Welcome to Tales from the rabbit hole. I'm your host, Mick West. My guest today is Professor Avi Loeb. avi, thank you very much for being here. It's great for you to make the time to do this.
Thanks for hosting me, it's my pleasure.
So you are a professor of science. And I found that very interesting. Because Science, you know, as you know, is very compartmentalized. Even at school, you start out in your weed, we start out learning science, and then it very quickly divides into physics, chemistry and biology. So and when I looked at professor of science, it doesn't seem to be a very common title, you see things like professor of science, communications, or professor of science and technology and things like that, how do you get to be a professor of science?
Well, it's the name the chair. So it's called the front v. Bird, the junior professor of science at Harvard. And I originally was a professor of astronomy, and because I belong to the Astronomy Department, but then they gave me a chair position. So that's where the science came in. And of course, the way I view myself is a broad ranging scientists in the sense that they worked on many different aspects of science, you know, I worked on the first stars in the universe early on, and you might call it the scientific version of the story of Genesis, let there be light. And I worked on black holes for many years, and also served as the founding director of the black hole initiative at Harvard. And I worked on, most recently, the search for life in the universe. And so it's a very diverse range of research topics. And, you know, when I started astrophysics, I was given an advice by my mentor at the time, john McCarthy, he said, you should focus on a very specific topic, so that you can become the world expert, and I never listened to his advice.
Yeah, that's good. I like the idea of being a scientific generalist, myself, you know, obviously, I'm not really a scientist as such, but, you know, I like learning lots of different new things. And you know, I appreciate that. And you wouldn't be before we started this, this interview, when we were getting in touch, you advise me to have a look at the the series of articles that you write at scientific America. And you know, they are great, they're really interesting. And I think it gives you a very people a very good idea of who you are, and the broad range of things that you're interested in,
you know, in a way these these essays, and also my book, Extra Terrestrial are an admission that of my true love, which was philosophy at a young age when I grew up on a farm. And I was mostly interested in the big questions. Unfortunately, we don't have answers to those big questions like, what's the meaning of life, you know, we are born into this world, like actors put on a stage without knowing what the play is about. And most people think the plays about us. And, you know, started with the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle that argued that were the center of the universe. And people believed him for 1000 years, it was very flattering to our ego. And what we now know is the universe is 10 to the power 26 times bigger, the observable volume of the universities tend to the person 26 times bigger than the size of our body. So we're clearly not at the center of the stage. And moreover, the play has been going on for 13 point 8 billion years. So it's clearly not about us. That's the you know, I understand where this is coming from, because my daughters when they were young, they thought everything is centered on them. And then they got into the world, they went to the kindergarten and realize there are other kids and some of them are smarter than they are. And, you know, we still have to mature in that sense. Many of my colleagues will argue that we are alone and until given extraordinary evidence that we continue to think that we are the smartest on our cosmic block.
Yeah, we, I have that kind of experience myself of thinking I was the smartest kid around when I was very, very young. And I you know, I was in my school, my little school, but then of course, you go out into the broader world, into the university. And you suddenly realize ... [that you are not]
yeah, well, I think it's true for someone like Einstein, you know, he thought that he's the smartest early on, and it was true later on as well. But most people, perhaps fear.
So you talked about philosophy. And let's, let's talk a little bit about the philosophy of science. And one of the big issues in the philosophy of science is the demarcation issue. How do you decide what is science and what is pseudoscience? And we're going to talk here about about UFOs. And obviously, a lot of people would consider the study of UFOs to be pseudoscience and yeah,
I think the disagreement Yeah, the distinction is rather simple. Science is it If I had to define it actually, I was asked to define an intelligent civilization. And the way I define an intelligent civilization is a civilization guided by the principles of science, which are cooperation and sharing of evidence based knowledge. So there are two elements to that. One is cooperation and sharing. And if you look at human history, it's full of instances where humans tried to feel superior relative to each other, and did not really share. I mean, even recently, you know, the information about COVID-19 was not shared with the rest of the world when it started in Wuhan, China. And that is not a good sign, because intelligence is, you know, trying to promote a better future for then all of all humans. And in that sense, you know, political boundaries and boundaries between countries do not make much, much sense, you want to help everyone. And nowadays, we live in a global world. So that's one of the elements. And then the second, one more most important that makes the distinction between cell science and real science is evidence based knowledge. And, you know, we see a lot of discussion in politics that is not evidence based, and in other realms of our life. And I think we will be much better off if we were to be guided by evidence. And, and by the way, we will talk about the GALILEO project, but the entire motivation for me to lead this project is to bring a subject that you might call seller science, because perhaps the evidence that was released to the public was not convincing. And there might be other evidence, you know, it might be like an iceberg where we see only the tip, but I don't, you know, I don't really care. If there is classified evidence and what the past evidence is, I just want to collect enough evidence to examine it scientifically, because science is guided by evidence and, and nothing more, nothing less. And, and we should regard science as a learning experience. For me, science is a privilege of maintaining your childhood curiosity. And you know, as a child, as a kid, when adults tell you something, you don't believe them, you just go out and check it for yourself. something bad happens to these kids, when they become adults, they stop checking, and they start to believe and ideas that are not, you know, that are not supported by evidence.
And that's something I'm very much against, obviously, because I'm kind of a skeptic slash D banker.
It's perfectly fine to be skeptic and I think it's important to be skeptic because yeah, but if that motivates you to collect better evidence, you're following sighs
Yeah, so let's say, just imagine for a second I was, I've got a check for a million dollars here. And I want to invest this million dollars and the search for UFO is like, because I'm personally convinced to say that UFO is might be alien visitors, and I want to kind of get that out to the world. Why should I give my million dollars to you and project Galileo?
