I felt a sense of relief this week when I discovered that Ancient Aliens wouldn’t be airing a new episode. On the other hand, it leaves me with little to write about. It’s been a very slow season for alternative history, the paranormal, and UFOs. I’m not sure why. I wonder if part of the reason is that most of the lower-tier TV series that used to drive the conversation have moved from cable to streaming, where they are locked behind paywalls and harder to see. (That may change when Discovery+ merges with HBO Max and I get bombed with them against my will.) Another factor may be the move away from traditional media outlets toward social media. Less material gets the full TV / book / magazine treatment and instead burns out quickly in a Reddit thread, a TikTok video, or a tweet storm. In my own little corner of the world, ever since Inner Traditions stopped sharing galleys for their upcoming titles, I’ve seen many fewer fringe books. But even Inner Traditions, the largest occult history publisher, has virtually stopped publishing fringe archaeology and has returned to its traditional specialty, New Age occultism.
Anyway, today I thought I’d briefly mention the recent paper that once again debunked Galileo Project director Avi Loeb’s claim that the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua was an alien spaceship. The article, published two days ago in the journal Nature, argued that ‘Oumuamua was an icy planetesimal that experienced irradiation by cosmic rays and was therefore “broadly similar to Solar System comets.” In short, it was likely a comet and not an alien spacecraft.
Only a few weeks ago, Avi Loeb teamed up with Jay Stratton, the defense contractor employee who once headed up—and bungled—the Pentagon’s hunt for UFOs (he couldn’t tell stars from spaceships), to put out a paper alleging that interstellar objects “may” be extraterrestrial spaceships that emit UFOs as probes for exploring the Earth. Loeb immediately contacted Earth Sky, a science publication, to “suggest” he be given space to rebut the Nature article ahead of a paper he dashed off for publication. He argued that the Nature authors miscalculated the surface temperature of ‘Oumuamua and it therefore could not be a comet.
I don’t have the physics background to evaluate these claims, but I think it’s worth noting that Loeb attacked the Nature paper very quickly at a time when he is ramping up to start promoting his next book, due out in August from HarperCollins, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also runs the parent of UFO-obsessed Fox News and played patron to ufologists on his NatGeo channel. Its topic? Oh, right: interstellar objects as alien spacecraft.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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