Avi Loeb’s scientific approach, including Times Square billboards, would fit perfectly into a story by Arthur C Clarke (The alien hunter: has Harvard’s Avi Loeb found proof of extraterrestrial life?, 29 November). Clarke, who predicted the use of satellites for communication and co-created Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, had an affection for quirky scientists who found the money for their interplanetary exploits beyond the confines of the ivory tower.
The unpredictable 2020s have so far provided us with plenty of plot points that we are familiar with from hard science fiction stories by the likes of Clarke or Greg Bear. Wars, artificial intelligence, tensions between power blocs, ultra-rich people investing in immortality while building their own starships – it’s all there. In Clarke’s 1973 book Rendezvous with Rama, an ’Oumuamua-like object is discovered zipping through the solar system. Humanity is able to send a ship to the interstellar visitor, and first contact is made with an alien spacecraft. The people of Earth in 2023 could use a friendly partner in the universe, as Loeb suggests.
The wars in Gaza and Ukraine would not end overnight if we found another civilisation beyond Earth, but the impact on society as a whole would be mind-boggling. A spacefaring culture, technologically able to reach another solar system, should be inspiration enough for mankind to unite. Just imagine the planet scrubbing the atmosphere, while the burning of oil and gas became obsolete through fusion tech. I hope that Avi Loeb will find the button on an extraterrestrial gadget that he is looking for, and push it.
If we are looking for intelligent aliens to find a partner to ease our loneliness, as Avi Loeb suggests, there’s another way. We have radically different intelligences from those of our human minds all around us on Earth. Octopuses have each arm acting as an independent “brain”, ant colonies stretch for thousands of miles and behave like a single being, fungi communicate underground with various plants and animals, elephants mourn their dead, dolphins give names to each other, insects can recognise faces, and so on.
If we listened to the non-human intelligence of our fellow Earth inhabitants, we would be treating other creatures and plants with respect, and as partners caring for all life. And we would not be facing the catastrophic Anthropocene mass extinction now upon us. Unfortunately, we have not bothered to make friends with, or enter into real dialogue with, other Earth species, and instead go looking for aliens in space. A terrible and tragic mistake.
Kirn, Argyll and Bute
While it’s nice to see you profiling a major player in the snowballing research into unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), it’s quite shocking that you have not paid any attention to Chuck Schumer’s legislation, the UAP Disclosure Act, which is to be an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act 2024. The Senate majority leader, with tacit support from the president of the US, brings forward legislation referring to non-human intelligence dozens of times, and sets out a timeframe for private aerospace companies to hand over their non-human tech. The response from mainstream media? Nothing. Meanwhile, Dr James Lacatski, the head of the $22m Pentagon research programme referred to in the piece about Avi Loeb, has admitted that the team gained entry to a “craft of unknown origin”. Why aren’t you on this?
Dr Aideen Carty
What drives mavericks like Avi Loeb is always fascinating. I’ve no idea whether his claims have any veracity, but his own comment is telling, not just about him but about the general obsession with the possible existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. He says: “So finding a partner somewhere in the form of another civilisation that can teach us things that we can imitate, that we can aspire to, will give us a meaning to our cosmic existence. The universe will not be pointless any more.”
So, what he us really looking for, it seems, is God. Historically, the rise of the idea of alien intelligence almost exactly mirrors the decline in the belief in God.
East Barnet, London
I guess that any article about evidence of extraterrestrial life is bound to raise the interest of us inquisitive humans. However, I fear that Avi Loeb’s critics are right about him and his wild assumptions. Especially when he bases his theories about an intergalactic spaceship on the potential discovery of “screws” and “buttons” as evidence. Are these extraterrestrials getting the parts for their spaceships from our local hardware shops? A potential flaw, I suspect.
Dr Ged Ryan
University of Huddersfield