Okay, so the GALILEO project is basically the, the scope of it is trying to establish the study of unidentified objects whose nature is not known in our atmosphere, to study it scientifically, meaning to collect evidence, using instruments that we have full control over. So, for example, past the testimonies, you know, do not stand up to the scrutiny of size, you can try the scientific paper based on what people tell, you can say this person said that and submit the paper for publication, that's not acceptable. What you need is to rely on instruments that collect the quantitative evidence. And so that's point number one. The second is the instruments that were used in the past on reports on unidentified objects. Were not optimized for that purpose. They were, for example, a jittery camera in the cockpit of a fighter jet. I mean, that's not a scientific experiment, because you don't know exactly how the fighter jet maneuver. And you don't know what kind of jitters were introduced to the camera and during that flight, and what you want is to have full control and full knowledge of your experimental setup. And that's what the GALILEO project wants to do. We want to we don't want to look back at past evidence. In fact, we say that explicitly on our website. Also, the other thing that I should say, we don't want to entertain explanations that deviate from the known laws of physics. So if someone says, Oh, actually, you know, there is something really strange going on that violates the standard model of physics. We will not entertain that we will use our knowledge. Just like in a regular scientific experiment. Of course, if we are pushed to the point where the evidence is so unusual that they You can say for sure that then our understanding of physics is violated, you know, that would be worth a Nobel Prize, of course. And I find it unlikely because there are so many experiments that we've tested the current understanding of the laws of physics that I would really find it surprising if these objects violate. So at first, we will use the what we know about physics, the laws of nature, and then not deviate from that and then collect the smart data is possible using a telescopes connected to cameras that feed the data into computer systems that filter it for objects of interest. And I should say, I mean, people would ask, okay, what's new about it? You know, we have telescopes operated by astronomers looking at the sky all the time? Well, the answer is, if a bird flies above a telescope that astronomers are using, they just ignore it, we will look at it and see that it's appeared and identified, we will try to get a high resolution image just to give you a sense, an object, the size of a person, at a distance of a mile, can be resolved with a megapixel image so that you can see the size of the head of a pin on it using a one meter telescope, and just standard optics. And then, you know, in a few weeks ago, I looked online, and you can actually purchase such a telescope, but you just add it to your bag, there is a button, add to the bag, it costs half a million dollars, that's a lot of money. But apparently there are people willing to spend that. So the point is, with a big enough telescope, you can tell whether an object the size of a person has a label saying made in China made in Russia, or made on exoplanet x, you know, and that's what we will do. Now, I should tell you that I'm not interested at all, in anything that is human made, you know, if it says made in China, or made in Russia, you know, that's very boring. As far as I'm concerned, I will transfer all the information to Washington, DC, whoever wants it? I don't, you know, the project is not about that. We don't care about that kind of objects. The two, the two types that are of interest are, of course, atmospheric phenomena, you know, things that happen in nature, were unexpected, and produce interesting events that were previously unappreciated. You know, that's why their nature is not known in the UNDP. Report to Congress. So that's one possibility. And of course, there is a possibility that something out of this earth came nearby. So I mean, we are completely agnostic, without any agenda, just trying to collect the data. And, and the good thing is, you know, that we are funded by donation, so I did not fundraise. I just got not 1 million, but 2 million, nearly $2 million over the past few weeks, from donors that I've never met before until the last few weeks. And, and they just decided to support that research. And I said at that point, I said, Okay, well, I can assemble exceptional scientists, mostly astronomers that know how to construct telescopes that will serve the purpose that we need them for. And you might ask, why not use satellite data, you know that there was some satellite data looking down, while satellites move around the Earth very quickly, they can't really monitor the motion of a given object in the way that we wanted. And so I was asked by many people, why not use existing data? The point is, existing data was never designed for the purpose that we're talking about. This is really a new endeavor. And no, and the reason it was not done in the past is very simple. Sorry, the science community scientists ridiculed this subject, and didn't take it seriously. At the same time, there were people out there making statements that do not make much sense, including statements about violating the laws of physics, you know, and then, and then the scientists said, you see that there is no point in us getting engaged, because it makes no sense. So the two communities basically created the status quo, where not much was done. And then when the report came to Congress, at that point, it looked to me as if it's, you know, it's very intriguing for us to look into it because former CIA directors Brennan, and Woolsey would say this is a serious matter. Former President Barack Obama said, this is a serious matter. These are real objects. So if the politicians in Washington DC, you know, and military personnel say they don't understand the nature of some objects that appear to be real, at that point in time, I say, let's move this subject away from the talking points of politicians, military personnel to the realm of science, so that we can clear up the fog and resolve it once and for all you know, this is a subject we are not in the dark ages, right? So we there isn't it we shouldn't speculate we can clear it up with an investment of a few 10s of millions of dollars and we can talk about why I need more money in order to do it properly. But the point is we can clear up this this fog and and find the answer and then move on, you know, if it ends up being a natural phenomena, so be it, I have no agenda.
That's a very interesting idea, the idea that you can clear it up in just a, I guess a few years with a few 10s of millions of dollars. that would that would be great, obviously, if that actually happened, but let's kind of like look at the nitty gritty of that, yeah. you're proposing essentially a network of telescopes that are going to get high resolution images of objects in the sky. And you talked about one telescope, it's a half million dollar telescope, and
I looked at it, I gave an example of one telescope and meter size, but it's, we are likely to use a slightly smaller telescope, because the cost is still an issue if Currently, we run out very
quickly. Yeah. So you know, that the obvious issue with UFOs is that the sky is very, very large, you know, the, the, the amount of area that you have to cover is very, very large. And we see UFOs, because we have lots of people. And so people looking up in the sky see things and we have a very, very broad net. Right, how are you going to get sufficient coverage to get sufficient frequency of observations? Yeah.
