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Are we alone in the universe? This question has preoccupied humanity for a long time, even before the birth of our still-limited spacefaring technologies. But as interest in space travel rises, as the government declassifies information pertaining to UFO sightings (which are, it’s important to remember, still completely unproven to originate off Earth), the question is taking on a new prominence. A controversy over it erupted in 2017, when the first known interstellar object entered our solar system: ʻOumuamua. Amid the debate over this mysterious object’s origin and nature, Avi Loeb, a leading professor of astronomy, suggested it might be a technological construct of alien origin.
Loeb serves as the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard. He is also the founding director of the Black Hole Initiative and is chair of the advisory board for the Starshot Project. He was the longest serving chair of the Harvard astronomy department and until recently was the chair of the board on physics and astronomy at the National Academies. He was also a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Loeb has mounted a new initiative centered at Harvard: The Galileo Project. This project aims to systematically and rigorously search in deep space for evidence of ETCs — that is, extraterrestrial technological civilizations. We spoke with Professor Loeb for our newest episode about the project, the questions of extraterrestrial life, and how we can better understand the physical universe.