As I was jogging on the backdrop of a colorful freezing sunrise over the Arlington Memorial bridge in Washington DC before a day full of meetings with high-level government officials, I was wondering whether we should accept David Grusch’s bold claims on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAPs). If I had been a science fiction fan, I would have had no issue believing Grusch. But as a practicing scientist, I am guided by first-hand evidence and the laws of physics
At his testimony under oath in the US House of Representatives on July 26, 2023, Grusch suggested that the US has programs for retrieval and reverse engineering of alien spacecraft and that the government has recovered non-human “biologics” from alleged crash sites. The biological component was surprising because travel through interstellar space to Earth would have taken longer than thousands of years even at the speed limit of light. Moreover, the hazardous interstellar environment would have severely damaged any lifeforms as a result of bombardment by cosmic rays and gamma-rays.
My doubts intensified when Grusch suggested in congress and also in a recent Joe Rogan podcast a possible scientific interpretation for his claims. He mentioned the context of extra dimensions and the holographic principle of string theory, both being highly questionable concepts for which there is no experimental evidence whatsoever. Quantum gravity effects of this type have nothing to do with low-spacetime-curvature, low-energy phenomena near Earth. Otherwise, we would have detected their signature in laboratories a long time ago.
Given all of that, the fundamental question that I was debating during my morning run is whether Grusch exaggerated or misinterpreted information that was brought to his attention or perhaps repeated unsubstantiated claims that cover up secret research programs within the US military-industrial complex. There might be people out there who wish to misinform the American public or adversarial countries.
Deciding whether to believe this UAP buzz has consequences. The US Congress is currently debating the level of public disclosure that should be applied to its UAP data. Around the time of Grusch’s testimony, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity for the Armed Services Committee, crafted an amendment — UAP Disclosure Act of 2023. If Grusch’s testimony reflects misinformation, Congress should ignore the proposed legislation because it would lead to a waste of resources and unwarranted public attention.
Life is short and we better focus on substance. The most efficient path towards new knowledge is through direct evidence, which unfortunately was not provided by Grusch.
But we do not need to rely on second-hand claims of this nature. The privilege of practicing scientists is that they can find the answer directly without relying on tips or hearsay. In the absence of disclosures from the government, I therefore choose to lead the Galileo Project which systematically collects scientific-quality data on objects in the sky using instruments that are well calibrated and under control. If our research team finds something unusual, we will share the new information with the public openly. If we find no anomalies after surveying billions of objects in the sky, then the misinformation interpretation would make more sense. Of course, the government can save us time and effort if they know the answer already.
At this point, I reached the Lincoln Memorial where the statue was sculpted by Daniel Chester French, who was born only a few miles from my home. Any long journey brings you closer to home. For me, home is where physical evidence lies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, was published in August 2023.