Well, that's, that's an excellent question. And we made some preliminary estimates for how many telescope systems we might need given, you know, the area that is covered by each telescope system. Okay. And, and the answer is, you know, for given the reports by a military personnel, you would need the of order at least 100 stations, 100, telescopes systems. And then
the entire United States?
Well, it could be the US it could be elsewhere. You know, of course, the best sites in terms of visibility are mountain tops. That's why astronomers put telescopes on mountaintops, and because the atmosphere is more dilute as you go up, and there is less blurring by atmospheric turbulence. So you can see better to greater distances without deterioration of the image quality. And but it may well be I mean, some people claim that UAP concentrate around their particular locations, like military facilities, or nuclear reactors. And the point is, these are the facilities that are most monitored. So it's not clear to me that it's not just a selection bias. But then, at any event, and obviously, you know, most of the sky is not classified. That's why astronomers use telescopes without any problem. And so we may not approach military facilities, because some, you know, these areas are restricted, but, but we will try to spread the telescopes over a wide range of, of environments, and the question of the location is yet to be decided, where would we put them, but what I'm saying is, currently, with the current funding, we can at most fund up to 10. systems, right. And then the thing is, we need the 100 or more, so we need 10 times more funding current, so we need 10s of millions but but if we have that, we will have that which I'm optimistic about because once we demonstrate that we can accomplish it, we can achieve the data quality that we need. At that point, we might get more donors to support the project. And, you know, I must emphasize, we are not taking away money from searches, you know, this the mainstream science done by the National Science Foundation or NASA, in the sense, you know, people are still searching for the dark matter, for example, right, but right, ideally, are supported by NSF, and we haven't found a dark matter for four decades, we've been searching, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the dark, so to speak. And that is mainstream in science enslin stream in astronomy, and it's completely legitimate not to find something you're looking for, you know, like people were searching for weakly interacting massive particles. I don't regard it as a failure, or that for 40 years, nothing was foreign, just upper limits were set, and I asked an experimental is how long will you continue to search? And he said, as long as I'm getting funded, so that is completely but having zero or 1000 times less funding for the trying to figure out the nature of these UAP doesn't make much sense to me. So I think, at this day and age, you know, science should engage in a topic that is of such interest to the public, and clear it up, you know, we're not, you know, 1000 years ago, there were people saying, the human body has a soul, and therefore anatomy should be forbidden. Imagine if scientists would say, oh, some people are saying nonsense about the human body. We don't want to engage with the human body. We don't want to have operations because there is all this nonsense said about it. You know, it's a controversial subject the human body, think we're where would modern medicine be? The point is, if science has the ability to address a question that has a lot of nonsense being said about it, it should do it. So that being said about it, so that we can clear it up and move on.
Yeah, I would very much like that. I would like to have more data I, you know, I'm a big fan of science and science fiction, and the idea of alien contact would be would be great, or even just evidence of past alien civilization even would be very good. So I am in favor of this. But what I'm interested in is, is it kind of, is it the right thing to do? And you talk about these, these, these telescopes, and you know, the smaller ones, you're going to have these, say, 10 to 100. stations, and they're going to be taking photographs of things. But is his photography really going to be showing you that much, because a lot of the time where you see his his images that are ambiguous, you see that now. And what you're trying to do, obviously, is to get an image that is less ambiguous, is that is that really the best? Money?
Yeah, to get a better resolution image, all you need is a bigger aperture. So when people use, for example, cell phones, the images are always blurry for an object at a distance of a mile, because the aperture of the camera is so small, but if you make a camera that is 100 times bigger, then you can get 100 times better angular resolution. So it's just about that optics. But moreover, in a given station in a given system, it will not be just one telescope, it will be multiple, like for example, two or three, so that you can get a parallax, you can see how the object moves in three dimensions on the sky, you can get the trajectory, you will get a better image of it, because the telescopes are bigger than previously used. And moreover, we use detectors not just in optical light reflected sunlight, but also in infrared light, and the radar systems in the radio. So and we will have full control over the instruments that we are using. So we will know exactly what is happening. And I should emphasize one of the most important aspects of our work would be that it is open data, anyone will be able to access it, there will be no mystery about hidden data or whether high resolution data exists but not released. Because it will not be classified. The only reason the data by the government is classified because it it was taken by classified sensors, and the government doesn't release the data simply because it doesn't want to reveal the quality of the sensors being used to monitor our sky, so that adversaries will know what we use. And we don't have that problem. And by the way, I personally do not want to look at any classified data. Because that would limit my freedom. As a scientist, I don't want to be obligated not to think it because it will always be in the back of my head if I had witnessed the classified data. And if I don't see it, then we can just collect our own new data and examine it. With a fresh perspective. I have nothing against other scientists looking at classified data that we find. But I want to be free to look at new data. And you know, the skies not classified most of it is not classified. So we can just look up that astronomers are using it. Or looking at the sky all the time, the difference is that we will focus on nearby objects, I should say the GALILEO project has two components that there is a second component that has to do with Interstellar objects, objects that came from outside the solar system, and enter the solar system like are more and more for example, but look weird objects that do not match what we are used to in terms of looking at comets, or asteroids. And we just want to figure out their nature, you know, just like you walk on the on the beach, and you see most of the time rocks, and every now and then you see a plastic bottle. So we want to look if there is any plastic bottle out there that enters the solar system, just to make sure that you know that we understand the what is coming in. And I should say even if we find something like a hydrogen iceberg, like some people suggested for a more and more to explain its weird properties. You know, that's something we've never seen before something that was not produced in the solar system. We know that. And, you know, it's it should be very abundant because more and more was the first Interstellar object that we discovered. So if we understand objects, like a more more to be hydrogen icebergs based on future evidence that will be important for science because it will imply that there are nurseries that make objects we haven't expected that are very common, and we will learn something new. So my point is, with new evidence you always learn it's always beneficial to collect evidence. We are not using money that was otherwise intended. for another purpose. We are getting donations. And so I should I would think that for it This project should get the blessings of all scientists, which it doesn't?
