth but also turning toward Science as a better source of absolute truth. A few hundred years later, we know a lot more, and one of the failed ideas that we’ve had to abandon is absolute truth, in particular when it comes to the bigger, arguably more important questions. There is no objective moral truth, and I can say that despite never having been a Marxist. I’m not a closet Communist, and it is actually bearing false witness to apply that fundamental attribution of motivation to me, and I am no unicorn.

I can say there is no objective moral truth in the world because look around you – you are not alone in really, really wanting to believe there is such a thing, and no one even has any idea how to propose to begin measuring it (don’t even say the Australian sophist’s name). Nothing. There is no morality detector except a subjective human judgment. That just is the case. It doesn’t bother me at all, because admitting it doesn’t change anything. Nothing changes at all. Everything that was true before is still true, only we have less justification for use of force or coercion than we’d like to admit, and that is because we are pitifully insecure. It just is the case, and it is self-evident. That’s what we lose when we admit the truth. Power over others. Undue power over others, and a plausible shared narrative to cover it.

It is the case that there is truth in the world, but scientific truth is always provisional, and ontological commitments are only ever political, and extraneous to proximate truth. We know there is no objective morality, and that our condition is deeply subjective, and thus how we appraise our shared future together and how much we intend to respect one another and ourselves in the face of the truth of our condition is necessarily going to lead to disagreement. Jordan, consciously or otherwise, is dog-whistling that it may become necessary to deny this condition in favor of a “better truth” that just happens to be his own. That, I am here to tell you, is not how this is going to go.

Jordan has also made some statements to the tune of “truth is what I can get away with”, which is, I am sure, not how he would frame it, but close enough. He can’t have it both ways, unless he means to say that he and his political allies intend to agree to pretend there is an objective morality, even if they know better, as long as they think they can get away with it. Surely he doesn’t mean that. But he might. That seems to be the logical consequence of his declarative.

Because face it, things have life spans and novelty is increasing in the world, along with the human population. Multiplicity of opinion is not optional. Indeed, we need to be actively developing social mechanisms for increasing our tolerance of actual intellectual diversity, because it is coming. And yes, that means changes are coming, and I am not going to need a “thought leader”, which is another problem I have with Peterson and his kind, generally, when they become activists. The moment they enter that ecosystem, they’re participating in the marketplace of neurosis and fear-mongering or problem-solution peddlers. An economic and social role-enhancing opportunity comes their way and the carny barker in them pops out. The primary programming thing, again.

Oh, by the way, here is a related criticism: https://71republic.com/2019/01/24/jordan-peterson-npc-postmodernism/

Finally, let me add that Jordan Peterson is a legitimate hero, and I am in violent agreement with many things that he has said, in particular I am resonant with his position on the freedom of speech vis a vis compelled speech. I remain grateful, above all, to Dr. Peterson for sticking his neck out, but look, his efforts have led to good fortune, and good on him. My rebuke is still sincere.