Well, no, it doesn't, I think because of the association that it has with the EU UFOs. But like getting into that, I think, if you're going to go out on a scientific expedition, you're trying to gather some data to try to answer some questions. Don't you have to have some kind of existing datasets that kind of justifies what you're going to do? And so like, we've got all these existing observations that people have had, and we have a few videos and things like that. Do you? Do you think there's a sufficient data set to justify what what you're doing in terms of the telescope installations? What would you say is the justification for this particular experiment? Yeah, you are doing
interesting. The justification for me was the fact that the odni, the UAP, report to Congress had a classified component. I didn't see any of that data. But it was presented to the White House, it was presented to many officials in past administrations. And when CIA directors Brennan, and Woolsey, and when former President Barack Obama say that it's a serious matter that they saw the classified components. And it looks convincing, what I infer from that, and these are serious people you see that I trust, what I infer from that is that there is a mountain of data that we don't have access to where the images are much crispier, then we see, okay, the public sees. Now, I haven't seen that data. But that's what I mean fair, because, you know, these people saw the same fuzzy images that the two of us, so then forget about it, it's not convincing. But the fact the way that they spoke about the subject, and include that includes also Bill Nelson, you know, the director of the NASA Administrator, who expressed his wish that scientists would look into the data. And, you know, I say, these people saw the classified component is part of it, and they talk about it seriously. So that's sufficient, that's a sufficient threshold for me to say, scientists should collect new data, so that it's not classified open open data and analyze it in a transparent way. So that we get a clear understanding of this, of this UAP phenomenon, and, and move on after that, if it happens to be a natural phenomena. I have not no quarrel with it, you know, whatever the data reveals, we will show to the public. And now one thing to keep in mind is it's a mixed bag, it's probably a mixed bag, right? I mean, there were lots of reports in the past, most of them probably have some mundane explanation, as you argued on many occasions, and that would be completely fine. It's, the point is, we need to show that all of them, at least those that we can detect, have mundane explanations, and, and some of them may be exotic explanations, you know, like rare phenomena in air in the atmosphere, that would be fine with me. But even if there is one object that is of extraterrestrial origin, you know, that would be major news, right? So what we want is to have a high enough quality of data on one that looks really unusual. And I don't care if 99.9% of all the objects we find appear to be made by humans or in the atmosphere and so forth. If we do find one that seems to be clearly not human made, and clearly not natural, within the atmosphere of the Earth. That would be very interesting. That that would motivate me to continue the search, you see, yeah,
yes, the this kind of data set, essentially, the UAP report that you're using as an impetus for the project is kind of vague. It doesn't really give any specifics. There's no specific cases listed. There's no locations and no no numbers or anything like that. So it really is, it's just giving you a kind of like, a very broad thing we think there are we see we see things in the air that we I
agree with you i agree with you and and the and the reason for that is presumably that the more interesting data is classified, and then you ask yourself, why would the intelligence agencies that are not doing their job, because if you if you just think about this report, they're saying, you know, we are getting paid to do something and we are not doing it. They're telling Congress, you know, we're not doing our job. That's an unusual admission, right that there are objects in the sky, that they cannot figure out
the limits of their their abilities. I wouldn't say it's not doing their job is there they admit there are things that their current capabilities can't
In terms of national security, their job is to identify your officer,
you're also saying that you think that they have crisp photographs, you think of what you are trying to get
know. So I would say that they would not come out with an admission that they cannot figure out the nature of these objects unless the much better data that they have in their possession, which is not released to the public indicated that they should make such a statement. Now, I don't know how good the quality of that data is, because I haven't seen it. And I'm not interested in seeing it. I'm just saying, given that they're the most conservative organization that we have, which is the government comes out with a statement like that, given that, you know, academia, which is a blue sky, organization, right? It's, it's supposed to be entertaining all possibilities open, be open minded, given that the most conservative organization tells you there is something we don't understand. academia should respond and say, Okay, we'll figure it out for you. Here we are to serve the nation trying to figure out something that the government doesn't figure out. And, to me, it's an interesting puzzle, you know, you, you might on weekend solve crossword puzzles, you know, and I wouldn't have, I would have nothing against that. So in much the same way, there is a puzzle here, there is a challenge that the government poses. And me, you know, I, as a scientist, I'm intrigued by it, and I want to resolve it. And I'm not using funds that were otherwise used for something else. I'm just saying, Let's figure it out. It's It's fun. You know, science is fun. And science is exciting. So why damp? Any investigation into the origin of phenomena the government admits it doesn't understand?
Yeah, yeah. I like the idea of solving puzzles. And that's kind of what I do. When I look at a UFO video, I'm trying to just basically figure out what actually is going on. So the the technology that you're going to use as your telescopes and radar and things like that. And for me, I obviously I would like to get photographs, real quick question like, are you going to have with these telescopes just be taking photographs, or
it's a stream of photographs, it's a video, basically, video of the sky. Now the frame rate is to be decided we want a higher frame rate so that we can reconstruct the trajectory of an object, you know, so that we can tell if it's a bird, a drone, or a plane, or whatever. So we want to be able to tell what the object is doing in real time and get an image of it if possible, and then get the it's infrared signature, its radio signature, and possibly some sense of, of its spectrum, if we have enough photons, if we have enough light collected, so
how is the installation know where to point the telescope? How is it going to lock on to an object,
right, so we are still discussing it within the collaboration, you know, we just started the collaboration a few weeks ago, and we have a very lively discussion on the optimal instruments to be used and how to put them together. But the idea would be to have a telescope system that monitors as bigger, as most of the sky, let's put it, above the site where it's located. And doing it continuously. And then the light is focused to a camera that takes a video of the sky, you know, with some frame rate, and it's a huge amount of data, you have to understand, and we cannot store that. So there will be a very crucial component is of course, the software that will be used to filter out most of the time, you don't see anything interesting and but every now and then there will be an object moving. And that will be a target of interest, then, of course, once we train the system, if it's an AI system, or machine learning, whatever computer algorithm, there will be objects that keep repeating like birds, you know, they behave in some special way their image has a special characteristic. And we'll just reject things that look like a bird. And we are not interested in in drones or or in airplanes, either, you know, and so it will take time to train the system so that we reject those things. And we will look at everything else that is moving and doing things that are unusual and try to figure it out. And of course, as you said, the key is to cover a large enough chunk of the sky around the earth so that we have an event rate that matches the rate that was reported by pilots. Now, I should say we might have a much larger event rate because we are using instruments that far better than the eyes of pilots that are far better than the instruments on the in the cockpit of a pilot or in the Navy or wherever these Bullets came from. And as a result, we'll see smaller objects at greater distances. And that would increase potentially the event rate. But we hope to get much better quality data, and therefore a much better assessment that, you know, will imply what these objects are.
So it sounds like from the, the, the filtering aspect of it, you wouldn't want to filter out, say, an aircraft just on the fact that it's a shiny metal cylinder in the sky, because that could be an alien spaceship of some sort. So you would be doing the filtering there. Perhaps more on the motion of the object? Would you be looking for unusual motions?
No. I mean, if you get a high enough resolution of an airplane, it will be clear.
Okay. So you've been doing visual visual elimination.
I mean, we pretty much know which airplanes are being used by humans. Right? So
yeah, you can build the most of them out just by the atsb data, and you can just, you know, see,
part of it. Yeah, we, you know, the software is, as you're alluding to, is is extremely important. Because you don't want to throw the baby with a bathtub or I mean, if you have, if you are too selective, you will throw the baby with a bathtub water, so to speak.
Yeah. So yeah. So the filtering that you're going to be doing, are you saying it will be mostly a visual filter? Are you looking forward to seeing movement patterns?
Well, it will be moved? Well, it wouldn't be the image, the movement. And of course, if we have multiple detectors, you know, if we have different wavelengths that we are looking at, the signature in those different wavelengths will help us. And if we have multiple telescopes, of course, it helps a lot. Because you can reconstruct the motion in three dimensions, you can have redundancy, that's very important. Because if one instrument just happens to give you four false a false alarm, because something might you know, there is a malfunction. In that instrument, then you will have others to check it. And then so that's important to have redundancy. Yeah.
So you talked about recreating the motion in three dimensions, which I think is very important, because if you're going to distinguish things based on their path and their motion, you know, having a 3d a 3d recreation of it is very important. But can you do that with two telescopes in one location?
Oh, yeah. Because then I mean, you can calculate the angular resolution, you need to see a parallax and we, you know, it's it's relatively easy to put telescopes at a reasonable even at a few meters separation, they can get a very significant parallax relative to their angular resolution. And the other thing I should mention is, if you assume the standard laws of physics apply, right, and you see an object moving faster than the speed of sound, then it should definitely make sound if it should make a sonic boom or something. And then if it goes through water, it should make a splash. Right? So the point is this, I mean, I'm very curious to see that these effects are indeed noticed, because that would imply the object is real, and you could constrain the parameters of the object. So we will have also audio sensors, trying to figure out, you know, indeed, whether if we see an object moving faster than sound, it makes the noise that you expect from a sonic boom. And all of these things should be put together. I mean, according to the what we know about physics, it makes no sense to imagine an object with some cross sectional area moving through air and not making any sound.
Sure here, yeah. Just thinking a little bit into this, this whole issue of application things with with parallax, it seems like, if you've got a few 10 meter separation on two telescopes, and you've got something, say, 10 kilometers away, the amount of accuracy you would need would be quite significant. Now, the one big telescope you mentioned the $500,000, one could certainly do it, because it's like, you know, super accurate and calibrated and fast moving. But with the smaller telescopes, would you be able to actually do that? Do they have sufficient resolution in the year they go to mounts that they have to actually do that within whatever is required? Like one arcsecond or whatever?
Yeah, it depends on the size of the telescope, as you say, and indeed, that 10 meters divided by 10 kilometres is roughly two arc seconds. And, you know, so for that you need the bigger aperture you need them, you know, something of the order of, at least that 10 centimeters, you know, that gives you if you take a wavelength of light that is half a micron, you know, that then something that is of the order of 10 centimeters or more can give you the angular resolution that you need. And I guess it's
obviously something that should be just simple engineering, I guess, you know, figuring out, you know, what's, what the actual resolution is?
Yeah. And we went through the numbers and it works out, you know, we have exceptional instrumentalists like Nick Hello and gaspare backhoes, which who are leading our telescope design. And, you know, these are really the top people in the field of astronomy doing these things. And I was very happy to be able to recruit them to the team.
So I started a little bit about like, some different approaches that might kind of mesh with this. Like, suppose you're using full sky? cameras that take a picture of the entire sky? You mean like fish with you? Yeah, essentially, yes. or multiple cameras in different segments of the sky. So you're just getting full coverage of the sky? And you can you can see things in the sky. Could you use that with multiple from each station? So you could triangulate the position?
Yeah, we are discussing that accepting it. Again, it's a question, of course, then how many can you use? And yeah, but definitely, that's something we actually have been discussing last week. So what you're saying makes a lot of sense. And the, okay, so the issue is really how big of a telescope do we need? Or if you have multiple telescopes, you know, how to optimize the number versus size and given the cost, then, I should say that, you know, the distance to which you can resolve objects depends on the size of your aperture, right? So and now you have to assume whether the number of objects scales as distance cubed, or as distance squared, because if the objects are just hovering above the earth surface, then it's a two dimensional distribution. When you look towards the horizon, the number of objects that you see as as a function of distance would scale like distance, the maximum distance squared, but if they are distributed at all elevations in three dimensions, then it would go like distance cubed and, and of course, then you have to decide, is it beneficial to have one big telescope because then you can see much farther out, and you gain by the size of the aperture cubed, basically, in terms of the volume that you're covering, versus a situation where you have a lot of small telescopes, each of which is cheaper, but then each of them is able to resolve only a smaller volume. And, you know, so we are going through these calculations.
Yeah, most of the reports that we get are things that happen in the troposphere, essentially lie below, like, say, 28 30,000 feet?
Well, but that may be just because we were serving those regions with, you know, aeroplanes. Yeah, we don't really know. And then the other thing I should mention, there is another critical element, which is the distribution of objects as a function of size, you see, it may well be that the reports focused on some size, because that's the size that was noticeable with either the pilots eyes or instruments that we're using. And, and I'm really curious to know what what is the size distribution, because you can have many more objects that are smaller in size that you can already resolve with with big telescopes. And so the number of UAP that you find will depend on the size distribution, which is an completely unknown. And of course, on the instruments that you are using. And if I had an infinite budget, if unlimited budget, I would use the biggest telescopes, we can buy off the shelf, like one meter, let's say or so. And then just get as many as possible 1000s of them, or more, and basically, cover the sky and just
one out Yeah, yeah, exactly. going everywhere looking at these, yeah, just not enough when you
like, you can buy all these instruments off the shelf. And it's just a matter of putting them together for the purpose. And, and I should say, some astronomers said, Oh, wait, we have telescopes around the globe, you know, we have satellites looking down. The point is, all of these instruments that are currently being used are not doing the job that we want them to do. Because
one instrument that might be doing it is the space fence, which is essentially what the US uses for tracking space debris and space junk, and you're talking about things that are very, very small, and you know, the space fence, and there's an older version of that as well use this, this multistatic radar, where essentially it's just it's listening for reflections of radar pings of objects, since and yeah,
but multiple, they cannot resolve it probably right. They cannot tell. They cannot make an image of the object.
They cannot take an image but they can they can track it and they can track objects. There are a smaller as I think 10 centimeters or a basketball game size. I thought
problem with that it would be just like those fuzzy images, you know, we will know about an object moving in some. So you're right, we will be able to infer the trajectory, right. And
the trajectory. The interesting thing about a lot of these these things is, in fact, that trajectory, and it's often not so much what it looks like, which is often, you know, just just as sometimes a sphere or something like that. But if it has an interesting trajectory, like it is actually hovering in space, for example, or if it's moving and changing directions in a certain way, this is something that has been reported. And it would seem like an effort at gathering data on things that do that would be important. But it would also seem that if there were these things flying around in the atmosphere, then the technology like this, this this space fence, the the multistatic radar installation of the US government would do it. But yeah, that's government. But that doesn't military don't. Yeah, don't want that. Yeah, I know you've been approached by people have talked to you about Peter Davenport, in back in 2004. proposed a UFO hunting method using multistatic radar, which uses FM radio transmitters and then a bunch of receiving stations to track objects in much the same way that the US space.
Nice. You're right, that radars are very effective at doing that. And I will mention an anecdote that you may not not know about them. So after a more and more was discovered them, I noticed that there is a table, you know a website where they list meteors from the past that were detected by US government sensors. And they listed numbers about those, I mean, the velocity components of those meters without giving error bars, and I asked my student, Amir Suraj, to look into that table and see if there is any object moving faster than you expect for meteors originating from the solar system. So if there is any object that could have originated from outside the solar system, and in the meteor data that was publicly available, and he found in 2015, there was a meteor that moved much faster than expected for an object bound to the solar system. And we wrote a paper about it and said, The here is an example for a meteor that could have been Interstellar in origin. And by the way, it was reported in 2015. So it predated or more more, and we wrote a scientific paper, submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal letter letters, and then it was refereed. And then the free came back and said, then we don't believe the government, there is no aerobar on this measurement, therefore, this paper should not be published. And so I said, Okay, I know some people, you know, I chaired the board on physics and astronomy of the National Academies, and there was a member of the committee that operated, you know, works in Los Alamos, and, you know, behind the, the fence, so to speak. And I asked him whether it's possible to get any limit upper limit on the error budget, so that we can quote it and say, you know, the error is less than something, and therefore, this object must be from outside the solar system. So after many months, he came back and then provided the needed statement. So we put it in the scientific paper. And then the referee said, Oh, that's not good enough. How do I know that I should trust this person that gave you that information. We want to see the data before we accept this paper for publication. So so then the editor came up with a creative solution, he said, Let me find a referee that has clearance to look at the actual data that was obtained by the government and tell us whether the data is reliable. And he couldn't find such a referee. So the paper was left in limbo. And it's really unfortunate, because, you know, we are talking about the purely scientific motivation for getting the error budget on a measurement from 2015. And, of course, the government has an issue because it will say something about the sensors that were used. That's why, you know, from this experience, I learned that it's best to collect your own data, I don't want to look at any data, because there are layers and layers of bureaucracy, the chairman has from having access to government owned data.
I guess that's the idea there with the multistatic radar thing is that you wouldn't use any government data, you would be able to set up a relatively cheap network of receiving stations that could cover the entire country and measured measured trajectories. And I think that that would be a great,
great except it couldn't give us an image. So for the years you're
exactly right. But again, like I must say, like I think perhaps this the search for an image Is I feel perhaps a little bit misplaced the focus on just searching for an image because really what you want to demonstrate is that there is something unusual. Now sure, if you get an image of something that looks really weird, that would be great. But you've also got to demonstrate really that it's moving in unusual way he could be just
have an image and we see the trajectory in 3d with parallax, we can get born, I should say, you know, there is this saying is worth 1000 words. In my case, I should tell you that the picture is worth 66,000 words, the number of words in my book, so I wouldn't need to write the book whatsoever. If I had a nice photograph that I could show.
You list three things in the the avenues of research for the Gaia project, and one of them was search for satellites. And you didn't mention that earlier. You just mentioned the first two is this, are you you're still doing that? Or is that
are we learned? Yeah, that's obviously something of interest that but that would come third. So we will do in parallel, the first two investigations, basically searching for you, I mean, identifying UAP, identifying the unidentified, that's the role of the first component, and then trying to find the additional or more or more like objects, either in upcoming data from panstarrs, or from the Vera Rubin Observatory in a couple of years, and then planning on a space mission that will send us a spacecraft with a camera that will come close to these objects. If we are catching them early enough, we can intercept their trajectory, just like Osiris Rex came close to the asteroid Bennu and actually landed on it and we bring back a sample in 2023. So in much the same way, you can easily tell the difference between a rock and an artificial object.
Okay, yeah. Now I am. Like I say, I'm very much in favor of more data. I just, you know, I'm, I want to focus on getting the right data. And obviously, that's something that you all
we really aren't we agree on the fact that the existing data that was released to the public was not of high enough quality. And what we don't know is whether other data is more convincing. We don't know that because we haven't seen it. What I'm saying is, let's try to get that data.
Public, but if it's classified, oh, how are you going to not say how are you going to get it? But wouldn't the government not want you to get this data? If it's something that they would classify? Or do you think it's classified for kind of? Okay,
I don't believe the government has any agenda. I think the issue is really that the data was collected by sensors. Nature is classified, because we don't want adversaries other nations to know exactly what technologies we're using to monitor our sky. And because the sensors are classified, the data is also classified. That was my experience with the meteorite. Right, the meteor is a completely innocent event that has nothing to do with other nations. And nevertheless, the government had difficulties releasing the error budget. And the reason is, because it will say something about the sensors that were used. And then that, you know, the lesson I learned from that is, the data may not be classified because of its nature. But more more because of it, we'll have the of the instruments that were used to collect it. And I'm saying, Let's get off the shelf instruments that we have full control over, and then the data will be open.
Yeah, now would be great. I would love it. So you do a lot of these interviews, I could I could tell you pretty much interview yourself. Because you anticipate
questions over the past six months is my book appeared, I had more than interviews, probably 1100. Now,
what do you think about the issue of science popularity and having to popularize science? And you having to get your message out there? As opposed to simply doing the science? I mean, do you feel like you have to do all this this PR work? Or is it something that you just wants to do or what?
Okay, so in this context, you know, back in February, my publicist in the UK said that Good job, Bobby, you're selling the book quite well. And I said to him, Look, I'm not trying to sell the book, I'm trying to convey a message, which I think is quite important. And if the public would not care much about my message, I would still deliver it. And if the book didn't sell, I wouldn't care less about it. So it's really the message that I'm trying to convey. And my objective is simple. It's important for me that humanity as the whole, you know, our civilization will be guided by the principles of science, you know, that's really important. And therefore, as a practicing scientists, you know, I've published all together more than 800 things Big papers and over the past decade, they published more than 500. So I'm, I'm really a practicing scientist, I have a lot of students and postdocs working with me. So I think it's important that the scientist, the practicing scientist conveys that, and not someone that is popularizing science. So that's a very important distinction. There are a lot of people whose names you know, who are quite popular, and are discussing science done by others, okay. And that's a different job description. Here. I'm talking about myself as a practicing scientist, trying to explain to the public why science is exciting, and why it can address questions of interest to the public. So you see that the other issue that drives me is that the scientific community is not really always true to its its mission at the definition, the mission of science is to learn about the world through evidence to experiments. And often what you find in academia is people trying to promote their image so that they can get more Honors and awards. And sometimes it collides with getting evidence, because, you know, if you believe in the multiverse, or if you believe in extra dimensions and things that cannot be tested, then you protect yourself against being wrong. And that's a very comfortable spot to be in, it's sort of like asking how many angels can sit on the tip of a pin that cannot be tested experimentally. And maybe you can make very intelligence, intelligent arguments about it, so that you can demonstrate that you're smart and get Honors and awards from people that do the same. So within your club, that by the way, very often feels as if it's on a pedestal relative to the public, you can feel that you're smart, you're respected, and you don't care about what the public cares about. And that I think, is a big concern about the current culture in academia that that academia could work on, on issues or topics that are not relevant to society that are not of interest to society, just because there is this built in culture, where the values are more about demonstrating that you're smart, rather than describing nature as it is. Because if you were to ask what nature is about, you would risk making mistakes. It's a learning experience. You know, Einstein made three mistakes in the last decade of his career, because he was really curious about nature. And so my point is, in communicating with the public is also to change the culture, which I think is not healthy right now, where people in academia are not necessarily driven. I mean, in science, I'm not talking about humanities as a separate matter. But in science, they're not driven by the ambition to collect as much evidence and discuss only topics that can be tested experimentally, there is the there are whole cultures of people working on things, either conservative items where they just try to refine things we already know, or another community of people that do completely speculative things that cannot be tested. And that's a very safe place to be in. And both communities live in harmony. And I think it's unhealthy, because we're supposed to be guided by evidence, we're supposed to be taking risks, and by speaking about it, and trying to promote a better reality. Of course, you know, it's not a pleasant for me to read things on social media that about that attack me personally, but it's not about me, you know, as you see, I'm trying to promote a better reality that would serve us well. And that includes what we discussed just before, you know, trying to clear up the fog on the subject that the public cares about your scientists dismissed. And I think, you know, once we figure out the nature of UAP, you know, if it ends up being a mundane explanation, we move on, you will be free to discuss other topics that are more important, perhaps, you know, like climate change, and think
we will know that this subject is over, because we realize that these objects all have some explanation that is rather mundane. Let's move on. So I think, rather than staying this status quo, or scientists dismissed subjects like that, and the public cares a lot about them. But then there is this this frozen situation of uncertainty. Rather than do that, let's move on, you know, let's let's be forward looking and resolve this.
That's great. Yeah. And one last question is what I kind of cover a little a little bit is kind of what we're looking at the proof of concept of, of getting the project moving, especially in regards to getting images of things because a big a big issue that you have is the atmosphere. And for me, like the atmosphere is the limiting factor. If I take a picture of something horizontally, that is five miles away, I just usually get a blurry mess regardless of how big of a telescope I get. Definitely so could you do something just proof of concept like send a drone up, like a few miles away at 20,000 feet or something, you have to get
an excellent point. And in fact, we were discussing this. So the first we need to select the instruments based on the cost, and effectiveness, you know, just doing an optimal system design. And once we select the instruments, we buy them off the shelf, you know, given the budget, I'm sure that we can buy at least a few systems, okay. And then indeed, as you say, we need to test them that they are performing. And one way to test them is to fly drones, and see the day that defy them are and look at birds and see that they can identify them and see airplanes. Yeah, definitely the testing is a crucial component. And I think in the coming months, you know, once we converge on systems that we would like to use, in the coming months, we will be engaged in the testing phase exactly along the lines. And once we have a working system that is satisfactory, then we can produce copies of it as much as our budget allows, and then distribute them in various locations, collect the data, make it available to everyone, you will be able to look at the data. And the analysis that we will do will be transparent. So you can, you know, study it and decide if you agree with it. And it's, you know, all part of the standard scientific practice. That's what we try to normalize, you know, the engagement that people have with this subject, normalize by normalize, I mean, make it open, transparent, and, and base it on better data. That's all. And that's the way science operates. You know, we don't know what the dark matter is. We've been doing it for four decades, we haven't found the answer. I say that within the mainstream, we have situations that are much worse than, you know, we invested the hundreds of minutes, we didn't find anything. So why not? Do a little bit of I'm talking about 10s of millions, right to clear up the fog on this subject. Yeah, but
you say clear up, I really think that's a very ambitious goal. Because if you don't find something over, say, the next 10 years, and
we definitely know, we know that birds exist, right? We know,
for sure, but you find something special. I mean, like it does prove that nothing special exists. If we don't find
anything, we don't find anything unusual. That's an important conclusion. We just say, yeah, the UAP are all conventional things, you know,
perhaps they all know where your telescopes are, and they're hiding from your telescope.
Well, okay, so I, as I said, Before, we will engage only in the laws of physics, you know, we just use known physics. And we will not engage in any conspiracies here. I mean, that's the way science is done, you know, we don't imagine things, you know, ghosts or whatever, we don't say that they're trying, of course, you can say that they try to avoid the telescopes we use. But, you know, we could put the telescopes in places that we do not disclose ahead of time. Right. And, and we will just do our job.
Yeah, that sounds great. I look forward to what comes out of this. I think it's very interesting project. And, you know, because I have been stymied so much by the lack of good photographs. And it's very frustrating when people tell you, you know, I saw a UFO and they give you their iPhone photograph, and it's a little white.or.
We come from the same point of view. And, you know, the science that I do stems from my childhood. Basically, when I was a kid, you know, I wouldn't listen to what adults Tell me, I would like to figure it out myself. And that's the way kids operate. And they learn new things that the adults are not aware of this way. And then, you know, it's unfortunate that when kids become adults, they lose, lose most of the time, their sense of curiosity, and they start to argue for things that they don't have good evidence for that they're trying to pretend that they know more than they actually know. And I could say that throughout my life, I was fortunate enough to maintain my innocence and childhood curiosity. And what you see in front of you is the same farmboy that that was born 59 years ago. You know, people that know me from my childhood would tell you that I haven't changed much.
Yeah, that's correct. And I love that sense of adventurism within Sciences is great, because I think it's something that we do need we can't just be you know, sticking Why should
be boring. You know, science could be exciting. You know, even if we end up finding a boring answer, that's part of science, you know, that when we don't know the answer to something we should say, we don't know. Adults often invent stories, you know, when they don't know something they invent. That's not necessary. You know, you just say what you know. And when you The evidence doesn't show anything unusual. You just say I mean, that's fine.
Well, I'd like to thank you very much for this discussion. It's been very, very interesting. And I wish you well with your projects, and I'm definitely going to be following it closely and look forward to your, your first proof of concept photographs. That's gonna be very interesting.
And if you do have that million of the million dollars that you mentioned, we will do something about it.